William Nicholon Jeffers, born in Gloucester County, N.J., 6 October 1824, was appointed Midshipman 23 September 1840. His early service was in frigates Congress and United States, and during the Mexican War he took part in the attack on Alvarado, the capture of Tobasco, and the bombardment of Vera Cruz. In the 1850's he was engaged in numerous expeditions to Central America, and was responsible for a preliminary survey of the isthmus of Honduras. During the early months of the Civil War, Jeffers commanded Philadelphia in the Potomac and served in frigate Roanoke off Charleston and Hatteras Inlet. In December 1861 he took command of Underwriter and soon afterward took part in the capture of Roanoke Island and the destruction of the Confederate squadron at Elizabeth City. After the wounding of Captain Worden of Monitor during her historic engagement with Virginia, Jeffers commanded her, taking part mainly in shore bombardment in the James River. For the remainder of the war he was on ordnance duty in Philadelphia and Washington. Jeffers commanded Swatara in the Mediterranean and in African waters, and in 1873 was made Chief of the Bureau of Ordnance. Commodore Jeffers served in this capacity for 8 years and contributed much to the science and literature of naval ordnance. He died at Washington 23 July 1883.
(DD-621: dp. 1,630; l. 348'4"; b. 36'1"; dr. 17'5"; s. 35 k.; cpl. 270; a. 4 5", 4 40mm., 5 20mm., 5 21" tt, 6 dcp., 2 dct.; cl. Gleaves.)
Jeffers (DD-621) was laid down by Federal Shipbuilding & Drydock Co., Kearny, N.J., 25 March 1942; launched 26 August 1942; sponsored by Mrs. Lucie Jeffers Lyons, great-granddaughter of Commodore Jeffers; and commissioned 5 November 1942, Lt. Comdr. W. G. McGarry in command.
After shakedown and training in Casco Bay, Maine, Jeffers operated briefly on the East Coast until departing Norfolk 18 February 1943 on her first transatlantic voyage escorting a convoy to Casablanca and returning 14 April. The ship patrolled off Argentia, Newfoundland, for a week before steaming to Norfolk to prepare for the coming invasion of Sicily.
Jeffers sailed from Norfolk 8 June with Task Force 65 and arrived Oran, Algeria, 22 June. While preparing for the giant assault, she patrolled off other African ports, shooting down a German bomber during 6 July Luftwaffe raid on Bizerte. Jeffers sailed 2 days later with Rear Admiral Hall's force for Gela; and, upon arrival 9 June, she guarded the transports. Early next day the great assault began, with Jeffers assigned the task of shooting out shore searchlights and providing fire support. As the landing proceeded with great success in the following days, the ship fired support missions and served on antisubmarine patrol. She sailed to Bizerte 18 July, but was back at Palermo 31 July with cargo ships. Jeffers sailed to Oran the next day, and from that port continued to New York, arriving 22 August.
After repairs at New York, the destroyer was assigned to convoy duty between East Coast ports and Scotland. As the Allies began the great buildup of men and materiel in Britian for the landings in northern France, Jeffers made five voyages between 5 September 1943 and 22 April 1944. Oh her second convoy crossing to Scotland, 21 October the ship picked up survivors from Murphy, after that destroyer had been cut in two by a tanker. She also took part in salvage operations which saved the stern of the stricken vessel.
After training operations, Jeffers sailed from New York 5 May 1944 for the United Kingdom, where she prepared for the invasion of Normandy in June. She departed Belfast 3 June for Utah Beach, where she patrolled and provided fire support as troops stormed ashore on D-day. The veteran destroyer remained off the beach until 29 June, driving off several enemy planes and assisting damaged ships. For the next two weeks she convoyed transports from Belfast to Utah Beach as more troops and supplies were poured in to the beachead, finally departing for the Mediterranean 16 July.
Next on the Allied timetable for the defeat of Germany was another invasion of France, this one in the south. Assigned to screen escort carriers covering the operation, Jeffers departed Malta 12 August to join her task group. Three days later, as troops landed between Cannes and Toulon, the ship remained with supporting carriers, continuing to cruise off shore until 28 September. She then sailed for New York, arriving 7 October to prepare for duty in the far Pacific.
Jeffers was converted to a destroyer-minesweeper at New York, and was reclassified DMS-27 on 15 November, She sailed 3 January 1945 for the Panama Canal and California, arriving San Diego for training 17 January. In February she moved on to Pearl Harbor and from there to the great advance base at Ulithi to prepare for the Okinawa invasion, last and largest amphibious operation of the war against Japan. As part of the preliminary minesweeping group, Jeffers arrived Okinawa 24 March, 1 week before the landings, and began clearing mines and marking boat lanes. During the assault 1 April the ship moved to antisubmarine screening and air defense. During the great Japanese air attack of 6 April she downed a twin-engine bomber. Six days later, while on radar picket station, she again was under heavy air attack. She downed at least one of the attackers and was nearly hit by one of the deadly Baka bombs as the attack was repulsed. Jeffers then assisted survivors of sunken Mannert T. Abele.
The veteran ship steamed into Kerama Retto to repair battle damage later that afternoon, emerging 16 April to join a carrier group operating off Okinawa in support of ground forces. She then sailed to Guam 3 May for further repairs. Departing again 26 June, Jeffers sailed via Siapan and Ulithi to Kerama Retto, and spent the next 6 weeks on minesweeping operations north of Okinawa. She was at anchor off Okinawa when the news of the Japanese acceptance of terms was received 15 August 1945.
Jeffers steamed into Tokyo Bay 29 August with occupation forces, and was present for the surrender ceremonies 2 September. She then joined a minesweeping group for vital sweeping operations around Japan, including hazardous operations in Tsushima Strait. Operating out of Sasebo, she continued to sweep in the Yellow Sea during November, getting underway 5 December for the United States.
Jeffers arrived San Diego 23 December and steamed via the Panama Canal to Norfolk, where she arrived 9 January 1946. The ship then began her peacetime duty, arriving Charleston 12 June. She remained there for the rest of 1946 except for a short training cruise to Casco Bay. 1947 was spent on maneuvers in the Caribbean during April and May, followed by exercises on the East Coast of the United States; and 1948 was spent entirely at various East Coast ports on training duty.
After making a short cruise to the Caribbean in early 1949, Jeffers sailed 6 September from Charleston for her first Mediterranean cruise. This was the period of unrest in Greece and Israel, and the ship took part in maneuvers around Malta until October, as America showed her might in the cause of peace and stability. She returned to Charleston 13 October.
The next year was spent at Charleston, except for a training cruise to Guantanamo Bay in March. She got underway again, however, 9 January 1951 for another cruise to the troubled Mediterranean. She visited Oran, Palermo, Athens, and Naples during this deployment, again taking part in 6th Fleet's important peace-keeping operations. Arriving Charleston 17 May 1951, Jeffers engaged in minesweeping and antisubmarine exercises until her next scheduled Mediterranean cruise, 5 June 1952. She operated with 6th Fleet carriers and destroyers until returning to her home port 13 October.
Jeffers spent the first half of 1953 in training off the Virginia Capes, departing Norfolk 16 September for operations with carrier Bennington and units of the Royal Canadian Navy in the Mediterranean. She returned to Charleston 3 February 1954. Operations from New York to Key West and Havana occupied the veteran destroyer-minesweeper until she decommissioned at Charleston 23 May 1955. She entered the Charleston Group, Atlantic Reserve Fleet as DD-621, having been reclassified 15 January 1955. Jeffers is at present berthed at Orange, Tex.
Jeffers received seven battle stars for World War II service.