Edmond B. Bennett - Cox

Letter of Commendation Recipient

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Ed Bennett reported aboard the USS BUSH on September 15, 1944, transferring from the cruiser USS NASHVILLE, CL-43 (General Douglas MacArthur's flagship). At the time of the transfer his rating was S1c and he was not quite 20 years old. Bennett was assigned to the Deck Division and was the Motor Whaleboat Coxswain. His designated battle station was as the "hot shellman" on the #54 five inch gun (that's the 4th of the ship's five inch guns as you count from bow to stern). His watches were as helmsman on the bridge, lookout and 40MM mounts.

Ed’s cousin was the USS BUSH Chief Torpedoman’s Mate, Ray Mayhugh. Ed had gone to visit Ray when the Nashville and the BUSH were in New Guinea in late 1943. At that time, the work began to get Ed transferred. Once aboard DD-529, Ed Bennett spent a lot of time with his cousin and other members of the torpedo gang.

Edmond B. Bennett - Cox
Edmond B. Bennett - Cox
Cousins - Ed Bennett-S1c and Ray Mayhugh-CTM
Ed Bennett & cousin Ray Mayhugh
on USS BUSH smokescreen generators
( That's Ed on the right - 1944)
In February 1945 the ship was in Ulithi, just prior to the Iwo Jima campaign. A memorable motor whaleboat (MWB) incident took place for Bennett. He and two other sailors were in the MWB and tied up to a boat boom. Ed thought they would be there awhile, but BUSH wound up leaving port sooner than expected. As they were preparing to raise the MWB (at night, in choppy waters), a problem with the lines and block occurred which dumped the stern of the MWB into the water, and Ed went “swimming”. The ship stopped and the bridge turned on a searchlight to spot them. The Chief Bosun’s mate, Ralph Garnett, was observing from the ship's deck. Garnett had them lower the bow of the MWB to level it off and they re-hooked the boat again. Ed recalls two plugs had to be pulled, “So underwater I went again to pull the plugs and the water ran out as they lifted it up to the boat skidds.”
Eventually Bennett, and the two other men (the engineer and bowhook) in the motor whaleboat were back aboard ship. Notes Bennett, “As Cox, I wound up putting hours and hours of work into refinishing and painting the woodwork, giving a special striping to the gunnels that matched the Captain's gig.”
Like every other man aboard the USS BUSH on April 6, 1945, it was a memorable day for Ed Bennett who found himself in the thick of the events that unfolded. He'd just gotten his 3rd class petty officer's stripe on April 1st, having been promoted on Easter Sunday to Coxswain. What follows are excerpts from a write up completed on May 3, 2007 of Bennett's memories regarding the final hours of the USS BUSH and time in the water awaiting rescue.

On the day of the sinking we had been off and on at General Quarters all day until around 1500 when we were ordered to commence firing on aircraft that were attacking. This went on about 15 minutes or so when the first aircraft and the bomb it was carrying hit starboard midships .... the ship shook and shuddered hard .... All gun mounts were ordered to stop firing due to the loss of power. The mount captains were told to have gun crews leave the mounts and assist on the main deck to lighten ship and help with damage control.

I was assisting in damage control and lightening ship with approximately 30 other crew members who were helping to do the same .... This went on for about 45 minutes or so. This was when the Bridge personnel called down and asked for any volunteers ....that could re-man the two forward 40 mm gun mounts, #41 (starboard) and #42 (port). I headed forward and ended up on mount #41 as the Fire and Pointer.

The crew members with me that I remember were S1c Northcutt, S1c Floyd, S2c Huntley and S2c Healy. Once the gun was manned, the Gun Boss Lt (jg) Hubbard was verbally yelling over the bridge wing instructing us which targets to take under fire. We fired at several targets for around 10 minutes. This went on until the second plane that eventually hit us was spotted coming in from the starboard bow at a steep target angle diving right at us. I had a perfect view as this was happening right above my head. It looked like it was coming right down my throat .... I bet every other guy in that gun crew thought about bailing out and taking cover. But we stayed. Finally, we saw the plane appear like it was going to miss us high over our heads. We kept firing, pouring shells almost point blank into the underside of the plane .... As the plane flew over the top of us we felt the vibrations of it passing. We felt the ship shaking violently from the impact of the second plane. It seemed we all looked at each other to realize we were lucky to still be alive .... It flew over the ship flying just over the gun director above the bridge area deflecting off the mast and hitting the port midships.

There were no more targets ordered so the gun crew started rearming the mount with rounds stored in the rim of the gun tub/shield …. After this time, the Gun Boss verbally ordered, "To fire on a plane coming in from around 100 degrees relative (just aft the starboard beam)." This was our arc of fire so we started firing again and we tracked it around till it flew behind the fantail and out of our sight and ability to keep firing. When the plane crossed to the port side, mount #42 picked it up and began firing. I could easily hear them firing and I could glance across and see the general direction they were facing while firing. Mount #42 kept firing until the plane hit the ship just below mount #42 port side and went into the wardroom. The flames from the explosion spread across the forward superstructure. I saw three men running behind me, the last man slipping and falling. As they ran by the explosion blew me off the Fire/Pointer seat into the gun tub inner combing in front of me.

When I recovered from the blast that seemed to go all around me, I got up and looked around. I saw the Port Side of the ship aflame, with what looked like a man still sitting in the Pointer seat of mount #42. He had to have been dead having been burned by the blast. As I left the gun tub going aft, down the starboard passageway, I saw BM1 Northey lying on the deck….He was the one who had slipped and fell hitting his leg on the metal edge of our gun tub. This fall had broken his leg. When I pulled up his pants leg, I saw that it looked like a compound fracture with the bone sticking out and bleeding very badly. I pulled off my belt and placed it around the bleeding upper leg as a tourniquet. At this point, Lt. (jg) Hubbard came down off the bridge area and assisted me. Northey had no life jacket and none were lying around, so we got some 4 by 4 dunnage out of the overhead storage and tied Northey to the dunnage as best we could. We then lowered Northey over the side into the water. I never saw Northey again.

Lt.(jg) Hubbard ... told me we should abandon ship as the forward part of the ship was burning heavily. As ordered, I jumped into the water with only an inflatable life belt .... I saw a life net off the beam with what appeared to be a number of people on it. As I swam to the net, one of the group started swimming towards me. It was my cousin, Chief Torpedoman Ray Mayhugh. As we got within speaking distance the first words he said to me were "Ed, I am sure glad to see you! Grandma would have had a fit if anything had happened to you!". We swam back to the life net with all the other crew members which was approximately 30 other crew members or so.

Just as we were approaching the life net we looked back at the ship and saw it was silhouetted by the setting sun behind it. The ship broke in half and both ends rose up being outlined by the setting sun and sank. We then finished the swim to the life net where Ray and I hung on to an open spot on the outside. We were both wearing lifebelts so we started checking them. My belt needed some air. To make it easier to do all these things I took off my 45 gun, holster and belt and hung it on the Life Net and then sat on the holstered gun, wrapping my legs around it so my arms were free to help others out including re-inflating my own life belt .... During the night a number of people became very incoherent from the cold water and exposure .... These people repeatedly tried to swim off the net and Ray and I would retrieve them and eventually started hooking them to the Life Net with the life jacket hooks.

After quite a long time (eight to nine hours) in the water we finally saw a ship's light. We all started yelling, the good Lord was watching over us, as a motor whale boat came over and towed us to the USS PAKANA (ATF-108) .... Ray and I assisted in getting everyone off the net. I believe I was the last one off the net. As they pulled me onboard the ship I remember sitting on the gunwale, port side amidships and asking one of the crew for a cigarette. We talked and I finished my smoke and leaned forward to go below and fell to the deck. I was numb from the waist down. I had been lucky enough to have had on my foul weather jacket which had kept my upper body warm enough for me to stay coherent, but my lower body was frozen. They took me below and gave me hot coffee, and removed the wet clothing. They put me in a bunk and covered me with many blankets. Later that day when I awoke, I realized my mouth was sore from the hot coffee I drank earlier that morning.

Pictured below are some of the men noted in Ed Bennett's rememberances of the volunteer crew manning the forward 40MM batteries.
Moses Hubbard-Lt(jg), W. Northey-BM1c, J. Mart-BM2c
From left to right - Gun Boss Lt.(jg) Moses Hubbard, Ralph Garnett-CBM, Wesley Northey-BM1c, John Mart-BM2c and Herschel Northcutt-S1c. Garnett is the Chief Bosun's Mate that Bennett recalled giving some direction from the ship during the motor whaleboat incident. Mart is the man that Bennett observed to have been killed at his station on the on the port 40MM gun #42.

Ed Bennett was recognized for his actions that day, along with other volunteers that manned the two forward 40MM gun mounts. In his recommendations for awards for following the action of April 6, 1945, the ship’s Commanding Officer, Rollin E. Westholm, noted the actions of Ed and his shipmates. Excerpts from Commander Westholm’s report included the following for Ed Bennett, and others on the forward 40MM batteries:
“After the first suicide crash when power was lost on the mount these men proceeded to the damaged area and assisted in clearing wreckage and in other damage control measures. When the commanding officer planned to evacuate unnecessary personnel and had called for volunteers to man the operative guns, they proceeded to gun #41 and....acted as part of a crew to man it. During repeated enemy runs on the ship the mount maintained an accurate and rapid fire. They remained at their post in the face of the third suicide attack regardless of the possibility that the plane might have crashed in the immediate vicinity. After the third hit and the position became untenable, they went below and assisted in abandoning ship. While in the water they were a source of encouragement to the groups they had joined.”
Ed Bennett would receive a Letter of Commendation (with the authority to wear ribbon). He had no knowledge that he had received the award until 1947 and the Letter of Commendation was presented to him at at USNOTS, Inyokern (China Lake), CA where he was then stationed. Coincidentally, at the time of the presentation, the Secretary of the Navy, James Forrestal, was visiting the base on that day and made the presentation to Ed. Ed recalls Forrestal telling him, “Son, if we were still at war this would most likely be a Bronze or a Silver Star”.

Letter of Commendation for Ed Bennett

Regarding the group of men who manned the #41 40MM mount, Ed says “I filled the position as ‘Fire and Pointer’ that day, normally the mount captain’s position. I will tell you that there was no time for who was in charge, we all did the same job, defended the ship to the very end in the face of repeated enemy attacks, some right over our heads.”

Ed Bennett & Shipmates in Hawaii after sinking
Above: Ed Bennett (lower right) finally gets to wear his 3rd Class Petty Officer's stripe for the first time, as he and fellow USS BUSH suvivors stop temporarily in Hawaii while enroute to the States and a 30 day survivor's leave. As was often the case, Ed is pictured hanging out with survivoring members of the BUSH torpedo gang. To the left of Ed is Dan Anderson-S1c. In the back row from left to righ are Herman Williams-S1c, Russ Youngren-TM3c and cousin Ray Mayhugh-CTM. A temporary ID was also a must until his regular identification card could be replaced. Although the temporary ID accidentally made him a year older than he was (Bennett was born in 1924), he probably felt he aged 10 years after the events of April 6, 1945.

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