Greatest Generation: He waited, surrounded by smoke, for an attack that never came

In preparation for Memorial Day, the Dayton Daily News interviewed five Miami Valley veterans to share their experiences during World War II.

This is one of those stories.

Surrounded by smoke, John M. Hood was in the middle of the Pacific aboard the destroyer USS Nicholson between an ammunition ship on one side and an oiler hoping a Japanese kamikaze attack didn’t strike.

Off the coast of the island of Okinawa, the electronics technician was part of the ongoing fight to take the Japanese island in 1945.

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Boats laid down the smoke in the hope it would conceal ships from kamikaze attacks, swarming in explosive-laden planes in the skies targeting U.S. warships.

“We couldn’t see our hand in front of our face because it was covering the place with smoke,” said Hood, now 92.

While Hood was handling five-inch projectiles on deck, a red alert sounded: “The word went around us that the Japanese would come in and fly low and would fly into the smoke until they hit something.”

“It was pretty scary, it really was,” he said.

But the ship survived unscathed.

Many warships and sailors weren’t as lucky.

In another raid, Hood remembers sailing up to what was left of a destroyer after the Japanese attacked.

“There was nothing left of the destroyer except just a floating wreck,” he said. “… Looking over the side, you could actually see water right down through the middle of the ship.”

The Colorado native got aboard the ship at Pearl Harbor in the winter of 1945 and kept sailing throughout the war before he disembarked in Charleston, S.C.

Hood vividly recalls being on watch off the coast of Japan surrounded by hundreds of ships when the war ended with the dropping of the atomic bomb. U.S. warplanes bombed Hiroshima and days later Nagasaki in August 1945.

He and millions of troops had prepared for a possible invasion of Japan to end the war before the surrender.

“At the time, we were all very, very glad that we didn’t have to make that invasion because we would have lost approximately a million troops,” he said.

After the war, Hood, who married and had a family, was a Department of Defense research engineer and a college professor.


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