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Typhoons and Hurricanes: Pacific Typhoon at Okinawa, October 1945

Related Resources:

Typhoons and Hurricanes: The Effects of Cyclonic Winds on U.S. Naval Operations
US Navy Ships lost in selected storm-related incidents
Extract on this typhoon from Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet and Pacific Ocean Areas Report


On 4 October 1945, a typhoon was spotted developing in the Caroline Islands and tracked as it moved on a predictable course to the northwest. Although expected to pass into the East China Sea north of Formosa on 8 October, the storm unexpectedly veered north toward Okinawa. That evening the storm slowed down and, just as it approached Okinawa, began to greatly increase in intensity. The sudden shift of the storm caught many ships and small craft in the constricted waters of Buckner Bay (Nakagusuku Wan) and they were unable to escape to sea. On 9 October, when the storm passed over the island, winds of 80 knots (92 miles per hour) and 30-35 foot waves battered the ships and craft in the bay and tore into the quonset huts and buildings ashore. A total of 12 ships and craft were sunk, 222 grounded, and 32 severely damaged. [for listing of vessels] Personnel casualties were 36 killed, 47 missing, and 100 seriously injured. Almost all the food, medical supplies and other stores were destroyed, over 80% of all housing and buildings knocked down, and all the military installations on the island were temporarily out of action. Over 60 planes were damaged as well, though most were repairable. Although new supplies had been brought to the island by this time, and emergency mess halls and sleeping quarters built for all hands, the scale of the damage was still very large. If the war had not ended on 2 September, this damage, especially the grounding and damage to 107 amphibious craft (including the wrecking of four tank landing ships, two medium landing ships, a gunboat, and two infantry landing craft) would likely have seriously impacted the planned invasion of Japan (Operation Olympic).

Extract on the Typhoon from Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet and Pacific Ocean Areas report on the Surrender and Occupation of Japan

Annex A.

Typhoon "Louise" The 9 October 1945 Storm at Okinawa.


On 4 October a typhoon developed just north of Rota as a result of a barometric depression and the convergent flow of equatorial air and tropical air. Guam Weather Central called the storm of apparently weak intensity "Louise" and put out the first weather advisory on it at 041200Z, with further advisories following at intervals of six hours. Up to that time of the 16th advisory (080600Z), the storm was following a fairly predictable path to the NW, and was expected to pass between Formosa and Okinawa and on into the East China Sea. At this time, however, the storm began to veer sharply to the right and head north for Okinawa. The 17th advisory at 081200Z (081100I) showed this clearly, and units began to be alerted for the storm late in the evening of the 8th. The forecast for Okinawa was for winds of 60 knots, with 90 knot gusts in the early morning of 9 October, and passage of the center at 1030(I).

"Louise", however, failed to conform to pattern, and that evening, as it reached 25º N (directly south of Okinawa) it slowed to six knots and greatly increased in intensity. As a result, the storm which struck in the afternoon of the 9th has seldom been paralleled in fury and violence; the worst storm at Okinawa since our landings in April.

The sudden shift of the storm 12 hours before its expected maximum , from a predicted path 150 miles west of Okinawa to an actual path that brought the center of the storm less than 15 miles east of Okinawa's southeast coast, caught many craft in the supposedly safe shelter of Buckner Bay without time to put to sea far enough to clear the storm. The ninth of October found the Bay jammed with ships ranging in size from Victory ships to LCV(P)s. All units, both afloat and ashore, were hurriedly battening down and securing for the storm.

By 1000 the wind had risen to 40 knots, and the barometer was down to 989 millibars, visibility was less than 800 yards, the seas were rising, and the rain was coming down in torrents, liberally mixed with salt spray. By 1200, visibility was zero, and the wind was 60 knots from the east and northeast, with tremendous seas breaking over the ships. Small craft were already being torn loose from their anchors, and larger ships were, with difficulty, holding by liberal use of their engines. At 1400 the wind had risen to 80 knots, with gusts of far greater intensity, the rain that drove in horizontally was more salt than fresh, and even the large ships were dragging anchor under the pounding of 30 to 35-foot seas. The bay was now in almost total darkness, and was a scene of utter confusion as ships suddenly loomed in the darkness, collided, or barely escaped colliding by skillful use of engines, and were as quickly separated by the heavy seas. Not all ships were lucky; hundreds were blown ashore, and frequently several were cast on the beach in one general mass of wreckage, while the crews worked desperately to maintain watertight integrity and to fasten a line to anything at hand in order to stop pounding. Many ships had to be abandoned. Sometimes the crews were taken aboard by other ships; more often they made their way ashore, where they spent a miserable night huddled in caves and fields. A few were lost.

By 1600 the typhoon reached its peak, with steady winds of 100 knots and frequent gusts of 120 knots. At this time the barometer dipped to 968.5 millibars. This was the lowest reading that the barometers recorded, and was probably the point of passage of the center of the typhoon, but the maximum winds continued unabated for another two hours, the gusts becoming more fierce, if anything. During this period, the wind shifted to the north, and then to the northwest, and began to blow ships back off the west and north reefs of the Bay and across to the south, sometimes dragging anchor the entire way. These wild voyages by damaged ships caused a nightmare series of collisions and near escapes with other drifting ships and shattered hulks.

A typical experience was that of FLAGLER (AK). Her anchors dragged at 1200, and despite the use of both engines she was blown ashore a mile north of Baten Ko by 1315, colliding with LST 826 on the way. Grounded, she began to pound, and all power was lost. At 1710, as the wind changed, FLAGLER was blown off the reef and back across the bay, grazing a capsized YF and continuing on, with a 13º port list, no power, and the lower spaces and after engine room beginning to flood. One anchor was lost, the other dragged across the bay. By 1800 she had moved two miles across the bay and had grounded on the east side of Baten Ko, alongside a DE hulk. Lines were made fast to the DE, but flooding continued, and AT 0545 ship was abandoned. A small party remained on board, however, and successfully stopped flooding as the typhoon subsided. FLAGLER was later salvaged.

Many other ships had similar stories. SOUTHER SEAS (PY) rammed or was rammed by five other ships, before sinking. NESTOR (ARB) was forced to start maneuvering as early as 1020, in order to avoid INCA (IX), which had started to drag at 0950. In dodging INCA, NESTOR slipped nearer to the beach, and was forced to put all engines ahead one third in order to hold position on her anchor. At 1230 NESTOR again had to maneuver to narrowly avoid a collision with LST 826, which was dragging anchor very rapidly; but in so doing, NESTOR nearly ran down ARD 27. Another LST, the 823, was being slowly driven towards NESTOR. While maneuvering clear of 823, NESTOR's anchor chain fouled the buoy to which an LCI was secured, and NESTOR had to slip her anchor chain. Despite the full use of all engines, NESTOR was being driven on shore by the increasing winds. The starboard anchor was let go but would not hold, and in clearing two more ships dragging anchor (ARD 22 and LCI 463), NESTOR moved perilously close to the beach. At this time the winds were constantly rising, seas were breaking clear over the ship, and the conn was being deluged with salt water and torrents of rain.

No sooner had the last two ships been cleared than YP 289 closed dead ahead, and it became necessary to back all engines to avoid a collision, but this put NESTOR so close to the beach that she soon grounded. It was now 1345, only an hour and a quarter after first dodging LST 826. While grounded, NESTOR was struck by YF 1079, was holed, and began to pound badly. At 1420 a sudden shift of wind drove NESTOR off the beach, flipped her around end for end, and drove her back on the beach alongside OCELOT (IX 110). Breakers 20 to 30 feet high now pounded NESTOR, flooding all starboard compartments aft of frame 25. At 1530 the wind again shifted, driving NESTOR's stern against APL 14, completely crushing the stern, while the bow penetrated the side of OCELOT at frame 10. A few minutes later, NESTOR settled in 24 feet of water. At 1945 all personnel and records were evacuated to APL 14.

Conditions on shore were no better. Twenty hours of torrential rain soaked everything, made quagmires of roads, and ruined virtually all stores. The hurricane winds destroyed from 50% to 95% of all tent camps, and flooded the remainder. Damage to Quonset huts ran from 40% to 99% total destruction. Some of these Quonsets were lifted bodily and moved hundreds of feet; others were torn apart, galvanized iron sheets ripped off, wallboarding shredded, and curved supports torn apart. Driven from their housing, officers and men alike were compelled to take shelter in caves, old tombs, trenches, and ditches in the open fields, and even behind heavy road-building machinery, as the wind swept tents, planks, and sections of galvanized iron through the air.

At the Naval Air Bases some 60 planes of all types were damaged, some of which had been tossed about unmercifully, but most of which were reparable. Installations suffered far more severely. The seas worked under many of the concrete ramps and broke them up into large and small pieces of rubble. All repair installations were either swept away or severely damaged. At Yonobaru, all 40' by 100' buildings were demolished, the same being true at the NATS terminal. Communication and meteorological services were blown out at most bases by 1900.

The storm center of typhoon "Louise" passed Buckner Bay at about 1600, from which time until 2000 it raged at peak strength. The storm was advancing at the rapid rate of 15 knots in a northerly, then northeasterly, direction, and by 2000 the center was 60 miles away. The winds gradually began to subside. Conditions in Buckner Bay were at this time somewhat improved by the wind's having veered to the northwest across the land mass of Okinawa, which reduced the size of the seas, and probably saved many more damaged ships from being driven off the reefs and sunk in deep water. Nevertheless, the subsidence at 2000 was a relative one, from "super-typhoon" to typhoon conditions, with steady winds of 80 and 60 knots throughout the night, and some gusts of higher velocity. A wild, wet, and dangerous night was spent by all hands, afloat or ashore. It was not until 1000 on the 10th that the winds fell to a steady 40 knots and rains slackened.

Having left Okinawa, the storm proceeded NNE on a curving track. Ships of occupation groups anchored in Amami O Shima anchorage had a rough time, with winds over 70 knots; and Japan, from Nagasaki to Tokyo, was alerted for the storm. On the night of 10-11 October, "Louise" ran into cold air from over Japan; as a result the center of the typhoon occluded, moved aloft to the north, and eventually dissipated. Our forces from Nagasaki to Wakayama experienced winds of 40 to nearly 60 knots on the 11th and 12th. Ships at sea were enabled to maneuver clear of the worst of the storm, and sustained only minor damage, despite heavy seas.

This ended typhoon "Louise", but the damage it left behind on Okinawa was tremendous. Approximately 80% of all housing and buildings were destroyed or made unusable. Very little tentage was salvageable, and little was on hand as a result of previous storms. Food stocks were left for only 10 days. Medical facilities were so destroyed that an immediate request had to be made for a hospital ship to support the shore activities on the island.

Casualties were low, considering the great numbers of people concerned and the extreme violence of the storm. This was very largely due to the active and well directed efforts of all hands in assisting one another, particularly in evacuation of grounded and sinking ships. By 18 October, reports had been sifted and it was found that there were 36 dead and 47 missing, with approximately 100 receiving fairly serious injuries.

The casualty list of ships was far greater. (See Appendix III following). A total of 12 ships were sunk, 222 grounded, and 32 damaged beyond the ability of ships' companies to repair. ComServDiv 104 under Commodore T.J. Keliher, was assigned to the salvage work. By 19 November, 79 ships had been refloated, and 132 were under repair. The remaining 53 badly damaged vessels still afloat had been, or were being, decommissioned, stripped, and abandoned. On 14 November, ComServPac, (Vice Admiral W. W. Smith) inspected the damage, and decided that only 10 ships were worth complete salvage, out of some 90 ships with major work to be done on them. This decision was made chiefly because similar types of ships were rapidly being decommissioned in the United States, and the cost of salvage would have been excessive for unneeded ships.

Repair work went on rapidly ashore. As a result of the experience in the earlier typhoon in September, extra stocks of food and tentage were to be stored on Okinawa. These were enroute on 9 October, and in less than a week after the storm, supplies were fairly well built up; emergency mess halls and sleeping quarters had been erected for all hands, and 7500 men had been processed for return to the United States.

Appendix III. Typhoon Damage at Okinawa. (Based Upon Progress Reports to 19 November)

Hull Number and Vessel Name Damage
 AFD 13   Grounded - required tow to rear area for docking. Strip, abandonment. Decommissioned 11/24/45
 AFD 14   Damaged - considered unsalvageable. Limited local repairs, for local use.
AFDL 32   Damaged - salvage doubtful. Strip, abandonment.
AK 156 ALAMOSA Damaged - extent unknown
AK 181 FLAGLER Refloated 10/29. Recommended return rear area and decommissioning
AMc 86 INDUSTRY
Grounded. Overturned. Flooded to main deck
AN 23 MAHOGANY Refloated 10/23. Captain Black recommends tow to rear area.
AN 42 CLIFFROSE Grounded
AN 52 SNOWBALL Gounded. Reyond economical repair
AOG 4 WABASH Damaged - extent unknown
AOG 25 CALAMUS Refloated 10/24. Retain in service, repair
AOG 27 ESCATAWPA Refloated 10/10/45
AOG 31 KANAWHA Grounded. Refloated 10/19/45
AOG 40 SACANDAGA Grounded. Strip, abandonment. Decommissioned 11/24/45
APA 68 BUTTE Damaged - extent unknown
APc 19   Grounded.
APc 103   Grounded. Decommissioned 11/23/45. 
APD 86 HOLLIS Grounded. Not considered salvageable.
APD 36  GREENE Grounded. Not considered salvageable. Decommissioned 11/24.
 
APL 12   Refloated 10/25/45. Limited local repairs, for local use
APL 13   Grounded. Decommissioned 11/23/45. 
APL 14   Grounded. Recommended for stripping.
APL 33   Refloated 11/24/45
ATF 117 WATEREE Sunk
ATF 115 TENINO
Refloated 10/10/45
ARB 6 NESTOR Grounded - recommended for decommissioning
ARB 7 SARPEDON Damaged - extent unknown
ARV(E) 3 AVENTINUS Damaged - extent unknown
ARV(A) 5 FABIUS Damaged - extent unknown
ARG 9 MONA ISLAND Refloated 10/15/45
ARS 16 EXTRICATE Grounded - extent unknown
ATR 9   Damaged - extent unknown
ATR 191   Grounded
ARD 21   Grounded - salvage doubtful. Recover, tow to Guam, dock, refloated 11/20/45
ARD 22   Refloated 10/12/45
ARD 29 Refloated 10/12/45 
ATA 177   Refloated 10/12/45
ATA 181   Grounded. Refloated 10/14/45
ATA 191   Grounded.Beyond economical salvage.
ATA 200   Refloated 10/12/45
Barge K-4058   Refloated 10/22/45
CM 12 WEEHAWKEN Grounded. Beyond economical salvage.
DE 444 OBERENDER Refloated 11/3/45
DMS 2 LAMBERTON Grounded
DMS 10 SOUTHARD Grounded
DMS 17 DORSEY Grounded
Dredge MACKENZIE Refloated 10/24/45
FS 406   Grounded
FS 409   Grounded
FS 411   Refloated 10/22/45
FS 552   Grounded
IX 91 PALOMAS
Sunk
IX 110 OCELOT Stripped, abandonment 10/29/45. Decommissioned
IX 163 CINNABAR Stripped, abandonment 10/29/45. Decommissioned
IX 162 LIGNITE Grounded
LCI 31   Grounded - Refloated 10/15/45. Captain Pohl recommends decommissioning and strip of all salvageable material
LCI 57   Grounded.
LCI 67 Grounded
LCI 73   Grounded - Refloated 10/14/45
LCI 127   Grounded.
LCI 230   Refloated 10/23/45
LCI 337   Grounded
LCI 339   Grounded
LCI 397   Grounded
LCI 399   Grounded
LCI 407   Damaged - extent unknown
LCI 410   Refloated 11/5/45
LCI 370   Refloated 11/7/45
LCI 463   Refloated 10/22/45
LCI 460 Refloated 10/12/45
LCI 470   Refloated 10/21/45
LCI 486   Grounded
LCI 550   Refloated 10/19/45
LCI 727   Refloated 10/21/45
LCI 728   Refloated 10/19/45
LCI 763   Grounded - Probably total loss
LCI 796   Refloated 10/23/45
LCI 903   Grounded
LCI 992   Refloated 10/30/45
LCI 993   Damaged - extent unknown
LCI 678   Refloated 11/3/45
LCI 771   Grounded
LCI 1399   Damaged - extent unknown
LC(FF) 486   Grounded - strip, abandonment
LCS 4   Grounded - Refloated 10/19/45
LCS 69   Grounded
LCS 460   Grounded
LCS 550   Grounded
LCT 444   Refloated 10/19/45
LCT 507   Grounded
LCT 586   Grounded
LCT 763   Grounded
LCT 1231   Grounded
LCT 1261   Grounded
LCT 1276   Grounded
LCT 1330   Refloated 10/22/45
LCT 1382   Refloated 11/5/45
LCT 1420   Refloated 10/24/45
LSM 15   Sunk
LSM 9   Grounded
LSM 51   Grounded
LSM 79   Refloated 10/19/45
LSM 137   Grounded - strip, abandonment
LSM 141   Grounded
LSM 143   Grounded
LSM 170   Grounded
LSM 200   Grounded
LSM 273   Grounded
LSM 307   Grounded
LSM 334   Grounded - Refloated 10/11/45
LSM 351   Damaged
LSM 356   Refloated 10/22/45
LSM 344   Grounded
LSM 361   Grounded
LSM 365   Grounded
LSM 406   Grounded
LSM 408   Grounded
LSM 437   Damaged - extent unknown
LSM 444   Grounded
LSM 458   Grounded
LSM 465   Grounded - refloated 10/14/45
LSM 468   Refloated 10/21/45
LSM 1120   Grounded
LST 169   Grounded
LST 494   Refloated 10/22/45
LST 501   Grounded
LST 534   Sunk
LST 561   Grounded
LST 568   Refloated 10/13/45
LST 675   Decommissioned
LST 684   Grounded
LST 690   Grounded
LST 717   Refloated 10/21 (CSD104 10/12)
LST 823   Grounded - Beyond economical salvage
LST 826   Grounded - Beyond economical salvage
LST 830   Grounded
LST 876   Grounded - Refloated 10/14/45
LST 890   Grounded - Refloated 10/19/45
LST 896   Grounded
LST 1001   Grounded - Refloated 10/1/45
LST 1128   Damaged - extent unknown
PB 37   Grounded
PC 584   Grounded - Beyond economical repair
PC 814   Grounded - Beyond economical repair
PC 590   Grounded - Beyond economical repair
PC 1018   Damaged
PC 1120   Grounded
PC 1128   Grounded - Beyond economical repair
PC 1178   Refloated 10/24/45. (CSD 104 refloated 10/16/45)
PC 1238   Refloated 10/19/45. Capsized. Heavily damaged. Decommissioned 11/23/45
PC 1239   Refloated 10/19/45
PC 1245   Refloated 10/19/45
PC 1418   Damaged - extent unknown. Beyond economical repair
PC 1419   Grounded
PC 1461   Grounded
PC 1126   Grounded - Decommissioned 11/23/45
PCS 1418   Grounded - Beyond economical salvage
PCS 1461   Grounded
PGM 27    Grounded - Beyond economical salvage
PGM 23   Refloated 10/21/45
PGM 1421   Grounded
PD 992   Refloated 11/7/45
PY 32, SOUTHERN SEAS Sunk 
SC 275   Grounded
SC 454   Grounded
SC 606   Grounded
SC 686   Grounded - Beyond economical repair
SC 716   Refloated 11/5/45
SC 727   Grounded - Beyond economical repair
SC 999   Grounded - Beyond economical repair. Decommissioned 11/23/45
SC 995   Grounded
SC 996   Grounded
SC 1012   Grounded - Deleted by Cincpac 132145
SC 1306   Grounded - Beyond economical repair
SC 1311   Damaged - extent unknown Refloated
SC 1314   Damaged seriously but afloat
SC 1326   Grounded
SC 1328   Refloated 10/15/45
SC 1338   Refloated 10/24/45
SC 1368   Grounded
SC 1418   Grounded
SC 1461   Grounded
SC 1474   Refloated. Temporary repairs completed. Ready to proceed to U.S.
YMS 454   Grounded - Beyond economical salvage
YMS 90   Refloated 10/24/45. Return rear area, decommission
YMS 146   Grounded - Abandonment
YMS 148   Grounded
YMS 151 Grounded - Strip, abandonment
YMS 193   Refloated 11/6/45 (CSD 104 has refloated 10/45)
YMS 86   Damaged seriously but afloat
YMS 99   Refloated 11/2/45
YMS 193   Refloated 11/6/45
YMS 275   Grounded - Beyond economical repair. Strip, abandonment
YMS 292   Refloated 10/19/45
YMS 348   Grounded
YMS 381   Damaged - extent unknown
YMS 308   Refloated 11/6/45
YMS 383   Grounded - Sunk, strike from register
YMS 384   Sunk
YMS 424   Grounded - Beyond economical salvage
YMS 442   Refloated 10/19/45
YMS 590   Grounded
YSD 48   Sunk
YSD 64   Grounded
YSD 77   Damaged seriously but afloat
YF 552   Grounded
YF 606   Grounded - Refloated 11/20/45
YF 626   Grounded
YF 627   Grounded - Refloated 11/21/45
YF 718   Refloated 10/12/45
YF 731   Refloated 10/12/45
YF 739   Grounded - Recommended for stripping
YF 747   Refloated 10/22/45
YF 750   Grounded
YF 744   Refloated 10/24/45
YF 756   Damaged seriously but afloat
YF 757   Sunk
YF 739   Damaged - extent unknown. In service present location, then strip.
YF 442   Refloated 10/22/45
YF 292   Refloated 10/22/45
YF 993   Grounded
YF 1079   Grounded - Recommend for stripping
YO 111   Refloated 10/19/45
YO 112   Grounded
YO 122   Refloated 10/19/45
YOG 40   Grounded
YOG 75   Sunk, strip, abandonment
YOG 80   Refloated 11/20/45
YOGL 13   Grounded
YOGL 16   Grounded
YP 42   Grounded. Refloated 10/12/45
YP 235   Grounded
YP 236   Grounded
YP 239   Grounded - Recommended for stripping
YP 289   Sunk
YP 520   Grounded - Recommended striking from register
YP 529   Grounded
YP 620   Damaged - extent unknown
YTB 379 CANUCK  Sunk 
YTB 386 WASHAKIE Grounded
YTB 411 PONKABIA Sunk
YT 80   Grounded
YT 289   Grounded
YT 618   Refloated 11/5/45
YTL 422   Refloated 10/22/45
YTL 423   Refloated 10/24/45
YTL 550   Refloated 10/24/45
YTL 551   Grounded
YTL 552   Refloated 10/21/45
YDG 6   Damaged seriously afloat
YNg 28   Damaged - extent unknown
SS MONROE VICTORY (XAK) Grounded. 
SS JACK SINGER Grounded. 
SS WILLIAM RALSTON  Grounded.
SS RICHARD J. OGLESBY Grounded.
SS HARRINGTON EMERSON Refloated 10/27/45
SS JOSEPH E. JOHNSTON Grounded
SS OVID BUTLER Refloated 10/12/45
SS BROCKHOLST LIVINGSTON Damaged seriously but afloat
SS AUGUSTINE HEARD Damaged - extent unknown
SS GUTZON BORGLUM Damaged - extent unknown
SS DAVID S. BARRY Damaged - extent unknown
SS FRANCIS WILSON  Damaged - extent unknown
SS JOHN M. MILLER Damaged - extent unknown
SS EDGAR W. NYE Damaged - extent unknown
SS JOSEPH HOLT Refloated 10/18/45


Source: Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet and Pacific Ocean Areas Report, Serial 0395 of 11 February 1946, World War II Command File, Operational Archives Branch, Naval Historical Center, Washington, DC.


10 April 2001