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USS Willmarth (DE 638)

Flag Hoist / Radio Call Sign:
N - T - K - S
Awards, Citations and Campaign Ribbons

Precedence of awards is from top to bottom, left to right
Top Row: Combat Action Ribbon (retroactive) - American Campaign Medal
Second Row: Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal w/ 4 stars - World War II Victory Medal - Philippine Liberation Ribbon

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
Willmarth (DE 638) Building and Operational Data:
  • 25 June 1943: Keel laid by the Bethlehem Steel Shipyard Corp., San Francisco, Cal.
  • 21 November 1943: Launched and christened, by Mrs. Eva Willmarth, the mother of Ens. Willmarth
  • 13 March 1944: Commissioned, Lcdr. James G. Thorburn, Jr., USNR, in command
  • 26 April 1946: Decommissioned at Green Cove Springs, Fla. after 2 years and 1 month of service
  • 01 December 1966: Struck from the NVR
  • 01 July 1968: Sold for scrapping to the North American Smelting Co., Wilmington, Del.
    Click On Image
    For Full Size Image
    Size Image Description Contributed
    By And/Or Copyright
    Willmarth 6k Kenneth Willmarth was born on 13 February 1914 in Cleveland Township, Chippewa, Wis. He graduated from the State Teacher's College at Eau Claire, Wis., with a BS before he enlisted in the Naval Reserve at Minneapolis, Minn., on 17 June 1941. After receiving instruction as an apprentice seaman in Prairie State, the former battleship Illinois (BB 7) from 18 September to 09 October, Willmarth received an honorable discharge on 10 October to accept an appointment as midshipman in the Naval Reserve the following day. After training again in Prairie State (IX 15) and receiving a commission as ensign on 17 January 1942, Willmarth joined Vincennes (CA 44) while that cruiser lay alongside the east jetty, Navy Yard annex, South Boston, Mass., on 28 February 1942. Initially a junior watch and division officer in the ship's "M" division, Ens. Willmarth served in Vincennes until the predawn darkness of 09 August 1942 in the Solomon Islands when an avalanche of steel unleased by Vice Admiral Gunichi Mikawa's cruiser force smothered Vincennes, Astoria (CA 34), and Quincy (CA 39) of the northern screening group in some 20 minutes' time. Ens. Willmarth was among those killed in Vincennes as his ship took at least 57 known shell hits and possibly absorbed two torpedoes; the battered heavy cruiser sank within an hour of the start of the engagement.

    USS Willmarth (DE 638) (1944-1946) was the first ship named in his honor.

    Bill Gonyo
    Downey, Cal.
    Willmarth 21k undated wartime image (shown in Camouflage Measure 32, pattern 10D) Jerry Church
    Willmarth 74k Undated port quarter view of the USS Willmarth (DE 638). The ship is camouflaged in MS32/10d camouflage scheme. (U.S. Navy Photo) Mike Green
    Port Angeles, Wash.
    Willmarth 401k May - June 1945: Guam - This photograph was taken in Guam between 30 May and 07 June 1945 [though, probably June 3-7, and the ship on the starboard side would be the Samuel S. Miles (DE 183)]. Gunnery Officer Lt. Donald Morris left temporarily for school on May 30, and Radar Officer Lt. (jg) Frank Newman attended CIC school from 18 April to 07 June 1945.

    Standing left to right: Supply Officer Lt. Bob Penn , Assist. 1st Lt. Lt. Brad Lukens, XO Lt. John Burditt, CO Comdr. James Thorburn, ASW Officer Lt. George Connor, and 1st Lt., Lt. William Briggs.

    Sitting left to right : Ass't. Engineer Ensign John Clayton, Communications Officer Lt. Len Olsen, Ass't. Communication Officer Ensign Bob Whetsel, Recognition Officer Ensign Jerry Schaefers, Engineer Lt. Kenneth Cook, and Ass't. Gunnery Officer Ensign David Hardy.
    Todd Willmarth
    St. Paul, Minn.
    Willmarth 432k early April 1946: Green Cove Springs, Fla. - Unidentified destroyer escorts lie moored in the St. John's River awaiting their turn for decommissioning and mothballing. Photo taken by someone aboard Willmarth.
    Willmarth  271k       Willmarth  259k       Willmarth  302k

    early April 1946: Green Cove Springs, Fla. - Three views of Willmarth being prepared for "mothballing". Note the empty 20 and 40mm gun tubs.
    Willmarth 228k 26 April 1946: Green Cove Springs, Fla. - The crew stands at attention while the officers and chiefs of USS Willmarth salute as the ensign is lowered for the last time during her decommissioning ceremony.
    Willmarth 341k

    Willmarth History
    View the USS Willmarth (DE 638) DANFS history entry located on the Naval History and Heritage Command web site.
    View the official War History of USS Willmarth as submitted by the ship at war's end.

    Willmarth's Commanding Officers
    Thanks to Wolfgang Hechler & Ron Reeves
    Dates of Command Commanding Officers
    1.) 13 Mar. 1944 - 01 Jun. 1945Lcdr. James Grieve Thorburn, Jr., USNR (Comm. CO) (Rye, N.Y.)
    2.) 01 Jun. 1945 22 Nov. 1945Lt. John F. Burditt, USNR (Newton, Mass.)
    3.) 22 Nov. 1945 08 Jan. 1946Lcdr. William T. Clark, USNR (East Cleveland, Oh.)
    4.) 08 Jan. 1946 01 Apr. 1946Lt.(jg) George Xavier Connor, USNR (Decomm. CO) (New York City, N.Y.)

    Crew Contact And Reunion Information

    Contact Name: Todd Willmarth
    Address: 789 California Ave. W
    City/State: St. Paul, MN 55117
    E-mail: willy638 at
    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
    a contact for the ship if one has been sent to us. We do NOT have crew lists or rosters available. Please see the Frequently Asked
    Questions section on NavSource's Main Page for that information.

    Additional Resources

    Tin Can Sailors
    The U.S. Navy Memorial
    Destroyer Escort Sailors Association
    The Destroyer Escort Historical Museum
    The Destroyer History Foundation

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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: 06 May 2020