USS Mason (DE-529)

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For other ships of the same name, see USS Mason.
USS Mason DE-529.jpg
USS Mason with disruptive camouflage
Career (US)
Laid down: 14 October 1943
Launched: 17 November 1943
Commissioned: 20 March 1944
Decommissioned: 12 October 1945
Struck: 1 November 1945
Fate: Sold for scrap 1947
General characteristics
Displacement: 1,140 short tons (1,030 tonnes)
Length: 289 ft 5 in (88.21 m)
Beam: 35 ft 1 in (10.69 m)
Draft: 8 ft 3 in (2.51 m)
Speed: 21 knots
Complement: 156 officers and men
Armament: 3 × 3"/50 caliber guns
4 × 1.1"/75 caliber guns
9 × Oerlikon 20mm cannon
2 × depth charge tracks
8 × depth charge projector
1 × Hedgehog-type depth charge projector

USS Mason (DE-529), an Evarts-class destroyer escort, was the second ship of the United States Navy to be named Mason, though DE-529 was the only one specifically named for Ensign Newton Henry Mason. The USS Mason was one of two US Navy ships with largely African-American crews in World War II. The other was the USS PC-1264, a submarine chaser.[1] These two ships were manned with African Americans as the result of a letter sent to President Roosevelt by the NAACP in mid-December 1941.

Her keel was laid down in the Boston Navy Yard, on 14 October 1943. She was launched on 17 November 1943, sponsored by Mrs. David Mason, the mother of Ensign Mason, and commissioned on 20 March 1944, with Lt. Commander William M. Blackford, USNR, in command.

Following a shakedown cruise off Bermuda, the Mason departed from Charleston, South Carolina, on 14 June, escorting a convoy bound for Europe, arriving at Horta Harbor, Azores, on 6 July. She got underway from Belfast, Northern Ireland, headed for the East Coast on 26 July, arriving at Boston Harbor on 2 August for convoy duty off the harbor through August.

On 2 September, she arrived at New York City to steam on 19 September in the screen for convoy NY.119. The Mason reached Falmouth, Cornwall, with part of the convoy 18 October, and she returned to New York from Plymouth, England, and the Azores on 22 November.

On 18 October, Mason supported Convoy NY-119 in a severe North Atlantic storm. [2] The ship suffered and self-repaired critical structural damage and still rescued ships from the convoy. The crew of Mason was not awarded a letter of commendation until 1994 for meritorious service during this action. [3][4]

Mason joined TF 64 at Norfolk, Virginia, on 17 December. Two days later she sailed in convoy for Europe, passing by Gibraltar on 4 January 1945 to be relieved of escort duties. Continuing to Algeria, she entered Oran on 5 January for the formation of TG 60.11.

The escort ship cleared Oran 7 January. Four days later the Mason made radar contact with a surface target. She rang up full speed with all battle stations manned to attack the presumptive submarine, rammed, and dropped depth charges. Unable to regain contact, the ship returned to the contact point, where searchlight revealed the target—a wooden derelict about 100 by 50 feet. The Mason then steamed to Bermuda for repairs, entering St. George's Harbor on 19 January. Five days later she reached the New York Navy Yard.

Sailors of the USS Mason commissioned at Boston Navy Yard 20 March 1944 proudly look over their ship. (National Archives and Records Administration)

On 12 February Mason departed Norfolk in convoy for the Mediterranean Sea, arriving off Gibraltar on 28 February. She cleared Oran 8 March to guard a convoy to Bermuda and Chesapeake Bay before returning to New York 24 March. After sonar exercises off New London, Connecticut, and fighter-director training with naval aircraft from Quonset Point, Rhode Island, she steamed from Norfolk 10 April with another convoy to Europe, leaving the convoy at Gibraltar 28 April. The Mason was two days out of Oran en route to the East Coast when the end of World War II in Europe was announced on the eighth of May.

The Mason arrived at New York on 23 May for operations along the East Coast into July. From 28 July to 18 August she served as a school ship for the Naval Training Center, Miami, Florida. On 20 August she arrived at New London to be outfitted for long-range underwater signal testing in the Bermuda area into September. The Mason departed from Bermuda on 8 September for Charleston, S.C., arriving there two days later.

The Mason was decommissioned on 12 October, was struck from the Naval Vessel Register on 1 November 1945, and was sold and delivered to New Jersey, on 18 March 1947 for scrapping.

The USS Mason (DDG-87) was named in honor of the African Americans on DE-529's crew, and the 2004 film Proud dramatizes their story.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Submarine Chaser PC-1264". NavSource Naval History. Retrieved 21 August 2007. 
  2. ^ "The Ordeal of Convoy NY-119". Proudly We Served Website. Retrieved 23 January 2012. 
  3. ^ "USS Mason and Black Sailors in the WWII Navy". African-Americans Proudly Serving in WWII. Retrieved 23 January 2012. 
  4. ^ PCU Mason Public Affairs (7 February 2003). "USS Mason’s History Makes for Bright Future". U.S. Navy. Retrieved 23 January 2012. 

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