Eyewitness account of the USS MIAMI assisting the stricken SIGSBEE on April 14th 1945
by John W. Killary
Assisting the Gallant Destroyer U.S.S. Sigsbee DD 502 on the evening and night of April 14, 1945 off Okinawa.
It was twilight when our Lt. Cruiser, U.S.S. Miami CL 89 pulled alongside to the starboard side of the severely damaged Sigsbee. The tragic scene that we saw filled us all with deep emotions and profound sadness, but also huge respect for the brave crew and their battered ship. She was dead in the water but still very much alive. All she needed was help and we were honored to give it. The gutsy Destroyer U.S.S. Dashiell, DD-659 had valiantly tried first but the towline parted. My buddies and I will never forget seeing some of the Sigsbee's men laid out on the 'forecastle' (fok'sel or bow) covered with white canvas. I know my eyes weren't dry and I'm sure others weren't either. There was a lull in the action as I recall and sort of a hush-like atmosphere among us guys. Our port side (left) was next to the Sigsbee's starboard side parallel with our respective bows aligned. Our two Doctors and all of our Pharmacists mates, along with some others went over on board the stricken Sigsbee immediately. I think food and other supplies were brought over to them. After a short time they transferred some of her mobile wounded over to the Miami's sick bay for more treatment. We stayed alongside for quite awhile to assist them. Finally the towline was attached and we slowly got underway. It seemed awhile later that the Sigsbee got one of her screws to turn . I'd say we were making about six knots. We came under attack again. There were many bogies (unidentified aircraft) in the area. We knew they were Japs. I think the cap (Combat air patrol) or night fighters shot down some planes too that helped us. The Japs had also been dropping flares on us which we did not like but had become accustomed to. The rest of the task group drew the Jap attackers attention away from us and which acted somewhat as a decoy. No doubt the TG commander ordered it. After both ships stopped firing we were finally able to slip out under the cover of darkness. It must have been 2100 hrs. or 2200 hrs. by the time we were safely away. We secured from "GQ" and went to condition one. Shortly after dawn, if my memory is correct, the sea going tug U.S.S. Munsee, AT-107 came into view. The Munsee took over to tow the Sigsbee into the rear area (out of combat zone.) The feeling all over our ship was that we wished we could have stayed with the Sigsbee to help and protect her. We hated to leave her behind. Believe me the feelings we had for the crew and ship of U.S.S. Sigsbee had formed a strong bond. Those of us U.S.S. Miami vets still around continue to feel that bond. We returned to our station with TG 58.1. After that night with the Sigsbee I lost what little "Gung-ho" that was left in me. Veterans hate war. Our ship was very lucky. We lost 3 men. Two were washed over board in typhoons and one died from illness. Typhoon Cobra, which I'm sure the Sigsbee was in and a couple others had loosened us up pretty bad plus some near misses courtesy of the Kamikaze Krazies. The pickets had it a lot worse. Destroyer after destroyer got hit and some were sunk. Our job was to ride shotgun tight to the medium and large aircraft carriers and protect them with our heavy firepower. Quite often the low flying Jap planes would get under our radar and skim over the water and swoop into the heart of the formation. However, the majority of them got splashed or disrupted by the outer rim picket destroyers like the Sigsbee. When they did get in close all hell would break loose, especially when the carriers got hit like the Franklin, Wasp2, Hancock (twice on different attacks), Ticonderoga, Bunker Hill, Intrepid, Randolph and the Med. carrier Princeton which sank. She went down at Leyte Gulf as I remember. Of course we all went in harms way but none had it any tougher than the lonely pickets like the U.S.S. Sigsbee. I submit this long-range recall with pride and humility and great respect. I salute the tin can sailors of WW2 and all other wars. At the time I was around 18 I think. Good luck, God's speed and may your seas be smooth. I dedicate this to all of our buddies KIA and lost at sea who didn't come home and gave their forever young lives for their beloved country. May God always watch over them "and those in peril on the sea".
7-25-04 John W. Killary.
On The Lighter Side
I'd like to ask your kind indulgence to describe a lighter moment in the Okinawa Apr.-May 1945 combat zone. The single 20mm gun on the starboard quarter of our ship, U.S.S. Miami CL-89 (Light Cruiser) was adjusting and reloading during a lull in the action one night. One of the gun crew was trying to read the daily dope sheet (ship's news) by the light of another flare the Japs had dropped. We could see from our vantage point on the other side and we all laughed hard. The sky aft gun boss didn't say anything and I think he was laughing too. Fortunately for us things happened once in awhile to break the monotonous solemnity of war Thank God.
Photo of the USS MIAMI towing the DD-502. View looking aft toward the stern of the MIAMI, note SIGSBEE'S bridge and #1 & #2 5" inch guns. SIGSBEE'S stern can be seen riding low in the water. Photo from Charles Gregg collection.
Photo of USS Miami CL 89 in Pacific anchorage 1945
(Probably Ulithie) Photo by Tom Bateman