The Sinking of the Underhill

On July 24, 1945, I was on the bridge as starboard lookout on the USS Underhill, a destroyer escort sent to Okinawa, when our sonar detected submarines in the area. I spotted a periscope at a distance of about 300 yards off our starboard beam.

General quarters was sounded immediately. As soon as I was relieved at lookout, I hustled to my battle station. After an aborted "stand by to ram" order, we heard and felt depth charges exploding. This was quickly followed by another "stand by to ram" order, and we felt a minor bump.

As we began to relax, thinking that the ramming was over, we heard and felt a deafening explosion that tossed us about and left us in the eerie light of our emergency lanterns. We all eventually went up on deck and quickly discovered what had happened. Our ship was in utter shambles.

The bridge from which I had reported sighting a periscope was gone; in fact, the entire bow of the ship was slowly sinking off the starboard side. We had been hit by a Japanese suicide sub and the explosion cut the USS Underhill into two pieces. We lost 112 members of our crew that day, including the man who had replaced me as lookout minutes earlier.

-- Harold E. Matter, Rockville

The hat and dungarees Harold E. Matter was wearing when the Underhill was hit; his flashlight; and a telegram he sent home as soon as he arrived in the States.