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Thorn I (DD-647)

(DD-647: dp. 1,630 (f.) ; 1. 348'4"; b. 36'1"; dr. 17'5"; s. 37 k.; a. 4 5', 4 40mm., 7 20mm., 5 21" tt, 6 dcp., 2 dct.; cl. Gleaves)

Jonathan Thorn, born on 8 January 1779 at Schenectady, N.Y., was appointed a midshipman on 28 April 1800. Subsequently serving with the Navy during the Tripolitan War, Thorn volunteered to take part in the hazardous expedition to destroy the captured frigate Philadelphia, which lay beneath the guns of the shore batteries in heavily defended Tripoli harbor. On 16 February 1804, Lt. Stephen Decatur, Jr., led a party of these volunteers in the ketch Intrepid into Tripoli and burned the erstwhile American frigate.

Attached to the schooner Enterprise, Thorn was then assigned to Gunboat No. 4, under Decatur's command. In this vessel, he participated in the attack on Tripoli, with Commodore Edward Preble's squadron on 3 August 1804. Specially commended by Decatur for his conduct in this battle, Thorn received command of one of the Tripolitan gunboats captured and commanded this vessel in the engagement with the Tripolitan pirates on 7 August.

Commissioned a lieutenant on 16 February 1807, Thorn became the first commandant of the New York Navy Yard at age 27. In 1810, he was granted a two-year furlough to command John Jacob Astor's sailing bark Tonquin in a voyage slated to take the ship to the Pacific Northwest to establish a fur trading post. Anchoring off Nootka on 5 June 1811, after a voyage which had taken the ship around Cape Horn to the Hawaiian Islands and to the mouth of the Columbia River, Thorn soon began trading with the local Indians. Angered by what they considered a bad business deal, the Indians came on board Tonquin and, in a brief, bloody action, massacred Thorn and his crew.


The name Thorn was assigned on 22 January 1941 to DD-505, an experimental 1,150-ton destroyer ordered on 9 September 1940 from the Federal Shipbuilding and Drydock Co., Kearny, N.J. However, the contract was cancelled on 10 February 1941 and replaced by a contract for the Gleaves-class destroyer, Thorn (DD-647).


The first Thorn (DD-647) was laid down on 15 November 1942 at Kearny, N.J., by the Federal Shipbuilding and Drydoek Co.; launched on 28 February 1943; sponsored by Mrs. Beatrice Fox Palmer; and commissioned on 1 April 1943, Lt. Comdr. Edward Brumby in command.

Following shakedown and trials out of Casco Bay, Maine, Thorn joined Destroyer Squadron (DesRon) 19. Between 28 May 1943 and 2 January 1944, the destroyer conducted four round-trip convoy escort missions on the New York-Norfolk-Casablanca route, the first trip as part of Task Force (TF) 69 and the other three as part of TF 64, On her last convoy run, she escorted two oilers to Punta Delgada, in the Azores, in company with Stockton (DD-646)-the first ships to enter the port under the terms of the new agreement between the Allies and the government of Portugal.

On 3 January 1944, the day after Thorn arrived back in New York harbor, Turner (DD-648) blew up and sank in Ambrose Channel, 5,000 yards astern of Thorn. Calling away the ship's motor whaleboat, Thorn sent a rescue party to try to recover survivors. Lt. James P. Drake, USNR, and Boatswain's Mate, First Class, E. Wells were awarded Navy and Marine Corps Medals for their bravery in the rescue of three Turner survivors; and three other men received commendation bars for their part in the operation.

Late in January, Thorn sailed for the Pacific and transited the Panama Canal on the 29th. Ordered to report to relieve DesRon 1 in New Guinea waters, the destroyer and her sisters of DesDiv 37 headed for the southwest Pacific. Thorn was detoured to Guadalcanal and Rendoya to escort a detached oiler group. She finally arrived at Milne Bay, New Guinea, on 29 February.

Thorn moved directly from there to Cape Sudest where, on 4 March, the destroyer embarked troops and supplies of the Army's 7th Cavalry Division and immediately proceeded to Los Negros Island for the invasion of the Admiralties. In addition to making three additional escort trips between Cape Sudest and Seeadler Harbor, Thorn participated in two shore bombardments of Pityili Island, conducted antisubmarine patrols north of the Admiralties, and acted as a fighter director vessel.

On 10 April, while making a practice torpedo run during preparations for forthcoming Allied landings at Hollandia, Thorn struck an uncharted reef. Damage to her screws and shafts forced the ship back to the west coast for an overhaul. En route home, she escorted Massachusetts (BB-59) to Bremerton, Wash. She subsequently escorted Thetis Bay (CVE-90) from the Puget Sound Navy Yard to San Francisco, Calif., where she eventually arrived on 22 May.

After completing her overhaul at the Hunter's Point Navy Yard, Thorn conducted refresher training and then escorted Mississippi (BB-41) to Hawaii. She arrived at Pearl Harbor on 11 August. She then escorted Maryland (BB-46) to Purvis Bay, Solomon Islands, where she joined escort carrier Task Unit (TU) 32.7.1 and proceeded to the Palaus for the landings on 15 September. During this deployment as screen and plane guard, Thorn rescued the crews of three Grumman TBM "Avenger" torpedo planes which had "ditched."

Detached from escort duty at the end of September, Thorn joined the 7th Fleet at Manus, in the Admiralties, on 3 October. As American forces massed for the initial assaults on the Japanese-occupied Philippine Islands, Thorn joined the fire support screen for TF 77. She entered Leyte Gulf on the night of the 18th and screened battleships and cruisers during their early shore bombardments.

As Allied troops swarmed ashore two days later, the destroyer provided interdiction fire at Abuyog, south of the Leyte beaches, and patrolled the southern end of Leyte Gulf for the following week. At dawn on the 21st, Thorn's gunners opened fire on a Japanese Aichi "Val" and sent the enemy dive bomber splashing into the sea near the transport area. On the 22d, the destroyer and Portland (CA-33) splashed another enemy aircraft.

During the fierce night action at Surigao Strait, Thorn screened the American battleships as they mauled the Japanese force coming through the strait. Originally ordered to conduct a torpedo attack on the Japanese battle line, Thorn and her mates were recalled as the Japanese fled posthaste from the direction whence they had come. Thorn then formed up with the left-hand flank of cruisers and destroyers and headed south to polish off the "cripples" from the Japanese force. The American ships came across one Japanese destroyer and smothered it with fire which summarily dispatched it to the depths. During her 17 salvoes, Thorn observed 12 hits.

That evening, Thorn's division received orders to lie-to off Homonhon Island, to conduct a torpedo attack on a Japanese force expected from the eastward. The enemy, however, retired into the San Bernardino Strait that afternoon, and the American destroyer unit was recalled on the 26th.

Ordered to Ulithi, Thorn departed Philippine waters to rejoin the 3d Fleet in the Carolines, for duty with the Fast Carrier Task Force. From 5 to 24 November, Thorn participated in TF 38's strikes against Japanese targets in the Philippines, screening and planeguarding for the fast carriers. She returned to Ulithi with TG 30.8 for duty with a logistics support group. She subsequently resumed planeguarding, this time standing by escort carriers. She assisted Cape Esperance (CVE-88) during the 18 December typhoon. Following this heavy storm, which sank three destroyers,Thorn searched for survivors in the storm area.

During the carrier strikes on Lingayen in early January 1945 and the subsequent carrier raids on Japanese shipping in the South China Sea, Thorn escorted a fast oiler group for replenishment evolutions with the aircraft carriers. While returning to the Carolines, via Leyte Gulf and the Mindoro Strait, Thorn rescued the crew of a downed TBM and the pilot of a crashed fighter before arriving at Ulithi on the 27th. The destroyer again screened oilers during the operations against Iwo Jima and also entered waters near the strategic island to screen heavy fire support units. On 21 February, Thorn and Ute (ATF-76) learned that Bismarck Sea (CVE-95) had been struck by two Japanese suicide planes, and they rushed to aid the stricken ship. However, when they searched the scene, the escort carrier had already gone to the bottom, the victim of Japanese kamikazes.

Two days in Ulithi followed the ship's return; and, on 13 March, Thorn reformed with the 5th Fleet support group built around Detroit (CL-8) for the Ryukyu operations. On 25 March, Thorn and Aylwin (DD-355) made depth charge attacks on a sonar contact and observed an oil slick after the last drop. They conducted a retirement search before rejoining the formation on the 26th, but could not verify that the contact had actually been a submarine.

Thorn susbequently conducted four escort missions with the replenishment group, escorting oilers into Kerama Retto to fuel the fire support ships off Okinawa and making her first run on 1 April. On the second run, Thorn observed two enemy planes splashing into the sea, victims of combat air patrol (CAP) fighters and ship gunfire. On the third, a kamikaze crashed Taluga (AO-62), two miles astern, while another enemy suicide plane splashed alongside a nearby small patrol craft.

The destroyer then spent two weeks at Ulithi, replenishing for further operations with the logistics support group. She rejoined the oilers and supply ships at sea on 28 May. On 5 June, Thorn rode out her second major typhoon, steaming through the eye of the storm at 0530. Two days later, she joined a group of four damaged escort aircraft carriers which were retiring to Guam.

On 4 July, soon after screening the CVE's out of the "front lines" for repairs, Thorn resumed work with the replenishment and support group and continued screening and supporting it through the surrender of Japan. During this period, she sank seven drifting mines.

Following Japan's surrender, Thorn steamed off Tokyo Bay until 9 September, when the entire group entered Sagami Wan. The next day, the support group's base was established at the Yokosuka Naval Base, where Thorn remained through the end of September.

Streaming her homeward-bound pennant, Thorn, in company with DesRon 19, steamed out of Tokyo Bay on 8 October and joined Tennessee (BB-43) and California (BB-44) off Wakayama the following day. On 15 October, the group sailed on the first leg of their homeward-bound voyage, subsequently stopping at Singapore, Colombo, and Cape Town. The destroyer eventually arrived in New York on 7 December 1945, via St. Helena and Ascension Islands in the Atlantic. After a month's overhaul, she proceeded to Charleston, S.C., where she was decommissioned and placed in reserve on 6 May 1946.

Thorn, lay in reserve through the 1950's and 60's. Struck from the Navy list on 1 July 1971, the ship's hulk was authorized for use as a target and was sunk by aircraft from America (CVA-66) in November 1973.

Thorn received seven battle stars for her World War II service.

Published: Tue Sep 29 16:34:47 EDT 2015