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A Kamikaze Attack on New Mexico, Fifth Fleet Flag: A Photo Essay

New Mexico (BB-40)

New Mexico (BB-40) immediately after a kamikaze crashed into stack, 12 May 1945. The photograph was taken from Wichita (CA-45). (80-G-328653, NARA II, College Park, Md.)

New Mexico (BB-40) approached her night anchorage at Hagushi off Okinawa the evening of 12 May 1945 after just completing a replenishment of provisions and ammunition at Kerama Retto. At 1856, Shubrick (DD-639), a destroyer on radar picket reported an enemy plane with a trailing friendly approaching the vicinity of the Fifth Fleet flagship 35 miles away. Now on alert, New Mexico turned to its own search radar and identified the same targets 21 miles away at 1900. Visual contact of the two planes was made at 1905 and the sky lookouts shortly after sighted four planes moving in a loose formation across their ship’s stern. Both of New Mexico’s Mk. 33 directors were trained on the port quarter at 1906 and General Quarters sounded minutes later—the forward director identified two friendlies and the after two enemies. The two Japanese planes (a “Frank” Ki-84 and “George II” N1K-J) crossed astern. The “George II” made its run, passing up the starboard side and turning towards the bow of its target. Four of New Mexico’s starboard five-inch guns, along with six 40mm and twenty-two 20mm guns, opened up on the target as it began its glide and strafing fire. One five-inch shell fortunately burst underneath the target causing it to lift, catch fire, and splash into the sea on the ship’s port quarter after it caused only minimal damage with its strafing.


A.A. fire from New Mexico (BB-40) as the first kamikaze, a “George II” begins its dive on 12 May 1945. A five-inch shell burst underneath of it during descent and caused it to narrowly miss. (80-G-326638, NARA II, College Park, Md.)

New Mexico (BB-40)

The stack of New Mexico (BB-40) seen burning like a blowtorch after the initial explosion. This helped contain the damage as the stack’s uptake drew much of the fire upward. The photograph was taken from Wichita (CA-45). (80-G-328654, NARA II, College Park, Md.)

The pilot of the “Frank” capitalized on the diversion caused by his wingman. As the first plane dove and drew fire, the second pilot, carrying a 500 lb. bomb, made a wide orbit and initiated his run. With the gun directors unable to swing back to the second target in the short amount of time that had elapsed, the only fire able to be brought on the second plane came from the crew manning three 40mm and fifteen 20mm mounts. Despite making several hits on the bogey, plane number two crashed into the ship’s gun deck on the starboard 20mm tub and smashed into the forward stack at 1912. A.A. ammunition fell through the hole created by the plane and tumbled down into the boilers causing a massive explosion that knocked three of New Mexico’s four boilers out of commission. Witnesses reported that the “top of the stack looked like a blow torch.” This was a fortuitous, as the smoke stack drew the force of the explosion upward and reduced the intensity of the fire on the gun deck level.[1] The damage was quickly controlled, but the six minutes between visual contact and crashing came at a high cost. New Mexico reported afterward that the attack was “well-coordinated” and “delivered by what appeared to be skillful and intelligent pilots.” It was notable to the crew the pilot who crashed into the ship was identified as a sergeant (he was recovered still strapped in his seat along with his plane’s engine wedged in the stack).[2]

New Mexico (BB-40)

Photo of 20mm mounts on New Mexico’s (BB-40) starboard side looking aft. The second plane, a “Frank” crashed into the starboard 20mm mounts causing many casualties. Note the spent casings on the deck, evidence of the crew’s valiant efforts to fight off their attacker.  (80-G-326648, NARA II College Park, Md.)

Chaplain Harold E. Buckley conducting services

Chaplain Harold E. Buckley conducting services from podium on 13 May for crew killed in kamikaze attacks the previous evening. Admiral Raymond Spruance, Fifth Fleet commander, is at left of the bandstand alongside Lt. Cyrus R. Huie, USNR, ship’s band. To the immediate right of Buckley is New Mexico’s skipper, Capt. John M. Haines and his executive officer, Cmdr. Charles B. Beasley. (80-G-326656, NARA II, College Park, Md.)

Fifty-four Sailors and Marines, mainly those on A.A. guns, were killed and more than 100 wounded. Casualties came primarily from the kamikaze crash, but also from the strafing fire of both planes and friendly fire that came belatedly as the planes were well into their dives. As was the case with countless other ships facing similar attacks off Okinawa, “identifying the dead was extremely difficult as well as an unpleasant task in that many bodies were extensively mutilated.”[3] The bodies were placed in shrouds that night and identification process took until sunrise due to several more air defense interruptions. With the colors moved to half-mast, shipmates said their final farewells in a funeral service on board New Mexico attended by Admiral Raymond Spruance at 1050 on 13 May. By 1124, hostilities resumed with reports of multiple enemy periscope sightings coming from nearby ships. All the dead were removed for burial by the U.S. Army, 27th Division Cemetery at Okinawa by the Graves Registration Service.

                                    —Richard Hulver, Ph.D., NHHC History and Archives Division, May 2020


New Mexico casualties from 12 May 1945

KIA/MIA—54 Total

Enlisted Navy—28

Enlisted Marines—23

Missing in Action Navy—3

Wounded—119 Total

Officers Navy—2

Enlisted Navy—99

Officers Marines—1

Enlisted Marines—17

Sailors and Marines Killed and Missing



Adams, Carl Cooper S1c

Anderson, Delmer Dale Pfc

Beutler, Alma John S2c

Andrus, Calvin Steele Pfc

Boyd, Jessie Earl S1c

Burrows, Willie Ernest Pfc

Carpenetti, Anthony Edward GM2c

Crafton, Robert Charles Pfc

Carpenter, Max David S2c

Daniel, Milton Darle Sgt.

Cash, Norris S2c

Douthitt, Edward Tennant Pfc

Duganier, Armon Joe S2c

Duncan, Charles Ammon Cpl

Dukes Wallace GM2c

Earson, Albert Claude Pfc

Enders, John Nelson EM3c

Kirk, James Joseph Jr. Pfc

Fields, Lester Francis Coxswain

Knezevich, Rudolph Elbert Pfc

Figg, Everett Eugene BM2c

Lasocki, Edward William Pfc

Flickinger, Richard Leroy Jr. Coxswain

Minahan, John Patrick Pfc

Franklin, Robert Theron S1c

Owen, Ross Naxwell Pvt

Gates, John Lenard EM3c

Perry, William Carey 1st Sgt

Graham, James Maurice S1c

Petrovich, Samuel John Pfc

Hart, Cletus Marshall S1c

Rodewald, Charles Scott Pfc

Hatcher, William Hudson S1c

Rosenwicz, Alexander Charles Jr. Sgt

Johnson, Oden Dana S1c

Sealock, Warren Harding Ass’t Cook

Key, John Lowis GM3c

Senseman, Calvin Vercil Pfc

Kimball, Orville Eugene S1c

Smit, David Gordon Pfc

Modesitt, Kenneth Wayne S1c

Walton, Paul Thomas Sr. Pfc

Moorefield, Alva James GM1c

Wiseman, Reggie Neal Pfc

Novak, Raymond Coxswain

Zuniga, Leandro Pfc

Palsma, Allen Wilbur S2c


Rouceux, Walter Louis RM1c


Schuler, Henry Edwin RM2c


Teefy, Joseph Frince S2c


Waters, Hiram Beverly PhM3c






Burhans, James S1c


Felan, Adam Alfaro S2c


Gordon, William Alva S1c



[1] New Mexico, “Report of Okinawa Jima Operations,” V-6.  Available at in War Diaries.

[2] “Special Action Report covering A.A. Action by the USS New Mexico (BB 40) on 12 May 1945,” 1 June 1945, 2.  Available on in WWII War Diaries.

[3] New Mexico, “Report of Okinawa Jima Operations,” VII-2.  Available at in War Diaries.

Published: Fri May 08 15:29:40 EDT 2020