October 21 This Day During World War ll

October 21, 1944 – HMAS Australia was hit by a special attack aircraft off the Philippine Islands; it was unsure whether this was a Japanese Army or Navy aircraft as both branches launched tokko attacks on this date. HMAS Australia, a 9850-ton heavy cruiser of the British Kent class, was built at Glasgow, Scotland. During the first decade of her active career, she mainly served in Australian home waters, but also cruised abroad on occasion. The cruiser was modernized in 1938-39, receiving much improved armor protection plus significant modifications to her forward superstructure, anti-aircraft gun battery, gunfire control systems and aircraft facilities. Australia was participating in the Leyte invasion when at around 06:00 on 21 October, Japanese aircraft attacked attempted to bomb the Allied ships in Leyte Bay. An Aichi D3A dive-bomber dove for Shropshire, but broke away after heavy anti-aircraft fire was directed at it. The Aichi, damaged by Bofors fire, turned and flew at low level up the port side of the nearby Australia, before striking the cruiser’s foremast with its wingroot. Although the bulk of the aircraft fell overboard, the bridge and forward superstructure were showered with debris and burning fuel. Seven officers (including Captain Dechaineux) and twenty-three sailors were killed by the collision, while another nine officers (including Commodore Collins), fifty-two sailors, and an AIF gunner were wounded. Observers aboard Australia and nearby Allied ships differed in their opinions of the collision; some thought that it was an accident, while the majority considered it to be a deliberate ramming aimed at the bridge. Although historian George Hermon Gill claims in the official war history of the RAN that Australia was the first Allied ship hit by a kamikaze attack, other sources, such as Samuel Eliot Morison in History of United States Naval Operations in World War II disagree as it was not a preplanned suicide attack (the first attack where the pilots were ordered to ram their targets occurred four days later), but was most likely performed on the pilot’s own initiative, and similar attacks by damaged aircraft had occurred as early as 1942. Australia sailed for Kossol Passage on the afternoon of the attack, in company with HMAS Warramunga and the US Ships Honolulu (also damaged during the Leyte invasion) and Richard P. Leary. On 24 October, the Australian ships proceeded to Manus, then sailed to Espiritu Santo for repairs. Work on Australia was completed by 28 November, and she rejoined the joint Australian-American task force (at that point operating under the designation 74.1) on 4 December. 


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