All personal stories are true and printed in italics as spoken.

The loss of the Emmons was announced by Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz on April 22, 1945, while the survivors were still on the way home aboard the transport Wayne. It was June before accounts of her last battle appeared in newspapers throughout the United States. A Navy Unit Commendation was awarded to the ship as the Navy’s way of recognizing the bravery and devotion to duty of an entire crew. It was impossible to recognize each one individually, so their group performance was highlighted. A few individuals were cited for and eventually received personal recognition. Altogether thirteen officers and crewmen were cited for outstanding performance of duty in battle against the enemy on April 6, 1945. Among them were one Navy Cross, four Silver Stars, and eight Bronze Stars.

For Quartermaster Ed Hoffman and the ship’s captain Lt. Commander E. N. Foss, it was the end of their naval careers as their wounds were too extensive to allow them to remain in the service. Captain Foss, who had been blinded by the explosion of the kamikaze on the bridge, found his vision fully restored when the bandages were removed from his eyes after two weeks. For Ed, his leg and ankle healed but he would occasionally need back operations over the years. Ten years after Ed returned to civilian life, he was hospitalized for blood in his lungs. It turned out that a piece of shrapnel had migrated from a place near his backbone until it penetrated a lung. It appears, at this time of writing, that he will need a another operation on his back to relieve pain in his leg. He is scheduled to return to the hospital in March of 2000. For him, the war drags on.

For the Rodman, the ship returned to the States to be repaired and was able to venture forth another day. For the remaining officers and crew of the Emmons (almost half had lost their lives), they would eventually meet again with reunions and a newsletter that would hold them together. Ed would take over the job as editor. The sacrifices of lives on both ships did much to insure the safety of the ships and troops at the landing sites on Okinawa and therefore, the success of the operation itself.

For the Japanese Special Attack Forces, there was little thanks for their efforts; it was all in vain. Although there were those who seemed to have a fanatical desire to meet death in some glorious fashion, the majority of those who were asked to commit suicide for the nation were young college students who had everything to live for. Those that were assigned to “Kaiten” duty were asked to do what seems to be beyond the call of any kind of patriotism. The eleven year old girl who saw how bravely her brother went to his death, had this to write in later life:

I think the utmost crime of man is to use another man as a tool. When the Americans attacked Tokyo in the great fire-bombing, I understand that there were few American casualties. Nine died, and they killed a hundred thousand people. They came in three hundred planes, about three thousand crew members. Some were shot down, but most were rescued by submarines. They valued lives to that extent. They didn’t attack until such preparations were made. In Japan, if you were told it was an order from the Emperor, you couldn’t do anything about it. The fact that the Special Attack strategy existed only in Japan means this was only possible in the Emperor’s Army. Is there any other country on Earth willing to send its people into a combat from which they could not possibly return?

There were only three survivors of the Kaiten suicide force. They survived because they did not have the chance to launch. Those who launched, died. Included here, have been the stories of two of those survivors. The third survivor would not communicate with anyone about his experiences.

The achievements of the Kaitens were few and hard to confirm since the mother sub for the Kaitens would be firing torpedoes at about the same time as the Kaitens were launched so results were uncertain. One ship the Kaitens could definitely claim was the USS Underhill (DE-682). On July 24, she was escorting a convoy of LSTs loaded with troops of the Army’s 96th Infantry Division. Having seen heavy combat on Okinawa, these troops were on their way to a rear area in the Philippines for some rest and relaxation. However, in the early afternoon, while still some 150 miles northeast of Luzon, the convoy was sighted by Commander Saichi Oba, commanding the Japanese submarine I-53. The Commander is believed to have launched four Kaitens.

During the ensuing battle, Underhill conducted a depth-charge attack which seems to have accounted for one of the attacking craft. The Underhill also apparently rammed and sank at least one other of the attacking kaitens. However, shortly thereafter, at 1515 hours her luck ran out and she was struck by a third suicide craft, which rammed home on the starboard bow just forward of Engine Room #1. The results were catastrophic. The destruction caused by the kaiten’s 3000+ lb. warhead was amplified by the simultaneous explosion of the forward boilers, as well as (it is suspected) the ready ammunition for the forward 3” and 20mm guns. The resulting explosion blew the ship completely in two. The forward portion sank almost instantly, with no survivors. The rear section remained afloat, although there were casualties aft as well.

Many of the dazed survivors spent several hours in the water nearby, as the other escorts continued to fire on suspected kaitens (and perhaps the I-53 as well). Eventually, all the survivors were brought aboard by PC-803 and PC-804, and the Underhill’s remaining half was taken under fire by U.S. warships and sunk. In all, 112 of Underhill’s crew of 238 lost their lives in the attack. The infantry division proceeded to R&R without further delay, however.

In tribute to the courage of the of the Japanese fliers who flew THE CHERRY BLOSSOM SQUADRONS and to the Hagaromo Society (Born to Die) honoring their memory, the following is included:

As we are borne aloft as Samurai of the Skies,
Our eyes ever-searching for signs of battle,
See how our outstretched arms carry us forward
Like divine wings.
Here we are—comrades of the Sacred Land of the Rising Sun!
Let us drive them beneath the waves!
Men of the Cherry Blossom Squadrons—rally to the charge!
Through the flow of tears that fills up our hearts,
We can see a fading glimpse of hands waving farewell.
Now is the time for our final, plunging blow.
We’re ready to spill our blood, oh so red.
See how we dive toward the ships in the seas to the south!
The cool waves will console our departed spirits
And someday we’ll be reborn as cherry blossoms
in the gardens of Yasukuni Shrine.

The Americans arrived on Okinawa April 1st, 1945 in time for breakfast but stayed for dinner. In fact, they are still there in the year 2000 some 55 years later. Will they ever leave? That’s something the Okinawan people would like to know.

Initially, the island was so devastated and so alienated from Japan that consideration was given to making it an American possession. This idea pleased the American military since the island was near such trouble spots as Korea, Formosa, Taiwan and China. However, the Japanese claims for sovereignty were finally recognized and the island finally reverted to Japanese control in 1972 but with the Americans retaining the rights to their many and huge military bases.

The Okinawans in May of 1998 erected a monument (modeled after the Vietnam Memorial in Washington) called “The Cornerstone of Peace.” It contains nearly 237,000 names of everyone—Japanese, American, British, Korean and Taiwanese—killed in the World War II battle for the island. The monument includes a museum, with a description of the fighting, combat relics and personal tales of Okinawan survivors. Stories that reek of the sort of death and destruction told about in this account.

The names of those lost in the war are inscribed in their native alphabet according to their nationality and place of origin. Names are inscribed in horizontal order, from left to right and grouped by nationality and service branch. A computerized information system is available to locate a specific person’s name and it is possible to obtain a tracing of that name. Anyone interested in obtaining more information can contact:

Peace Promotion Division, Executive Office of the Governor, Dept. of General Affairs, Okinawa Prefectural Government, 1-2-2 Izumizaki, Naha City, Okinawa Prefecture 900 Japan. http://www.okinawa.com/home.html.