Top two photos showing damage received  Richard Krauthermer  Colored picture from David Wilband whose father John Wilband was a FTSN on board the USS  Hubbard DD748
more pictures click on:     1951 Walke hit

Shipmates Stories from June 12, 1951 when the USS Walke DD-723 was hit by a mine or torpedo.

 

 

 

Robert Honeycutt (SN 1951-1952) 

 

            When talking to Jacqueline Honeycutt on 6/26/08 about Robert’s death on 10/3/07 she told me this story.

 

            On June 12, 1951, Robert was asleep in the compartment where the men were killed. Just before the Walke was hit, someone went down to wake up Robert for a report needed from the gunnery department. Robert asked, ”Why can’t it wait until he was ready to go on watch?”  He was told: “The report is needed right now.”  Just as Robert got up the ladder and out of the compartment the Walke was hit. He was one of the lucky ones.  He helped out where ever he could until he went to his general quarter station.

 

 

William E. (Bill) Johnson (RDSN 1950-1951)           

 

            Yes, I was aboard June 12, 1951. I helped Bob Dawson out of the compartment.  I remember the ladder was gone and I was hoisted to the main deck. When I came to, I was in a basket being transferred to the USS Los Angles, then taken to Japan.  The hospital was in Yokosuka, Japan  and I was there for several months. I was one of the lucky ones. I had several shrapnel wounds a broken right leg and a wrapped spine. 

This was taken from a letter sent to Richard Williamson in February 2007.


Rekindled Memories of Harlan WID. (Bill) Scholl         Today, March 14, 2002, I received my quarterly issue of the VFW Magazine. I was shocked to find a three page article on the USS Walke DD723, during the Korean War. The entire article described what happened on June 12,1951, while I was a member of the ships crew. The memories it brought back are difficult to describe but I thought it would be a good time to record them.         Let me go back a short way to explain how I ended up on the USS Walke on this fateful day. I  was in WW II,on the USS Putnam DD757, another destroyer. We participated in screening,search and destroy missions for enemy shipping, in and around Guam, Siapan, Timan, the Phillippene Islands and the China Seas. We were part of the advanced bombardment group at the invasion of Iwo Jima and Okinawa and even preformed Taxi service for the Secratery Of The Navy, James Forrestal, when the fighting got too heavy at the Okinawa Invasion. He and his Entourage of high ranking Naval Officers came aboard and we hauled tail for Eniwetok Atoll, at 30 knots. Then on to Tokyo Bay for the signing of the surrender agreement by the Empire of Japan.
               
When discharged, I stayed in the Navy Reserve, where I taught seamanship twice a month at the local Navy Reserve Station in Madison Wisc., and served two weeks active duty each year.

          I
 
graduated from the Univ. of Wisconsin, after 5 years of school, got the job I wanted in Racine Wisc., found an apartment, a new job for Ginnie, moved our furniture and bought our first car. I started my new job on June I, 1950. 
     
           
In August 1950 I received notice that my reserve enlistment, due to expire Sept. 19, 1950, was being extended by Presidential Proclimation, for one year. Iwas ordered to report for duty at the Great Lakes Naval Training Station on Sept. I,and transportation to the Destroyer Base at San Diego, Calif. Iwas assigned to the USS Walke DD 723, as a Torpedoman Second Class, the same rate I held in WW II. Ginnie got her old job back in Madison, we moved our furniture into storage and off I went. Within two weeks I was aboard the USS Walke DD 723 heading for Korea.  We were heavily involved in the battle for Woonson Harbor and and did fire-control support up and down the eastern coast

        
On the morning of June 12, 1951, nearly one year after leaving home, I was awakened by the a crewman on watch at 6:OO am and told it was time to get up and relieve the watch on the bridge. I got out of my bunk. showered, dressed and grabbed a quick breakfast in the dining hall and rushed to the bridge where I relieved the Fire Control Watch on the starboard side.  I got to my station early, so the man I relieved could get to the head of the chow line. He in turn did the same for me when the situation was reversed.  The time was about 7:25am. I was the senior Torpedoman on watch so I checked my crew by headphone and reported that the 4-8AM watch had been relieved
       
     
I surveyed the visual search area with my binoculars and saw the rest of the ships in our Destroyer squadron cruising along when all of a sudden the loudest explosion I had ever heard . The entire ship seemed to rise out of the water and I found myself on the deck, not knowing how I got there. The officer of the deck called General Quarters and all the sirens went off.
    
    
I
rushed over to the port side of the bridge to take a look and it was a mess. We had obviously been hit on the port side and we were taking on water. I rushed back to my duty station and put on my life vest.
        
Our fantail was nearly awash and we were listing heavily to port. To lighten the load, our Chief  Torpedoman recommended to the Torpedo Officer that we dump the more than two dozen 500 lb. depth charges in the two rear racks. After conferring with the Captain Thompson, he came out to me and ordered the depth charges to be Deep Sixed. 
        
    I confirmed the order with my Chief and then ordered my duty crew to begin removing the
exploders from each and roll them off the racks as soon as they were harmless. When this was completed, we removed the exploders from all depth charges in the six "K " guns that  fire charges to both the port and starboard sides.
       
         While this was taking place, all watch stations,including myself. were spotting personnel in the water and directing swimmers toward them.
Many in the water were injured and could bearly keep their head above water let alone swim back toward the ship. We had to use our glasses to spot them because the ship was moving, hearty, but enough to put distance between them and our ship.
       
         
Soon, the Bradford, one of our sister ships, came over to help in the rescue. They lowered their whaleboats and we assisted them by directing them to the areas we had seen survivors.
     
       
It was later that same day before we were able to rescue all survivors and move the dead and wounded to other ships and eventually to a hospital ship. In the interum, the Captain had managed to right the ship so we could maneuver and set underway at greatlv reduced
speed.
        
        
We began the long joumey back to Sasabo, Japan with another Destroyer as escort. We  had lost our Port engine room and fireroom. We were literly operating on one screw and half our power. At about 12-15 knots. it took: It took us  two full days before we finally saw the harbor and the shipyard at Sasabo.  Most of us 'were still in the same clothes although many shipmates gave us clean underware. The captain ordered everyman on board to find. a shipmate his size housed in the sleeping companments destroyed. and give him a clean set of dress whites.

    
Fortunately, 'We had a crew of 16 Torpedtormen and two 2nd class. My shipmate •"Smitty". was my size so I got a set of Whites with my rating on itAll my other clothes and pesonal belongjngs were destroyedAll hands dressed in whites and we came into port with a 'Welcome by both US servicemen and Japanese shipyard 'workers. 

        
 I bad been sleeping in the Torpedo Shack on the main deckNearly 50 of us were given housing allowances in cash and told to go ashore and find quarters from the JapaneseWe banded together and found rooming houses near the base,  and eating facilities that suited US Navy personal.   For six weeks I lived a shore and retumecl each morning to complete my duties aboard ship. When heavy ship repairs commenced, nearly all personnel were housed ashore. They put a new skin on the port side,. ower the hole, and built temporaIy compartments  and new bunks and lockers. Before long. we were headed back to the States. to Pearl HaIbor. Hawaii and. then to. San Diego.

         
Ginnie mean while,
was advertising for a couple to accompany her on the trip across country, sharihg cost and driving our new car, a 1950 Plymouth. She arrived about the same time as our ship and we met on the dock

    I was eventually transferred from. the ship to the Naval Base at Shoemaker , Calif.,
near San Fnmcisco. There, Pete V1issali  and a fellow torpedoman from. the USS Putnam, John 0rtelle met me.

    Pete got John's daughter to lend us her apartment till I was discharged  She moved back to her parents home. Pete, John and were best ftiends on my previous ship, during another war.
I commuted each day to and ftom the base except when I had duty. 
    
        This was 6 years since Pete, John and I had seen each
other but they did everything they couId to make us part of  the family. John had a heart attack and passed away a few years later at a young age. He worked for the Sheriffs Dept in San Francisco.       I  was discharged on  Sept. 19, 1951. exactly one year from. the date on which my enlistment would have expired.

     On June 12.1951, if I had not reliewd the watch early and taken my watch position on the bridge I could have been in my living compartment and one of the casualties. The good  Lord was with meI knew what it was like to be scared, realIy scared, it happened many times during my duty in the South Pacific in WWll.   But this time I was confident that 'We' were OK , We would save the ship and I turned out to be one the rocks in the crew that others could lean on..

It made me feel good.  Harlan Wm (Bill) Scholl

New personal account of June 1951. published 12/17/2009

  From: "Bob Mullen"

 

Bob@woodsidevineyards.com
to; ''Richard Williamson'"
rwilliamson@new.rr.com
Saturday, January 05,20085:24 PM

 

 Richard,

Thanks so much for this report. I was aboard the Walke at the time (First Lieutenant and second division officer) and have always been convinced that we were struck by a torpedo. It's interesting that the log books of our sister ships confirm that. I had always understood that it was a Chinese sub, but interesting that one report suggests it was Russian.

    My story is not particularly interesting, but you asked for additional information on the incident. I lived in after officer's quarters on the main deck - probably not more than 30 - 40 feet from the explosion. At the moment, I was taking a shower. The explosion was so violent that I dashed out of the shower and headed for the hatch to the outside - I certainly did not want to be trapped in a sinking ship. 

    Then navy training got the best of me ~I dashed back into the head to turn off the shower - the necessity to conserve fresh water was well drilled into all tin can sailors. So, when after 20 - 25 seconds we had not sunk and were only listing slightly, I stopped off in my quarters, slipped on my shirt, pants and shoes and then stepped out onto the starboard deck. '.

    As I recall the explosion impacted mostly the two living quarters of the Communications Division and our Second Division. If you look at the casualty list, you will note a preponderance of radar men, sonar men and communications personnel. This was because that division had a policy of allowing the men from the night watches to sleep in for an additional few minutes - until 8 AM.

     I believe. There were very few deaths in our
compartment as our division leader, Boatswain Mate 1st class Richard Nowatzki, regularly enforced the wake up call and most of our men were out of the compartment.     The first person I encountered was Rich Nowatzki (by the way, now a retired Lt. Commander in Roseville, Ca. We meet with another couple of Walke personnel at least once a year). Ski told me he had made a quick sweep ofour compartment - now flooded up to 3 - 4 feet), but had come out to get a flashlight as power had been cut off. We both went back into the  compartment and found one body trapped in his bunk but nothing more. We left the compartment and sealed it off.

    I spent most of the day on watch on the bridge - the people most needed back there were the damage control and deck personnel and they obviously did an excellent job of sealing off the damage so we were able to get underway toward Sasebo within just a few hours. 

    The details that I recall about
contacting the submarine and the "chase" by the other destroyers are very such confirmed by the reports in their log books. As I recall, we got our speed up to about five knots so it took a couple of days to get to Sasebo. The port propeller was inoperative as the explosion had bent the propeller shaft. ,t:.

    I believe we were in Sasebo about a month cleaning up the mess (in dry dock) and having temporary steel plates welded over the gaping hole in our port side. It's interesting that we were able to steam back to San Diego-at fifteen knots on just one engine as they removed the port prop to reduce drag. "'.'.

  I don't think I have added anything new to the story except for my personal expenence. Bob Mulle 
Lt. USNR
Woodside, CA


 From:  James F. Florence
              311 S. 41st Ave
              Yuma, AZ 85364-1049
               Received 7/30/08

The Attack

    Two weeks before we got hit, I had a dream - a dream about the shiphittinq a _ '"+mine, In my dream, two other men and I were below deck and we went to the hatch to get out. As I was reaching for the handle to open the hatch door, water started to come in. I said "we can't go this way. We have to go out the top". So we went up a ladder and out the top hatch. 

    When I woke up, I was in a cold
sweat and couldn't go back to sleep. So I got dressed and went to the mess hall  for a cup of coffee until reveille. I forgot about the dream because I returned to  the taskforce from the bomb line.
   
 
On Thursday we got hit. I was in the ammunition handling room with three other men. Massey told me that he was going out for a smoke. That left me, Shirley, and a man named Myers in the room. When the blast came, the force of it threw me and Myers into the air. 

    As I was flying through the air,
I smelled burned gun powder. As we were surrounded by 35 lb. cans of gunpowder and 54 Ib projectors, I thought that a powder can had exploded. Then I realized if a powder can had gone off, I wouldn't be there. That's when I realized he had hit a mine. I started heading for the hatch and Myers asked me what happened. I told him we hit a mine. We both headed for the hatch and as I reached for the handle, water started to come in. Then I remembered the dream I had had a couple of weeks before. I told Myers and Shirley we had to go out the top. By this time, announcements were coming over the loud speaker to man our abandon ship stations. I went to get my life jacket but someone had taken it. About this time,  they were bringing out the wounded and we pitched in to help.

    
The two destroyers that were with us started dropping depth charges. It was determined that there were two submarines in the area. One of the destroyers got an oil slick off of our starboard mid-ship. The ships took off to chase the ,subs, leaving us alone on our ship which was now listing to the port about 10°.

    
We began to patch up the damage to the ship, making it as water tight as possible, and headed for Japan. When we went into dry dock, the Navy sent  some experts to look for evidence to determine what hit us. One of these experts":brought out a piece of round metal and showed it to the man with him, who said "torpedo detonator". The examiner who found it shook his head yes in reply.

 

RECOLLECTIONS OF JUNE 12, 1951, BY HERMAN B. KUETTLE

 

      The week of June 12, 1951, I was assigned the 8 to 12 watch in the five-inch number 3 mount. That morning was the same routine of chasing the two Carriers allover the sea so that they could launch their planes.

    I started aft about seven twenty. I stayed below deck through the inside passages to the upper handling room. There were a couple of the watch people standing outside. Jim Florence and Bob Massey were two that I remember. We talked for a minute,then I entered the handling room, went over to the ladder and climbed up into the turret.

    A few of the watch people were already there. We had about thirty minutes before the watch started. I went over to the alloport side of the turret, sat down on the landing and leaned back against the port entry door. I don't remember who the trainer was that'day, but we talked for a little while, when I heard a clapping sound.I t's hard to describe the sound - more of a metallic clank, like two pieces of metal coming together.

    There was this clank, then "KABOOM!" Both sounds were instantaneous. The concussion threw me across the turret. I missed the left gun and landed against the starboard wall onto a pile of life jackets that had fallen. Things were flying ver the place over the place.

    I grabbed one of the life jackets. By then the ship had listed to port. All of us in the turret thought something had gone wrong in the upper handling room. We all went to the trap door and someone lifted it up. All. the people below were coming up the ladder. There were about three feet of water in the room already.

    I went for the starboard door of the turret. By then I had the life jacket on, and everyone was behind me. I had trouble getting the door to stay open because of the list. It continued to slam back closed. Everyone was yelling, "Hurry up!" "Hurry up!" I finally got the door to stay open, and was first on deck. I had to hold onto the life line to keep from sliding to the port side. All of this happened in about a minute.

 The stern was very low in the water, no more that a foot above the sea. My thought, as I looked down at that cold green water was, "What in the Hell has this dirt farmer from Arkansas gotten himself into; this ship is sinking!" I could see a Carrier straight across from us and it looked like all of the ships had stopped.

    The General Quarters alarm had been going off all this time. My i station was number one mount. I started forward, holding onto the life line.                 Recollections Page 2     People were running everywhere. Some were going down in the flooded area. I made it to the mount; all the rest of the crew. were already there. Everyone wanted to know what in the Hell happened. I had no answer at that time. There had been one Hell of an explosion; what caused it, I did't know. I don't remember how long we were at General Quarters, but it wasn't long. All damage control and rescue people were called to the fantail.

A couple of the guys and I went up on the boat deck by the number two turret. I remember the Hubbard (another destroyer in our squadron) corning alongside and their people coming over. It was not very long until a helicopter came over and dropped off more people. I did not know what ship it carne from  

     There were a lot of bodies being brought up and they were lining them up on the starboard side of the main deck. The ship had leveled out by then.
 It was not very long before we heard explosions to our rear. We ran to the port side to see what was going on. Ships were dropping depth charges but we could not see much. We assumed they were chasing a sub.     Somehow the radio people had connected CIC (the bridge radio system) to our intersom system. We could hear the sonar pinging and all the radio contact with all the ships that we called, and their answers.     I was not aware of the time (somewhere mid morning) but we were moving very slowly when our sonar operator called the bridge saying we had contact with something and that it was coming toward us. We could hear the sonar pinging. Our bridge contacted the Hubbard, which was some distance off our starboard bow. We told them we had a good contact and gave them the bearings and depth. They "rogered". The sonar operator called the bridge and said the contact was going underneath us. We all looked down at the water but could not see anything. Our bridge radioed the Hubbard with this information and they "rogered" again.     Our bridge again called the Hubbard and said "Contact underneath us heading toward you:' Hubbard replied, "We have contact; will take over now." It was not long after that when the Hubbard dropped some depth charges. We could see these from where we were on the Walke.     After the charges exploded, the Hubbard contacted the Walke bridge and said they had a secondary explosion. A little later, Hubbard radioed that there was an oil slick that came to the surface. This is what we saw and heard; so did everyone on the rest of the ship.                                                             Recollections Page 3     As the day wore on, a sober reality set in on everyone. How many shipmates were dead? Who were they? Who was wounded? What was·it that blew a hole in our port quarter? It was hard to realize that in just a second your shipmates just vanished

    
When damage control had shored up the bulkheads enough, all the wounded had been taken care of, and the bodies taken off, we started for Sasebo, Japan, with our escort.      I, and two more shipmates, did not want to go below deck to the forward living quarters for the night. We got a blanket and with our life jackets on, we slept behind the number two turret. 

    
The weather was nice, seas were smooth, and our speed was very slow.     The next night we decided to go below to our regular bunks. We got some ribbing from a couple of the old salty sea dogs, but I think they understood. We were not raw recruits. We had been at sea for six months. We just were not prepared for what happened on June 12. I don't think anyone was prepared for what went on that day. -. 

    
The next day, everyone was still in shock. We tried to get things going in a normal fashion.

    
That morning we we~e given a piece of paper. I don't remember the exact words, but it went something like this: "You will not answer any questions about what happened on June 12. You will not talk about what you saw or heard to anyone. You will not write home about what happened on June 12. You will not volunteer any information to anyone." I signed it with my serial number. I assume everyone else did also. We did not talk about it. 

    
I supposed if you did, and were caught, you would have been put in prison, or sent to the Aleutian Islands. After a few days we arrived at Sasebo and went into dry dock.     When all the water had been pumped out, the Graves Registration people came aboard to do their thing. I had the quarter deck watch and som~time during my watch, one of the Graves people came on deck with a pillowcase in his hands. It was dripping fluid out of the bottom. He yelled at a guy on the dock, "This guy has one good hand." There was not enough of anything in that Pillowcase to fill a two-gallon bucket. It made me sick to see what was left of one of our shipmates.     When the Graves people were gone, we had to empty the ammo magazine. They brought about twenty Japanese out to do this. When they got to the 40mm, there were two cans that had exploded. No one could tell us why the whole thing didn't go off

    
Lucky
for the rest of the crew that it did not explode. I would not,be writing this if it had.     We were never told anything more by anyone. We found out who was killed and who was wounded. That was it; like there was no cause for what happened. I know that there was something other than a mine that made such a hole in our ship. I don't care what the official report said. The story sounded like something a politician would say. There were just too many incidents that day. There could have been two subs releasing mines, hoping to get a big one. They were a little off their target so they tried another method by using a torpedo.  I'm sure it was aimed for one of the Big Boys and the Walke just happened to get in the way by changing course.I'm sure that I have missed some details. This is what I saw, what I heard, and what I remember during those few days. You don't ever forget things like that, when you lose shipmates and friends. It was so long ago, and I still wonder why no one ever told us the truth.

 

POSTSCRIPT: I have an article written by Gary Turbak from the March 2002 VFW Magazine. He interviewed several people; i.e. Bob Dawson, Lee Finley, Russell Benham, etc. He writes: When a reporter asked Capt. Thompson if the ship had hit a mine, the Captain complied with that previouJL...order,replying "If it was a mine, it was traveling at 42 knots under water." If anyone wants a copy of the article, let me know.

    I am planning a trip to Arizona in April. I hope to catch Jim Florence at heme in Yuma. He may have some thoughts about what he thinks happened. If he does, and with his permission, I will send them to you.

 

 
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