USS Laffey: The Ship That Would Not Die.
The story of the USS Laffey is one of uncommon bravery and perseverance in battle and a tribute to all members of the American military.
Some years ago I visited Patriot Point in Charleston, South Carolina. While there I toured the Aircraft Carrier USS Yorktown, the Destroyer, USS Laffey, and the submarine, the USS Clamagore. There were also several aircraft, a Vietnam Experience exhibit and a Medal of Honor Museum at Patriot Point. I enjoyed the visit immensely. Of course, the Yorktown the Clagamore were both impressive and their history fascinating. But the USS Laffey and its story were both simply incredible. I bought a book in the gift shop on the way out. That book was The Ship That Would Not Die by F. Julian Becton, Rear Admiral, USN, Ret, with Joseph Morschauser III. This book contains 12 fascinating chapters. I could hardly put it down.
I was going through and sorting old piles of books when I came across it and decided to read it again. I am glad I did. If you are interested, it is available on Amazon.com.
The First USS Laffey
Chapters 1 and 2 describe the sinking of the original destroyer named Laffey during the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal in November 1942 and Becton’s later assignment as commander of the new Laffey. Chapter 3 and 4 describe the new destroyer being built at Bath Iron Works in Maine, its commissioning, and the ship’s shakedown period in Bermuda.
The Normandy Invasion
Chapters 5 and 6 describe the Laffey‘s combat assignment providing support for the Allied invasion of France in June 1944. As part of the Utah Beach section of the Western Naval Taskforce. The Laffey’s initial assignment was to protect and assist the amphibious assault ships on their trip across the channel. She then screened these and the heavy bombardment ships … backing them up when the invasion began.
The War in the Pacific
Chapters 7 to 10 detail the USS Laffey‘s service in many Pacific battles beginning with her arrival at Ulithi in early November 1944 and culminating with the beginnings of the Battle of Okinawa in early April 1945. The destroyer had numerous experiences with kamikaze planes during this period. The crew witnessed suicide crashes into other ships, shot at incoming planes, and provided aid to other ships that had been hit by kamikaze aircraft.
“I’ll never abandon ship as long as a gun will fire!” ~Commander F. Julian Becton
Chapters 11 and 12 are twenty of the most unbelievable pages of military heroism I think I have ever read. The destroyer Laffey (DD-724) fought for 80 minutes against 22 Japanese kamikaze planes and conventional bombers on April 16, 1945. Although the ship’s gunners downed nine incoming planes, seven suicide planes crashed into the ship. Two other planes dropped bombs that hit the ship. These attacks killed 32 and wounded 71, but the Laffey survived despite the fires, smashed and inoperable guns, and a jammed rudder. Amazingly, eight of Laffey’s guns were still able to fire.
A Truly Amazing Story
F. Julian Becton, the Laffey‘s commander during World War II, wrote this amazing history of this ship’s distinguished wartime service at Normandy, the Philippine Islands, and Okinawa. Joseph Morschauser III, a former writer for Look magazine, co-authored. This book’s 12 chapters tell the amazingly heroic tale of a U.S. Destroyer that was hit more times by kamikaze planes in a single day than any other ship in U.S. naval history. The President of the United States awarded a Presidential Unit Citation to the USS Laffey and its crew. Eighteen members of her crew received Bronze Stars, six received Silver Stars, two received Navy Crosses, and one received the Navy Commendation Medal.