John Randolph Borum -- born in Norfolk, Va., to Mr. and Mrs. Julius Borum on 8 December 1907 -- earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Administrative Engineering at Tri-State College. He enlisted in the U.S. Army as a Flying Cadet at Langley Field, Va., on 31 August 1933, and received an honorable discharge at Randolph Field, Tex., on 9 May 1934.
Accepting an appointment and executing the oath of office as lieutenant (junior grade), D-V(S), Naval Reserve, on 11 April 1942 (to rank from 10 March), Borum reported to the Naval Training School (Local Defense), Boston, Mass., on 16 April for instruction. Detached on 15 May, he was transferred to the Armed Guard School located at the Section Base, Little Creek, Va., where he reported for duty three days later. Following that period of training, Lt. (j.g.) Borum, detached on 4 June, traveled to Chester, Pa., and the Sun Shipbuilding & Drydock Co. yard to assume his duty as officer in charge of the Armed Guard assigned to the Socony-Vacuum Oil tanker Brilliant.
The new tanker sailed alone, in ballast, from her building yard to Chesapeake, Va., on 9 June 1942, sailing thence in convoy four days later and setting course for Key West, Fla. Three times in the passage escorts dropped depth charges – off Cape Lookout, N.C., Charleston, S.C., and off Flagler Beach, Fla. After the convoy’s dispersal off Key West on 17 June, Borum’s ship again proceeded, alone, to a succession of Texas ports, first to Galveston, then to Baytown, to provision while waiting for loading space at Houston. After loading at Houston on 24 June, Brilliant sailed on the 27th, and proceeded independently for Key West.
Joining another convoy to proceed through the dangerous waters off the eastern seaboard, the tanker set out for Chesapeake on 3 July 1942. Borum observed the escorts dropping depth charges on two occasions during the passage – first off Miami, Fla., then off Cape Henry. The ship then pushed on for New York, pausing briefly in Delaware Bay on 9 July. As the ship proceeded on in convoy, Borum again saw the escorting vessels depth-charging contacts. The tanker then steamed alone from New York to Wood’s Hole.
While Brilliant lay anchored off Wood’s Hole, some of her merchant crew rowed ashore in one of the ship’s boats during the first watch on 12 July 1942, and returned with bottled beer during the first part of the morning watch the following day. “Some trouble over division of [the] brew,” Borum wrote later, prompted one of the men, A. E. Remeika, to enter the crew’s quarters to demand his share. Forcibly ejected by Fireman B. Maxwell, Remeika hurried to Brilliant’s wheel house and obtained a pistol, whereupon he went below and fired two shots in the passageway -- one into the lockplate of the door to the merchant seamen’s quarters. Maxwell tackled Remeika, and in the struggle, a third shot was fired, the ball piercing a pillow on a bunk. Sipping coffee as the disagreement escalated, Apprentice Seaman Neufville O. Marshall, Jr., one of the men in Borum’s Armed Guard detachment, hastened to the scene and arrived in time to help Maxwell disarm Remeika, who was first placed in confinement on board, then transferred ashore in the custody of the local authorities. The signing-on of a replacement enabled the voyage to continue uninterrupted.
Underway again on 15 July 1942, Brilliant steamed in convoy to Halifax, Nova Scotia, logging a submarine warning the next day. One day out of Halifax, however, on 17 July, the ship suffered a cracked crankshaft on the diesel engine that drove one of her generators, compelling the use of an auxiliary unit. Anchoring at Halifax on the 18th, Brilliant then lay in port for over a month, an investigation revealing that the crankshaft had been damaged beyond repair. Shipment of a new crankshaft from the U.S. enabled the ship to finally get underway on 30 August in convoy for the British Isles.
Proceeding first to Swansea, Wales, via Belfast, Ireland, Brilliant reached her destination on 12 September 1942 and discharged her entire cargo there. Steaming thence to Belfast, the tanker sailed in ballast, and in convoy, on 19 September, ultimately anchoring off Tompkinsville, Staten Island, N.Y., on 4 October. During the voyage, Borum had logged three submarine warnings as having been received, as well as four depth charge attacks by escorts on contacts, in addition to one occasion where flares had been employed.
Brilliant sailed from New York, bound for Belfast, with 112,000 barrels of oil as cargo, on 9 November 1942. Nine days later, as convoy SC-109 steamed off the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, German submarine U-43 (Oberleutnant zur See Hans-Joachim Schwantke in command) torpedoed the tanker. Flames immediately broke out and caused the three senior officers to believe the ship to be doomed. As those officers began to abandon ship, about to be joined by Brilliant’s junior third officer, James C. Cameron, Lt. (j.g.) Borum, on his way to his battle station aft, suggested to Cameron -- a veteran of several years’ service as an enlisted man and boatswain but making his first voyage as an officer -- that the general alarm be turned off. Borum had been amused by the precipitate departure of the senior officers of the ship. “His [Borum’s] coolness struck me [as] so funny,” Cameron wrote later, “I really had to laugh, and this in itself created in me a feeling of confidence which I would not otherwise have had.”
A short time later, Brilliant’s wireless operator, P. Yhouse, arrived on the bridge and asked if anyone was below in the engine room. Cameron phoned that compartment and reached the third engineer, who asked: “What in the hell is wrong up there?” Assured that all was well below, Brilliant’s junior third officer, remembering “the layout of the Lux fire-fighting system from recent study,” aided by Yhouse, turned it on, smothering the flames that had, at one point, been licking the foretopmast. Eventually, hand extinguishers and water, in addition to the steam system, quelled the blaze that had imperiled the ship. With undamaged engines, Brilliant got underway.
Although neither Borum nor Cameron claimed proficiency in navigation, they brought Brilliant into Musgraveton harbor 20 minutes into the first dog watch on 20 November 1942 after a slow passage in heavy weather. Escorted into St. John’s the following afternoon, and provided with an officer to navigate the ship -- the exhausted Cameron having stood 29 hours of continuous watch -- Brilliant reached her destination at 5:55 p.m. on Sunday, 22 November, with 58,000 barrels of her cargo still intact.
“In looking back over the events which have taken place since the torpedo struck and since I assumed the responsibility for the ship’s safety,” Cameron wrote on 24 November 1942, “I would like to record my thanks to every man on the ship for the manner in which they conducted themselves.” At the head of the list, the grateful junior third officer lauded Lt. Borum, “who in the first place instilled in me a sense of confidence by the casual attitude he assumed when things look worst.”
Eventually, after voyage repairs at St. John’s, Brilliant was taken in tow for Halifax. On 20 January 1943, during a gale, the ship broke in half and sank, taking with her ten men, three of whom had performed heroically after she had been torpedoed: Junior Third Officer Cameron, Wireless Operator Youse, and Lt. (j.g.) Borum, who was later awarded (posthumously) a letter of commendation from the Chief of Naval Personnel for his heroic work in helping to save Brilliant after she had been torpedoed by U-43.
(DE-790: displacement 1,400; length 306'; beam 36'10"; draft 13'6"; speed 24 knots; complement 186; armament 3 3-inch, 2 40 millimeter, 8 20 millimeter, 3 21-inch torpedo tubes, 1 depth charge projector (Hedgehog), 8 depth charge projectors, 2 depth charge tracks; class John C. Butler)
Borum (DE-790) was laid down on 28 April 1943 at Orange, Tex., by the Consolidated Steel Corp.; sponsored by Mrs. William H. [Mary Frances] Ferguson, Jr., wife of Cmdr. William H. Ferguson, Jr., War Plans Officer for the Eighth Naval District; launched on 14 August 1943; and commissioned on 30 November 1943, Lt. Cmdr. James K. Davis, D-V(S), USNR, in command.
Borum fitting-out at her building yard, 28 November 1943, two days before commissioning, with Runels (DE-793) identifiable at far right in the nest of three sister ships. Borum’s 20 millimeter mounts are clustered ahead of her bridge and two aft of her funnel, while the triple 21-inch torpedo tube mount can be seen aft of the latter group of Oerlikons.
Borum sailed for the British West Indies on 22 December 1943, in company with Brister (DE-327), spent Christmas at sea, and reached Great Sound, Bermuda, on 28 December. After almost a month of intensified shakedown training, the new escort vessel departed Bermuda on 20 January 1944, headed for Boston Navy Yard, Mass. Arriving there on 22 January, Borum moored port side at pier 4 and commenced a post-shakedown availability.
Following that period of repairs and alterations, Borum departed Boston on 4 February 1944, entered the East River the following morning, then quickly sailed for Norfolk that afternoon [5 February], escorting Santa Isabel, a C-2 type freighter converted into a troop carrier for operation by Grace Lines and the War Shipping Administration. The ships stood into Hampton Roads, on the evening on 6 February.
Afterwards, Borum sailed for the Navy submarine base and air station at Coco Solo on the Atlantic side of the Panama Canal Zone on 10 February 1944. As the escort ship stood toward Coco Solo on 16 February, she maneuvered to retrieve Ens. Thomas M. Hunt, A-V(N), USNR, and Radioman 3rd Class S. D. Payne, the uninjured survivors of an aircraft that had crashed only one mile astern. While at that Panama port, Borum was assigned to Escort Division (CortDiv) 47 with her sister ships Tatum (DE-789) and Maloy (DE-791).
Although originally scheduled to proceed to the Pacific, Borum received orders on 22 February 1944 to screen the escort aircraft carrier Kasaan Bay (CVE-69). After she had safely shepherded that ship to Hampton Roads, Commander CortDiv 47 released her from this duty on 28 February and she took station astern of Tatum to set course for New York City. Borum reached Staten Island that evening after completing a four hour full power run.
Borum at anchor at New York in late February 1944, her antiaircraft armament having been increased and her triple torpedo tube mount having been removed.
On 1 March 1944 Borum sailed for Norfolk, Va., then provided escort for the New York section of convoy UGS-35, seeing it safely to the waters off the Naval Operating Base (NOB) there the following afternoon. Borum then operated as a training vessel for Commander Fleet Operational Training Command, Atlantic (COTCLant) in the Chesapeake Bay area. After completing her training role on 7 March, Borum, in company with Maloy, steamed for New York as escorts for the destroyer tender Melville (AD-2) on the first leg of that auxiliary’s voyage to Londonderry, Northern Ireland. Borum suffered a minor collision with an unidentified minesweeper in the Norfolk Swept Channel, but fortunately, neither ship sustained damage. Undeterred, Borum continued her voyage and arrived at the Navy Yard Annex in Brooklyn the following day.
Borum departed New York on 8 March 1944 and arrived in Irish waters on 25 March via Ponta Delgada, Azores, and in company with Melville and Maloy. While dry-docked at Londonderry, the ship received a new head for her echo ranging equipment, the original having been damaged by weather on 5 February.
With her repairs complete, Borum steamed for Plymouth, England, via Milford Haven, Wales, on 3 April 1944. Once in British waters, she screened amphibious vessels and transports from one pre-invasion port to another. During April and May of 1944, the majority of those convoy activities took place from bases near Plymouth, England. It also proved a period of preparation for the impending Operation Neptune – the assault on occupied Europe. Borum did very little steaming but received the installation of equipment for jamming radio guided missiles. Meanwhile, the crew engaged in extensive training in preparation for participation in the impending assault on northern France.
The crew’s training exercises complete, Borum formed part of the tight anti-E-Boat and anti-submarine screen with various other allied warships on D-Day, 6 June 1944, to enable the first convoys to land their troops and equipment successfully on the beaches around the Cherbourg Peninsula. After arriving at the transport area, she steamed on various courses and speeds in swept waters to seaward. Throughout the initial stages of the assault, as well as the final phases of the landings, Borum helped screen the highly dangerous western assault area. During the period 17-21 June the ship’s crew rescued two men from a capsized Royal Navy tug and 11 men from the tank landing craft LCT-730 that had suffered severe weather damage. Borum sustained some minor structural damage during the latter operation.
Borum continued her screening work throughout the western assault area and the Channel Islands for the remainder of the war in the European Theater. She conducted routine patrols of the waters around the Channel Islands and off Cherbourg and Le Havre. While in that capacity she engaged in offensive actions, in conjunction with British destroyers and PT boats, against German installations on the shores of Jersey and Guernsey Island.
On 29 July 1944, while Borum patrolled her assigned area, a German Junkers Ju. 88 torpedo bomber swept in low and dropped its torpedo. While the ship put up a barrage of 150 rounds of 1.1-inch/75 caliber and 204 of 20 millimeter) the plane’s torpedo struck the water but bubbled safely past the stern of Borum.
Early on the morning of 12 August 1944, German shore batteries on Jersey Island opened fire on Borum. Detecting enemy ships in proximity, Borum directed motor torpedo boats PT-500 and PT-502 to attack while she carried out evasive maneuvers to avoid artillery fire. While the action of the PT boats, meanwhile, likely damaged one of the enemy’s M-class minesweepers, four of their men were wounded (one man on the former boat and three on the latter) and motor torpedo boat PT-506 damaged in the engagement. At daylight the following morning, Borum towed the crippled vessel to Cherbourg.
Borum steamed in harm’s way once again on 25 August 1944 when she rescued crewmembers from a Martin B-26B Marauder, assigned to the Ninth Air Force, 391st Bomb Group (Medium) that collided in mid-air with another B-26B approximately six to eight miles off the coast of German-held Jersey Island. The 572nd Bomb Squadron crew of 2nd Lt. Elma Z. Rice and the 573rd Bomb Squadron crew of Capt. David H. Thorn were returning from a combat mission over the Brest Peninsula when the accident occurred.
Approximately 15 minutes after releasing their bombs, Capt. Thorn, flying deputy lead, informed his flight that a fuel shortage compelled him to leave the formation and set a course for Cherbourg with the intent of landing at a forward Allied airfield to refuel. Thorn then dropped behind the formation and 2nd Lt. Rice pulled his ship up to regain position on the lead element. Suddenly, Thorn’s aircraft, which had broken formation, appeared under the left wing of Rice’s B-26. Rice pulled his plane up instantly, but before he could gain much altitude, the tail of the lead ship sliced along his wing and into the propeller of his left engine. The lead aircraft, its tail empennage sheared off, spun down into the undercast. Only one parachute opened.
Deciding to head for an emergency airfield in Allied-occupied France, 2nd Lt. Rice put his aircraft onto a heading given to him by another pilot in his flight. He followed that course down through the undercast and, on emerging into the clear at 3,000 feet, found that he was heading for two small islands. As he approached them, flak opened up and he realized that he was heading for the German-occupied islands of Jersey and Guernsey. One burst under the plane killed Sgt. Melvin C. Shuler, the radio gunner, and another knocked out the right engine. With the left engine already out of commission, the aircraft quickly lost altitude and Rice decided to ditch in the sea out of the range of the guns. Rice, 2nd Lt. Frank P. Moscovic (co-pilot), 2nd Lt. Lt. Donald Peters (bombardier), and Pvt. Robert Hetrick (engineer-gunner), exited the doomed bomber and swam to a safe distance before it sank.
Simultaneously, Capt. Thorn’s B-26 was spinning into the undercast, its landing gear down and intense activity on board. Thorn was halfway out of his seat as the alarm bell was ringing, 1st Lt. Russell J. Calvert (navigator) was putting on his parachute, and 1st Lt. Arthur L. Thomas (co-pilot) was on his knees trying to open the wheel well doors that were stuck. TSgt. Edward J. Annette (radio gunner), opened the bomb bay doors and then closed them again. At about 500 feet, 1st Lt. Calvert bailed out through the pilot’s hatch. The aircraft continued its dive and struck the sea between Sark Rock and La Moisie. French fishermen rescued Calvert, the sole survivor of the crew, soon afterwards and brought him to the small village of Loguivy on the Brest Peninsula.
Second Lt. Rice’s crew, meanwhile, clung to a one-man dinghy for an hour and twenty minutes until Borum located their position and lowered her 26-foot motor whaleboat to pick up the exhausted airmen four miles off the coast of Guernsey. The sailors were hoisting them safely on board when powerful and accurate German shore batteries opened fire. Lt. Cmdr. Davis, Borum’s captain, quickly zig-zagged the ship out of range at flank speed, but not before the enemy had scored three near misses that punched more than 100 shrapnel holes over her port side and inflicted minor injuries to two of Borum’s crew. Subsequently, the unscathed whaleboat was hoisted on board with its severely shaken occupants. Rice’s crew “remained with the escort overnight where we received excellent treatment from the Navy. P.T. boats picked us up the next morning, August 26, and carried us in to Cherbourg, where we were taken to the 298th General Hospital.”
Crew of B-26B, 42-95797, P2-P “T.S.Ticket” (L-R): 2nd Lt. Elma Z. Rice (pilot), 2nd Lt. Frank P. Moscovic (co-pilot), Pvt. Robert J. Hetrick (engineer-gunner), 2nd Lt. Donald J. Peters (bombardier), Sgt. Melvin C. Shuler, Sr. (radio-gunner), Sgt. Thomas W. Hume (gunner). With the exception of Sgt. Shuler, these men were rescued by Borum off the island of Guernsey on 25 August 1944. (U.S. Army Air Force Photograph, RG-342 FH, 66878 A.C., National Archives and Records Administration, Still Pictures Branch, College Park, Md.)
Early on the morning of 28 February 1945, Borum was directed to the vicinity of Cape de la Hague to investigate reported enemy activity in the area. Small German craft were spotted and quickly engaged by motor torpedo boats resulting in the sinking of one enemy vessel. Borum assumed control of the surface forces in the area and illuminated the shore with search lights for approximately four miles eastward of the cape. With the benefit of illumination, the PT boats searched closely inshore, but did not find any additional German craft and by 0700 all of the ships resumed their normal beat.
Borum continued her patrol duties and engaged in occasional short range raids on the Jersey and Guernsey Islands until Victory in Europe (V-E) Day on 8 May 1945. To complete her practically uninterrupted service in the European Theater, Borum assisted British forces with their occupation of the Channel Islands on 11-12 May 1945. She took departure from Le Havre on 6 June 1945 along with her counterpart Maloy and 13 patrol craft after rendering honors to those who fought on the five D-Day beaches the previous year. Each ship rendered a final tribute in the form of a series of three-gun salutes as each passed abeam of the Normandy beachhead.
Departing the familiar coasts of France, Borum embarked on a cruise for New York via the Azores and Bermuda and arrived at Horta, Fayal, on 11 June 1945. She took departure for New York from Bermuda on 16 June and arrived there two days afterwards. On the last day of the month, Borum got underway for Hampton Roads, Va., where she returned to the Chesapeake Bay as a training ship on 1 July. After her training period was complete on 17 July, Borum proceeded to the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard for repairs and alterations. She and her crew were just preparing to put to sea for a refresher training period prior to deploying to the Pacific when the Japanese surrendered on 14 August. While Victory over Japan (V-J) Day cancelled her prescribed movement through the Panama Canal, it allowed Borum to participate in a refresher program at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in the waning days of August.
Under Commander CortDiv 62, Borum’s first assignment in the active postwar Atlantic Fleet was reporting to Commander Submarine Forces Atlantic (ComSubLant) for training duties with submarines operating out of New London, Connecticut. She served as a target ship for the submariners until receiving orders to proceed to New York to participate in Navy Day ceremonies there on 27 October 1945.
Upon completion of those observances, Commander, Destroyer Force Atlantic (ComDesLant) ordered Borum to Quonset Point, R.I., to act as plane guard for escort carrier Croatan (CVE-25) from 1-15 November 1945. After Croatan was withdrawn from training for conversion to a troopship for employment in the massive movement of veterans returning from Europe (Operation Magic Carpet), the destroyer escort proceeded to the waters off the Naval Auxiliary Air Station (NAAS) Mayport, Fla. (15-18 November) to plane-guard for Solomons (CVE-67) along with Jenks (DE-665) and Durik (DE-666).
On 20 November 1945, while performing those operations, Borum again came to the aid of aviators when she rescued Ens. Luther W. Doyle, USNR, flying with Scout Bombing Squadron VSB) 1, the pilot of a Curtiss SB2C-4 Helldiver (BuNo 20128) that had crashed in to the sea. Doyle, on a carrier qualification flight, suffered a laceration over his right eye when his head struck the dive bomber’s crash pad upon impact. Soon thereafter, Borum also became involved in the search for four General Motors TBM-1Cs and one General Motors TBM-3 that disappeared on 5 December 1945 during a navigational training flight from NAS Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Although Borum combed the area of the Atlantic where “Flight 19” was last reported, she found no trace of the Avengers or their aircrew.
Subsequently assigned to CortDiv 4 in January 1946, Borum lay moored at the Charleston (S.C.) Naval Shipyard for minor repairs and an exchange of ordnance gear (9 January-1 February) before returning to her duties at Mayport. The ship returned to Charleston once again and from 28 March-26 April underwent a pre-decommissioning inspection and repairs.
Borum steamed from there to Green Cove Springs, Fla., and arrived on 29 April 1946 for assignment to the Sixteenth Fleet (Inactive). There she was placed out of commission in reserve on 15 June 1946.
Found unfit for further naval service a little less than two decades later, Borum was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 1 August 1965. On 7 March 1967, the ship was sold for scrap to the Peck Iron & Metal Company of Portsmouth, Va., for the sum of $24,506.00.
Borum received one battle star for her participation in the invasion of Normandy.
Paul J. Marcello (history)
Robert J. Cressman (biography)
1 July 2015