WWII (1943-46)

“A Light in the Darkness” — Encounter Off of Guam

Memory from: Rear Admiral Allan B. Roby

Setting the Scene

This next story comes from Rear Admiral Allan B. Roby, the KIDD's first commander. In a footnote to an earlier story, we mentioned how the KIDD narrowly avoided a collsion with an enemy aircraft in the waters off of Guan in 1944. Here, Rear Admiral Roby gives detail to the strange events of that early morning encounter and describes how a simple act like turning on a light switch can change history, taking the life of one while sparing the lives of others.

The Recollection

Here follows a brief description of another unusual event experienced by the KIDD about June 1944. [Editor’s note: records indicate that this incident occurred on July 13, 1944] The KIDD was detached from one Task Unit operating immediately east of Guam and was waiting to join a new Carrier Group due to arrive in the area about daybreak that morning. The KIDD was already at the prescribed rendezvous position in darkened ship condition but not at quarters. Sea was completely calm. Speed: steerageway only. Suddenly the OOD [Officer of the Deck] heard an aircraft approaching from ahead. The craft seemed to be flying about masthead height and headed directly for the KIDD’s bridge. The OOD simply turned on the red masthead light. And called the Skipper. The craft swerved to his port and crashed alongside the KIDD. It was assumed that a craft from the newly arriving Carrier Group had crashed and three KIDD crewmen went over the starboard bow to assist the pilot. The pilot’s life jacket slipped off his body and the body sank before he could be saved. The life jacket and part of the craft’s undercarriage, including one wheel, were brought aboard. They were Japanese. It seems that a lone Japanese pilot had kept his craft hidden in a cane field on Guam for several days—or perhaps weeks—until he decided to make a run for a Japanese base at Truk Island. He took off from Guam and kept low over the water. Unfortunately for him, the KIDD was lying directly on his flight path and managed to make a kill by flicking on her red truck light. Had that Japanese [aircraft] crashed into the KIDD’s bridge that morning, there would be no one to make this entry in the history of the KIDD. Thank you for listening.

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