By Edgar Brodeur
I went aboard the newly built destroyer, USS Shea DM 30, in September 1944 at Norfolk, VA, as an Electrician Mate 2nd Class. Shortly after boarding and taking on supplies, the Shea left Norfolk for a shakedown trip to Bermuda. The object of this trip was to put the ship and crew through vigorous training during general quarters in preparation for our eventual involvement with the Japanese.
On our return to Norfolk from Bermuda, we encountered a severe storm off Cape Hatteras, N.C. The storm was so severe, the ship took a 41 degrees list and the steel deck was cracked full width. After repairs were completed, we left Norfolk, sailed through the Panama Canal and tied up at San Francisco for supplies.
While I went through all this activity, I knew that my brother Dick, a PBM Pilot, had .left the United States for Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii. I was hoping I could catch up with him for a visit.
We left San Francisco for Hawaii, and when we arrived, we tied up at Pearl Harbor and were scheduled to stay while changes were made to the Shea for special protective duty at a later date.
We were given shore leaves daily, so I went to the American Red Cross for help in locating Dick. They placed a call to the Naval Air Station at Kaneohe Bay, and Dick answered the phone.
We had a great conversation and planned to meet at a later date. We spent many enjoyable times together.
Dick left Hawaii for other islands en route to Saipan. When the Shea was ready, we left Hawaii for Ulithi, arriving there in late March, 1945. We took on supplies and ammunition and left Ulithi on March 26 — five days before the Okinawa invasion– accompanied by several other Destroyers and a fleet of minesweepers. Our job was to protect the sweepers from enemy aircraft and also to mark the swept areas with buoys.
After the Okinawa invasion on April 1, 1945, we were assigned radar picket duty on the outskirts of Okinawa. All this time, I was watching the sky for PBM aircraft because they were invaluable to warn of approaching aircraft and enemy ships.
On the morning of April 16, 1945, we proceeded at flank speed to assist another ship under heavy air attack and reported hit. En route we were attacked by a group of eight enemy planes, and within the short span of ten minutes, we had shot down six planes and assisted in a seventh. Our total plane tally was fifteen while we were at Okinawa.
A port on Okinawa — Kerama Rhetto — was set up as our supply base for food and ammunition. One day (the latter part of April, 1945), I saw a squadron of PBMs arriving at Kerama Rhetto, and one of the planes I saw was “J7” which was Dick’s plane. What an emotional feeling to know he was in the area. I was able to get a message to him, letting him know I could see his plane.
On May 2, 1945, Dick received permission to ride on a mail boat, and he came aboard the Shea to visit with me. What a great family reunion! Dick, being an officer, was invited to dine in the Officers’ Mess Hall, but he refused. He wanted to eat dinner with me in our mess hall below deck with regular crew members. I was extremely happy, and we had a great time. Dick went back to his plane, and we left for picket duty a very memorable occasion.
Two days later, May 4, 1945, the Shea was hit by a Japanese kamikaze Baka Bomb- damaging the ship and killing thirty-five shipmates. The Shea came back to the “Graveyard” for temporary repairs in preparation to leaving Okinawa. While we were at the Graveyard, I could see Dick’s plane and was able to get a message to him that I was OK signing the message with my name and “Poxie,” our dog at home.
At a later date, we returned to Philadelphia for repairs.
More on this article and more are found in the Spring 2013 MMA Newsletter.
The Mighty Mariner by H. Czarl Nancken
In The Naval Service During WWII, Brothers Meet Far From Home By Edgar Brodeur
Official Record – VP 46 by Michael D. Roberts
Assignments List – Third VP 45 by Michael D. Roberts
The Guardian Angels of the U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard by CDR Charles H. Zilch, US Navy (RET)
The Dependable PBM Martin Mariner Part 2 by Rix Shanline
VPB-28 South Pacific Action History
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