It was midmorning on May 11, 1945, near the Japanese island of Kyushu when the Bunker Hill, an aircraft carrier with dozens of planes and vast stores of fuel and ammunition on its flight deck, was struck by two kamikaze planes in suicide attacks within minutes of each other.
Lt. Cmdr. Joseph R. Carmichael Jr., the Bunker Hill’s chief engineer, had just finished his shift and was in his office doing paperwork. “He could definitely have stayed there and never been criticized,” said Maxwell Taylor Kennedy, the author of “Danger’s Hour: The Story of the U.S.S. Bunker Hill and the Kamikaze Pilot Who Crippled Her.” The book recounts what could have been a far more calamitous day but for the bravery of Commander Carmichael and his engineering crew.
“Instead,” Mr. Kennedy said in an interview on Wednesday, “he ran down through five decks, passing sailors who were evacuating, and made it to the engine compartment about 25 feet below sea level. This was in a ship that he knew was burning above him and could sink at any moment.”
Commander Carmichael, who would receive the Navy Cross for “extraordinary heroism” in keeping the Bunker Hill afloat that day, but who would never forget the loss of many men under his direct command, died on Monday in Manhattan after a long illness, said his wife, Jeanne. He was 96.
His actions, and those of his men, are credited with helping to save not just the ship but nearly 2,800 crew members as well.
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