Navsource Online: History Page

Robert P. Sables, LTC (ret.) AUS.

The destroyer escort came into existence as a result of the German U-boat menace. The new warship was designed, armed, and programmed to escort convoys and destroy enemy submarines. A total of 563 would be built between 1942 and 1945.

In the early years of the war, the U-boats nearly brought England to her knees with the destruction of her merchant shipping. Winston Churchill would later remark that the U-boat menace was his greatest worry. At the time, the United States could only offer limited assistance [e.g. the September 1940 lend-lease of 50 flush deck destroyers in exchange for leases on naval bases].

Shortly after Pearl Harbor and the German declaration of war on 11 December 1941, U-boats began to appear off our shores to cut the supply lines. Under Operation Paukenschlag, five U-boats sailed from French ports between 16-26 December 1941 to initiate the assault. On 18 January 1942, U-66 [Fregattenkapitn Richard Zapp] sunk the American tanker Allan Jackson off Cape Hatteras, N.C. The following day, it sunk the Canadian liner Lady Hawkins. The situation grew worse over the months.

At the time, the US Navy was ill prepared to wage anti-submarine warfare [ASW] operations. There were few aircraft and vessels available for coastal defense. Emergency measures initiated included the procurement of civilian yachts for conversion to gunboats/ patrol yachts/ coastal patrol yachts and the assistance of the Civil Air Patrol [CAP]. The situation became so critical that that in February 1942 the Royal Navy sent over 24 coal burning trawlers to assist the Eastern Sea Frontier.

The Royal Navy recommended that the United States initiate construction of inexpensive, quickly built, convoy escorts. The famed naval architect firm of Gibbs and Cox, Inc., utilizing British specifications, came up with the Evarts Class destroyer escort. There would be a total of 97 ships built-------65 being retained by US Navy and 32 transferred to the Royal Navy forming the Captain Class. Pressure was placed upon the Boston Navy Yard, Mare Island Navy Yard, Puget Sound Navy Yard, and the Philadelphia Navy Yard to have these new ships ready for sea duty as rapidly as possible. As we examine the specifications of the Evarts class , it will become apparent that these vessels were lightly armed, contained no armor, were slow, had limited fuel capacity, and being short hulled had limited capacity. Their main strength was the extensive anti-submarine weaponry contained on board and the ability to turn on a dime due to twin screws.

Five additional classes of destroyer escorts [Buckley, Cannon, Edsall, Rudderow, John C. Butler] would be built during the war. They would be larger [306’], have increased firepower [torpedo tubes, with the Rudderow and John C. Butler class adapting the 5 inch /38 caliber dual purpose enclosed mounts], and have different power plants [Buckley ---TE Turbine Electric Drive, Cannon ------DET Diesel /Electric Tandem Motor Drive , Edsall-----FMR Fairbanks /Morse Diesels with a Reverse Gear Drive, Rudderow---TEV Turbine Electric Drive, John C. Butler------ WGT Steam Powered with Westinghouse Geared Turbines for a flank speed of 24 knots].


STANDARD: 1,140 tons
FULL LOAD: 1,430 tons

LENGTH: 289’5

BEAM: 35’ 1



The Evarts were propelled by four General Motors [GM] [Model 16-278 A] diesel engines, two each in separate engineering compartments, that produced 6,000 horsepower. The generated power via tandem electric motor drives turned twin screws. The wartime shortage of power plants limited the Evarts to four diesels.


ENDURANCE: 6,000 nautical miles at 12 knots
SPEED: 21 knots [trial speed]

Three [3] 3/50 caliber guns
One [1] 1.1 AA machine cannon
Nine [9] 20 mm AA guns
Two [2] depth charge racks
Eight [8] K gun projectors
One [1] Hedgehog spigot motor [MK 10/11]

No deck armor
No belt armor

The first Evarts Class destroyer escort to be commissioned in the US Navy was the USS Brennan [DE-13]. She was launched at the Mare Island Navy Yard on 22 August 1942 and placed in commission 20 January 1943. She served as a training ship in the Caribbean Sea for prospective DE crews.

DE 1 -------DE 4 were lend leased to Great Britain where they were respectively commissioned as HMS Bayntun [K-310], HMS Bazely [K-311], HMS Berry [K-312], and HMS Blackwood [K-313]. The DE-5 was retained by the United States, named the USS Evarts, and placed in commission on 15 April 1943. She thus became the name vessel for this class.

The last ship to be built was the USS Finnegan [DE-307] which was commissioned on 19 August 1944. She was only on active service for 15 months----being decommissioned 27 November 1945 at Charleston, S.C.

With the exception of two ships, all the Evarts were sold for scrap in 1946 and 1947. The USS Wyffels [DE-6] was leased to China on 28 August 1945, renamed Tai Kang [F-21], and scrapped in 1972. The USS Decker [DE-47] was also leased to China, renamed Tai Ping, and was sunk by Communists forces on 14 November 1954.

Despite their limitations, which caused rapid disposal at the end of the war, the Evarts contributed more to the destruction of the Japanese submarine fleet than any other DE class. From 24 December 1943------26 February 1945, the ten Evarts class destroyer escorts listed below destroyed eleven [11] enemy undersea craft [ 37% of all Japanese subs sunk by US destroyer escorts]. There were no U-boat kills by the Evarts in the Atlantic Theatre.

The Buckley Class also achieved distinction in the Pacific. The most famous ship in this class was the USS England [DE-635] which received the Presidential Unit Citation for destroying six hostile ships within twelve days effecting devastating blows to enemy operations [the I-16 on 19 May , RO-106 on 22 May, RO-104 on 23 May, RO-116 on 24 May, RO-108 on 26 May, and the RO-105 on 29 May 1944].


The USS Griswold [DE-7], commissioned at the Boston Navy Yard on 28 April 1943, was one of the first destroyer escorts to arrive in the Southwest Pacific. On Christmas Eve 1943, the Griswold [Lt. M. C. Walley commanding] was on patrol off Lunga Point, Guadalcanal, when notified that a Japanese submarine had been spotted near Koli Point. Proceeding to the scene, the Griswold shortly picked up the submerged I-39 on her sonar. During the next four hours, the destroyer escort conducted a series of attacks inflicting damage on the sub. When the I-39 rose to periscope depth its scope was spotted and the Griswold went in for the kill. This attack [8th] was with twelve depth charges and tore the I-39 apart. Cork, planking, oil, and body parts shortly appeared on the surface. The ship’s crew was congratulated by command for a good Christmas present.

The Griswold later took part in the Okinawa campaign where she downed two kamikazes, the first on 31 May 1945 and the second 5 June 1945.


The USS Gilmore [DE-18], built at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard, was placed in commission on 17 April 1943 [Lt. Cdr. S. C. Small commanding]. As a member of CORTDIV 14, she served in the North Pacific [Aleutians/ Alaska] from September 1943 to January 1945. On the evening of 25 April 1944, the USS Gilmore, while escorting merchant ships from Dutch Harbor to Kodiak, picked up the surfaced IJN I-180 on her radar. At the time, the small convoy was some 120 miles southwest of Kodiak Island. The I-180, Lt. Cdr. Fujita Hidenori commanding, was on a special mission to reconnoiter the waters between Unalaska and Kodiak Island. Spotting the oncoming destroyer escort, Hidenori ordered an emergency dive taking the boat under the darken waters. Picking the sub up on sonar, the Gilmore initially made three unsuccessful attacks with hedgehogs and shifted to depth charges. At 0112 hrs. [26 April], an explosion arose from the depths. signaling the death of the I-180. The DANFS notes that the “violent underwater explosion caused minor damage in the after motor room”. The location of the attack was: 50-10 N, 155-40W.

The USS Gilmore was decommissioned on 29 December 1945 and received a battle star for the sinking of the I-180.


While launched as the HMS Duckworth at the Mare Island Navy Yard, Ca., this destroyer escort was shortly acquired by the US Navy, renamed the USS Burden R. Hastings [DE-19], and placed in commission on 1 May 1943. Assigned to the Pacific, she participated in the Tarawa invasion serving on station from 12 to 23 November 1943.

In early February 1944, she was a member of Task Force 52 [Southern Attack Force] which secured Kwajalein in the Marshall Islands. Four months later, 16 June 1944, while on patrol some 110 miles east of Eniwetok, the USS Burden R. Hastings made radar contact with the surfaced RO-44. An Aldis lamp signal was ignored and Lt. Cdr. Uesugi Sadao [[RO-44] made an emergency dive. Upon reaching the site, Lt. Cdr. E. B. Fay [USS Burden R. Hastings] commenced a vigorous attack which destroyed the undersea craft. At dawn, the crew discovered an aluminum plaque marked RO-44’ in the debris. The entire sub crew of 72 was lost at location: 11-13 N, 164-15 E.


From October 1944----February 1945, the USS Fleming [DE-32] served as a convoy escort between Eniwetok and Ulithi. On the evening of 13 January, while escorting two tankers to Eniwetok, her radar picked up a surface contact some 14,000 yards away. As she closed the distance her search light scanned the sea but nothing was observed. However, sonar shortly picked up a clear echo revealing the presence of a submarine. The Fleming attacked first with depth charges and then utilized her hedgehogs. The fourth hedgehog barrage was right on target ---- personnel on the Fleming felt and heard the explosions as the I-362 destructed and descended to the ocean floor. .Location: 12-08 N, 154- 27 E.

At Okinawa, 20 May 1945, the USS Fleming succeeded in shooting down two kamikazes. Five days later, she rescued 11 survivors from the USS LSM-135.


Just three months after her 23 October 1943 commissioning at the Mare Island Navy Yard, the USS Fair [DE- 35] was on anti-submarine patrol off Tarawa. On 4 February 1944, she joined the USS Charrette [DD-581] which was pursuing the Japanese submarine I-21. Coached into an attack position by Charrette, the Fair let go a hedgehog pattern at 0040 hrs. which resulted in a series of detonations and explosions. The USS Fair had justified her designer’s goal and earned a place in the fleet. She returned to Pearl Harbor on 17 February 1944. During the war, she would receive five battle stars.


The USS Manlove [DE-36] was named after Warrant Officer Arthur Manlove, a native of Tipton, Ind., who was killed aboard the battleship USS Arizona on 7 December 1941.

After training exercises at Pearl Harbor, the USS Manlove sailed for the Marshall Islands where she conducted ASW operations from 5 March ------16 May 1944. On 23 March, Fleet Radio Pearl picked up a signal message from the IJN I-32 to headquarters. At the time, the I-32 was transporting supplies to Wotje [Marshals]. A hunter-killer group composed of the USS Halsey Powell [DD-686], USS Hull [DD-350], USS Manlove [DE-36], and the USS PC-1135 was ordered to intercept and destroy the sub. The following morning, at 0422, some 50 miles south of Wotje, the Manlove [Lt. Cdr. J.P. Ingle commanding] picked up the I-32 on radar and after she dove on sonar. The Halsey Powell initiated the attack and expended all her depth charges in the hunt. The Manlove and PC-1135 then took up the attack using hedgehogs and mousetraps respectively. Their attack was successful. Deep underwater explosions along with an oil spread shortly confirmed the death of the I-32 at location: 08-30N, 170-10E. The sub went to the bottom with all 106 hands.

The following year, Manlove participated in the Okinawa campaign and was damaged by an exploding kamikaze on 11 April 1945. She was decommissioned 16 November 1945 at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, Washington.


The USS Wyman was commissioned on 1 September 1943 at the Puget Sound Navy Yard. Her first commanding officer was Cdr. Robert Copeland who, as skipper of the USS Samuel B. Roberts [DE-413], won the Navy Cross at the Battle of Samar. The Wyman spent the first six months of 1944 at Pearl Harbor, H.I., engaged in submarine exercises.

Released from duty at Pearl Harbor in June 1944, she joined Task Group 12.2 [USS Hoggatt Bay CVE- 75, USS Lake DE-301, USS Reynolds DE-42, and USS Donaldson DE-44] which was engaged in anti-submarine operations between Eniwetok and Saipan. On 19 July, the Task Group was operating some 300 miles east of Saipan when the USS Hoggart Bay picked up a contact on her radar [distance 21,000 yards]. The USS Wyman and USS Reynolds were sent to the area to investigate. As Wyman closed in, the contact disappeared from radar but was shortly picked up by sonar. Her first hedgehog attack had negative results but the second was right on target. Violent underwater explosions were heard as the RO-48 was ripped apart. A whaleboat sent to gather oil samples was strafed by the carrier’s planes believing it to be a submarine. Miraculously, there were no fatalities. Location: 13-01 N, 151-58 E.

Nine days later, 28 July, Task Group 12.2 spotted a second Japanese submarine running on the surface. The attacking Wyman fired off a hedgehog pattern which struck a deadly blow. Loud explosive noises were heard and shortly debris appeared on the surface. Initially, the submarine was identified as the I-55 but post-war accounting credits the USS William C. Miller with that kill. The identity of the submarine sunk on 28 July 1944 is not known. Location: 14---26 N, 152---16 E.

Task Group 12.2 was dissolved on 9 August 1944.


The USS William C. Miller [DE-259] was placed in commission at the Boston Navy Yard on 2 July 1943. By the end of the war, she would accumulate seven battle stars.

It was during screening operations off Saipan on 13 July 1944 that the Miller had her sole encounter with an enemy underwater craft. A Navy PBY spotting a surfaced Japanese sub 78 miles off Rorogattan Point notified command. The USS Gilmer [APD-11] and the USS William C. Miller were directed to the scene as a hunter-killer group. Arriving at the location shortly after mid-night the Miller initiated a sound search. The hours slowly past and at 0726, with a positive sound contact, the Miller initiated the attack by dropping a 13 charge pattern. With no results, a second 13 charge pattern was dropped but this one had positive results-----pieces of wood appeared on the surface and loud underwater explosions were heard. A third pattern [the coup de gras] guaranteed that the IJN I-55 had gone to the bottom of the Pacific with its 112 crewmembers. Location: 15-18 N, 144-26E.

The USS William C. Miller would also participate in the Iwo Jima invasion [23 February to 16 March 1945] and at war’s end be with the victors in Tokyo Bay. After returning to the States, she was decommissioned at the Mare Island Navy Yard on 21 December 1945.


On 20 November 1944, two kaitens gained entrance into the anchorage at Ulithi atoll. One rammed and sunk the oiler USS Mississenewa [AO-59] with a loss of 63 lives. The USS Rall [DE-304], with only two of her engines available, went to general quarters and initiated a search. A cruiser signaled that there was a suspicious swirl in the water near the DE. The Rall, making visual contact, dropped three depth charges destroying the kaiten. Bodies were observed in the debris but were not recovered that day.

The Rall went on to serve at Okinawa where she shot down three kamikazes on 12 April 1945.That same day, a kamikaze crashed into her starboard side killing 21 enlisted men. After retuning to the States, she was decommissioned at the Charleston Navy Yard on 11 December 1945.


The USS Finnegan [DE-307] was launched at the Mare Island Navy Yard, Ca, on 22 February 1944. However, she was not placed in commission until 19 August 1944 [Lt. Cdr. H. Hoffman, commanding]. Initially, the Finnegan was based at Pearl Harbor, H.I., for submarine escort duty but later participated in the invasion of Iwo Jima. On 26 February 1945, while escorting transports from that island to Saipan she picked up a surfaced submarine on radar. At the time, the IJN I-370 was preparing to launch her kaitens for an attack on the convoy. After the I-370 submerged, the USS Finnegan started receiving return echos on the QC sonar. There ensued a series of attacks and at 1005 hrs. the sounds of a submarine’s demise were heard and fuel oil started to cover the surrounding area. Location: 22-45 N, 141-27E. After reaching Saipan, the USS Finnegan and her small convoy proceeded onto Espiritu Santo.

She would later receive another battle star for service at Okinawa.


Destroyer Escorts Under The Northern Stars by Kevin Don Hutchinson, in Sea Classics, October 1996.
Those Amazing Destroyer-Escorts Of World War 11 by Ed Schnepf, in Sea Classics, June 1999.

Bates, LT. [jg] Frank W. [Editor-- Walbrook D. Swank]. Pacific Odyssey / History of the USS Steele during WW 11. Shippensburg, Pa.: Burd Street Press, 1998.

Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, Vols. 1-6, Naval History Division, Navy Department, Washington.
Graves, Richard W. Men Of Poseidon / Life at Sea Aboard the USS Rall. Nevada City, Ca: Willow Valley Press, 2000.
Kelly, Mary Pat. Proudly We Serve/ The Men of the USS Mason. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1995.

USS William C. Miller DE-259
This excellent website presents the history, commission log, names of plank owners, ship’s crew list, honor roll and awards, and scrapbook for the ship. It deserves a viewing.

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