A Story From a Surviver:
I knew my father served in the Navy during World War II. He never spoke of it until I was twenty two years old. Before that I only heard bits and pieces from my mother. One night, I don’t know how we got on the subject, my dad told me of some of his experiences during the War.
My father served on the Aaron Ward DM 34. The Aaron Ward was a Robert H. Smith class destroyer. Built in San Pedro California’s Bethlehem Steel.
Dad talked about training exercises they did. They would sail past the fish cannery on Terminal Island where my Nonno worked. My father had a code worked out with Nonno whether he was leaving for war or just training. If my dad wore one type of jacket it meant he was coming back to port. If another jacket, then he was going out to sea. My father, who rarely teared up, had tears in his eyes describing wearing the jacket that signaled to my Nonno he was going to war. He wasn’t tearing up over going to war but leaving my grandfather.
My father sailed to many ports in the South Pacific. On the afternoon of May 3, 1945, the Aaron Ward was on picket duty off the coast of Japan, somewhere between Karama Retton and Okinawa. That afternoon my father’s ship was attacked by kamikaze planes. Six of the planes got through defenses and flew into the Aaron Ward. One of the planes hit the opposite side of the ship of my father’s battle station. The impact lurched the ship so much it threw my father as well as some other men overboard. The crewmen on board put a net over the side of the ship so the men in the water could climb back aboard. Another American ship came by to assist but would have run over the men in the water, so they waived her off. My dad and some other men in the water helped hurt men up the net. My father along with these other seamen couldn’t get up the net before the vessel that came to assist before arrived alongside to render aide. My dad and the other men swam to some other ship. As he swam to the other ship, they started shooting at them with riffles thinking they were the enemy in the water. The men in the water starting yelling, were Americans and were brought aboard. A letter was sent from the war department that my dad was missing in action presumed dead. My Nonno received the letter and kept it in his pocket. It wasn’t until my father’s god mother read in the loco paper that Lorenzo was dead that my Nonni found out her son was MIA presumed dead. . My father’s godmother came to my grandparents’ house angry because no one told her the Lawrence was missing in action and more than likely dead. When she had confronted my grandparents that’s when my Nonno took the letter from the war department out of his pocket and showed my grandmother. I’m not sure of the timing, but some months later my father ended up in San Diego California. He and some other servicemen took a cab back to San Pedro. When my father arrived home, he stood outside the house before entering. A lot had changed the last time he was home. He had changed. Dad walked through the door of his parents’ house. My Nonni saw him and turned white. She thought she was seeing a ghost and pasted out. I will never forget the tears in my father’s eyes as he told me this story.
It most importantly must be noted that my father never held any animosity towards Japanese people. That war was something caused by leaders in charge. I miss my dad.
AARON WARD AFTER ATTACK
Aaron Ward at Kerama Rettōon May 4, 1945, the day followingkamikaze attacksPresidential Unit Citationto U.S.S. Aaron WardTHE SECRETARY OF THE NAVYWashingtonThe President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the PRESIDENTIAL UNIT CITATION to theUNITED STATES SHIP AARON WARDfor service as set forth in the following CITATION: "For extraordinary heroism in action as a Picket Ship on Radar Picket Station during coordinated attack by approximately twenty-five Japanese aircraft near Okinawa on May 3, 1945. Shooting down two Kamikazes which approached in determined suicide dives, the U.S.S. AARON WARD was struck by a bomb from a third suicide plane as she fought to destroy this attacker before it crashed into her superstructure and sprayed the entire area with flaming gasoline. Instantly flooded in her after engine room and fireroom, she battled against flames and exploding ammunition on deck and maneuvering in a tight circle because of damage to her steering gear, countered another coordinated suicide attack and destroyed three Kamikazes in rapid succession. Still smoking heavily and maneuvering radically, she lost all power when her forward fireroom flooded under a seventh suicide plane which dropped a bomb close aboard and dived in flames into the main deck. Unable to recover from this blow before an eighth bomber crashed into her superstructure bulkhead only a few seconds later, she attempted to shoot down a ninth Kamikaze diving toward her at high speed and, despite the destruction of nearly all her gun mounts aft when this plane struck her, took under fire the tenth bomb-laden plane, which penetrated the dense smoke to crash on board with a devastating explosion. With fires raging uncontrolled, ammunition exploding and all engine spaces except the forward engine room flooded as she settled in the water and listed to port, she began a nightlong battle to remain afloat and, with the assistance of a towing vessel, finally reached port the following morning. By her superb fighting spirit and the courage and determination of her entire company, the AARON WARD upheld the finest traditions of the United States Naval Service."For the President,JAMES FORRESTALSecretary of the Navy