Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger
Warship Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021: Hurricane ASW
Here we see the Allen M. Sumner-class destroyer USS Hyman (DD-732) moored at Kusaie (Kosrae) Island in the Carolines (now Micronesia), 8 September 1945. Her twin forward 5″/38cal DP Mark 38 mounts are skyward with an ensign in between them as the party assembled on her deck are gathered to receive the surrender of Lt-Gen. Yoshikazu Harada of the Imperial Japanese Army and his 4,500 assorted men ashore.
The Sumners, an attempt to up the firepower on the previous and highly popular Fletcher-class destroyers, mounted a half-dozen 5″/38s in a trio of dual mounts, as well as 10 21-inch torpedo tubes in a pair of five-tube turntable stations. Going past this, they were packed full of sub-busting and plane-smoking weapons as well as some decent sonar and radar sets for the era.
With 336 men crammed into a 376-foot hull, they were cramped, slower than expected (but still capable of beating 33-knots all day), and overloaded (although they reportedly rode wildly when in light conditions), but they are fighting ships who earned good reputations for being almost indestructible.
Our vessel was the only warship named for LCDR Willford Milton Hyman (USNA ’24), skipper of the destroyer USS Sims (DD-409) during the Battle of the Coral Sea. Sims, while escorting the tanker USS Neosho, was attacked by three vicious waves of Japanese aircraft from two carriers who had been alerted the American ships were a carrier and a cruiser. Struck by three bombs, Hyman ultimately rode his command to the bottom. His family was presented with a posthumous Navy Cross. His third wife (he was a surface warfare man), Edwige, an Army nurse during the war, was the sponsor of the USS Hyman and present at both her launching and commissioning.
Laid down at Maine’s Bath Iron Works on 22 November 1943, USS Hyman was commissioned just under seven months later on 16 June 1944, a war baby in every sense of the term. After shakedowns along the East Coast, she steamed via the Canal Zone and San Diego to Pearl Harbor, arriving there 12 October 1944.
After further exercises, escort duty, and training evolutions, Hyman saw her first combat off Iwo Jima, delivering close-in naval gunfire support from 19 February through the end of the month, supporting the Marines ashore with her 5-inch battery while taking time to recover Ensign Louis Radford, a Hellcat pilot from the Saratoga who ditched his F6F at sea because of lack of fuel. Speaking of aviators, during this period Hyman worked together with an airborne spotting plane from USS Wake Island to adjust her fire, hammering Iwo with 574 rounds of 5-inch and an equal number of 40mm shells on 20 February alone.
From her war history:
Then came a short period of comparative rest in the Leyte Gulf, where she refueled and rearmed. Next, she sailed for Okinawa, arriving on April Fool’s Day.
The plan of the day, 31 March 1945: “Tomorrow we will reach the objective. We are now well in enemy territory and may expect any type of reception.”
Indeed, on 5 April, Hyman came across a Japanese midget submarine off Okinawa’s Zampa Misaki point that surfaced and unsuccessfully fired a torpedo at our destroyer from a range of 1,500 yards, which the tin can was able to maneuver to “just slip clear.”
The next day, things got bad. From the NHHC’s H-044-2 “Floating Chrysanthemums”—The Naval Battle of Okinawa:
Destroyer Hyman was covering the transport area when she was attacked by four kamikazes at 1612 on 6 April. Hyman shot down three of the kamikazes but was hit by the fourth on her torpedo tubes, which resulted in a massive explosion and flooded the forward engine room. As damage control parties stopped the flooding and put out the fires, Hyman’s gunners, along with gunners on destroyer Rooks (DD-804), which had come to Hyman’s aid, helped to down two more kamikazes. Rooks had already shot down five Japanese aircraft earlier in the day and would remain in nearly constant action off Okinawa until late June, suffering no hits and no casualties in an incredible lucky streak. Hyman suffered 12 killed and over 40 wounded, but the ship was saved.
As a sobering aspect, she was luckier than several of her sisters. Between December 1944 and May 1945, USS Cooper, USS Mannert L. Abele, and USS Drexler were all sunk in the Pacific– the latter two by kamikazes.
After emergency repairs at Kerama Retto, Hyman arrived on one engine at San Francisco on 16 May 1945 and would spend the next nine weeks under extensive rebuild and refit.
Steaming back to the frontlines for the next round of fighting, she arrived at Pearl Harbor the day of the Japanese surrender, 15 August. Ordered to Kwajalein, she had some cleanup work to do.
Island hopping for signatures
The Kusaie Fortress, as the Japanese described the windswept 43 sq. mile island, was garrisoned by the three-battalion 3,800-strong 2nd South-Seas Detachment composed largely of the 107th Infantry Regiment reinforced by some light artillery and a company of Type 95 tanks, along with a 700-man Imperial Japanese navy unit who was largely there to man some elderly 8cm/40 Armstrong (3rd Year Type) naval guns and refuel/repair seaplanes and occasional cargo vessels. Commanded by Lt. Gen. Yoshikazu Harada, the outpost was formerly part of the Spanish and Imperial German empires, but the Japanese had ruled it by mandate since 1919, so they had lots of time to prepare.
Gratefully for all involved, the place was a backwater of WWII and, other than the occasional bombing mission by Navy PBYs in 1944 and 1945, it was left to wither on the vine. Hyman received the surrender of Japanese forces on Kusaie on 8 September, as shown in the top image of this post. Commodore Ben Wyatt accepted on behalf of Nimitz.
Hyman, leaving LT PF Woodhouse behind as military governor of Kusaire, steamed the next day for Kwajalein, then left again on 10 September bound for Ponape Harbor, where they met with the destroyer escort USS Farquhar (DE-139) which was standing guard off the Japanese territory.
Like Kusaie, Ponape was a backwater that had been bombed and bombarded– including by the fast battleships USS Massachusetts, Iowa, Alabama, and North Carolina. The garrison consisted of some 6,000 men of the 52nd Brigade and some 2,000 Japanese navy personnel. They had more than 20 artillery pieces including some large 15 cm/50 41st Year Type naval guns and would have been a tough nut to crack had the fortress been taken by amphibious assault.
Lt-Gen. Masao Watanabe of the Imperial Japanese Army and his aides arrived aboard Hyman with IJN CAPT Jun Naito in tow to negotiate the surrender of Ponape Island on 11 September 1945. After a short ceremony signed by Commodore Wyatt and witnessed by DESDIV Commander, CAPT A.O. Momm, who assumed the post of military governor of the outpost, the deed was done.
Hyman remained in the area as a station ship, assisting in the occupation and repatriation of the Japanese forces until arriving at Eniwetok the day after Christmas 1945.
Korea and the Cold War
While whole flotillas of American destroyers entered mothballs in the late 1940s, Hyman remained very active. She conducted Mediterranean deployments in 1947 and 1948, the latter as part of a large carrier and cruiser group to support the U.N. Peace Force in Palestine. Stationed in Algiers (across the Mississippi River from New Orleans) with a reduced crew in 1949, she spent the next two years supporting the NRF operations, sailing with reservists on two-week annual cruises in the Gulf of Mexico.
Once the North Koreans crossed the 38th Parallel, she once more went on a war footing and, taking part in workups along the East Coast, set out for another Med cruise.
Her ticket came up for Korea in October 1951, just 90 days after returning from the Med deployment, and she arrived off Wonsan to start delivering some sweet shore bombardment there against North Korean/Chinese targets and batteries on 6 November. While on such duty two weeks later, she engaged in a gunnery duel with shore batteries on the Kalmo Pando peninsula, “sustaining minor shrapnel damage during the close-in exchange.”
Her Korean operations concluded, she left the gun line in late February 1952 and arrived back on the East Coast via Ceylon, Saudi Arabia, Italy, and France on 21 April. Keeping that op-tempo up, she was back in the Med for a five-month deployment in 1953.
Such hard use saw her modernization downplayed, and she never officially received a full FRAM II upgrade as at least 33 of her sisters did. Nonetheless, she did around this time swap out her WWII anti-air batteries swapped out for modern radar-directed 3-inch DP mounts, while her sonar and torpedo tubes were similarly upgraded.
The rest of her 1950s included several Midshipman cruises, another Med deployment, and participation in the huge International Naval Review that came as part of the 350th anniversary of the Jamestown settlement in 1957.
Mercury, Cuba, and Betsy
In April 1961, Hyman was detailed to support the unmanned Mercury-Atlas 3 (MA-3) launch, deploying to the Azores in hopes of retrieving the unmanned Boilerplate #8 capsule. However, only 43 seconds after liftoff from Cape Canaveral, MA-3’s mission ended in a rain of fiery debris falling back to Earth, with the capsule recovered just a mile off Florida.
After yet another Med cruise in 1962, our non-stop greyhound cut short her post-deployment refit to join the Naval quarantine of Castro’s Cuba during the Missile Crisis in October-November of that year.
Hyman is listed as a NASA recovery ship for the Mercury-Atlas 9 (MA-9) mission in May 1963 that carried USAF Major Gordon Cooper in his Faith 7 capsule on 22 orbits– the longest American space flight at that time. Operating with COMDESDIV 122 embarked, she spent three days launching weather balloons in the area east of Cape Canaveral and reporting what she found. While the primary recovery ship was the carrier Kearsarge, on the other side of the globe off Midway, Hyman was ready off the Florida coast should the capsule have fallen short on launch.
Then came another Med cruise.
In March 1965, with the fleet gaining whole squadrons of new post-WWII Mitscher, Forrest Sherman, Charles Adams, and Farragut-class destroyers, and Hyman not fully FRAM’d, our high-mileage warship was sent down to New Orleans to serve as an NRF training platform again. She was tied up there when Hurricane Betsy, the first Atlantic storm to produce over $1 billion in damages, hit Louisiana on 9/10 September as a Category 4 storm, with wind speeds reaching up to 175 mph.
Hyman’s deck log from the night of the storm recalls winds over 70 knots, a slow-speed collision with an unnamed adrift merchant ship, being hit by a floating crane, and other adventures. Nonetheless and despite her material damage, the destroyer and her scaled-down crew responded to the disaster-struck city and helped with the immediate recovery.
Then came a call to help find the barge MTC-602, which broke loose from its moorings up the river around Baton Rouge and sank. While not normally a task for a destroyer, MTC-602 had a cargo of some 600 tons of chlorine gas cylinders aboard, estimated to be capable of killing tens of thousands if the cylinders were damaged.
Working in tandem with the Coast Guard, Navy S-2 Trackers, and dive teams from both the Army Engineering Corps and the Navy Seabees in Gulfport, Hyman used her active sonar and fathometer to help find the submerged barge, probably the only time a destroyer purposely pinged the bottom of the Mississippi River.
Ultimately, MTC-602 was located and raised, her chlorine still safe, and a big Bravo Zulu went out to all involved.
From the House. Committee on Public Works. Special Subcommittee to Investigate Areas of Destruction of Hurricane Betsy report:
From the December 1965 All Hands:
Her hull inspected and patched up in nearby Orange, Texas, Hyman returned to her reservists in 1966, a task she was busy in for a couple more years, but the writing was on the wall.
Still, she was ready for anything right up to the last. On 16 March 1969, she put to sea off Venice at the mouth of the Mississippi to respond to a wide-scale search for the lost Liberian-flagged cargo ship SS Vainqueur which had sunk 134 miles southwest of South Pass in the Gulf of Mexico the night before as a result of a boiler room explosion.
Hyman located and rescued 24 survivors.
Less than seven months after the Vainquier rescue, Hyman was decommissioned and stricken on 14 November 1969, Her stripped hulk was sold 13 October 1970 to the Southern Scrap Material Co., of New Orleans, for $66,989, which works out to roughly $30 per ton.
A pristine ensign that may have flown over one of the destroyer’s surrender ceremonies was sold at auction last year.
The town of Newcastle, Indiana has a memorial in her honor as well as a detailed scale model on display in a park building. Erected in 2010, it has the names of her 12 shipmates killed off Okinawa in 1945, as well as six bluejackets lost at sea or in Korea.
There is some maritime art of Hyman in circulation.
Faith 7, the spacecraft from the last Mercury mission, which Hyman helped recover in 1963 is on display at the Houston Space Center.
Kosrae and Ponape have been part of the U.S.-protected Federated States of Micronesia since the Reagan administration and have known peace since 1945. They are noted for a wealth of biodiversity and are home to several endemic species of birds and giant snails.
The only Sumner-class sister of Hyman preserved in the country as a museum ship, USS Laffey (DD-724), is located at Patriots Point in Charleston, South Carolina. Hyman’s veterans often meet there on reunions. Please pay Laffey a visit of your own if you find yourself in the Palmetto State.
Displacement: 2610 tons standard displacement
Machinery: 2-shaft G.E.C. geared turbines (60,000 shp), 4 Babcock & Wilcox boilers
Maximum speed (designed) 36.5 knots, actual usually about 33.
Range: 3300 nautical miles (5300 km) at 20 knots on 504 tons fuel oil
Sensors: SC air search radar, SG surface search radar, QGA sonar
Post modernization: Variable Depth Sonar (VDS), SQS-20, SPS-40
3 x 2 5″/38 dual-purpose guns (in 3 × 2 Mk 38 DP mounts)
2 x 4, 2×2 40mm Bofors AA guns
11 20mm Oerlikon AA guns
2 x 5 21″ torpedo tubes
6 depth charge throwers
2 depth charge tracks (56 depth charges)
6 x 5 in/38 cal guns (in 3 × 2 Mk 38 DP mounts)
2 x 2, 2 x 1 3″/50 Marks 27, 33
2 x triple Mark 32 torpedo tubes for Mark 44 torpedoes
2 x single 21-inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes for Mark 37 torpedoes
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