End of the Battle
All personal stories are true and printed in italics as spoken.

Aboard the Emmons, fire was raging on the forward part of the ship engulfing the bridge. Gun 2 was so near the point of impact of the two kamikazes that the gun was knocked it off its track and the flames roared into the mount from all sides, starting fires in the gun mount and upper handling room. The blows and flash fires were so sudden and so unexpected that there was little time for the gun crew to get clear. There were no survivors in the gun chamber and the gun captain was listed as missing in action. Those who did escape from the mount were wounded and burned. The crew members of the Gun 2 handling room were shaken and some burns but were otherwise uninjured. Gun 1 was the last to cease firing and when power went out it was switched to local control and continued to fire until the fifth kamikaze hit just forward of the gun. Casualties were heavy.

Over seventy of the crew were now in the water having been blown there or forced to jump because of the intense heat. The crew watched helplessly as two kamikazes bore in to finish off the ship with nothing on the ship to stop them. Seeing that the ship was already doomed, the planes veered off to find more appropriate targets much to the relief of those in the water and those on board trying to keep the ship afloat.

When Ed got down to the main deck, he was aware he had severe burns on his hands and face although the rest of his body had been protected from flash burns by his clothing. His broken leg and shattered ankle forced him to hop over to the railing using his good leg. In his words: “I don’t recall being in great pain when I got down to the main deck, except when putting weight on my leg—shock was probably controlling. I didn’t see Captain Foss nor Chief Quartermaster Thompson in the water. We lost 60 men—killed or missing—about one fourth of the crew. Official casualties—including seriously injured—was about fifty percent.”

With many of his shipmates already in the water, his buddies lowered him gently and the cool salt water gave great relief to his burns. Ed could not see the Chief Quartermaster nor the Captain but they were swimming nearby, Only one other from the bridge location would be found, all others were gone forever.

Because of the pronounced starboard list and the gradual settling aft, there was concern over foundering. All loose gear was jettisoned and the disabled machine guns were cast loose from the deck and thrown overboard. Some of the engineers went back down into the engineering spaces to increase steam pressure for fire fighting. Progress was made with the fires aft and even the fires forward were brought under partial control. This provided an opportunity to launch a whaleboat but when it hit the water, it was discovered that vigorous bailing was needed to keep it afloat.

The crew started picking up survivors from the water and delivering them to the Auxiliary minesweeper, the Recruit which had arrived on the scene along with other vessels of Sweep Unit ELEVEN. Darkness was descending giving the ships relief from the persistent kamikazes. The Rodman was finally able to get underway and start her long journey back toward Okinawa. Survivors of the Emmons could watch with much personal satisfaction knowing that although they had been unable to save themselves they had been able to save their sister ship.

The destroyer minesweeper Ellyson arrived on the scene to find the still burning, drifting hulk of the Emmons with LCI (Landing Craft, Infantry) 558 and 559 standing by picking up survivors. The ship was still showing a forward draft of 15 feet indicating there was little underwater damage and therefore possibly salvageable. But with about thirty feet of stern destroyed by explosions, and fires forward preventing towlines from being established, it would be difficult. Add to that the fact that the ship was drifting toward enemy held islands and would reach shallow water within three or four hours.

The order was finally received to sink the drifting ship. The Ellyson closed and opened fire with her main battery. After ninety-six rounds, and with many of the Emmons crew watching from the rescue craft, the abandoned, drifting and burning ship capsized and sank in twenty five fathoms of water off the coast of Okinawa. The ship had served her country faithfully and well for three years, four months and one day.

Gunner’s Mate 3c, Ray Quinn, who had come aboard as an apprentice seaman in 1942, probably said it best as he watched the ship slip below the surface: “I know we griped and complained just about everything, but as we looked back at our proud ship, a part of each one of us stayed with her.”

The loss of the Emmons would have little effect back at Okinawa where the battle raged on. The Japanese defense line was finally broken on April 28. Attacking the two flanks of the Japanese forces, Buckner’s troops fought fiercely against the enemy. By May 21, the Japanese had withdrawn to the southern tip of the island. The 10th Army occupied the capital, Naha, on May 27. On May 29, Japanese troops began withdrawing from Shuri Castle, their strongest defensive position. Company A, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines captured the remains of the castle. The Marines then made an amphibious assault southeast of the capital, while Buckner’s 10th Army moved on the enemy’s position at Mabuni, an escarpment located on the southern tip of the island. In the end, it took hand-to-hand combat, aerial bombardment, and tanks with flame-throwers to capture the entrenched and fiercely defiant Japanese force.

As the battle ended, the commanding general of the American Army forces, Lieutenant General Simon Bolivar Buckner heading the 10th Army was killed by a coral fragment thrown up by a Japanese artillery shell on June 18th. On June 19th, the Japanese commander General Ushijimi ordered all remaining troops to fight to the death while he and his chief of staff committed hari kari (ritual suicide) rather than except defeat. On June 22, Marine Major General Roy S. Geiger announced the island secure and a formal flag-raising ceremony took place.

For the American Navy, it was the most costly battle, ever. The fleet had lost 763 aircraft, over 4,900 sailors and 3,443 marines killed or missing in action and 4,824 Sailors and 16,017 Marines were wounded. Army casualties were 7,613 killed and 31,807 wounded or injured. There were also 26,000 non-battle casualties.

Japanese losses were enormous: 107,539 killed and 23,754 sealed in caves or buried by the Japanese themselves; 10,755 captured or surrendered. On both sides, nearly 170,000 died, over half were civilians. The Japanese lost 7,830 aircraft and 16 combat ships.

Japanese losses included the world’s largest warship ever built, the battleship Yamato. It was dispatched April 6th, the same day that the Emmons was sunk, but the ship managed to survive until the 7th when, after twelve bombs and seven torpedoes, it exploded and sunk in the cold Okinawan waters. Of the ship’s crew of 2,747, all but 23 officers and 246 enlisted men were lost. The accompanying cruiser and eight destroyers were also lost. This was the last naval action of the war. This victory cost the Americans ten planes and twelve men.