Laffey II DD- 724 - History

Laffey II DD- 724 - History


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Laffey II

(DD-724): dp. 2,200; 1. 376'6"; b. 41'1"; s. 34 k.; cpl. 336; a. 6 5", 11 20mm., 4 40mm., 6 21" tt.; 6 dcp., 2 dct.; cl. Allen J. Sumner)

Laffey (DD-724) was laid down 28 June 1943 by Bath Iron Works Corp., Bath, Maine; launched 21 November; sponsored by Miss Beatrice F. Laffey, daughter of Seaman Laffey, and commissioned 8 February 1944, Comdr. F. J. Beston in command.

Upon completion of underway training, Laffey visited Washington Navy Yard for 1 day and departed 28 February 1944, arriving Bermuda 4 March. She returned briefly to Norfolk where she served as school ship, then headed for New York to join the screen of a convoy escort for England 14 May. Refueling at Greenock, Scotland, the ship continued on to Plymouth, England, arriving 27 May.

Laffey immediately prepared for the invasion of France. On 3 June she headed for the Normandy beaches escorting tugs, landing craft, and two Dutch gunboats. The group arrived in the assault area, off "Utah" beach, Baie de la Siene, France, at dawn on D-Day, 6 June. On the 6th and 7th Laffey screened to seaward, and on the 8th and 9th, she bombarded gun emplacements with good results. Leaving the screen temporarily, the ship raced to Plymouth to replenish and returned to the coast of Normandy the next day. On 12 June Latf eg pursued enemy "E" boats which had torpedoed destroyer Nelson. The destroyer broke up their tight formation and prevented further attacks.

Screening duties completed, the ship returned to England, arriving at Portsmouth 22 June where she tied up alongside Nevada. On 25 June she got underway with the battleship to join Bombardment Group 2 shelling the formidable defenses at Cherbourg, France. Upon reaching the bombardment area, the group was taken under Fire by shore batteries; and destroyers Barton and O'Brien were hit. Laffey was hit above the waterline by a richocheting shell that failed to explode and did little damage.

Late that day the bombardment group retired and headed for England, arriving at Belfast 1 July 1944. She sailed with Destroyer Division 119 3 days later for home, arriving at Boston 9 July. After a month of overhaul, the destroyer got underway to test her newly installed electronic equipment. Two weeks later, Laffey set course for Norfolk, arriving 25 August.

Next day the destroyer departed for Hawaii via the Panama Canal and San Diego, Calif., arriving Pearl Harbor in September. On 23 October after extensive training, LaTTcZ, departed for the war zone, via Eniwetok mooring at Ulithi 5 November. The same day she Joined the screen of Task Force 38, then conducting air strikes against enemy shipping, aircraft, and airfields in the Philippines. On 11 November the destroyer spotted a parachute, left the screen, and rescued a badly wounded Japanese pilot who was transferred to carrier Enterprise (CV-6) during refueling operations the next day. Laffey returned to Ulithi 22 November and on the 27th set course for Leyte Gulf with ships of Destroyer Squadron. Operating with the 7th fleet, the destroyer screened the big ships against submarine and air attacks, covered the landing.s at Ormne Bay 7 December, silenced a shore battery, and shelled enemy troop concentrations.

After a short upkeep in San Pedro Bay, Leyte, 8 December' Laffey with ships of Close Support Group 77.3 departed 12 December for Mindoro, where she supported the landings 15 December After the beachhead had been established, Lagrelle escorted empty landing craft back to Leyete, arriving at San Pedro Bay 17 December. Ten days Inter Laffey Joined Task Group 77.3 for patrol duty of Mindoro. After returning briefly to San Pedro Bay, she joined the 7th fleet, and, during the month of January 19455, screened amphibious ships landing troops in the Lingayen Gulf area of Luzon. Retiring to the Caroline Islands, the destroyer arrived Ulithi 27 January. During February the ship's supported Task Force 58, conducting diversionary air strikes on Tokyo and direct air support of marines fighting on Iwo Jima. Late in February Laffey carried vital intelligence information to Admiral Nimitz at Guam, arriving 1 March.

The next day, the destroyer arrived Ulithi for intensive training with battleships of Task Force 54. On 21 March she Sortied with the task force for the Okinawa invasion. Laffey helped capture Kerama Retto, bombarded shore establishments, harassed the enemy with fire at night and screened heavy units. Assigned to a radar picket station 30 miles north of Okinawa, Laffey arrived 14 April and almost immediately Joined in repulsing an air attack which c ost the enemy 13 airplanes. The next day the enemy launched another severe air attack with some 50 planes. About half of the Japanese raiders broke through the screen to Laffey. The game destroyer splashed nine and friendly air raft destroyed others. But, when the attack was over, the ship was badly damaged by four bombs and five kamakaze hits. The gallant destroyer suffered 103 casualties: 32 dead and 71 wounded.

Laffey was taken under tow and anchored off Okinawa 17 April. Temporary repairs were rushed and the destroyer sailed for Saipan arriving 27 April. Four days later she got underway for the west coast via Eniwetok and Hawaii arriving at Seattle, 24 May. She entered drydock at Todd Shipyard Corp. for repairs until 9, September, then sailed for San Diego, arriving 9 September.

Two days later the ship got underway for exercises but collided with PC~15 in a thick fog. She rescued all but one of the PC's crew before returning to San Diego for repairs.

On 5 October she sailed for Pearl Harbor, arriving 11 October. Laffey operated in Hawaiian waters until 21 May 1946 when she participated in the atomic bomb tests at Bikini, actively engaged in collecting scientific data. Upon completion of the tests she sailed for the west coast via Pearl Harbor arriving San Diego 22 August for operations along the west coast.

In February 1947 Laffey made a cruise to Guam and Kwajalein and returned to Pearl Harbor 11 March. Theship operated in Hawaiian waters until departing for Australia 1 May. She returned to San Diego 17 June decommissioned 30 June 1947, and entered the Pacific Reserve Fleet.

Laffey was recommissioned 26 January 1951, Comdr. Charles Holovak in command. After shakedown out of San Diego, the destroyer headed for the east coast arriving at Norfolk in February for overhaul followed by refresher training at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. In mid January 1952, she sailed for Korea, arriving in March. The ship operated with Task Force 77 screening carriers Antietam (CV-8) and Valley Forge (CV-45) until May, when she joined a bombardment and blockade group in Wonson Harbor engaging several enemy shore batteries. After brief refit at Yokosuka 30 May, the ship returned to Korea where it rejoined Task Force 77. On 22 June Laffey sailed for the east coast, transiting the Suez Canal and arriving Norfolk 19 August.

The destroyer operated in the Caribbean with a hunterkiller group until February 1954, departing on a world cruise which included a tour off Korea until 29 June. Laffey departed the Far East bound for the east coast via the Suez Canal arriving Norfolk 25 August 1954. Operating out of Norfolk, the destroyer participated in fleet exercises and plane guard duties, and on 7 October rescued four passengers from Able a schooner which had sunk in a storm off the Virginia Capes.

During the first part of 1955, Laffey participated in extensive antisubmarine exercises, visiting Halifax, Nova Scotia, New York City, Miami, and ports in the Caribbean. During 1958 she operated with ASW carriers in Floridian and Caribbean waters.

On 7 November 1956 the destroyer departed Norfolk and headed for the Mediterranean at the height of the Suez crisis. Upon arrival she joined the 6th Fleet which was patrolling the Israeli-Egyptian border showing the U.S. flag and expressing our interest in the peaceful outcome of the crisis. When international tensions eased, Laffey returned to Norfolk 20 February 1957, and resumed operations along the Atlantic coast departing 3 September for NATO operations off Scotland. She then headed for the Mediterranean and rejoined the 8th Fleet. Laffey returned to Norfolk 22 December 1957. In June 1958 she made a cruise to the Caribbean for a mayor exercise.

Returning to Norfolk the next month she resumed regular operations until 7 August 1959 when she deployed with Destroyer Squadron 32 for the Mediterranean. Laffey transited the Suez Canal 14 December, stopped at Massana, Eritrea, and continued on the Aramco loading port of Ras Tanura, Saudi Arabia, where she spent Christmas. The destroyer operated in the Persian Gulf until late January when it transited the Suez Canal and headed for home, arriving Norfolk 28 February 1980. La,gev then operated out of Norfolk, making a Caribbean cruise; and, in mid-August, the ship participated in a large naval NATO exercise. In October the ship visited Antwerp, Belgium, returning Norfolk 20 October, but headed back to the Mediterranean in January 1981.

While there she assisted SS Dara, a British freighter in distress. The destroyer sailed for home in mid-August and arrived at Norfolk on the 28th. Laffey set out in September on a vigorous underway training program designed to blend the crew into an effective fighting team and continued this training until February 1983, when she assumed the duties of service ship for the Norfolk Test and Evaluation Detachment. Between October 1983 and June 1944 Laffey operated with a hunter-killer group along the eastern seaboard and on 12 June made a midshipmen cruise to the Mediterranean, arriving in Palma, MaJorea, 23 June. Twa days later the task group departed for a surveillance mission observing Soviet naval forces training in the Mediterranean. Laffey visited Mediterranean ports of Naples, Italy; Theoule, France; Rota and Valencia, Spain, returning to Norfolk 3 September. Laffey continued to make regular Mediterranean cruises with the mighty 6th Fleet, and participated in numerous operational and training exercises in the Atlantic and Caribbean. Into 1968 she was making further vital contributions to the Navy's readiness and ability to keep the peace and thwart the threat of aggression.

Laffey received five battle stars for World War II service and two battle stars for Korean service.


USS Laffey (ii) (DD 724)

The only preserved Allen M. Sumner class destroyer, as well as the only surviving U.S. World War II destroyer that saw action in the Atlantic, USS Laffey acted as an escort for convoys to Great Britain.

On D-Day, the destroyer helped bombard Utah Beach at Normandy.

Sent into the Pacific, Laffey was involved in one of the most famous destroyer-kamikaze duels in the war. Hit several times, racked by explosions and fires, Laffey (Cdr. Frederick Julian Becton) remained afloat because of the valiant efforts of her crew to earn the sobriquet "the ship that would not die." 32 of her crew were lost and remain on duty.

USS Laffey earned five battle stars and a Presidential Unit Citation for her World War II service and two battle stars for her Korean War service. She was stricken on 1 March 1975. USS Laffey is a National Historic Landmark and is preserved as memorial and berthed at Patriots Point, Charleston, South Carolina.

Commands listed for USS Laffey (ii) (DD 724)

Please note that we're still working on this section.

CommanderFromTo
1T/Cdr. Frederick Julian Becton, USN8 Feb 194426 Jun 1945
2T/Cdr. Odale Dabney Waters, Jr., USN26 Jun 1945

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Notable events involving Laffey (ii) include:

28 Feb 1944
USS Laffey (Cdr. Frederick Julian Becton) departed from Washington to undergo her shakedown training at Bermuda.

4 Mar 1944
USS Laffey (Cdr. Frederick Julian Becton) arrived at Bermuda.

10 Mar 1944
USS Laffey (Cdr. F.J. Beston) picks up 19 survivors of a US Catalina aircraft that crashed the previous day northwest of Bermuda.

2 Apr 1944
USS Laffey (Cdr. F.J. Beston) arrived at Boston.

5 May 1944
USS Laffey (Cdr. F.J. Beston) departed from Boston for Norfolk.

9 May 1944
USS Laffey (Cdr. F.J. Beston) departed from Norfolk for New London.

10 May 1944
USS Laffey (Cdr. F.J. Beston) arrived at New London.

11 May 1944
USS Laffey (Cdr. F.J. Beston) departed from New London bound for New York.

12 May 1944
USS Laffey (Cdr. F.J. Beston) arrived at New York.

14 May 1944
USS Laffey (Cdr. F.J. Beston) departed from New York bound for England to participate in the Normandy landings.

24 May 1944
USS Laffey (Cdr. F.J. Beston) arrived at Greenock, Scotland.

25 May 1944
USS Laffey (Cdr. F.J. Beston) departed from Greenock, Scotland bound for Plymouth, England.

27 May 1944
USS Laffey (Cdr. F.J. Beston) arrived at Plymouth, England.

3 Jun 1944
USS Laffey (Cdr. F.J. Beston) departed from Plymouth, England for the Normandy beaches.

10 Jun 1944
USS Laffey (Cdr. F.J. Beston) returns to Plymouth.

11 Jun 1944
USS Laffey (Cdr. F.J. Beston) departed from Plymouth again for the invasion area.

21 Jun 1944
USS Laffey (Cdr. F.J. Beston) departed from the invasion area for Portland, England.

25 Jun 1944
USS Laffey (Cdr. F.J. Beston) departed from Portland, England to participate in a bombardment of Cherbourg, France, returning to Portland upon completion of this assignment.

29 Jun 1944
USS Laffey (Cdr. F.J. Beston) departed from Portland bound for Belfast, Northern Ireland.

1 Jul 1944
USS Laffey (Cdr. F.J. Beston) arrived at Belfast, Northern Ireland.

3 Jul 1944
USS Laffey (Cdr. F.J. Beston) departed from Belfast, Northern Ireland to return to the United States.

9 Jul 1944
USS Laffey (Cdr. F.J. Beston) arrived at Boston.

25 Aug 1944
USS Laffey (Cdr. F.J. Beston) arrived at Norfolk.

26 Aug 1944
USS Laffey (Cdr. F.J. Beston) departed from Norfolk bound for the Pacific.

1 Sep 1944
USS Laffey (Cdr. F.J. Beston) transits the Panama Canal.

10 Sep 1944
USS Laffey (Cdr. F.J. Beston) arrived at San Diego, California.

12 Sep 1944
USS Laffey (Cdr. F.J. Beston) departed from San Diego bound for Pearl Harbor.

18 Sep 1944
USS Laffey (Cdr. F.J. Beston) arrived at Pearl Harbor.

23 Oct 1944
USS Laffey (Cdr. F.J. Beston) departed from Pearl Harbor bound for Eniwetok.

30 Oct 1944
USS Laffey (Cdr. F.J. Beston) arrived at Eniwetok.

31 Oct 1944
USS Laffey (Cdr. F.J. Beston) departed from Eniwetok.

5 Nov 1944
USS Laffey (Cdr. F.J. Beston) arrived at Ulithi. She departed the same day as part of TF 38.

22 Nov 1944
USS Laffey (Cdr. F.J. Beston) returns to Ulithi.

27 Nov 1944
USS Laffey (Cdr. F.J. Beston) departed from Ulithi bound for San Pedro Bay, Philippines.

29 Nov 1944
USS Laffey (Cdr. F.J. Beston) arrived at San Pedro Bay, Philippines.

6 Dec 1944
USS Laffey (Cdr. F.J. Beston) departed from San Pedro Bay, Philippines bound for Ormoc Bay.

8 Dec 1944
USS Laffey (Cdr. F.J. Beston) returns to San Pedro Bay.

10 Dec 1944
USS Laffey (Cdr. F.J. Beston) departed from San Pedro Bay to patrol in Leyte Gulf.

11 Dec 1944
USS Laffey (Cdr. F.J. Beston) returns to San Pedro Bay.

12 Dec 1944
USS Laffey (Cdr. F.J. Beston) departed San Pedro Bay to support the landings at Mindoro.

29 Dec 1944
USS Laffey (Cdr. F.J. Beston) returns to San Pedro Bay.

2 Jan 1945
USS Laffey (Cdr. F.J. Beston) departed from San Pedro Bay to participate in the Luzon landings.

22 Jan 1945
USS Laffey (Cdr. F.J. Beston) departed from the Lingayen Gulf bound for Ulithi.

29 Jan 1945
USS Laffey (Cdr. F.J. Beston) arrived at Ulithi.

10 Feb 1945
USS Laffey (Cdr. F.J. Beston) departed from Ulithi with TF 58.

1 Mar 1945
USS Laffey (Cdr. F.J. Beston) arrived at Guam.

2 Mar 1945
USS Laffey (Cdr. F.J. Beston) arrived at Ulithi.

21 Mar 1945
USS Laffey (Cdr. F.J. Beston) departed from Ulithi to participate in the Okinawa campaign.

16 Apr 1945
While on radar picked duty of Okinawa USS Laffey (Cdr Frederick Julian Becton) is heavily damaged by Japanese kamikaze aircraft in position 27°16'N, 127°50'E. 32 of her crew were dead and 71 were wounded.

17 Apr 1945
The heavily damaged USS Laffey (Cdr. F.J. Beston) arrived off Okinawa where emergency repairs are made.

22 Apr 1945
USS Laffey (Cdr. F.J. Beston) departed from Okinawa for Saipan.

29 Apr 1945
USS Laffey (Cdr. F.J. Beston) arrived at Saipan.

1 May 1945
After some more repairs USS Laffey (Cdr. F.J. Beston) departed from Saipan bound for Eniwetok.

4 May 1945
USS Laffey (Cdr. F.J. Beston) arrived at Eniwetok.

5 May 1945
USS Laffey (Cdr. F.J. Beston) departed from Eniwetok bound for Pearl Harbor.

12 May 1945
USS Laffey (Cdr. F.J. Beston) arrived at Pearl Harbor.

14 May 1945
USS Laffey (Cdr. F.J. Beston) departed from Pearl Harbor for Seattle.

24 May 1945
USS Laffey (Cdr. Frederick Julian Becton) arrived at Seattle for full repairs at the Todd-Pacific Yard.

6 Sep 1945
With her repairs completed USS Laffey (Cdr Odale Dabney Waters, JR.) departed from Seattle for San Diego.

9 Sep 1945
USS Laffey (Cdr. Odale Dabney Waters, Jr.) arrived at San Diego.

11 Sep 1945
USS Laffey (Cdr. Odale Dabney Waters, Jr.) departed from San Diego but in thick fog she collides with the US patrol craft USS PC-815 that sinks. Laffey rescued all but one of the patrol crafts crew before returning to San Diego for repairs.

Media links


The Ship That Would Not Die
Becton, F. Julian with Joseph Morschauser, III


USS Laffey (DD-724)

USS Laffey (DD-724) is an  Allen M. Sumner-class destroyer, which was constructed during World War II, laid down and launched in 1943, and commissioned in February 1944. The ship earned the nickname "The Ship That Would Not Die" for her exploits during the D-Day invasion and the battle of Okinawa when she successfully withstood a determined assault by conventional bombers and the most unrelenting kamikaze air attacks in history. Today, Laffey is a U.S. National Historic Landmark and is preserved as a museum ship at Patriots Point, outside Charleston, South Carolina. [4]

Laffey was the second ship of the United States Navy to be named for Bartlett Laffey. Seaman Laffey was awarded the Medal of Honor for his stand against Confederate forces on 5 March 1864. [5]


Laffey II DD- 724 - History

Class: Allen M. Sumner Destroyer
Launched: November 21, 1943
At: Bath Iron Works, Bath, Maine
Commissioned: February 8, 1944

Length: 377 feet
Beam: 41 feet
Draft: 19 feet
Displacement: 2,200 tons
Armament: Six 5-inch/38 caliber guns six 21-inch torpedo tubes

Address:
Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum
40 Patriots Point Road
Mount Pleasant, SC 29464
(843) 884-2727
Fax: (843) 881-4232
Email: [email protected]
http://www.patriotspoint.org/
Latitude: 32.788425, Longitude: -79.908553
Google Maps, Microsoft Bing, Yahoo Maps, Mapquest

The only preserved Allen M. Sumner-class destroyer in the U.S., as well as the only surviving U.S. World War II destroyer that saw action in the Atlantic, USS Laffey acted as an escort for convoys to Great Britain. On D-Day, the destroyer helped bombard Utah Beach at Normandy.

Sent into the Pacific, Laffey was involved in one of the most famous destroyer-kamikaze duels in the war. Hit several times, racked by explosions and fires, Laffey remained afloat because of the valiant efforts of her crew to earn the sobriquet "the ship that would not die." Laffey earned five battle stars and a Presidential Unit Citation for her World War II service and two battle stars for her Korean War service.

Stricken from the Navy Register in 1977, Laffey is now displayed with the aircraft carrier Yorktown, and submarine Clamagore.

USS Laffey is a National Historic Landmark.


U.S. Navy Photograph


Kamikaze Images

The destroyer USS Laffey (DD-724) became a famous hero ship after surviving an 80-minute attack by 22 Japanese kamikaze planes and conventional bombers on April 16, 1945, during the Battle of Okinawa. F. Julian Becton, Laffey's Captain, wrote an excellent book entitled The Ship That Would Not Die (1980), which describes in vivid detail the attack where seven planes hit the destroyer, another two dropped bombs that hit the ship, and three got splashed by the ship's guns so near that they sprayed shrapnel across the decks. Due to heroic efforts by Laffey's crewmen, the ship somehow stayed afloat despite fires, flooding, several inoperable guns, and a jammed rudder, but 32 men died and 72 men were wounded in the battle [1]. This new World War II history of the destroyer Laffey incorporates remarks from the author's multiple interviews in 2013 and 2014 with 11 surviving crewmen. Becton's classic history lacks the perspective of officers and men who served for him, but this book fills the gap not only with extensive material from personal interviews but also oral histories published on the USS Laffey web site and letters to home written by crewmen.

John Wukovits has authored numerous books on a wide range of subjects and has written several other critically-acclaimed books about the Pacific War such as One Square Mile of Hell: The Battle for Tarawa (2008) and For Crew and Country: The Inspirational True Story of Bravery and Sacrifice Aboard the USS Samuel B. Roberts (2013). Few authors would take on the challenge of writing a history to compete with Captain Becton's firsthand account of Laffey's famed battle with swarming kamikaze planes. He frequently cites Becton's book, but he also adds feelings and viewpoints of crewmen. He performed extremely thorough research in order to write this book with notes that refer to an 18-page bibliography with numerous Action Reports, War Diaries, books, and articles from the popular press. A helpful map at the front of the book clearly shows the main locations where Laffey fought during the Pacific War. Two diagrams display the flight paths of the 22 Japanese planes that attacked Laffey. A three-page Chronology provides all of the key dates of the destroyer's World War II history. The middle section has 16 pages of photographs and other images.

The book's three parts cover Laffey's history chronologically from her commissioning in February 1944 to her return to the States in May 1945. Part 1 highlights the destroyer's first battle experiences during the Normandy invasion. Part 2 recounts the many battles that Laffey had with Japanese aircraft in the Philippines during the Ormoc Bay, Mindoro Island, and Lingayen Gulf landings. By January 6, 1945, all of the other three destroyers in Laffey's destroyer division had been hit by kamikaze planes, so Laffey's crewmen considered the ship to be lucky to not have suffered any damage off the Normandy coast and in the Philippines even though the crew had witnessed several kamikaze hits on other American ships such as the escort carrier Ommaney Bay and the cruiser Nashville. After the Philippines, Laffey also participated in the Battle of Iwo Jima and two air strikes against the Japanese main island of Honshu in February 1945. Part 3, which takes up half the book, focuses on the massive kamikaze attack against Laffey on April 16, 1945.

The damaged Laffey returned to the States as a brave ship celebrated in the media for surviving a ferocious Japanese air attack. The destroyer was hit more times by kamikaze aircraft in a single day than any other ship. On May 26-30, 1945, the public was able to board the beat-up destroyer in Seattle in order to view damage from the kamikaze attack. Several crewmen explained what happened at each location during the battle. About 65,000 persons visited the docked ship over these five days. Laffey received the Presidential Unit Citation, which includes the following words to describe the crew's bravery:

Struck by two bombs, crash-dived by suicide planes and frequently strafed, she withstood the devastating blows unflinchingly and, despite severe damage and heavy casualties, continued to fight effectively until the last plane had been driven off. The courage, superb seamanship and indomitable determination of her officers and men enabled the Laffey to defeat the enemy against almost insurmountable odds.

Since 1982, Laffey has been a museum ship at Patriots Point (Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina), and she was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1986.


Laffey steams away after her action against the kamikazes.
The aft section gun barrels look like broken matchsticks.

The Japanese creation of units to carry out aerial suicide attacks gets introduced by the author, but he gives no details related to the origins of Japanese aircraft that attacked Laffey. There is no clear answer as to why so many kamikaze planes focused on Laffey other than that Radar Picket Station No. 1, where the ship was located just north of Okinawa, was the spot closest to airfields in southern Kyushu where Japanese kamikaze planes and conventional bombers took off toward Okinawa on the morning of April 16, 1945. The author seems to have a positive view of the Japanese kamikaze pilots based on the following paragraph (p. 104):

Unlike the prevalent belief among the Laffey crew that kamikaze pilots were unintelligent robots mutely following orders, most come from highly educated families. Duty and honor fueled their sacrifice, and they hoped their deaths would directly help their nation to avoid defeat.

Some aspects of the book make it a difficult read. The interweaving of Captain Becton's and many crewmen's comments from interviews sometimes make it tough to follow the chronological story of a single individual. The book in its entirety seems like a touching tribute to the courage of Captain Becton and Laffey's crew with almost no critical comments of their actions. The complexity of Laffey's courageous battle with attacking Japanese planes makes it challenging to follow without a reader's having some familiarity of the locations of a WWII destroyer's various guns, although the two maps that illustrate the attacking planes' flight paths provide a useful overview.


Following the battle, little but empty space exists where
guns should have rested in the ravaged fantail section

1. Becton (1980, 260) states 32 men died and 71 men were wounded.

Source Cited

Becton, F. Julian, with Joseph Morschauser III. 1980. The Ship That Would Not Die. Missoula, Montana: Pictorial Histories Publishing Company.


Laffey II DD- 724 - History


USS Laffey , Patriots Point, SC
(Photo by Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum, 1985)


Name: USS Laffey (DD-724)
Location: West of Mount Pleasant, Charleston Harbor, Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina
Owner: Patriots Point Development Authority, State of South Carolina
Condition: Fair, altered
Displacement: 2,610 tons standard / 3,218 tons full load
Length: 377 feet
Width: 40 feet
Machinery: 2-shaft General Electric Turbines, 4-Babcock & Wilcox Boilers
Fuel Oil Capacity: 504 tons
Maximum Speed: 37 knots
Armament: Six 5-inch/38 caliber guns (3 x 2), Ten torpedo tubes, depth charges, and various combinations of antiaircraft guns.
Crew: 336 wartime [1]
Builder: Bath Iron Works, Bath, Maine
Launched: November 21, 1943
Commissioned: February 8, 1944

USS Laffey (DD 724) is a World War II Allen M. Sumner class destroyer. She was built by the Bath Iron Works, Bath, Maine. USS Laffey was launched on November 21, 1943, and was commissioned on February 8, 1944.

The Allen M. Sumner class was intended by the Navy to be an interim design between the Fletcher class and the soon to be built improved Gearing class. The Allen M. Sumner class was an improved design based on a twin enclosed 5-inch/38 caliber gun mount originally used for heavier ships. One advantage over the previous Fletcher class was reduced crowding along the centerline of the ship which made it easier to mount additional light antiaircraft guns. In all other respects the Allen M. Sumner class and the Fletcher class were similar.

During mothballlng and reactivation in 1947-51, USS Laffey's 40mm and 20mm guns were removed. In 1962 the ship underwent a Fram II overhaul (Fleet Repair and Modernization) during which a helicopter platform was mounted for the DASH (Drone Antisubmarine Helicopter) weapon system. Two hedgehog depth charge launchers and two amidship (between the funnels) sidelaunching torpedo racks replaced the original depth charge and torpedo-launching apparatus. [2]

USS Laffey is in fair condition and is in need of painting and repair work. Although modernized since World War II USS Laffey retains much of her integrity as an Allen M. Sumner class destroyer. Her hull, superstructure, main guns and much of her equipment date from World War II.

Role of the Destroyer in World War II

The destroyer had its origin in the Late-19th century with the development of the first self-propelled torpedo. Navies quickly developed small fast torpedo boats designed to attack and sink larger battleships and cruisers. As a counter against torpedo boats, navies built a slightly larger ship, armed with torpedoes and heavier guns. These 900-ton ships were known as torpedo boat destroyers. World War I showed these ships suited to protecting larger ships against surface, submarine, and air attack. Also, they proved more effective offensively than torpedo boats, and assumed the attack role. By the end of World War I, they were simply known as "destroyers." [3]

The destroyer during World War II continued in this role as an all-purpose ship ready to fight off attack from the air, on the surface, or from below the sea. It could be called upon to give fire support to troops, deliver mail and people to other ships, rescue pilots who had been forced down at sea, and to serve as the distant early warning eyes of the fleet in hostile waters. [4] Destroyers did not have the glamour of a battleship or an aircraft carrier but without them the aircraft carrier and battleship would be helpless against enemy submarines. They were all-purpose ships whose support of general fleet operations was vital. No aircraft or battleship ever proceeded into enemy waters without an escort of destroyers.

USS Laffey represents American destroyers that fought against Japan in World War II for the following reasons:

1. Roger Chesnau, ed., Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1922-1946 (New York: Mayflower Books, 1980), p. 132.

2. Dr. Clark Reynolds, "National Register of Historic Places Inventory USS Laffey " (Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina: Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum, 1983), p. 2.

3. No Author, USS Kidd (Information Brochure) March 1984.

4. Judd Scott Harmon, The USS Cassin Young (DD-793) (Missoula, Montana: Pictorial Histories Publishing Company, 1985), p. 8.

Chesnau, Roger, ed., Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1922-1946 . New York: Mayflower Books, 1980.

Harmon, Judd Scott. The USS Cassin Young (DD-793) . Missoula, Montana: Pictorial Histories Publishing Company, 1985.

No Author, USS Kidd Information Brochure, 1984.

Preston, Anthony. Destroyers . Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1977.

Reynolds, Clark. "National Register of Historic Places Inventory USS Laffey. " Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina: Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum, 1983.

Schofield, William G. Destroyers--60 Years . New York: Rand McNally & Company, 1962.


ラフィー (DD-724)

ラフィーは第二次世界大戦中のノルマンディー上陸作戦や沖縄の戦いにおいて、苛烈な砲爆撃と神風特別攻撃隊による攻撃を生き延びたことから「不死身の船」(The Ship That Would Not Die)と綽名された。ラフィーは現在、サウスカロライナ州チャールストン近郊のパトリオッツ・ポイントで博物館船として保存されており、アメリカ合衆国国定歴史建造物とアメリカ合衆国国家歴史登録財に指定されている [3] 。

ノルマンディー上陸作戦 編集

警戒任務完了後、ラフィーは戦艦ネバダと共にイギリスへ戻り6月22日にポーツマスへ到着、続いてシェルブールの戦いに参加した。6月25日、ラフィーはネバダと共にシェルブール=オクトヴィルの強固な防御陣地を砲撃する第2砲撃グループ(Bombardment Group 2)に加わるため出撃した。砲撃地域に到着後、砲撃グループは沿岸砲台からの反撃を受けた。駆逐艦バートンとオブライエンが被弾し、ラフィーにも海面で跳弾となった砲弾が水線上に直撃したが、幸運にも不発であったため被害はほとんどなかった。

その日遅く、砲撃グループは後退し北アイルランドに向かい7月1日にベルファストに到着した。3日後、ラフィーは第119駆逐隊(Destroyer Division 119, DesDiv 119)と共にボストンへ出港し7月9日に到着した。一か月のオーバーホールを終えた後、ラフィーに搭載された新型電子兵装の試験を実施、二週間後にノーフォークへ向かったラフィーは8月25日に到着する。

レイテの戦い 編集

翌日出港したラフィーはパナマ運河とカリフォルニア州サン・ディエゴを経由し、9月に真珠湾に到着。大規模な訓練の後、ラフィーは10月23日に戦闘海域へ向かい、エニウェトク環礁経由で11月5日ウルシー環礁の泊地に停泊した。同日、ラフィーは第38任務部隊(Task Force 38 ,TF 38)の護衛に参加し、それからフィリピンの日本軍艦艇、航空機、飛行場に対する空襲を支援した。11月1日、ラフィーは一本の落下傘が降りてくるのを発見し、護衛配置を離れて重傷を負った日本軍のパイロットを救助した。翌日、給油活動に合わせてパイロットの身柄は空母エンタープライズに移された。ラフィーは11月22日にウルシー環礁へ戻り、11月27日に第60駆逐戦隊(Destroyer Squadron 60, DesRon 60)と共にレイテ湾へ向かった。第7艦隊の大型艦艇への対空・対潜護衛任務を行いつつ、ラフィーは12月7日にオルモック湾への上陸を援護し、沿岸砲台を沈黙させ集結中の敵部隊に砲撃を行った。

12月8日にレイテ島サン・ペドロ湾での短期間の修繕の後、ラフィーを含む第77.3近接支援群(Close Support Group 77.3)は12月12日にミンドロ島へ向け出撃、12月5日から島への上陸作戦を支援した。橋頭堡が確保された後、ラフィーはレイテ島へ戻る空荷となった揚陸艦艇を護衛し、12月17日にサン・ペドロ湾へ到着した。10日後、ラフィーはミンドロ島周辺海域の警戒のために第77.3任務群(Task Group 77.3 ,TG 77.3)に加わる。一時的にサン・ペドロ湾へ戻った後、ラフィーは第7艦隊に再加入し、1945年1月中をルソン島リンガエン湾に上陸する部隊と揚陸艦艇の護衛を行って過ごした。カロリン諸島へ退いたラフィーは1月27日にウルシー環礁へ到着、2月には東京への陽動爆撃と硫黄島で戦う海兵隊への直接支援爆撃を行う第58任務部隊(Task Force 58,TF 58)を支援した。同月下旬、ラフィーは重要な諜報情報をグアム島にいるチェスター・ニミッツ元帥の元へ運び3月1日に到着した。

沖縄の戦い 編集

翌日、ラフィーは第54任務部隊(Task Force 54,TF 54)の戦艦と共に徹底的な訓練を行うためウルシー環礁に到着、3月21日に沖縄の戦いに参加する任務部隊の1隻として出撃する。ラフィーは慶良間諸島占領を支援し、沿岸目標の砲撃、夜間の敵に対する攪乱砲撃、主力艦艇の護衛を実施した。

  • 午前8時30分、1機の九九式艦上爆撃機がラフィーの近くに偵察に現れた。その九九式艦爆は対空砲火を受けると爆弾を投棄して退避していった。間もなく九九式艦爆4機が出現し、編隊を崩した敵機はラフィーに向かって急降下爆撃を仕掛けてきた。2機は20mm機関砲で破壊され、低空から攻撃を試みた他の2機も海面に突っ込んだ。それからほどなくして、ラフィーの砲手の一人は左舷から機銃掃射を行いつつ接近してきた彗星1機を撃墜する。10秒後、今度はラフィーの5インチ主砲が火を噴き、右舷から飛来して爆撃を試みようとしていた2機目の彗星に砲弾を命中させた。その彗星が落とした爆弾は海面に落ち、破片で右舷の砲手たちを負傷させた。火災は応急修理要員によって直ちに消火された。
  • 午前8時42分、ラフィーはさらに左舷から接近してきた九九式艦爆を撃墜。敵機の機体はラフィーの艦体に直撃することはなかったものの、海に突っ込む直前に甲板を掠め、損傷した発動機からの燃料をばら撒いていった。3分後、新たな九九式艦爆が右舷方向から接近し、ラフィーの40mm機関砲座に突入した。これによって3名が死亡、40mm機関砲2基と20mm機関砲数門が破壊され弾庫に火災が発生した。時を同じくして、別の九九式艦爆が艦尾方向から機銃掃射しつつ接近、後部主砲塔に突入する。この敵機の爆弾は装薬庫を誘爆させ、後部主砲塔は破壊され大火災が発生した。同様に接近した別の1機も、ラフィーからの反撃で炎上しつつも燃えるラフィーの後部主砲塔に突入した。間髪入れず、更なる九九式艦爆が艦尾から接近して爆弾を投下、7名が死亡し舵が取舵26度から動かなくなった。攻撃は止むことなく、新たな九九式艦爆と彗星が右舷に接近しさらにラフィーに爆弾を命中させた。

ラフィーは実に特攻機5機による突入と4発の爆弾、機銃掃射を受け大破、死者32名・負傷者71名に上る甚大な損傷を負ったにもかかわらず、ついに生き残った [4] 。補助通信士官フランク・マンソン(Frank Manson)大尉がベクトン艦長に総員退艦を考えているかと尋ねたが、ベクトン艦長は怒って言った。

当時、あまりに特攻機がレーダーピケット艦を攻撃してくるので、ラフィーの乗組員の内1名が「Carriers This Way(空母はあちら)」という意味の矢印を書いた大きな看板を掲げたこともあったが、結局ラフィーは特攻を受け大破することになった [7] 。

朝鮮戦争 編集

ラフィーは1951年1月26日にチャールズ・ホロヴァク中佐(Charles Holovak)の指揮の下で再就役した。サン・ディエゴでの公試後、東海岸に向かったラフィーは1951年1月中旬にキューバのグアンタナモ湾で錬成訓練を行い、2月にはノーフォークでオーバーホールを実施した。1952年1月、ラフィーは朝鮮半島へ向かった。3月に到着後、ラフィーは第77任務部隊(Task Force 77,TF 77)の空母アンティータムとヴァリー・フォージを護衛した。


Laffey II DD- 724 - History

A Tin Can Sailors
Destroyer History

The SUMNER-class destroyer LAFFEY (DD-724) was launched 21 November 1943 by Maine’s Bath Iron Works and commissioned 8 February 1944. She was in Plymouth, England, on 27 May, the eve of the invasion of France. On 3 June she headed for the Normandy beaches escorting tugs, landing craft, and two Dutch gunboats. The group arrived off Utah Beach at dawn on 6 June to screen the landings to seaward. On the 8th and 9th, she moved in to bombard gun emplacements. On 12 June she pursued enemy E-boats that had torpedoed the destroyer NELSON (DD-623). The LAFFEY’s swift action prevented further attacks. Returning briefly to England, she got underway with the battleship NEVADA to shell the defenses at Cherbourg. Almost immediately, they were under fire by shore batteries, and the destroyers BARTON (DD-722) and O’BRIEN (DD-725) were hit. The LAFFEY also was hit by a ricocheting shell that failed to explode and did little damage. By July 4, the LAFFEY was headed for Boston and ultimately the Western Pacific.

On 23 October she was screening carriers conducting air strikes against enemy shipping, aircraft, and airfields in the Philippines. On 11 November, she rescued a badly wounded Japanese pilot. Her next mission took her into the Leyte Gulf for the landings at Ormoc Bay on 7 December. There, she screened the big ships, covered the landings, silenced a shore battery, and shelled enemy troop concentrations. She next saw action on 15 December during the landings on Mindoro. During January 1945, she screened troop landings in the Lingayen Gulf area of Luzon. February found her screening Task Force 58 during air strikes on Tokyo and in support of marines on Iwo Jima.

On 21 March she sortied with TF 54 for the Okinawa invasion. The LAFFEY helped capture Kerama Retto, bombarded shore establishments, harassed the enemy with night fire, and screened heavy units. Assigned to a radar picket station 30 miles north of Okinawa, she arrived on 14 April and almost immediately joined in repulsing an air attack, which cost the enemy 13 planes. The next day, the enemy launched another strike of some 50 planes. The destroyer splashed nine attackers, and friendly aircraft destroyed others, but nearly half of the raiders broke through to strike the LAFFEY. She was hit by five kamikazes and badly damaged by four bombs. The gallant destroyer suffered 32 dead and 71 wounded. She was towed to Okinawa for temporary repairs and then began her torturous voyage home arriving at Seattle on 24 May 1945.

Repairs complete in early September, she sailed for San Diego. During exercises that month, she collided with PC� in a thick fog and rescued all but one of the PC’s crew. The LAFFEY collected scientific data during the atomic tests at Bikini in May 1946. She returned to San Diego for operations along the West Coast with cruises to Guam, Kwajalein, Hawaii, and Australia. Upon her return to San Diego, she was decommissioned on 30 June 1947.

The LAFFEY was recommissioned on 26 January 1951 and by mid January 1952 was en route to Korea. She operated with Task Force 77 screening the carriers ANTIETAM (CV󈛈) and VALLEY FORGE (CV󈛑) until May, when she joined a bombardment and blockade group in Wonson Harbor engaging several enemy shore batteries. After brief refit at Yokosuka, the ship returned to Korea where it rejoined Task Force 77. That June, she was bound for home via the Suez Canal and arrived in Norfolk on 19 August.

The LAFFEY operated in the Caribbean with a hunter-killer group until February 1954, when she left on a world cruise, which included a tour off Korea, until 29 June. Returning to Norfolk in August 1954, she participated in fleet exercises and plane guard duties, and, on 7 October, rescued four passengers from ABLE, a schooner that sank in a storm off the Virginia Capes. She continued operations in the Eastern Atlantic from Nova Scotia to the Caribbean.

On 7 November 1956, the destroyer headed for the Mediterranean at the height of the Suez crisis. Upon arrival, she joined the Sixth Fleet to patrol the Israeli‑Egyptian border. When international tensions eased, the LAFFEY returned to Norfolk in February 1957, and resumed operations along the Atlantic coast. She also took part in NATO operations off Scotland before rejoining the Sixth Fleet. In June 1958 she made a cruise to the Caribbean for a major exercise. In August 1959 she deployed with DesRon 32 for the Mediterranean. That December, she transited the Suez Canal for operations in the Persian Gulf until late January 1960.

A Caribbean cruise, a large naval NATO exercise, and a visit to Antwerp, Belgium, took her into January 1961, when she returned to the Mediterranean. While there, she assisted the SS DARA, a British freighter in distress. Underway training, duties as service ship for the Norfolk Test and Evaluation Detachment, operations with a hunter‑killer group along the eastern seaboard, and a Six Fleet deployment took her into June 1964 when her task group undertook a surveillance mission observing Soviet naval forces training in the Mediterranean. By early September, she was back in Norfolk where she continued to make regular Mediterranean cruises and participated in operational and training exercises in the Atlantic and Caribbean.

From The Tin Can Sailor, July 2010


Copyright 2001 Tin Can Sailors.
All rights reserved.
This article may not be reproduced in any form without written permission from
Tin Can Sailors.


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When German coastal batteries threatened Allied minesweepers, destroyers Barton, O’Brien, and Laffey rushed in to lay smoke. The Barton and the O’Brien took direct hits. Another German shell landed off the Laffey’s port bow with a huge splash afterward, damage control personnel discovered an unexploded round on the deck of the boatswain’s locker, a cramped bow space just above the waterline.

They hoisted the yard-long, 400-pound projectile through hatches to the main deck and rolled it overboard. Fortunately, the Channel was calm — no swells to flood the bow or trigger a blast.

A month later, the Laffey recrossed the Atlantic to have repair, maintenance, and modifications done at the Boston Navy Yard.

The destroyer seemed a lucky ship — but the true test of that reputation waited on the far side of the world.

After undergoing modifications, the Laffey in late October steamed for the Pacific, reaching the Philippines and Task Force 38 to prepare for screening the invasion of the islands.

/>A photograph of the destroyer Haraden taken 18 June 1945 at Puget Sound Navy Yard showing damage received from a kamikaze in the Philippines. (U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command)

Taking inspiration from a legendary “Divine Wind” said to have protected ancient Japan from an attacking Mongol fleet, Japan’s warlords fashioned a modern intervention: aerial suicide crashes aimed at sinking enemy ships — especially aircraft carriers. Multiplied many times, these tactics might prevent Japan’s utter defeat.

The Allies attributed the initial sporadic suicide flights to crazy individual pilots. But in December 1944, as the Allies began a series of Philippine island invasions, suicide attacks increased in frequency and ferocity.

During the Dec. 7 assault on Ormoc, a city on the Leyte coast, Becton and crew watched a pilot deliberately dive to sink a transport. A destroyer intentionally struck by another enemy pilot had to be scuttled, and similar attacks damaged two more destroyers.

On Dec. 10, when Japanese pilots slammed into five vessels, the Laffey stood by the destroyer Hughes to assist with damage control and tend to wounded men, many of them grievously burned.

The harrowing pattern reached a crescendo on Jan. 6, 1945, off Luzon. Suicide pilots there mauled 11 ships, but the Laffey again escaped unscathed.

By February, after maintenance at Ulithi, the Laffey had joined a fast carrier task force supporting the invasion of Iwo Jima.

To provide early warnings of enemy aircraft, the Navy had developed new tactics: a mobile picket line of destroyers deployed 50 miles ahead of the fleet. Some pickets carried fighter-director teams — radar and tactical communications specialists — that controlled Combat Air Patrol fighter aircraft.

The Iwo Jima campaign proved uneventful for the Laffey, as horrid weather staved off any airborne threat.

/>Crew members of the aircraft carrier Intrepid conduct a burial at sea for the officers and men killed by a Japanese kamikaze attack, 26 November 1944. The ship had been hit while operating off the Philippines on the previous day. (Photographed by Lt. Barrett Gallagher, USNR, now in the collections of the National Archives)

Next up for the destroyer, however, was duty in the Combined Joint Expeditionary Force invading Okinawa, an island well within the range of planes based on Japan’s home islands.

To shield the Okinawa landings, a necklace of 15 fixed radar picket (RP) stations encircled the island.

RP 1, the station nearest Japan, lay 50 miles due north of “Point Bolo,” the westernmost spot along Okinawa’s central coast. The other pickets, numbered clockwise, also took bearings from Point Bolo.

Each picket ship was to patrol its station for several days — unless damaged or sunk.

The RP necklace was not the only cordon a 39-station interior “ping line” of smaller screening vessels guarded the invasion fleet against submarines and lesser surface craft.

But it was RP 1 and adjacent posts that would encounter the main aerial threat.

The landings began on April 1, 1945.

From then through April 12, as the Laffey’s crew was enjoying comparative safety screening offshore bombardment ships, nearly 50 American vessels, including 30 picket or ping-line destroyers, took aerial hits.

Twenty-four, including 15 destroyers, were sunk or scuttled. Casualties reached nearly 1,000 killed and 1,500 wounded, for a time dwarfing the toll ashore.

/>US ships put up a heavy anti-aircraft barrage against Japanese planes coming in just above the water on the seaward side of Kerama Retto, at dusk, 6 April 1945. Photographed from the seaplane tender Chandeleur. Bright flash in center might be a plane exploding on the water. (U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command)

Japan’s aerial strategy, called Operation Ten-Go, combined massed attacks by conventional bombers and suicide aircraft called “floating chrysanthemums.”

On April 6 and 7, for example, 700 planes, roughly half on suicide missions, swarmed American ships, sinking five and damaging 15. As blasted vessels reached Wiseman’s Cove, the Bone Yard became an even ghastlier sight.

The Laffey’s April 13 stay in Wiseman’s Cove was brief. After refueling, rearming, loading the first mail received in seven weeks, and boarding a five-man fighter- director team, the ship set sail for RP 1.

Reaching station the next day, the Laffey was joined by two Landing Craft, Support, LCS-51 and LCS-116.

LCSs were adaptations of Landing Craft, Infantry, heavily armed with .50-caliber, 20mm, and 40mm guns. Slow — top speed 16 knots — shallow-bottomed, and squat — 160 feet long, with a 23-foot beam — the ungainly LCS’s chief merit was versatility.

Two high-capacity pumps enabled the gunboat to double as a fireboat. Young LCS skippers like the 51’s Lt. Howell D. Chickering and the 116’s Lt. A. J. Wierzbicki had few illusions about their purpose. After suicide attacks they would be dousing fires, moving casualties, and recovering survivors.

Turning over RP 1 to the Laffey on April 14, the departing destroyer’s commanding officer reported few enemy “snoopers” aloft, and no raids.

Conditions remained quiet until Sunday night, when all at once snoopers seemed to fill the sky. Combat Air Patrol fliers squelched the threat, but unease remained.

When general quarters ended at 3 a.m., bridge quartermaster Aristides “Ari” Phoutrides, 19, crawled exhausted into his rack. Phoutrides, son of a Greek Orthodox pastor in Seattle, felt sure that the Laffey was about to catch hell.

/>The aircraft carrier Bunker Hill burning after being hit by a Kamikaze, off Okinawa, 11 May 1945. (National Archives)

The Laffey’s breakfast chow line stretched to the main deck when radar operators picked up a single enemy aerial contact or “bogey” — an Aichi D3A “Val” dive-bomber, recognizable by its fixed landing gear — off the port bow.

The crew raced to general quarters and the five-inch gunners in forward mounts 51 and 52 opened fire.

The Val retreated, but crewmen stayed at battle stations within 45 minutes, radar detected many more bogies.

Combat Information Center officer Lloyd Hull, 22, sensed a nightmare unfolding. Soon lookouts topside spotted Vals, “Judys” — Yokosuka D4Y dive-bombers — “Kates” — Nakajima B5N torpedo bombers — and “Oscars” — Nakajima Ki-43 fighters — poised to attack the Laffey.

Four Vals peeled off — two of the pilots aiming for the starboard bow, two for the stern.

“Here they come!” shouted Seaman Ramon Pressburger, 21, a loader on a starboard 40mm. “Here they come!”

Cmdr. Becton, shouting orders from the flying bridge by voice tube to quartermaster Jack Doran in the pilothouse below, ordered hard left rudder he meant to stay broadside to the attackers so as many guns as possible could engage.

In the gunfire director, or “basket,” atop the flying bridge, gun boss Paul Smith had permission to fire when ready.

Under director control, mounts 51 and 52 downed the two Vals off the bow. Flying low, one Val bound for the stern caught a wheel on a wave and nosed in. Cannon blasts from mount 53, abetted by the ship’s 20mms and 40mms and those aboard the LCS-51, brought down the other attacking Val.

/>The severely damaged destroyer Laffey. This gun view looking forward from aft on starboard side. (U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command)

Next came two Judys. The first, angling for the starboard beam, came in low, a bull’s-eye for the Laffey’s 20mms and 40mms.

With the other Judy aiming for the port beam, Becton ordered helmsman Doran to swing 30 degrees to starboard. The port 20mm and 40mm gunners splashed that Judy, but not before its pilot dropped a bomb that exploded directly alongside. Shrapnel peppered portside 20mm gunner Bob Robertson, 19, who would lose an eye but survive because gun captain Fred Burgess shoved Robertson to the deck as the blast nearly severed one of Burgess’s legs below the knee.

As crewmates replaced incapacitated gunners, the morning’s seventh and eighth attackers moved in: a Val to port and a Judy to starboard.

Laffey gunners hammered the Val, but its pilot maintained a shallow dive toward mount 53, where mount captain Lawrence “Ski” Delewski, 20, had just had a cannon misfire. The Pennsylvanian deftly stepped down from the topside hatch and into the armored gun house, where he hammered the gun’s breech with a rawhide-covered maul. As the balky gun barked, the oncoming Val grazed the spot where Delewski had just been standing and skidded into the water.

The starboard Judy never got close 20mm and 40mm fire left its death-wish pilot without a plane to fly.

/>The destroyer Laffey, severely damaged by four bombs and five kamikaze hits on April 16, 1945. Shown here is overhead crew's living spaces, port side. (U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command)

On the bridge, Ari Phoutrides had recorded eight planes and eight kills in the log. Everyone on board, especially the gunners, had held his own in the siege, now in its 12th minute. Seconds after Becton returned to the pilothouse from the flying bridge, the first plane that would hit the Laffey squarely, a Val, aimed for the port beam.

As the dive-bomber’s lacerated wing tanks dripped fuel, its pilot banked between the destroyer’s stacks. The Val’s landing gear obliterated the starboard side 20mm mounts and two sets of 40mms it lost a wing, then toppled over the side.

Three gunners died outright a fourth, soaked in fuel and afire, leaped overboard.

Fires topside plumed black smoke. Exploding 40mm clips perforated the deck, allowing flaming gas to stream into a magazine.

In the engineering spaces, smoke forced men to close ventilators. Blistering temperatures soared higher. Communications circuits began to falter, prompting Lt. Al Henke, the Laffey’s engineering officer, to improvise.

He told throttlemen that if communications failed — as they soon would — they should keep pace with the rate of the ship’s gunfire.

/>The destroyer Laffey with bomb hole, port side aft. (U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command)

In the darkened Combat Information Center below the pilothouse, Hull’s radar team could not see but keenly felt the violence. Luminous dots — most now too near to distinguish, track, or report — pocked their screens. The communications officers were on the horn with the amphibious command ship Eldorado. Combat Air Patrols were changing shifts, delaying fighters.

“They’ll come, Captain,” executive officer Lt. Challen McCune, a 26-year-old Iowan, assured Becton. “We’ll have to hold the bastards off for awhile ourselves.”

Hoping to contain the flames, Becton slowed the Laffey.

“This marked us as a cripple,” he recalled. “The Japs really went to work on us.”

Three new attackers approached astern.

“Ski” Delewski, now captaining mount 53 from a side hatch, spotted the first, a Val, to starboard. Only the three fantail 20mms had a clear shot. The gunners zeroed in, but momentum carried the Val into the fantail, scraping away the 20mm mounts, killing six men and bulldozing Delewski’s mount.

The plane’s bomb exploded, disintegrating the aircraft, shearing away gun house armor plate, tearing holes in the main deck, and igniting fires that threatened the after magazine.

The blast threw Delewski 15 feet onto the portside main deck, remarkably unharmed.

Becton ordered the after magazine flooded. No sooner was this done than a Val or a Judy — no one was sure which — crashed into the ruins of Delewski’s mount.

Both plane and bomb blew, killing six of Delewski’s crew and skewing a gun barrel skyward like a dislocated finger. The impact and explosion stove in the starboard quarter, exposing interior spaces.

With the Laffey defenseless astern, a Val pilot planted a bomb on the fantail. The blast severed the rudder cables and hydraulics.

“Captain, rudder jammed at 26 degrees left,” Doran shouted through the tube to the beleaguered Becton.

Throughout, LCS-51’s Howell Chickering had managed to stay close to the Laffey. When attacks got heaviest, several 51 sailors panicked and jumped overboard.

“If you stop to get them,” a chief petty officer warned his skipper, “I’m jumping off, too!”

/>Fire erupts from an F4U "Corsair" fighter after it crashed into the aircraft carrier Essex's barrier, 8 April 1945. Gasoline from the damaged belly tank ignited when it hit the plane's hot engine. The fire was quickly extinguished by the flight deck fire fighters. Note: "hot papa" in asbestos suit, in lower right. (National Archives)

Aboard LCS-116, now well off to the east and out of range of the Laffey and the 51, men had their hands just as full. Ray Davis, a forward 40mm gunner, had locked onto a Japanese aircraft when a Corsair swooped in to shoot it down.

Cheers went up — perhaps the worst was over.

But just then a bomb-carrying suicide plane struck the 116’s after 40mm gun, killing three crewmen and wounding others. As tumbling ammunition clips exploded above Davis and his crew, a second enemy flier zoomed in.

Davis’s 40mm couldn’t swing far enough to reach the plane, but an alert .50-caliber gunner stitched rounds right into the cockpit. The pilot slumped and his plane’s nose jerked up.

The aircraft cleared the 116, barrel-rolled into the water, and exploded.

Even as inbound Combat Air Patrol pilots reached LCS-116, two more suicide planes struck the Laffey, each slamming into the after deckhouse, where four sailors died.

A litany of reports documented the destroyer’s woes: fires amidships and astern steering control lost a pair of red-hot aircraft engines embedded in bulkheads two main cannons and most 40s and 20s destroyed an incendiary shell cooking off in a head near an unexploded bomb decks cluttered with airplane wreckage and flaming aviation fuel pouring into compartments below decks.

Communications to the bridge were disrupted, so Becton sent Ari Phoutrides aft for a firsthand assessment.

“My God,” Phoutrides thought as he returned to the bridge. “Will this ever end?”

On the main deck, signalman Bill Kelly, 20, was at hand as the badly wounded gun captain, Fred Burgess, was being carried to an aid station. Burgess asked for a battle ensign Kelly gave the dying man a flag.

/>A Japanese "Frances" Kamikaze under fire from the the guns of the escort carrier Sitkoh Bay, 7 April 1945, off Okinawa, Note F4U Corsair fighters making firing runs on the Japanese plane. (National Archives)

A 15th attacker — a bomb-toting Oscar — approached, with company: one of the dozen-plus Marine Corsairs and Navy Hellcats finally reaching RP 1.

Prey and pursuer zipped over gun boss Paul Smith’s basket, the Oscar shearing off the mast’s port yardarm — and with it the ship’s American flag — before hitting the water.

The Corsair clipped Laffey’s air search radar, toppling the “bedspring” antenna but gaining enough altitude for the pilot to bail out.

Crashing to Laffey’s signal deck, the big antenna just missed Kelly. Pumped with adrenaline, the New Jersey native, who had been a high school football star, briefly tried to haul the two-ton antenna clear while another signalman, Thomas McCarthy, climbed the mast stump to replace its battle ensign.

The friendly fighters were a godsend, but they did not end the Laffey’s troubles.

With a Corsair in chase, a Judy angled for the port beam. Before the ship’s gunners could lock on, the Judy crashed close by. Its bomb exploded, hurling metal through the thin side hatch of mount 52. The shrapnel knocked out an electrical panel and seriously wounded three gunners, including mount captain Warren G. Walker.

As other starboard 20s and 40s brought down a 17th attacker, Walker spotted an incoming plane low and far off the starboard beam. Men had to swivel the mount by hand. When the guns fired, Smith saw rounds splashing short.

He coaxed mount 52 pointer Seaman Kenneth Pitta, the 19-year-old son of Portuguese immigrants, to increase the range 50 yards — then watched a round strike home.

The plane “poised in space a few feet above the water” before disintegrating into “nothingness,” Becton recalled.

Below and forward of mount 52, mount 51 — also without power — slowly slewed toward a Val diving for the starboard bow. The pointer, gunner’s mate Welles Meier, 25, stomped his foot-pedal trigger, unleashing a salvo that also connected.

“We got him! We got him!” cried an exultant Andy Stash, 52’s trainer. “Good work, Welles!”

/>The Laffey's No. 3 five-inch mount, port view looking forward from aft. (U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command)

In the lull after these two remarkable gunnery feats, assistant communications officer Lt. Frank Manson asked Becton about abandoning ship.

No, the skipper insisted, not as long as one gun still fired.

Some, including Ari Phoutrides, were wondering if the ship would run out of gunners first.

Disastrous conditions aft only worsened when a 20th attacker, a Val concealed by sun and smoke, dropped a bomb on the fantail and flew off, carrying away the mast’s remaining yardarm. The bomb opened an 8-by-10-foot hole in the deck.

A Val dove in unopposed on the starboard bow a strafing Judy on the port beam. Gunner’s mate Glenn Radder, 20, watched from the forecastle as the Val dropped a bomb into the starboard 20mm mount below the bridge.

The blast wiped out gun and crew and ripped a five-foot seam in the starboard bulkhead of the wardroom, crowded with medical personnel and wounded. The blast killed a pharmacist’s mate and the sailor he was treating. Shrapnel struck ship’s doctor Matthew Darnell’s hand but he kept working.

The Val and the Judy, attackers 21 and 22, met the same, nearly simultaneous fate: Okinawa-based Marine Corsairs shot down both planes.

After 80 minutes, the battle, arguably the most concentrated and relentless aerial suicide attack ever endured — and survived — by an American ship, had ended.

But the Laffey’s fight to survive went on.

/>The destroyer Laffey underway in the later 1940s or early 1950s, while the ship still carried World War II era radar antennas. (U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command)

At 11 a.m., LCS-51, pumps primed, pulled the alongside the Laffey. The larger vessel’s condition astounded men on the gunboat. The destroyer was down by the stern only two dogged-down hatches amidships were keeping it from flooding.

The high-speed minesweeper Macomb moved in to tow the Laffey until two tugs arrived. A tally revealed 103 casualties on the destroyer, including 32 dead.

LCS-116 had a dozen men killed and 12 more hurt. A rescue ship took the wounded for transfer to a hospital ship.

At four knots, the Laffey — on the verge of flooding — and its rescuers needed the balance of the day and night to reach anchorage off Okinawa.

Only seven days later, the hastily patched warship sailed to Saipan, then to Hawaii for more emergency work, and finally, on May 24, to the Todd Shipyard dry docks in Seattle, Washington.

Before repairs began, the Navy, to recruit shipyard workers and educate the public, opened the scarred vessel to visitors for two days.

Thousands came, many hearing the word “kamikaze” for the first time — and realizing what a lucky ship the Laffey truly was.

Miracle at Midway?

At 10 o’clock on the morning of June 4, 1942, the Japanese were winning the Pacific War an hour later, three Japanese aircraft carriers were on fire and sinking.

This article was originally published in the February 2015 issue of World War II, a sister publication to Navy Times. To subscribe, click here.


Normandy Escort Ship - USS Laffey (DD-724) "The Ship that Would not Die". .

Normandy Escort Ship - USS Laffey (DD-724) "The Ship that Would not Die". USS Laffey (DD-724) is an Allen M. Sumner-class destroyer. Commissioned in February 1944, the Laffey was the second ship to be named for Seaman Bartlett Laffey who was awarded the Medal of Honor during the American Civil War for his valiant stand manning a 12-pound howitzer while turning back a Confederate attack. The ship earned the nickname "The Ship That Would Not Die" for her exploits during the D-Day invasion and the battle of Okinawa when she successfully withstood a determined assault by conventional bombers and the most unrelenting kamikaze air attacks in history.

The #8 Ensign from the Laffey is a US Navy issue, 48-star, 60" X 114", wool bunting, 48-star, double applique with sewn stripes, finished with a roped heading and a ring and snap and lead line. The flag is profusely marked on the reverse hoist, "US ENSIGN" and "Ens. Boise" and "USS LAFFEY" and ""SHIP THAT WOULD NOT DIE" and "? JAP" and "12 Days" and "UNSEV" and an illegible mark.

The Laffey began her WWII service in early 1944 training along the Atlantic Seaboard prior to convoying to Europe. She was assigned to the Western Task Force, Force "U" Escort Group 125.6, tasked with escorting and screening the ships assigned to Utah Beach. She departed Plymouth escorting a group of tugs, landing craft, and two Dutch gunboats, and arrived off Utah Beach at dawn on June 6, 1944. She screened bombardment and landing ships while engaging German shore positions. She returned to England to refuel but returned to Normandy to continue shore bombardment and engage German e-boats. She assisted in the bombardment of Cherbourg, where she was struck by an enemy shell which failed to detonate. Escort and screening duties completed, she departed for the States for an upgrade before transiting to the Pacific.

She arrived in the Pacific on November 5, 1944 and resumed screening, escort, and shore bombardment duties in and around the Philippines. In the Iwo Jima Campaign, she screened the carriers providing direct air support to the Marines. She was assigned to Okinawa to screen, bombard shore emplacements, and harass the enemy with sustained night fire.

On April 16, 1945, the Laffey was on aviation picket duty, approximately 30 miles north of Okinawa, when she helped repulse an aerial attack which downed 13 enemy aircraft. The next day, the Japanese launched a 50-plane attack. The Laffey was struck by six kamikazes and four bombs, but incredibly, survived. She was severely damaged, had 32 killed, and 71 wounded. When asked if they were going to abandon ship, her skipper, Capt. Frederick Julian Becton famously answered "No! I'll never abandon ship as long as a single gun will fire."

This effectively ended the Laffey's WWII combat service. She was repaired an went on to see further service in the Korean war and then Cold War. She was decommissioned in 1975 and became a museum ship.

This ensign is a unique opportunity to acquire a flag from a WWII ship still extant. A perfect flag for a WWII, Naval War, Normandy, or War in the Pacific collector.

During WWII, the Laffey was awarded: the Navy Presidential Unit Citation, American Campaign Service Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with one campaign star, Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal with four campaign Stars World War II Victory Medal, Philippine Republic Presidential Unit Citation Philippine Liberation Medal and the Philippine Independence Medal.

Additionally, her shipper was awarded the Navy cross for saving his ship after the kamikaze attack.

Condition: The ensign of the Laffey is in good condition. It is used, worn, soiled, and stained with a few small holes and a small horizontal tera in the bottom stripe.

This flag was formerly in the collection of Dr. Clarence Rungee, and is accompanied by his original museum inventory sheet with identifying information.

For those who did not receive a hard copy of the auction catalog, we present here the introductory comments and history of Dr. Rungee and his remarkable collection. If you scroll further, you will also find various contemporary newspaper articles, as well as a selection of the many letters of donation and transmittal which accompanied the collection.


Watch the video: USS Laffey, the ship that would not die!


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