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Okinawa’s Only Known Wreck Discovered at Kouri-Jima

By: Richard Ruth

Date Posted: 2001-03-02

For avid divers on Okinawa there has always been the rumor of that elusive wreck dive. And many have scratched their heads as to why there aren’t more wrecks surrounding the largest battle of World War II. Well the answer to it is partly the fact that everything shallow enough to have been salvaged was, and everything else was dragged to deep enough depths not to cause shipping hazards. One of the wrecks that wasn’t is currently lying in 25 fathoms of water at the top of the island just off Kouri Jima. I was recently lucky enough through perserverance and just plain dumb luck to have recently dove on this wreck and will begin running dive excursions to it around mid April. The USS Emmons was on picket duty off Iheya Jima in April 1945 as part of Operation Iceberg. It was a survivor of Operation Overlord and Operation dragoon in France prior to Its duties in Okinawa as a minesweeper. At 1630 On April 6th 1945 while assisting its sister ship, the burning USS Rodman, the Emmons was hit by five Kamikaze planes from the Japanese strike force in less than two minutes With the stern smashed and most of the superstructure gone, it drifted towards Kouri Jima where it was purposely sunk with ninety-six 5 inch rounds from the USS Ellyson.

When she finally sank some sixty lives had ended and to this day she remains the only ship hit by that type of barrage. After several days of diving with no luck finding her, I was lucky enough to finally make my descent into the deep blue onto the Emmons on February 18th. The ship materialized out of the murky waters at around 90 feet and what a sight it was. The boat lies on its starboard side with the stern slightly deeper than the bow, the anti-aircraft guns and the big guns jutting towards the sky. The broken wheelhouse lying on its side in the sand in depths beyond recreational scuba levels. The anchor still attached to the side and the focsle wheel handles awaiting someone to turn them to release the pressure. Expended shells and debris are scattered around inside the boat and are an eerie reminder of just what this ship and its crew endured during its final battle. Traveling back towards the stern you find mainly twisted and flattened wreckage although the gun turrets are still whole and the guns are standing straight up.

Many large fish have taken refuge in the holes and protected spaces inside the ship. They hurriedly swim away as I pass by. Both props still stick out of the sand making you feel as though she is ready to drive away from this watery grave. In all too short a time my time is up and I am on my way back to the surface. I watch the bow disappear into the blue and vow I’ll be back again. On the surface my all my fellow divers and I can mutter is COOOL. I have been back a couple times now since that first dive and the second and third times were better than the first. The Emmons was awarded a navy commendation medal and several of its crew were given individual citations for bravery. During the Okinawa battle the navy lost 763 aircraft, 4,900 sailors and 3,443 Marines were KIA or MIA. It felt as though all those voices could be heard on this dive. This dive, although extremely cool, is quite deep and not for the average recreational diver. Fathoms diving will begin offering guided trips to the Emmons in April. Check out diveokinawa.com for schedules and trip requirements or to view photos of the wreck. You can also check out many stories by survivors of the Emmons on any of the search engines on the web or see more about this at Benson ClassMay all your dives be wet!!!

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