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Alexander J. Luke

 

Alexander Joseph Luke—born on 18 April 1916 at Philadelphia, pa.—enlisted there in the Marine Corps on 21 June 1934 and underwent boot camp training at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, S.C.

 

After duty at the Marine Barracks at the Norfolk Navy Yard, Portsmouth, Va., and at the Naval Torpedo Station, Newport, R.I., Private Luke served in the 4th Marines, at Shanghai, China, between 20 April 1936 and 20 April 1938. During that time, the regiment guarded American interests and ensured the territorial integrity of the neutral International Settlement during the Sino-Japanese hostilities that threatened the city of Shanghai between August and November 1937.

 

Subsequent tours of shore duty followed in the United States— first at the Marine Barracks in the Philadelphia Navy Yard and then at the Norfolk Navy Yard. During that time, he was promoted to corporal on 2 November 1939 and to sergeant on 22 May 1941.

 

Ultimately, with the rank of platoon sergeant, Luke was assigned to Company "E", 1st Raider Battalion, 1st Marine Division, Fleet Marine Force, and sailed for the South Pacific in the spring of 1942 to prepare for the initial American amphibious assault of the war in the Pacific in the British Solomon Islands

 

At 0830 on 7 August 1942, Company "E" landed at Tulagi in the second assault wave and, in concert with Company "F", 1st Raider Battalion, moved inland to clean out Japanese snipers infesting the western end of the island. That night—as Major General Alexander A. Vandegrift, USMC, the 1st Marine Division commander, later reported—"the Marines had their first taste of the Jap at his best in a savage all-night fight."

 

The Japanese counterattacked and initially succeeded in driving a wedge between two Raider companies. During the gallant holding action, Platoon Sergeant Luke saw one of his machine gunners crumple, dead, behind his weapon. Despite heavy enemy fire, Luke rushed to the gun to put it back in action. His grim determination was typical of the spirit of the marines who succeeded in repulsing the tenacious enemy attack. Ultimately succumbing to the severe gunshot wounds he suffered on the night of 7 August, Luke—awarded posthumously a share of the 1st Marine Division's Presidential Unit Citation and the Silver Star—was buried on Tulagi.

 

(DE-577: dp. 1,740; 1. 306'; b. 37'; dr. 13'6"; s. 23.6 k.; cpl. 213; a. 3 3", 4 40mm., 10 20mm., 2 dct., 8 dcp.; cl. Buckley)

 

Alexander J. Luke (DE—577) was laid down on 5 November 1943 by the Bethlehem-Hingham Shipyard, Hingham, Mass.; launched on 28 December 1943; sponsored by Catherine B. Luke, mother of Sgt. Luke; and commissioned on 19 February 1944, Lt. Comdr. Herbert A. Peterson in command.

 

While returning to Boston on 2 March, the destroyer escort ran aground and suffered minor damage. After a period of drydocking for repairs, she got underway on 16 April for a shakedown cruise to Bermuda and returned to Boston on 15 May for post-shakedown availability.

 

The ship reported to Norfolk, Va., in early June and began conducting exercises as a training ship for precommissioning details. On 13 July, Alexander J. Luke sailed as a unit of Escort Division 66 in company with a convoy bound for Bizerte, Tunisia. The ship returned to the Virginia capes area on 27 August. Following an availability period and training exercises at Boston and Casco Bay, Maine, Alexander J. Luke joined Task Group 62.7 for another voyage to the Mediterranean. She sailed with a convoy to Algeria on 27 September and returned to Boston on 4 November.

 

Upon arriving in Boston, Alexander J. Luke entered drydock. She got underway on 23 November for a period of antisubmarine warfare exercises and tactical maneuvers conducted at Casco Bay; Argentia, Newfoundland; Halifax, Nova Scotia; and New London, Conn. On 21 March 1945, the ship returned to convoy duty, sailing for Great Britain. She made port calls at Londonderry, Ireland; Liverpool and Falmouth, England; and Loch Alsh, Scotland. Having completed this mission, she reported to the Brown Shipbuilding Corp., Houston, Tex., on 22 June for conversion to a radar picket escort ship.

 

The yard work was completed on 7 December, and the ship received the new designation DER-577. Alexander J. Luke departed Houston on 8 January 1946. She headed to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for shakedown and refresher training. On 1 February, the destroyer escort sailed to Casco Bay for further training and inspections. She reported to Norfolk on 17 February and began preparations for rejoining the active fleet. In late March, the destroyer escort was involved in maneuvers with Mindoro (CVE-120). On 17 April, she steamed from Hampton Roads for spring maneuvers in the Caribbean and arrived in Trinidad on the 24th. In early May, Alexander J. Luke planeguarded Salerno Bay (C VE-110). She later took part in landing exercises at Culebra Island, Puerto Rico. The vessel departed the Caribbean and arrived in New York City on 26 May.

 

Alexander J. Luke remained in New York through 10 June, then shifted operations to Casco Bay. From 1 to 26 July, the destroyer escort was in availability. Following this, the ship remained dockside and was used for training personnel. On 6 September, she moved to the New York Naval Shipyard for hull repairs.

 

The destroyer escort sailed on 7 January 1947 for Norfolk. She joined Sicily (CVE-118) and her screen and sailed on 18 January for Guantanamo Bay. Upon their arrival, the ships began three weeks of hunter/killer exercises. On 10 February, Alexander J. Luke touched back at Norfolk. She continued her routine of antisubmarine warfare exercises and tactical maneuvers held along the east coast through 18 October 1947. On that date, Alexander J. Luke was placed out of commission, in reserve, at Charleston, S.C.

 

Alexander J. Luke was redesignated DE-577 in August 1954. The ship was never modernized, and an inspection found her unfit for further service. Alexander J'. Luke was struck from the Navy list on 1 May 1970 and was sold for scrapping.

 

 

Alexander J. Luke (DE-577), at New York City, l June 1946, following her conversion to a radar picket ship. (NH 79724)