Death of a Val

Whitehurst Gunner, William Eisenhower, saves ship from the last Kamikazi

As told by Torpedoman First Class Emory P. Miller


TM1 Emory Miller 1945

Emory Miller 1998


Photo of Val replica taken at a 1999 Air Show in California

It was 12 April 1945 and the Battle of Okinawa was getting fierce. Whitehurst was under attack by three Val Dive bombers, each piloted by a man determined to give his life in the process of sinking her. I was at my GQ station near a starboard side k-gun. The starboard 20mm gun on the fantail was manned by William Eisenhower. He had just mounted a fresh magazine on his gun and was momentarily distracted by the explosion of a Val bomber hitting the port side of the pilot house. We could see that the entire bridge was in flames, some jumped from the starboard side of the bridge and were lost. The crash damage had locked the ship in a hard left turn* and it seems likely that they may have been sucked into the screws. Six men were never found. We could also see some radiomen trying to get out of the radio shack and away from the flames. Some had all the flesh from wrist to shoulder burned away. It was a sad sight. In the midst of this confusion, I saw another Val line up directly astern and coming right at us. I immediately yelled and patted Eisenhower on the shoulder, while pointing at the plane. He swung his gun around and with the fully loaded clip, literally sawed the right wing off the airplane. The bomber fell into the sea far enough aft to do no damage to the ship.
*Syd Calish, Engineering Officer, reported the helmsman was found standing like a wax figure, his hands locked onto the wheel holding the rudder hard left, apparently carrying out in death, his last command from the bridge.

Gunners mate William Eisenhower 1945

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