After the ceremony, while the grandfather was reminiscing about his naval days during World War II, the grandson mentioned that in fact USS Yorktown, a notable aircraft carrier from those days retired in nearby Patriots Point along with a smaller destroyer USS Laffey. Hearing the name Laffey, Adm. Smith felt like a lightning bolt struck him. He spent a big chunk of his carrier on that destroyer, also nicknamed “The Ship That Would Not Die” for her heroic service both in D-Day invasion in Normandy, France originating in the Atlantic Ocean and later in the “Battle of Okinawa” in the Pacific Ocean. But, it was the later operation that flashed in its entirety in his mind.
It was mid-April in 1945. Assigned to fend off Japan’s aerial attack in the Pacific, the destroyer would come under a major assault of more than twenty bombers and kamikaze suicide missions. It would take direct hit from six kamikazes and four dropped bombs. While engulfed in massive fire, more than thirty of its sailors would die, while seventy wounded. But it stayed afloat, firing its onboard guns taking down incoming bombers and kamikazes. He remembered overhearing how a communication officer asking the captain to abandon the vessel, only to receive following reprimand "No! I'll never abandon ship as long as a single gun will fire."
That afternoon, after taking a tour of the USS Yorktown, senior Smith headed towards USS Laffey. He boarded on the restored vessel and would proceed immediately to one of the gunnery enclaves. He vividly remembered that moment he was manning one of the big guns that day when a kamikaze suicide mission delivered the direct hit to his part of the destroyer. The flash, fire, smoke, and deafening sound all reappeared momentarily from that past experience. To date, it has still been a mystery to him how he survived that destructive enemy attack and why USS Laffey didn’t sink in that assault.
Then he murmured to himself “Most probably, I was lucky enough to serve that day on “The Ship That Would Not Die””.