by Willie Lagarde
By March 11, 1945 we had seen several of our sister carriers hit and set aflame. As the war was winding down we all suspected the worst was yet to come as the Japs were getting desperate and intensifying the kamikaze attacks. As it turned out in the weeks ahead over a thousand men would die on Franklin and Bunker Hill alone.
Other ships crews sometimes called us the "Lucky Y" and I suppose luck had a lot to do with us still being alive but who’s to argue? Most of us didn’t dwell on the possibility of dying and if we had an option, most would have chosen death over getting f...ed up. If it was luck keeping us alive the luckiest of all days was upon us.
On the evening of this date I drew an anchor watch. It was the only one I ever drew and I pissed and moaned because they were going to show a Betty Grable movie and I wanted to see it.
Up on the foc’sle I could hear the crew whooping and hollering back on the hangar deck and figured Betty was showing off her million dollar behind and legs.
I stepped out on the "chains" platform to observe the angle of the anchor chain which would indicate if the anchor is holding the bottom. No angle or vertical meant the ship was free and drifting. As I moved out I heard a plane fly by that sounded like an OS2U, a float plane carried by the battleships and cruisers. I didn’t pay any attention to it because when the fleet was at anchor these planes were always flying around. It didn’t dawn on me that they wouldn’t be flying at night.
What happened next was an unforgettable (for me) example of the difference between the speed of light and sound.
I was observing the chain when the side of the ship began glowing a bright orange. As I began to wonder "what the hell is going on" I heard an explosion. That plane flying by was a kamikaze.
He passed close enough to our bow had I seen him I could have probably hit him with a baseball. He had his sights on Randolph which was anchored next in line to us a few thousand yards away. He passed up the forward part of Yorktown and the opportunity to kill several hundred Yorktowners including me.
He went on to hit the after part of Randolph causing 25 dead, 106 wounded.
General quarters was sounded along with the call for "special sea details". Some of us were confused not knowing which call to answer first. Needless to say pandemonium erupted on the hangar deck as those several hundred men scrambled to get to their battle stations.
It has been reported that the plane was twin engined but based on the sound I heard he must have lost an engine and was flying on one engine only.
Boy and girls at this point my memory doesn’t agree with dates given in the book; "Fighting Lady". Though I could be wrong, I stand by this theory.
For years I wondered why he chose Randolph when he almost had to fly over us to get to her.
I have never read it but I believe I have a theory. The repair ship Jason was along side repairing damage from the bomb hit we took earlier and the kamikazi pilot either couldn't make out Yorktown behind her or his options were limited when Randolph was a wide open target.
Our hangar deck was jam packed with men watching a movie and a bomb hit may well have killed all of them.
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