USS Whitehurst Logo by: Pat Stephens, Webmaster, DESA

Battle Ensign of the USS Whitehurst

By Roy Graham, WT 3/c on Whitehurst during WWII
We were saddened by the news that Roy embarked on
his final voyage in late October, 2008. mc

Roy Graham 2004

Roy Graham 1945

This tattered  48 star flag was flying over the USS Whitehurst DE-634, on April 12, 1945, when she was hit by a Kamikaze (suicide bomber) while on Radar Picket duty off the coast of Okinawa.

How I got the flag is another story.  We were in the navy yard at Pearl Harbor, May 1945, when some of the crew were sent home on leave, and others remained aboard while extensive repairs and alterations were being made.  Some replacements were coming on board and as they did, members of the original crew were being released to go home on leave.  As many of you will remember our bunks were in tiers, three high.  My bunk had always been on top of the tier and W.V. Woods had the lower bunk.  Woods had received his orders to go home, so he was packing his sea bag and making all preparations to leave the following morning.  I was sitting on the foot locker near by, talking with him as he struggled to get all his gear in the sea bag.  After packing and unpacking a few times, trying to compress his clothes a little tighter he said, "Roy do you want this flag?  it's the one we were flying when we got hit."  My reply was, "I sure do."  He never mentioned how he obtained the flag and I never asked.

I put the flag in my locker and covered it up with a towel or clothing so it was not readily viewable, not knowing if I had something that was being hunted or not and never once did I mention that I had it.  Some of the men returning from the states related stories about having to empty their sea bags for inspection when they got to Mare Island base on their way home.  This sure did not make me feel brave about the flag I would have in my sea bag.  After giving it some thought before my orders came, I decided to take the chance if there was one.  So when the day came for me to get my gear in order to leave, the flag was the first thing I put in my sea bag.

When I arrived in the states, we immediately mailed our sea bags home and went on liberty, 72 hours I believe, then we returned, picked up our leave papers, and we were on our way home.

The flag was in great order when I got my gear unpacked at home. After showing it to a few friends, it was folded and put in a box for storage.  When I married and moved into my own home, I moved the box but don't remember opening it at all, I just stored it away.

In the early to mid seventies, I got a letter about the ship's reunion, but vacation were already scheduled, so my chances of attending were nil.  I believe this happened again a time or two, but in 1978 I was able to make the reunion in Orlando FL.  At that reunion there were many mementos from the ship on display.  I told John Shaver that I had the flag.  He said, "bring it to the next reunion", and I said "OK".  In 1980 the reunion was in Norfolk, VA and I took what I thought was the Whitehurst flag, to the reunion.  When they started to display it on the wall Jon said, "Hey Roy, this flag has 50 stars."  Needless to say, I was embarrassed and tried to explain what happened.  My son had brought a flag home and stored it in the same area where I had the ship's flag stored, so when I went to the closet and got a box, I just picked up the wrong box.

In 1982 the flag made its first visit to the reunion and has made every one since.  When we opened the box it had been stored in, we could still smell the smoke it had absorbed while the bridge was burning and see the tatters at the ends of the stripes were charred.  The flag was displayed on hospitality room walls at each reunion until the year 2000, our 22nd reunion.  The material was becoming brittle when we unfolded it for hanging and fold it up again for storage until the next reunion.  Scott Graham, my son, donated a case for the flag and at the regular business meeting of this  22nd reunion, we folded it and placed it in the case where it has remained ever since.  It still makes its trips to the reunions but stays in its wood & glass case for all to see.       Roy E. Graham

note: Because the proportional measurements of the United States flag are mandated by law, it is possible to measure the wear on this flag.  The longest (least worn) stripe is approximately 16.1% shorter than when new.  The most worn stripe is approximately 22.7% shorter.  max crow

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