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DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORY AND HERITAGE COMMAND
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Abercrombie

 

William Warner Abercrombie—born in Medford, Oreg., on 24 July 1914—enlisted in the Naval Reserve as a seaman 2d class at Kansas City, Kansas, on 27 August 1940. After undergoing elimination flight training at the Naval Reserve Aviation Base, Kansas City, from 16 September to 5 October, Abercrombie received an honorable discharge the day before Christmas, 1940, to accept an appointment as an aviation cadet, USNR, on 27 December. Three days later, the fledgling flyer arrived at the Naval Air Station (NAS), Pensacola, to begin his formal flight training.

 

Abercrombie underwent further instruction at NAS, Miami, before he won his wings on 10 July 1941. Shortly thereafter, after receiving his ensign's stripe on 4 August 1941, he arrived at NAS, Norfolk, for temporary duty. There he joined Torpedo Squadron (VT) 8, established at NAS, Norfolk, on 2 September 1941 under the command of Lt. Comdr. John C. Waldron.

 

Comprising part of the air group of the aircraft carrier Hornet (CV-8), VT-1 trained under its veteran commanding officer during the waning weeks of peace. The squadron remained as one unit until February 1942, two months after the Japanese attack on the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor that threw the United States into global war, when it was divided into two groups—one that remained ship-based under Waldron, one that traveled to the Grumman aircraft plant on Long Island to take delivery of new aircraft. Abercrombie—nicknamed "Abbie" by his squadron-mates—remained with the former.

 

"Torpedo 8" operated from Hornet as the ship sailed from the Atlantic to the Pacific, via the Panama Canal, from February to March. During the westward voyage toward the Japanese homeland occasioned by the Halsey-Doolittle mission in the spring of 1942, VT-S's Douglas TBD-1 "Devastator" torpedo planes remained below on the hangar deck, sharing that space with Hornet's squadrons of dive and scout bombers and fighters—all available deck space on the flight deck taken up by the 16 North American B-25 bombers that would bomb Tokyo and other Japanese cities. Only after Doolittle's men had winged their way toward Nippon's sacred soil did Hornet have the ability to launch her own planes in her own defense. Later that spring, VT-8 voyaged with the ship as she proceeded toward the South Pacific in company with near-sister Enterprise (CV-6), arriving in the vicinity too late to participate in the Battle of the Coral Sea (4 to 8 May 1942) that began the reversal of Japanese fortunes in that theater of war.

 

Thus after months of training and patrols, the squadron still had not yet had a chance to test its skill in what it had been trained to do—carry out a torpedo attack on enemy ships. Late in May, however, after American cryptanalysts had pinpointed Japanese intentions on Midway, Hornet and Enterprise, together with their screening ships, proceeded toward that key atoll, joined later by Yorktown (CV—5) and her screen.

 

On the morning of 4 June 1942, after having given his men a relaxed routine of "no school and unnecessary work" on the first few days of the passage outward-bound from Pearl Harbor, Waldron led 15 TBD-l's, one piloted by Abercrombie, from Hornet's flight deck. He located the Japanese carrier force and although he knew full well that the planes had used up enough fuel to prevent their safe return to the ship, led them in on their torpedo runs. "Torpedo 8" pressed home a desperate and gallant attack in the face of "Zero fighters and heavy antiaircraft fire, but suffered grievously. All 15 planes were shot down. Of the thirty men manning them, only Ens. George H. Gay, Jr., USNR, survived. For his part in the gallant attack, Ens. Abercrombie received a Navy Cross, and a share of VT-8's Presidential Unit Citation, posthumously.

 

(DE-343: dp. 1,350; l. 306'0"; b. 36'7"; dr. 13'4"; s. 24.3 k.; cpl. 222; a. 2 5", 4 40mm., 10 20mm., 2 dct., 8 dcp., 1 dcp. (hh.), 3 21" tt.; cl. John C. Butler)

 

Abercrombie (DE-343) was laid down on 8 November 1943 at Orange, Tex., by the Consolidated Steel Corp.; launched on 14 January 1944; sponsored by Mrs. C. W. Abercrombie, mother of the late Ens. Abercrombie; and commissioned at her builder's yard on 1 May 1944, Lt. Comdr. Bernard H. Katschinski, USNR, in command.

 

The destoryer escort spent the first three weeks of May in the vicinity of Galveston, Tex., either at sea in the Gulf of Mexico testing her ordnance and equipment or in port receiving finishing touches in preparation for shakedown training. She conducted her shakedown cruise in the British West Indies late in May and early in June before putting into Boston on the 25th for post-shakedown repairs. Eleven days later, Abercrombie headed south to Norfolk where she stopped over on the night of 7 and 8 July. From there the warship took departure for Aruba, a Dutch island off the coast of Venezuela, and a transhipment and refining center for Venezuelan crude oil, in company with Walter C. Wann (DE-412), Chepachet (AO-78), and Salamonie (AO-26). Abercrombie and Walter C. Wann shepherded the two oilers into port at Aruba late in the evening of 15 July. Two days later after the oilers loaded cargo, the convoy put to sea again.

 

After seeing Chepachet and Salamonie safely to the Panama Canal, Abercrombie began two weeks of patrol and escort duty in the Caribbean Sea that ended on 1 August when she entered the canal. Following two days of liberty at Balboa, the destroyer escort got underway for San Diego where she arrived on the llth. On 22 August, Abercrombie set sail for Hawaii, arriving at Pearl Harbor a week later. For three weeks, the warship conducted training exercises with escort carriers in the Hawaiian Islands before putting to sea on 19 September to escort General W. F. Hase (AP-146) to Manus in the Admiralty Islands.

 

Abercrombie and her charge entered Seeadler Harbor at Ma nus on 30 September. The destroyer escort remained there for two weeks. On 14 October, she returned to sea and joined the screen of an escort carrier task group on its way to provide close air support for the amphibious landings at Leyte in the Philippine Islands. After rendezvousing with a large convoy of amphibious ships and merchantmen off Hollandia on the northern coast of New Guinea, Abercrombie's group set course for the Philippines. The convoy arrived in Leyte Gulf on 20 October not long after the troops had made the initial landings. Leaving the reinforcement convoy in Leyte Gulf, Abercrombie escorted the small carriers to their operating area east of the Philippines.

 

For the next five days, the destroyer escort screened the carriers against submarine and air attack while their aviators supported the troops on Leyte with close support and interdiction sorties. While not actually engaged in any of the three phases of the Battle for Leyte Gulf fought on 24 and 25 October, Abercrombie was close enough for her crew to watch some portions of the phase known as the Battle off Samar on 25 October when a Japanese surface force of battleships, cruisers, and destroyers made a surface gun attack on the escort carriers, destroyers, and destroyer escorts of the northernmost elements of her Task Group (TG) 77.4.

 

After the excitement of 25 October, the warship spent the remainder of the month screening the escort carriers. She then headed back to Manus in the Admiralty Islands where she arrived on 3 November. Abercrombie remained at Manus for most bf November, setting sail for the northern Solomons on the 28th. After amphibious landing exercises at Cape Torokina on Bougainville and at Huon Gulf, New Guinea, she returned to Manus to make final preparations for the invasion of Luzon.

 

On 27 December, the destroyer escort put to sea in company with a large group of amphibious ships. For the invasion of Luzon, Abercrombie served as the flagship for TG 79.9, Control Group "Able," of Vice Admiral Theodore S. Wilkinson's Task Force (TF) 79, the Lingayen Attack Force. Steaming northwest to Leyte Gulf thence through the Surigao Strait, she passed through the Mindanao Sea around the southern tip of Negros and turned north to transit the Sulu Sea. From that point on to Lingayen Gulf, Japanese aircraft and midget submarines harassed the invasion force. Though enemy aircraft sank several American warships and damaged a number of others, the combat air patrol (CAP) provided a fairly effective umbrella, and only a small percentage of the raiders succeeded in penetrating the aerial shield. As a consequence, Abercrombie's guns remained silent throughout the passage.

 

On the night of 8 and 9 January 1945, the destroyer escort entered Lingayen Gulf. Early on the morning of the 9th, she steamed in close to shore to take up station as a control ship for the amphibious craft. She anchored about 4,500 yards off the main assault beaches near the town of Lingayen. During the final preinvasion bombardment, Abercrombie's guns opened fire on the enemy for the first time when a kamikaze dived on Columbia (CL-56). In spite of the defensive efforts of the ships around the cruiser, the suicider succeeded in crashing Columbia, the third enemy plane to do so in as many days. Not long thereafter, Abercrom.bie turned to her primary mission as landing craft of the first assault waves formed up on her for the run to the beaches. For most of the morning, landing craft lined up under her direction before starting for the shore.

 

By 1100, the general lack of resistance on the beaches allowed the transports and cargo ships to move inshore to complete disembarking troops and unloading supplies and equipment. That development freed Abercrombie of control ship duties, and she steamed out to join the antiaircraft screen for empty transports awaiting the formation of convoys for the return voyage to rear area bases. That evening, the warship stood out of Lingayen Gulf in the screen of one such convoy and escorted it by way of Leyte to Biak in the Schouten Islands. From there, Abercrombie carried out another convoy escort mission, seeing troops and equipment safely to Mindprq in the Philippines. The destroyer escort then voyaged to Ulithi Atoll in the Western Carolines for two weeks of rest and relaxation. At the conclusion of that interlude, she returned to Leyte where she made preparations for and trained for the invasion of the Ryukyu Islands.

 

On 21 March, Abercrombie departed Leyte with TG 51.1 as part of the screen for the Western Islands Attack Group. That unit's assignment was to secure Kerama Retto, a group of small islands located to the west of the southern half of Okinawa, before the main assault for use as a fleet anchorage, replenish ment area, and temporary repair facility. Her unit, therefore, went into action in the Ryukyus a week before the majority of the invasion force. For five days, she provided antiaircraft and antisubmarine protection for the naval units supporting the subjection of that group of islets. On 1 April, attention shifted to the main objective when the landing force stormed ashore on Okinawa itself. Abercrombie spent another five days guarding the supporting ships against attack by Japanese submarines and planes.

 

She cleared the Ryukyu Islands on 5 April in company with Task Unit (TU) 51.29.4 and set a course for the Marianas. The destroyer escort stopped at Saipan from 9 to 11 April and then put to sea in company with Mustin (DD-413) bound for Ulithi. After spending the night of 12 and 13 April at Ulithi, Abercrom.bie sortied from the anchorage on the 13th with TG 55.8 for the return voyage to Okinawa.

 

Arriving back in the Ryukyus on 17 April, the destroyer escort spent the next two months performing a variety of services in support of the campaign to wrest Okinawa from the Japanese. During that period, antiair defense proved to be the most pressing problem. Enemy air power in the form of both suicide and conventional raids tested the Navy's endurance nearly to the limit. Ships such as Abercrombie patrolling the radar picket stations surrounding Okinawa provided early warnings of incoming air raids and bore the brunt of those onslaughts. The destroyer escort tangled with Japanese planes on at least 16 separate occasions, claiming two definite kills and two assists. When not standing watch on a radar picket station, Abercrombie conducted antisubmarine searches, rescued downed American airmen, and provided escort services to a variety of ships.

 

On 14 June, the warship departed the Ryukyus in company with TU 31.29.8, bound for the Marianas. She arrived at Saipan four days later and remained there, undergoing routine maintenance while her crew enjoyed some respite from the rigors of duty at Okinawa, until the end of the month. Abercrombie returned to sea on 1 July to proceed independently to Okinawa. She reached her destination on Independence Day 1945 but remained there only two days. On 6 July, she cleared the Ryukyus as a unit of TF 32 to join the 3d Fleet in its rampage through Japanese home waters. Over the ensuing three weeks, she screened the larger units of the fleet against a submarine threat that probably did not exist and sank mines. On 31 July, Abercrombie returned to Okinawa and resumed antiaircraft and antisubmarine defense duties for a week.

 

The warship took departure from Okinawa once again on 8 August and shaped a course for Leyte in the Philippines. She entered San Pedro Bay at Leyte on the llth and commenced a nine-day maintenance period. Abercrombie stood out of San Pedro Bay on 20 August and headed back to Okinawa. She stayed in the vicinity of Okinawa from 23 August to 9 September and then embarked upon a voyage to escort occupation forces to Korea. She arrived in Jinsen (now Inchon), Korea, on the 15th and departed again on the 17th. The warship made a three-day stopover at Okinawa between 19 and 22 September and then headed for occupation duty in Japan. Abercrombie entered Wakanqura Wan, Honshu, on 24 September, and began six weeks of duty in support of the forces occupying Japan. On 4 November, the destroyer escort concluded her assignment in Japan and laid in a course for the United States. Steaming by way of Pearl Harbor, she entered port at San Pedro, Calif., on 21 November and began preparations for inactivation.

 

Early in 1946, Abercrombie was towed to San Diego where she was placed out of commission on 15 June 1946. Berthed with the San Diego Group, Pacific Reserve Fleet, the destroyer escort remained inactive there until sometime in the mid-1950's when she was moved to Bremerton, Wash. On 1 May 1967, her name was struck from the Navy list. In November, she was towed back to San Diego and, on 7 January 1968, the warship was sunk as a target by the guns, missiles, and aircraft of a task group built around Bon Homme Richard (CVA-31).

 

Abercrombie earned four battle stars during World War II.