Kamikazes Strike Task Force


The USS Hughes, now the flagship of Task Force 78, leads the way in the assault on Ormoc Bay in the Philippines.  During the landing of troops in the early morning of December 7th, enemy air activity was heavy and kamikaze strikes frequent.  Two nearby ships, the USS Ward and the USS Mahan, were hit by kamikaze attacks and both eventually sunk. During the attacks, the USS Hughes opened fire four times, scoring hits on two different Japanese planes, one which ended up crashing over the starboard bow of their ship.

Side note: The USS Ward was a particularly tragic loss for the Americans, as the ship had gained notoriety by being the first U.S. vessel to fire their weapon in WWII.  Exactly three years prior to the day of its sinking, the Ward had fired upon and sunk a Japanese midget submarine that was trying to sneak into Pearl Harbor in the early morning before the main assault began.  The original Ward crew, made up of mostly men from Minnesota, had removed the exact gun that fired the shot on December 7th, 1941 and it now sits in St. Paul, MN as a memorial.

During the assault on Ormoc Bay, the constant threat of kamikazes stayed on every commander’s mind all day and night.  Here is an excerpt from the book, “Preludes To Victory | The Battle of Ormoc Bay in WWII” by William L. Griggs:

At Ormoc, Kamikazes attacked in waves as well as conventional air attacks. The Japanese had localized air supremacy, although P-38 and other Allied planes did their best to provide cover. Dodge Priest remembers, “We would go to chow… but each time we tried GQ alarm would sound. So the cooks served us coffee and spam sandwiches at GQ stations.” Stories of harrowing combat, near misses and tragic losses. Accounts of how gunners could see the faces of the youthful Japanese suicide pilots moments before they crashed into their ship or nearby water. The damage was so bad, that news that the damage was inflicted by suicide planes was repressed.

Before the day was done, two more ships in the task force, the USS Liddle and USS Lamson, were also hit, but were able to be saved and towed back.  The photo on the top right is of the USS Ward shortly after being hit by the kamikaze.

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