USS Hobson (DD-464)
The USS Hobson off Charleston, South Carolina, 4 March 1942. She is painted in camouflage Measure 12 (Modified). This photograph has been censored to remove radar antennas atop her foremast and Mark 37 gun director.
|Namesake:||Richmond P. Hobson|
|Builder:||Charleston Navy Yard|
|Laid down:||14 November 1940|
|Launched:||8 September 1941|
|Commissioned:||22 January 1942|
|Reclassified:||15 November 1944 as Destroyer Minesweeper (DMS-26)|
|Fate:||Sunk in collision with USS Wasp (CV-18) in the North Atlantic 26 April 1952.|
|Class & 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)|
|Speed:||37.4 knots (69 km/h)|
|Complement:||16 officers, 260 enlisted|
USS Hobson (DD-464/DMS-26), a Gleaves-class destroyer, was the only ship of the United States Navy to be named for Richmond Pearson Hobson, who was awarded the Medal of Honor for actions during the Spanish–American War. He would later in his career attain the rank of Rear Admiral and go on to serve as a congressman from the state of Alabama.
Hobson (as DD-464) was launched at the Charleston Navy Yard, on 8 September 1941; sponsored by Mrs. R. P. Hobson, widow of Rear Admiral Hobson; and commissioned on 22 January 1942, Commander R. N. McFarlane in command.
Following extensive shakedown and training operations in Casco Bay, Maine, the new destroyer joined veteran aircraft carrier Ranger (CV-4) at Norfolk, Virginia, and sailed on 1 July 1942 to escort her to Africa. Carrying a vital cargo of 72 P-40 aircraft, Ranger arrived safely via Trinidad, unloaded the planes and returned with Hobson on 5 August 1942. The destroyer then conducted training exercises off Newport, Rhode Island, and Norfolk until 3 October 1942, when she departed Norfolk for Bermuda on escort duty.
As the Allies prepared to land in North Africa, Hobson joined the Center Attack Group. Her main job was to screen and to protect Ranger while the carrier's mobile air power supported the assault. Departing 25 October 1942 from Bermuda, Hobson's group arrived off Fedhala on 8 November 1942, and as the landings proceeded, provided the indispensable air support. Ranger's planes hit shore batteries, the immobile Vichy French battleship Jean Bart, and later helped turn back the attack by French ships on the transport area. Hobson screened Ranger until she sailed 11 November 1942 for Norfolk, leaving the Allies fully in command of the assault area.
Upon her return to Norfolk on 27 November 1942, the destroyer took part in exercises in Casco Bay, later steaming with a convoy to the Panama Canal Zone in December. The ship again joined Ranger in early 1943 and the anti-submarine patrol group sailed on 8 January 1943 to patrol the western Atlantic. Groups such as Ranger's did much to protect Allied shipping in the Atlantic from U-boats, and contributed to the eventual victory in Europe. Typical of Hobson's versatile performance was her rescue of a group of survivors from SS St. Margaret off Bermuda on 2 March 1943.
In April 1943, Hobson and Ranger arrived at Naval Station Argentia, Newfoundland, and began operations out of that base. The ships provided air cover for convoys and anti-submarine patrol, and in July 1943 had the honor of convoying RMS Queen Mary, carrying Prime Minister Winston Churchill to the Quebec Conference. The veteran destroyer arrived in Boston 27 July 1943 to prepare for new duties.
Hobson sailed with Ranger and other ships 5 August 1943 to join the British Home Fleet at Scapa Flow. Arriving 19 August 1943, she operated under Royal Navy orders in northern waters, helping to provide cover for vital supply convoys to Russia. While at Scapa Flow 21 September 1943, she was inspected by US Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox and Admiral Harold Rainsford Stark. Hobson accompanied Ranger on a daring raid 2–4 October 1943, as carrier aircraft staged a devastating attack on German shipping at Bodø, Norway. Following this operation, the destroyer continued to operate with Home Fleet. She screened HMS Formidable during flight operations in November and after two convoy voyages to Iceland, returned to Boston and U.S. operational control 3 December 1943.
During the first two months of 1944, Hobson trained in Chesapeake Bay and operated with carriers between the East Coast and Bermuda. She joined escort carrier Bogue and other escorts at Norfolk, departing 26 February 1944. These Hunter-killer Groups played a major part in driving German U-boats from the sea lanes, and this cruise was no exception. After patrolling for over two weeks, the destroyers spotted an oil slick, made sonar contact, and commenced depth charge attacks on the afternoon of 13 March 1944. The weather-reporting submarine U-575 was severely damaged and was forced to surface, after which gunfire from Hobson and the other ships sank her. After further anti-submarine sweeps as far east as the Azores, Hobson returned to Boston on 2 April 1944.
For some time the Allies had been building up tremendous strength in England for the eventual invasion of France, and the destroyer sailed on 21 April 1944 to join the vast armada which would transport and protect the soldiers. She spent a month on patrol off Northern Ireland, arriving at Plymouth on 21 May for final preparations for the invasion. Assigned to Rear Admiral Don P. Moon's Utah Beach Assault Group, Hobson arrived off Normandy with other ships of the bombardment group at 01:40 6 June, and blazed away at German shore batteries. During the early hours Corry (DD-463) struck a mine and sank, after which Hobson and Fitch (DD-462) fired at German shore positions while simultaneously rescuing survivors from the water. Hobson continued to lend powerful fire support until returning to Plymouth later that afternoon.
The destroyer was not long out of the fray, however, returning 8 June 1944 to screen the assault area. She also jammed glider bomb radio frequencies 9–11 June and provided channel convoy protection. With the Allies sorely in need of a good port in France, Hobson steamed to Cherbourg 25 June 1944 to assist in the bombardment. She fired at the large batteries, screened the battleships Texas (BB-35) and Arkansas (BB-33); and when the battleships were dangerously straddled, Hobson and Plunkett (DD-431) made covering smoke which allowed all to retire. A few days later, the Allies occupied Cherbourg.
Hobson's next duty took her to the Mediterranean; she arrived Mers-el-Kébir, Algeria, 11 July 1944, and for a month performed convoy duties to and from Taranto, Italy. Joining Rear Admiral Bertram J. Rodgers' Delta Assault Force, she sailed from Taranto on 11 August 1944 for the invasion of Southern France. Early on 15 August 1944, she acted as spotter for the Nevada (BB-36) and her preliminary bombardment; as troops stormed ashore, she provided direct fire support with her own batteries. The destroyer remained in the assault area until the next evening, arriving at Palermo on 17 August 1944 to take up Mediterranean convoy duty.
As the Allied offensive in Europe gained momentum, Hobson steamed as a convoy escort between Algeria, Italy, and France protecting vital supplies and troops. She sailed for the United States on 25 October 1944, and arrived at Charleston via Bermuda on 10 November 1944. There she entered the Naval Shipyard and was converted to destroyer-minesweeper, and reclassified DMS-26 on 15 November 1944. Throughout the month of December, she underwent trials and shakedown training off Charleston and Norfolk.
Hobson sailed on 4 January 1945 via the Panama Canal to join the naval strength deployed against Japan in the Pacific. Arriving Pearl Harbor on 11 February 1945, the ship underwent further mine warfare training before sailing on 24 February 1945 for Eniwetok and a part in the last and greatest of the Pacific amphibious operations, the assault on Okinawa.
Sailing on 19 March 1945 and commanded by Lt. Cmdr. Joseph I. Manning, with the minesweeping group, Hobson arrived at Okinawa well in advance of the assault troops to sweep the offshore areas, and was often attacked by Japanese planes. As the assault began on 1 April 1945, the ship also took up patrol duties and provided night illumination during the first critical days of the campaign. As desperate enemy suicide attacks were repulsed with heavy losses, Hobson was called upon on 13 April 1945 to take up a radar picket station on which Mannert L. Abele (DD-733) had been sunk in a heavy attack the previous night. She continued picket and sweeping duty into 16 April 1945, when another suicide attack approached at about 0900. Hobson shot down one of the attackers, but another crashed into Pringle (DD-477), causing a violent explosion. Only minutes later, another plane was shot down just off Hobson's starboard side, but its bomb exploded on the main deck, starting a major fire. Still firing on kamikazes, the ship restored power, fought fires, and rescued over 130 survivors from the sunken Pringle. After the attack, she anchored at Kerama Retto, returning to Ulithi on 29 April 1945 and Pearl Harbor on 16 May 1945. Hobson then sailed via San Diego and the Panama Canal Zone to Norfolk Naval Shipyard, where she arrived on 16 June 1945 for repairs.
The unconditional surrender of Imperial Japan came with Hobson still undergoing repairs; after completing shakedown training, she spent February 1946 on minesweeping operations out of Yorktown, Virginia. The remainder of the year was spent in training and readiness exercises in the Caribbean and off Norfolk. Until 1950, the ship continued to operate off the East Coast and in Caribbean waters on amphibious and mine warfare operations. In late 1948, she visited Argentia and Halifax, Nova Scotia on minesweeping operations with Canadian ships.
With the outbreak of the Korean War in June 1950, Hobson's schedule of training intensified. She took part in amphibious exercises off North Carolina and in Puerto Rico in 1950–51, and took part in carrier operations as a plane guard and screening ship.
During one such operation on the night of 26 April 1952, Hobson was steaming in formation with carrier Wasp (CV-18) about 600 miles (1000 kilometers) west of the Azores at 38°27'N 41°21'WG. Wasp needed to turn to recover aircraft. The carrier's escort vessels had two options, slow down and let Wasp turn, or cross in front of the carrier. The Hobson's Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Commander W.J. Tierney and the ship's Officer of the Deck, Lieutenant William Hoefer, argued over which option was to be carried out. The Commanding Officer won, and decided to cross the bow. Lt. Hoefer announced on the deck "Prepare for collision!, Prepare for collision!" Hobson crossed the carrier's bow and was promptly struck amidships. The force of the collision rolled the destroyer-minesweeper over, breaking her in two. Rodman (DD-456) and Wasp rescued many survivors, but the ship and 176 of her crew were lost, including Tierney. With no time to don lifejackets, some survivors were left treading water in the Atlantic Ocean for up to four hours.
Aftermath and findings
A court of inquiry performed an investigation into the sinking of the Hobson in an effort to determine the cause of the tragedy.
As a direct result of the sinking of the Hobson, upon recommendation of the court of inquiry, the Allied Navy Signal Book was changed. A special signal was to be put into use for carriers during aircraft operations. The court of inquiry also stated in its findings that, in the future, proposed schedules for aircraft launching and recovery should be provided to the vessels performing plane guard duties.
The court of inquiry also noted that all vessels involved; Wasp, Rodman, and Hobson, were all running darkened ship. However, in the court of inquiry's findings, it is noted that the Wasp (and its forward lookout), were "watching the lights of the Hobson" just prior to the collision. Also of note is that the Rodman's maneuvers and actions prior to the collision are not indicated other than mentioning the need to maintain distance and follow the Wasp through its maneuvers. The Rodman's position in the court document sketches is not indicated. If the other findings are to be considered, then the Rodman would have been approximately 1000 yards abaft and port of the Wasp, placing that vessel directly ahead of the Hobson near the time of the Hobson's final emergency turn to port.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to USS Hobson (DD-464).|
- navsource.org: USS Hobson
- hazegray.org: USS Hobson
- Hobson-Wasp Collision Collection, 1952–1953 MS 245 held by Special Collection & Archives, Nimitz Library at the United States Naval Academy