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Roe

 

Francis Asbury Roe, born in Elmira, N.Y., 4 October 1823, graduated from the Naval School, Annapolis, in 1848. Six years later, while serving in Porpoise on the Asiatic Station, he participated in an engagement with 13 Chinese armored junks off Macao. Six of the junks were sunk and the others were scattered. During the Civil War, in April 1862, he was recommended for promotion for gallantry for his actions onboard Pensacola as that ship led Admiral Farragut's starboard column past Forts Jackson and St. Philip. After commanding Katahdin on the Mississippi, he was ordered to command Sassacus in September 1863. Eight months later he was again commended for gallantry for engaging the Confederate ram Albemarle and the gunboat Bombshell in the sounds of North Carolina. After the end of the war he commanded the Mexican Division of the Gulf Squadron; served as fleet captain for both the Asiatic Station from 1868 to 1871 and the Brazil Station from 1874 to 1875. Promoted to Rear Admiral 3 November 1884, while serving as Governor of the Naval Asylum at Philadelphia, he was transferred to the retired list 4 October 1885. He died in Washington, D.C., 28 December 1901.

 

II

 

(DD - 418: displacement 1,620; length 348’; beam 36’1”; draft 11’5” (mean); speed 35 knots; complement 192; armament 4 5”, 8 21” torpedo tubes; class Sims)

 

The second Roe (DD-418) was laid down 23 April 1938 by the Charleston Navy Yard, Charleston, S.C.; launched 21 June 1939; sponsored by Mrs. Eleanor Roe Hilton; and commissioned 5 January 1940, Lt. Comdr. R. M. Scruggs in command.

 

Following shakedown, Roe conducted exercises along the east coast and in the Pacific. In the spring of 1941, she returned to the east coast and, during the summer remained primarily in the mid-Atlantic seaboard area. In the fall, she moved northward, to Argentia, to escort merchant convoys between Newfoundland and Iceland.

 

On that duty when the United States entered World War II, Roe headed south in January 1942; patrolled the approaches to Bermuda and to Norfolk; and in mid-February entered New York harbor, whence she resumed North Atlantic convoy runs. Arriving off Iceland 3 March, she remained until midmonth - in port and on patrol off that island and in the Denmark Strait. Toward the end of the month Roe returned to New York. In April, she escorted ships to Panama, then spent May in New England waters. In June, she completed another North Atlantic run, this time to the United Kingdom; and in July she screened larger ships in coastal and Caribbean training operations.

 

In mid-August the destroyer again pointed her bow south. Into October she operated between Trinidad and ports in Brazil, then returned to Norfolk to prepare for Operation "Torch," the landings in North Africa.

 

Assigned to the Northern Attack Group, Roe screened the transports to Mehedia, then provided gunfire support for the troops as they pushed to take Port Lyautey, the Sebou River and the Salι airfield. She arrived off the assault area on the night of 7-8 November, ahead of the main group, and, with her SG radar, attempted to locate the beacon submarine, Shad (SS-235). Unsuccessful, she fixed her own position relative to the jetties and beaches of the landing area, and returned to the main force to help guide it to the transport area. During the early morning landings, she acted as control destroyer off Blue and Yellow beaches, then shifted to gunfire support duties. Shortly after sunrise she assisted Savannah (CL-42) in temporarily silencing hostile fire from the Kasba, an old citadel situated on a cliff commanding the mouth of the Sebou.

 

Through that day and until the 15th, Roe remained in the area to provide gunfire support and screen the larger ships. She then turned westward, arriving back at Hampton Roads on the 26th. During the winter and the following spring, 1943, Roe again performed escort work with tanker runs to Gulf and Caribbean oil ports and resupply and reinforcement convoys to Casablanca. On 10 June, she departed New York for the Mediterranean and her second assault - Operation "Husky," the invasion of Sicily.

 

Arriving at Oran toward the end of the month, she continued on to Bizerte, whence she steamed north with the "Joss" force for Licata on 8 July. On the 9th, she took up her position in the fire support area off beach Red, near the Torre de Gaffe. Early on the 10th, she and Swanson (DD-443) moved toward Porto Empedocle, an Italian motor torpedo boat base guarded by a minefield 24 miles west of Licata, to investigate small pips which had registered on their radar screens. As both destroyers prepared to open fire on the "enemy" boats, Roe swerved to avoid the minefield and, at the same time, to fall in astern of Swanson. Her speed, however, exceeded Swanson's and, just before 0300, Roe hit Swanson at right angles on the port side shearing off a portion of her own bow and causing Swanson's fireroom to flood. Both ships went dead in the water. Fortunately by 0500 both were mobile.

 

As daylight increased, the Luftwaffe attempted to finish the damaged ships. The destroyers defended themselves and in the process shot down one Ju. 88 with 13 rounds of proximity influence-fused 5-inch fire to prove the worth of the new fuse in antiaircraft fighting.

 

Following temporary patching at Oran, Roe returned to New York for permanent repairs. In mid-September, she resumed transatlantic convoy duty and completed two runs to North Africa before the end of the year.

 

With the new year, 1944, Roe was transferred to the Pacific. Departing New York 26 January, she transited the Panama Canal and traversed the Pacific to report to CTF 76 at Cape Sudest 12 March. From there, and other New Guinea ports and anchorages, she escorted 7th Phib Force ships transporting Allied troops up the coast and through neighboring islands, and provided gunfire support in target areas. From 16 to 21 March, she supported operations on Manus. In early April, she transported Army personnel from Manus to Rambutyo, then prepared for the landings at Humboldt Bay, which she supported 22 April. In mid-May, she assisted the offensive in the Toem-Wadke [sic; Wakde] area; then, at the end of the month, screened LSTs to Biak. Fire support duty and escort of reinforcements and supplies to Biak continued into June. On the 29th, she provided call-fire support for Army units fighting northeast of the Driniumor River. Then, in July, the destroyer shifted to Noemfoor to conduct a prelanding bombardment and to give postlanding support fire.

 

Relieved at midmonth, Roe departed the Admiralties and steamed for Majuro, where she joined the 5th Fleet. For the next 6 weeks, she served as an aircraft rescue ship in areas off Maloelap, Wotje, Mili, and Jaluit. Patrol, picket, and escort duties then kept her shuttling between and amongst the Marshalls and Marianas, primarily the latter, until early December when she joined TG 94.9 for a bombardment of Iwo Jima.

 

Completing the assignment on the 8th, the force returned to Saipan, whence Roe conducted two search and rescue missions and one mercy run, carrying a doctor to a convoy bound for Saipan, before heading out for further strikes against Iwo Jima on the 24th and 27th. On the 24th, Roe sank a small trawler and, with Case (DD-370), sent to the bottom another ship - believed to have been a destroyer converted for fast transport service. On the 27th, she destroyed several small craft and damaged buildings and antiaircraft installations in and near the island's west boat basin.

 

Another strike on the Volcano and Bonin Islands during the first week in January 1945, was followed by availability at Ulithi and resumption of patrol and escort work from Guam. In late April, she returned to the Volcano-Bonin area for radar picket and search and rescue operations during air strikes against the Japanese home islands. At the end of May she resumed operations in the Marianas and in June she received orders to the west coast.

 

Roe arrived in San Francisco Bay on 29 July, and was undergoing a yard overhaul when the war ended, 14 August. Then designated for inactivation, Roe was decommissioned 30 October 1945 and was struck from the Navy list 16 November. She was sold in August 1947.

 

Roe (DD-418) earned six battle stars during World War II.


20 October 2005