Monday, February 06, 2006

Destroyer Squadron 66, Pacific Theater WWII

Flagship, Destroyer Squadron 66
The former commanding officer of the USS Putnam (DD 757), upon his departure from the ship, commented that although he admired the modesty of the crew in calling the ship "lucky", he preferred to attribute its good fortune in participating unscathed through the Iwo Jima and Okinawa campaigns to constant "readiness" for any eventuality.
The story of the Putnam's some 50,000 mile tour of war duty, since its commissioning October 12, 1944, is one of constant training of an inexperienced crew, innumerable and long general quarters sessions for air raids, many shore bombardments, destruction of many planes, rescues at sea and volunteer special mission assignments.
Since her arrival in the forward area, the Putnam saw almost constant action through the last two campaigns in Japan's "front yard". Familiar because the sight of the Putnam stacks with their flagship emblem of Squadron 66 -- large blue and white figures 66 forming the background, superimposed with a white-winged sardine can bearing twin-mount five-inch guns.
Destroyer 757 bears the name if Master Charles Flint Putnam USN, intrepid naval commander, who lost his life in 1882 when he was the victim of a blinding snowstorm while on a rescue mission for another vessel. Master Putnam was promoted from midshipman to master March 12, 1880, after which he served on theUSS Kearsarge, Asiatic Squadron; at the San Francisco naval base in 1876; on the USS Schoolship Jamestown in 1877-78; on the USS Hasler, Pacific Coast, 1879-80; on theUSS Rodgers, 1881-82 in the Bering Sea; and as commander of a shore depot at Cape Serdez in 1882, during which time he lost his life. Mrs. Doanda Putnam Wheeler, adescendent of Master Putnam, attended the commissioning of the present Putnam in San Francisco at Bethlehem Shipbuilding Yards. Destroyers No. 287 and 537 were named Putnam, but the name was canceled for No. 537 in 1943.
Captain G. R. Hartwig, commander of Destroyer Squadron 66, hoisted his pennant in the Putnam November II, 1944, and came aboard permanently on April 27, 1945. Comdr. F. V. H. Hilles USN served as commander of the ship until August 9, 1945, when he was relieved by Comdr. Louis Lefelar at Buckner Bay,Okinawa. The squadron consists of the Putnam, Strong (DD758), Hadley (DD 774),Keith (DD 775), Owens (DD 776), in Division 131; and the Zellars (DD 777), Massey (DD 778), Fox (DD 779) and Stormes (DD 780), in Division 132.
Besides several "well done" commendations for the ship in general from high naval officials, the Putnam has come in for her share of decorations for individual performance. Bronze Stars were awarded to Comdr. Hilles; Lt. Comdr. C.A. Sander, Jr., executive officer, and Lt. I. C. Kidd, gunnery officer. The Navy and Marine Corps Medal went to J. G. Moncrief CBM for his outstanding heroism in the rescue of men from the sunken USS T wiggs.
While the men of the Putnam were dealing with the uncertainties of war, they were making it a certainty that they would be prepared for the future peace by buying war bonds. In the Navy's Independence Day Cash War Bond Sale, Putnam personnel invested their extra money in $5, $193.75 worth of bonds (cash value). The campaign, under the direction of L T (j.g.) John O. Rodgers, was in addition to the regular monthly war bond savings plan in which a majority of the men participated anyway.
Outstanding in the memory of those who man the Putnam are such events as the shooting down of three enemy planes, the attempted landing-party rescue of aviators shot down over Okinawa, the coming aboard of Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal and other distinguished figures at Iwo Jima for transportation to Guam where they were met on the Putnam by Fleet Admiral Nimitz, the night rescue from the flaming oily waters off Okinawa of 114 of the personnel of the USS Twiggs, the rescue of an aviator who fell into the sea when he attempted to land on the aircraft carrier Lunga Point and the more pleasant experience of attending movies topside in Tokyo Bay shortly after the surrender of the Japanese Empire.
These highlights in the history of the Putnam are included with brief detail in the condensed log of the ship, which follows:
March 26, 1944 - Launched.
October 12 - Commissioned.
December 9 - Completed shakedown at San Diego.
December 30 - Departed San Francisco for Pearl Harbor. "Sandy", Fox terrier mascot, came aboard.
January 5, 1945 - Arrived Pearl Harbor, engaged in training exercises until January 26, 1945.
Putnam Porthole, ship's newspaper, established.
January 29 - Left Pearl Harbor for Eniwetok, Saipan, Tinian and Guam with 4th and 5th Marine divisions.
February 17 - Left Guam for Iwo Jima, escortjng Marine 3rd Division, for Invasion.
February 19 - Engaged in shore bombardment and illuminatjon fire at Iwo Jima until shortly before campaign ended, with brief trip to Guam in meantime. So impressed with the valiant
Marines at Iwo Jima were men on the Putnam that the following poem, written at the height of the campaign by Lt. (J.G.) George R. Blair, of the Putnam, was much in demand for mailing:
The Marines at Iwo
Marine, now you are standing there
Beside you comrade dead.
Behind, the hell of landing there;
The finish fight ahead.
What are these bodies stretched around
On Iwo's bloody slopes?
They mark the place where Nippon found
The end of conquest's hopes.
Full half of all your ranks are gone,
Five thousand dead in glory.
And still the remnants battle on
Fulfilling your brave history.
On Suribachi's shattered heights
The flag we love is flying.
A tribute to the noble dead
And those who still are dying.
Marine, the world is hushed in awe
At your grave sacrifice-
The purchase of Japan's Jima
At such a bloody price.
Marine, tho' time erase the ache
Of comrades fallen there,
We pledge: this land shall never break
The bond you've made us heir.
By dead who sleep the sleep serene
We pledge this tribute, Brave Marine!
February 23, 1945 - Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal and party came aboard for transportation to Guam. Included were Rear Adm. L. E. Denfeld USN, then assistant chief of the Bureau of Personnel; Rear Adm. E. W. Mills USN, assistant chief of the Bureau of Ships; Rear Adm. J. Wright USN; Capt. E. B. Taylor USN, aide to the Secretary of Navy; Col. C. V. Whitney USA; Major M. E. Correa USMCR; Lt. D. J. Hopkins USNR, son of the then Lend-Lease Administrator Harry Hopkins; Lt. E. E. Elder USMC and others. As the ship departed for Guam, the Secretary and his company followed details of a big air raid at Iwo Jima that night. At Guam, Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz came aboard to greet Mr. Forrestal.
March 12 - Left Leyte, Phillippine Islands, on escort duty.
March 17 - Anchored at San Pedro Bay, Leyte. In this brief respite from front areaaction, the ship engaged in a pin-up girl contest. Actress June Haver was chosen "The Girl with Whom I'd Rather Spend G.Q."
March 27 - Left Leyte, escorting transports, for invasion of Okinawa.
April 1 - Arrived off Okinawa, assigned to anti-aircraft screen.
April 2 - Fired tirst time in Okinawa campaign at enemy plane.
April 6 - Proceeded to Ulithi on escort duty; arrived the 8th, returned to Okinawaon the 16th.
April 16-19 - Assigned patrol and escort duty .
April 19 - Acted as gunboat support off southwest Okinawa.
April 21-25 - On radar picket duty; shot down one enemy plane and assisted in destruction of another, driving off a four-plane attack.
April 26 - On patrol and escort duty until May 5th.
May 6-9 - During radar picket duty, shot down another enemy plane and combatair patrol, controlled by Lt. (J.G.) John 0. Rodgers, fighter-direction officer in the Putnam, shot down three others.
May 10-27 - On patrol and escort duty.
May 28-June 24th - Fire support duty, day and night.
June 16 Volunteered to attempt rescue of two aviators from USS West Virginia, shot down over Okinawa. Landing party sent in whaleboat, covered by machine gun tire from LCI. One aviator, believed headed for beach, turned out to be a Japanese patrol. The landing party withdrew without casualty. The day was to be more eventful...Soon after sun-down the USS Twiggs, nearby, was attacked by enemy aircraft and had blown off. She was soon afire from stem to stern, and, after a violent explosion, probably in the after magazines, she sank. Capt. Hartwig, commander of the Destroyer Squadron 66 in the Putnam, directed rescue activities. The whaleboat was lowered, lifelines put over the sides, searchlights thrown into action and all available Putnam personnel bent every effort toward saving the survivors. Many ofthe men dived into the dangerous waters and pulled wounded and burned men to safety. The USS Putnam saved 114 men.
July 1 - August 8 - Served in East China Sea as fire support for minesweepers and shipping strikes off Shanghai.
July 27 - All men genuinely felt the loss of "Sandy", mascot fox terrier, lost over the side. Sandy made frequent rounds of the ship, in his own friendly way exchanging greetings with men in every actijvity. Everyone's morale was just a little higher as he watched "Sandy" chasing gleefully after waves thatc ame over the deck, barking belligerently at the noisy stacks or toying contentedly with an old bone. "Sandy" was a little bit of home along way from home.
August 5 - Rescued Lt. (J.G.) Charles R. North USNR, whose plane had crashed while he attempted a landing aboard the Lunga Point.
August 9 - Comdr. Louis Lefelar relieved Comdr. Hilles as commanding officer.
August 12 - Stood by for possible assistance to USS Pennsylvania, which had undergone an underwater explosion after a low-flying enemy plane attack.
August 15 - Commanding officer received official word that the Japanese Empire hadsurrendered.
September 1-7 - Served as guide and rescue ship for Tokyo-bound transport planes100 miles north of Buckner Bay.
September 13 - Escorted USS New Jersey to Wakayama, Honshu, Japan, arrivingthe 15th. Left the 16th for Tokyo Bay, arriving the 17th. Soon afterthe fading of a beautiful sunset over Mt. Fujiyama, movies were showntopside under the stars.
September 19 - Returned to Wakayama, participated in occupation landings on the 25th.
September 27 - Departed for Okinawa, arriving October 1, after cruising in the EastChina Sea to avoid typhoon .
Returning to Tokyo Bay on 17 September, Putnam found no refuge, instead had to ride out a howling typhoon which ripped in to harry the U.S. ships anchored beneath majestic Fujiyama. A second jaunt was made to Wakayama, where Putnam coveredthe landings on 25 September. Journeying to Okinawa on I October, Putnam joined forces with Task Group 55.4 (Kobe-Osaka-Wakayama Occupation Group) and made her last trip to Wakayama.
On 5 December 1945, the USS Putnam left Wakayama, made Eniwetok Atoll five days later, fueled and departed for Pearl Harbor immediately. Christmas at homefor his men was Commander Lefelar's goal. Beating the 25th by three days, Putnam drove into San Diego and dropped anchor.
Home from combat was one of America's fighting "tin cans", her greatest achievement the fact that she had suffered no casualties or damage as a result of enemy action. To Pacific Fleet units, the Flagship emblem adorning the stacks of DD-757 ("66" in large blue and white figures forming the background, superimposed with a white-winged sardine can bearing twin-mount 5-inch guns) was a familiar and ever-welcome sight. Those who sailed under that emblem, on all occasions and in all circumstances, had evinced the best in navel know-how.
Leaving San Diego on 3 January 1946, USS Putnam transited the Panama Canal, then went north in the Atlantic to the Brooklyn Navy Yard for a much needed yard availability. Subsequently, the ship operated out of Newport, Rhode Island until thebeginning of 1947, when she made Pensacola, Florida her base. In late April 1947, Putnam went to Norfolk, Virginia where, at the time of this writing, she is being readied for a peacetime cruise to European waters. Tentative date of departure: 21 July 1947. Present Commanding Officer Commander G. D. Hoffman, USN.
LENGTH OVERALL: 376 feet 6 inches
BEAM: 40 feet 10 inches
SPEED: 35 knots plus
COMPLEMENT: 350 plus
ARMAMENT: Six 5-inch .38 caliber Dual Purpose guns; Ten 21 -inch torpedo tubes in quintuple mount; Plus smaller M guns
Original compillation by Robert K. Cravens, stenciled 7-11-47; Retyped by Janis A. Cravens November 1995 for Robert K. Cravens.

Friday, February 03, 2006

USS Putnam Reunions

Here we are in Sac
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