WWII (1943-46)

“Brother, Can You Spare a Radar?” — The Big Swap with the CASSIN YOUNG

Memory from: Peter Byrum

Setting the Scene

The KIDD crossed pathes with many ships over the course of her long career. In our restoration efforts, we have gathered parts from many ships. Our torpedo tubes come from the CAPERTON (DD-650); our whaleboats from the ALBANY (CA-123); a searchlight was obtained from the TOLMAN (DM-28); our toilet troughs in the aft head hail from the WISCONSIN (BB-64). The list goes on and on. Peter Byrum, a boatswain's mate aboard USS CASSIN YOUNG (DD-793), tells of how parts of the KIDD may actually have gone to other ships in the wake of the April 11th kamikaze attack upon her, helping them to continue the fight in her absence.

The Recollection

I remember it well. It was announced on the ship’s PA [public address] system that President Roosevelt had died. I was Gun Captain on [a] five-inch mount, located on the stern; Gun Number 5. The CASSIN YOUNG had been operating at various radar picket stations. On this day, we had been under heavy atack. At 1337, three Vals in a close V-formation were taken under fire by the USS PURDY (DD-734), followed immediately by the CASSIN YOUNG. The right wing plane was shot down. The leading plane went into a falling leaf dive [and] pulled out at about 500 feet. It swept across the bow in a left turn and crashed 25 feet off our port quarter. Pieces of metal and debris from the plane came down in our Gun Captain’s hatch along with water from the geyser sent up by the plane so close aboard. A fourth Val was taken under fire as it dove at the ship in a low angle dive on the starboard beam. CASSIN YOUNG’s rudder was thrown hard right. The plane crashed into and carried away the port yardarm—[the] upper section of the foremast, with SG [radar], SC [radar], and numerous radio antenna—exploding in mid-air fifty feet from the ship. The Combat Air Patrol claimed ten (10) Vals during the attack.. We were all at General Quarters, every gun on the ship was firing at rapid continuous fire.

The 20mm and 40mm gun crews were exposed, in addition to various top-side battle stations, when the plane hit the foremast. An explosion occurred that was apparently a bomb, scattering shrapnel—the fragments of metal—onto the men, wounding a great number [of them]. A few [were] serious but only one was dead: a torpedoman, R. D. Moore, TM 3/c. Later on, a memorial service was held and he was buried at sea. The CASSIN YOUNG at 1350 turned southward and headed for Kerama Rhetto. The USS PURDY remained on station only to be hit in a later attack. We could recall Tokyo Rose stating on her radio station that we picked up from time to time that there would be a few Marines left after the war, but there would be no tin can sailors [destroyer sailors]. This was evident to us. They were hitting us with everything that could carry a bomb. We entered Kerama Rhetto [and] transferred wounded. The ship’s force commenced emergency repairs. On the 13th of April, 1945, the CASSIN YOUNG went alongside the repair ship abreast the USS KIDD (DD-661). The KIDD had received severe damage below the waterline on starboard side just at the Number One fireroom. Her top-side armament—torpedo tubes, 40mm, and 20mm guns—were in excellent condition, especially the radio antenna and, of course, the port yardarm and upper part of the foremast. These were all damaged on CASSIN YOUNG. There was a major swapping deal to take place between the two ships. The captain on the repair ship told our captain, “We will have you ready in record time.” Every destroyer was needed. So began the “big swap.” Over came the big crane. Slings were rigged on the torpedo tubes.

We all watched as they were hoisted off the ship and replaced with those from the KIDD. Likewise with our foremast, radar, and other damaged armament. The USS KIDD (DD-661) would get her revenge against a desperate enemy. The USS CASSIN YOUNG (DD-793) had a score to settle. On completion of the big swap with the USS KIDD and damage repaired, the CASSIN YOUNG again took up station on the picket line. Our “Fighting Cock” [was] painted on the Number One stack with his spurs dripping blood on the enemy’s flag as if to say “We are ready to take you on.” The USS KIDD had a pirate painted on her stack: Captain Kidd. Other destroyers had various insignias. A couple I remember. One had two dice with eleven up. The SULLIVANS had a shamrock. The insignias seem to have a psychological effect on the destroyer sailors. We had seen what the enemy could do to our ships and we were going to make them pay. July 29, 1945 — Patrolling as before on picket station. At 0036, the CALLAGHAN and PRITCHETT commenced fire on their side of the triangular formation. Shortly later, the CALLAGHAN was hit by a kamikaze. Bogies were continually taken under fire. One was splashed on starboard beam. Commenced circling PRITCHETT and stricken CALLAGHAN. Rescue activities were continually hampered by the bogies. At 0230, the gig was launched for rescue of CALLAGHAN survivors. At 0235, CALLAGHAN sank stern-first, followed by very heavy underwater explosion. At 0610, having received on board CASSIN YOUNG the captain and 125 survivors of CALLAGHAN, proceeded to Hagushi anchorage, Okinawa. Survivors were transferred to USS CRESCENT CITY (APA-21). July 30, 1945 — Patrolling as before. All hands at General Quarters.

Picked up bogies to southwest. One tracked directly approaching ship. Passed over and hit the ship at the starboard boat davits, exploding and gutting the after bridge and main deck structures, rupturing superheated steam lines in Number One fireroom, and [causing] major damage to the entire fireroom that suffered the loss of all men on watch. Editor’s Note: As Mr. Byrum’s final words state, no record of this swap of radar equipment and torpedo tubes exists in the war diaries of either the CASSIN YOUNG or the KIDD. Records do show, however, that after making port at Kerama Retto, the CASSIN YOUNG proceeded to Ulithi Atoll and remained there under repair for approximately three weeks. Records also show that on Tuesday, May 01, 1945, the KIDD got underway from alongside USS HAMUL (AD-) and moved alongside USS YOSEMITE (AD-) in Berth 321. That same day, CASSIN YOUNG moored on the KIDD’s opposite side along with USS CLOWES (DD-). Eight hours later, KIDD moved out to an anchorage away from the repair ships. In the confusion of front-line repairs and the urgency to get ships back out on the line, it is entirely possible that this sort of swap might not have been recorded. This sort of omission did occur in peacetime conditions. The KIDD’s own blueprints from the 1960s that were found aboard ship when she was brought to Baton Rouge show her as having been refitted with a tripod mast as most Fletcher-class destroyers were in their latter days under the FRAM programs.

However, this refit never occurred. Crew member Mack V. Bradley recalled that when the KIDD returned home from Ulithi Atoll, she was paired with two other damaged vessels. Each ship made up for the deficiencies incurred by their respective damages. In checking the KIDD’s “War Diary,” one finds that KIDD was indeed accompanied from Ulithi to Pearl Harbor by the USS HOBSON (DD-464/DMS-26) and USS BOWERS (DE-637). So while there is no documentation in either the KIDD’s or CASSIN YOUNG’s war diaries or maintenance logs to show that this swap occurred, there is some circumstantial evidence. In researching history, historians sometimes find that documentation doesn’t always provide the clearest picture. Sometimes, as in the heat of war, things just weren’t written down. As for this particular swap of material, the lack of records does not deny its possibility. At 0400, proceeded on one engine to port astern of USS AULICK (DD-569) which had come to guide us in. The casualties at first count were fifteen (15) dead and fifty-one (51) wounded. However, this number increased. One shipmate [was] missing. The wounded were transferred to USS CASCADE (AD-16) and USS HAMUL (AD-20).

The dead were taken ashore. Repair work on the ship was immediately started. The USS CASSIN YOUNG (DD-793) is now a neighbor to the USS CONSTITUTION at Boston Navy Yard, Charlestown, Massachusetts. It was taken over by the Boston National Park Service on permanent loan by the U.S. Navy and has been designated as a National Historic Landmark. It is significant to note that both the USS KIDD (DD-661) and the USS CASSIN YOUNG (DD-793) are both being preserved for posterity. The dates and times entered in this narrative were taken from the USS CASSIN YOUNG (DD-793) “Confidential War Diary.” I have deleted all but the facts but included in my own words much of the information about the USS KIDD (DD-661) that, to my knowledge, has never come out in any publication. Even in the “War Diary,” no mention was made of what I have stated.

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