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Bates (DE-68)

(DE-68: dp. 1,400; l. 306'0"; b. 37'0"; dr. 13'9"; s. 23.6 k. (tl.); cpl. 213; a. 3 3", 4 1.1", 8 20mm., 2 dct., 8 dcp., 1 dcp. (hh.), 3 21" tt.; cl. Buckley)

Edward Munroe Bates, Jr., born on 19 September 1919 at Philadelphia, Penn., enlisted in the Naval Reserve on 12 July 1940 at New York City as an apprentice seaman. Following active duty training on board Wyoming (BB-32), Bates received an appointment as a midshipman on 10 August 1940. Commissioned ensign on 14 November 1940, he was assigned to Arizona (BB-39), reporting to that battleship on 1 December. Ultimately, Bates served as a junior watch and division officer in the ship’s F Division. On board when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, Bates was numbered with the dead in the destruction of Arizona that morning.

Bates (DE-68) was laid down on 29 March 1943 at Hingham, Mass., by the Bethlehem Steel Co.; launched on 6 June; sponsored by Mrs. Elizabeth Nason Bates, the mother of Ens. Bates; and commissioned on 12 September, Lt. Comdr. Eugene H. Maher in command.

Two weeks after her commissioning, the destroyer escort commenced shakedown training. On 31 October, after a month of intensive drills and exercises, Bates began convoy escort duty in the North Atlantic. During the remainder of 1943, and until May 1944, she steamed to the British Isles and back.

On 31 May, Bates arrived at Plymouth, England, and reported to Task Force (TF) 125, for the invasion of Normandy. She was assigned to the group charged with bombarding “Utah Beach.” On 6 June, the bombardment ships entered their designated fire support areas and commenced the pre-landing shelling. Until 12 June, Bates fired on targets of opportunity and supplied call fire for the forces ashore.

Early on 8 June, a German glide bomb struck Meredith (DD-726) near the waterline, causing severe damage. Bates pulled alongside the damaged destroyer, rescued 16 officers and 147 enlisted men, and remained there until morning when tugs towed the damaged warship to an anchorage in the Bay of the Seine.

Bates returned to Plymouth on 12 June and sailed the next day for New York. Following a brief availability that began on 21 June, the destroyer escort made another trip to England and returned to New York on 27 July. Bates then entered the Marine Basin, Gravesend Bay, N.Y., to begin conversion to a high speed transport. Redesignated APD-47 on 31 July 1944, she completed her conversion on 23 October. Five days later, the new high speed transport left New York for the Pacific theater.

Bates arrived in Pearl Harbor on 4 December and began training with underwater demolition teams (UDT). Departing Oahu on 10 January 1945, the high speed transport arrived at Ulithi on the 23d, where she continued UDT training in preparation for the invasion of Iwo Jima. With the invasion scheduled for 19 February, Bates and sisterships Bull (APD-78), Barr (APD-39), and Blessman (APD-48) arrived off the objective on the 16th for pre-assault reconnaissance. The “frogmen” swam ashore from 500 yards out, but intense fire from the beaches devastated the landing craft supporting the swimmers. During the operation, all 12 of the LCI(G)s that took part suffered hits, but the boat crews persisted until the swimmers were recovered and clear. Further reconnaissance by the UDTs was covered by gunfire support from the heavy ships. Bates remained off the beaches while UDT-12 conducted salvage and beach clearance operations and then, on 4 March, got underway for Ulithi.

Following voyage repairs at Ulithi, Bates steamed out to participate in another major operation. On 25 March, with UDT-12 embarked, the high speed transport arrived in the vicinity of Kerama Retto and commenced underwater reconnaissance. This group of islands was taken to provide a sheltered anchorage for fueling and replenishment. The sailors of UDT-12 reconnoitered Yakabi, Zamami, and Amuro beaches under cover of heavy gunfire support from destroyers, gunboats, and escort carrier planes. The assault began early on 26 March, and surprised the Japanese on those islands completely. By late afternoon on 28 March, the entire group of eight islands had been secured.

Bates continued on to Okinawa, where she arrived on 1 April and assumed patrol duties in the outer antisubmarine screen around the transport area. During the first serious kamikaze attack on 6 April, a suicide plane hit Morris (DD-417); and Bates went alongside to take off survivors. The high speed transport shifted to convoy duty between 9 April and 21 May and escorted two convoys to Ulithi and back during that time. Upon returning to Okinawa, she resumed screening in the transport area.

On 25 May at 1115, while patrolling two miles south of Ie Shima, Bates came under attack by three Japanese planes. The first plane dropped a bomb that exploded so close to the ship that the concussion ruptured her starboard side, while the plane itself crashed into her fantail to starboard. The second kamikaze hit the pilothouse, and the third dropped a bomb that missed but ruptured the port side of the hull. The ship went dead in the water and lost pressure in her fire main so that she could not fight the raging fires. Twenty one of the ship's crew were killed or missing, and Bates was engulfed in flames. Burning fuel oil also covered the water surrounding the fast transport, making a rescue attempt by Gosselin (APD-126) futile. At 1145, the captain ordered the ship abandoned. During the afternoon, Cree (ATF-84) took Bates under tow and moved her into Ie Shima anchorage. At 1923, while still ablaze, Bates capsized and sank in 20 fathoms of water. Her name was struck from the Naval Vessel Register on 25 June 1945, and the hulk was donated to the government of the Ryukyu Islands on 1 July 1957.

Bates earned three battle stars for her World War II service.

Mary P. Walker

28 February 2006


Published: Wed Apr 06 07:02:22 EDT 2016