Meet The USS England: The Warship That Sent The Most Submarines To The Ocean Floor
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Here are a few things to keep in mind: For nearly 73 years, the USS England has set a record for most submarines sunk by a single ship. This record remains unbroken.
Destroyer escorts were the US Navy's economic ships during World War II. Destroyer escorts were developed as smaller and cheaper alternatives to Navy destroyers and were not designed to be used in a naval battle like their larger brothers. Instead, it was their bleak but vital duty to escort convoys of slow merchant ships across the ocean.
However, the world record for the sinking of submarines does not belong to a destroyer or aircraft carrier, but to a humble destroyer escort. The USS England sank six Japanese submarines in only 12 days in May 1944.
At first glance, the England (named after John England, a sailor killed in Pearl Harbor) was not an impressive ship. The England was a Buckley-class destroyer escort, had a crew of 186, and weighed 1,400 tons or about a quarter less than a Fletcher-class destroyer. Only three 3-inch guns were used instead of a destroyer's 5-inch guns, a dozen anti-aircraft guns instead of about 20 on a Fletcher, and three torpedo tubes instead of 10. But as will be seen, the English resisted anti-submarine weapons, including two deep-loading stations that rolled deep-loads from the stern of the ship, and eight K-guns that fired deep-loads at 150 meters. There was also a deadly 24-barrel hedgehog submarine defense mortar designed by the UK. The hedgehog fired shells that looked like potato masher; Unlike deep charges that exploded at a preset depth and disrupted sonar contact, hedgehog grenades only exploded when they hit a hard surface like a submarine hull.
The Saga of England began on May 18, 1944, when England and two other destroyer escorts were ordered to find a Japanese submarine that was reportedly heading for the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific. In the afternoon of May 19, English sonar discovered submarine I-16.
What happened next is described in a report by Captain John Williamson, who served as England's executive during that time. In a March 1980 article in Proceedings Magazine, Williamson and co-author William Lanier describe the baptism of fire of the destroyer escort. The ship attacked four times on I-16 to launch hedgehogs that were missing. The Japanese skipper cleverly tried to avoid his pursuer by following the course of England and waking up.
In the fifth run, the submarine ran out of luck. Williamson remembers the cheering crew when they heard four to six hedgehog blows. Then the English "fantail" was raised a full 6 inches and then plunged back into the water ... We had heard the last of a Japanese submarine with catastrophic certainty. Sobered and more than surprised by this last explosion, we didn't feel like cheering anymore. But we stood a little straighter. "
Later in May, the Japanese Navy conducted Operation A-Go, which required the Japanese fleet to be concentrated to raid the Americans in a crucial battle. The plan included establishing a barrier line for seven submarines northeast of the Admiralty Islands and New Guinea on the expected route the Americans would take. The submarines would warn the Japanese early and then sink enough of the American battle line to influence the crucial naval battle that would follow.
But after US code breakers deciphered the Japanese orders, the Americans decided that England and their two companions would roll up the Japanese subline from end to end. On the night of May 22, the USS George's radar picked up the surface-roaring RO-106 and illuminated the submarine with its searchlight. The submarine dived, then ran to England with hedgehog runs. England scored at least three hits and watched wrecks bubble to the surface.
On May 23, RO-104 became the third victim of England, followed by RO-116 on May 24. On May 26, a hunter-killer submarine task force arrived, focused on escort Hoggatt Bay, England and its two consort sail to the port of Manus for supplies. On the way, the England sank the RO-108.
After taking over the supplies, the destroyer escorts sailed back to the remains of the Japanese underwater picket. In the early morning of May 30, the destroyer Hazelwood, which accompanied Hoggatt Bay, picked up the RO-105 on the radar. While several American ships were chasing the submarine, the England was instructed to stick to its own patrol area.
For nearly 24 hours, the other US ships chased the RO-105, on which Captain Ryonosuka, the very experienced leader of Submarine Division 51 of the Japanese Navy, sailed. The submarine was unable to attack. Williamson remembers that England offered to help and asked about the location of the US ships. It just says: "We won't tell you where we are. We have a damaged submarine and will sink it. Don't come near us. "
Meanwhile, the RO-105 emerged from the air and appeared between two American ships blocking each other's fire, and then submerged again. Regardless of orders, England made its way nearby and was finally released for its own attack. After 21 attacks over 30 hours, the RO-105 was sunk by the English hedgehogs.
Two of the seven picket submarines had previously returned to port. The remaining five had all been sunk by England.
Even as they bask in their triumph, some of the English garrison was concerned.
After the RO-104 was sunk, Williamson was on his way to the English dressing room for coffee when a young sailor asked him how many men there were in the submarine and how he wanted to kill them. Williamson replied that there were 40 to 80 crew members and that war should be killed or killed. "But somehow when I finally got to the dressing room, that cup of coffee didn't taste as good as I had imagined," he recalled.
Admiral Ernest King, Commander in Chief of the US Navy, said of the destroyer escort exploit: "There will always be an England in the US Navy."
For almost 73 years, the USS England has set a record for most submarines sunk by a single ship. This record remains unbroken.
Michael Peck is a contributing writer for national interest. It can be found on Twitter and Facebook. This article was first published a few years ago.
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