PLAYING GOOD SAMARITANS TO THE USS BUNKER HILL

May 11, 1945


We spent a great deal of our time at sea screening (and being gofers) for the fast aircraft carriers, but our favorite of all the carriers we hovered over was the BUNKER HILL CV17. Consequently, while operating with Task Force SB preparatory to launching strikes on Okinawa, about 1000 on May 11,1945 two Kamikazes dove out of a massive barrage of anti‑aircraft gunfire, first a "Zeke", then a "Judy," smashing into the flight deck of the carrier. Immediately it was apparent from the huge cloud of black smoke and flames that arose from BUNKER HILL that she was badly hurt. How badly we would only learn by events which would unfold later that day.

One of the Kamikazes had torn through the flight desk, into the hangar deck, igniting thousands of gallons of fuel. So intense was the raging fire that crewmen in the after part of the carrier were ordered to jump off the fantail into the sea. The STEPHEN POTTER was assigned to recover any survivors it could find.

Putting our cargo nets over side, we maneuvered as close to the stricken BUNKER HILL as possible without endangering men struggling for their lives. Our search continued as long as safety and daylight would permit, and before it was over, we had picked up 100 enlisted men and 7 officers.

After getting them out of their water‑soaked clothing, giving medical attention as best we could (some were terribly burned in their ordeal), providing some warm food, we somehow made provision for bedding them down far the night and making them as comfortable as possible until they could be transferred to larger ships. The next morning we transferred seven of the survivors most needing medical care to the BOUNTIFUL. Later in the day, we put the rest of the men we had fished out back on their own ship.

When the casualties on the BUNKER HILL from that terrible day, May 11, Nere finally totaled, 353 had died, 43 were missing and 264 had been injured.

One grateful survivor of the BUNKER HILL, who was rescued by the STEPHEN POTTER, years later happened to meet the Potter's own Everett “Ozzie" Anderson, a M/M 2C back then, and poured out his feelings in a otter to Ozzie. He is John Gorsuch, then an ABM 3/C, now of Cambria, Wis.

Gorsuch recalls that after the second Kamikaze hit, fire and smoke prevented him and some others in his division from either going forward or aft. As the fire started up the side of a 40 MM gun mount toward stored live ammunition, "we hastily jumped over the side" some SO to 60 feet to the water. When he surfaced, Gorsuch said, he inflated his life belt and removed his shoes, and luckily found a float that had beer finned overboard.

A half hour later, he happily recalls: "the USS Stephen Potter hove alongside and I started to climb up the cargo net. I had not climbed far when a sailor from the Potter reached down and gave me a boost. What a great feeling! I was on board." Gorsuch said he was provided dry clothes, fed "and given all the comforts of home. You guys were great." After spending the night aboard the Potter, the following day Gorsuch was transferred by breeches buoy back to the BUNKER HILL.

Taken from "USS Stephen Potter - The Story of DD538" compiled and edited by Lt. Wilson F. (Bill) Minor USNR (Ret).