USS Mahan (DD-364)
|Namesake:||Alfred Thayer Mahan|
|Builder:||United Dry Docks Inc., Staten Island, New York|
|Laid down:||12 June 1934|
|Launched:||15 October 1935|
|Commissioned:||18 September 1936|
|Fate:||Disabled by kamikaze; sunk by US destroyer on 7 December 1944|
|Class & type:||Mahan-class destroyer|
|Length:||341 ft 3 in (104.0 m)|
|Beam:||35 ft 6 in(10.8 m)|
|Draft:||10 ft 7 in (4.0 m)|
|Propulsion:||2 General Electric steam turbines
4 Babcock & Wilcox boilers
46,000 shp (34 MW)
|Speed:||37 knots (69 km/h)|
|Range:||6,940 nmi (12,850 km; 7,990 mi) at 12 knots (22 km/h; 14 mph)|
|Complement:||158 (peacetime) officers & crew|
5 x 5"(127mm)/38cal DP (5x1),
12 x 21" (533 mm) torpedo tubes (3x4),
4 x .50cal(12.7mm) MG AA (4x1),
2 x depth-charge stern racks
The USS Mahan (DD-364) was the lead ship of the Mahan-class destroyers in the United States Navy. She was named for Rear Admiral Alfred Thayer Mahan, a 19th-century naval historian and strategic theorist. Mahan began her Navy service in 1936. She was first assigned to the Atlantic Fleet and then transferred to Pearl Harbor in 1937, spending the rest of her naval service in the Pacific.
Mahan was at sea with Task Force 12 when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941. Their mission to Midway Island was aborted to participate in the post-attack search for the enemy strike force. Unable to locate them, the task force returned to Pearl Harbor.
Early in World War II, Mahan took part in raids on the Marshall and Gilbert Islands. In the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands, Admirals Chester Nimitz and William Halsey commended the destroyer group (of which Mahan was a member) for a stellar effort in screening the carriers Hornet and Enterprise against heavy odds. In the campaign to retake New Guinea's northeast coast from the Japanese, Mahan was involved in the amphibious landings at Salamaua, Lae, and Finschhafen. She participated in landings at Arawe and Borgen Bay (near Cape Gloucester), New Britain, and provided support for the troop landing at Los Negros Island in the Admiralty Islands.
Late in the Pacific War, Japanese kamikaze relentlessly plagued US Naval operations. On 7 December 1944, a kamikaze squadron overwhelmed Mahan at Ormoc Bay, Leyte, in the Philippine Islands. Mahan was disabled by the attack and abandoned. She was on fire and exploding: nothing could be done to save her. A US destroyer sank Mahan with torpedoes and gunfire.
Mahan displaced 1,500 long tons (1,500 t) at standard load and 1,725 long tons (1,753 t) at deep load. The ship's overall length was 341 feet 3 inches (104.0 m), the beam was 35 feet 6 inches (10.8 m) and her draft was 10 feet 7 inches (3.2 m). She was powered by two General Electric geared steam turbines that developed a total of 46,000 shaft horsepower (34,000 kW) for a maximum speed of 37 knots (69 km/h; 43 mph). Her four Babcock and Wilcox water-tube boilers generated the superheated steam needed for the turbines. Mahan carried a maximum of 523 long tons (531 t) of fuel oil, with a range of 6,940 nautical miles (12,850 km; 7,990 mi) at 12 knots (22 km/h; 14 mph). Her peacetime complement was 158 officers and enlisted men. The wartime complement increased to approximately 250 officers and enlisted men.
Mahan had a tripod foremast and a pole mainmast. To improve the anti-aircraft field of fire, the tripod foremast was constructed without nautical rigging. The ship's silhouette was similar to the larger Porter class, whose construction immediately preceded her. Mahan was fitted with the first emergency diesel generators, replacing the storage batteries of earlier destroyers. Gun crew shelters were built fore and aft for the superimposed weapons. A third quadruple set of torpedo tubes was added, with one mount on the centerline and two in the side positions. This required relocating one 5"/38 caliber gun to the after deckhouse. Mahan incorporated a new generation of land-based propulsion machinery, which was simpler and more efficient to operate.
The main battery of Mahan consisted of five 5"/38 caliber guns, equipped with the MK 33 gun fire control system. The 5"/38 caliber guns were dual-purpose, configured for surface and aircraft targets. Her anti-aircraft battery had four water-cooled .50 caliber machine guns. Mahan was fitted with three quadruple torpedo-tube mounts for twelve 21-inch torpedoes, guided by the MK 27 torpedo fire-control system. The ship's stern was rigged with depth charge roll-off racks.
In the spring of 1942, the Mahan-class destroyers began a wartime armament-refitting process; however, most of the class was not fully refitted until 1944. Mahan was refitted in June 1944 at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard, but the extent of her refit is unknown. One refit to the Mahan-class included the removal of one 5"/38 gun, typically replaced with two twin Bofors 40 mm guns and five 20 mm Oerlikon guns. Oddly, early 1942 found two of the class with six Oerlikon guns; others had four.
Construction and service
Mahan was built by United Dry Docks (successor to the Morse Dry Dock and Repair Company) in Staten Island, New York. Her keel was laid down on 12 June 1934 and she was launched on 15 October 1935, sponsored by Kathleen H. Mahan (the admiral's great-granddaughter). The ship was commissioned on 18 September 1936, with Commander J. B. Waller in command
The ship departed for Caribbean and South American ports within two months of her commission, combining her initial training and shakedown cruise with a goodwill tour. She remained in the Atlantic until July 1937, then headed to the Southern California coast for fleet training before steaming to her new station at Pearl Harbor. When the Japanese struck Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, Mahan was at sea with the carrier USS Lexington, three cruisers and four destroyers as part of Task Force 12. Lexington's mission was to ferry Marine aircraft to reinforce Midway Island. After news of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the task-force commander received orders to terminate the ferry mission and to search for these Japanese ships. Unable to locate them, the force returned to Pearl Harbor on 12 December.
She put to sea in late December with 103 Marines to reinforce their detachment at Johnston Island (about 750 nautical miles—860 miles, or 1,390 km—west of Hawaii), and evacuated 47 civilians to Hawaii the following month. A convoy assignment took Mahan to Samoa, where she joined Task Force 17 (including the carrier Yorktown, two cruisers and five destroyers). The task force carried out raids on Jaluit Atoll, Mili Atoll and Makin Atoll (Butaritari) in the Marshall Islands and Gilbert Islands. Mahan moved on to Canton Island in late February 1942, temporarily assigned to offshore patrol duty. By early April, she was at sea with a convoy bound for San Pedro, California. Mahan then steamed north to the Mare Island Naval Shipyard for overhaul, docking on 18 April 1942.
The ship was back operating in the waters off Pearl Harbor in August 1942. By mid-October, she had steamed out of Pearl Harbor as part of Task Force 16 with the carrier Enterprise, the battleship South Dakota, two cruisers and seven destroyers. On 24 October they joined Task Force 17, which included the carrier Hornet, four cruisers and six destroyers. The two carrier groups formed Task Force 61 under the command of Rear Admiral Thomas C. Kinkaid, and was ordered to the Santa Cruz Islands to strike the Japanese if they moved on Guadalcanal. After the task force anchored off the islands on the morning of 26 October, Enterprise's search planes spotted the much-larger Japanese carrier force and the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands began. When the conflict subsided, the Navy had lost 74 aircraft, the carrier Hornet and one destroyer; Enterprise, South Dakota, one cruiser and one destroyer were damaged. The Japanese lost about 100 aircraft, but their ship casualties were much lower. Nimitz and Halsey expressed their satisfaction with the battle Kinkaid's force had put up against heavy odds, and the destroyers in the Hornet and Enterprise screens were commended for a stellar effort. However, en route to Noumea, New Caledonia, a Japanese submarine contact caused the battleship South Dakota and the destroyer Mahan, under Commander R. W. Simpson, to collide. Both ships were seriously damaged. Temporary repairs were made to Mahan at Noumea, and she headed back to Pearl Harbor for a new bow.
Fully repaired, Mahan left Pearl Harbor on 9 January 1943 for the South Pacific. In subsequent months she escorted convoys between New Hebrides and the Fiji Islands, performed patrol assignments off New Caledonia, and engaged in operations in Australian waters. By August her base of operations was Milne Bay, New Guinea, one of two staging areas (Buna, Papua New Guinea, was the other) to retake the Japanese-held northeast coast of New Guinea. The operation began in August 1943, with plans to strike Lae, New Guinea. Two weeks earlier, Mahan, under Lieutenant Commander L. T. Smith, and three other US destroyers cleared the Lae approaches and the waters between Salamaua and Finschhafen, bombarding Japanese installations at Finschhafen. In early September the Lae Task Force, under Rear Admiral Daniel E. Barbey, left Milne Bay for Lae with 8,000 Australian troops. By the evening of 4 September, the troop landing was completed. On 11 September Salamaua was under Allied control, and Lae was taken by 16 September. Mahan and other US destroyers had provided cover for the amphibious landings.
Vanquished at Lae, the Japanese pulled back to Finschhafen (chosen for the next attack on New Guinea by the American-Australian offensive). On 21 September an assault force under Barbey left Buna, New Guinea, (escorted by US destroyers) and stopped at Lae to pick up an Australian infantry brigade. Additional US destroyers were attached to the force, preceding the convoy to the rendezvous point. On 22 September, before daylight, the amphibious force stormed the beach at Finschhafen; by noon, all troops were ashore. As the destroyers began to withdraw from the area ten Japanese torpedo planes winged across the water, targeting Mahan and five other US destroyers. The ships returned fire, shooting down eight of the ten planes; the remaining two escaped. By 2 October, Finschhafen was in the hands of the Allies.
On 14 December 1943, the amphibious force led by Barbey mustered at Buna, New Guinea, in preparation for the landing at Arawe, New Britain. With it was a bombardment group, composed of Mahan and four other US destroyers. Setting sail on the 14th, the force dropped anchor off Arawe early the next morning and Mahan and her sister ships bombarded the Japanese shore defenses at the main landing point. The shelling from the 5"/38 guns and the bazooka-fired rockets sent the Japanese into retreat, and by mid-morning the beachhead was secured. Christmas 1943 found Mahan steaming with Barbey's amphibious force to Borgen Bay, near Cape Gloucester, New Britain. The entrance to Borgen Bay was risky, with uncharted waters; Mahan and Flusser were picked to sound out the channel and mark the way. They moved through the channel, with two minesweepers laying buoys in their wake. The force shadowed the buoys, and made its way through the passage. On the morning of the 26th, the Marines landed on the beach unopposed. The Japanese struck forcibly later that afternoon, but the Americans would not be dislodged.
In late February 1944, Mahan was in action with the Seventh Fleet supporting the troop landing at Los Negros Island in the Admiralty Islands. Although the supporting ships came under heavy fire, the troops made it ashore. Three weeks later, the Japanese force at Los Negros was defeated.
In spring 1944, after extended wartime duty in the Pacific, the veteran destroyer was ordered to California for overhaul and moored again at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard. Mahan left the yard in early July for Pearl Harbor, participating in exercises there until 15 August. She returned to New Guinea on 20 October via Eniwetok, Jaluit, Guam, Saipan and Ulithi, escorting convoys between Hollandia (Jayapura) and Leyte. By the end of November 1944, Mahan was performing anti-submarine patrol off Leyte in the Philippines.
In November 1944, bad weather and hostile terrain bogged down the ground campaign to seize Leyte from the Japanese. The chief impediment to retaking Leyte was the Japanese ability to reinforce and resupply its headquarters at Ormoc City, on the west side of Leyte, and the Americans' inability to counter this advantage. Thus, the unavoidable decision was made for an amphibious attack on Ormoc.
On the morning of 7 December 1944, three years to the day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, troops of the US 77th Infantry Division landed south of Ormoc City. At the same time, Mahan was patrolling the channel between Leyte and Ponson Island. The amphibious strike by the infantry met with little opposition, but nine Japanese bombers and four escort fighters converged on Mahan. In Kamikaze (1997), Raymond Lamont-Brown wrote: "Observers were to record of this, one of the most unusual and devastating of kamikaze assaults of 1944, that the Japanese aircraft used torpedo-launching tactics, but when they had been hit ... they switched to kamikaze attacks, diving on Mahan... " During the assault, US Army fighters downed three Japanese aircraft and damaged two more. Mahan shot down four but took three direct kamikaze hits, as David Sears observed in At War With the Wind (2008), "... the most calamitous a direct hit to the superstructure near the No. 2 gun."
Exploding and awash in flames, Mahan was turned by Commander E. G. Campbell toward the picket line in a last hope to salvage her before issuing an order to abandon ship. Destroyers Lamson and Walke rescued the survivors; one officer and five men were missing, and thirteen seriously wounded (including burns). A US destroyer sank Mahan with torpedoes and gunfire.
Commander E. G. Campbell, Mahan's skipper, described the performance of his officers and men:
"The strain of standing there and battling back as one after another of the bombers came roaring in was terrific. Even so, not a single man jumped overboard to escape what at times looked like inevitable death ... The fact that four of the nine planes were shot down, that no one abandoned ship until the word was given, that the entire engineering force stayed at their stations throughout the action, in spite of no information ... that the damage control parties continued to function ... that gun captains shifted to local control when the main-battery director was disabled, and that the ship was abandoned in an orderly manner, all testify to the high state of discipline and courage displayed by the entire crew."
- Friedman p. 465
- Roscoe p. 20
- Friedman p. 88
- Reilly p.28
- Hodges and Friedman p. 111
- Friedman p. 86
- Hodges and Friedman p. 145
- Reilly p. 73
- "Mahan". Naval History & Heritage Command. Retrieved 7January 2013.
- Rohwer and Hummelchen p. 104
- Fleshman, pp. 2–3
- Rohwer and Hummelchen p. 119
- Fleshman, pp. 6–8
- Fleshman, p. 9
- Rohwer and Hummelchen p. 171
- Roscoe pp. 185–188
- Roscoe p. 256
- Roscoe p. 257
- Roscoe pp. 257–258
- Roscoe p.258
- Roscoe p. 258
- Roscoe p.258
- Roscoe p. 258
- Rohwer and Hummelchen p. 26
- Roscoe p. 267
- Roscoe p.267
- Roscoe p. 268
- Roscoe p.269
- Roscoe p. 269
- Roscoe pp. 404–405
- Roscoe p. 443
- Roscoe p. 444
- Lamont-Brown pp. 73–74
- Roscoe p. 445
- Lamont-Brown p. 74
- Sears p. 212
- Sears p. 214
- Roscoe p. 446
- Fleshman, Paul. "Chapter 1" (pdf). Retrieved 15 February 2013.
- Friedman, Norman (1982). U.S. Destroyers. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-733-X.
- Hodges, Peter & Friedman, Norman (1979). Destroyer Weapons of World War 2. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-929-4.
- Lamont-Brown, Raymond (2000). Kamikaze. London: Cassell Military Paperbacks. ISBN 0-304-35200-4.
- Miller, David (2001). The Illustrated Directory of Warships from 1860 to the Present. Osceola,WI: MBI Publishing Company. ISBN 0-7603-1127-7.
- Reilly, John (1983). United States Navy Destroyers of World War II. Poole, Dorset, England: Blandford Press. ISBN 0-7137-1026-8.
- Rohwer, Jurgen; Hummelchen, Gerhard (1992). Chronology of the War at Sea 1939–1945 (Second ed.). Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-55750-105-X.
- Roscoe, Theodore (1953). United States Destroyer Operations in World War II. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-726-7.
- Sears, David (2008). At War with the Wind. New York: Kensington Publishing Corporation. ISBN 978-0-8065-2893-9.
- This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. The entry can be found here.
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