Kamikaze Attacks near Kerama Retto
On May 4, Sangamon put into Kerama Retto to rearm. Loading, frequently interrupted by the presence of bogies in the area, was not completed until evening. ... At 1830, the CVE got underway. Japanese attackers, however, were soon reported only some 29 miles off. Land-based fighters were vectored out to intercept the enemy planes and shot down nine. One got through and, at about 1900, began circling toward a position on Sangamon's port quarter. ... The CVE went into a hard left turn to avoid the enemy and to maneuver into a launching position. She then opened fire and was joined by her escorts. The enemy crashed into the water some 25 feet off the starboard beam. ... Other bogies followed the first. At 1925, another broke through the interceptor screen; ran into clouds to avoid antiaircraft fire; then came out and, with increased speed, headed for Sangamon. At 1933, the kamikaze dropped his bomb and crashed into the center of the flight deck. The bomb, and parts of the plane, penetrated that deck and exploded below-hurling flames and shrapnel in all directions. Initial damage was extensive; fires broke out on the flight deck, the hangar deck, and in the fuel deck; communications from the bridge were lost within 15 minutes; and the ship was soon out of control. ... Sangamon's swinging through the wind caused the flames and smoke to change direction, spreading the fires. By 2015, however, after steering had established steering control and brought the ship back to a course which helped the crew fight the myriad fires scattered over the CVE. But water pressure was low; the fire-main and risers had ruptured. CO2 bottles were brought into action. Nearby ships came alongside to assist. By 2230, all fires were under control. ... Communication with other units had been regained; at first through Fullam's radios, then by using a VHF channel in the sole remaining plane. ... At 2320, Sangamon with 11 dead, 25 missing, and 21 seriously wounded, got underway to return to Kerama Retto for temporary repairs.