11 May, 2012

11 May 1945

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
11 May, 1945      0830

Wilma, darling –

We’re having somewhat of a heat wave over here – and it’s most unusual. We still wear our woolens of course, and I suppose we’ll continue to, because we’ve worn them ever since we left the United States. So far – the only change in our uniform is that we don’t have to wear our helmet, but only our helmet liner – which is quite light and comfortable. Also – of course – we don’t have to worry about carrying gas masks. I personally had given that up a long ago because I felt certain no gas would be used. Other then that – things are the same here, dear.

Our battalion is still working hard with ex P.W.’s of all nationalities – and how long we’ll have that mission, I don’t know. Meanwhile I’ve got a bit of a job on my hands: I have to do a physical on everyone in the outfit – which in itself is quite a job even if we were altogether. As it is – I’ll have to do a bit of traveling around and it’s going to take me some time. But if it weren’t physicals, it would be an inspection of this or that – so it makes very little difference to me what I do now – as long as I can keep busy until we sail for home. Oh happy day!

Point systems and all that – were announced yesterday – and as usual – they don’t affect the officers. The biggest break comes to those who have a wife and particularly – a child. Darling – we’ll have to have one of those right off! I don’t suppose I’ll know where I stand for some time – because even when they publish the officer set-up – the Medical Corps will still be in another category. If the bulk of MC’s have to go – well – I’ll have to go, too – but if I get to find out that a lot of MC’s are hanging around while I’m still stuck with a line outfit for 3 years – well – you can believe me, darling – I’ll blow my bloody top. I don’t mind doing my legitimate share – but I’ve done a good bit of it already.

I got a nice V-mail from you yesterday, sweetheart – 24 April and one from Lawrence. The latter is still doing his darndest to get overseas and I guess there’s just nothing that’s going to change his mind. I’ve tried – but it has had no effect. I guess he’d have to go eventually – and the earlier he goes – the quicker he’ll come back.

Meanwhile, dear, my only thoughts now are of you and me. It was always so – but now I’m thinking harder and with the realization that the war is – in fact – over and my chances of seeing you soon are so much better than ever before. It’s going to be a tough wait – but sweetheart – one of these days I will be back and there we’ll be – together! Does it seem possible? Yes – it surely does. And boy am I going to love you!! No answer, dear – that was rhetorical.

All for now, love to the folks –

And all my deepest love


about the USS Bunker Hill
and Mementos Returned

USS Bunker Hill - Spring of 1945

On 11 May 1945, the US Navy fleet was in the sea 76 miles east of Okinawa with the flagship the USS Bunker Hill (CV 17). The first wave of 25 carrier-based airplanes had taken off for Okinawa, and the second wave (30 airplanes), and the third wave (48 airplanes) were preparing to take off. The fleet represented the strength of the U.S. Navy with abundant goods and weapons.

At the same time, the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) was sending kamikaze pilots to the U.S. fleets in Okinawa every day. By the time the U.S. fleet got to Okinawa, the U.S. Navy had worked out countermeasures against kamikazes, making it difficult for the kamikazes even to get to the target fleet. Faced with such a difficult situation, the IJN carried out a massive kamikaze mission called "Operation Kikusui No. 6". In the early morning, young pilots took off from their base, saying farewell to those who were sending them off. Among those pilots were Lieutenant Junior Grade Seizō Yasumori and Ensign Kiyoshi Ogawa. That day they both flew Zeros, in a sortie dedicating their precious lives to their loved ones. Ogawa held letter to his parents, a picture of his comrades, and a tanka (a structured lyrical poem) in his chest pocket.

Seizō Yasumori
Kiyoshi Ogawa

Kiyoshi Ogawa was born in 1922 in the Gunma Prefecture in Japan. He studied at the prestigious Waseda University and became a student-soldier, gakuto, after graduation. He was trained as a pilot and was assigned to the 306th Fighter Squadron of the 721st Kokutai with the rank of ensign in the Japanese Navy. Near the end of the war, he volunteered to be a Special Attack Force pilot.

At 10:04 on the morning of 11 May, Marine pilot Captain James E. Swett, an ace pilot of the USS Bunker Hill, having accomplished his task to shoot down Japanese planes, was about to land on the carrier when he reported two Japanese fighters approaching. Yasunori struck first, releasing his 250 kg (550 pound) bomb which tore through the entire ship and exploded in the sea below. Following the bomb drop, he fired at the deck from his Zero, destroying the planes full of fuel and causing a big fire on the ship. He then flew over the deck and fell into the sea. It was a very brave attack.

About 30 seconds later, at nearly a vertical dive, Ogawa dropped his 550 pound bomb just before his plane crashed into the flight deck near the control tower at about 10:05 hours. The bomb penetrated the Bunker Hill's flight deck and exploded on the hangar deck. Gasoline fires flamed up and several explosions occurred. In the two attacks on the Bunker Hill, 373 crew perished, 264 were wounded and 43 were missing. Enough serious damage was caused to the carrier to place her out of commission for the remainder of the war.

Photos of the fire, dead, wounded and damage
from attack on USS Bunker Hill

Ogawa's aircraft was not destroyed. Mr. Robert Schock, a US Navy diver and crewman of the USS Bunker Hill, was working on the carrier after the attack. In the carrier, he found Ogawa's Zero, which had remained without catching fire.

Ogawa's Wrecked Aircraft on Flight Deck of USS Bunker Hill

He also found Ogawa's mementos. He brought the mementos of the pilot back to the United States and kept them carefully. When Shock passed away on 17 November 2000, his grandson, Mr. Dax Berg, discovered the mementos while arranging his grandfather's belongings. He talked with Mr. Paul Grace, a superior in the company Schock was working for, on what to do with them. Mr. Berg first thought of selling the mementos on auction; however, he decided to return them to the bereaved family of the kamikaze pilot. Coincidentally, Mr. Grace's wife was Japanese. With his wife, Mrs. Miyuki (Mickie) Grace to take the leading part, a very difficult project to return the mementos of a kamikaze pilot to his family began.

Mickie Grace, one of the top translators in the United States promoted the project vigorously while doing her job as a translator. Fortunately, the Defense Agency of Japan was among her customers. The Defense Agency began to research and soon found out the name, the date of the sortie, and the birthplace of the pilot. By 19 December 2000, they discovered the squadron the pilot belonged to, and the address of his bereaved family. Mrs. Grace wrote a letter to Ensign Ogawa's family on 24 December. Although Ensign Ogawa's family had already moved out, and his father, whom Mrs. Grace wrote the letter to, had deceased, the letter got to Ensign Ogawa's family on 30 December. Later, with the cooperation of Ensign Ogawa's classmates, they found that the tanka Ensign Ogawa had been holding was sent by Mr. Iwama. They also found the names of Ogawa's companions in the photograph.

On 27 March 2001, the mementos of this Japanese soldier from World War II were given to Yoko Ogawa, Kiyoshi Ogawa's grandniece, Yoko's mother, and Masao Kunimine, an old college friend of Kiyoshi Ogawa in a Japanese restaurant in San Francisco. His letter to his parents said this:
"I will make a sortie, flying over those calm clouds in a peaceful emotion. I can think about neither life nor death. A man should die once, and no day is more honorable than today to dedicate myself for the eternal cause.... I will go to the front smiling. On the day of the sortie too, and forever."

Below is footage from the aftermath of the attacks, showing rescue efforts and damage done, followed by notes connecting
actions with "TCR" times shown on the video.

10:45:09 Men tend USS BUNKER HILL (CV-17) wounded on the deck of USS THE SULLIVANS (DD-537).
10:45:15 Pan of USS Osberg (DE-538.
10:45:24 Injured on DD-537.
10:45:42 Men lying on raft in water, swimmers w/ lines pulling to ship.
10:45:49 Hospital ship stack w/ red cross & US flag at half staff (?). MS Men in stretcher transferred from DD-537 to hospital ship, USS BOUNTIFUL, (AH-9) w/ MS nurses & officers at ship's rail. Carrier & AH-9 alongside.
10:46:55 Left Side USS BUNKER HILL burning & trailing large smoke cloud.
10:47:27 Close-up of damaged BUNKER HILL w/ sailors cleaning up & inspecting damage seen from ship alongside.
10:48:46 Debris in water.
10:49:04 Men swimming in water seen from above w/ men hauling them in. Pan of men in water. Whaleboat moving among them.
10:50:02 Survivors in motor whaleboat alongside ship; men helping survivors. into whaleboat. Man in life vest swimming. Man helped over side of DD.
10:51:50 Men in bosun's chair transferred from CV to DE. Pan of men watching from above on carrier.
10:52:22 Men on bow of DE (?) watching jettisoning of wreckage from flight deck of BUNKER HILL.
10:53:04 BUNKER HILL burning & passing close; large flames, smoke.
10:54:09 Men in water.
10:54:22 Bunker Hill burning. Flak in sky. Burning BUNKER HILL.

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