USS Mitchell

Last updated

USS Mitchell (DE-43) underway in Puget Sound on 1 December 1943.jpg
History
US flag 48 stars.svgUnited States
NameUSS Mitchell
Laid down12 January 1943, as BDE-43 for the United Kingdom
Launched1 August 1943
Commissioned17 November 1943
Decommissioned29 December 1945
RenamedUSS Mitchell, 16 June 1943
Stricken19 December 1945
Honors and
awards
9 battle stars (World War II)
FateSold for scrapping, 11 December 1946
General characteristics
Type Evarts-class destroyer escort
Displacement
  • 1,140 long tons (1,158 t) standard
  • 1,430 long tons (1,453 t) full
Length
  • 289 ft 5 in (88.21 m) o/a
  • 283 ft 6 in (86.41 m) w/l
Beam35 ft 2 in (10.72 m)
Draft11 ft (3.4 m) (max)
Propulsion
Speed19 knots (35 km/h; 22 mph)
Range4,150 nmi (7,690 km)
Complement15 officers and 183 enlisted
Armament

USS Mitchell (DE-43) was an Evarts-class destroyer escort constructed for the United States Navy during World War II. She was sent off into the Pacific Ocean to protect convoys and other ships from Japanese submarines and fighter aircraft. She performed escort and anti-submarine operations in dangerous battle areas and sailed home proudly displaying nine battle stars, a very high number for a ship of her type.

Contents

She was originally laid down as BDE-43 on 12 January 1943 by the Puget Sound Navy Yard for transfer to Great Britain upon completion. However, she was ordered retained for service in the U.S. Navy. She was reclassified DE-43 on 16 June; named Mitchell on 23 June; launched on 1 August 1943; sponsored by Mrs. Albert E. Mitchell, widow of Ensign Mitchell; and commissioned on 17 November 1943, Lieutenant Commander M. S. Erdahl in command. On 13 May 1944, Lieutenant Commander James K. Carpenter assumed command; he was captain until decommissioning on 29 December 1945.

Namesake

Albert Edward Mitchell was born on 25 December 1914 in Seattle, Washington. He attended the University of Washington and then enlisted in the Navy as a seaman second class on 20 December 1940 for flight training at Seattle and Corpus Christi, where he was designated a naval aviator on 30 September 1941 and commissioned an Ensign. While assigned to Patrol Squadron 42, he was killed in action in June 1942 somewhere over Unimak Pass in the Aleutian Islands while battling invading Japanese forces in what would be known as the Battle of Dutch Harbor. He was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for "extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight." In his commendation, it was stated that "although he himself was killed when his plane crashed, he made possible the capture of a Mitsubishi fighter which provided new and invaluable information on this type of enemy aircraft." His remains and aircraft have never been recovered.

World War II Pacific Theatre Operations

After shakedown and training off San Diego, California, Mitchell participated in the "Battle of San Clemente", a simulated invasion San Clemente Island off the coast of Los Angeles, California. The simulation was designed to be a "dress rehearsal" for the invasion of the Marshall Islands. Mitchell then sailed on 2 February 1944 as part of the escort of a convoy of eight liberty ships sailing to Hawaii. Arriving Pearl Harbor on 10 February, Mitchell spent the next four months operating with American submarines in Task Force 16, Service Force Pacific Fleet.

Supporting the Battle of Guam

On 28 July 1944, Mitchell escorted an oiler to Agat Bay, Guam, to aid naval forces in the Battle of Guam (1944). The crew looked on as cruisers and destroyers shelled the beach and ridge, while dive bombers attacked the Orote Peninsula. The American forces would go on to recapture the island, and Mitchell was awarded its first battlestar for its support role.

Crossing the Line Ceremony

August 1944 Mitchell was assigned to the Third Fleet Logistics Group as part of a screen for oilers and escort carriers. On 30 August 1944, Mitchell made its first of many crossings of the Equator. When this happens, a line-crossing ceremony is held on deck to honor both the crew and "Neptunus Rex", also known as King Neptune, ancient Roman god of the sea. Prior to crossing the Equator, a sailor is colloquially referred to as a "pollywog"; during this ceremony, all polliwogs are "promoted" to shellbacks, and formally welcomed into Neptune's realm.

First Visit to Ulithi Atoll

In November 1944, Mitchell made its first of many visits to the naval base at Ulithi Atoll, located in the Caroline Islands. At the time, Ulithi served as the forward operating base for the US Navy Pacific Operations; its harbor could fit up to 700 ships at once, a capacity that surpasses both Pearl Harbor and Majuro. Repair ships, distilling ships, ice cream barges, and floating dry docks filled the central harbor. Mog Mog island, in the north of the atoll, served as a recreation center for the men on the island; baseball fields, an outdoor theater, a 500-seat chapel, and other facilities were constructed. After the capture of Leyte Gulf in October 1944, the Navy began moving its forward operations base to the Philippines and Ulithi was slowly abandoned by the Navy and soon forgotten. Although few civilians ever heard of Ulithi or the vital role it played, for approximately 7 months Ulithi served as the busiest anchorage in the world and was pivotal in the American victory in the Pacifc.

Collision With a Whale

USS Mitchell entering dry dock, circa 1944. USS Mitchell (DE-43) entering a dry dock, circa in 1944.jpg
USS Mitchell entering dry dock, circa 1944.

On 3 December 1944 Mitchell struck a whale while operating northeast of Luzon, screening ships and sinking mines. The collision seriously damaged her underwater sound equipment and forced her to retire back to Ulithi for repairs in floating drydock auxiliary repair dock USS ARD-15. Such an accident was common for Navy ships during World War 2, in both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.

Supporting Iwo Jima and Okinawa Operations

Mitchell was soon back in action; on 21 February 1945 her deck log reported: "Steaming toward rendezvous point southeast of Iwo Jima." As U.S. Marines landed on Okinawa under cover of naval gunfire, Mitchell performed escort and patrol missions.

Invasion of Borneo

A few weeks later she was a screening vessel in Rear Admiral W. D. Sample's Task Group 78.4 which attacked and occupied Balikpapan, Borneo, on 6 July 1945.

End-of-War Operations

As part of Task Group 30.8, she then helped to protect convoys supplying the occupation of Japan during the months of August and September 1945. On 5 September Mitchell briefly joined American ships in Tokyo Harbor. She weighed anchor on the 18th for the United States via Eniwetok and Pearl Harbor, arriving San Francisco on 8 October.

Post-War Inactivation and Decommissioning

Her last time underway as a commissioned naval vessel was on 6 November when she moved to Kaiser's Victory Yard, Richmond, California. Mitchell was decommissioned there and struck from the Navy List on 29 December 1945. She was sold for scrapping and delivered to the purchaser, Puget Sound Navigation Co., Seattle, Washington, on 11 December 1946.

Honors and awards

Mitchell received nine battle stars for World War II service.

American Campaign Medal ribbon.svg American Campaign Medal
Silver-service-star-3d.svg
Bronze-service-star-3d-vector.svg
Bronze-service-star-3d-vector.svg
Bronze-service-star-3d-vector.svg
Bronze-service-star-3d-vector.svg
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal ribbon.svg
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal (with nine service stars)
World War II Victory Medal ribbon.svg World War II Victory Medal

See also

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