Sunday, November 30, 2008

Fessie survives kamikaze attack and largest naval battle in world

Fessie Pennington participated in the Battle of Leyte Gulf , the last great naval battle of World War II as well as the largest naval battle ever fought anywhere. On the first day of battle - October 24, 1944 - the USS Reno spent most of the day assisting the USS Princeton, as noted in an earlier post. The following day the light cruiser rejoined the task force under the command of Admiral William F. Halsey and proceeded to engage the Northern Force of the Japanese Navy at Cape Engano, the final battle in the Gulf of Leyte. At the end of the three day conflict, the task force had destroyed 3 Japanese battleships, 2 light carriers, 1 large carrier, 10 carriers and 11 destroyers.

Fessie served as a gunner's mate, responsible for feeding ammunition to the anti-aircraft guns while the gunner shot down enemy planes. After the war he spoke about seeing the eyes of Japanese pilots as they swooped down upon the ship. They came close enough for Fessie to see the grimaces on their faces, and once he had to take over the firing of the gun when the gunman of his turret was wounded.

The Japanese increased their use of kamikaze planes to counter their diminished air strength. Prior to World War II, kamikaze, or “divine wind,” was a relatively obscure world and referred to the typhoon that sunk a Mongul fleet in its attempt to invade Japan in the 13th century. Following the war, however, nearly everyone knew what a kamikaze pilot was.

One of the first recorded kamikaze attacks of World War II took place on the USS Reno. In the waters off Formosa, on October 14, five planes converged upon the cruiser at the same instant. One of the planes never waivered from its course, crashed into the fantail of the ship, skidded across and then exploded on the USS Reno’s main deck, badly burning six seamen.

The USS Reno survived the kamikaze attack and survived the Battle of Leyte Gulf but faced even larger challenges in the days ahead.


Anonymous said...

I enjoy reading your blog. Thank you for sharing.

Bob Franks said...

I really enjoyed your articles about your grandfather Fessie Manuel Pennington. We are so fortunate to have been told stories by our parents and grandparents - members of The Greatest Generation. I am an avid reader of your blog and some of the photographs you have shared through the blog are simply treasures. Please keep up the wonderful work!

Mona Robinson Mills said...

Thanks to both of you. It pleases me to share these stories about Fessie. He was such a character. I only wish I had listened more closely and asked a lot more questions!

Anonymous said...

Mona, cherish the few memories and war stories that you have about our "Greatest Generation", so described in Tom Brokaw and Tim Russert's books about WWII. There are/were so many men who returned,but kept these horrible stories to themselves; my mother's brother who survived the Death March to Bataan, figured a way to escape the death camp and take 6 officers out with him to live in the jungles for almost 2 years before getting picked up by a sub. He had to be so secretive about their escape, leaving the family wondering what all they had endured. Much of his story went to his grave with him in 1973.

So treasure what you have and thank you for sharing what you know and have learned - maybe some of "our" unanswered questions take on more meaning and understanding. The escapees brother, Murray W. Dyer, lived in the Tremont area from the time he returned home from service until his death in 1994. bettye

Anonymous said...

My husband, Robert B. Loar, was on the USS Reno when it was torpedoed. He went overboard and swam the Pacific until he was picked up. Had he been in his bunk he would have been killed but he was up on deck. He is now almost 86. He would never talk about his WWII experiences but as he is getting older, he is remembering. I am hoping maybe we could be in contact with someone who served on the USS Reno who may have known my husband. He does not know I am writing this. He has not been well, but today his doctor was very interested in his service and thanked him and it really picked him up (he has quite a few health issues now). Love ot hear from anyone at Mary Loar