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J. William Ditter (DM-31)

(DM-31: dp. 2,200; l. 376'5"; b. 14'; dr. 15'8"; s. 34 k.; cpl. 336; a. 6 5", 8 20mm., 4 dcp., 2 dct.; cl. Robert H. Smith)

J. William Ditter was born in Philadelphia 5 September 1888. He received a law degree from Temple University Law School in 1913, following which he taught in the Philadelphia public schools and practiced law. Ditter was selected to Congress from the 17th District of Pennsylvania in 1932, and during his years in Washington served on the House Committee on Appropriations. He also was a member of the subcommittee on Navy Department appropriation bills, and at the time of his death was ranking minority member. Congressman Ditter was a supporter of a strong Navy and vitally interested in its welfare. He was killed in an airplane crash near Lancaster, Pa., 21 November 1943.

J. William Ditter (DM-31) was launched as DD-751 by Bethlehem Shipbuilding Co., Staten Island, N.Y., 4 July 1944; sponsored by Mrs. J. William Ditter, widow of Congressman Ditter; reclassified DM-31 19 July 1944; and commissioned at New York Navy Yard 28 October 1944, Comdr. R. R. Sampson in command.

J. William Ditter completed her shakedown off Bermuda in December. She sailed from Norfolk 13 January 1945, and after transiting the Panama Canal and touching at San Diego arrived Pearl Harbor 10 February.

As the Navy's island-hopping thrust toward Japan reached its climax, J. William Ditter sailed 2 March for Eniwetok and Ulithi, departing the latter base 19 March for Okinawa. She arrived 25 March off the critical island, soon to be the scene of the largest amphibious assault of the Pacific war, and began hazardous minesweeping operations. The next day she skillfully dodged a torpedo during an encounter with a Japanese submarine. On 29 March she discovered two suicide boats off Okinawa, and sank one of them with gunfire. By the day of the invasion, 1 April, J. William Ditter and her sister minecraft had swept the channels and laid marker buoys, contributing importantly to the success of the initial landing. Next day her duties shifted to convoy escort, as the versatile ship protected transports on night retirement away from Okinawa. On the night of 2 April the ship shot down two bombers, and she continued to come under air attack in the days that followed as the Japanese made a desperate but futile effort to stop the invasion with kamikaze tactics.

J. William Ditter was assigned radar picket duty 12 April, and, subsequently, became the target of heavy air attack. She shot down several planes and assisted with several more until retiring to Kerama Retto 30 April. The ship was soon back on picket duty, however, and engaged in numerous battles with Japanese aircraft. While patrolling with Harry F. Bauer and Ellyson 6 June, J. William Ditter was attacked by a large group of kamikazes. The ship's gun crews downed five of the planes; but a sixth glanced off her No. 2 stack; and another crashed her on the port side near the main deck.

The ship lost all power and suffered many casualties; but valiant damage control kept her afloat until she could be towed by tug Ute to Kerama Retto next day. Eventually she was repaired enough to steam to Saipan 10 July and begin the long voyage home. She touched at San Diego and the Canal Zone before arriving New York 12 July 1945. J. William Ditter decommissioned there 28 September 1945 and was scrapped in July 1946.

J. William Ditter received one battle star for World War II service.

Published: Wed Jul 22 11:58:42 EDT 2015