In the Wake of Jellybean
by Ray Novotny
Self Published, 2005, 354 pages
Seven Japanese kamikaze aircraft attacked the American destroyer USS Hyman
(DD-732) on April 6, 1945, the date of the largest mass kamikaze attack of World
War II. The ship's gunners, sometimes with assistance from other ships, shot
down all of the attacking planes except one. The fourth plane, a Zero fighter,
managed to crash into the ship between the stacks even though heavily damaged by
gunfire. Former Hyman crewman Oscar Murray described the Zero that hit the
ship (p. 240):
My General Quarters station was as a gunner on a 20-mm anti-aircraft gun. I
wonder if things would have been different had I been able to fire another two
seconds at the Japanese plane that struck and nearly sank us. He was so close.
The head of the pilot turned toward us as he struck the stacks. Just before
striking the ship, I, or others, shot off his left wing but the plane's momentum
carried him into the ship. The plane's explosion, along with its gasoline, blew
away the area between the two stacks almost to the waterline, and with most of
the forward torpedo mount. Flaming gasoline flowed in all the surrounding areas,
burning or killing many below and several above deck.
As I followed the plane, my gun came to a complete stop, abruptly halted by the
gun stops designed to prevent guns from rotating too far and doing damage to the
ship's superstructure. By then he was out of sight and immediately struck the
ship. Normally, Japanese planes exploded upon a direct hit but this one didn't.
Had I or others been able to hit him with more rounds, perhaps he would have
done so, I will never know: I know we did our best.
At Hyman's decommissioning ceremony in 1969, Captain Horgaard described the explosion after the plane crash (p. 352), "A very
heavy and devastating explosion took place at the scene 1 minute and 42 seconds
later, probably from bombs carried by the plane." However, some in the crew had
a different theory on the explosion (pp.217-8):
The Director crew carefully watched the fourth Kamikaze before it crashed into
the ship. They reported the plane did not appear to carry an external bomb,
however, an extra fuel tank was visible. One wing was shot off by 20-mm and
40-mm automatic guns at about 800 yards, setting the plane on fire. It then
veered aft toward the midship section and struck both smokestacks, smashed into
the forward torpedo tube mount and tore off the starboard tube barrel with its
torpedo; the other four torpedoes were never found.
Even Captain Horgaard had a similar opinion about the delayed explosion in
his action report prepared soon after the kamikaze attack (p. 261), "Resulting
fire around forward torpedoes apparently exploded one warhead causing extensive
The crash by the kamikaze plane and the subsequent explosion killed 12 and
wounded 41 men aboard Hyman. On the same day, the nearby
(DD-592) also got attacked by multiple kamikaze aircraft, and one hit the ship
causing 9 deaths and 14 wounded.
Author Ray Novotny served as an Electrician Second Class in Interior
Communications aboard Hyman from her commissioning in June 1944 to early 1946
when she returned to the States. This privately-published history published
sixty years after the end of WWII contains many stories, which give the book its charm. The book generally follows
the chronological history of the destroyer Hyman with interesting digressions
and personal observations. The book's center section has 22 pages of
photographs. The title comes from Hyman's code name of Jelly Bean as the
flagship for ships that were firing on Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo
The book's information on Japan's kamikaze operations contains quite a few
errors. Novotny asserts that a few Japanese pilots "chose to land safely in the
sea and risk the possibility of capture over the certainty of death" (p.263),
but no documented case exists where a kamikaze pilot voluntarily chose to land
safely in the sea rather than complete his mission, although a few
pilots did have to make forced landings in the sea when their planes developed
engine problems or had been hit by enemy fire, and the men managed to survive to
the end of the war. On March 18, 1945, the carrier Franklin did not get hit and
severely damaged by kamikaze aircraft as stated in the book (p. 200) but rather
got hit by two bombs dropped from a dive bomber on March 19. Japanese names
frequently get misspelled (e.g., Mushai instead of Musashi, Kamikazi instead of
Kamikaze, Shinyu instead of Shinyo when referring to suicide torpedo boats). The
Japanese pilots who participated in kamikaze attacks during the Battle of
Okinawa are referred to inaccurately as Kikusuis or Floating Chrysanthemum (p.
212), but Kikusui was rather the name used by the Japanese to refer to the ten
mass kamikaze attacks rather than the pilots themselves.
The book's last chapters describe how Hyman's men handled the surrender of Pohnpei (formerly Ponape) and Kosrae (formerly Kusaie), two small islands now
part of the Federated States of Micronesia. The crew spent three months on these
tropical islands and became friends with the natives who lived in this paradise. The
government of Pohnpei invited Hyman veterans and their spouses to the 50th
anniversary of their liberation from the Japanese. The author and nine other
Hyman crewmen returned to Pohnpei in September 1995 to celebrate Liberation Day,
when they were recognized and honored by the natives for their key role in the
island's history. The book's center section has four pages of historical
photographs related to the liberation of Pohnpei and Kosrae and five pages of
photographs of the 1995 return to Pohnpei by ten Hyman veterans.
Hyman Memorial Stone and Plaques
April 6. 1995, New Castle, IN
In the Wake of Jellybean contains many vignettes of what actually happened
during the war with no attempt to glorify the crewmen's actions. One story tells
about the harsh punishment meted out by the captain when a crewman hit an
officer with his fist when given an order to go topside and perform a routine
task. Another gives the author's reactions to a suicide committed by a Hyman
crewman during the Battle of Iwo Jima, when the destroyer played a key role with
her spotlight and guns in support of the Marines' climb up Mount Suribachi. The
story is given below in its entirety due to the difficulty in obtaining this
self-published book (pp. 172-5):
0600 HOURS. The HYMAN was steaming north, close to the base of Suribachi.
Another destroyer was following behind in HYMAN's wake, less than a mile away.
An intercom call came to the I.C. Room from the stern lookout reporting a
problem with his sound-powered headset. After providing him with a replacement
set, we engaged in some banter for a few minutes.
Over the lookout's shoulder, my attention was caught by a small, round object
floating past, a few feet off the port stern. It appeared to be a human head. A
hard look confirmed it was one of the crewmen. I blurted out to the lookout,
even though he stood only a few inches away, "Man overboard!"He wheeled in the
direction I was looking and immediately called the bridge on his headset. The
ship continued moving; there appeared to be no acknowledgment of the urgent
message. "Call again!" I shouted once more. "The bridge got the first message.
They said the ship trailing us would pick him up."
Several of the crew joined us to watch the man overboard. Slowly, ever so
slowly, the head drifted further away in the ship's wake. The victim, whoever he
was, made no attempt to swim, shout, or signal distress. It was a head floating
away in the gray, murky water near the base of Suribachi.
When about half-way between the two ships, the overboard crewman, facing the
HYMAN, held up one arm for a few seconds, as if to wave goodbye, then quickly
disappeared beneath the surface. The body was never recovered.
Startled by what we had just witnessed, I proceeded to the port side midship. A
group of off-duty crewmen, some seated on the deck, were casually talking among
themselves. They appeared unconcerned about anything.
"Did anybody see what happened," I asked.
A couple of them answered, as though irritated, "Yeah," one of them replied, "He
I asked for details, "How did it happen? Who was it?"
"It was Fitzgerald," one of them finally answered. "He was off watch—a gunners
mate. Without talking to anyone he calmly walked over to the port rail where we
were shooting the breeze. He lifted himself onto the rail, balanced himself
against a whaleboat davit, turned, glanced around, and toppled overboard,
without saying a word."
"Did you know he was going to jump? Did anyone try to stop him?" There was a
long pause. A couple of crewmen were obviously irritated by the inquiries. I
repeated the questions.
"We knew he was going to jump." Another one contemptuously added, "Fuck him. If
he wants to kill himself, let him." The others expressed similar deprecating
remarks, and seemed to share the same attitude.
I was surprised and disappointed by the indifference to the death of a shipmate.
Had the battle conditions we already experienced made these men so callous they
could watch calmly as another crewman took his own life? Why was no attempt made
to stop Fitzgerald? I would have an answer, but not that day.
Later that morning other facts came out. Fitzgerald had exhibited signs of
extreme depression and nervousness since D-DAY, February 19. He was said to be
agitated, openly frightened, and expressed a strong premonition of death. Only
the day before he had fired on one of our own planes and had to be relieved. He
was clearly a victim of "battle fatigue," or "shell-shock" as it was named
It was difficult to comprehend the negative feelings of the men who witnessed
the suicide. They evidenced no remorse over their own unwillingness or failure
to save the victim. Indeed, there appeared to be an air of contempt. The more
the witnesses talked, the more apparent became their lack of concern.
Aboard the HYMAN, there was unexpressed code of conduct: It was important—in
fact, criminal—not to show or express fear in dangerous situations. The
Hispanics have a word for it: Machismo. It was essential for the safety of the
ship and crew that each man behave in a calm, professional manner, and not
exhibit fear. Emotional expressions were acceptable, but showing fear was not.
Self-control was not only expected, it was necessary to safety and discipline.
No one ever explained how to behave under the danger and stress of battle
conditions. It was something that, somehow, was picked up. Was it a result of
strict training, discipline, or camaraderie that made the crew act the "right
way?" Probably all three.
The second day of the Iwo invasion, the ship was off the western shore. A chow
line, waiting for lunch, had formed in the forward passageway. Suddenly, a huge
plume of white water erupted close to the bow. The enemy had our range. But it
was a single shot, no more.
As the water fountain soared, skyward, the conversation stopped for only as long
as it took the water to collapse back into the gray sea. The crewmen exchanged
knowing glances, and then resumed their conversations without missing a beat or
making a comment about the near miss.
My unspoken reaction was: This is a cool bunch of cookies, kids really, but
cool. It was a comfortable feeling being with such an unflappable bunch of guys.
Why hadn't the crewmen who witnessed Fitzgerald's suicide acted to prevent him
from leaping overboard? It was because he exhibited weakness, an unforgivable
condition in battle; the crew had only contempt for this character flaw.
To be weak or undependable in warfare is an invitation to die. If comrades can't
be depended upon, it could result in death. The Navy trains and drills sailors
constantly to be knowledgeable and dependable; there is no other way. The unfit
are usually weeded out early in the training process, but a few sometimes slip
The negative feeling about Fitzpatrick's death was so strong that it wasn't
until 1997 when his name was added to the HYMAN's Memorial Rock in New Castle,
Indiana. Each year, as I look at the list of honored dead, I am reminded of the
sad circumstances of his death. It is not a comfortable feeling to see his name
listed among those crewmembers killed by enemy action. But in a real sense, he
was no less a victim than the other crewmen; he, too, paid the ultimate price by
taking his own life under the most adverse conditions.
USS Hyman Memorial and seven Plank Owners at 60th
Anniversary Memorial Ceremony (April 6, 2005) in New Castle, IN
(L to R) Ray Novotny, Bob Moldenhauer, Paul Hommel,
Leo Carroll, Ed Heffner, Harry Greene, Dick Leitch
Hyman was one of four ships in DesDiv (Destroyer Division) 126. The other
destroyers were Mannert L. Abele (DD-733),
Purdy (DD-734), and Drexler
(DD-741). During the Battle of Okinawa, kamikaze attacks sank both Mannert L.
Abele and Drexler, and Purdy got hit by a kamikaze plane that killed 13 and
wounded 27 men.
Ray Novotny pauses to remember lost shipmates at
60th Anniversary Memorial Ceremony (April 6, 2005)