Tag Archives: destroyer escort

Warship Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020: Pickin up a Submarine 6-Pack

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 time 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, Dec. 2, 2020: Pickin up a Submarine 6-Pack

Photograph from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the U.S. National Archives. Catalog #: 19-N-60939

Here we see the brand-new but humble Buckley-class destroyer escort USS England (DE-635) off San Francisco, California, on 9 February 1944 during her shakedown period. Small in nature and seemingly uninspiring, this 1,700-tons of rock and roll spent just 675 days in commission but in that time racked up an amazing record that included 10 battle stars and a Presidential Unit Citation. Those kinds of things happen when you sink six of the emperor’s submarines in battle during a 12-day period.

With some 154 hulls ordered, the Buckleys were intended to be cranked out in bulk to counter the swarms of Axis submarines prowling the seas. Just 306-feet overall, they were about the size of a medium-ish Coast Guard cutter today but packed a lot more armament, namely three 3″/50 DP guns in open mounts, a secondary battery of 1.1-inch (or 40mm), and 20mm AAA guns, and three 21-inch torpedo tubes in a triple mount for taking out enemy surface ships. Then there was the formidable ASW suite to include stern depth charge racks, eight depth charge throwers, and a Hedgehog system. Powered by responsive electric motors fed by steam turbines, they could make 24-knots and were extremely maneuverable.

Class-leader, USS Buckley (DE-51), cutting a 20-knot, 1,000-foot circle on trials off Rockland Maine, 3 July 1943, 80-G-269442

Our ship, despite first impressions, was not named for the country bordering Scotland and Wales but for one promising junior officer, Ensign John Charles England, IV, D-V(G), USNR. Mr. England, a Missouri native, volunteered for the Reserves at 19 as an apprentice seaman then, as an alum of Pasadena City College, was picked for midshipman’s school and earned his commission nine months later following a stint on the battleship USS New York (BB-34).

Ensign John C. England, USNR, NH 85190

Transferred to the West Coast after radio school, England in the radio room of USS Oklahoma (BB-37) on that fateful morning that would go on to live in infamy. Mr. England, just days before his 21st birthday, survived the triple torpedo strike on Oklahoma but voluntarily re-entered to the stricken battlewagon four times, returning the first three of those with other shipmates.

The photograph was taken from a Japanese plane during the torpedo attack on ships moored on both sides of Ford Island shortly after the beginning of the Pearl Harbor attack. The view looks about east, with the supply depot, submarine base, and fuel tank farm in the right-center distance. A torpedo has just hit USS West Virginia on the far side of Ford Island (center). Other battleships moored nearby are (from left): Nevada, Arizona, Tennessee (inboard of West Virginia), Oklahoma (torpedoed and listing) alongside Maryland, and California. On the near side of Ford Island, to the left, are light cruisers Detroit and Raleigh, target and training ship Utah and seaplane tender Tangier. Raleigh and Utah have been torpedoed, and Utah is listing sharply to port. Japanese planes are visible in the right center (over Ford Island) and over the Navy Yard at right. U.S. Navy planes on the seaplane ramp are on fire. Japanese writing in the lower right states that the photograph was reproduced by authorization of the Navy Ministry. Official U.S. Navy photograph NH 50930.

England never made it back from his last sortie, and in 2016 was reburied next to his parents in Colorado Springs.

England’s grieving mother, Thelma, christened the destroyer escort named in his honor in San Francisco Harbor at Bethlehem Steel on 26 September 1943, and the new warship was commissioned on 10 December.

USS England (DE-635) slides down the building ways at the Bethlehem Steel Company shipyard, San Francisco, California, during launching ceremonies on 26 September 1943. Photograph from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the U.S. National Archives. Catalog #: 19-N-51896

USS England (DE-635) Off San Francisco, California, on 9 February 1944. Photograph from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the U.S. National Archives. Catalog #: 19-N-60938

Same, 19-N-60940

19-N-60941

Just four months after she was commissioned, England arrived to begin convoy duty out of Guadalcanal and was very soon in the thick of a Japanese effort to trap Halsey’s carriers in a briar patch of torpedoes as they approached the Palaus. The plan would see seven mainly Kaisho-type (RO-100 class) coastal submarines deployed in a picket line between the Admiralty Islands to Truk, ready to seal the deal.

Tipped off by CDR Joe Rochefort’s Station Hypo, England would sail in a three-ship hunter-killer task force alongside newly completed sisterships USS Raby (DE-697) and USS George (DE-697).

As summarized by DANFS:

On 18 May 1944, with two other destroyers, England cleared Port Purvis on a hunt for Japanese submarines during a passage to Bougainville. During the next 8 days, she was to set an impressive record in antisubmarine warfare, never matched in World War II by any other American ship, as she hunted down and sank 1-16 on 19 May, RO-106 on 22 May, RO-104 on 23 May, RO-116 on 24 May, and RO-108 on 26 May. In three of these cases, the other destroyers were in on the beginning of the actions, but the kill in every case was England’s alone. Quickly replenishing depth charges at Manus, England was back in action on 31 May to join with four other ships in sinking RO-105. This superlative performance won for England a Presidential Unit Citation, and the assurance from the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral E. J. King, “There’ll always be an England in the United States Navy.”

For a more detailed essay on the slaying of the above six-pack of submersibles, see RADM Samuel J. Cox’s H-Gram on the subject, H-030-1.

Following the wild success of her hunter-killer group, England would spend the next several months in a more low-key mode, busy doing unsung work escorting troop and cargo convoys into the Philippines and along the Manus-Ulithi sea-lanes.

Then, on 23 March, she would sail for Okinawa, serving in the screen for, ironically, USS New York, during the pre-invasion bombardment of that Japanese stronghold. There on the early morning of 27 March, she fought off her first of four progressively more dire air attacks.

Detached later that same day to return to Ulithi to escort the cruisers USS Mobile and USS Oakland to join TG 58.2, England would arrive back on station off Okinawa where she remained, observing and protecting the fleet, shepherding another group of ships in from Saipan, and dropping Hedgehogs on sonar contacts.

On the late-night of 25 April, England fought off a four-aircraft kamikaze strike coming out of the low moon. One of the aircraft crashed just 20 feet off of the tin can.

A third attack, on 28 April, splashed a bogie within 800 yards.

On 9 May, England’s luck wore out and she was attacked by a trio of Japanese dive bombers, which her AAA batteries managed to swat down. However, one of these crashed squarely into the escort’s starboard side, just below the bridge, and had its bomb explode shortly after.

The Japanese aviator at the stick likely felt no pain as, in her after-action report, England‘s skipper noted that, “When the Val hit it had been seriously damaged by the ship’s gunfire. One wheel had been shot off, the plane was afire, and the Jap[anese] in the forward cockpit was observed to be slumped over his controls as if dead.”

The ensuing fight to save the ship was successful but left 37 of her crew dead or missing at sea, and another 25 seriously injured.

USS England (DE-635) Damage from a Kamikaze hit received off Okinawa on 9 May 1945. This view, taken at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, Pennsylvania, on 24 July 1945, shows the port side of the forward superstructure, near where the suicide plane struck. Note scoreboard painted on the bridge face, showing her Presidential Unit Citation pennant and symbols for the six Japanese submarines and three aircraft credited to England. Also, note the fully provisioned life raft at right. 80-G-336949

Burned-out officers’ stateroom in the forward superstructure, from a Kamikaze that hit near her bridge while she was off Okinawa on 9 May 1945. This view was taken at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, Pennsylvania, on 24 July 1945. 80-G-336950

This photo shows the interior of the wrecked deckhouse just forward of the bridge, looking toward the #2 3″/50 gun. Photographed at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, 24 July 1945.

Fire damage in the pilothouse, near where a Japanese Kamikaze struck England while she was off Okinawa on 9 May 1945. This view was taken at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, Pennsylvania, on 24 July 1945. 80-G-336952

England would have to be towed to Kerama Retto, then was able to make Leyte. After further repairs, she limped the long way home to Philadelphia for reconstruction to an APD high-speed transport, a “green dragon,” for the final push on the Japanese Home Islands.

What a difference two years makes! USS England (DE-635) off the Philadelphia Navy Yard, Pennsylvania, on 21 July 1945. She was there for repairs after being hit by a Kamikaze off Okinawa on 9 May 1945. 80-G-336947

VJ Day interrupted this plan and she was instead decommissioned on 15 October 1945. Left in an unrepaired state, she was essentially unusable and was sold for scrap, 26 November 1946.

The name “England” would return to the Navy List in 1962 after a 17-year hiatus from ADM. King’s promise, assigned to the Leahy-class destroyer leader/guided-missile cruiser DLG/CG-22, which would go on to serve 31 years during the Cold War.

A starboard bow view of the guided-missile cruiser USS ENGLAND (CG 22) underway, 1/10/1983 NARA 6404285

England’s wartime diaries and reports are digitized and available in the National Archives.

She is also remembered in maritime art and in scale model form.

(Image from Jane’s Fighting Ships 1971-72 via Navsource)

USS England by Paul Bender

 To this date, England’s record has not been bested

Specs:

Drawing prepared by the Bureau of Ships for a camouflage scheme intended for escort ships of the Buckley (DE-51) class. This plan, approved by Captain Torvald A. Solberg, USN, is dated 7 September 1944. It shows the ship’s port side. Note that this camouflage scheme calls for painting the ship’s starboard side in the darker tones of Measure 32. #: 19-N-104889

Displacement: 1400 tons (light), 1740 tons (full)
Length: 300′ (wl), 306′ (oa)
Beam: 36′ 9″ (extreme)
Draft: 10′ 6″ (draft limit)
Propulsion: 2 “D” oil-fired Express boilers, G.E. turbines with electric drive, 12000 shp, 2 screws
Speed: 24 kts
Range: 6,000 nm @ 12 knots
Complement: 15 / 198
Armament:
3 x 3″/50 Mk22 (1×3)
1 1.1-inch “Chicago Piano” AA
8 x 20mm Mk 4 AA
3 x 21″ Mk15 TT (3×1)
1 Hedgehog Projector Mk10 (144 rounds)
8 Mk6 depth charge projectors
2 Mk9 depth charge tracks
200 depth charges

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Warship Wednesday June 24, 2015: The hard times of a peacetime tin can

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all of their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday June 24, 2015: The hard times of a peacetime tin can

Here we see the Crosley-class high speed transport USS Ruchamkin (DE-228/APD-89/LPR-89), at sea sometime after 1963. The type of taskings for the Ruchamkin from 1945-69 were the same laundry list of fleet services that are forced on today’s LCS type vessels.

Originally laid down as one of the 252 planned Rudderow-class destroyer escorts, her original mission was to bust subs, kill torpedo and patrol boats, capture random enemy merchant ships threaten enemy destroyers and cruisers with her own steel fish and show the flag as required. Just under 1,800-tons and 306-feet long, these hardy ships would be classified as sloops or corvettes in other navies, but the term destroyer escort seemed a better fit for the USN and their pair of 5 inch /38 dual purpose mounts, 4 x 40 mm Bofors, 10 x 20 mm single mount Oerlikons, torpedo tubes and depth charges allowed them to punch out of thier weight class.

However the war outstripped these ships, with the first, USS Riley (DE-579) only commissioning in March 1944, just 22 of these tin cans were completed as DEs.

Another 50 were completed to a modified design and purpose– that of the high speed transport (APD). You see with the Pacific island hopping campaign in high speed in 1944, the Navy realized these DEs could float in just 11 feet of seawater, which meant they could get pretty close into old Hirohito’s backyard. To maximize their usefulness, these ships were redesigned from the stack back with the aft 5-incher and torpedo tubes never fitted and davits for a quartet of LCPRs (landing craft, personnel, ramped).

She carried four of these craft, which could land her embarked company all in one wave

She carried four of these craft, which could land her embarked company all in one wave

These 35-foot long V-Bottomed plywood craft could tote 39 troops ashore from as far as 50 miles out to sea; however they usually were launched as close as possible as these craft wallowed along at about 10-knots when wide open.

This allowed the 306-foot ship to carry (briefly) a company-sized (160~) unit of Army infantry or Marines and land them right on top of the beach.

The Rudderow type DE compared to the eventual Crosby type APD, note the differences aft of the stack

The Rudderow type DE compared to the eventual Crosby type APD, note the differences aft of the stack

The subject of our study, USS Ruchamkin, named after 24-year-old LT (JG) Seymour D. Ruchamkin, late of the destroyer USS Cushing (DD-376) and gave his last full measure on that ship off Savo Island, was laid down at Philadelphia Naval Yard 14 February 1944 as a DE. She was completed to the APD type and commissioned 16 September 1945, two weeks too late to serve in WWII.

USS Ruchamkin (APD-89) at anchor off Cannes, France, in 1952 during the Cannes Film Festival. Don Karr USS Ruchamkin

USS Ruchamkin (APD-89) at anchor off Cannes, France, in 1952 during the Cannes Film Festival. Don Karr USS Ruchamkin

Instead, she spent the next 24 years in and out of commission (joining red lead row three different times) spending about 15 winters with the active fleet.

Pierside in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. 1960s

Pierside in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. 1960s

In that time she trained midshipmen and naval reservists, was used as an amphibious warfare ship for the first generation of SEALs, roamed the Med, Pacific, and the Caribbean, waved the flag, and generally saw peaceful service.

View underway at sea off her stern, Pierside in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, Virgin Islands.

View underway at sea off her stern,

USS Ruchamkin (APD-89) coming along side USS Rigel (AF-58) to receive stores, during Operation Steel Pike I, October 1964. Photo by Jim McCoy navsource

USS Ruchamkin (APD-89) coming along side USS Rigel (AF-58) to receive stores, during Operation Steel Pike I, October 1964. Photo by Jim McCoy navsource

One of her LCPRs Pierside in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, Virgin Islands.

One of her LCPRs Pierside in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, Virgin Islands.

However even peace can be hazardous.

On 14 November 1952, while on an exercise with troops embarked, the 10,000 ton tanker Washington smacked her portside amidships, nearly slicing the boat in two. As a testament to the design of these warbabies, she held up and remained afloat (thought losing seven men) and was back in service just four months later after repairs.

USS RUCHAMKIN APD 8915 November 1952, one day after USS Ruchamkin (APD-89) had been rammed by SS Washington, a 10,000 ton tanker. Note her damage amidships

USS RUCHAMKIN APD 8915 November 1952, one day after USS Ruchamkin (APD-89) had been rammed by SS Washington, a 10,000 ton tanker. Note her damage amidships

Her closest brush with war, besides tracking the occasional Soviet submarine, was when she earned the Navy Unit Commendation for evacuating civilians from the Dominican Republic in 1965, a task that her 160 spartan troop bunks and ability to operate from shallow water ports made her ideal.

scan00041-evacuation-domrep1965

She then served as a support ship for Polaris missile tests and the exploration of the wreck of the USS Scorpion before her third and final decommissioning at Little Creek on 24 November 1969.

She was sold to the Navy of the Republic of Colombia for $156,820 who used her as the ARC Córdoba (DT-15) until 1980, primarily as an escort vessel.

She sits in about three feet of still water sandwiched between a recreation of the Taj Mahal and a mountainside

She sits in about three feet of still water sandwiched between a recreation of the Taj Mahal and a mountainside

The Colombians disarmed her and donated her to Jaime Duque Grisales, an icon of Colombian air travel. Her new owners dismantled her, transported the old girl to “Colombia’s Disneyland” Parque Jaime Duque and reassembled her on site by 1983. There she sits today in a shallow pond some 620 miles inland and at an elevation of 8000 feet just outside of Bogata, a feat not often accomplished by naval vessels.

But her stern till holds her secret

But her stern till holds her secret

A very active veterans association, USS Ruchamkin.org exists to continue her memory here in the states.

USS Ruchamkin.org http://ussruchamkin.org/index.html

Painting by Don Renz via USS Ruchamkin.org

Specs

From Destroyer Escorts In Action (Osprey)

From Destroyer Escorts In Action (Osprey)

Displacement: 1,740 tons (1,770 metric tons) (fully loaded)
Length: 306 ft. (93.3 m) (overall)
Beam: 36 ft. 6 in (11.1 m)
Draft: 11 ft. (3.4 m) (fully loaded)
Propulsion: General Electric steam turbo-electric drive engine
Two 3-bladed propellers solid manganese-bronze 8 ft. 5 in (2.6 m) diameter
Speed: 24 knots (most ships could attain 26/27 knots)
Range: 5,500 nautical miles at 15 knots (10,200 km at 28 km/h)
Radar: Type SL surface search fixed to mast above yardarm and type SA air search only fitted to certain ships.
Sonar: Type 128D or Type 144 both in retractable dome.
Direction Finding: MF direction finding antenna fitted in front of the bridge and HF/DF Type FH 4 antenna fitted on top of mast.

Armament: (As designed DE)
Main guns: 2 x 5 inch /38 dual purpose mount
Anti-aircraft guns: 4 x 40 mm Bofors were fitted in the twin mounts in the ‘B’ and ‘X’ position. 10 x 20 mm single mount Oerlikons cannon positioned four next to the bridge behind ‘B’ gun mount, two on each side of the ship in sponsons just abaft the funnel, and two on the fantail just forward of the depth charge racks.
Torpedo tubes: three 21-inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes in a triple mount were mounted just aft of the stack.
Hedgehog: British-designed ahead-throwing anti-submarine mortar which fired 24 bombs ahead of the ship, this was situated on the main deck just aft of ‘A’ gun mount.
Depth charges: Approximately 200 were carried. Two sets of double rails each side of the ship at the stern, each set held 24 charges; eight K gun depth charge throwers each holding 5 charges, were situated each side of the ship just forward of the stern rails.

As completed (APD)
Complement: 12 Officers, 192 Enlisted.
Armament: 1 × 5″/38 caliber gun
6 × 40mm Bofors AA (3 × 2), removed 1963 in FRAM update
6 × 20mm Oerlikon AA (6 × 1), removed 1963 in FRAM update. Replaced by M2s.

If you liked this column, please consider joining the International Naval Research Organization (INRO), Publishers of Warship International

They are possibly one of the best sources of naval study, images, and fellowship you can find http://www.warship.org/

The International Naval Research Organization is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the encouragement of the study of naval vessels and their histories, principally in the era of iron and steel warships (about 1860 to date). Its purpose is to provide information and a means of contact for those interested in warships.

Nearing their 50th Anniversary, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.

I’m a member, so should you be!