Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Figure 1: Undated wartime photograph of the USS Buckley (DE-51). Courtesy National Archives, #BUSHIPS44457. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 2: The launch of the destroyer escort USS Buckley at the Bethlehem-Hingham yard near Boston. This was one of the first long-hulled DE's, and the start of a most impressive building program at this yard. US Navy photo, from the book "Allied Escort Ships of World War II: A Complete Survey,” by Peter Elliott. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 3: Undated wartime photograph of the USS Buckley underway. US Navy photo #19-N-44456, NARA II, College Park MD. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 4: USS Buckley in May 1943. Courtesy Robert Hurst. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 5: USS Buckley in dry dock at the Boston Navy Yard, Boston, Massachusetts, May-June 1944, her bow bent from ramming U-66. Photo courtesy of Captain Jerry Mason, USN (retired). Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 6: May-June 1944, Boston, Massachusetts, Lieutenant Commander Brent Able, USNR, receives the Navy Cross for action as Commanding Officer of USS Buckley from Captain George L. Menocal at the Boston Navy Yard where Buckley is undergoing repairs. Photo courtesy Captain Jerry Mason, USN (retired). Click on photograph for larger image.
The 1,400-ton USS Buckley (DE-51) was the first in a class of 154 destroyer escorts. The ship was named after John Daniel Buckley, an Aviation Ordnanceman killed while defending the Naval Air Station at Kaneohe Bay during the attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941. Buckley was approximately 306 feet long and 36 feet wide, and had a top speed of 24 knots and a crew of 186 officers and men. For a ship her size, Buckley was heavily armed with three 3-inch/50 caliber dual purpose guns, one 1.1-inch/75 quad barrel machine cannon, six 20-mm cannon, three 21-inch torpedo tubes, two depth charge racks, eight K-guns, and one Hedgehog launcher. The ship was built at the Bethlehem-Hingham Shipyard, Hingham, Massachusetts, and was commissioned on 30 April 1943.
From July 1943 to early April 1944, Buckley steamed along the East Coast of the United States and was used as a training ship for this new class of destroyer escort. But on 22 April 1944, Buckley (along with three other destroyer escorts) was assigned to the Hunter/Killer Task Group TG.21.11 that was centered on the escort carrier USS Block Island (CVE-21). While steaming west of the Cape Verde Islands on the morning of 6 May 1944, aircraft from Block Island spotted a surfaced German U-boat not far from Buckley. The aircraft guided Buckley toward the U-boat (which turned out to be U-66) and, at 4,000 yards, the two ships began firing at each other. U-66 shot a torpedo (which missed) at the oncoming destroyer escort and opened up with her deck guns. Buckley fired every gun she had at the submarine. At a range of 2,100 yards, one of Buckley’s 3-inch guns scored a hit just forward of the U-boat’s conning tower. Buckley turned sharply to avoid another torpedo that was fired from U-66, but then headed straight for the submarine, pounding the U-boat with her 20-mm guns. As the destroyer escort approached U-66, Lieutenant Commander Brent Able, Buckley’s skipper, gave a command rarely heard in modern warfare, “Stand by to ram!” Buckley turned hard right and crashed into the U-boat. For a while the two ships were locked together and what ensued was one of the strangest naval battles during World War II. In a throwback to the Age of Sail, German crewmen jumped on board the destroyer escort and were beaten back by US sailors armed with pistols, rifles, and empty 3-inch shell cases. One American sailor even threw a coffee mug at one of the attacking German crewmen! This unusual hand-to-hand combat lasted for about two minutes and then Buckley managed to free itself by backing away from the submarine. U-66 then tried to ram the destroyer escort, but a quick-thinking torpedoman from Buckley threw a hand grenade down the open conning tower hatch as the submarine drew alongside the American warship. The grenade exploded deep inside the U-boat, causing a massive fire to erupt within the ship. After the explosion, U-66 began drifting away from Buckley with flames shooting up from its open hatches. At 0436 on 6 May, U-66 sank beneath the waves, a little over an hour after the battle began. After the battle, Buckley picked up 36 officers and men who had managed to jump off the sinking German submarine.
Buckley steamed to New York and then on to the Boston Navy Yard for repairs. She then escorted two convoys to North Africa from 14 July 1944 to 7 November 1944. After that she was assigned to anti-submarine and escort duties along America’s East Coast until June 1945. While on one of these escort missions, Buckley managed to sink yet another German submarine (U-879) with the assistance of the USS Reuben James (DE-153) on 19 April 1945.
From June to July 1945, Buckley escorted one more convoy to Algeria before being sent back to the United States for conversion into a radar picket ship. In October 1945, she participated in the Navy Day ceremonies at Jacksonville, Florida, and then was decommissioned on 3 July 1946. Buckley was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register in June 1968 and was sold for scrapping in July 1969. Buckley received the Navy Unit Commendation for sinking U-66 and was awarded three battle stars for her service in World War II.
The primary duty of destroyer escorts during World War II was to sink enemy submarines and many of them, like Buckley, did that job very well. Eventually destroyer escorts would take on a number of other duties as well, but when attached to Hunter/Killer groups with an escort carrier (such as Block Island), they proved to be deadly adversaries to German U-boats. Destroyer escorts made a substantial contribution in winning the Battle of the Atlantic and their efforts should not be forgotten.
Posted by Remo at 8:33 AM
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Figure 1: USS Block Island (CVE-21) underway, October 12, 1943 wearing Ms.22 camouflage. Courtesy Haze Gray and Underway. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 2: USS Block Island (CVE-21) shortly after leaving Norfolk, October 15, 1943, on her first anti-submarine cruise, with aircraft from Composite Squadron 1 (VC-1) on deck—9 FM-1 Wildcats (forward) and 12 TBF-1C Avengers. U.S. National Archives photo #80-G-87149. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 3: USS Block Island CVE 21 leaving Norfolk, Virginia, January 1944. The picture provided by Bill Harris, son of William F. Harris who was Ships Navigator on the Block Island. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 4: Block Island pulling into harbor at Belfast, Ireland, with a load of Army Air Force P-47s and spare parts for B-24s and B-17s. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 5: Sinking of German submarine U-801, 16-17 March 1944. U-801 sinking with bow high, in position 16 41N, 29 58W on 17 March 1944. USS Corry (DD-463) is coming up at right. The submarine was sunk by aircraft and surface ships of the USS Block Island (CVE-21) group. Photographed from a TBM aircraft of squadron VC-6, based on Block Island. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 6: USS Block Island (CVE-21) sinking after being torpedoed by German submarine U-549, May 29, 1944 (port side view). Courtesy Haze Gray and Underway. Click on photograph for larger image.
The USS Block Island (CVE-21) was a 15,200-ton Bogue class escort carrier that was built at the Seattle-Tacoma Shipbuilding Company, Tacoma, Washington, and was commissioned on 8 March 1943. The ship was approximately 495 feet long and 69 feet wide, and had a top speed of 17.6 knots and a crew of 890 officers and men. Block Island was armed with two 5-inch guns, 20 40-mm guns, and 27 20-mm guns, and could carry 28 aircraft.
After fitting out at the Puget Sound Navy Yard, Block Island steamed to San Diego, arriving there on 9 April 1943. The next day a new air unit was placed on board the ship, which was made up of Grumman “Wildcat” fighters and Grumman TBF-1 “Avenger” torpedo bombers. On 22 May, Block Island left for Norfolk, Virginia, going via the Panama Canal. She arrived there on 7 June.
The first wartime mission given to Block Island was that of aircraft ferry. On 17 July 1943, the ship began its first journey to Ireland carrying a cargo of Republic P-47 “Thunderbolt” fighters. Block Island was part of a convoy of eight troopships and escorts and she arrived at Siddenham Airport near Belfast, Ireland, on 26 July. The carrier left Belfast on 3 August and reached New York eight days later to take on board a second batch of P-47 fighters. She left New York on 21 August and returned to Siddenham Airport on 31 August. By 12 September, Block Island was back in Norfolk.
At Norfolk Block Island ended her career as an aircraft ferry and was converted back into an escort carrier. She was given a new squadron of Wildcat fighters and Avenger torpedo bombers and on 15 October 1943 Block Island left Virginia and became part of Task Group (TG) 21.16, along with the destroyers Paul Jones (DD-230), Parrott (DD-218), Barker (DD-213), and Bulmer (DD-222). The task group was what was known as a “Hunter/Killer” team, where several destroyers were used with an escort carrier for the specific purpose of seeking out and destroying German U-boats that were preying on Allied merchant convoys. Block Island was to provide air cover for convoy UGS-21, but on 17 October the task group was diverted to an area north of the Azores where numerous U-boats were sighted. Block Island’s aircraft were to locate and, if possible, sink any submarines that were on the surface. But if the U-boats submerged, the aircraft were to guide the destroyers in the task group to the area where the submarines were located and assist them in sinking the enemy warships.
On 25 October, the task group nearly scored its first “kill” when the USS Parrott seriously damaged U-488. The submarine managed to escape, but on 28 October aircraft from Block Island found two U-boats on the surface. One of the two submarines, U-220, was sunk by the planes but the other, U-256, managed to get away. On 5 November, Block Island and her escorts reached Casablanca to refuel and to take on provisions. She then provided air cover for convoy GUS-220 before heading back to Norfolk, arriving there on 25 November.
Block Island made several more trips to and from the area north of the Azores known as “The Black Pit,” because it lay in the middle of the Allied convoy routes and because of the number of U-boats that were concentrated there. Block Island was always part of a Hunter/Killer task group and on several occasions either its planes or its escorts attacked German U-boats. On 29 December 1944, two destroyers from the task group (Parrott and Bulmer) accidentally came across nine U-boats, but they scattered before the destroyers could sink any of them. On 8 January 1944, aircraft from Block Island seriously damaged U-758, forcing her to submerge and return to base for repairs. On 29 February 1944, during another action in the “Black Pit,” Block Island’s task group ran into four U-boats (U-709, U-603, U-607, and U-441). U-603 was sunk by one of the destroyers in the task group and two others sank U-709. U-441 was seriously damaged by the escorting destroyers and had to return to Brest, France, for repairs.
On 11 March 1944, Block Island and her escorts were sent northwest of the Cape Verde islands to hunt for U-boats. On 16 March, aircraft from Block Island attacked U-801 as it was slithering along the surface. The aircraft seriously damaged the submarine but did not sink it. However, the attack caused the submarine to leak oil. The destroyers in the task group eventually sighted this oil slick and located the submarine by following the oil slick. After a drawn out battle, the destroyers escorting Block Island managed to sink U-801. On 19 March, aircraft from Block Island also located, attacked and destroyed U-1059.
On 29 April 1944, Block Island was part of a new task group named “CortDiv 60,” which included the destroyer escorts Ahrens (DE-575), Barr (DE-576), Eugene E. Elmore (DE-686) and Buckley (DE-51). The task group was sent to relieve another Hunter/Killer team west of the Cape Verde Islands. On 1 May, Block Island made radar contact with U-66, but the submarine got away before the carrier’s aircraft or her destroyer escorts could find her. During the early morning hours of 6 May, one of Block Island’s aircraft again located U-66 on the surface, but this time the plane guided the destroyer escort Buckley towards the target. After an amazing gun battle between the Buckley and U-66 in which the American destroyer escort actually rammed the U-boat, U-66 burst into flames and eventually sank.
On 29 May 1944, Block Island’s task group was steaming near the Canary Islands searching for German submarines. A plane from Block Island got a strong radar contact on a submarine. Although more planes were sent to locate the U-boat, they could not find it. At the same time, the submarine (which turned out to be U-549) also spotted the carrier and decided to come in for the kill. Suddenly, two torpedoes slammed into Block Island, causing major damage to the ship. The explosions from the torpedoes caused Block Island to go dead in the water. Then a third torpedo hit the crippled carrier, destroying her lower decks, knocking out all of power, and breaking the back of the ship. Block Island was going down and the order to “Abandon Ship” was given. Then, just as the ship began settling by the stern, another torpedo from U-549 hit the destroyer escort Barr in the stern, killing 28 men but not sinking the ship. Barr eventually had to be towed to port. As the destroyer escort Ahrens began picking up Block Island’s survivors from the water, she stopped her engines. Sonar on board the Ahrens then picked up the sound of U-549 approaching. The Ahrens radioed the other destroyer escort in the group, Eugene E. Elmore, for assistance and guided the Elmore towards the sonar contact. Elmore eventually launched three “hedgehog” projectiles (a type of depth charge fired from the ship by a launcher). Remarkably, all three hit U-549, causing a massive underwater explosion that destroyed the submarine. Block Island eventually slipped beneath the waves but, fortunately, only thirteen of the ship’s crew was lost. The other ships in the task group rescued the rest of the crew.
Block Island was the only American aircraft carrier sunk by enemy action in the Atlantic. But the other ships in the task group had the satisfaction of sinking U-549, the ship that destroyed Block Island. In addition, Block Island and the other escort carriers like her represented a turning point in the war against the U-boats. Hunter/Killer teams sunk or damaged numerous U-boats, keeping the German submarines away from their primary targets, which were Allied merchant ships. This enabled a large and steady stream of Allied merchant ships to sail unharmed all over the Atlantic and Mediterranean, thereby allowing a massive amount of supplies to reach Allied troops overseas. Escort carriers such as Block Island helped to turn the tide against the U-boats, eventually allowing the Allies to win the Battle of the Atlantic.
Posted by Remo at 6:14 AM
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Figure 1: USS Marblehead (CL-12) underway in San Diego harbor, California, 10 January 1935. Photographed from USS Dobbin (AD-3). Donation of Franklin Moran, 1967. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 2: USS Marblehead (CL-12) in harbor, circa the early 1930s. The location may be San Diego, California. Donation of Franklin Moran, 1967. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 3: USS Marblehead from overhead, starboard side underway, 10 January 1933. Excellent image showing details of this class. Courtesy National Archives, image # (80-G-466558). Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 4: USS Marblehead (CL-12) at Tjilatjap, Java, after she had been damaged by Japanese high-level bombing attack in the Java Sea on 4 February 1942. This view shows the effect of an enemy bomb that struck her stern. Her after 6"/53 gun turret is at left. Note the blanked off portholes on her hull side. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 5: USS Marblehead (CL-12) under repair at the New York Navy Yard, circa June 1942, after she had been damaged by Japanese high-level bombing attack in the Java sea on 4 February 1942. This view shows new deck plating on the cruiser's stern. Her after 6"/53 gun turret is in the center. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 6: USS Marblehead (CL-12) off New York City, 11 October 1942. Photograph from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the U.S. National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 7: USS Marblehead (CL-12) off New York City, 6 May 1944. Photograph from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the U.S. National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 8: USS Marblehead (CL-12) underway at sea, 10 May 1944. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center. Click on photograph for larger image.
Named after a port in Massachusetts, the USS Marblehead (CL-12) was a 7,050-ton Omaha class light cruiser that was built by William Cramp & Son, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and was commissioned on 8 September 1924. She was approximately 555 feet long and 55 feet wide, and had a top speed of 34 knots and a crew of 458 officers and men. Marblehead was armed with twelve 6-inch guns, four 3-inch guns and six 21-inch torpedo tubes.
After completing her shakedown cruise in Europe, Marblehead went to the South Pacific in 1925 and visited Australia. From 1927 to 1928 Marblehead cruised off the coast of Nicaragua, which was suffering from political turmoil at that time. She then was sent to China to protect American lives and property during that nation’s civil and military difficulties. For the remainder of the 1920s and for most of the 1930s, Marblehead was assigned to both the Atlantic and Pacific fleets.
Marblehead was part of the US Asiatic Fleet from early 1938 to the beginning of 1942. During that time tensions escalated between the United States and Japan, especially over Japan’s invasion of China. Marblehead steamed throughout the Far East showing the flag and when war started between the United States and Japan on 7 December 1941, Marblehead was ordered to join the small Allied naval task force assigned to protect the Netherlands East Indies. On the night of 24 January 1942, Marblehead took part in the Battle of Balikpapan, in which several American destroyers made a bold attack against a Japanese convoy off the coast of Borneo. Marblehead covered the destroyers as they left the area after sinking several Japanese ships. Six days later, the small Allied task force (made up of American and Dutch warships) left Surabaja, Java, and again tried to intercept another Japanese convoy. On 4 February 1942, the Allied task force was attacked by 36 Japanese bombers off the coast of Java in the Makassar Strait. Marblehead successfully avoided three aerial attacks, but during the fourth attack the Japanese scored two direct hits as well as a near miss that exploded right next to the cruiser. Marblehead was severely damaged. Fires raged on deck and water poured into the ship from the bomb hits. The cruiser then began to list to starboard and settled by the bow. Damage control crews battled the fires and eventually managed to stop the flooding. Finally, Marblehead was able to make steam and began the long arduous task of limping back to port under her own power. But the attack killed 15 men and seriously injured 84.
Marblehead made it back to Tjilatjap, Java, for temporary repairs, but she needed the services of a much larger shipyard for more extensive repairs. She left Java on 13 February and made it to Trincomalee, Ceylon, on 21 February. Repairs couldn’t be made there for several weeks, so Marblehead left there and crawled to Simonstown, South Africa, docking there on 24 March. After getting more substantial repairs in Simonstown, Marblehead left South Africa on 15 April and sailed for New York City. She arrived in New York on 4 May after completing an amazing trip of more than 9,000 miles.
Marblehead was completely rebuilt and sent back to sea on 15 October 1942. Marblehead went to the South Atlantic, where she patrolled the waters between Brazil and Africa until February 1944. The cruiser then was assigned to convoy duty in the North Atlantic and in July and August 1944 Marblehead took part in the invasion of southern France, where her 6-inch guns were used to bombard German defensive positions on shore. Marblehead’s final assignment was to act as a training ship for midshipmen from the US Naval Academy during the summer of 1945. She was decommissioned on 1 November 1945 and was scrapped on 27 February 1946.
Although outdated by the start of World War II, Marblehead still was able to make a substantial contribution to the war effort. The Battle of Makassar Strait, in which she was almost sunk by Japanese aircraft, showed just how much punishment this ship could take and still return home. Her journey of more than 9,000 miles after being severely damaged also must rank as one of the greatest voyages ever undertaken by a single warship during World War II.
Posted by Remo at 6:18 AM
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
Figure 1: USS Drayton (DD-366) underway at sea, circa 1938. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 2: USS Cushing (DD-376) steams ahead of USS Drayton (DD-366), at sea on 8 February 1938. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 3: Destroyers underway in San Diego Harbor, California, 1938. Identifiable ships are: USS Drayton (DD-366), at left; USS Preston (DD-379), at right; and USS Perkins (DD-377), in center, partially masked by Preston. Note colored bands painted on these destroyer's after smokestacks, possibly for unit identification purposes. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 4: USS Drayton (DD-366) in port, during the late 1930s. Courtesy of Donald M. McPherson, 1969. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 5: Rare color photograph of the USS Drayton underway at sea off the U.S. West Coast, circa October 1941. Photographed from a Navy SNJ aircraft, whose starboard wing is in the foreground. Note Drayton's camouflage, which was the source of her contemporary nickname "The Blue Beetle." Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 6: USS Drayton photographed at Pearl Harbor on 5 October 1942. Drayton had collided with USS Flusser (DD-368) during exercises in the Hawaiian area the day before. USS Portland (CA-33) and USS Saratoga (CV-3) are partially visible in the background. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 7: USS Drayton underway off the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, 28 June 1944. Her camouflage is Measure 31, Design 23d. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 8: USS Drayton bombarding Palawan Island, Philippines, on 28 February 1945. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Named after Percival Drayton (1812-1865), a famous Union Civil War Captain, the USS Drayton (DD-366) was a 1,500-ton Mahan class destroyer that was built by the Bath Iron Works at Bath, Maine. She was commissioned on 1 September 1936 and was approximately 341 feet long and 35 feet wide, and had a top speed of 37 knots and a crew of 158 officers and men. Drayton was originally armed with five 5-inch guns, twelve 21-inch torpedo tubes and depth charges, but additional anti-aircraft guns were added during World War II.
From 6 October 1936 to 5 December, Drayton visited Europe during her shakedown cruise. In 1937, Drayton was sent to the Pacific and in July she took part in the search effort for Amelia Earhart. After the search was called off, Drayton took part in numerous training exercises along America’s West Coast and Hawaii. In October 1939, the ship’s home port changed from San Diego, California, to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
When Pearl Harbor was attacked on 7 December 1941, Drayton was at sea escorting the aircraft carrier USS Lexington (CV-2). Drayton was assigned to escort duties during the first few months of the war, traveling to Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean and to Fiji. She then escorted the carrier Enterprise (CV-6) on raids in the central Pacific and, after a brief overhaul at Mare Island, California, in April 1942, Drayton patrolled the waters off the West Coast and Hawaii for the next six months. In November 1942, she took part in the terrible naval battle off Guadalcanal. At the end of that month, Drayton participated in the disastrous battle of Tassafaronga, in which the US Navy suffered a stunning defeat at the hands of the Japanese Navy. The ship did not sustain any major damage during the battle and continued escorting merchant ships and warships in the Solomon Islands, as well as bombarding Japanese shore targets and taking part in several amphibious assaults in New Guinea.
After completing a second major overhaul at Mare Island in late June 1944, Drayton was sent back to Hawaii for a brief period of time before being assigned to patrol duties in the Marshall Islands. In October 1944, Drayton returned to New Guinea and then was sent to the Philippines to support the American amphibious assault on Leyte. While escorting a convoy of amphibious assault ships on 5 December 1944, Drayton was hit by a Japanese suicide plane. The resulting explosion killed eight men and wounded 19 others. The surviving crewmen were able to put out the fires and keep the ship in action, allowing Drayton to complete her original mission of escorting the amphibious assault ships to a secure harbor. The destroyer then steamed unassisted to Manus Island in New Guinea for repairs.
After being repaired, Drayton participated in the invasion of Lingayen Gulf, Luzon, in the Philippines on 9 January 1945. She provided constant fire support for the American forces on shore and went on to take part in the amphibious assaults at Mangarin Bay, Puerto Princesa, Cebu, and Ormoc Bay. On 23 April 1945, Drayton escorted ships for the invasion of Borneo, a job that lasted until 21 July. She returned to Manila on 29 July and left for New York on 7 August, arriving there on 12 September. Drayton was decommissioned in New York on 9 October 1945 and was sold for scrapping on 20 December 1946. Drayton received 11 battle stars for her service in World War II. She performed all of the typical duties normally associated with a “tin can” (as destroyers were called during the war), from escorting merchant ships and warships to bombarding enemy shore targets. Drayton, like so many other destroyers during World War II, showed just how tough a “tin can” could be.
Posted by Remo at 9:16 AM
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
Figure 1: USS Aaron Ward (DD-483) approaching USS Wasp (CV-7) on 17 August 1942, during operations in the Solomon Islands area. Note that her port anchor is missing, probably removed as a weight-saving measure. Also note her pattern camouflage. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 2: The USS Aaron Ward (DD-483) berthed at the Brooklyn Navy Yard on 4 May 1942. She shows a good example of the correctly applied US Navy Measure 12 Modified camouflage. USN courtesy of Floating Drydock. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 3: USS Aaron Ward (DD-483) probably photographed in New York Harbor, circa 15 May 1942. Wartime censors retouched this image. They removed radar antennas atop the gun director and foremast. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 4: USS Aaron Ward (DD-483) afloat immediately after she was launched, at the Federal Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company shipyard, Kearny, New Jersey, 22 November 1941. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 5: View on board the USS Aaron Ward (DD-483), looking aft from the bow, while the ship was in New York Harbor on 15 May 1942. Note her forward 5"/38 gun mounts, with 5" powder canisters stacked on deck nearby; and Mark 37 gun director, with "FD" radar antenna, atop the pilothouse. The tug Robert Aikman and a Navy covered lighter (YF) are alongside. Fort Richmond, on Staten Island, is visible in the right distance. Photograph from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the U.S. National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 6: Ships of Task Force 18 in Tulagi Harbor, Solomon Islands, shortly before departing hurredly to avoid the large-scale Japanese air attack that marked the beginning of Japan’s "I" Operation, 7 April 1943. Photographed from USS Fletcher (DD-445). USS Aaron Ward (DD-483) is partially visible at left. She was fatally damaged in this air attack and sank near Tulagi during salvage attempts. Light cruiser in center is USS Honolulu (CL-48). USS Saint Louis (CL-49) is behind her, to the right, with a Fletcher class destroyer beyond. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center. Click on photograph for larger image.
USS Aaron Ward (DD-483) was the second ship named after Rear Admiral Aaron Ward, who served in the US Navy from 1867 to 1913. Aaron Ward was a 1,630-ton Gleaves class destroyer that was built by the Federal Shipbuilding and Drydock Company at Kearny, New Jersey, and was commissioned on 4 March 1942. The ship was approximately 348 feet long and 36 feet wide, and had a top speed of 35 knots and a crew of 208 officers and men. She was armed with four 5-inch guns, two twin 40-mm gun mounts, two single 20-mm gun mounts, two quintuple 21-inch torpedo tube mounts and depth charges.
After a brief shakedown cruise off the coast of Maine, Aaron Ward was sent to the Pacific in May 1942. For roughly a month she escorted the aircraft carrier Long Island (AVG-1) and several old battleships as they left America’s West Coast and patrolled the waters off Hawaii. Aaron Ward then played a substantial role in the naval battle for Guadalcanal. In July, Aaron Ward steamed toward the South Pacific, where she escorted merchant ships to Guadalcanal. While escorting some warships near the island, Aaron Ward witnessed the sinking of the carrier USS Wasp (CV-7) after it was torpedoed by the Japanese submarine I-19 on 15 September 1942. On 17 October 1942, Aaron Ward fought off several Japanese aircraft and bombarded enemy positions on shore. On October 20, while screening American warships, she came to the assistance of the heavy cruiser USS Chester (CA-37) after she was torpedoed by another Japanese submarine. Aaron Ward escorted the damaged cruiser to Espiritu Santo in the New Hebrides for repairs.
Aaron Ward shelled additional Japanese positions on Guadalcanal on 30 October as part of a task force centered on the light cruiser USS Atlanta (CL-51). Aaron Ward escorted merchant ships to Guadalcanal on 11-12 November and successfully protected them against enemy air attacks as they steamed off the coast of the island. On the night of 12-13 November 1942, during a major naval battle off Guadalcanal, Aaron Ward was part of a group of cruisers and destroyers that attacked a larger Japanese naval task force that included two battleships. The destroyer was hit several times during the battle and was even fired on (but not hit) by the Japanese battleship Hiei.
After the battle, Aaron Ward was sent to Pearl Harbor for repairs. She was sent back to Guadalcanal in February 1943. While steaming in nearby Tulagi Harbor on 7 April, Aaron Ward received a radar warning that a huge Japanese air raid was about to take place. The destroyer quickly moved away from Tulagi and went into the open waters of nearby Iron Bottom Sound (which got that name because of all of the ships that were sunk there). There the Aaron Ward’s luck ran out because several Japanese dive-bombers attacked her. The ship sustained one direct hit and several near misses, which flooded both her fireroom and engine room. Twenty-seven men were killed during the attack and 59 were wounded. The ship also had no power and began to sink. Two salvage ships came to the assistance of the Aaron Ward and tried to tow the stricken destroyer back to Tulagi. But the damage was too great and she soon sank, stern first, only 600 yards away from shore.
The Aaron Ward received four battle stars for her service in World War II. However, her story does not end there. During the mid-1990s, the wreck of the Aaron Ward was discovered by divers off the coast of Tulagi. She is sitting upright 240 feet below the surface, with both her bow and stern seriously mangled by the destroyer’s impact with the ocean floor. But despite the damage, the ship is well preserved and numerous divers have visited it. Aaron Ward may have been sunk in 1943, but to this day she provides mute testimony to the viciousness of the naval battles that were fought off the coast of Guadalcanal.
Posted by Remo at 8:48 AM