Daily Event for September 29, 2013

USS Roche DE-197 was built at Federal Shipbuilding & Drydock Company in Kearney, New Jersey. She was named in honor of Ensign David J. Roche, USNR, a pilot with VT-3 who flew off USS Yorktown CV-5 during the Battle of Midway and never returned. He was awarded the Navy Cross for his aggressiveness in attacking the Japanese fleet. USS Roche was commissioned on Feb. 21, 1944, Lt. Commander Robert E. Parker, USNR, in command.

After fitting out USS Roche proceeded to Bermuda for her shakedown cruise. The inexperienced crew was in for a bad voyage. Most of the men had very little sea experience, and after the stormy voyage to Bermuda most of them men could hardly stand. The violent rolling of a ship that small in such heavy seas was something few of the men had even been through before. They returned to New York a little more seasoned and ready to begin their normal duty.

Her first trans-Atlantic voyage began on Mar. 12, 1944 when she joined convoy UGS-42 bound for Tunisia. The voyage was uneventful until arriving in the Mediterranean when the crew spent three days at battlestations due to German aircraft activity. They arrived safely but rather tired at Bizarre never having seen an enemy aircraft.

Of the twelve trans-Atlantic convoys USS Roche sailed with, only once was an offensive operation carried out. On Aug. 20, 1944 at 0330 a sound contact was picked up, it was determined to be a non-sub target. However at 0546 a second sound target was picked up, this time a depth charge pattern was dropped. No results were observed and at 0650 the ship returned to station with the contact believed to have been fish.

On Jan. 6, 1945 Lt. Cdr. Parker was relieved of command and the Executive Officer, Lt. Commander William S. Laidley, USNR assumed the post. While in convoy CU-61 on Mar. 13, 1945 USS Roche came to the assistance of USAT J. W. McAndrews, which had been in collision with the French aircraft carrier Béarn. Between 0300 and 1100 USS Roche picked up 11 survivors from the transport. Following the rescue operation Lt. Cdr. Laidley, Fireman 1st Class J. W. Mason, Baker 1st Class E. J. Para, Gunner's Mate 3rd Class E. Goodwin and Boatswain's Mate 2nd Class W. Summers were commended by Commander Destroyers Atlantic Fleet. Boatswain's Mate 1st Class F. H. Burton was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for his actions.

On June 9, 1945 USS Roche departed New York for duty in the Pacific, touching at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and passing through the Panama Canal. She then touched at San Diego before sailing for Pearl Harbor, she arrived in Hawaii on July 19, 1945. After some additional training she departed Pearl on Aug. 8 bound for Eniwetok, Marshall Islands.

USS Roche was at sea when the official announcement of the surrender of the Japanese Empire was made, the news was well received from the men in the ship, just as it was on every other ship in the Navy. She arrived at Eniwetok on Aug. 16, 1945. Her first duty in the Pacific (after the men shook off their hangovers) was to escort EU-176 to Ulithi. After returning to Eniwetok she was ordered to escort two LCIs to Wake Island. These were the first occupation troops to land on Wake after the Japanese surrender. Returning to Eniwetok on Sept. 14 USS Roche prepared to head for Japan.

On Sept. 24, 1945 USS Roche acting as escort for USS Florence Nightingale AP-70 departed Eniwetok bound for Tokyo, Japan. The surrender had been signed on Sept. 2 and the voyage was expected to be free of trouble. But the ship that had crossed the Atlantic with twelve convoys without a scratch during the war, did not make it to Tokyo in one piece after the war was officially over.

On September 29, 1945 only thirty miles from the mouth of the Uraga Strait which leads into Tokyo Bay, sailing 1,500 yards ahead of USS Florence Nightingale, USS Roche was shaken by two explosions in quick order. It was determined that she had hit one, maybe two floating mines. There was no immediate danger of the ship sinking, but only quick and decisive action by the crew prevented the damage from becoming a disaster. The stern was wrecked, but all watertight doors were closed and the ship was saved. It was only later after muster was called that it was learned that three men were missing, the only combat casualties ever suffered on the ship. Ten others were wounded and were taken aboard USS Florence Nightingale for medical care. USS ATR-35 came out and took the ship in tow and at 1400 on Sept. 30 the damaged ship anchored in Tokyo Bay.

On Oct. 8 it was decided that the ship was damaged beyond economical repair and she was cannibalized for parts. On Nov. 8 Lt. Cdr. Laidley was rotated home and Lt. (j.g.) John E. Jay, USNR took command. His job was to decommission the ship. Her end came on Mar. 11, 1946 when she was taken out into Tokyo Bay off Yokosuka and sunk, she was stricken from the Naval Register on June 5, 1946.
© 2013 Michael W. Pocock

USS Roche DE-197

Roll of Honor
In memory of those who lost their lives in
USS Roche DE-197
"As long as we embrace them in our memory, their spirit will always be with us"

Gibson, Sr., Coley B.
Seaman 1st Class (USNR)
Stanley, James H.
Seaman 2nd Class (USNR)
Wise, William F.
Seaman 1st Class (USNR)

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