by Chesty Arnold
Privately published, 1994, revised edition, originally published in 1992, 110 pages
The gunners of destroyer escort USS Swearer (DE-186)
faced several attacking kamikaze planes during the Battle of Okinawa. This book by Chesty Arnold combines
his personal experiences in the US Navy and a history of Swearer,
commissioned in November 1943. Arnold joined Swearer's crew in the
beginning of 1945 after three years of service in the Naval Intelligence
Department in Miami and Nassau. The first half of this personal memoir covers
Arnold's service prior to joining Swearer's crew, and the second half
describes Swearer's involvement in the battles at Iwo Jima and Okinawa.
Arnold has a unique personal writing style, filled with
humor and preoccupied with women when he is not at sea. He is definitely not a
professional writer, with misspellings throughout the book. His historical research
for the book seems limited since he often skips specific dates and ship names.
For example, when describing the last kamikaze attack on Swearer by two
planes, Arnold does not mention the date nor the names of the destroyer escort
and the small ship hit by the two planes.
Although the cover of this book features kamikaze planes
diving on the USS Swearer, the ship somehow managed to escape unscathed.
On April 1, 1945, Swearer's gunners poured ammunition into a diving
kamikaze plane, which crashed into the sea next to the ship. Over the next few
weeks, Arnold witnessed other ships getting hit and "dog fights above and
suicide planes diving in all directions." On April 16, two kamikaze planes
came in over the island of Ie Shima and headed directly toward the ship
skimming 20 or 30 feet above the water, so Swearer's gunners
continuously fired ammunition at the planes. One plane veered off and hit the
USS Bowers (DE-637), another destroyer escort, in the superstructure.
The other plane crashed just a few yards from Swearer. The ship then
went alongside Bowers to take aboard wounded men who would be
transported to a hospital ship. Sometime in July or August, two kamikaze planes
approached Swearer, but both changed directions toward other ships. One
plane hit another destroyer escort, and the other one sank a smaller vessel. Swearer
and another ship rescued the men from the smaller ship except for one who went
down with the ship .
The book contains several inaccuracies related to Japan's
kamikaze. For example, page 66 states that the Japanese had "prepared
every suitable plane available to be used" as a kamikaze or suicide plane
for the Battle of Okinawa, but the Japanese Navy and Army actually still used
many warplanes as conventional fighters and bombers. Arnold writes on the same
page that the planes were loaded with high explosive fuel, but the actual fuel
used by kamikaze planes did not differ from other planes and often was of low
quality due to the fuel shortage that Japan suffered in the final year of the
war. Page 67 mentions "feathered robes" worn by kamikaze pilots, but
this must be pure fantasy dreamed up by the author since the real kamikaze
pilots wore regular flight suits . Page 76 has the following statement,
"In one time frame from April 6th to June 22, 1945, there were at least 10
mass attacks with over 100 planes crashing . . ." Although the Japanese
sent over 100 kamikaze planes each in some of the first mass attacks, the
numbers were greatly reduced toward the end of this period. For example, the 9th mass attack on June 3
had 30 kamikaze planes that sortied and did not return , and the 10th mass
attack on June 22 had only 22 kamikaze planes that did not return .
Standby Arnold provides a humorous look at one man's
service in the US Navy during World War II. When viewed as a history of the
destroyer escort Swearer, this book has many shortcomings. However, the
book has some historical value as one crewman's comments on the ship's experiences,
especially with kamikaze planes, during the Battle of Okinawa.
1. This account of two kamikaze planes in July or
August could not be independently confirmed.
2. Nila (2002, 40, 63) provides examples of Navy
kamikaze flight suits.
3. Hara 2004, 234
4. Hara 2004, 237-8
Hara, Katsuhiro. 2004. Shinsou kamikaze tokkou: Hisshi
hitchuu no 300 nichi (Kamikaze special attack facts: 300 days of certain-death, sure-hit
attacks). Tokyo: KK Bestsellers.
Nila, Gary. 2002. Japanese Naval Aviation Uniforms and
Equipment 1937-45. Illustrated by Bill Younghusband. Botley, UK: Osprey Publishing.