Remembrances of Frank Steele
USS Terror – Okinawa Theatre
The USS Terror arrived in the Okinawa area in early April, about 9 days before the battle began. She was sent to the area to patrol with a group of Mine Sweepers as a prelude to the upcoming battle.
One early morning, my father Frank Steele was at his duty station, on the 40-millimeter gun, port side by the bridge. In the southwest direction, the sky began to appear black as if a storm were approaching. This darkness began to catch everyone’s eyes. As it got closer, it became apparent that it was not a storm. My Father Frank, turned to a fellow shipmate by the name of Gallagher and said “we’re going to get it now”, because it was now apparent that the darkness was an approaching fleet with air cover. Since Okinawa was so close to Japan, many thought this was the attacking Japanese fleet.
All was quiet for about 30 minutes or so, and then my Father and his shipmates at the 40-millimeter gun overheard an officer in the bridge say, “they’re ours”. Word then passed from gun to gun, through headphones, that this was the approaching American invasion fleet. “They’re ours” are words that my Father still remembers quite clearly.
On the day of the Kamikaze attack on the USS Terror (May 1st, 1945), my Father was standing the 12:00 midnight to 4:00 AM watch in the starboard side fantail area. At 3:55 AM, his 4:00 AM watch had not yet come to relieve him (5 minutes prior to the hour which was customary). My Father had placed his basket of hand grenades on the OD shack in anticipation of being relieved when he saw a Japanese plane come through portside, circle the fantail and come towards broadside of the starboard side. Everything happened very quickly at that point.
There was some firing from the USS Terror at the incoming plane. My Father noticed that he was just below the Terror’s 5-inch guns and immediately moved out of the way so as to not be under them when they fired. The next memory that Frank Steele had was of him lying down on the fantail with a lot of pain in his lower back area. A Gunners’ Mate took my Father’s rifle and gun belt off and showed him the broken rifle stock and bent bullets where an object had struck.
My Father’s watch relief arrived at that point and apologized over and over again about being late to relieve him. The irony of it is that had the relief arrived on time, my Father would have gone up the starboard side of the ship, and might possibly not be with us today.
Frank Steele remembers wounded and badly burned shipmates all around him on the fantail of the ship after the attack. He was taken off the USS Terror shortly thereafter and put onto a Hospital Ship that took him to Saipan for 6 weeks to 2 months of recovery. After that recovery period, he took an LST to Pearl Harbor, then an APO to San Francisco (the Oakland Navy Yard) for 28 days of well-deserved leave.
Provided by John Steele (son of Frank Steele)