USS Tabberer (DE-418)
|Laid down:||12 January 1944|
|Launched:||18 February 1944|
|Commissioned:||23 May 1944|
|Decommissioned:||24 April 1946|
|In service:||7 April 1951|
|Out of service:||May 1960|
|Struck:||1 July 1972|
|Fate:||sold for scrapping 3 October 1973|
|Length:||306 ft (oa)|
|Beam:||36 ft 10 in (11.23 m)|
|Draught:||13 ft 4 in (4.06 m) (max)|
|Propulsion:||2 boilers, 2 geared turbine engines, 12,000 shp, 2 screws|
|Range:||6,000 nmi @ 12 knots|
|Complement:||14 officers, 201 enlisted|
|Armament:||2-5"/38, 4 (2x2) 40 mm AA, 10-20 mm AA, 3-21" TT, 1 Hedgehog, 8 DCT's, 2 DC tracks|
The USS Tabberer (DE-418) was a John C. Butler-class destroyer escort acquired by the U.S. Navy during World War II. The primary purpose of the destroyer escort was to escort and protect ships in convoy, in addition to other tasks as assigned, such as patrol or radar picket. Post-war, after active participation in the Pacific War, her crew returned home with four battle stars and a Navy Unit Commendation to their credit.
She was named in honor of lieutenant (junior grade) Charles Arthur Tabberer who was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, posthumously, for his heroic efforts in helping to cause the Japanese 26th Air Flotilla—which had opposed the American Guadalcanal invasion force—to turn back.
The Tabberer (DE-418) was laid down at Houston, Texas, on 12 January 1944 by the Brown Shipbuilding Co.; launched on 18 February 1944, sponsored by Mrs. Mary M. Tabberer, and commissioned on 23 May 1944, Lt. Comdr. Henry Lee Plage, USNR, in command.
In December 1944, the Tabberer lost her mast and radio antennas riding out Typhoon Cobra, which killed 790 sailors (more than were lost at the battles of Midway and Coral Sea combined). Though damaged and unable to radio for help, she was first on the scene to recover 55 of only 93 total rescued from three destroyers which capsized in the heavy seas. Captain Henry Lee Plage earned the Legion of Merit, while the entire crew earned the Navy's Unit Commendation Ribbon.
World War II
On 27 June, the Tabberer headed toward Bermuda for shakedown training. At the end of a fortnight's post-shakedown availability at the Boston Navy Yard, she got underway on 16 August to escort USS Severn to the Hawaiian Islands. The two ships transited the Panama Canal late that month and reached Pearl Harbor on 7 September. For over a month, the destroyer escort conducted underway training in the waters surrounding the islands. Her exercises included antisubmarine warfare drills and gunfire practice. She also screened carriers USS Coral Sea, USS Ranger, and USS Saratoga during night flying qualifications and amphibious support training.
On 16 October, the Tabberer sortied from Pearl Harbor with Task Group (TG) 12.7, a hunter-killer group built around USS Anzio, formerly USS Coral Sea. Upon arrival at Eniwetok on the 23d, the ships joined Admiral Halsey's U.S. 3rd Fleet and, on 27 October, stood out of Eniwetok as task group TG 30.7. After stopping at Ulithi during the first three days of November, the task group headed for the 3d Fleet fueling group's operating area to conduct antisubmarine sweeps.
On 18 November, task group TG 30.7 registered its first kill when the Tabberer's sister-ship Lawrence C. Taylor sent Japanese submarine I-41 to the bottom after a coordinated depth charge attack with USS Melvin R. Nawman. Following a replenishment period at Ulithi, the Tabberer sortied with TG 30.7 on 9 December to resume antisubmarine sweeps of the Philippine Sea during Task Force 38's Luzon strikes in support of the Mindoro landings.
On 17 December, as the Tabberer was steaming in company with the 3d Fleet fueling group to the east of the Philippine Islands, rising wind and a choppy sea forced her to break off preparations to take on fuel. The barometer dropped precipitously as the weather grew worse. By evening, the little warship was fighting a full typhoon, Typhoon Cobra. During the night, the Tabberer lost steerageway and could not fight her way out of the deep troughs. She frequently took rolls up to 60 degrees and, on several occasions, approached an angle of 72 degrees from the vertical.
The high winds and seas continued to batter her on the 18th. By 1830, her mast and radio antennas were gone. At 2130, a signalman trying to rig an emergency antenna sounded the "man overboard" alarm. Tabberer rushed to the rescue. Once on board, the sailor reported that he was from USS Hull and that his ship had gone down about noon that day. Thus, she was the first ship of the U.S. 3rd Fleet to learn of the tragedy of 18 December 1944.
Unable to call for help, she immediately embarked upon a search for other survivors. Her rescue efforts continued through the night, all day on the 19th, and into the 20th. In all, she saved 55 officers and men both from the Hull and Spence. Later, the Tabberer was relieved by other units of the fleet, and they rescued an additional 36 men, a few of whom belonged to the crew of the typhoon's third victim Monaghan. Outstanding rescue efforts during the storm won several members of the Tabberer's crew Navy and Marine Corps medals, Lt. Comdr. Plage, the Legion of Merit, and the ship, the Navy Unit Commendation. On 29 December, Adm. Halsey commended the crew when he visited the ship and awarded Lt. Comdr. Plage the Legion of Merit for his "courageous leadership and excellent seamanship"
On 21 December, the destroyer escort reentered Ulithi lagoon before heading back to Hawaii. She stopped at Eniwetok early in January 1945 and reached Oahu soon thereafter. Following a short availability, she stood out of Pearl Harbor on 29 January. She steamed via Eniwetok and Saipan to screen Task Force TF 38 during the air strikes in support of the U.S. Marines who stormed ashore at Iwo Jima on 19 February. The Tabberer remained in the Volcano Islands through the first week of March, screening the carriers from enemy submarines and aircraft. Though the task force was subjected to several air attacks and carriers suffered kamikaze and bomb hits, the Tabberer sustained no damage. On 7 March, she headed for the Philippines and entered San Pedro Bay Leyte, on the 12th.
From late March to early May, the destroyer escort cruised with various task groups of TF 38 during the invasion of Okinawa. Once again, she protected the American carriers from Japanese submarines and aircraft while their planes struck enemy positions. Although she operated continuously for 52 days and sighted many unidentified planes, the ship never came under attack. Frequently, she rejoined the Anzio hunter/killer group for night antisubmarine sweeps.
The Tabberer put into Apra Harbor, Guam, on 11 May to replenish and make repairs. On the 23d, she departed again and rejoined Anzio for further antisubmarine operations on the sea lanes between Okinawa and the Marianas. On 31 May, Anzio planes scored a kill, and the Tabberer assisted USS Oliver Mitchell in recovering evidence of their success. Following a visit, lasting just over a fortnight, to San Pedro Bay, Leyte, she resumed antisubmarine sweeps with the Anzio task group. For the remainder of the war, she hunted Japanese submarines and protected the logistics group during the 3d Fleet's final air assault on the Japanese home islands. During the final month of the war, she destroyed mines and rescued four downed Anzio air crewmen.
After the cessation of hostilities on 15 August 1945, the Tabberer remained in the Far East to support the occupation forces. She escorted ships between Okinawa; Jinsen, Korea, and Tientsin and Taku, China. She also destroyed mines in the Yellow Sea. On 22 December, the little warship departed Tsingtao, China, to return to the United States. Along the way, she made stops at Okinawa, Eniwetok, and Pearl Harbor before entering San Francisco, California, on 15 January 1946. In April, she shifted to San Diego, California, where she was placed out of commission, in reserve, on 24 April 1946.
Recommissioned for East Coast operations
The Tabberer was recommissioned at San Diego on 7 April 1951, Lt. Comdr. Willard J. McNulty in command. In June, she changed home ports from San Diego to Newport, Rhode Island, and in August reported for duty with the Atlantic Fleet. For the next nine years, she operated along the Atlantic seaboard from Key West, Florida, to Halifax, Nova Scotia. Frequently, she operated in the Caribbean area, often near Guantánamo Bay and Vieques Island. The Tabberer participated in a variety of exercises and, on several occasions, embarked U.S. Naval Academy and NROTC midshipmen for their summer cruises. She left the western Atlantic only once during this period—in the fall of 1957—for a two-month deployment to the Mediterranean. After that, she resumed her operations along the east coast.
On 19 April 1959, the destroyer escort put into port for the last time. At Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, she began preparations for deactivation. The Tabberer was placed out of commission, in reserve, in May 1960 and was berthed at Philadelphia for the remainder of her career. On 1 August 1972, her name was struck from the Navy List and, on 3 October 1973, she was sold for scrapping to Mr. David Hahn of Key West, Florida.
Because of wartime censors, the story was largely muted during the war, with an emphasis on the rescue, which made national headlines. More recently, two major books have been published on the incident which highlight the story of riding out the typhoon and rescue operation. The 2007 book "Halsey's Typhoon: The True Story of a Fighting Admiral, an Epic Storm, and an Untold Rescue" by Bob Drury & Tom Clavin devotes a major portion to the rescue operation and how the ship was presented awards by Admiral Halsey himself. The account of Commander Plage is also highlighted in the recent book "Sea Cobra: Admiral Halsey's Task Force and the Great Pacific Typhoon" by Buckner F. Melton Jr. A 2007 History Channel documentary also highlighted the DE's role, and that an official court of inquiry recommended that Halsey be relieved of his duties after a second typhoon incident.
The Tabberer earned four battle stars and a Navy Unit Commendation for service in World War II.
- Melton, Buckner F., Jr. Sea Cobra: Admiral Halsey's Task Force and the Great Pacific Typhoon. Guilford, Conn.: Lyons Press, 2007.
- Drury, Bob and Tom Clavin. Halsey's Typhoon: The True Story of a Fighting Admiral, an Epic Storm, and an Untold Rescue. Grove/Atlantic, Inc., 2007. (ISBN 0871139480; ISBN 978-0-87113-948-1).
- Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships
- NavSource Online: Destroyer Escort Photo Archive - USS Tabberer (DE-418)