Lieutenant Junior Grade Gardner Treible Hutchins was born 28 August 1920 in Severna Park, Maryland. He graduated from the Navy’s Bomb Disposal School, class #18, 23 February 1943. He was then assigned to Mobile Explosives Investigation Unit Four. Hutchins mustered aboard the aircraft carrier USS Bunker Hill (CV-17) on 24 January 1945, from Alameda, California.
At dawn on 11 May 1945, USS Bunker Hill was operating about 90 miles East of Okinawa. The ship had been shadowed most of the previous night. Enemy planes were known to be attacking ships supporting the Okinawa invasion under the Japanese codename Kikusui. On 11 May, 240 Imperial Japanese Navy and Army planes participated in the sixth Kikusui attack. About 1000 hours, the Bunker Hill was hit by two suicide kamikaze aircraft without any previous warning. Both planes dove out of low clouds at a steep angle. A Mitsubishi A6M Zeke “Zero” fighter plane emerging from low cloud cover, dove toward the flight deck and dropped a 550-pound bomb that penetrated the flight deck and exited from the side of the ship at gallery deck level before exploding in the ocean. The Zero then crashed onto the carrier’s flight deck, destroying parked warplanes full of aviation fuel and ammunition, causing a large fire. The remains of the Zero went over the deck and dropped into the sea. Then, a short 30 seconds later, a second Zero, piloted by Ensign Kiyoshi Ogawa, plunged into its suicide dive. The Zero went through the antiaircraft fire, dropped a 550-pound bomb, and then crashed into the flight deck near the carrier’s “island”, as kamikazes were trained to aim for the island superstructure. The bomb penetrated the flight deck and exploded. The resulting gasoline fires and several explosions severely damaged the carrier. As result, LTJG Hutchins, along with 346 other sailors were killed-in-action.
LTJG Hutchins was buried at sea and was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart Medal. He was memorialized on the tablets of the Missing at National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl National Cemetery), Honolulu, Hawaii.
His brother, my cousin Myles , was KIA in Burma on 4 June 1944. His body was recovered just last year and we buried him in Arlington. This was an unbearable loss for the Esmay, Trieble Hutchins families .