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RAID ON TOKYO BAY

(A MEMOIR)

 

 

At sea somewhere off the coast of Japan with the Third Fleet under command of Admiral William "Bull" Halsey. On board the Destroyer USS Collett, DD 730 captained by Commander J.D. Collett. (The ship was named after his brother.)

By Kenneth M. Perry, 12-1-00

 

Sunday, July 22, 1945, 1300 hours (1pm): "All hands, this is the Captain. This morning at 0800, Destroyer Squadron 61 (9 destroyers) left the Third Fleet. Our orders are to proceed on a southwesterly course and enter Tokyo Bay on a shore bombardment mission and to destroy any enemy ships within the Bay. Our estimated time of arrival is 2400 hours (12midnight). All hands will shower to reduce infection in case we are "hit". Cover all bunks with your flameproof ponchos in case of fire. General Quarters (battle stations) will sound at 2100 hours (9pm), if not before. That is all."

I said to myself, "That's enough." I had just come off watch and knew we had left the fleet. Our speed had increased to twenty knots. After the captain finished, there was silence for about 30 seconds, then the shouts started, "Incredible! Unbelievable! This is it, that Bay is heavily mined, this is crazy, this is suicide, we'll never come out alive, their shore batteries on both sides of the Bay will "destroy" us, their submarines guarding the Bay will "bag" us before we even get close!"

I had planned to get some "sack" time that afternoon, but there was no time now, who could sleep anyway. We were all asking ourselves, "Will we make it out of there or not? What are the odds of not getting hit or not hitting a mine?

Our "Tin Can" was third in line. Maybe the first two destroyers would have the element of surprise on their side but what about us? Or maybe the first two will hit mines! It's a toss up.

I showered and covered my bunk, then sat down to write home. I picked up a pen, and with a shaking hand began, "Dear Folks: I'm not sure you will ever receive this letter, but we just had an announcement from the captain…" When I finished the letter and mailed it, I returned to my bunk compartment area. Some of the men had been in the Pacific for over three years and had been on invasions and shore bombardments, but for some reason, this one really got to them--as if they knew their time had finally come. Remarks were made like, "Have you made your peace with the Lord? Don't you regret all those things you've done?"--comments along those lines. Some old timers were visibly shaken and weeping. I suppose for their wives and youngsters.

How was I supposed to feel, or even think, an 18-year-old kid, still wet behind the ears? I was a seaman first class and a Fire Controlman striker, hoping to make third-class petty officer in the near future.

I went to chow that night but did not have much of an appetite--no one did.

2100 hours (9pm): CLANG, CLANG, CLANG, CLANG "GENERAL QUARTERS, GENERAL QUARTERS, ALL HANDS MAN YOUR BATTLE STATIONS, THIS IS NOT A DRILL!" CLANG, CLANG, CLANG.

Reaching "top-side", the sea was choppy, as a typhoon was blowing not far away. The sky was cloudy but visibility wasn't bad. My battle station was a battery director for a 40mm anti-aircraft gun mount. If the battery director is taken "out" by enemy fire, the 40mm mount could still function by the crew manning the twin gun mount.

The ship was equipped with three twin 5" battery mounts, 4 twin 40mm battery mounts, 10 torpedo tubes, along with depth charge racks, and 20mm gun mounts.

We were clipping along at top speed, close to 30 knots per hour. It was still light enough to see the two "cans" in front of us and two or three of the "cans" to the rear. We were now heading due west right for the Bay. The acrid smoke from our smokestacks caught us in the throat, giving way to coughing and smarting our eyes. We were in battle gear, helmets, and life jackets. The enemy had not yet detected us. On and on we rushed, right for the jugular vein of the Japanese Empire!

Three hours to go before we entered the Bay--the only shore bombardment carried out by Allied Forces on the Japanese mainland in World War II.

It was hell waiting through those three long, long hours. You could not leave your battle station for any reason. We prayed, we sang, we thought about home, we told jokes, and we prayed some more. At night, always when at sea, all ships were "darkened", no light of any kind could be exposed; even a cigarette could be seen from miles away by a submarine.

Finally, the call came--2400 hours, midnight. "LAND HO. STANDBY TO COMMENCE FIRING! IN WE SWEPT PASSED SAGAMI NADA AND OSHIMA ISLANDS ALONG THE NORKIMA SAKI PENINSULA. "RADAR HAS PICKED UP TARGETS, FIVE JAPANESE SHIPS UNDERWAY IN CONVOY! READY TORPEDO TUBES. CLOSE TO 10,000 YARDS! ALL BATTERIES COMMENCE FIRING". Star shells from the 5" mounts lit up the shores on both sides of the Bay, followed by 5" shells, in cadence count, BOOM, BOOM, BOOM, BOOM raking both shores. The 40mm anti-aircraft guns and the 20mm guns scanned the skies for enemy aircraft. None were visible nor could they be heard. Now the black smoke and smell of burnt powder fill the midnight air. We could hardly see or breathe.

WHAT? NO MINES? NO SHORE ARTILLERY? NO SUBMARINE ATTACK? NO RESISTANCE? HOW COULD THIS BE?

The two destroyers in front had discharged two torpedoes each from, 10,000 yards, at the enemy convoy. Now it was our turn. Fire One, Fire Two, and the silver streaks were on their way. Each destroyer was ordered to fire two torpedoes (18 in total) at the advancing Japanese convoy outward bound. Then, turn to starboard 180 degrees and move out of the Bay.

Now we were under fire from shore by anti-aircraft guns, red tracer bullets enveloped the sky heading for us, but no hits! The enemy thought we were bombers and were under air attack. We were into our 180 degree starboard turn. Now we could see results from torpedoes smashing into the convoy. Several of their ships were on fire. Out we went as fast as we came in. How long had we been inside the Bay? It seemed like ages. The 5" guns kept firing away! The thick black smoke continued heavy and acrid, but we didn't care, we were on our way OUT and on our way HOME!

The raid was carried out without the loss of a single ship or man! Were we lucky or were our prayers answered? You decide!

The one-sided "battle" lasted about a half-hour. We were officially credited for three ships sunk, one possibly sunk, and a damaged escort vessel.

Monday, July 23, 1945:

From Admiral "Bull" Halsey to Captain Hederman, Commander of Squadron 61: "You are unpopular with the Emperor. Good work." Captain Hederman's reply, "So are you!"

 

 

Headlines:

Boston Traveler: DESTROYERS LASH AT TOKYO BAY

San Francisco Chronicle: SENSATIONAL RAID INTO TOKYO BAY

Washington Post: FLEET OF DESTROYERS SINKS ENEMY SHIPS IN

              SURPRISE ATTACK

New York Journal American "WE BLEW IN, BLEW 'EM UP IN TOKYO BAY'

Tuesday, July 31, 1945: "All Hands, this is the Captain. I have just received this communiqué from Admiral Halsey. He has recommended a Presidential Unit Citation to Destroyer Squadron 61, through the Bureau of Naval Operations in Washington. I also want you to know all hand's "jackets" (personnel records) will be noted with a Commanding Officer's Commendation for a "JOB WELL DONE".

(Destroyer Squadron 61: DeHaven DD727, Mansfield DD728, Swanson DD729,

Collett DD730, Maddox DD731, Blue DD744, Brush DD745, Taussig DD746, Moore DD747. Captain Hederman, a native of Dudley, Massachusetts, was commander of Squadron 61. His flagship was the DeHaven DD727. The DeHaven was captained by Commander Thomas Miskill, Retired. Commander Miskill's "home port" is Rye, NH where he lives with his wife Helena. My wife Barbara and I "dropped anchor" in Dover, NH --Ken. Perry)


A Postscript by Alan Jepson

I well remember the events and chronology of events as described in Kenneth Perry's story "Raid on Tokyo Bay".   He gave a fairly good description of on board thoughts, concerns and activities concerning the event.  I submit an anecdote about the day :
 

Traditionally the Navy was supposed to serve a Battle Breakfast of steak and eggs on such an eventful morning.  I remember thinking however as I ate a good old Navy breakfast of baked beans and cornbread on what many of us thought might be the last meal of our young lives ,"maybe it won't be too bad because the Navy apparently does not think it important enough to give us steak and eggs today."