SCARBOROUGH — Tony Palanza was just 18 years old, a gunner’s mate on the destroyer USS Mullany, when the crew spotted the Japanese plane on its kamikaze mission.

The gunners tried to knock it down until the moment it slammed into the deckhouse. Before crews could remove the wounded, the ship’s depth charges exploded. In all, 29 sailors were killed and nine were missing. Palanza’s body was never recovered.

The attack occurred on April 6, 1945, the seventh day of the Battle of Okinawa.

A few months before, Palanza had left his childhood home on Adams Street on Munjoy Hill to join his three older brothers in the war.

His brothers, John, Sam and B.J., would all come home. The first-generation Italian immigrants would get married, raise families and build successful business careers. They were lucky enough to become old men. And they have never forgotten the kid brother who never made it home.

Sam Palanza, the eldest, died three months ago, at 89. Before he died, he had asked that his ashes be scattered in the Pacific in the area where his brother lost his life 65 years earlier.

Sam Palanza was like a father to his three younger brothers and always wanted to take care of them, B.J. Palanza said.

Sam Palanza was the last in the family to see his brother before he died. They met while on leave in San Francisco before Tony Palanza went to sea. Sam Palanza swapped his pea coat because he thought his own coat was better, and he wanted his brother to have it.

Sam Palanza wanted to be buried with his younger brother because he felt his brother had died too young and all alone without the support of the family, said Diane Lewis, Sam Palanza’s daughter.

“It was my father’s caring nature to want to help anybody, but especially family,” she said.

In March, B.J. Palanza flew to Hawaii to make arrangements with the Navy for the ashes to be buried at sea at the coordinates where the Mullany came under attack.

Someday in the next few months, when a Navy vessel is scheduled to travel on a route near that site, Sam Palanza will be buried with an honor guard standing watch.

The Navy will give Sam Palanza’s family the shell casings from a rifle salute and a chart showing where the ashes were scattered.

Tony Palanza was a “quiet kid” who never really had a chance to do much in life because he died so young, B.J. Palanza said.

His death was such a blow, he said, that even today he can hardly talk about it.

He said he has often visited the Garden of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, but he always left feeling empty.

But knowing that Tony Palanza will soon be with his big brother has given him some peace, he said.

On this Memorial Day, this is his prayer: “Hold on, Tony. Sam is on the way to be with you.”


Staff Writer Tom Bell can be contacted at 7691-6369 or at

[email protected]


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