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War History of USS Leutze (DD-481)
by Walter J. Fillmore
Narwhal Press, 2001, 240 pages

On April 6, 1945, a kamikaze plane hit the destroyer USS Leutze (DD-481) (pronounced "Loyt΄-zee"), killing seven and wounding 34 [1]. The bomb carried by the kamikaze plane exploded and caused heavy damage by nearly blowing off Leutze's fantail, but damage control crews worked frantically and kept the ship from sinking. However, the mangled Leutze stayed at Kerama Retto for over three months until July 10, 1945, when repairs finally were completed to make the ship seaworthy for the trip back to the States. Walter Fillmore, author of War History of USS Leutze (DD-481), served as Combat Information Officer on the destroyer from her commissioning on March 4, 1944, to October 1, 1945. This short history of Leutze includes many interesting historical photos. As the title indicates, this book focuses on Leutze's war history, but it does not contain that many personal stories from officers and crew.

Fillmore writes the history with short sentences and a matter-of-fact style. Although the book does not mention sources used, the author clearly performed extensive research in order to write an overview of World War II and a detailed history of Leutze. The book's first four chapters mainly provide a summary of key events leading up to US entry into WWII and the course of the war through the Allied invasion of Normandy in June 1944. These chapters also give some details of Fillmore's family and childhood. Throughout the book, Fillmore uses the term "Jap," commonly used by Americans during the war but now considered a pejorative name. The publisher has a "disclaimer" at the front of the book to state that the term has been allowed since the book is clearly intended to be a factual history and the author's use of the term "Jap" represents terminology of the past.

After an overly long general introduction to the war, the ship's history finally begins in Chapter V, which mostly covers battle action between October 1944 and January 1945 in the Philippines. On November 1, 1944, Leutze and other destroyers began firing at Japanese planes in a mass kamikaze attack. A kamikaze crash sank the destroyer Abner Read, and kamikaze planes also severely damaged the two destroyers closest to Leutze. Although Leutze originally had the nickname of Never Sail since she was launched in October 1942 but not commissioned until March 1944, in the Philippines she got the new nickname of Lucky Leutze, an apt description as she remained unscathed during the frequent air attacks in Leyte Gulf. Leutze also experienced several kamikaze attacks in Lingayen Gulf during January 6-9, 1945, but the closest calls came from two suicide explosive motorboats, which the destroyer's gunners shot and destroyed. Luck finally ran out for Leutze, when friendly fire from some nearby LSTs wounded six Leutze sailors right after the explosion of the second suicide boat.

Leutze crew members inspect
damage from kamikaze crash 

 
Chapter VI describes Leutze's support of underwater demolition teams during the Battle of Iwo Jima. On February 17, 1945, shore batteries on Mt. Suribachi fired on the destroyer, with the fourth salvo making direct hits on the forward stack and the ammunition magazine under the bridge. Commander Robbins was critically wounded, and three other men were seriously wounded. Lieutenant Grabowsky took command of the ship when Robbins fell down paralyzed with a piece of shrapnel imbedded in his spinal cord.

The last chapter covers Leutze's time in Okinawa, including the kamikaze hit and the long stay at Kerama Retto before repair of the damaged ship. In the late afternoon of April 6, 1945, about a dozen kamikaze planes headed toward Leutze and Newcomb, two destroyers escorting the battleship Tennessee. Five kamikaze planes hit Newcomb and killed 40 men. Five planes dove at Leutze. The gunners from another ship shot down the first one; Leutze's gunners got the next three; and the last suicide plane barely missed and crashed into the ship's wake. Leutze moved alongside her stricken sister ship, Newcomb, to help fight fires and attend to the wounded. Another kamikaze plane came in, grazed the Newcomb amidships, and crashed into Leutze's port quarter at water level. Captain Grabowsky pulled away from Newcomb as he radioed that Leutze was in danger of sinking. The crew managed to put out the fires and keep the ship afloat, and the minesweeper Defense towed the damaged destroyer through the night to Kerama Retto. The ship's crew had to wait for three long months before repairs were finished so the ship could return to the US. During that time, they experienced over 100 air raids, hid under smoke screens at night, and witnessed firsthand the devastation caused by kamikaze attacks as crippled ships were towed to Kerama Retto. This chapter includes about ten pages of photos of ships seriously damaged by kamikaze strikes.

Walter Fillmore writes his ship's history in a detached manner even though he served as Combat Information Officer during the entire period of Leutze's service during World War II. He never describes his duties aboard ship nor his personal involvement in the destroyer's key battles. The book does contain some lighter reminiscences, such as four pages, including two pages of photos, about the ceremony with Shellbacks and Pollywogs when Leutze crossed the equator. However, War History of USS Leutze (DD-481) lacks personal accounts from the ship's officers and crew about most battle action, including the kamikaze strike that put the ship out of action.

Note

1. These casualty figures come from the casualty report prepared by the Leutze's Medical Officer on April 7, 1945 (pp. 224-6). The book's text indicates "47 casualties, seven killed" (p. 150), even though the Medical Officer's report lists the names of only 41 total casualties, with seven killed.