Eye Witness Account to Okinawa

This story was contributed by fellow blogger, Mike Tuggle, in tribute to his father, who sailed his final voyage this past Saturday.

My account of the Invasion of Okinawa

By:  Clayton C. Tuggle

I was one of the approximately twelve hundred men aboard the USS Birmingham CL-62. We set out for Okinawa in March, 1945.

Clayton Tuggle

Arriving in Okinawa, we were stationed about five miles from shore. We bombarded the island with 6-inch guns at night hitting several ammunition dumps and shore guns of several sizes. This went on until the invasion began on April 1, 1945. This battle was something entirely different from any the Navy had experienced. Torpedoes were exploding all around our ship, the skies were full of explosions from guns on both sides.

On the 5th of May, 1945, I was cleaning officers’ quarters when the captain [John Wilkes] came on the PA system. He said he’d just got word that 300 Kamikaze planes were headed for our fleet. He said, “The odds are against us but, men, for God’s sake, go down fighting.”

USS Birmingham

My battle station was fire control on the 40 mm guns. I received orders from the gunnery officer and relayed the message to the gun crews as per instructions to aim the guns at the oncoming planes. This was done by the radar system.

In my battle station I could see almost everything around our ship. Kamikaze planes were coming in from the port side, some would crash just before hitting our ship, some would be on fire and head for a ship of any size to hit. I saw one ship get hit by two planes at the same time. I saw several planes get shot out of the sky and crash into the sea. Some would fall near our ship.

Our Marines fired the 20 mm guns constantly as planes came as close as 50 ft from us. The sky was full of explosions. After the all-clear signal came, we headed toward the island for more bombardment. About a half-hour later everyone was back on regular duty.

USS Birmingham ripped apart by kamikaze plane, 1945

One Kamikaze having hidden in the clouds undetected by the radar came down. This tragedy killed forty-seven and wounded eighty-one on our ship. One sailor standing next to me was blown away. I never saw him again.

I was down below in officers’ quarters when the chaplain came to me and commanded me to take him topside. He was burned bad and suffering smoke inhalation. I was suffering from smoke inhalation, and something told me to get in the shower and turn it on for air. I stayed close to the shower for about a minute, then I was able to get the chaplain topside. He died three days later on a hospital ship.

I saw mangled bodies all over the deck, arms and legs were everywhere, bodies without limbs. I had known them personally. I walked by my living quarters and heard men screaming as the rescue squad was closing the hatch on them to keep the compartment from flooding. I then walked to the back of the ship and sat down for a while.

I was elected pall bearer as most of them were from my own division and I knew most of them. We were friends. They were all buried at sea.

Burial at sea.

We went back to normal duties. All my belongings had been destroyed, and I was assigned to another division temporarily and started out again as a sailor going about normal duty. We headed to Pearl Harbor for repairs. We were there for three months.

After repairs were finished we sailed to Tokyo Bay. We were preparing to attack, but the Enola Gay dropped some bombs and peace was declared.

Clayton Tuggle

April 10, 1925 – May 12, 2018

Click on images to enlarge.


Farewell Salutes – 

Jeremiah Adams – Oswego, IL; US Navy, USS Nimitz

Robert Buchert – Cincinnatti, OH; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 152nd AAA/11th Airborne Division

Bill Cooley – Seattle, WA; US Army, WWII, Lt.

Thomas Davis – Albuquerque, NM; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, Major, Silver Star

Thomas Eager – Lacona, NY; US Navy, WWII, USS Princeton

Felix Cruz-Gomez – Brandon, FL; US Army, WWII, KOrea, Vietnam, MSgt. (Ret.)

Ballard Marshall – Richmond, KY; US Army, Korea & Vietnam, Sgt.

Art Paul – Chicago, IL; US Army

Jhoon Rhee – Asan, So.KOR; civilian employee US Air Force, Korea War, interpreter

Emil Smith – Paeroa, NZ; RNZ Navy # 10828, WWII



About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on May 14, 2018, in First-hand Accounts, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 118 Comments.

  1. Aw, damn. 😥 War is hell.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dat moet nogal dingen veranderd hebben in het leven van de overlevende.Dingen die voor eeuwig op hun netvlies gebrand werden en nooit meer zouden verdwijnen.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. A great story! It reminded me of a book I read some time ago called The Ship That Would Not Die … about the USS Laffey. It was another great story about a ship that survived 22 Kamikaze attacks in one battle.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. War begins with failed national leadership; it was the case in WWII. Trouble is, these failed leaders don’t go to war themselves. They send youth in their place… but if war is to be fought, it needs to be fought to win. Failed leaders need to keep their mouths shut and their personal agendas locked away. Let the military do their thing as theybare right now.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Agreed, Koji. I’ve had people ask me why we don’t win the wars of today, when this shows just how formidable we can be. I don’t hold back in my reply, so you can imagine my answers because you and I agree!!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I am wide eyed from reading this account. Thanks so much for posting, GP!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Another great personal account of WWII. The sites he saw would have been burned in his mind for the rest of his life.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. As others have already said, this is a powerful story. What a terrifying experience.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Such a spare, powerful account. Sometimes, there just isn’t anything to say. On the other hand, I suspect all of us have had the experience of having to pick up and go on after a traumatic or difficult event, even if it wasn’t nearly so dramatic as this. I think that’s part of the reason we respond as we do to these personal accounts. To one degree or another, we do understand them — and appreciate even more what these men went through.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I always receive more visits and comments on the eye-witness accounts and I agree – we, on a small scale, relate to it and trust their opinions over the statisticians and historians.

      Liked by 3 people

  9. Julia C. Tobey

    Powerful and moving account.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Clayton Tuggle may the Lord face shine upon you!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Hey GP, Quite a story there. Meanwhile, I nominated you for the Mystery Blogger Award. Let me know if you end up writing your own post. If interested, have fun with it! Check it out here: https://dutchlionsports.com/2018/05/15/mystery-blogger-award/


    Liked by 1 person

  12. A sad and horrific post gp, words cannot convey thoughts, what an horrific legacy to carry in your mind for life.
    Commendations to Mike Tuggle for sharing his family story.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Clayton Tuggle’s account is very affecting. No dramatic language but the drama and horror of his experience come through. I can feel his sense of loss across the years.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. I don’t know what to say, I’ve never heard or read such a descriptive first hand account of anything so desperate and amazing, ever.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. My uncle was on the USS Hilsman when it was hit by a kamakaze plan… wish he had talked more about it, but I did find a crumpled photo he had of the hole in the side of his boat. Anyone here reading, serve on that boats?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jeanne, someone is going to tell you to call them ships, so I quickly do that and get it over with. We have quite a few people here from the Navy – I hope you get some answers and thank you for reading. If you recall any story your father did tell you – pass it on.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Reblogged this on e. michael helms and commented:
    Remembering a true yet humble hero!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. That dry, matter of fact account is so moving…you can see it all through his eyes.
    As others have said, the things that these men saw, and yet they came home and took up their lives again despite it all.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. A spare but intensely moving narrative (tears here).
    Thank God for the Greatest Generation.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Mike Tuggle is my son-in-law and I only knew Clayton as Mike’s Dad. This article in his own words made me see another side of this courageous man.

    Liked by 2 people

  20. Daniel Schwalbe

    Mike-Your Dad Clayton Tuggle exemplified the reason they called his generation “The Greatest Generation”!

    Liked by 2 people

  21. Wow. What a story of courage. Thanks, GP

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Every time I hear a story like this during an interview with a WWII vet, I’m stunned. ‘How could they ever sleep, marry, raise children well, be productive in their communities, etc. after experiencing all of that? I’d be pretty messed up- maybe forever. And yet the guys I’ve met were kind, sweet, many God-fearing and leaders in society. Makes me re-think my thoughts. Make sense? Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I (personally) feel that it has a lot to do with whether they were thinking of others and being strong or feeling sorry for themselves as to how they reacted to those horrifying situations. I appreciate your comment and feelings on this.


  23. My thanks to the many readers who shared their feelings about my father’s short and heartfelt memories about Okinawa. And eternal thanks to GP Cox for the fine work he does on this blog. I can tell it is a labor of love.

    Liked by 2 people

  24. It must be terrifying seeing those planes aiming at your ship and knew it’s the end. I got emotional reading all the casualties. He was a brave man to get back to normal after seeing those carnage. Thanks for posting this. It gives us an idea what it was like to be in the middle of war. I salute him and my sympathy and prayers to the family.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. How do you witness all that and then just carry on ‘normal duties’? It’s no wonder so many are traumatised by their experiences.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. This is just awful to read, and yet he wrote it in such a matter-of-fact manner. I bet even years later he hadn’t really dealt with what he saw that day and writing in that manner was as close as he could get to his true emotions and scars.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. The things that Isis have done in Europe are scary enough, but to have each one of them armed with an aircraft and keen to use it is a very frightening prospect. Clayton Tuggle must have been a very brave man indeed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I would imagine that no one has had that feeling of seeing a plane aimed at you outside of the survivors of the World Trade Centers. I can’t comprehend what that would be like.


  28. What a story–300 kamikaze planes! “The odds are against us but go down fighting!” When those boys got back from the War, nothing would frighten them.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. It takes few words to describe the horror of war when you were there. It takes thousands of words to describe it if you weren’t there. I could feel Clayton’s emotion. Thanks for posting, GP.

    Liked by 3 people

  30. Makes me want to cry…and so I did.
    I don’t know if I shared with you, but last summer while my Dad was dying he, for the first time in my life, shared about his time in the Korean War.
    These stories are important…thank you!

    Liked by 2 people

  31. Thank you for posting this tribute to Clayton Tuggle, GP. He came from an amazing generation.

    Liked by 1 person

  32. Loved this, what a great wee read.

    It amazes me that despite the carnage these men experienced they returned home and lived fulfilling lives – I feel I’d be shattered to the core.

    A truly remarkable generation and like they say, they don’t make em like that anymore.

    Liked by 1 person

  33. What makes your blog so interesting, GP, is the frequent insertion of eye witness accounts such as this one by Clayton Tuggle. These personal accounts highlight the tragedy of war so much better than the dry statistics often found in history books.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Exactly, Peter. The dry tone of facts and figures doesn’t add the emotion involved. We had a million eyes out there, which give us at least that many stories and points of view!!

      Liked by 2 people

  34. This was a great read. Thanks to brave soldiers and sailors like Mike Tuggle’s father, we have our freedom. Thank you for sharing his story.

    Liked by 1 person

  35. It’s amazing that, probably many times during his service, he could look back and say “…we went back to normal duties.” All the death and destruction, but life and the war continued for some.

    Liked by 2 people

  36. Thank you to every man and woman who lived this. And my truest sympathies that you ever had (have) to.

    Liked by 4 people

  37. At least Clayton lived a good long life

    Liked by 2 people

  38. First of all, Please accept my sincere condolences.

    After turning on my Laptop, this topic came out before anyone else, and I read this without translation.

    I just ..You will never know how much I (Japanese) appreciate it.
    Thank you and,


    Liked by 5 people

  39. A great tribute to Clayton from his son. What a harrowing account of the horrors of war at sea, facing a determined and fanatical enemy. It says much about the character of those brave men that they were able to resume duties after such attacks, and then go on to live good and useful lives after 1945.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 3 people

  40. I felt honored that you asked me to have this letter. Thank your brother for me as well.


  41. Thank you for sharing this outstanding story from one man who was there.


  1. Pingback: re-blog Eye Witness Account to Okinawa from Pacific Paratrooper Mike Tuggle on his dad’s experience – INCEST CENTRAL

  2. Pingback: The Battle of Okinawa | M.C. Tuggle, Writer

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