... Chronicle of a Melrose hero.
World War II is replete with as many stories as it had veterans. Of course, Melrose gave the services of hundreds of its patriotic young men. Unlike other efforts such as the Viet Nam War, World War II was enthusiastically fought by both civilians and the military. There was little, if any, objection to serving as the sense of threat by both Germany and Japan was felt as severe.
One of the stalwarts from Melrose was Bill McCarthy, a chief petty officer aboard destroyers. Chief petty officers were the top of the chain for all the various trades worked in the Navy.
On the same day President Franklin D. Roosevelt passed away in April, 1945, Bill was aboard the U.S.S Mannert L. Abele, DD 733 on picket duty just northeast of Okinawa and the small Island of Yuron Jima. In its wisdom, the Navy had spread destroyers all around the Island of Okinawa to serve as early warning of Kamikaze attacks.
It didn't take the Japanese long to figure what was going on and so they concentrated their suicide attacks on these destroyers. At the same time, the Japanese wanted to celebrate the death of Roosevelt with a monster suicide assault on the destroyers.
200 Kamikazes came! With them they brought the OKA -- the little brother to the airplane bomb. The noonday sky was blue, and the sunshine flecked the sea with gold. Then, it all changed fast! There were explosions, smoke and the sea was streaked with oil and cluttered with debris.
Seventeen times the suiciders struck. Seventeen raids in which the Kamikazes and the idiot Okas flung themselves upon the American ships all along the Okinawa shore. The battleship Tennessee was hit. So was the battleship Idaho. Smaller vessels working near the beaches were hit. As usual, destroyers were in the middle of the suicide tornado.
Destroyer-escort Whitehurst was hit. Destroyer Stanley was hit by a demented "Baka" (a rocket-propelled flying bomb with controls for the pilot to guide it to the target). Destroyer Riddle was hit. Destroyer Purdy was hit. Destroyer Cassin Young was hit. Destroyer-escort Rall was hit. One of the first to be smashed was destroyer Mannert L. Abele with Bill McCarthy aboard.
Abele was hit by two suiciders. The first, a Kamikaze, came screaming at her at 1445. Plunging through a hail of fire, the plane crashed into the destroyer's starboard side. The blast wiped out the after engine room, hurling men and machinery skyward. Only sixty seconds later, what was believed to be a "Baka" struck the same side forward, blowing up the forward fire room.
The double hits broke the ship's back and she soon swamped. Abele's Captain, Commander A.E. Parker, had the satisfaction of knowing his destroyer's guns had shot down two of the attackers. In three minutes she went under.
In those three minutes, Lieutenant George Way, blown over the side by the "Baka" blast grabbed a line and clambered back aboard the sinking ship. He quickly rounded up able hands forward and set them to cutting away and launching life rafts. The third minute he spent opening the jammed hatch to the passageway to the plotting room so the men inside could escape. With a big struggle, he managed to open the jammed port hatch to the forward engine room. A dog (lever) was jammed. Somehow Way found a crowbar and succeeded in breaking off the dog. Even as the sea splashed around them, the men inside escaped; ten grease smeared doomed men now free.
A Japanese plane dropped a bomb right into the middle of the swimming survivors. Those who lived through this, including Bill McCarthy, managed to get to the rafts through sludge and oil. Seventy three of the Abele's crew were lost in that sinking. Except for the heroism of competent men like Bill McCarthy, the list would have been much longer. The Abele was a new ship named for a submarine Captain who was lost in the Aleutians. All these described events took place April 12, 1945.
Bill McCarthy found himself aboard the Abele just a few days after a horrifying experience aboard the Hyman, DD 732. Like the Abele, the Hyman was northeast of Okinawa on picket on April 6. The Hyman was flagship of Captain C. A. Buchanan and referred to as ComDesRon 63. Hyman's turn came as she was steaming to a picket support station just northeast of Ie Shima.
Attacked by Kamikazes, her gunners shot down four of the crates while destroyers Sterett and Rooks blasted three more. Eventually, one Japanese suicider broke through the barrage. A shell removed one wing but the mad pilot continued on towards Hyman. Coming in on a wing and a curse, he crashed into Hyman's forward torpedo tubes! The explosions were terrible! Hyman came out of it with a terrible mangling. Eleven men were killed and forty one others wounded. Her superstructure was junk; the forward engine-room was wrecked. Even so, Hyman made her way to port on her own power and after a patch up, steamed south to the repair yards on Saipan on April 14. By that time, Bill McCarthy had gone to the Abele and by some miracle survived that sinking!
So, Bill managed to survive the destruction of two destroyers and came home after the war to Melrose. To say the least, Bill McCarthy paid his dues!
January 24, 1999