John Baptiste Bernadou--born on 14 November 1858 in Philadelphia--was appointed to the Naval Academy on 12 September 1876 and graduated with the class of 1880. After a short tour of shore duty at Claymont, Del., he served at sea in the screw sloop Kearsarge until 1882. Warranted midshipman on 2 June of that year, he was assigned to the Bureau of Navigation in Washington, D.C., and was commissioned ensign (junior grade) on 3 March 1883. Between 1883 and 1885, Bernadou served on special duty in Korea. He was one of 18 naval officers serving with the Smithsonian Institution. His travels to Korea were to investigate that country's economic and strategic potential. On 26 June 1884, he was promoted to ensign.
Upon returning to the United States, Bernadou was assigned to the recently revitalized Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI). There, he went to work studying world economic conditions with a particular emphasis on the world's supply of nickel ore. The importance of that commodity resulted from the Navy's adoption of nickel-processed steel for its new ship construction. He also collected information on foreign seaports, assisting in the writing of a book on international ports and coaling stations. His facility with foreign languages put him in an ideal position to translate articles of value to ONI from French, German, Russian, Swedish, Spanish, and other languages.
Between February 1891 and May 1893, he served in the cruiser Newark. On 1 July 1892, he was promoted to lieutenant (junior grade). He took a leave of absence because of illness from May to July 1893 and then returned to sea in Bennington (Gunboat No. 4). In that warship, he made a cruise to European and Mediterranean waters, there transferring to the protected cruiser Chicago. In September 1894, Bernadou began three years of service at the Torpedo Station located at Newport, R.I. While in that assignment, he was promoted to lieutenant in June 1896. In December of 1897, he went to the Norfolk Navy Yard where he put Winslow (Torpedo Boat No. 5) into commission on the 29th as her first commanding officer.
War with Spain erupted late in April 1898, and Bernadou was soon patrolling the northern coast of Cuba in Winslow. On 11 May, he took Winslow to Cardenas to take on coal from one of the larger warships there. Upon reporting to the commanding officer of Wilmington (Gunboat No. 8), he received orders to take Winslow into the bay at Cardenas and scout for mines. Winslow and the revenue cutter Hudson searched the harbor entrance but found no mines. They rejoined Wilmington about noon to make their report. Wilmington's commanding officer decided to take the three warships into the bay in search of the three Spanish gunboats reported there. Bernadou's command marked shoal water to Wilmington's portside during the entry. Upon reaching a point about 3,000 yards from the city, a lookout spied a small, gray steamer moored alongside the wharf. Bernadou then received orders to move his ship in closer to determine whether or not the ship was an enemy warship.
At around 1335, his warship reached a point about 1,500 yards from the object of his interest when a white puff of smoke announced the opening of an artillery duel that would last an hour and 20 minutes. Bernadou responded with Winslow's 1 pounders, and then enemy batteries ashore joined the deadly contest. Bernadou's little ship bore the brunt of the Spanish fury, and she soon received a number of direct hits. The first shell to strike Winslow destroyed both her steam and manual steering gear. Bernadou's crew tried to rig some type of auxiliary steering gear while he steered her with the propellers in an attempt to keep her bow gun unmasked and to present the enemy with as small a target as possible. All at once, however, Winslow swung broadside to the shore batteries. Quickly, a shot knocked out her port main engine. Bernadou then tried to maneuver his warship with the remaining engine to evade Spanish fire and to keep his guns in action. At some point before that time, a shell burst on the top of the forward conning tower; and a fragment from it struck Bernadou in the thigh.
Almost simultaneously, Wilmington and Hudson brought their larger guns to bear on the Spanish shore batteries. The Spanish gunboat received fatal hits, and her crew abandoned her, while the shore batteries slackened fire. Bernadou requested Hudson to tow his all-but-disabled torpedo boat out of action. A towline was passed between the two ships, but it soon parted. Spanish shore batteries continued their fire, and one shell burst near the after engine room hatch killing four of the crew and Ens. Worth Bagley, the first and only American naval officer killed by enemy action in the Spanish-American War.
The towline was finally rerigged, and Winslow, badly damaged, was towed clear of the action. Bernadou relinquished command of the ship to Chief Gunner's Mate George P. Brady and went over to Wilmington with the rest of the wounded. For his gallantry at Cardenas, Bernadou received a commendation and advancement (10 numbers) in seniority.
After recovering from his wounds, Bernadou returned to duty at the Bureau of Ordnance where he served from late 1898 until sometime in 1899. No doubt, he resumed the work on perfecting smokeless gunpowder that he had performed previously at Newport, R.I. In 1899, he returned to sea in Indiana (Battleship No. 1). In 1900, he transferred briefly to newly commissioned Kentucky (Battleship No. 6) before joining the training ship Dixie. He made two cruises to Mediterranean waters and served briefly on the South Atlantic Station. On 9 February 1902, probably while still assigned to Dixie, Bernadou was promoted to lieutenant commander. Later that year, he began another tour of duty with ONI in Washington, D.C. That assignment lasted until 1904 when he returned to sea as executive officer of Kearsarge (Battleship No. 5). He served in that billet until sometime early in 1906. After a brief tour of duty at the Naval War College in Newport, R.I., Bernadou went to Europe to serve as naval attaché in Rome and Vienna. On 11 December 1906 while in Europe, Bernadou was promoted to commander. He remained on diplomatic duty until sometime in mid 1908 when complications caused by the wound he received at Cardenas forced him to return home. Bernadou died at the Naval Hospital, Brooklyn, N.Y., on 2 October 1908. Three days later, he was buried with full military honors in the National Cemetery at Arlington, Va.
(Destroyer No. 153: dp. 1,154 (n.); l. 3I4'4½"; b. 30'11¼" (wl.); dr. 9'10¼"; s. 35.12 k. (tl.); cpl. 122; a. 4 4", 2 3", 12 21" tt., 2 dct.; cl. Wickes)
Bernadou (Destroyer No. 153) was laid down on 4 June 1918 at Philadelphia, Pa., by William Cramp & Sons; launched on 7 November 1918; sponsored by Miss Cora Winslow Bernadou; and commissioned on 19 May 1919, Lt. Comdr. Louis C. Farley in command.
Soon after commissioning, the destroyer visited Boston, Mass., and then set a course for Europe. She cruised the waters of western Europe making frequent port visits through the early part of the summer of 1919. On 29 July, Bernadou received orders to return home; and she arrived in New York on 6 August. At that point, the ship was assigned to Division 19, Flotilla 3, Destroyer Squadron 3, Atlantic Fleet.
For the next three years, she operated along the eastern coast of the United States, heading south each winter to participate in fleet maneuvers. During such operations in 1921, Bernadou and the rest of the Atlantic Fleet transited the Panama Canal to conduct combined operations with the Pacific Fleet. She also visited Callao, Peru, before returning to the Atlantic side of the isthmus. In the autumn, Bernadou played a role in returning the "Unknown Soldier" home from France when she met Olympia--which was carrying the anonymous doughboy's remains--off Cape Henry, Va., and escorted the cruiser to Washington, D.C. On 1 July 1922, Bernadou was placed out of commission at the Philadelphia Navy Yard.
The warship remained inactive at Philadelphia for almost eight years. On 1 May 1930, she was placed back in commission, and she resumed duty along the Atlantic seaboard as a unit of Destroyer Division 2, Scouting Force. That assignment lasted until 25 October 1932 when she was transferred to Reserve Destroyer Squadron 19 at Norfolk, Va. On 10 March 1933, Bernadou was reassigned to Destroyer Division 29, but was still based at Norfolk. In May 1934, she reentered Reserve Destroyer Squadron 19. She returned to active status on 15 August 1934 as a unit of Destroyer Division 1. The warship operated out of Norfolk, Va., until 8 January 1937 at which time she was placed out of commission at Philadelphia. The warship remained inactive at the Philadelphia Navy Yard for almost two years. on 16 October 1939, she went back into commission at Philadelphia. At that time, she joined the neutrality patrol conjured up by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to keep the European war out of the western hemisphere. Based at Charleston, S.C., as part of the Middle Atlantic Patrol, she patrolled from this port until early in 1940 when she switched to Norfolk.
By the spring of 1941, Bernadou operated from Newport, R.I., as a unit of the "Support Force," a convoy-escort force formed in March 1941 to intensify the Navy's involvement in the Battle of the Atlantic. Bernadou operated with the Support Force into the autumn of 1941 escorting convoys carrying arms to England. The formal entry of the United States in World War II, after the Pearl Harbor attack in December, affected her duties very little. On 24 March 1942, Bernadou stood out of Boston escorting Mizar (AF 12) to Casco Bay, Maine. The following day, the two ships rendezvoused with Lea, Delta (AK 29), and Winooski (AO 38) at 0900 and began a series of convoy maneuvers. The warship arrived at Casco Bay on 31 March at 1158. Two hours later, she received reports of an enemy submarine in the area and proceeded immediately to make contact. However, after a fruitless two-hour search, she returned to her anchorage.
The destroyer carried out a variety of exercises at Casco Bay until 3 April when she received orders to New York. After arriving at Brooklyn the next day, Bernadou joined a convoy bound for Halifax, Nova Scotia, on the 7th. The following morning, Kearny developed a sound contact and dropped one depth charge, though with negative results. The remainder of the voyage was uneventful, and Bernadou anchored off George Island on 9 April. On the 10th, she stood out to sea in company with Task Force (TF) 37, bound for Iceland. On the 17th, members of the crew saw several floating mines; but, after all attempts to explode them with gunfire failed, Bernadou returned to her station in the screen of the convoy. She anchored at Hvalfjördur on the same afternoon.
On 19 April, Cole and Bernadou sailed for Reykjavik, Iceland, to rendezvous with a convoy and escort it to Londonderry, Ireland, where they arrived on 27 April. On 1 May, she shifted her anchorage to Moville, Lough Foyle, Northern Ireland. The following day, the ship stood out to rendezvous with a convoy bound for Halifax, Nova Scotia. On 4 May, an underwater sound contact sent her crew scurrying to their battle stations though a depth charge attack failed to verify an enemy submarine. Five days later, Bernadou escorted SS Banfora to the entrance of Halifax harbor; then, she departed bound for Casco Bay, Maine, where she arrived on the 10th. She remained at anchor there for a week before standing out to sea, on her way to New York. Arriving there on 18 May, she joined Cole and Chateau Thierry (AP 31) and then set sail for the Charleston Navy Yard where she moored on 21 May.
On 28 May, Bernadou and Cole joined TF 34 which included the battleship Texas (BB 35). Three merchant ships also joined as the convoy sailed the same day. On 31 May, she put in at Bermuda to fuel. After she and the convoy fueled, they got underway for a rendezvous with British corvettes that were to relieve the Navy escorts.
On 1 June, several survivors from the British ship SS Fred W. Greene, which had been sunk on 30 May by U 506, were rescued by Bernadou and Ludlow (DD 438). The British ships reIieved TF 34 on 9 June whereupon the force returned to Great Sound, Bermuda, on the 17th. She spent 22 and 23 June looking for an enemy submarine that was suspected of being near the anchorage at Port Royal, Bermuda. No contacts appeared, however, and Bernadou returned to port on the evening of the 23d. She conducted antisubmarine warfare exercises on 26 June, but news of U 107's sinking of SS Jaegersfontein cut them short. On 27 June, Bernadou arrived on the scene and took 86 United States Army officers and 13 British and Dutch gunners from SS St. Cergue, which had reached the scene of the tragedy first. After taking the survivors on board, she returned to Hamilton, Bermuda, arriving the next day.
On 4 July, Bernadou, Cole, and the destroyer tender Altair (AD 11) departed Bermuda and proceeded to San Juan, Puerto Rico, where they arrived on the 9th. The following day, Bernadou and Cole set sail again, this time headed for Key West, Fla., where the two old destroyers arrived on 12 June. There, Bernadou entered drydock for repairs and alterations. On 2 August, she departed Key West bound for Nova Scotia where she arrived on the 7th.
Four days later, Bernadou escorted some British merchantmen to St. John's, Newfoundland, which they reached on the 13th. The following day, she got underway to escort SS Lord Kelvin to some cable grounds. On the 18th, Lord Kelvin began dragging for broken cables while the destroyer circled slowly to protect her against submarine attack. The operation was completed on the 23d, and the two ships started back to their base. On 28 August, Bernadou completed her escort mission and headed for Newfoundland.
She arrived at Argentia on the 29th but put to sea again that evening for Forteau Bay, Labrador. After reaching that port the next day, she took on survivors from SS Chatham and shaped a course for Nova Scotia, arriving on 31 August. Bernadou delivered the survivors and, then, returned to sea £or Newfoundland, arriving at Argentia on 4 September. On the 15th, the warship returned to Nova Scotia and joined Task Unit (TU) 24.8.2. Underway with Convoy 5G 8 on 17 September, Bernadou set course for Argentia where she arrived on the 25th.
Returning to Halifax, Nova Scotia, on 27 September, she escorted a small convoy to Boston on 2 October. There she was granted a repair period which lasted until 11 October. On that day, she set course for Bermuda. The following day, however, she received new orders which sent her to Norfolk. On the 13th, she embarked Company "K" of the Army's 47th Regiment for training exercises. On 18 October, Cole and Bernadou sailed for Bermuda, arriving on the 2Oth.
At Bermuda, Bernadou transferred her depth charges to lessen the danger while carrying troops. In Boston, her masts had been removed and her crew began to wonder just what kind of destroyer she was. On 25 October, she sailed in company with Task Group (TG) 34.2, bound for North Africa. On 7 November, while still at sea, the destroyer went alongside Lyon (AP 71) and took on Company "K" again. By 1800, she was approaching the rendezvous, and the convoy formed a single column with Bernadou in the lead.
She was only eight miles west of Safi, French Morocco, at midnight; and the crew went to battle stations at 0330. She approached Safi Harbor at five knots and, at 0401, sighted the Safi breakwater dead ahead. At 0424, a French signal station challenged Bernadou, and she replied with the same call. Four minutes later, every shore battery capable of firing over the distance opened up in fiery brilliance on Bernadou. Undismayed, she merely sent the troops below and opened up with her 3 inch battery and machine guns, knocking out a 75 millimeter gun emplacement and machine guns on both jetties.
At 0428, Bernadou's skipper ordered top speed and turned toward "green" beach. At 0430, she stopped all engines and beached on a rock ridge. Five minutes later, small arms fire from the beach died down; and the ship ceased fire. Company "K" scrambled ashore over the bow by way of a rubber boat and cargo nets rigged to the rocks below. At 0538 the first wave of landing boats hit the beach, and a machinegun nest on a hillside opened fire on them. At 0541, Bernadou boarding parties took over shipping in the harbor. At 0640, machinegun fire and sniping from the hills and buildings of Safi increased; and, at 0642, shore batteries located some 3,000 yards inland opened fire on boats approaching the beach. By 1332, the destroyer had cleared the beach and slowly entered the harbor to moor alongside Cole. However, Bernadou's battle at Safi had not quite ended. On the 9th, an enemy plane came swooping in only to be shot down by the combined gunfire of all ships present. Parts of the plane fell on Bernadou's decks.
In the wake of her daring activities at Safi, the destroyer drew an important logistical task. Late in the day on 10 November, Bernadou loaded aviation gasoline, ammunition, grenades, mines, and K rations from Lakehurst (APV-3} for delivery to the Army at Mazagan, French Morocco. On the 11th, she set course for that port joining the similarly laden Cole en route. The two destroyers reached their destination that afternoon and completed unloading shortly after midnight. Her job well done in Operation "Torch," Bernadou returned to the United States, reaching Boston on 26 November 1942 to commence repairs.
On 19 December, the warship sailed for Argentia, Newfoundland. However, a steering casualty three days later forced her to put into port at Halifax, Nova Scotia. On Christmas Eve 1942, Bernadou received orders to escort the Russian submarine S 55 to a rendezvous. She completed her mission on 26 December and returned to Halifax. On the last day of 1942, after two more Russian submarine escort missions, Bernadou arrived at Argentia.
On New Year's Day 1943, Bernadou put to sea in company with Dallas (DD 199) bound for St. Johns, Newfoundland, where she arrived the following day. Standing out again the same evening, Bernadou set course for New York. She arrived without incident on 8 January and began a yard overhaul. On the 22d, she sailed for New London, Conn., and arrived there on the 24th. Three days later, the warship departed New London, bound for Bermuda. She arrived at Port Royal Bay on the last day of January. On 1 February, Bernadou received orderr to return to Hampton Roads, which she reached on the 3d. There, on 8 February, more orders directed her to escort a group of LST's to New York. Reaching that port two days later, she entered the navy yard the following day for voyage repairs. On the 15th, the destroyer got underway again and arrived at New London on the 16th. The next day, she began her return voyage to Norfolk which she reached on the 19th. Standing out of Hampton Roads on 20 February, the warship pointed her bow north once more and arrived at New York on the 21st. On the 23d, she formed up with a group of LST's and set course for Bermuda and arrived at Port Royal on 26 February.
On 4 March 1943, she departed Bermuda, bound for a rendezvous with TF 32. On 22 March, that task force transited the Strait of Gibraltar and, two days later, put into Gibraltar harbor On the 27th, Bernadou again got underway to screen the channel entrance while her convoy formed. On 17 April, Bernadou sailed on to Charleston where she underwent voyage repairs. By 1 May, this work had been completed, and she steamed out of Charleston, bound for Norfolk arriving the folloving day. By the 10th, the destroyer was steaming out to sea to rendezvous with her task force again. She made rendezvous that same day and set a course for Mers-el-Kebir, Algeria. She arrived without incident on the 23d and remained there until 29 May when she put to sea for training exercises in company with TG 81.7. On 1 June, she stood out for training exercises with a French submarine returning to port that evening. She spent the period from 5 to 7 June in training exercises with motor torpedo boats. Embarkation and gunnery exercises next occupied her time. On 23 June, Bernadou got underway to escort a convoy to Algiers, arriving on the 24th.
On 6 July, a combined British and American force sortied for landings at Gela, Sicily. By 1100 on the 9th, the weather had become steadily worse and the wind increased, causing heavy seas. By 0131 the next morning, Bernadou began patrols to seaward of the transport area, a task that occupied her for the rest of the day. Similar duty, with another transport group, took up the following day; but, on the 11th, she shifted to an antisubmarine station off Scoglitti. The following day she joined a convoy bound to Mers-el-Kebir where she arrived on 15 July. On the 17th, the destroyer set out to escort a convoy to Bizerte, Tunisia. She lingered at Bizerte only briefly on the 20th, standing out again the same day on her way to Algiers. Arriving at Algiers on 23 July, Bernadou was assigned patrol duty just outside the harbor while the convoy unloaded.
The destroyer remained in the Mers-el-Kebir area serving as convoy escort and on antisubmarine patrol until early September. On the 5th, she arrived at Bizerte, Tunisia, as escort for a convoy to that port and anchored. Later that afternoon, she weighed anchor for Palermo, Sicily, arriving the next day. Underway again on the 7th, she shaped a course for Tunisia. En route, enemy planes closed the convoy but did not press home their attack. While Bernadou was escorting convoy FSS 2X on 8 September, four German planes were sighted overhead. She opened fire and brought two of the raiders down in flames before friendly aircraft joined in to wipe out the raid. The Italian mainland loomed up on the 9th, and the shore bombardment could be seen clearly while Bernadou screened the LST's while they unloaded. The warship took a station as escort for a convoy and sailed for Oran, Algeria, where she arrived on the 14th.
On 17 September, Bernadou stood out to escort Convoy NSF 3 to a rendezvous point off southern Italy. She arrived at the appointed place on the 21st. While she was anchored there, an Army bomber crashed just astern. She dispatched her motor whaleboat to the scene, and it returned with two of the fliers. Late afternoon found her patrolling the Southern Attack Force area. On the 23d, she joined an LST convoy and sailed for Mers-el-Kebir, Algeria.
She got underway as escort for another convoy on 26 September and, on the 27th, anchored briefly at Tenes, Algeria. By dark, however, she again headed for Bizerte. On 30 September, Bernadou stood out to rendezvous with Convoy CS 51 and escorted it back into port. On 1 October, SS Metapan suffered an underwater explosion and started to settle slowly aft. Her crew lowered rafts and lifeboats and abandoned ship while Syncline was ordered back to pick them up. At 1344, Metapan sank stern first in 110 fathoms of water. On the 3d, Bernadou arrived at Bizerte, anchored and remained there for a few days of welcome rest.
On the 8th, Bernadou stood out with a convoy en route to Palermo, Sicily. She arrived on the following day and began her return voyage on 11 October 1943. On the 12th, she made a sound contact, but her sound gear failed, and Dallas had to take over after Bernadou's lone attack. She arrived at Bizerte the same day.
Various assignments took Bernadou to Algiers, Arzeu, Mers-el-Kebir, and Naples before she entered drydock at Oran on 3 November. On 28 November, she put to sea for a rendezvous with a Naples-bound convoy and arrived at that port on 1 December. She sailed for Oran again on the following day and, on 11 December, stood out for Bermuda. She arrived there on 21 December, fueled and set course for Charleston, making port on Christmas Eve 1943.
Bernadou spent most of January 1944 in or near the Charleston Navy Yard undergoing repairs and carrying out related test runs. On 26 January, she got underway for Casco Bay, Maine, where she conducted refresher training until late February. On the 20th, she sailed for Hampton Roads, arriving on the 21st. After taking on stores, the warship joined the escort for Convoy UGS-34 on Washington's Birthday and set sail for Casablanca that same day. On 6 March, she made contact with an enemy submarine though other escorts launched the attacks while Bernadou watched over the convoy. She arrived at Casablanca on 9 March without further incident.
On 17 March, Bernadou set out to join Convoy GUS 33 west of the Strait of Gibraltar and to see it safely across the Atlantic. The convoy entered New York on 3 April, and the destroyer moved on to Boston. Voyage repairs kept her at the Boston Navy Yard from the 4th to the 22d. The next day, she departed Boston for Mers-el-Kebir escorting Convoy UGS 40. She arrived on 10 May and fueled from the SS Yankee Arrow. She was then assigned the duty of escorting four ships to overtake Convoy UGS 40. On 11 May, four German torpedo planes, believed to be Ju. 88s, were taken under fire, but no damage was done as the enemy did not press the attack. On the 13th, the entire convoy put into port at Bizerte.
On 21 May, Bernadou put to sea once more as escort for Convoy GUS 40 bound for the United States. On 9 June, she parted company with the convoy and headed to Boston, moored there the same day, and commenced repairs. After completing repairs, she got underway on 24 June for refresher training at Casco Bay, Maine. Bernadou completed the exercises on 3 July, set a course for Norfolk and arrived the following day. On the 11th, she set out to escort New York to Trinidad and arrived there on the 17th. Additional training kept her busy there until 28 July when Bernadou received orders to return to Norfolk with Dallas. They arrived on 3 August. On the 9th, Bernadou was assigned as escort for New York for another voyage to Trinidad where she arrived on 15 August.
After 10 days of intensive drills near Trinidad, Bernadou headed back to Hampton Roads with New York on 25 August. The warships arrived at Norfolk on 30 August, but Bernadou continued on to Boston where she arrived on 1 September 1944. There, she underwent repairs and then sailed for Casco Bay to conduct more drills. On 19 September, she left Casco Bay for New York, arriving on the following day. Bernadou joined Bennington (CV 20) en route to Hampton Roads; arrived there on the 26th; but sailed for New London the same day. She conducted antisubmarine exercises in the New London operating area. On 1 October while undergoing training, she sustained damage to her starboard screw and had to enter the dry dock at the New London Submarine Base.
Bernadou continued to provide training services to units of the Atlantic Fleet along the east coast from Key West, Fla., to Casco Bay, Maine. She served mostly as plane guard for escort carrier flight exercises. On 25 May, Bernadou was ordered to Bayonne, N.J., and remained there until 8 June 1945 when she was ordered to the Philadelphia Navy Yard. She was placed out of commission on 17 July 1945. Her name was struck from the Navy list on 13 August 1945. She was sold for scrapping on 30 November 1945.
Bernadou earned five battle stars and the Presidential Unit Citation during her World War II service.
Raymond A. Mann
15 February 2006