Tuesday, August 10, 2010
USS Hammann (DD-412)
Figure 1: USS Hammann (DD-412) photographed when first completed, circa mid-1939. The ship appears to be under tow, with a canvas cover over her stack, indicating that she may be en route from her builders for delivery to the Navy. Five tires are hung over her side for use as fenders. US Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 2: USS Hammann (DD-412) at the Charleston Navy Yard, South Carolina, in January 1942 just before being transferred to the Pacific. She is painted in Measure 12 (modified) camouflage. US Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 3: Explosion taking place amidships on board USS Lexington (CV-2) during the Battle of the Coral Sea on 8 May 1942. This is probably the explosion at 1727 hrs that took place as the carrier's abandonment was nearing its end. Ships standing by include the cruiser Minneapolis (CA-36) and destroyers Morris (DD-417), Anderson (DD-411) and Hammann (DD-412). Official US Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 4: A heavy explosion on board USS Lexington (CV-2) blows an aircraft over her side on 8 May 1942 during the Battle of the Coral Sea. This is probably the "great explosion" from the detonation of torpedo warheads stowed in the starboard aft side of the hangar that followed an explosion amidships at 1727 hrs. At left is USS Hammann (DD-412), which was backing away with a load of the carrier's survivors on board. Photographed from USS Minneapolis (CA-36). Official US Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 5: Diorama by Norman Bel Geddes depicting USS Hammann (DD-412) alongside USS Yorktown (CV-5) assisting her salvage team during the Battle of Midway, immediately before both ships were torpedoed by Japanese submarine I-168 on 6 June 1942. Official US Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 6: Diorama by Norman Bel Geddes depicting the torpedoing of USS Hammann (DD-412) and USS Yorktown (CV-5) during the Battle of Midway by Japanese submarine I-168, during the afternoon of 6 June 1942. Official US Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 7: USS Hammann (DD-412) sinking with stern high after being torpedoed by Japanese submarine I-168 on the afternoon of 6 June 1942 during the Battle of Midway. Photographed from the starboard forecastle deck of USS Yorktown (CV-5) by Photographer 2nd Class William G. Roy. Angular structure in right foreground is the front of Yorktown's forward starboard 5-inch gun gallery. Note knotted lines hanging down from the carrier's flight deck, remaining from her initial abandonment on 4 June. Official US Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the U.S. National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 8: USS Hammann (DD-412) disappears beneath the waves after being torpedoed by Japanese submarine I-168 in the afternoon of 6 June 1942 during the Battle of Midway. Photographed from the starboard forecastle deck of USS Yorktown (CV-5) by Photographer 2nd Class William G. Roy. Official US Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the U.S. National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 9: Diorama by Norman Bel Geddes depicting the explosion of a torpedo from USS Hammann (DD-412) as she sank alongside USS Yorktown (CV-5) on the afternoon of 6 June 1942 during the Battle of Midway. Both ships were torpedoed by Japanese submarine I-168 while Hammann was assisting with the salvage of Yorktown. USS Vireo (AT-144) is shown at left, coming back to pick up survivors, as destroyers head off to search for the submarine. Official US Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 10: Survivors of USS Hammann (DD-412) are brought ashore at Pearl Harbor from USS Benham (DD-397) a few days after their ship was sunk on 6 June 1942. Note Navy ambulance in left foreground, many onlookers, depth charge racks on Benham's stern and open sights on her after 5-inch gun mount. Official US Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the U.S. National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 11: Commander Arnold E. True, USN, receives the Navy Cross and Distinguished Service Medal for his performance while in command of USS Hammann (DD-412) during the May-June 1942 Battles of the Coral Sea and Midway. Hammann was lost on 6 June 1942, during the Battle of Midway. Presenting the awards is Admiral William F. Halsey. Photograph was taken circa October 1942. Official US Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the U.S. National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.
Named after Charles Hammann, a naval aviator during World War I who won the Medal of Honor, USS Hammann (DD-412) was a 1,620-ton Sims class destroyer that was built by the Federal Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Company at Kearny, New Jersey, and was commissioned on 11 August 1939. The ship was approximately 348 feet long and 36 feet wide, had a top speed of 35 knots, and had a crew of 241 officers and men. Hammann was armed with four 5-inch guns, eight 21-inch torpedo tubes, depth charges, and a number of smaller caliber anti-aircraft guns.
Hammann completed her shakedown cruise off America’s east coast and for two years participated in various naval exercises. Hammann was docked at Iceland when the war began for the United States on 7 December 1941. She quickly was ordered to proceed to Norfolk, Virginia, for fuel and supplies and on 6 January 1942 left for the Pacific via the Panama Canal. The ship arrived at San Francisco, California, on 22 January and then left on 25 February to join Rear Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher’s Task Force 17 that was heading for the South Pacific.
After completing some training exercises off the coast of New Caledonia in early March 1942, Hammann and Task Force 17 left for the Coral Sea. Hammann’s primary duty was to screen and escort the carrier USS Lexington (CV-2). Task Force 17 collided with the Japanese fleet during the Battle of the Coral Sea, which was fought from 7 to 8 May 1942. During the battle, Hammann provided close escort and anti-aircraft support for Lexington and repeatedly fired all of her guns at the oncoming Japanese planes. After fighting off an attack from Japanese torpedo planes, enemy dive bombers arrived on the scene. A bomb hit the ocean barely 200 yards off Hammann’s starboard bow. Unfortunately, Lexington sustained both torpedo and bomb hits and had to be abandoned. After the order was given to “Abandon Ship,” the destroyers Hammann, USS Morris (DD-417), and USS Anderson (DD-411) moved in to pick up survivors. This was done even though Lexington was burning furiously and was going to explode at any minute. And even after several major explosions wracked the doomed carrier, the destroyers continued their rescue efforts. Hammann alone picked up almost 500 men from the water before Lexington finally sank later that evening. Although Lexington was lost during the Battle of the Coral Sea, the US Navy sank one Japanese carrier, seriously damaged another, and forced yet another Japanese carrier to leave the area due to the large number of aircraft she lost during the battle. This was the first battle in naval history fought between aircraft carriers and it was technically a draw. But because of this confrontation, the Japanese Navy was unable to continue its expansion in the South Pacific and Australia was saved from isolation and possible invasion.
After the Battle of the Coral Sea, Hammann returned to Pearl Harbor with the surviving American warships, arriving there on 27 May 1942. The US Navy had broken the Japanese naval code and had obtained information that a major Japanese attack was going to be made on Midway Island in the central Pacific. Admiral Chester Nimitz, Commander-in-Chief of the US Pacific Fleet, ordered three of his remaining aircraft carriers to steam for Midway to intercept the Japanese fleet. It was a huge gamble because if the American carriers were lost, there wouldn’t be much left of the US Pacific fleet to stop the Japanese from going wherever they pleased, including Hawaii. Nimitz, therefore, ordered his carrier task forces to leave Pearl Harbor by 30 May, only three days after most of his ships had returned from the Battle of the Coral Sea.
What followed was the monumental Battle of Midway (4 to 7 June 1942). Hammann was given the task of escorting and screening the carrier USS Yorktown (CV-5). During the battle on 4 June, Hammann assisted Yorktown in fending off numerous Japanese air attacks. All the ships in the task force put up a wall of anti-aircraft fire to prevent the Japanese aircraft from hitting the American carriers. Unfortunately, there were simply too many attacking Japanese aircraft and several of them made it through the American defenses. USS Yorktown was hit by three bombs and two torpedoes. As the carrier burned and listed heavily, the order to “Abandon Ship” was given on board Yorktown. Once again, Hammann was given the task of assisting a sinking carrier. The destroyer moved in and quickly pulled a number of survivors out of the water. One of Hammann’s lifeboats even transferred Yorktown’s commanding officer, Captain Elliott Buckmaster, to another warship.
But Yorktown refused to sink, so efforts were made to salvage the carrier. On 6 June, Hammann came alongside Yorktown to place a repair party on board the carrier. A skeleton crew was already on board Yorktown and they were preparing the ship to be towed to safety. As Hammann was tied next to Yorktown, she provided the stricken carrier with fire hoses, water pressure, and some electrical power for the salvage crew. Good progress was being made to save Yorktown from sinking when, at 1536 hours on 6 June, the Japanese submarine I-168 penetrated Yorktown’s escort screen and fired four torpedoes at Hammann and Yorktown. One of the torpedoes missed, but two of them went under Hammann’s keel and hit Yorktown, while the fourth torpedo hit Hammann directly amidships. Massive explosions rocked both ships, but, while Yorktown remained afloat, Hammann was split completely in two. Debris from the explosions cascaded down on the two ships as both sections of the doomed destroyer drifted away from Yorktown. What was left of Hammann’s crew after the explosion quickly lowered life rafts into the water and tried to get away from the sinking ship. But the two pieces of the destroyer sank in four minutes, taking many of her crew with her. Then, shortly after the stern section of the ship sank, a huge underwater explosion occurred, probably due to one of the destroyer’s torpedoes blowing up. Some of the men who made it off the ship and into the water were killed by this explosion. Out of a crew of 241 officers and men, 81 were lost. Historian Samuel Eliot Morison stated that, “One hero of Hammann was Berlyn M. Kimbrell, who rechecked all the depth charges on ‘safe’ after the torpedo hit, made men on the fantail put on life jackets, shoved them overboard, and was the last to leave. He was killed by the underwater explosion. Commander Arnold E. True, the skipper, was picked up by USS Balch more dead than alive four hours after the explosion. He had been supporting in the water two seamen who were already dead when recovered, and all three were heavily covered with fuel oil.” The amazing Yorktown stubbornly stayed afloat until 7 June, when she finally gave up her struggle, capsized, and sank.
USS Hammann took part in two of the most important naval battles of World War II. But Hammann also showed how dangerous it was to stop in the middle of a battle to try and assist another ship in need. It was a tragic loss, but Midway turned out to be a major victory for the United States.
Posted by Remo at 8:22 AM