Once the initial landings had been completed, the mundane tasks of patrolling, screening, and making smoke became the primary occupation of most of the gunboats. They were assigned to protect the ships in the anchorages. Anti-small craft patrol was usually described as “fly-catching,” but the sailors soon named it “skunk patrol.” However, they saw more action during air attacks. In the immediate waters around Okinawa, forty-six inner screening patrol stations had been designated. Each was approximately two miles long and one mile wide. They were designed to give maximum protection to the fleet and prevent attacks by suicide boats and the escape of the Japanese troops as the action moved to the southern areas of Okinawa. They were numbered from 101 through 146. Screen number 101 was at the southernmost tip of Okinawa and the screen numbers ran in a clockwise pattern around the island, ending again at the southernmost tip with station 146, just to the east of station 101.
In order to provide security for American ships anchored at Hagushi and in Nakagusuku Bay, it was necessary to set up a ring of screening stations around the island. They were patrolled by LCS(L)s and LCI gunboats. Destroyers patrolled to seaward of the stations for additional support. Commander Task Unit 52.17.1 (Commander LCI Group 16) Serial 031, Action Report, Anti Small Craft Screen, Okinawa, 1 April thru 8 April 1945, 29 April 1945, Enclosure (G).
The anti–small craft gunboats patrolling the southeastern and southwestern areas were designated as TU 52.9.2 under Commander Michael Malanaphy on LC(FF) 627. TU 59.9.2 consisted of four task units of six LCI(G)s each. On 12 May the Task Unit was modified. At that point command shifted to Commander Eikel on LC(FF) 627 who commanded six LCI(G) divisions of from five to six LCI(G)s each. From time to time, LCS(L)s, LCI(M)s, or LCI(L)s were used to supplement the LCI(G)s on a temporary basis.
On 9 April it became apparent that more protection from the suicide boats was needed in the Hagushi anchorage. LCS(L)s from TG 52.19, under the direct tactical command of CTU 32.19.3, were assigned to the task. Seven new stations were added in two lines, running approximately from east to west and were to the south and west of the anchorage. The new stations were designated as X2 through X8. An additional and unnumbered station was positioned near the grounded and destroyed hulk of Longshaw to prevent enemy boarding. As the fighting progressed southward, some of the inner screening stations were abandoned, particularly on the eastern and southeastern side of the island, including stations 135–142. By mid–April, these were no longer deemed necessary.
Two Shinyo Squadrons, Numbers 22 and 42, were assigned to the defense of Okinawa. They were based at Chinen and Yonabaru respectively. Both bases were in the southeast part of Okinawa, and these small vessels frequently attacked American ships in Nakagusuku Bay. In early attacks on the island, prior to its invasion, many of the boats were destroyed by air raids. By 1 April, only about fifty to sixty boats were operational. Other boats were stationed in the islands of Kerama Retto. Zamami Shima was home to the 1st Surface Raiding Squadron, while the 2nd Surface Raiding Squadron was based on Aka Shima. The 3rd Surface Raiding Squadron made its home base on Takashi Shima.
By comparison, the Imperial Japanese Army’s suicide boats were more numerous. Assigned to the Okinawa area were eight suicide boat regiments, Numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 26, 27, 28, and 29. Suicide Boat Regiments Numbers 1, 2, 3, and 4 were based on several islands of the Kerama Retto group.1 Although they launched some attacks prior to 1 April, they were captured early in the campaign so that use of them was denied to the Japanese. Other units continued to attack American shipping where possible, but vigilant LCS(L) and LCI(G) gunboats, assigned to combat them, destroyed many. The effectiveness of the gunboats was evident in the fact that they destroyed seventy-one of the suicide boats between 1 April and 17 May 1945.
Fly-catching also involved patrolling the inshore waters to prevent the Japanese from mounting counter-landings behind American troops. Although barge traffic was not seen very much at Okinawa due to the pre-invasion bombardment and constant air attacks, it was still possible to infiltrate behind the American lines using all manner of small craft.
It was usual to begin “fly-catching” patrols around 1600 each day, and the gunboats were accompanied by destroyers and a cruiser which stood a bit farther off shore. If enemy small craft were spotted by the gunboats, they could call for assistance. This might take the form of additional gunfire, spotting the small boats using their searchlights, or firing star shells to illuminate the area. Vice Admiral Turner reported:
The effectiveness of the program is best illustrated by the fact that only four counter-landings were accomplished out of the many attempted, and on those four only a small portion of the enemy boats succeeded in getting through the patrol. Only one suicide type boat succeeded in reaching the transport area on each coast. “Fly-catcher” ships also performed the additional tasks of dusk and dawn harassment of NAHA, ITOMAN, and YONABARU airfields, to prevent enemy planes from taking off and landing.2
A Marine stands guard near a Shinyo found on Aka Jima, Kerama Retto. These Shinyo were hidden in caves and then transported to the water on trailers. The trailer can be seen under the nearest Shinyo. Official USMC photograph.
The rivers and streams on Okinawa leading to the bays and oceans provided excellent cover for the suicide boats. Along the small rivers numerous hiding places had been constructed. They were difficult to spot from the air, and at night the suicide boats were launched and sent out to attack American ships. Foliage along the shore provided cover for the boats as well. Large clumps of marsh grass made it difficult to spot the boats from seaward, however, gunboats frequently fired on suspected locations with positive results.
The first encounter by gunboats with a Japanese suicide boat at Okinawa came on 29 March 1945 when LCI(G) 558 was attacked by a Japanese Army Maru-re. The 558 was patrolling station P-9 which was off the western coast of Okinawa. At 0300 a small boat was reported heading for the gunboat about 1,000 yards away. Lookouts had seen the boat although it had not been picked up on radar. The ship opened fire with her #1 and #5 40mm guns, forcing the approaching boat to alter course. It then made its final run on the bow of the gunboat. The gunboat’s speed was only eight knots, but the Maru-re was doing at least twenty. LCI(G) 558’s starboard .50 caliber machine gun then took the boat under fire as the OOD ordered full left rudder and flank speed. The maneuver prevented the boat from successfully dropping its depth charges next to the ship. It struck a glancing blow and headed aft. As it veered away it was taken under fire by the #7 and #2 20mm guns, which scored a number of hits on it. The suicide boat disappeared from sight about fifty yards behind the gunboat and its depth charges went off as it sank, shaking the gunboat, but not causing any damage. At 0409 another small boat was sighted at a range of 1,100 yards and the gunboat turned to engage it, but it fled the area. Twenty minutes later a third suicide boat was spotted at a distance of 1,400 yards, and the 558 fired some 40mm rounds in its direction. The Maru-redropped its depth charges and fled. What was most alarming for the gunboat’s crew was that none of the small suicide boats had registered on the ship’s radar.3 Nearby, LCI(G) 452 spotted its first Maru-re at 0330 and drove it off with automatic weapons fire.
The Maru-re, used by the Japanese Army, was easy to distinguish from the Japanese Navy’s Shinyo. The presence of the racks behind the driver was the primary indicator. Two depth charges were mounted on the racks to be released next to an American ship. This capturedMaru-re is shown being tested by American personnel on 9 April 1945, shortly after its capture at Kerama Retto. Official U.S. Navy photograph.
LCI(R) 646 had been held in reserve during the landings at Kerama Retto and was on patrol off Tokashiki Shima. At sunrise, the gunboat was about to head back to her anchorage when she spotted three small boats and fired a shot across the bow of one. It failed to respond and the gunboat opened up with her 40mm guns. One turned toward her to make a run and was destroyed by 40mm and 20mm fire. She gave chase to the other two boats which had headed toward shore. A nearby destroyer also took them under fire and they disappeared from sight, apparently sunk. A nearby APD sent men ashore to search for survivors and took two men prisoner.4
The first gunboat to fall victim to the suicide boats at Okinawa was LCI(G) 82. On 3 April 1945, she was operating as a part of Gunboat Division Six, patrolling station 137 on the eastern coast of Okinawa as part of the inner screen. LCI(G) 347 patrolled a station to her south and LCI(G) 79was on patrol to her north. Tracy DM 19 was further offshore to provide heavier firepower for the three gunboats should the need arise.
Japanese suicide boats were well-hidden to prevent discovery and destruction. This is a typical boat revetment discovered along the banks of the Bisha River at Okinawa. COMPHIBSPAC Serial 01400, Photographic Report—Okinawa Operation L-Day 1 April 1945, Volume 3 of 3 Volumes, 25 July 1945.
Late in the evening, about 2030, ships to her south fired on a plane which subsequently crashed into the water near her. No one saw the plane crash but they heard the engine until it hit the water. A search of the area revealed that the plane was still floating in the water, and the gunboat circled it to investigate. It proved to be a Kate torpedo plane and the gunboat fired about fifty rounds of 20mm into it and sank it. Shortly thereafter they sighted a life raft with three Japanese aboard. As they approached the raft, it was obvious that one of the men had a grenade, and the three were killed by .30 caliber machine gun and small arms fire from the gunboat. Two bodies were picked up and searched for anything of intelligence value before being returned to the sea.
At 0125 the following morning, lookouts on LCI(G) 82 spotted a Maru-re making a run on the ship and took it under fire. They were not able to stop it. Only the gunner manning the .30 caliber machine gun on the conning tower managed to get off some shots. The 40mm and 20mm guns were unable to fire due to mechanical and personnel problems. The boat swerved right against the ship and dropped its depth charges. In his action report her Commanding Officer, Lieutenant (jg) Theodore Arnow, described what happened:
The boat approached rapidly, turned, and crashed into the ship on the port side just forward of the conning tower. A double explosion resulted, tearing a large hole in the side of the ship. This opening covered most of number two compartment (which was used as a petty officer’s sleeping quarters) and extended into number three compartment (which was used for crew’s sleeping quarters). The explosion knocked out all the ship’s lights and the ship immediately heeled to starboard. Number two and three compartments started to fill with water and within five minutes of the attack flames were shooting out of number two compartment, through the hatch and through holes in the deck. A hose was rigged but there was no water pressure…. The life rafts were launched and filled with the wounded. The fire enveloped the forward section of the ship and started to spread aft. Ammunition began to explode forward and the ship was abandoned approximately fifteen minutes after the attack.5
The Japanese made every attempt to hide their suicide boats from American aircraft and gunboats. This Japanese Navy Shinyo, hidden in a cave on Tokashiki Shima in the Kerama Retto Islands, was part of the 3rd Surface Raiding Battalion. COMPHIBSPAC Serial 01400,Photographic Report—Okinawa Operation L-Day 1 April 1945, Volume 3 of 3 Volumes, July 25, 1945.
With his men accounted for and safely on Tracy and LCI(G) 347, the commanding officer donned oxygen breathing equipment and re-boarded his ship. He found her to be a smoldering wreck. The blast had torn a hole on her port side that was about twenty feet long and she was listing thirty-five degrees to starboard. “The ship was almost completely split in half forward of the conning tower and the deck over number two compartment was completely shattered.”6 Arnow departed knowing that nothing could be done to save her. LCI(G) 725 managed to get a line on the 82 but had a difficult time keeping her off the reef, as she only had one engine operational herself. Finally the salvage vessel Gear ARS 34 arrived and took over the tow, but the swells proved too much for the hulk. At 1415 she broke in two, rolled over, and went under. She was the first gunboat victim of a suicide boat at Okinawa. Her casualties were one dead and nine wounded.
Between 2 and 3 April, LCI(G)s 465, 559, and 751 experienced air attacks at screening stations 116 and 117. Civilians attempting to escape from the fighting frequently took to the sea. On 4 April LCI(G) 559 spotted a small boat and went to investigate. It contained nine civilians, eight men and one woman. They were taken prisoner and their boat was destroyed. The prisoners were transferred to Purdy DD 734. One could never be sure of the true status of such people. It would not be unusual for Japanese soldiers to hide among civilians to cause damage or just to escape.
Although the ships were on screen to thwart the suicide boat attacks, other targets soon came to their attention. On 14 April at 1900, LCI(G) 442’s lookouts spotted enemy movement ashore just north of Naha and moved in to attack the enemy. Her guns hit a number of trucks accompanied by troops moving along a shore road. Large explosions shook the area as a number of the trucks erupted in balls of fire.7
Overnight from 15 to 16 April, LCI(G) 659 had her first experience with suicide boats. She was on patrol off the southwestern coast of Okinawa near the town of Naha when a cruiser spotted a suicide boat and took it under fire at 2335. As the boat attempted its escape from the cruiser, it came between it and the gunboat. The cruiser immediately ceased fire. As the suicide boat came within 300 yards, the 659 opened fire. The pilot of the boat, realizing that he could not escape, changed course and made a run on the gunboat. It concentrated its guns on the approaching craft, setting the suicide boat afire with its 20mm and .50 caliber guns, causing it to explode and sink. It was believed that the boat had a crew of two but no bodies were found. A few hours later, at 0218, the gunboat spotted another suicide boat at a distance of 250 yards and took it under fire. It took evasive action to escape the illumination of the ship’s spotlight, but it disappeared from sight, apparently sunk by the ship’s gunfire. Lieutenant (jg) Thomas A. Cooke CO of LCI(G) 659, in his action report for the events, noted the tactics of the suicide boats. He wrote: “The small boat used by the enemy in this action was propelled by an inboard engine which sounded not unlike that of an old Chevrolet. It makes considerable noise and provides a method of detecting the approach of the boat if it is not otherwise already observed, being heard distinctly at 20 yards.”8 He further noted that because of the noisy engine he felt that the boats traveled at a slow speed until the target vessel was identified, then switched to a high speed run. This was an accurate assessment, as the boats usually proceeded at a slow pace to avoid detection and to save fuel. In addition to the noise from the engine, the wake left by the boats was visible when they were at high speed.
While on screening duty, the gunboats never knew what they might encounter. On 18 April at 0130, LCI(G) 754 was on patrol station 104 when her lookouts sighted a small blinker light off Naha. Marine Second Lieutenant Charles A. Engman of VMF 543 had been flying off the field at Kadena and had run into engine problems. He made a water landing in the area and had been adrift in his life raft for approximately four hours. The crew fished him out of the water and transported him to El Dorado AGC-11 which returned him to his squadron.
Although suicide boats were frequently encountered, other means of water-born attack were used by the Japanese. At 0128 on 23 April, LCI(G)s 802 and 803 were patrolling off Ie Shima when they encountered several rafts with Japanese soldiers on board. The 803 captured one raft and took aboard seven prisoners. After they were secured, the gunboat illuminated the raft with its searchlight and found that it had about twenty hand grenades on board. At that point the order was given to the ships to fire on any rafts and not take prisoners. A short while later, LCI(G) 802 sighted a four by eight foot raft with seven Japanese soldiers aboard at a distance of one hundred yards, and a slightly smaller raft about fifty yards off the ship. Hand grenades were wired together on the rafts in an attempt to cause damage to the ships and they were taken under fire. All of the Japanese were killed and the rafts sunk. At 0212 another four by eight foot raft was spotted and taken under fire. The six Japanese on board were killed by gunfire, three of whom were swimming toward the ship to throw hand grenades.
The events of 27 April 1945 involving the LCI(R) 763’s experience with a suicide boat seemed to indicate that the Japanese were beginning to run out of their standard boat types and were pressing other types of craft into service that might be useful as suicide boats. A large number of both Army and Navy suicide boats had been captured by that date, and their construction and design was well-known. However, the boat used to attack LCI(R) 763 that evening had a different configuration. Apparently, it had completed an attack on a nearby destroyer. Since that was the case, it was probably an Army Maru-re with depth charges on the stern, however, no mounting racks for the depth charges were seen:
The opinions of several men who saw the small boat agree on the following description (refer encl. (A): the boat was approximately 18 feet in length, 6 feet in width, and 2 feet of freeboard; it was gray in color with a red disk and white numbers painted on the side; it had a small superstructure forward of midships; one man was located forward and one aft in a cockpit located abaft the superstructure; the engines sounded powerful and owing to the strong odor of gasoline after its sinking, it probably used such fuel.9
The 763, having been alerted to the presence of the boat, spotted it about 0500 and closed on it. Some maneuvering and evasive action was taken by the suicide boat and, at one point, it attempted to crash into the stern of the LCI(R). The gunboat took evasive action and fired on it with Thompson machine guns and other small arms. It was finally sunk by 20mm fire. The two man crew managed to escape before the boat sank and were killed by small arms fire. The body of one was taken aboard.
April 28 proved to be an active date for the gunboat-suicide boat battles. The suicide boat encounters began at 0013. LCI(G) 347 was off the southern coast of Okinawa. She had escaped an air attack only fifty-five minutes before when her lookouts spotted the wake of a suicide boat off her port side. She took it under fire with her #2 40mm gun and her two port side .50 caliber machine guns. The boat went dead in the water about thirty yards off the ship’s port bow. They fired on it again, causing it to explode. The concussion from the explosion temporarily knocked out the ship’s power but it was quickly restored.
As the battle for Okinawa wore on and the bulk of the available suicide boats were destroyed, the Japanese employed whatever was available in order to complete their missions against American shipping. The sketch above is of an eighteen foot boat with an approximate six foot beam. That was used in an attack on the LCI(R) 763 on 27 April 1945. Reports indicate that it was painted grey with a red disk and white numbers on the side. USS LCI(R) 763 Serial 24, Action Report—27 April 1945, 27 April 1945, Enclosure (A).
A short while later at 0227, in Nakagusuku Wan off China Saki, a Maru-re managed to sneak in close to LCS(L) 37 and drop its depth charges alongside the port side of the ship. The gunboat immediately took it under fire and sank it. Several of her crew were injured, her engines were knocked out, and her rudder was jammed. She was towed back to safety by LCS(L) 38. LCI(R) 648 picked up one of her men who had been blown overboard by the explosion. After a complete inspection it was found that her main engines were beyond repair. In a message to his commanding officers Commander L. M. Bailliere, CTU 52.9.4 Southern Support Gunboats, warned about the dangers in the Nakagusuku Bay area: “THIS AREA IS INFESTED WITH SUICIDE BOATS. KNOCK OUT EVERYTHING THAT LOOKS AS THOUGH IT MAY CONCEAL ANY SMALL BOATS. BE AGGRESSIVE.”10
That same evening, LCS(L) 84 was on “skunk patrol” in the Hagushi anchorage. During the night two suicide boats appeared, probably coming from hidden bases in the Bisha Gawa (Bisha River). Although the two boats were eventually sunk, it was not by any of the ship’s guns. The two had managed to get so close that the LCS(L)s guns could not depress sufficiently to hit them. Men lined the rails of the gunboat and hit the suicide boats with fire from carbines and rifles. One sank but the other exploded. Part of the problem in detecting the suicide boats was that the smoke in the anchorage made it hard to see them. In the case of the two boats that approached LCS(L) 84, it was only when they were very close that the crew was able to spot them.
LCS(L) 84 was a part of Group 11 under Lieutenant Commander Clifford E. Montgomery. Group 11 was a part of Flotilla 4 under the command of Captain Neill Phillips. When he learned of the problem with the suicide boats he took action. After consultation with Montgomery, he sent for Lieutenant (jg) Ray Perkins who was serving on the 84. Perkins had known Captain Phillips from serving on his staff at the ATB Solomons. Phillips gave him the following order:
Tomorrow morning at 0700 hours an M-boat will come alongside the “84.” You are to get aboard and go into the beach. There you are to find someone who can issue you 50 fifty-caliber, air-cooled machine guns. Put them in the M-boat and bring them back here to the “84.” Send me a signal when you get back and I will give you instructions for issuing them to our ships.11
The following morning the M-boat arrived as ordered and Perkins headed for shore. A small mountain of supplies lay in front of him, but the possibility of finding the guns was remote, as many of the boxes were not labeled. To make matters worse, there was no one around to help him find them. Perkins finally located a Marine Major at the side of the supply dump standing next to a 4 × 4 truck. He asked the Major for assistance but, after careful consideration, the Major made a counter-offer. He would get the needed machine guns for Perkins, but Perkins would have to help him drive to the northern end of the island to deliver mail since his driver had been shot the day before. With little choice in the matter, Perkins agreed and took the wheel as the Major manned the machine gun on top of the vehicle.
After a bumpy ride over a rough trail punctuated with potholes, the truck arrived at its destination. The Major made his delivery, picked up outgoing mail, and obtained some C-rations for the two of them. After a quick meal they were on their way back to Hagushi. When they arrived at the supply dump, the Major located the .50 caliber machine guns. They were in boxes about a foot square and five feet long. As the Major watched, Perkins loaded fifty of the unmarked boxes into the rear of the truck. The Major then drove him back to the beach.
The M-boat was waiting off shore and Perkins waved to the Coxswain to come in. Fortunately, the Coxswain had brought along a seaman to assist Perkins in loading the guns on the boat. The Coxswain had to stay at the wheel to keep the boat from broaching in the surf. Perkins thanked the Major for his help, whereupon the Major left.
Once alongside LCS(L) 84, the crew unloaded the M-boat and placed the gun boxes on the deck. Lieutenant Commander Montgomery was at the rail and informed Perkins that Captain Phillips wanted to speak to him immediately. Phillips wanted to know why the task took so long. After listening to Perkins’ explanation, he ordered him to open each of the boxes and record the serial numbers of the guns. During the following two days each of the LCS(L)s of Flotilla Four came alongside the 84 and each was given two of the guns. In this manner they would be better-prepared to combat the suicide boats. The issuing of the guns began at 0800 the following day. The Flotilla Four LCS(L)s had arrived at Okinawa with three .50 caliber guns and now mounted five.
With no space below to work on the guns, the crew had to open all of the boxes on deck, record the numbers on the outside of the boxes, and then repack them. The guns were distributed on schedule, official records kept, and the LCS(L) in Flotilla Four had additional firepower with which to combat the suicide boats.12
A few days went by and, on 1 May, the 84 encountered a dugout canoe with four Japanese on board. They kept their guns trained on the dugout and persuaded one of the Japanese to take his clothes off and swim to the ship. Once he was taken into custody, the others surrendered. The dugout was hoisted on board and destroyed with an axe and the four prisoners transferred to a prison ship.
On 3 May at 0004, LCI(R) 708 was on patrol near Kutaka Island when she picked up two blips on her radar. She headed in their direction to cut them off and prevent them from escaping behind the island. By 0200 she had one in sight and requested illumination from Wichita CA 45 which was nearby. Star shells lit up the night and the gunboat opened up with all of her automatic weapons, but the suicide boat ducked behind the reefs. As she moved in to fire on the suicide boat, her 40mm gun jammed and she was then fired upon by a gun on the island. Fortunately it missed. The suicide boat made full speed to the north where it fell victim to an LCS(L). The second suicide boat had avoided the rocket gunboat and tried to sneak by astern of her, only to be spotted and destroyed by another LCS(L). Gunners on Wichita, eager to assist, lit up the entire area with star shells. The light blinded the gunners and they were unable to spot the guns on the island.
LCS(L) 40 encountered an enemy swimmer at 0608 on 4 May. The gunboat was on patrol with others in Nakagusuku Wan. It had destroyed a suicide boat earlier in the morning and a second had been sunk by her fire and fire from LCS(L) 24. The swimmer was spotted 600 yards off Chinen Misaki. When the gunboat approached him and tried to pick him up, he took a hand grenade out of his shirt and tried to throw it at the crew. Ever alert for treachery, the crew killed him with small arms fire before he could throw the grenade. They reported that the man had been in full uniform with a life jacket but no helmet. As they approached him he had requested help in English, but it was only a ruse.
A half hour later a second swimmer was spotted 1,600 yards east of Yonabaru. Having experienced the treachery of the first swimmer, they killed him with small arms fire from a distance of 300 yards. The following day, at 1412, the ship fired on small boats beached in Yonabaru Wan and destroyed them. Several days later, at 0025 on 13 May, the gunboat and LC(FF) 536 approached a small boat off Chinen Misaki. The men on board capsized it and dove in the water. They were eventually found and dispatched with 20mm and 40mm gunfire.
The ship and its group continued on small craft patrol in Nakagusuka Wan for the remainder of the month. They fired on numerous targets on the beaches which they suspected concealed suicide boat positions. They also captured a half dozen more swimmers.
Task Unit 52.19.3, consisting of LCS(L)s 19, 53, 82, 83, 84, 86, and 111, were on anti–small craft patrol on a line from east to west of the Hagushi beaches during the evening of 12-13 May. The anchorage at Hagushi was a prime target for the suicide boats, and continual vigilance was necessary to keep them from getting into the transport area. About 2330 on the 12th, the line was approached by seven suicide boats. The ships requested star shell illumination and searchlight illumination from nearby larger ships. However, the combination of smoke in the anchorage and the light from the star shells made visibility difficult. Finally, LCS(L) 82 spotted one suicide boat dead in the water about seventy-five yards from her starboard bow. Her commanding officer ordered flank speed and left hard rudder. This combination caused the ship to heel and made it easier for the guns to fire on the suicide boat. They took the boat under fire and it headed for the ship. The flash from the gunboat’s 40mm guns temporarily blinded the gunners and they lost track of the suicide boat in the dark, the problem compounded by smoke from the anchorage and also from her own guns. The suicide boat passed only fifteen feet from the bow, turned out to starboard, and then headed back directly toward the starboard quarter of the ship. It passed behind the ship, all the while under fire from the gunboat’s aft 20mm and 40mm guns. In the confusion, three men went over the side and had to be rescued. It was next spotted at a range of 800 yards and taken under fire. The suicide boat maneuvered to avoid the gunfire but eventually was hit and sunk.
Reports on the incidents were sent up the chain of command with appropriate recommendations. Based on the action reports, Lieutenant Commander E. C. Thomas, CTU 52.19.3, noted the need for larger searchlights on the gunboats as they sought to find and destroy the suicide boats. In his first endorsement to the action report of LCS(L) 19 he stated:
It is noted that an arc light is of great assistance in carrying out anti small craft patrol at night. This is illustrated in this action as evidenced by the fact that it was possible to pick up the first suicide boat by means of the DM25’s arc light at considerably greater range than the second boat was picked up by the blinker light of the LCS(L) #19. In view of this, it is recommended that a 24" arc light be installed on all LCS(L)’s.13
The close proximity of the ship to the suicide boat had allowed the crew to get a good look at the boat. They described it as “about twenty feet long, with a large, open cockpit in which four (4) men sat upright. It lay low in the water, was muddy brown topsides, and made speed estimated during the chase at about fifteen (15) knots.”14 Once again, the Japanese had pressed into service a non-standard boat for use in the suicide attacks. Whether or not this was a Shinyo or Maru-re was not clear, but the method of attack and the absence of depth charges on the stern led observers to believe it was a Navy Shinyo.
In mid–May, reports came in about suspected suicide boat locations on the beaches along the southwest shore of Kutaka Shima in Nagagusuku Wan, and on 15 May LCS(L) 113 was ordered to investigate. Hidden in the foliage along the shore of the beach were several small boats concealed in the palmetto bushes, and the ship took them under fire, destroying three. Enemy troops were seen attempting to move a fourth boat to cover and were taken under fire. There was no further movement, and it was not clear if the troops had moved their boat to safety or if they were killed by gunfire. The search took place from 0800 to 1135.
The Japanese had committed a variety of weapons to combat the Americans at Okinawa. Kamikaze aircraft, suicide boats, flying bombs, and suicide swimmers had been encountered, along with conventional air attacks. Also committed to the struggle were submarines, many of the midget variety. They were assumed to be in the Okinawa area, an assumption that was confirmed on 21 May.
LCS(L) 68 spotted two wakes at 2125 on 21 May. She turned to run parallel to the wakes and requested illumination from Bobolink AM 20. She lost sight of the wake at 2148, and shortly thereafter, sighted three wakes crossing her fantail. She identified them as three midget submarines. She turned hard to starboard and took them under fire. LCS(L)s 69, 93, and 95 were called to the scene and the cruiser Vincennes CL 64 was also alerted. The subs submerged, and reappeared a short while later near LCS(L) 124, and then disappeared again. No further sightings were made in the area, and it appeared that the midget subs had withdrawn. Riddle DE 185 remained in the area, depth charges ready to launch if the subs returned.15
By June, most of the suicide boats had been destroyed. Sporadic attacks by remnants of the suicide boat forces were undertaken using whatever means they could to get out to the American ships. Some were in dugouts, others on rafts, and still others swam out only to be picked off by gunboat fire. Remaining members of the suicide boat units either joined Army units or made a last ditch effort to cause problems for the fleet.
In many cases the Japanese, having been compressed into a small area in the southern part of Okinawa, made attempts to swim off the main island to smaller islands offshore. On 3 June at 0025 LCI(G) 751, patrolling on station 141, reported several capsized boats in her area with about twenty to twenty-five swimmers in the water. LCI(G) 558 joined her in taking prisoners. Between the two gunboats six prisoners were taken, with the others either drowning, committing suicide, or being killed. The boats were found to contain rifles, grenades, and provisions for the men. Some of the captured men had goggles and grenades on them.16
Task Unit 32.19.12, consisting of LCS(L)s 61, 62, 65, 81, 82, and 90, under the command of Lieutenant Commander B. D. Voegelin on board LC(FF) 786, patrolled in Nakagusuku Wan on 5 June. At 2230 LCS(L) 62 made radar contact with a suspected suicide boat at 800 yards. Star shells from nearby ships were requested, and the illumination from them revealed a twenty foot dugout canoe with six enemy combatants aboard. They were dressed in breech cloths and two had goggles. A tarpaulin in the boat covered what appeared to be a substantial cargo. At 2245 the gunboat was ordered to take the men prisoner, but their commands via bullhorn went unheeded. Seeing no alternative, the gunboat took the dugout under fire, at which time the six men went overboard. The gunboat secured its larger guns and relied on small arms fire from the crew to dispatch the men in the water. Five were killed and the sixth was persuaded to surrender after .50 caliber machine gun fire splashed all around him. He was taken aboard at 1130 and was about to be tied up when he jumped overboard and swam back to the dugout. His refusal to return to the ship made it impossible to pick him up, and the canoe and man were run over by the gunboat which dropped an anti-tank mine for good measure. This was not successful and the man appeared to be unhurt. LCS(L) 81, which had joined in the action, ran him over. No trace of him was found after that. Subsequent inspection of the remains of the dugout revealed Navy uniforms and equipment leading to the assumption that they were Navy personnel attempting to escape from Okinawa.
Lieutenant Commander R. S. Rickabaugh, CO of Task Unit 51.17.1, determined that certain tactics against the suicide boats were more effective than others. The ships under his command, LCI(G)s 452, 467, 558, 559, 560, and 751 had ample experience with the suicide boats during the first week of the Okinawa campaign. He felt that the .50 caliber machine gun was the most effective weapon to be employed. In his action report for the task unit dated 29 April, he stated that:
A 50 caliber gun was the most effective weapon used against the suicide boat. Twice the oncoming boat was driven from his intended course by the steady stream of 50 caliber fire and when the boat finally hit the side of the ship it was a glancing blow which apparently did not release the depth charges and it was necessary to release them by hand inasmuch as the explosion of the charge did not occur until about 50 yards astern of the ship.
The large volume of fire possible and the ability to depress the 50 caliber gun well below the horizontal and along the side of the ship provides protection which is not available from any other type gun on board and its installation on board all LCI(G)s is strongly recommended with two mounts on the bow, two on the gun deck just forward of the 20MM mounts, and two on the fantail.17
Rickabaugh further noted that the use of tracer rounds and sealed beam searchlights at night had the effect of momentarily blinding the crew and obscuring the target. Tracer rounds from the 40mm guns were particularly bright. On hazy or foggy nights, the searchlights might be reflected by the haze and cause difficulties in seeing the target. Rickabaugh concluded that the ships were better off not using the lights at all.
On a number of occasions, observers on the gunboats remarked that the suicide boats did not seem particularly aggressive. Although never proven, it was suspected that when enemy troop movements were undertaken at night, a standard practice would be to send a couple of suicide boats out into the bay. This would detract the gunboats from discovering and firing on enemy troops ashore. Chasing after the suicide boats would put them farther out to sea or out of positions from which they could fire on enemy troop movements. In his Action Report of Task Unit 51.2.9 From 25 March 1945 to 15 May 1945, Lieutenant Commander James F. McFadden, who served as Commander of LCI(G) Group Seven, noted:
Except for the boat which suicided into LCI(G) 82, the enemy boats were not aggressive. This lends credence to the theory that contacts made on the western side of Okinawa were deliberately brought about by the enemy as a diversion to keep our gunboats and illumination away from points close-inshore where movements of troops along the coast could be accomplished. There is no information on hand now, however, which substantiates this theory. Without this theory, the lack of aggressiveness by the so called suicide boats is difficult to explain. On two occasions the LCI(G) 725 could have been hit by suiciders had they really been bent on their mission.18
Japanese soldiers continued their efforts to escape the carnage ashore. They usually ran afoul of the gunboats on the inner screen. Early in the morning of 1 June, a Japanese Army sergeant took a small native boat and attempted to escape by sea. He was soon picked up by LCI(G) 558. Two days later, on 3 June, twenty to twenty-five Japanese attempted to escape at screening station 142. They were intercepted by LCI(G)s 558 and 751. Six of the enemy were captured and taken on board the gunboats; the others were killed trying to escape.19
The Air Attacks
At Okinawa, the Japanese committed large numbers of aircraft to conventional and kamikaze missions. These attacks came in numbers not previously experienced by the American forces and they were hard put to combat them. Numerous ships were attacked and many were hit by the kamikazes but, in the end, the American Navy prevailed. It is doubtful that any of the gunboats operating around Okinawa did not have the opportunity to fire on enemy aircraft. Many of the engagements were of a minor nature, with gunboats firing on and driving off attacking aircraft. Ships were not usually alone, and an enemy airplane flying near any one was sure to draw fire from several. The list of “sure” kills paled in comparison the list of aircraft reported as shot down by the combined fire of several ships. An exhaustive list could be compiled but would seem greatly repetitious. The incidents detailed below are representative of the anti-aircraft action experienced by the screening ships.
LCI(R) 1078 was patrolling the anti-aircraft screen about ten miles from Aguni Shima during the evening of 1-2 April. During the day she had participated in a fire assignment covering the initial invasion at Hagushi. At 0540 on 2 April she went to general quarters with the report of enemy aircraft in the area. A Hamp had targeted a minesweeper operating near her, which nearly ran her over as it maneuvered to escape the air attack. Her gunners observed the Hamp making its run on the minesweeper and took it under fire as it passed near the gunboat at a height of only sixty-five feet off the water. Shells from one of her 20mm guns hit the plane in the cockpit area at a distance of one hundred yards. It turned into the gunboat in an attempted suicide run and its engine was hit by additional 20mm fire, causing it to crash into the sea only fifty yards off the ship’s port beam. It was a close call for the gunboat and the minesweeper, but both escaped the attack with no damage.20
From 1 to 3 April, LCI(G)s 465 and 568 were on patrol at screening stations 117 and 116 respectively, just to the north of Motobu Peninsula. At 1836 on 2 April, they observed an F6F Hellcat shot down three miles behind them. They changed course and headed toward the crash site with the hope of rescuing the downed pilot. A Japanese fighter plane, either a Zeke or Oscar, made a run on the ships and was shot down off the port beam of 465. Within minutes another plane dove on and strafed the 568. It was also shot down by the combined fire of the two gunboats. However, the 568 had sustained wounded men and headed for Wilson DD 408, which was nearby. The destroyer took her wounded aboard and brought them to a hospital ship. LCI(G) 568 had to head back to Kerama Retto for repairs and 465 continued on patrol. She was joined by LC(FF) 627 which then accompanied her on patrols.
The following morning, at 0400, the two ships were approached by another enemy plane. Fire from the 465 set her ablaze and LC(FF) 627 finished her off. The plane crashed near LC(FF) 627 in a great ball of fire. At mid-day, LCI(G) 559 replaced LC(FF) 627. Later that day, at 1820, the ships were approached by another enemy fighter which dove on LCI(G) 465. The plane was hit by 20mm and .50 caliber gunfire and crashed fifty feet off the gunboat’s port beam. It was surmised that the pilot had been killed by the gunfire and lost control of the plane, causing it to pass over the ship prior to crashing. Disturbing to the CO of LCI(G) 465 was that both her bow 40mm and starboard 40mm had jammed along with her aft port 20mm gun. This seriously reduced her firepower to the point where she had to return to Kerama Retto for repairs.21
The first of the Kikusui raids began on 6 April and, although a number of the enemy aircraft fell victim to the radar picket ships and the combat air patrols, many still made it through to the anchorage at Hagushi. Patrolling near some LSTs anchored south of Zampa Misaki off Black Beach, were LCI(R)s 651 and 1029. Two Vals were seen in the area lining up for their runs on the LSTs. Both were shot down by the combined fire of the two rocket ships.
On 8 April, LCI(G) 567 was on anti–small boat patrol north of Ie Shima when she came under attack by a Val at 1835. The enemy plane was spotted at a distance of 3,000 yards off the port beam and heading past the ship. It turned in toward her and made a run. Lieutenant K. C. Flory, the CO, gave the order to turn the ship in order to take the aircraft on its beam and allow both forward and aft 40mm guns to fire. Gunfire from the smaller guns, 20mm and .50 caliber, was withheld until the plane came into range at about 1,000 yards. The Val was hit by a number of rounds from the ship but managed to pass by, bank to its left, and dive on the starboard quarter of the gunboat. The 20mm and .50 caliber guns hit the plane’s greenhouse and killed the pilot. The kamikaze’s wing hit the water twenty yards off the ship and it crashed only a few yards from the bow. A huge column of water went into the air and the ship was covered with pieces of the plane and other debris. The hard turn to port had saved the ship from a sure disaster.
The following day, 10 April, another Val attacked the ship at 0700 in the same area. The attack was sudden and the ship was not able to effectively fire on it. It passed over the fantail of LCI(G) 567, turned hard to its port, and crashed in the water only twenty yards off the port bow. The bomb carried by the plane exploded but the gunboat was not damaged. It was almost a repeat of the previous day’s action and once again, the hard turn to port had saved her.
Landing on the stern of the ship was a mascot doll and its letter, which was retrieved by the ship’s crew.22 Mascot dolls were frequently carried by kamikaze pilots and a few were recovered after the crash of a kamikaze. The letter, written by Japanese schoolgirl Tsuko Miwachi, read:
Even the hearing of this name arouses a deep emotion. Of the acts of the American and British devils, attacking and surrounding on all sides our Army, poor in material resources at this time of fierce decision in the war. We are raging at the unspeakable destruction. We also as students and laborers give help to the men. With a clear mind, daily to be able to rush forth to the destruction of the American … is happiness. Of the spirit of the SPECIAL ATTACK FORCE, not stopping till it strikes! In this is the thought of the Gods I believe. I believe it is the lofty state of mind which will make an eternal future of great righteousness for the Emperor’s sake. Ah, this time, thinking, “if I were only a boy.” I grow more envious; when I think of making a mascot to send to the men of the SPECIAL ATTACK FORCE I am filled with a great happiness. With this mascot the fierce spirit which will crumble the enemy ships into small pieces boils passionately, positively attack! Can you bear defeat? The foolish rascals of America and Britain! I am in a mood to shout these things aloud. Since I made the “mascot” in this spirit, it is doubtless unskillful, but please sink the enemy ships together with the “mascot.” This is my greatest request.
Soon the mascot will take off gaily with the SPECIAL ATTACK FORCE. What will this be but the greatest happiness? Though I myself am not in the attack, my spirit will be serving as a member of the SPECIAL ATTACK FORCE.
Be of good health. I pray for great war results.23
The strain caused by the suicide boats and planes was beginning to tell on the crews of the gunboats. Lieutenant K. C. Flory reported:
Suicide attacks are hard on morale because of the suddenness with which they develop, (Requiring constant condition one or two watches and intense air-look-out alertness when on outlying patrol), and because of the apparent impossibility of stopping the planes. The plain fact that in a period of two weeks (in our flotilla alone) the Nips paid around fifteen planes in order to get one mast, a 20mm gun, and two men, should be widely publicized, and if possible gunboats patrolling popular “suicide resorts” during the day should be relieved of Q-boat patrol occasionally during the night, since standing a tight condition two watch both day and night is in itself wearing on the nerves.24
Also included in Flory’s recommendations was the addition of a half-dozen twin .50 caliber guns to amplify close-in fire support.
LCI(G) 407 was struck by a kamikaze on 16 April while on patrol at station 136 on the eastern side of Okinawa. At about 0930, her lookouts sighted a Val flying low over the island of Taka Hanare. Its southeasterly flight path seemed to be taking it away from the ship which was heading directly north. However, the plane circled back and picked up altitude. The Val turned and flew a parallel course off the starboard quarter of the ship, and as it approached a position off the starboard beam of the gunboat, it banked and headed directly toward the ship. It was hit by a number of 40mm shells but kept coming. It crashed into the starboard ramp near the forecastle. Fortunately there was no explosion on board the ship. Apparently the bomb carried by the aircraft exploded harmlessly in the water. One man received a cut over his eye, but the gun tub shielded the others from any shrapnel from the bomb’s explosion and the impact of the plane. As a result of the plane’s impact, there was a four foot hole in the hull below the starboard ramp, along with some attendant damage to bulkheads and wiring in the area. “Most of the body of the pilot was found in the boatswain’s locker. It had dropped there after being thrown from the plane through the forecastle hatch.25
The gunboat was once again under attack on 27 April when she was patrolling on station 104 just west of Naha. As she headed north in her patrol area during the night, she spotted a Kate heading south on her starboard bow. It turned in and made a run on her but was hit by a number of her 20mm shells as it passed over the ship’s stern. It crashed off her starboard quarter.
LCI(R) 770 was on patrol in the Kerama Retto islands when she came under attack on 28 April. She was anchored and engaged in making smoke to cover the various ships in the area between Hokaji Shima and Tokashiki Shima. At 0051 a Val came out of the south and made a run on her. It dropped a bomb which glanced off the ship and exploded in the water nearby. Some minor damage to the ship occurred but there was no major damage; it had been a close call.
May was a busy time for Mortar Support Division Six under Lieutenant H. M. Mattson, which consisted of LCI(M)s 801 to 806 inclusive. Their assignment during May was to patrol the south side of Ie Shima during the day, screening ships against air attacks, and escorting cargo ships to the Hagushi anchorage. At night they made smoke for the ships in the area.
On 6 May, at 0830, an incoming Dinah made its attack on the anchorage with the assembled ships opening fire. The plane flew out of range, circled around, and came back heading for Panamint AGC 13 in a crash dive. All ships in the area, including LCI(M) 804, opened fire and the plane passed over the command ship, crashing 700 yards past her. A crash into Panamint would have created many problems, as she was the amphibious force flagship for the Northern Attack Force with Rear Admiral L. F. Reifsnider and his staff on board.
LCI(G) 407 narrowly escaped serious damage when she was crashed by a Val on 16 April 1945 at Okinawa. She was screening the eastern side of Okinawa near Taka Hanare Island when she came under attack. USS LCI(G) 407 No Serial, Anti-Aircraft Action Report, 16 April 1945, Enclosure (B).
Panamint became a target again on 11 May when three Japanese Jills made an attempt to crash her. At 0900 the first of the planes dropped its bombs on a destroyer at Hagushi and then headed for Panamint. LCI(M) 804 and other ships in the anchorage opened fire. By the time it reached Panamint, it was an uncontrolled ball of fire. It passed closely over her, hitting the cargo ship M. S. Tjisadane, killing four of her crew and wounding nine. A second plane headed toward the amphibious force command ship and was taken under fire. A 5 inch shell from a destroyer disintegrated it. The third plane made the same run soon after and ran into a blanket of automatic gunfire from the screening ships. It veered off smoking and was chased by four Corsairs which finished it off.26
On 18 May LCI(M)s 739, 741, and 1058 were screening for the Merchant Marine ship S. S. Cornelius Vanderbilt which was anchored off Ie Shima. At 1920, the ships anchored near Vanderbilt went to general quarters with the approach of enemy aircraft. The first kamikaze, a Zeke, was taken under fire at 1927, and the combined fire of the three ships brought it crashing into the sea off Vanderbilt’s starboard bow. Ten minutes later, a second Zeke was sighted diving on Vanderbilt from an altitude of about 1,000 feet. It too met its fate after the combined gunfire from all three ships hit it. It crashed into the water near LCI(M) 1058. At 1947, an Oscar was seen diving on Vanderbilt. It was also shot down, crashing close astern LCI(M) 739 which was given credit for shooting it down. A Japanese torpedo plane, possibly a Kate, came in low at 2010. It crossed the bow of LCI(M) 1058 and launched a torpedo at Vanderbilt, which fortunately missed. Gunfire from the ships hit the plane and it went down past the anchorage. By this time, the gunboats had engaged their smoke making equipment and the freighter was fairly well covered. Another plane dropped a stick of twelve bombs nearby but was unable to hit the merchant ship. Only a few days passed before Vanderbilt was again under attack. On 20 May, at 1834, a Zeke came in from the north in an apparent crash dive. Gunfire from LCI(M) 741 tore into the plane and it crashed into the sea between her and Vanderbilt. Six minutes later an Oscar appeared to be diving on Vanderbilt, but fire from LCI(M) 741 drove it off. It aimed for another part of the transport area but went down in flames.
LCI(M) 804 was making smoke for the ships anchored at Ie Shima at 2200 on 18 May when an enemy plane came through the haze and dropped a torpedo which hit LST 808. Fire from the gunboat was directed at the plane but it flew out of range and escaped. Fortunately, there was only one man wounded on the LST, but she was out of the war. Tugs towed her to a nearby reef where she sat for two days until, on 20 May, a kamikaze crashed her bridge and set her on fire. By the time the fires were put out, she was unsalvageable. The same attack included two other kamikazes, and both were shot down by the gunboats and other ships in the area.
On 24 May, LCI(R) 651 anchored near four merchant ships and Winston AKA 94 in Nakagusuku Bay. Her mission was to cover the ships with smoke. At 2043 the ships were warned that enemy aircraft were in the vicinity and they went to general quarters. Several hours of waiting went by before a single engine torpedo bomber appeared out of the haze and dropped a torpedo which hit S. S. William D. Allison amidships. LCI(R) 651 got underway, and within a half hour, she was moored to the port side of the merchant ship. Three men had died and a number were wounded. LC(FF) 536 and LCI(R) 772 came alongside bringing doctors to aid the wounded, and Tawakoni ATF 114 stood by to render assistance as needed. Also on the merchant ship were 190 members of the 12th Naval Construction Battalion who were there to help in unloading supplies that they needed. LCI(R) 651 took them off the merchant ship and prepared to deliver them ashore.
S. S. William D. Allison, with several gunboats and a tug moored to her, made a good target. At 0645 a Zeke made a run on the ships, dropped two bombs, then banked around to crash the ship. It went down under the combined gunfire of the ships, which at this point included LCS(L) 23. It crashed in the water only fifty feet astern of Allison. Its pilot, apparently uninjured in the crash, made it out of his plane and attempted to swim away. He was killed by 20mm fire from the gunboats. By 0900 the merchant ship was no longer in need of assistance and the gunboats pulled away. LCI(R) 651 delivered the Seabees to the causeway at Brown Beach.27
LCI(M) 741 continued her screening duties in the Ie Shima area. She was making smoke at 0040 on 25 May when her lookouts spotted a plane diving on her. LCI(M) 742, cruising behind her, took the plane under fire as well. It passed over the port side of LCI(M) 739 and crashed into the water close astern. LCI(M) 740 was caught in the explosion and suffered damage and crew casualties. Later, at 0808, LCI(M) 741 fired on a plane making a suicide dive on a merchant ship in the Ie Shima anchorage. Fire from the 741 hit the plane causing it to go off course and only partially hit the merchant ship. It crashed into the water on the other side. Fortunately its bombs did not explode.
Many of the newly converted mortar ships lacked a 40mm bow gun. Although they were supposed to have them, shortages of the 40mms meant that they still had only 20mm bow guns with which to protect themselves. On 27 May LCI(M) 1058 was anchored off Kouri Shima when she came under attack by a single Val at 0815. When it came in range at about 1,500 yards, it was taken under fire and hit by several 20mm shells. At a range of about 800 yards it turned off and went after a nearby destroyer escort, which shot it down. The addition of a 40mm gun to its armament would have been welcomed by the crew of the LCI(M). Another Val circled the ship at 0918, staying at the extreme range of its guns for several minutes before making its run. It was hit by 20mm, .50 caliber, and .30 caliber fire from the ship, veered off course, and crashed twenty-five feet off the ship’s bow. The gunboat’s CO, Lieutenant (jg) R. B. Purdy, reported that “It is the opinion of this command that the purpose of the circling plane … was two-fold: (1) To try to get our gunners to open fire at maximum range, thereby having empty magazines when he started his dive; (2) To observe ship to see which, bow or stern, had the greatest fire power to oppose him in dive.”28
On 28 May at 0755, a Nick made a crash dive on Brown Victory which was anchored at Ie Shima. The LCI gunboats, including LCI(M) 741, hit the Nick and it went off course. It clipped the after mast of the Victory ship and broke in two. Pieces of the plane fell in the water and its bombs exploded, killing four men and injuring sixteen more. It was a close call as Brown Victory was carrying 1,000 tons of gas and trucks. A successful crash on the ship would have been a disaster.
The following day, gunboats anchored off Tsuken Shima came under attack at 0733. Anchored there were several LCI(R)s from Group Forty-Seven and the degaussing vessel YDG 10. Two Oscars were spotted heading for the ships in the anchorage. LCI(R) 648had just gotten underway. Fire from the ships at anchor caused one of the Oscars to veer off and make a run on the 648. All of the anchored gunboats and the 648 opened fire on the plane and hit it with numerous shells. It overshot the 648 and hit the water only fifteen yards from YDG 10. Its two bombs exploded covering the ships with a wall of water and debris, but there was no damage to the ships and no casualties. It had been a close call.
Analysis of the American tactics for combating the kamikazes at night was given by Lieutenant H. M. Mattson in the War Diary for LCI(L) Flotilla Fourteen:
Under present enemy air suicide tactics, it is highly recommended that ships under smoke coverage at night definitely do not open fire and ships outside of smoke screen only if solution is very good. Enemy suicide planes will home on the tracers every time.
20MM gunfire will rarely stop a suicide plane from accomplishing its mission as it has to be literally dismantled in the air.
Antiaircraft screen should be stationed sufficiently far from ships under protection to allow hits to have effect on damaged aircraft.29