SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- Four surviving Sailors from the USS Bush (DD-529), a Fletcher-class destroyer, gathered for a final reunion to commemorate the fateful day of their ship during a ceremony at the North Chapel located in Liberty Station, April 6.
Marking the 70th anniversary of the sinking of USS Bush off the coast of Okinawa on April 6, 1945, Lt. j.g. Robert Carney, Chief Machinist's Mate Bob Gallagher, Seaman First Class Thomas Gilmer, Gunner's Mate Second Class Mario Petroni and their families gathered to honor their fallen shipmates and share their stories.
Each Sailor spoke of their time onboard USS Bush and their specific experiences during the dreadful day the ship was sunk. Lt. j.g. Carney, USS Bush's supply officer, reminisced about the ship's campaigns during various battles such as Iwo Jima, Leyte Gulf and culminated his speech with the story of the ship's sinking off the coast of Okinawa by three Japanese kamikaze planes.
"The first plane that hit [the ship] gave me a concussion and knocked me from one deck to the next. That's how I suffered a fractured pelvis. I was on a stretcher the rest of the time and the only reason why I made it is because my shipmates made damn sure that I would survive," Carney said.
The first kamikaze plane hit at deck level on the starboard side between number one and two stacks. The bomb onboard the plane exploded in the forward engine room with such a force that a six-foot section of an engine room blower, weighing about 4,000 pounds, was blown into the air high enough to knock off the radar antenna and land on the port bridge wing. The subsequent second and third kamikaze attacks cut the ship in half and eventually sunk her. During the attack, 87 Sailors were killed, 42 were wounded, and 73 were lost at sea.
Capt. Curt Jones, commanding officer of Naval Base San Diego began the service with a welcome to the group and thanked the four Sailors and the families at the memorial for their camaraderie and sense of service to their country and to each other. Chaplain Reinel Castro from Naval Base San Diego followed with a blessing and call for remembrance, "Today we remember those that perished on this day. [We] remember those whose lives were forever changed on this day. [We] remember this day so that we can all advance in wisdom."
The four remaining survivors from USS Bush are in their 90s and have decided that this will be the ship's final memorial service. Since 1987, the surviving Sailors and family members gathered yearly to honor and remember those stationed aboard the ship for their valiant service during the war. In the final ceremony, family members commemorated USS Bush's Sailors one last time by reading the names of every crew member.
"The challenges of travel and health have made it difficult to meet in person at reunions for many of the survivors. [This final reunion] was a significant milestone and could not be ignored," said Lizzy Carney, daughter of Robert Carney. "The guys needed to be together one last time to remember their time aboard the ship, the seven battle stars earned, and to celebrate life and family."
USS Bush (DD-529) was a Fletcher-class destroyer named in honor of Marine Lt. William Sharp Bush. Lt. Bush was onboard USS Constitution during the War of 1812 and was the first U.S. Marine officer to be killed in combat. Commissioned on May 10, 1943, USS Bush was 376 feet long, had a displacement of 2,050 tons, and crew of approximately 330 Sailors. Earning seven battle stars, USS Bush was one of 34 Navy ships sunk by Japanese kamikaze attacks in World War II.
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