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Whitehurst

 

Henry Purefoy Whitehurst, Jr.—born on 16 February 1920 at New Bern, N.C.—was appointed a midshipman on 14 July 1938 and, because of the exigencies of war, graduated with the Naval Academy's Class of 1942 on 19 December 1941. He reported to the heavy cruiser Astoria (CA-34) on the morning of 18 January 1942 at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

 

Whitehurst served as a junior watch and division officer in Astoria as that ship took part in the Battles of the Coral Sea and Midway, and was in the cruiser when she participated in the landings on Guadalcanal on 7 August 1942. The next day, Astoria screened the vital transports as they unloaded supplies and equipment for the marines ashore, and that evening stood out to a night retirement station off Savo Island.

 

A little after 0152 on the morning of 9 August, a Japanese force under Vice Admiral Gunichi Mikawa— which had slipped undetected into the waters south of Savo Island—unleashed a devastating night attack on the Southern and Northern Forces. In the former, Chicago (CA-29) was damaged and the Australian heavy cruiser HMAS Canberra crippled so badly that she later sank.

 

The Northern Force, unaware of the enemy's presence until too late, soon took staggering punishment. Vin-cennes (CA-44) and Quincy (CA-39) sank before daylight, but Astoria lingered on while her surviving officers and men labored to save their ship. However, the damage proved too great; and Astoria—like her two sister ships—eventually succumbed shortly after noon on 9 August. Among the dead suffered in the Battle of Savo Island was Ensign Whitehurst.

 

(DE-634: dp. 1,400; l. 305'0"; b. 37'0"; dr. 9'5" (mean); s. 23.5 k.; cpl. 186; a. 3 3", 4 1.1", 8 20mm., 2 dct., 8 dcp., 1 dcp. (hh.), 3 21" tt.; cl. Buckley)

 

Whitehurst (DE-634) was laid down on 21 March 1943 at San Francisco, Calif., by the Bethelehem Steel Co.; launched on 5 September 1943; sponsored by Mrs. Robie S. Whitehurst, the mother of Ensign Whitehurst; and commissioned on 19 November 1943, Lt. Comdr. James R. Grey in command.

 

Following sea trials, calibration tests, and shakedown off the west coast, Whitehurst proceeded to Hawaii, arriving at Pearl Harbor on 4 February 1944. Underway for the Solomons on the 7th, the destroyer escort sailed via Majuro and Funafuti in company with James E. Craig (DE-201) and SC-502—escorting SS George Ross, SS George Constantine and SS Robert Lucasand arrived on 23 February at Espiritu Santo in the New Hebrides.

 

After shifting to Noumea, New Caledonia, and back to Espiritu Santo, Whitehurst joined Osterhaus (DE-164) and Acree (DE-167) on 22 March to escort oilers Kankakee (AO-39), Escambia (AO-80), and Atascosa (AO-66). Whitehurst and Atascosa were detached from that task unit on 26 March to proceed independently to a rendezvous with other task forces operating in the area. While Atascosa refueled ships from Destroyer Squadron 47, an enemy plane appeared. All ships present, including Whitehurst, opened fire but scored no hits as the plane climbed upward and out of sight. Once refueling had been completed, Whitehurst and the oiler returned to Espiritu Santo.

 

At the completion of a mission escorting President Monroe (AP-104) to Milne Bay, New Guinea, Whitehurst remained in waters off New Guinea on local escort duties until 17 May. She then participated in the amphibious operation against Wakde Island, screening the amphibious ships as they landed troops of General Douglas MacArthur's forces. Whitehurst, in company with other units of Task Unit (TU) 72.2.9, later escorted echelon S-4 of the invasion force to Humboldt Bay. The destroyer escort subsequently joined Wilkes (DD-441), Swanson (DD-443), and Nicholson (DD-442) to screen echelon H-2 as it steamed toward Bosnic, Biak, in the Schouten Islands, for landings there.

 

Arriving off Biak on 28 May, Whitehurst took up a patrol station off the western entrance to the channel between Owi Island and Biak. While there, she received an urgent message from LCI-34 which had been taken under fire by Japanese shore batteries. Whitehurst arrived on the scene in time to be shelled, herself;.but the enemy's rounds fell harmlessly nearby and caused no damage to the ship. The destroyer escort soon was relieved by Stockton (DD-646) and Swanson in covering LCI-34, and then protected LCT-260 as that landing craft embarked casualties from the beachhead. Whitehurst subsequently screened echelon H-2 as it retired from Biak to Humboldt Bay.

Whitehurst performed escort duties and trained through the summer of 1944. The tempo of the war, however, was increasing. With the Japanese being driven from one island after another, American planners looked toward the next rung of the ladder to Tokyo —the Philippine Islands. Accordingly, Whitehurst, Lt. Jack C. Horton, USNR, now in command, was placed in the antisubmarine and antiaircraft screen of TU 77.7.1, a group of fleet tankers slated to supply units of the 7th Fleet on its drive into the Philippines. On 27 October—a week after American troops had landed on Leyte—two enemy planes attacked Whitehurst; but both were driven off by antiaircraft fire from the ship's guns.

 

Two days later—on 29 October—Whitehurst received word that, on the previous day, Eversole (DE-404) had been torpedoed and sunk by a Japanese submarine. While Bull (DE-693) picked up survivors from the sunken destroyer escort, Whitehurst—detached from TU 77.7.1 to conduct a search—soon picked up a contact. At general quarters, the destroyer escort conducted three attacks without positive results. When Whitehurst pressed home a fourth depth charge attack, her efforts were crowned with success. In quick succession, five to seven explosions rumbled up from the depths. Another violent underwater burst soon followed, causing a concussion that damaged Whitehurst's detecting gear.

 

Bull continued the search after Whitehurst—with her damaged sound gear—requested her to do so but found nothing except a stretch of disturbed water. As the waves calmed, lookouts in both ships noticed many pieces of wood and other debris bobbing in a widening oil slick. The Japanese submarine 1-45—the one that had killed Eversole—had been destroyed. While Bull continued picking up Eversole survivors in the vicinity, Whitehurst returned to TU 77.7.1 and with that task unit headed back to Kossol Roads in the Palaus.

 

Nearly a month later, following another stint of local escort operations, Whitehurst again came to grips with the enemy. While escorting a 12-ship convoy from Leyte to New Guinea, Whitehurst came under attack by two Japanese "Lilly" medium bombers. One skimmed low and dropped a bomb that fell well clear of the ships. The second started a glide bombing attack, but White-hurst's guns tumbled that raider into the sea.

 

After arriving with the convoy at New Guinea on 25 November, Whitehurst spent the remainder of 1944 and the first few months of 1945 in escort operations between New Guinea and the Philippines. She did not again engage the enemy until the Okinawa campaign.

 

When the American landings on Okinawa commenced on 1 April 1945, Whitehurst was among the many screening vessels protecting the valuable transports and cargo vessels. On 6 April, while on patrol station off Kerama Retto, the destroyer escort drove off an enemy plane that had attacked the cargo vessel SS Pierre. Three days later, the escort vessel was relieved of her escort duties off Kerama Retto, and she shifted to Okinawa to operate off the southwest coast of that island.

 

Taking up station on the 10th, she was still steaming in that capacity early in the afternoon two days later when a low-flying enemy plane closed the ship only to be driven off by Whitehurst's gunfire. At 1430, four "Val" dive-bombers approached the area from the south; and one detached itself from the group and headed for Whitehurst. It circled and soon commenced a steep dive while two of its companions also commenced an attack, one from the starboard beam and one from astern. The latter two planes spun down in flames, destroyed by antiaircraft fire, but the original attacker continued down in spite of the 20-millimeter hits that tore at the plane. This "Val" crashed into the ship's forward superstructure on the port side of the pilot house, penetrating bulkheads and starting fires that enveloped the entire bridge, while the plane's bomb continued through the ship and exploded some 50 feet off her starboard bow.

 

Whitehurst circled, out of control, while Vigilance (AM-324)—patrolling a nearby sector—rang up flank speed and raced toward the burning destroyer escort to render assistance. By the time Vigilance finally caught up with Whitehurst, the destroyer escort's crew had put out the most serious fires; but the minesweeper proved invaluable in aiding the wounded. The prompt and efficient administering of first aid and the injection of plasma undoubtedly saved many lives—21 of the 23 wounded transferred to Vigilance were saved.

 

With a Vigilance signalman on board—Whitehurst's signal bridge personnel had been decimated—the damaged destroyer escort limped into Kerama Retto for temporary patching. Then, seaworthy enough for a voyage to Hawaii, Whitehurst reached Pearl Harbor on 10 May and was docked for repairs and alterations.

Once the yard work had been completed and the ship had been converted to a floating power station, Whitehurst departed Pearl Harbor on 25 July 1945, bound for the Philippine Islands. Soon after she reached Luzon, Japan capitulated. Nevertheless, the ship supplied the city of Manila with power from August through October of 1945. She was scheduled to depart Manila on 1 November, bound for Guam; but a typhoon in the vicinity resulted in a two-day delay. Whitehurst eventually reached Guam on the afternoon of 7 November.

 

Operating as a unit of Escort Division 40, Whitehurst supplied electrical power to the dredge YM-25 into 1946. Returning to the continental United States in April 1946, Whiehurst was decommissioned on 27 November 1946 and placed in the Atlantic Reserve Fleet at Green Cove Springs, Fla., in January 1947.

 

Reactivated in the summer of 1950 as a result of the outbreak of war in Korea, Whitehurst was recommis-sioned on 1 September 1950 and soon sailed for the Far East. The destroyer escort earned three battle stars for her activities during the Korean War between 25 February and 19 September 1951.

 

She remained in the Far East until 1955, when she returned to Pearl Harbor via Midway. After working locally out of Pearl Harbor for a year, the destroyer escort operated between Hawaii and Guam into 1956. Early in that year, she broadened her duties and itinerary by performing surveillance duties among the islands and atolls assigned the Trust Territories for the Pacific Islands. She also performed search and rescue missions in the Marianas and Carolines, periodically stopping at various islands to provide medical care for the natives and to record population changes.

 

Departing Guam on 22 February for Yokosuka, Japan, the ship sailed via the northern Marianas, the Bonins, and the Volcano Islands. She spent two weeks in Japanese waters before returning to Guam on 17 March. Returning to the Central Carolines for patrol duties in early April 1956, Whitehurst stood by a damaged seaplane at the island of Lamotrek for two weeks before she returned to Guam on 14 April, en route to Pearl Harbor.

 

After a period of local operations out of Pearl Harbor, Whitehurst headed back to the Far East and touched at Guam, Formosa, Hong Kong, and Sasebo, Japan, before representing the United States Navy at the graduation ceremonies of the Republic of Korea Naval Academy on 10 April. She returned to Sasebo before shifting to Yokosuka en route to Midway and Hawaii. Arriving at Pearl Harbor on 30 April 1957, Whitehurst underwent four weeks of upkeep and repairs before beginning six weeks of duty with 20th Century Fox during the filming of the World War II adventure movie "The Enemy Below." During that time, she portrayed the destroyer escort USS Haynes.

 

Upon completion of the filming of the movie, Whitehurst operated off Oahu until late in September, when she was ordered to Seattle, Wash., for duty as training ship with the 13th Naval District. The veteran destroyer escort trained reservists on weekend drill cruises and, during this time, made one extended cruise to Guaymas, Mexico, in November 1957. After being overhauled at Seattle from February to April 1958, Whitehurst returned to active training duties, becoming a Group II ASW reserve ship in July. On 6 December 1958, Whitehurst was decommissioned and placed in an "in service" status as a unit of the Select Reserve ASW Force.

 

Thereafter, into the 1960's, Whitehurst cruised one weekend per month and made one two-week cruise per year. During the fiscal year 1961, the destroyer escort placed second in the national competition and the battle efficiency competition among the west coast Group II Naval Reserve destroyer escorts.

 

Commissioned on 2 October 1961 for duty with the Pacific Fleet, Lt. Comdr. Donald L. MacLane, USNR, in command, Whitehurst operated actively with the fleet after being "called to the colors" as a result of the Berlin crisis that autumn. The destroyer escort departed Seattle on the 4th, bound for her new home port of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

 

After a period of training in the Hawaiian area, Whitehurst departed Pearl Harbor on 10 February 1962 for a deployment to the Western Pacific (WestPac). During the deployment, she operated with the 7th Fleet out of Subic Bay, Philippines, and made a goodwill visit to Sapporo, Japan. The ship also operated in the South China Sea and the Gulf of Siam.

 

Returning to the United States via Hawaii, Whitehurst arrived at Seattle in company with Charles E. Brannon (DE-446) on 17 July 1962. Subsequently decommissioned on 1 August 1962 and placed in Group II in-service status as a Naval Reserve training ship, Whitehurst resumed operations out of Seattle. During 1963, the ship received two major changes in her configuration when her 40-millimeter mounts and ship-to-shore power reels—the latter items having enabled her to function as a floating power station-—were removed.

 

Whitehurst, in subsequent years, visited San Diego, Calif.; Bellingham, Port Angeles, and Everett, Wash.; and Esquimalt, British Columbia. On 17 January 1965 while operating in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and steaming in dense fog off the Vancouver narrows, Whitehurst collided with the Norwegian freighter SS Hoyanger. Both ships then ran aground in shallow water. The destroyer escort suffered a five-foot gash in her stern above the waterline while the freighter got off with three feet of scraped bow plates. The following day, both ships were pulled off by tugs.

 

Whitehurst operated locally out of Seattle and ranged as far south as San Diego and San Francisco into 1967. One of the highlights for the destroyer escort in 1966 was the visit of astronaut Comdr. Richard F. Gordon, Jr., in November of 1966. The ship transported Gordon and his family from Seattle to his home town of Bremerton on 18 November before she returned to her home port.

 

Soon Whitehurst's home port was shifted to Portland, Oreg., from Seattle. The ship she was to replace, Mc-Ginty (DD-365), was being deactivated as part of an economy drive. However, Whitehurst's days were also numbered, and she, too, was soon deactivated. On 12 July 1969, the destroyer escort was taken out of service and struck from the Navy list. She was eventually taken to sea and sunk as a target by Trigger (SS-564) on 28 April 1971.

 

Whitehurst earned six battle stars for her World War II service and three battle stars for Korean service.