Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Related Content
Topic
  • Boats-Ships--Frigate
Document Type
  • Ship History
Wars & Conflicts
  • World War II 1939-1945
File Formats
  • Image (gif, jpg, tiff)
Location of Archival Materials

Fechteler I (DE-157)

1943–1944

Named for Rear Adm. Augustus F. Fechteler (1867-1921) and Lt. Frank C. Fechteler, his younger son (1897-1922).

Augustus Francis Fechteler -- born in Paderborn, Westphalia, Prussia, on 1 September 1857 – immigrated with his parents to the United States in 1865. By the age of 16 Fechteler had graduated from De LaSalle Institute, New York, and in June 1873, he received an appointment as a cadet midshipman to the U.S. Naval Academy via the Seventh District of New York. Fechteler completed his studies at the Naval Academy in 1877, and then served his mandatory two years at sea, after which he was appointed midshipman on 20 June 1879.

Following his departure from the Academy, Fechteler received assignment to the European Station from June 1879 to November 1888. During that time, he served on board the screw sloop Shenandoah; with the Coast Survey (1882-1885); on board the receiving ship Vermont; with the training ships Jamestown and Portsmouth; and for the last two years of his assignment, in the steam sloop of war Essex. Early on in his time at the European Station, on 23 November 1880, Fechteler was promoted to the rank of ensign. While serving on board Essex he received promotion to lieutenant (j.g.) on 20 May 1887.


Lt. Cmdr. Augustus F. Fechteler circa 1901. (Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph NH 49540)
Caption: Lt. Cmdr. Augustus F. Fechteler circa 1901. (Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph NH 49540)

On 10 January 1889, Fechteler reported to the Bureau of Navigation, Navy Department, Washington D.C.; and, after serving there for a year, transferred to the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI), D.C., where he remained until 1892. Following his stint with the ONI, Fechteler transferred to the West Coast and was assigned to the steam sloop of war Mohican. He reported on board that vessel on 16 February 1892 and later that year, on 10 November, received promotion to the rank of lieutenant. On 16 October 1893, Fechteler married Maud Morrow, the daughter of U.S. District Court Judge William M. Morrow of San Rafael, Calif., a union that would ultimately produce four children: Margaret, William M., Frank C., and Elizabeth. His two sons both served in the U.S. Navy, the older, William, attained flag rank and commanded amphibious forces in the liberation of the Philippines, ultimately serving as Chief of Naval Operations (1951-1953); his younger, Frank (see below), a naval aviator, perished in an airplane crash in 1922.

In 1894, Fechteler departed from Mohican and assumed command of the Bureau Hydrographic Office, San Francisco, Calif. After holding that positon for a year he was put in charge of the Inspection of Ships in October 1895. On 19 September 1896 Fechteler briefly served on board Monterey (Monitor No. 6) and then a month later the pre-dreadnought Oregon (Battleship No. 3). Fechteler assumed command of Concord (Gunboat No. 3) in December 1898, and operated her in the Asiatic Station during the Spanish-American War (21 April–13 August 1898). In August 1899, Fechteler returned to California, whereupon he served as the Aide to the Commandant at the Mare Island Navy Yard.

Fechteler became the navigator for Iowa (Battleship No. 4) on 16 August 1901, and served with her until her decommissioning on 16 July 1903. Following that sea duty, Fechteler returned to inspection duty for the Bureau of Ordnance and Engineering at Union Iron Works, San Francisco, Calif. In March 1904, Fechteler went back to the East Coast and again held a position at ONI. He was promoted to the rank of commander on 1 July 1905, and in May of that same year, he was sent to New York to inspect Dubuque (Gunboat No. 17). The ship was commissioned on 3 June 1905, and Fechteler commanded her from day of her commissioning to 22 December 1906.

Following his time on board Dubuque, Fechteler served as a Member of the Board of Inspection and Survey, Navy Department, during which time he inspected Brooklyn (Armored Cruiser No. 3) and Mississippi (Battleship No. 23). In June 1908, he attended a conference for officers at the Naval War College, Newport, R.I., and was thereafter assigned as the General Inspector for South Carolina (Battleship No. 26), at the works of William Cramp & Sons, Philadelphia, Pa. Fechteler promoted to the rank of captain on 1 July 1909 and he later assumed command of South Carolina upon her commissioning on 1 March 1910. He was however, eventually detached from the battleship in November of the following year and took up a temporary assignment with the Navy Department’s General Board.

From November 1914 to July 1915, Fechteler attended the Naval War College, Newport, R.I., upon the completion of which tour, he traveled to Provincetown, Ma., to assume command of the Second Division, Atlantic Fleet. On 11 July 1915, Fechteler achieved the rank of rear admiral. He assumed command of the Sixth Division on 19 June 1916, keeping his flag in Utah (Battleship No. 31). He was serving in that capacity when the U.S. entered the Great War on 6 April 1917, and his force was later sent to Ireland to support the British Grand Fleet.

Following the close of hostilities, Fechteler returned to the U.S., and assumed duty as Commandant of the Navy Yard, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Va. On 10 April 1919, he became the Commandant of the Fifth Naval District, headquartered at Norfolk. Two years later, on 26 May 1921, following an illness of several months’ duration, Fechteler died while still serving on active duty at the Naval Operating Base, Hampton Roads, Va.

Rear Adm. Fechteler received multiple commendations during his distinguished career in the navy including the Spanish Campaign Medal, Philippine Campaign Medal, the World War I Victory Medal and most notably, the Navy Cross for “For exceptionally meritorious service in a duty of great responsibility as Division Commander, Sixth Division of the Atlantic Fleet, and later as Commandant of the Navy Yard, Norfolk, Virginia.”

Frank Caspar Fechteler, the younger son of Augustus F. Fechteler and Maud [Morrow] Fechteler, was born on 8 July 1897 in San Rafael, Calif. After completing grade school Frank received an appointment from his native state of California as a cadet midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy, and matriculated on 10 June 1914. Although a member of the class of 1918, Frank and the rest of his class graduated on 28 June 1917, one year early, due to the U.S. entrance into the Great War. Frank was commissioned ensign on 29 June 1917.

Frank served on board Paducah, the ship his father had commanded, primarily engaged in escort duties near Gibraltar. In October 1917, Frank received a temporary wartime promotion to lieutenant (j.g). After the war, in August 1919, Frank was detached from Paducah and began a period of service on board New Mexico (Battleship No. 40) during which time he attended a course of instruction in night-time torpedo defense. Frank remained with New Mexico until April 1920 and on 1 July of that year advanced to the rank of lieutenant.

In November 1920, Frank began flight training with the Naval Aviation Training Detachment at Arcadia, Fla., where he received instruction in heavier-than-air aircraft. Upon completing his aviation training in September 1921, Frank transferred to the Langley [CV-1] Aviation Detachment at Hampton Roads, Va.


Lt. Frank C. Fechteler, NAS Anacostia, D.C., circa 1921. (U.S. Navy Photograph 80-G-63910, National Archives and Records Administration, Still Pictures Division, College Park, Md.)
Caption: Lt. Frank C. Fechteler, NAS Anacostia, D.C., circa 1921. (U.S. Navy Photograph 80-G-63910, National Archives and Records Administration, Still Pictures Division, College Park, Md.)

In August 1922, Frank was assigned to a temporary duty with the Aerial Engineering Corporation of America, in connection with an upcoming Pulitzer Trophy Race slated for 14 October 1922. He trained for the program first at Hammondsport, N.Y., and then at Selfridge Field, Mt. Clemens, Mich. He died in an airplane crash while training for the Pulitzer race at Selfridge Field on 18 September 1922.

I

(DE-157: displacement 1,400; length 306'; beam 36'10"; draft 9'5"; speed 24 knots; complement 186; armament 3 3-inch, 2 40-millimeter, 8 20-millimeter, 2 depth charge tracks, 8 depth charge projectors, 1 depth charge projector (hedgehog), 3 21-inch torpedo tubes; class Buckley)

The first Fechteler (DE-157) was laid down on 7 February 1943 at Portsmouth, Va., by the Norfolk Navy Yard; launched on 22 April 1943; sponsored by Miss Joan S. Fechteler, the granddaughter of Rear Adm. Augustus F. Fechteler; and commissioned at her building yard on 1 July 1943, Lt. Cmdr. Clayton R. Simmers in command.


Fechteler’s commissioning ceremony at the Norfolk Navy Yard, 1 July 1943. (Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph NH 79827)
Caption: Fechteler’s commissioning ceremony at the Norfolk Navy Yard, 1 July 1943. (Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph NH 79827)

Upon her commissioning Fechteler moored, starboard side to berth no. 108 at the Norfolk Navy Yard Annex [Naval Station Norfolk]. After a brief docking on 7 July 1943, she re-entered the water the following day at approximately 1804, mooring in berth no. 105. From the 9th to the 15th she made daytime trial runs along the Elizabeth River Channel and on the 17th underwent degaussing. As of 19 July she moored port side to Pier 5, Norfolk.

Fechteler got underway on 23 July 1943 for her shakedown, shaping a course for Great Sound, Bermuda, British West Indies. She made the trip in two days arriving on the 25th, and moored to buoy E-5. During her time at Bermuda, Fechteler made daily excursions out to sea, conducting fire and maneuver drills. After nearly a month of training in the area she got underway from Great Sound on 20 August and steamed back to Norfolk. On 22 August the escort ship arrived back at Norfolk and moored.

On 2 September 1943, Fechteler stood out of Norfolk and got underway for the New York Navy Yard, Brooklyn, N.Y. She arrived the following day and moored to the south side of the 33rd Street Pier. Shortly after arriving in N.Y., Fechteler prepared to depart on her first wartime mission escorting vulnerable oil tankers to Allied occupied North Africa. She got underway for the first part of her voyage escorting convoy OT 9 on 8 September, shaping a course for Curaçao, Netherlands West Indies. Her fellow escorts included the “flush deck” destroyers Leary (DD-158), Schenck (DD-159) and Babbitt (DD-128). The convoy arrived without incident at Santa Anna Bay, Curaçao, on the 13th and the escort ship dropped her anchor there for several days. On the 17th the convoy stood out of Santa Anna Bay and steamed to St. Nicolas Bay, Aruba, N.W.I., arriving there the same day.

Fechteler went back to sea with convoy OT 9 on 18 September 1943, beginning her first voyage across the Atlantic—en route to North Africa. The escort ship arrived at Port Bizerte Harbor, Tunisia, on 3 October and anchored in 25 fathoms of water. She remained in port for five days and then on the 9th, still in company with OT 9, got underway for Rosia Bay, Gibraltar. She arrived at her destination on 10 October, and moored at the north entrance of Rosia Bay.

Losing no time, the convoy stood out at 0500 on 11 October 1943 and shaped a course for Santa Anna Bay. Following an uneventful voyage Fechteler and the others arrived safely at Santa Anna on the 22nd. Two days later, she weighed anchor again and headed back to N.Y., arriving there on the 30th, and mooring in berth 4 at Pier D, Brooklyn.

Just over a week later, Fechteler set out to make the round trip voyage from N.Y. to North Africa. She got underway with Convoy OT 11, and fellow escort ships Chase (DE-158), Laning (DE-159) and Loy (DE-160), at 0651 on 12 November 1943, and arrived at St. Nicolas Bay on the 17th. Underway again on 22 November, they passed Gibraltar on 7 December and on the 8th arrived at Oran, Algeria, Fechteler mooring port side in berth 46. The escort ship made a brief excursion out to sea on 11 November, in company with Laning, to hunt for a reported enemy submarine. With no direct contacts made, however, Fechteler returned to Oran on the 13th. Later that same day she re-fueled got underway for the Caribbean with OT 11.

At 1025, on 26 December 1943, Fechteler arrived at Santa Anna and moored starboard side to Pier Nieuwerf in eight fathoms of water. The same day at 1600 she got back underway with OT 11 and on the 31st arrived back at Gravesend Bay, N.Y. She underwent an overhaul at New York, and then on 15 January 1944, Fechteler got underway for Naval Air Station, Quonset Point, R.I., arriving there the following day. For the rest of January and well into February the escort ship engaged in experimental anti-submarine exercises in the area.

Fechteler stood out independently from Quonset Point on 28 February 1944, and shaped a course for Londonderry, Ireland, via Ponta Delgada, São Miguel, Azores. She arrived at the north side of the fuel dock at Ponta Delgada on 4 March, and early the next morning steamed to Londonderry. Having arrived at her destination on the 8th, Fechteler shifted over to Moville, Ireland on the 9th. She departed Moville at 0645 on 12 March, and rendezvoused with convoy UC 15 at Londonderry a few hours later. Fechteler then got underway with UC 15 at approximately 0850, steering for New York. The destroyer arrived safely at her destination on the 22nd and remained moored at the Navy Yard there for the rest of the month.


Standard practice with dock space at a premium, Fechteler (center), lies nested with two sister ships, New York Navy Yard, 31 March 1944. Looking aft from the foc’sle one sees the forward 3-inch/50 caliber dual-purpose guns (Mt. 31 and Mt. 32), with the Mk. 10 depth projector sited out of sight on the main deck aft of Mt. 31. Note the guard rails to prevent gunners from firing into the ship forward of both main battery mounts, and the floater net baskets. Twenty-millimeter Oerlikon machine guns are visible on the same level as Mt. 32 and the next deck above. (U.S. Navy Bureau of Ships Photograph BS 65722, National Archives and Records Service, Still Pictures Division, College Park, Md.)
Caption: Standard practice with dock space at a premium, Fechteler (center), lies nested with two sister ships, New York Navy Yard, 31 March 1944. Looking aft from the foc’sle one sees the forward 3-inch/50 caliber dual-purpose guns (Mt. 31 and Mt. 32), with the Mk. 10 depth projector sited out of sight on the main deck aft of Mt. 31. Note the guard rails to prevent gunners from firing into the ship forward of both main battery mounts, and the floater net baskets. Twenty-millimeter Oerlikon machine guns are visible on the same level as Mt. 32 and the next deck above. (U.S. Navy Bureau of Ships Photograph BS 65722, National Archives and Records Service, Still Pictures Division, College Park, Md.)

On 1 April 1944, Fechteler steamed to Norfolk and then on the 2nd joined company with Task Force (TF) 66, as it prepared to escort a convoy to Bizerte. In company with fellow escort ships Laning and Joseph E. Campbell (DE-70), Fechteler got underway on 3 April, shepherding convoy UGS 38. While en route, late in the evening on 20 April, at 37°04.5'N, 03°48'E, six to eight German bombers, believed to be either Junker JU 88 Ds or Heinkel HE 115s, were spotted off Fechteler’s starboard bow. Along with many of the other escort vessels Fechteler put up a barrage of anti-aircraft fire. In all, Fechteler’s 20 millimeter crews fired 1,020 rounds and reportedly hit one of the planes, which was “seen to crash ahead of the ship.” However, just as quickly as the danger in the skies had appeared, it vanished into the night sky.

Fechteler arrived at Bizerte on 22 April 1944 and moored in the harbor. The escort ship remained at port for the better part of week and then on 1 May stood out from Bizerte with convoy GUS 34, headed back to the U.S. On the 3rd one of Fechteler’s company, the escort ship Menges (DE-320), was hit in her stern by a torpedo from U-371 (Oberleutnant zur See Horst-Arno Fenski in command), nonetheless, Menges managed to stay afloat. The following day the escort ships Pride (DE-323), Sénégalais (Free French), and HMS Blankney (L.30) hunted and ultimately sank U-371 with depth charges at 37°49'N, 05°39'E.

UGS 38 consisted of nearly 100 ships and thus attracted a good deal of attention from German U-boats in the area. The morning of 5 May 1944 dawned clear and topside watchstanders could see the coast of North Africa from Fechteler’s station approximately 17,000 yards ahead of the other ships of UGS 38. At approximately 0345, while cruising at 12 knots, and without any advance warning, she was struck by a torpedo fired from U-967 (Korvettenkapitän Albrecht Brandi). Fechteler’s crew scrambled to mitigate the damage of the initial explosion but within the hour it became clear that the she would be lost. At 0415, Lt. Cmdr. Calvert B. Gill, her commanding officer, gave the order to abandon ship. Approximately an hour later Laning arrived in the area and started picking up the various small boats and rafts of crewmembers that made it off the ship. Shortly thereafter Fechteler “was observed to break in half and to start to go down.” As the ship sank an enormous underwater explosion occurred, which even rocked Laning several hundred yards away.

Fechteler sank with 29 of her crew. Lt. Cmdr. Gill, and the majority of the others (186 in total) survived the ordeal having been pulled out of the water by Laning and the rescue tug HMS Hengist (W.110). Of the survivors 26 suffered significant injures and in short order all of them were transported to Gibraltar.

Fechteler was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register 18 July 1944.

Fechteler was awarded one battle star for her World War II service.

Commanding Officers Dates of Command
Lt. Cmdr. Clayton R. Simmers 1 July 1943–3 November 1943
Lt. Cmdr. Calvert B. Gill 4 November 1943–5 May 1944


Jeremiah D. Foster

28 June 2019

Published: Tue Jul 02 11:37:50 EDT 2019