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John D. Ford

 

John Donaldson Ford, born on 19 May 1840 in Baltimore, Md., entered the Navy as third assistant engineer on 30 July 1862. Assigned to the West Gulf Blockading Squadron (1862-1865), he participated in engagements on the Mississippi River and the Battle of Mobile Bay. Later, he was attached to the sloop-of-war Sacramento when she was wrecked off the coast of India (June 1867). During the next three decades, he held various sea and shore assignments; while attached to the Maryland Agricultural and Mechanical College (1894-1896) he started a course in mechanical engineering. As fleet engineer of the Pacific Station in 1898, he served in Baltimore (Cruiser No.3) during the Battle of Manila Bay on 1 May. For his "eminent and conspicuous conduct in battle" in operations at Cavite, Sangley Point, and Corregidor, he was advanced three numbers in grade. Promoted to flag rank upon retirement on 19 May 1902, Ford remained on active duty as Inspector of Machinery and Ordnance at Sparrow's Point, Baltimore, until December 1908. Rear Admiral Ford died in Baltimore on 17 April 1918.

(DD-228: displacement 1,190; length 314'5"; beam 31'9"; draft 9'3"; speed 35 knots; complement 101; armament 4 4", 1 3", 2 .30 caliber machine guns, 12 21" torpedo tubes; class Clemson)

Ford (Destroyer No. 228) was laid down on 11 November 1919 at Philadelphia, Pa., by William Cramp and Sons Ship and Engine Building Co.; reclassified as DD-228 during the assignment of alphanumerical hull numbers on 17 July 1920; launched on 2 September 1920; sponsored by Miss F. Faith Ford, daughter of Rear Admiral Ford; and commissioned on 30 December 1920, Lt. (j.g.) Lester T. Forbes, USNRF, in temporary command.

After acceptance trials off New England, Ford received Lt. Comdr. Charles A. Pownall as commanding officer on 16 July 1921. On 17 November, while operating along the eastern seaboard, her name was changed to John D. Ford. After training in the Caribbean, she departed Newport, R.I.,on 20 June 1922 for duty with the Asiatic Fleet. Sailing via the Mediterranean Sea, the Suez Canal, and the Indian Ocean, she arrived at Cavite, Manila Bay, on 21 August.

Prior to the outbreak of World War II, John D. Ford operated out of Manila, cruising Asiatic waters from southern China to northern Japan. During April and May 1924, she helped establish temporary air bases in the Japanese Kurile and Hokaido Islands in support of the pioneer, global flight between 9 April and 28 September by the U.S. Army Air Service. On 6 June she deployed to Shanghai, China, to protect American lives and interests, which were threatened by Chinese civil strife. After renewal of the Chinese Civil War in May 1926, she patrolled the Chinese coast to protect coastal shipping from roving piratical bands. On 24 March 1927 she supported the evacuation of American and foreign nationals, who were fleeing from anti-foreign violence at Nanking.

While the ascendancy of the reformed Nationalist government under Chiang Kai-Shek in 1928 somewhat quieted civil strife in certain areas, deteriorating Sino-Japanese relations often required John D. Ford's presence in Chinese--rather than Philippine-- waters. Following Japanese aggression in northern China during July 1937, she evacuated Americans from Peking as Japanese ships essentially blockaded the Chinese coast. Steaming to Manila on 21 November, she operated between the Philippines and southern China on fleet maneuvers. And after war broke out in Europe in September 1939, she increased training off the Philippines and commenced neutrality patrols in the Philippine and South China Seas.

After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941 [8 December 1941 west of the International Date Line], John D. Ford (Lt. Comdr. Jacob E. "Jock" Cooper, in command) prepared for action at Cavite as a unit of Destroyer Division (DesDiv) 59. Undamaged in the destructive Japanese air raid that obliterated the Asiatic Fleet's base at Cavite on 10 December, she sailed southward the same day to patrol the Sulu Sea and Makassar Strait with Task Force 6. She remained in Makassar Strait until 23 December, then she steamed from Balikpapan, Borneo, to Surabaya, Java, arriving on the 24th.

With too few ships and practically no air support, the Asiatic Fleet deployed to help defend the "Malay Barrier." John D. Ford departed Surabaya on 11 January 1942 for Koepang, Timor, where she arrived the 18th to join a destroyer striking force. Two days later the force sailed for Balikpapan to conduct a surprise attack on Japanese shipping. In the ensuing Battle of Makassar Strait, commencing during the mid watch on 24 January 1942, four U.S. destroyers (Commander Paul H. Talbot) attacked the Japanese Borneo invasion convoy. John D. Ford, although damaged by gunfire, torpedoed and sank the transport Tsuruga Maru; Parrott (DD-218) sank Patrol Boat No.37 [a obsolete destroyer converted to a ship similar in mission to an American high speed transport] and transport Sumanoura Maru; Paul Jones (DD-230) and Pope (DD-225) teamed to sink transport Tatsukami Maru; Paul Jones sank cargo ship Kuretaki Maru. Later, U.S.Army Air Force B-17s and Dutch Martin 139s and Brewster 339s bombed Japanese shipping, sinking transports Nana Maru and Jukka Maru. DesDiv 59 returned to Surabaya on 25 January.

The Japanese offensive through the Netherlands East Indies continued despite Allied harassment. On 3 February the enemy began air raids on Surabaya, and John D. Ford retired in convoy to Tjilatjap on the southern coast of Java. During mid-February, the Japanese tightened their control of islands east and west of Java, and on 18 February landed troops on Bali, adjacent to the eastern end of the Java.

In the ensuing engagement, an Allied naval force (Rear Admiral Karel W.F.M. Doorman, RNN) of three cruisers and accompanying destroyers attacked the retiring Japanese Bali occupation force (Rear Admiral Kubo Kyuji) in Badoeng Strait; in that night action, destroyer Stewart (DD-224) suffered damage at the hands of enemy destroyers Oshio and Asashio, while Dutch destroyer Piet Hien was sunk. A motor whaleboat jettisoned by John D. Ford, however, proved the salvation of 30 of her Piet Hien's survivors, who utilized it to proceed unaided to Java. Dutch light cruisers Java and Tromp were damaged by Japanese gunfire, while Allied shells damaged Japanese destroyers Ushio and Michisio.

Returning to Tjilatjap on 21 February 1942 for fuel, John D. Ford and Pope immediately sailed to Christmas Island to pick up the last reserve of torpedoes from destroyer tender Black Hawk (AD-9). Then they steamed to Surabaya, arriving on the 24th to join the dwindling ABDA (Australian, British, Dutch, American) Striking Force. Hampered by shortages of fuel, ammunition, and torpedoes and reduced in strength by sinkings, battle damage, and repair needs, ABDA forces indeed faced a "critical situation." Only four U.S. destroyers remained operational in the Striking Force.

Late on 25 February 1942, John D. Ford sortied with the Striking Force from Surabaya in search of a large enemy amphibious force in the Java Sea. Returning to port the following day, the force was joined by five British ships; once more the Striking Force steamed to intercept the enemy. Following an unsuccessful strike by enemy planes during the morning of the 27th, the Allied force steamed for Surabaya. While steaming through the mine field, the ships reversed course and deployed to meet the enemy off the northern coast of Java.

The Battle of Java Sea began on 27 February 1942 as the ABDA ships (Rear Admiral Doorman), consisting of five cruisers and 11 destroyers, engaged the Japanese support force (Rear Admiral Takagi Takeo) covering the Java invasion convoy. Enemy gunfire proved ineffective, but although heavy cruisers Nachi and Haguro expended 1,271 8-inch rounds, achieving only five hits, of those five, four were duds: one each on heavy cruiser Houston (CA-30) and British heavy cruiser HMS Exeter, and two on the Dutch light cruiser De Ruyter. The only shell that did explode reduced Exeter's speed. Japanese heavy cruiser Haguro torpedoed and sank the Dutch destroyer Kortenaer, her survivors being rescued later by British destroyer HMS Encounter. Japanese destroyer gunfire sank the British destroyer HMS Electra; while British destroyer HMS Jupiter went down after striking a mine laid earlier that day by the Dutch minelayer Gouden Leeuw. Allied gunfire damaged the enemy destroyers Asagumo and Minegumo but the U.S. destroyers' torpedo attack proved ineffective. The battle continued into the next day, during which time the Japanese heavy cruiser Haguro torpedoed and sank the Dutch light cruiser De Ruyter (Doorman's flagship, in which he was lost) while Nachi torpedoed and sank the Dutch light cruiser Java. The battered remnants of the ABDA force fled to Surabaya, sheltering briefly there before trying to escape to Australia.

John D. Ford and three other destroyers, given permission to clear out as the noose around Java tightened and to proceed to Exmouth Gulf, Australia, departed Surabaya after dark on 28 February 1942. The four U.S. ships cleared the minefield before midnight, their crews at general quarters. They steamed as close to the ava shore as they dared, hugging the coast, and turned, undetected, into Bali Strait, where they soon encountered the Japanese Bali Attack Unit -- the destroyers Hatsuharu, Nenohi, Wakaba, and Hatsushimo.

A brief gunnery action between the two sides' destroyers ensued during the mid watch until John D. Ford and her sister ships checked fire and laid smoke. At a range of about 12 miles, the Japanese opened up again at 0250; the Americans, however, held their fire, reasoning that the enemy sought to force them into revealing their position by firing back. Continuing on at 28 knots, the four "four-pipers" emerged from the encounter unscathed. As they neared their destination, Cdr. Thomas H. Binford, Commander, DesDiv 58, paired his ships, the ones with Australian charts (Alden (DD-211) and Paul Jones), with those which did not (John D. Edwards (DD-216) and John D. Ford), and the destroyermen reached Fremantle on the afternoon of 4 March 1942.

After two months escorting local convoys along the Australian coast, John D. Ford departed Brisbane on 9 May for Pearl Harbor. Arriving on 2 June, she sailed in convoy three days later for San Francisco, arriving on 12 June. She cleared San Francisco for Pearl Harbor on 23 June, and during the next 11 months escorted nine convoys between San Francisco and Pearl. Returning to the West Coast on 20 May 1943, she departed San Francisco on 24 May for convoy and ASW patrols in the Atlantic.

Assigned to the Tenth Fleet for antisubmarine warfare (ASW) work, John D. Ford transited the Panama Canal on 4 June and joined a Trinidad-bound convoy on the 6th. For the next six months she ranged the North and South Atlantic from New York and Charleston, S.C., to Casablanca, French Morocco, and Recife, Brazil, protecting convoys from German U-boats. After ASW training late in December 1943, she joined escort carrier Guadalcanal (CVE-60) out of Norfolk on 5 January 1944 for hunter-killer ASW operations in the Atlantic. She was serving in Guadalcanal's screen as Grumman TBF Avenger from VC-13 surprised and depth-charged German submarine U-544 west of the Azores on 16 January 1944.

After returning to the East Coast on 16 February 1944, John D. Ford cleared Norfolk on 14 March for a convoy run to the Mediterranean. While departing Gilbraltar on 29 March, she was accidentally rammed by the British armed trawler HMS Kingston Agate. Following repairs, the destroyer returned to Norfolk, arriving on 1 May. Departing Norfolk on 24 May for convoy duty to the Canal Zone, John D. Ford covered convoys for almost a year, ranging from the U.S. eastern seaboard to such disparate ports as Recife, Reykjavik, and Casablanca.

From 24 May to 27 June 1945, John D. Ford escorted and plane guarded Boxer (CV-21) during the new aircraft carrier's shakedown in the Caribbean, then she returned to Norfolk. Reclassified as a miscellaneous auxiliary, and reclassified as AG-119 effective 30 June 1945, she sailed on 8 July for Boston Navy Yard where she arrived the following day. Following her conversion, she returned to Norfolk on 9 September. Decommissioned on 2 November 1945 and stricken from the Navy Register on 16 November 1945, she was sold on 5 October 1947 to Northern Metal Co., Philadelphia, Pa., and was scrapped in April 1948.

John D. Ford received a Presidental Unit Citation (specifically honoring her "extraordinary heroism in action" during the Java Campaign, 23 January-2 March 1942) and four battle stars for her World War II service.

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Updated, Robert J. Cressman and Mark L. Hayes, 12 January 2007