Joel Roberts Poinsett Pringle was born in Georgetown, S.C., on 4 February 1873 to Dominick Lynch and Caroline (Lowndes) Pringle. In his youth, he attended the Porter Military Academy in Charleston, S.C. He received his appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy from the 20th Congressional District of Illinois on 6 September 1888. After his graduation on 27 May 1892, Pringle reported to the protected cruiser Boston on 23 June for duty in the Hawaiian Islands. On 26 April 1893, he transferred to the steam sloop-of-war Mohican, which spent the summer patrolling the Bering Sea. Pringle reported to Monterey (Monitor No. 6), operating along the West Coast out of Mare Island Navy Yard, Vallejo, Calif., on 27 May 1894. Promoted to ensign on 1 July, Pringle joined the stores and receiving ship Vermont in New York City in mid-August. Four months later, he joined Minneapolis (Cruiser No. 13) in the North Atlantic Squadron and later the European Squadron.
On 19 July 1897, Pringle transferred to Columbia (Cruiser No. 12), which at that time was in reserve at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. After seeing brief duty in the training ship Enterprise in early 1898, he returned to Columbia on 15 March for the cruiser’s recommissioning for the Spanish-American War. During Pringle’s service as the cruiser’s watch and division officer, Columbia patrolled the Atlantic and West Indies and transported troops to Puerto Rico. In September Pringle spent two weeks with auxiliary cruiser Yankee before returning to Enterprise on 1 October for a year’s service. On 25 January 1899, Pringle married Cordelia Phythian, daughter of Como. Robert L. Phythian, in Annapolis. Mrs. Pringle gave birth to their only child, also named Cordelia, on 3 January 1900.
Advancing in rank to lieutenant (j.g.) on 3 March 1899, Pringle next reported to the Naval Academy on 4 October. He spent two weeks with second class battleship Texas in June 1900 before reporting to Monongahela in the Atlantic Training Squadron on the 29th of that month. During his three-year tenure in the screw sloop of war, Pringle was commissioned lieutenant on 11 December 1900. Beginning on 15 July 1903, Pringle served a second, longer tour at the Naval Academy. He joined screw sloop of war Hartford, then in use as a training and cruise ship for midshipmen, as watch and division officer on 23 May 1905. Four months later, he was assigned to West Virginia (Armored Cruiser No. 5).
Pringle reported to Maine (Battleship No. 10) as her ordnance officer on 12 January 1906. In July, he received an interim appointment as lieutenant commander, which became permanent on 2 January 1907, retroactive to 1 July. Pringle served as Maine’s navigator from 1 August until he detached from the ship on 9 May 1908. Returning to the Naval Academy the first week of June for another two-year appointment, he then in May 1910 was appointed as aide to the commander of the Naval Academy Practice Squadron in the Academy’s summer training ship Massachusetts (Battleship No. 2) until Iowa (Battleship No. 4) arrived at Annapolis. After returning from the midshipmen summer cruise to Europe, Pringle detached from Iowa and briefly returned to Massachusetts as navigator before reporting to the Fore River Steam Boat Co. at Quincy, Mass., on 11 October to supervise the fitting out of the new destroyer Perkins (Destroyer No. 26).
Assuming command of Perkins upon her commissioning on 18 November 1910, Pringle later also assumed additional duty with the Ninth Division Atlantic Torpedo Fleet. He remained with Perkins until 6 October 1911, taking over as executive officer of battleship Nebraska (Battleship No. 14) the following day. Pringle attained the rank of commander on 1 July 1912. Upon the arrival of the newly-recommissioned battleship Illinois (Battleship No. 7) at Boston in early November, Pringle briefly served as executive officer of that ship until mid-December, when he returned to Nebraska to resume the executive role there. Following a brief leave period, Pringle once again reported for duty at the Naval Academy on 5 July 1913. On 15 June 1916, he took command of the destroyer tender Dixie and assumed the additional role of commander of Flotilla Two, Destroyer Force, Atlantic Fleet on 27 November.
After adhering to a policy of neutrality for more than two years while the Great War raged in Europe, the United States finally entered the conflict in April 1917. On 20 June, Pringle assumed command of Melville (Destroyer Tender No. 2), based at Queenstown [Cobh], Ireland. The destroyer tender served as the flagship for Vice Adm. William S. Sims, Commander of U.S. Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, who was often away attending to duties in London. Pringle, as senior officer present at Queenstown, frequently served as Sims’ proxy, and after his temporary promotion to captain on 31 August, Pringle assumed additional duty on 29 October as Sims’ chief of staff. Taking an exceptional approach to command issues for the combined forces at Queenstown, Adm. Lewis Bayly, the British Royal Navy’s Commander in Chief for the Coast of Ireland, also appointed Pringle as his chief of staff to promote the smooth joint operation of the British and American ships under his command. The arrangement worked well and continued through the war’s conclusion.
Pringle’s rank of captain became permanent on 1 July 1918. He detached from Melville on 4 January 1919 while continuing on in his dual chief of staff roles, now operating from flagship Corsair (S. P. 159). In March 1919, he briefly took on additional duty at the U.S. Naval Headquarters in London for the demobilization of Base 6 before returning to the United States in late April. For his “exceptionally meritorious service in a duty of great responsibility” during the war, Pringle received the Distinguished Service Medal. The British government additionally awarded him the Order of Companion of St. Michael and St. George.
Following a month at home, Pringle next completed the year-long course of study at the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, R.I. After his graduation in May 1920, he once again joined the staff of Rear Adm. William S. Sims, then serving as president of that institution. On 10 June 1921, Pringle assumed command of the battleship Idaho (BB-42), a position he held for two years, after which time he returned to the Naval War College as its chief of staff. On 5 October 1925, Pringle became chief of staff for Commander, Battleship Divisions, Battle Fleet, and on 4 September 1926 he assumed the role of Chief of Staff, Battle Fleet.
On 7 December 1926, Pringle advanced to the rank of rear admiral. In September 1927, he commenced a three-year term as president of the U.S. Naval War College. Towards the end of his tenure in early 1930, Pringle additionally served as Assistant to Naval Advisors to the American Representation at the London Naval Conference in London, England, where over a period of three months, representatives from the United States, Great Britain, France, Italy, and Japan negotiated limitations on the capacities of their fleets based on tonnage. Then on 3 June 1930, Pringle took command of Battleship Division Three, Battle Fleet (changed to Battle Force in 1931).
In early May 1932, Pringle had an emergency operation at Seaside Hospital, Long Beach, Calif., for what was described in the press as “an acute kidney condition.” In August, he assumed the role of Commander, Battleships, Battle Force with additional duty as Commander, Battleships, U.S. Fleet and advanced in rank to vice admiral. While at Port Angeles, Wash., with the Battle Force in his flagship West Virginia (BB-48) on 14 September, Pringle became seriously ill. His condition rendered him unable to fly, so the battleship raced more than 1,500 miles under forced draft to transport the ailing admiral to his doctor waiting for him in San Diego. The ship arrived on 18 September and Pringle was rushed to the naval hospital there, receiving a blood transfusion for anemia the next day. He died at Naval Hospital San Diego on 25 September 1932. At the time of his death, Pringle was thought to be the leading candidate to become the next Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) upon the expected retirement of the current CNO, Adm. William V. Pratt, in March 1933. “I considered him one of the most outstanding and efficient officers in our Navy,” Pratt stated in his eulogy of Pringle. “The highest positions in the service he would have filled with ability had his life been spared. His death means a great loss to the service.” Both Adm. Pratt and Hon. Charles F. Adams III, Secretary of the Navy, attended Pringle’s funeral service. He is buried in Annapolis at the Naval Academy cemetery.
(DD-477: displacement 2,050; length 376'5"; beam 39'7"; draft 13'9"; speed 37.5 knots; complement 329; armament 4 5-inch, 5 21-inch torpedo tubes, 2 40-millimeter, 6 20-millimeter, 6 depth charge projectors, 2 depth charge tracks; class Fletcher)
Pringle (DD-477) was laid down on 31 July 1941 at Charleston, S.C., by the Charleston Navy Yard; launched on 2 May 1942 in a joint ceremony with sister ship Stanly (DD-478); sponsored by Mrs. Cordelia P. Kane, daughter of the ship’s namesake, with Mrs. Cordelia Phythian Pringle, the namesake’s widow, serving as matron of honor; and commissioned on 15 September 1942, Lt. Cmdr. Harold O. Larson in command.
After her commissioning, Pringle remained at the Charleston Navy Yard for her fitting out period. She first got underway on 16 November 1942 for a preliminary trial and ammunition onload at Naval Ammunition Depot Charleston. Following the completion of her builder’s trials, she reported for duty with the Commander-in-Chief, Atlantic Fleet, for indoctrination training on 1 December 1942 and departed Charleston the next day. During her transit to Norfolk, Va., the ship encountered rough seas with 12 straight hours at sea state seven, and seawater entering the ship through the after engine room intake supply ventilation system caused the after main switchboard to short out. After arriving off Norfolk on the afternoon of 3 December, commanding officer Larson noted that the trip provided a good shakedown for his crew and ship, of which he remarked, “like all destroyers, she is lively and wet. The ship’s company suffered severe mal de mer but came up smiling.”
While underway on 5 December 1942, Pringle catapulted a Vought OS2U-3 Kingfisher floatplane from her deck. This was the second time a Fletcher-class destroyer had done so, the first occurring on 30 November when Pringle catapulted her plane while at anchor in Charleston Harbor. Six Fletcher-class destroyers were to have had the catapult and plane as well as a retrieval crane and an aviation fuel tank installed onto their decks in an experimental capacity, but ultimately only three did, with a fourth destroyer having the catapult installed and quickly removed. Pringle was the first ship to be so modified, which required sacrificing the after torpedo tube mount, the No. 3 five-inch gun, the deckhouse between the No. 3 and No. 4 five-inch guns, two twin 40-millimeter guns and their director, and three 20-millimeter guns. Operationally, the Kingfishers would be used to scout for enemy ships steaming beyond the destroyer’s line of sight, to spot targets during shore bombardments, and to attack enemy submarines.
Pringle stood out from Norfolk on 6 December 1942, arriving at Casco Bay, Maine, the next morning to complete her training. The destroyer spent the next few days conducting underway training in antisubmarine tactics and short range practice trackings. Pringle remained in port on the 12th due to heavy fog and resumed her training the following day, although a blizzard hit Casco Bay during the night. On the 14th, the ship launched her plane again but had difficulty recovering the Kingfisher in rough seas. “The boom arrangement is becoming more and more impossible,” the commanding officer noted. The following day, Capt. Leonard B. Austin, the prospective commanding officer of Destroyer Squadron (DesRon) 22, embarked Pringle, which was to be his flagship. Rear Adm. Morton L. Deyo, Commander Destroyers Atlantic Fleet, also visited the ship this day for an informal inspection. In addition, a representative from Boston Navy Yard’s Design Division as well as a materials officer on Deyo’s staff “observed the operation of the plane hoisting boom and agreed that the boom as now fitted was unwieldy, and unsatisfactory and incapable of operation in other than calm water.” As Pringle continued with her training evolutions, on 18 December, the floatplane departed for Squantum, Mass., for training.
After a brief availability with destroyer tender Denebola (AD-12) (20–22 December), Pringle continued with her regular training. At the beginning of the mid watch on 30 December 1942, Adm. Deyo ordered the destroyer to rendezvous with Convoy ON-154, then steaming some 1,800 miles to the east, to provide extra defense against the wolfpack of German submarines then attacking the group. Pringle and Bache (DD-470) stood out at 0231 and joined the convoy late on the evening of 1 January 1943. The next morning, Pringle received the convoy papers from the ship that had been in charge of the screen, destroyer Cole (DD-155), and learned that at least eight convoy ships had been sunk and 26 remained. At this time, ComDesRon 22 assumed command of the convoy screen and three British escorts detached. Over the next several days, the convoy ships struggled through heavy weather at speeds as slow as 5.5 knots, with winds approaching 50 knots and waves reaching a height of 20 feet on the 4th and 5th. Many of the merchant ships began to fall behind the main group. On 6 January, Cmdr. Larson wrote, “The ships is [sic] weathering the storm with but mild damage. However, anything that can be broken in the line of crockery has now been broken. Rolls up to 50° have been executed in as short a time as nine seconds.”
By the morning of 7 January 1943, Pringle could only visibly locate ten of the 18 ships remaining in the convoy, traveling at a mere 4.5 knots. The destroyer steamed back behind the main body and located three stragglers, and a patrol plane flying out of Halifax, Nova Scotia, spotted three more ships then traveling 25, 30, and 45 miles behind the group. The convoy was far enough behind schedule that it would not be able to make a planned rendezvous with another convoy that day. Early on 8 January, Pringle and Bache detached from the convoy to escort rescue ship Toward, carrying 162 survivors from the submarine attacks, to Halifax. That afternoon, Bache made a sound contact and made three depth charge attacks, but a dwindling fuel supply forced her to abandon the search for the enemy submarine.
Finally reaching Halifax on the morning of 9 January 1943, Pringle and Bache temporarily anchored in the entrance channel due to fog. After getting underway again at 0844 to proceed into the harbor, a shot across the bow greeted Pringle as the ship passed abeam of the harbor entrance control post. Larson backed his ship down and stopped. After receiving clearance to continue into the harbor, Pringle moored to the pier at 1015. Capt. Leonard B. Austin, prospective Commander DesRon 22; Cmdr. John N. Opie III, commanding officer of Bache; and Cmdr. Larson called on the admiral in charge of Harbor Entrance Control Command who “apologized profusely for the shot fired across our bow. It seems that one destroyer had been cleared through the net, but that Pringle due to her plane was mistaken for a cruiser for which no clearance had been granted.” That afternoon after refueling, Pringle departed independently, returning to Casco Bay at noon the next day. The destroyer got underway on the 11th for torpedo and antiaircraft practices, and on the afternoon of the 12th, Rear Adm. Deyo completed a surprise inspection of the ship before she departed en route to Charleston, S.C.
At 0930 on 14 January 1943, while lowering the ship’s Kingfisher into the water, the tail of the plane hit Pringle. The Kingfisher hit the water, submerging the starboard wing tip float, and the aircraft capsized. The plane’s crew, who were supposed to fly the Kingfisher to Naval Air Station Charleston, was rescued by boat. “The plane was easily righted by merely hoisting it again,” Larson wrote, “and the only damage was evidently the submergence in salt water and the destruction of one flap.” At 1140 that morning, Pringle arrived at Navy Yard Charleston. Her aviation unit decommissioned, all of the aircraft gear was returned to Naval Air Station Charleston, and the catapult was removed from the ship, thus ending Pringle’s brief experiment with destroyer-based aviation. The next day, the ship commenced a two-week post-training overhaul to remove all of the aviation equipment and to install the remainder of the customary Fletcher-class armament, including the No. 3 five-inch gun, No. 2 torpedo tube, and three additional 20-millimeter guns. Departing Charleston on 30 January, Pringle conducted a test firing of her new No. 3 gun while en route to Norfolk. The following day she test fired all of her machine guns before her afternoon arrival in port.
Pringle departed Norfolk on the afternoon of 6 February 1943 as escort for the British aircraft carrier Victorious (R.38) along with destroyers Bache and Converse (DD-509). On the morning of the 10th, one of Victorious’ planes crashed off Pringle’s starboard bow. The destroyer lowered her crash boat and recovered the body of Sub-Lt. R. E. C. Hutchinson, RN. When the crash boat returned at the start of the forenoon watch, rough seas prevented the destroyer’s crew from hoisting it, although they were able to get the boat crew and the pilot’s remains on board. Meanwhile the crash boat slammed against the side of the destroyer, and it was ultimately abandoned and sunk by 20-millimeter gunfire. At 1600 that afternoon, Pringle lowered her colors to half-mast, and one hour later the ship held a burial at sea for Sub-Lt. Hutchinson, firing three volleys over his body.
The following morning as the ships approached the Panama Canal Zone, the U.S. Army sent interceptor and bomber planes from local bases to conduct a practice raid on Pringle and her transit companions. However, the aircraft did not approach any closer than five miles due to low-hanging clouds. Commanding officer Larson noted wryly, “The Army evidently needs considerable training.” Later in the day, the destroyer stopped at Submarine Base Coco Solo and loaded five torpedoes. Pringle transited the Panama Canal on 12 February 1943 and put in to Balboa, C.Z. that evening. She reported in to the Pacific Fleet on the 13th and spent the next several days in port. Departing on the afternoon of 18 February, Pringle headed for the Territory of Hawaii, once again steaming in company with Bache, Converse, and Victorious.
After arriving at Pearl Harbor on 4 March 1943, Pringle returned to sea on the 9th with Bache to screen Victorious during her flight trials. Pringle and Bache teamed up again on the 11th to screen the heavy cruiser Salt Lake City (CA-25) to Kahoolawe Island to complete a shore bombardment exercise. Early on the morning of 12 March, the destroyers detached from the cruiser and conducted torpedo and gunfire practices, radar operations, and antisubmarine exercises before returning to Pearl Harbor on the afternoon of the 13th. Pringle then began a month-long availability period at the navy yard for the “installation of ultimate armament.”
Pringle resumed her regimen of underway training on 16 April 1943 with a torpedo exercise, followed by antiaircraft practice the next day. She conducted more antiaircraft target practice for the rest of the month, first with Victorious and Converse (19–24 April) and then with the battleship North Carolina (BB-55) and Bache (25–29 April). During the first week of May, the destroyer conducted antisubmarine training and tactical exercises with her sister destroyers Bache, Converse, and Lansdowne (DD-486) as well as the battleships New Mexico (BB-40) and Mississippi (BB-41).
On 8 May 1943, Pringle stood out from Pearl Harbor to rendezvous with Task Group (TG) 52.2, composed of Victorious, North Carolina, Converse, and Smith (DD-378). During the otherwise uneventful transit to Nouméa, New Caledonia, Pringle briefly detached from the group just before midday on 12 May to rescue Sub-Lt. V. O. Dixon, RN, a pilot from Victorious whose Grumman F4F Martlet had splashed over the carrier’s starboard side while landing. The following day, destroyers Case (DD-370) and Dunlap (DD-384) joined the formation. The task group arrived at Nouméa on the afternoon of the 17th, and Pringle refueled from fleet replenishment oiler Pasig (AO-89).
Pringle set out early on the morning of 18 May 1943 with McCalla (DD-488) to escort a convoy composed of attack cargo ship Fomalhaut (AKA-5) and the merchantmen Dashing Wave and Santa Ana. While en route to Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, just before the afternoon watch began on 20 May, a Japanese plane flying at high altitude launched an attack on the task unit, dropping a bomb which exploded 500 yards ahead of Fomalhaut. Pringle fired at the enemy bomber and it disappeared behind some clouds, but a few minutes later, the foe returned to drop another bomb, which exploded 500 yards aft of Dashing Wave. Both destroyers fired at the plane, which disappeared again having inflicted no damage, and the convoy continued onward. Later that afternoon, destroyers Strong (DD-467) and Wilson (DD-408) joined the screen. On the 21st, Pringle experienced an engineering casualty that left her dead in the water for a short time, but she was able to make repairs and rejoin the group within 90 minutes. The convoy arrived off Koli Point, Guadalcanal, that evening, and for most of the rest of the month, Pringle patrolled off the Lunga Point area screening for the transports at anchor.
At 0944 on the morning of 30 May 1943, Pringle observed a plane splash in the bay eight miles from Lunga Point. The destroyer headed to the scene to investigate but finding only gasoline fumes in the area returned to her station. At 1300, she got underway in company with Dashing Wave and sailed for Espíritu Santo in the New Hebrides [Vanuatu]. The destroyer Sterett (DD-407) soon joined them but detached for about four hours that evening to develop a potential submarine contact. The group arrived at Espíritu Santo on the morning of 1 June. Pringle departed the next afternoon, escorting the oiler Neshanic (AO-71) to Havannah Harbor, Efate. The destroyer reported for duty with Commander Task Force (TF) 19 upon arrival on the 3rd, and she also officially joined DesRon 22 as a member of Destroyer Division (DesDiv) 43. Getting underway again with Neshanic on 4 June, the destroyer detached from the oiler on the morning of the 6th and returned to Havannah Harbor the next morning.
Pringle commenced exercising with TF 19 on 8 June 1943, conducting two days of training evolutions in radar spotting, gunnery, tactics, and night firing with the light cruisers of Cruiser Division (CruDiv) 12—Cleveland (CL-55), Columbia (CL-56), and Montpelier (CL-57) less Denver (CL-58)—as well as the destroyers of DesDiv 43—Waller (DD-466), Saufley (DD-465), Philip (DD-498), and Renshaw (DD-499). Capt. William R. Cooke Jr., ComDesRon 22, broke his pennant in Pringle on 12 June, and on the 14th the ship completed an underway torpedo firing exercise with Philip and Saufley. Underway training with the task force off Efate continued for most of the rest of the month, focusing in particular on antiaircraft exercises. Pringle also held a brief tender overhaul alongside fleet repair ship Medusa (AR-1) from 22–24 June.
At this time, the Allied forces in the southwest Pacific began to implement Operation Cartwheel, with the ultimate goal of taking the Japanese base at Rabaul in New Guinea. The naval role in the operation would be to advance from Guadalcanal and the Russell Islands through the Solomons and into New Guinea. The focus of the initial push, known as Operation Toenails, would be to gain positions in the New Georgia Islands in the central Solomons from which to launch attacks against Japanese bases in the vicinity, particularly their airfield at Munda. The plan called for landings at New Georgia to commence on 30 June 1943. Pringle and TF 19 would play an indirect supporting role in Operation Toenails. TF 19 (operating as Task Unit 36.2.1) was to conduct diversionary bombardments at targets in the Shortland Islands to the northwest near the southern end of Bougainville and the site of a significant Japanese naval anchorage, to distract the enemy from the Allies’ true objective. Pringle, however, would first lead Task Unit (TU) 36.2.2, consisting of the light minelayers Preble (DM-20), Gamble (DM-15), and Breese (DM-18), on a mission to mine the channel between Shortland and Fauro Islands.
Departing Efate on 27 June 1943, TU 36.2.2 paused at Tulagi to refuel on the 29th and then joined up with the rest of TG 36.2 that afternoon to steam up “The Slot” of New Georgia Sound between the northern and southern Solomon Islands. “We are taking the mining force under Tōjō’s [Japanese Prime Minister Tōjō Hideki’s] nose closer than any previous operations,” commented Cmdr. Harold O. Larson, Pringle’s commanding officer. Given the proximity of several Japanese air installations, conducting the mission without being discovered by the enemy seemed to be an unattainable goal, but foul weather kept Japanese aircraft on the ground and the task group sped toward the objective undetected. TU 36.2.2 arrived in the objective area at 0035 on 30 June. Fifty minutes later, a Japanese patrol craft passed Pringle 500 yards abeam to starboard without apparently noticing the intruding American ships. Shortly thereafter, at 0127, the three minelayers began laying rows of mines while Pringle made black smoke to conceal their activities. Within eleven minutes, the minelayers completed their task and retired. Pringle joined the task group, whose cruisers were then firing at their assigned targets in the Shortlands area, and the three minelayers proceeded to Tulagi independently.
Commanding officer Larson marveled at the success of the operation, noting that the minelayers were able to penetrate 200 yards closer to the entrance than anticipated but also that they went completely undetected by enemy forces. Likewise, task group commander Rear Adm. Aaron S. Merrill also commended the efforts of the minelaying unit. “[T]his unit did a remarkably fine piece of work,” Merrill wrote in his action report. “The Unit Commander in Pringle, with her SG radar, did an excellent bit of navigation and the minelayers displayed superb seamanship in accurately maintaining their formation in rough weather during conditions of almost zero visibility and while making radical course and speed changes on clock time without signal.”
Pringle arrived at Espíritu Santo with the task group on 2 July 1943, and Capt. Cooke shifted his pennant back to Waller. Cmdr. Larson held a meritorious mast to recognize the contributions of three of his crewmen during the just-completed mining operation. CRM(AA) Abrahm H. Brower received a notation in his service record for outstanding performance of duty for maintaining the SG radar in perfect condition. Both RdM3c Henry E. Bishop USNR and RdM3c Gerald H. Walters USNR received advancement to the rating of radarman second class for “maintaining diligent watch during important operations.” Lt. Cmdr. George DeMetropolis, serving as Pringle’s executive officer and navigator at this time, later received a Gold Star in lieu of his second Bronze Star Medal for his navigational skill while operating in poorly-charted waters frequented by the enemy during the hazardous operation. Cmdr. Larson himself would also later receive a Bronze Star with Combat V for his leadership role in this mission.
Screening the light cruisers Montpelier and Columbia in company with Waller and Philip, Pringle stood out from Espíritu Santo on the afternoon of 3 July 1943. The next day, the ships rendezvoused with Cleveland, Denver, Renshaw, and Saufley to form TG 36.2. Pringle touched at Tulagi on 6 July to refuel and then returned to the task group, which was headed up The Slot to Kula Gulf to search for the “Tokyo Express,” the Allied term for the Japanese nighttime naval missions to replenish and resupply their forces on the ground in the Solomons. In the early morning hours of 7 July, Pringle searched for Japanese vessels in the vicinity of Rendova Island without success. She headed back to Tulagi before dawn to refuel and set out again with the task group that afternoon, returning to Rendova and once again not finding anything. Setting out once more on the afternoon of the 10th, Pringle and the task group this time headed for Kula Gulf but did not encounter the Japanese there either and returned to Tulagi.
On the afternoon of 11 July 1943, Pringle sailed from Purvis Bay with CruDiv 12 and DesDiv 43, now designated as TG 36.9, en route to the Munda area of New Georgia Island. Approaching Munda via Blanche Channel, at 0311 Pringle began firing her five-inch guns at targets north of Munda Point. Twice at 0328 and about a half hour later enemy planes approached the destroyer and she opened fire at them, but in both cases the aircraft suddenly retired after approaching to about 7,000 yards. The ship completed her shore bombardment at the beginning of the morning watch and left the area with the task group. On the afternoon of 14 July, Pringle sailed on another scouting mission to Kula Gulf with her fellow DesDiv 43 destroyers. Shortly after entering the Gulf at 2305, Pringle began shooting at an enemy plane. The aircraft managed to evade fire several times and tracked the task unit until dawn before retiring to the north.
Pringle left Purvis Bay on the morning of 17 July 1943 screening Montpelier and Columbia with Waller and Saufley. The destroyers detached from the cruisers after midday and that evening rendezvoused with destroyers Lang (DD-399) and Stack (DD-406) to provide screening services for Transport Division (TransDiv) 22 during unloading at Enogai on western New Georgia Island. At 0130, the destroyers left to investigate a report from a U.S. Consolidated PBY Catalina “Black Cat” snooper plane that three Japanese destroyers lay dead in the water in the Vella Gulf off Vanga Point on the island of Kolombangara. Pringle made radar contact with three distinct targets at 0141 at a range of 9,600 yards, bearing 206°T. Waller and Saufley, steaming in column ahead of Pringle, opened fire, and Pringle then opened up as well, although she did not have a visual on the targets. She only fired eight shots before having to turn away to avoid blanketing the fire of the two lead destroyers, which had “maneuvered radically.” Pringle then turned in a circle to starboard to fall in behind the second section of destroyers in order to fire her torpedoes at the targets. At 0200, the destroyer picked up the targets on SG radar less than 6,000 yards away and fired all ten of her fish. Retiring to the west at 35 knots, the ship heard but did not observe “two possibly three violent underwater explosions.”
As the ships returned to their patrol in Kula Gulf, they were shadowed by numerous bogies on radar and faced at least two aerial attacks, causing them to maneuver “violently.” At 0228 and again at 0242, Pringle fired upon two approaching aircraft. The destroyer also observed two near misses, with two sticks of bombs landing 100 yards astern of Saufley and two more splashing 75 yards off her own bow. Finally at the start of the morning watch, the Japanese planes flew out of firing range, and the task unit commenced retirement back to the Tulagi area. Arriving around 1115, Pringle refueled from YO-144 and then put to sea again four hours later in company with Waller. The two destroyers reached Espíritu Santo on the afternoon of 19 July.
Getting underway with TG 36.2 on the afternoon of 20 July 1943, Pringle completed underway exercises with the group over the next two days before heading for Tulagi. On the 23rd, she screened the group’s cruisers off Koli Point, Guadalcanal, and off Tulagi before setting off that afternoon for the vicinity of New Georgia Island with Montpelier, Cleveland, Waller, Philip, Stack, and Lang. By the end of the night, the task group was in position patrolling in the Kula and Vella Gulfs in support of landing operations on the island. After four hours on station, the group returned down the Slot, arriving at Purvis Bay before midday to refuel and departing again by the start of the first dog watch. The group completed underway exercises over the next few days and continued to do so after being joined by the rest of the task group—Columbia, Denver, Saufley, Eaton (DD-510), and Renshaw—the morning of 29 July. Pringle touched at Espíritu Santo to refuel on the morning of the 31st and then steamed for Havannah Harbor, Efate, that evening with Eaton and Charles Ausburne (DD-570), arriving the next morning.
The three destroyers stood out on the morning of 2 August 1943 serving as the screen for battleships Maryland (BB-46) and Colorado (BB-45) and the Australian heavy cruiser Australia (D.84) as the ships conducted antiaircraft practice. At 1402, Maryland catapulted a Vought OS2U-3 Kingfisher (BuNo 5955), which splashed shortly after takeoff due to loss of flying speed. Pringle proceeded to the scene and recovered the plane’s crew, pilot Lt. (j.g.) Jim B. Bock USNR and ARM2c John W. Boyington. The destroyer then sank the floatplane with 200 rounds of 20-millimeter gunfire before returning the slightly injured crewmen to the battleship and resuming her screening station. The next morning, the group rendezvoused with another task unit and a task group to form TG 36.3. The combined forces spent the next two days in varying configurations conducting battle exercises. At midday on 5 August, Pringle entered Espíritu Santo and moored in a nest alongside destroyer tender Dixie (AD-14) for a brief availability period. Getting underway again on the afternoon of 10 August, the next morning she joined the screen for a convoy headed to Guadalcanal. Upon the completion of this assignment on the afternoon of 12 August, she escorted attack transport Fuller (APA-7) across Iron Bottom Sound to Tulagi and then moved to Purvis Bay the next day.
Departing at midday on 14 August 1943 in company with destroyers Nicholas (DD-449) and Chevalier (DD-451), Pringle steamed to Kukum Point, Guadalcanal, to screen a group of high speed transports en route to Vella Lavella, the northwestern-most island in the New Georgia group of the Solomons. At daybreak the next morning, Pringle screened offshore as the troops streamed ashore at Barakoma. Shortly after the beginning of the forenoon watch, Pringle took under fire a Japanese bomber making an attack on a nearby tank landing ship. The aircraft soon retired without inflicting any damage upon the vessels. At 0905, Pringle joined Waller, Saufley, Renshaw, Philip, and Conway (DD-507) and departed the area escorting twelve infantry landing craft (LCI) back to Tulagi. Shortly after noon, the destroyer began circling the LCIs at high speed to defend the vessels against a possible air attack, but no attack occurred and Pringle resumed her screening station at 1300. The group did come under attack seven hours later, and Pringle opened up on the Japanese bombers with all of her firepower. The planes fired five torpedoes at the formation, one of which passed 50 yards ahead of Pringle, but no ships or planes were damaged in the skirmish. Pringle arrived at Purvis Bay the next morning without further incident. The night of the 16th she sortied with Nicholas, O’Bannon (DD-450), and Cony (DD-508) to conduct submarine hunter-killer operations off Cape Esperance, Guadalcanal.
On the evening of 19 August 1943, Pringle assumed patrol off the Lunga Point area of Guadalcanal. Early on the morning of the 20th, Pringle, Conway, and Eaton formed up to escort a group of LSTs of the third echelon headed to Barakoma Beach, Vella Lavella. Japanese bogies made their presence known on the destroyers’ radar screens about an hour into the mid watch early on 21 August and remained a near-constant presence for several hours. Approaching Barakoma via the Gizo Strait at 0525, a Japanese dive bomber flew directly over Pringle, steaming at the rear of the formation. Although the foe did not drop any bombs on that low-altitude pass, the plane approached again several minutes later and Pringle took it under fire, although apparently without success. The destroyers began to maneuver “violently” while making smoke to cover the LSTs. At 0545, Pringle reported hearing on her sound gear a torpedo in the water from an undetermined source, soon identified as another Japanese plane. The ships successfully maneuvered to avoid the enemy fish.
Fifteen minutes later, another plane attacked Pringle, this time dropping a bomb that exploded close aboard on the ship’s starboard beam. Almost immediately thereafter an enemy fighter plane twice strafed the ship, putting more than 200 holes and dents into the hull. CTM James F. Sigel and GM1c Harold L. Still observed one of the plane’s bullets penetrate the bulkhead to the ammunition ready service room, pierce a 40-millimeter ammunition can, and explode inside the canister. In his action report, Cmdr. Harold O. Larson, Pringle’s commanding officer, related that Sigel and Still “gamely unpiled the cans until they reached the burning one and dropped the whole mess over the side.” For their “quick action and bravery [that] undoubtedly saved the ship from severe damage,” both men later received the Silver Star medal. The attacking Japanese planes finally disappeared when American fighters arrived on the scene at 0637, and the LSTs then made their way in to Barakoma Beach for the scheduled 0700 landings.
The strafing gunfire and shrapnel from the bomb blast killed one Pringle sailor and injured 26, ten of those seriously. Among the injured was Lt. Harvey F. Kreuzburg (MC) USNR, the ship’s medical officer, who despite having painful bullet and shrapnel wounds in his left arm continued to treat the other casualties until blood loss forced him to stand down. Kreuzburg later received the Silver Star medal for his actions, with his citation reading in part: “His prompt treatment of the wounded, with complete disregard for his own personal safety, undoubtedly saved the lives of several men.” At 0753, the ship embarked Lt. Fred H. Hanold (MC), Conway’s medical officer, to care for the injured and then departed for the Rendova-Munda area where the three most critical patients were transferred to the hospital ashore. Returning to Vella LaVella, Pringle held a burial at sea for S1c John Villani USNR, who died from a shrapnel wound to the chest. F2c Ernest F. Whitehead USNR, who sustained a critical shell wound to the lower torso during the attack, also later succumbed to his injuries. At 1615 that afternoon, the LSTs got underway from the beach and the task group set course to retire. Pringle returned Dr. Hanold to Conway an hour later, and that evening Conway and Eaton departed for another assignment. Proceeding on towards Guadalcanal with the convoy, Pringle detached from the group at 1800 on 22 August 1943 and proceeded to Tulagi.
On the afternoon of 24 August 1943, Pringle rendezvoused with Preble, Breese, and Montgomery (DM-17) and conducted a rehearsal mine laying run while en route to Vella Gulf. Shortly after midnight, the three minelayers laid a mine field in the Blackett Strait, at the southern end of Japanese-held Kolombangara Island. When Pringle issued the command to the minelayers to turn to retire, Preble and Montgomery collided, the latter’s bow smashing into and scraping along Preble’s starboard side. Both ships stopped to assess and shore up their damage but were able to get underway again, albeit at a slow rate of speed. Preble soon joined Pringle and Breese, but Montgomery with her smashed-in bow trailed behind. Meanwhile the ships noticed aircraft flares falling nearby and signal lights from the shore. At 0322, a plane dropped two bombs near Montgomery and 20 minutes later a shore battery fired at the straggling mine layer but the shells splashed wide. Just after entering a rain storm at 0425, Montgomery finally caught up with the rest of the task group.
Pringle joined the ships of DesDiv 41—Nicholas, O’Bannon, Chevalier, and Taylor (DD-468)—at 0620 on 25 August 1943 to form an antisubmarine screen around the minelayers, and a group of fighter planes arrived an hour and a half later to provide the ships protection from the air. In the early afternoon, Pringle made a sound contact and maneuvered to attack. She dropped two rounds for a total of 14 depth charges but did not find evidence of a submarine and rejoined the task group after about an hour of searching. As the first dog watch began, the minelayers with the ocean tug Pawnee (AT-74) assisting Montgomery detached to continue on to Tulagi while the destroyers went to search northeast of Kolombangara for two Japanese light cruisers and four destroyers that had earlier been reported near Bougainville. Pringle arrived at Tulagi on the morning of the 26th.
Getting underway again late on the evening of 27 August 1943 with a group of destroyers, Pringle detached and proceeded independently late the next morning to search for a submarine that had been reported 10 miles southwest of the Russell Islands. Searching in the vicinity of a smoke bomb that the patrolling spotter plane had released to mark the sighting location, the ship encountered not a submarine but a whale. Concluding that the pilot had been in error, Pringle soon returned to her antisubmarine screening patrol station. The destroyer spent most of the next several days at Purvis Bay, and on 2 September, Lt. Cmdr. George DeMetropolis assumed command of Pringle.
On 3 September 1943, Pringle in company with Dyson (DD-572) embarked upon a mission to locate and destroy Japanese landing barges reported between Kolombangara and Gambi Head on the island of Choiseul. Pringle first made contact with the enemy on SG radar at 2222. As the destroyers had not been detected, they conducted a sweep to ascertain the presence of additional targets or Japanese PT boats. Finding none, the ships maneuvered into position to attack the initial target. Pringle fired illuminating starshells and the destroyers opened fire at 2322. DeMetropolis’ action report stated that “ineffective heavy and light machine gun fire sprayed wildly from [the] barge” but his ship’s gunfire set the target ablaze and it eventually sank. The destroyers soon moved on to a second target three miles to the north that had broken away from the first, which proved to be two landing barges in column. Pringle once again opened fire, causing a large conflagration on one of the barges, while Dyson sank the other. The destroyers checked fire to reposition and then pounded more shells into the burning barge, which sank shortly after midnight. Pringle and Dyson searched for additional targets, but finding none, they retired to Tulagi.
Pringle set off on another search for enemy barges off Choiseul on 7 September 1943, this time accompanied by Saufley, but the destroyers returned to Tulagi the next morning without encountering the enemy. Getting underway again on the evening of the 8th, Pringle assumed station off Guadalcanal serving as screening ship for evacuation transport Tryon (APH-1). Around midday on the 9th, the destroyer escorted Tryon to Tulagi, and after pausing there briefly, the two ships departed en route to Nouméa, New Caledonia. Arriving safely on the morning of 12 September, Pringle moored in a nest alongside repair ship Prometheus (AR-3). Following a brief time in floating dry dock ARD-2 (21–23 September), the destroyer returned to the side of the repair ship to complete her availability period.
Returning to service on 27 September 1943, Pringle spent the next several days and much of the next month on convoy escort duty. She detached from a northbound task unit on 1 October to put in to Espíritu Santo and remained there for the next week. Getting underway on the morning of 9 October, Pringle rendezvoused with TU 32.4.1, composed of attack transports President Jackson (APA-18), President Hayes (APA-20), President Adams (APA-19), and George Clymer (APA-27) and attack cargo ship Titania (AKA-13) escorted by destroyers Conway and Buchanan (DD-484) and light mine layer Tracy (DM-19). After arriving off Guadalcanal on the morning of the 11th, Pringle spent the next several days on patrol and escorting in the vicinity of the island, including Indispensable Strait north of the Florida Islands. On the evening of 13 October, Pringle, Conway, and Buchanan cleared Guadalcanal escorting the four attack transports of TU 32.4.1 southbound. Terry (DD-513), Anthony (DD-515), and Wadsworth (DD-516) arrived on the morning of the 16th to assume convoy screening duties, and Pringle, Buchanan, and Conway put in to Espíritu Santo. Pringle departed the following afternoon with Philip to return to Guadalcanal, arriving on the morning of the 19th and moving to Purvis Bay that evening. Her next assignment was to escort the cargo ship Sterope (AK-96) to Roviana Island near Munda and then to return via the Russell Islands to screen LST-449 to Purvis Bay (21–23 October).
Paired once again with Philip, Pringle conducted a practice shore bombardment on 25 October 1943 at Rua Dika Island in preparation for fire support duties during the Allies’ next action to continue their advance through the Solomons. The next day, the destroyers rendezvoused with Eaton, flagship for TG 31.1, as well as TU 31.1.1, the First Transport Group composed of high speed transports Stringham (APD-6), Talbot (APD-7), Waters (APD-8), Dent (APD-9), Kilty (APD-15), Crosby (APD-17), Ward (APD-16), and McKean (APD-5), and sailed for their objective in the Treasury Islands.
Following an uneventful transit, at dawn on 27 October 1943, Pringle began a scheduled bombardment of Japanese emplacements on the south shore of Mono Island. Twenty minutes after completing her first shoot, she began a second firing run aimed at the landing beach. At the end of her firing at 0623, the destroyer assumed a screening patrol west of Blanche Harbor for the transports then making their way to the beach. At approximately 0800, Pringle joined Waller and Saufley to escort a group of eight retiring LCIs back to Guadalcanal. Saufley and Waller separately detached later that evening, leaving Pringle to screen the LCIs to Koli Point before proceeding independently the next morning to Tulagi. For the next ten days, Pringle escorted convoys to and from the Treasury Islands. On the morning of 6 November while on patrol four miles off Wilson Point waiting for her convoy ships to unload, the destroyer’s lookouts spotted two men in the water near the ship to starboard. Within ten minutes, Pringle rescued the swimmers, who being Japanese were taken prisoner and were transferred to Guadalcanal the next day.
Meanwhile, on 1 November 1943 Allied forces had conducted landings at Cape Torokina on the island of Bougainville approximately 250 miles southeast of the Japanese stronghold at Rabaul. In response, the Japanese sent a force of two heavy cruisers, two light cruisers, and several destroyers toward the landing site at Empress Augusta Bay. These warships would do battle with an American task force of four light cruisers and eight destroyers, and in the resulting action on 2 November, TF 39 sank two of the Japanese ships and significantly damaged four others. A subsequent attack by American carrier aircraft on enemy vessels at Rabaul on 5 November seriously damaged four heavy cruisers and several other smaller ships. In essence, the damage inflicted upon the Japanese fleet during the first week of November removed the threat of further attack at Bougainville at the hands of the enemy’s most powerful surface vessels operating in the region, which allowed the Allies to continue to secure their foothold at Cape Torokina, although Japanese airpower still posed a serious threat. From 9–13 November 1943, Pringle served as escort and screener for the third echelon of reinforcements situated in eight LSTs bound for Cape Torokina. As the destroyer headed in to Empress Augusta Bay to screen the LSTs leaving the beach just before the beginning of the first watch on the 11th, Pringle’s five-inch gunfire sent a Japanese Nakajima A6M2-N Type 2 Rufe fighter floatplane flaming into the sea.
Pringle’s escort duty for the fifth echelon to Torokina (15–19 November 1943) saw far more excitement. Just before 0300 on 17 November, an aircraft dropped a flare astern of Pringle and the ship sounded general quarters with five bogies circling the convoy. About ten minutes later, a Mitsubishi G4M1 Type 1 attack plane (Betty) headed in towards Pringle to make a torpedo attack, heard but not seen by the destroyer. By the time the ship made visual contact with the aircraft, it was closing quickly from the starboard bow flying about 50 feet above the sea. Making an extreme movement, the Betty dipped its left wing, causing it to lose altitude. The wing ripped off from the fuselage, and the aircraft went into the water 200 yards off Pringle’s port bow. At 0340, another aircraft dropped more flares over the formation and Pringle observed antiaircraft fire to her starboard. A few minutes prior to the morning watch, high speed transport McKean took a plane-launched torpedo to her aft magazine, causing an explosion and fire that sank the ship within a half hour.
Japanese bogies continued to menace the convoy until dawn when friendly air cover arrived overhead. While screening the remaining transports as they headed for the beach, Pringle encountered the wreckage of the plane that had earlier tried to attack the ship, its detached wing floating nearby. The destroyer’s role soon shifted to screening the ships that were picking up McKean’s survivors. Later that morning, Pringle three separate times retrieved the bodies of Japanese aviators from the water. Their remains were recommitted to the sea after being searched for material of intelligence value. The ship returned to her assigned screening station at midday and departed with the convoy to return to Guadalcanal that evening. Overnight only one bogie approached within firing range but it quickly flew off as Pringle opened fire with her five-inch guns. Pringle detached from the formation and turned back towards Empress Augusta Bay on the afternoon of the 19th, ordered to rendezvous with ocean tug Pawnee to escort her to another convoy. Reunited with her own task group within a matter of hours, Pringle arrived at Purvis Bay the following afternoon.
On 21 November 1943, Pringle sailed for Port Nouméa with TU 32.4.1. After refueling there on the 25th, the destroyer departed early the next morning to rendezvous with the merchantmen Eastern Sun, Mary Dodge, and Richard Moczkowski, headed south. As the first watch began, Pringle detached from the convoy and shaped a course to Havannah Harbor, Efate. Upon her arrival on the morning of 28 November, Pringle moored alongside fleet repair ship Medusa for a minor overhaul to extend until dawn on 6 December. The availability ended 24 hours early, however, and the destroyer refueled and steamed independently to Purvis Bay, arriving on the afternoon of the 6th.
For the rest of December and into the New Year, Pringle was assigned to escort reinforcement echelons between Guadalcanal and Cape Torokina. Early in the mid watch on 15 December 1943, the destroyer shot down one enemy plane coming in to attack and her gunfire turned away an approaching Betty on 12 January 1944, but otherwise Pringle’s convoy runs experienced little opposition from the Japanese. On 10 December, the ship helped Apache (AT-67) to search for shoals and place navigational buoys in the approaches to Cape Torokina and also screened as the fleet tug assisted destroyer Sigourney (DD-643), which had run aground on a shoal off Magine Island. Also in this period, the destroyer escorted two tank landing ships to the Treasuries (3–6 January) and completed two practice shore bombardments at Nura Island (9 and 16 January).
In company with Saufley and four LCIs on 17 January 1944, Pringle sailed for Munda, New Georgia, where she completed tactical exercises and practice torpedo runs the next day. She then escorted fleet tug Lipan (AT-85) towing fuel oil barge YO-169 to the Treasuries. On the 19th she joined another convoy headed for Cape Torokina and dropped three depth charges at a position five miles off Stirling Island where a submarine contact had been reported earlier in the day. Departing with the convoy to return to Munda on the afternoon of the 20th, Pringle and Anthony detached that evening to conduct a search for Japanese barges in Bougainville Strait. They found nothing on their northward sweep, but shortly after midnight, a Black Cat snooper plane reported surface targets to their south. Pringle made radar contact at 0050, and 15 minutes later Anthony launched illuminating starshells while Pringle opened fire, sinking four barges in short order.
Forced to maneuver to avoid a possible torpedo reported by her soundman, Pringle navigated between two groups of enemy barges that appeared to be headed across the strait from Fauro Island to Choiseul and became the target of some “erratic” machine gun fire that caused superficial damage to the ship and minor injuries to two crewmen. Although she became separated from Anthony at this time, over the next two hours the destroyers remained in contact with each other as they independently continued to investigate and fire upon contacts. At 0200 Pringle encountered a Japanese gunboat and unleashed her own firepower upon it, quickly setting it ablaze and sinking it. Anthony rejoined Pringle at 0330, and the two destroyers then conducted a sweep around the northwest coast of Choiseul. After turning their machine guns on two empty canoes at dawn, the destroyers took leave of Bougainville Strait and set course for Purvis Bay. In his action report, Lt. Cmdr. DeMetropolis noted with some satisfaction, “After eight hours on their battle stations and after having faced enemy machine gun fire, the entire crew was still ready and eager for more of a scrap.”
Pringle and Anthony received new orders at midday on 21 January 1944, and as such they proceeded to Hathorn Sound, New Georgia, to replenish their fuel and ammunition. That evening, they returned to Bougainville Strait to resume their hunt for enemy barges. Unlike the previous evening however, the ships found no targets during their search, and they returned to Purvis Bay on 22 January. Getting underway again on the 23rd with Anthony and Eaton, Pringle set course for Nouméa. The next morning she received orders to proceed independently and arrived early on the 25th. Pausing just long enough to refuel, that afternoon she set off en route to Australia. The destroyer steamed into Sydney Harbor on the morning of 27 January and her crew commenced a well-deserved eight day liberty and recreation period. On 4 February, she departed for Nouméa, where she exchanged her full load of torpedoes (6 February) and spent a half day in floating dry dock ARD-2 to complete urgent hull repairs (8 February). Pringle refueled and then got underway on the 9th, stopping briefly off Koli Point, Guadalcanal, on the morning of the 11th to deliver passengers and freight before putting in to Purvis Bay.
Returning to action right away, Pringle joined Waller, Philip, Sigourney, Renshaw, and Saufley on 12 February 1944 as the screen for the Second Transport Unit of 12 infantry landing craft (TU 31.4.2) bound for the Green Islands, a small atoll 40 miles northwest of Buka Island and only about 135 air miles east of Rabaul. After pausing at Vella Lavella for the LCIs to complete loading, the group set out towards the objective just after midnight on 14 February. As the task unit drew closer to the atoll at approximately 0145 on the 15th, Japanese bogies began to appear on radar. Shortly after 0230, a plane that had been circling the formation began to drop float lights and flares on either side of the group. Pringle fired at a plane that flew directly over the destroyer from the starboard bow at 0313 but did not observe the outcome. Bogies remained nearby, but Pringle did not engage again until dawn after 24 friendly fighter planes arrived on station to provide air cover for the operation. At 0643, moments after observing two bombs splash off the starboard side of the formation, two more splashes occurred 3,000 yards off Pringle’s starboard bow, possibly the work of a high-level bomber. Then the ship fired on an Aichi D3A1 Type 99 carrier bomber (Val) flying low to the water out of the formation. Two of the Vought F4U Corsair fighter planes chased and shot down the Val, “a sight gratifying to all observers.” Pringle then turned her attention to another Val making an attack on the destroyer 1,500 yards on her starboard beam, although she did not observe any hits on the plane. The ship observed at least two more Vals shot down by other ships or the fighter planes. Pringle assumed her screening station northwest of the Green Island lagoon at 0700. Just about an hour later, the LCIs of TU 31.4.2 hit the beach, and by 1000, the task unit had reformed and departed on the return trip to Guadalcanal.
Shortly thereafter, the destroyer intercepted communications over VHF radio from a fighter pilot identifying himself as “Traner” who was engaged in combat with his Japanese counterparts over St. George Channel in the vicinity of Rabaul. Over the next 20 minutes, Traner reported problems with both engines of his Lockheed P-38 Lightning. At first he believed that he would be able to reach the airstrip at Cape Torokina, but he soon realized that he would not make it. “I’ve got to go in, boys,” he said. “My starboard engine is cutting out badly. I can see a large convoy of ships. I’ll try to land near them.” He believed his position to be 15 miles southwest of Torokina, although he was in fact about 40 miles south of the Green Islands.
As TU 31.4.2 retired from the Green Islands that afternoon, S2c Russell Atkinson Jr. USNR, one of Pringle’s lookouts, spotted a life raft 6,000 yards off the ship’s port bow. Upon investigation, the destroyer discovered 1st Lt. George L. Traner USAAF, his thumb plugging a hole in the raft that had been made by his knife. He had maintained this stance for nearly three hours to keep the raft afloat and did not have any rations or other equipment with him in the raft. The pilot, of Fighter Squadron 339, was not injured in the crash. Pringle detached from the formation early on 16 February to bring Traner to Blanche Harbor in the Treasuries and rejoined the group before dawn. She arrived at Purvis Bay on the morning of 17 February. The following day, Lt. Cmdr. DeMetropolis, Pringle’s commanding officer, held a meritorious mast at which he commended Seaman Atkinson for his role in the rescue of 1st Lt. Traner and promoted him to the rating of seaman first class.
After a few days’ rest, Pringle next escorted a reinforcement convoy to the Green Islands by way of the Russell Islands (21–27 February 1944). After refueling at Purvis Bay, she departed again with DesRon 22 less Cony and steamed to the Treasury Islands. Temporarily operating with DesDiv 44, Pringle departed at midday on 29 February with Conway, Sigourney, and Eaton on a mission to bombard the Rabaul area. Just over a half hour later, the destroyer experienced a casualty with her No. 1 boiler, which was secured, but the ship was able to continue on at a maximum speed of 29 knots. Beginning after dark, the weather turned foul, with heavy rain and high winds throughout the night. At 2329, Pringle commenced bombardment of the Customs Wharf at Rabaul, although the driving rain prevented her from observing her results. Upon completion of the bombardment shortly before midnight, the destroyers shifted their attention to the airfield on nearby Duke of York Island. Pringle expended 300 rounds on the pier near the airfield over ten minutes in zero visibility, again without observing her results. For the rest of the night, the group swept the southwest coast of New Ireland Island for enemy shipping but did not locate any targets of interest.
Taking leave of St. George’s Channel on the morning of 1 March 1944, the division next headed towards Empress Augusta Bay, where the Japanese appeared to be poised to mount an attack against the perimeter of the Allied position at Cape Torokina. The ships of DesDiv 44 were to search for enemy barges along the southwestern coast of Bougainville. At 1130, Pringle and Conway detached to proceed to their assigned bombardment area from a few miles below Motupena Point at the southern end of Empress Augusta Bay southeast to Mosiga. Beginning around 1400, the two ships moved along the coast, firing at beached barges, huts believed to be storehouses, and pillboxes along the way. Their efforts met with no opposition until 1542 near Mosiga when a barrage of near-misses straddled Conway. The destroyers increased speed and maneuvered seaward to position themselves beyond the shore batteries’ firing range. One of Pringle’s officers, Ens. William F. Downing D-V(G) USNR, received a superficial wound to the chest from a piece of debris, and the ship sustained very minor damage from the counter-fire. An hour later, the destroyers retired south toward the Treasuries, with Sigourney and Eaton rejoining them at 1830.
Stopping at the Treasuries just long enough to rearm and refuel, Pringle and Conway set out again at dawn on 2 March 1944 to conduct another sweep along the coast of Bougainville. They first returned to the Mosiga area where they had been fired upon by an unseen shore battery the day prior. Pringle fired ten salvos at the target area and received no return fire from the shore. The destroyers then headed northwest, revisiting the same territory they had covered the day before and finding no enemy activity. They next entered Empress Augusta Bay and fired in the vicinity of the Jaba River, again encountering no resistance. For the rest of the day, Pringle and Conway patrolled off Cape Torokina. The next morning the destroyers headed back to the Jaba River to shoot at a rectangular supply area two miles upriver and then returned to patrol off Cape Torokina.
For the next two weeks, DesDiv 44 operated in the vicinity of Cape Torokina and Empress Augusta Bay, searching for enemy barges with the assistance of motor torpedo (PT) boats and spotter planes and shooting at both targets of opportunity as well as pre-determined locations in an effort to hinder the Japanese force’s ability to resupply and land reinforcements in that area of Bougainville by sea. Pringle left the area briefly to refuel and replenish ammunition at Hathorn Bay (6–7 March). She completed various firing and patrol assignments through 10 March, never encountering the enemy. On the evening of the 10th, she patrolled south of Cape Moltke until dawn and then returned to her station off Cape Torokina. With the arrival of Renshaw, Philip, and Saufley on the afternoon of 11 March, Pringle and Sigourney departed for Purvis Bay, joined later by Eaton. Upon her arrival the next morning, Pringle moored next to destroyer tender Whitney (AD-4) for an availability to make repairs to her faulty boiler.
Pringle took on fuel and ammunition on the morning of 17 March 1944 and then departed for Tassafaronga, Guadalcanal, to form up for her next operation. At Guadalcanal, she joined Fullam (DD-474), Sigourney, Saufley, and Eaton as the screen for attack transport Callaway (APA-35); dock landing ships Lindenwald (LSD-6), Epping Forest (LSD-4), and Gunston Hall (LSD-5); and fleet tugs Apache and Pawnee, and the group departed en route to Emirau, New Guinea, a small island in the Bismarck Archipelago northwest of New Ireland and New Hanover. Arriving at dawn on 20 March, Pringle assumed a patrol station off the southern end of the island for the approach of the transports and then at 0730, she moved to a position 1,000 yards off Green Beach to provide fire support while the troops streamed ashore during a landing that went unopposed. By evening, the task group was on its way back to Guadalcanal, and Pringle returned to Purvis Bay on the afternoon of the 23rd. Two days later she moored alongside Whitney for a maintenance availability through the end of the month. Cmdr. DeMetropolis, Pringle’s commanding officer, later received a Bronze Star for his leadership during his destroyer’s actions in the Solomons and the Bismarcks at the Treasuries, Green and Emirau Islands, and Bougainville from October 1943 through March 1944.
Departing in company with the ships of DesDiv 43 less Waller, Pringle set course for Emirau once again on 1 April 1944. Two days later, the group made a scheduled rendezvous with oiler Millicoma (AO-73) and her escort Breese for underway replenishment. As Pringle refueled, Breese reported a submarine contact. Fueling operations ceased immediately, and Pringle, Philip, and Renshaw escorted the oiler away from the contact area while Breese and Saufley developed the contact. When the contact could not be regained after 20 minutes, the group reformed and Pringle was able to complete her replenishment. When all of the destroyers finished topping off their fuel, the division continued on to Emirau, arriving the next morning. At midday on 4 April, Pringle received special tasking to escort attack cargo ship Centaurus (AKA-17) to Seeadler Harbor, Manus, in the Admiralty Islands. The two ships arrived at dawn the next morning, and after safely screening Centaurus into the harbor, Pringle reversed course to return to Emirau independently. With one hour remaining in the afternoon watch, the destroyer obtained a sound contact and dropped ten depth charges in an 11-charge pattern, the final charge not being dropped due to human error. Regaining the contact ten minutes later, she fired her three starboard K-guns in an embarrassing barrage. While continuing to search for the contact three hours later, Pringle came upon the wreckage of a Japanese Nakajima B5N2 Type 97 carrier attack plane (Kate), which she sank with three depth charges and small-caliber gunfire. With no further contacts made, the ship ended the search for the submarine at 1935 and continued on for Emirau.
Two hours later, Pringle rejoined DesDiv 43, which had been assigned to find and destroy any enemy shipping within 60 miles of Emirau, particularly along the routes to Truk, New Hanover, and Mussau. The patrol was uneventful until the morning of 7 April 1944, when at 0630 Saufley reported a sound contact and dropped nine depth charges at a position approximately 60 miles southwest of Emirau. While she and Renshaw worked to develop the contact, Pringle and Philip continued to patrol. At 0713, Saufley regained the contact and dropped another nine depth charges. Several minutes later, all four destroyers felt two “violent” underwater explosions. The division formed a scouting line to prosecute a hunter-killer search of the area, but the ships found no debris nor did they regain the contact. At 1130, Saufley and Renshaw passed through a small oil slick about six miles from the last depth charge attack. In the early afternoon, Pringle sank a drifting aircraft belly tank with small caliber gunfire and then at 1300 also passed through an oil slick which given its odor was judged to be fresh. Still searching for the submarine three hours later, all four destroyers crossed a large oil slick. By sunset, the ribbon of oil extended 14 miles and was nearly a mile wide. Ending their search just before 1900, DesDiv 43 departed to make a scheduled refueling rendezvous with Millicoma the next morning. After the war, an examination of Japanese records indicated that Saufley had sunk the Japanese submarine I-2.
Pringle continued to patrol for enemy shipping with her division-mates until the evening of 14 April 1944, when she detached to rendezvous with TU 34.9.8, consisting of surveying ship Pathfinder (AGS-1), merchantman John Hart, and their escort Conway. After meeting the task unit at midday on the 15th, she led the group first to Emirau (16 April) and then Seeadler Harbor (17 April). She then steamed to Treasury Island to refuel before continuing on to Purvis Bay. While en route on the afternoon of the 19th, she received orders to investigate screw noises detected by sonobuoy four miles south of Gavutu Island but finding nothing at that location proceeded to Tulagi and then Purvis Bay, where she remained for the rest of the month.
On 1 May 1944, Pringle stood out of Purvis Bay with her squadron as well as several crusiers from CruDiv 9 and CruDiv 12 to conduct three days of joint tactical exercises off Guadalcanal. She returned to Purvis Bay following a practice shore bombardment at Rua Sura on the 3rd. Her time in the vicinity of the Solomons came to a close the next morning when she and her fellow DesDiv 43 destroyers Waller, Philip, Renshaw, and Saufley sailed for Pearl Harbor for duty with the Fifth Fleet. Early on the morning of the 5th while zigzagging in formation at 25 knots, Pringle lost steering control with her rudder jammed hard to the right after a hydraulic line in the steering engine gave way. Unable to maintain a steady course, Pringle stopped to make repairs while her sister ships patrolled around her. On the afternoon of the 6th, the group put in to Funafuti Harbor in the Ellice Islands to refuel and resumed their voyage the next morning. The transit proceeded uneventfully until the afternoon of 10 May, when the destroyers received orders to investigate a sound contact reported earlier by high speed mine sweeper Chandler (DMS-9). Beginning at 1836, the destroyers assisted by a search plane conducted a systematic hunter-killer search of the area. Renshaw, Philip, and Waller all made “doubtful” contacts the next day, but the group did not locate any submarines. At 1553 on the 11th, the group left Renshaw to continue the search and resumed their transit, arriving at Pearl on the morning of the 12th.
Pringle and Saufley got underway with Washington (BB-56) to conduct training exercises on 14 May 1944. At 1728 that evening, Pringle left the formation on orders from the battleship to go investigate a possible submarine contact made by an antisubmarine patrol plane. She dropped a total of 12 depth charges and searched all night long, but the destroyer did not locate a submarine and returned to the formation at 0729 the next morning to resume exercises. For the next two days, the group completed various day and night gunnery exercises and repelled simulated torpedo boat and aircraft attacks before returning to Pearl on the 17th. From 19–24 May, Pringle joined the screen for TransDivs 7, 32, and 34 as the transports conducted exercises at Maalaea Bay and Lahaina Roads, Maui, and at Kahoolawe Island in preparation for upcoming operations at Saipan. Pringle then commenced an availability through the end of the month with the destroyer tender Piedmont (AD-17), which also included a day in dry dock. During the repair period, Lt. Cmdr. John L. Kelley Jr. relieved Cmdr. George DeMetropolis as Pringle’s commanding officer.
Getting underway again on 1 June 1944, Pringle joined the screen for TG 51.18, consisting of attack transports Fremont (APA-44), Custer (APA-40), Harris (APA-2), Cavalier (APA-37), Heywood (APA-6), and J. Franklin Bell (APA-16); cargo ships Fomalhaut and Auriga (AK-98); and transports Herald of the Morning (AP-173) and Winged Arrow (AP-170); plus destroyers Waller and Saufley and escort ships Canfield (DE-262) and Dionne (DE-261) in the screen. Towards the end of the forenoon watch on 5 June, Pringle encountered an empty life raft, sinking it with machine gun fire, but her transit to Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands was otherwise uneventful. After refueling and reprovisioning at Kwajalein (9–11 June), the task group—now also including destroyer Sigourney and fleet tug Chickasaw (ATF-83)—continued on for Saipan in the Mariana Islands.
The battle for control of Saipan commenced with amphibious landings on 15 June 1944. Greeted by four heavy columns of black smoke, Pringle and her task group, part of the reserve forces, arrived off the island on the morning of the 16th. The group remained underway north of Saipan until 1600, at which point the transports were directed to enter the transport area to begin unloading. Retiring for the night at the beginning of the first watch, the task group returned to the unloading area at dawn on the 17th. At this time, Pringle proceeded to fire support sector No. 6 in the Saipan Channel to conduct a shore bombardment from 0745 until 2200, during which time she shot at one approaching Mitsubishi A6M Type 0 carrier fighter (Zeke). In the early morning hours of the 18th, Pringle headed to the nearby island of Tinian to conduct a shore bombardment and then prior to dawn assumed station on Louisville (CA-28) to protect the heavy cruiser from enemy aircraft before returning to duty in fire support sector No. 6.
Given the rugged terrain and a network of caves on the island that the Japanese defenders put to good use, victory did not come quickly or easily for the American forces at Saipan. Pringle continued to support the effort in whatever way called for. On the evening of 18 June 1944, the destroyer was sent to Magicienne Bay on the eastern side of the island to help repel a Japanese tank attack. Early the next morning, a shore battery fired upon the ship, but Pringle moved out of range and was not hit. While refueling from Pocomoke (AV-9) several hours later, Pringle received from the seaplane tender the body of AMM2c Gilbert R. Person USNR, who had been killed earlier in the day in a friendly fire incident. The destroyer held a burial at sea for the aviation machinist’s mate later that evening and then returned to Magicienne Bay for overnight illumination and shore bombardment to break up enemy troop concentrations.
After being relieved on the fire support station by Renshaw on the evening of 20 June 1944, Pringle generally screened in the transport area for the next several days and took part in a special fire support mission (22–23 June). Pringle’s lookouts observed a Martin PBM Mariner aircraft make an emergency water landing three miles distant off the north coast of Tinian on the morning of 25 June. The destroyer maneuvered to the site of the crash to provide covering gunfire support while an LCVP rescued the plane’s crew. On the evening of 27 June, the destroyer joined with Selfridge (DD-357), Goldsborough (APD-32), and Cabana (DE-260) to screen the transports of TU 51.18.13—Cape Friendship, Cape Trinity, Cape Sande, Joseph Lykes, and Dashing Wave—departing Saipan. Around midday on the 28th, the group rendezvoused with TG 51.19 approximately 90 miles northeast of Saipan, where they steamed in the retirement area awaiting further orders.
On 2 July 1944, Pringle left the task group to return to Saipan, assuming station that evening to provide call fire and then nighttime illumination for the shore fire control party. Over the next two weeks, the ship conducted shore bombardments, screened the transport areas, screened Montpelier and Cleveland while the cruisers conducted special firing missions, conducted a submarine search, took several turns at fire support duty, and assumed a patrol station in the Saipan Channel. Forming up with oiler Millicoma, escort ship Waterman (DE-740), and fleet tug Mataco (ATF-86) on the afternoon of 15 July, Pringle set course for Eniwetok Atoll, only to be recalled to Saipan independently the next morning. She would in fact spend another month in the Saipan-Tinian area save for a quick trip to Guam (20–22 July) to act as screen while Montpelier and Cleveland bombarded the island. Upon her return to Saipan on 22 July, she completed a demonstration firing of her five-inch and 40-millimeter guns for an embarked party of shore fire control officers. During the marine landings at Tinian on 24 July, Pringle conducted a shore bombardment and then settled into a routine of providing call fire support, nighttime starshell illumination, and screening services for either fire support ships or the transports.
Finally on the evening of 12 August 1944, Pringle steamed ahead of TF 52 flagship Rocky Mount (AGC-3) for the short trip to Guam, arriving at Apra Harbor the next morning. Shortly after her arrival, the destroyer relieved Longshaw (DD-559) on picket station No. 1. On the evening of the 14th, she patrolled the transport area south of Orote Point and entered the harbor on the morning of 15 August to refuel and take on provisions from Rocky Mount. At midday, Pringle and Rocky Mount stood out and set course for Pearl Harbor. The transit proceeded without incident until the evening of 21 August when F1c Bernard F. Hall USNR turned up absent from muster. He had last been seen at 1115 that morning and was declared to be missing at sea. Then on 23 August, the ships’ speed was reduced to 10 knots due to a boiler failure on Rocky Mount. Approaching Oahu early on the morning of the 26th, the ships got into position to carry out antiaircraft firing practice, but when the target planes had not materialized by 0900, they continued on towards Pearl Harbor. There Pringle paused briefly to replenish and refuel, and that afternoon she put to sea again, joining with Eaton and Bancroft (DD-598) to head back to the West Coast.
Lt. Cmdr. Kelley earned a Bronze Star for his “cool and capable direction in the face of enemy fire” during the Marianas Campaign at Saipan, Tinian, and Guam from June through August 1944. On 30 August 1944, Kelley held a meritorious mast to recognize Lt. Alan Ray, the ship’s executive officer, navigator, and officer in charge of the combat information center, and Lt. Edwin L. Sibert Jr., Pringle’s gunnery officer. Kelley awarded commendation ribbons to both men for their outstanding services rendered during the destroyer’s operations from between August/September 1943 and April 1944.
Passing under the Golden Gate Bridge on the morning of 1 September 1944, Pringle moored at the Naval Ammunition Depot at Mare Island, Calif., to unload ammunition and other ordnance material. That afternoon, she moved to Pier 33 in San Francisco to commence a six-week general overhaul, including a two-week period (16–30 September) in the concrete floating dry dock ARDC-9. With major repair work completed, the destroyer conducted several days of testing and calibrations in the San Francisco Bay area from 15–18 October. On the afternoon of 19 October, she got underway in company with Waller, Norman Scott (DD-690), and Renshaw to begin the return trip to Hawaii. After completing a day of exercises offshore, the group arrived at Pearl Harbor at 1700 on 25 October.
For the next two weeks, Pringle participated in more underway training exercises in the Hawaiian operations area. On 29 October 1944, she took part in gunnery radar calibration and evaluation. She then spent three days (30 October–1 November) with battleship Wisconsin (BB-64) and Renshaw off Kahoolawe, practicing shore bombardment, gunnery firing at a drone, repelling a simulated air attack, and antiaircraft tracking. Beginning on 3 November, she held three days of divisional exercises with Waller, Conway, Renshaw, and Saufley. On 8 November, Pringle conducted antisubmarine warfare training with S-41 (SS-146) and escort ship Vammen (DE-644). At 1145 that morning, one of Pringle’s lookouts saw a plane splash six miles distant due east, and the ship rushed to the scene southwest of Barber’s Point, Oahu, at flank speed. A Vought F4U-1D Corsair (BuNo 50427) flown by 2nd Lt. John R. Johnson USMCR collided at an altitude of approximately 8,000 feet with the F4U-1 (BuNo 49721) piloted by 2nd Lt. George S. Keller USMCR. Johnson’s main gasoline tank came in contact with one of Keller’s propellers, causing Johnson’s Corsair to explode, fall to the sea, and sink immediately with Johnson still inside. Although Keller had been able to parachute from his aircraft, he unfortunately was unable to unfasten his parachute straps and drowned with his life jacket only half inflated. Pringle recovered Keller’s body and returned to Pearl Harbor. The destroyer rejoined S-41 that afternoon, relieving Vammen, and remained with the submarine until relieved by destroyer Kalk (DD-611) the next morning.
Early on the morning of 10 November 1944, Pringle departed Pearl Harbor in company with Waller, Conway, Eaton, and Stanly screening New Mexico and Montpelier. The group, operating as TU 12.5.6, sailed for Ulithi in the Caroline Islands. The transit proceeded uneventfully until the afternoon of 18 November, when Pringle received orders to investigate a possible submarine sighted on New Mexico’s starboard beam. The destroyer found no evidence of a sub however and rejoined the formation after an hour-long search. The task group arrived at Ulithi on the morning of 21 November, and after a two-day pause to refuel and take on ammunition, the group less Stanly continued onward towards Leyte Gulf in the Philippines.
Entering Leyte Gulf at midday on 25 November 1944, Pringle detached from the formation to deliver mail to various ships. She then joined TG 77.2—at that time consisting of flagship Maryland, New Mexico, West Virginia, Colorado, Denver, Columbia, Montpelier, St. Louis (CL-49), and Minneapolis (CA-36) screened by DesRons 21 and 22—on patrol in Leyte Gulf. The destroyer detached from the task group for a time on the 26th to refuel in San Pedro Bay. Late on the morning of the 27th, the task group faced attack from 25–30 Japanese aircraft. Pringle fired at several of the planes, destroying at least one, but the enemy pilots focused their attention upon the larger ships in the formation. Light cruiser St. Louis sustained significant damage at the hands of two suicide planes, battleship Colorado also took two kamikaze hits, light cruiser Montpelier had minor damage from a near miss, and Maryland evaded an air-launched torpedo.
That afternoon, Pringle detached with Waller, Saufley, and Renshaw to search for enemy shipping in the Camotes Sea that was bound for enemy-held positions in Ormoc Bay. The destroyers did not encounter any shipping during their transit along a planned route, nor did they receive any reports of such from PT boats operating locally or from the scouting plane flying in the vicinity. Arriving at Ormoc Bay at 2330, DesDiv 43 soon brought their guns to bear on several pre-determined targets of troop concentrations, shore batteries, supply dumps, and other installations. Once the destroyers had made a pass at their assigned targets, they changed course to make a second run. Minutes into the mid watch, Waller and Pringle both fired at a surface contact, which Pringle never sighted visually, and then proceeded with the second firing run.
After finishing the bombardment shortly before 0100, DesDiv 43 headed west to sweep the channel between Leyte and Ponson Island. At 0115, the group received word that the Black Cat scout plane had reported a Japanese submarine at 2315 running on the surface south of Paro Island headed toward Ormoc Bay. The destroyers reversed course, and fifteen minutes later they made radar contact with a surface target 9,000 yards distant, approximately two miles east of the northern tip of Ponson Island. Waller fired starshells to illuminate the scene and determined the target to be a small Japanese submarine. The destroyers opened fire and the submarine quickly came to a stop in a sinking condition. As the ships closed their target they switched to 40-millimeter gunfire. Waller intended to ram the boat but instead circled as the sub sank by the stern at 0145. Leaving behind a few survivors and some debris, DesDiv 43 set course to return to Leyte Gulf. Pringle’s commanding officer Lt. Cmdr. John L. Kelley Jr. later received a Gold Star in lieu of his second Bronze Star Medal for his “outstanding leadership” during the Ormoc Bay action. His citation states in part, “His courage and skill in the face of concentrated enemy fire was of the highest order and an inspiration to the officers and men under his command.”
Rejoining TG 77.2 on the morning of 28 November 1944, Pringle soon detached again for several hours to refuel in San Pedro Bay. Over the next 24 hours, the task group went to general quarters three times for possible air attacks. During the fourth alert, beginning at 1631 on the 29th, a Japanese dive bomber actually did attack the formation and was shot down by combined gunfire. Later Pringle fired at a Zeke that passed close aboard as enemy planes swirled about the task group. At 1830, the destroyer left the formation to relieve Aulick (DD-569), which had been struck by a suicide plane earlier during a heavy air attack while patrolling a picket station at the eastern entrance to Leyte Gulf. Pringle temporarily transferred her medical officer and a pharmacist’s mate to her sister ship to assist with her casualties. Aulick departed for San Pedro Bay at 2010, and Pringle then began patrolling between Homonhon and Dinagat Islands.
Pringle remained on the radar picket station uneventfully until Bennion (DD-662) arrived to relieve her on the morning of 2 December 1944. After returning to TG 77.2, she was soon sent to investigate a periscope sighting reported by Colorado. Pringle conducted a thorough sound search but made no contacts for nearly two hours. She briefly made a contact at 1319 but could not regain it and returned to the formation. That evening, the majority of the task group departed for Kossol Passage in the Palau Islands while the remaining ships including Pringle joined TG 77.3 with cruisers Phoenix (CL-46), Boise (CL-47), Portland (CA-33), and Nashville (CL-43), and destroyers Newcomb (DD-586), Nicholas, and Lang to cover Leyte Gulf. Within the hour, a Japanese plane attacked the formation and launched a torpedo at Portland. The heavy cruiser avoided the “fish,” and the formation shot down the plane.
On the night of 3 December 1944, Pringle relieved Bryant (DD-665) on radar picket station Baker. On the afternoon of the 5th, she also assumed responsibility for radar picket station Charlie, and less than three hours later, a group of nine bogies appeared on radar at 10 miles distant. One of the hostile planes, a Kawasaki Ki-48 Army Type 99 twin-engined light bomber (Lily), soon made a run on the destroyer, strafing the ship and dropping a 500-pound bomb. Pringle’s five-inch gunfire was able to turn away the enemy plane, and the bomb splashed on the ship’s starboard quarter without doing any damage. The remainder of her time covering the picket stations proceeded without incident, and at 1100 on 7 December, Moale (DD-693) arrived to relieve Pringle, which then steamed to San Pedro Bay. After replenishing, the destroyer rendezvoused with DesDiv 120—Allen M. Sumner (DD-692), Hopewell (DD-681), and Moale—to depart for another mission at Ormoc Bay. However, several hours later, the ship received word that the operation was cancelled. The four destroyers then joined TG 78.3, which was returning to San Pedro Bay after a successful landing operation at Ormoc Bay. Pringle assumed station three miles astern of the task group and shepherded LCIs that had fallen behind back to the convoy. The group arrived at San Pedro Bay on the morning of 8 December, and Pringle remained there for several days preparing for her next assignment.
Departing San Pedro Bay on the afternoon of 12 December 1944, Pringle joined the screen for TG 78.3, which was headed for the island of Mindoro. With amphibious operations scheduled to begin on the 15th, the landing forces sought to establish air bases there to bring American land-based air power within easy striking distance of other areas of the Philippines, particularly the main island of Luzon to the north. While steaming in the Mindanao Sea the next afternoon, Pringle went to general quarters just after 1500 for an anticipated air attack. Soon thereafter, a Val slammed into task group flagship Nashville, killing more than 100 men and injuring over 150. The group remained on alert, and at 1800 a Kawasaki Ki-45 Toryu Army Type 2 two-seat fighter (Nick) approached. Pringle opened fire at the plane with her five-inch guns, ceasing fire when a friendly combat air patrol (CAP) aircraft flew into proximity. Soon thereafter, the CAP shot down the hostile plane.
As the convoy approached southwestern Mindoro at dawn on 15 December 1944, vessels in the van fired upon a surface contact, which proved to be a Japanese tanker, setting it afire. Pringle screened to the west of the landing beaches near San Jose, and the combat air patrol kept most air opposition away from the landing area. The ship went to general quarters at 0843, however, as a group of enemy planes approached the transports. Several minutes later, Pringle observed fighting to the east, with suicide planes striking two LSTs. At the same time, only an hour and a half after the landings began, the destroyer joined the first echelon of transports to retire from the beach. During the return transit to Leyte Gulf, the ship was called to general quarters several times for air alerts, but the enemy aircraft did not attack the convoy. The group reached San Pedro Bay on the morning of 17 December, and Pringle took on ammunition and refueled before anchoring in the transport area. Save for a brief skirmish with an enemy plane on the 20th, Pringle remained unmolested in the bay for ten days.
On the morning of 27 December 1944, Pringle moved south to the Dulag area to await the formation of a resupply convoy bound for Mindoro. That afternoon, the destroyer took her place in the screen with Bush (DD-529), Stevens (DD-479), Sterett, Gansevoort (DD-608), Paul Hamilton (DD-590), Philip, Wilson, and Edwards (DD-619) escorting TU 78.3.15 consisting of nearly 60 ships, including numerous LSTs and LCIs as well as a few Liberty ships and various other small craft. Steaming through the Mindanao Sea at 1013 the next morning, Pringle made radar contact with an unidentified aircraft 30 miles distant. Several minutes later, six Zekes approached the formation and “pressed home [the] attack swiftly.” One enemy plane dove into John Burke. The Liberty ship, which was carrying ammunition, exploded in a powerful blast of smoke, flames, and debris, killing everyone on board and damaging other nearby ships in the convoy. A second kamikaze plowed into Liberty ship William Sharon, which was ultimately evacuated and abandoned before being towed back to Leyte Gulf. Two more Zekes splashed, one nearly hitting the tanker Porcupine (IX-126), and the remaining two flew off to the north. Pringle fired her five-inch and 40-millimeter guns on at least two of the enemy planes. The arrival of the 14-plane combat air patrol after noon kept the enemy at bay for a time, but that evening at 1845, four more enemy planes attacked the convoy. Pringle fired at three of these foes, splashing a Betty, while the enemy planes scored a torpedo hit on LST-750, which later had to be scuttled.
The convoy steamed onward towards Mindoro, but there was little respite from Japanese aviators during the transit. The American CAP kept the would-be attackers at bay for most of the day on 29 December 1944, but just after 1700, two Zekes attacked the formation. One plane headed directly for Pringle in a suicide run but passed harmlessly through her two stacks and splashed about 50 yards to port without inflicting any damage to the ship. The Emperor’s aviators continued to harass the convoy for most of the evening, and Pringle shot down a Betty at 1924, also evading a torpedo fired by the attacking plane. The aerial harassment resumed as the convoy approached Mindoro in the early morning hours of 30 December. As the landing ships approached the beaches shortly after 0700, the screening ships splashed another Japanese plane. The CAP then arrived, somewhat deterring would-be attackers during the unloading process over the course of the day. Pringle’s role during the unload was to patrol off the northwest tip of Illin Island, which she did until around dusk, when the convoy began to reform for the return trip to Leyte Gulf.
At 1530 on the afternoon of 30 December 1944, Pringle received a report of enemy planes closing on Mindoro from the west at 30 miles. Fifteen minutes later, lookouts spotted four Vals over Ilin Island. One of these planes, flying about 50 feet above the sea, headed straight for the destroyer. Undeterred by a barrage of five-inch and 40-millimeter gunfire, the Japanese pilot crashed his plane into the No. 5 40-millimeter gun mount and the after deck house, completely demolishing those structures. The kamikaze impact and resulting fire also damaged both the No. 3 and No. 4 five-inch guns and destroyed all of the ship’s radar countermeasures (RCM) equipment. Five Pringle sailors lost their lives in the incident, six additional men were listed as missing in action, and 20 sustained injuries. CGM Harold L. Still later received a Bronze Star with Combat V for his efforts to quickly extinguish the gasoline fire which threatened to explode nearby ammunition. During the attack, suiciders also struck and destroyed tanker Porcupine and seriously damaged motor torpedo boat tender Orestes (AGP-10) and destroyer Gansevoort.
The LSTs began to form up at 1720, and after transferring one critically injured man to LST-734 for treatment, Pringle assumed her station in the screen, now less Gansevoort. The transit back to San Pedro Bay was relatively tranquil. On the afternoon of 31 December, the destroyer held a burial at sea for her sailors who had died the previous day. Sunrise on New Year’s Day brought another hostile plane close to the formation, but the collective gunfire of the ships chased the enemy away. Arriving off of Dulag that night, the task unit dispersed and Pringle sailed independently to San Pedro Bay, where the following day she refueled and took on ammunition and transferred more injured men to LST-464 for treatment. On 4 January, Pringle moored alongside battle damage repair ship Midas (ARB-5) to begin repairs while awaiting further orders. After the war ended, Cmdr. John L. Kelley Jr. was awarded a Gold Star in lieu of his second Silver Star Medal, cited for his ship’s efforts that contributed to the destruction of 37 Japanese aircraft while protecting the convoy as well as his direction of firefighting and damage control efforts that kept Pringle in action despite the serious damage inflicted on her by the kamikaze.
Pringle got underway on the afternoon of 6 January 1945 to join TU 75.2.1, a convoy consisting of dock landing ship Rushmore (LSD-14) and merchant tankers Tule Canyon, Pocket Canyon, and Mission Santa Maria with the Australian frigate HMAS Burdekin (K.376) assisting in screening duties. The Australian vessel and the three tankers detached early on the 9th to head in to Hollandia, while Pringle and Rushmore continued on for Seeadler Harbor, Manus, arriving on the morning of 11 January. The next afternoon, Pringle moored alongside destroyer tender Sierra (AD-18) for a two-week availability to repair the damage sustained in the kamikaze attack of 30 December. She remained with the tender until midday on the 31st, when she got underway to conduct a test of her No. 5 40-millimeter gun. She then returned to Seeadler Harbor and refueled from Abarenda (IX-131).
Returning to regular service on 1 February 1945, Pringle stood out from Manus to escort fleet oiler Ponaganset (AO-86) and stores ship Talita (AKS-8), arriving at Ulithi on the morning of the 5th. On the 8th, she departed for Saipan with TG 52.3, consisting of fleet minelayer Terror (CM-5), dock landing ship Gunston Hall, light mine layer Breese, and high speed mine sweepers Dorsey (DMS-1), Howard (DMS-7), and Hopkins (DMS-13), with Howorth (DD-592), Stanly, and Halford (DD-480) in the screen. After arriving at Saipan on the 10th, Pringle attempted to refuel that afternoon and again the next day but could not due to heavy sea swells. On the evening of the 12th, Pringle screened TG 51.12, and the next morning, she began to patrol off the transport area at Tinian. After sweeping ahead of Transport Group Able on the short trip to Saipan anchorage that afternoon, the destroyer was able to reprovision and refuel on the 14th. Then for the next three days, she patrolled either off Saipan anchorage or on a picket station offshore.
Pringle departed for Iwo Jima on the afternoon of 17 February 1945, escorting Transport Group Able of TG 51.12. Early on the morning of the 19th, the group arrived on station off Iwo Jima, and Pringle began her screening patrol of the transport area. The destroyer remained in the Iwo Jima area through the end of the month, primarily serving as screening ship and providing fire support services. On the morning of 22 February, Pringle, Capps (DD-550), Bryant, and Ralph Talbot (DD-390) were tasked with searching for aviators from Saratoga (CV-3) who had to make a sea landing the previous evening after the aircraft carrier had been hit by kamikazes. Searching in an area east-northeast of the island, Pringle encountered life jackets, a life raft, and other debris within an oil slick but not the missing aviators. The ship did retrieve the bodies of CCS(AA)(T) Charles N. Lincoln and TMV1c(T) Samuel S. Barnette, both of the escort carrier Bismarck Sea (CVE-95), which had been sunk by kamikazes the previous evening. Pringle held a burial at sea for the two fallen sailors that evening after returning to her patrol station.
Commander DesDiv 90, to which Pringle had been assigned since 1 December 1944, raised his pennant in the ship on 1 March 1945. After an underway replenishment from oiler Pamanset (AO-85), she rendezvoused with West Virginia and headed for Ulithi, with heavy cruiser Pensacola (CA-24), destroyer Richard P. Leary (DD-664), and high speed mine sweeper Dorsey (DMS-1) joining them three hours later. The task unit reached Ulithi on the morning of 4 March and dissolved upon arrival. Pringle refueled and took on additional ammunition and then anchored that evening. For most of the rest of the month, she remained at Ulithi, which served as the final staging area for the upcoming Okinawa operation. ComDesDiv 90 removed to Hutchins (DD-476) on 12 March, and on the 25th, Pringle steamed to picket station No. 1 approximately 50 miles west of Ulithi. She patrolled on station overnight and then returned to the anchorage at dawn on the 26th.
Finally on 27 March 1945, Pringle weighed anchor and joined the screen for Transport Group Baker en route to Okinawa, Japan. Following a quiet transit, the group arrived at the objective area off the southwest coast of Okinawa before dawn on 1 April. After conducting a sweep of the transport area, Pringle assumed a screening station as the troops made their way to the beaches to begin the assault on the enemy’s home turf. The destroyer continued in the screening role for the next several days, firing only occasionally at an approaching bogie. On the morning of 6 April, she joined the screen for a transport group departing for Saipan. However, shortly after the mid watch commenced the next morning, Pringle detached from the group and returned to Okinawa in company with Lang, assuming an anti-small boat screening station after arriving at 0830.
Steaming with high speed mine sweeper Forrest (DMS-24) on the afternoon of 8 April 1945, Pringle rendezvoused with a convoy headed for Kerama Retto, a small group of islands off the southwest coast of Okinawa that provided an anchorage for Allied ships not immediately involved in operations at Okinawa. After arriving the next morning, Pringle refueled, and at 1900, the destroyer stood out with TG 51.19 sailing for Tsugen [Tsuken] Jima, a small island off Okinawa’s southeastern coast. On the morning of the 10th, the task group arrived off the island and commenced an amphibious landing, with Pringle screening the operation. At 1030, the destroyer briefly left the transports to screen the mine sweepers as they entered and swept Nakagusuku Bay. That night, the ship provided harassing fire and illumination from the bay and then resumed her screen of the transports off the entrance to the bay in the morning. The group departed the area on the morning of the 12th and steamed for Hagushi Beach on the southwestern side of Okinawa. After arriving that afternoon, Pringle patrolled the area during a heavy air attack but did not herself participate in the firing as she was too far removed from the action. At 1900, Pringle and Forrest departed once again to meet an incoming convoy. The ships made the rendezvous the next morning and escorted the group back to Hagushi Beach, arriving at 0700 on the 14th.
Pringle’s next assignment on the afternoon of 14 April 1945 brought the destroyer to Picket Station No. 14, approximately 65 miles northwest of Ie Shima. Arriving on station at 1615 to relieve escort ship Bowers (DE-637), the destroyer joined high speed mine sweeper Hobson (DMS-26) and medium landing ship (rocket) LSM(R)-191 on patrol. Within the hour, Pringle saw the CAP of eight Grumman F6F Hellcats shoot down three Zekes eight miles to the east. Overnight, she had the opportunity to shoot twice at bogies but did not observe if she struck the planes. After a quiet day on station on the 15th during which time gunboat LCS(G)-34 joined the group, the destroyer fired at bogies twice during the first watch with unobserved results.
As day broke on 16 April 1945, Pringle had numerous bogies on radar at 20–30 miles distant in all directions. Two F4Us flying CAP arrived on station at 0630. Nearly two hours later, the ship was tracking two bogies to the north and northwest. Hobson sent the CAP to intercept the foes, but low on fuel, the F4Us instead returned to base without being relieved. With numerous bogies approaching the formation at 0840, Hobson twice requested a fresh CAP to no avail. At 0851, a single Zeke commenced a suicide run on Pringle, but the combined fire of the destroyer and the mine sweeper sent the flaming attacker into the sea off Pringle’s starboard quarter. The destroyer and mine sweeper fired at another enemy plane at 0905, turning it away.
At 0910, three Vals came in for an attack from dead ahead at an altitude of 2,000 feet. When the aircraft reached a distance of 10,000 yards, the destroyer opened fire. The Vals then dropped low to the water and weaved back and forth between 9,000 yards and 11,000 yards, in and out of the range of the ship’s five-inch guns. The commanding officer later wrote that the maneuver by the Japanese aviators had the effect of fatiguing the gun loaders. A shell splash eventually took out one of the planes, but the other two continued their tactical dance. Finally one of the planes approached from 10,000 yards in a shallow dive from 1,000 feet altitude. Pringle maneuvered to evade, her guns blazing as their smoke obscured the drastically weaving target.
The Val circled Pringle’s stern and then at 0920 dove in from her port quarter, slamming into the destroyer at the base of her forward stack, taking out the starboard wing of the bridge and crashing through the main deck into the forward fireroom. As seen from Hobson, “A terrific explosion followed; Pringle was covered from stem to stern with flame and smoke, and when [the] smoke cleared away, it was apparent that ship was doomed.” The intense explosion blew away both smokestacks and demolished Pringle’s entire midsection between the pilot house and Mount 53. The keel buckled, and the ship split in two. Lt. Cmdr. Kelley, Pringle’s commanding officer, recalled in an interview two months later: “There was no opportunity to institute any damage control. The word was passed to abandon ship and all hands immediately started over the side in orderly and quiet fashion. The men who were injured were helped over into the water and later helped on a life raft.” At 0926, less than six minutes after the suicider’s fatal impact, Pringle’s mangled remains slipped beneath the sea.
As Pringle was suffering her death throes, Hobson continued to fight against their attackers. At 0922 as the mine sweeper fired at incoming planes on her port and starboard sides, she splashed the starboard craft close aboard, but that plane’s bomb hit the ship and exploded into her forward engine room. The blast killed four men, wounded five, and caused enough damage to render the starboard engine inoperative, but the mine sweeper remained seaworthy and continued to fight the enemy planes. Her efforts turned away at least one plane attempting to strafe the Pringle survivors in the water and Hobson shot down two more assailants. Finally, one hour after Pringle met her unfortunate demise, the enemy planes had retired and Hobson was able to turn her attention to rescuing the men in the water. LSM(R)-191 and LCS(G)-34, which earlier had been directed to take cover in a hazy area to the southwest of the two other ships, arrived on the scene shortly thereafter and also began to pick up the Pringle survivors. At 1100, Hobson found it necessary to direct some 20-millimeter gunfire at a pair of sharks swimming towards the last of the survivors in the water then being picked up by the gunboats.
After making a final sweep of the area and with the destroyer Isherwood (DD-520) now on station to continue the search, Hobson, LSM(R)-191, and LCS(G)-34 headed back to the Hagushi Beach transport area with a total of 251 Pringle survivors on board, 113 of which sustained some degree of injury. Sixty-two Pringle sailors lost their lives in the sinking, and several of the injured men died on the rescue ships. After the war ended, Lt. Cmdr. Kelley received a Silver Star for the “conspicuously courageous manner” in which he fought his ship in the face of the fatal attack by the enemy planes. Pringle was stricken from the Navy List on 28 April 1945.
Pringle was awarded 10 battle stars for her World War II service.
|Commanding Officers||Date Assumed Command|
|Lt. Cmdr. Harold O. Larson||15 September 1942|
|Lt. Cmdr. George DeMetropolis||2 September 1943|
|Lt. Cmdr. John L. Kelley Jr.||29 May 1944|
10 February 2020