This is a true account of events, published in the Reader Digest - September 1989 issue and is reprinted in it's entirity on this site. The events related have been verified by fourteen "Old Salts" who were aboard the"Mullany" during this hostile enemy action off the coast of Okinawa on April 6, 1945.
To the entire crew, and our shipmates that died that day, to all the men that served in the pacific fleet during World War II, and all the service men and women that played a part in defending our nation against agression, we express our utmost gratitude for their service to our country.
By Nathan M. Adams
The young kamikaze pilot could make out black puffs of anti-aircraft fire against the gray backdrop of the sky. He signaled his wingmen by wagging the wings of his bomb-laden Nakajima Ki-43 fighter, increased power and began to climb. There on the horizon-alone and unprotected-was a large American warship
It was the USS Mullany, a destroyer with a reputation for near invincibility. That day, in the waters off Okinawa, she would face the ultimate test. As her deck guns opened fire, the Japanese pilot rolled his plane toward the target and began a shallow but deadly descent.

Jack Emerson maneuvered his Buick convertible through the predawn darkness of San Francisco. The streets were deserted except for a handful of air-raid wardens--middle-aged men in white "doughboy" helmets--who eyed him suspiciously as he drove past.
Emerson squinted into the shadows. His parking lights were the only illumination he could use that would conform with rigid blackout regulations. Left on Market Street, left again on Third, then straight ahead to the docks. He arrived at the gates of the Bethlehem Steel Company shipyards just before 5 a.m., flashed his badge at the security guards and was waved through.
Unlike the city, the yard never slept. Some 18,000 men and women worked on three shifts, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, as America desperately tried to recover from Pearl Harbor, attacked just four weeks earlier on December 7, 1941. In the Philippines, Manila had fallen, and Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s troops were retreating on Bataan. Wake Island had been overtaken. Everywhere, it seemed, America was on the run.
Emerson parked his car and walked toward the tiny cubicle that served as his office. The towering flanks of ships under construction loomed like ghosts in the half-light. Beyond the clatter of the yard, Emerson heard the hoot and grunt of foghorns as warships groped their way under the Golden Gate Bridge and through the antisubmarine nets that protected the bay.
The Spartan office he now entered--containing a desk, a bank of cabinets and a drafting board--gave no hint of his important position. Although only 25 years old, he commanded a work force of nearly 2000 welders and shipfitters. Emerson had a talent for building prefabricated vessels, an undertaking not unlike assembling a giant jigsaw puzzle without test-fitting a single piece first. That was why the Bethlehem Steel Company had brought him all the way from Quincy, Mass., and was paying him $70 a week to build hulls for them--an unheard of salary for someone so young.
Emerson himself had tried to enlist in the Navy, but had been turned down. His technical skills, he was told, were needed elsewhere. The horrors of war had found him nonetheless. He had seen the remains of sailors scooped from ventilation ducts or scraped from the bulkheads of damaged ships brought back for repair. The war had become very personal for Jack Emerson. A part of him sailed on all the ships he built. And as best he could, he followed reports of their actions posted on the company bulletin board. He shared their victories and defeats. When one was sunk, something of himself died too. This was Emerson's War.
He put his coffee cup on a shelf and spread a thick roll of ship's plans over the drafting table. An identification number was stenciled on the top sheet: Hull 5370. When the sections were joined in steel, they would become a Fletcher-class destroyer, 376 ½ feet in length--one of the most modern fighting ships afloat.
Emerson ran his thumb along the schedule and noted that her keel was to be laid down that morning. Gathering the plans, he put on a hard hat and hurried to watch as a crane operator swung the first thick I-beam into the building way. Emerson checked the weld and judged it sound. Then he stepped back and sighted along the joint. A destroyer was starting to take shape before his eyes.
Hull 5370 was launched on October 10, 1942, and christened the USS Mullany, in honor of a Civil War officer cited for bravery. Over the next six months, she was fitted out with five 5-inch guns--two mounted forward, three aft--and a battery of quick-firing 40-mm. Bofors and lesser 20s. There were depth-charge racks on the fantail and torpedo launchers amidships. Finally, she was painted a steel gray, with the number 528 showing proudly on her bow and stern.
At precisely 3:10 p.m. on April 23, 1943, a total of 329 enlisted men and 18 officers fell in on deck for the ritual commissioning. They stood at ease as a stocky figure wearing the shoulder boards of a lieutenant commander stepped forward to address them.
He was Baron J. Mullaney, 38, of New Bedford, Mass., the USS Mullany's first captain. The similarity between his name and his ship's led to scuttlebutt that Navy brass, believing Mullaney to be a descendant of the Civil War hero, had considered him an apt choice for the command.
Mullaney's welcoming speech was brief. "Boys, I'm going to have to learn how to get along with you," he told the crew. Then, turning to his officers, he added, "And, gentlemen, you will have to learn to get along with me!" For the crew, especially the older salts, Baron Mullaney was off on the right foot.
Jack Emerson was among those watching as DD-528 slipped past the ways and outfitting pier and headed out to sea. He was already at work on three more destroyer hulls, but there was something special he felt for the Mullany.
"How long do you think she'll hold together?" a welder asked him. Emerson smiled and shrugged. Since they were still learning how to build them, it was hard to guess at the useful life of such a warship. With normal wear and tear, maybe 15 years. With luck swimming beside her like a pilot fish, it might be longer. And then, of course, she could be sunk at any time.
Into Harm's Way

Ensign Oliver "Hap" Hazard Perry, Jr., fresh out of the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, caught up with the Mullany in September 1943 on tiny Adak, one of the Aleutian Islands curving southwest from Alaska. The son of a Tennessee sheriff, Hap Perry was the namesake of Oliver Hazard Perry, the War of 1812 Naval hero who penned the famous words "We have met the enemy and they are ours."

Perry was shown to his cabin, which contained a bunk for himself and another for the executive officer, a writing desk and an overhead bulb caged in wire. Later, sitting in the wardroom with fellow officers, he was brought up to date on recent events noted in the ship's log. It recorded three submarine contacts--the first one 45 miles off San Diego, only a week into the Mullany's shakedown cruise. But all were inconclusive. It was thought that the last target was not an enemy sub at all--but a whale.
Since her commissioning, the Mullany had been assigned to Destroyer Squadron 24 in the Aleutians on escort duty. This would all change soon enough, when they were ordered directly into harm's way.
On November 29, the sailors weighed anchor and turned toward the deep-blue rollers of the Pacific. Their destination: Cape Gloucester on the northwestern tip of the island of New Britain. They were to take part in General MacArthur's effort to isolate the Japanese naval bastion at Rabaul, the island's chief port.
A current of excitement--and, for some, fear--ran through the ship as Captain Mullaney told the crew that they were to participate in a major landing operation. Their mission was to screen the heavy cruisers that would soften up the shore prior to landings by the Army units and the crack U.S. First Marine Division. Intelligence reports radioed by Australian coast-watchers deep in enemy territory suggested that several thousand Japanese troops were in the area. Opposition was expected to be heavy.
The action began on December 26. The dim outline of the island was barely visible from the bridge of the Mullany, but the officers and men on deck could smell the jungle, sweet and fetid. So dense were the mangrove swamps that Christopher Columbus once said about this coast: "not even a cat could land." But the Marines had found a small stretch of beach.
The suddenness of the opening bombardment caught electrician's mate Glen Miller of Durand, Mich., unprepared. It nearly knocked him from his perch above the aft steering compartment. Recovering, he watched the salvos from the cruisers arc across the sky toward shore. They were red-hot from the friction of the gun tubes, reminding him of auto tail lights climbing a steep hill on a dark country road. Despite the headset that he wore, he felt the concussions punch his eardrums. The shells exploded inland from the beach with deadly precision.
By late afternoon Mullaney had gonged his crew to action stations three times, as large formations of Japanese dive bombers and fighters from Rabaul approached the beachhead. In the Mullany's Combat Information Center, a narrow compartment jampacked with plotting boards and glowing radar screens, Hap Perry relayed the course and altitude of enemy planes to American P-38 "Lightning" fighters.
But the Japanese planes passed high overhead. They had mistaken the task force's main objective and were hitting a smaller U.S. beachhead on the opposite side of the island. The sky was crisscrossed with contrails as dogfights broke out, but the Japanese were well out of range of the Mullany's guns.
Enemy planes returned several hours later, and this time there was no error. The sky was shredded by bursts of anti-aircraft fire, the sea foamy from the wakes of warships twisting to avoid the attackers. Mullaney ordered the engine rooms to go to flank speed. The sailors clutched for support as the ship heeled into violent zigzags. Suddenly a "Zero" fighter swooped close to the water, a P-38 on its tail. There was the tearing rip of .50-caliber machine guns, and the Japanese fighter smacked into the sea and cartwheeled across the waves like a crippled duck.
Despite heavy losses, the enemy planes managed to break through. The Brownson, a destroyer like DD-528, was hit squarely amidships by two 500-pound bombs and broke in two. Gone within minutes, she took 108 men to the bottom.
Three other destroyers were damaged, but the Mullany was several miles away during the worst of the raid. Captain Mullaney knew that they had been lucky, and the first hint of a legend began to grow: that the Mullany, and she alone, had been chosen to survive.
The feeling received strong reinforcement only a week later, on the afternoon of January 4, 1944. Lulled by the heat, Lt. (jg) H. B. Britton, of Farmington, Conn., gazed at the horizon from a wing of the bridge. Nothing.
Then he lowered his eyes to the middle distance--and froze. The unmistakable wake of a torpedo was streaking toward them from less than 100 yards away, aimed dead center. Britton screamed a warning, and braced for the explosion. It never came. The torpedo sped cleanly under the ship.
Hap Perry, awakened by the general-quarters gong, bolted from his compartment. He paled when he heard the news. The torpedo--with more than 1000 pounds of high explosives in its warhead--would have detonated almost directly beneath his bunk.
Captain Mullaney ordered engines full, and charged down the torpedo's wake, while sonar operators hunted for the submarine. But no trace was ever found. Mullaney figured the Japanese commander must have taken the DD-528 for a larger warship and set the torpedo to run too deep. Death had missed their keel by inches.
Mullaney delivered a blistering warning to his watch officers: laxity on the bridge would not be tolerated. But superstition has always been a sailor's companion. Some of the older hands privately took the incident as an omen of invulnerability.
Surprise Victory

For the rest of January 1944 Mullany, along with her sister ship Ammen, ranged along the coasts of New Guinea and New Britain, then retired to Sydney, Australia, for a routine overhaul. Remarkably, few repairs were needed. It was as though she thrived on the wear and tear of the months at sea. Other ships were plagued by burned-out propeller-shaft bearings, jammed gun mounts, troublesome electrical circuits. The constant vibration of high speed took a toll on machinery, and malfunctions were epidemic among destroyers.

For DD-528, however, the chores were mostly of the housekeeping kind: the boilers scrubbed of soot, the bottom cleaned of drag-producing sea growth.
By early March she was back in action. General MacArthur's troops had just gone ashore on Manus and Los Negros in the Admiralty Islands. At first, their progress was rapid. But then they met fanatical resistance as they neared Hyane and Seeadler Harbor.
The Mullany was ordered to escort two minesweepers into Seeadler Harbor to clear the way for reinforcements. On the bridge, the captain studied the shoreline. He did not like what he saw. The entrance to the harbor was too tight for comfort. They would pass within only 500 yards of suspected Japanese coastal guns--at point-blank range.
Mullaney prepped the likeliest ambush sites with a two-minute barrage from the five-inch guns. There was no response, but he remained uneasy. Rather than permit the minesweepers to enter first, he preceded them, ordering DD-528's speed to 20 knots and gingerly sliding through the narrow inlet. His instincts were correct. They had been mousetrapped.
Torpedoman 3rd Class William T. Skidmore, at his action station beside the three 20-mm. guns on the fantail, ducked as the first Japanese shell screeched overhead. It was quickly followed by another, then a third. Muzzle blasts from the enemy guns were clearly visible, and Skidmore was so close to the explosions that he was drenched with spray.
The Japanese had straddled them with the first salvos. The next would be dead on target. "Left full rudder," Mullaney commanded. "Go to flank speed."
He conned the Mullany to where the last shell had hit the bay. He guessed right. The next shot fell short. But the Japanese corrected their aim, and bracketed the ship again. This time Mullaney shortened the range, and the enemy overshot. He was maneuvering the 376-foot destroyer as though she were a sports car.
Within minutes Mullaney had feinted his way to safety. Clear of the harbor, he turned the ship broadside and opened up with everything he had. Sister ships Ammen and Bush joined the bombardment, as did the Australian destroyer Warramunga.
Their next attempt to clear the entrance to the harbor was a repeat of the first. Cunningly, the Japanese had withheld fire from several heavy guns, and the Americans failed to detect them. Opening up anew, the Japanese straddled the Mullany again and again, and raked her with light machine-gun and automatic-cannon fire.
Mullaney maneuvered the ship about the harbor, twisting and turning through the explosions. Their luck continued to hold; they escaped to the open sea without casualties. The crew was relieved to learn that they would not be going back. The fleet commanders, convinced that the harbor was impassable without heavier firepower, ordered the destroyers to withdraw.
The battle for control of Seeadler raged throughout the day and into the next. At seven o'clock the following evening, March 3, cavalrymen on shore called frantically for help. They were in danger of being overrun by a counterattack.
Mullaney ordered the ship taken close enough to "hit 'em with a potato." Coordinating her fire with a spotter on the beach, the Mullany hammered the Japanese for 15 minutes with five-inch projectiles and 20-mm. shells. The enemy reeled under the barrage, then fell back in disorder. Mullaney later learned that his ship had saved a full company of cavalrymen from almost certain annihilation.
The next day, Japanese resistance at Seeadler began to crumble. With only a few shells left in her magazines, the Mullany was recalled for ammunitioning and refueling, but not before receiving a commendation for the close-quarters risks the officers and men had taken, and the American lives they had saved.
Mullaney had planned a surprise for just such an occasion. During the ship's stopover in Sydney, he had secretly loaded 25 cases of beer into a locked compartment under the stern. Now he ordered a ration broken out for every man coming off watch.
Soon a signalman handed him a message from the captain of the destroyer Arunta, following closely astern: "Our compliments. Be advised that you are leaving a trail of bottles. Suggest you break same before jettisoning!"
Underwater War

In August 1944, Baron Mullaney received orders transferring him to a tour of duty with a new ship. The Mullany's new captain was Cmdr. Albert O. Momm, 42, a lean, graying father of three from Irvington, N.J. New shipmates were taken on board, duty reassignments were announced and promotions posted. Hap Perry, who had just become a lieutenant (jg), took charge of all the ship's armaments as her chief gunnery officer.

DD-528 had acquired a fighting reputation. Her gunnery was among the best in the task force, her engines seemingly trouble-free. Eight small palm trees had been painted on the side of her gun-director turret. Each symbolized a successful bombardment.
Commander Momm had only a month to get the feel of his ship and size up the crew; then they joined General MacArthur's massive assault on the Philippines. The invasion armada reached almost to the horizon and included hundreds of warships and transports. In recognition of her outstanding combat record, the Mullany was selected to escort MacArthur himself, who was aboard the light cruiser Nashville.
The first landing was successfully completed on October 20 on the island of Leyte. But the enemy had developed a deadly new tactic. Americans were encountering the suicide pilots called "kamikazes"--the "divine wind."
Armed with 500-pound bombs strapped beneath their wings, the Japanese torpedo planes hurtled down upon the U.S. fleet. To the Western mind the concept of such suicide dives was unthinkable. But they were effective.
There was only one way to stop the kamikazes: blow them out of the sky. The gunners on the Mullany were bleary-eyed, for sleep was out of the question. In the suffocating confines of the gun-director turret, Hap Perry was bathed in sweat, groggy from fatigue.
For a week, the battle for Leyte Gulf seesawed with devastating losses on both sides. Momm sensed that his crew was nearing the limits of endurance. But on October 26, the Mullany received an urgent message from MacArthur's flagship: lookouts had just spotted a torpedo wake passing under the flagship's stern.
The safekeeping of the Nashville was Momm's primary responsibility. Immediately he ordered flank speed. Sonar and sound men began probing for the hidden submarine, but there was no telltale echo.
Momm swung the destroyer back and forth like a hound on the scent, heeling first to port, then to starboard. Suddenly the senior sonar operator clamped his headset tighter to his ears and peered intently at the lines that danced across the oscilloscope screen.
"Got him!" he called out. "Contact bearing zero-eight-three degrees true; range is 1100."

Momm made a dry run over the target for confirmation. The sonar operator counted off the yards. "Range is 400 and closing."

The sound man reported the measured thrash of propellers far below. Momm consulted the depth finder. The bottom of Leyte Gulf was 65 fathoms down--390 feet. It was the limit to which a submarine could safely go without being crushed by the pressure of the surrounding ocean. They had him pinned. Momm groped for his opponent's mind and tried to remember lessons learned long ago. This would be a game of hide-and-seek, and loser would die.
Momm decided to attack. "Use five charges from the racks," he ordered. "Five-second interval, six from the 'K' guns. Settings will be 250 and 300 feet."
The destroyer trembled as Momm turned into his attack run.

"Mark! Fire one!"

In quick succession, the depth charges--they resembled 50-gallon oil barrels and carried 600 pounds of explosives each--rattled off the racks on the fantail and splashed into the sea. Then the "K" guns fired with hollow booms, lofting charges out to port and starboard, widening the pattern.

Seconds later the sea seemed to shiver; then it erupted with towering columns of water. The sound man had snatched the headset from his ears so that he would not be deafened. Now both he and the sonar operator again searched the depths, probing to regain contact.
"Range is now 200 yards. Contact has slowed to three knots."
Momm sensed that the sub was wounded and was attempting to creep away, using the explosions to hide her direction. The Japanese commander was no amateur. But they had shaken him badly, perhaps fatally.
In just over an hour they had dropped or fired 38 depth charges. Then at 10:37 p.m., the contact disappeared. Momm ordered the engines stopped and asked for total silence. The ship sat quiet as a ghost, waiting, listening.
The officers believed that the submarine lay on the bottom, flooded. But Momm was unable to confirm a kill. It was too dangerous to use the searchlights to spot floating debris. If the sub had somehow survived and was nearby, they would become a perfect target.
The vigil went on for hours, but they did not regain contact. At last the crew stood down from general quarters. Coffee was ready in the galley, and a meal prepared, the first hot food in 24 hours. The sea beneath the destroyer was silent.
Losses in the waters around the Philipines were severe, but DD-528 survived again. And when the battle was over, the ship sailed home to the West Coast. On November 24, 1944, the USS Mullany passed again under the Golden Gate Bridge. The destroyer returned to the Bethlehem yards for a general overhaul, and also to receive new electronics, jamming gear and gun directors to counter the kamikazes.
Hull superintendent Jack Emerson paused to watch the destroyer glide by in the early evening, with the crew--dressed in formal blues--standing in formation on her decks. He was pleased to note that she appeared unscathed. Emerson had helped build 15 Fletcher-class destroyers since the USS Mullany was launched. Some had not been as lucky as she.
Hoel, for example, was gone, now resting on the bottom of the ocean. So was Abner Read. Repaired after hitting a mine in the Aleutians, she was sunk in Leyte Gulf by a kamikaze. Emerson had done his best to keep track of the ships. His score card had become increasingly grim.
During the three-week stay in San Francisco, bachelor Hap Perry went on a blind date arranged by a fellow officer. Soon he was in love and tempted to propose marriage. But what if they didn't come back? He delayed the decision.
On January 12, 1945, the destroyer sailed again. By April it was in position off Okinawa, scene of the bloodiest of all U.S. naval engagements in the Pacific.
"He'll Hit Us!"

Takeichi Minoshima lay on his mattress and stared into the darkness. He wondered if he would find the strength at the end. Some kamikaze pilots lost their nerve, parachuting or ditching into the sea.

Dawn came bright and clear. There was a taste of spring in the air, and Minoshima could smell cherry blossoms. Some 90 pilots gathered on the grass outside the barracks and took careful notes as they listened to the briefing officer. Around them, they could hear the cough and growl of the first flights warming up.
The weather over Okinawa was overcast with periods of light drizzle, but scout planes had reported that the American ships could be easily seen and identified. The briefing ended with loud cries of "Banzai!" and the raising of swords.

At 3 p.m. Minoshima settled into the narrow cockpit of his green Nakajima Ki-43 fighter, a plane known to the Americans as an "Oscar," and slipped his samurai sword behind the seat. He adjusted the throttle, then reached for the ignition switch.

The propeller turned and, as the engine caught, became a shimmering blur. He could feel the grass clutch at his wheels. At once he was free, hurtling down the field.
He had a fleeting glimpse of schoolgirls who were standing beside the runway, waving branches of cherry blossoms at him. Minoshima saluted as he sped past. Then the plane staggered into the air, fighting against the unexpected weight of the bomb and the extra 200-liter gas tank under his wings.
Moments later he was over the ocean, keeping low to the whitecaps to avoid U.S. radar. Okinawa was two hours away, but Minoshima and his comrades would fly an indirect route to confuse any unseen U.S. patrol planes. Twisting in his seat, he checked on the position of his fellow pilots. Knowing that they would die together, they had become inseparable in flight school. All in Minoshima's group were accounted for, strung out behind him at half-mile intervals.

Life was not meaningless to Minoshima. He was the son of a farmer and had tended crops since he was a boy. Still, he would willingly sacrifice himself if it helped delay Japan's defeat by a single day. He had written a careful last letter to his parents:

"Thank you for everything you have done for all these years," he began. "I was brought up in the clean water of my home. Now the wings of justice are about to flutter. In the sky of my home to which warm spring must soon come, I am leaving an unforgettable memory of a valiant Japanese warrior." Minoshima recognized that it was dangerous to let his mind wander to such things and wiped them from his mind.
He checked his watch. It was just after 5 p.m.--time to turn onto the final leg. He dipped his wings as a signal to the pilots that he was about to bank onto the new heading. There was no other way to communicate. Radios were too precious to waste on one-way missions. And the only link to his base was a "screech" button installed on the control stick. He was to press it when he began his dive, and a high-frequency signal would tell controllers that his mission was fulfilled.
Minoshima peered ahead. He could make out the black puffs of anti-aircraft fire against the gray backdrop of the sky, columns of smoke, the faint smudge of the island. He signaled his wingmen by waggling his wings, increased power and began to climb. The wakes of small gunboats appeared below, but there was a large vessel on the horizon, alone and unprotected. He banked for a closer look. As if sensing that she had been singled out, the ship increased speed. The sea foamed at her stern, and he saw the twinkle of muzzle flashes as the deck guns opened fire.
Takeichi Minoshima ignored the shell bursts and tracers that rose toward him. He had made his decision. He crouched lower in his seat and rolled the Nakajima into a dive, centering the plane's nose on the ship. Then he pushed the screech button on the control stick.
Below, on the Mullany, Commander Momm rang the gong for general quarters. The alarm caught Hap Perry in the middle of a coffee break. He ran from the wardroom and scrambled up past the bridge to the gun director. The forward Bofors 40-mm. guns were in action, their reports echoing throughout the ship with a constant thump, thump, thump, their tracers converging on what appeared to be an Oscar coming in dead ahead.
"Range 4000!" shouted a man next to Perry.

"All guns on automatic," Perry ordered. "Go to rapid fire."

The five-inch guns slammed out a salvo. The Oscar faltered, and flames licked its engine.
"Range 2000!"

Bits and pieces of debris blew off the fuselage of the incoming airplane. What is holding it together? Lieutenant Perry wondered.

On the bridge, Commander Momm watched as the plane grew larger. Everything seemed to move in slow motion. Another 40-mm. shell exploded against the airplane engine. But the pilot regained control and kept coming. Momm saw the wink of his twin nose-mounted cannons. Tracers flashed by overhead.
"Left full rudder!" he shouted. "Back two-thirds on the port engine."
Momm hoped to swing the destroyer out of the plane's path. Reversing one propeller would speed the turn in that direction. Since tremendous strain would be put on the engines, it was a maneuver of desperation. He held his breath as the bow began to veer away--but slowly, too slowly.
As the Mullany at last responded to her helm, she cleared a field of fire for the port Bofors guns amidships. Merlin Halbisen of Clyde, Ohio, hefted clip after clip into the hot breeches. Each of them weighed more than 20 pounds, but to Halbisen they felt as light as down pillows. He looked up for a split second. Horrified, he saw that the fighter was almost upon them. He could make out the figure of the pilot in the cockpit--and the 500-pound bomb under the plane's left wing.
"He'll hit us!" a sailor yelled. It looked as though the Mullany's luck had run out.
Dead in the Water

At 300 M.P.H. the Oscar crashed into the after deckhouse with a shattering explosion that lifted the Mullany
from the sea and pushed her sideways. Gasoline from the fighter plane ignited in a huge fireball, engulfing one of the Bofor mounts and a five-inch-gun turret. The flames ran in rivers toward the depth-charge racks.

For the briefest of moments the destroyer became eerily quiet. Then the silence was pierced by the screams of the wounded and dying. In the No. 4 magazine two decks below, 19-year-old Martin Dubilier of New Rochelle, N.Y., rose dazedly and looked about him. He was the only man left alive in the compartment.
Destiny has spared him by a hairbreadth. At the instant of impact, Dubilier had stooped to retrieve a religious medal that had fallen from a chain around his neck--and thus he avoided a blow-torch of fire that shot out from the air duct. His shipmates in No. 4 magazine were incinerated from the waist up.
Dubilier passed out. When he came to, he found himself on the main deck. He did not know how he got there. His scalp was scorched and most of his clothes had been blown off. But incredibly, the religious medal was secure in a pocket of his charred dungarees. Later he would turn down thousands of dollars for the medal, as others sought the same good fortune.
The aft repair party that had been sheltering in the deckhouse was wiped out almost to a man, killed by concussion. Five crewmen died in the Bofors mount just above; seven more in the ammunition handling room below the five-inch-gun turret. From nearly amidships to the fantail, DD-528 was an inferno.
Lt. Robert Elmore reached the bridge seconds after the plane hit. He found Commander Momm trying to assess the damage. But all communications lines were out. The destroyer had also lost more than half of her armament. Aft of the bridge, the guns pointed aimlessly at the sky.
"See if you can get back there, Bob," Momm shouted. "Bring me a damage report."
Elmore tried to work his way to the stern, but was met by a wall of fire. One of the Bofors gun loaders had been pinned between the wreckage of the deckhouse and a depth charge "K" gun. As Elmore watched, unable to help, the loader was consumed in flames. The dying man's screams echoed in Elmore's ears.
Both engine rooms were deserted, knee-deep in oil. Bulkheads had collapsed like tissue paper. And there was no water pressure in the hoses to fight the fires. Under the intense heat, depth charges detonated, the TNT tearing huge holes in the deck above the crew's quarters.
Rivets whirred through the superstructure and ricocheted off anti-aircraft tubs like machine-gun bullets. Clips of 40-mm. ammunition cooked off with sharp cracks. Even flakes of paint pitted and sliced the faces of those attempting to control the flames.
Meanwhile, 4000 feet above the destroyer, the several remaining Japanese pilots were circling. A second Oscar had crossed the ship's bow and was already into its dive, boring in. It would soon be followed by a third, then a fourth.
"Range 2000!"
"Go to rapid fire," Perry ordered.
The Oscar lurched, skidded and spun into the sea. A minute later, the next plane burst into flames and disintegrated. The gunners reported seeing the pilot fall from the cockpit. The last kamikaze was hit even before its run. Wobbling, rapidly losing altitude, it turned away.
DD-528 might be sinking beneath him, but at this moment, Hap Perry owned the sky.
"Abandon Ship!"

Lieutenant Elmore returned to the bridge with grim news. A deck officer had reported that a bulkhead of one of the aft magazines was hot. If the flames reached the ammunition, there wouldn't be enough crew left to collect in a small fishing net.

There was no water pressure aft, but a forward repair party had succeeded in beating back part of the blaze with hoses connected to intact lines. Handy-billies--small, portable pumps--were cooling the remaining depth charges with sea water. .
Several ships had sped to the rescue and were now standing by to take on survivors. The destroyer Purdy had closed in and was hosing down the deck with its own equipment. But no one had been able to get at the fires below. Every attempt had been blocked by the twisted wreckage and the heat..
Elmore and Momm locked eyes. Both knew the finality of a magazine explosion. There was not much time. Yet Momm hesitated. This destroyer was his first command and he could not bear to leave her. "What do you think, Bob?" the captain asked..
Elmore had seen magazines go up before--few of the crew, if any, would survive. They had no choice. "Get the men off," he said. "She's gonna blow."
Momm nodded to a seaman who was standing by the loudspeaker. The announcement crackled out across the decks..
"Abandon ship! All hands abandon ship!"
Up forward, the crew began to lower launches into the sea. But on the stern, cut off by flames, it was every man for himself. The destroyer had begun to list.
By nightfall most of the Mullany's surviving officers and crew were safely  aboard the other destroyers and minesweepers. They sat silently on the decks, huddled in blankets, waiting for the explosion that must surely come. Minutes passed, then hours. But DD-528 refused to die. Indeed, the fires were subsiding. Her hull and after deckhouse cooled and blended into the night.
Albert Momm, standing on the bridge of the destroyer Purdy, swept her length with binoculars. Had the flames retreated from the magazine? he wondered. There was no way of knowing unless he got back on board. Could he take such a chance?
Momm waited a half-hour, then reached his decision. He asked for volunteers, a skeleton crew of some 50 key electricians, engineers and ship handlers. He stressed the risks, but no one declined.

Momm motored between the rescue ships and collected the men in two whaleboats. By 11 p.m. they were alongside the destroyer. Lieutenant Elmore could smell the stench of charred flesh, yet the hull plates themselves were cold to the touch.

Momm reboarded forward, while Elmore led his own team onto the deck amidships. Near the rail he stumbled over a soft object and nearly fell. Elmore focused his flashlight. The beam shone upon Takeichi Minoshima's upturned face! The kamikaze pilot's features were undamaged, peaceful, as if he were asleep. The body was missing below the shoulders.
Elmore grimaced and stepped aside. The two rescue teams fanned out, picking their way through the debris. The condition of the aft engine room was hopeless, flooded under six feet of oil. But the forward fire room was clear. The two boilers were intact and the turbo-generators in the adjoining engine compartment appeared operable.
The chief engineer went below to see if the boilers could be restarted. Elmore headed for the bridge. "They think we can fire up two of the four boilers," he told Momm. "But we'll only have the starboard engine."
Both men knew that it would be a race against time and odds. Dawn was only five hours away, and the protection of the anchorage at the American-held island of Kerama Retto lay 30 miles to the south. They did not want to be caught at daylight adrift, helpless. The kamikazes were sure to be back. And this time they would finish the job.
Deep in the ship, the damage-control parties, struggled to meet the deadline. Oil, water and steam lines were purged, examined for cracks. The aft engine and fire rooms had to be sealed off, isolated, and hull inspected. There was only dim emergency lighting to see by. And an undetected short-circuit or a fuel leak could be disastrous..
Midnight came and went.
Then, a half-hour later, Momm's walkie-talkie on the bridge crackled to life. The watch had been set in the forward engine room; the men were ready to ignite the boilers. The ship stirred. Steam began to escape from a funnel as pressure was bled off. The main lighting system flickered as the turbo-generators cut in.
In the emergency steering room below the stern, electrician Glen Miller felt DD-528 come to life with the first tentative turns of her starboard propeller shaft. He and his crew would have to guide the destroyer by hand, hugging the coastline, wrestling the rudder controls against the drag of the sea.
There was no radar, so their progress was made with dead-reckoning, rule-of-thumb headings. They could only guess at the location of hidden reefs and shallows. But as dawn streaked the eastern sky, they sighted the harbor. Slowly, painfully, DD-528 limped to safety.

Sailors lined the rails of ships already at anchor and watched silently as the Mullany steamed through the harbor entrance at Kerama Retto. On the bridge, Lieutenant Elmore glanced aft. For the first time he clearly saw the horror.

Blackened bodies, their limbs swollen like cooked sausages, were sprawled across the ruptured decks. A seaman who had been blown from the aft Bofors fire-director hung upside down from the gun mount, his feet entangled in the wreckage. Others, arms extended, had been trapped near the deckhouse.
It would take more than a full day to identify the dead. And others would remain unaccounted for. They had simply vanished in the explosion. In all, 21 men had died; nine were missing, and another 36 had been wounded.
Returning from the rescue ships, the remaining survivors were stunned by what they saw. Martin Dubilier stared in disbelief at one body bag. It was tagged with his own name, rank and serial number. He drew the error to an officer's attention.
There was, however, no mistake about his buddy Joe Brett, a pharmacist's mate. He had been killed instantly when the Oscar crashed into the deckhouse. Dubilier had made a pact with Brett that if one did not survive the war, the other would attend midnight mass in his honor on Christmas Eve. For the next 20 years, Martin Dubilier would honor that vow.
William T. Skidmore also mourned friends. Assisting the ship's doctor in the grisly task of identification, he was able to recognize one of them only from a wedding ring on a severed finger. "Literally blown to pieces," the doctor wrote in his notebook.
The losses suffered at Okinawa were to become the worst in U.S. Navy history. By the time the campaign was over, more than 4500 officers and crew had lost their lives, and the suicidal Japanese pilots had sunk 30 American ships. The Mullany was not one of the fatalities, but for her this war was over.
On April 26 she weighed anchor from Kerama Retto and turned her bow to the east. It had taken repair crews nearly three weeks to cut away the wreckage and weld steel plates over the gaping holes in her decks. Even so, she was barely seaworthy.
Only the starboard engine remained in commission and the Mullany could make just 14 knots top speed. Her crew would have gladly paddled, however, for they had been ordered back to San Francisco. Mile by mile, Momm nursed the ship toward home, skirting storms, quartering through the big rollers to avoid putting too much stress on the hull and engine. To his relief, there was no sign of enemy submarines.
Hap Perry held daily anti-aircraft drills. But they were now well out of range of Japanese planes, and he could tell that his gunners' adrenalin had stopped surging. He couldn't blame them. He himself sometimes sought the privacy of his small cabin to plan the language he'd use in a letter proposing marriage to his girl.
In Hawaii, Commander Momm was transferred to the staff of the Seventh Fleet. As for the future of the ship herself, there was no word. She was to complete repairs and await orders.

On May 29, 1945, at exactly 4:47 on a brilliant spring afternoon, DD-528 made fast her lines to Berth 19 at the Bethlehem shipyards. Fitters and welders drifted down to look her over. It was hard to imagine that she had taken such damage and stayed afloat--and then crossed the Pacific on her own.

The aft deckhouse had vanished. The hull and other structures that remained were badly scorched. Temporary plates hid jagged holes. Many had been welded askew and created the impression of a poorly stitched quilt.
Jack Emerson soon learned of the destroyer's arrival and went to see her. Yard inspectors told him that it would take three months to repair the damage. The aft fire and engine rooms were severely damaged. New boilers and generators would be needed. But they had seen worse. DD-528 would serve again--somewhere, sometime.
On August 10, 1945--the day Japan announced it would accept Allied surrender terms--the Mullany's four boilers were relit and she stood out from San Francisco, bound for the gunnery range off Southern California and a two-week shakedown cruise. Except for a nagging vibration in the port engine, she could have been brand new.
Most of the officers and crew viewed the voyage as pointless. And indeed, the destroyer's fate was even then being decided. As quick as America had been to build her arsenal of liberty, she would disassemble it with even greater speed. In late September, during a short visit to Pearl Harbor, the ship was recalled to the mainland.
Her destination: Charleston, S.C. The USS Mullany was to be deactivated and "mothballed"--along with hundreds of other warships. Many would be reawakened only to be towed away as gunnery targets, or sold for scrap--turned into "razor blades."
It seemed a shabby end for a destroyer with seven battle stars, a score of commendations, the symbols of six Japanese planes and 11 palm trees stenciled on her gun-director turret.
In October 1945, the Mullany nosed into her anchorage at Charleston, and the crew began the job of shrouding her guns and radars. Then, in twos and threes, they were demobilized and returned to civilian life. Robert Elmore, now a lieutenant commander, was gone, having left for San Diego. Martin Dubilier, who owed his life to a religious medal, was discharged in November. Merlin Halbisen and Glen Miller were home for Christmas. Hap Perry was given leave to get married. He decided to stay in the Navy and attend submarine school.
On the afternoon of February 14, 1946, the USS Mullany, DD-528, was officially deactivated. The bridge, the turrets and the companionways were dark and empty. No sunlight penetrated her masked portholes and hatches, and the only sound was the faint rumble of dehumidifiers in the engine and boiler rooms. The only signs of life were the footprints of watchmen in a thin blanket of snow. The ship slept.
The Missing Logs

The island of Taiwan, little more than 200 miles in length and roughly the size of Massachusetts and Connecticut combined, lies less than an hour's flight from mainland China. It is a prosperous country of 20 million, built largely by those who fled across the Formosa Strait in 1949 to escape the communist armies of Mao Zedong.

Because they were refugees and had nowhere else to go, the Taiwanese have fiercely defended their independence. The country's navy, although modest by Western standards, is well-trained and efficient, designed to patrol and protect the strait that separates the island from the mainland.
Taiwan has no battleships or aircraft carriers, but instead depends on a small fleet of destroyers and frigates. The oldest of the ships is a converted guided-missle destroyer, which arrived nameless in the port of Kaohsiung on December 20, 1971. After a year in the repair yards, she was officially reborn as the Republic of China Ship Ching Yang. And in the next 16 years of trouble-free service, she would log more than 800 days at sea under a dozen captains, steaming almost a quarter of a million miles.
From the very first, the Ching Yang acquired a reputation as the fastest and most maneuverable destroyer in the Taiwanese fleet. True, none of her captains could quite explain the sudden vibrations that occasionally rattled through the ship. But since they did not seem to impair her performance, the mysterious tremors were soon forgotten.
All agreed that she was a lucky vessel, one that brought good fortune to those who sailed her. Four commanders had graduated from her bridge to become admirals. Service on the Ching Yang became a much sought-after assignment.
Capt. Ning Wang, 40, took over as ship's commander in December 1986. Like earlier commanders, Ning sensed that there was something special about the old destroyer--a feel, a smell, a sailor's instinct. On the bridge during the ship's weekly patrols of the strait, he often wondered about her previous life.
There were no records. The Ching Yang's log opened on the day that she was recommissioned in Kaohsiung. What had happened before was not known. If she had suffered wounds, they had long since healed. And of her former crews, there was not a clue left behind.
All this changed at 1100 hours, on the morning of November 20, 1987, when, to the trill of a bosun's pipe, Vice Admiral Oliver "Hap" Hazard Perry, Jr. (USN, Ret.), snapped off a salute to the officer of the deck and stepped on board his ship for the first time in 42 years.
Perry tried to hide his emotions, but his voice was husky as he shook hands with Captain Ning and a delegation of Taiwanese Navy officials who had reunited him with ex-DD-528. He looked past the television crews and newsmen lining the rails and scanned the decks. Two of the original five-inch guns were still in place--one forward, one aft. The twin funnels and the deckhouses were unchanged; the hatches and companionways seemed to lead to the same familiar places.
Perry found his tiny cabin the way he had left it. He sat down at the writing desk--the same one he had used almost 45 years earlier. The caged light was in its place. So was the metal chest of drawers and his old bunk against the hull. Throughout the ship, the brass compasses and voice tubes gleamed with polish.
Hap Perry hoped he had aged as well as his ship. He was now a grandfather, and sandy hair was streaked with gray; his once-boyish features were hardened and creased by years at sea. Perry had distinguished himself in the Navy. He had risen to command the world's most powerful nuclear submarines, the Polaris-armed Theodore Roosevelt and Sam Rayburn, as well as all NATO undersea forces in the Mediterranean.

Perry had retired in 1975 after 33 years, with three stars on his shoulder boards and chestful of campaign ribbons and decorations, including a Bronze Star and a Distinguished Service Medal. He had seen service on many ships, yet he was most proud of this one. She was his first. She had taken him to war and brought him home.

Perry had prepared a speech for his hosts. And when they finished lunching together, he rose and consulted his notes:
"Most of the things I did well I learned on this ship," he said. "And I can see that your officers and crew are just as proud of her as I was more than 40 years ago. I will relay this to Captain Momm, who has sent you his respects. I will treasure this moment for the rest of my life. Fair wind, smooth sailing to you all."
Perry swallowed his emotions and sat down. It was several moments before he could speak. Then he told them what they were all waiting to hear--the events set forth in the missing logs of the USS Mullany.
Ageless Warrior

The officers listened spellbound as Perry described the destroyer's bombardments of New Guinea, the struggle against kamikazes and submarines in Leyte Gulf, her near-death at Okinawa. As he spoke, it was as though he were thumbing through the dog-eared pages of the Mullany's log of voyages…

Marooned for five years in Charleston, the Mullany came out of retirement on March 8,1951. For two years DD-528 was assigned to the U.S. Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean Sea, tracking Soviet submarines at the height of the Cold War. Then she was transferred back to the Pacific Fleet. In February 1955, when the Chinese Communists launched attacks against Nationalist forces in the Formosa Strait, DD-528 set her course for the China Sea. In less than a month, she escorted eight convoys carrying 38,000 people from under the muzzles of Red Chinese guns.
Her most daring mission of mercy began on June 6, 1957. The Portuguese tanker Bornes, midway through the stormy Strait of Formosa, suffered an explosion in the engine room. DD-528 set out for the Bornes, almost 200 miles away, in a howling gale. Struggling against the mounting seas, the destroyer tossed like a cork in a washing machine.
After midnight on June 7, a lookout aboard the Mullany reported a faint light ahead. It was too risky to close with the stricken tanker, so volunteers lowered the destroyer's whale boat and steered through the giant waves toward the ship's lights.
By dawn the volunteers had made eight trips across the angry seas. A doctor operating in DD-528's wardroom managed to save two of the Portuguese sailors, stanching severe bleeding and suturing their wounds. A third sailor, hideously burned, was returned safely to a hospital in Kaohsiung. And the Bornes was able to reach port.
On July 6, 1965, the Mullany's five-inch guns were fired in anger for the first time since Okinawa. This time it was in support of the U.S. Seventh Marine Division landing at Qui Nhon, South Vietnam. The targets included Viet Cong mortar pits and rocket-launcher positions deep in the hills behind the beach.
The Mullany fired 91 rounds that day. Over the next three years, there would be thousands more. One month would find her with the big carriers searching for pilots forced to ditch in the Gulf of Tonkin, the next assigned to shore bombardment missions along the South Vietnamese coast. The accuracy of her five-inchers--still aimed by the original World War II computer--was legend. The Marines considered her call sign of "Bull's-eye" to be appropriate.

On July 9, 1968, USS Mullany left Vietnamese waters for the last time. During 137 days at sea, she had steamed 46,468 miles, nearly twice around the earth. Over a career that spanned 25 years, she would have circumnavigated the globe more than 40 times. Few ships have equaled that record.

By April 1971, DD-528 was the oldest active destroyer in the U.S. Navy, the last out of the Bethlehem yard to serve the nation. And her birthplace, Bethlehem's San Francisco shipyard, was on the verge of extinction, doomed by America's diminishing role in marine commerce. There were no more hulls for Jack Emerson to build. Still employed by Bethlehem, he was helping construct San Francisco's Bay Area Rapid Transit system.
Based in Long Beach, the Mullany spent the next two years steaming up and down the West Coast as a reserve training ship. Finally, in March 1971, the Navy decided to get rid of DD-528, and offered her up for sale. The price: $150,000, plus $3000 for "administrative" charges. The sum was equal to what she would have earned as scrap, an insulting bargain.
The government of Taiwan sent a team to examine the ship from keel to superstructure. Here and there hull plates had weakened; her engines were worn and cranky. But she was not beyond repair.
As Perry concluded his account, the Chinese captain apologized that he had nothing so dramatic to relate. Since tensions with Beijing had relaxed, Ching Yang's enemies were mostly just illegal fishermen and smugglers. Still, the destroyer remained alert and combat-ready, on patrol in the strait for two weeks every month.
Perry could feel the destroyer getting under way, the bulkheads trembling, her blowers feeding air to the boilers. For the rest of the day, they were at sea. There were gunnery drills and antisubmarine maneuvers. Operating on only two of her four boilers, the ship steamed into the strait at more than 20 knots. Perry was assured that she could still make full speed.
He turned to Wang and asked a question. The captain cupped his ear against the moan of the wind and leaned closer.
"How much longer will she last?" Perry shouted. "How many years?"
Wang smiled and shrugged. Then he held up the fingers on both hands. Perry did some fast arithmetic. By 1997 she would be well over a half-century old. It seemed impossible. He knew that the Mullany had been built to last the duration of the war. But beyond that lay uncharted waters.
ROCS Ching Yang returned to her berth that afternoon. Perry saluted the quarterdeck and was piped ashore. He turned to catch a final glimpse of the old destroyer, but her masts were already lost amid a cluster of others. Behind him, a yeoman on the Ching Yang was already recording the day's events in the ship's log: "1200 to 1400," he wrote in bold strokes, noting the time. And then he began his entry:
"Steaming as before...."
 This document is a copy of a transcription of the original "Feature Condensation" that appeared in the September 1989 edition of "Reader's Digest." Transcribed in the form of a Microsoft Word 2000 file by ETC J. K. Williams (USNR, Ret.), who served on board the USS Mullany during the years 1956-1957, every effort has been made to preserve the author's original text and grammar.