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USS Laffey Attacked! 65 years ago today…

Waring Hills Apr 16, 2010

Image from History Channel program on Laffey...

One day after Yorktown’s birthday, 16 April marks the 65 anniversary of the Japanese attack on the USS Laffey (DD-724)…when I first arrived at Patriots Point I was talking with a gentleman one day on the Laffey. We were back by the aft 5 inch guns and he told me that was these guns were his battle station in World War II. He was onboard the Laffey during that fateful day and was making his way back to the guns when he opened the back hatch to enter and the world went dark…he awoke on the deck edge of Laffey…if he had gone over the side he would surely have drown in his unconscious state…after he recovered his senses he  rushed to the hatch on the gun and saw what no person should ever see…

All his shipmates in the aft gun were killed instantly when a Japanese aircraft crashed into the gun. Notice the angle on the 5 inch guns below on the aft gun mount.

Battle damage to the USS Laffey April 1945.

Close up image of the aft 5 inch guns.

The destroyer Laffey (DD-724) fought for 80 minutes against 22 Japanese kamikaze planes and conventional bombers on April 16, 1945. Although the ship’s gunners downed many incoming planes, seven suicide planes crashed into the ship, and two other planes dropped bombs that hit the ship. These attacks killed 32 and wounded 71, but Laffey survived despite fires, smashed and inoperable guns, and a jammed rudder. F. Julian Becton, Laffey‘s commander during World War II, wrote this thorough history of the ship’s distinguished wartime service at Normandy, the Philippine Islands, and Okinawa. Joseph Morschauser III, a former writer for Look magazine, co-authored this book’s 12 chapters that tell the story of the ship that was hit the most times by kamikazes in a single day.

Commander Julian Becton, Skipper of the Laffey

Becton, while executive officer aboard the destroyer Aaron Ward, witnessed the sinking of the first destroyer named Laffey during the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal in November 1942. He later became commander of the Aaron Ward in March 1943, but his command lasted only three weeks before being sunk after five Japanese planes hit or nearly missed his ship with bombs. The Navy then assigned him to command the newly-built destroyer Laffey, commissioned in February 1944. He continued as commander of the ship until July 1945, after the damaged ship returned to the mainland for repairs. Becton became famous for his reply to an officer asking him whether they would have to abandon Laffey after several kamikaze planes had hit her. “We still have guns that can shoot. I’ll never abandon ship as long as a gun will fire!” He continued to serve in the Navy after World War II and reached the rank of Rear Admiral.

Watch the History Channel recreation of the attack below…

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5 thoughts on “USS Laffey Attacked! 65 years ago today…

  1. slamdunk says:

    Amazing story of courage. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Susan says:

    When was the helo deck installed on the USS Laffey? Was it in place during WWII?

    1. Chris Hauff says:

      Hi Susan,

      It was installed in 1962. Thank you for asking!

      Chris Hauff
      Public Information Officer

  3. Jeffrey D. Carter says:

    My name is Jeffrey Donald Carter. I would like to start this letter by saying thank you to all that have served our country. My father served on the USS Laffey and was one of the causality’s in April of 1945. His name was Donald Jason Carter. He passed on October 21, 1978. I had just turned 17, but in the years I had with dad he taught me to be who I’ve become today.
    Our lives become so cluttered and busy we sometimes forget who we are and where we came from. To my late father and to all the USS Laffey family, I say thank you for your sacrifice.
    As I think of my dad today, and knowing how proud he was of the Laffey, and all her crew. I can feel the tap on my shoulder and see the look in his eye, and here the words. It’s about time. Thank You.
    Jeffrey D. Carter

    1. Steven Carter says:

      When we were growing our dad James Carter and our grandfather Kenneth Carter always told us what a hero our great uncle Donald was.
      I finally met him in early 70’s up in Rusholt or Iola I don’t remember which. It was like meeting someone from the movies , because of all the great stories we were told as kids.
      You should be so proud.
      Steve Carter

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