This week, we remember a harrowing day in Intrepid’s history. On April 16, 1945, Intrepid was participating in the Battle of Okinawa. A kamikaze airplane plunged through the flight deck and exploded in the hangar. The ship was soon engulfed in thick smoke.
What was it like to experience this terrifying attack? Here is just one perspective. Lt. Commander William Lindenberger was a gunnery officer on board Intrepid during World War II. On April 16, 1945, he was stationed on the fantail at stern of the ship. His wartime diary describes the action:
We knew he was a “Kami-Kazi” and knew he would fly his plane into us unless we exploded him in mid-air. All the ships guns pumped shells into him but he kept coming down. Pieces of his wing broke off but he didn’t swerve from his course. I had the feeling that he couldn’t possibly miss me. Everyone feels that way when a plane is bearing down on him.
He passed over my head out of view, our gun ceased firing just before a terrific jar shook the whole ship. Then an explosion resounded through the decks, followed by two distinct shuddering vibrations. It felt as if some giant sledge hammer had fallen with all its force. A moment later smoke poured out of the hangar deck and began trailing the ship. It was fairly light colored smoke and smelled strongly of wood, so we knew the flight deck had been hit. The smoke got blacker and thicker as planes and equipment started to burn. …
The next ten minutes, with no accurate reports of the extent of damage or casualties was the most difficult part of the action for me. All hands donned their life jackets in anticipation of abandoning ship if the fire couldn’t be brought under control … As we coughed and choked we wondered how many guys had gotten it.
Nine men perished in the attack, and more were wounded. As Intrepid traveled back to the U.S., Lt. Cdr. Lindenberger and the rest of the crew considered themselves lucky to have survived.