Floating Chrysanthemums


On April 6, 1945, the Imperial Japanese Navy launched the first of ten massive air attacks  –  featuring kamikaze planes  –  against Allied ships (yes, the British Navy did have a small task group of their ships as part of Task Force 58 and 38 at the very end of the War) off the coast of Okinawa. 524 planes attacked. Sixteen ships were heavily damaged; Destroyers Bush and Colhoun were sunk.

April 12 saw the second kikusui: 478 planes attacked and damaged the carrier Enterprise, and battleship Missouri.  Destroyer Mannert L. Abele was split in half and sunk by a kamikaze piloted V2 rocket (“Ohka”) that hurtled in on the ship at speeds exceeding 500 miles per hour.

Kikusui 3 on April 16 unleashed 507 planes against our ships, damaging the carrier Intrepid, the battleship Missouri (again) and sinking destroyer Pringle.

From April 21 to 29, Operation Kikusui 4, consisting of 856 planes, damaged many ships: minelayers, destroyers, and the clearly marked hospital ship USS Comfort.

On May 3, Operation Kikusi 5 began, unleashing 449 planes. In the mayhem that followed, many minelayers, minesweepers, destroyer escorts and LSM’s were attacked and damaged or sunk. Destroyers Little and Morrison were sunk, Ingraham was badly damaged.  On May 4, the light cruiser Birmingham, previously damaged in the Battle for Leyte Gulf, took a kamikaze hit in the forward gun turrets. Losses: 50+ sailors killed, more than 80 injured. The escort carrier Sagamon was hit: 11 dead and more than 30 injured.  British carriers HMS Indomitable and HMS Formidable were both hit; Formidable losing 8 men and another 47 injured.

Kikusui 6, (345 planes),  began on May 11.  On that day, the carrier Bunker Hill, fleet commander Admiral Marc Mitscher’s flagship was hit:


The plane crashed into the flight deck, which was loaded with gassed-up planes ready to take off. Seconds later, another kamikaze slammed into the flight deck next to the island, releasing its bomb below decks.  Massive fires took the lives of 389 men and seriously wounded another 264.  The Admiral was not wounded, but he lost fourteen staff members. He was forced to move his flag to the carrier Enterprise.  She was so heavily damaged she was towed off to Bremerton WA for repairs and never made it back to the War.  On May 14, Admiral Mitscher’s new flagship, the Enterprise, was slammed into by a kamikaze at the forward elevator. A spectacular explosion blew the elevator several hundred feet into the air, killing 14 men and wounding 67 more. Mitscher’s second home in three days was also towed off to Bremerton for repairs.  He was forced to move his flag to yet another carrier, the USS Franklin, just recently repaired from a kamikaze attack while she lay at anchor in Ulthi two months earlier on March 11th.

Sources: Wikipedia, A Bird’s Eye View of Heavy Cruiser USS Boston and Task Force 58 in Combat Operations Against the Empire of Japan  (S Kelly)

The amazing photo was among the amazing photos in the CA-69 folders at the National Archives, retrieved by Bill Kelly and with the help of Rivka Kelly.     80-G-323712 widesteve




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San Pedro


Our friend Bob Knight also talked about San Pedro:

I had a twenty-one day leave and I came home.  At that time, they had the DC3’s.  I spent most of the time on the flight home sitting on the coffee urn talking to the stewardesses.  We stopped in Texas and another place or two on the way home*.  After I went home, I headed back to San Pedro.  One of my old girlfriends from high school was married and living in San Pedro.  I visited her a couple of times.

My aunt had a cousin who lived in Hollywood, right next door to Walt Disney.  I got to meet Walt and tour some of the studios.  Jane Russell was just coming in at the time and I got a quick peek at her in the studio.

* Home for Bob was Medfield, Massachusetts, almost 20 miles south and east of Boston.

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While Okinawa raged on . . .


While Okinawa raged on, the men of the Boston were stateside, enjoying their hard-earned and well-deserved 21 day leaves.  While they were away, the ship was being worked on around the clock as she lie at anchor in San Pedro.

As you probably know, I had the rare and awesome opportunity to meet, interview, and becomes friends with six crewmembers (and one officer) of CA-69 while I was working on the Baked Beans books.  Each one of them told me amazing stories, many of which ended up in the books.  They all had great stories about what they did and where they went on leave.  They also had plenty of liberty time between when the ship arrived in San Pedro and left again right back into the War three months later.  John Farkas told this story:

We had lots of leave and liberty after we got back to San Pedro.  Me and a couple of buddies decided to hitchhike to Tijuana, Mexico.  So here we are bumming a ride on the freeway out of LA and we get picked up by none other than Bing Crosby.  When he found out where we were going, he had his driver bring us to a hotel.  He paid for the room and all we could eat and drink for our whole leave.  That kept us out of trouble.

One of the guys on the ship also went down to Tijuana.  Days later, they found him dead in a ditch by the side of the road.  Never did make it back to the ship.  I guess we were damned lucky.

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Joseph Pulaski


Pulaski Obit

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Joseph S. Pulaski, S1c


I received an email from Diane Balsam this morning.  She told me that her father, Joe Pulaski, aged 91, died earlier in the day.

I live on the “other coast’ from Diane, and, as such, I haven’t met her face to face.  Nor did I get the chance to meet her dad, Joseph, either. A few years back, Diane bought a set of Baked Beans and gave them to her dad.  When he read the memories a couple of his shipmates recounted about surviving the infamous Typhoon Cobra, Joe told her about his encounter with the massive storm.  Later, she emailed me this:

I was alone on watch at night on Quad 7 standing on the back part of the after stack as protection from the 100 foot high waves and wind.  I was above the water at least 100 feet when I saw a destroyer off the port side in the distance.  We made a maneuver and did a 40 plus degree roll.  I fell face down and was holding onto the catwalk steel mesh and was actually able to see the water as we rolled.  I started to pray that we would be safe.  The ship rolled back to the starboard side and I called Fire Control and asked where the destroyer was.  I was told, ‘Joe, it sank.’

I thought we were done and our ship would be next as I continued to pray.  The ship was watertight in integrity so all the hatches were closed.  I was one of the few guys above deck.  I continued my watch  –  four hours total.  I remember some survivors were picked up by our ship.   –   Joseph Pulaski.

Joseph was a CA-69 Plankowner, having mustered aboard the ship on Commissioning Day (June 30, 1943).  He came to the Boston after enlisting in the Navy in Syracuse, NY.

Diane tells me that his obituary will published in Syracuse later this week.





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