Kamikaze
   Images


                           Google

 
"My Ship!" The U.S.S. Intrepid
by Raymond T. Stone
G.P. Books, 2003, 245 pages

Kamikaze planes hit the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Intrepid five times, more frequently than any American carrier. The ship, with her crew of 3,000 men, returned to mainland U.S. twice for repairs of damage caused by kamikaze attacks. Ray Stone served aboard the Intrepid as a radarman from August 1943, the month of her commissioning, to June 1945, after the ship returned to the mainland for the second time to get repairs for kamikaze-inflicted damage. This memoir presents Stone's and several other shipmates' candid views concerning these devastating kamikaze attacks and other experiences aboard the carrier and during liberties on shore.

The first of five hits by kamikaze planes on the Intrepid took place on October 29, 1944, when a Japanese plane crashed into one of the ship's gun tubs. The crash killed 10 men, including 9 black steward's mates. On November 25, 1944, two Zeros rammed into the ship within five minutes of each other and killed 69 men. This number included 26 radarmen who were in a ready room waiting to relieve radarmen, including Stone, in CIC (Combat Information Center). The fourth hit happened on March 18, 1945, when the Intrepid's gunners brought down a diving plane off the starboard bow, but the exploding plane still caused some minor damage when it showered the hangar deck with flying debris and burning gasoline. On April 16, 1945, Japan launched a mass air attack of kamikaze and conventional warplanes, and the Intrepid's Air Group downed 43 planes that day and the ship's gunners downed 4 kamikaze planes. However, one suicide plane managed to get through the anti-aircraft fire and crashed into the flight deck, with its bomb going off on the hangar deck, and killed 10 men [1].

Although written almost six decades after the events, this memoir seems like an immature teenager wrote it. Stories of drinking and women fill the pages, and Stone gives plenty of examples to show he had no problems breaking Navy rules or starting a fight. But Stone steadily matured as he participated in many battles and experienced the deaths of several pals when 26 radarmen lost their lives after a kamikaze hit. He had to help in the identification of the dead radarmen, and he sobbed uncontrollably as he looked at the charred flesh of his dead friends. He later went with four other crewmen to the home of one radarman who died in the attack. The chapter describing this visit begins as follows:

Nitro, one of my good buddies killed in ready room 4, was a native San Franciscan and we felt obliged to pay our respects to his family. None of us were experienced in expressing feelings and extending condolences to the family of a fallen shipmate. We felt awkward just talking about it. How to act? What to say?

Wanting to spare his mom additional heartache, we decided to tell her that Nitro died instantly, one of the 26 radarmen killed in the ready room.

Actually, one of Nitro's legs was blown off when the first kamikaze hit; he was alive and being carried on the shoulders of a rescuer when the second kamikaze hit. The concussion from the explosion buckled the hatch door, trapping them. The would-be rescuer was finally able to squeeze through a narrow opening, but he couldn't pull the unconscious, or already dead, Nitro through it. He had to leave or be cremated by the raging inferno.

Flames and smoke from
first kamikaze crash into Intrepid
on November 25, 1944  

 

The accounts by Stone and his shipmates, especially of the day the Intrepid got hit by two kamikazes, bring alive historical events. The author's frankness in giving details about wild or embarrassing incidents makes this an enjoyable book to read. Helpful features in the book include many historical photos, frequent use of dialogues rather than just description, and a glossary of technical terms. Although this book highlights Stone's personal experiences, he also effectively incorporates basic facts of the Intrepid's history and Pacific War events.

A few changes could have improved this memoir. First, although Stone presents some helpful general background information about radar and its use in detecting and intercepting planes, it would be more interesting to read actual battle incidents experienced by the author with details on radar's use. Second, the book contains about 40 photos of Stone's diary, which he kept throughout the war despite a Navy regulation against personal diaries since they might fall into enemy hands. The diary contains little more than a listing of the Intrepid's operations and battles, so the inclusion of so many pages adds almost nothing to the book and sometimes causes confusion since the book's narrative and the diary entries cover the same events. Finally, adding more maps to the book would be beneficial, since the book's two maps do not provide information about the Intrepid's movements and locations during the war.

"My Ship!" The U.S.S. Intrepid provides many tidbits of information about the carrier's history and her crew during World War II. The author is quick to give his opinions, positive or negative, about Intrepid crewmembers, and his stories about wild liberties on shore and life aboard ship contain many amusing details. The firsthand accounts of the two kamikaze hits on November 25, 1944, make this section of the book especially valuable.

Note

1. An Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum brochure by the U.S.S. Intrepid Association indicates 20 men were killed by the kamikaze attack on April 16, 1945. Sumrall (1989, 44) states the total killed was 8.

Source Cited

Sumrall, Robert F. 1989. USS Intrepid (CV 11). Missoula, Montana: Pictorial Histories Publishing.