Tuesday, January 1, 2013

USS Jeffers (DD-621, DMS-27)

Figure 1: USS Jeffers (DMS-27) underway, 23 July 1951. Official US Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.    

Figure 2:  USS Jeffers (DMS-27), date and place unknown. Courtesy Gene Fanton, PCC USN (Ret.). Click on photograph for larger image. 

Figure 3:  Artist's conception of USS Jeffers (DD-621) as she appeared in World War II by the renowned graphic illustrator John Barrett, with the text written by naval author and historian Robert F. Sumrall. Their company, Navy Yard Associates (http://navyyardassociates.net/) offers prints of most destroyers, destroyer escorts, submarines and aircraft carriers in various configurations during the ship's lifetime. The prints can be customized with ship's patches, your photograph, your biography, etc. If you decide to purchase artwork from them please indicate that you heard about their work from NavSource.  Click on photograph for larger image.

Named after Commodore William N. Jeffers (1824-1883), the 1,630-ton USS Jeffers (DD-621) was a Gleaves class destroyer that was built by the Federal Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Company at Kearny, New Jersey, and was commissioned on 5 November 1942. The ship was approximately 348 feet long and 36 feet wide, had a top speed of 35 knots, and had a crew of 270 officers and men. Jeffers originally was armed with four 5-inch guns, four 40-mm guns, five 20-mm guns, ten 21-inch torpedo tubes, and depth charges, but this armament was altered during World War II.
After completing a shakedown cruise off the coast of Maine, Jeffers escorted a convoy to Morocco in February 1943 and remained there until April. She briefly was sent to patrol off the coast of Newfoundland and then re-crossed the Atlantic in June to join the amphibious forces that were preparing to invade Italy. During the invasion of Sicily in July and early August 1943, Jeffers provided gunfire support and was used as an anti-submarine escort. Jeffers returned to the United States in August and was thereafter employed as a trans-Atlantic convoy escort.
On 6 June 1944, Jeffers participated in the invasion of Normandy, France. She was assigned to “Utah” Beach on D-Day and was used as a fire support ship and as an escort. Jeffers remained off Utah Beach until 29 June, driving off several enemy aircraft and assisting damaged ships. Jeffers then steamed to the Mediterranean to take part in the invasion of southern France from August to September 1944. After this amphibious operation was completed, Jeffers returned to the United States and was converted into a high-speed minesweeper in New York.  In November 1944, she was re-designated DMS-27.
Jeffers was sent to the Pacific in January 1945 and, beginning in late March, was an active participant in the horrific fight to capture Okinawa. Jeffers initially performed minesweeping duties in advance of the amphibious landings. After that, she was assigned to anti-submarine and radar picket patrols, which included the difficult and dangerous task of defending other American warships from Japanese suicide planes. During a major Japanese air attack on 6 April, Jeffers shot down a twin-engine bomber. Six days later, while on a radar picket station, the ship endured yet another heavy enemy air attack. The gunners on board Jeffers shot down at least one Japanese aircraft, but the ship was nearly hit by a kamikaze during the battle.  
Jeffers spent the last few weeks of the Pacific War sweeping mines north of Okinawa. The ship was present in Tokyo Bay on 2 September 1945, when Japan formally surrendered. Throughout the rest of the year, Jeffers took part in mine clearance operations off the coasts of Japan and China.
Returning to the United States in December 1945, Jeffers steamed to the Atlantic coast in early 1946. She served in the western Atlantic and Caribbean for the next nine years and also deployed four times to the Mediterranean Sea between September 1949 and early 1954. Jeffers reverted back to destroyer status in January 1955, again being designated DD-621. She was decommissioned in May of that year. After more than 15 years in the Atlantic Reserve Fleet, Jeffers was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register in July 1971 and was sold for scrapping in May 1973. USS Jeffers received seven battle stars for her service during World War II.