- USS Uhlmann (DD-687)
World War II
"Uhlmann" was laid down on
6 March 1943at Staten Island, New York, by the Bethlehem Steel Co.; launched on 30 July 1943; sponsored by Mrs. C. F. Uhlmann, mother of Ens. Uhlmann; and commissioned on 22 November 1943at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Commander Selden G. Hooperin command.
After shakedown out of
Bermudaand post-shakedown availability, the destroyer joined Destroyer Squadron 56 on 24 January 1944. Two days later, she got underway to escort "Wasp" (CV-18) to Trinidad. She then transited the Panama Canal, touched at San Diego, California, and arrived at San Francisco, Californiaon 16 February. There, she embarked passengers for transportation to Hawaiiand departed the west coast on the 17th in company with "Birmingham" (CL-62) and "Newcomb" (DD-586).
She arrived at
Pearl Harboron the 23d. During March, "Uhlmann" underwent availability, conducted training, and rendered occasional convoy screening services in Hawaiian waters. In April, she conducted carrier escort training exercises and honed her skills in shore bombardment and radar tracking in preparation for assignment to carrier screening duties. Two hours after sunset on the 24th, while "Uhlmann" was participating in training exercises in Hawaiian waters as an antisubmarine screening ship for the carriers of Task Group 19.2, she was struck amidships by destroyer "Benham" (DD-796). The collision tore an eight-by-ten-foot (2.4 by 3 m) hole in "Uhlmann"'s hull below the water line, flooding her firerooms and the forward engine room. The following day, she was taken in tow by "Tekesta" (AT-93) and returned to Pearl Harbor on the 26th. After temporary hull and engine repairs, she set her course for San Francisco on 17 May, steaming on her port engine with her forward fire and engine rooms out of commission. On the 24th, she moored at Hunter's Point and, for the next two months, underwent extensive repairs.
In August, she returned to Pearl Harbor and resumed training exercises including torpedo firing and antisubmarine warfare drills. After one false start, she departed
Oahuon 18 Septemberwith "South Dakota" (BB-57) and "Woodworth" (DD-460) and set her course for the Admiralty Islands. En route to Manus, she was diverted to the western Caroline Islandsand reported to 3d Fleet at Ulithion 30 September. During a typhoon on 3 October, a nest of three destroyers drifted down on "Uhlmann" and pierced three holes in her starboard side. A few hours later, the destroyer made an emergency sortie from the lagoon with Task Group 38.2; but, by nightfall, high seas had carried away her emergency damage control measures and flooded the anchor windlass room. She returned to Ulithi on the 4th for repairs by "Dixie" (AD-14) and, on the 6th, was underway for an at-sea rendezvous with Task Force 38—the 3d Fleet's Fast Carrier Force—the following day.
At noon on the 9th, the carriers began a high-speed approach to a launch position for strikes on the
Ryukyus. On the 10th, planes launched by the carriers struck Okinawa, destroying enemy aircraft, shipping, and shore installations in preparation for the projected landings on Leyte, Cebu, and Negros.
After fueling at sea on the 11th, TF 38 began a high-speed approach on
Taiwanfor two days of strikes on that island, again in support of the impending American assault on the Philippines. On 12 and 13 October, as the carriers steamed 85 miles (137 km) east of Taiwan and launched strike after strike against that island, "Uhlmann" operated in their antiaircraft screen. Planes from the carriers attempted to destroy Japanese air strength on Taiwan to eliminate that island as a staging base for the enemy.
Shortly after dusk on the 12th, low flying Japanese bombers and torpedo planes approached Task Group38.2 from the west and northwest. Although most of the Japanese planes were intercepted by the task force's combat air patrol, more than a dozen broke through and attacked the formation. "Uhlmann" opened fire on a Japanese medium torpedo bomber at 7,000 yards (6.4 km). But, undeterred, the plane continued to approach the zigzagging destroyer from port until it was hit at close range by "Uhlmann"'s 40-millimeter fire, crossed over the ship, and splashed 100 yards (91.4 m) off the destroyer's starboard bow. The plane sank at once leaving a large quantity of gas and oil floating on the sea.
A second wave of attackers followed two minutes after the first, and "Uhlmann", maneuvering with the formation, joined in the fire which downed some seven Japanese raiders during the night. At 2200, she hit an enemy plane which burst into flame and illuminated the moonless overcast night before splashing off the stern of the ship. Minutes before midnight, "Uhlmann" picked up another aerial intruder on radar and opened up with 5 inch fire. The plane countered by dropping flares as a diversionary tactic and pulled away, but "Uhlmann"'s deadly fire found its mark as the raider burst into flame and splashed into the sea. The destroyers began laying smoke around midnight, and the raids tapered off. For the remainder of the night, Japanese planes merely approached within 6 to 7 miles (10 to 11 km), dropped flares, and retired without attacking the formation.
Japanese planes again ventured near the formation late on the 14th only to be routed by night fliers of the combat air patrol. The next day, TF 38 began a high-speed run in for strikes on
Luzon, with "Uhlmann" providing antisubmarine protection for the fast carriers of TG 38.2. On the 16th and 17th, the carriers launched heavy strikes on Luzon concentrating on ships and installations in the Manila Bayarea. Late on the 17th, the formation set a southerly course to get into position for strikes farther south, with the fighter planes of the task force dispersing light Japanese air opposition en route. Steaming east and northeast of Samar, the task force made strikes on Negros on the 20th in strategic support of the landings on Leyte and also provided direct air support for those landings.
Meanwhile, upon first sighting American minesweepers in the approaches to
Leyte Gulf, Japan had sent her naval forces into Philippine waters. On the 24th, "Uhlmann" protected the carriers of Rear Admiral Gerald F. Bogan's TG 38.2 as they launched strikes against the Japanese Center Force which was approaching San Bernardino Strait. In an action known as the Battle of the Sibuyan Sea, American naval aircraft sank Japanese super battleship "Musashi" and damaged several other enemy warships. At 2022 that evening, Task Force 38 turned north to seek out and destroy the Japanese Northern Force whose carriers had been spotted north of Luzon where they had been stationed in the hope of luring the 3d Fleet away from the beaches of Leyte.
However, a gallant little group of American destroyers, destroyer escorts, and escort carriers had fought off the overwhelmingly superior Japanese Center Force and induced it to abandon its plan of attacking the amphibious ships which were supporting the Allied beachheads on Leyte. Thus, when TG 34.5 returned within aircraft range of San Bernardino Strait, the chastened Japanese Center Force had already retreated back through that strategic passage to safety. In the days that followed the historic
Battle of Leyte Gulf, "Uhlmann" continued to screen TG 38.2 while its carriers conducted strikes on land targets, including raids on Luzon on the 29th and 30th. Shortly before noon on the 29th, as the carriers recovered aircraft from a strike against Japanese targets in the Manila area, "Uhlmann" left the formation to investigate what appeared to be the splash of a downed plane but was later determined to be a bomb splash. As the destroyer attempted to discover the cause of the splash, a Navy torpedo bomber from "Hancock" (CV-19) made a water landingnearby, and "Uhlmann" quickly rescued the pilot and two crewmen. Meanwhile, an enemy attack had materialized, and the destroyer went to general quarters, increased her speed to 25 knots (46 km/h), and executed evasive maneuvers as she attempted to rejoin the formation. As she steamed to her assigned position, she joined in the general fire against the attackers—10 to 12 Japanese planes which made notably inaccurate high altitude bombing runs and retired after one or two of their members had been splashed by the American ships' accurate fire.
4 November, TF 38.2 began a high-speed approach for strikes on Luzon. For two days, carrier-based aircraft pounded Luzon and Bicol. Then, on the 7th, "Uhlmann" set her course for Ulithi. En route, heavy seas caused flooding in the boatswain's stores and chain locker; and "Uhlmann", accompanied by "Yarnall" (DD-541), left the formation and ran with the wind while damage-control measures were being effected. She arrived at Ulithi on the 9th, underwent repairs, and got underway again on the 16th. She rendezvoused with TG 38.2 the following day and took up an antisubmarine screening station. Following carrier strikes on Luzon on the 19th, "Uhlmann" returned to Ulithi on the 22d.
The destroyer conducted exercises out of Ulithi until
10 Decemberwhen she got underway and rendezvoused with Task Force 38 on the 12th. On the 14th, 15th, and 16th, the carriers made strikes against air installations on Luzon and against shipping in water off that island to support landings on Mindoro. Toward dusk on the 16th, the task force began its retirement. As the American warships fueled northeast of Samar on the 17th, weather conditions worsened. At 1330, "Uhlmann" abandoned fueling from "Massachusetts" (BB-59) due to rough seas and 26-knot (48 km/h) winds stirred up by an approaching typhoon. On the 18th, "Uhlmann" recorded 69-knot (128 km/h) winds, and rolls up to 58 degrees as the typhoon's center passed within 30 miles (50 km) of the formation. During the afternoon, winds decreased; and, by 2000, they had subsided to 25 knots (46 km/h). On the 19th and 20th, the ships of the battered task force resumed fueling which continued into the next day while its escorts searched for survivors of the three destroyers which had failed to survive the tropical storm. Late on the 20th, due to heavy seas, the carriers aborted a highspeed run in for strikes on Luzon; and "Uhlmann" returned to the storm area and searched for survivors. She made port at Ulithi on Christmas Eve.
Underway again with TG 38.1 on the 30th, she screened the carriers during strikes on Taiwan and Luzon early in the new year and, an hour before midnight on
9 January 1945, transited Bashi Channelinto the South China Sea. The carriers launched strikes on French Indochina, Taiwan, and Hong Kongbefore retiring from the South China Sea on the 19th. Steaming 75 miles (120 km) north of Luzon at dusk the next day, the formation came under attack by enemy aircraft, and "Uhlmann" joined other ships of the formation in repelling raiders. Following strikes on Taiwan and Okinawa, TF 38 returned to Ulithi on the 26th. That day, the 3d Fleet was redesignated 5th Fleet and placed under the command of Admiral Raymond A. Spruance.
Following antisubmarine training, "Uhlmann" got underway from Ulithi with TG 58.2 on
10 February. During a Japanese air raid on the 16th, the first of two days of strikes on the Tokyoarea, "Uhlmann" took under fire an enemy fighter which made a low-glide, diving attack on the ship's port beam and dropped a bomb 100 yards in the wake of destroyer "Halsey Powell" (DD-686). Neither destroyer suffered any damage in this exchange. On the 19th, "Uhlmann" screened TF 58 as it steamed north of Iwo Jimalaunching strikes on that island in support of the initial landings there. On the 20th, mechanical difficulties in her steering mechanism forced "Uhlmann" to part company with the task force, and she put in at Ulithi on 23 Februaryfor repairs. Underway on 14 March, she rendezvoused with TG 58.2 on the 16th. On the 17th, the carriers began a highspeed run in for strikes on Kyūshū. While the planes of TP 58 pounded that Japanese homeland, "Uhlmann" protected the carriers from air and submarine attack. Air activity began early on the 18th; and "Uhlmann", acting as linking vessel between TF 58 and its picket line, began firing on aerial snoopers before dawn. Shortly before 0700, she joined the picket line and, at 0956, rescued three Navy aviators from a torpedo bomber which had splashed nearby.
Throughout the dav and into the night, alerts prompted by Japanese surveillance planes brought the ship's crew to general quarters. Four minutes before midnight, "Uhlmann" opened fire on an enemy aircraft at 10,000 yards. The plane burst into flame and splashed 7,000 (6.4 km) yards off the destroyer's starboard quarter and burned brightly for several minutes. Air activity continued into the early hours of the 19th. Before dawn that day, "Uhlmann" joined "Cushing" (DD-797) in firing on a high-altitude Japanese raider which burst into flames and splashed. Fifty miles (80 km) off the eastern shore of
Shikokuon the morning of the 19th, a Japanese plane dove toward the destroyer and, despite fire from the ship, dropped a small bomb which hit 50 feet (15 m) off the ship's starboard quarter. No further action occurred that day as "Uhlmann", screening TG 58.2, proceeded southward to rejoin the rest of TF 58 southeast of Kyūshū.
Ships of the task force began refueling on the 20th but were forced to discontinue when an air attack developed in mid-afternoon. "Uhlmann" was transferring aviation personnel to "San Jacinto" (CVL-30) at 1453 when a
kamikazedove at carrier "Hancock" (CV-19), missed, and crashed into "Halsey Powell" (DD-686). "Uhlmann" fired on enemy dive bombers throughout the remainder of the afternoon, was hit by some shrapnel, but suffered no casualties. Air activity continued to be heavy as strikes on Japan continued on the 21st. During a surprise attack early in the afternoon, a bomb fell only 200 yards (183 m) from "Gushing" (DD-797), and another bomb narrowly missed a carrier of the force. Ten minutes before midnight on the 22d, while "Uhlmann" steamed on picket station, she made a surface radar contact which was later identified as a Japanese submarine. In company with "Haggard" (DD-555), she proceeded at high speed toward the submerging target and stood by while "Haggard" forced the unlucky enemy ship to the surface with depth charges. "Haggard" then rammed the submarine which exploded and sank. "Uhlmann" escorted the slightly damaged destroyer back to Ulithi where they arrived on the 25th.
She departed Ulithi on the 30th and set a northwesterly course. After weathering a typhoon on
2 April, she rendezvoused with TG 58.4 on the 5th and, toward dusk, began an approach for strikes on Okinawa. Following rendezvous with TF 58, she alternated radar picket and screening duties as the carrier-based planes pounded Okinawa.
In April, Japan began concentrated massed kamikaze attacks against American ships in the waters of the Ryukyus; and the carrier forces, despite their discreet distance from Okinawa, were not exempt from the attentions of the suicide planes. On the 12th, combat air patrol from the formation splashed three
Mitsubishi Zeroes ("Zekes") within sight of "Uhlmann" as she stood her picket station 25 miles (40 km) north of TF 58. Two days later, snoopers and nuisance raiders kept the air patrol occupied in the afternoon and early evening.
On radar picket with TG 58.4 on the 17th, "Uhlmann" joined in fire that downed two enemy aircraft, one of which splashed near "Benham" (DD-796) causing minor damage to that ship. That night, "Uhlmann" added her depth charges to a combined attack which sent Japanese submarine 1-56 to the bottom. Late on the afternoon of the 29th, as enemy planes began closing from the northward, destroyer "Haggard" joined "Uhlman" to strengthen the picket station in the face of attack. Minutes before 1700, a Japanese fighter plane, taken under fire by "Uhlmann", nosed over and dove toward "Haggard". The crash and explosion of the suicide plane and its bomb tore a hole in "Haggard"'s starboard side, flooding her firerooms and number one engine room, and leaving her dead in the water. Meanwhile a second "Zeke" began a run in. "Uhlmann" splashed the attacker close aboard "Haggard" and rescued two of the damaged destroyer's crew from the water. "Uhlmann" then requested assistance from the task group which responded with a combat air patrol of two divisions. An hour later, light cruiser "San Diego" (CL-53) and Destroyer Division 104 came to the aid of the stricken destroyer. "Uhlmann" escorted "Haggard" a short distance toward
Kerama Rettoand returned to her picket duty the next day. She screened the carrier strike force until 11 Maywhen she headed for the Caroline Islands. The ship arrived at Ulithi on the 14th.
Underway with TG 58.4 on the 24th, the destroyer returned to a strike launch area off Okinawa and resumed her picket duties. On the 28th, operational control of the task force was returned to the 3d Fleet and TG 58.4 became TG 38.4. "Uhlmann" continued patrolling picket station and screening the fast carriers until
13 Junewhen she arrived at San Pedro Bay, Leyte, for replenishment and maintenance. On 1 July, she set a northerly course; and, throughout July, the carriers conducted strikes on targets in the Japanese islands to soften up this last stronghold of Japanese power for the projected invasion. On the 25th, "Uhlmann" joined specially formed TG 35.3 for an antishipping sweep across Kii Suidobetween Honshū and Shikoku. Two hours after midnight on this completely overcast night, "Uhlmann" bombarded a radio tower on the southern tip of Uwano Hanto while other ships of the group shelled nearby airfields.
Until the cessation of hostilities on
15 August, "Uhlmann" continued to operate with the carrier force as it launched strikes against Japan. On 23 August, she rendezvoused with TF 47—a combined British-American force—for temporary escort duty in connection with the occupation of Japan. She arrived in Sagami Wanon the 27th, and immediately manned a picket station. On the 30th, while acting as plane guard for "Cowpens" (CV-25), she rescued that carrier's landing signal officer who had jumped over the side in an attempt to rescue the pilot of a downed plane. That same day, the destroyer anchored in Sagami Wan, ending 61 days of continuous operation and, on the 31st, shifted anchorages to Tokyo Bay.
Her occupation duties included mail, freight, and passenger runs between Iwo Jima and Japanese ports. Late in October, she participated in training exercises; then, on the 31st, departed
Yokosuka, steamed via Pearl Harbor, and arrived at Bremertonlate in November. Following alterations, she got underway on 20 April 1946and arrived at San Diego on the 24th. There, on 14 June 1946, she was decommissioned and placed in reserve. On 12 August, she was assigned to the Naval Reserve Training Program and underwent an overhaul at Terminal Islandbefore reporting to the Commandant, llth Naval District, in November 1946.
Operating out of San Diego, she trained reserve crews until the end of the decade. On
23 May 1950, she was recommissioned, but remained in reserve and, that summer, made a southward voyage, visiting Central and South American ports. She returned to San Diego in July and, on 18 November, was assigned active status.
27 January 1951, she reported to the Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet, for duty and, on 16 June, departed San Diego with units of Destroyer Division 152, setting her course for Korean waters. Assigned to TF 77—the fast carrier force operating in the Sea of Japan—"Uhlmann" resumed the screening and plane guard duties which had occupied much of her time in World War II. She later joined TF 95, a blockade and escort force, and carried out day and night bombardment of the Korean coast. While conducting a routine observation patrol off Wonsan Harbor's Hodo Peninsulaon the morning of 20 August, the destroyer came under fire from seven enemy shore batteries. Gun flashes on the beach provided a warning only moments before shells began to fall 1,000 yards (914 m) from the destroyer. All hands went quickly to battle stations as "Uhlmann" commenced evasive maneuvers, increased to flank speed, and opened fire on the shore installations. In short order, she reduced the enemy on shore to two guns, while she steamed among near misses, some of which came as close as 15 yards (14 m). Fragments from the shell explosions carried away a radio antenna during the half hour engagement. Ordered by TG 95.2 to break off the action, "Uhlmann" withdrew out of range of the shore batteries.
In the fall, she patrolled Taiwanese waters and participated in hunter-killer antisubmarine training off Okinawa. In November, she rejoined TF 77 and, operating in the Sea of Japan, rescued several pilots before leaving Yokosuka on
22 January 1952.
She returned to San Diego on
6 Februaryand, in the months that followed, underwent drydocking and alterations which included the installation of new armament. She conducted exercises; then departed San Diego on 11 August 1952in company with Destroyer Division 152, escorting "Kearsarge" (CV-33) and "Toledo" (CA-133) to the Far East.
During this seven-month Korean deployment, "Uhlmann" operated with fast carrier forces, conducted hunter-killer activities, and patrolled off Taiwan. She also conducted shore bombardment which destroyed enemy gun emplacements, a factory, and storage facilities, while damaging buildings, bunkers, and railways. On the morning of
3 November, as she was firing interdiction rounds on a railroad and tunnel on the east coast of North Koreanear Hangwon, the destroyer was taken under fire by shore guns, mortars, and machine guns. Brought to alert by shell splashes only 100 yards (91 m) off her port bow, "Uhlmann" accelerated to 25 knots (46 km/h), began evasive maneuvers, and opened fire with her 3 inch (76 mm) and 5 inch (127 mm) guns. She scored a direct hit on an enemy gun emplacement and suffered only minor damages in the exchange. However, she emerged from the encounter with 13 wounded. After putting in at Hong Kong over Christmas, she departed Yokosuka on 3 March 1953, steamed via Midway and Pearl Harbor, and arrived at San Diego on 19 March 1953.
Following exercises off the west coast, "Uhlmann" was again deployed to the western Pacific. She proceeded via the Hawaiian Islands, and she arrived at Yokosuka on
20 November 1953. During this seven-month tour, the destroyer plied waters off Japan and Korea and engaged in training and operations out of Yokosuka and Sasebo with TF 77. In February 1954, "Uhlmann" joined with elements of the French and British Far Eastern Fleets for Exercise "Sonata" which included extensive antisubmarine warfare training and visits to Philippine and Indochinaports. During March, she embarked personnel of the Nationalist Chinese Navy for training.
Taiwan Straitin the first week of March, she assisted the grounded Chinese Nationalist merchant ship, Kiang Shan which was stranded on an island in the Pescadores. In the course of a daring rescue of crewmen from the Chinese steamer, "Uhlmann" lost her whaleboat and bent her propellers, shafts, and rudder on reefs in the shallow water. After the successful completion of her mission, she put in at Kaohsiungon the 5th. To prevent vibration damage to her reduction gears, she was towed from that port on the llth and, on 14 March, arrived at Subic Bay for repairs. On her return to San Diego, she resumed the stateside routine of upkeep and training.
Over the net 15 years, "Uhlmann" made 11 more deployments to the western Pacific (WestPac). On deployment to the Far East in 1954 with Destroyer Division 152, she took part in the evacuation of the
Tachen Islands—located off Hangchou Wan—in the American attempt to defuse the explosive situation which had developed between Nationalist China and the People's Republic of China. In 1958, during a period of heightened tension over the Chinese offshore islands, the destroyer again supported American interests in the Far East. Between deployments, "Uhlmann" operated out of San Diego, participating in fleet exercises, receiving upkeep, and performing goodwill assignments.
In the 1960s, trouble flared in the area formerly known as French Indochina; and "Uhlmann" served three more wartime tours in Pacific waters, this time off the coast of
Vietnam. Her duties included gunfire support of land action, often coordinated by an airborne spotter, illumination missions, and routine bombardment assignments. Off Vietnam in 1965, she searched junks for contraband; supplied shore bombardment; and served as a plane guard for carrier "Bonhomme Richard" (CV-31). In 1968, a year of heavy fighting in the Republic of Vietnam, "Uhlmann" acted as a plane guard in the Gulf of Tonkinand fired 50 naval gunfire support missions off Hue.
In 1969, she participated in fleet exercises in Hawaiian waters; then, on
1 October, she returned to the west coast and assumed new duties as a Group I Naval Reserve Training Ship operating out of Tacoma, Washington. For the next three years, she conducted reserve training cruises out of that port and participated in fleet exercises. During Exercise "Head Beagle" in August 1970, she conducted intensive training in the Strait of Juan de Fucaand off the coast of Washingtonin conjunction with Canadian naval forces.
The oldest commissioned destroyer in the Navy, she was found unfit for service on
24 November 1971; and, on 15 July 1972, "Uhlmann", the Navy's last "Fletcher"-class destroyer, was decommissioned at the Naval Reserve Center Pier, Tacoma. Her name was struck from the Navy list the same day, and she was transferred to the custody of the Inactive Ship Facility, Bremerton, for disposal. She was later scrapped.
"Uhlmann" received seven
battle stars for World War IIservice, two for Korean Warservice, and five for Vietnam Warservice.
* [http://www.navsource.org/archives/05/687.htm NavSource.org - USS Uhlmann (DD-687)]
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