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World War II March 11, 1945. We are at fleet anchorage after returning from Iwo Jima, and Japanese areas. 2000 hours. I had just been relieved from watch in Rdo1, which is our main radio room in the Island structure, and had started walking aft on the flight deck. My rack, and also my GQ battle station, was Rdo#3. Radio 3 was a small emergency transmitter room on the Gallery deck, just under the flight deck, starboard side above the fan tail.

Normally I would write letters, and listen to Tokyo Rose, because she had the best Big Band music. I slept in RDO#3, because it was a lot cooler up there, than down on the 2nd deck, and also because it was my battle station. As I started aft, I heard music from the movie on the hangar deck. It was the Polonaise. I went down to the hangar deck, and stood at the rear, until it ended, at about 2007. I then started to walk aft on the hanger deck, to Rdo3.

Suddenly, there was a terrific white flash, explosion, and the ship shook violently! I was knocked flat on my behind. When I jumped up, there were men lying all over the place. A man just behind me had his head covered in blood, and when I stepped back to look down at him, I saw he was dead. Then GQ was sounded, the claxon going...bong, bong,bong,bong. " All hands, man your battle stations". The first few moments, we thought the ship might be going down. Fire, and 20mm cannon shells were exploding all over. The sprinkler system had automatically gone off, and we were drenched. Smoke was terrible. I saw a Marine Lt., and told him that my battle station was in flames, so he told me to help move planes out of the fire, and help the wounded.

By this time, we knew what happened. A twin engine Japanese bomber, named Frances, dove into our starboard quarter aft, just outside Rdo#3, her bombs exploded both at impact, and some exploded on the fan tail. The entire fantail area was aflame.

I helped move planes out of the fire, then a corpsman grabbed me, and told me to hold some guy s stomach in, while he got a doctor. This guys intestines were bubbling out, and I was so scared, I kept trying to push with both hands, but blood was so slippery, and my hands were shaking so badly, that I yelled for that corpsman, and by that time he had the doctor. By this time, my eyes were stinging me, and the smell of burned bodies, and smoke was awful. It took about three hours for the fire to be brought under control.

Then I went back to Rdo#3, but there was just a big hole outside, and our steel hatch had disappeared. They were bringing 3 bodies out, but we could not identify them. Later found out they were flight deck crew. I believe they were guys from the catapult group, who had gone into Rdo#3 to listen to music. No radiomen were in there. I would have been, if I hadn't stopped to listen to music. I then went up to Rdo#1, and as soon as I walked in, the Chief started screaming at me! "You will be court-martialled",etc. etc. The Communications Officer took me aside, and explained. Seems the Chief had thought I was in RDO#3, and was crying. When I walked in he was embarrassed, so he lit into me. I was filthy dirty, but I wasn't going below decks to get a shower. I just went up to Rdo2, and one of the guys gave me a mat, and I slept behind the transmitters.

Next morning, when I awoke, my eyes were swollen, so they sent me to sick bay. Seems I had flashburn from the explosion. It did not last long. I went back to RDO3 to see if I could find my ring, that Bernice, my girl friend, had given me. But the typewriters were melted, and the cabinet I kept it in was gone. The smell was so bad, I did want to not stay there very long, and right about then, they called GQ again, and I had no idea where to go, so I stayed right there. It was my GQ station, even though there wasn't anything left in there. It was just an alert, and they blew retreat from GQ.

We lost 30 men, and over 100 wounded. There were parts of three Japanese Kamikaze crewmen in the Frances. They said that a body was found in the port catwalk -decapitated. Their flight originated from a Jap naval base at Kagoshima on the main island of Kyushu - 1500 miles north. Also found out later that there were a lot more planes that had started for Ulithi, but only three planes made it. One hit us, another crashed forward of the ship in the water, and the third crashed on Falalop Island. They flew under the radar, and you might know, they picked my ship, out of hundreds. The battleships were at anchor all around us, plus other carriers, dozens of destroyers, many cruisers. If that plane had hit forward, and exploded on the hangar deck, the death toll would have been horrendous. There were over 500 at the movie. Guess I will never forget March 11th.

Note: by V.J.Verdolini RM2/c, U.S. Navy


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Re: Ulithi Atoll, Western Caroline
by Anonymous
on Jul 25, 2003
This ship must have been the USS Randolph. My dad's aircraft carrier, USS Bennington, was anchored a short distance from the Randolph. The Benny crew was also in the midst of watching a movie when the Randolph was hit. Right in the middle of the movie GQ sounded and everyone ran to their battle stations. The Benny crew never saw the end of the movie to find out how Jack Oakie made out with Alice Faye--the movie evidently was "Hello, Frisco, Hello."

It thrilled me to read this account and know the my dad was also affected by the event. This helps me draw those invisible lines that connect WWII personnel in the Pacific together.

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