Navy Vet Remembers
The article below appeared in the Portsmouth Herald (NH), Tuesday, August 22, 1995. Thomas Miskill is a member of the DeHaven Sailors Association.
Rye Man Recalls Tokyo Bay Battle
by Barbara Metzler
RYE—It was an exercise for the academy books.
At midnight on July 22, 1945, Destroyer Squadron 9 and its flagship the USS DeHaven crept toward Tokyo Bay under orders to find any enemy ships and destroy them. The sailors knew the waters were mined and that guns guarded land on both sides.
As the nine destroyers approached the bay, radar picked up the presence of six Japanese ships outbound in Tokyo Bay. U.S. commanders decided to turn their ships around, wait, then head back in time to intercept the ships as they left the tight quarters of the bay.
What happened next helped earn the DeHaven a presidential unit citation.
The battle is among the highlights of Thomas Miskill's 22 year career in the Navy.
Miskill, who lives in Rye with his wife Helena Duff Miskill, was chief engineer on the DeHaven. He and his shipmates will remember the days aboard the destroyer during a reunion at the Ramada Inn in Portland , Maine this week.
The DeHaven was part of Admiral William Halsey's fast carrier task force during World War II, and it earned its page in history. The ship escorted the USS Missouri into Tokyo Bay for the final surrender ceremony.
When the 337-foot long DeHaven was commissioned at Bath Iron Works in March 1944, it was on of the more heavily armed destroyers in the world, equipped with six five-inch guns and 10 21-inch torpedoes along with 40 and 20 millimeter guns and depth charge racks.
Mills met his wife in Maine. She worked at the Iron Works and on commissioning day, she kissed the DeHaven's keel and vowed it would never sink. Not a man was lost off the ship during Miskill's two years aboard and the DeHaven survived a typhoon that capsized three other destroyers, tore flight decks from three aircraft carriers, and snapped a cruiser in half.
The battle against the Japanese in Tokyo Bay would do less damage to the U.S. forces than the typhoon. In fact the typhoon caused more damage to the fast-carrier task force than the Japanese Navy did in two years of warfare.
The four Japanese cargo ships and two destroyer escorts were hugging the coastline when the U.S. destroyers came upon them
As they came abreast, each of the nine destroyers fired tow torpedoes each, sinking the four cargo ships. The destroyers were damaged and grounded. None of them fired a shot in return.
Hearing the explosions, the ground batteries on the island of Oshima and along the bay began firing their guns into the air. In the darkness, they were unable to determine where the enemy fire had originated, so they fired into the air. Miskill said. None of the U.S. ships was hit.
The battle was the first time any U.S. vessels had entered the approach in Tokyo Bay during the war.
After the Japanese surrendered, Miskill was on of the first U.S. Naval officer to go ashore. What he saw astounded him and convinced him that President Truman had made the right decision in dropping the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Miskill saw a Japan that was heavily fortified. Its industries were underground for protection. The beaches were mined. There was "thousand upon thousand" of suicide boats, kamikaze planes, and human torpedoes, all designed to damage the enemy at the cost of the attacker's life.
On VJ Day he was aboard the DeHaven in the bay.
Ten days later, the crew received a congratulatory dispatch form Admiral Halsey. Like many other dispatches, Miskill kept in among his mementos.
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