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Tales from a Tin Can: The USS Dale from Pearl Harbor to Tokyo Bay
by Michael Keith Olson
Zenith Press, 2007, 336 pages

The destroyer Dale (DD-353) fought from the beginning to the end of WWII and earned 12 battle stars, but the lucky ship suffered no battle casualties. The first battle action came at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, when the ship could not move as it was moored between other destroyers during the initial Japanese attack. Dale soon broke loose and was the first ship out of the Pearl Harbor Channel entrance, when her gunners shot down a Japanese dive bomber. This ship history provides numerous personal accounts from former crewmen of the Pearl Harbor attack and the many other battles in which Dale fought such as the Battle of the Komandorski Islands in the Bering Sea in March 1943 and the Battle of Okinawa from April to June 1945. Several crew stories mention kamikaze attacks on Dale or other ships, but each story lacks a date and cannot be corroborated with other stories in the book or with excerpts from Dale's War Diary.

Over 40 former Dale crewmen tell their war stories in this history, which also includes excerpts from two diaries that chronicle events in 1942 and 1943. Michael Keith Olson, son of Robert Olson who served aboard Dale from early 1942 until her decommissioning in October 1945, recorded more than 100 hours of stories at Dale's annual reunions and used these reminiscences to put together a history of the destroyer from Pearl Harbor to the end of the war. Dale was commissioned in June 1935, but the book does not mention at all the ship's history from this time to Pearl Harbor.

In the Preface the author admits the book's greatest weakness. The many stories from about 60 years before presented a major problem in regards to the difficulties in determining the dates of the events and confirming the facts by examining Dale's War Diary. This turns about to be especially true for the several references to kamikaze attacks carried out against Dale or other ships. The book includes about a dozen personal accounts of kamikaze attacks, but the book's excerpts of Dale's War Diary have only one mention of a kamikaze attack not even witnessed by Dale's crew, "Later the seaplane tender St. George reported that she had been hit by a suicide plane of the 'Val' type" (p. 262, excerpt dated May 6, 1945).

No story about a kamikaze attack even has a date, which makes it nearly impossible to confirm the information. For example, Lowell Barker tells the following rousing story, which the author places in a section about incidents that occurred during the first half of January 1945 (pp. 238-9):

I was OOD (Officer of the Deck) one day while we were in Leyte Gulf, waiting for the convoy to form up. Everybody was on edge because of reported kamikaze activity. Suddenly, several ships were struck by kamikazes and blew up. The air filled with AA (antiaircraft) bursts and everyone on the bridge was looking for kamikazes trying to sneak up on us. One was spotted at some distance and we opened up with our 5-inchers, but he kept boring right in on us. Then the 40mms opened up, and then the 20s. Closer and closer he came. Suddenly, his plane erupted in flame, exploded, and crashed into the water less than a hundred yards away. Boy, we had to get him, and we got him!

Despite the excitement of Dale's gunners shooting down a kamikaze aircraft that hit the water less than a hundred yards from the ship, not one other crewman mentions this attack, and Dale's War Diary remains silent regarding such an attack.


USS Dale during May 1944 Task Force 58 carrier raids,
taken from USS Yorktown (U.S. Navy photograph)

Robert Olson, the author's father, gives an account of what happened one early morning during the Battle of Okinawa when he was assigned to the bridge (p. 264):

I'm here to tell you, it was plenty easy to stay awake, because what greeted me up there on the bridge was the greatest show on earth! Right at dawn, the anchorage was attacked by a massive flight of kamikazes, and every ship there opened up with every gun they had. The sky literally exploded with tracers stitching back and forth among the black puffs of the antiaircraft rounds. There were dogfights between our planes and the kamikazes, and the air was filled with flying metal. You could see some of the kamikazes explode into pieces and watch as the pieces fell crazily down to earth. But some of them got through and hit our ships, and the resulting explosions blasted wreckage way up into the sky. It was spectacular, like watching every fireworks display you've ever seen in your life rolled up into one big blast.

This impressive dawn attack by multiple kamikaze aircraft does not get any mention by other former crewmen or Dale's War Diary.

The following account by Electrician Mate Elliott Wintch makes for a good story but lacks a date, captain's name, and destroyer's name to confirm its accuracy (pp. 262-3):

We ran a lot of errands for the fleet. One of them was running personnel and mail back and forth from ship to ship. One evening we took a captain over to his new ship, which was a tin can (destroyer) tied up in a nest with two others down the harbor a ways from where we were anchored. The guy was really friendly. While we motored over to his ship in the whaleboat, he asked questions about the living conditions aboard old tin cans like the Dale. He seemed to be genuinely interested in how we were all holding up. At dawn the next morning, a lone kamikaze came flying down the chute. Everyone in the anchorage was shooting at him, but he made it through and crashed into that captain's new ship, hitting it right below the bridge. The ship went down with one-third of its crew. The only thing left was the bow sticking straight up out of the water. I never did hear what happened to the captain.


Paperback version published
by Zenith Press in 2010