BRIEF SUMMARY (Day of Loss)
In the early hours of April 6th in a period from 0245 to 0345, BUSH took four different targets (aircraft) under fire one of which believed shot down. This plane, which was flying at 6,000 feet when commence firing was given, continued in apparent level flight for a short time and then came down in a dive passing over the ship. During its dive it sounded as if it were out of control. However radar contact was regained as the target opened and then lost at a range of ten miles. A few moments later at about 0400, sighted a light on the water on the approximate bearing at which contact was lost. Unable to investigate at the time due to other enemy aircraft in vicinity. At about 0800 picked up a target on the SG radar 15 miles to the northward that tracked as a submarine on the surface or at least a fairly high speed surface target. The ship turned north at high speed to close the area and conducted a retiring search assuming the target was a submarine which had submerged. Results of the search were negative and after a review of the data evaluated contact as weather phenomena. Set condition l-Easy at 1300.
Shortly after noon at about 1430, picked up a flight of enemy planes about 35 miles to the northward closing rapidly; went to general quarters immediately. Five minutes later picked up second flight and within 10 more minutes had picked up two additional groups, all initially about the same range. These were designated as Raids 1, 2, 3 and 4 by CTF 51. BUSH was given four planes for control by one of the destroyers on picket station to the eastward (believed to be CASSIN YOUNG) and BUSH FDO's were able to intercept Raid 1 after ship's gunfire had shot down two planes (VALS) at 1455. Raid 2 was taken under fire at 1500 and driven off to-the west. Other fighters controlled by eastern pickets were coming in from the east. At the time friendly and enemy planes were in the vicinity: some engaging, others not. The 5" battery had completed firing to port at Raid 3 and the ship was then on a westerly course in a turn to the left.
At about 1513, a single-engined enemy plane was sighted dead ahead low on the water and headed straight for the ship. Since the ship was in a turn to the left, rudder was increased to full in order to bring the enemy abeam to starboard as quickly as possible and speed increased to 27 knots. The 5" battery opened fire on the target at a range of 7-8,000 yards. The plane employed rollercoaster tactics, climbing and dipping, combined with a slight weave during its approach. Its altitude varied from 10 to 35 feet. All batteries were firing at maximum rate and despite heavy and what appeared to be accurate 5" and 40mm gunfire, the plane kept coming in. At the time it seemed unbelievable that it could do so. At a range of 2,000 yards when it appeared as if a suicide crash were probable, the rudder was shifted hard right in an attempt to swing the stern clear. The plane, (a "Jill" carrying a large bomb or torpedo), however, changed course to the right at the same instant and at 1515 crashed with a terrific explosion at deck level on the starboard side between #1 and 2 stacks. The bomb or torpedo appeared to have exploded in the forward engine room. An idea of the force of the explosion may be gained from the fact that a six foot section of engine room blower weighing 3-500 pounds was blown into the air high enough to knock off the SC-2 antenna and land on the port wing of the bridge.
The starboard shell plating from the forward fireroom forward bulkhead to the after engineroom forward bulkhead was blown out causing immediate flooding of the forward fireroom, forward engine room, and after fireroom. The ship took a list of about 10o degrees to port. Four men were able to escape from the forward fireroom although having sustained severe burns; eight men in the after fireroom were able to do so also. It is believed that all personnel in the forward engineroom were killed immediately. The rough sketch below will give an idea of hull damage.
The forward torpedo mount was blown over the side. The main deck on the starboard side from the forward fireroom forward bulkhead aft to the starboard midship 40mm clipping room was blown off. All radio antenna and SC-2 antenna were destroyed. Due to smothering effect of escaping steam from boilers and steam lines, only a few small fires were burning in the damaged area. The galley, sickbay, supply office, midship repair locker, battery locker, radio two and laundry were demolished. The MWB had a large hole below the waterline. Power was regained immediately as the diesel generator came on. It furnished power for a short time. C.I.C. was able to report on the IFD circuit (2096 kcs. voice) the fact that the ship had been hit before the TBL transmitter went dead. This report was heard by several ships-it was later found. Flooding from the forward fireroom into the diesel generator room grounded the bus bars and switchboard, causing complete loss of emergency power. Five-inch guns #2, #3 and #4 were jammed in train. Forty millimeter guns #43 and #44 were inoperative due to blast damage.
The forward fireroom forward bulkhead and the after engine room forward bulkhead were shored and holding well. A handy-billy was used to control flooding in the diesel generator room which was soon free of water. The diesel generator itself was restarted but power was not immediately available due to grounding of generator output loads. Topside weight was removed as follows: Gig placed in water; torpedoes, provisions on superstructure deck forward of #1 stack, depth charges, and pieces of wreckage that could be moved by hand were jettisoned. 5" ammunition was removed from the upper handling rooms and thrown overboard.
All hands felt secure in the knowledge that the CAP of four planes was flying the ship. The small fires amidships were put out easily with water. Wounded were treated in the wardroom and on the fantail. A careful survey of damage at this time led to the belief that the ship could be saved. It was assumed that rescue vessels would be on the way and that the CAP would be maintained in the vicinity. The ship was working amidships due to the seas but it was believed that at most the ship would break in two with both halves remaining float. Attempts to get a message through to LCS 64 were not successful. She had been fully informed of all enemy plane contacts before the hit but evidently had not seen our misfortune. At about 1635 the COLHOUN closed from Radar Picket Station #2 to lend assistance. Click here to see photo (about 93K) All hands noted almost simultaneously that our fighter cover had departed, evidently without relief. As the COLHOUN got closer, about 10-15 enemy planes were observed around the ship 10-15 miles away at cloud level. COLHOUN sent a visual message to the effect that she would come close aboard as soon as enemy planes were clear of area. She started to fire at some of the targets. The LCS 64 was observed closing from the southwest and sent a message asking if BUSH was in trouble and if she could help in any way. Sent answer in the affirmative and asked her to come alongside to port to remove wounded and unnecessary personnel. A message was sent through the LCS 64 for relay through the COLHOUN to CTF 51 informing him that the ship could probably be saved and urgently required two tugs. T 1655 the LCS 64 made an approach to come alongside. As the first line was made fast two "Vals" were observed circling at fairly close range, obviously preparing to attack. The LCS was directed to clear in order to better protect herself. The COLHOUN was firing at a group of planes to the east of the BUSH.
In order to prevent unnecessary loss of life, an order was given to all personnel on the forecastle (approximately 150 men)and passed by JP-JY phone, to all other personnel that should any plane come in on a strafing or suicide attack the men were to go over the side. There were a number of knotted lines hanging over the side to enable people to return to the ship upon completion of such an attack.
At about 1700, the two "Vals" previously mentioned split up and one started a run on the BUSH from starboard. The starboard 40mm forward and the after 40mm fired on this target and caused him to turn away and pass astern. The plane circled until in vicinity of the COLHOUN, then 3-4 miles southeast of BUSH, and then dove on that ship, hitting her amidships. She appeared to have way on after the crash and continued on a easterly course until about five or six miles away. Observers claim that there were 15-20 planes in sight at this time.
At 1715 a group of three enemy planes (single-engine, believed "Zekes") was sighted circling the ship at a range of about ten miles going in and out of the clouds. At 1725 one of these three peeled off and went into the sun which was dead ahead of the ship at the time. He did a wing-over and commenced a 25-30 degree dive from ahead, strafing as he came in. The forward 40mm's took him under fire and personnel on the forecastle went over the side. The Jap crossed slightly-from starboard to port, dipped his left wing, and at 1730 dove into the ship, just missing the bridge, crashing the port side of the main deck between 1 and 2 stacks starting a large fire. The crash almost cut the ship in two. It is believed that bottom and keel were the only things holding it together. Personnel started to come back aboard and the repair party was able to get water on the fire with the two handy-billies still operative and had it almost under control. There was no passageway aft from the forward part of the ship.
About ten to fifteen minutes later, a second plane (also a "Zeke") from the circling group peeled off and started a shallow dive on the starboard beam, weaving on his run in. He too was strafing. The 20's and 40mm took him under fire and registered some hits. At the last minute he pulled out of his dive and cleared the ship amidships by about five feet. The plane traveled some distance beyond, gained altitude, did a wingover, and headed for the forward part of the ship. The forward port 40mm took him under fire. He came in fairly low and at 1745 crashed on the port side just above the main deck in the vicinity of gun #2 and the wardroom, starting a very large fire. Casualties being treated in the wardroom were killed or burned to death. The water stream from the forward handy-billy was shifted from amidships to this fire but the area became untenable as 40mm ammunition and remaining 5" ammunition started to explode.
It is believed that this plane must have been carrying extra gasoline for incendiary purposes as it seemed as if the entire forecastle were enveloped in flames. The forecastle was abandoned and the gig sent to pick up the badly wounded. At just about the same time the COLHOUN was struck by a second suicide plane. All these attacks were carried out with skill and determination. The Japs were certainly using more experienced pilots as compared with those encountered in the Philippines.
The after half of the ship was tenable and it was believed that the ship would break in half shortly, leaving both halves salvageable. It was thought that the fire forward would burn itself out above the main deck as the ship was buttoned up below. The bow started to settle somewhat. An enemy plane was seen to circle the ship, look things over, fly clear to the east and crash the COLHOUN. The light was starting to fade at this time. Enemy planes were still visible. The LCS 64 had evidently cleared to the southward as she was not in sight.
At 1830 an unusually heavy swell rocked the ship. A loud tearing and crunching noise was heard as the swell passed. The ship started to cave in amidships, the bow inclined about 15 degrees above the stern. As each swell passed, this angle increased until at the point at which the angle forward by the two halves reached 135o, the stern section was abandoned. The commanding officer was the last to leave.
Apparently the buckling and movement of starboard engine shaft caused the bottom and adjoining bulkheads to separate causing flooding forward and aft on the previously damaged area. The ship continued to fold until bow and stern were forming a right angle at which time she sank in about 350 fathoms of water in approximate location latitude 27-16'N, longitude 127-48'E.
The gig continued to pick up wounded and help people form into groups until dark. Survivors were spread over a considerable area due to strong current, freshening breeze, and medium sea. This was an advantage while daylight remained as any large groups would have been strafed by Japanese planes which were still in evidence.
The water was about 68o Fahrenheit, but seemed fairly cold. The seas had become gradually heavier in the late afternoon and continued to do so until about 2200, at which time it began to calm somewhat. Swells were 10-12 feet high and whitecaps were breaking on the crest of each wave.
Each group had its problems of survival. Wounded were assisted as much as possible. Many men became exhausted from the pounding of the seas and in their efforts to keep their heads above water. Some swallowed salt water and started to retch. Despite the efforts of officers and men on each raft to help others and keep up morale, some men became hysterical and violent. Although they were wearing life jackets and in all cases appeared to be physically unhurt they would give up, slip out of their life jackets and go down or swim out into the darkness to meet the same fate. It is hard to believe that such circumstance would arise in a group that had spent any time on or near the water but such was the case. These unfortunates must have believed that rescue ships would never come. Thirty-three men were lost in this period.
While in the water survivors heard planes passing over the area on three different occasions. The gig made repeated attempts after dark to contact the LCS 64 and at about 2100 was able to do so. It was directed to the area and commenced rescue operations at about 2130. Other rescue craft (LCS 24, LCS 36, LCS 40, U.S.S. PAKANA and the PCE(R) 855) arrived a short while later. Survivors flashed lights and those on balsa wood fired Very stars to give their respective locations. It is regretted that as the rescue vessels approached some of the men became excited and left their respective groups prematurely in an effort to swim toward the ship and get aboard only to lose strength and sink or to be lost. Others when alongside were rolled against the hull, knocked out by exhaust, or caught in the screws and lost their lives. About ten were believed lost in this manner. Rescue ships were working in complete darkness for the most part since enemy planes were in the area. Twelve men died after being hauled aboard. Rescue craft picked up survivors as follows:
|LCS 37||2 plus 7 dead|
|LCS 40||61 plus 2 dead|
|PAKANA||40 Plus 3 dead|
All ships were extremely kind and helpful to all hands. Seriously injured were transferred to hospital ships the next day; the remainder to transports in the Okinawa area.
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