WWII (1943-46)

“Kamikaze Warfare Damage Control”

Memory from: Electrician's Mate 1st class Hiram T. McDaniel

Setting the Scene

Damage control: without it, you're sunk, ... quite literally. These are the menóand today, the womenówho repair the ship while underway and far from the dry docks and shipyards. Damage control teams saved the USS COLE (DDG-67) when she was struck by a suicide boat in Yemen in 1999, the USS FRANKLIN (CV-13) during her fiery ordeal off Okinawa in 1945, and countless other vessels throughout the history of the U.S. Navy. In the entry below, Electrician's Mate 1st class Hiram T. McDaniel, recounts his experience during the kamikaze attack and its immediate aftermath as part of the damage control team aboard USS KIDD (DD-661) on April 11, 1945. Through his words, you develop an understanding of just how much damage was inflicted upon the ship in this one attack by one determined enemy pilot.

The Recollection

On the day that the kamikaze hit us, my duty station was damage control or [the] repair party. In this duty station, why, I had no permanent assignment to any location. So we usually just watched what was going on and if we were needed, why, we went to work. The work being to keep the ship going and to keep it functioning as a war machine. In this particular engagement, the kamikaze got between us and another destroyer. I was watching the plane from the forward torpedo deck and saw the guys hitting it with the heavy machine guns, the 40s and the 20s. We could not fire the 5-inch because of the other destroyer. I waited as late as I could. Made up my mind that the thing couldn’t miss us, so I started to get down. I saw Broox Garrett taking pictures of the aircraft coming in. I thought, “God, Doc, you’d better get out of there!” So I got down on the main deck, the port side, between the deck house and the boat winch. When the plane struck, I didn’t really know what had happened. My first awareness was all this shaking around … a whole lot of water coming over me. After the water went down, why, I found out I was still aboard the ship. I started to raise myself up. I reached for the motor controls for the deck winch. It wasn’t there. And I got a-hold’a something, got up, and my clothes were kinda ripped and pretty well torn off. And my back hurt. I think somebody stepped on my back.

The port side of the ship was torn up very much. My first thought was that the plane had hit the water on the starboard side and bounced off the ship and exploded on the port side. Elmer Tucker, … I don’t know where he went. I pulled on the phone line and it came up empty. Headset was bare. So I put out a couple of small fires and there’s some injured men there that were beyond any help. And I walked around to the starboard side and the thing was just about as bad on that side. The aircraft had hit right below the main deck between the main deck and the water line. On the starboard side, it made a hole from the main deck to the water line. [It] had taken out all the longitudinal members of the main deck structure from starboard to midships and every other one of the longitudinal members from midships to port side. The members, every other one being deeper, was why we weren’t carried away. The wreckage of the aircraft was lodged betweenówell, it was lodged under the hatch of the forward fireroom on the port side. The plane had knocked off the hand wheel of the starboard hatch, so we could not get down into the fireroom. The damage was pretty bad. We were dead in the water there for a bit. I went to the Number 2, or after engineroom, [to] see how they were making out. They had to get steam from Number 2 fireroom a little bit and they had no damage and they could still go.

But they had no engine order telegraph. They had nothing. The ship was built with watertight compartments between each major drive component, the main drive being, starting with the source energy of two boilers per fireroom, going into a turbine engine to reduction gears to a long shaft to the propellers. These separate enginerooms, separate firerooms, made separately four distinct watertight divisions. So the forward engineroom was still intact and the Number 2, or after, fireroom was still intact, [and] the engineroom, Number 2, was still intact. But there was no control, no order, no intercommunication on the ship. So my first thing I had to do was to get some order down to them. [I] strung some temporary phone lines, put a talker on the bridge, and then to the enginerooms and the fireroom. Our power steering was also destroyed. The severity of the damage took out the backup, the backup being redundancy built into the ship for having cables on alternate feed starboard side and port side, which would change automatically from one to the other if needed. But this strike took out both port and starboard cables. We had no control at all.

So this steering had to be manually. Also had to run phone lines to it. We done this. Next thing was getting some communication to the other ships, since our ship’s doctor, Broox, had been taken out of action. Our radio gear was useless and was not wise to use anyhow. So I had to run temporary power and emergency power to signal lights on the bridge so they could summon some help or at least report her damage and what had really went on. During this, we got help from the USS HALE (DD-642), we got their doctor from that ship which came aboard. They pulled up and they got a doctor from the HALE to help out and take care of the medical needs as much as he could.

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