USS William D. Porter (DD-579)

USS William D. Porter (DD-579)

USS "William D. Porter" (DD-579), a "Fletcher"-class destroyer, was a ship of the United States Navy named for Commodore William D. Porter (1808–1864).

"William D. Porter" was laid down on 7 May 1942 at Orange, Tex., by the Consolidated Steel Corporation; launched on 27 September 1942, sponsored by Miss Mary Elizabeth Reeder; and commissioned on 6 July 1943, Lieutenant Commander Wilfred A. Walter in command.

Atlantic service

"William D. Porter" departed Orange shortly after being commissioned. After stops at Galveston, Tex., and Algiers, La., the destroyer headed for Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, on 30 July for shakedown. She completed shakedown a month later and, following a brief stop at Bermuda, continued on to Charleston, S.C., where she arrived on 7 September. "William D. Porter" completed post-shakedown repairs at Charleston and got underway for Norfolk, Va., at the end of the month. For about five weeks, the warship operated from Norfolk conducting battle practice with "Intrepid" (CV-11) and other ships of the Atlantic Fleet.

On 12 November, she departed Norfolk and the following day rendezvoused with "Iowa" (BB-61). That battleship was on her way to North Africa carrying President Franklin D. Roosevelt to the Cairo and Teheran Conferences. During battle drills on the afternoon of the 14th, "William D. Porter" inadvertently fired a live torpedo at "Iowa". However, the destroyer signaled "Iowa" in plenty of time to allow the battleship to turn hard to starboard, parallel to the torpedo's wake. According to eyewitnesses, President Roosevelt asked his wheelchair be moved to the rail so he could see the torpedo headed for the battleship. The torpedo exploded some 3,000 yards astern of the "Iowa". "William D. Porter" completed her part in the mission and steamed west to Bermuda, where she arrived on 16 November. The crisis was over and so was Captain Walker's career. His final utterance to the "Iowa", in response to a question about the origin of the torpedo, was a weak, "We did it."

Shortly thereafter, the brand new destroyer, her captain and the entire crew were placed under arrest and sent to Bermuda for trial. It was the first time that a complete ship's company had been arrested in the history of the US Navy. The ship was surrounded by Marines when it docked in Bermuda, and held there several days as the closed session inquiry attempted to determine what had happened. Torpedoman Dawson eventually confessed to having inadvertently leaving the primer in the torpedo tube, which caused the launching. Dawson had thrown the used primer over the side to conceal his mistake. Following this incident, ships would routinely greet the "Willie D." with "Don't shoot! We're Republicans!"

A week later, she returned to Norfolk and prepared for transfer to the Pacific. She got underway for that duty on 4 December, steamed via Trinidad, and reached the Panama Canal on the 12th. After transiting the canal, the destroyer set a course for San Diego, where she stopped between 19 and 21 December to take on cold weather clothing and other supplies necessary for duty in the Aleutian Islands.

North Pacific campaign

On 29 December, "William D. Porter" arrived in Dutch Harbor, on the island of Unalaska, and joined Task Force 94 (TF 94). Between 2 and 4 January 1944, she voyaged from Dutch Harbor to Adak, whence she conducted training operations until her departure for Hawaii on the 7th. The warship entered Pearl Harbor on 22 January and remained there until 1 February at which time the destroyer put to sea again to escort "Black Hawk" (AD-9) to Adak. The two ships arrived at their destination nine days later, and "William D. Porter" began four months of relatively uneventful duty with TF 94. She sailed between the various islands in the Aleutians chain, serving primarily as an antisubmarine escort.

Commander Charles M. Keyes (USNA '32) relieved Lieutenant Commander Walter as commanding officer of the "William D. Porter" on 30 May 1944.

On 10 June, the destroyer stood out of Attu and headed for the Kuril Islands. She and the other ships of TF 94 reached their destination early on the morning of the 13th. They started to shell their target, the island of Matsuwa, at 05:13. After 20 minutes, "William D. Porter"'s radar picked up an unidentified surface vessel, closing her port quarter at a speed in excess of 55 knots (100 km/h). Her radar personnel tentatively identified the craft as an enemy PT-type boat, and the warship ceased fire on Matsuwa to take the new target under fire. Soon thereafter, the craft's reflection disappeared from the radar screen, presumably the victim of TF 94's gunfire. Not long afterward, the task force completed its mission and retired from the Kurils to refuel at Attu.

On 24 June, the destroyer left Attu with TF 94 for her second mission in the Kurils. Following two days at sea in steadily increasing fog, she arrived off Paramushiro on the 26th. In a dense fog with visibility down to about 200 yards, she delivered her gunfire and then departed with TF 94 to return to the Aleutians. A month of training exercises intervened between her second and third voyages to the Kurils. On 1 August, she cleared Kuluk Bay for her final bombardment of the Kurils. On the second day out, an enemy twin-engine bomber snooped the task force and received a hail of fire from some of the screening destroyers. That proved to be the only noteworthy event of the mission, because the following day the bombardment was canceled due to poor weather and the enemy reconnaissance plane. "William D. Porter" dropped anchor in Massacre Bay at Attu on 4 August.

After a month of antisubmarine patrol, the warship departed the Aleutians for a brief yard period at San Francisco preparatory to reassignment to the western Pacific. She completed repairs and stood out of San Francisco on 27 September. She reached Oahu on 2 October and spent the ensuing fortnight in training operations out of Pearl Harbor. On the 18th, she resumed her voyage west; and, 12 days later, the warship pulled into Seeadler Harbor at Manus in the Admiralty Islands. She departed Manus early in November to escort "Alshain" (AK-55) via Hollandia to Leyte.

Philippines campaign

Though "William D. Porter" arrived in the western Pacific too late to participate in the actual invasion at Leyte, combat conditions persisted there after her arrival in San Pedro Bay. Soon after she anchored there, Japanese planes swooped in to attack the ships in the anchorage. The first plane fell to the guns of a nearby destroyer before reaching "William D. Porter"'s effective range. A second intruder appeared, however, and the destroyer's 5 inch guns joined those of the assembled transports in bringing him to a fiery end in mid-air.

For the remainder of the year, "William D. Porter" escorted ships between Leyte, Hollandia, Manus, Bougainville, and Mindoro. On 21 December, while steaming from Leyte to Mindoro, she encountered enemy air power once again. Two planes made steep glides and dropped several bombs near the convoy. The destroyer opened up with her main battery almost as soon as the enemies appeared but to no avail. Their bombs missed their targets by a wide margin, but the two Japanese aircraft apparently suffered no damage and made good their escape. Not long thereafter, four more airborne intruders attacked. "William D. Porter" concentrated her fire on the two nearest her, one of which fell to her antiaircraft fire. The second succumbed to the combined efforts of other nearby destroyers, and the remaining two presumably retired to safety. From then until midnight, enemy aircraft shadowed the convoy, but none displayed temerity enough to attack. Before dawn the following morning, she encountered and destroyed a heavily laden, but abandoned, enemy landing barge. After completing her screening mission to Mindoro, "William D. Porter" returned to San Pedro Bay on 26 December to begin preparations for the invasion of Luzon.

For the Lingayen operation, "William D. Porter" was assigned to the Lingayen Fire Support Group of Vice Admiral Jesse B. Oldendorf's Bombardment and Fire Support Group (TG 77.2). The destroyer departed San Pedro Bay on 2 January 1945 and joined her unit in Leyte Gulf the following day. The entire group then passed south through the Surigao Strait, thence crossed the Mindanao Sea, rounded the southern tip of Negros, and then proceeded generally north along the western coasts of Negros, Panay, Mindoro, and finally, Luzon.

By the time the unit reached the southwestern coast of Luzon, it came within the effective range of Luzon-based aircraft. Beginning on the morning of 5 January, enemy planes—including kamikazes—brought the force under attack. "William D. Porter" saw no action during the first stage of those attacks, because the group's combat air patrol (CAP) provided an effective protective blanket. However, the last raid broke through the CAP umbrella at 16:50 and charged to the attack. "William D. Porter" took three of those planes under fire at about 17:13, but growing darkness precluded evaluation of the results of that engagement. During that raid, cruiser "Louisville" (CA-28) and escort carrier "Manila Bay" (CVE-61) suffered extensive damage from kamikaze crashes.

Before dawn on the 6th, the destroyer moved into Lingayen Gulf with her unit to begin pre-invasion bombardment. Throughout the day, enemy planes made sporadic attacks upon the bombarding ships. That evening, "William D. Porter" began firing on shore batteries guarding the approaches to the landing beaches. At 17:38, her attention was diverted to a lone plane; and her antiaircraft battery brought it down handily. Twenty minutes later, a twin-engine Mitsubishi G4M "Betty" ran afoul of the destroyer's gunners who splashed this one neatly as well. "William D. Porter" then returned to her primary mission, shore bombardment.

After the 9 January landings, the destroyer's mission changed to call fire and night harassing fire in support of the troops. Then, from 11 to 18 January, she stood off Lingayen Gulf with TG 77.2 to protect the approaches from incursion by enemy surface forces. On the 18th, she reentered the gulf to resume support duty for forces ashore and to contribute to the anchorage's air and antisubmarine defenses. On 3 February, the warship bombarded abandoned enemy barges to assure that they would not be used against the invasion force or as evacuation vehicles. She then resumed her antisubmarine and air defense role until 15 February, when she departed Lingayen Gulf to escort "Lindenwald" (LSD-6) and "Epping Forest" (LSD-4) to Guam.

Battle of Okinawa

After returning briefly to Lingayen Gulf, "William D. Porter" moved on to Leyte to prepare for the assault on Okinawa. She remained at Leyte during the first half of March; then joined the gunfire support unit attached to the Western Islands Attack Group for a week of gunnery practice at Cabugan Island. She departed the Philippines on 21 March, reached the Ryukyu Islands on the morning of the 25th, and began supporting the virtually unopposed occupation of Kerama Retto. Between 25 March and 1 April, she provided antiaircraft and antisubmarine protection for the ships in the Kerama roadstead, while performing some fire-support duties in response to what little resistance the troops met ashore on the islets of Kerama Retto.

However, by the time the main assault on Okinawa began on the morning of 1 April, she had been reassigned to TF 54, Rear Admiral Morton L. Deyo's Gunfire and Covering Force. During her association with that task organization, "William D. Porter" rendered fire support for the troops conquering Okinawa, provided antisubmarine and antiaircraft defenses for the larger warships of TF 54, and protected minesweepers during their operations. Between 1 April and 5 May, she expended in excess of 8,500 rounds of 5 inch shells—both at shore targets and at enemy aircraft during the almost incessant aerial attacks on the invasion force. During that period, she added five additional plane kills to her tally.

The constant air raids—launched from Kyūshū and Formosa—prompted the Americans to establish a cordon of radar picket ships around Okinawa, and it was to this duty that "William D. Porter" switched in early May. Between 5 May and 9 June, she stood picket duty, warned the fleet of the approach of enemy air raids, and vectored interceptors out to meet the attackers. She brought down another enemy plane with her own guns; and fighters under her direction accounted for seven more.

On 10 June 1945, "William D. Porter" fell victim to a unique—though fatal—kamikaze attack. At 08:15 that morning, an obsolete Aichi D3A "Val" dive bomber dropped unheralded out of the clouds and made straight for the warship. The destroyer managed to evade the suicide plane, and it splashed down nearby her. Somehow, the explosive-laden plane ended up directly beneath "William D. Porter" before it exploded. Suddenly, the warship was lifted out of the water and then dropped back again. She lost power and suffered broken steam lines. A number of fires also broke out. For three hours, her crew struggled courageously to put out the fires, repair the damage, and keep the ship afloat. The crew's efforts, however, availed nought; and, 12 minutes after the order to abandon ship went out, "William D. Porter" heeled over to starboard and sank by the stern. Miraculously, her crew suffered no fatal injuries. The warship's name was struck from the Navy list on 11 July 1945.

"William D. Porter" received four battle stars for her service in World War II.

ee also

* Richard Miles McCool, received Medal of Honor in part for assisting in rescue of survivors of "William D. Porter".



External links

* [ USS "William D. Porter"]
* [ USS "William D. Porter"]
* [ USS "William D. Porter"]
* [ USS "William D. Porter"]
* [ USS "William D. Porter"]
* [ The Ill-Fated USS "William D. Porter"] by Kit Bonner and published in "The Retired Officer Magazine" in March 1994.

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