Friday, March 17, 2017

Remembering The Battle of Okinawa

I write about this every year, but I have committed to commemorating this day as long as I am able. It was April 1, 1945,  and the Pickens was among some 1200 ships and crafts from the United States and Britain. The Pickens was second behind the USS Hinsdale, APA 120, in a column of attack transports carrying the Second Marine Division. The time was a few minutes before 6 a.m.; we had been at General Quarters since around 5. We had experienced kamikaze attacks at Iwo Jima and knew we could expect to be attacked in much greater number.  We radarmen were watching the screens intently and lookouts on deck were searching the skies.

About one minute before 6 a Japanese plane hit the Hinsdale at the water line, exploding several bombs and blasting holes.  Another plane headed towards us but caught the mast of an LST to our port, exploding on the deck and setting the LST on fire.  We quickly put boats in the water and helped pick up survivors from the Hinsdale and LST's 884 and 724.  The flag officers from the Hinsdale transferred to our ship.  As an auxiliary hospital ship we were equipped to take care of wounded marines and seamen, many from the LST being badly burned.

We were able to carry out our assigned duties, which were to act as a diversionary attack force while troops were landing at other places.