USS Monssen (DD-436)
||This article's lead section may not adequately summarize key points of its contents. (August 2009)|
|Builder:||Puget Sound Navy Yard|
|Laid down:||12 July 1939|
|Launched:||16 May 1940|
|Commissioned:||14 March 1941|
|Fate:||Sunk by Japanese warships off Guadalcanal 13 November 1942|
|Class and type:||Gleaves-class destroyer|
|Length:||348 ft 3 in (106.15 m)|
|Beam:||36 ft 1 in (11.00 m)|
|Draft:||11 ft 10 in (3.61 m)|
|Propulsion:||50,000 shp (37 MW);
|Speed:||37.4 knots (69 km/h)|
|Range:||6,500 nautical miles at 12 kt
(12,000 km at 22 km/h)
|Complement:||16 officers, 260 enlisted|
|Armament:|| 5 × 5 in (127 mm) DP guns,
6 × 0.5 in. (12.7 mm) guns,
6 × 20 mm AA guns,
10 × 21 in (53 cm) torpedo tubes,
2 × depth charge tracks
USS Monssen (DD-436), a Gleaves-class destroyer, was the first ship of the United States Navy to be named for Mons Monssen, who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions aboard the USS Missouri (BB-11) in 1904.
Construction and entry into fleet
Monssen was laid down 12 July 1939, by Puget Sound Navy Yard, Bremerton, Washington; launched 16 May 1940, sponsored by Mrs. Mons Monssen, widow of Lieutenant Monssen, and commissioned 14 March 1941, Lieutenant Commander R. N. Smoot in command.
Following shakedown and training, Monssen reported to the Atlantic Fleet on 27 June 1941 as a unit of Destroyer Division 22 (DesDiv 22). For the next five months she operated in the northwestern Atlantic, from the coast of New England and the Maritime Provinces to Iceland, on neutrality patrol. Her escort and patrol duties changed from neutral to belligerent 7 December 1941, continuing until 9 February 1942 when she entered the Boston Navy Yard for overhaul in preparation for her transfer to the Pacific Fleet.
Transfer to the Pacific
On 31 March she arrived at San Francisco, joined Task Force 16 (TF 16), and departed 2 April. Steaming west, she was in the antisubmarine screen for Hornet (CV-8) as the aircraft carrier headed for Japan with Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle's B-25s on her flight deck. In the early morning hours 18 April the force was sighted by the enemy and the Army pilots manned their planes, ignoring the bad weather, the daylight hours, and the additional 168 miles they would have to fly over the planned 500 miles to their targets, Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka, and Kobe.
Following the Doolittle Raid, the force returned to Pearl Harbor, from which it sortied 30 April to aid Yorktown (CV-5) and Lexington (CV-2) in the Battle of the Coral Sea. Reaching the scene after the battle was over, the force returned to Pearl Harbor, arriving 26 May. Two days later they departed again — this time for Midway to repulse an expected assault on that advanced base. By 2 June, TF 16 had rendezvoused with Task Force 17 (TF 17) and was in position 350 miles northeast of Midway. On the 4th the Battle of Midway commenced as Japanese carrier planes flew against installations on the island. By the 7th, the American forces had won one of the decisive battles of history, sinking four carriers and one cruiser at the cost of destroyer Hammann (DD-412) and carrier Yorktown, and profoundly changing the course of the war.
Solomon Islands campaign
After Midway the force remained at Pearl Harbor for a month before departing again for combat. Steaming via the Tonga Islands, they headed for the Japanese held Solomons. By 7 August they were 40 miles from the targets, Guadalcanal and Tulagi. On the 7th and 8th, Monssen with Buchanan (DD-484) stood off Gavutu and Tanambogo, circling those islands and providing fire support to units of the 2nd Marine Regiment as the U.S. Navy struck with the first of its giant amphibious assaults. She was then assigned to the screening forces guarding the eastern approaches to Sealark, Lengo, and Nggela Channels.
She remained in the immediate area through the Battle of the Eastern Solomons, which prevented Japanese reinforcements from reaching Guadalcanal, and then took up duties patrolling the sea routes to Guadalcanal. At the end of the month Saratoga (CV-3) was damaged and Monssen was one of the ships designated to escort her to the Tonga Islands.
Monssen returned to Guadalcanal 18 September to insure the integrity of an Allied supply line and to block Japanese efforts at resupply. On 8 November, she departed Nouméa with two cruisers and two other destroyers as Task Group 67.4 (TG 67.4), under Rear Admiral Daniel J. Callaghan, as escort for transports carrying reinforcements to the marines on Guadalcanal. At the same time, another convoy set out from Espiritu Santo, covered by one cruiser and four destroyers under Rear Admiral Norman Scott. Arriving off Lunga Point on the 12th, a day after those from Espiritu Santo they commenced unloading. By dusk as reports of Japanese ship movements from Truk increased, 90 percent of the transports had been unladen despite afternoon torpedo plane attacks, one of which had cost Monssen the use of her fire control radar. The transports were pulled out, escorted through Lengo Channel, and seen safely on their way to Espiritu Santo. Then Admiral Callaghan's force, heavily outnumbered even with the addition of Admiral Scott's ships, reversed course and steamed back to engage the enemy in the initial action of what would later be called the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal.
Shortly, after 01:40, 13 November, they sighted the enemy fleet, under Vice Admiral Hiroaki Abe, 3 miles north of Kukum. The enemy was headed toward Henderson Field — to bombard it and cripple Allied air operations long enough to sneak in 11 of their transports, then en route to relieve their beleaguered comrades fighting on the island.
Battle was given at 01:50. At about 02:20 Monssen, forced to rely on radio information and optics, was spotlighted, hit by some 39 shells, including 3 of battleship caliber, and reduced to a burning hulk. Twenty minutes later, completely immobilized in all departments, the ship was ordered abandoned. After daybreak Monssen was still a floating incinerator. C. C. Storey, BM2c, L. F. Sturgeon, GM2c, and J. G. Hughes F1c, climbed back into the inferno and rescued eight men still aboard and alive, five of whom lived after reaching land. The survivors, 40 percent of the crew, were picked up at about 08:00 and taken to Guadalcanal. The ship herself continued to blaze until early afternoon, when the waters of Ironbottom Sound closed over her.
Monssen was awarded four battle stars for World War II service.
In 1992, an expedition headed by oceanographer Robert Ballard found the wreck of Monssen and other ships sunk during the Solomon Islands battles. The wreck lies upright on the bottom of the sound, with the gun turrets still trained out to the starboard side as they had been in combat.
- USS Monssen website at Destroyer History Foundation
- history.navy.mil: USS Monssen
- navsource.org: USS Monssen
- hazegray.org: USS Monssen