Tuesday, April 30, 2013

USS Edwards (DD-619)

Figure 1:  Launching of USS Edwards (DD-619) at the Federal Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company shipyard, Kearny, New Jersey, on 19 July 1942. Courtesy of Donald M. McPherson, 1975. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.    

Figure 2:  USS Edwards (DD-619) underway in the Caribbean Sea during her shakedown period, circa November 1942. Official US Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.   

Figure 3:  USS Edwards (DD-619) at the New York Navy Yard, November 1942. Courtesy Gerd Matthes. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 4:  USS Edwards (DD-619) at Port Newark, New Jersey, on 27 October 1942 or 27 October 1945, with a large crowd on board and nearby for Navy Day ceremonies. Photographed by the US Steel Corporation. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.   

Named after Lieutenant Commander Walter A. Edwards (1886-1928), who was awarded the Medal of Honor for heroism while commanding USS Bainbridge (DD-246), the 1,630-ton USS Edwards (DD-619) was a Gleaves class destroyer that was built by the Federal Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company at Kearny, New Jersey, and was commissioned on 18 September 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. Edwards was armed with four 5-inch guns, six 0.5-inch machine guns, ten 21-inch torpedoes, and depth charges.
Following her shakedown cruise in the western Atlantic and the Caribbean, Edwards was sent to the Pacific in November 1942. The ship was present during the late January 1943 air-sea Battle of Rennell Island, the last major naval combat action of the Guadalcanal Campaign in the Solomon Islands. During this battle, the convoy Edwards was escorting was attacked by a swarm of Japanese torpedo bombers. Although most of the planes were driven off by the heavy and accurate anti-aircraft fire coming from the escorting warships, several of the Japanese aircraft managed to get through and hit the heavy cruiser USS Chicago (CA-29) with two torpedoes. Edwards and four other destroyers were detached from the convoy to escort the damaged cruiser. The following day, as the group sailed for the American naval base at Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides, the Japanese air attacks continued. Although the escorting destroyers put up a tough defense, Chicago was hit by four torpedoes and sank. Edwards rescued 224 of the 1,049 survivors. One of the other escorting destroyers, USS La Vallette (DD-448), was also torpedoed. Edwards escorted the damaged La Valette safely to Espiritu Santo before rejoining her convoy.
In April 1943, Edwards was sent to the Aleutian Islands, where she participated in the campaigns to recapture Attu and Kiska. On 12 May, she joined other destroyers in sinking the Japanese submarine I-31 off the island of Attu. After the successful invasion of Kiska, Edwards was sent back to the much warmer climate of the central and western Pacific. In November 1943, Edwards escorted aircraft carriers during air strikes on the massive Japanese base at Rabaul, New Guinea. During one of these air strikes on 11 November, a large formation of Japanese planes attacked the task force Edwards was in. But Edwards and the other escorts drove off or shot down all of the planes before they could do any damage to the ships in the task force. Later that month, Edwards supported the American amphibious assault on Tarawa in the Gilbert Islands.
From March to August 1944, Edwards patrolled in the central Pacific, escorting aircraft carriers during raids on the Marshall Islands, the Caroline Islands, and New Guinea. In October 1944, Edwards steamed to Leyte to participate in the battle for the Philippines. Her subsequent activities included the invasion of Ormoc Bay, where on 7 December 1944 Edwards shot down several Japanese planes during a heavy air raid and then assisted ships that were damaged during the attack. A re-supply convoy to Ormoc Bay met a similar aerial assault, but Edwards assisted in driving off those planes and got the convoy through to its final destination. On 11 December, the destroyer took on board casualties from the destroyer USS Caldwell (DD-605), which was set on fire by a Japanese kamikaze aircraft. Edwards remained in the Philippines for several months, escorting supply convoys to Mindoro, Lingayen Gulf, Polloc Harbor, and Davao Gulf.
On 9 May 1945, Edwards arrived at Morotai, Netherlands East Indies, and participated in the invasion of Borneo. She returned to Subic Bay, the Philippines, on 12 July. The ship then escorted convoys to the Japanese islands of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. After Japan surrendered in mid-August 1945, Edwards returned to the United States on 16 September. On 7 January 1946, Edwards arrived at Charleston, South Carolina, and on 11 April 1946 she was decommissioned and placed in reserve. Edwards spent the next 25 years in the Atlantic Reserve Fleet. The ship was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 1 July 1971 and was sold for scrapping on 25 May 1973. USS Edwards received an impressive 14 battle stars for her service during World War II.