Tabberer—born on 18 December 1915 in Kansas City, Kan.—enlisted in the
Naval Reserve on 12 October 1939 and after elimination flight training at Kansas City was appointed an aviation cadet on 11 January 1940. Following flight instruction at Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola and NAS Miami, Florida, Tabberer was designated a naval aviator on 1 November 1940. He was commissioned an ensign in the U.S. Naval Reserve on 12 December 1940, and after further training with the Fleet Air Detachment, NAS San Diego, Calif., he received orders to join Fighting Squadron 5 (VF-5) which then formed part of the Yorktown (CV-5) Air Group. He reported to VF-5 on 21 January 1941, and made the cruise with the carrier when she was reassigned to the Atlantic Fleet in the spring of 1941, and transitioned with the squadron from the Grumman F3F to the Grumman F4F Wildcat during 1941. Promoted to lieutenant (junior grade) on 29 May 1942, Tabberer and his squadron were ultimately assigned to Saratoga (CV-3) for the invasion of Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands.
On 7 August 1942, Lt. (jg.) Tabberer was one of the eight VF-5 pilots who engaged a force of land attack planes and their fighter escort (the latter equipped with Mitsubishi A6M2 Type 0 fighters of the crack Tainan Air Group), vastly superior in strength, as it attacked the U.S. invasion force off Guadalcanal. Despite the altitude disadvantage, VF-5's two Wildcat-equipped sections gallantly waded into the fray, suffering grievous losses at the hands of the more experienced enemy. Lt. (j.g.) Tabberer was last seen dogfighting a Zero. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, posthumously.
(DE-418: displacement 1,350; 1ength 306'0"; beam 37'7"; draft 13'4"; speed 24.3 knots (trial); complement 222; armament 2 5", 8 40 millimeter, 10 20 millimeter, 2 depth charge tracks, 8 depth charge projectors, 1 depth charge projector (Hedgehog), 3 21" torpedo tubes; class John C. Butler)
Tabberer (DE-418) was laid down on 12 January 1944 at Houston, Tex., by the Brown Shipbuilding Co.; launched on 18 February 1944; sponsored by Mrs. Mary M. Tabberer, widow of the late Lt. (j.g.) Tabberer; and commissioned on 23 May 1944, Lt. Comdr. Henry Lee Plage, USNR, in command.
On 27 June 1944, Tabberer headed toward Bermuda for shakedown training. At the end of a fortnight's post-shakedown availability at the Boston Navy Yard, she got underway on 16 August to escort oiler Severn (AO-61) to the Hawaiian Islands. The two ships transited the Panama Canal late that month and reached Pearl Harbor on 7 September. For over a month, the destroyer escort conducted underway training in the Hawaiian Operating Area, evolutions that included antisubmarine and gunfire drills. She also screened and served as plane guard for escort carrier Coral Sea (CVE-57) and the carriers Saratoga and Ranger (CV-4) during night flying qualifications and amphibious support training.
On 16 October 1944, Tabberer sortied from Pearl Harbor with Task Group (TG) 12.7, a hunter/killer group centered around the escort carrier Anzio (ex-Coral Sea). Upon arrival at Eniwetok on the 23d, the ships joined Adm. William F. Halsey, Jr.'s 3d Fleet and, on 27 October, stood out of Eniwetok as TG 30.7. After pausing at Ulithi during the first three days of November, the task group headed for the 3d Fleet fueling group's operating area to conduct antisubmarine sweeps. On 18 November, TG 30.7 registered its first kill when Tabberer's sister-ship Lawrence C. Taylor (DE-415) and a TBM from Anzio's Composite Squadron (VC) 82 sank Japanese submarine I-41 (Lt. Comdr. Kondo Fumitake) after a coordinated depth charge attack with Melvin R. Nawman (DE-416). Following a replenishment period at Ulithi, Tabberer sortied with TG 30.7 on 9 December to resume antisubmarine sweeps of the Philippine Sea during Task Force 38's Luzon strikes in support of the Mindoro landings.
On 17 December 1944, as Tabberer was steaming in company with the 3d Fleet fueling group to the east of the Philippine Islands, rising wind and a choppy sea forced her to break off preparations to take on fuel. The barometer dropped precipitously as the weather grew worse. By evening, the little warship was fighting a full typhoon. During the night, Tabberer lost steerageway and could not fight her way out of the deep troughs. She frequently took rolls up to 60 degrees and, on several occasions, approached an angle of 72 degrees from the vertical.
High winds and heavy seas continued to batter Tabberer on the 18th. By 1830, her mast and radio antennae were gone. At 2130, CRM Ralph E. Tucker, however, in the process of rigging an emergency antenna on the stack, perceived a light about 500 yards away on the port beam, prompting Tabberer to immediately alter her course accordingly. Once on board, the sailor reported that he was from destroyer Hull (DD-350) and that his ship had gone down about noon that day. Thus, she was the first ship of the 3d Fleet to learn of the tragedy that had befallen three destroyers of the 3d Fleet on 18 December 1944. Though unable to call for help, she immediately embarked upon a search for other survivors. Her rescue efforts continued through the night, all day on the 19th, and into the 20th. In all, she saved 55 officers and men both from Hull and Spence (DD-512). Later, Tabberer was relieved by other units of the fleet, and they rescued an additional 36 men, a few of whom belonged to the crew of the typhoon's third victim, Monaghan (DD-354). For their courageous rescue work during the storm, Lt. Robert M. Surdam, USNR, Tabberer's executive officer, Lt. Howard J. Korth, USNR, the ship's gunnery officer and a former football player at the University of Notre Dame, BM1c Louis A. Purvis and TM1c Robert L. Cotton would be awarded Navy and Marine Corps medals; Lt. Comdr. Plage would receive the Legion of Merit, and the ship, the Navy Unit Commendation.
On 21 December 1944, Tabberer stood in to Ulithi lagoon; eight days later, on 29 December, Adm. Halsey visited the ship and awarded Lt. Comdr. Plage the Legion of Merit for his "courageous leadership and excellent seamanship," and commended the crew. The destroyer escort stopped at Eniwetok early in January 1945 and reached Oahu soon thereafter. Following a short availability, she stood out of Pearl Harbor on 29 January. She steamed via Eniwetok and Saipan to screen TF 38 during the air strikes in support of the marines who stormed ashore at Iwo Jima on 19 February. Tabberer remained in the Volcano Islands through the first week of March, screening the carriers from enemy submarines and aircraft. Though the task force was subjected to several air attacks and carriers suffered kamikaze and bomb hits, Tabberer sustained no damage. On 7 March, she headed for the Philippines, standing in to San Pedro Bay, Leyte, on the 12th.
From late March to early May 1945, the destroyer escort cruised with various task groups of TF 38 during the invasion of Okinawa. Once again, she protected the American carriers from Japanese submarines and aircraft while their planes struck enemy positions. Although she operated continuously for 52 days and sighted many unidentified planes, the ship never came under attack. Frequently, she rejoined the Anzio hunter/killer group for night antisubmarine sweeps.
Tabberer put into Apra Harbor, Guam, on 11 May 1945 to replenish and make repairs. On the 23d, she departed again and rejoined Anzio for further antisubmarine operations on the shipping lanes between Okinawa and the Marianas. On 31 May, Anzio planes (VC 82) scored a kill, sinking I-361 (Lt. Matsura Masaharu) 400 miles southeast of Okinawa. Tabberer assisted sistership Oliver Mitchell (DE-417) in recovering evidence. Following a visit, lasting just over a fortnight, to San Pedro Bay, Leyte, she resumed antisubmarine sweeps with the Anzio task group. For the remainder of the war, she hunted Japanese submarines and protected the logistics group during the 3d Fleet's final air assault on the Japanese home islands. During the final month of the war, she destroyed mines and rescued four downed Anzio aircrewmen.
Following the cessation of hostilities on 15 August 1945, Tabberer remained in the Far East to support the occupation forces. She escorted ships between Okinawa; Jinsen, Korea; and Tientsin and Taku, China. She also destroyed mines in the Yellow Sea. On 22 December, she departed Tsingtao, China, to return to the United States. Along the way, she made stops at Okinawa, Eniwetok, and Pearl Harbor before entering San Francisco on 15 January 1946. In April, she shifted to San Diego where she was placed out of commission, in reserve, on 24 April 1946.
Tabberer was recommissioned at San Diego on 7 April 1951, Lt. Comdr. Willard J. McNulty in command. In June, she changed home ports from San Diego to Newport, R.I., and in August reported for duty with the Atlantic Fleet. For the next nine years, she operated along the Atlantic seaboard from Key West, Fla., to Halifax, Nova Scotia. Frequently, she operated in the Caribbean area, often near Guantanamo Bay and Vieques Island. Tabberer participated in a variety of exercises and, on several occasions, embarked U.S. Naval Academy and NROTC midshipmen for their summer cruises. She left the western Atlantic only once during this period—in the fall of 1957—for a two-month deployment to the Mediterranean. After that, she resumed her operations along the east coast.
On 19 April 1959, Tabberer put into port for the last time. At Philadelphia, she began preparations for deactivation. Placed out of commission, in reserve, in May 1960, she lay berthed at Philadelphia for the remainder of her days. On 1 July 1972, Tabberer was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register, and, on 3 October 1973, was sold for scrapping to Mr. David A. Hahn of Key West, Florida. She departed naval custody on 26 November 1973.
Tabberer earned four battle stars and a Navy Unit Commendation for service in World War II.
Revised, Robert J. Cressman, 8 November 2006