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La Vallette

 

Elie A. F. La Vallette was one of the first rear admirals appointed when President Lincoln created this rank in July 1862. Born in Alexandria, Va., 3 May 1790, at age 10 he accompanied his father, a chaplain, on a cruise in Philadelphia, commanded by Stephen Decatur. After merchant marine service, be entered the Navy during the War of 1812. As acting lieutenant in Saratoga during the Battle of Lake Champlain, 11 September 1814, he distinguished himself, winning promotion and a medal. He commanded Congress during the Mexican War, directing operations against Guaymas and Urias 19 to 20 November 1847. In the 1850’s he commanded the African, and then the Mediterranean, Squadron. Four months after his appointment as rear admiral, he died 18 November 1862 in Philadelphia.

 

II

 

(DD-448; dp. 2,100; l. 376'3"; b. 39'8" dr. 13'; s. 35.5 k. ; cpl. 273; a. 5 5", 10 40mm., 7 20mm., 6 dcp., 2 dct., 10 21" tt.; cl. Fletcher)

 

The second La Vallette (DD-448) was laid down 27 November 1941 by Federal Shipbuilding & Drydock Corp., Kearny, N.J.; launched 21 June 1942; sponsored by Mrs. Lucy La Vallette Littel, great-granddaughter of Rear Admiral LaVallette; and commissioned 12 August 1942, Lt. Cmdr. H. H. Henderson in command.

 

After training and escort duty in the Caribbean and Atlantic, La Vallette departed New York 16 December 1942 for the Panama Canal and Pacific duty. First contact with the enemy came 29 January 1943 as she screened TF 18 off Guadalcanal, when La Vallette’s guns splashed three of a wave of attacking planes.

 

Attacked again 30 January while guarding Chicago, she shot down six “Bettys”, but was struck by a torpedo. With 22 dead, she was towed to drydock at Espiritu Santo for temporary repairs, then sailed to Mare Island Navy Yard, arriving 1 April.

 

Completely repaired, La Vallette left 6 August for Pearl Harbor, where she joined a carrier force for a strike on Marcus Island 31 August before returning to patrol duty in the Solomons. On the nights of 1 and 2 October, she contacted Japanese troop barges off Kolombangara, of which she sank four and damaged 2. La Vallette carried out escort and screening assignments during the Gilbert landings, and in strikes against Kwajalein and Wotje, during which she splashed another enemy aircraft. Brief repairs at San Francisco followed, after which she returned to the South Pacific.

 

On 1 February 1944 she fired in the preinvasion bombardment of Roi, part of the Kwajalein complex; in April she hit Aitape, and on 2 July supported the landings on Noemfoor, off New Guinea. Constant patrol and escort operations were conducted between these invasions.

 

Assigned to escort convoys during the first assaults on the Philippines, La Vallette had already left Leyte Gulf with a convoy bound to reload at Hollandia before the vast and decisive Battle for Leyte Gulf erupted; but she returned to the Philippines by 5 December, when she splashed a kamikaze in Surigao Strait. She covered five more landings. in the Philippines during December and January 1945, then joined the screen for minesweepers clearing Manila Bay. On 14 February in Mariveles Harbor, La Vallette was extensively damaged by a mine. With six dead and 23 wounded, she was towed to drydock at Subic Bay, then sailed for Hunters Point Navy Yard where she was completely repaired. On 7 August she sailed for San Diego, where she decommissioned 16 April 1946, and entered the Reserve Fleet, where she remains into 1969.

 

La Vallette received 10 battle stars for World War II service.