USS Roper (DD-147)

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USS Roper (DD-147)
Career (US)
Namesake: Jesse M. Roper
Builder: William Cramp and Sons
Laid down: 19 March 1918
Launched: 17 August 1918
Commissioned: 15 February 1919
Decommissioned: 15 September 1945
Struck: 11 October 1945
Fate: Sold for scrapping, 31 March 1946
General characteristics
Class & type: Wickes-class destroyer
Displacement: 1,090 tons
Length: 314 ft 5 in (95.83 m)
Beam: 31 ft 8 in (9.65 m)
Draft: 9 ft 10 in (3 m)
Speed: 35 knots (65 km/h)
Complement: 101 officers and enlisted
Armament: 4 × 4 in (102 mm), 2 × 3 in (76 mm), 12 × 21 in (533 mm) torpedo tubes

USS Roper (DD-147) was a Wickes-class destroyer in the United States Navy, later converted to a high-speed transport and redesignated APD-20.

She was named for Lieutenant Commander Jesse M. Roper, commanding officer of Petrel, who died during the Spanish-American War while rescuing his crew.

Her keel was laid down on 19 March 1918 by William Cramp & Sons, of Philadelphia. She was launched on 17 August 1918 sponsored by Mrs. Jesse M. Roper, widow of Lieutenant Commander Roper, and commissioned on 15 February 1919 with Commander Abram Claude in command.[1] Roper was the first United States Navy warship to sink a German submarine during World War II.

Service history[edit]

Inter-War Period[edit]

Following shakedown off the New England coast, Roper sailed east in mid-June 1919 and, after stops at Ponta Delgada, Gibraltar, and Malta, anchored in the Bosporus on 5 July. For the next month she supported Peace Commission and Relief Committee work in the Black Sea area, carrying mail and passengers to and from Constantinople, Novorossisk, Batum, Samsun, and Trebizond. On 20 August the destroyer returned to the United States, at New York City, only to sail again six days later. At the end of the month she transited the Panama Canal and moved north to San Diego.[1]

Roper remained on the West Coast until July 1921. On 23 July, she departed San Francisco, for duty on the Asiatic Station. Arriving at Cavite, Philippine Islands, on 24 August, she remained in the Philippines into December. She then moved into Chinese waters and, into the summer, operated primarily from Hong Kong and Chefoo. On 25 August 1922, she headed back to California. Routed via Nagasaki, Midway, and Pearl Harbor she arrived at San Francisco on 13 October. Two days later she shifted to San Pedro, California, thence proceeded to San Diego, where she was decommissioned on 14 December 1922 and berthed with the Pacific Reserve Fleet.[1]

Recommissioned on 18 March 1930, Roper resumed operations in the Pacific. Operating primarily in the southern California area, in active and rotating reserve squadrons, for the next seven years, she deployed to Panama, to Hawaii and to the Caribbean Sea for fleet problems and maneuvers in 1931, 1933, 1935, and 1936. During 1933, Lieutenant, junior grade Robert A. Heinlein transferred aboard Roper. In 1934 he was promoted to Lieutenant, then "invalided out," permanently disabled from tuberculosis. During January and February 1936, Roper moved north for operations in Alaskan waters.[1]

In February 1937, Roper departed California and, after transiting the Panama Canal, joined the Atlantic Fleet. For the remainder of the year, through 1938, and into 1939, she conducted exercises primarily off the mid-Atlantic seaboard and, during part of each year, in the Caribbean. In November 1939, after the outbreak of World War II in Europe, she shifted from Norfolk, Virginia, to Key West, Florida, whence she patrolled the Yucatan Channel and the Florida Straits. In December, she returned to Norfolk. In January 1940, she moved south again, to Charleston, South Carolina, and in March she headed north for duty on the New England Patrol.[1]

World War II[edit]

Through the prewar Neutrality Patrol period, Roper continued to range the waters off the East and Gulf Coasts. Off Cape Cod on 7 December 1941, she returned to Norfolk for an abbreviated availability at midmonth, and then steamed to NS Argentia, Newfoundland. In early February 1942, she completed a convoy escort run to Londonderry Port, then, in March, returned to the Norfolk area for patrol and escort duty. A month later, on the night of 13/14 April, she made contact with a surfaced U-boat off the coast of North Carolina. The ensuing chase ended with the sinking by artillery fire of German submarine U-85 (1941), a unit of the 7th U-boat Flotilla.[1] Former commander of German U-boat U-802 and author Helmut Schmoeckel suggested in a 2002 book that the failure of Roper to rescue the U-85 crew after they abandoned the submarine and Roper '​s subsequent depth charging of U-85 should be investigated. He never used the phrase war crime, as is sometimes stated, and he relied on a very inaccurate American book as his source.[2] According to the after action report, the attack occurred after midnight local time after Roper closed to identify an unknown contact (U-85) and was narrowly missed by a torpedo prior to opening fire. The commanding officer delayed rescue operations until daybreak and after the arrival of air support from a PBY Catalina and an airship due to concern of an attack by a second u-boat.[3] No charges were filed against the crew of Roper and 29 sailors of U-85 were buried with military honors at Hampton National Cemetery.[4] Commanding officer, Lieutenant Commander Hamilton W. Howe received the Navy Cross for the engagement of the submarine[5] and retired in 1956 with the rank of Rear Admiral.[6]

On 29 April, Roper rescued fourteen survivors from the British merchantman Empire Drum, which had been torpedoed and sunk by U-136 five days earlier. On 1 May, she rescued another thirteen survivors from Empire Drum. They were landed at Norfolk, Virginia, that day.[7] At the end of May, Roper began a series of coastwise escort runs, from Key West to New York, which took her into 1943. In February of that year, she shifted to Caribbean Sea-Mediterranean Sea convoy work and remained on that duty until October when she entered the Charleston Navy Yard for conversion to a high speed transport.[1]

Convoys escorted[edit]

Convoy Escort Group Dates Notes
ON 63 7–13 Feb 1942[8] from Iceland to Newfoundland
AT 18 6–17 Aug 1942[9] troopships from New York City to Firth of Clyde

Auxiliary service[edit]

Reclassified and given hull classification symbol APD-20 on 20 October 1943, Roper departed Charleston in late November and trained in the Chesapeake Bay area and off the Florida coast into the new year, 1944. On 13 April, she steamed east and at the end of the month joined the 8th Fleet at Oran, Algeria. A unit of Transport Division 13, assigned to support the offensive in Italy, Roper landed units of the French Army on Pianosa on 17 June and, into July, plied between Oran and Naples and operated along the western coast of the embattled peninsula. In August, she shifted her attention to southern France. On 15 August, she arrived off that coast as part of the "Sitka" Force and landed troops on Levant Island. On 5 September she returned to Italy; resumed runs between Naples and Oran, and, in early December departed the latter port for Hampton Roads.[1]

Arriving at Norfolk on 21 December, Roper sailed again on 29 January 1945. On transiting the Panama Canal, she reported to the Pacific Fleet, and, after stops in California and Hawaii, moved into the Mariana Islands. On 11 May, she departed Guam for the Ryukyu Islands. Arriving in Nakagusuku Wan on 22 May, she circled to the Hagushi anchorage the same day. Three days later, while on screening station off that transport area she was hit by a kamikaze.[1]

Ordered back to the United States to complete repairs, she departed the Ryukyus on 6 June and reached San Pedro a month later. In August, she shifted to Mare Island, but with the cessation of hostilities repair work was halted. Decommissioned on 15 September 1945, Roper '​s name was struck from the Naval Vessel Register on 11 October 1945, and her hulk was sold to the Lerner Company, Oakland, California. Removed in June 1946, it was scrapped the following December.[1] Her anchor is located outside of building 5 of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology campus.

This is the anchor plaque that accompanies the USS Roper's anchor on the MIT campus.
The USS Roper's Anchor on display at the MIT campus

Awards[edit]

Roper earned four battle stars during World War II.[1]

As of 2004, no other ships in the United States Navy have borne this name.

Notable crew[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. Roper. Accessed 21 April 2007.
  2. ^ Helmut Schmoeckel, 79. Tötung deutscher Schiffbrüchiger durch den US-Zerstörer ROPER nach der Versenkung von »U 85« am 18 April 1942. In: Franz W. Seidler /Alfred de Zayas (Hg.) Kriegsverbrechen in Europa und im Nahen Osten im 20. Jahrhundert (War crimes in Europe and the Near East in 20th Century). (German). ISBN 9783813207026.
  3. ^ U-boat Archive. USS Roper after action report.
  4. ^ U-boat Archive. Uboat Archive – U-85.
  5. ^ Navy Cross Awards to members of the U.S. Navy in World War II
  6. ^ Guide to the Hamilton W. Howe Oral History Interview, 1941–1945
  7. ^ "Empire Drum". Uboat. Retrieved 14 July 2011. 
  8. ^ "ON convoys". Andrew Hague Convoy Database. Retrieved 2011-06-19. 
  9. ^ "AT convoys". Andrew Hague Convoy Database. Retrieved 2011-06-20. 

External links[edit]