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McKee

 

Hugh W. McKee, born in Lexington, Ky., was appointed to the Naval Academy 25 September 1861. Graduated in 1866, he had attained the rank of lieutenant by March 1870, and was serving in the Asiatic Squadron. He was mortally wounded 11 June 1871, while leading a company of bluejackets over the walls of a Korean fort on Kang‑wa Island close by the Inchon beaches during a punitive expedition. He died on board Colorado and was buried at his birthplace.

 

III

 

(DD‑575: dp. 2,050; l. 376'5"; b. 39'8"; d. 17'9"; s. 35 k.; cpl. 273; a. 5 5", 6 40mm., 11 20mm., 10 21" tt., 2 dct., 6 dcp.; cl. Fletcher)

 

The third McKee (DD‑575) was laid down 2 March 1942 by Consolidated Steel Corp., Orange, Tex.; launched 2 August 1942; sponsored by Mrs. Richard A. Asbury, cousin of Lieutenant McKee; and commissioned 31 March 1943, Comdr. J. J. Greytak in command.

 

After shakedown off Guantanamo Bay, McKee departed Norfolk 6 July 1943 for the Pacific in company with Yorktown. Transiting the Panama Canal, the ships sailed into Hawaiian waters 24 July for a 3‑month training period. Ordered to join TF 53 in the South Pacific, McKee arrived New Hebrides 4 November, but was diverted to help cover a convoy retiring from newly invaded Bougainville in the Solomons. During heavy air attacks the night of the 8th McKee’s 20mm. guns splashed two enemy planes, the second after it had released a torpedo which passed beneath the ship. Refueling at Florida Island 10 November she guarded carriers for a successful air strike against the Japanese stronghold at Rabaul, New Britain. The following afternoon the enemy lost over 50 planes in a retaliatory strike against the retiring ships. McKee accounted for one “Betty.”

 

On 12 November she at last reported to TF 53, now enroute for the invasion of the Gilbert Islands. She screened the larger combatant ships off Tarawa from 19 November to 7 December, then withdrew to the Ellice Islands.

 

New Year’s Day 1944 she steamed into Pearl Harbor to prepare for the invasion of Kwajalein scheduled for 31 January. On station that date she bombarded adjoining Enubuj and provided close fire support. Screening and bombardment assignments continued until 3 February when she began two escort missions to Guadalcanal terminating at Efate, New Hebrides. McKee sortied with TF 379 15 March and participated with its battleships 5 days later in the diversionary shelling of Kavieng, New Ireland. The destroyer next covered the initial landings on Humboldt Bay, New Guinea, 23 April and then escorted resupply convoys to the various beachheads of the Hollandia operation.

 

In May and June she prepared in the Solomons and the Marshalls for the invasion of the Marianas. She sortied from Eniwetok 17 July with TG 53.18. Scheduled fire commenced on the 21st in Agana Bay, Guam, as 3d Division Marines went ashore. Lying close enough offshore to see enemy occupied pillboxes and trenches, McKee delivered close support fire through 4 August when she retired with a group of carriers to New Hebrides.

 

III

 

(DD‑575: dp. 2,050; l. 376'5"; b. 39'8"; d. 17'9"; s. 35 k.; cpl. 273; a. 5 5", 6 40mm., 11 20mm., 10 21" tt., 2 dct., 6 dcp.; cl. Fletcher)

 

The third McKee (DD‑575) was laid down 2 March 1942 by Consolidated Steel Corp., Orange, Tex.; launched 2 August 1942; sponsored by Mrs. Richard A. Asbury, cousin of Lieutenant McKee; and commissioned 31 March 1943, Comdr. J. J. Greytak in command.

 

After shakedown off Guantanamo Bay, McKee departed Norfolk 6 July 1943 for the Pacific in company with Yorktown. Transiting the Panama Canal, the ships sailed into Hawaiian waters 24 July for a 3‑month training period. Ordered to join TF 53 in the South Pacific, McKee arrived New Hebrides 4 November, but was diverted to help cover a convoy retiring from newly invaded Bougainville in the Solomons. During heavy air attacks the night of the 8th McKee’s 20mm. guns splashed two enemy planes, the second after it had released a torpedo which passed beneath the ship. Refueling at Florida Island 10 November she guarded carriers for a successful air strike against the Japanese stronghold at Rabaul, New Britain. The following afternoon the enemy lost over 50 planes in a retaliatory strike against the retiring ships. McKee accounted for one “Betty.”

 

On 12 November she at last reported to TF 53, now enroute for the invasion of the Gilbert Islands. She screened the larger combatant ships off Tarawa from 19 November to 7 December, then withdrew to the Ellice Islands.

 

New Year’s Day 1944 she steamed into Pearl Harbor to prepare for the invasion of Kwajalein scheduled for 31 January. On station that date she bombarded adjoining Enubuj and provided close fire support. Screening and bombardment assignments continued until 3 February when she began two escort missions to Guadalcanal terminating at Efate, New Hebrides. McKee sortied with TF 379 15 March and participated with its battleships 5 days later in the diversionary shelling of Kavieng, New Ireland. The destroyer next covered the initial landings on Humboldt Bay, New Guinea, 23 April and then escorted resupply convoys to the various beachheads of the Hollandia operation.

 

In May and June she prepared in the Solomons and the Marshalls for the invasion of the Marianas. She sortied from Eniwetok 17 July with TG 53.18. Scheduled fire commenced on the 21st in Agana Bay, Guam, as 3d Division Marines went ashore. Lying close enough offshore to see enemy occupied pillboxes and trenches, McKee delivered close support fire through 4 August when she retired with a group of carriers to New Hebrides.

 

The need for an intermediary base and airfield for the recapture of the Philippines led to the bombardment and seizure of Morotai in the Moluccas beginning 15 September. Meeting only light opposition, McKee and her force soon sailed back to Humboldt Bay, a staging area for Leyte. By mid‑October over 700 vessels were underway to see the 6th Army safely ashore. On 20 October, as McKee approached her designated area in Leyte Gulf, two natives paddled out from Samar. Their information enabled the ship to destroy two camouflaged landing barges, a tug, and an ammunition dump. That same night she departed with a convoy of LSDs for Humboldt Bay. A series of new convoy missions brought McKee to San Francisco 15 November.

 

On 10 January 1945 she sailed for Ulithi where she joined TF 58, 7 February, for strikes against the Japanese home islands. The task force’s planes struck Tokyo 16, 17, and 25 February, hitting Iwo Jima in between, in raids so destructive and successful that the enemy failed to retaliate against the carriers or their screen.

 

They returned a mouth later for strikes, beginning 18 March, against Kyushu to reduce airborne resistance to the Okinawa landings set for 1 April. This raid encountered much resistance as suicide planes managed to penetrate the combat air patrol and antiaircraft fire to reach the formation. This time McKee found pilots to rescue, numbers of live targets for her antiaircraft guns, and submarine contacts for two depth charge runs.

 

Air attacks increased in intensity beginning 6 April as this force of the 5th Fleet sought to protect the Okinawa invasion force against a fanatically resistive enemy. On the 13th, while McKee patrolled on picket duty, four planes made runs on her. She splashed one and badly damaged another; the third crashed 50 feet off her starboard bow, while the fourth, missing her, crashed Hunt. Three days later she shot down a “Zeke” attempting to crash her. On 21 April she bombarded Manimi Daito Shima. At the end of the month TG 58.1 retired to Ulithi for a 9‑day replenishment and rest period.

 

Once underway again McKee’s carriers struck Kyushu 13 May, then followed an alternating pattern against the enemy in his home islands and on Okinawa. Meanwhile, 28 May, McKee joined Admiral Halsey’s 3d Fleet. Eight days later a typhoon with winds reaching 110 knots threatened to be more damaging than the Japanese. Skillful seamanship brought McKee through with only minor damage.

 

Repaired and overhauled at Leyte, she joined TG 38.1 on 9 July off the Japanese coast. The 30th, along with six other destroyers, she made the closest penetration of Japanese home waters up to that time as they swept into Suruga Wan to shell an aluminum plant and railroad yards at Shimizu, Honshu. Despite A‑bombs and rumors of peace, airstrikes continued against the Tokyo area until 0900 15 August, when Japan capitulated. The day before the official ceremony on board Missouri, McKee turned homeward. She escorted Wasp to Eniwetok. then steamed to Pearl Harbor where she joined TG 11.6 bound for the east coast. McKee arrived Charleston, S.C., 16 October, decommissioned there 25 February 1946, and entered the Atlantic Reserve Fleet. As of 1969 she is berthed at Orange, Tex.

 

McKee received 11 battle stars for World War II service.