Typhoon "Louise" The 9 October 1945 Storm at Okinawa.

On 4 October a typhoon developed just north of Rota as a result of a barometric depression and the convergent flow of equatorial air and tropical air. Guam Weather Central called the storm of apparently weak intensity "Louise" and put out the first weather advisory on it at 041200Z, with further advisories following at intervals of six hours. Up to that time of the 16th advisory (080600Z), the storm was following a fairly predictable path to the NW, and was expected to pass between Formosa and Okinawa and on into the East China Sea. At this time, however, the storm began to veer sharply to the right and head north for Okinawa. The 17th advisory at 081200Z (081100I) showed this clearly, and units began to be alerted for the storm late in the evening of the 8th. The forecast for Okinawa was for winds of 60 knots, with 90 knot gusts in the early morning of 9 October, and passage of the center at 1030(I).

"Louise", however, failed to conform to pattern, and that evening, as it reached 25 N (directly south of Okinawa) it slowed to six knots and greatly increased in intensity. As a result, the storm which struck in the afternoon of the 9th has seldom been paralleled in fury and violence; the worst storm at Okinawa since our landings in April.

The sudden shift of the storm 12 hours before its expected maximum , from a predicted path 150 miles west of Okinawa to an actual path that brought the center of the storm less than 15 miles east of Okinawa's southeast coast, caught many craft in the supposedly safe shelter of Buckner Bay without time to put to sea far enough to clear the storm. The ninth of October found the Bay jammed with ships ranging in size from Victory ships to LCV(P)s. All units, both afloat and ashore, were hurriedly battening down and securing for the storm.

By 1000 the wind had risen to 40 knots, and the barometer was down to 989 millibars, visibility was less than 800 yards, the seas were rising, and the rain was coming down in torrents, liberally mixed with salt spray. By 1200, visibility was zero, and the wind was 60 knots from the east and northeast, with tremendous seas breaking over the ships. Small craft were already being torn loose from their anchors, and larger ships were, with difficulty, holding by liberal use of their engines. At 1400 the wind had risen to 80 knots, with gusts of far greater intensity, the rain that drove in horizontally was more salt than fresh, and even the large ships were dragging anchor under the pounding of 30 to 35-foot seas. The bay was now in almost total darkness, and was a scene of utter confusion as ships suddenly loomed in the darkness, collided, or barely escaped colliding by skillful use of engines, and were as quickly separated by the heavy seas. Not all ships were lucky; hundreds were blown ashore, and frequently several were cast on the beach in one general mass of wreckage, while the crews worked desperately to maintain watertight integrity and to fasten a line to anything at hand in order to stop pounding. Many ships had to be abandoned. Sometimes the crews were taken aboard by other ships; more often they made their way ashore, where they spent a miserable night huddled in caves and fields. A few were lost.

By 1600 the typhoon reached its peak, with steady winds of 100 knots and frequent gusts of 120 knots. At this time the barometer dipped to 968.5 millibars. This was the lowest reading that the barometers recorded, and was probably the point of passage of the center of the typhoon, but the maximum winds continued unabated for another two hours, the gusts becoming more fierce, if anything. During this period, the wind shifted to the north, and then to the northwest, and began to blow ships back off the west and north reefs of the Bay and across to the south, sometimes dragging anchor the entire way. These wild voyages by damaged ships caused a nightmare series of collisions and near escapes with other drifting ships and shattered hulks.

A typical experience was that of FLAGLER (AK). Her anchors dragged at 1200, and despite the use of both engines she was blown ashore a mile north of Baten Ko by 1315, colliding with LST 826 on the way. Grounded, she began to pound, and all power was lost. At 1710, as the wind changed, FLAGLER was blown off the reef and back across the bay, grazing a capsized YF and continuing on, with a 13 port list, no power, and the lower spaces and after engine room beginning to flood. One anchor was lost, the other dragged across the bay. By 1800 she had moved two miles across the bay and had grounded on the east side of Baten Ko, alongside a DE hulk. Lines were made fast to the DE, but flooding continued, and AT 0545 ship was abandoned. A small party remained on board, however, and successfully stopped flooding as the typhoon subsided. FLAGLER was later salvaged.

Many other ships had similar stories. SOUTHERN SEAS (PY) rammed or was rammed by five other ships, before sinking. NESTOR (ARB) was forced to start maneuvering as early as 1020, in order to avoid INCA (IX), which had started to drag at 0950. In dodging INCA, NESTOR slipped nearer to the beach, and was forced to put all engines ahead one third in order to hold position on her anchor. At 1230 NESTOR again had to maneuver to narrowly avoid a collision with LST 826, which was dragging anchor very rapidly; but in so doing, NESTOR nearly ran down ARD 27. Another LST, the 823, was being slowly driven towards NESTOR. While maneuvering clear of 823, NESTOR's anchor chain fouled the buoy to which an LCI was secured, and NESTOR had to slip her anchor chain. Despite the full use of all engines, NESTOR was being driven on shore by the increasing winds. The starboard anchor was let go but would not hold, and in clearing two more ships dragging anchor (ARD 22 and LCI 463), NESTOR moved perilously close to the beach. At this time the winds were constantly rising, seas were breaking clear over the ship, and the conn was being deluged with salt water and torrents of rain.

No sooner had the last two ships been cleared than YP 289 closed dead ahead, and it became necessary to back all engines to avoid a collision, but this put NESTOR so close to the beach that she soon grounded. It was now 1345, only an hour and a quarter after first dodging LST 826. While grounded, NESTOR was struck by YF 1079, was holed, and began to pound badly. At 1420 a sudden shift of wind drove NESTOR off the beach, flipped her around end for end, and drove her back on the beach alongside OCELOT (IX 110). Breakers 20 to 30 feet high now pounded NESTOR, flooding all starboard compartments aft of frame 25. At 1530 the wind again shifted, driving NESTOR's stern against APL 14, completely crushing the stern, while the bow penetrated the side of OCELOT at frame 10. A few minutes later, NESTOR settled in 24 feet of water. At 1945 all personnel and records were evacuated to APL 14.

Conditions on shore were no better. Twenty hours of torrential rain soaked everything, made quagmires of roads, and ruined virtually all stores. The hurricane winds destroyed from 50% to 95% of all tent camps, and flooded the remainder. Damage to Quonset huts ran from 40% to 99% total destruction. Some of these Quonsets were lifted bodily and moved hundreds of feet; others were torn apart, galvanized iron sheets ripped off, wall boarding shredded, and curved supports torn apart. Driven from their housing, officers and men alike were compelled to take shelter in caves, old tombs, trenches, and ditches in the open fields, and even behind heavy road-building machinery, as the wind swept tents, planks, and sections of galvanized iron through the air.

At the Naval Air Bases some 60 planes of all types were damaged, some of which had been tossed about unmercifully, but most of which were reparable. Installations suffered far more severely. The seas worked under many of the concrete ramps and broke them up into large and small pieces of rubble. All repair installations were either swept away or severely damaged. At Yonobaru, all 40' by 100' buildings were demolished, the same being true at the NATS terminal. Communication and meteorological services were blown out at most bases by 1900.

The storm center of typhoon "Louise" passed Buckner Bay at about 1600, from which time until 2000 it raged at peak strength. The storm was advancing at the rapid rate of 15 knots in a northerly, then northeasterly, direction, and by 2000 the center was 60 miles away. The winds gradually began to subside. Conditions in Buckner Bay were at this time somewhat improved by the wind's having veered to the northwest across the land mass of Okinawa, which reduced the size of the seas, and probably saved many more damaged ships from being driven off the reefs and sunk in deep water. Nevertheless, the subsidence at 2000 was a relative one, from "super-typhoon" to typhoon conditions, with steady winds of 80 and 60 knots throughout the night, and some gusts of higher velocity. A wild, wet, and dangerous night was spent by all hands, afloat or ashore. It was not until 1000 on the 10th that the winds fell to a steady 40 knots and rains slackened.

Having left Okinawa, the storm proceeded NNE on a curving track. Ships of occupation groups anchored in Amami O Shima anchorage had a rough time, with winds over 70 knots; and Japan, from Nagasaki to Tokyo, was alerted for the storm. On the night of 10-11 October, "Louise" ran into cold air from over Japan; as a result the center of the typhoon occluded, moved aloft to the north, and eventually dissipated. Our forces from Nagasaki to Wakayama experienced winds of 40 to nearly 60 knots on the 11th and 12th. Ships at sea were enabled to maneuver clear of the worst of the storm, and sustained only minor damage, despite heavy seas.

This ended typhoon "Louise", but the damage it left behind on Okinawa was tremendous. Approximately 80% of all housing and buildings were destroyed or made unusable. Very little tentage was salvageable, and little was on hand as a result of previous storms. Food stocks were left for only 10 days. Medical facilities were so destroyed that an immediate request had to be made for a hospital ship to support the shore activities on the island.

Casualties were low, considering the great numbers of people concerned and the extreme violence of the storm. This was very largely due to the active and well directed efforts of all hands in assisting one another, particularly in evacuation of grounded and sinking ships. By 18 October, reports had been sifted and it was found that there were 36 dead and 47 missing, with approximately 100 receiving fairly serious injuries.

The casualty list of ships was far greater. (See Appendix III following). A total of 12 ships were sunk, 222 grounded, and 32 damaged beyond the ability of ships' companies to repair. ComServDiv 104 under Commodore T.J. Kelleher, was assigned to the salvage work. By 19 November, 79 ships had been refloated, and 132 were under repair. The remaining 53 badly damaged vessels still afloat had been, or were being, decommissioned, stripped, and abandoned. On 14 November, ComServPac, (Vice Admiral W. W. Smith) inspected the damage, and decided that only 10 ships were worth complete salvage, out of some 90 ships with major work to be done on them. This decision was made chiefly because similar types of ships were rapidly being decommissioned in the United States, and the cost of salvage would have been excessive for unneeded ships.

Repair work went on rapidly ashore. As a result of the experience in the earlier typhoon in September, extra stocks of food and tentage were to be stored on Okinawa. These were enroute on 9 October, and in less than a week after the storm, supplies were fairly well built up; emergency mess halls and sleeping quarters had been erected for all hands, and 7500 men had been processed for return to the United States.

Appendix III. Typhoon Damage at Okinawa. (Based Upon Progress Reports to 19 November)

Hull Number  Vessel Name Damage
 AFD 13  Grounded - required tow to rear area for docking. Strip, abandonment. Decommissioned 11/24/45
 AFD 14  Damaged - considered unsalvageable. Limited local repairs, for local use.
AFDL 32  Damaged - salvage doubtful. Strip, abandonment.
AK 156  ALAMOSA Damaged - extent unknown
AK 181  FLAGLER Refloated 10/29. Recommended return rear area and decommissioning
AMc 86  Grounded. Overturned. Flooded to main deck
AN 23  MAHOGANY Refloated 10/23. Captain Black recommends tow to rear area.
AN 42  CLIFFROSE Grounded
AN 52  SNOWBALL Grounded. Beyond economical repair
AOG 4  WABASH Damaged - extent unknown
AOG 25  CALAMUS Refloated 10/24. Retain in service, repair
AOG 27  ESCATAWPA Refloated 10/10/45
AOG 31  KANAWHA Grounded. Refloated 10/19/45
AOG 40  SACANDAGA Grounded. Strip, abandonment. Decommissioned 11/24/45
APA 68  BUTTE Damaged - extent unknown
APC 19  Grounded.
APC 103  Grounded. Decommissioned 11/23/45. 
APD 86  HOLLIS Grounded. Not considered salvageable.
APD 36   GREENE Grounded. Not considered salvageable. Decommissioned 11/24.
APL 12  Refloated 10/25/45. Limited local repairs, for local use
APL 13  Grounded. Decommissioned 11/23/45. 
APL 14  Grounded. Recommended for stripping.
APL 33  Refloated 11/24/45
ATF 117  WATERSEE Sunk
ATF 115  Refloated 10/10/45
ARB 6  NESTOR Grounded - recommended for decommissioning
ARB 7  SARPEDON Damaged - extent unknown
ARV 3  Damaged - extent unknown
ARV 5  Damaged - extent unknown
ARG 9  MONA ISLAND Refloated 10/15/45
ARS 16  EXTRICATE Grounded - extent unknown
ATR 9  Damaged - extent unknown
ATR 191  Grounded
ARD 21  Grounded - salvage doubtful. Recover, tow to Guam, dock, refloated 11/20/45
ARD 22  Refloated 10/12/45
ARD 29  Refloated 10/12/45 
ATA 177  Refloated 10/12/45
ATA 181  Grounded. Refloated 10/14/45
ATA 191  Grounded. Beyond economical salvage.
ATA 200  Refloated 10/12/45
Barge K-4058  Refloated 10/22/45
CM 12  WEEHAWKEN Grounded. Beyond economical salvage.
DE 444  OBBERENDER Refloated 11/3/45
DMS 2  LAMBERTON Grounded
DMS 10  SOUTHARD Grounded
DMS 17  DORSEY Grounded
Dredge  MACKENZIE Refloated 10/24/45
FS 406  Grounded
FS 409  Grounded
FS 411  Refloated 10/22/45
FS 552  Grounded
IX 91  Sunk
IX 110  OCELOT Stripped, abandonment 10/29/45. Decommissioned
IX 163  CINNABAR Stripped, abandonment 10/29/45. Decommissioned
IX 162  LIGNITE Grounded
LCI 31  Grounded - Refloated 10/15/45. Captain Pohl recommends decommissioning and strip of all salvageable material
LCI 57  Grounded.
LCI 67  Grounded
LCI 73  Grounded - Refloated 10/14/45
LCI 127  Grounded.
LCI 230  Refloated 10/23/45
LCI 337  Grounded
LCI 339  Grounded
LCI 397  Grounded
LCI 399  Grounded
LCI 407  Damaged - extent unknown
LCI 410  Refloated 11/5/45
LCI 370  Refloated 11/7/45
LCI 463  Refloated 10/22/45
LCI 460  Refloated 10/12/45
LCI 470  Refloated 10/21/45
LCI 486  Grounded
LCI 550  Refloated 10/19/45
LCI 727  Refloated 10/21/45
LCI 728  Refloated 10/19/45
LCI 763  Grounded - Probably total loss
LCI 796  Refloated 10/23/45
LCI 903  Grounded
LCI 992  Refloated 10/30/45
LCI 993  Damaged - extent unknown
LCI 678  Refloated 11/3/45
LCI 771  Grounded
LCI 1399  Damaged - extent unknown
LC(FF) 486  Grounded - strip, abandonment
LCS 4  Grounded - Refloated 10/19/45
LCS 69  Grounded
LCS 460  Grounded
LCS 550  Grounded
LCT 444  Refloated 10/19/45
LCT 507  Grounded
LCT 586  Grounded
LCT 763  Grounded
LCT 1231  Grounded
LCT 1261  Grounded
LCT 1276  Grounded
LCT 1330  Refloated 10/22/45
LCT 1382  Refloated 11/5/45
LCT 1420  Refloated 10/24/45
LSM 15  Sunk
LSM 9  Grounded
LSM 51  Grounded
LSM 79  Refloated 10/19/45
LSM 137  Grounded - strip, abandonment
LSM 141  Grounded
LSM 143  Grounded
LSM 170  Grounded
LSM 200  Grounded
LSM 273  Grounded
LSM 307  Grounded
LSM 334  Grounded - Refloated 10/11/45
LSM 356  Refloated 10/22/45
LSM 344  Grounded
LSM 361  Grounded
LSM 365  Grounded
LSM 406  Grounded
LSM 408  Grounded
LSM 437  Damaged - extent unknown
LSM 444  Grounded
LSM 458  Grounded
LSM 465  Grounded - refloated 10/14/45
LSM 468  Refloated 10/21/45
LSM 1120  Grounded
LST 169  Grounded
LST 494  Refloated 10/22/45
LST 501  Grounded
LST 534  Sunk
LST 561  Grounded
LST 568  Refloated 10/13/45
LST 675  Decommissioned
LST 684  Grounded
LST 690  Grounded
LST 717  Refloated 10/21 (CSD104 10/12)
LST 823  Grounded - Beyond economical salvage
LST 826  Grounded - Beyond economical salvage
LST 830  Grounded
LST 876  Grounded - Refloated 10/14/45
LST 890  Grounded - Refloated 10/19/45
LST 896  Grounded
LST 1001  Grounded - Refloated 10/1/45
LST 1128  Damaged - extent unknown
PB 37  Grounded
PC 584  Grounded - Beyond economical repair
PC 814  Grounded - Beyond economical repair
PC 590  Grounded - Beyond economical repair
PC 1018  Damaged
PC 1120  Grounded
PC 1128  Grounded - Beyond economical repair
PC 1178  Refloated 10/24/45. (CSD 104 refloated 10/16/45)
PC 1238  Refloated 10/19/45. Capsized. Heavily damaged. Decommissioned 11/23/45
PC 1239  Refloated 10/19/45
PC 1245  Refloated 10/19/45
PC 1418  Damaged - extent unknown. Beyond economical repair
PC 1419  Grounded
PC 1461  Grounded
PC 1126  Grounded - Decommissioned 11/23/45
PCS 1418  Grounded - Beyond economical salvage
PCS 1461  Grounded
PGM 27   Grounded - Beyond economical salvage
PGM 23  Refloated 10/21/45
PGM 1421  Grounded
PD 992  Refloated 11/7/45
PY  SOUTHERN SEAS Sunk 
SC 275  Grounded
SC 454  Grounded
SC 606  Grounded
SC 686  Grounded - Beyond economical repair
SC 716  Refloated 11/5/45
SC 727  Grounded - Beyond economical repair
SC 999  Grounded - Beyond economical repair. Decommissioned 11/23/45
SC 995  Grounded
SC 996  Grounded
SC 1012  Grounded - Deleted by CincPac 132145
SC 1306  Grounded - Beyond economical repair
SC 1311  Damaged - extent unknown Refloated
SC 1314  Damaged seriously but afloat
SC 1326  Grounded
SC 1328  Refloated 10/15/45
SC 1338  Refloated 10/24/45
SC 1368  Grounded
SC 1418  Grounded
SC 1461  Grounded
SC 1474  Refloated. Temporary repairs completed. Ready to proceed to U.S.
YMS 454  Grounded - Beyond economical salvage
YMS 90  Refloated 10/24/45. Return rear area, decommission
YMS 146  Grounded - Abandonment
YMS 148  Grounded
YMS 151  Grounded - Strip, abandonment
YMS 193  Refloated 11/6/45 (CSD 104 has refloated 10/45)
YMS 86  Damaged seriously but afloat
YMS 99  Refloated 11/2/45
YMS 193  Refloated 11/6/45
YMS 275  Grounded - Beyond economical repair. Strip, abandonment
YMS 292  Refloated 10/19/45
YMS 348  Grounded
YMS 381  Damaged - extent unknown
YMS 308  Refloated 11/6/45
YMS 383  Grounded - Sunk, strike from register
YMS 384  Sunk
YMS 424  Grounded - Beyond economical salvage
YMS 442  Refloated 10/19/45
YMS 590  Grounded
YSD 48  Sunk
YSD 64  Grounded
YSD 77  Damaged seriously but afloat
YF 552  Grounded
YF 606  Grounded - Refloated 11/20/45
YF 626  Grounded
YF 627  Grounded - Refloated 11/21/45
YF 718  Refloated 10/12/45
YF 731  Refloated 10/12/45
YF 739  Grounded - Recommended for stripping
YF 747  Refloated 10/22/45
YF 750  Grounded
YF 744  Refloated 10/24/45
YF 756  Damaged seriously but afloat
YF 757  Sunk
YF 739  Damaged - extent unknown. In service present location, then strip.
YF 442  Refloated 10/22/45
YF 292  Refloated 10/22/45
YF 993  Grounded
YF 1079  Grounded - Recommend for stripping
YO 111  Refloated 10/19/45
YO 112  Grounded
YO 122  Refloated 10/19/45
YOG 40  Grounded
YOG 75  Sunk, strip, abandonment
YOG 80  Refloated 11/20/45
YOGL 13  Grounded
YOGL 16  Grounded
YP 42  Grounded. Refloated 10/12/45
YP 235  Grounded
YP 236  Grounded
YP 239  Grounded - Recommended for stripping
YP 289  Sunk
YP 520  Grounded - Recommended striking from register
YP 529  Grounded
YP 620  Damaged - extent unknown
YTB 379  CANUCK  Sunk 
YTB 386  Grounded
YTB 411  Sunk
YT 80  Grounded
YT 289  Grounded
YT 618  Refloated 11/5/45
YTL 422  Refloated 10/22/45
YTL 423  Refloated 10/24/45
YTL 550  Refloated 10/24/45
YTL 551  Grounded
YTL 552  Refloated 10/21/45
YDG 6  Damaged seriously afloat
YNG 28  Damaged - extent unknown
SS MONROE VICTORY (XAK)  Grounded. 
SS JACK SINGER  Grounded. 
SS WILLIAM RALSTON   Grounded.
SS RICHARD J. OGLESBY  Grounded.
SS HARRINGTON EMERSON  Refloated 10/27/45
SS JOSEPH E. JOHNSTON  Grounded
SS OVID BUTLER  Refloated 10/12/45
SS BROCKHOLST LIVINGSTON  Damaged seriously but afloat
SS AUGUSTINE HEARD  Damaged - extent unknown
SS GUTZON BORGLUM  Damaged - extent unknown
SS DAVID S. BARRY  Damaged - extent unknown
SS FRANCIS WILSON   Damaged - extent unknown
SS JOHN M. MILLER  Damaged - extent unknown
SS EDGAR W. NYE  Damaged - extent unknown
SS JOSEPH HOLT  Refloated 10/18/45

 

Source: Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet and Pacific Ocean Areas Report, Serial 0395 of 11 February 1946, World War II Command File, Operational Archives Branch, Naval Historical Center, Washington, DC.