Andy Goble Johnson served on the U.S.S. Fiske (DE-143) and the U.S.S. Mannert L. Ablele (DD-733).
Memorialized at the Honolulu Memorial, HI.
Parents: Mr. and Mrs. Wiley Johnson, Sneedville, TN
Mannert L. Abele departed on 20 March for radar picket duty off Ulithi and the next day she joined Task Force 54 (TF 54), Rear Admiral Morton Deyoʼs Gunfire and Covering Force, for the invasion of Okinawa. She reached the Ryukyus on 24 March, and during the next week she screened heavy shore bombardment ships during preinvasion operations from Kerama Retto to le Shima. In addition, she pounded enemy positions and supported UDT operations at proposed assault beaches on Okinawa.
As American troops stormed the beaches on 1 April, Mannert L. Abele provided close fire support before beginning radar picket patrols northeast of Okinawa later that day. On 3 April, three Japanese planes attacked her, but the destroyer shot down two of the raiders. Released from picket duty on 5 April, she resumed screen patrols off the beaches. On 6 April, she helped shoot down an attacking twin-engined bomber.
The next day, Mannert L. Abele regrouped with TF 54 to protect the transports off Okinawa from ships of the Surface Special Attack Force, including the Japanese battleship Yamato, steaming south from Japan in a final effort to destroy American seapower. However, planes of the Fast Carrier Task Force wiped out the enemyʼs thrust with bomb and torpedo strikes, sinking six Japanese ships and damaging the four surviving destroyers.
Mannert L. Abele resumed radar picket duty on 8 April, patrolling station No. 14 about 70 nmi (81 mi; 130 km) northwest of Okinawa, accompanied by LSM(R)-189 and LSM(R)-190. Midway through the afternoon watch on 12 April, Mannert L. Abele caught the full fury of the kamikaze. Three Aichi D3A “Vals” attacked at 13:45, but gunfire drove off two and set fire to the third which failed in an attempt to crash into LSM(R)-189. By 14:00, between 15 and 25 additional planes “had come down from the North and the ship was completely surrounded.” Except for one light bomber which challenged and was damaged by the destroyer’s fire, the enemy kept outside her gun range for more than half an hour.
At about 14:40, three Mitsubishi A6M Zeroes broke orbit and closed to attack. Mannert L. Abele drove off one and shot down another about 4,000 yd (3,700 m) out. Despite numerous hits from 5-inch and light anti-aircraft fire, and spewing smoke and flame, the third kamikaze crashed into the starboard side and penetrated the after engine room where it exploded. LSM(R)-189’s captain, James M. Stewart, reported, “It is difficult to say what it was that hit the DD 733. This officer personally saw what appeared to be two (2) planes orbiting in a northerly direction from the DD 733, and then suddenly, what appeared to be, one plane, accelerated at a terrific rate, too fast for us to fire at. This plane dove at an angle of approximately 30 degrees, starting at about four miles [7.5 km] away. Since we had no air search radar, the above statements are merely my own conclusions.” (This may have been one of the earliest intelligence reports of the Ohka kamikaze aircraft.)
Immediately, Mannert L. Abele began to lose headway. The downward force of the blast, which had wiped out the after engineering spaces, broke the destroyer’s keel midships, abaft No. 2 stack. The bridge lost control and all guns and directors lost power.
A minute later, at about 14:46, Mannert L. Abele took a second and fatal hit from a Ohka that struck the starboard waterline abreast the forward fireroom. Its 2,600 lb (1,200 kg) warhead exploded, buckling the ship, and “cutting out all power, lights, and communications.”
Almost immediately, the destroyer broke in two, her midship section obliterated. Her bow and stern sections sank rapidly. As survivors clustered in the churning waters enemy planes bombed and strafed them. However, LSM(R)-189 and LSM(R)-190 shot down two of the remaining attackers, repelled further attacks, and rescued the survivors. The number of casualties of her sinking was 84 killed according to a book by Roy S. Andersen who was among the survivors.
Mannert L. Abele was the first of three radar pickets hit by an Ohka, but the only ship sunk by one during the Okinawa campaign. Despite the Japanese efforts, the radar pickets successfully completed their mission, thus ensuring the success of the campaign for the Americans.