Bush sailed on 28 May 1943 for degaussing calibration and then set course for San Diego, Calif. Upon her arrival at the Destroyer Base, San Diego, on the 30th, Bush commenced shakedown training, conducting three weeks of exercises to practice essential skills such as firing automatic weapons and torpedoes, shore bombardment, submarine detection, towing, and night battle operations. On 12 June, Cmdr. Wallis F. Petersen assumed command of Destroyer Division (DesDiv) 48, with Bush as his temporary flagship, while Lt. Cmdr. Thurmond A. Smith became the destroyer’s new commanding officer. Bush departed for San Francisco on 23 June, arriving the next day. On the 26th, the ship was towed into Bethlehem Steel’s Rincon Yard where she underwent a two-week post-shakedown maintenance availability.
On 9 July 1943, Bush reported for duty with Commander Western Sea Frontier. Two days later, she got underway in command of the escort ships—her fellow DesDiv 48 destroyers Mullany (DD-528) and Ammen (DD-527), plus Brownson (DD-518)—for Task Group (TG) 96.11, led by attack transport Heywood (APA-6). Bound for the Aleutian Islands of the territory of Alaska, the convoy’s liberty ships—George W. Julian, Henry Failing, John B. Floyd, Josiah D. Whitney, Nathaniel J. Wyeth, and Richard March Hoe—started to stray from the group within hours of their departure from San Francisco so that by the morning of the 12th, they were in three groups separated by 10–12 miles. The destroyers finally rounded-up the ships on the evening of 13 July, but then rough weather hampered the group’s progress. Still more than 600 miles southeast of the island chain on the afternoon of 18 July, the task group rendezvoused with destroyers Hull (DD-350), Dewey (DD-349), Phelps (DD-360), and Dale (DD-353), who assumed escort duty for the transports. Bush, Ammen, Mullany, and Brownson, detached, headed back to California, conducting exercises and challenging surface contacts over the course of their transit. Upon their return to San Francisco on 21 July, Bush began a week-long availability at Bethlehem Steel.
Now reporting to TG 51.2, the Transport Group of the Pacific Fleet’s Amphibious Force, Bush put to sea on 29 July 1943 to escort another convoy to the Aleutians. The group—consisting of flagship, attack transport Zeilin (APA-3), attack transports Doyen (APA-1), Harris (APA-2), and J. Franklin Bell (APA-16), and attack cargo ship Thuban (AKA-19) with Ammen, Mullany, Sicard (DM-21), and Pruitt (DM-22) screening—experienced a bit of excitement toward the end of the first watch on the night of 2 August when J. Franklin Bell reported two possible torpedo wakes passing ahead of the ship. Several other convoy vessels reported similar sightings, including Bush, which at 0034 on the 3rd reported not only a torpedo wake on her starboard bow but also a periscope close aboard. The convoy took evasive measures, and Bush launched two depth charges. However, after more than an hour spent investigating the sightings, none of the screening ships had made a sound contact, leading Cmdr. Petersen, still situated in Bush, to conclude that both the wakes and the periscope were actually fish moving or jumping at the surface. Approaching their destination two nights later, Bush reported seeing another periscope. The destroyer fired a total of seven depth charges at her presumed foe, but ComDesDiv 48 called off the search after noting a large whale floating nearby.
Later on the morning of 5 August 1943, the convoy arrived at Kuluk Bay, Adak Island, a staging area for an upcoming mission to retake the small island of Kiska. Located more than 200 miles further west in the Aleutian chain, Kiska had been occupied by the Japanese since 6 June 1942. The three destroyers of DesDiv 48 reported for duty with Task Force (TF) 16, the Northern Pacific Force, and after refueling made themselves ready to depart on one hour’s notice. One hour stretched into five days, and Bush, Mullany, and Ammen plus Brownson, Hutchins (DD-476), and Beale (DD-471) finally got underway again on 10 August to serve as screening ships for TG 16.14—battleship Tennessee (BB-43), heavy cruiser Portland (CA-33), and light cruiser Santa Fe (CL-60)—during a shore bombardment exercise at nearby Great Sitkin Island. The destroyers soon returned to their anchorage, however, when a heavy fog forced the cancellation of the exercise. The task group did complete the evolution later in the day, however, and repeated the exercise on the 11th.
Not realizing that the Japanese already had evacuated the island on 28 July, Allied troops commenced landings at Kiska on 15 August 1943. Early that same morning, Bush stood out from Kuluk Bay with Mullany and Daly (DD-519), screening reserve transport units U. S. Grant (AP-29), LST-169, President Fillmore, Henry Failing, George W. Julian, and Josiah D. Whitney en route to Kiska. Arriving in the vicinity of the island the next morning, the convoy was directed to remain in Retirement Area No. 4 until the morning of the 17th, when they anchored in Transport Area No. 2 off the island’s northwest coast. Bush received word at 0151 on the morning of 18 August that fellow DesDiv 48 destroyer Abner Read (DD-526), while on patrol five miles away, had suffered an underwater explosion of indeterminate origin that ultimately claimed the ship’s stern and 70 sailors’ lives. Bush got underway to assume the patrol off the northern tip of the island and continued in this role until 1855, when the reserve transport unit slowly made its way through fog to the relatively sheltered position of Kiska Harbor on the eastern side of the island. The following afternoon while patrolling off the harbor, the destroyer made a sound contact at 500 yards and responded with a barrage of 11 depth charges. A radar contact shortly thereafter proved false, and investigation of the original sound contact area yielded no results. On the evening of the 20th, the task unit less U. S. Grant received orders to return to Adak, and the ships steamed into Kuluk Bay the next evening.
During the last week of August 1943, the DesDiv 48 destroyers, with Daly filling in for Abner Reed while the latter was having her damage repaired, screened for a group of cruisers and battleships led by Salt Lake City (CA-25) during antiaircraft and radar exercises. They returned to Kuluk Bay on the 31st and the entire division held a tender availability with Markab (AD-21) until the morning of 5 September, when the destroyers once again screened the cruisers for another week of training evolutions. On 18 September, Bush and Mullany departed with San Francisco (CA-38), escorting the heavy cruiser to a position roughly 550 miles southeast of Kuluk Bay. The destroyers detached from San Francisco the next afternoon and then conducted two nights of torpedo exercises before returning to Adak on the 21st.
Bush got underway in company with Ammen during the mid watch on 24 September 1943. That morning, the destroyers relieved escort ship Austin (DE-15) and assumed screening stations for the attack transport President Monroe (AP-104). The group arrived at Kiska that evening, and as President Monroe began loading troops from the island at Kiska Harbor, Bush patrolled south of Vega Bay. At 1035 the next morning, the destroyer noted an unidentified surface radar contact 6,000 yards distant. Having been led to believe that any contacts would be enemy, Bush headed straight toward the position, guns ready to shoot, with the prevalent fog limiting visibility to no more than 300 yards. Fortunately, the destroyer did not open fire, as at 200 yards, she encountered a small American tug boat carrying divers sent to examine a sunken Japanese submarine. The remainder of the patrol proved uneventful, and the ship returned to Kiska Harbor that evening and departed for Adak three hours later in company with Ammen and President Monroe.
The convoy put in to Kuluk Bay at midday on 26 September 1943, refueled, and stood out again that evening en route to Hawaii. On the morning of 2 October, the two destroyers screened for enemy submarines as President Monroe entered the harbor at Honolulu. After proceeding to Pearl Harbor, Bush and Ammen spent the next week operating locally, conducting torpedo exercises, various gunnery and fighter director evolutions, and sound exercises with submarine Pollack (SS-180). After putting in another full day of exercises on the 11th, at 1800 the destroyers set course to return to Adak. During the first watch on 14 October, as the ships steamed at 20 knots through moderate seas and force 4–5 winds, Bush struck a heavy swell on her port bow. The force of the impact staved in a bulkhead of the No. 2 five-inch gun handling room, pushing in the door to the compartment by nearly nine inches. Bush shored up the damage and the destroyers continued on at a reduced speed. After reaching Kuluk Bay on the 16th, Bush refueled and then spent the next week alongside the destroyer tender Markab for repairs.
Bush next got underway on 25 October 1943 for exercises with other members of the newly-designated TF 94 (formerly TG 16.6), which included the light cruisers of Cruiser Division 1—Richmond (CL-9), Raleigh (CL-7), and Detroit (CL-8)—as well as Destroyer Squadron (DesRon) 24—the four ships of DesDiv 48 plus Daly, Brownson, Hutchins, Beale, and Bache (DD-470) of DesDiv 47. After conducting a fighter director drill with Ammen, Bache, and the three cruisers on the morning of the 27th, the group shaped a course to the Pribilof Islands in the Bering Sea. Anchoring briefly at English Bay, St. Paul Island, on the 28th, the group then proceeded to Dutch Harbor, Unalaska, arriving the next afternoon for several days of upkeep. At 0620 on the morning of the 31st, cargo ship William T. Sherman, dragging her anchor, drifted towards Bush and Ammen, both tied to the same buoy. The wayward liberty ship swung into Ammen’s port bow, causing minor damage to the destroyer. Ten minutes later, she nearly hit Bush as well. The destroyer’s crew tied down William T. Sherman’s stern to Bush’s bow, preventing the wandering vessel from causing further damage until she could be towed to safety and properly secured.
The task force departed Dutch Harbor on 4 November 1943 and returned to Kuluk Bay on the 6th. Following several days in port, the group then conducted exercises locally. On 17 November, the cruisers got underway with escorts Bush, Brownson, Mullany, and Bache, with Ammen joining in the afternoon. They arrived at Massacre Bay, Attu—the westernmost island of the Aleutian chain—on the afternoon of the 19th, but just three hours later, the group sailed for the Soviet Komandorski [Commander] Islands, more than 200 miles northwest of Attu. After an uneventful patrol, the warships returned to Massacre Bay on the morning of the 23rd. The next day, Bush and Richmond stood out to conduct fighter director drills. They were joined later in the day by Raleigh and Bache and in the evening by Detroit and Ammen. The group made its way back to Kuluk Bay, arriving on 26 November.
On the morning of 27 November 1943, Bush got underway in company with Ammen and Bache. As the destroyers escorted a convoy of eight submarine chasers towards Asuksak Pass, the Vought OS2U-3 Kingfisher (BuNo 09664) piloted by Ens. Edwin D. Brock, USNR, splashed near Bush at 1029, shortly after catapulting from Raleigh. Bush detached from the group and deployed her motor whaleboat to rescue Ens. Brock and his passenger Lt. John W. George, USNR. The boat took the survivors to Raleigh and the two ships returned to Kuluk Bay to effect the return of the whaleboat and its crew to Bush. The destroyer stood out again, transited Asuksak Pass, and rejoined the convoy. As the group headed for Pearl Harbor, high winds and heavy seas as well as an open seam sustained by one of the submarine chasers forced the ships to slow down significantly, putting them a day behind schedule. At 1800 on 2 December, the destroyers detached from the submarine chasers to proceed to Pearl Harbor independently, increasing their speed to 25 knots. Early the next morning, a wave struck Bush and washed away the after section of her starboard bulwark. Prior to entering Pearl on the morning of 4 December, all three destroyers conducted structural tests by dropping patterns of depth charges; Bush received no damage during her test. She then held several days of overhaul at Pearl Harbor Navy Yard to fix fuel tank leaks and her damaged bulwark.
Bush departed Pearl Harbor on the afternoon of 9 December 1943 to catch up with TG 12.2, consisting of fellow DesRon 24 destroyers that had put to sea that morning. She rendezvoused with the task group at 1931 and the ships proceeded to Milne Bay, [Papua] New Guinea, via refueling stops at Funafuti in the Ellice Islands [Tuvalu] and Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides [Vanuatu]. After arriving at Milne Bay on the afternoon of 18 December, Bush was assigned to TG 74.2, flagship Nashville (CL-43), and held a brief tender availability with Dobbin (AD-3) for additional fuel tank repairs.
On Christmas Eve 1943, Bush stood out with TF 74 headed for Cape Gloucester, at the northwestern tip of the New Guinea island of New Britain. There as an early action in the Allied effort to secure New Guinea’s Bismarck Archipelago, the task force was to conduct a bombardment immediately prior to amphibious troop landings. At 0449 on 26 December, TG 74.2—consisting of Nashville, Phoenix (CL-46), Bush, Bache, Ammen, and Mullany—split from the larger group to assume position off Cape Gloucester, and the bombardment commenced midway through the morning watch. With the destroyers providing screening support, the cruisers of TG 74.2 opened fire at targets around Yellow Beach on the western side of Borgen Bay at 0625. An hour later, the ships stopped firing and Allied planes took over for the next half hour. At 0800 as the troops began their assault on the beach, the task force reformed to retire. After safely shepherding the force through Vitaz Strait, the DesDiv 48 destroyers detached at 1420 and reversed course to return to the Cape Gloucester area to patrol offshore overnight. The next morning, 27 December 1943, the destroyers rendezvoused with Drayton (DD-366) escorting an echelon of four tank landing ships (LSTs) and three submarine chasers (SCs) to Yellow Beach and then assumed an antisubmarine screen offshore. When the LSTs finished unloading on the morning of the 28th, the destroyers escorted them to Buna, arriving the following afternoon.
Through the first three weeks of the new year, Bush and her sister ships continued to escort convoys of LSTs between Cape Gloucester and positions on the Papuan Peninsula. An unusual incident occurred on 2 January 1944 within an hour of anchoring at Buna. That night, Bush sailor S2c Louis D. McCloud apparently had a dream in which the command to abandon ship had been issued, and as a result, he jumped overboard. Fortunately, he was rescued quickly and sustained no injuries from his action. On the 7th, while the destroyers patrolled north of Cape Gloucester, Lt. John M. Hundley, MC-V(G), USNR, Ammen’s medical officer, diagnosed himself with acute appendicitis. ComDesDiv 48 ordered Lt. George M. Johnson, MC-V(G), USNR, Bush’s doctor, transferred to Ammen to perform an appendectomy, which was completed successfully that evening.
After safely escorting a convoy from Saidor to Cape Sudest in the early morning hours of 21 January 1944, Bush in company with Ammen and Mullany steamed to Milne Bay, where they rendezvoused with Phoenix and Boise (CL-47) and prepared for their next mission. Early on the morning of the 24th, the group sailed to Buna, and at midday on the 25th, the warships stood out and headed for their objectives. At 0130 on 26 January, Bush, Ammen, and Phoenix commenced a 19-minute bombardment of targets at Madang, New Guinea. Boise and Mullany had detached earlier to fire at the airstrip at Alexishafen, several miles further up the coast. The mission complete, the ships retired to Buna to refuel and replenish ammunition.
The DesDiv 48 destroyers returned to convoy escort duty on 28 January 1944. Bush put into Buna on the evening of 2 February. The next day she received one civilian and a number of military passengers and departed independently. She refueled and loaded ammunition at Milne Bay on the 4th and then set course for Brisbane, Australia. On the morning of the 7th, the destroyer transferred her passengers and some freight to HMAS ML.821 off Brisbane and then continued on for Sydney. The next morning Bush rendezvoused with her squadronmates Daly, Beale, Bache, Ammen, and Mullany and the group arrived at Sydney later that afternoon to begin a ten-day liberty and upkeep period. During this time, Cmdr. John B. McLean assumed the role of ComDesDiv 48 on 14 February, with the division pennant continuing to fly in Bush. Beginning the return trip to New Guinea at midday on 19 February, Bush once again departed independently and steamed to Brisbane to bring aboard passengers and freight the next morning. She arrived at Milne Bay on the 22nd, rejoining her squadron, and then on the 23rd, Bush, Bache, and Ammen transited to Buna.
On the evening of 27 February 1944, Bush embarked 66 Army troops, five members of the U.S. Army Signal Corps, an officer of the Headquarters Unit, and three war correspondents for transport to the upcoming landing operations at Los Negros in the Admiralty Islands. The next morning, Bush departed as part of Task Unit (TU) 76.1.3 in company with Flusser (DD-368), Mahan (DD-364), Drayton, Smith (DD-378), and Welles (DD-628). Arriving at the objective on the morning of 29 February, Bush assumed her assigned station and began bombardment of her first target at 0740. She switched targets four minutes later, and save for a two minute pause, she continued firing towards a position at the mouth of Hyane Harbor until 0809. Ten minutes later as the first troops began to hit the beach, Bush moved into position to transfer her complement of army personnel to assault boats, and once the transfer was complete, she then began antisubmarine patrol off the entrance to the harbor. In the afternoon, the destroyer switched to a station screening the transport area.
At 1729, TG 76.1 retired from Los Negros, with Bush and Stockton (DD-646) remaining in the vicinity of Hyane Harbor to provide call fire support. Between 1920 and 1958, Bush fired at two targets and then returned to her antisubmarine patrol station. Over the next two days, Bush continued her antisubmarine screening duties and also responded to bombardment orders. Over the course of the day on 1 March, the destroyer embarked two Army doctors and eleven critically injured soldiers who had been attacked by Japanese troops overnight. Beginning shortly after sunset on the evening of the 1st, the two destroyers began making contacts with enemy planes, singly and in groups large and small, which prompted Bush to take evasive measures. In the morning, Bush joined the screen for a group of LSTs headed in to Hyane Harbor. As the convoy stood in to the harbor, Bush and Ammen received orders to head to Hauwei Island to respond to reports of enemy gunfire at American warships entering Seeadler Harbor. In a heavy rain, Bush fired at Hauwei and Ndrilo Islands over the course of an hour with no resistance. She then returned to Hyane Harbor to respond to enemy fire there. While in transit, the destroyer opened fire on a group of possible Mitsubishi A6M3 Zero-Sen Navy Type Zero carrier fighters [Hamps] that had been attacking a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress operating nearby. Finally, at 1310, Bush resumed her antisubmarine patrol off Hyane Harbor.
Just before sunset on 2 March 1944, Bush joined the screen for a group of LSTs departing the area. During her transit to Buna, the destroyer conducted burials at sea for two Army soldiers who had died while receiving medical treatment on board. She arrived at Buna at midday on the 4th. After disembarking all of the army personnel, refueling, and replenishing ammunition, Rear Adm. William M. Fechteler and Maj. Gen. Innis P. Swift, USA—respectively Commander of the Admiralty Islands Naval Attack Group (TG 76.1) and Commander of the Army’s 1st Cavalry Division—and their staffs joined the ship and she put to sea again that evening. Upon reaching the area off Hyane Harbor at 1100 the next day, Bush embarked Brig. Gen. William C. Chase, USA, Commander, 1st Brigade, First Cavalry Division, leader of the Army’s campaign in the Admiralties. From the decks of the destroyer patrolling near the entrance to the harbor in frequent rain and poor visibility, the two Army generals observed as a group of Allied bombers attacked the beach for the rest of the morning and afternoon. At 1622, all of the army personnel transferred over to destroyer Nicholson (DD-442), and Bush, with Rear Adm. Fechteler still embarked, later steamed for Cape Sudest. Early on the morning of the 6th, the destroyer stopped off Dreger Harbor to offload recently captured Japanese equipment into a waiting LCV(P) for transfer to the U.S. Army Intelligence Center. Later that morning at Cape Sudest, Rear Adm. Fechteler and his staff transferred to command ship Blue Ridge (AGC-2). The destroyer then refueled and continued on to Buna, anchoring at 1125.
Bush joined destroyers Stevenson (DD-645), Welles, Thorn (DD-647), and the Australian destroyer HMAS Arunta (I.30) to escort a convoy of LSTs to Los Negros on the morning of 7 March 1944. After arriving on the 9th, she patrolled off the entrance to Seeadler Harbor while the transports unloaded. Then in the evening she assumed a new patrol line with Thorn and HMAS Arunta while other members of the convoy left the area. However, on the evening of 10 March, Bush’s after main condenser salted up, indicating a leak somewhere in the boiler system. Several hours later, early on the morning of the 11th, the leak still had not been located and the bearings in the port shaft “became unduly hot.” The ship reduced speed to five knots and secured the port shaft. After the beginning of the mid watch on 12 March, the engineering crew completed repairs on the condenser, and Bush arrived at Seeadler Harbor later that morning.
Taking over for HMAS Arunta at 1221 that afternoon from her position in Seeadler Harbor, Bush began firing at the western end of Hauwei Island, at the mouth of the harbor entrance, as a precursor to troop landings. The bombardment continued until 1328, and twenty minutes later, troops commenced their assault on the beach as the destroyer stood by to provide call fire. Bush left the harbor at 1930 to conduct off-shore patrol with the other destroyers overnight, returning to Seeadler Harbor at 0800 on 13 March 1944. At 1330, she trained her guns at a target area at the mouth of the Lorengau River on Manus and fired for 13 minutes. The destroyer stood out of the harbor at 1535 and joined up with a convoy of LSTs from Seeadler and Hyane Harbors and steamed for Buna.
Bush, detached from the convoy early on the morning of 15 March 1944, sailed independently to Langemak Bay to refuel. The next day, she joined with another convoy headed back to Seeadler Harbor, arriving on the morning of 17 March. That afternoon, Bush departed in company with dock landing ship Carter Hall (LSD-3) and patrol frigates Long Beach (PF-34) and Glendale (PF-36) to return to Buna, arriving the next night. Following a three-day tender availability with Dobbin, Bush refueled and then got underway on 24 March for Cape Cretin to escort another convoy. Approaching Seeadler Harbor on the morning of 26 March, Bush and HMAS Warramunga (I.44) detached to steam to Cape Sudest to refuel. The following day, the ships proceeded to Milne Bay, where Bush remained for the rest of the month.
On the morning of 5 April 1944, Bush was underway conducting training exercises with Daly. The destroyers had just completed a towing exercise and Bush had gone to general quarters for a damage control drill when at 1351 an “intense vibration” developed in the port engine. With the engine shut down and the shaft secured, an inspection revealed “the dowel pin holding halves of number two low pressure turbine after bearing in place had sheared. The bearing halves rotated with the rotor… cutting off the lube oil supply to the bearing. This caused the bearing to wipe and the journal to score and burn. Viewed from aft, the rotor has moved to the right and has dropped forward .025" allowing the shroud band of the sixth stage to rub on lower casing.” Bush cancelled the damage control drill and instead returned to port on a single engine.
With his flagship in need of major repair work, ComDesDiv 48 shifted his pennant to Abner Read on 8 April 1944, and Bush sailed for Cairns, Australia, once again using only her starboard engine. After arriving on the afternoon of the 9th, the destroyer moved to floating dry dock ARD-7 on the 13th to have her port propeller removed. She left dry dock the next day and began her lengthy solo journey back to the United States for repairs. After refueling at Espiritu Santo (18–19 April), Funafuti (21 April), and Pearl Harbor (27–28 April), Bush continued onward towards San Francisco. She arrived in the Bay Area early on the morning of 4 May, but poor visibility due to thick fog left her maneuvering in the channel until late afternoon. She finally put in to Navy Yard Mare Island at 1940 that evening.
During her repair availability, Bush spent nine days in dry dock from 16–24 May 1944. She also had her second change of command, with Lt. Cmdr. Rollin E. Westholm became commanding officer on 30 May. Following dock trials on 8 June, the ship engaged in several days of underway testing and recalibration. Bush departed San Francisco on 19 June, reaching San Diego the next evening. There she conducted training, frequently in company with destroyer Woodworth (DD-460) and/or high speed minesweeper Boggs (DMS-3), including exercises in radar use, aircraft tracking, submarine detection, torpedo firing, air defense, shore bombardment, battle tactics, and a variety of gunnery evolutions. Upon completion of her training, Bush returned to San Francisco (7–10 July) and then set off for Hawaii.
Bush arrived at Pearl Harbor on the morning of 16 July 1944. The next day, she began more underway training exercises, beginning with antiaircraft battle practices (17–18 July) with the small aircraft carrier Independence (CVL-22) and destroyer Mahan. On the 22nd, Bush departed for the island of Kahoolawe off the southwestern coast of Maui where she conducted several shore bombardment exercises. On the morning of 23 July, the destroyer acted as fire control vessel and then completed additional shore bombardment exercises. At 1148, Bush switched from shore bombardment to antiaircraft battle practice. Shortly thereafter, one of the destroyer’s five-inch Antiaircraft Common projectiles hit the starboard antenna suspension bar on the No. 2 stack, sending shell fragments flying. Four men immediately lost their lives—FC2c Forrest D. Berry USNR, B2c Daniel G. Skudera USN, WT1c Raymond B. Lockhart USNR, and S1c Harry Z. Chotos USNR—and a fifth, TM2c Eugene T. Lukowski, died from his injuries in the afternoon. Thirteen other men were wounded in the incident. Bush proceeded at high speed to Pearl Harbor, arriving at 1546 to transfer the casualties to the Naval Base Hospital.
In addition to the human toll, the shellfire accident destroyed Bush’s Mk. 51 director and antenna crossbar on the No. 2 stack, damaged the director platform and mount of the No. 43 40-millimeter gun, and made numerous holes and dents in her decks, bulkheads, stacks, and other structures. The destroyer remained at Navy Yard Pearl Harbor for the next two weeks undergoing repair work. Bush returned to service on 6 August 1944, departing with repair ship Jason (AR-8) en route to Tulagi in the Florida Islands. Arriving on the afternoon of the 15th, Bush stood in to Tulagi Harbor while Jason continued on to Purvis Bay. Two days later, the destroyer sailed independently to Seeadler Harbor in the Admiralty Islands, temporarily joining Task Force 74 upon her arrival on the 20th. For the rest of the month, Bush conducted underway training with members of the task force, drilling in radar tracking, antiaircraft defense, battle tactics, night search and attack, and torpedo exercises.
On 10 September 1944, Bush set off for her first post-repair mission. During the destroyer’s absence from the Pacific theater since April 1944, Allied forces had made significant gains in capturing Japanese-controlled territory and in further isolating remaining enemy outposts in the southwestern Pacific. Beginning in late April with amphibious landings at Hollandia, the Allies advanced more than 500 miles across western New Guinea to the northwestern end of the island. Over the summer, the Allies took over Saipan and Tinian in the Mariana Islands and most recently recaptured the island of Guam on 10 August. As the Allies closed in on the Japanese-occupied Philippine Islands, their next objectives became Palau in the western Caroline Islands and Morotai in the Netherland East Indies. Bush steamed to Humboldt Bay, Hollandia, New Guinea, to join the Allied forces assembling there on 11 September before proceeding to Morotai.
Gen. Douglas MacArthur, USA, Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in the Southwest Pacific Area, boarded Nashville with his observing party on the morning of 12 September 1944, and the light cruiser got underway for Morotai with Bush and Abner Read escorting. They caught up to the rest of the task force, which had departed the previous night, on the morning of the 13th. Early on 15 September, the ships approached the operations area. While the transports began making their way to the landing beaches on Morotai, the cruisers and destroyers of Bush’s task unit took their stations to launch an attack on supposed Japanese strongholds in the Galela Bay and Tobelo Island areas of nearby Halmahera Island. At 0612 Bush investigated two unidentified surface contacts but returned to her station upon confirming that the contacts were island natives in canoes. The task unit opened fire at their assigned targets at 0711, several minutes ahead of schedule. Bush did not begin shooting with the other ships as an island between her position and the shores of Halmahera obfuscated her target. However, with the assistance of the “magnificent” spotting provided by a plane flying from Boise, the destroyer was able to commence bombardment of Pitoe Village at 0730. The warships received no return fire from the shore, and the bombardment ended at 0815. Bush, Abner Read, and Nashville made the short trip across the Morotai Strait to the landing areas on the Gila Peninsula. The two destroyers screened offshore as Nashville stood in and Gen. MacArthur received briefings on the situation at Morotai. In the early afternoon, the three ships departed for Hollandia, arriving on the morning of 17 September.
The three ships put to sea again that night for a morning test firing of their automatic weapons and put in to Woendi Harbor, Schouten Islands, on the afternoon of the 18th. Bush remained at Woendi Harbor until 27 September 1944 when she got underway with TF 75 and TF 74, arriving at Seeadler Harbor, Manus, on the morning of the 29th. She was underway on 2, 3, and 4 October conducting exercises at various times with Mullany, HMAS Shropshire, Phoenix, and Killen (DD-593). After refueling on the 10th, Bush departed with TF 75 on 11 October, arriving at Humboldt Bay the following afternoon.
On the morning of 16 October 1944, Maj. Gen. Charles P. Stivers, USA, and three staff members embarked Bush for transportation to Leyte Gulf in the Philippines. The destroyer steamed north with Nashville and Abner Read as TU 77.1.2, and the group joined up with TU 77.1.1 as well as TG 79.1 on the 18th. TG 77.1 detached the next afternoon and arrived at Leyte Gulf early on 20 October. At 0642 that morning, Bush destroyed a floating mine that had been reported by one of the other ships in the task group. As Allied troops headed for the beaches on Leyte Island that morning, Bush and Abner Read escorted Nashville to the northern transport anchorage area and Maj. Gen. Stivers and his staff disembarked from Bush.
TU 77.1.2 got underway at 1609 on 20 October 1944 heading out to night patrol in Leyte Gulf. At 1843 Bush sighted an enemy plane, believed to be an Aichi D3A1 Type 99 Val, to starboard. All three warships opened fire at the aircraft, but it escaped by flying into a rain squall to the north of the formation. The crew would be called to general quarters frequently over the next several days with reports of enemy planes in the area as Bush continued to anchor in the transport area in San Pedro Bay by day and patrol with the task group in the gulf at night. The destroyer did not herself have any further close encounters with the enemy until the morning of 24 October when just before the beginning of the forenoon watch, Bush went to general quarters and began making smoke while still on patrol due to reports of nearby Japanese planes. Twenty minutes later, five bombs—three to starboard, two to port—splashed about 700 yards from the ship. Combat air patrol (CAP) quickly shot down two twin-engine bombers.
Air raid alerts continued throughout the day in San Pedro Bay on 24 October 1944. Rather than patrolling that evening, Bush spent the night at anchor at a more northerly position in the bay. Overnight, Japanese warships engaged with the Allied fleet in Surigao Strait, the southern entrance to Leyte Gulf, ultimately losing all but one of the seven ships sent into battle. However, unbeknownst to the Allies, another group of enemy surface combatants led by Rear Adm. Takeo Kurita steamed around the island of Samar, heading south off the island’s eastern coast towards Leyte Gulf. At 0645 on the morning of the 25th, Kurita’s force of four battleships, eight cruisers, and eleven destroyers encountered the northernmost of three task groups of American escort carriers operating off the eastern entrance to Leyte Gulf. The ships of TU 77.4.3, known as “Taffy 3”—escort carriers Fanshaw Bay (CVE-70), St. Lo (CVE-63), White Plains (CVE-66), Kalinin Bay (CVE-68), Kitkun Bay (CVE-71), and Gambier Bay (CVE-73); destroyers Hoel (DD-533), Heermann (DD-532), and Johnston (DD-557); and escort ships Dennis (DE-405), John C. Butler (DE-339), Raymond (DE-341), and Samuel B. Roberts (DE-413)—would over the course of the morning wage a valiant and spirited defense against the surprise attack of the larger and better-armed foe.
Meanwhile in San Pedro Bay, Bush got underway at 0733 and almost immediately began firing at a Mitsubishi G3M3 Type 96 land attack plane approaching on the destroyer’s starboard quarter. The Nell dropped some bombs off Capines Point at the mouth of the bay, flew up the ship’s starboard side, and quickly splashed into the water without attacking Bush. An hour later, three more Nells flew towards the destroyer’s starboard bow. Ross (DD-563) shot down one of the planes and Bush opened fire on the remaining two, but they were able to get away. Later, Bush and Abner Read screened Nashville as they proceeded into Leyte Gulf. Bush fired at three Vals approaching low on the port bow and turned them away while en route to join TG 77.2 that afternoon. Along with TG 77.3, the warships patrolled the entrance to the gulf overnight. Detaching late the next morning, Bush proceeded to Lauaan Bay to refuel. Thwarted by the presence of enemy planes, the ship went to San Pedro Bay and refueled with tanker Caribou (IX-114). That evening, three Vals approached from the south on Bush’s starboard bow while a fourth Val came in dead ahead and low to the water. The ship fired at the latter target but had to cease fire after the plane made a left turn, crossing the bow, and flew over land occupied by Allied forces.
Enemy planes continued to be a frequent menace as they attacked ships anchored in the bay as well as the airfield at Tacloban for the next several days. On the evening of 28 October 1944, Bush got underway in company with Jenkins (DD-447), Shaw (DD-373), Coronado (PF-38), and PC-623 to rendezvous with and escort TU 78.2.21. Detaching on the morning of the 29th with Jenkins, the destroyer proceeded to the gulf to join Abner Read, later reporting to TG 77.1 for screening duty. At 1704, Bush detached from the task group and headed for Surigao Strait to assume an antisubmarine and radar picket patrol station on a line between Amagasan Point on Leyte and Tamoyauas Point on Dinagat Island to the east.
Despite being called to general quarters several times for reports of unidentified or enemy planes in the area, Bush’s radar picket patrol was rather uneventful until the morning of 1 November 1944. Operating nine miles away in Cabalian Bay, destroyer Anderson (DD-411) reported two Mitsubishi G4M1 Type 1 attack planes [Bettys] flying nearby at 0927. Bush went to general quarters and then observed one of the airplanes launch a torpedo at Anderson. Bush increased her speed to 25 knots, and less than ten minutes later, she too came under attack. At 0940, a Betty flying low to the water approached the destroyer’s starboard beam, and the ship unleashed her full firepower on the aircraft. The plane launched a torpedo and turned away to the right, taking some damage from the 40-millimeter guns. Bush quickly maneuvered to avoid the fish, but shortly thereafter the ship felt the concussion of a detonation.
Within minutes, a second Betty came in on the ship’s port beam and launched a torpedo at 800 yards distance. Once again, skillful emergency maneuvering brought Bush out of the torpedo’s path. In flames from the destroyer’s gunfire, the plane splashed in a fiery explosion 100 yards from the ship on the port quarter. With two close calls in less than ten minutes, Bush’s battle with Japanese aircraft had only just begun, however. Another Betty emerged from the clouds in the direction of the sun at 0951, gliding in on the destroyer’s port bow. While being barraged by all of the ship’s batteries, the plane dropped a 500 pound bomb at its target before flying off to the left. Fortunately, the weapon sailed over the destroyer and exploded 60 feet off her starboard quarter. The force of the near-miss blow temporarily disrupted some of the ship’s radio communications, damaged the main battery rangefinder, disabled the No. 45 gun’s power drive, and made a very small hole in the hull above the waterline. Bush soon spotted yet another Betty lurking in the distance, and at 1007 this plane also came in on a bombing run. The ship’s gunfire turned this plane away though before it could attack.
At 1023, Bush spotted another Betty off her port quarter. This aircraft soon disappeared into the clouds, but the destroyer was not yet out of danger. Twenty minutes later, two more Bettys made a run on the ship’s port side. Bush’s batteries opened up, and one of the planes launched a torpedo and veered away to the left. As the destroyer took evasive maneuvers, the second plane also launched a fish, and both the Betty and the torpedo passed in front of their target. While taking fire from Bush’s guns, the plane flew down the vessel’s starboard side, strafing as it flew by. Lt. Percy A. Lilly, Jr., the destroyer’s executive officer, as well as F1c Lynwood M. Smith both sustained gunshot wounds during this attack. At 1057, Bush trained her guns on two Mitsubishi A6M5 Type 0 carrier fighters that appeared on her starboard bow. One of the Zekes was clearly smoking as they disappeared into the clouds. The damaged plane soon reappeared, coming at the destroyer on the starboard bow. As Bush maneuvered to evade, the adversaries unloaded their guns at each other. The plane dropped a small 75 pound bomb that exploded off Bush’s starboard quarter, and during an apparent kamikaze attempt, the Zeke splashed 50 yards astern of the ship.
Bush spotted two more Bettys headed her way at 1108. One plane turned away but the other continued on its course towards the destroyer. After Bush opened fire, however, this plane aborted its attack and flew away. The Bettys could be seen circling outside of gun range for a time, but by 1124, they had disappeared. With no further sightings of enemy aircraft by midday, Bush dropped her speed to 15 knots and resumed her patrol line. Cmdr. Rollin E. Westholm, her commanding officer, earned the Legion of Merit with Combat V for his skillful and determined leadership as his destroyer endured nearly two hours of almost continuous attacks, facing a total of ten Japanese aircraft and shooting down two while still maintaining the picket station. “The Commanding Officer feels that although our morale was high before the action of 1 November, it has become even higher by our first taste of real blood,” Westholm reflected in his after action report. What he believed to be a reference to his ship’s experience in a Japanese propaganda radio program the following day provided additional gratification. “On 2 November 1944,” he wrote, “Tokyo Rose on her regular daily program said, ‘Our aircraft attacked a lone American destroyer which had automatic 5-inch guns.’ This command is sure Tokyo Rose referred to Bush and is especially proud that we should have been singled out for a portion of Tokyo Rose’s excellent program.”
After an intense morning on 1 November 1944, Bush went to general quarters twice more that afternoon for reports of enemy aircraft. At 1827, the destroyer received word that Anderson, still in Cabalian Bay screening a group of infantry landing craft (LCIs), had been struck by a Japanese suicide plane. Bush steamed over to help, sending her medical officer, pharmacist’s mate, and hospital apprentice to the damaged warship to assist with casualties as Anderson’s medical officer and pharmacist’s mate were missing following the kamikaze hit. Bush returned to her patrol station until destroyer Leutze (DD-481) arrived to relieve her at 2037. Bush then escorted Anderson and her task unit of 10 LCIs to San Pedro Bay, arriving in the early morning hours of 2 November. The ship observed an enemy air attack on Tacloban airfield while waiting to retrieve her medical staff from Anderson. Getting underway at 0631, Bush rejoined TG 77.1 later that morning patrolling the entrance to Leyte Gulf. Capt. John B. McLean, ComDesDiv 48, once again broke his pennant in Bush on 4 November, as his previous flagship Abner Read had been sunk by a kamikaze on the 1st.
Over the next week of steaming with the task group, Bush’s crew was called to general quarters many times due to nearby enemy aircraft, but the destroyer did not come under attack in that time. On the afternoon of 10 November 1944, Bush left the task group to assume a patrol station in Surigao Strait with Bryant (DD-665). The next morning at 1006, Bush went to investigate a flashing light spotted in Cabalian Bay. Twenty minutes later, the destroyer plucked two downed Army pilots from the sea. During a bombing mission to Ormoc Bay on the western side of Leyte on the 10th, Japanese destroyers shot down North American B-25 Mitchell (Serial No. 43-27953) piloted by 2nd Lt. Richard R. Seay, USA—who suffered a back injury in the incident—and 2nd Lt. James H. Gamble, USA, of the 822nd Bombardment Squadron, 38th Bombardment Group, 5th Bomber Command out of Morotai. Bush returned to her patrol station, and on the morning of 12 November she briefly had the opportunity to fire at a group of seven Zekes, but the aircraft quickly flew out of range.
Bush rejoined TG 77.1 on the morning of 14 November 1944. That evening, a leak in the ship’s astern throttle had developed to the point that the starboard engine was shut down, an issue that would recur several times over the next three days. On the afternoon of the 16th, Bush joined TU 77.1.1, consisting of battleship Mississippi (BB-41), Cruiser Division 15, destroyers Robinson (DD-562), Ammen, and Bryant, and Australian heavy cruiser HMAS Shropshire. After destroyer HMAS Arunta joined up three hours later, the group shaped a course for Seeadler Harbor. From the afternoon of the 17th, Bush completed the transit to the Admiralties on her port engine only. Reaching Manus at midday on 21 November, she tied up alongside destroyer tender Piedmont (AD-17) for an availability to address her engine troubles.
While completing repairs, Bush endured another unfortunate accident. On the morning of 25 November 1944, F1c Edwin L. Rawleigh, USNR, was working on the evaporator in the forward engine room with an electrical chipping hammer. At 1030, the equipment experienced a short circuit, sending an electrical shock through Rawleigh’s body. Sadly the fireman died a few hours later.
Getting underway again on the afternoon of 28 November 1944, Bush stood out with TU 77.1.5, which included Nashville, Boise, Halford (DD-480), Bryant, and Robinson, to return to Leyte. Just before the morning watch on 2 December, the task unit dissolved and joined TG 77.2 patrolling the entrances to Leyte Gulf. On the afternoon of the 5th, the destroyer put in to San Pedro Bay to refuel and reprovision before heading out again on the 6th to assume a patrol station in Surigao Strait. Bush left her station on the morning of 8 December to rendezvous with Howorth (DD-592) and Shaw at the eastern entrance to Leyte Gulf and then continued on to Tarraguna with Howorth to rendezvous with DesRon 56, designated as the Ready Destroyer Division. That afternoon, the squadron departed, escorting a convoy of supply transports to Ormoc Bay on the western side of Leyte where American troops had landed on the 7th. Arriving at 0429 on the 9th, the transports headed for the shore while the destroyers screened. Ordered to provide fire support for the army troops on the beach, Bush trained her guns on the Japanese lines northeast of Camp Downes and commenced bombardment of her target at 0834. She stopped firing 17 minutes later to join the task unit for departure. Following an uneventful transit, Bush anchored in the southern transport area off Dulag at midnight.
On the morning of 12 December 1944, Bush departed the transport area as flagship of a task unit conducting a slow tow of supplies for the landing operation scheduled to begin on the western Philippine island of Mindoro on the 15th. “I consider the whole voyage a comical but serious ‘Saga of the Sea,’” Capt. McLean, ComDesDiv 48, wrote in his after action report in his capacity as task unit commander. His “motley assembly” of ships included the old ocean tug (ex-minesweeper) Whippoorwill (ATO-169), Australian tug boat HMAS Reserve, YO-14, LCT-675, LCT-389, and U.S. Army tug boats TP-129, TP-113, LT-1, and ST-381 as well as their tows, with Halford, Radford (DD-446), Holt (DE-706), and Jobb (DE-707) in the screen. Convoy ships were unsure of their orders both in terms of forming up at Dulag and delivering their supplies at Mindoro, and communications between ships proved difficult due to differences in radio equipment and varying knowledge of visual signals. After spending more than three hours “rounding up” the convoy, Bush and her task unit set off for White Beach, San Jose.
Creeping along towards Mindoro at speeds of five knots or less, the ships were called to general quarters multiple times per day for unidentified air contacts and were attacked by Japanese planes several times during the transit. On the afternoon of the 13th, an enemy twin engine bomber staged a surprise attack on the convoy but inflicted no damage on the group before flying away. The following morning, more enemy planes greeted the convoy, with the group’s CAP shooting down two planes and a third escaping to the east. Sailing in the Sulu Sea on the morning of 15 December, Bush fired at an oncoming Kawasaki Ki-48 Army Type 99 twin-engine light bomber. The Lily launched a 150-pound bomb at the destroyer, missing 100 yards off the starboard quarter, and then splashed in flames off the ship’s port beam. On the morning of the 16th, a group of three Zekes flew towards the convoy as it passed through the Cuyo East Pass west of Panay. One of the planes, flying low, aimed with suicidal intent at YO-14, but the ships on the left side of the convoy opened up on the plane, sending it into the water in flames just short of the fuel oil barge. The attack left YO-14 with limited damage to her hull and engine and two missing sailors. Reflecting on the transit in his after action report, Cmdr. Westholm reported “standing out feeling like ‘bogey-bait,’” especially when the convoy lacked defensive air support and when conditions slowed the group down to a near stand-still.
The convoy arrived at White Beach on the afternoon of 16 December 1944. Bush stood out at 1950 and received five stretcher cases from minesweeper Saunter (AM-295) before assuming a patrol station off the beach. At 0600 the next morning, Bush joined the return convoy, now consisting of Whippoorwill, Saunter, Scout (AM-296), LST-605, HMAS Reserve, and U.S. Army tug boats ST-381, TP-113, TP-129, and LT-1. Moving at a quicker pace than the outbound transit and experiencing fewer encounters with, and no attacks from, enemy aircraft, the convoy arrived at San Pedro Bay at 1300 on 19 December. Over the next several days, Bush went to general quarters numerous times for unidentified aircraft in the area of San Pedro Bay and shot down one Japanese Nell with her 40-millimeter guns late on the afternoon of the 20th.
On 27 December 1944, Bush moved from San Pedro Bay to Dulag, south of the bay, and that afternoon the destroyer departed leading another resupply convoy en route to Mindoro. From the first contact with the enemy shortly after 0300 on the 28th, the group of nearly 100 ships faced numerous bogey alerts and frequent air attacks throughout the voyage. Later that morning, two groups of three Japanese planes each closed the convoy and began attacking from the rear. Two of the six aircraft splashed in flames, one just missing tanker Porcupine (IX-126) in a kamikaze attempt. Two other suiciders hit their marks, however, with one crashing into the stack of William Sharon, setting her on fire, and the other plunging into the ammunition-laden John Burke, causing her to explode in a massive debris cloud “leaving no trace of life or material.” Adverse weather conditions at nearby American airfields prevented the CAP from arriving until shortly after noon, and their presence kept the enemy at bay for the time being. After the CAP departed, however, more Japanese planes arrived on the scene around dusk and renewed their attack. Bush and the other screening ships successfully defended the convoy from this attack, shooting down three aircraft. But within minutes, another group of planes came in from ahead, split into three groups, and launched a coordinated attack from the quarters and rear of the convoy. The escorts were able to repel the Japanese aircraft after an hour, but during the battle a plane-launched torpedo disabled LST-750, and she was later scuttled. “At the end of this day,” wrote Capt. McLean, once again serving as task unit commander, “I was of the belief that the enemy intended to do their utmost to finish off this convoy.”
On the second full day of the transit, the Japanese persisted in their pursuit, harassing and attacking the convoy almost continuously. However, with CAP coverage in place for most of this day, the enemy inflicted no significant damage to the convoy while losing several of their planes, including three that Bush helped to shoot down. After the Japanese “most effectively kept all hands up all night,” the convoy reached Mindoro on the morning of 30 December 1944, and still the Japanese kept up their unrelenting air attacks. The arrival of the CAP on station at 0718 finally brought the American vessels some peace, allowing the supply ships to unload on the beach while the destroyers patrolled just offshore. However at 1545 that afternoon, a group of Vals swooped in to attack the ships, and kamikazes succeeded in striking and seriously damaging Pringle (DD-477), Gansevoort (DD-608), and the motor torpedo boat tender Orestes (AGP-10). Porcupine, survivor of a near miss with a suicider two days prior, proved not so fortunate on this day as one of the assailants crashed into the tanker, which could not be saved after her load of aviation gasoline ignited.
By 1820 on the evening of 30 December, the task unit—now consisting of 21 LSTs, one Army freight and supply ship, one merchant ship, and eight destroyers—formed up and departed for the return transit to Leyte. The convoy only met with two minor attacks from hostile aircraft on the return trip, but as Capt. McLean noted, “when not attacking, [the Japanese] so effectively heckled that all hands were well near exhausted after four days of alert conditions” to and from Mindoro. His flagship Bush had sounded general quarters no less than 49 times in a three-day period, and during the round trip one of the accompanying LSTs counted approximately 319 bogey alerts, many of which proved to be friendly aircraft that failed to display proper identification friend-or-foe (IFF) signals. The group reached the Dulag area on the evening of 1 January 1945. Cmdr. Westholm received a Gold Star in lieu of a second Legion of Merit with Combat V award for his efforts in assisting Capt. McLean, who had no staff following the sinking of his previous flagship, to accomplish the hazardous mission to resupply the forces at Mindoro and to defend the convoy ships from harm.
Getting underway again with Stembel (DD-644) on 4 January 1945, Bush departed San Pedro Bay en route to a rendezvous point 150 miles east of Leyte Gulf. The following afternoon, the two destroyers joined the screen for TG 79.2, transporting army troops for the planned 9 January invasion of Lingayen Gulf on the western side of Luzon. The task group’s transit through the Philippine Islands was uneventful until dusk on 8 January when at 1850 two Nakajima Ki-43 Hayabusa Army Type 1 fighter planes began to harass the formation. Shortly thereafter, one of the Oscars smashed into the side of escort carrier Kitkun Bay, creating a gaping hole in her side partially below the water line. The task group continued onward, entering Lingayen Gulf just before the start of the morning watch on the 9th. Less than three hours later as the transports headed for the beach, Bush was released from screening duties and with destroyers Halford, Stanley (DD-478), and Dashiell (DD-659) formed TG 77.7 to patrol the outer entrance to the gulf between Santiago Island and San Fernando Point.
At 1837 that evening, the destroyers opened fire on two Zekes passing over the formation. A few minutes later, the planes separated and one made a suicide dive on Bush’s stern. While firing at her foe, the ship made high-speed evasive maneuvers, and the Zeke splashed in Bush’s wake a mere 25 feet astern, showering the fantail with debris. Overnight there were several false alarms, but the next morning, the ships fired at a Val making an attack on Dashiell that lost control and splashed. On the afternoon of 11 January 1945, the task group, now also including Stembel, steamed in to San Fernando Bay and bombarded an assortment of 33 smaller Japanese vessels and barges trying to offload on shore, obliterating their targets. The next morning, the group less Stanley sailed to the lower gulf and launched an attack against the town of Rosario. At 0946, a spotter plane reported significant damage inflicted by the warships, effectively neutralizing the threat. Dashiell resumed the bombardment shortly thereafter, however, and continued firing until 1100, when the task group left to replenish their ammunition.
For the next week, Bush continued to patrol with her task group in Lingayen Gulf. On 20 January 1945, she attempted to refuel with fleet oiler Tallulah (AO-50) but had to stop less than a half hour later as excessive rolling of the ship caused damage to the hull, two gun shields, antennae, and a boat davit. Very early the next morning, Frazier (DD-607) and Smith relieved Bush and Stembel on station and the latter two destroyers formed TU 78.11.9 with Bryant and Bennion (DD-662) and steamed to Leyte Gulf, arriving at San Pedro Bay on the morning of the 23rd. High speed transport Dickerson (APD-21) joined the group, and after refueling, the ships departed that evening for Ulithi Atoll in the Caroline Islands. Arriving on the morning of 26 January, Bush loaded ammunition, refueled, and reported to Fifth Fleet the next day. On the morning of the 28th, she moored next to destroyer tender Dixie (AD-14) for an availability through 1 February.
Departing Ulithi on the afternoon of 6 February 1945, Bush in company with Boyd (DD-544), Wadsworth (DD-516), Swearer (DE-186), Stern (DE-187), and O’Neill (DE-188) screened a group of 20 attack transports to Guam. After arriving on the 8th, Bush spent the next eight days refueling and resupplying in preparation for the upcoming operation at Iwo Jima. During this upkeep period on 14 February, an unfortunate mishap injured three of the destroyer’s crewmen. During dinner in the crew mess hall, phosphorous caps in the left shirt pocket of S2c Frank Hicks, USNR, exploded, igniting his clothing as well as that of the men sitting next to him, S2c John Valerio, USNR, and WT2c Herman E. Underwood, USNR. All three sailors received burns on various parts of their bodies. The ship’s doctor treated the men and placed them on the binnacle list.
On the morning of 17 February 1945, Bush got underway with TU 51.1.5, which included Anthony (DD-515), Putnam (DD-757), Stern, and O’Neill as screen with seaplane tenders Hamlin (AV-15) and Chincoteague (AVP-24) joining the group in the afternoon. Landings on Iwo Jima began on the morning of 19 February, and Bush’s task unit arrived in its operating area 90 miles east-southeast of the Japanese island that night. Bush screened the transports in those waters for the next week as other units received orders for duty at the island.
Finally, on the night of 26 February 1945, Bush, Anthony, O’Neill, and Stern guided the remaining transports to Iwo Jima, arriving the next morning. The task unit dissolved and Bush reported for duty with TG 51.2. Over the next week, the destroyer screened the transports and night retirement groups, patrolled on radar picket stations to warn of and defend against incoming enemy aircraft, and provided gunfire support for the troops onshore, firing illumination shells, bombing targets, and providing harassing fire. “Firing at the enemy put new life into all hands after the many hours at general quarters,” Cmdr. Westholm wrote in his action report, commending the high performance and morale of his crew.
On 6 March 1945, Bush was screening the transport area at Iwo Jima when she was relieved on station by destroyer Hall (DD-583) in the afternoon. At 1830, she joined high speed transports Sands (APD-13), Goldsborough (APD-32), and Rathburne (APD-25) and destroyers Hudson (DD-475) and Bache screening a group of transports as they departed for Saipan. Upon arrival on 9 March, Bush replenished her fuel, food, and ammunition stores and then departed for Guam the next afternoon, screening Transport Squadron 11. They arrived on the morning of the 11th, and then that afternoon, she was underway again escorting the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ training suction hopper dredge Dan C. Kingman to Leyte. Reaching San Pedro Bay on the afternoon of 16 March, the destroyer detached from the dredge and then joined the screen for the Southern Attack Force making preparations for the anticipated invasion of the Japanese island of Okinawa.
Bush took part in a practice shore bombardment and amphibious landing rehearsal in the Dulag area on 17 March 1945. She then returned to San Pedro Bay for refueling and several days of upkeep. Getting underway again on the morning of the 21st, Bush took part in an antiaircraft firing practice with Anthony and Ammen and then returned to San Pedro Bay for a four-day tender availability alongside Markab. Assigned to the screen for Transport Group EASY (TU 51.13.2) for the transit to Okinawa, the task unit cleared Leyte Gulf on the morning of 27 March. The group conducted an antiaircraft shooting exercise in the early afternoon and then at 1800 set course for Okinawa. Heavy weather with winds up to 30 knots during the first two days of the transit did not hinder the completion of underway training exercises, and the task unit arrived off the transport landing area at Hagushi Beach on southwestern Okinawa early on the morning of 1 April. Bush assumed a patrol station in the transport area until 1000, when she received orders to take over Radar Picket Station 1 approximately 50 miles northwest of the island.
At 1330 on 1 April 1945, Bush arrived at Radar Picket Station 1, where her role would be to be on the alert for and provide the task force early warning of any Japanese forces approaching Okinawa and to fire at any enemy planes within a 12,000 yard range. Although the destroyer made numerous air contacts throughout the day and night, none of the planes came within gunfire range of the ship. The next morning, Prichett (DD-561) arrived to relieve Bush, which then headed south to Kerama Retto, a small group of islands off the southwestern coast of Okinawa. During the transit, Bush encountered and destroyed a floating chemical horn mine off the coast of Ie Jima. After screening the night retirement group overnight, Bush refueled with fleet oiler Brazos (AO-4) on the morning of 3 April and then returned to Radar Picket Station 1 to take over for Prichett, which had been seriously damaged in an overnight air raid.
Japanese planes returned to the picket station on the afternoon of 3 April 1945, and Bush tracked many contacts. At 1700, a group of four Yokosuka D4Y1 Type 2 carrier bombers [Judys] flew within the destroyer’s firing range, and the ship shot down one of the planes while the station’s CAP took out the remaining three. Three hours later, a lone enemy aircraft closed in on the ship, but Bush’s gunfire turned it away. Later still, another group of planes approached to 10 miles distance and dropped “window,” a confetti-like material used by the Japanese to cloud Allied radar displays and thus obscure actual target aircraft, interfering with the ship’s ability to fire at the planes when they closed in. Fortunately, however, none of the planes came any closer than four miles of Bush. Near the beginning of the morning watch on the 4th, another enemy plane closed to within 3,000 yards of the ship, but this too was turned away by Bush’s gunfire.
The destroyer continued to track and report various enemy planes for the next two days, but no further aircraft came within shooting range until very early on the morning of 6 April 1945. From 0245 to 0345, Bush engaged with four separate Japanese aircraft, possibly shooting down one. At approximately 1430, the ship went to general quarters after spotting the first of what would be four air raids that appeared on radar, closing rapidly, over the next 15 minutes. Reflecting on the incident years later, Lt. (j.g.) Earl Sechrist recalled that “waves of enemy planes filled the sky. They were buzzing around and over Bush like a flock of blackbirds.” Bush’s gunners splashed two of the planes in the first raid, with the rest dispatched by the CAP sent to assist from Radar Picket Station 3 to the east. By about 1510, the destroyer and her air support had successfully driven away the second and third waves of planes as well.
Three minutes later, a Nakajima B6N1 carrier attack plane [Jill] flying low to the water headed directly towards the bow of the oncoming destroyer, which was at that moment executing a left turn. At 8,000 yards distance, Bush unleashed her five-inch and 40-millimeter guns on her opponent, which somehow wove its way through the barrage. Despite a last-minute evasive maneuver by the destroyer, the plane also changed course and at 1515 the Jill slammed into the deck between Bush’s two stacks on the starboard side. The aircraft’s projectile penetrated into the ship’s forward engine room and exploded with a force powerful enough to launch a six-foot, 3,500 pound piece from the engine room blower high into the air, toppling the ship’s SC-2 radar antenna before coming to rest on the port wing of the bridge. The shell plating on the starboard side of the ship between the forward and rear firerooms also blew out, immediately flooding the two firerooms as well as the forward engine room, causing Bush to list nearly 10°. The destroyer was dead in the water with no power or lighting, the diesel generator room was also slowly flooding, and several small fires burned amidships. A large section of her main deck on the starboard side was gone, as was her forward torpedo mount. Additionally, the blast destroyed her radio and radar antennae, jammed three of the five five-inch guns in train, and rendered two of the 40-millimeter guns unusable.
Prior to losing emergency power, Bush was able to send a radio message indicating that she had been hit. At 1635, the destroyer Colhoun (DD-801), which had been operating at Radar Picket Station 2 to the east of Bush’s position, arrived to assist. By this time, the four-plane CAP that had been on station providing protective air cover for the crippled ship had departed, and their relief would never reach the scene. Meanwhile, about one dozen enemy planes circled ominously near the clouds at a distance of 10–15 miles. As Colhoun began to take on the lurking aircraft, LCS(L)(3)-64, which had been operating on station 1 in support of Bush, approached the scene. Although Bush had sustained significant damage, Cmdr. Rollin E. Westholm believed that his destroyer could still be saved, and he asked LCS(L)(3)-64 to relay that message to Adm. Richmond Kelly Turner, Commander TF 51, along with a request for two tugs. LCS(L)(3)-64 pulled up alongside the stricken destroyer to remove casualties at 1655, but the support landing craft had only begun to secure her lines before Bush ordered her away as two Vals had moved in close and were poised to attack. Five minutes later, one of the Vals did make a run at Bush but was turned away by the destroyer’s forward and after 40-millimeter guns. This plane continued on towards Colhoun, which was then herself engaged in battle with several Japanese aircraft. Soon she too would suffer her first kamikaze strike of the evening, thus embroiling Colhoun in her own struggle for survival, which she ultimately would not win.
At 1715, spotters on Bush observed a group of three single-engine planes, believed to be Zekes, circling the ship at 10 miles distance. Twenty minutes later, one of these planes broke away and made a frontal attack on the destroyer. Under fire from Bush’s forward twin 40-millimeter guns (Mts. 41 and 42) the plane strafed the ship, sending the sailors assembled on the forecastle into the water, and then plunged into the port side main deck between the two stacks in a fiery crash that nearly split the ill-fated destroyer in half. Westholm believed that after this hit, only the ship’s bottom and keel kept the bow and stern sections together. Crewmen worked to extinguish the flames with a pair of handy-billies while those who had taken to the water climbed back on board to assist with the damage control efforts.
The fire was nearly under control about 10 minutes later when a Zeke broke away from the group circling near the destroyers and made what appeared to be a suicide run on Bush’s starboard beam, firing at the ship as it came in for the kill. However, in a maneuver Ens. Coit Butler deemed “unforgettable,” the Japanese pilot pulled up at the last second, passing over the stacks with less than 10 feet to spare and then performed a wingover, turning back towards the ship. Heeding previously given orders, many men on the forecastle once again jumped overboard as the kamikaze headed in low to port. Mt. 42, a twin-mount 40-millimeter Bofors, took the plane under fire to no avail, and at 1745, the Zeke slammed into the ship just below those guns. Copious amounts of burning gasoline radiated out from the point of impact, setting the forward section of the ship ablaze. The explosion and fire destroyed the wardroom, which had become the treatment center for the earliest casualties when the first kamikaze demolished the sick bay. As the inferno raged, the forward guns’ ammunition soon began to explode, and the remaining men in Bush’s bow section abandoned ship.
Despite the grave condition of his vessel, commanding officer Westholm continued to believe that although she was likely to break in half, Bush could still be salvaged. His hopes were dashed however at 1830, when “an unusually heavy swell” struck the helpless ship, causing “a loud tearing and crunching noise.” Already settling forward, the remains of Bush’s weakened midsection began to collapse, and entering her death throes, the destroyer started to jackknife. Those men still remaining on the fantail now took to the sea, with Cmdr. Westholm, who would receive the Navy Cross for his heroism that day, the last to abandon ship. Shortly thereafter, many crewmen watched as Bush made her final plunge into the sea approximately 17 miles northwest of the island of Iheya. “I looked back to see the Bush buckle amidships, the bow and the stern rise out of the water at a 90 degree angle to each other, and then rather quickly disappear beneath the waves,” Ens. Butler recollected many years later. “That is a moment no one who has witnessed the sight while adrift in open water can ever forget.”
Scattered on the sea clinging to life rafts, floater nets, pieces of wood, and makeshift floatation devices, Bush’s survivors faced a new set of challenges. With Japanese planes still flying in the area, the men risked being strafed if they were seen in the water. Darkness soon fell, but the seas had been growing with swells now at 10–12 feet. Prolonged exposure to the water made the men cold and exhausted. Some expired from their injuries, and others drowned when exhaustion or delirium took over. The survivors were in the water for some time, some as long as ten hours. LCS(L)(3)-64 was the first rescue ship to reach the scene at approximately 2130. All told, 245 men survived the Bush sinking, with 88 killed or missing. Among the dead was Cmdr. James S. Willis, who had taken over as ComDesDiv 48 with Bush as his flagship on 31 January 1945. Willis suffered severe burns while trying to climb a rope back onto the forecastle from the water when the third kamikaze hit. He died on a floater net while awaiting rescue. Cmdr. Willis was awarded the Navy Cross (posthumously) for his “display of courage and fortitude [that] served as an inspiring example to the officers and men under his command.”
Stricken from the Navy Register on 28 April 1945, Bush received seven battle stars for her World War II service.
||Dates of Command
|Cmdr. Wallis F. Petersen
||10 May 1943–12 June 1943
|Lt. Cmdr. Thurmond A. Smith
||12 June 1943–30 May 1944
|Lt. Cmdr. Rollin E. Westholm
||30 May 1944–6 April 1945
22 July 2019