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Capps

 

Born in Portsmouth, Va., 31 January 1864, Washington Lee Capps graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1884. He studied naval architecture at the University of Glasgow, and in 1888 was appointed Assistant Naval Constructor. He served on the staff of Admiral George Dewey during the Battle of Manila Bay, and later became Chief of the Bureau of Construction and Repair. During World War I, he was senior member of the Navy Compensation Board and General Manager of the U.S. Shipping Board Emergency Fleet Corporation. He retired 31 January 1928, and died in Washington, D.C., 31 May 1935.

 

(DD-550: dp. 2,050; l. 376'6"; b. 39'8"; dr. 17'9"; s. 35 k.; cpl. 273; a. 5 5", 10 21" tt., 6 dcp., 2 dct.; cl. Fletcher)

 

Capps (DD-550) was launched 31 May 1942 by Gulf Shipbuilding Corp., Chickasaw, Ala.; sponsored by Mrs. C. G. Stokes; commissioned 23 June 1943, Lieutenant Commander B. E. S. Trippensee in command; and reported to the Atlantic Fleet.

 

Capps cleared New York 7 September 1943 to begin the operations which would see her fighting the Axis powers on both sides of the world, sailing in convoy for Scapa Flow, Scotland. She arrived 17 September for exercises with the British Home Fleet. In a mixed task force of American and other Allied ships, led by Ranger (CV-4), Capps stood out of Scapa Flow 3 October to cross the Arctic Circle for the first raid on German shipping at Norway's port of Bodo, where coal and iron ore were loaded for Germany. Ships and docks were left burning and sinking, and Capps returned to Scapa Flow unscathed by German air attack. On 7 October, Capps sailed with three other destroyers in a dash to Gibraltar, from which they escorted two British battleships and two carriers back to Scapa Flow. Thus augmented, the Home Fleet, with Capps in company, swept into northern waters from 29 October to 8 November to guard the movement of a convoy for Murmansk, and to hunt for German battleships Von Tirpitz and Scharnhorst.

 

Capps was detached at Scapa Flow 22 November 1943 and sailed to Boston, arriving 4 December. Twenty days later she got underway for New Orleans, where she joined the escort of a troop convoy bound for Pearl Harbor, arriving 20 January 1944. Guarding another convoy, Capps sailed on to Funafuti, from which she put out for partol duty off Tarawa, Makin, and Kwajalein as these islands were assaulted to open the Marshall Islands operation. Forced back to San Francisco by a boiler casualty, Capps returned to action at Majuro 23 April, and was assigned to area escort, antisubmarine, and antiaircraft patrols. Convoy duty took her to Pearl Harbor in May, returning to Eniwetok 14 June. Based there, the destroyer screened service forces supporting the invasion of the Marianas, then moved forward to Manus in August to continue operations with the screen of the 3d Fleet logistics group in the western Carolines operations. The ships whose service forces Capps protected carried out the crucial attacks on Japanese bases which prepared for the Leyte operation, and Capps herself joined the screen of a carrier group for air strikes on Manila on 25 November. She continued her activities with the 3d Fleet until the close of the year, when she reported for a month of duty on radar picket station, in air-sea rescue, and escorting convoys from Sainan to Guam, Eniwetok, and Ulithi. On 1 February 1945, she reported at Ulithi to train with underwater demolition teams for the invasion of Iwo Jima, for which she sailed 14 February.

 

Arriving off Iwo Jima 16 February 1945, Capps fired in the intensive preinvasion bombardment. Her underwater demolition teams were skillfully landed and began their work of preparing the beaches for assault, and Capps remained on the firing line for 3 weeks, hurling more than 2,600 five-inch projectiles into the caves and hillsides of the tenaciously defended island. Her antiaircraft guns fought off almost nightly air attacks and bombing raids, and each night almost constant illumination fire was thrown up to prevent surprise attacks ashore.

 

With only 8 days of resupply behind her, Capps sailed in the screen of escort carriers bound for the invasion of Okinawa. For the next 82 days, broken only by 6 hours at anchor in Kerama Retto. Capps sailed through the mined waters south of the Nansei Shoto, guarding the escort carriers, rescuing downed aviators, and fighting back the Japanese kamikaze attacks. Although a kamikaze exploded close aboard on 3 April 1945, Capps came through the operation unscathed, and was able to continue the alertness and vigilance which made her an indispensable part of her group. Ordered back to a stateside overhaul, Capps arrived at San Pedro, Calif., 9 July. She was decommissioned and placed in reserve at Long Beach 15 January 1947, and was loaned to Spain under the Military Assistance Program 15 May 1957. She continues to serve in the Spanish Navy as Lepanto.

 

Capps received seven battle stars for World War II service.