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WWII veteran saw kamikaze attacks

Discussion in 'WWII Obituaries' started by lunafate, May 16, 2010.

  1. lunafate

    lunafate Member

    May 1, 2010
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    Veterans Spotlight: WWII veteran saw kamikaze attacks » TCPalm.com

    STUART — Japanese kamikaze pilots flew their explosive-laden aircraft just 50 feet over the Pacific Ocean on their way to a suicide dive into an American vessel, recalls Roy Engelbrecht, 89, of Stuart.

    “It made them a smaller target,” he explained.

    A boatswain’s mate aboard the destroyer USS John A. Bole , Englebrecht recalled when his ship and others did picket duty, guarding the American fleet off Okinawa, in 1945.

    “The Bole, (destroyers USS) Cunningham and Callaghan were on line when this kamikaze plane appeared. The Boles and Cunningham were firing at it with everything we had, but the Callaghan couldn’t shoot because we were in the way. The plane came straight at us, then jumped over us and crashed into the Callaghan,” said Engelbrecht.

    “The Callaghan just broke in half and sank. We didn’t have time to do anything. It was horrible,” he said. Other ships helped pick up survivors. The Callaghan was the last destroyer sunk on picket duty in the war.

    Born in Brooklyn, August 15, 1921, Engelbrecht was a draftsman for General Electric, when Pearl Harbor was bombed. “I joined the Navy three days later because I didn’t want to live in a mud hole like the infantry,” Engelbrect said.

    After boot camp at Great Lakes Naval Training Station, Engelbrecht was assigned to the destroyer USS Satterlee, then doing convoy duty in the North Atlantic. “The waves could be 60 feet high,” he said, “and we were trying to protect the merchant ships from the submarines. I saw a lot of them torpedoed, something you can’t forget.”

    The Bole was under construction in Brooklyn, and Engelbrecht was selected as part of her first crew, making him in Navy parlance a “plank owner” or first crewman of the ship.

    On the Bole’s “shakedown” cruise to the Caribbean, Englebrecht said, the crew learned they had a special man as captain. Not only was Capt. Edward Billingsley the brother of Stork Club owner Sherman Billingsley, but he was also personally brave.

    “As part of a training exercise, we were towing another ship when the cable broke and entangled our propellers,” Engelbrecht explained. “A diver went down and soon came back up white as a sheet. A big shark had hit him on his helmet. The captain came down, put on dark clothes and the helmet and went down an untangled our screws. He was brave.”

    The Bole went to the Pacific to do shore bombardment in the Philippines and Wake Island. It also was tasked with a lot of carrier escort.

    Returning to the U.S., Englebrecht was discharged and went home to his wife, Sophie, and a job working as a giant crane operator in New York City. The couple will celebrate their 68th wedding anniversary this year. They have lived in Martin County since 1988 and reside in Saint Lucie Falls.

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