Uss shaw: a ship too tough to die!

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By any account, the plucky destroyer whose explosive photo became the dramtic icon of the Pearl Harbor attack was blessed with more than nine lives


The first destroyer USS Shaw (DD-68) was named, as was her successor, to honor Capt. John Shaw, an early American Naval hero. Shaw was born in Ireland in 1773. He first established his name in American Naval history in the undeclared war with France in 1800. In eight months, as commanding officer of the Enterprise, Shaw captured six privateers and recaptured eleven American merchantmen. He died in 1823. It is somewhat symbolic that the second Shaw would, during WWII, be assigned to the task force grouped around the carrier USS Enterprise whose predecessor was captained, 142-years earlier, by John Shaw.

The first Shaw was commissioned in 1917 as a Sampson-class destroyer and saw active duty during WWI. She wasn't a true "flush-deck four-piper" destroyer of pre-WWII fame, but rather had the broken-deck arrangement of the "thousand tonners" and other early destroyers.

In October 1918, the Shaw, commanded at the time by Cmdr. W.A. Glassford, had her bow sheared off by the liner Aquitania. The liner sliced into the destroyer, whose steering gear had jammed, just forward of the bridge. Twelve bluejackets were killed.

Destroyers of WWI fought about 250 anti-submarine actions, though the vessels were by no means confined to those operations. When operating with fleets, they also scouted, screened, and laid smoke. It was American destroyers which screened the five coal-burning American dreadnoughts that crossed the Atlantic in December 1917 to reinforce the British Grand Fleet.

The first Shaw was struck from the Navy list on 25 March 1926 and transferred to the Coast Guard the same day. She was returned to the Navy by the Coast Guard and reinstated on the Navy list effective 30 June 1933. Her name was canceled on 1 November 1933, for assignment to a new destroyer, and the ship was struck again on 5 July 1934. The Shaw was sold for scrapping to Michael Flynn, Inc., Brooklyn, New York, on 22 August 1934.

Future admiral stars were destined for Shaw crew member Lt. C.H. ("Sock") McMorris and Shaw skipper L/Cmdr. W.F. "Bull" Halsey, Jr.


The second destroyer Shaw (DD-373) had her keel laid down on 1 October 1934; almost a year after the previous Shaw (DD-68) had her name canceled from the Navy records. The keel was laid down at the United States Navy Yard, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She was launched on Navy Day, 28 October 1935, and was sponsored by Miss Dorothy L. Tinker. The Shaw was commissioned into the US Navy on 18 September 1936. Her commanding officer was L/Cmdr. E.A. Mitchell, USN.

The Shaw belonged to the Mahanclass of destroyers (ship numbers 364 to 379). The building program for these destroyers began in 1934 during the Depression (providing needed employment) and included a total of 16 ships. These ships, all but one of which were commissioned in 1936 (the 16th in 1937), were to be built around the most modern machinery available. Their General Electric turbines would turn at a much higher speed than in previous ships. The Shaw's high-pressure turbine speed would be 5850 revolutions per minute (earlier destroyers had 3460 rpm). Double reduction gears and 700-degree boilers with economizers rounded out the engineering plant. These Mahanclass destroyers were said to have "the most rugged and reliable of any main drive installation ever installed in the Navy up to that time."

The Shaw had a displacement of 1450-tons (the weight of the amount of water the ship displaced) and was 341-ft 4-in in length. Her beam was 34-ft 8-in (the width of the ship at its widest possible point). Her propeller shaft horsepower was 48,000 which gave the Shaw a rated "war steaming" speed (in 1940) of 35-kts. The destroyer's sailing radius was 6790 nautical miles at 15.2-kts (or 2880-mi at 25.5-kts). She had a draft of 17-ft (the depth to which the ship sinks into the water). The Shaw's approximate complement was 250 officers and men.

The Shaw's original armament consisted of five 5-in dual-purpose 38-cal guns; four .50-cal AA (anti-aircraft) machine guns; twelve 21-in torpedo tubes (three mounts of four tubes each); and two depth charge stem tracks. By mid-war, the Shaw had been overhauled, refitted, and reconfigured several times. In 1943, her armament consisted of four 5-in/38-cal guns; one twin 40mm gun mount; four 20mm single machine guns; twelve 21-in torpedo tubes; two depth charge stern tracks; and four depth charge projectors (two on either side of the ship). At one point in 1942, after the Shaw's overhaul and repair at Mare Island following her destruction at Pearl Harbor, she had a quadruple 1.1-inch AA mount on the afterdeckhouse. All the Mahanclass destroyers had different degrees of firepower. Various idiosyncrasies in their design and armament could sometimes make ship identification a problem.

Following her commissioning, the Shaw remained at Philadelphia until April 1937 when she crossed the Atlantic on her shakedown cruise. After returning to Philadelphia on 18 June she commenced a year of yard work to correct deficiencies before completing acceptance trials in June 1938. The Shaw conducted training exercises in the Atlantic for the remainder of the year. She then steamed to the Pacific and underwent an overhaul at Mare Island, California, from 8 January to 4 April 1939.

The Shaw remained on the west coast until April 1940 participating in various exercises and providing services to carriers and submarines operating in the area. In April, now with new commanding officer L/Cmdr. T.B. Brittain, USN, at the helm, the Shaw sailed for Hawaii where she participated in Fleet Problem XXI, an eight-phased operation for the defense of the Hawaiian area. She remained in the Hawaiian area until November of 1940 when she returned to the west coast for overhaul.

Lieutenant Commander Wilber Glenn Jones, USN, took command of the Shaw on 30 January 1941. She was back in the Hawaiian area by mid-February 1941, operating in those waters until November when she entered the Navy Yard at Pearl Harbor for repairs. She dry-docked in YFD-2, a floating dry dock previously used by the cruiser USS New Orleans. As of 7 December 1941, the Shaw was one of 54 destroyers assigned to the US Pacific Fleet.


On the Sunday morning of 7 December 1941, the Shaw still sat in YFD-2. With her in the floating dry dock was the tug Sotoyomo. The crews of both the destroyer and the tug were ashore, as was customary for vessels undergoing overhaul in dry dock, and only a few men were on hand when the Japanese attacked and the bombs started to fall. Some of the Shaw's crew were on watch, some were lounging about, others were in the forward, below-decks mess hall chatting over coffee when the attack began. They heard explosions, looked up, and saw planes with the red rising sun on them.

The Shaw's men (those who were available) leaped to battle stations. With her skipper W. Glenn Jones ashore, they were led by the officer in charge Lt. James H. Brown. They fought valiantly to save the ship, firing back with the Shaw's machine guns. The crew couldn't, however, use the ship's 5-in guns against the low-flying Japanese planes. The repercussions would have knocked the destroyer off her blocks. A bo'sun's mate (identified only as "Dutch" in a post-attack San Francisco newspaper article about the Shaw) reported that the enemy planes were strafing the ship when they weren't dropping bombs. He said, "They tell me I got one Nip pilot smack in the face, and his plane crashed." According to Dutch, the water cooling on the machine guns went haywire, the heat blistering the crewmen's hands.

Between 7:55 and 9:15 am, during the second wave of the attack, the Shaw was hit by three bombs which were released by steep-diving planes from an altitude of about 1000-ft. Apparently all three hits were made simultaneously. The ship may have been struck by two 250-kilo general purpose bombs and a 16-in armor-piercing variety. The first two bombs went through the forward machine gun platform and exploded in the crew's mess. The third smashed through the port wing of the bridge. Fire spurted from ruptured oil tanks and spread through the ship. About 20-minutes later, shortly after 9:30, the forward magazines blew up, evidently exploded by the heat of burning oil and the wooden blocking in the dock.

The force of this explosion was so great that Seaman Ed Waszkiewicz, watching from what he thought was a safe distance away on a seaplane ramp on Ford Island, saw one of the Shaw's 5-in shells tumbling end over end and arching directly at him. It didn't explode, but rather hit the concrete ramp several feet away. It bounced a hundred yards along the ramp and clanged into one of the hangars. The Shaw's shell had traveled through the air nearly a half-mile across the bay.

By 9:25, all the fire fighting facilities were exhausted, the explosions having cut off the water supply, and the order to abandon ship was given. Lieutenant Brown had personally gone down to the dry dock headquarters demanding that the dock be flooded so that the ship could float off its perch and fight. Brown, however, couldn't make it back to the Shaw. Burning fuel oil flowed under the dry dock blocks setting them on fire.

Efforts to flood the dry dock and extinguish the conflagration were only partially successful. As YFD-2 sank, the Shaw's bow fell off to starboard and went under with the dock. The Shaw then toppled off her blocks into the water. The yard tug Sotoyomo also sank. As the dock submerged, flaming oil swirled around the stricken vessel. Her survivors swam through a gauntlet of patches of smoking oil to safety. Twenty-five Shawmen were killed in the attack.

Lieutenant Commander Jones decided the Shaw could be saved. His crew and others agreed. Eventually the Shaw's stern section was docked on the marine railway. Temporary repairs were made at Pearl Harbor during December 1941 and January 1942. A temporary bow was built on the ship, and on 9 February, she sailed under her own power for the west coast and San Francisco to complete permanent repairs.

The Shaw limped out of Pearl Harbor looking more like a tanker than a destroyer, what with her lack of superstructure. A temporary bridge was rigged up on the afterdeckhouse, and she was steered from there. Virtually all her armament was stripped off. For ballast, they filled the temporary bow with oil, drawing on it for fuel. She waddled along, the snowplow effect of her false bow sending water cascading over her. Bucking high winds and heavy seas, the Shaw crawled into Mare Island Navy Yard only two months after the Pearl Harbor attack. At the Navy yard, the damaged destroyer's bow and bridge were replaced in addition to the replacement of other new devices.

She was a tough little destroyer to thus survive such a brutal attack which sent a number of battleships to the bottom. The Japanese had reported her sunk. The Shaw earned the first of her eleven Battle Stars that Sunday morning in December.


By the end of June, the Shaw's repairs were completed. On 6 July 1942, the Shaw, adorned in her new battle dress, steamed out of San Francisco Bay for post repair trials. She zig-zagged through her sea trials under a full head of steam. Lieutenant Commander Jones remarked, "She's better than ever. We've got practically a new destroyer." In its 4 July edition, the San Francisco Examiner ran an article and a full page of pictures telling about the Shaw's rebirth. Coordinated to run with a planned War Bond drive, the article, though accurate, was filled with the hyperbole and revenge-minded rhetoric which so characterized US feelings at the beginning of WWII. It was during this time also that the Shaw was assigned new personnel such as Ens. Robert C. Sweatt. His orders, dated 13 July 1942, read in part that he was "HEREBY DETACHED PROCEED PORT SHAW MAY BE ARRIVAL, REPORT SHAW DUTY X."

Following training in the San Diego area, the Shaw returned to Pearl Harbor on 31 August 1942. For the next few months, the Shaw combined convoy duty with additional training exercises, operating between Pearl Harbor and San Francisco. It was during these months of convoy duty and training that the Shaw again underwent repair and overhaul work at Mare Island Navy Yard. A typical log entry for Thursday, 24 September 1942, read in part:

Resting on keel blocks as before. 0450 received aboard for use in General Mess: 30-lbs butterhorn bread from City Bakery, Vallejo, Calif., 15-gal milk from Marin Dairymen's Milk Co. Ltd., Vallejo, Calif. Inspected as to quantity and quality by Ens. R.C. Sweatt USNR. 0545 Commenced flooding dry dock. 0600 Ship became water borne. 0730 Ship left dry dock #2 by aid of tugs, proceeded to berth #22-S. 0755 Moored starboard side to berth 22-S, standard mooring lines in lines. Receiving all services from dock. [signed] G.W. Montgomery, Jr.

While the Shaw was in dry dock No. 2 at Mare Island, her log listed the USS Platte, a fleet oiler, as a "ship present" in the yard. Provisions typically brought on board for the mess during this time were 100-lbs lettuce, 300-lbs onions, 100-lbs dry cereals (from Kellogg Sales Co. of San Francisco), 100-lbs soda crackers, 8qts of ice cream, 60-lbs dessert powder, and 60-lbs of bread.

The Shaw also had her share of seamen AWOL (Absent With Out Leave) while she was in port. The Captain held a mast in such cases; the punishments handed out ranged from recommendations for a general court martial to loss of liberty.

The Shaw occasionally lit one of her boilers while in port for auxiliary purposes and to test her safety valves. She was moored to different piers during her Mare Island stay as the need presented itself. By October, she had been moved to Pier 54S in San Francisco. Fresh water was being received from the dock.

On 2 October 1942, at 9:57 in the morning, the Shaw was underway in San Francisco Bay on various speeds and courses conforming to the channel. This was to carry out operation order No. 116-C. She passed under the Bay Bridge at 10:15. About 15-minutes later, according to the logbook, she set condition II watch I. She passed through the anti-submarine gate in the bay and sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge at 10:50 making 12-kts. After sighting the Farallon Islands at a distance of 10-mi, the Shaw steamed on various courses awaiting Convoy 2139. At 2:25 pm, she began screening the convoy guide USS Boreas, a store ship. General Quarters was sounded at 2:32. The destroyer secured from GQ at 3:20.


By mid-October the Shaw was back in Pearl Harbor and ready for action. She left her moorings on 16 October 1942, and headed west as part of Task Force 16, a carrier group centered around the USS Enterprise. Task Force 16 also contained the battleship USS South Dakota, two cruisers, and eight destroyers. The Shaw's destroyer group, under the pennant of Cmdr. T.M. Stokes, ComDesDiv 10 (Commander, Destroyer Division 10), consisted of the destroyers Cushing, Preston, Maury, Mahan, Conyngham, and Shaw (W. Glenn Jones, commanding). Task Force 16 rendezvoused with Task Force 17, centered around the carrier Hornet, with four cruisers and six destroyers, to become Task Force 61, under the overall command of R/Adm. T.G. Kinkaid. This huge force moved north of the Santa Cruz Islands to intercept enemy forces headed for Guadalcanal.

Despite the impending battle with the Japanese and in an effort to ease the frayed nerves of the Shaw's crew, skipper Jones issued a humorous citation to one of the ship's officers. The "Medal of the Scrambled Account Book with Two Strikes" was awarded to Ens. Robert C. Sweatt, USNR, on 23 October 1942. As Service Officer of the Shaw, Sweatt was responsible for all the Ship's Stores activities both in port and at sea. His efforts with purveyors, both at Mare Island and in San Francisco, to cut the best deal possible to secure food and supplies for the Shaw (and the resultant rise in the Shaw's store activities) earned him this "notorious" award. It is reproduced here in its entirety.

USS SHAW (373) At Sea, 23 October 1942.

To All Those Present: Greetings.

By the power vested in me as Commanding Officer of this vessel, the United States Ship Shaw, by the President of these United States, I hereby award you, Robert Caleb Sweatt, Ens., United States Naval Reserve, the Medal of the Scrambled Account Book with Two Strikes, with the following Citation:


That you, Robert Caleb Sweatt, Ensign, United States Naval Reserve, did, while serving on board the USS Shaw

1. Give your whole-tiearted devotion and unswerving loyalty at great risk to yourself personally, to tlie underhanded, unscrupulous business, and heretofore unsung position of Ship's Service Officer.

2. Did in such position as Ship's Service Officer, risking the entire, while, your personal reputation and respect of your shipmates, raise the profit of said Ship's Service Activity from practically nothing to the magnificent figure of 48-1/3% pure profit, not discounting the overhead, operating expenses and the etceteras.

3. Did so browbeat the salesmen, cajole the customers and increase trade by various tricks and ruses, that the place now handles 76-7/8% more stock in any one month than for the previous period in other fiscal years.

4. Did all the above dangerous, detestible, darksome, dastardly, devious deeds, denying definitely dubious designs directed detrimentally against you.

5. For the above, you are hereby awarded, with due publicity, if not even notoriety, the Medal of the Scrambled Acccunt Book with Two Strikes.

W. Glenn Jones

Commander, US Navy


USS Shaw

By the middle of October the fierce Guadalcanal campaign had cost the Navy six destroyers: five downed in action, one sunk by a friendly mine. Japanese Adm. Yamamoto had available to him in the South Pacific five aircraft carriers, five battleships, 14 cruisers, and 44 destroyers. By contrast, the Allies had only two carriers, two battleships, nine cruisers, and 24 destroyers: 37 warships against 68. Operation Watchtower, the Allied effort to gain control of the Solomons area, had reached a crisis. The first American destroyer lost in the Solomons conflict was the USS Porter (DD-356) during the Battle of Santa Cruz Islands. She would go down in company with the aircraft carrier Hornet of Task Force 17. The Shaw had the unfortunate task of finishing off what the Japanese had begun. Although the battle was basically a carrier duel fought by forces 250-mi apart, enemy submarines lurked in the area.

On 26 October 1942, the Porter and Shaw, both part of Task Force 16 (and the larger Task Force 61), were screening with the carrier Enterprise when enemy aircraft attacked TF 61. The Shaw sounded General Quarters at 8:35 am. Enemy planes were sighted attacking Task Force 17. By mid-morning, the carrier from that force, the Hornet, had been hit. The Shaw formed an anti-aircraft screen on the Enterprise and waited. She spotted an Enterprise torpedo plane with its left wing burning land in the water off the starboard bow at a distance of 500-yds. At 11:00, the Shaw stopped her engines to assist in the recovery of the plane's personnel. The Porter signaled her intention of picking up the plane's crew and the Shaw backed her engines 2/3, clearing the Porter. Suddenly a torpedo sliced through the water 50-yds ahead of the Porter. Before the destroyer could make an evasive swing, a second "fish" was sighted lunging at the ship's port beam. Although an Enterprise pilot spotted the torpedo's wake and tried to blast the warhead with machine gun fire in an attempt to detonate it, the deadly "fish" passed astern of the Shaw at about 75-ft and struck the Porter between the #1 and #2 fire rooms on the port side. The explosion immediately killed eleven of the Porter's crew. She stopped dead in the water, steam pouring out of her wrecked boilers and oil spewing from her side.

Meanwhile, at 11:05, the Shaw cranked all her engines ahead full. Just then, an enemy torpedo passed 150-ft in front of the Shaw's bow from port to starboard. The Shaw began circling to screen the Porter, which was still floating on an even keel. The Shaw reported the Porter's condition to the Task Force Commander and proceeded to rejoin the formation. But at 11:30, the Shaw received orders by TBS (Talk Between Ships) from the Task Force Commander to rescue the Porter's crew and then sink her. Lieutenant Commander Jones altered the Shaw's course, passed astern of the Porter, and approached the stricken destroyer on her port side.

But before any rescue attempt could be made, the Shaw spotted a periscope off her port bow at a distance of 500-yds. She made sonar contact with the enemy submarine and attacked, releasing four 600-lb depth charges and firing two 300-lb charges. The Shaw again circled the Porter, this time making sound contact off her starboard bow. The Shaw changed course to the right and attacked again, this time dropping two 600-lb charges and firing two 300-lb cans. The underwater killer, however, escaped. The Japanese sub responsible for the attack was the I-21 (some revenge was to be exacted, though, as American destroyers later sunk one of the I-21's sisters).

At 11:58, the Shaw came alongside the Porter's starboard side and stopped all engines. Her log records: Received all Porter and DesRon 5 personnel aboard. [signed] Ed Lamiman

While in this position, lookouts sighted six torpedo planes heading in on the port beam at a distance of 16,000-yds. The order was given for all engines ahead flank. She steadied to a standard of 15-kts and made an approach on the Porter's starboard quarter. At 12:25 pm, the Shaw fired one torpedo at the Porter from the after tube of the port wing mount. The torpedo passed under the Porter and did not explode. This was at a range of 900-yds. The Shaw circled the disabled destroyer and approached her at 1500-yds, firing her four 5-in guns into the Porter four times. Heavy fires were started forward and in the Porter's mast structure. The Shaw circled and again approached the Porter, this time at a distance of 7000-yds. The Shaw then fired seven four-gun salvos at the destroyer. Still circling, the Shaw fired one torpedo from the #3 tube on the port wing mount at a range of 1500-yds. This torpedo passed 20-ft ahead of the Porter and also did not explode. Finally, at 12:55, the Shaw circled and fired six four gun salvos into the Porter. This would be her death knell. She began listing heavily to starboard. At 1:08 pm, the Porter sank. The sturdy destroyer, even after being hit by a Japanese torpedo, wouldn't sink. It took 68 5-in shells to send her to the bottom. The Shaw's deadly business here was done. She set course at flank speed and commenced zigzagging while rejoining the formation. By 2:30 pm, she sighted the Task Force dead ahead, rejoining it at 6:35 in the evening. Her log reports: Steaming as before on base course 1 02(t), speed 20-kts. 2053 Secured boilers No. 3 and No. 4. [signed] H.E. Hollingsworth

One more sad task remained, though. On Tuesday, 27 October 1942, two Porter survivors died on board the Shaw and were buried at sea.


The "dud" torpedoes fired by the Shaw did not go unnoticed nor unreported by her Torpedo Officer. Ensign Robert Sweatt reported to Capt. Jones the results of his investigation into their failure. The exploders were removed from the remaining ten torpedoes aboard the ship. Sweatt found that seven of the "fish" had defective firing springs of cadmium-plated carbon steel. None of these springs were strong enough to throw the firing pin up with enough force to trip the firing ring. These springs had only nine turns to them. The remaining three torpedoes had springs made from nickel steel and had twelve turns to them. When tripped, these springs had considerable striking force "and from all indications were in good working order." The report on the defective firing springs explained that one of the torpedoes fired at the Porter came within 20-ft of the target and failed to explode. The other torpedo "made a run of about 1200-yds and actually hit the target but failed to explode. Both torpedoes were hot, straight and normal in their run."

The twelve Mk V1-1 Exploder Mechanisms in question were all received from the destroyer tender USS Dixie (AD-14), on 3 August 1942, as replacements. This would mean that the Shaw was supplied with these "fish" in one of three places: At Mare Island in California; in the San Diego area where she went through training exercises; or, perhaps, in Pearl Harbor. But the record indicates that she probably received the torpedoes somewhere on the west coast prior to leaving for Hawaii.

The entire report is reproduced here:



SUBJECT: Defective firing springs in the Mk V1-1 Exploders oftorpedoes aboard the USS Shaw.

1. On 26 October 1942, the USS. Shaw fired two torpedoes as War Shots at a designated target. One torpedo was fired at a distance of 3000-yds from the target and came within 20-ft of same yet failed to explode. The other shot made a run of about 1200-yds and actually hit the target but failed to explode. Both torpedoes were hot, straight and normal in their run.

2. Believing that the fault was within the exploder, such were removed from the remaining ten torpedoes aboard and examined with the following results: Seven exploder mechanisms contained short coil (firing) springs. Such appeared to be cadmium-plated carbon steel springs. Each had nine turns and an inside diameter of 5/8-in. These springs had an unloaded length of 1.687-in. All seven of these springs were defective due to the fact that none were strong enough to throw the firing pin up smartly on tripping the firing ring. The three remaining exploders, however, contained coil (firing) springs made apparently from nickel steel. These springs, 5/8-in in diameter, had twelve turns and an unloaded length of 2.375-in. Each of these springs, on being tripped, were capable of a considerable striking force and from all indications were in good working order.

3. A close check-up shows that the USS Shaw received these twelve Mk V1-1 Exploder Mechanisms from the USS Dixie on 3 August 1942 as replacements. All twelve were marked "tested and approved".

4. There were no messages or instructions received aboard this vessel informing us of this defective spring and there is no information in our records that might suggest a need for such replacements.

Two days after the Battle of Santa Cruz Islands, the Shaw headed for New Hebrides where she commenced escorting ships and moving men and supplies to Guadalcanal. She continued that duty through November and December and into January 1943.

On 30 October 1942, the cruiser USS Atlanta and four destroyers arrived at Lunga Roads, Guadalcanal, with a convoy of ships carrying heavy artillery for the Marines. The destroyers lent fire-support to a Marine drive on Point Cruz. The Shaw and destroyer Conyngham steamed into this effort on the morning of 2 November. Between them, the two ships hurled 803 rounds of 5-in shells at Japanese gun positions in the jungles around the mouth of the Umasani River.

The 6th of November found the Shaw moored starboard side to the USS Guadalupe (AO-32), an oiler, in berth X-6 in the Segond Channel, Espiritu Santo Harbor, New Hebrides. The USS Southard (DMS-10), a minesweeper, was moored to port. The USS Conyngham (DD-371), the Shaw's sister ship, eventually replaced the Southard after the Shaw left the Guadalupe's side. The Shaw left the harbor and got underway at 10:35 that morning. In addition to the Shaw's crewmen who were absent on leave this day was Lt. Mervyn Shoor, the ship's doctor, who was inadvertently left behind. At 3:26 pm, the Shaw sighted the USS Delphinius (AF-24), a store ship, at a distance of 10-mi. At 4:50, she reported for duty as the escort for the Delphinius.

Another convoy of some 6000 Army troops and Marines, assembled and dispatched from Espiritu Santo and Noumea to Guadalcanal to meet the threat of a Japanese build-up at Truk, Rabaul, and in the upper Solomons, was sent forth under the protection of Adm. R.K. Turner's Amphibious Force on 8-9 November. All the warships with Turner's contingent were units of Task Group 67.4, a Support Group.

Turner's transports came under attack after they had unloaded at Lunga Point. He lead his force into Savo Sound for easier maneuvering. American fighter planes and seagoing AA batteries knocked out all of the 25 attacking Japanese planes. More enemy ships were coming down from the north, however, so in the twilight of 12 November, Turner sent his convoy steaming eastward back toward Espiritu Santo. Escorting these ships were the destroyers Shaw, Buchanan (damaged), McCalla (low on fuel), and the Southard and Hovey (minesweepers).

The success of Adm. Turner's convoy mission to reinforce the troops on Guadalcanal is reflected in his statement published to all hands dissolving Temporary Task Force 67:








In the early morning hours of 17 November 1942, still in the Guadalcanal battle zone, the Shaw, in darkened ship, was steaming at 14.5-kts on a zigzagging pattern along with the destroyer USS Nicholas (DD-449) and the minelayer USS Gwin (DM-33). Two days prior to the 17th, the Gwin had performed the same duty as did the Shaw less than a month earlier: She sank with her 5-in/38-cals the destroyer USS Benham (DD-397), also a victim of a Japanese sub. At 7:18 am, the Shaw dropped anchor in Espiritu Santo Harbor (Berth D-2) in 30-fathoms of water with 60-fathoms of chain out. The destroyer USS Morris (DD-417) was moored along her starboard side.

Inspections of the ship's magazines and smokeless powder were made. Conditions listed as normal. Later that same day, the Shaw received 40 rounds of 5-in/38-cal SPDN powder on board.

On 18 November, the Shaw raised anchor from the Segond Channel, Espiritu Santo, made 25-kts, and commenced submarine patrol. She was joined on station by the Nicholas. The Shaw filled her days with these patrols on various courses, speeds, and zigzagging patterns. She returned to Espiritu Santo on the 21st and moored her starboard side to the Guadalupe. The Nicholas moored to port and, at 6:30 am, the Shaw began fueling. She shifted berths to D-I and moored starboard side to the destroyer Landsdowne (DD-486) at 9:02.

The predawn of 10 December 1942 saw the Shaw steaming in company with Task Unit 62.4.9. She was acting as an anti-submarine screen for the cargo ship USS Fomalhaut (AK-22) and making 14-kts at 136-rpm. Upon completion of her patrol duties, she again entered and anchored in Espiritu Santo alongside the Landsdowne and began fueling from the Guadalupe. It was later on this day, in the afternoon, that the Shaw experienced a minor fire. Ensign Sweatt reported that, at 1:25 pm, a fire was discovered in the Battery Locker. The fire was extinguished about five-minutes later, but not before it had destroyed a reel of movie film. A soldering iron ignited the film. Five CO2 fire extinguishers were expended in dousing the flames. Fortunately the Shaw had by then changed berths and was no longer moored near the oiler.


On 10 January 1943, the Shaw was returning from patrol along with the transport USS McCawley (AP-IO). She was heading for Noumea Harbor, New Caledonia. At about 4:00 in the morning, both ships began zigzagging according to Plan #8 of the General Tactical Instructions. The Shaw was on a base course of 050 degrees, making 150-rpm, and heading straight for Amedee Light. The McCawley was astern of the destroyer at about 3700-yds. At about 6:00 am, the McCawley was abaft of the Shaw's port beam. According to Ens. Robert Sweatt, who was on the bridge at the time and was Junior Officer of the Deck, the Shaw then began making a turn towards the McCawley. Suddenly the bottom appeared to rise rapidly towards the Shaw. The Officer of the Deck ordered the Chief Quartermaster to start the fathometer. By then it was too late and the Shaw ran aground on Sournois Reef.

Material was off-loaded from the Shaw onto barges in order to lighten the ship. She was eventually freed on 15 January, but had received extensive damage to her hull, propellers, and sound gear. Damage to the crew's pride must have been in order also, for some said there was nothing more deflating than proudly sailing into Noumea Harbor, before the eyes of all the other ships present both large and small, and then running aground.

Temporary repairs were made at Noumea. However, the Shaw had to limp back to Pearl Harbor for lengthy, permanent repairs and rearmament. At the time of her grounding, the Shaw's 1.1-in AA mount on her afterdeckhouse had already been replaced with a twin 40mm mount.

Another casualty of the Shaw's grounding was probably the captain himself. A General Court Martial was held for L/Cmdr. Wilber Glenn Jones to determine the cause and culpability of the incident. The result was that Jones' duty as the Shaw's skipper ended on 30 January 1943, two years to the day from when he took command. Ensign Sweatt's statement at the Jones court martial is reprinted here:

USS SHAW (373)



On 10 January 1943 at 0400,1 relieved the watch as Junior Officer of the Deck on the USS Shaw. When I took over the watch, the Shaw was steaming on course 015-degrees making 150-rpm. At approximately 0400, the Shaw and McCawley started zigzagging according to plan #8 of the General Tactical Instructions. I had the Con from approximately 0400 until approximately 0540. At approximately 0540,1 was ordered by the Officer of the Deck to go below and make a reveille checkup. I immediately turned the Con over to the Officer of the Deck and went below. At this time, we were steaming on base course 050 making 150-rpm. We were heading on this course just about straight forAmedee light and the McCawley was approximately astern of us at a distance of about 3700-yds as determined by a radar bearing taken a few minutes earlier. I returned to the bridge at approximately 0600.1 went straight to the port wing of the bridge and noticed that the McCawley was just abaft of our port beam and that we were apparently making a turn towards the McCawley. / then suddenly saw bottom and said, "This looks like very shallow water," or some expression to that effect. I immediately turned to see the Officer of the Deck behind me. I then heard the Officer of the Deck order the Chief Quartermaster to start the Fathometer. Within a few seconds we ran aground.

Respectfully submitted,

Robert Caleb Sweatt, Ensign D-V(G)


Nearly destroyed in the attack on Pearl Harbor, the USS Shaw not only survived major surgery but went to become one of the most-decorated destroyers of the Pacific War/PART TWO

A she ran aground on Sournois Reef, the Shaw received her fourth commanding officer, L/Cmdr. G.P. Biggs, USN. It was Biggs who skippered the Shaw back to Hawaii for her overhaul.

The Shaw arrived at Pearl Harbor in March 1943. The repairs at Pearl would last until September. But this extended stay gave the officers and crew of the Shaw ample time for some much needed R&R in addition to their regular duties. Many of her personnel used this time for training; going to various radar, gunnery, and torpedo schools. The Shaw's log during these months reflects the routine of the ship's business: Inspections, personnel transfers, leaves, temporary duty assignments at fleet schools, promotions, and courts martial. Since the Shaw was in port at this time, most of the offenses, discipline, and punishments had to do with crew members being AWOL, reporting for duty while intoxicated, or resisting arrest. The sentences varied from loss of pay loss of liberty, or reduction in rate, to confinement.

During this time in Pearl Harbor a huge luau was held for the officers and crew of the Shaw at Tai Sing Lee. Food, fun, and music were the order of the day and did much to lift the crew's spirits before they would have to reenter the sea of battle.

One humorous incident which occurred not long after the Shaw's arrival in Hawaii was recalled by ship's officer Lt. Bernard Lienhard:

In March 1943, the Shaw entered Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard for damage repairs. Shortly after return of the first leave party from the mainland, I was censoring the outgoing mail of my division when I came across an envelope addressed to Adm. Chester W. Nimitz.

Upon reading the enclosed letter, I learned that one of my radarmen, an outstanding young man named McCaleb, was requesting an appointment to call on Adm. Nimitz. Naturally, my curiosity was aroused and I sent for McCaleb to ask the reason for such an unusual request.

It seems that McCaleb had gone on leave to his hometown in Texas. One afternoon, he went to call on his aunt. With her was a lady whom McCaleb had never seen before. Her name was Nimitz and she turned out to be the admiral's sister. As soon as she found out that McCaleb had just returned from Pearl Harbor, something like the following conversation ensued:

"Mr. McCaleb, have you seen Chester?"

"No, ma'am," was all McCaleb could answer. A bit shocked at hearing the Commander-in-Chief, Pacific, referred to by his first name, he could scarcely picture a petty officer meeting a four-star admiral.

"Dear me, you've been out there for more than a year and haven't even seen Chester! That's terrible! Now, when you return to your ship, I want you to go and see him. Furthermore, I will write and tell him to expect you. "

"So, you see," said McCaleb to me, "she's got me over a barrel. I've got to write this note. I'm really embarrassed, but I don't know what else to do."

Having received that explanation, I duly initialed the envelope in the censor stamp circle and sent it off. A few days later, McCaleb showed up with the reply that Adm. Nimitz would be delighted to have him call at 1000, three days hence.

Naturally, the crew went all-out to have McCaleb, radarman second-class, make his call in style. The ship's vehicle, a battered, old station wagon wasn't considered good enough for the mission, so the executive officer talked someone in the shipyard into loaning us a sedan with driver.

As McCaleb went over the brow, the ship's sides were manned spontaneously by his shipmates. His parting comment was, "Well, at least maybe I can find out where the Shaw is going when she completes her overhaul."

An hour later, McCaleb returned and reported that he had had a most pleasant visit with the admiral. But Mc Caleb's shipmates were chiefly interested in learning where the Shaw was going next.

"Men," said McCaleb proudly, "I was escorted into the Admiral's office and he shook my hand most graciously. " Then, pausing for effect, he continued, "His first words were 'McCaleb, where are they going to send the Shaw after she completes overhaul?'"


On 6 October 1943, the Shaw headed west again, reaching Noumea, New Caledonia, on the 18th, and Milne Bay, New Guinea, on the 24th. She was now a part of the 7th Amphibious Force, under the command of R/Adm. D.E. "Uncle Dan" Barbey, and escorted reinforcements to Lae and Finschhafen for the remainder of October and during November. These reinforcements would help the Allied push into the heart of New Guinea to reclaim it from the Japanese.

On 24 November, the Shaw received a new skipper. Commander R.H. Phillips, USN, took command of the ship from Biggs. Phillips would serve in that capacity for almost a year.

In December 1943, the Allies came "up" from New Guinea to land on the "bottom" of New Britain. The Shaw was part of this operation. The invasion force left Buna, New Guinea, and set sail for Arawe, New Britain, on 14 December. The convoy, led by Adm. Barbey, consisted of the Australian transport Westphalia, destroyer transports Humphreys and Sands, the Carter Hall, an LSD (Landing Strip Dock), and destroyers Shaw, Dray ton, Bagley, Mug ford, and Conyngham (Barbey's flagship). The Shaw was flying the pennant of Capt. Jesse H. Carter, ComDesRon 5 (Commander, Destroyer Squadron 5). A bombardment group was with the convoy and was composed of destroyers Reid, Smith, Lamson, Flusser, and Mahan.

By four in the morning of 15 December, the invaders were off Arawe. Japanese resistance was tough, but spotty. At Umtingalu, about 3-mi to the east, the Shaw and transport Sands ran into a hornet's nest. The troops going ashore here at "Blue Beach" in rubber boats were swept by concealed guns and thrown back. The Shaw blasted the junglescreened gunners with eight rounds from her 5-in/38-cals. The Japanese sharpshooters scattered, but the landing force was so badly cut up it was unable to gain the beach. Fifteen rubber boats from the Sands had started in. Twelve had been riddled and sunk in a bloody melee. The Shaw recovered survivors from two rubber boats and then escorted the Westphalia and Carter Hall back to Buna. Six days later, the American invaders did capture the weed-grown airstrip at Arawe.

With Arawe in American hands, Gen. Douglas MacArthur decided to land on New Britain's northwest coast near Cape Gloucester. This would help secure the tiny islands in the Bismark Sea east of New Guinea for the Allies.

Admiral Barbey's 7th Amphibious Force was called upon, once again, to spearhead the transport and landing operations. The force was en route to Cape Gloucester on Christmas Day 1943. The transports carried Marines who were veterans from Guadalcanal. The Shaw, along with 17 other destroyers (making up DesRon 5 under Capt. Jesse H. Carter), was a part of this invasion force.

The target area was to be Borgen Bay and nearby Cape Gloucester. The enemy knew what was coming, but didn't know exactly when or where the hit would occur. The Japanese weren't even on hand when the invaders hit "Beaches Yellow."

After bouys were dropped at night by the destroyers Flusser and Mahan to mark passage through some treacherous coral reefs, the invasion force Marines hit the beach without opposition. The Shaw provided gunfire support and served as fighter director ship during the "softening up" of the beachhead.

But, on 26 December, the Japs hit back with a vengeance. They had launched planes in an effort to break through the Allied air screen and strike at the invasion shipping. American P-38s fought with Japanese Vais in a fierce dogfight. Nine or ten of the enemy broke through the screen and headed for the ships. Captain Carter, Senior Destroyer Commander, ordered the destroyers to meet the attack. The DDs were maneuvering to do so when two Val dive bombers swooped down and dropped their load. The USS Brownson (DD-518), though firing back fast and furious, was hit by two bombs which effectively sank her. The Shaw was also blasted in this same attack. She was badly maimed by the explosion of a 500-lb bomb which fell close aboard. Thirty-six Shaw crewmen were injured by the blast, three of whom later died from their wounds. Although the Brownson was lost, the Shaw severely damaged, and the destroyers Mugford and Lamson ripped by shrapnel, the Japanese air armada of some 80 planes was decimated. At least half of them were downed by American fighters and AA guns. The Shaw earned another Battle Star that day.

The Shaw returned to Cape Sudest, New Guinea, on 27 December. There, she transferred her wounded and dead to shore facilities. She then continued on to Milne Bay, on the lower southeast tip of the island, to undergo temporary repairs. Upon completion of this work, the Shaw made the long journey back to the US mainland. At Hunters Point, in San Francisco, she underwent permanent repairs. These were completed on 1 May 1944; over four months after her South Pacific wounding.


The Shaw returned to Pearl Harbor on 10 May. There she joined the 5th Fleet, sailing for the Marshall Islands on the 15th. She got underway from the Marshalls on 11 June with Task Force 58 to engage in the assault on Saipan (the Marianas Campaign). The Shaw was one of 138 destroyers involved in this operation. Four-days later, the attack began. For the next three and a half weeks, the destroyers rotated between screening and call fire support duties. Participation by destroyers in the Battle of the Philippine Sea was limited to anti-submarine screening, AA gunnery, and the usual jobs detailed to destroyers serving with a Fast Carrier Task Force. Vice Admiral Turner's Expeditionary Force contained 535 ships and carried some 127,500 Marines and Army troops to the Marianas beachheads. About 50,000 Japanese opposed this force, over half of whom were on Saipan.

American destroyers fought hard in the Marianas Campaign. Sea-to-air combat was typical. The capture and occupation on Saipan lasted from 15 June to 11 July 1944.

In mid-July, the Shaw was back in the Marshalls. On 18 July, she got underway to return to the Marianas with the Guam assault force. During the action that followed, she performed escort and patrol duties. The Shaw's participation in the capture and occupation of Guam lasted from 12 July to 15 August 1944.

The Shaw was involved in some year-end action in this area, though. On 16 December, she and the highspeed transport USS Gilmer (APD-11, a converted flush-deck, fourstack destroyer) shot up some Japanese shipping off the southwest end of Saipan. During this action, the Gilmer was peppered by machine-gun fire from a small maw, or "sea truck." Five of these wooden vessels had been detected. Four were gunned down by the Gilmer, one by the Shaw.

The Shaw received her sixth commanding officer on 1 September 1944: L/Cmdr. V.B. Graff, USN. Less than a month later, on 23 September, she departed from the Marianas. Following a tender availability at Eniwetok east of Guam, the Shaw rejoined the 7th Amphibious Force on 20 October and headed for Leyte Gulf on the 25th. The Leyte Landings consumed the Shaw's time between 27-28 October and 19-24 November.

While the Navy was called upon to undertake an amphibious landing at Ormoc Bay on Leyte in the early days of December 1944, the Shaw was part of a supporting force landing at Baybay, on the Leyte west coast. This task force (Task Unit 78.3.10) was under command of Capt. W.M. Cole, ComDesRon 5. Besides the Shaw, the task unit included DDs of DesDiv 9: Husser, Drayton, and Lamson. Eleven landing craft were in the convoy. The equipment was unloaded at Baybay without difficulty, and the ships set out on the return run for San Pedro Bay at 3:00 in the morning of 5 December. At 11:00 am, eight Jap bombers dove out of the clouds. Undetected by radar, they gave the task unit a rough going over. Sharp destroyer gunnery broke up the attack, but the enemy aircraft tried again at 5:15 that afternoon. Several destroyers sustained damage. The Shaw, however, arrived safely in San Pedro Bay.

Convoy escort duties between the Philippines and New Guinea involved the Shaw until the invasion of Luzon took place at Lingayen Gulf on 9 January 1945.

As the Allies forged their way towards Manila Bay, American destroyers, the Shaw included, served as scouts, escorts, screening ships, rescue vessels, and pickets. The 12-18 December Mindoro Landings support work closed out the Shaw's 1944 service.


The last major surface engagement of the Pacific War was fought off the entrance to Manila Bay. The date was 7 January 1945. The four American destroyers involved were members of Task Unit 781.11, part of the San Fabian Attack Force which at that time was en route to Lingayen Gulf. They were the Charles Ausburne, Braine, Russell, and L/Cmdr. Graffs Shaw.

That January evening, the four destroyers were steaming in column about 5-mi on the right flank of a transport group. All was quiet on a black seascape under a star-filled sky. Then, at 10:14 pm, the DDs were warned by radar contact of a ship or ships maneuvering at a range of 15,000-yds. They could only be Japanese. The destroyers were ordered to change course, put on speed, and investigate. With the range close to 10,000-yds, the Ausburne fired star shells to illuminate the target. The light silhouetted a single ship, a Jap destroyer. All four destroyers let loose with their batteries, and the bellow sent the enemy ship fleeing eastward.

The Ausburne hit and slowed the ship before she could get back into Manila Bay. Pale flashes indicated torpedo fire from the Jap destroyer, and the four US ships changed course to avoid any hits. Thirty minutes after the first salvo of star shells, a series of explosions echoed across the water. The Shaw, along with her fellow DDs, saw the enemy ship, only 2000-yds away, thrust her bow toward the night sky and slide under the sea. No survivors were found. It was learned after V-J Day that the Imperial Navy's final sea battle had been fought, and lost, by the Japanese destroyer Hinoki.

From 9 to 15 January 1945, the Shaw performed screening, call fire support, night illumination, and shore bombardment missions. Following this operation she was involved in the recapture of Manila Bay. The Manila Bay-Bicol Operation off Nasugbu, southwest of Manila, involved the Shaw in support work from 31 January3 February.

While Manila was crumbling, the Japanese made one last stab at the 7th Fleet invaders. On the morning of 21 February, the destroyer USS Renshaw (DD-499), an escort of a convoy bound for Subie Bay, was hit amidships by a Jap torpedo. Seventeen of her crew were lost in the blast. With the Renshaw dead in the water and the enemy sub briefly showing its conning tower, the destroyers Shaw and Waller were sent in to help. They searched the area for ten hours without detecting the submersible. The Renshaw didn't sink and was towed to Leyte.

After the Luzon operations, the Shaw supported the assault and occupation of Palawan, southwest of Luzon, during the period from 28 February to 4 March 1945. She then covered the Visayan Island Landings between 26-28 March. The Palawan-Visayan operations resulted in the consolidation of the southern Philippines.

In early April, the Shaw was operating in the Visayan Sea. On 2 April, she set two Japanese barges on fire off Bohol Island. Unfortunately, soon after that, the Shaw was damaged on an uncharted pinnacle. She underwent temporary repairs and, on 25 April, she sailed for the United States.

The Shaw arrived in San Francisco on 19 May. Her repairs and alterations there took her into August. The war in Europe had been over for more than two months and the Pacific war was rapidly winding down. It was while the Shaw was in port that American B-29 bombers dropped their atomic payloads on Japan on 6 and 9 August. But the work on the Shaw continued and was completed on 20 August. A San Francisco newspaper acknowledged the Shaw's arrival in port and printed a short, three-paragraph biography of the ship:


The USS Shaw, veteran destroyer which won fame when she sailed the Pacific to Mare Island with a false bow after losing hers in the Pearl Harbor attack, has just made another visit to the Navy yard, the Navy revealed today.

This time the ship checked in for a major overhaul before returning to the Pacific on her first post-war assignment. Behind her, she has a battle record including a Jap destroyer, a gunboat, a freighter, nine enemy planes destroyed, and ten shore bombardments.

At the Ormoc landing, the Shaw and 14 other ships were the target for a squad of twelve suicide bombers. The first made straight for the Shaw, but she maneuvered quickly, and the plane crashed 30-ft off her stern. The Shaw shot down three craft. Another destroyer and air cover accounted for four more before remaining Jap pilots decided they'd had enough.

It was while the Shaw was in San Francisco that the destroyer piped aboard her seventh and final skipper. lieutenant Commander LC. Oehler, USNR, would captain the Shaw from 20 July to 2 October 1945. He was her first and only CO to be a Naval Reservist.

The Shaw departed for the east coast after her overhaul. While en route, on 2 September 1945, the Japanese surrendered to the Allies aboard the battleship USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay. President Harry Truman declared 2 September as VJ Day (Victory over Japan Day). WWII had ended.

On arrival at Philadelphia, the place of her birth, the Shaw was routed to New York for deactivation. Her fate was the same as so many other US warships at the close of the war. There simply was no need for so large a Navy following the end of hostilities. The Shaw was decommissioned on 2 October 1945. Her proud name was struck from the Navy list two days later. Her hulk, stripped to the bone of so much of her armament and equipment, was scrapped in July 1946.

The USS Shaw, the ship too tough to die, which couldn't be sunk by Japanese bombs or planes (not to mention underwater reefs), fell to the scrapper's torch tenyears after her commissioning. The little destroyer had earned eleven Battle Stars on the Asiatic-Pacific Area Service Medal during her wartime career.


A discrepancy concerning the torpedoing of the USS Porter during the Battle of Santa Cruz Islands has surfaced due to information contained in two books about Guadalcanal.

In Guadalcanal: The Definitive Account of the Landmark Battle, by Richard B. Frank (New York. Penguin Books, 1990), and The First Team and the Guadalcanal Campaign Naval Fighter Combat from August to November 1942, by John B. Lundstrom (Annapolis: United States Naval Insitute, 1994) the authors, citing research by James Sawruk, maintain that the wounded Enterprise torpedo plane spotted by the Shaw on October 26, 1942, was a TBF Avenger torpedo bomber flown by Lt. Richard Batten. It was the torpedo from his plane, they write, which hit the Porter, and not the torpedo from a Japanese sub.

Having been waved off by the Enterprises's flight deck crew, Batten ditched his damaged plane in the sea after he was unable to jettison his T-Il Mark XIII torpedo. His torpedo had not been released and remained in the bomb bay. The Shaw and Porter went to the airmen's rescue. By now, the plane's crew had broken out their life raft and climbed aboard.

According to the authors, the crash landing of Batten's Avenger jarred loose the torpedo, which in turn circled counterclockwise and eventually hit the Porter amidships. Two VF-10 Wildcat fighter planes braved "friendly fire" while trying to explode the torpedo with their guns before it could do any damage.

Frank and Lundstrom's books claim that research done by James Sawruk into written Japanese sources (which were not available during the occupation of Japan: Senshi Sosho 83:292 from the War History Office of the Japanese Self Defense Force) shows that no Japanese I-boats were in the area at the time of the Porter's explosion. Also, former ordnance men who loaded TBFs with torpedoes have said that the torpedo could have rested on the bomb bay doors and then jarred loose upon impact with the water.

Batten, however, believed his torpedo did not break out of the plane, and, at any rate, was trapped by the closed bay doors. Keep in mind also that lookouts on the Shaw reported sightings of a periscope and the destroyer had made sonar contact with the enemy.

This author considers eyewitness accounts from persons present at the time of the Porter incident and written accounts (as reported in the Shaw log book) substantially more credible than either memories tinged with age or suspect written accounts by a post-war defeated foe.

Copyright Challenge Publications Inc. Apr 2006

Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning Company. All rights Reserved

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