Two Typhoons From Okinawa

In the Fall of 1945, the INTREPID was in Buckner Bay at Okinawa and the weather was hot and calm. There were several other vessels in the same enclosed body of water. Most of the aircraft were on the hanger deck and it seemed like a very quite day. Suddenly, we were given an alarm of an approaching typhoon with waves as high as 70 feet. Everyone scrambled to secure all movable items on the flight and hanger decks. It seemed like in a few minutes the flight deck was vacant and the steel doors were downed locked on the hanger deck. The crew was ordered to stay below decks as the ship raced to get out of the Bay opening into the Ocean.

Shortly, we did clear the island by about a half mile when the first wave was visible on the horizon. It appeared as a wide white line at a distance. As it rolled toward us, we slowed down to meet the first wave which stopped the Intrepid while it lifted us upward and shuck everything violently. Water went over the flight deck. This was a serious storm. Within a few minutes the waves increased in height to 90 feet. The ship headed into the waves at an angle to reduce the impact of head-on collisions. The forward speed was about 4 knots to maintain steerage. When a wave was under the hull at mid-ship, the bow and stern would bow down and the expansion plates on the flight deck would cover wide gaps. We would “crash” into a new wave every few seconds and everything on the ship would shake and make noises. This continued for three days.

We were lucky the ship did not fail that test. We felt like we were comparable to a “bar of Ivory soap in an old fashion washing machine”.  The control tower was subject to wave splashes  20-to 30 feet high.

After three days, we returned to Buckner Bay to “take inventory and observe damages”. We resumed destroying floating mines in the seas around Japan for another ten days before we were given another “typhoon alert”. This time we responded quicker…got out of the Bay in shorter time and knew more about what to expect. The second was about the same as the first one, but it ended after 2.5 days. Fortunately, we saw no more rough water until December.

That is when we boarded 2000 paratroopers as guests to ride from Japan to San Francisco for Christmas leaves. On the eleven day trip we had seven days of heavy seas and hundreds of sea sick paratrooper. “What happened on that trip… stay on the ship”!!!

Story contributed by AOM3/c Keith Butterfield

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