USS Harry F. Bauer

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USS Harry F. Bauer (DM-26) underway during the 1950s
History
United States
Name: Harry F. Bauer
Namesake: Harry F. Bauer
Builder: Bath Iron Works
Launched: 9 July 1944
Commissioned: 22 September 1944
Decommissioned: 12 March 1956
Struck: 15 August 1971
Fate: sold for scrap, 1 June 1974
General characteristics
Class and type: Robert H. Smith-class destroyer
Displacement: 2,200 tons
Length: 376 ft 6 in (114.76 m)
Beam: 40 ft 10 in (12.45 m)
Draft: 18 ft 10 in (5.74 m)
Speed: 34 knots (63 km/h; 39 mph)
Complement: 363 officers and enlisted
Armament:

USS Harry F. Bauer (DD-738/DM-26/MMD-26) was a Robert H. Smith-class destroyer minelayer in the United States Navy. She was named for Lieutenant Commander Harry F. Bauer (1904–1942).

Harry F. Bauer was launched as destroyer DD-738 by Bath Iron Works, Bath, Maine, 9 July 1944; sponsored by Mrs. Gladys Boyd Bauer, widow of Lt. Comdr. Bauer; converted to minelayer DM-26 and commissioned on 22 September 1944, Commander Richard Claggett Williams, Jr., in command. The executive officer was Robert M. Morgenthau.

Service history[edit]

Following shakedown training out of Bermuda and minelayer training off Norfolk, Virginia, Harry F. Bauer sailed on 28 November 1944 via the Panama Canal arriving at San Diego, California on 12 December. After additional training both there and at Pearl Harbor she departed Hawaii on 27 January 1945 as a unit of Transport Group Baker for the invasion of Iwo Jima, next stop in the island campaign toward Japan. As Vice Admiral Richmond K. Turner's invasion troops stormed ashore on 19 February, Harry F. Bauer acted as a picket vessel and carried out an antisubmarine patrol to protect the transports. As the campaign developed, the ship also conducted shore bombardment, destroying several gun emplacements, tanks, and supply dumps. She proceeded to Ulithi on 8 March to prepare for the last and largest of the Pacific island operations, the Battle of Okinawa.

Harry F. Bauer in 1944.

Soon after arrival, (25 March ’45) a wave of Japanese aircraft pounded the ship; she survived, shooting down three planes (29 March ’45). A torpedo bomber’s warhead crashed through the bow, and blew right through the other side; the warhead’s fuse failed to detonate (6 April ‘45). The ship was attacked again by another squadron of Japanese planes, resulting in splashing three more craft; assisting in two others. (20 April ’45) The ship warded off another series of aerial attacks, shooting down one more plane. (27 April ’45) Another wave of kamikaze suicide planes attacked the Bauer. In a suicide dive, succumbing to intense fire, a kamikaze crashed onto the stern boat deck, slicing through a row of depth charges on the fantail that were cast into the sea. By another miracle, none exploded. Two more enemy aircraft were shot down that day. (11 May ’45) A pack of submarines began their assault, resulting in the Bauer’s assist in the destruction of one of the subs. (27 May ’45) In early June, the fleet was in high alert for Typhoon Connie bound for Okinawa (5 June ’45). The typhoon veered away, instead blasting Halsey’s Third Fleet with sixty foot seas and 150 knot winds. This was just the calm before the real storm. The next day the Japanese kamikazes counter-attacked. A large squadron of enemy planes struck. Pummeled and bruised, the Bauer gallantly fought back, knocking down three more suicide planes. One of the suicide dive bombers glanced off the ship’s superstructure. The ship was beaten up, but still afloat and under steam. Apparently, during the battle one of the ship’s below-waterline amidships fuel tanks had been ruptured. The crew believed they must have been hit by shrapnel; two compartments were flooded. Unbeknownst to the officers and their shipmates, the last dive bomber had penetrated with an unexploded bomb in the fuel tank.[1]

For the Bauer’s gallant action, she received a Presidential Citation: “for extraordinary heroism in action” to maintain a “seaworthy, fighting ship, complemented by skilled and courageous officers and men… achieving a notable record of gallantry in combat, attesting the teamwork of her entire company and enhancing the finest traditions of the United States Naval Service.” [2]

The following week the Bauer escorted her destroyer sister-ship, the USS J. William Ditter back to safety in the nearby Kerama Retto islands. (about 20 miles south west of Okinawa). There the Bauer had her damage surveyed. An Associated Press article [3] describes the event:

Ship Held Unexploded Bomb 17 Days after Battle[edit]

The destroyer minelayer Harry F. Bauer which shot down 13 Kamikaze planes in action off Okinawa and learning that for 17 days since the battle the [crew] had been literally walking with death underfoot. Three threads on a bomb fuse probably was all that prevented the [crew] from becoming names on the Navy Department casualty lists.

Bomb in Fuel Tank

Unnoticed during the heat of battle, a 550-pound aerial bomb from a kamikaze hit the ship. The kamikaze released the bomb just moments before crashing into the ship amidships with a glancing blow. The bomb pierced the hull and fell into a fuel tank without exploding. During the battle, the destroyer was also pierced by an aerial torpedo, which entered the port bow and passed through the starboard bow, also without exploding. The “tail” of the “fish” was left hanging inside the ship, and discovered when the ship was surveyed for repairs. The unexploded bomb was discovered when the flooded fuel tanks of the destroyer were emptied. The hole in the tank had been believed caused by shrapnel.

3 Threads From Death

No one with sufficient experience in defusing bombs was aboard the destroyer, and a hurry call was sent for an air ordnance officer aboard one of Halsey's Third Fleet carriers. The Lieutenant, who is over six feet tall, removed the bomb on June 30th. He worked alone for four hours in the bottom of the tank, removing the tail and nose fuses of the bomb and fitting a hoist to it so it could be lifted from the ship. Later examination of the fuses belied the ordnance officer's statement that his job was “just routine.” It was found that three threads in each fuse were all that prevented the firing pins from dropping on the charges. Apparently the kamikaze pilot released the bomb just a moment too late to arm the bomb. Had the arming propeller turned another second, the bomb would have become armed, dropping the firing pins on the charges. Had the pins dropped, the bomb would have exploded and probably caused the loss of the destroyer and all its crew, other ordnance officers said.

After repairs at Leyte, Harry F. Bauer arrived at Okinawa on 15 August, the day of the Japanese surrender. With the prospect of massive minesweeping in Japanese waters incident to the occupation, she sailed 20 August for the East China Sea, where she engaged in minesweeping operations until arriving Sasebo 28 October. Sailing for the United States 1 December she arrived San Diego 22 December.

Post World War II and fate[edit]

Sailing to Norfolk 8 January 1946, Harry F. Bauer began operations with the Atlantic Fleet. These consisted of antisubmarine cruises in the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, tactical training and fleet maneuvers. During October–November 1948 she took part in 2nd Fleet exercises in the Atlantic, and in June–July 1949 participated in a Naval Academy training cruise with USS Missouri.

In 1950 Harry F. Bauer made her first cruise to the Mediterranean Sea, departing 9 September and returning to Charleston, South Carolina 1 February 1951. During the years that followed she continued with tactical operations, that took her to the Caribbean and Northern Europe. She ended active steaming in September 1955 and decommissioned 12 March 1956 at Charleston, entering the Atlantic Reserve Fleet, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Harry F. Bauer was struck from the Naval Vessel Register on 15 August 1971 and sold for scrap on 1 June 1974.

Harry F. Bauer received a Presidential Unit Citation for the Okinawan campaign and four battle stars for World War II service.

As of 2009, no other ship has been named Harry F. Bauer.

References[edit]

This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. The entry can be found here.

External links[edit]