On Sunday we celebrate the most important Christian holiday of the year, the resurrection of our Savior, Jesus Christ, and His granting to us of everlasting life.
Four years ago this month, on the day before Easter, I lost my dad of 82 years. He had spent his last nine years in a nursing home as a result of a stroke. During those years, although he could barely speak, he never lost his memories of his earlier days when he served as a radioman aboard the Destroyer USS Wadsworth in World War II. He served in all of the major Pacific battles after Guadalcanal, culminating with the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa in 1945.
It was 65 years ago when on Easter Sunday morning, 1945, the Wadsworth arrived off Okinawa, which was D-Day for the Battle of Okinawa. The ship completed an advance sweep ahead of the transports, then took up fire support off the island. For the next 15 days, the Wadsworth’s guns blasted troop concentrations, gun emplacements, and caves where the most fanatical Japanese were hunkered down. Then, on April 17, she undertook her first radar picket assignment which would scout for incoming enemy planes. Here is an account from Wikipedia of what that assignment was like:
“From 17 April to 24 June, Wadsworth carried out nine assignments on station, repelling 22 attacks by enemy aircraft, shooting down six, and assisting in the destruction of seven others. In addition, the combat air patrol fighters that she directed splashed 28 enemy aircraft.
During one day of that duty, on 28 April 1945, Wadsworth repelled six determined attacks by 12 enemy aircraft. The raids—which came from all points of the compass—commenced at sunset and continued for over three hours. One enemy torpedo plane closed fast on her port beam as Wadsworth skillfully maneuvered to keep the enemy on the beam to allow a heavy concentration of antiaircraft fire. Frustrated in his first attempt, the enemy pilot then brought the plane around a second time, circling to the right to commence an attack from directly astern, strafing as he came.
Wadsworth maneuvered to port as the plane went into a power dive that took him within 30 feet of the waves before he passed the destroyer to starboard at a distance of about 100 yards. The Japanese then zoomed sharply and turned to cross in front of Wadsworth. He then opened the range before boring in low and fast on the third attack.
Wadsworth’s determined adversary then dropped a torpedo at 1,200 yards. The destroyer turned “left full” and the “fish” passed harmlessly by her starboard side. Meanwhile, under constant fire from every gun in Wadsworth that could be brought to bear, the enemy plane came on, attempting to crash into the ship.
The Japanese bore in through the flak-peppered skies. His wing struck the forward port 40-millimeter gun, and the main body of the plane spun into the gig rigged outboard, carried away a life raft, and then smashed a 26-foot motor whaleboat before falling into the sea. Providentially, the enemy did not explode; the ship did, however, receive a shower of debris and gasoline. That had been the ship’s second narrow escape. Only six days previously, on 22 April, Wadsworth’s gunners had shot down a suicider that exploded in the sea only 20 feet from the ship, showering the ship with fragments. Fortunately, only minor hull damage resulted, and only one sailor was wounded.
At Hagushi anchorage on the morning of 24 June, Wadsworth, relieved of radar picket duty, put her fighter-director team ashore. Since her first arrival off Okinawa, she had sounded general quarters 203 times, detected and reported the approach of hundreds of enemy aircraft, and successfully fought off all that attacked her. Her exploits during that time earned her the Presidential Unit Citation (US).”
In happier times my dad and I would watch Victory at Sea episodes and he would relate his experiences in those Pacific theater episodes. He was proud of his service to country, and I am proud to have had him as my dad.