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Richard W. Suesens

 

Richard Wayne Suesens, born 30 April 1915 at Burlington, Iowa, enlisted in the Naval Reserve 31 May 1938. Appointed Aviation Cadet 4 October 1938 and commissioned ensign 15 October 1939, he reported for duty in Torpedo Squadron 3, on board Saratoga (CV-3) 20 November 1939. Promoted to lieutenant (junior grade) 1 November 1941, he was killed in action during the Battle of Midway, June 1942. For his "extraordinary heroism" in pressing home his attack on Japanese naval units during that battle, despite "tremendous antiaircraft fire and overwhelming fighter opposition", Lieutenant (junior grade) Suesens was awarded the Navy Cross posthumously.

 

(DE - 342: displacement 1,745; length 306; beam 367; draft 134; speed 24 knots; complement 222; armament 2 5, 4 40mm., 10 20mm., 2 depth charge tracks, 8 depth charge projectors, 1 depth charge projector (hedgehog-type), 3 21 torpedo tubes; class John C. Butler)

 

Richard W. Suesens (DE-342) was laid down 1 November 1943 by the Consolidated Steel Co., Ltd., Orange, Tex.; launched 11 January 1944; sponsored by Mrs. R. W. Suesens, widow of Lieutenant (junior grade) Suesens; and commissioned 26 April 1944, Lt. Comdr. Milford McQuilkin in command.

 

Completing shakedown off Bermuda and post-shakedown availability at Boston, Richard W. Suesens sailed for Long Island Sound 29 June 1944. That night, in Buzzard's Bay, she collided with Valor (AMc-108). The coastal minesweeper sank and after the DE transported survivors to Newport, she continued on, reported for duty at New York, thence, on 4 July, proceeded south. A unit of CortDiv 69, she served as escort for ships en route to Mayport, then steamed on through the Panama Canal, reporting to the Pacific Fleet 23 July. On 2 August she arrived at San Diego, whence she sailed with TransDiv 10 to Hawaii. Arriving on the 19th, she trained there until mid-September, then headed west with convoy PD-89-T, bound for Eniwetok. There on the 22d, she joined TF 33 and 8 days later sailed for Manus and duty with the 7th Fleet.

 

Assigned to TU 77.4.24, an escort carrier unit, Richard W. Suesens sailed for the Philippines 14 October. On the 16th, TG 77.4 rendezvoused with TG 78.6 to provide air coverage for transports en route from Hollandia to Leyte. Through the landings on the 20th and the covering operations which followed, the DE, alternating plane guard and screening duties, continued to operate with the "jeep" carriers. On the 22d, TU 77.4.24 was dissolved. [Richard W.] Suesens with six CVEs, three DDs, and four other DEs formed TU 77.4.2 and with TU 77.4.1 and TU 77.4.3 took up patrol duties to the east of Leyte Gulf whence their planes could provide air support for the amphibious forces, fly CAP and ASP for the Leyte areas, interdict Japanese supply movements, and drop supplies to Army units inland. Called "Taffy 1", "Taffy 2", and "Taffy 3" from the radio call sign used by each unit commander, the units proceeded to their operational areas: Taffy 1 off northern Mindanao, Taffy 2 off the entrance to Leyte Gulf, Taffy 3 off Samar.

 

During the early morning hours of the 25th, the Battle of Surigao Strait was fought and daybreak searches were ordered flown to hunt down the retiring Japanese ships. Planes from Taffy 1 were designated to fly the searches while other units continued air support and patrol operations. At dawn the planes were launched on their missions. At 0645 [Richard W.] Suesens intercepted ship plane traffic on VHF reporting an enemy battleship and cruiser force closing on Taffy 3 as its carriers made every effort to get torpedo planes airborne along with fighters to drive off the enemy ships. All available planes from Taffy 2 were dispatched to join those of Taffy 3. The Battle off Samar had begun. By 0720 the enemy force had closed to within 20 miles of Taffy 2. The destroyers formed a line between the carriers' circular disposition and the approaching enemy. The escorts remained with the carriers as they continued to rearm returning planes and send them northward into the now visible gunsmoke clouds over Taffy 3.

 

Through the morning Richard W. Suesens, screening Taffy 2, listened as torpedo planes and fighters conducted aerial attacks and Taffy 3's destroyers and escorts challenged the enemy's larger ships on the surface. By 0920 the latter were only 12 miles from Taffy 2 and their shells splashed among the destroyers, but the battle was turning. The Japanese now so close to their objective - entrance into Leyte Gulf - were no longer on the offensive. TG 77.4, despite staggering losses while protecting shipping in the Gulf, now commenced the pursuit, which, taken up by others, continued until the 29th. Rescue operations and logistic resupply followed on the 26th. On the night of 27-28 October, [Richard W.] Suesens resumed screening and plane-guard duties and at the end of the month she headed south.

 

Arriving at Manus 3 November, Richard W. Suesens spent the next 3 weeks undergoing upkeep and maintenance, then reported for duty in TF 79, the force staging for the invasion of Luzon. On 31 December the force sortied from Seeadler Harbor and headed for the Philippines. On 8 January 1945, the Japanese attacked. Kitkun Bay (CVE-71) and HMAS Westralia were damaged by kamikazes, but the force continued on to arrive in Lingayen Gulf in the early hours of the 9th. During the assault, and after, Richard W. Suesens patrolled off the transport area. On the 12th as she rescued survivors from Gilligan (DE-508), she was closed by a kamikaze in a steep, full-power dive. Antiaircraft fire apparently killed the pilot, but the plane kept its momentum and, after skimming the after 40mm. gun, crashed into the sea. The subsequent explosion injured 11 of the DE's crew and caused minor damage to the hull.

 

Richard W. Suesens then retired to Leyte, whence she sailed on the 27th to screen landing craft to Nasugbu. There, on the 31st, she covered the assault forces as they began their fight to Manila. Retiring to Mindoro on 2 February, she screened resupply runs to Nasugbu and brought out casualties through the 23d, witnessing on the 16th the paratroop landing on Corregidor.

 

Returning to Leyte, she prepared for Operation "Iceberg," the invasion of the Ryukyus, and on 21 March sailed with the Western Islands Attack Force. Arriving off Kerama Retto on the 26th she screened the transport area there during the initial assault, then remained on patrol off that anchorage into mid-April when she shifted to the Hagushi Beach anchorage. Employed as a picket ship in the antisubmarine and antiaircraft ring around the Kerama Retto-Okinawa area, she survived the nightly air raids and numerous kamikaze attacks, splashing four planes and assisting in the destruction of two more before retiring to Ulithi on 26 April.

 

In early May she underwent availability at Ulithi, then served as radar picket ship north of that base. On the 27th she returned to Okinawa where, until 28 June, she alternated escort duty with picket ship responsibilities. She then returned to Leyte, joined TG 32.1 and between 1 July and 6 August covered minesweeping operations in the East China Sea in support of the blockade of the Japanese home islands. On 7 August she returned to Okinawa where she was employed in escort work for the remainder of the war. From the mid-August cessation of hostilities until late September, she continued escort runs, including one to Jinsen, Korea. Then, on 22 September, she sailed for Japan. There she supported occupation forces in the Wakayama-Wakanoura area through October. On 1 November, she was en route home.

 

On 21 November Richard W. Suesens arrived at San Diego for inactivation. In commission, in reserve, from March 1946, she decommissioned 15 January 1947 and was berthed with the San Diego Group, Pacific Reserve Fleet. Although she was later moved to Stockton, she remained a unit of the Reserve Fleet until struck from the Navy list 15 March 1972. She was sold 13 June 1973 to the National Metal and Steel Corp., Terminal Island, Calif.

 

Richard W. Suesens earned five battle stars during World War II.



29 September 2005