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Navsource Online: Destroyer Escort Photo Archive

USS Donnell (DE 56)

Flag Hoist / Radio Call Sign:
N - Y - Z - X
Awards, Citations and Campaign Ribbons

Precedence of awards is from top to bottom, left to right
Top Row: Combat Action Ribbon (retroactive)
Second Row: American Campaign Medal - European-Africa-Middle East Campaign Medal - WWII Victory Medal

Class: Buckley
Type: TE (turbine-electric drive, 3" guns)
Displacement: 1400 tons (light), 1740 tons (full)
Length: 300' (wl), 306' (oa)
Beam: 36' 9" (extreme)
Draft: 10' 6" (draft limit)
Propulsion: 2 "D" Express boilers, G.E. turbines with electric drive, 12000 shp, 2 screws
Speed: 24 kts
Range: 6,000 nm @ 12 knots
Armament: 3 x 3"/50 Mk22 (1x3), 1 twin 40mm Mk1 AA, 8 x 20mm Mk 4 AA, 3 x 21" Mk15 TT (3x1), 1 Hedgehog Projector Mk10 (144 rounds), 8 Mk6 depth charge projectors, 2 Mk9 depth charge tracks
Complement: 15 / 198
Donnell (DE 56) Building and Operational Data:
  • 27 November 1942: Keel laid by the Bethlehem Steel Corp. Hingham, Mass.
  • 13 March 1943: Launched and christened, sponsored by Mrs. E. R. Donnell, mother of Ensign Donnell
  • 26 June 1943: Commissioned, Lcdr F. C. Billings, USNR, in command
  • 3 May 1944: Torpedoed while attacking a sound contact, her stern was blown off. Her own depth charges added to the damage. (29 killed, 25 wounded)
  • 20 June 1944: Decommissioned, placed "in commission, in reserve" at Lisahally, Northern Ireland, for use as an accommodation ship
  • 15 July 1944: Reclassified as IX 182
  • August 1944: Towed to Cherbourg, France, where she supplied electric power to shore installations
  • February 1945: Returned to England, served as barracks ship at Portland and Plymouth
  • 18 July 1945: Arrived at the Philadelphia Navy Yard after being towed back to the States
  • 23 October 1945: Placed "out of commission, in reserve" at the Philadelphia Navy Yard after 2 years and 4 months of service
  • 16 November 1945: Struck from the NVR
  • 29 April 1946: Scrapping onsite at Philadelphia Navy Yard commenced this date
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    77k Earl Roe Donnell, Jr. was born on 03 September 1918 in Temple, Tex., the son of E. R. and Callie Donnell. An Eagle Scout in high school, he graduated from the University of Texas with a batchelor of science degree and went on to Cal Tech where he obtained a masters degree in aeronautical engineering. He enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserve on 24 August 1940 and was appointed an aviation cadet at NAS Pensacola, Fla. on 06 December. Upon completion of flight training Ensign Donnell was transferred to Scouting Squadron Six (VS-6) on board USS Enterprise (CV 6) at Pearl Harbor, H.I. On arrival, he was assigned as Scouting Six's assistant engineering officer.

    From the book Never Call Me a Hero: Dusty Kleiss and the Battle of Midway: Donnell was shot down during his first battle, the raid against the Marshall Islands, 01 February 1942. At 7 AM, Scouting Six attacked the Japanese base on Roi Island. Just after Donnell pulled up from his dive, a Japanese fighter plane--an A5M "Claude"--caught sight of Donnell's aircraft--6-S-18-- and opened fire on it. A Scouting Six gunner, RM 3/c Jack Leaming, saw what happened. He remembered: "I turned, looked over my starboard shoulder, and saw an SBD opposite us receive a direct hit. The starboard wing was blown off. The wing spiraled upward through the air as the rest of the plane dropped straight down. This happened very quickly and was directly in front of us but too far away for me to identify."

    Leaming saw the final moments of Donnell and his gunner, AMM 2/c Alton J. Travis. Their damaged SBD caught fire and plummeted into the water northeast of Roi. Both men were killed. For his courage in pressing home his attack in the face of enemy fighter opposition and heavy antiaircraft fire, Ensign Donnell was posthumously awarded the Air Medal.

    USS Donnell (DE 56) (1943-1945) was the first ship to be named in his honor.

    (Photo courtesy of Chris McDougal from the National Museum of the Pacific War at Fredericksburg, Texas)
    Mike Smolinski
    Clifton, N.J.

    Archive Manager
    DE / FF / LCS Archive
    348k 20 November 1943: off Brooklyn, N.Y. - A port beam view of Donnell taken in misty waters near the New York Navy Yard.

    (U.S. Navy photo #CP-DE-56 19-N-55732 from the National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Md.; courtesy of  Chris Wright) (N.Y. Navy Yard #F644C5199)
    Ed Zajkowski
    Narvon, Pa.
    316k 08 April 1944: off Brooklyn, N.Y. - A starboard quarter view of Donnell taken near the New York Navy Yard. She entered the yard shortly after the photo was taken, and spent the next 10 days undergoing repairs and overhaul.

    (U.S. Navy photo #CP-DE-56 19-N-70852 from the National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Md.; courtesy of  Chris Wright) (N.Y. Navy Yard #F644C7195)
    38k 04 May 1944: USS Donnell being taken in tow after a U-boat attack.

    (contributed by shipmates of the USS Reeves (DE 156 / APD 52)
    Alison Strehlow
    295k From the September 1945 "All Hands" magazine, the photo shows Donnell at Cherbourg being used as a power plant after her fantail was blown off by a German torpedo. The transformer on deck was captured from the Germans. Darryl Baker
    PNCM, USNR (ret.)

    Vallejo Naval & Historical Museum

    Donnell History
    View the USS Donnell (DE 56) DANFS history entry located on the Naval History and Heritage Command web site.

    Donell's Commanding Officers
    Thanks to Wolfgang Hechler & Ron Reeves
    Dates of Command Commanding Officers
    1.) 26 Jun. 1943 - 17 Nov. 1943Lcdr. Fred Chester Billing, USN (Comm. CO) (USNA '25) (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
    2.) 17 Nov. 1943 - 13 Jun. 1944Lcdr. Gordon Marvin Street, USNR (San Diego, Cal.)
    3.) 13 Jun. 1944 - 20 Jun. 1944Capít. Harold Romeyn Holcomb (Oconomowoc, Wis.) (ret. as Radm.)
    4.) 20 Jun. 1944 - 31 Jul. 1944Lt. Kenneth Iverson Boone, USNR
    5.) 31 Jul. 1944 - 23 Oct. 1946Lcdr. Robert S. Hetzel, USNR (Decomm. CO)

    Crew Contact And Reunion Information

    Note About Contacts

    Contact information is compiled from various sources over a period of time and may, or may not, be correct. Every effort has been
    made to list the newest contact. However, our entry is only as good as the latest information that's been sent to us. We list only
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    Additional Resources

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    Destroyer Escort Sailors Association
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    This Page Created And Maintained By Mike Smolinski
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    by Paul R. Yarnall, All Rights Reserved.
    Page Last Updated: 31 October 2022