Eyewitness Account #3

I received the message below and the attached eyewitness article from Benjamin Hubbard, son of Benjamin C Hubbard (KIA),  This eyewitness account of the sinking came from their family history.  The account was shared with the Hubbard family after the war by an unknown officer that created the account and personally visited the families of each of his fallen friends.  This unknown man visited each family and provided an accounting of the events and some sense of closure and comfort for each family.

If anyone knows who that officer was please pass his name along.  He needs to be recognized.

My thanks to Ben Hubbard for passing along this eyewitness account and a picture of his father that I have posted  HERE.        Thanks, Jay (June 20, 2008)


EYE WITNESS DESCRIPTION OF THE SINKING OF THE U.S.S. UNDERHILL

Peace-loving people throughout the world today are grateful to those who have given their lives to further the cause of freedom and democracy. But to the men whose very lives were saved by the heroic deeds of their fighting comrades, this gratitude assumes the strength of irreparable debt. Everlasting are the vivid memories of thousands of us who have seen our comrades sacrifice their lives so that we may live. If only the entire world could feel the same personal indebtedness toward these heroes it would be a great impetus toward attaining the free and peaceful world for which these men were fighting. The attainment of this goal can be our only reasonable tribute. One of the many instances of how the courage and bravery of a few saved the lives of many can now be told. It is the story of the USS Underhill, destroyer escort No. 682. Leaving Okinawa on 21 July last, our little convoy of 16 LST's set out on what was expected to be just another milk run. We were battle-weary remnants of the 96th division going to rest camps in the Philippines.

Every LST was heavily loaded with personnel and equipment, the men and machines which had fought the Japs on Okinawa. The Underhill was our chief escort, the largest of our escort vessels. She took position at the head of our formation, screening back and fourth with a watchful eye. Not until the morning of the twenty-fourth did anything happen. About 10:00 a.m. a Jap "Dinah" reconnaissance plane was sighted by patrol craft on our left flank at high altitude, well out of firing range. We were at the time about 200 miles off Jap-held Formosa. There had been recent reports of action in the area, however, so no one was very concerned over this lonesome Jap pilot miles away. At 3:00 p.m. that day the Underhill sighted a mine in the path of the convey. Almost automatically a 45-degree emergency turn to port was executed by all the ships to avoid hitting the mine. The maneuver was successful, so the Underhill proceeded toward the mine in order to destroy it.

In route she was suddenly confronted with several unmistakable underwater contacts - submarines and all of them within a radius of 4,000 yards. There could be no mistake. She had run smack into a nest of Jap subs, probably those small type subs launched recently by one large "Mother-sub". Obviously the innocent Jap "Dinah" had tipped off the subs to our position and undoubtedly the "Mamma" had launched the mine and her death children just as we approached. The mine was of secondary importance now, so the Underhill headed toward the area of its nearest contact, arming her depth charges, leading her guns, checking her water-tight integrity, and making all numerous preparations for battle. Her first charges were accurately dropped. Proof was the oil slick that suddenly covered the water; wreckage and debris emerged to the surface. One down and four to go.

Our convoy had been zigzagging, turning and twisting through the water, for its very life. An LST is pretty slow and cumbersome, especially when there's a flock of subs on her tail, it seems. Our safety depended largely on how long the Underhill could delay the subs. If only she could sink the mother sub, we might be able to out-distance the small ones which would be practically helpless without her.

We were now about 5,000 yards from where the Underhill was maneuvering to make her second kill. Over the inter-ship radio she was giving us a blow-by-blow account of her actions. When she announced her first sinking, we cheered like fanatical rooters at a football game. Suddenly on the port bow of the Underhill the lookout sighted the deadly wake of an approaching torpedo. The little ship swung hard to port making a narrow target of herself, and breathlessly the crew watched the torpedo race harmlessly by. No one felt like cheering this, time. That was too close for comfort. Hardly a minute later came the ominous voice of the Underhill's skipper over the ship's public address system: "Prepare to ram!"

Almost dead ahead was what appeared to be the large sub. Out of the water protruded a periscope and the sonar contacts verified it as being the mother. Unhesitatingly the skipper set his course on the target and the distance closed quickly. No time could be allowed for the sub to fire another torpedo. It was a fight against time and death. The men on the D.E braced themselves for the inevitable shock. Some prayed, some just crossed their fingers, but all were wishing they were someplace else. In the next hellish moment, occurred the most terrific explosion I ever hope to see. The scene was suddenly shrouded in dense, black smoke, its huge round mass rising into the clear blue sky as though it were concealing from the heavens the death, pain and destruction which had been wrought below. During the split second that preceded an amazing thing had happened. As the bow of the Underhill had crashed into the sub, a small two-man sub had rammed her deadly prow into the port side of the unsuspecting DE.  The baby sub is primarily a suicide weapon and carries a huge charge of TNT.

The almost simultaneous explosions of her bow had caused all hell to break loose. Magazines, depth charges and rockets were detonated. Bodies were hurled into the sky, torn and bleeding, dead and dying. The gallant little ship buckled, her shattered bow rose proudly out of the water for the last time, and down she went-her job well done. We sailed on in comparative safety. The Jap plans for attack on our convoy had been thwarted. We could outdistance the few remaining small subs. But in our LST's there were several thousand of us soldiers and sailors feeling an indescribable gratitude toward those 112 men who had paid the price of our passage with their lives.

 

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