OKINAWA
“A Fiery Sunday Morning”

DAWN ALERT

The USS BRAINE arrived at the anchorage at Kerama Retto in Okinawa in mid-May of 1945. Three new officers reported to supervise and operate new, advanced radar and fire control equipment. On 25 May of 1945 the BRAINE proceeded to Picket Station No 5, which had been subjected to heavy kamikaze attacks. She relieved the USS BENNION and took her assigned position with the USS ANTHONY - DD515 and four “little boys,” better known as “pall bearers” - the LCS(L) 13, 82, 86, and 123.


UNDER ATTACK

The formation immediately came under air attack by the kamikaze planes. During that night, four enemy planes were shot down. Another air attack soon ensued and four planes were shot down by the combat air patrol under control of the fire directors of the BRAINE. The BRAINE and the ANTHONY shot down an enemy “Betty” which was carrying a baka bomb - a human guided missile. For the next twenty-four inclement weather prevented further attacks, but the kamikaze planes frequently flew overhead, keeping the crew at continuous General Quarters.

May 27th was the 40th anniversary of Japan’s victory against the Russians in the Sea of Japan. The Key to Japan’s victory was two cruisers presented by Argentina, along with a naval advisor, Domencq Garcia. On Sunday the 27th of May, Admiral Toyodo order 175 planes to attack the beachhead and picket ships at Okinawa. About 0745 the crew of the BRAINE had just secured from General Quarters. The sky was overcast and there was no air cover. Suddenly, four kamikaze planes, which were identified as “Vals” dove out of the overcast and attacked the picket station. The first plane was shot down by the combined fire of the BRAINE and the ANTHONY. The second plane was set afire and crashed close aboard the starboard side of the ANTHONY hurling the pilot onto the superstructure and causing some minor damage to the uptakes of the No. 2 stack. The third plane was set afire as it flew over the ANTHONY.

“The plane narrowly missed us. I watched the joker pass over us almost to the wave tops, then pull up in a left climbing dive to about 1400 feet and then into a dive into the Braine,” recalled Commander C.J. Van Arsdall, Captain of the ANTHONY.

As the plane approached the BRAINE, Captain Fitts ordered right full rudder and flank speed. The plane came in almost directly over the bow, just above the main deck. It sheered off a wing on the No. 1 gun and crashed into the No. 2 Handling Room, which exploded and killed the men on that gun. The gun crew on the forward 40mm guns were either killed or thrown in the sea. The plane which hit the BRAINE carried a 550 pound bomb with a delayed action fuse which skidded on and exploded in the Wardroom, demolishing the Combat Information Center. The Doctor, the new Executive Officer and the Fire Control Officers were killed. The men in the forward medical aid station and repair party were killed.

Within seconds the fourth plane close on the tail of the first, approached the BRAINE sharp on the starboard bow. It sheered one of its wings on the starboard boat davit and crashed in flames into the deck amidships, and buried itself into the sick bay and supply office. The bombs it was carrying exploded in the uptakes of the No. 2 stack, blowing the stack and the fighter directors into the sea. The force of the impact and the explosions ruptured a high pressure steam line. The amidships medical unit and repair party were killed.

For the next hour the BRAINE was running out of control and moved in a large circle at about 20 knots. After Steering attempted to hold a steady course, but due to a discrepancy in the rudder indicator and actual rudder angle further attempts were unsuccessful. With no water pressure to flood the forward magazines, or to fight the fires, Captain Fitts ordered the men on the bow and the men amidships, who were trapped between the fires, to abandon ship, taking wounded crewmembers with them. The gig was lowered with the more seriously wounded. All power was lost in the after section of the ship when steam to the after generator failed.

All communications were immediately lost on the bridge. The raging fires burned out of control. Their fury was fed by the spilled gasoline and they ignited the shells and ammunition of all four 40mm clipping rooms. The torpedoes were torn loose from their mountings. Many of the crew distinguished themselves that day, fighting fires, jettisoning 5”, 20mm, and 40 mm ammunition, and caring for the wounded. The men on the after part of the ship were isolated and not aware of the situation forward, lacked communication with the bridge.

The BRAINE was finally brought under control and was stopped. The ANTHONY and the LCS(L) -86, and 123 came alongside to assist in the fire fight and to care for the wounded. The Marine Corsairs dipped their wings over the survivors in the shark-infested waters. Some were later rescued by the LCS(L) - 86 and 82. More wounded were picked up by PBM-5 from Rescue Squadron VH-3.

Four hours later the fires on board the BRAINE were extinguished. Those crew members who had been transferred to the ANTHONY received emergency care. The USS REEVES-DE156 and the tug, USS ART 76, came out from Kerama Retto to assist. The REEVES transferred their doctor and Chief Pharmacist Mate to the ANTHONY. They worked diligently, while they proceeded at top speed to transfer the wounded to hospital ships, and tended to their medical needs.

The casualty report listed twenty-seven crewmembers killed and forty missing. The missing were later confirmed as Killed in Action. Among the casualties were eight officers and fifty-nine enlisted men killed and 102 wounded. Fifty were seriously enough to be hospitalized. The USS BRAINE suffered the highest casualty rate for any destroyer that did not sink.

The BRAINE was moored alongside a tender to have her damage assessed. The hull was found to be intact, but there was severe damage to the after fire room and engine room. The motor from the first plane was imbedded in the Officer’s Quarters, which had been destroyed in the initial kamikaze attack and impact. The body of the pilot from the first plane was found wearing a regulation Japanese uniform. He was wearing Texas style cowboy boots, and carried several ceremonial dolls with him to his death. The motor from the second plane was imbedded into the deck of the BRAINE. His wallet was later found. In it was a carefully placed picture of the pilot’s wife and child.

One of the planes had a Pratt & Whitney engine and was equipped with Goodyear tires. The damaged torpedoes were delicately removed and jettisoned off the ship. The IC Room was undamaged and the gyro-compass was found to be operational. Temporary communications were rigged with sound powered phones between the Engine Room, Bridge, and After Steering. For the next few weeks the crew, who had remained with the BRAINE, cleaned up the ship and made temporary repairs for the long voyage home. Steel plates were welded over the gaping holes in the deck. The fighter director was lowered and welded in the area of the ship which received the first hit and supports were welded to support the bridge.

Those men who were killed were buried at sea. On the 19th of June, 1945, the crew of the BRAINE held a Memorial Service for their fallen comrades, and the ship departed for the States.

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