Tuesday, May 13, 2008
USS Tucker (DD-374)
Figure 1: USS Tucker (DD-374) completion photograph, taken off the Norfolk Navy Yard, Portsmouth, Virginia, 2 March 1937. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 2: USS Tucker (DD-374) completion photograph, taken off the Norfolk Navy Yard, Portsmouth, Virginia, 2 March 1937. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 3: USS Tucker underway on 28 April 1938. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 4: USS Tucker off the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, 11 March 1942. Photograph from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the U.S. National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 5: USS Tucker "jackknifed" amidships and under tow by USS YP-346 in the Bruat Channel, Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides, at about 2330 Hrs. GCT, 3 August 1942. Tucker had struck a mine in the area at about 2145 Hrs. GCT on that day, breaking her keel. She sank on 4 August. Photographed from a plane based on USS Curtiss (AV-4). U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 6: USS Tucker "jackknifed" amidships and under tow toward the northwest corner of Malo Island at about 0315 Hrs. GCT on 4 August 1942. She is being towed by a motor launch from the Naval Air Station, Segond Channel, Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides, in a final attempt to beach her before she sank. USS Breese (DM-18) is standing by, in the foreground. Tucker had struck a mine in the area at about 2145 Hrs. GCT on 3 August 1942, breaking her keel. She sank on 4 August. Photographed from a plane based on USS Curtiss (AV-4). U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 7: USS Tucker sunk near Malo Island, Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides, on 5 August 1942. She struck a mine after entering an unannounced defensive minefield during the evening of 3 August and sank early the following morning. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center. Click on photograph for larger image.
Named after Captain Samuel Tucker, an American naval hero during the Revolutionary War, the 1,500-ton USS Tucker (DD-374) was a Mahan class destroyer that was built at the Norfolk Navy Yard in Virginia. The ship was commissioned on 23 July 1936 and was approximately 341 feet long and 34 feet wide, had a top speed of 36.5 knots and carried a crew of 158 officers and men. Tucker was armed with five 5-inch guns, 12 21-inch torpedo tubes and depth charges.
Following her shakedown cruise in the western Atlantic, Tucker was assigned to the destroyer forces of the US Battle Fleet based at San Diego, California. She remained in the Pacific (cruising between the West Coast and the Hawaiian Islands) until 1940, except for a brief period of time when Tucker took part in Fleet Problem XX, a naval exercise that was held in the Caribbean and was personally observed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on board the USS Houston (CA-30). With tensions rising between the United States and Japan, Tucker was sent from Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, to Auckland, New Zealand, arriving there on 17 March 1941 on a good will visit that was designed to “show the flag” in the South Pacific. Tucker returned to Pearl Harbor after her trip to New Zealand and took part in some fleet exercises before returning to her homeport in San Diego on 19 September 1941. After a brief stay there, the ship was sent back to Pearl Harbor where she began patrolling the waters around the Hawaiian Islands.
On 7 December 1941, Tucker was moored at berth X-8, East Loch, Pearl Harbor, in the center of a group of five destroyers and the tender USS Whitney (AD-4). Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class W.E. Bowe was on board Tucker and quickly manned a machine gun on the ship’s after superstructure as soon as he saw the Japanese planes attacking the surrounding warships. He began firing his machine gun even before the alarm for general quarters was sounded. Approximately two minutes later, the ship’s after 5-inch guns began firing as well, joining the antiaircraft gunfire that was coming from the other destroyers that surrounded Tucker. Soon the five destroyers put up a curtain of lead that brought down two of the attacking Japanese aircraft. Fortunately, Tucker was not damaged during the attack.
After the attack, Tucker patrolled the waters outside of Pearl Harbor. She went on to spend the next five months escorting convoys between the West Coast and Hawaii. Tucker then was sent to the South Pacific. She escorted the USS Wright (AV-1) to Tutuila, American Samoa, and the pair then sailed on to Suva in the Fiji Islands. The two ships next went to Noumea, New Caledonia, and then to Sydney, Australia, arriving there on 27 April 1942. After that, Tucker made port visits to Melbourne, Perth and Fremantle before returning to Sydney. Tucker escorted Wright once again to Suva, arriving there on 3 June 1942. The pair operated out of that base until 10 July, when Tucker relieved the USS Boise (CL-47) for convoy escort duties. On 30 July, Tucker arrived at Auckland and was sent back to the Fiji Islands the next day.
After arriving back at Suva, Tucker received orders to escort the freighter SS Nira Luckenbach to Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides. On 1 August 1942, the two ships departed Suva. Because of a communications failure, the two ships were not informed that they were heading directly for an American defensive minefield that was laid on 2 August near Espiritu Santo. As a result, at 2145 on 3 August Tucker hit a mine that almost immediately broke the destroyer’s back. Six men were killed in the explosion and the Nira Luckenbach quickly sent over lifeboats to rescue the crew of the stricken destroyer. The next morning, 4 August, the YP-346 and the USS Breese (DMS-18) arrived on the scene and tried to tow the Tucker into shallower water to make salvage operations easier. But as soon as the rescue ships tried to take the Tucker into tow, what was left of the destroyer broke in two, jack-knifed, and sank.
The destruction of the Tucker shows that ships can be lost in wartime by sheer accident. This tragic event not only cost the lives of six men, but it also prevented a badly needed US destroyer from taking part in the upcoming naval battle for Guadalcanal. The Japanese had just scored a victory without having to lift a finger, a bitter lesson for the US Navy.
Posted by Remo at 8:23 AM