NEW ORLEANS (NNS) -- Thirty-eight crew members were lost on April 11, 1945, 90 miles east of Okinawa aboard USS Kidd (DD 661).
Since that time, their shipmates have gathered faithfully each year, first at a small church in Massachusetts and later aboard their former vessel docked in Baton Rouge, La., to honor their memories.
Seven crew members of the newest Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, Pre-commissioning Unit Kidd (DDG 100), participated in the day of remembrance April 22 as precedessors walked across the brow to the ship they will never forget.
The former crew members flooded the fantail to share heartfelt stories of courage and spirit. George Vossler, 84, remembers what he was wearing, where he was, and what he was doing that fateful day when the plane struck the forward boiler room.
"I still remember everything about that day," Vossler said. "You don't forget [something like that]."
The Sailors from DDG 100 paid tribute by piping the former Kidd crew members on board, parading the colors, and performing the traditional "two-bell" memorial ceremony. The ceremonial playing of "Taps" seemed to touch everyone's heart as the wreath was thrown overboard and slowly began to drift away.
Lt. Cmdr. Jay Wylie, DDG 100 executive officer, gave words of encouragement as he spoke before the crew.
"Rest assured that you are in safe hands with [the newest edition of] Kidd afloat. We are prepared to sail in the path that you have set before us," said Wylie.
As he began to read the names of the fallen crew members, the wind slightly picked up and the waves rushed against the side of the ship creating the enchanting feeling that spirits of those dead Sailors were at the ceremony.
On that unfortunate day in 1945, DD 661 suffered her most severe damage of World War II. At 2:09 p.m., Kidd's crew observed a flight of Japanese aircraft. One of the enemy planes descended to near sea level, leveled out, and commenced a run on the USS Black (DD 666) which was 1,500 yards off Kidd's starboard beam. Spectators watched as instead of ramming into Black, the pilot pulled up and passed directly over her.
Kidd's 20 mm and 40 mm gunners took the plane under fire, scoring several hits, but to no avail. Kidd applied her left full rudder and the ship barely begun to turn when the lone suicide bomber crashed into her forward boiler room killing everyone inside.
Luckily, the bomb carried by the kamikaze was catapulted through the ship and out the other side where it detonated just seconds later.
This will mark both the 58th consecutive gathering since 1949. The 2007 reunion was paid for in full by the family of retired Adm. Allan B. Roby, the commissioning commanding officer of DD 661, from funds left in his will.
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