Served aboard the US Destroyer Heywood L Edwards, DD 663 - Gene Edwards

Dear Mr. Gregory,
You don't know me from Adam's housecat. However, we may share some wartime experiences going back to 1945. For three years, I served aboard the US Destroyer Heywood L Edwards, DD 663, Fletcher class We arrived in the Pacific theater fairly late, our first operation being support for the landings on Tinian and Saipan. We were rather actively engaged during the remainder of the war, acquiring 7 "battle stars" and a Unit Citation.
However, my main purpose in this note is to compare notes on actions in which we both participated. At times, we operated with the HMAS Arunta, and HMAS Shropshire. When the Japanese turned full bore,to suicide attacks, they seemed to have a preference for the Shropshire, her three funnels providing a distinct aiming point.
My particular interest is in the Battle of Suraigo Straits, and any personal experiences you may recall of the events of that battle. Along with many other destroyers, we made a torpedo run against the Japanese battle line and participated in the cleanup operations the following morning. I have some rather vivid recollections of those days, and would be pleased to share them with you if there is any interest on your part.
At that time I was Lt. [j.g.] in the Engineering roster, having become an officer and a gentleman via 4 months at the U.S.  Naval Academy, Annapolis, MD.
But enough for now. If you have any interest in pursuing this info exchange, please contact me at my email address geneed1@comcast.net.
Sincerely, Gene Edwards, Mon. April 5, 2004  1429 PDST.


Dear Gene,

Thank you for your message, I would be delighted to correspond with you, and swap rememberences of our fight against the Japanese in the Pacific.

I had gone to sea in August of 1939 as a Cadet Midshipman, and stayed at sea or overseas for the entire war. Serving in HMA ships, Australia, Canberra ( to be sunk in her at the Battle of Savo Island ) Adelaide, and Shropshire. I joined her just after the Leyte landings and so missed that last great sea battle of all times, Suriago Straits. I have however, written about that battle and the Leyte landings on my Ahoy site.

Nice to hear from you, just open up the topics, and start by giving me your impressions of Suriago please.

The Kamikaze's seemed to love the three large funnels of both Shropshire and Australia, the latter collecting six in all on board, the first at Leyte, and 5 at Lingayen .

Best regards,
Mac. Gregory.


Hello, Mac,
Glad you received my recollections of the Battle of Suriago Straits.  I'm not always on the best of terms with my computer, and I had trouble getting my comments on the net to you. I hope that what you received was Revision B, since it had a bit more info than the original draft. RSVP.
I have no objections to your including my recollections of the Suriago Straits Battle on your Ahoy site. Actually, I'm rather flattered. But please be sure that is is billed as "recollections", not as factual scoop.
I enjoyed reading about your experiences in the Lingayen Gulf operation. Thank goodness that the liquid thrown up on the bridge of the Shropshire from the near miss of the behalved Kamikaze and its bomb was sea water, not gasoline----else I would be short one Aussie correspondent.
I think that those who were on the receiving end of Kamikaze attacks dreaded the gasoline fire at impact as much as they did damage from plane parts, and  that of the bomb, if one was aboard. I think it was true of topside personnel, perhaps not of those below decks.
The Edwards was in on the Lingayen Gulf operation for 4 or 5 days, assigned to prelanding bombardment and post landing fire support. I don't think there was much resistance to the landing and not much need for fire support after the the first couple of days. We made a couple of trips in and out of the Gulf.
But the Gulf was an ideal place for Kamikaze attack. There were a number of air fields, although heavily worked over by our carrier planes, could still launch Japanese planes. And the low hills on the eastern side of the Gulf provided cover for low flying Japanese planes to come undetected by radar.

On our first entry into the Gulf-- just as we were going in, there was an overflight of at least two Japanese planes coming in from the West. However, we did not fire on them---perhaps they were too high or not perceived to be an immediate threat.  Later, and I don't remember when, one of our squadron did  take a hit, but with minimum damage. It was coming in low, broadside to the ship, and hit the ship at deck level, the engine passing at deck level between the # 1 and #2 gun mounts. I don't think that there were any personnel casualities.
However, there is one episode that still leaves a picture in my mind, which occurred late one afternoon. I believe that our group of ships was in more or less single file preparing to leave for the night. From my position on the platform on # 2 stack, I saw a Japanese plane skim over the hills on the eastern side of the Gulf, drop down to 50--100 feet above the water and come broadside to the column. Every ship that could bring a gun to bear opened  up and there was and there was so much flak out there that it was hard to believe the plane didn't go down. However, the pilot kept jinking his plane, survived the flak, and hit a battleship ahead of us in line about where all the 40 mm mounts and 5 in. secondary batteries were located. I don't know whether he had a bomb aboard, but there was a huge ball of fire. The last thing the pilot did was a wingover  so he hit the ship more or less in an inverted position. I heard later that there was a large number of casualities where the plane hit. The battleship was either the California or the Mississippi; I think the former.
Another story of an attack that same afternoon, and I can't vouch for it, was that another destroyer was attacked from astern by a Japanese float plane.  It apparently landed in the water some distance from the ship, then after an interval, took off again and headed for the destroyer, apparently hoping to make a "stealth" approach. His hopes were dashed by a single 20mm gunner on the fantail who saw him in time to shoot him. down.
Well, I have rambled on enough, so will sign off for now. The Heywood L. Edwards participated in the operations at Iwo Jima, and at Okinawa, as perhaps your ship did also. Perhaps we can swap some recollections of those campaigns if you wish.
Warm regards,
Gene Edwards

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