Vernard Eugene Bivin--born in Greenville, Kentucky, on 23 November 1921--enlisted in the Navy at Louisville, Kentucky, on 26 March 1940. Seaman 1st Class Bivin served as trainer on one of the heavy cruiser Salt Lake City (CA 25)’s 5”/25 guns during the Battle of Cape Esperance on the night of 11-12 October 1942, when Task Group 62.4, under Rear Admiral Norman Scott, engaged a Japanese force of three heavy cruisers and two destroyers bent on shelling Henderson Field. Although Salt Lake City and light cruiser Boise (CL-47) crippled Japanese heavy cruiser Furutaka during that fierce night engagement; both cruisers suffered damage in the fierce night action.
Seaman 1st Class Bivin remained at his battle station, executing his duties so well that none of the other members of the gun’s crew knew he had been mortally wounded. Only when he collapsed during a lull in the battle, “still trying to keep his pointers matched and the gun firing without cessation” did they learn of the extent of the young Kentuckian’s injuries that ultimately claimed his life. His courageous devotion to duty resulted in his being awarded, posthumously, the Navy Cross.
(DE 536: dp. 1,350; l. 306'0"; b. 36'7"; dr. 13'4"; s. 24.3 k.(tl.); cpl. 222; a. 2 5", 8 40mm., 10 20 mm., 3 tt., 2 dct., 8 dcp., 1 hh.; cl. John C. Butler)
Bivin (DE 536) was laid down on 3 November 1943 by the Boston Navy Yard; launched on 7 December 1943; sponsored by Mrs. Ella Florence Bivin, the mother of Seaman 1st Class Bivin; and commissioned on 31 October 1944, Lt. Comdr. Monroe Kelly, Jr., in command.
After fitting out, Bivin sailed for Bermuda three days before Christmas, 22 December. After nearly a month of intensive shakedown training, Bivin received orders on 19 January 1945 to proceed to a lifeguard station, providing protection for the air traffic supporting the impending “Argonaut” conference at Yalta, where President Franklin D. Roosevelt met with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet Premier Josef Stalin. Relieved by destroyer Frank Knox (DD 742) after three days on station, Bivin returned to Boston.
Upon completion of post shakedown repairs, Bivin sailed for the Pacific on 1 February 1945. After receiving ordnance alterations in the Canal Zone, the ship transited the Panama Canal on 17 February, and continued onward, pausing only at the Galapagos Islands on 20 February and at Bora Bora on 4 March. Ultimately, she reached Manus, Admiralty Islands, on 20 March.
After loading provisions, Bivin sailed for Kossol Roads in the Palau Islands, whence she escorted a 36 ship convoy to Leyte late in March and early in April. The destroyer escort then began local antisubmarine patrol and escort duty. She patrolled across the mouth of Leyte Gulf south of Homonhon Island and then served off Samar with Tuna (SS 203) as school ship for ASW training. Bivin resumed convoy duty between Manus and Hollandia on one end and Luzon and Okinawa on the other.
While Japanese submarine activity proved negligible, affording Bivin little opportunity to practice her antisubmarine skills, enemy submarines could still prove deadly when the opportunity arose, even late in the war. Early in August, she received orders to patrol the area where the heavy cruiser Indianapolis (CA 35) had been torpedoed by the Japanese submarine I-58 and search for survivors. Bivin investigated several reported sightings of enemy submesibles, but made no actual contacts. Rescue operations ended on 8 August, and the announcement of the Japanese surrender came one week later.
Thereafter, the ship escorted a series of convoys to Okinawa. On 3 September, Bivin was called upon to assist and to escort to safety numerous tugs and tows of a convoy which had been scattered by a typhoon. On 28 September, the destroyer escort was again ordered to help a convoy which was then in the midst of a violent typhoon in the Luzon Strait. Bivin served as commander for the rescue operations; and, despite the rough weather, all 14 units of the convoy were safely recovered with no loss of life.
The destroyer escort’s crew enjoyed liberty in Manila and, after provisioning, Bivin escorted the fleet tug Tolowa (ATF 116) with a repair barge in tow, and a small tanker to Hong Kong, where she arrived on 27 October. Bivin then returned to Manila where Filipino guerilla leader Guillermo Lorenzana came on board on 8 November. The destroyer escort sailed for the Batan Islands in the Luzon Strait, where Lorenzana helped locate four witnesses for the war crimes trial of Japanese General Yamashita Tomiyuki in Manila. Bivin returned the guerilla leader and the four witnesses to Manila on 11 November and awaited further orders. On 21 November, the warship got underway for Subic Bay to take on supplies for the trip back to the United States. Bivin joined Escort Division (CortDiv) 78 at Leyte and, on 27 November, sailed for home, via Eniwetok and Pearl Harbor. Upon reaching California, Bivin began the inactivation process at San Diego.
Decommissioned on 20 May 1946, Bivin lay berthed at San Diego for more than 20 years. Finally, struck from the Navy list on 30 June 1968, the ship was sunk as a target off the coast of southern California on 17 July 1969.
Mary Pat Walker
6 February 2006