When A Kamikaze Hit His Ship, WWII Veteran Jumped Into Action

Jul 6, 2018

“People throw a rag doll in the air -- that is how I flew in the air,” said Henry Cannon. “I was hurt pretty good.”

After only a few weeks of basic training, Henry Cannon was assigned to the USS Tennessee (BB-43) battleship during World War II. Several days into the Battle of Okinawa, on April 12, 1945, a kamikaze hit the ship. Henry recalled rushing to save his wounded friends but his superior officer ordered him to seek cover because Henry was also badly wounded. 

Charles Field: You said you saw some friends there [on the side of the ship where the kamikaze hit].

Henry Cannon: Yeah, I got eight of them to safety. I could have gotten another one but the second lieutenant told me, 'Cannon, you are wounded too. Get out of here,' and I said 'no lieutenant, I am still strong -- I can get someone.' 'Get out of here -- that is an order.'

Despite being wounded, he carried his wounded friends to the battleship’s medics. “They were pretty well bloody, and that made me more bloody because I had their blood on me,” he remembered.

When asked if he would do it all over again, Henry responded, “Yeah, I would... because look at our country. It is worth it. That's why we all went. Because here we have the freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and you feel free.”

Charles concluded their conversation by saying, “I want to close this by telling something that I know you will never tell… Mr. Cannon received a Silver Star, eight Bronze Stars, and a list of other medals about as long as your arm. He is a true World War II hero.”

Recorded on Feb. 4, 2018, in Del Rio, Texas.

[transcript below]

Henry Cannon: People throw a rag doll in the air that is how I flew in the air. I was hurt pretty good.

Charles Field: You said you saw some friends there.

Henry: Yeah I got eight of them into safety. I could have gotten another one but the second lieutenant told me 'Cannon, you are wounded too, get out of here' and I said 'no lieutenant, I am still strong I can get someone.' 'Get out of here that is an order.'

Charles: So the plane hits, and you have some guys who are wounded. You said you wanted to get them to safety so was there still danger that might get hurt more?

Henry: Well, no I didn't think they would.  There was no fire. Just on one part of the ship but nobody was burnt, we were just hit by shrapnel. There were all wounded like myself, with metal I wasn't burned either. But they were worse off than I was.

Charles: So you are injured and you are carrying these guys from one place to another. To?

Henry: To the medics. We had two. To get them to stop the bleeding and stuff like that you know. And that is why I took them to them, they helped me take them off my shoulders and take care of them. They were pretty well bloody, and that made me more bloody because I had their blood too on me. 

Charles: If you had to do all of this over again, would you?

Henry: Oh yeah, Yeah I would.

Charles: You are a very honorable man.

Henry: Because look at our country. It is worth it. That's why we all went. Because here we have the freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and you feel free. You act free. You're not like looking over your shoulder to see a Gestapo figure.

Charles: Well we are about out of time, so I want to close this by telling something that I know you will never tell. And that is that Mr. Cannon received a silver star, eight bronze stars, and a list of other medals about as long as your arm. He is a true World War II hero.