LeRoy Fitch, born 1 October 1835 in Logansport, Ind., was a member of the Naval Academy class of 1856, and served with great distinction in the Civil War and afterward. Commanding Moose in the Mississippi Squadron, he pursued General J. H. Morgan, CSA, the famed raider, for 500 miles up the Ohio River, frustrating Morgan's attempts to cross the river and retire to Confederate territory. Commander Fitch died in Logansport, Ind., 13 April 1875.
(DD-462: dp. 1,630; l. 347'10";. b. 36'1"; dr. 15'8"; s. 38 k.; cpl. 208; a. 4 5", 5 21" tt., 6 dcp., 2 dct.; cl. Bristol)
Fitch (DD-462) was launched 14 June 1941 by Boston Navy Yard; sponsored by Mrs. H. W. Thomas, grand-niece of Commander Fitch; and commissioned 3 February 1942, Lieutenant Commander H. Crommelin in command. She was reclassified DMS-25 on 15 November 1944, and again classified DD-462 on 15 July 1955.
Fitch's first mission, between 1 July 1942 and 5 August, was to escort Ranger (CV-4) to a point off the Gold Coast, where the carrier flew off Army planes for the base at Accra. The destroyer returned to Norfolk 5 August for exercises in preparation for the assault on North Africa, for which she sailed from Bermuda 25 October. Screening Ranger and two escort carriers, Fitch took part in the landings at Fedhala, French Morocco, on 8 November, and guarded the carriers as they flew Army planes off to the captured airfield at Port Lyautey. Returning to Norfolk 24 November, Fitch joined in exercises in Casco and Chesapeake Bays, and performed coastal escort duty, sailing as far south as the Canal Zone, through the remainder of 1942.
On 8 January 1943, Fitch cleared Norfolk with Ranger on the first of two voyages to launch aircraft to North African bases. Operations with Ranger completed, Fitch served on patrol out of Argentia, Newfoundland, from 6 April to 12 May, then sailed to Scapa Flow, Orkney Islands, Scotland, to join the British Home Fleet for patrol duty between that base and Iceland. She served on this duty through the summer, protecting northern convoys, then returned to Norfolk 9 August.
Sailing 2 September 1943 to escort a convoy to Londonderry, N.I., Fitch continued to Thruso Bay, where on 20 September she embarked Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox and Admiral Harold R. Stark for transportation to Scapa Flow. Operating out of Scapa Flow for the next two months, Fitch screened Ranger as her planes attacked German forces and installations near Bodo, Norway, on 4 October, and patrolled off Spitzbergen as the men of the weather station there were relieved and resupplied.
Fitch returned to Boston 3 December
1943 to resume coastal and Caribbean escort duty and to take part in hunter-killer
operations in the western Atlantic until 25 April
1944, when she got underway from Norfolk for Belfast, North Ireland. In
the great buildup for the Normandy invasion, Fitch escorted single
ships and convoys between Belfast and Plymouth, England, and took
part in training exercises until 6 June, when
she sailed from Plymouth for the assault.
Arriving off Utah Beach early in the morning of the invasion, Fitch followed the minesweepers through the newly swept channels to within 2,000 yards of the coast. Her mission was to draw out and silence German batteries prior to the landings. In addition to her effective gunfire, Fitch rescued the survivors of mined Carry (DD-463), keeping up her fire at the shore batteries as she did so. After 2 days screening the transport area, she returned to Plymouth for supplies, then continued to give fire support and to patrol off the beachheads until 19 June. Convoy escortduty around the British Isles was her assignment until 4 July, when she sailed from Belfast for Oran, and exercises in the western Mediterranean.
Fitch sortied from Taranto, Italy, 11 August 1944 for the invasion of Southern France on 15 August, during which she spotted the fire of battleship Texas (BB-35) as well as firing in the prelanding bombardment. Until 25 October, she supported the buildup in Southern France by escorting convoys moving between Naples, Palermo, Oran, Gibraltar, and Marseilles. Between her return to Norfolk 10 November and 3 January 1945, when she sailed for the Pacific, Fitch was converted to a high-speed minesweeper.
Arriving at Pearl Harbor 10 February 1945, Fitch trained in minesweeping exercises there and at Ulithi, where her propellers were badly damaged when she ran afoul of a coral pinnacle. Repairs were made at Pearl Harbor between 10 April and 6 August, when she sailed to join the 3d Fleet off Japan. Fitch began sweeping the entrance to Tokyo Bay 28 August, and was present for the surrender ceremonies on 2 September. She continued to sweep off Japan and in the East China Sea until returning to San Diego 23 December.
On 9 January 1946, Fitch arrived at Norfolk, where she was immobilized for a month. She voyaged between Norfolk, Charleston, and New York transferring minesweeper crews for several months, and in November, from her home port at Charleston, began regular operations training Mine Force officers, exercising in the Caribbean and along the east coast, and cruising to the Mediterranean in 1949, 1951, and 1953. During 1955, she conducted tests in the Caribbean for the Operational Development Force. Fitch was decommissioned at Charleston 24 February 1956 and placed in reserve.
Fitch received five battle stars for World War IIservice.