The close, yesterday, of Frank Stevens’ letter home from his Navy post somewhere near Okinawa during World War II, marked a turning point in the letters I’ve found in the Tully/Stevens family collection. Whatever happened at this point in Frank’s service—and his life, for that matter—has left no trace among his parents’ belongings that have been passed down to us. The next letter in the collection is not sent for another two and a half months—this one to his brother and sister-in-law, rather than to his parents.
A partial listing of lost ships from that battle—those among the possible attacks Frank might have witnessed just before mailing his last letter—provided in yesterday’s comments thanks to Iggy, is more than enough to cause me to stop and take stock of the monumental toll in valuable lives, skilled service, and investment in equipment this one series of battles at Okinawa cost this country.
Today, in this country, we celebrate Thanksgiving—a time to be thankful, initially, for the solid principles our nation was founded upon, ideals that later upheld the establishment of a truly singular land of opportunity. While all that holiday represents to us today has morphed over the years to now become an expression of individual thankfulness, I can’t help but recall what someone once told me: you can’t have Thanksgiving without having someone to give thanks to.
As I look over this list, expanded from Iggy’s original post to include the numbers of officers and crew lost in that one-month span, I find plenty of people to be thankful to. And I remember that, just like the family heritage we each research in our individual pursuits of genealogy, our national heritage will only become our descendants’ legacy if we value it enough to preserve, memorialize, and honor it ourselves.
On April 6, 1945, off Okinawa:
USS Bush (DD 529) hit by 3 kamikaze planes; 87 crew members lost; the remaining 227 survivors had to abandon ship.
USS Calhoun responding to a call for help from the just-struck USS Bush, hit and sunk by kamikaze and bombs, 34 killed, 21 wounded
USS Emmons struck nearly simultaneously by 5 kamikaze planes, heavily damaged and sunk the next day to prevent falling into enemy hands; 60 dead, 77 wounded, remaining crew had to abandon ship
SS Hobbs Victory hit by one kamikaze plane, eleven of the ship’s crew killed plus one Navy man from a responding Navy fireboat.
SS Logan Victory sustained several injuries, including in at least one resulting in fatality
On April 7, 1945, off Okinawa
USS LST-447 empty after discharging cargo on beach prior to kamikaze attack; numerous casualties sustained by crew remaining on board at time of attack
On April 12, 1945, off Okinawa
USS Mannert L. Abele (DD-733) sunk by kamikaze attacks; 73 crew members lost with the ship; survivors in waters as ship sank strafed by enemy aircraft fire
USS LCS(L)(3)-33 sunk by kamikaze attack
On April 16, 1945, off Okinawa
USS Pringle sunk by kamikaze attack; 69 killed, 70 wounded, 258 survivors
On April 22, 1945, off Okinawa
USS Swallow (AM 65) sunk by kamikaze attack
USS LCS(L)(3)-15 sunk by kamikaze attack
On April 27, 1945, off Okinawa
SS Canada Victory sunk by kamikaze attack
On May 3, 1945, off Okinawa
USS Little (DD-803) sunk by multiple kamikaze attacks, 31 killed, 49 wounded, survivors rescued from the waters in a risky after-dark operation
USS LSM(R)-195 sunk by kamikaze hit and concurrent explosion, 9 killed, 16 wounded
On May 4, 1945, off Okinawa
USS Morrison (DD-560) struck by four enemy aircraft, submerging within fifteen minutes of the final blow, taking with her 152 crew members
USS Luce shot down one kamikaze plane, but the explosion from the bomb it was carrying inflicted serious damages, followed by the hit from a second plane; was sunk amidst a violent explosion, claiming 126 of 312 men and officers aboard
USS LSM(R)-190 sunk by three kamikazes, 13 killed, 18 wounded
USS LSM(R)-194 hit by a kamikaze, sunk, 13 killed, 24 wounded
Total for Okinawa Navy casualties:
4,907 killed or missing
36 ships sunk
368 ships damaged
Gratefulness will not bring these lives back, nor be the antidote to the cost of their sacrifice, but it will provide me with the right perspective to properly pass on the treasure they honored with their lives. I'm thankful. And I want our children to have that same opportunity to honor, hold and appreciate what we are blessed with.