Eugene M. Brick
Gunner's Mate Third Class
Sinking of USS Drexler DD-741
by Gene Brick
Two Japanese kamikaze planes crashed into the destroyer
Drexler (DD-741) during the morning of May 28, 1945. The ship sank 49 seconds after the
second aircraft hit with 158 men killed and 51 men wounded.
Gene Brick managed to escape from the sinking
ship. He formed the Drexler Survivors Reunion Association in 1985 and
coordinated annual reunions for many years.
I went aboard USS Drexler DD-741 during the evening of March 12, 1945,
while the ship was in Purvis Bay, Florida Islands, a part of the Solomon Islands
group. At my request I was transferred from the USS SC (Submarine Chaser) 1266,
which I had been aboard for 14 months.
On the morning of May 28, 1945, we were called to battle stations after a
hurried trip to Picket Station #15 northwest of Okinawa. We were on station with
USS Lowry DD-770, LCS (Landing Craft Support) 55, LCS 56, and LCS 114.
I was the Trainer in Mount #2, one of the twin 5-inch enclosed gun mounts in
the forward part of the destroyer. Shortly after General Quarters was sounded
and I got to my battle station, I was told to "match up," which meant to put
Mount #2 in automatic train in order to put us under control of the main
director, located on top of the bridge. While we were under control of the
director, I had nothing to do but follow the target by looking through the
trainer gunsight and wait for further orders from our mount captain, Weldon
Through the gunsight, I could see the first kamikaze plane that hit the
destroyer, coming at us about 15-20 feet above the water on our starboard beam.
All of our guns were firing at it, and I could see the tracer bullets
ricocheting off the front part of the kamikaze, which later was identified
officially as a twin-engine attack bomber with the Allied code name of Frances .
Our 5-inch projectiles could not catch up with it. As I remember, our
proximity-activated bursts were strung out behind the suicide plane like a
string of black pearls. The kamikaze kept coming, and we kept firing until the
gun mount reached the limit of train to starboard.
A split second after that I could not see it any longer. It crashed with a
thunderous bang, which knocked out all of our electricity. I sat there a little
bit, and Ingram told me to put the train drive into "local" control. This meant
that I had manual control of the movement of the gun mount to move either right
or left and to match up with his pointer that was attached to his gunsight in
front of him.
I started to turn the mount to the left as fast as I could. It was not long
before my arms started to give out because there was no electric-hydraulic
power, plus the fact that the ship was starting to list to starboard, resulting
in more weight to move, with only me supplying the power.
While I was going through this procedure, I heard a plane go right over the
top of us, and it sounded very close. I had the manual drive in low gear, which
meant that it was not moving very fast. All of a sudden another explosion
happened somewhere on the ship, and it felt like someone had hit the bottom of
my seat with a sledgehammer.
I could no longer train the mount, and it seemed to me that we were in big
trouble, so I thought I had better put my life jacket on. Ingram told me to "get
the hell out of here, she's sinking!"
I stood up and grabbed my kapok life jacket, which I had been sitting on for
several weeks, because being short-waisted like I am, I needed the elevation to
comfortably look through the gunsight. It was compressed into more of a vest
than a fluffy piece of flotation equipment.
Well, we had to go with what we had, and I left the mount through the
starboard "hot-shell" hatch, right behind Ingram. When I landed on the O-1 deck
after leaving the gun mount, the ship was listing to starboard at an angle steep
enough to make it difficult to get over or through the rail lines.
I got through them and slid down the bulkhead to the main deck and went
through the same thing getting over or through the main deck rail lines. I slid
down the side of the ship, which was about on a 45 degree angle. I slid fast
enough that when the stabilizer strip that runs along the side of the ship came
up and became visible, I went over it on my behind. It felt like I just about
broke everything I had in that area.
I went into the thick oil and started swimming like mad to get away from any
suction that might occur if I got caught too close to the ship. Behind me, I
could hear the noise from loose gears and machinery probably being torn from the
decks, rattling and rumbling around, making such a horrible noise that I stopped
and turned around to look.
I was probably 75-100 feet from the Drexler and could see about 30-40
feet of her bow standing straight up in the air. Then I watched her disappear
All around me there were shipmates, a few injured but still able to swim out
of the oil, some of which was on fire a short distance away. I swam a short
distance and got clear of the worst of the oil. It did not seem that we were in
the water very long, maybe less than a half-hour. One of the LCSs came along and
fished us out of the water. We sure made a mess out of that LCS, but they took
care of our needs without complaint.
I will never forget that day. I have counted my blessings every day since
that happened. Over the years, I have thought about the horrible waste of lives
and that it took less than three minutes to do it from the time the first plane
crashed into us.
It bothered me that all those lives may be forgotten if someone did not do
something about trying to get together what was left of the survivors, reach as
many as possible of the families of our men killed in action, and pay honor to
the ones who did not make it that morning. I feel that the part that I played in
laying the foundation to get started in doing this was the least I could do.
After I got the Drexler Survivors Reunion Association rolling,
everyone pitched in and helped make the group what it is today. We have such a
strong common bond that ties us all together, which is different than 99% of all
other ships in the Navy. It is my earnest hope and prayer that the men who died
that day will never be forgotten. As long as one person remembers that event,
our work has not been in vain.
1. After Gene Brick wrote this story, the article
Who Sank the Destroyer Drexler?
concluded that the destroyer was hit by two twin-engine Army Type 2 Toryu
Fighters (Nicks) in the 45th Shinbu Special Attack Squadron led by First
Lieutenant Hajime Fujii.
Gene Brick's story about the sinking of Drexler comes from pp. 137-8 of the following book:
Brown, Charles D., comp. 2007. Historical
Review: U.S.S. Drexler DD-741. 4th ed. Privately published.
Minor editing has been done to the originally published