Victor Alan Lewis was born in Somerville, Mass., on 2 August 1919, graduated from Stetson High School in Randolph, Mass., and attended Springfield College. Before graduating he enlisted in the United States Naval Reserve as a Seaman 2d class and reported for duty to the Squantum Naval Reserve Aviation Base, Boston, for flight training on 17 February 1941. Following appointment as an Aviation Cadet on 29 May, and further training at Jacksonville and Miami, he was commissioned Ensign as a designated Naval Aviator on 27 December 1941. After additional flight training at the Naval Air Station at Norfolk, Va., Ensign Lewis reported to Torpedo Squadron (VT) 8 in the Advanced carrier Training Group on 3 February 1942. Although half the squadron deployed with Hornet (CV-8) in Douglas TBD-1 Devastator torpedo bombers on what ultimately was the Halsey-Doolittle raid on Japan, Ensign Lewis stayed behind in an 80-man detachment to take delivery of new Grumman TBF-1 torpedo bombers. After a short training period out of Quonset Point, Rhode Island, the detachment flew to California and thence took ship to Hawaii, making the passage in Kitty Hawk (AKV-1). Shortly after their arrival at Ford island, the detachment split again and six bombers under the command of Lt. Langston K. Fieberling flew 1,300 miles to Midway island on 1 June.
Assigned to Commander, Base Air Defense, the VT-8 detachment at Midway joined the many Marine and Army Air Force aircraft preparing for combat operations against the expected Japanese attack. Following sighting reports of enemy ships and aircraft northwest of the island, Midway's defending fighters scrambled followed by all operational attack aircraft, including Lt. Fieberling's six bombers. Once airborne, the VT-8 pilots joined up and stepped down into two three-plane sections, with Ens. Lewis flying the middle aircraft of the rear section. Just after the bombers climbed to 2,000 feet and headed northwest, the formation was passed by two or three Japanese aircraft inbound to Midway. By ducking into the clouds and climbing to 4,000 feet, the detachment avoided any inquisitive enemy fighters and continued on toward their targets. Shortly after 0700, the six Navy TBF's spotted the Japanese fleet from a range of about 15 miles and closed to attack. Japanese Combat Air Patrol (CAP) spotted them in turn, however, and the unescorted bombers quickly found themselves bedeviled by Mitsubishi A6M2 Type 00 carrier fighters. Mauled by enemy aircraft and anti-aircraft fire, five of the bombers were shot down, with the sixth limping home after sustaining some 70-bullet holes. Ens. Lewis, his radioman AM3c Nelson L. Carr and turret gunner EM3c John W. Mehltretter all perished in the attack. Lewis was awarded the Navy Cross (posthumously), for his "self-sacrificing gallantry and fortitude...in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service..."
(DE-535: displacement 1,350 tons; length 306'; beam 36'7"; draft 15'3"; speed 24 knots; complement: 222; armament 2 5-inch dual-purpose guns, 6 40 millimeter guns, 10 20 millimeter guns, 1 depth bomb projector (Hedgehog), 8 depth charge projectors, 2 depth charge tracks; class John C. Butler)
Lewis was laid down on 3 November 1943 at the Boston Navy Yard, Charlestown,, Mass.; launched on 23 March 1944; sponsored by Mrs. Serena V. Lewis, mother of Ens. Victor A. Lewis; and commissioned at Boston, Mass., on 5 September 1944, Lt. Comdr. Robert H. Stevens in command.
After a shakedown cruise to Bermuda 28 September to 31 October 1944, Lewis received a week of upkeep at Boston before sailing to Casco Bay, Maine, for a few days training in early November. In company with Henry A. Wiley (DM-29), Lewis escorted battleships Texas (BB-35) and Arkansas (BB-60) south on 10 November. Joined two days later by Missouri (BB-63), Wake Island (CVE-65) and Shamrock Bay (CVE-84), the task unit proceeded through the Panama Canal and on to Hawaii via San Diego and San Francisco, arriving at Pearl Harbor on 5 December. The destroyer escort got underway on 26 December to escort merchant convoy PD220-T, shepherding her charges to Eniwetok without incident on 4 January 1945. Lewis sailed to Ulithi that same day, arriving at that atoll on the 10th. With large-scale operations in the Philippines requiring significant logistical support, Lewis spent the rest of the month conducted anti-submarine sweeps along the shipping routes and near Yap Island.
On 1 February, Lewis, along with Silverstein (DE-534), Howard F. Clark (DE-533) and Raymond (DE-341), formed Task Unit 50.7.2, an anti-submarine reserve unit assigned to the Logistics Support Force for the invasion of Iwo Jima. The destroyer escorts also provide screening services for Task Force 58 during air strikes against Japan in mid-February. The same task unit left Ulithi on 21 March for the Okinawa operation, screening Task Group 50.8 at sea in between escort and replenishment trips to Ulithi and Guam. During these operations Lewis was caught in the heavy typhoon of 2 June, at one point heeling over to 67 degrees. Lewis continued screening operations until 2 July when she was assigned to the Ulithi Surface Patrol and Escort Group, which was responsible for radar and anti-submarine services at Ulithi and providing escort services to periodic Okinawa-bound convoys.
Lewis departed the Far East on 15 September and sailed for Hawaii, arriving at Pearl Harbor later that month. She remained there until 18 November when she sailed for California, arriving at San Pedro on the 23d. Transferred to the 9th Fleet, Lewis decommissioned on 31 May 1946 and entered the Reserve Fleet at San Diego on 30 July 1946.
Following the outbreak of the Korean War in June 1950, Lewis was refitted at the Mare Island Navy Yard, Vallejo, Calif., and recommissioned there 28 March 1952, Lt. Cdr. Gordon S. Hawkins in command.
Following shakedown training out of San Diego in May and June, Lewis got underway for Korea on 19 July 1952, making stops at Midway as well as Yokosuka and Sasebo, Japan, before reporting to the Commander, United Nations Blockade and Escort Force on 11 August. Assigned to the East Coast Blockade and Escort Group, Lewis operated with Republic of Korea patrol boats and minesweepers with Commander, Task Element 95.21 embarked. Starting on 26 August, the destroyer began two months of almost nightly shore bombardment missions against time sensitive targets, firing illumination and high explosive rounds against enemy truck and oxcart convoys, troop concentrations and railroad repair gangs. Highlights included shooting up two sampans in Wonsan harbor on 3 September, the 5 September destruction of a 40 boxcar train with almost 90 rounds of high capacity and white phosphorous shells and the 16 September bombardment of a 60-man railroad repair team.
Assigned to TE 95.20 on 11 October, Lewis and RoK PC 706 carried out anti-shipping patrols between Wonsan and Hungnam and warned neutral shipping such as Japanese fishing boats out of the coastal defense zone. Two nights later, Lewis took fire from a radar-controlled enemy gun battery, observing 28 air bursts and 56 water splashes during the duel, some of which exploded as close as 20 yards while others bracketed the evading destroyer out to 12,000 yards. In return, the destroyer escort fired 178 high explosive and 36 white phosphorous rounds, observing one direct hit on a gun emplacement followed by a secondary explosion and fire. The following day, 14 October, Lewis spotted five sampans off Cha Ho and drove them ashore with radar-directed long range gunnery. A week later, on 21 October 1952, Lewis came to the aid of two RoK minesweepers under fire in Wonsan harbor. As she approached, at least four enemy batteries opened up on the destroyer escort. Lewis returned fire and laid down a smoke screen to cover the minesweepers retreat. Shortly thereafter the destroyer escort took two 75mm shell hits, the first plowed into the forward fire room and pierced the No. 1 boiler – killing six fire and boilermen outright and mortally wounding a seventh. The second hit exploded on the main deck, port side, lightly wounding one sailor. Following hull and machinery repairs at Yokosuka in mid-November, the destroyer escort sailed for home on 17 November, arriving in San Diego via Pearl Harbor on 2 December.
Following an overhaul at Long Beach in early 1953, Lewis carried out refresher training and local operations out of San Diego through mid-June. The destroyer escort then made a short trip to Mazatlan, Mexico, 25-28 June, before preparing for another overseas deployment. Departing San Diego on 14 July, the warship arrived at Guam via Pearl Harbor on the 31st. With the Korean armistice signed just four days previously, Lewis did not conduct combat operations, instead patrolling the Marianas Islands, the Ryukus and kept watch for communist violations of the truce in the Yellow Sea through the summer and into the fall. After a brief visit to Japan in late October, she turned for home before Christmas, returning to San Diego via Midway and Pearl Harbor on 18 December.
After another four-month overhaul at Long Beach, the destroyer escort carried out refresher training before deploying again on 10 August 1954. With duties similar to her last deployment, Lewis cruised off Okinawa and the east coast of Korea before returning home on 19 December. An almost identical deployment followed on 4 May 1955, with the destroyer escort conducting exercises in Japanese waters and patrolling off Korea before returning to San Diego on 19 November. A longer modernization overhaul followed, with Lewis remaining in San Francisco between 21 November and 14 March 1956.
For her fifth deployment, which began 20 August 1956, the destroyer escort sailed further south, stopping at Kwajalein in the Marshall Islands on the 30th, before proceeding across the equator to Auckland, New Zealand, arriving there for a three-day visit on 7 September. Skirting the northern coast of Australia, Lewis then stopped at Townsville 14-15 September and Darwin 19-21 September before heading on to Singapore, mooring there on the 28th. Following stops at Subic Bay and Hong Kong in October, the warship then received voyage repairs at Yokosuka 16-30 November before returning to the Philippines for a month of operations out of Subic Bay. She then sailed for home in late December, stopping at Guam and Kwajalein for exercises before arriving in San Diego on 18 February 1957.
On 30 September 1957 Lewis deployed again via the South Pacific, visiting Pago Pago on 14 October; Brisbane, Australia, on the 20th; and Manus Island on 30 October before arriving in Guam on 2 November. Three months of island patrol operations in the Marianas followed before Lewis turned for home, arriving in San Diego on 2 March 1958.
Following an overhaul at San Francisco 1 May – 26 July 1958, the warships’ home port was changed to Guam and Lewis sailed to her new station on 14 October, arriving in Apra harbor on 1 November. She conducted island patrol and search-and-rescue operations there for most of the next year, interspersed with port visits to Subic Bay and Hong Kong in mid-April 1959. During the summer and fall Lewis conducted survey work, helping map the deep waters of the region. Starting in November 1959 she took part in Operation Nekton, a series of deep dives in the Mariana Trench by Trieste, a deep-diving research bathyscaphe purchased by the Navy the previous year. On 23 January, Lewis helped track Trieste with her sonar gear as the bathyscaphe conducted the deepest manned dive ever undertaken, to the bottom of trench Challenger Deep 35, 798 feet below the surface.
Lewis departed Guam in February 1960 and sailed to Mare Island, Calif., for inactivation. She decommissioned there on 27 May 1960 and entered the reserve fleet shortly thereafter. Recommended for disposal on 22 December 1965, the old destroyer escort was struck from the Navy list on 1 January 1966. The hulk was then towed out to sea by Tawasa (ATF-92) on 21 April 1966 and sunk as a target.
Lewis received three battle stars for World War II service and one battle star for Korean War service.
Updated 30 June 08, Dr. Timothy L. Francis