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USS Laffey Attacked! 65 years ago today…

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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 heĀ  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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