April 12th, 1945 A Long Hard Day at Okinawa 

By an Eye Witness to the Kamikaze Strike on Whitehurst


Sam Saylor GMCS USNR Ret.


An  account by Sam Saylor  told to Max Crow, author of Whitehurst Website


About 1 a.m. the raucous call to General Quarters rousted the battle weary sailors of USS Connolly DE-306 to repel  a night attack by Japanese torpedo planes.  The Evarts Class DE was on Radar Pickett duty in the Pacific, off the enemy held island of Okinawa, the "last stop" before the  American forces reached the mainland.  The Japanese leaders knew this and therefore inspired their soldiers to defend their island with such ferocity and tenacity that  the Battle of Okinawa became the costliest, combined Air, Sea, Land battle of the war in the Pacific.  Night attacks were rare but this one marked the beginning of a day of eight to ten attacks, timed to keep the men at their battle stations all night and all day.

Nineteen year old, Sam "Sammy" Saylor, already a GM 2/c, rushed to the 1.1" AA gun mount* on the 01 deck.  As Gun Captain, he put on the head phones and reported "Manned and Ready" to the bridge.  The weather was pleasant. Dungarees and the bulky Kapok Life Jacket provided sufficient warmth. Everyone did their jobs right.  The Radar men and the lookouts reported the targets, the Captain ordered the course changes and the Helmsman kept the heading.  The Engineers delivered the power to the screws and the Gunners delivered fear and death to the enemy.  When there was sufficient break in the action, the smoking lamp would be lit and most of the men had, at least, a brief opportunity to satisfy that nicotine craving.  No one went to the mess decks.  Instead, the cooks and stewards delivered meals to the men at their GQ stations. The meal was simply sandwiches made from "horse cock" (a colorful name sailors routinely used when referring to Bologna and other luncheon meats) with coffee or lemonade made from powders. 

In mid afternoon, Whitehurst DE-634 had come under attack by three Japanese Vals (dive bombers).  Connolly, still under attack, was steaming a zigzag course roughly opposite to that of Whitehurst.  When the ships were approximately abeam, about 4,000 yards apart, from his station at the 1.1" Gun Mount, Sammy saw the explosion and smoke.  On the phones he heard the words, "Whitehurst has been hit".

About two hours later after the raid was over, Connolly approached Whitehurst to offer assistance.  By this time the fires were out and at least some of the wounded had already been transferred to other ships.   Many bodies lay still on the forward decks, their kapok life jackets smoldering. Whitehurst  was steaming for "Wiseman's Cove", code name for Kerama Retta, a small,  American held island about an hour southwest of Okinawa.  Connolly  had expended so much ammunition in this "day of many battles" that she too had to return to Kerama Retta for replenishment.  It was indeed  a long hard day.

*In 1945 the 1.1" gun mount on Whitehurst DE-634 was replaced by the Quad 40mm guns mount.

Author's note: Sam Saylor is GMC U.S.N Ret. He has long been associated with The Destroyer Escort Sailors Association.  In a recent decade he was responsible for bringing the USS Slater DE-766 from Greece back to the United States, and is now Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Slater Association.

Sadly we note that Sam Saylor died 1 March 2014.

Sam casually mentioned, in a phone conversation, that he had seen Whitehurst get hit.  I pressed him for this story.  He gave me the facts in a very modest way, not seeking any glory for himself.  The wording of the story is mine.  max crow

Meet Sam Saylor


A Second Eyewitness Account
by: Ben Rudisill, veteran of USS Samuel S. Miles DE-183

Ben Rudisill

Max, I am finally convinced that the Whitehurst was the ship that replaced us after talking with J.L. Wilson yesterday. I saw an American fighter plane chasing the Japanese plane before it hit the Whitehurst. I have talked to three guys on my ship and  Emory and another man on the Whitehurst and they do not recall seeing the American fighter plane. J.L. cleared it up for me yesterday.  He said it was a Hellcat . I thought it was a F4U Corsair and I will not argue that point. I am just so happy to finally know for sure that it was the Whitehurst that took our place .  The suicide was flying level over the water straight for the bridge . The American fighter was trying to get closer to him but had to veer of to avoid gunfire from the ship. I am one happy camper after getting this resolved . Thanks to you for getting me in touch with Emory and J.L. Wilson. Ben

Note: Ben Rudisill was a 20mm Gunner on the miles. You can learn the rest of the story at the following link. Eyewitness-2


WWII Era | Korea War & '50s | Viet Nam & 60s |  Reunions | All Links Page  Search & Rescue

Memorial | Poetry  | Enemy Below | Taps List | Photos/Armament | History | Crews Index | Home