Daily Event for October 19, 2013

In advance of the U.S. landings on Leyte Island on Oct. 20, 1944 many preparations had to be made. U.S. Rangers made advance landings on the islands of Suluan and Dinagat On Oct. 17 and the following day they took Homonhon Island. In the waters around the islands where soon ships of the U.S. Navy would be patrolling mines had been laid by the Japanese, they had to be cleared.

One of the ships tasked with this mission was the destroyer USS Ross DD-563. Ross had been commissioned on Feb. 21, 1944 and had already participated in the capture of Saipan, Peleliu and other operations. USS Ross also provided cover for the landings on Dinagat on the 17th of Oct. and against Homonhon Island on the 18th. USS Ross was then dispatched to join T.U. 77.2.6 as part of the minesweeping operations.

At 0133 (USN time) on October 19, 1944 USS Ross struck a mine on the port side under the forward engineroom and fireroom, three minutes later the engines were stopped because all steam had been lost. The ship took on a 5° list and began to settle by the stern. At 0155 the helpless ship drifted into a second mine which detonated below the after engineroom. Flooding increased the list to 14° and her commanding officer, Commander Benjamin Coe, USN began to think his ship may founder.

Only quick action and a lot of very hard work could save the ship from sinking. The crew, surely aware that they could hit another mine at any second, carried out their duty with great swiftness and determination. They put all the port side depth charges, smoke generators, six torpedoes, ammunition and other equipment over the side. They sluiced the oil in the forward tanks to starboard and shifting every piece of equipment and a lot of stores to the starboard side. Because of the gallant efforts of the crew the list was finally checked, but the ship was not out of trouble.

Still in the minefield and unable to maneuver USS Ross was taken in tow by USS Chickasaw ATF-83 and pulled to relative safety. The ship was a wreck and twenty-three men were dead or missing with another dozen wounded. Despite the damage USS Ross was anchored off Montoconan Island by 0420. The wounded had been transferred to USS Chickasaw and the crew with the help of a salvage team from USS Preserver ARS-8 began to make repairs to the ship. Compartments had to be pumped out and more ammunition and equipment had to be cast overboard.

Their terrible experience was not over yet, at 1204 a single Japanese aircraft appeared and dropped two bombs near USS Ross, causing only slight damage to the ship, but seriously injuring two men. By 1707 USS Ross was again under tow by USS Chickasaw in company with USS Preserver heading for the anchorage off Mariquitdaquit Island arriving at 0158 on Oct. 20. But before the ships could move into the correct anchorage they were again attacked by aircraft, one bomb hitting Preserver. The men on USS Ross put up AA fire and drove off the attackers. Finally at 0654 USS Chickasaw let go her line, USS Preserver, although listing, moved alongside USS Ross and repairs to both ships began in earnest.

That afternoon at 1720 the three men who had been killed when the ship was mined were buried, an hour and twenty-five minutes later another Japanese aircraft approached the ship. She came in from astern, but made no attack, perhaps because of the AA fire put up by the men of USS Ross. Continued air raid warnings kept the men on edge and this would continue day after day for weeks.

On Oct. 22 the bodies of seven of the missing crewmen were located and buried, another four bodies were recovered on Oct. 31st. Even facing the loss of their fellow crewmen the work to repair the ship and repel air attack had to be carried out. The extensive damage had knocked their ship out of the war and made them a sitting duck, worse yet there were no facilities available to effect repairs that would get them home. They were towed to San Pedro Bay on Oct. 23/24 and remained there until a floating drydock could be brought in, which took a month. Continued air attacks and even a typhoon failed to diminish the fortitude of the men on this destroyer, of course shooting down several enemy planes during this period lifted the spirits of the men, but they no doubt had a rough time of it. In all it is recorded that while waiting to head back to the U.S.A. for permanent repairs USS Ross had survived 286 air raids one typhoon and one Kamikaze hit.

The actions of the crew can be best summed up by their commanding officer who wrote:

"Words cannot express the pride that is felt in the courage, initiative and determination displayed by the officers and crew in general. It will be noted that the period covered by this report includes many consecutive days in which the ship was threatened without letup from enemy planes and from typhoon. All hands knew that any further damage would sink the ship in her weakened condition. Out A.A. batteries were very much reduced. There was no prospect of an early solution to our difficulties. A dry dock was needed and its prospective arrival date is still uncertain. Air attacks have been continuous day and night. Supplies are running low and water is scare. Proper sanitation was next to impossible. In spite of all this the crew is still fighting and confident."

It was not until Dec. 18 that repairs had been completed and USS Ross was towed from San Pedro Bay by SS Cape Gaspe, but at 2316 the tow line parted for the first time and USS Charlottesville PF-25 took over the job. Two more lines parted before arriving at New Guinea, but arrive they did. They would be detained at Humboldt Bay until Jan. 19, 1945, continuing repairs and waiting for a ship to tow them. The war diary entry for Jan. 1, 1945 is quite unique and it is reproduced here:

"You asked for a diary
I'll give you it straight,
Though writing a diary
Is one thing I hate.

There's not much to say,
But say it I must,
So here goes,"Dear Diary",
It's write you or bust.

We're tied up in Humboldt
With ships on each side
Just waiting and hoping
We'll hitch us a ride.

Two boilers are gone
And our engines are shot,
I tell you that Leyte
Is one place that's hot.

We're tanked up and ready
We're all set to go
And all that is lacking
Is some kind of tow.

If you can arrange for
A Liberty Ship,
We'll thank you quite kindly
And start on our trip.

The entry is not signed, but it would seem that who ever had written it had not lost his sense of humor in the middle of a war.

USS Ross arrived at Seeadler Harbor, Manus, Admiralty Islands on Jan. 21, 1945 under tow from SS David Hewes (a Liberty ship). This time their stay was short, they were underway, again towed by David Hewes, on Jan. 23, destination Pearl Harbor. USS Ross and her crew arrived at Pearl Harbor on Feb. 12, 1945 at 1050. They were not home yet, they had one more voyage to make. With David Hewes hauling her USS Ross left Pearl on Feb. 15 bound for California.

As the ships approached California the tow line parted, it was replaced and they continued. The tug USS ATR-23 came out to meet them and exchanged positions with David Hewes, and at 1955 on Mar. 2, 1945 the intrepid USS Ross and her indefatigable crew passed under the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California. Four and a half months after hitting the mines their tedious, harrowing and exhausting journey had come to an end. They had made an incredible voyage from Leyte to the USA under tow all the way,

Cdr. Coe (later Rear Admiral) was replaced on Apr. 14 by Commander Clay H. Raney, USN, and the ship went into drydock at Mara Island Naval Shipyard, repairs lasted until June 27. On July 9 the rebuilt USS Ross sailed for Pearl Harbor and back to the Pacific war, but she would arrive too late for further action, USS Ross arrived at Ulithi on Aug. 14, 1945.

Her career would last until 1959 having again sailed the worlds oceans, this time under her own power. The plucky little destroyer that the Japanese could not sink, was sunk as a target by her own navy on Jan. 26, 1978.
© 2013 Michael W. Pocock

May 4, 1944: USS Ross DD-563 seen after her rebuild.
(Photo courtesy of David W. McComb and

Roll of Honor
In memory of those who lost their lives in
USS Ross DD-563
"As long as we embrace them in our memory, their spirit will always be with us"

Anderson, Wade
Watertender 2nd Class
Boyd, James D.
Electrician's Mate 2nd Class (USNR)
Brown, Stanley I.
Motor Machinist's Mate 1st Class
Dyke, A. R.
Machinist's Mate 3rd Class (USNR)
Ferrell, Robert H.
Electrician's Mate 2nd Class
Gallagher, Thomas W.
Motor Machinist's Mate 3rd Class (USNR)
Grizzell, Leslie R.
Machinist's Mate 1st Class
Hauser, John L.
Fireman 1st Class (USNR)
Johnson, James A.
Machinist's Mate 2nd Class (USNR)
Kandybowicz, Stanley J.
Fireman 1st Class (USNR)
Luckett, Thomas E.
Machinist's Mate 1st Class (USNR)
Marmon, James A.
Machinist's Mate 1st Class
Meadows, Robert F.
Motor Machinist's Mate 1st Class (USNR)
Murphy, Thomas E.
Electrician's Mate 1st Class (USNR)
Mustin, Emmett R.
Machinist's Mate 1st Class
Penland, Robert C.
Watertender 3rd Class (USNR)
Reyes, Paul E.
Fireman 2nd Class (USNR)
Rigby, Sidney C.
Machinist's Mate 2nd Class (USNR)
Scott, Wesley O.
Fireman 1st Class (USNR)
Shreve, Denver A.
Fireman 1st Class (USNR)
Snow, Ethan A.
Chief Machinist's Mate
Souza, Alfred
Machinist's Mate 1st Class
Vicsik, John
Fireman 1st Class (USNR)
Webster, Jr., Sidney M.
Metalsmith 3rd Class (USNR)
Wiersching, Vernon T.
Machinist's Mate 3rd Class
Died of wounds Oct. 20, 1944 (may have been injured in the air attack).
Died of wounds Oct. 21, 1944 (may have been injured in the air attack).

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