USS Mannert L. Abele (DD-733)
|Namesake:||Mannert Lincoln Abele|
|Builder:||Bath Iron Works|
|Laid down:||9 December 1943|
|Launched:||23 April 1944|
|Commissioned:||4 July 1944|
|Fate:||Sunk by the Ohka suicide flying bomb during the battle for Okinawa 12 April 1945|
|Class & type:||Allen M. Sumner class destroyer|
|Length:||376 ft 6 in (114.8 m)|
|Beam:||40 ft (12.2 m)|
|Draft:||15 ft 8 in (4.8 m)|
|Propulsion:||60,000 shp (45 MW);
|Speed:||34 knots (63 km/h)|
|Range:||6500 nmi (12,000 km) @ 15 kt|
|Armament:||6 × 5 in (130 mm)/38 caliber guns (3x2),
12 × 40mm AA guns,
11 × 20mm AA guns,
10 × 21 in (53 cm) torpedo tubes (10 torpedoes),
6 × depth charge projectors,
2 × depth charge tracks
USS Mannert L. Abele (DD-733), an Allen M. Sumner-class destroyer, is the only ship of the United States Navy to be named for Mannert Lincoln Abele, a World War II submarine commander who posthumously received the Navy Cross for his heroism in the Pacific Theater. The destroyer was the first US warship sunk by a Yokosuka MXY-7 Ohka.
Mannert L. Abele was laid down by Bath Iron Works, Bath, Maine, on 9 December 1943; launched on 23 April 1944; sponsored by Mrs. Mannert L. Abele; and commissioned at Boston, Massachusetts on 4 July 1944, Commander Alton E. Parker in command.
After shakedown off Bermuda, Abele served as a training ship for destroyer crews in Chesapeake Bay before departing Norfolk on 16 October for duty in the Pacific. Steaming via San Diego, she reached Pearl Harbor on 17 November for two weeks of intensive training. She sailed in convoy for the western Pacific on 3 December, but returned two weeks later for conversion to a fighter director ship. She received special radio and radar equipment and completed radar picket training before departing on 27 January 1945 for the invasion of Iwo Jima.
Assigned to the transport screen of Vice Admiral Richmond K. Turner's Task Force 51 (TF 51), she steamed via Eniwetok and Saipan and screened ships of the assault force during amphibious landings on 19 February. The next day, she joined the fire support group for shore bombardment and close support gunfire operations. During the next 28 hours, she blasted numerous enemy gun emplacements, blockhouses, and caves. In addition, she provided night illumination and harassing fire in support of ground operations by the 5th Marine Division. She resumed screening and radar picket duty at dusk 21 February.
On 3-4 March and again from 8-10 March, Abele served on the bombardment line as effective naval firepower provided valuable support for the marines' ground campaign. On 10 March, she steamed to Ulithi, arriving on the 12th.
Abele departed on 20 March for radar picket duty off Ulithi and the next day she joined TF 54, Rear Admiral Milton L. Deyo’s Gunfire and Covering Force, for the invasion of Okinawa. She reached the Ryukyus on 24 March, and during the next week she screened heavy shore bombardment ships during preinvasion operations from Kerama Retto to le Shima. In addition, she pounded enemy positions and supported UDT operations at proposed assault beaches on Okinawa.
As American troops stormed the beaches on 1 April, Abele provided close fire support before beginning radar picket patrols northeast of Okinawa later that day. On 3 April, three Japanese planes attacked her, but the destroyer shot down two of the raiders. Released from picket duty on 5 April, she resumed screen patrols off the beaches. On 6 April, she helped shoot down an attacking twin‑engined bomber.
The next day, Mannert L. Abele joined TF 54 to protect the transports off Okinawa from ships of the Surface Special Attack Force, including the Japanese battleship Yamato, steaming south from Japan in a last desperate effort to destroy superior American seapower. However, hard-hitting planes of the Fast Carrier Task Force wiped out the enemy’s thrust with furious bomb and torpedo strikes, sinking six Japanese ships and damaging the four surviving destroyers.
Abele resumed radar picket duty on 8 April, patrolling station No. 14 about 70 nmi (81 mi; 130 km) northwest of Okinawa, accompanied by LSM(R)-189 and LSM(R)-190. Midway through the afternoon watch on 12 April, Abele caught the full fury of the kamikaze. Three "Vals" attacked at 13:45, but lethal gunfire drove off two and set fire to the third which failed in an attempt to crash into LSM(R)-189. By 14:00, between 15 and 25 additional planes “had come down from the North and the ship was completely surrounded.” Except for one light bomber which challenged and was damaged by the destroyer’s fire, the enemy kept outside her gun range for more than half an hour.
At about 14:40, three Zeroes broke orbit and closed to attack. Abele drove off one and shot down another about 4,000 yd (3,700 m) out. Despite numerous hits from 5‑inch and light anti-aircraft fire, and spewing smoke and flame, the third kamikaze crashed into the starboard side and penetrated the after engine room where it exploded. LSM(R)-189 's captain, James M. Stewart, reported, "It is difficult to say what it was that hit the DD 733. This officer personally saw what appeared to be two (2) planes orbiting in a northerly direction from the DD 733, and then suddenly, what appeared to be, one plane, accelerated at a terrific rate, too fast for us to fire at. This plane dove at an angle of approximately 30 degrees, starting at about four miles [7.5 km] away. Since we had no air search radar, the above statements are merely my own conclusions." (This may have been one of the earliest intelligence reports of the Ohka kamikaze aircraft).
Immediately, Mannert L. Abele began to lose headway. The downward force of the blast, which had wiped out the after engineering spaces, broke the destroyer’s keel midships, abaft No. 2 stack. The bridge lost control and all guns and directors lost power.
A minute later, at about 14:46, Abele took a second and fatal hit from a Ohka that struck the starboard waterline abreast the forward fireroom. Its 2,600 lb (1,200 kg) warhead exploded, buckling the ship, and “cutting out all power, lights, and communications.”
Almost immediately, Abele broke in two, her midship section obliterated. Her bow and stern sections sank rapidly. As survivors clustered in the churning waters enemy planes bombed and strafed them. However, LSM(R)-189 and LSM(R)-190, praised by Commander Parker as “worth their weight in gold as support vessels”, shot down two of the remaining attackers, repulsed further attacks, and rescued the survivors.
Mannert L. Abele was the first of three radar pickets hit by an Ohka, but the only ship sunk by one during the Okinawa campaign. Despite the enemy’s desperate efforts, the radar pickets successfully completed their mission, thus insuring the success of the campaign. Capt. Frederick Moosbrugger, picket force commander, acclaimed their hazardous duty, “...a symbol of supreme achievement in our naval traditions.” And, paraphrasing Sir Winston Churchill, he wrote: “Never in the annals of our glorious naval history have naval forces done so much with so little against such odds for so long a period.”
Mannert L. Abele received two battle stars for World War II service.
- This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. The entry can be found here.
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