USS Haynsworth DD700
Attacking Japanese Picket Ships ~ 02-16-1945

The USS Haynsworth and other US Destroyers
Attack and Sink Japanese Picket Ships.

Survivors are rescued, taken prisoner, and then transferred
to the USS Essex CV9 and USS Bunker Hill CV17.

***** Photos provided by Marty Irons *****
US Destroyer Attacking and Destroying Japanese Picket Ship ~ 02-16-1945, In the seas off Japan
Other damaged and sinking Japanese Picket Ships ~ 02-16-1945, In the seas off Japan
Below left: Japanese survivor clinging to debris.           Below right: Corsairs, Hellcats, & Avengers warming up on the deck of the USS Bunker Hill before the Tokyo strikes. CV-17 was the flagship for Task Group 58.3. The Haynsworth was part of this group.
Japanese survivors ~ rescued from sunken Picket Ships ~ transferred from US Destroyers to the USS Essex
Japanese survivors receive clean clothes, medical treatment and examination aboard USS Essex.
Japanese prisoner in the Brigg aboard USS Essex.
USS Haynsworth DD700 transferring Japanese survivors to USS Bunker Hill CV17.
* * * * * On the morning of February 16th, 1945 * * * * *
Prisoners on the High Seas
Martin Irons
Just forty eight hours before the invasion of Iwo Jima, the mighty Fast Carrier Task Force 58 arrived uninvited and unexpected at the Emperor’s doorstep. As a feint before the invasion, Admiral Mitscher’s forces attacked enemy airfields and searched for the remnants of the Imperial Japanese Navy in their home waters.

On the morning of February 16th, the decks of the sixteen carriers were crowded hundreds of planes and pilots intent on bringing the battle back to Japan for the first time since Colonel Doolittle’s raiders in April of ’42. Three years early, the raiders were forced to launch their mission earlier than planned when their task force was spotted by two Japanese picket ships six hundred miles from Japan. By 1945, the number of picket ships had increased. The tag teams of the combat air patrol and destroyers on picket duty would shoulder the responsibility of eliminating these scouts of the Empire.

Steaming as a forward picket destroyer for Rear Admiral Frederic Sherman’s task group, 58.3, the USS Haynsworth was twelve miles forward of the carrier phalanx. During the morning watch, a small vessel was spotted by a lookout 7000 yards off the port bow. Commander Stephen Noel Tackney’s warship closed the distance before letting loose with the 5” guns. Forty rounds destroyed the picket ship.

Moving closer to search for survivors, Sonarman Third Class Bill Morton recounted that, “for a good while there were no signs of life until we saw one survivor clinging to a piece of wood. Everyone started waving and motioning him come to the ship but he didn’t seem to trust us and made no effort to come aboard. Once a wave flipped his board over and we thought he was done for, but he finally came up and just to make sure we didn’t think he had drowned, he grinned and waved.[''1] He was taken prisoner but many of his peers refused to board the destroyer. They were left to the elements.

After securing from GQ, two carrier fighters zoomed the destroyer to attract its attention. After their second time by, the destroyer followed the aviators. Over the horizon, black smoke was billowing. Another pair of picket vessels were under attack by the fighter planes. When the Haynsworth came on station, the tactical command was transferred to the tin can. Again, the 5 inchers destroyed the picket ships.

Eleven more enemy prisoners were taken on the high seas. Brought aboard DD 700, they were given the uniforms of able seamen, fed chow and coffee, and then moved down to the temporary brig, the forward diesel room. The destroyer’s doctor, Lt. Allyn Ley, and his three pharmacist mates provided medical care. One prisoner had ‘half his face shot away and the other had a bit of his side and rump pretty well shot up.[''2] The care was given with mixed emotions. Pharmacist Mates Second Class James K. Jones, Jr, “was torn between anger at the POW’s and his compassion as a medic.[''3]

The carrier raids of the day were a success. As the final flights returned to their carriers nests at the end of the day, the Haynsworth reentered the phalanx. Lines were rigged between the tin can and the USS Bunker Hill. Three of the most seriously wounded prisoners were transferred across along with two POWs considered to be the most intelligent. Seven stayed on the destroyer. Many of Cdr. Tackney’s blue jackets were not happy to have enemy combatants on board. “I warned the crew about the prisoners,” recalled Gus Scutari FC2c. “Some night they’ll go through the ship and shoot everyone.[''4]

Two days later the Fast Carrier Task Force was providing air cover for the invasion of the island of black sand, Iwo Jima. As the day came to a conclusion, the Haynsworth nestled up to the USS Essex. The bosun’s chair was sent back and forth to transfer the seven POWs while refueling was done.

“The prisoners became objects of considerable interest to the carrier’s crew, who clustered around the cell doors, plied the prisoners with candy bars and cigarettes, and gave them their first lessons in Navy English. Thus, when Admiral Sherman came below to take a look at them, he was startled by the Japanese politely folding arms across stomach, bowing from the waist, and remarking what they had been told was the proper gathering to a flag officer, ‘F--- you, Joe![''5]

[''1] With the permission of Lynn Morton Lindenmann
[''2] ibid
[''3] From the letters of James Jones, Jr. PhM2c, permission of Lynne Jones
[''4] Interview with the author, December 2013
[''5] Morison, Samuel Eliot, History of United States Naval Operations in World War II: Victory in the Pacific 1845, Castle Books, Edison, New Jersey, 1960