Location: Memphis, Tennessee, United States

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

USS Gridley DD-380

The guided missile cruiser USS Gridley (CG-21) was in the news often during the 2004 election season due to the fact that John Kerry served aboard the ship. This writing is about another USS Gridley, the one-stack destroyer of WWII - USS Gridley (DD-380).

No presidential candidates served aboard this ship during World War 2, just a bunch of outstanding sailors and officers attempting to do their part in defeating the Japanese menace. The Gridley served in the Pacific from Pearl Harbor through the end of hostilities, earning ten battle stars.

On that 'Day of Infamy', 7 December 1941, The Gridley was screening the carrier Enterprise (CV-6), the flagship of Admiral 'Bull' Halsey, on it's return trip from Wake Island. They had cleared Pearl Harbor 28 November transporting aircraft to Wake. The task force was returning to Pearl on the morning of 7 December when the astounding message heralding the beginning of the war was received: "air raid on Pearl Harbor, this is no drill." Gridley entered the harbor the next day to help protect against renewed attack.

The crew saw the massive devastation of the sneak attack the preceding day. Crews of men spent hours recovering bodies of their slain comrades and transporting them to a makeshift morgue. "It was so sad," said one sailor, "We stacked the dead bodies on carts that ran on a narrow rail track that was used to transport pineapple crates from the warehouse to the docks. The warehouse was being used as a temporary morgue."

Early on in the war, in January 1942, the Gridley was involved in an accident at sea with the USS Fanning (DD-385), which badly damaged both ships. The accident turned out to be good fortune for the Gridley, for it enabled the ship to receive radar long before other ships of its class.

W. H. Mathews, a member of the Gridley crew, described what occurred. "While engaged in a night attack off of the Marshall and Gilbert Islands, the Gridley was rammed forward of the number one gun turret by another ship, in a blinding rainstorm. The Gridley put into Pago Pago for emergency repairs and trolled back to Pearl Harbor, unescorted at 5 knots, where it was fitted with radar at Pearl when the bow was replaced making it one of the first ships to posses this valuable tool."

On 5 June 1942 she arrived at Kodiak, Alaska, with the cruiser Nashville. Here they patrolled the Japanese-held islands of Kiska and Attu, and bombarded Kiska 7 August 1942.

In July 1943 the Gridley took part in the rescue of the crew from the cruiser USS Helena in Parasco Bay. Mathews described what happened.

The USS Helena was sunk near an island. A lot of the crew had swam to shore (est at around 200) in Parasco Bay. Captain called the crew to the fantail and asked for volunteers for a suicide mission to rescue the stranded crew of the USS Helena for a Japanese held island. If you were not to volunteer, you were to step forward. Nobody stepped forward so I didn't either, therefore I volunteered. Two "four stackers" and two new destroyers, the USS Gridley and the USS McCall, headed out that night Plans were to get into the harbor by 4am and out before sun up, approx an hour and a half. Remember this was a Japanese held island. The 4 stackers were slower and had a shallower draft than we did so they went to the beach. The survivors of the USS Helena came out of the jungle and started climbing aboard the ships, which increased the ships weight and pushed the hulls into the muddy bottom of the harbor/beach. One of the 4 stackers got stuck in the mud and it took the two extra destroyers to pull it free from the beach. This ate up our time and we were at least 30 minutes over our preplanned departure time. The lookout in the guard destroyer, the USS McCall stationed at the mouth of the harbor, saw enemy ships on the horizon. We departed the harbor in convoy running wide open but had to allow for the slower 4 stackers with the USS Helena survivors on them. Radar picked up enemy aircraft coming from the island. We requested fighters from Guadalcanal to intercept the Zeros, we could hear what was happening because the skipper had the command radio being piped over the loud speaker. The Zeros overtook the convoy and commenced to bomb it, then we heard "P-38's were in sight" and knew we were to be saved. If it hadn't been for the P-38's we would have never made it. Due to our maneuvering not a single bomb dropped by the Japanese hit a ship.

While protecting the large ships off Luzon 28 October 1944, the Gridley and fellow destroyer, USS Helm, detected and sank Japanese submarine I-4 with a series of devastating depth charge attacks.

Add countless patrols, escort assignments, ship-to-ship naval engagements, kamikaze attacks, amphibious invasions and bombardments over the war years and you get a good picture of what a typical destroyer endured in the pacific theater of operations during WWII. The Gridley, like all the 'tin can' fleet, performed its duty to bring the war to a close.

No 'John Kerrys' served on THIS Gridley, just TRUE American patriots.

For more photos of the USS Gridley (DD-380) visit:


Blogger Melodee said...

Thanks for stopping by on my blog and taking the time to comment on my Pearl Harbor post. I agree with you that we owe a great debt to that brave generation. Thank you for sharing their stories here.

3:59 PM  

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