Service Dates=June 1943 to July
Destroyer Squadron 61 Anti-Shipping Sweep July 22nd - 23rd, 1945 "Well Done" "Not Bad for a Little Fellow"
The decision to make an anti-shipping sweep into Japanese home waters was made at the CINCPAC level sometime in early July, 1945. With the impending invasion of Japan being inevitable, information on the enemy's defenses urgently needed upgrading. The orders came down the chain of command to the Commanding Officer, Admiral Bull Halsey of the Third Fleet, Carrier Task Force 38 on the flagship USS Hornet. The importance of this mission was underlined by the radio message which stated, "On contact or commencement bombardment, report to CINCPAC ADV and originator, the progress of the situation by urgent dispatch". The Task Group Commander selected Destroyer Squadron 61 to perform this responsibility. Destroyer Squadron 61 consisted of nine Sumner class destroyers. These ships were the most modern destroyers, equipped with the latest air/surface radar and radar controlled gun directors. Their armament consisted of 40mm, 20mm anti-aircraft guns, a main battery of six 5" guns, as well as two torpedo mounts each loaded with five Mark 15 torpedoes. The sweeping group Destroyer Squadron 61, consisted of two Divisions. Destroyer Division 121 included the USS DeHaven DD 727, USS Mansfield DD 728, USS Swenson DD 729, USS Collett DD 730, and USS Maddox DD731. Destroyer Division 122 was made up of the USS Blue DD 744, USS Brush DD 745, USS Taussig DD 746, and USS Samuel N. Moore DD 747. The Commanding Officer of the Squadron was Captain T.H. Hederman, USN, on the flagship, USS DeHaven. The Destroyer Squadron 61 having been selected to make this anti-shipping sweep, Squadron Commanding Officer Captain Hederman, sent the following orders via radio messages to all ships' of Destroyer Squadron 61; (1) All boilers will be online, (2) Have lines ready and be prepared to tow or be towed, (3) Energize degaussing equipment, (4) Rig available life nets, (5) Open fire on shipping targets only if directed, (6) Maddox spot jam shore battery radars if squadron taken under fire. Additional orders specified that we test smoke screen generators, conduct abandon ship drills, if damage occurs, exert every effort to save personnel at all costs, and if lost over-board or abandon ship, swim toward the open sea, to be picked up. Known preliminary conditions to be prepared for on a major raid of this type were: (1) a typhoon was passing through the target area and its direction and force would have a significant bearing on top speed capabilities, as we needed to be clear of the area by dawn, (2) the task group had encountered numerous free floating mines in the past two weeks, (3) there was to be no air support, (4) fixed mine fields had been laid to protect the coastal areas, (5) there were operational enemy submarines in the area, (6) suicide PT type boats could be encountered, (7) the southern end of Honshu and eastern shore of O Shima are heavily fortified with coast defense batteries of up to, and including, 16" guns. The following radio message had a direct bearing on our planned activity: "The following is secret and is passed to you on a need-to-know basis'. Callaghan (DD 792) was sunk and Pritchett (DD 561) damaged in suicide attacks on a bright moonlight night. Several wheels-down flimsy planes, built of wood and fabric, attacked simultaneously. They were very maneuverable, with expert pilots, but maximum speed of only ninety miles per hour. These planes were not picked up by any ship until within 13 miles, although they only flew at estimated altitude of about one thousand feet". The Squadron left the main task force at 0543 on the morning of July 21st heading for Sagami Nada, north of O Shima on course 290 degrees at 12 knots. The typhoon was moving at a speed of 18 to 20 miles per hour from the Nansei Shoto area east northeast towards the Tokyo area. This could seriously affect the whole operation, because high speed was needed to complete the sweep and be out of the area by dawn. The storm followed the predicted track, passing through the target area at 2100 during the evening of July 21st. Thus, the Squadron missed the main force of the typhoon. But, practically all day of July 22nd, seas were rough to very rough with heights from crest to trough of 8 to 15 feet. The wind was increasing during the forenoon and reached a high of 36 knots from 240 degrees, in the same direction as the sea, but then decreased to 23 knots and finally leveled off at 12 to 18 knots. Surface visibility was 4 to 8 miles, the sky was overcast, with openings of clear blue sky toward the zenith. At 0957 the Moore left the formation to stabilize the ship by heading into the weather to make it easier for the ship's physician to perform an emergency appendectomy. The Moore then rejoined the column at 1337, the surgery had been successful. The Brush was directed to test conditions at high speed, and reported that 23 to 26 knots caused no abnormal effects on the ship. The Squadron's speed was 17 knots on a course of 300 degrees at 1600 in the afternoon of July 22nd The Japanese cargo ship Enbun-maru, left Yokohama at 1600 on July 22nd to form a convoy of 4 Japanese ships in the darkness of night at Tateyama Bay. The convoy was traveling at a speed of 8 knots, with the destination being Hakodate. This convoy consisted of two cargo ships and two escort vessels. The larger cargo ship was the Enbun-maru, 6,919 tons, the smaller was No. 5 Hakutetsu-maru 800 tons. The two combined were carrying 7,264 tons of military equipment, including a dis-assembled Aircraft Factory destined for Korea and re- assembly, and 8 Army Landing Craft. The escort ships were the No. 1 Minesweeper and the No. 42 Submarine Chaser. Overshadowed by the Enbun-maru's size, it was confusing to know who was escorting whom. The convoy sailed past Susaki and Nojimazaki on the port side. The tension of the convoy's crew members eased after passing through a mine field by Uraga in the middle of night. It seemed as though the voyage was going to be a safe one. At 1737 on July 22nd the Destroyer Squadron 61 had been formed into a column of normal order; DeHaven, Mansfield, Maddox, Swenson, Collett, Taussig, Blue, Moore, and Brush. Distance between ships was 500 yards, and the column commenced working up to the speed of 27 knots for the final approach to Sagami Nada. At 2120 O Shima was picked up on radar bearing 310 degrees at a distance of 50 miles. At 2305, on a course of 325 degrees and speed of 24 knots, the DeHaven made SG Radar contact on an unidentified target bearing about 350 degrees at a distance of 19 miles. At first, because of the lack of movement, and its proximity to the coastline, the contact was believed to be part of the land mass. The Flagship's fire control radar picked up the same contact at 2316, and determined it was a 4 ship convoy. The Squadron changed course to 300 degrees at 2321, and increased speed to 27 knots at 2327. At 2338 the Squadron turned to 060 and orders were given to prepare to fire torpedoes when ordered. At 2345, the Squadron altered direction to 120 degrees, to avoid the possibility of torpedoes that may have been fired from one of the Japanese escort ships, closing on the Squadron. At 2351 an order went out for each destroyer to launch a partial salvo of two torpedoes to port when ready, and within three minutes all ships had fired two torpedoes, to port, at a mean range of about 11,000 yards. At 2353 the order was to open fire with all main batteries. Aboard the Japanese cargo ship Enbun-maru at 2353, suddenly there was a sharp light on the horizon to the far south. Immediately, a shell hit the side of the ship violently and exploded. We steered hard to port and fought back. More explosions followed on the upper deck and the funnel. As we maneuvered to escape, we suffered a direct hit to the bridge and became unable to steer. In the meantime, the ship was hit in various places and a fire began in the Food Locker. The sailors panicked, and then placed themselves in the landing craft, located on the main deck, with the intent of heading directly out to sea in case of a shipwreck. This proved to be a bad decision as they were the first to be killed. The Enbun-maru fired it's anti-aircraft and main battery guns. However, the Squadron's aim was accurate and it obliterated everything on the deck. Pieces of equipment were destroyed, one after another. The No. 5 Hakutetsu-maru was engulfed in fire, lighting up the Enbun-maru in the dark. It could not have been a better target. The bridge and chart house had received direct hits, completely destroying all steering and navigational capabilities. The escort ships hid behind the Enbun-maru, not wanting to give out their position by firing back blindly. The smaller cargo ship, No.5 Hakutetsu-maru sank At 0004 on July 23rd sound operators on the Brush trained in direction of the target, heard two muffled explosions, indicating that at least two torpedoes had hit their mark. At 0009 the cease fire order was given and the Squadron retired on a course of 140 degrees and speed of 27 knots. A total of 3,291 5" shells had been fired, and 18 torpedoes launched during the attack on the convoy by the Squadron. Prior to cessation of hostilities, the Brush and Taussig reported splashes as evidence of counterbattery fire from shore defense guns on Nojima Saki. Additionally, shortly after the attack, the Brush sustained a steering casualty, which left the ship at right full rudder. To avoid collision, the Brush stopped and backed down twice. Now alone and with the immediate problem of collision avoided, Chief Quartermaster Edward Vecera quickly determined the problem to be in steering aft. Racing there, Chief Vecera found and replaced a dislodged pin from the rudder assembly. With steering repaired and the crew at full alert, the exposed Brush wasted no time in leaving the Sagami Nada area at flank speed. Aboard the Enbun-maru, dawn came quickly in summer. Enemy ships were nowhere in sight when the horizon began turning white. Badly damaged, but all fires having been extinguished, the Enbum-maru headed for Okinoshima in Tateyama Bay. Under the Command of Acting Captain, Chief Mate Senji Yonemitsu, she sailed under her own power, using manual steering, through heavy oil spills and debris. The morning breeze, blowing calmly in the aftermath of a gruesome battle, gave all survivors a sense of tranquility, having lived through another close encounter with death. There were 5 dead and 7 wounded aboard the Enbun-maru. Captain Natsuji Seshime was among the casualties. Crew members of the two escort ships helped evacuate the wounded from the Enbun-maru. As noted above, 7,264 tons of military equipment and 8 Army Landing Craft were prevented from being used against our invasion forces, which made this action a very successful accomplishment. At 1729 during the late afternoon of July 23rd Destroyer Squadron 61 rejoined the screen of Task Group 38 and resumed normal screening, picket and plane guard duties. Hopefully, the substantiated true contents of this volume will repudiate previous mis-leading published accounts of this Anti-Shipping Sweep. As even the U.S. Navy's official version, had many gray areas of information and a mis-conception of the make-up of the Japanese Convoy, plus, the actual results of the action.
The following is a statement was made by Captain T.H. Hederman in his action report of the mission: "The most gratifying consequence of this anti-shipping sweep has been the effect on morale. The Navy has reached a critical morale stage in this war. With announcements by the army that approximately two million men are being returned to civilian life following the defeat of Germany, there is a feeling that these dischargees will get the pick of the jobs in the post-war industry. To have actually fired torpedoes and guns at an enemy surface target has bolstered the spirit of our personnel, causing them to feel that each man individually is contributing his personal offensive and that his retention in the Navy is necessary in the defeat of Japan".
Also noted is the commendation quoted below:
From: Commander Third Fleet To: Commander-in-Chief, United States Fleet Subject: Anti-Shipping Sweep in Sagami Nada, Honshu, Night of July 22nd - 23rd , 1945
Commander Third Fleet notes with great satisfaction the success of this well planned and executed attack. Commander Destroyer Squadron 61 is to be congratulated on the sound judgement, initiative and aggressive spirit displayed in "beating the weather" to drive this attack home at the very door of the Empire.
Signed, W.F. Halsey