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Navy Department 27-MAY-47

 

This is the text of a document from 1947 'stenciled' by the Navy Department Office of Public Information. This was provided by the United States Naval Institute http://www.unsi.org

Ships Section
Office of Public Information
Navy Department

HISTORY OF USS ENGLAND (DE 635)

There are many ships in the U.S., Navy with excellent war records~ some have brilliant records but few can tell a story as fabulous as the USS ENGLAND in her anti-submarine warfare against the Japanese. This destroyer escort sank six Jap submarines in the last two weeks of May 1944 for a record that no other vessel could hope to approach. Even those who saw ~he ENGLAND in action could hardly believe what they were seeing but the incredible facts still stand to be wondered at.

The keel for this gallant vessel was laid on 4 April 1943  at the shipyards of  the Bethlehem Steel Company San Francisco, California, Named after Ensign John Charles England, USNR who was killed in the Pearl Harbor attack on 7 December 1941 while serving aboard USS OKLAHOMA, the ship was sponsored by his mother Mrs. H. B. England, who wielded the Champaign bottle against the USS ENGLAND's sleek bow at the christening ceremonies on 26 September 1943.

Officially joining the U.S. Navy at the commissioning ceremonies on 10 December 1943, USS ENGLAND was placed under the command of Commander W. B. Pendleton, USN with Lieutenant Commander J. A. Williamson,. USNR as the able executive officer.

After operating around San Francisco Bay Area for several weeks, the ENGLAND reported to San Diego for her shakedown cruise on 1 January 1944. Her four-week shakedown period included one week of anti-submarine warfare exercises before the-ship returned to San Francisco for a two-week post shake down yard availability.


USS England DE-635 14 February, 1944

Steaming under the Golden Gate bridge on 14 February 1944, the ENGLAND departed from United States shores and arrived at Pearl harbor for a brief stay before departing on 21 February to join Admiral William F. Halsey's forces which included the Third Fleet and South Pacific Area Force. The ENGLAND operated under his command for several months. the first two months involving escort duty operating from Espiritu Santo to Guadalcanal, Purvis Bay Area with one trip to the Marshall Islands. After a five-day availability in Purvis Bay the ship received orders on 18 May from Admiral Halsey to pursue a Japanese submarine believed to be enroute to Buin, on the southeast tip of Bougainville.

That afternoon, in company with destroyer escorts USS GEORGE and USS  RABY, the ENGLAND proceeded to Latitude 05-10 south, Longitude 158-10 east with the Commander of Escort Division 39 as Officer in Tactical Command. The ships were scheduled to arrive at 14OO on 19 May and patrol on a line to the north where the submarine was belived to be headed. At 1350 on 19 May, the ENGLAND made a sound contact and one run was made over it to be sure that it was a submarine., The next run started the fireworks. Five depth charge attacks were made in all on the submarine. On the fifth attack several hits were scored and a minute later there was tremendous explosion so violent that it knocked men off their feet throughout the ship.


USS Raby

It seemed at first as though the ship were torpedoed but it was just a case of proximity to an exploding submarine. An assortment of debris and oil popped up to the surface including a 75 pound rice bag, It was the ENGLAND's first kill.

The three ships had departed Purvis in such a hurry that there was little time to formulate plans until the first attack had started. When one of the ships had a contact, the others would patrol to seek it out on their sonar. gear. When no ship had a good contact for several minutes one of the ships would head toward the best estimated position of the submarine. This was used throughout the operations and, as the results showed,. it worked very' well.

The three DEs remained in the area of the sinking of the' first submarine through the night and patrolled to the north to establish further contacts, for it was believed that the Japs were forming a scouting line of submarines between Manus and Truk.

A contact was picked up by USS GEORGE at 0350 on the 22nd of May and simultaneously the RABY and the ENGLAND picked up sound echoes from the same target, The ships turned up the water at flank speed to box in the sub and the searchlight from the GEORGE illuminated the Jab briefly, The sub dove and the GEORGE made a run on the contact but missed and lost the contact. The ENGLAND replied that she thought she had the Jap's position and proceeded to make two runs.  A hit was scored on the sub and in about two minutes it blew up leaving only splintered planking and a large oil slick to heave up and down on the Pacific ground swells, It was the second kill for the ENGLAND.

The following morning the RABY made a sound contact and pursued the Jap sub until she could make a depth charge attack. Sound contact was lost but in the mean time the GEORGE  and the ENGLAND had closed in. The GEORGE made a run on the sub but had no better luck. The Officer in Tactical Command (OTC) then asked the ENGLAND to give it a try while the GEORGE maintained contact with the elusive submarine, The first run was a miss but she tried again and scored a hit. A violent underwater explosion told its own story and the Nips had one less sub as the ENGLAND had packed the third one away in Davy Jones locker,

The violence of this explosion indicated that the submarine's torpedoes had detonated. However; just to put the double seal of doom on the sub, a pattern of depth charges was dropped over the point of explosion to obviate any chance of the Japs playing a trick with a delayed action bomb. Considerable debris rising to the surface indicated that this Jap would play no more tricks.

In the early dark hours of 24 May; the GEORGE reported a radar contact seven miles ahead. Eight minutes later the Jap submerged at 4 miles distance. A course change and an increase in speed eventually brought sound echoes to USS ENGLAND which were convincingly submarine, The Japanese sub was wiggling considerably and using very effective evasive tactics. The fathometer picked up the sub at 168 foot below. On the third run the ENGLAND fired a full salvo of depth charges for three possible hits at 170 feet. A rumbling noise similar to rushing air bubbles was followed by debris bouncing up to the surface. Pierces of wood apparently from a chronometer or sextant indicated a hit around the conning tower, Four Jap subs had been destroyed by the sharp calculations of the ENGLAND.


DE-697 USS George

Orders to proceed to Manus to refuel and obtain more depth charges were intercepted on 25 May. Believing that there were more submarines in the long drawn scouting line the destroyer escorts proceeded to Manus the "long way" which took them 100 miles out of the way. Toward evening of 26 May a radar contact at 16,000 yards attracted the alert DEs who hoped to catch a submarine on the surface with a torpedo.

USS RABY changed speed to flank,  went to general quarters and, anxious to get one of the many submarines, the skipper ordered a left rudder to head for the sub. He then went below to combat intelligence center to see how the sub was plotting. Some on the ENGLAND thought it was getting a little embarrassing for the other ships in the group to be "beaten to the draw" on every attack. Call it fiction or whatever you will but the ENGLAND beat him to the contact.

The sub went down deep and happened to be heading toward the ENGLAND.  She fired a full salvo at 2323 hitting the submarine at 250 feet. There was only one explosion but it was of such intensity that three or more depth charges probably detonated together.  Four of five explosions followed in about 20 seconds and a rumbling noise associated with a ship breaking up was followed by debris coming to the surface which indicated that this sub had also been hit around the conning tower. When the ENGLAND started this last run she had only two depth charges remaining aboard. She needed only one:

The DEs remained in the area until daylight and after examining debris and garbage from the Jap sub, headed for Manus to refuel.  The other ships in the formation viewed the ENGLAND as the cat that ate the canary for on the 26th of May she had destroyed her fifth submarine, In Manus the ships rendezvoused with another destroyer escort, USS SPANGLER, which had brought more depth charges from Purvis Bay to supply the other ships,

It is interesting to note that the fifth submarine sunk was the sixth on the Japanese scouting line which had been originally plotted on the charts at the beginning of the ASW operation, and it was found within 3 miles of the position of the original estimate. Much of the credit for the operation is due to Naval Intelligence which figured out where the submarine might be. Not one of the Jap subs was more than 50 miles from the position in the original estimate. One of the submarines on the scouting line was reported to have been damaged by aircraft and possibly retired from his assigned area.

All four destroyer escorts returned to the search area at night when the destroyer HAZELWOOD, in the process of screening a carrier, picked up a sound contact and requested two of the DEs to take it over, The ENGLAND and SPANGLER were ordered to steam toward the southern end of the scouting line and the RABY and the GEORGE left the formation to pursue the contact. It looked as though either RABY or GEORGE would be credited with this Nip submarine,


USS Hazelwood

In listening in on the communications circuit between ships the ENGLAND determined that the submarine was still being closely pursued. Upon being asked whether the RABY and GEORGE needed any help~ the officer in tactical command (OTC) replied that they needed no help and to stand well clear, As fate would have it, contact with the submerged Jap raider was lost during the night.

Showing more cooperation than discretion, the Jap skipper surfaced and over the horizon his searchlights could be seen sweeping the seas for his pursuers. One of the searchlights slipped and pointed straight up into the sky giving the ENGLAND and SPANGLER a perfect bearing. They raced toward the pencil of light. At 0500 they communicated with the RABY and GEORGE and the OTC directed that no further attacks be attempted before daylight, and in the meantime to maintain sound contact. After the ENGLAND informed the OTC that she was closing, he directed the ship not to close nearer than 5,000 yards. The SPANGLER and the ENGLAND patrolled until daylight keeping the sound contact.


USS Spangler

At daylight USS GEORGE made the first attack and missed. The RABY was then directed to make the attack. Her depth charges also missed the underwater Nip. The SPANGLER was then called in and she fired and missed. In the meantime the ENGLAND had edged into a position 2,000 yards from the submarine and the OTC finally gave her permission to give it a try.

The ENGLAND fired one salvo of depth charges and about 90 seconds later the submarine blew up. Two hours later the flotsam gave conclusive evidence that  THE ENGLAND HAD SUNK HER SIXTH JAP SUBMARINE! The OTC, who had been hoping to get that last one himself sent the message "#$%&*@#$% it, how do you do it?" If someone aboard the ENGLAND ventured a chuckle or even a smirk about that time, he could be forgiven, for of the six Japanese submarines contacted, the ENGLAND had the vividly green and envious record of destroying every last one of them.


After the anti-submarine operation, the ENGLAND steamed to Purvis Bay for a short availability before reporting for duty with the Seventh Fleet in the area around the Northern Solomons Islands. Lieutenant Commander J. A. Williamson relieved Commander Pendleton as Commanding Officer on 30 August 1944; The ship remained there with the Seventh Fleet until the Philippine Operation at which time she proceeded to Hollandia and reported to Leyte and the Philippine area.  It was here that the ENGLAND was introduced to a new kind of breeze called the divine wind or Kamikaze attack. After the Philippines operations she reported to Manus and operated from there as an escort vessel to the Central Pacific and the forward areas.

Directed to report to the Fifth Fleet, the ENGLAND departed on 1 February. 1945 for Ulithi where she served as a local escort for about a month. The ship steamed to Okinawa for duty with Task Force' 51, arriving on 27 March in company with USS WHITEHURST (DE 634) and the destroyer LEUTZE, all three ships escorting the battleship NEW YORK. The NEW YORK and NEW MEXICO commenced pounding the beaches as torpedoes were fired at them. The escorts searched for submarines but since none could be found it is believed that the torpedoes were fired from the shore which was only 5 to 6 thousand yards away.


USS New York


Remaining at Okinawa only one day, the ENGLAND sped back to Ulithi to escort the cruisers MOBILE and OAKLAND to Okinawa and Task Force 58 by 3 April. The ship departed for Saipan on 6 April with a convoy of transports only to return again ,to Okinawa on 17 April. They were busy days for the ENGLAND for he next assignment was to assume various screening stations during her stay at Okinawa. Under attack six times under various circumstances, the ship repelled three torpedo planes, one light bomber and two suicide dives.

It was the afternoon of 9 May and the ENGLAND had been on a screening station five miles northwest of Kerama Retto since 0900. The weather was clear and she had air alerts throughout the day.  About five minutes before sunset, a raid of five planes was reported coming in from the southest. The ENGLAND went to general quarters when 'the flash red came. Three planes came into view at about seven miles which were definitely not friendly -- three Japanese Val dive bombers; all of them diving on USS ENGLAND.

The first plane was about 6,000 yards ahead of the others and the ship's guns began to roar; knocking off a wheel,. killing the' pilot in the forward cockpit  and setting the engine on fire.  Plane, bombs, pilot and gasoline all hit the ship on the starboard side of the superstructure right under the bridge. There were two Japs in the plane and the bomb went right on through the ship to explode forward of the wardroom with a delayed action fuse. A tremendous fire flared up immediately enveloping the bridge. When the order to abandon the bridge was given it was hard to execute for the smoke and flames surrounded the superstructure.  Some finally found a place on the port side aft and some climbed over the number two gun and crawled along the gun barrel out of the holocaust while the sailors who had quickly manned firs hoses sprayed the men in their escape from the bridge to minimize burns. All fires that were visible were put out in 45 minutes but it was midnight before some of the internal flames were put out in inaccessible compartments.


When the first plane hit the ship all controls were lost forward but the guns aft were ready to let go with everything they had. Under the circumstances they showed a good firing discipline by holding fire to prevent damaging our own fighter planes which shot down the other two Jap dive bombers.

Twenty-four men and three officers were killed with 10 men missing and twenty-five more wounded. The crippled ship dragged into Kerama Retto that night and the next morning the work of cleaning up the mess on the ship and repairs were started. The ENGLAND remained at Okinawa until 22 May, at which time she departed for Leyte with the battleship COLORADO and USS BEBAS (DE 10).  The repair ship USS DIXIE gave her emergency repairs and she proceeded to Philadelphia on 16 July 1945. Conversion to a high speed transport and battle damage repairs commenced at Philadelphia but the war ended and the fabulous ship ENGLAND was decommissioned on 15 October 1945 and  stricken from naval registry on 1 November of that year. USS ENGLAND is no more but her great service to a great nation will never be forgotten.




USS England off the Philadelphia Navy Yard, July 21, 1945. She was at the Navy Yard for repairs after being hit by a downed Val off Okinawa on May 9, 1945.

The President of the United States has presented the Presidential Unit Citation to the USS ENGLAND for service as set forth in the following citation:

"For outstanding performance in combat against enemy forces from May 19 to 31, 1944. Utilizing to the full all available weapons and equipment the USS ENGLAND skillfully coordinated her attacks with other vessels and with cooperating aircraft, striking boldly and with exceptional precision at the enemy. In a sustained series of attacks, she destroyed six hostile ships within twelve days effecting this devastating blow to enemy operations during a particularly crucial period and disrupting attempts by the enemy to supply or evacuate key units. By this heavy loss to the enemy the ENGLAND contributed substantially to unmolested advance of the United States Fleet pointing toward subsequent seizure and occupation by our forces. A gallant and daring fighter, superbly ready ready combat, the ENGLAND has achieved an outstanding record of success, reflecting the highest credit upon her gallant officers and men and the United States Naval Service,"

SUBMARINES DESTROYED BY USS ENGLAND

Date of Attack Submarine Designation
19 May 1944 I-16
22 May 1944 RO-106
23 May 1944 RO-104
24 May 1944 RO-116
26 May 1944 RO-108
29 May 1944 RO-105


STATISTICS

DISPLACEMENT: 1,315 tons ARMAMENT: Three 3-inch 50 caliber guns; three 21-inch triple torpedo tubes; 40mm AA batteries; Depth Charges
OVERALL LENGTH: 306 feet
BEAM: 36 feet 10 inches


Stenciled 5-27-47