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A Sailor's Story: by
Kamikaze Attacks on the U.S.S. Sandoval
were in the South Pacific. I was standing on the fantail smoking and talking to
some friends, and watching these planes flying back and forth across the island
to our right. I think it was near Okinawa. We had just finished breakfast. It
was early in the morning. Then all of a sudden one of the planes veers toward
us in a straight line and before we knew what happened, it hit us. About that
same time we heard the call “Man your battle stations!” It was a kamikaze plane,
a suicide plane. There was this huge explosion of fire. I ran to my battle station,
a 400 mm gun. It was just right up the steps”. |
Bexar - a Haskell Class Attack Transport of the same design as the USS Sandoval
It has been 55
years since that happened, but Eddie told it to me as if it just happened yesterday.
That day has been imprinted in his memory forever. He sat there quietly for a
few seconds, took a deep breath and went on with his story, “My battle station
was up the steps and we all ran to our stations. When we had been standing there
watching those planes flying around earlier, we didn’t know they were enemy planes.
You couldn’t tell. There had been no gunfire or bombs going off or anything”.
Wauson, my husband, was just a young skinny 19-year-old kid, barely 120 lbs, who
had joined the Navy in 1943, to fight for his country. As he told the story, he
was reliving that whole scene again, “At my gun station, my job was to pass the
ammunition. Suddenly another plane went past the island, turned around and came
right back at us, and the officer on the 350 mm gun said, ‘We’re going to throw
up one salvo, and if it misses, everyone be ready to jump’. We ran to the rail,
the salvo went up either right in front of the Japanese plane, or maybe it hit
it…it was too quick to tell, but that plane did a loop and then crashed into a
merchant marine ship that wasn’t far from us. They had the hold open because they
were unloading supplies. That plane went right into the hold! There weren’t as
many men on that ship as ours, so not as many got killed”.
on talking about that day, “Our ship was burning up there on the bridge. There
was gasoline and fire everywhere. The plane had hit where all the people were
that ran the ship. Most of them were my friends, and the captain was my boss.
I was his Yeoman and that means I was his secretary. Most of the people that were
in that area were killed, including the captain. And if they weren’t killed, they
were burned real bad. You could smell the flesh for a long time. It was horrible.
One of my friends that died was a really nice guy from Oklahoma and he had a family.
He was older than me. If that plane would have hit at any other time, I would
have been in that area and I’d probably be dead too, because that is where I usually
Eddie Wauson home on leave before he went to the South Pacific.|
“It was really
sad”, Eddie said as tears slid down his face and his lips trembled, “We had to
bury them all at sea. They just put them in a canvas bag and wrapped an American
Flag around them, and one by one, we slid them into the water. That was the hardest
part of all. Seeing all my friends go like that. It really made me sad, to think
about all their families back home, too”.
asked what happened to the ship after that. He said, “Well, we sailed back to
San Francisco, with our ship just like it was. It made it. So did the merchant
marine ship. When they got back, they discovered there was a still a bomb in the
hold of that ship, where the Japanese plane had hit! It made all the news then.
It was amazing that it never went off”!
”You know”, he said, “After that
a lot of men got a whole lot closer to God. There was a lot of praying going on.
I was only 19 years old, but I did a lot of praying and thanking God I was still
© Lois Wauson April
20, 2013 columns
War II | People
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