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Brightwood Boys, The History of the Men from the North End of
Springfield, Massachusetts, During World War II
by Christopher P. Montagna

The Battle of Okinawa


On April 14-24 1945, Sonny Diamond was aboard the USS Denver, providing fire support covering assault landing in Parang-Cotabato Area of Mindanao, PI.  Further north in the Pacific, the amphibious assault was underway on the island of Okinawa. On April 1, 1945 U.S. forces conducted an amphibious assault on the beaches of Okinawa.  For the next 82 days, ending on June 21, the forces of the United States and Imperial Japan fought what would be the largest and the last major battle in the Pacific Theater.


The Battle of Okinawa was both a land and sea battle in which Japanese planes launched "kamikaze" attacks on the American invasion forces.  On April 16, 1945, the USS Pringle, under the command of LCDR John Lawrence Kelley, was patrolling off the coast of Okinawa.  The following After Action Report chronicles the desperate fight that ensued that morning:


At 0910, picked up three Vals (*) in optics from CIC at about 12,000 yards dead ahead moving loose formation to the right, speed 115 knots, altitude 2000 feet.  Commenced firing a full deflection shot on starboard bow at 10,000 yards.  Planes dropped very low to the water and alternately opened and closed the range from 9000 to 11,000 yards as if to draw ire while weaving around.  That maneuver had the effect of tiring the loaders.  Fire was checked on that account three ties for about 20 seconds.  Last and lowest of the Vals hit into a shell splash when bearing was on starboard quarter and crashed. 


Middle Val continued on course and highest and first started in on a run from 10,000 yards, speed 175 in a shallow dive from 1000 feet to the water.  Ship swung hard right and increased speed to 25 knots.  All five guns fired continuously.  Val waved radically and was hard to stay on due to smoke from guns.  AAC bursts were very close and could not be spotted.


One suicide plane (VAL) dived on the ship wiping off the starboard wing of the bridge and continuing down through the main deck into the forward fire room where its bombs explodes blowing out the entire starboard side of #1 fire room and #1 engine room and breaking the keel.  The bomb load carried was apparently very great for the entire center section of the ship was completely demolished by the bomb explosion.  The ship broke in two sections and the two sections disappeared five or six minutes after she was hit.


Survivors of the USS PringleA total of sixty-nine men were killed and another seventy were wounded in the attack and sinking of the USS Pringle.  For his actions while commanding the USS Pringle, John L. Kelley was awarded the Silver Star Medal for gallantry.  The citation read:


The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star to Commander [then Lieutenant Commander] John Lawrence Kelley, Jr. (NSN: 0-78602), United States Navy, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity as Commanding Officer of the U.S.S. PRINGLE (DD-477), in action against enemy Japanese forces off Okinawa on 16 April 1945. When his vessel was attacked by four determined hostile suicide planes while on radar picket station, Commander Kelley courageously and ably fought his ship against the attacking craft and was in large measure responsible for the success of his ship in destroying two and in repulsing a third enemy plane before the fourth crashed on board. By his leadership, fortitude and devotion to duty in fighting his ship to the limit of her capabilities until forced out of action and sunk, Commander Kelley upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.
General Orders: Commander, Destroyers Pacific Fleet: Serial 04230 (December 8, 1945).