Anonymous Letter from U. S. S. Wichita, 1945.
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We had steamed into Nakagusuku Wan, now Buckner Bay, named after the brave Army general who commanded the troops that took the island and who lost his life there. It was ticklish business as the minesweepers were just ahead of us and they could miss a mine or so here and there. The reefs were uncharted and unmarked, too, but our Skipper and our Navigator got us in safely. Ours was the first combat ship to enter the harbor. The Japs threw torpedoes at us and even tried to get near us with suicide boats loaded with explosives but they never had a chance. It was like shooting fish in a barrel; the Japs would sneak out their boats at night; we would illuminate the area with star shells and the LCIs would sink the boats with 40 Millimeter shells. One night the whole bay was dotted with burning boats.
But the kamekazis almost got us one evening. A large raid had come down from the Jap homeland to attack the forces around Okinawa, Admiral Mitscher's fighters took care of most of them but some slipped through and caused some trouble to all the ships around the invaded island. One brave son of Nippon slipped out of a cloud, caught the WICHITA in his his sights and began his dive at us. He should have known better. He kept coming and we kept firing at him until he was about 200 yards aft of us and about 200 feet above the ship; then he blew up and fell into the sea so close that we could see the pilot in the cockpit. Pieces of his plane fell on the ship and a bomb he was carrying fell a few yards forward of the bow. It failed to explode. We were unscathed but it was a close one.
Day after day we continued to bombard and to support the troops ashore knocking out Jap defenses and breaking up enemy troop formations. The first month we threw out a million and a half pounds of ammunition. We would shoot for several days until we were all out of ammunition and then retire to Kerama Rhetto where the ammunition ships were anchored in the bays and inlets. We would reload and then go back and do it all over again. Meanwhile, the troops ashore were progressing nicely and we followed their advances and watched the front lines move ahead every day. There were plenty of air raids by the Japs and almost every day they would hit some ship by diving a plane into it but we managed to escape each time though once the ship right next to us caught it and suffered heavy damage and casualties.
During the fighting and during air raids our chaplain gives a running description over the loud speaker system so that all who are below decks know what is happening. He is on the open bridge where he can see everything and gets all the reports. It was during our campaign at Okinawa that we received the sad news that our Commander-in-Chief, President Roosevelt, had died. This was a shocking blow but it inspired us to fight with more courage for we knew what a fine leader he had been and how much he wanted us to clean up this situation in the Pacific.
The day the news of Victory in Europe came was misty and dark. We celebrated, however, though, by every ship firing every gun she had into the island at 12 o'clock noon. Can you imagine what a shaking the Japs got that day?