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Kamikaze Destroyer: The USS Hugh W. Hadley (DD774)

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Kamikaze Destroyer: The USS Hugh W. Hadley (DD774)
USS Hugh W. Hadley (DD-774) was an Allen M. Sumner-class destroyer which served in the United States Navy during World War II. Commissioned in November 1944, and after extensive shakedown training off the coast of California, Hadley sailed for Ulithi where she joined the Okinawa invasion force. In early May 1945 Hadley was assigned to radar picket duty along with the USS Evans.

The following day a large force of Japanese aircraft attacked. The two ships fought off these attackers, but not without damage to themselves. Evans took several hits and was dead in the water; Hadley fought on, but was hit by a bomb and three kamikaze aircraft. Hadley shot down a record 23 aircraft that day and aided in splashing many others, but lost 30 crew members. A determined crew kept her afloat and she was towed back to the States. She was decommissioned in December 1945 and scrapped in 1947.

In addition to one battle star for her World War II Service, Hugh W. Hadley received the Presidential Unit Citation for her performance in the action off Okinawa 11 May 1945.

This new book by a relative of a crew member killed that day off Okinawa, tells the story of the ship, and that fateful day, through the words of many of the survivors, which the author interviewed. This is not just a story about a ship, but about the men that made that ship a legend in the annals of U.S. Navy history.

  • Dedication
  • On the Cover
  • Acknowledgements
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1: The 19th Reunion
  • Chapter 2: Roger Peter #15
  • Chapter 3: The Hadley Prepares for War
  • Chapter 4: The Radar Picket Line
  • Chapter 5: The Kamikaze
  • Chapter 6: Mid Watch 11 May
  • Chapter 7: General Quarters 11 May
  • Chapter 8: The Combat Information Center
  • Chapter 9: Combat Air Patrol
  • Chapter 10: Lead That Plane
  • Chapter 11: Snipe Country
  • Chapter 12: Mid Air Melee
  • Chapter 13: Air-Sea Fury
  • Chapter 14: Abandon Ship
  • Chapter 15: The Human Cost of War
  • Chapter 16: Pallbearers and Chaplains
  • Chapter 17: Tin Can Graveyard
  • Chapter 18: Going Home
  • Chapter 19: Scuttlebutt and Sea Stories
  • Chapter 20: How the Hadley Reunions Got Started
  • Appendix 1: Killed in Action
  • Appendix 2: Survivor Roster USS Hadley
  • Appendix 3: Bios for Hadley Crewmembers
  • Appendix 4: USS Hugh W. Hadley (DD774): Deployments • Major Events • General Data
  • Appendix 5: Commander Mullaney’s Action Report
  • Appendix 6: Presidential Unit Citation
  • Appendix 7: USS Hadley Medal Recipients
  • Appendix 8: The Mighty Hadley • Poem by Dale Slaugenhaupt
  • Appendix 9: Glossary of Naval Terms and Slang
  • Bibliography
  • About the Author
Review of Kamikaze Destroyer from the "Kamikaze Images" web site:

In a mass kamikaze attack on May 11, 1945, the destroyer Hugh W. Hadley (DD-774) shot down 23 planes including three that crashed into the ship at Radar Picket Station #15 to the northwest of Okinawa. The number of planes shot down by Hadley's gunners was a naval record for a ship in a single action. The kamikaze attacks over a period of one hour and 40 minutes resulted in 30 deaths and 121 wounded among the Hadley crew. The destroyer Robley D. Evans (DD-552), which fought with Hadley at the same picket station, shot down another 19 Japanese aircraft during the mass kamikaze attack.

Louis Veesenmeyer, the great uncle of this book's author, was killed in action during the kamikaze attacks on Hadley. He was one of nine men on a 40mm gun mount when a bomb dropped by a kamikaze plane made a direct hit. All nine died as a result of the crash described in the following excerpt (p. 136): "As the kamikaze with 40mm shells streaking into it dove towards the ship's deck, he released a small bomb. The bomb made a direct hit on the portside 40mm (44 mount) and the plane crashed into the deck just aft of the quad 40mm (43 mount) on the starboard side. When the bomb hit the base of the 44 mount, the entire gun just disappeared out to sea. Nothing was left of the mount or most of the men manning it. The plane penetrated the after deck house of the starboard quad 40mm and destroyed the officer quarters below. Flaming gasoline sprayed crewmen on nearby guns. Fires raged and magazines were exploding sending shrapnel through any man who was in the way."

This history of the destroyer Hugh W. Hadley includes accounts from many survivors of the kamikaze attacks that nearly sank the ship on May 11, 1945. The book has 20 chapters that tell the ship's story in chronological order, about 80 pages of photos, and nine appendices that include the Captain's Action Report, Presidential Unit Citation, and a poem entitled "The Mighty Hadley" that was written in 1945 by a crewman. The author, Jeffrey Veesenmeyer, did thorough research for this history as evidenced by the number of personal interviews with survivors and three pages of sources in the bibliography. Although accounts of the battle of destroyers Hadley and Evans against the mass kamikaze attack have been included in many other histories, Kamikaze Destroyer published in 2014 is the first book about the destroyer Hadley, which provides a wider distribution of the moving personal stories of Hadley's crewmen. Michael Staton wrote a similar book entitled The Fighting Bob: A Wartime History of the USS Robley D. Evans (DD-552) in 2003 [also published by Merriam Press], but this history has few personal accounts, although the author talked with many surviving crewmen.

The media had great interest in Hadley's epic fight against kamikaze attackers. "Your Navy Program" featured Hadley in its NBC radio broadcast on May 20, 1945. Captain Mullaney responded to an interviewer's question about what was the final climax of the battle (p. 187): "For us the climax came about nine twenty that morning when ten kamikazes ganged up on us at once. Four came in on the port bow, four on the starboard and two from the stern. They figured they had us this time. Well, we're still here and the Japs aren't. All ten planes were destroyed."

A Ripley's "Believe It or Not" cartoon published in December 1945 included Lt. Ned E. Wheldon, navigator on Hadley. The cartoon explained that he received 900 four-leaf clovers from his mother in Hollywood, Calif., and immediately his ship shot down 23 Japanese kamikazes in a single action. However, no mention was made that he was wounded in action and that 30 Hadley crewmen lost their lives along with 121 men wounded.

The book butchers some Japanese names. For example, Japan's southernmost island of Kyushu gets printed as Kyusha and Kyushi. Another main Japanese island of Shikoku becomes Shikodu. Certain historical details presented for the Japanese side are incorrect. The author writes, "Onishi convinced his superiors that he could destroy the U.S. armada at Okinawa and turn the tide of the war. He was given permission to form a volunteer force. He named it Divine Wind... kamikaze" (p. 67). Although Vice Admiral Onishi formed the first kamikaze units, he did this in the Philippines, not Okinawa, when the Americans invaded the country to take it back from the Japanese. By the time of the Battle of Okinawa, Vice Admiral Ugaki, not Onishi, had command of the Kamikaze Special Attack Forces. The book states that five destroyers sank with the battleship Yamato on her suicide mission toward Okinawa, but the actual number was four.

Hadley had a short but distinguished battle history after her commissioning on November 25, 1944. The plaque at the National Museum of the Pacific War summarizes the ship's history and accomplishments. Kamikaze Destroyer focuses on Hadley's history and the stories from survivors of the mass kamikaze attack rather than providing a history of the overall course of the Pacific War. The ship's spirit is reflected by the Captain's orders to raise four U.S. flags after the kamikaze strikes ended. He yelled in defiance of the Japanese, "If this ship is going down, she's going with all her flags flying" (p. 142).

The book's Introduction and Chapter 1 describes the 19th Hadley Reunion in 2012 and a visit by 12 former crewmen to the display of Hadley's Combat Information Center (CIC) at the National Museum of the Pacific War. The display room includes Hadley's original scoreboard of 25 Japanese flags that represent the 23 Japanese planes shot down during the kamikaze attack on May 11, 1945, and two other planes gunned down prior to that date.

[Oddly, the "Kamikaze Images" web site does not provide a link to the Merriam Press web page for the book, nor any other sources where the book can be purchased.]

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