Robert William Uhlmann—born on 16 August 1919 at Pittsburgh, Pa.—attended the College of Engineering, University of Michigan, from 1937 until 1940. On September 1940, he enlisted in the Naval Reserve as an apprentice seaman and, during November and December, trained in Arkansas (BB-33). Following his appointment as a midshipman in the Naval Reserve on 17 March 1941, he trained at the Midshipman School, Northwestern University, Chicago, 111., and on 12 June 1941 was commissioned ensign. After additional training, he reported to Patrol Squadron 24 on 1 August 1941. This squadron, a part of Patrol Wing 2 stationed at Naval Air Station, Kaneohe Bay, was redesignated Patrol Squadron 12 (VP-12) on October 1941.
On the morning of 7 December 1941, as the incredulous Commander of Patrol Wing 1 investigated reports that a plane of the dawn patrol had depth-charged a Japanese submarine only a mile from the entrance of Pearl Harbor, nine Japanese fighters circled low over the airfield at Kaneohe and then attacked, machine-gunning the control tower and leaving planes in flames in the bay and on the ramp. The men of VP-12 sprang into action without regard for personal safety, exposing themselves to the deadly fire of the enemy planes as they sought to save planes not yet destroyed and to fight off the raiders. The Japanese fighters strafed automobiles trying to reach the field and concentrated attention on men attempting to man guns in the grounded planes. Everyone on station joined the duty sections in combatting the surprise attackers.
While across the island in Pearl Harbor the Pacific Fleet fought for survival, Fleet Air Detachment, Naval Air Station, Kaneohe, waged its own battle against the Japanese attackers with only rifles and machine guns. A short time later, a second wave of enemy planes flew over, bombing vulnerable hangars and planes, and destroying the hangar where many members of Patrol Squadron 12 were obtaining replenishment ammunition for machine guns. Additional strafing attacks followed; and, before the morning was over, eight patrol bomber seaplanes were destroyed, and all 35 planes which had been on the ground wHen the attack began were out of commission. Air station personnel shot down two Japanese planes and scored hits on the fuel tanks of seven others, but the material and human costs were high. Among the dead at the end of the battle was Ensign Uhlmann who had joined with VP-12 in the courageous attempt to repulse the enemy.
(DD-687: dp. 2,050; 1. 376'5"; b. 39'7"; dr. 17'9"; s. 35.2 k. (tl.); cpl. 329; a. 5 5", 10 40mm., 7 20mm., 2 dct., 6 dcp., 10 21" tt.; cl. Fletcher)
Uhlmann (DD-687) was laid down on 6 March 1943 at Staten Island, N.Y., by the Bethlehem Steel Co.; launched on 30 July 1943; sponsored by Mrs. C. F. Uhlmann, mother of Ens. Uhlmann; and commissioned on 22 November 1943 at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Comdr. Selden G. Hooper in command.
After shakedown out of Bermuda and post-shakedown availability, the destroyer joined Destroyer Squadron 56 on 24 January 1944. Two days later, she got underway to escort Wasp (CV-18) to Trinidad. She then transited the Panama Canal, touched at San Diego, and arrived at San Francisco on 16 February. There, she embarked passengers for transportation to Hawaii and departed the west coast on the 17th in company with Birmingham (CL-62) and Newcomb (DD-586).
She arrived at Pearl Harbor on the 23d. During March, Uhlmann underwent availability, conducted training, and rendered occasional convoy screening services in Hawaiian waters. In April, she conducted carrier escort training exercises and honed her skills in shore bombardment and radar tracking in preparation for assignment to carrier screening duties. Two hours after sunset on the 24th, while Uhlmann was participating in training exercises in Hawaiian waters as an antisubmarine screening ship for the carriers of Task Group 19.2, she was struck amidships by destroyer Benham (DD-796). The collision tore an eight-by-ten-foot hole in Uhlmann's, hull below the water line, flooding her firerooms and the forward engine room. The following day, she was taken in tow by Tekesta (AT-93) and returned to Pearl Harbor on the 26th. After temporary hull and engine repairs, she set her course for San Francisco on 17 May, steaming on her port engine with her forward fire and engine rooms out of commission. On the 24th, she moored at Hunter's Point and, for the next two months, underwent extensive repairs.
In August, she returned to Pearl Harbor and resumed training exercises including torpedo firing and antisubmarine warfare drills. After one false start, she departed Oahu on 18 September with South Dakota (BB-57) and Woodworth (DD-460) and set her course for the Admiralties. En route to Manus, she was diverted to the western Carolines and reported to 3d Fleet at Ulithi on 30 September. During a typhoon on 3 October, a nest of three destroyers drifted down on Uhlmann and pierced three holes in her starboard side. A few hours later, the destroyer made an emergency sortie from the lagoon with Task Group 38.2; but, by nightfall, high seas had carried away her emergency damage control measures and flooded the anchor windlass room. She returned to Ulithi on the 4th for repairs by Dixie (AD-14) and, on the 6th, was underway for an at-sea rendezvous with Task Force 38—the 3d Fleet's Fast Carrier Force—the following day.
At noon on the 9th, the carriers began a high-speed approach to a launch position for strikes on the Ryukyus. On the 10th, planes launched by the carriers struck Okinawa, destroying enemy aircraft, shipping, and shore installations in preparation for the projected landings on Leyte, Cebu, and Negros.
After fueling at sea on the 11th, TF 38 began a high-speed approach on Formosa for two days of strikes on that island, again in support of the impending American assault on the Philippines. On 12 and 13 October, as the carriers steamed 85 miles east of Formosa and launched strike after strike against that island, Uhlmann operated in their antiaircraft screen. Planes from the carriers attempted to destroy Japanese air strength on Formosa to eliminate that island as a staging base for the enemy.
Shortly after dusk on the 12th, low flying Japanese bombers and torpedo planes approached Task Group38.2 from the west and northwest. Although most of the Japanese planes were intercepted by the task force's combat air patrol, more than a dozen broke through and attacked the formation. Uhlmann opened fire on a Japanese medium torpedo bomber at 7,000 yards. But, undeterred, the plane continued to approach the zigzagging destroyer from port until it was hit at close range by Uhlmann's 40-millimeter fire, crossed over the ship, and splashed 100 yards off the destroyer's starboard bow. The plane sank at once leaving a large quantity of gas and oil floating on the sea.
A second wave of attackers followed two minutes after the first, and Uhlmann, maneuvering with the formation, joined in the fire which downed some seven Japanese raiders during the night. At 2200, she hit an enemy plane which burst into flame and illuminated the moonless overcast night before splashing off the stern of the ship. Minutes before midnight, Uhlmann picked up another aerial intruder on radar and opened up with 5-inch fire. The plane countered by dropping flares as a diversionary tactic and pulled away, but Uhlmann's deadly fire found its mark as the raider burst into flame and splashed into the sea. The destroyers began laying smoke around midnight, and the raids tapered off. For the remainder of the night, Japanese planes merely approached within 6 to 7 miles, dropped flares, and retired without attacking the formation.
Japanese planes again ventured near the formation late on the 14th only to be routed by night fliers of the combat air patrol. The next day, TF 38 began a high-speed run in for strikes on Luzon, with Uhlmann providing antisubmarine protection for the fast carriers of TG 38.2. On the 16th and 17th, the carriers launched heavy strikes on Luzon concentrating on ships and installations in the Manila Bay area. Late on the 17th, the formation set a southerly course to get into position for strikes farther south, with the fighter planes of the task force dispersing light Japanese air opposition en route. Steaming east and northeast of Samar, the task force made strikes on Negros on the 20th in strategic support of the landings on Leyte and also provided direct air support for those landings.
Meanwhile, upon first sighting American minesweepers in the approaches to Leyte Gulf, Japan had sent her naval forces into Philippine waters. On the 24th, Uhlmann protected the carriers of Rear Admiral Gerald F. Bogan's TG 38.2 as they launched strikes against the Japanese Center Force which was approaching San Bernardino Strait. In an action known as the Battle of the Sibuyan Sea, American naval aircraft sank Japanese super battleship Musashi and damaged several other enemy warships. At 2022 that evening, Task Force 38 turned north to seek out and destroy the Japanese Northern Force whose carriers had been spotted north of Luzon where they had been stationed in the hope of luring the 3d Fleet away from the beaches of Leyte.
However, a gallant little group of American destroyers, destroyer escorts, and escort carriers had fought off the overwhelmingly superior Japanese Center Force and induced it to abandon its plan of attacking the amphibious ships which were supporting the Allied beachheads on Leyte. Thus, when TG 34.5 returned within aircraft range of San Bernardino Strait, the chastened Japanese Center Force had already retreated back through that strategic passage to safety. In the days that followed the historic battle for Leyte Gulf, Uhlmann continued to screen TG 38.2 while its carriers conducted strikes on land targets, including raids on Luzon on the 29th and 30th. Shortly before noon on the 29th, as the carriers recovered aircraft from a strike against Japanese targets in the Manila area, Uhlmann left the formation to investigate what appeared to be the splash of a downed plane but was later determined to be a bomb splash. As the destroyer attempted to discover the cause of the splash, a Navy torpedo bomber from Hancock (CV-19) made a water landing nearby, and Uhlmann quickly rescued the pilot and two crewmen. Meanwhile, an enemy attack had materialized, and the destroyer went to general quarters, increased her speed to 25 knots, and executed evasive maneuvers as she attempted to rejoin the formation. As she steamed to her assigned position, she joined in the general fire against the attackers—10 to 12 Japanese planes which made notably inaccurate high altitude bombing runs and retired after one or two of their members had been splashed by the American ships' accurate fire.
On 4 November, TF 38.2 began a high-speed approach for strikes on Luzon. For two days, carrier-based aircraft pounded Luzon and Bicol. Then, on the 7th, Uhlmann set her course for Ulithi. En route, heavy seas caused flooding in the boatswain's stores and chain locker; and Uhlmann, accompanied by Yarnall (DD-541), left the formation and ran with the wind while damage-control measures were being effected. She arrived at Ulithi on the 9th, underwent repairs, and got underway again on the 16th. She rendezvoused with TG 38.2 the following day and took up an antisubmarine screening station. Following carrier strikes on Luzon on the 19th, Uhlmann returned to Ulithi on the 22d.
The destroyer conducted exercises out of Ulithi until 10 December when she got underway and rendezvoused with Task Force 38 on the 12th. On the 14th, 15th, and 16th, the carriers made strikes against air installations on Luzon and against shipping in water off that island to support landings on Mindoro. Toward dusk on the 16th, the task force began its retirement. As the American warships fueled northeast of Samar on the 17th, weather conditions worsened. At 1330, Uhlmann abandoned fueling from Massachusetts (BB-59) due to rough seas and 26-knot winds stirred up by an approaching typhoon. On the 18th, Uhlmann recorded 69-knot winds, and rolls up to 58 degrees as the typhoon's center passed within 30 miles of the formation. During the afternoon, winds decreased; and, by 2000, they had subsided to 25 knots. On the 19th and 20th, the ships of the battered task force resumed fueling which continued into the next day while its escorts searched for survivors of the three destroyers which had failed to survive the tropical storm. Late on the 20th, due to heavy seas, the carriers aborted a highspeed run in for strikes on Luzon; and Uhlmann returned to the storm area and searched for survivors. She made port at Ulithi on Christmas Eve.
Underway again with TG 38.1 on the 30th, she screened the carriers during strikes on Formosa and Luzon early in the new year and, an hour before midnight on 9 January 1945, transited Bashi Channel into the South China Sea. The carriers launched strikes on French Indochina, Formosa, and Hong Kong before retiring from the South China Sea on the 19th. Steaming 75 miles north of Luzon at dusk the next day, the formation came under attack by enemy aircraft, and Uhlmann joined other ships of the formation in repelling raiders. Following strikes on Formosa and Okinawa, TF 38 returned to Ulithi on the 26th. That day, the 3d Fleet was redesignated 5th Fleet and placed under the command of Admiral Raymond A. Spruance.
Following antisubmarine training, Uhlmann got underway from Ulithi with TG 58.2 on 10 February. During a Japanese air raid on the 16th, the first of two days of strikes on the Tokyo area, Uhlmann took under fire an enemy fighter which made a low-glide, diving attack on the ship's port beam and dropped a bomb 100 yards in the wake of destroyer Halsey Powell (DD-686). Neither destroyer suffered any damage in this exchange. On the 19th, Uhlmann screened TF 58 as it steamed north of Iwo Jima launching strikes on that island in support of the initial landings there. On the 20th, mechanical difficulties in her steering mechanism forced Uhlmann to part company with the task force, and she put in at Ulithi on 23 February for repairs. Underway on 14 March, she rendezvoused with TG 58.2 on the 16th. On the 17th, the carriers began a highspeed run in for strikes on Kyushu. While the planes of TP 58 pounded that Japanese homeland, Uhlmann protected the carriers from air and submarine attack. Air activity began early on the 18th; and Uhlmann, acting as linking vessel between TF 58 and its picket line, began firing on aerial snoopers before dawn. Shortly before 0700, she joined the picket line and, at 0956, rescued three Navy aviators from a torpedo bomber which had splashed nearby.
Throughout the dav and into the night, alerts prompted by Japanese surveillance planes brought the ship's crew to general quarters. Pour minutes before midnight, Uhlmann opened fire on an enemy aircraft at 10,000 yards. The plane burst into flame and splashed 7,000 yards off the destroyer's starboard quarter and burned brightly for several minutes. Air activity continued into the early hours of the 19th. Before dawn that day, Uhlmann joined Gushing (DD-797) in firing on a high-altitude Japanese raider which burst into flames and splashed. Fifty miles off the eastern shore of Shikoku on the morning of the 19th, a Japanese plane dove toward the destroyer and, despite fire from the ship, dropped a small bomb which hit 50 feet off the ship's starboard quarter. No further action occurred that day as Uhlmann, screening TG 58.2, proceeded southward to rejoin the rest of TF 58 southeast of Kyushu.
Ships of the task force began refueling on the 20th but were forced to discontinue when an air attack developed in mid-afternoon. Uhlmann was transferring aviation personnel to San Jacinto (CVL-30) at 1453 when a kamikaze dove at carrier Hancock (CV-19), missed, and crashed into Halsey Powell (DD-686). Uhlmann fired on enemy dive bombers throughout the remainder of the afternoon, was hit by some shrapnel, but suffered no casualties. Air activity continued to be heavy as strikes on Japan continued on the 21st. During a surprise attack early in the afternoon, a bomb fell only 200 yards from Gushing (DD-797), and another bomb narrowly missed a carrier of the force. Ten minutes before midnight on the 22d, while Uhlmann steamed on picket station, she made a surface radar contact which was later identified as a Japanese submarine. In company with Haggard (DD-555), she proceeded at high speed toward the submerging target and stood by while Haggard forced the unlucky enemy ship to the surface with depth charges. Haggard then rammed the submarine which exploded and sank. Uhlmann escorted the slightly damaged destroyer back to Ulithi where they arrived on the 25th.
She departed Ulithi on the 30th and set a northwesterly course. After weathering a typhoon on 2 April, she rendezvoused with TG 58.4 on the 5th and, toward dusk, began an approach for strikes on Okinawa. Following rendezvous with TF 58, she alternated radar picket and screening duties as the carrier-based planes pounded Okinawa.
In April, Japan began concentrated massed kamikaze attacks against American ships in the waters of the Ryukyus; and the carrier forces, despite their discreet distance from Okinawa, were not exempt from the attentions of the suicide planes. On the 12th, combat air patrol from the formation splashed three "Zekes" within sight of Uhlmann as she stood her picket station 25 miles north of TF 58. Two days later, snoopers and nuisance raiders kept the air patrol occupied in the afternoon and early evening.
On radar picket with TG 58.4 on the 17th, Uhlmann joined in fire that downed two enemy aircraft, one of which splashed near Benham (DD-796) causing minor damage to that ship. That night, Uhlmann added her depth charges to a combined attack which sent Japanese submarine 1-56 to the bottom. Late on the afternoon of the 29th, as enemy planes began closing from the northward, destroyer Haggard (DD-585) joined Uhlman to strengthen the picket station in the face of attack. Minutes before 1700, a Japanese fighter plane, taken under fire by Uhlmann, nosed over and dove toward Haggard. The crash and explosion of the suicide plane and its bomb tore a hole in Haggard's starboard side, flooding her firerooms and number one engine room, and leaving her dead in the water. Meanwhile a second "Zeke" began a run in. Uhlmann sttlashed the attacker close aboard Haggard and rescued two of the damaged destroyer's crew from the water. Uhlmann then requested assistance from the task group which responded with a combat air patrol of two divisions. An hour later, light cruiser San Diego (CL-53) and Destroyer Division 104 came to the aid of the stricken destroyer. Uhlmann escorted Haggard a short distance toward Kerama Retto and returned to her picket duty the next day. She screened the carrier strike force until 11 May when she headed for the Carolines. The ship arrived at Ulithi on the 14th.
Underway with TG 58.4 on the 24th, the destroyer returned to a strike launch area off Okinawa and resumed her picket duties. On the 28th, operational control of the task force was returned to the 3d Fleet and TG 58.4 became TG 38.4. Uhlmann continued patrolling picket station and screening the fast carriers until 13 June when she arrived at San Pedro Bay, Leyte, for replenishment and maintenance. On 1 July, she set a northerly course; and, throughout July, the carriers conducted strikes on targets in the Japanese islands to soften up this last stronghold of Japanese power for the projected invasion. On the 25th, Uhlmann joined specially formed TG 35.3 for an antishipping sweep across Kii Suido between Honshu and Shikoku. Two hours after midnight on this completely overcast night, Uhlmann bombarded a radio tower on the southern tip of Uwano Hanto while other ships of the group shelled nearby airfields.
Until the cessation of hostilities on 15 August, Uhlmann continued to operate with the carrier force as it launched strikes against Japan. On 23 August, she rendezvoused with TF 47—a combined British-American force—for temporary escort duty in connection with the occupation of Japan. She arrived in Sagami Wan on the 27th, and immediately manned a picket station. On the 30th, while acting as plane guard for Cowpens (CV-25), she rescued that carrier's landing signal officer who had jumped over the side in an attempt to rescue the pilot of a downed plane. That same day, the destroyer anchored in Sagami Wan, ending 61 days of continuous operation and, on the 31st, shifted anchorages to Tokyo Bay.
Her occupation duties included mail, freight, and passenger runs between Iwo Jima and Japanese ports. Late in October, she participated in training exercises; then, on the 31st, departed Yokosuka, steamed via Pearl Harbor, and arrived at Bremerton late in November. Following alterations, she got underway on 20 April 1946 and arrived at San Diego on the 24th. There, on 14 June 1946, she was decommissioned and placed in reserve. On 12 August, she was assigned to the Naval Reserve Training Program and underwent an overhaul at Terminal Island before reporting to the Commandant, llth Naval District, in November 1946.
Operating out of San Diego, she trained reserve crews until the end of the decade. On 23 May 1950, she was recommissioned, but remained in reserve and, that summer, made a southward voyage, visiting Central and South American ports. She returned to San Diego in July and, on 18 November, was assigned active status.
On 27 January 1951, she reported to the Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet, for duty and, on 16 June, departed San Diego with units of Destroyer Division 152, setting her course for Korean waters. Assigned to TF 77—the fast carrier force operating in the Sea of Japan—Uhlmann resumed the screening and plane guard duties which had occupied much of her time in World War II. She later joined TF 95, a blockade and escort force, and carried out day and night bombardment of the Korean coast. While conducting a routine observation patrol off Wonsan Harbor's Hodo Peninsula on the morning of 20 August, the destroyer came under fire from seven enemy shore batteries. Gun flashes on the beach provided a warning only moments before shells began to fall 1,000 yards from the destroyer. All hands went quickly to battle stations as Uhlmann commenced evasive maneuvers, increased to flank speed, and opened fire on the shore installations. In short order, she reduced the enemy on shore to two guns, while she steamed among near misses, some of which came as close as 15 yards. Fragments from the shell explosions carried away a radio antenna during the half hour engagement. Ordered by TG 95.2 to break off the action, Uhlmann withdrew out of range of the shore batteries.
In the fall, she patrolled Formosan waters and participated in hunter-killer antisubmarine training off Okinawa. In November, she rejoined TF 77 and, operating in the Sea of Japan, rescued several pilots before leaving Yokosuka on 22 January 1952.
She returned to San Diego on 6 February and, in the months that followed, underwent drydocking and alterations which included the installation of new armament. She conducted exercises; then departed San Diego on 11 August 1952 in company with Destroyer Division 152, escorting Kearsarge (CV-12) and Toledo (CA-133) to the Far East.
During this seven-month Korean deployment, Uhlmann operated with fast carrier forces, conducted hunter-killer activities, and patrolled off Formosa. She also conducted shore bombardment which destroyed enemy gun emplacements, a factory, and storage facilities, while damaging buildings, bunkers, and railways. On the morning of 3 November, as she was firing interdiction rounds on a railroad and tunnel on the east coast of North Korea near Hangwon, the destroyer was taken under fire by shore guns, mortars, and machine guns. Brought to alert by shell splashes only 100 yards off her port bow, Uhlmann accelerated to 25 knots, began evasive maneuvers, and opened fire with her 3-inch and 5-inch guns. She scored a direct hit on an enemy gun emplacement and suffered only minor damages in the exchange. However, she emerged from the encounter with 13 wounded. After putting in at Hong Kong over Christmas, she departed Yokosuka on 3 March 1953, steamed via Midway and Pearl Harbor, and arrived at San Diego on 19 March 1953.
Following exercises off the west coast, Uhlmann was again deployed to the western Pacific. She proceeded via the Hawaiian Islands, and she arrived at Yokosuka on 20 November 1953. During this seven-month tour, the destroyer plied waters off Japan and Korea and engaged in training and operations out of Yokosuka and Sasebo with TF 77. In February 1954, Uhlmann joined with elements of the French and British Far Eastern Fleets for Exercise "Sonata" which included extensive antisubmarine warfare training and visits to Philippine and Indochina ports. During March, she embarked personnel of the Nationalist Chinese Navy for training.
While patrolling Formosa Strait in the first week of March, she assisted the grounded Chinese Nationalist merchant ship, Kiang Shan which was stranded on an island in the Pescadores. In the course of a daring rescue of crewmen from the Chinese steamer, Uhlmann lost her whaleboat and bent her propellers, shafts, and rudder on reefs in the shallow water. After the successful completion of her mission, she put in at Kaohsiung on the 5th. To prevent vibration damage to her reduction gears, she was towed from that port on the llth and, on 14 March, arrived at Subic Bay for repairs. On her return to San Diego, she resumed the stateside routine of upkeep and training.
Over the net 15 years, Uhlmann made 11 more deployments to the western Pacific (WestPac). On deployment to the Far East in 1954 with Destroyer Division 152, she took part in the evacuation of the Tachen Islands—located off Hangchou Wan—in the American attempt to defuse the explosive situation which had developed between Nationalist China and the People's
Republic of China. In 1958, during a period of heightened tension over the Chinese offshore islands, the destroyer again supported American interests in the Far East. Between deployments, Uhlmann operated out of San Diego, participating in fleet exercises, receiving upkeep, and performing goodwill assignments.
In the 1960's, trouble flared in the area formerly known as French Indochina; and Uhlmann served three more wartime tours in Pacific waters, this time off the coast of Vietnam. Her duties included gunfire support of land action, often coordinated by an airborne spotter, illumination missions, and routine bombardment assignments. Off Vietnam in 1965, she searched junks for contraband; supplied shore bombardment; and served as a plane guard for carrier Bonhomme Richard (CV-31). In 1968, a year of heavy fighting in the Republic of Vietnam, Uhlmann acted as a plane guard in the Gulf of Tonkin and fired 50 naval gunfire support missions off Hue.
In 1969, she participated in fleet exercises in Hawaiian waters; then, on 1 October, she returned to the west coast and assumed new duties as a Group I Naval Reserve Training Ship operating out of Ta-coma. For the next three years, she conducted reserve training cruises out of that port and participated in fleet exercises. During Exercise "Head Beagle" in August 1970, she conducted intensive training in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and off the coast of Washington in conjunction with Canadian naval forces.
The oldest commissioned destroyer in the Navy, she was found unfit for service on 24 November 1971; and, on 15 July 1972, Uhlmann, the Navy's last Fletcher-class destroyer, was decommissioned at the Naval Reserve Center Pier, Tacoma. Her name was struck from the Navy list the same day, and she was transferred to the custody of the Inactive Ship Facility, Bremerton, for disposal. She was later scrapped.
Uhlmann received seven battle stars for World War II service, two for Korean War service, and five for Vietnam War service.
Uhlmann (DD-687) as a "four-gun Fletcher." Her fifth 5-inch gun has been replaced by 3-inch 50-caliber antiaircraft guns with directors. (USN 1064865)