USS Whitehurst Logo by: Pat Stephens, Webmaster, DESA

Memories of a Kamikaze Strike at Okinawa
from an Eyewitness of the Attack on Whitehurst
By SOSN1 Ben Rudisill

Ben Rudisill circa 2014

Webmaster's note:  The suicide bombing described here was an attack in the USS Samuel S. Miles DE-183.  It merits space in the Whitehurst Historical Web site because the Suicide Strike and damage to the Miles is what brought Whitehurst into one of the deadliest sectors on the Okinawa Pickett Line.  We are grateful for Ben's excellent description of the event and his subsequent witness to the Whitehurst's disastrous attack.      mc     
Max. I was a 20mm gunner on gun 25 on the starboard side of the ship just aft of the smoke stack. We only had surface radar , so we were caught by surprise when the Tony came in high. When I got to my gun the Tony was in a steep dive . I began shooting at about a 90 degree angle which put me in a awkward crouch on the metal grate beneath my feet. ( I was 5 foot seven and only about 120 pounds, wet} It looked like my tracers were going right into his propeller hub. He suddenly pulled out of his dive because he was about to overshoot . Then my tracers were bursting on his belly and my slick shoes slipped on the grate and I lost my footing and released my trigger. As I struggled to regain my footing my unloader removed my ammo and my loader was watching the Tony instead of putting on a new magazine. The ship was turning hard to port and the port guns opened fire . The Tony dived down while the ship was still in a hard turn to port . The Tony's right wing decapitated the hot shell man on gun number two [Cecil Allen] and hit in the water on the starboard side and exploded. As the Tony was coming down ,Officer Jacoby hollered "HIT THE DECK" and I unbuckled my gun belt and looked around and he and  others were already lying down on the deck so I dived straight out of my mount and landed half on officer Jacoby and an enlisted man.[ didn't get court marshaled for striking a officer]. My sight setter , Parsons, was wearing head phones and did not hear Mr. Jacoby yell. He was just standing there with a black face from the explosion and not a single piece of shrapnel hit him. We counted 57 holes and dents in the shield around the gun mount. Two cables leading to my gun sight were cut in two. These were positioned in front of my chest. I am forever thankful for Mr Jacoby's yelling, "hit the deck". Cecil Allen bunked across from me.  Every evening before taps he would in his bunk reading the New Testament issued by the Navy. He was a quiet easy going seaman from North Carolina . I went up to his gun station and his brains were splattered all over the hot bulkhead like scrambled eggs and his life blood saturated the deck. His body was buried at keramo Retto. Later his remains were taken to his hometown for burial. I was told that 11 men were injured. seaman Farmer on gun 26 below me was hit in the neck and had to have a operation. Another man in the engine room was hit in his testicles and sent to a hospital ship. He never returned to the ship.

We had to wait overnight for our relief ship which turned out to be USS Whitehurst DE-634.  During the night Miles endured another bomber attack.  Again I was firing almost straight up.  With very little moonlight, all we could see was wing gun blasts and exhaust
flames.  After dropping 2 bombs, one near miss and a dud, the bomber made another pass.  An AA round with the new Proximity Fuse exploded near the plane and it disappeared.  It was too dark to verify that the crashe so we didn't get credit for downing it.

Just after we were replaced by Whitehurst, we watched a Navy plane chasing the suicide  plane headed toward the Whitehurst . The navy plane had to veer off when Whitehurst opened fire. It was a sickening sight to see all the fire and smoke and know that a lot of navy men just died. Whitehurst vet, J.L. Wilson Torpedoman 1/c, told me the navy plane was a Hellcat fighter. 

I was a seaman first class and a Sonar striker, which I enjoyed.

Seaman or deck hands learn more about the ship than others. I served as captain of the HEAD for the chiefs and warrant officers, helmsman, radar operator, stern helmsman, laundry operator, made coffee for the night crew, galley duty [ate high on the hog] and even had the fun of throwing garbage overboard at night, was the captains talker the night we rolled 72 degrees in the typhoon* that sank three destroyers. Mr. Virgili was captain of the deck that night. we were both hanging on the railing and he lost his grip and I hung on for life when I could see him coming and slammed into me. I think we would both gone overboard if he had not been a small man like me. My twin brother and I signed up for the navy at sixteen but they waited until we were 17 to swear us in.  My twin was a 20m gunner on the port side . We were back to back. Ben

*note: This was the great Typhoon of December 1944 which was later named Typhoon Cobra, aka Halsey's Typhoon.             mc


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