Destroyer, Ripped by Japs, Arrives
Struck by Suicide Plane; 40 Die on Zellars at Okinawa
[Helaman Pratt Call was a radar man on board the Zellars.]
(Photos on Picture Page)
Victim of an attack by Jap planes….
Struck by an 1100-pound torpedo and a Jap suicide plane….
Forty officers and men killed, two missing and 29 wounded….
But yesterday the U. S. S. destroyer Zellars came back—gliding into Los Angeles Harbor, its pennons flying, its spirit slashed but unbroken.
The Zellars evidence of the urgent need for 5000 ship repair workers, will be shown to the public along with the U. S. S. Comfort next Sunday at the Navy Dry Dock.
The Zellars was attacked in midafternoon April 12, five miles off Okinawa, where four Jap planes out of an enemy fleet of 125 singled out the destroyer for the full fury of their onslaught.
Three of the planes zoomed in—a fourth passed overhead.
Two of the three were shot down—the other sped savagely at the craft, its propellers licking up water so close did it come to the sea.
A torpedo was launched—it hit the ship squarely—and the plane followed, plunging with fiendish determination into the ship’s deck.
The three Jap flyers were instantly killed—the pilot was blown clear of the plane, his hands still tightly clutching the controls, dismembering his body.
In the ammunition handling room of the ship—the “rat race” to seamen—the torpedo crashed with shattering explosion, killing six of nine men there.
A gaping hole—31 feet long—was torn in the superstructure.
Engines were blown clear of the auxiliary engine room into the plotting room—seven men manning a machine gun mount were blown completely off the ship.
Two were never found.
The only doctor on board the ship was killed—one of two hospital corpsmen was also blown up.
Lieutenant (j.g.) K. W. Bird, former medical student in Michigan, took charge of the medical ward and was credited with saying the lives of many seamen with his skillful but unpracticed
The greatest hero on the ship, according to his shipmates, was not on board as it returned to port yesterday. He had been killed in the action.
He was Seaman Second Class William J. Bieber of North Dakota, who was one of the nine men in the ammunition handling room, and who escaped uninjured when the torpedo struck, but who returned twice to the blazing interior in fruitless attempts to rescue dying comrades.
The second time he was aflame from head to foot—three day later he died.
Chief Electrician’s Mate Frank H. Cushing, whose mother, a resident of 1417 West 80th street, was on the docks yesterday to meet him, was also acclaimed by his comrades.
He was credited with dragging a high pressure hose to the flaming area of the ship after the attack, saving probably the entire powder magazine and the fuel oil reserve by his action.
He fought his way also through the twisted steel, oil and escaping steam to rescue comrades below.
“I was taking pictures of the attack when the plane hit the side of the ship just between the waterline and the main deck,” he said. “My camera …
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