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DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER
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Johnnie Hutchins

 

Johnnie David Hutchins was born in Weimer, Tex., 4 August 1922 and enlisted in the Naval Reserve at Houston 17 November 1942. He underwent landing craft training and in April 1943 was assigned to L8T-4T3. During the assault on Lae, New Guinea, 4 September 1943, the LST's were under heavy air attack. As the ship approached the beach, a torpedo was spotted heading directly for it. Just then a bomb struck the pilot house, dislodging the helmsman before he had a chance to turn away. In the words of his posthumous citation: "... Hutchins, although mortally wounded by the shattering explosion, quickly grasped the wheel and exhausted the last of his strength in maneuvering the vessel clear of the advancing torpedo. Still clinging to the helm, he eventually succumbed to his injuries, his final thoughts concerned only with the safety of his ship...." For his extraordinary gallantry Seaman First Class Hutchins was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

 

(DE-360: dp. 1,350; l. 306': b. 36'8"; dr. 9'5"; s. 24 k.; cpl. 186; a. 2 5", 4 40mm., 10 20mm., 2 del, 8 dcp., 1 dcp. (h.h.), 3 21" tt.; cl. John 0. Butler)

 

Johnnie Hutchins (DE-360) was laid down 6 March 1944 by Consolidated Steel Corp., Ltd., Orange, Tex.; launched 2 May 1944; sponsored by Mrs. Johnnie M. Hutchins, mother of Seaman First Class Hutchins; and commissioned 28 August 1944, Comdr. H. M. Godsey in command.

 

The new escort vessel sailed for shakedown training out of Bermuda 11 September 1944, and 5 days later encountered the survivors of destroyer Warrington, sunk in a hurricane oft the East Coast. Johnnie Hutchins rescued 34 officers and men and, after transporting them to Norfolk, continued to Bermuda. The ship completed exhaustive shakedown exercises and arrived Boston 25 October 1944 for brief coastal convoy duties between that port and Norfolk.

 

Johnnie Hutchins got underway for the Pacific 30 November from Norfolk, steaming by way of the Panama Canal, Bora Bora, and Manus, and arriving Hollandia 21 January 1945. Five days later she steamed from Humboldt Bay to Leyte on her first Pacific escort assignment, arriving Leyte Gulf 31 January. During the months that followed the ship acted as an escort for resupply and reinforcement convoys from advance bases to Lingayen and Leyte, thus contributing importantly to the imminent defeat of Japan.

 

The destroyer escort arrived Subic Bay, Philippines, 22 May 1945 to join a hunter-killer group. In June and July she trained with American and British submarines and carried out antisubmarine searches in preparation for the eventual invasion of Japan. While operating with a task group in the shipping lanes between Luzon and Okinawa 9 August 1945, Johnnie Hutchins encountered a surfaced midget submarine, and was taken under fire. As the ship's accurate gunnery succeeded in sinking the Japanese sub, another fired a torpedo at her. Captain Godsey skillfully avoided the "fish" and with a well-placed series of depth charges sank the second submarine. A third was probably damaged by depth charges the same day.

 

After the end of the war against Japan, Johnnie Hutchins spent 2 months escorting ships through swept channels and acting as air-sea rescue ship off Okinawa. She also steamed off Japan and Korea during the occupation. In early October the ship arrived Shanghai for duty with U.S. Marines attempting to stabilize the turbulent Chinese situation. She escorted vessels to and from various occupied ports until 22 November 1945 when she weighed anchor in the Yangtze River and headed eastward to Pearl Harbor. Johnnie Hutchins arrived San Pedro 15 December 1945.

 

Following decommissioning at San Diego 14 May 1946, Johnnie Hutchins made two month-long Naval Reserve training cruises to the Hawaiian Islands, one in the summer of 1948 and one in 1949. In early 1950 the ship steamed through the Panama Canal to Boston, where she was assigned permanent duty as Naval Reserve Training Ship for the 1st Naval District. Johnnie Hutchins was placed in commission "in reserve" 23 June 1950, and in commission 22 November 1950, Lt. Comdr. B. H. Patek in command. With a skeleton crew supplemented by Naval Reservists, the destroyer escort made regular training cruises during the next few years, visiting Montreal, Quebec, and many Caribbean ports. With a task group of other training ships she made a voyage to Europe in June-July 1955. Johnnie Hutchins continued her vital task of keeping at a high level the skills and readiness of our reserve officers and men until decommissioning 25 February 1958 at Bayonne, N.J. She entered the Atlantic Reserve Fleet and at present is berthed at Philadelphia.

 

Johnnie Hutchins received the Navy Unit Commendation for her battle with midget submarines 9 August 1945.