USS Haggard (DD-555)
|Namesake:||Captain Thomas Haggard of the Louisa|
|Builder:||Seattle-Tacoma Shipbuilding Corporation|
|Laid down:||27 March 1942|
|Launched:||9 February 1943|
|Commissioned:||31 August 1943|
|Decommissioned:||1 November 1945|
|Struck:||16 November 1945|
|Fate:||Sold for scrap, 1946|
|Class and type:||Fletcher class destroyer|
|Length:||376 ft 6 in (114.7 m)|
|Beam:||39 ft 8 in (12.1 m)|
|Draft:||17 ft 9 in (5.4 m)|
|Propulsion:||60,000 shp (45 MW); 2 propellers|
|Speed:||35 knots (65 km/h)|
|Range:||6500 nmi. (12,000 km) @ 15 kt|
Haggard departed for shakedown training off California 29 September and after completing it departed Seattle 24 November for Pearl Harbor. The ship arrived 30 November 1943 and spent the next 2 months in tactical exercises with other destroyers in Hawaiian waters. Her first combat operation was to be the forthcoming invasion of the Marshall Islands, next step on the island road to Japan.
The ship sailed 22 January 1944 for the Marshalls. She covered the unopposed landings on Majuro 31 January and then sailed to Kwajalein Atoll. Taking up firing position inside the lagoon 2 February, she provided gunfire support for the advancing Marines until the island was secured 3 days later. Then Haggard patrolled and escorted transports in the Kwajalein area until sailing for Engebi, Eniwetok Atoll 17–19 February. There the destroyer again provided close fire support with her 5 inch guns, helping to secure Eniwetok. With the Marshalls in American hands, Haggard arrived 7 March at Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides.
For the next months, Haggard operated with 3rd Fleet in the New Guinea-Solomons area. Her duties included reconnaissance patrols, convoying, and screening escort carriers. She also worked occasionally with minecraft and screened a minelaying operation 9 May in the Solomons, passing within 800 yards of an enemy-held beach on Buka Passage. During the night of 16–17 May the destroyer was patrolling with Franks (DD-554) and Johnston (DD-557) when she picked up an underwater sound contact. With quickness and accuracy the three ships delivered depth charge attacks and were credited with the sinking of the Japanese submarine I-176.
Haggard joined 5th Fleet at Eniwetok 21 May to prepare for the Marianas operation, as America's amphibious might pressed across the Pacific. Departing Eniwetok 8 July, Haggard arrived Guam with battleships Pennsylvania (BB-38) and New Mexico (BB-40) and other fleet units 17 July and began a devastating bombardment of the beach fortifications. With the landing on Guam of Marines 21 July, the destroyer turned to close fire support, lending her accurate gunfire to the battle ashore.
Next on the timetable of the Pacific island campaign was the Palau group, needed to provide an air base for further advances. Haggard was withdrawn from Guam to Espiritu Santo 24 August 1944 and later joined the Western Escort Carrier Group off the Solomons 4 September. During the invasion of Peleliu 15 September Haggard screened carrier groups as they provided bombardment and close fire support for Marines ashore. Aircraft from her group also bombarded Ulithi before the ships returned to Manus' Seeadler Harbor 1 October.
Haggard’s next operation was the long-awaited invasion of the Philippines. She was assigned to an escort carrier group off Samar in support of the invasion of Leyte and the fleet surface actions 23–25 October. A part of Rear Admiral Felix Stump's "Taffy 2" (Task Unit 77.4.2) in the Battle off Samar, Haggard and her group were surprised on the morning of 25 October by heavy units to the northward under Admiral Takeo Kurita heading toward the invasion beaches on Leyte Gulf. As the carriers of "Taffy 3" (TU 77.4.3) retired at top speed, the destroyers, including Hoel (DD-533), Heermann (DD-532), and Johnston, attacked the Japanese at close range, while planes from both carrier groups attacked repeatedly in the hope of diverting the overwhelming Japanese force and allowing the American light units to escape. Haggard took position astern of her carriers to protect them, and took many near misses from the big guns of the Japanese fleet. Although two escort carriers and three destroyers were sunk, the attacks saved the smaller American group and inflicted damage on its attackers. Admiral Kurita decided not to steam into Leyte Gulf and returned to the northward.
Haggard remained with the escort carrier groups through November during air operations in support of the Philippines campaign. After a brief stay at Ulithi 25 November–10 December, the destroyer joined Task Force 38 (TF 38) in support of the Luzon invasion. Then, 10–20 January 1945, Admiral William Halsey's 3d Fleet made a striking incursion into the South China Sea. With Haggard and other destroyers screening, the carrier groups struck Luzon, Formosa, Indochina, and the Chinese mainland destroying shipping and airfields in a memorable demonstration of mobile sea power.
The destroyer returned to Ulithi on 26 January 1945, but soon sailed with Task Group 58.4 (TG 58.4) for strikes against Japan itself. Departing on 9 February, the group, including carriers Randolph (CV-15) and Yorktown (CV-10), hit Tokyo 16–17 February, just before the landings on Iwo Jima. Haggard’s carrier group lent air support to the assault on Iwo Jima until returning to Ulithi 4 March 1945.
With the Pacific campaign then reaching its climax, Haggard sortied again with Vice Admiral Marc Mitscher's 5th Fleet carriers for attacks on Japan. During strikes on Honshū on 18–19 March, Japanese suicide planes struck back at the task force. Haggard's gunners shot down several kamikazes, as carriers Franklin (CV-13) and Enterprise (CV-6) were damaged. After fueling at sea, the fast carrier group, moved toward Okinawa on 22 March, with Haggard acting as picket destroyer ahead of the formation. Shortly before midnight she detected a surfaced submarine with radar, and after the submarine dived attacked with depth charges. Ten minutes later the submarine surfaced on Haggard's port beam. Commander Soballe brought his ship into a hard left turn toward his adversary. With full throttle and guns blazing, Haggard rammed the submarine I-371 amidships, sinking I-371 in three minutes. Haggard’s crew then made emergency repairs to her damaged bow and took her back to Ulithi on 25 March.
Her repairs completed, Haggard sailed from Ulithi on 21 April with battleship Iowa (BB-61) to support the Okinawa operation. Again occupied with screening carriers in the area, Haggard and other fleet units were constantly threatened by suicide planes as the Japanese tried desperately to stop the invasion. While proceeding to picket station 29 April the ship was attacked by a kamikaze making a shallow dive to starboard. Though nearly blown apart by the fury of the destroyer's guns, the aircraft crashed close aboard and penetrated her hull near the waterline. Soon afterward, her bomb exploded in Haggard’s engine room. As water gushed through the gaping hole in the destroyer's side and she began to settle, another suicide plane attacked, but was splashed by anti-aircraft fire. Through fast and skillful damage control the flooding was stopped and Haggard was kept afloat. Wounded were taken by cruiser San Diego (CL-53) and destroyer Walker (DD-517) arrived to tow the stricken ship to Kerama Retto, near Okinawa. The ship arrived 1 May 1945.
Hampered by lack of materials and almost constant air alerts, Haggard’s crew succeeded in repairing her so that she could get underway. She departed Kerama Retto 18 June 1945 and arrived Pearl Harbor via Saipan and Guam 12 July. From there she steamed to San Diego and the Panama Canal Zone, arriving at Norfolk 5 August 1945. Decommissioned 1 November 1945, Haggard was scrapped because of war damage.
- This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. The entry can be found here.