by Ray Boffardi
Copyright (C) 1996
by EDUCATIONAL WORD-CELL PROGRAMS, INC.
20 Sunny Hill Drive P.O. Box 64
East Nowich , L.I., New York 11732
All Rights Reserved
The information below is part of an old diary I kept while I was a member of the crew of the U.S.S. Barber (DE 161 6 APD 57). It covers our departure from Pearl Harbor until the conclusion of the Okinawa Campaign.
This diary was written by an 18 year old signalman, and it contains all the emotional expressions that are expected to come fram the mind of a ‘boy-man’ of that age. A number of words have been deleted because of their ‘politically incorrect’ nature in the 90’s. They were otherwise quite appropriate under the circumstances of the 40’s.
These writings are dedicated to all the men who served aboard the Barber.
April 14, 1945 – Left Pearl Harbor for the island of Eniwetok in the Marshall Islands.
April 18 – Experienced my first submarine contact while sitting on the bridge in the midst of reading ‘A Tree Graws in Brooklyn’. I heard the increased pinging of the sonar. Battle stations were sounded and this sailor was never more excited. My heart was pounding at a terrific pace and through my mind passed a million thoughts. There we stood for a half hour or so at our battle stations. I’m in charge of a hose in repair one. I expected a torpedo to came tearing through the 3/4 inch steelplate of the ship’s hull. Suddenly, over the PA system the ‘old man’ bellowed, ‘stand by gun crews, if the bastard wants to come up and fight it out, give them all you’ve got’. While he spoke I could hear the increased pinging of the sound equipment, which meant that the sub was getting closer. We talked, smoked, and cursed the sub. Anything to keep cool! After a short while we all heard with over-whelming joy the captain shout over the PA system, ‘secure fram battle stations, secure from battle stations, the bastard most have gotten away’. The rest of the trip was quiet, and the main topic was the sub.
April 22 – Arrived at Eniwetok. A typhoon was in the vicinity,so we stuck around for a few days. I rated a liberty. No women on the island, in fact there weren’t any civilians to be found. It was strictly a naval base. Went on shore and swam for about 3 hours in the clearest water I have seen yet. Had a few cans of beer and a bottle of coke. Played some baseball and then returned to ship. Plenty busy signaling as there are merchant ships and warships all over the place.
April 25 – Left Eniwetok for Ulithis, a big naval base in the Caroline Islands.
April 30 – Arrived at Ulithis. One can never believe how big the U.S. fleet is until he comes here. This is the jumping off place for Okinawa. Swimming is out of the question because the water is polluted. There are no stores in which to shop, nor any bars in which to drink. There aren’t even any civilians! Just a 40 mile wide bay surrounded by small islands. I get tired of laying around, and at times I get the maniacal idea that I want to see action. However, I change my mind when I see same DD, DE, or APD come in. after a session with Jap suicide planes. They’re plenty messed up. Three quarters of them are hit on the bridge, just where I spend most of my time. Just today I saw a destroyer come in with its bridge shot off. All hands on the bridge never saw the damaged caused.
May 5 – Underway for Okinawa in the Ryukyu Island chain., Acting as an escort to 7 merchant ships with the help of a DE. If we get there safely we will have brought the first merchant ships to Okinawa. Everyone is on the alert for Jap suicide planes which have been very active lately.
May 6 – General quarters was sounded while I was taking an afternoon nap. We had a contact. We made a few runs over the target, dropped 6 depth charges. No results, so we figured it was a school of fish that caused our sound equipment to ping. I was surprisingly calm and collective. We’ve been through this before. Subs don’t bother me any more. I can’t say the same for suicide planes, and Okinawa is famous for them.
May 7 – Everyone is watching out for floating mines. It seems that the Japs released quite a few of than in this particular area.
May 8 – Received news that the war in Europe was over. Captain called the crew on the fantail. We stood for 3 minutes in silent prayer, thanking the Lord and asking for His assistance in these troubled waters.
May 9 – The captain offered $50.00 to the first sailor who sighted a Jap plane, mine, or suicide boat. A DE next to us sighted 2 mines and destroyed than both. So far nothing has been spotted. Personally, I hope we don’t spot a thing!
May 10 – We arrived at Okinawa and have just secured from battle stations. We are about 5 miles off a coast that is still in Jap hands. I can see fighting going on. Close to the beach are 2 battleships pounding the enemy shore installations. Last night Okinawa underwent an air raid. We observed flares which were thrown up to lighten the battle area. At the moment we are at battle stations as there are many enemy planes in the vicinity. This is the third time they have shown up tonight. They are nothing but niusance raids composed of 4 or 5 planes in each raid. Our night fighters will tend to them; they have 4 to their credit tonight. We received the gruesome news that we will be in Okinawa for quite a while. Our job will be that of acting as a ‘picket’ (on patrol). I can’t see how this little APD can possibly repel any aircraft or subs with the little fire power it has, especially against those suicide bombers who stop at nothing.
May 11 – Had another air attack this morning. Twenty Jap planes this time. They came when we vere some 10 miles out of port. I saw a Jap plane this morning. This one wasn’t flying. It was lying on the stern of one of our destroyers. It was another victim of the kamikazi (the divine wind). We took off the casualties. It was a pitiful sight. Young boys, 17 and 18 years of age, with their faces and bodies burnt black. There were others with their arms and legs shot up, plus others whose bodies were distorted beyond recognition. My only wish is that some of the people back home were here to witness this horrible sight, then maybe they would realize that we are at war. We carried the casualties to the hospital ship ‘Hope’.
1996 Addenda: This was one of 2 destroyers (USS Hadley 6 USS Evans). In this engagement, together they knocked down 38 suicide planes in an hour and one half battle. This bag was the largest ever reported for ships of their size during a single engagement.
May 12 – Today we relieved another ship on the picket line. This ship has been here for 5 days. In this period of time they shot dawn 5 suicide planes and had 2 torpedoes fired at than. Fortunately, both missed. I hope they don’t mess around with us that way. There was an air attack on the beach tonight. Fighting still heavy on the beach.
May 13 – On this not so very merry day in May, we stayed at our battle stations for a good part of the day. Okinawa Island and the ships that surround it on the picket line underwent 6 individual air attacks. One of them was a torpedo attack. The Barber got away with murder! Every morning we listen to Japanese propaganda programs from China which is some 200 miles fram here, and from Tokyo some 650 miles to the north. Our favorite program from Tokyo stars ‘Miss Tokyo Rose’. She speaks to us every morning. She tries her very best to bring dawn our morale. I must admit, she does play same good American tunes after every bull session. She claims that the American fleet is bottled up in Okinawa. Why we come in and out of this place so often without interference, it’s as though this were our home base. The airforce shot down 10 more Japs during a raid tonight.
May 14 – Nothing exceptional happened, just a couple of air raids.
May 15 – This morning we sighted a raft about a mile off the beach. It had 4 occupants. We lowered one of our 4 LCVPs to investigate. In it we sent about 15 men armed with 8 submachine guns and 2 mounted 30 calibers. I really wanted to be part of the group, but unfortunately I was on signal watch. Not wanting to miss a thing, I supplied myself with a pair of binoculars. When the boat got to within 100 feet of the raft, one of our guys let the Japs have it with a spray of machine gun fire. The raft capsized and its crew went over with it. After a few seconds 4 heads bobbed to the surface. No one was hit. They were Japs alright! Suddenly, I saw them taking off their uniforms. Our boys in the boat weren’t taking any chances with these [omissis]. They took them in the boat and kept them well covered with machine guns. When they arrived aboard ship we saw at close range what they looked like. There they were, 4 little guys, shaking from both fright and cold. So these were the guys we were fighting! We supplied each one with a pair of long underwear (longjohns). They had one hell of a time trying to get them on as they couldn’t tell the difference between the slot for the head and that for the seat. Apparently these [omissis] have never seen a pair of underware. The only thing they had on than was a tiny pocketbook containing a roll of Japanese sens and yens, and same smaller charge amountirg to $100 or more. One of them smiled we he was handed the pair of longjohns. They all bowed when the captain threw a pack of Philip Morris their way. They were dazzled because they probably thought we were going to shoot them. About 2 hours ago we handed than over to the Marines. We returned into Okinawa Harbor tonight after 4 days on the line.
May 16 – Moved out again tonight for the outer picket line off a Jap held island.
So far we have been lucky. Got my first mail in 3 weeks. We underwent 4 air attacks tonight. Say, this is a hot spot!
May 17 – This day proved to be a quiet one, but last night the Barber itself ‘had a close shave’. Battle stations were sounded as soon as the ship next to us was attacked. There wasn’t mach light by which to see, so we had to keep our eyes and ears open. We heard the engines of a plane no more than 2 or 3 hundred feet above us. Some claimed they saw it and could swear it was a medium-sized bomber. Actually, no one knew what kind of a plane it was. No more than 40 seconds passed when suddenly we felt a terrific under-water explosion Some said that they saw a splash near the bow of the ship, while others claimed they saw the wake of a torpedo. The ship near us got 2 of its forward gun turrets knocked off. The rest of the night was quiet.
May 18 – Nothing new, just a few air raids which had no results.
May 19 – Refueled and left this outer picket place to patrol another area.
May 20 – Thirds have been pretty quiet around here for a charge. The Japs haven’t pulled any raids on us in the last 36 hours or so. Hush Buff, maybe you’ve spoken too soon. The boys on the island are on the move. Miss Tokyo Rose insists that slowly but surely we are being chased off the island of Okinawa. She added that it was only a question of time before we surrended. This night turned out to be the most gruesome so far. All hell broke loose! First the Japs dive-bombed the beach, then they came out to play pattycake with us ships patrolling the beach. They attacked the APD on our starboard. A plane dived toward the ship’s bridge, unloaded its cargo of destruction, and in. a perfect act of hari kari crashed into its bridge, thus adding to the damage caused by its bomb. A DE a short way off shot down 3 Tojo fighters, 2 of which dived against the ship’s mast. The planes then passed up the Barber to attack an APD on our port side. She was also hit by a suicide plane. At about the same time, we got about 3 different submarine contacts. The Japs were pulling something big tonight! They were throwing everything at us. Six or seven 2-man midget submarines were in the vicinity trying to get into the harbor. We made a few runs and dropped 9 depth charges. We could not observe the results as it was foggy as hell, and to top it off everybody was laying a smoke screen. None of the subs did any damage. After’ 5 hours at our battle stations the all clear was sounded.
May 21 – Plenty of dead fish in the water. This was caused by the depth charges. Right now we are changing position and are going to replace one of the APDs that was hit. The Japs only came back with one raid tonight. No damage.
May 22 – Tonight the Barber was attacked. A Jap twin engined fighter came in for a low level attack. The boys opened up with everything we had. She looked like she was coming in for a suicide attack, but I guess that wall of fire charged her mind. She came back at us, but she didn’t do any damage. The night fighters took care of her. The rest of the night was quiet.
May 23 – Just a few air raids with no results.
May 24 – The Japs pulled their heaviest air raids thus far. We teamed up with 4 other APD’s so as to have a greater concentration of firepower. Four Jap planes came down in flames. Aside fram these, some 16 others were ‘splashed’. They came in all night. They managed to score a few hits, but they certainly paid for it in planes. The Mighty B came out undamaged. We stood at our battle stations for about 8.30 hours.
May 25 – They came over again this morning. One came within 2 miles of our ship. Our gunners opened up on her too soon and scared the [omissis] away.
May 26 – Tonight 2 Jap barges full of heavily armed troops were intercepted by 2 of our DEs about 30 miles fran us. The DEs challenged them and ordered than to give up. They resisted capture. Result, ‘no prisoners taken’. Just a few raids today.
May 27 – This morning was an exciting one for me. It was raining and there was a heavy fog. Suddenly, the bridge personel of which I was part, heard the motor of a plane overhead. After a minute or so I spotted him coming out of the fog about a mile off our starboard beam. I shouted to the captain the plane’s approximate bearing and pointed the plane out to him. He ordered a full left rudder and shouted to all guns to train on target.
The plane made a quick about face and disappeared once again into the mist. It was a Jap plane. It was either of the Dinah or Jill class. We will spend tonight in port. Right now we are at our battle stations as there are Jap planes in the vicinity.
May 28 – Few raids today.
May 29 – Nothing new. One raid.
May 30 – Pretty quiet. Just one raid.
May 31 – Still patrolling. Just one raid today.
June 1 – It is now 3 weeks that we find ourselves in Okinawa, and I’m damned tired of this place. Wish the hell we clear out of this place and go back to normal.
June 2 – Today we were relieved from this sector. At the moment we are proceeding to Kerama Retto, a group of islands west of Okinawa. We are awaiting orders.
June 3&4- Instead of going to Kerama Retto, we are headed for Okinawa. Now anchored in Hagushi Bay anchorage. I’m getting a little more sleep here because the Nips have only sprung 2 raids in the last 72 hours. They are still fighting on southern Okinawa. It won’t be long now.
June 5&6 – We are still in port awaiting orders. I hope we don’t get than for a while because it’s nice and safe in this harbor. The Japs pulled a few raids, but the Combat Air Patrol makes short work of them before they get too close to this anchorage. Miss Tokyo Rose said this morning that the Japanese forces on Okinawa are in critical condition.
June 7 – This morning we got the gruesome news that we were to return to the picket line to replace a DD which was hit by 2 suicide planes. The station is off the coast of Kerama Retto. During the night we underwent 3 individual attacks. The Combat Air Patrol pulverized all the attackers in the first wave, and sent the 2nd and 3rd waves back to Nippon in a miserable condition. These American pilots are the ones who deserve most of the credit. They’re doing a marvelous job of taking care of Jap planes.
June 8 – A little excitement today. We spotted the body of a wrecked plane on the shore of Aka Island. A Jap held island. We received orders to investigate. A landing party was formed. I requested that I be part of it. We were armed to the teeth. No go! A navy seaplane beat us to our goal. In a way I was happy to see this happen. There were probably Jap snipers over there just waiting for us to make just such a move. I must admit though, that it would have been nice to put one’s feet on Jap soil for the first time. Tonight we had a sub contact which we lost. We also had a few air raid alerts. So far the Mighty B has been a very lucky ship. I hope this luck holds out forever.
June 9&10 – Two very quiet days with just one raid each night. It is now one month that we have been in Okinawa, same 10,000 miles from home. As far as I can see, I think we’ll be here for the duration and 6 months. Although the Japs have suffered great losses, they’re still fighting like animals and giving our guys a bad time. Every night we observe exchanges of artillery fire.
June 11- Today we changed position and at the moment we are operating off Ie Shima, one of the many islands we have taken fram the Japs. Ernie Pyle lost his life on this island.
June 12 – Not rich business today, just one raid. Okinawa’s air defenses have been greatly strengthened, and it’s pretty hard for Jap planes to get through.
We picked up a Japanese boat. It’s about 30 feet lang. It was raked by gun-fire, but it can still be repaired. We also spotted a human body. It was swelled up like a balloon. We couldn’t tell whether it was one of ours or a Jap.
June 13 – We returned into port today for 72 hours.
June 14 – Early this morning we added 3 more Jap prisoners to our credit. It was about 5 A.M. when we sighted a small Jap boat built on the same scale as the one we picked up the other day. This one had occupants. There were 3 of them. We lowered a boat with the necessary equipment and they took off. The3aps raised their hands while the boat was still scxne 200 yards away. They gave up right away. Not a shot was fired. They seemed well supplied with clothes from Wanamakers in New York and other garments made either in Panama or Hawaii. They also had rice, biscuits, a first aid kit, and plenty of Jap and Chinese folding money. They seemed to be a little more intelligent than the other 4 we picked up. In fact one of than spoke Spanish and he claimed he was an Okinawa citizen. But we think he handed us a line. We believe he is an officer as he seemed to have authority over the other two. One of the ‘supermen’ was about 4 feet 6 inches, and weighed no more than75 pounds. They stated that they were on their way to Kyushu which is about 350 miles north of here. A Spanish fellow on board did all the interpreting for the captain. The Japs had been told that their brothers in arms were in California and Hawaii. After a thorough questioning they were taken ashore for further questioning. I might add that since we have been in Okinawa I have lost 6 pounds. If we stay here long enough they can start referring to me as the ‘vanishing American’. P.S. – I’m not the only one.
June 15 – Tonight the Japs showed up for the first time in 3 days. They pulled 4 raids on us during the night. It’s really wonderful to see a Jap plane come down in flames. The first thing you see is that good old ack ack barrage, then a small ball of fire which comes hurtling earthward at a terrific speed until it hits the water. Upon impact it bursts into flames which can be seen for miles.
We are still in Hagushi anchorage awaiting orders. We have been informed that we are now a ‘rescue ship’ for this area. Another medical officer has come aboard. I don’t think we will have many rescue missions to go on as the Japs haven’t been botherirg us lately.
June 16 – Last night a terrific explosion rocked the Okinawa area. Over the horizon we saw flames shoot up thousands of feet. It was one of our DDs, another victim of the Japs. We were the rescue ship for this area, so we went out on our first job. We beamed searchlights all over the place. We didn’t sight a thing. We got there too late. Most of the crew went down with her.
1996 Addenda: The destroyer in question was the USS TWIGGS. We returned to port.
June 17 – We pulled out of port today and are back on the picket line. Had a few raids during the night, but they had no damaging results.
June 18 – Still on patrol. Just one raid today.
June 19 – Tonight we were releived and are now in Hagushi Harbor. On the way into port we picked up a Jap rubber raft striped with the colors of the ‘Rising Sun’. It had no passengers, but plenty of bullet holes and a loaded Jap pistol.
June 20 – All quiet on the Okinawa front!
June 21 – I guess I was mistaken when I said the Jap planes had quit bombing this place. This evening the Japs took full advantage of a full moon and sprang 14 individual air attacks in the Okinawa area. They hit 5 or 6 ships, but paid heavily in planes. I saw the boys on the beach throw up about 25 rounds of AA fire and bring down 2 Japs in flames.
June 22 – Still in port. We are at the moment at battle stations because the Japs are at it again. Tonight the Navy Dept. announced the capture of Okinawa and the fact that the U.S. Navy was given the worst beating it had received thus far in the war. They stated that 34 ships were sunk, and 54 were damaged since the invasion of Okinawa.
June 23 – Today is ‘V.O. DAY’ (Victory over Okinawa day). Today all resistance on the beach ceased. We have shifted ports. We are now in Buckner Bay. Yesterday, on our way here, we passed close to the shore and we noticed our boys on the beach burning out the caves of the remaining Japanese who refused to give up. The battle on the island may be over, but the Japs still have their suicide planes.
June 24&25 – We are again patrolling, on the picket line. No raids in the last 2 days. The skipper was promoted to Lt. Comrnander on the 25th.
June 26 – The Japs came back today with a heavy air attack. We got a few shots at a Jap plane which flew over the fantail. He got away. I wouldn’t be surprised if we stayed in Okinawa for the duration.
June 27-29 We’ve been out on the picket line for the past 3 days. Each day the Japs come over with at least one raid.
June 30 – Patroling off Ie Shima. Just one raid. Tokyo Rose very quiet these days.
July 1&2 – Spent most of both these days in Hagushi Harbor and Wise Man’s Cove refueling and getting fresh supplies. No raids.
July 3 – Thought we were going somewhere after 2 days of preparations. Old King Scuttlebutt certainly built up our hopes. We were all fooled as we are now back on the picket line. Gosh, this duty gets monotonous!
July 4 – This is one 4th of July I don’t want to see any fireworks.
Halleluja! We just got orders to leave for Saipan which is in the Marianas. We are now underway after almost 2 months of duty in Okinawan waters. We are escorting about 25 LSTs loaded down with GIs who fought on the beaches and are now going to a rest area. FAREWELL. OKINAWA!!
USS BARBER REUNIONS:(As of August 1997)
Battle Creek, Michigan-1957