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DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER
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Mannert L. Abele

 

Mannert Lincoln Abele, born 11 July 1903 in Quincy, Mass., enlisted in the Navy 12 August 1920; was appointed midshipman in June 1922; and was commissioned ensign 3 June 1926 following graduation from the Naval Academy. He completed training at the Submarine Base, New London, Conn., in 1929; and, prior to America’s entry into World War II, he commanded submarines R‑13 and S‑31. Promoted to lieutenant commander 1 December 1940, he assumed command of Grunion at her commissioning 11 April 1942 and took her out of Pearl Harbor 30 June on her first and only war patrol. Grunion steamed to the western Aleutians where from 15 to 30 July she sank two 300‑ton patrol boats, heavily damaged a third, and twice escaped enemy depth charge attacks. Because of intensive antisubmarine activity off Kiska Island, she was ordered to Dutch Harbor, Alaska, 30 July. She did not arrive and was reported missing and presumed lost 16 August. Her loss remains a mystery, whether from operational causes or from a successful but unrecorded enemy attack. For extraordinary heroism during an aggressive war patrol, Lt. Comdr. Abele was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross.

 

(DD‑733; dp. 2,200; l. 376'6"; b. 41'1"; d. 15'8"; s. 34 k.; cpl. 336; a. 6 5", 12 40mm., 11 20mm., 2 dct., 6 dcp., 10 21" tt; cl. Allen M. Sumner)

 

Mannert L. Abele (DD‑733) was laid down by Bath Iron Works Corp., Bath Maine, 9 December 1943; launched 23 April 1944; sponsored by Mrs. Mannert L. Abele; and commissioned at Boston, Mass., 4 July 1944, Comdr. Alton, E. Parker in command.

 

After shakedown off Bermuda, Mannert L. Abele trained destroyer crews in Chesapeake Bay before departing Norfolk 16 October for duty in the Pacific. Steaming via San Diego, she reached Pearl Harbor 17 November for 2 weeks of intensive training. She sailed in convoy for western Pacific 3 December, but returned 2 weeks later for conversion to a fighter director ship. She received special radio and radar equipment and completed radar picket training before departing 27 January 1945 for the invasion of Iwo Jima.

 

Assigned to the transport screen of Vice Adm. R. K. Turner’s TF 51, she steamed via Eniwetok and Saipan and screened ships of the assault force during amphibious landings 19 February. The next day she joined the fire support group for shore bombardment and close support gunfire operations. During the next 28 hours she blasted numerous enemy gun emplacements, blockhouses, and eaves with devastating effect. In addition she provided night illumination and harassing fire in support of ground operations by the 5th Marine Division. She resumed screening and radar picket duty at dusk 21 February.

 

On 3 and 4 March and again from 8 to 10 March, Mannert L. Abele served on the bombardment line as effective naval firepower provided valuable support for the marines’ ground conquest of that important enemy island fortress. On 10 March, she steamed to Ulithi, arriving the 12th.

 

Mannert L. Abele departed 20 March for radar picket duty off Ulithi and the next day she joined TF 54, Rear Adm. M. L. Deyo’s Gunfire and Covering Force, for the invasion of Okinawa. She reached the Ryukyus 24 March; and during the next week she screened heavy shore bombardment ships during preinvasion operations from Kerama Retto to le Shima. In addition, she pounded enemy positions and supported UDT operations at proposed assault beaches on Okinawa.

 

As American troops stormed the beaches 1 April, Mannert L. Abele provided close fire support before beginning radar picket patrols northeast of Okinawa later that day. On 3 April three Japanese planes attacked her, but the destroyer splashed two of the raiders with intensive, accurate gunfire. Released from picket duty 5 April, she resumed screen patrols off the beaches. On 6 April she helped splash an attacking twin‑engined bomber.

 

The next day Mannert L. Abele joined TF 54 to protect the transports off Okinawa from ships of the Surface Special Attack Force, including the superbattleship Yamato, steaming south from Japan in a last desperate effort to destroy superior American seapower. However, hard-hitting planes of the Fast Carrier Task Force wiped out the enemy’s thrust with furious bomb and torpedo strikes, sinking six Jap ships and damaging the four surviving destroyers.

 

Mannert L. Abele resumed radar picket duty 8 April, patrolling station No. 14 about 70 miles northwest of Okinawa, accompanied by two LSMRs. Midway through the afternoon watch on 12 April, Mannert L. Abele caught the full fury of the kamikazes. Three Vals attacked at 1345, but her lethal gunfire drove off two and set fire to the third which splashed after attempting to crash an LSMR. By 1400, between 15 and 25 additional planes “had come down from the North and the ship was completely surrounded.” Except for one light bomber which challenged and was damaged by the destroyer’s fire, the enemy kept outside her gun range for more than half an hour.

 

At about 1440 three Zekes broke orbit and closed to attack. Mannert L. Abele drove off one and splashed another about 4,000 yards out. Despite numerous hits from 5‑inch bursts and antiaircraft fire, and spewing smoke and flame, the third kamikaze crashed the starboard side and penetrated the after engineroom where it exploded.

 

Immediately, Mannert L. Abele began to lose headway. The downward force of the blast, which had wiped out the after engineering spaces, broke the destroyer’s keel abaft No. 2 stack. The bridge lost control and all guns and directors lost power.

 

A minute later, at about 1446, Mannert L. Abele took a second and fatal hit from a baka bomb—a piloted, rocketpowered, glider bomb—that struck the starboard waterline abreast the forward fireroom. Its 2,600‑pound warhead exploded, buckling the ship, and “cutting out all power, lights, and communications.”

 

Almost immediately, Mannert L. Abele broke in two, her midship section obliterated. Her bow and stern sections sunk rapidly. As survivors clustered in the churning waters enemy planes bombed and strafed them. However, LSMR‑189 and LSMR‑190, praised by Comdr. Parker as “worth their weight in gold as support vessels,” splashed two of the remaining attackers, repulsed further attacks, and rescued the survivors.

 

Mannert L. Abele, the only ship sunk by the baka bomb during the Okinawa campaign, was the first of three radar pickets hit by it. Despite the enemy’s desperate efforts, the radar pickets successfully and proudly completed their mission, thus insuring the success of the campaign. Those on the picket line forged new shining traditions of heroic devotion to duty. Capt. Frederick C. Moosbruger, overall commander of the radar pickets, acclaimed their hazardous duty “...a symbol of supreme achievement in our naval traditions.” And, paraphrasing Sir Winston Churchill, he wrote: “Never in the annals of our glorious naval history have naval forces done so much with so little against such odds for so long a period.”

 

Mannert L. Abele received two battle stars for World War II service.