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DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER
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Longshaw

 

William Longshaw, Jr., born near Richmond, Va., 26 April 1839, studied pharmacology at the University of Louisiana and received a medical degree from the University of Michigan in 1859. He entered the Navy as an assistant surgeon 25 April 1862. While serving in the screw steamer Lehigh, he showed outstanding courage in an engagement with Confederate batteries on Sullivan’s Island, Charleston, S.C., 16 November 1863. After the ship had grounded while shelling Confederate forts at Cummings Point, a hawser had to be passed to steamer Nahant, which was standing by. Dr. Longshaw, in an open boat, carried a line for the first two hawsers across to Nahant. Confederate fire was so intense that both hawsers were shot away. Lehigh was eventually refloated when Nahant pulled her free with a third hawser. Longshaw’s gallantry in this action was praised by Rear Adm. John A. Dahlgren and Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles.

 

Dr. Longshaw was killed in the assault on Fort Fisher, 15 January 1865, while binding up the wounds of a dying marine. Though he had received a leave of absence that same day, he voluntarily postponed his departure to serve during the assault.

 

(DD‑559: dp. 2,050; l. 376'6"; b. 39'8"; dr. 1‑91'; s. 35 k.; cpl. 273; a. 5 5", 10 40mm., 7 20mm., 10 21" tt., 6 dcp., 2 dct.; cl. Fletcher)

 

Longshaw (DD‑559) was laid down 16 June 1942 by Seattle Tacoma Shipbuilding Co., Seattle, Wash.; launched 4 June 1943; sponsored by Mrs. E. Richards; and commissioned 4 December 1943, Comdr. D. T. Birtwell in command.

 

Following shakedown off the west coast, Longshaw sailed from San Francisco 18 February 1944, via Pearl Harbor, for the Marshalls arriving Kwajelein 4 March. Assigned to the 5th Fleet, the destroyer got underway for Majuro 15 March, where she then conducted a patrol off Wotje and Maleolap Islands until the 21st. The ship stood out from Majuro the next day, screening the replenishment group for the Fast Carrier Task Force during strikes on Palau, Yap, Ulithi, and Woleai, 30 March and 1 April, returning to Majuro on the 6th. Six days later, she sailed again, steaming via Manus for Hollandia, escorting the same task group as planes from the flattops pounded the New Guinea coast to support landings by General MacArthur’s troops. Longshaw return to Pearl Harbor 9 May for minor repairs and training.

 

Getting underway for the Marianas on the 30th, escorting part of the northern attack force, the destroyer arrived off Saipan 15 June. For the next 2 months, except for a brief voyage to Eniwetok, she remained there, screening the escort carriers providing air support for the invasion and also operating as a rescue ship for downed aviators. Sailing to Eniwetok on 22 August, Longshaw departed on the 29th to guard the carriers of TG 38.3 during strikes against targets on Palau, Mindanao, and Luzon in support of the assault on the Palaus, the steppingstone to the Philippines.

 

On 9 September, in company with other ships of her task group, the destroyer attacked a convoy of Japanese luggers off Mindanao, herself destroying three small coastal vessels. She continued to support carrier operations against Japanese in the Philippines until proceeding to UIithi 2 October.

 

Longshaw sortied with TG 38.3, 6 October for intensified airstrikes in preparation for the Philippines invasion. Planes from the carriers hit airfields on Okinawa, Luzon, and Formosa, 10 to 13 October. Longshaw, in the screen, shot down one Japanese torpedo bomber during the furious Formosa air battle on the 12th. The fast carriers continued their operations in support of the invasion of Leyte, hitting the Philippines airfields steadily until the night of 24 October, when the mighty armada turned northward to engage the Japanese northern force the next day in the Battle off Cape Engano. In a series of crushing airstrikes, American naval aircraft sank the remnants of Japan’s carrier force.

 

Based at Ulithi, Longshaw operated with TG 38.3 through the end of the year, screening the carriers in airstrikes at enemy bases on Okinawa, Formosa, and Luzon, helping to clear the way for the invasion of the latter island in January. On the night of 9 to 10 January 1945, the destroyer accompanied the fast carriers through Bashi Channel between the Philippines and Formosa, entering the South China Sea. For the next 10 days, TF 38 operated unchecked, launching attacks at Japanese installations in French Indochina, Formosa, and the China coast, including Hong Kong and Hainan. After returning through Balintang Channel, the flattops pounded Okinawa once more, 22 January, before retiring to Ulithi on the 26th.

 

Longshaw departed Ulithi 10 February with a night fighter direction team on board. Sailing with the fast carrier force, she served as a fighter‑direction and radar picket vessel during the airstrikes on Tokyo, 17 to 18 February; and, for the remainder of the month, escorted TG 58.5, the night carrier group in actions off Iwo Jima. Returning to Ulithi 12 March, the destroyer stood out for Okinawa on the 21st, escorting the support and bombardment unit for the invasion. Arriving 25 March, the ship shelled enemy targets ashore in support of American troops. Serving in this capacity throughout April and into May, the ship’s crew performed magnificantly. On call for naval gunfire support day or night, Longshaw remained continuously on station supplying her much needed firepower, despite steady attacks by Japanese suicide planes.

 

On the morning of 18 May 1945, following a grueling 4‑day period of fire support, Longshaw, en route to her patrol area, ran aground on a coral reef just south of Naha airfield. Other attempts to free her failing, shortly before noon tug Arikara (ATF‑98) arrived, and was taking Longshaw in tow when Japanese shore batteries opened up. The stranded destroyer attempted to fight back as best she could; but, as she opened fire, her bow was completely blown off by a hit in the forward magazine. When efforts to save her appeared hopeless, Longshaw’s skipper, Comdr. O. W. Becker, ordered “Abandon Ship,” 86 of her crew, including the captain, died with their ship. Later in the afternoon, Longshaw, battered beyond salvaging, was destroyed by gunfire and torpedoes from U.S. ships.

 

Longshaw received nine battle stars for World War II service.