Eddie was just a young sailor from South Texas. He was only 17 when he joined the Navy in 1943. He was on the USS Sandoval in the South Pacific when it was hit by a Japanese Kamikaze plane. He lost several friends. He doesn't know why he was not killed. He just happened to be in the right place and the right time. He said a lot of men turned to God when this happened, including him.(picture of Eddie Wauson and his sister Helen, when he came home on leave before he left for the S. Pacific)
Stories of World War II-Kamikaze Plane Hits Ship
“We were in the South Pacific. I was standing on the fantail smoking and talking to some friends, and watching these planes flying back and forth across the island to our right. I think it was near Okinawa. We had just finished breakfast. It was early in the morning. Then all of a sudden one of the planes veers toward us in a straight line and before we knew what happened, it hit us. About that same time we heard the call “Man your battle stations!” It was a kamikaze plane, a suicide plane. There was this huge explosion of fire. I ran to my battle station, a 400 mm gun. It was just right up the steps”.
It has been 55 years since that happened, but Eddie told it to me as if it just happened yesterday. That day has been imprinted in his memory forever. He sat there quietly for a few seconds, took a deep breath and went on with his story, “My battle station was up the steps and we all ran to our stations. When we had been standing there watching those planes flying around earlier, we didn’t know they were enemy planes. You couldn’t tell. There had been no gunfire or bombs going off or anything”.
Eddie Wauson, my husband, was just a young skinny 19-year-old kid, barely 120 lbs, who had joined the Navy in 1943, to fight for his country. As he told the story, he was reliving that whole scene again, “At my gun station, my job was to pass the ammunition. Suddenly another plane went past the island, turned around and came right back at us, and the officer on the 350 mm gun said, ‘We’re going to throw up one salvo, and if it misses, everyone be ready to jump’. We ran to the rail, the salvo went up either right in front of the Japanese plane, or maybe it hit it…it was too quick to tell, but that plane did a loop and then crashed into a merchant marine ship that wasn’t far from us. They had the hold open because they were unloading supplies. That plane went right into the hold! There weren’t as many men on that ship as ours, so not as many got killed”.
Eddie went on talking about that day, “Our ship was burning up there on the bridge. There was gasoline and fire everywhere. The plane had hit where all the people were that ran the ship. Most of them were my friends, and the captain was my boss. I was his Yeoman and that means I was his secretary. Most of the people that were in that area were killed, including the captain. And if they weren’t killed, they were burned real bad. You could smell the flesh for a long time. It was horrible. One of my friends that died was a really nice guy from Oklahoma and he had a family. He was older than me. If that plane would have hit at any other time, I would have been in that area and I’d probably be dead too, because that is where I usually worked”.
“It was really sad”, Eddie said as tears slid down his face and his lips trembled, “We had to bury them all at sea. They just put them in a canvas bag and wrapped an American Flag around them, and one by one, we slid them into the water. That was the hardest part of all. Seeing all my friends go like that. It really made me sad, to think about all their families back home, too”.
I asked what happened to the ship after that. He said, “Well, we sailed back to San Francisco, with our ship just like it was. It made it. So did the merchant marine ship. When they got back, they discovered there was a still a bomb in the hold of that ship, where the Japanese plane had hit! It made all the news then. It was amazing that it never went off”!
”You know”, he said, “After that a lot of men got a whole lot closer to God. There was a lot of praying going on. I was only 19 years old, but I did a lot of praying and thanking God I was still alive.”