Edgar Rees Bassett--born in Philadelphia on 10 March 1914--enlisted in the Naval Reserve as a seaman 2d class on 13 February 1940 at New York City. Commissioned ensign after winning his "wings" on 20 May 1941, he joined Fighting Squadron (VF) 42 on 9 June as it was preparing for its first Neutrality Patrol cruise on board Yorktown (CV 5).
Bassett one of the more colorful "characters" among the fighter pilots of VF 42 remained associated with Yorktown for the rest of his life. He was awarded air medals for his aggressive performance of duty in the first few months of the war, especially for his strafing gun emplacements and enemy barges during the raid on Lae and Salamaua, New Guinea, on 10 March 1942. He was also awarded the Navy Cross for "extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty" during the Battle of the Coral Sea between 4 and 8 May 1942. He shot down a Mitsubishi F1M2 floatplane ("Pete") over Tulagi during the Yorktown air group attack on shipping there on 4 May and strafed the Japanese destroyer Yuzuki as it fled Tulagi harbor. On the morning of 7 May, he flew one of the fighters that protected Torpedo Squadron (VT) 5 in its attack on the Japanese carrier Shōhō. That same evening, Bassett helped to disperse a group of Japanese dive bombers and torpedo planes in the vicinity of the Yorktown task force. The following morning, he flew combat air patrol over Task Force 17 and assisted in the downing of one enemy plane during the attack on his carrier.
Assigned to VF 3 along with several other VF 42 pilots on the eve of the Battle of Midway, Bassett flew one of the six fighters covering VT 3 in the attack on the Japanese Mobile Force. When the enemy combat air patrol swarmed over the torpedo planes and their escort, Bassett was shot down in flames at the outset and killed.
(APD 73: dp. 1,450; l. 306'0"; b. 37'0"; dr. 12'7" (lim.); s. 23.6 k. (lim.); cpl. 204; trp. 162; a. 1 5", 6 40mm., 6 20mm., 2 dct.; cl. Charles Lawrence)
Bassett (DE 672) was laid down on 28 November 1943 at Orange, Tex., by the Consolidated Steel Corp.; and launched on 15 January 1944; sponsored by Mrs. Margaret Bassett, the mother of the man for whom the ship was named; completed as a high speed transport; redesignated APD 73 on 27 June 1944; and commissioned on 23 February 1945, Lt. Comdr. Harold J. Theriault in command.
Following shakedown training in Chesapeake Bay and in waters off Guantanamo Bay--evolutions completed by 9 April 1945--Bassett underwent post shakedown availability at Norfolk before sailing for the Pacific. Reporting to the Pacific Fleet for duty on 1 May 1945, Bassett carried out amphibious training exercises out of Pearl Harbor before escorting convoys to places which included Eniwetok, in the Marshalls; Guam in the Marianas; Ulithi, in the Carolines; Hollandia, New Guinea; and ultimately Leyte, in the Philippines. Upon reporting at Leyte for duty with the Commander, Philippine Sea Frontier, the warship delivered mail and passengers to various ports in the Philippine archipelago and to Brunei Bay, Borneo.
After returning to Leyte on 26 July 1945, the high speed transport conducted antisubmarine patrols off that island. On 2 August while carrying out that duty north of Leyte, she received reports of large groups of survivors some 200 miles away and altered course to investigate. Within 10 hours, Bassett joined in the rescue of survivors from the heavy cruiser Indianapolis (CA 35), which had been torpedoed and sunk by the Japanese submarine I-58. After reaching the scene of the tragedy, the high speed transport rescued 154 survivors from that unfortunate warship in a four hour search and took them to the Fleet Hospital before returning to Leyte.
Following a brief voyage to Hollandia, Bassett was assigned to Amphibious Group 8, to take part in the occupation of Japan. She supported the landings at Wakayama, near the key port of Kure and at Nagoya, on Honshu, before serving as a harbor entrance control ship at the latter port. Detached from these duties on 18 November 1945, Bassett participated in the massive homeward bound movement of veterans--Operation "Magic Carpet"--embarking passengers at Sasebo, Japan. Upon returning these men to the west coast, Bassett tarried briefly at San Diego before shifting her area of operations to the Atlantic. Following availability at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, the fast transport was assigned to the Florida group of the 16th Fleet. Decommissioned on 29 April 1946, Bassett was laid up at Green Cove Springs, Fla.
Recommissioned on 7 December 1950, as part of the build-up of the Fleet after the outbreak of hostilities in Korea, Lt. Comdr. Demetrius J. Vellis in command, Bassett proceeded to Jacksonville, Fla., for availability at the Merrill Stephens Drydock and Repair Co. After reporting for duty to the Commander, Amphibious Force, Atlantic Fleet, on 19 December, Bassett sailed for Norfolk.
Over the next seven years, Bassett operated out of Norfolk with the amphibious arm of the Atlantic Fleet. Her initial assignments took her to Havana, Cuba; St. Thomas, Virgin Islands; and Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico. They also included cold weather reconnaissance work carried out in cooperation with Marine Corps units. She escorted convoys, participated in amphibious landings, and performed plane guard duty. In June 1952, Bassett began her first midshipmen training cruise, during which she visited Greenock, Scotland, and several French ports.
In 1953, Bassett's duties took her to Morehead City, N.C., Vieques, Puerto Rico; St. Croix, Virgin Islands, and the British West Indies. She stood plane guard duty for the carrier Mindoro (CVE 120) during October of that year. In June 1954, unrest in Guatemala prompted her despatch to the region to observe the situation. Upon her return from Caribbean duty, the fast transport carried out another midshipmen training cruise, this time to Canada and Puerto Rico.
She completed a yard availability at the Charleston Naval Shipyard during the summer of 1955 and returned to active duty on 6 September. She cleared Charleston on that day and stood into Guantanamo Bay on the 25th. Bassett spent one night there before getting underway to search for a Navy hurricane-hunting plane lost in the Caribbean while tracking Hurricane "Janet." However, her five day hunt failed to locate the sought after plane and its crew.
Bassett next received orders to proceed to British Honduras to assist victims of Hurricane "Janet." En route, she received orders directing her to put into the Mexican port of Tampico, where raging floods caused by the hurricane had engulfed 32,000 square miles of Mexican territory, causing loss of both lives and property. While at Tampico, Bassett assisted Saipan (CVL 48) in carrying out relief work and rendered invaluable service herself by bringing supplies to the needy people along the swollen Rio Panuco and by rescuing marooned people. Upon the completion of her mission, Bassett returned to Guantanamo Bay, arriving there on 17 October 1955. Finishing her training evolutions by 18 November, the ship sailed for the United States and reached her home port in time for her men to enjoy Thanksgiving with their families.
Following type training at Norfolk in late November and early December of 1955, Bassett then carried out amphibious operations in the Little Creek area into January 1956. Later that month, she operated with elements of the Army's crack 77th Special Forces. The fast transport spent the remainder of February and the early part of March at Little Creek or in nearby waters.
On 20 March 1956, Bassett sailed for the Mediterranean and her first deployment to the 6th Fleet. Passing the Rock of Gibraltar on Easter Sunday, Bassett began several months of operations in that sea making goodwill port visits and engaging in amphibious exercises. She ranged the length and breadth of the "middle sea" from Gibraltar to Athens, Greece, and Izmir, Turkey; and from the Isle of Rhodes to the French Riviera. In the course of her training evolutions, Bassett served as primary control ship for the landing practice at Porto Scudo, Sardinia, and Dikili, Turkey, in addition to supporting her own Underwater Demolition Unit (UDU) in each instance.
After the seven month deployment, she reached Little Creek on 18 October 1956 and spent the remainder of the year there engaged in upkeep and post deployment repairs. In January 1957, the fast trasnport commenced local operations out of Little Creek in the Virginia capes operating area. Later on, she extended the range of her operations from the immediate vicinity of Little Creek to as far away as La Guaria, Venezuela. Her other ports of call included the familiar ones of Guantanamo Bay and Vieques, as well as Coco Solo, Panama, and Morehead City, N.C.
Reporting to the Norfolk group of the Atlantic Reserve Fleet on 26 August 1957 for inactivation, Bassett was decommissioned and placed in reserve at Norfolk on 26 November 1957. Bassett remained in reserve for more than a decade before her name was struck from the Navy list on 1 May 1967, preparatory to her transfer to Colombia. Towed from New York to Boston early in July 1968, she was turned over to the Colombian Navy under the Military Assistance Program. The warship was commissioned at Boston as Almirante Tono (DT 04) on 6 September 1968 and, after shakedown and post shakedown availability, sailed for the naval base at Cartagena, Colombia. She operated with the Colombian Navy through the mid 1970's.
Robert J. Cressman
27 February 2006