Tuesday, June 22, 2010
USS Fiske (DE-143)
Figure 1: USS Fiske (DE-143) ready for launching, at the Consolidated Steel Corporation shipyard, Orange, Texas, on 14 March 1943. Official US Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 2: USS Fiske (DE-143) underway in New York Harbor, 20 October 1943. Courtesy of Donald M. McPherson, 1967. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 3: USS Fiske (DE-143) broken in two and sinking in the Atlantic Ocean on 2 August 1944, after she was torpedoed by the German submarine U-804. Note men abandoning ship by walking down the side of her capsizing bow section. Official US Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 4: USS Fiske’s (DE-143) bow floating in the North Atlantic on 2 August 1944, after she was broken in two by a torpedo from the German submarine U-804. This photograph was taken from an airplane based on USS Wake Island (CVE-65). Note sonar dome on Fiske's keel. Official US Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 5: USS Fiske’s (DE-143) stern floating in the North Atlantic on 2 August 1944, after she was broken in two by a torpedo from the German submarine U-804. This section had to be sunk by gunfire. This photograph was taken from an airplane based on USS Wake Island (CVE-65). Official US Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 6: Portrait of Rear Admiral Bradley A. Fiske (1854-1942), USN, and the namesake of USS Fiske (DE-143). Oil painting by Orlando Lagman, 1965. Rear Admiral Fiske was one of the Navy's most technically astute officers, fought at the Battle of Manila Bay on board the gunboat USS Petrel, and served on a number of warships in America’s new steel navy. During his very active career, Fiske invented a large number of electrical and mechanical devices, with both Naval and civilian uses, and wrote extensively on technical and professional issues. Courtesy of the US Navy Art Collection, Washington, DC, and the US Naval Historical Center. Click on photograph for larger image.
Named after Rear Admiral Bradley A. Fiske (1854-1942), a famous inventor and author who served in America’s new steel navy, USS Fiske (DE-143) was a 1,200-ton Edsall class destroyer escort that was built by the Consolidated Steel Corporation at Orange, Texas, and was commissioned on 25 August 1943. The ship was approximately 306 feet long and 37 feet wide, had a top speed of 21 knots, and had a crew of 186 officers and men. Fiske was armed with three 3-inch guns, one twin 40-mm gun mount, eight 20-mm cannons, three 21-inch torpedo tubes, one Hedgehog depth-charge projector, eight Mk. 6 depth-charge projectors, and two Mk. 9 depth-charge tracks.
Fiske began her career as a convoy escort when she escorted merchant ships from Norfolk, Virginia, to Coco Solo, Panama Canal Zone, and then back north to New York from 12 to 25 November 1943. On 3 December, Fiske left Norfolk for the first of three convoy assignments that took her from New York to Casablanca, Morocco. On 20 April 1944, during her third trip to North Africa, Fiske’s convoy was attacked by German torpedo bombers in the western Mediterranean, but Fiske was not damaged.
After returning to New York on 21 May 1944, Fiske was ordered to leave New York and join a “hunter-killer” group that was being formed at Norfolk around the escort carrier USS Wake Island (CVE-65). Fiske arrived at Norfolk on 10 June.
A “hunter-killer” group was a small task force that was usually comprised of one escort carrier and several destroyers or destroyer escorts. Their sole purpose was to seek out and destroy German U-boats. The hunter-killer group escorted a convoy and the planes on board the escort carrier would search for any U-boats that were approaching the convoy on the surface. The surface escorts in the hunter-killer group would pursue any submerged U-boats using their sonar and would usually attack the submarines with their depth charges. The goal was to sink the U-boats before they had a chance to reach the convoy. Hunter-killer groups became extremely effective in sinking German submarines, but they also were very dangerous assignments because the U-boats still had the capacity to fight back with their torpedoes, turning the hunters into the hunted.
Fiske and the other ships in her hunter-killer group left Norfolk on 15 June 1944. The task force arrived at Casablanca on 20 July and remained there until 24 July. On 2 August, Fiske and the destroyer escort USS Douglas L. Howard (DE-138) were detached from the hunter-killer group and sent to pursue a German submarine that was transmitting weather information in the central Atlantic. After reaching the patrol area, both ships spotted a surfaced German submarine, U-804. After seeing the American warships, U-804 quickly submerged and tried to leave the area. The two American destroyer escorts began their search patterns for the U-boat using their sonar equipment. Suddenly, a torpedo slammed into Fiske on her starboard side amidships and a tremendous explosion followed. After only ten minutes, Fiske broke in two and had to be abandoned. The bow section of the ship sank, but the stern section somehow remained afloat and had to be sunk by gunfire. Thirty crewmembers were killed in the blast and 50 others were seriously injured. All of the survivors were picked up by the destroyer escort USS Farquhar (DE-139), which had arrived on the scene.
USS Fiske had been in commission for less than a year before it was sunk, but she nevertheless received one battle star for her service in World War II. Even though some of their escorts were sunk by U-boats, the hunter-killer groups were very successful in sinking a large number of German submarines. They were one of the major reasons why the Allies eventually won the Battle of the Atlantic.
Posted by Remo at 8:30 AM