John Cushing Aylwin – born on 14 June 1778 in Quebec, Canada, to Thomas and Lucy Cushing Aylwin – was intended by his father for a life of service in the Royal Navy. According to nineteenth century sources, however, John rejected that destiny, having seen a friend forcibly abducted by a Royal Navy pressgang. He instead urged his parents to allow him to live with his maternal family in Massachusetts where he could launch his career at sea. Before his wishes were carried out, however, both Thomas and Lucy died, only months apart, in 1791. The youngster’s paternal uncle secured his nephew a position as a captain’s apprentice on a merchant voyage to London. The terms of the apprenticeship stipulated that after a period of service the captain was to permit John to study at a naval academy in England.
To the young sailor’s continuing misfortune, however, his master did not honor the agreement, and retained John on board for a voyage to the West Indies. After two voyages, the fifteen-year old impressed the captain enough that he was advanced to a ship’s mate. Unfortunately, the good relations between Aylwin and his superior did not continue and the two experienced a falling out. When the vessel reached London, the captain turned John over to a Royal Navy pressgang and the unlucky youth involuntarily entered His Majesty’s service on board a gun-brig.
With the French Revolutionary Wars in full force, the unwilling tar sailed the world fighting under the Union Jack. After sailing the North Sea, he was in the Mediterranean when Napoleon invaded Egypt and he likely participated in the naval war that raged in that theatre. Soon the admiralty sent his vessel to the east and he served for more than half a decade in the East Indies, Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. During that time, he served as captain of the fore-top where he gained further experience as a fighting seaman. Throughout his service, his officers attempted to convince John to join the Royal Navy voluntarily, even offering him a warrant after he distinguished himself in a boarding action against a French corvette. He steadfastly refused, and only failing health released him from bondage.
His finding his way to his family in Boston proved salubrious, the veteran sailor regaining his health and serving on board merchant ships. In 1812, with war on the horizon, John sought naval service and Captain Isaac Hull of Constitution was happy to take on the seadog as his sailing master. Aylwin joined the frigate at Washington and received his warrant on 24 April 1812. War broke out in June while Constitution was recruiting in Annapolis, Md. After departing the city on 5 July, the 34-year old master’s sailing mettle was tested when an entire British squadron sighted Constitution off the coast of New Jersey and took up chase on 18 July. The wind proved exceedingly light and Constitution’s sailing master utilized every trick he learned in his nearly two decades at sea, crowding and wetting sail to take advantage of every feeble breeze as crew members simultaneously towed the frigate using small boats and a kedge. After two days the wind freshened and allowed the American to leave her pursuers behind. Aylwin’s exertions not only helped the frigate escape certain capture, but prompted the veteran to respect his less experienced shipmates. “It is not seldom that I have examined the human face in the hour of battle,” he confided to a friend, “and I never before saw any truer stamp of courage than was then to be found in every sailors countenance. “
From the outset, Aylwin was confident in the fighting qualities of his vessel. While the American frigates were untested against the Navy in which he had served, he believed they were more than a match for their British counterparts -- a sentiment not universally shared in the American ranks. His optimism proved warranted when Constitution fell in with the 32-gun Guerriere on 19 August 1812. After sighting the British vessel, Aylwin expertly handled the frigate and put her alongside Guerriere while denying the enemy’s attempt to gain the weather gauge. By 6:00 p.m., the vessels traded broadsides and soon the respective crews exchanged musket fire. Late in the battle, the ships came alongside one another. Intending to board the British vessel, Constitution’s Master of Marines leapt onto the taffrail and was instantly shot dead. Undeterred, Aylwin mounted the rail and was slightly wounded in the left shoulder by musket fire. He remained at his post on the quarterdeck as Constitution pulled away and maneuvered into an advantageous position against her foe. After nightfall, the British frigate capitulated and the Americans burned her on the following day. The veteran sailor was elated, and wrote “On the 19[th of] August we fortunately fell in with the Guerriere. I say fortunately, for I would not have missed the chance-no! not for the richest prize ever floated. It has given our officers and men the only thing hitherto wanting-confidence in themselves.” Commodore Hull promoted Aylwin to lieutenant in recognition for his performance in the battle.
After putting into Boston, Constitution departed that port on 26 October 1812 under the command of Commodore William Bainbridge. Paired with the sloop Hornet, the frigate sailed to the coast of Brazil to hunt for British shipping. On 29 December, Constitution again found herself tested by a British frigate. At 9:00 a.m., lookouts sighted sail that proved to be two ships, one which approached Constitution while the other continued toward land. The approaching vessel proved to be the 38-gun British frigate Java. Aylwin served as fifth lieutenant during the ensuing action and commanded the forecastle division.
At 2:10 p.m., the men-of-war began action at grape and canister range. Thirty minutes into the engagement, Bainbridge was determined to close his adversary and within ten minutes the vessels were maneuvering close aboard. When the belligerents seemed destined to collide, Aylwin climbed atop the quarterdeck hammock lashings and fired a brace of pistols at enemy tars preparing to board. This fearless action exposed him to enemy fire and he was struck by musket fire or grapeshot that passed from under his left collar bone clear through his left shoulder blade. Despite the severity of the wound, the lieutenant remained at his post and did not call attention to his injury. By 5:25 p.m., Constitution had reduced Java to a wreck and again accepted her opponent’s surrender. Only after the surgeon had tended to all of the wounded on board did Aylwin reveal that he, too, was hurt. Although the seasoned veteran downplayed the injury, the doctor recognized the wound as dangerous -- one that risked infection. He dressed Aylwin’s shoulder and ordered him to remain immobile in his cabin while it healed.
Days later, however, Constitution’s crew was called to quarters when lookouts spotted a sail on the horizon. Thirsty for action, Aylwin, ignoring the surgeon’s orders, rushed to the forecastle where he remained and exerted himself for two hours in the tropical summer sun. The vessel, however, proved to be Hornet. According to the surgeon, Aylwin’s actions had aggravated the wound which became gangrenous. Soon it was apparent that Aylwin’s eventful life was coming to an end. He clung to life for three weeks, intently focused on settling earthly business. When the surgeon interpreted Aylwin’s incessant activity as betraying a fear of his approaching demise, the veteran officer replied firmly: “Doctor, I have looked death too often in the face to be afraid of him now.”
On his deathbed, Aylwin’s thoughts reportedly returned to the years he served against his will as an impressed seaman and his role in a war fought in part to end the practice on American shores. In his last moments, he declared repeatedly “I thank God I am dying in so glorious a cause.” Lt. John Aylwin died on board Constitution on 28 January 1813 at the age of 34 and was buried at sea. In his tribute to his lieutenant, Commodore Bainbridge wrote, “He was an officer of great merit, much esteemed by all who had the pleasure of his acquaintance. He had seen much of the world, and improved his opportunities of observation; possessed a strong mind with a great benevolence of disposition. In his death our country has suffered a great loss.”
(DD-355: displacement 1,375; length 341'3"; draft 16'4"; speed 37.0 knots; complement 251; armament 5 5-inch, 4 .50 caliber machine guns, 8 21-inch torpedo tubes, 2 depth charge tracks; class Farragut)
The third Aylwin (DD-355) was laid down on 23 September 1933 by the Philadelphia [Pa.] Navy Yard; launched on 10 July 1934; sponsored by Miss Elizabeth M. Farley, the 11-year old daughter of Postmaster General James M. Farley; and commissioned on 1 March 1935, Cmdr. Clarence Gulbranson in command.
Following builders’ trials late in March 1935, and fitting out, the destroyer shifted to the Naval Torpedo Station, Newport, R.I., to load eight torpedo warheads. At the end of further trials, she returned to Philadelphia on 8 May to prepare for shakedown.
On 22 May 1935, Aylwin sailed for a cruise that took her to European waters. She stopped at Port Leixoes (Oporto), Portugal, on 1 June, and at Santander, Spain, on the 5th, before shifting to Cherbourg, France, on the 10th. Five days later, the Honorable Jesse I. Strauss, the U.S. Ambassador to France, inspected the new destroyer. The warship next visited Bremen, Germany (19-24 June), before sailing for Göteborg, Sweden, and a five-day visit. Then, after getting underway for Belgium on the 29th, she reached Brussels late on 2 July and there received her only royal visit when, on the morning of the 8th, King Leopold III and Queen Astrid came on board for an hour's inspection.
The ship visited Dover, England, before heading homeward on 15 July 1935. She reached Philadelphia on the 22nd, received post-shakedown repairs, and conducted further trials that lasted until 1 October, when she put to sea to join the Fleet. She fell in with her sister ship Hull (DD-350) the next day, and reached Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, on the 5th, where Aylwin unloaded a cargo of light freight.
After transiting the Panama Canal on 7 October 1935, Aylwin paused briefly at Balboa, Canal Zone, before sailing on the 10th for a plane-guard station off Champerico, Guatemala, to provide a directional bearing along the projected track of the experimental flying boat XP3Y-1, the prototype of the PBY Catalina. That plane had already completed a non-stop flight from Norfolk to Coco Solo, Canal Zone, and, would fly, again non-stop, from Coco Solo to San Francisco. Aylwin reached her assigned position on 13 October and, the next morning, began laying smoke to serve as marker for the plane. The destroyer's lookouts sighted the aircraft at 1238, and it passed directly overhead seven minutes later. Ultimately, the XP3Y-1 reached San Francisco Bay on 15 October, having set a new international distance record for seaplane flights, 3,281.402 statute miles.
The destroyer rejoined Hull the next day; and the two ships steamed into San Diego harbor on the 19th. After a visit to Stockton, Calif. (26-29 October 1935), Aylwin began her peacetime duty with the Fleet, operating off the coast of southern California in flotilla tactics, torpedo attacks, and short range battle practices. She also carried out sound training runs with the submarines Nautilus (SS-168) and Cuttlefish (SS-171).
On 10 February 1936, Aylwin departed San Diego and entered the Mare Island Navy Yard on the following day for repairs and alterations. She ran her post-repair trials on 3 April. Then, following brief operations off Pyramid Cove, San Clemente Island, Aylwin sailed for the Canal Zone on 27 April 1936 to participate in Fleet Problem XVII, a five-phased evolution designed to advance the strategical, tactical, and logistical training of the fleet in a wide variety of areas, including antisubmarine warfare, offensive operations of submarines, and the development of aircraft and surface scouting techniques. The problem pitted the Battle Force against a submarine-augmented Scouting Force. As the opposing forces engaged off the west coast of Central America near the Panama Canal, Aylwin conducted simulated gun attacks on “enemy” destroyers and torpedo attacks on the “enemy” battle line. She anchored off Balboa on 9 May 1936, refueled the following day, and resumed her participation in the fleet problem on the 16th as part of the “Green” Fleet.
After the exercises, Aylwin sailed to Peru and arrived at Callao on the morning of 28 May 1936. That day, Rear Admiral Sinclair Gannon, Commander, Destroyers, Scouting Force, broke his flag in Aylwin. Winding up her Peruvian visit on 2 June, she got underway for California, but paused in Panama Bay from 6 to 8 June before continuing on to San Diego. Aylwin reached her home port on the morning of 16 June and moored alongside the destroyer tender Dobbin (AD-3). That afternoon, Rear Admiral Gannon transferred his flag to the tender.
On 6 July 1936, Aylwin got underway for the Pacific Northwest and reached Port Angeles, Wash., on the 9th. She sailed thence via the inland passage to Alaska and arrived at Cordova on the 13th. Following a subsequent visit to Kodiak, a return call at Port Angeles, and tender upkeep there, again alongside Dobbin, the destroyer conducted sound tracking exercises at Admiralty Bay, Port Townsend, Wash. She visited Portland, Ore., from 5 to 10 August before heading home where she arrived on the 13th.
A week later, she got underway for tactical exercises in company with Worden (DD-352) and Monaghan (DD-354), but they soon commenced looking for the overdue San Diego-based tuna boat San Joaquin, last reported in their vicinity. The USCGC Tahoe joined the search on 21 August, and USCGC Aurora the next day. On the 23rd, Aylwin and the other ships, in a scouting line, searched for the overdue full-rigged ship Pacific Queen. Although they did not find either vessel, neither was lost since both appeared on merchant vessel registers for some years thereafter. In fact, the latter, bearing her original name, Balclutha, served as a floating museum berthed at San Francisco’s Fisherman's Wharf into the 1980’s.
Aylwin operated in the southern California area until sailing on 16 April 1937 for the Hawaiian Islands to participate in Fleet Problem XVIII. Forming up with the “Hilo Detachment” on the 21st, Aylwin conducted a mock bombardment of Hilo before deploying to screen Houston (CA-30) and Ranger (CV-4) as they covered a simulated landing. Putting into Pearl Harbor on 25April, Aylwin got underway on 4 May as part of the “White” Force.
Rated as “damaged” in an initial phase of the action on 8 May 1937, Aylwin shaped course to rendezvous with “friendly” units that morning and drove off two “strafing” attacks by “Black” planes en route. She sighted what appeared to be the “White” battle line at 0640 and altered course to join, but discovered that the ships were, in fact, counted as “out of action.” Aylwin came about and headed for Lahaina but found no respite en route, however, for she spotted three fast minelayers closing from six miles away, and after identifying them as “enemy,” went to general quarters at 0730, “opening fire” three minutes later. However, the umpires quickly declared her hors de combat so she joined her “out of action” consorts soon thereafter.
Aylwin returned to San Diego on 28 May 1937 and, after two weeks of upkeep alongside Whitney (AD-4) resumed her training schedule. During the last days of June, she operated in company with Mississippi (BB-41) as that battleship conducted gunnery practice off Santa Barbara Island in company with the radio-controlled high-speed target ship (ex-destroyer) Lamberton (AG-21).
For the rest of 1937 and the winter months of early 1938, Aylwin maintained what had become standard routine, alternating periods in port for upkeep with time training at sea in the southern California operating area. From 6 to 9 January 1938, she participated in the search for a lost patrol plane from Patrol Squadron (VP) 7. After firing antiaircraft practices in early February, the ship proceeded to the Destroyer Base, San Diego, for her yearly hull inspection in the floating dry dock ARD-1 and then proceeded to the Mare Island Navy Yard for a brief overhaul.
Following those repairs, Aylwin arrived at San Diego in time to participate in Fleet Problem XIX. The “Black” Fleet put to sea from San Diego at 0325 on 15 March 1938. As part of the “White” Fleet, Aylwin got underway at 1640 and soon joined the remainder of Destroyer Flotilla 1 and the aircraft carrier Ranger. Searching for the enemy main body on the 17th, she fell in with Chicago (CA-29), Quincy (CA-39), Chester (CA-27), and Portland (CA-33) on the following morning. That afternoon, the cruisers made contact, attacked, and retired under cover of a smoke screen. Aylwin regained sight of the “enemy” and took up a position a safe distance astern to trail them through the 19th.
After fueling from Idaho (BB-42) on the 20th, the destroyer conducted exercises in subsequent phases of Fleet Problem XIX until supporting a mock landing at Lahaina. At the outset, she lay-to between the islands of Molokai, Lanai, and Maui before standing in toward the beachhead to support the landing of troops. She conducted a brief minesweeping drill before refueling from Brazos (AO-4) and then anchoring at Lahaina Roads for a brief respite.
From 4 to 8 April 1938, Aylwin again was underway participating in further exercises before putting into Pearl Harbor. When the fleet sortied on the morning of the 18th, she ranged ahead of the departing battleships alert for possible submarine activity. Ultimately, Aylwin participated in the closing phases of Fleet Problem XIX, that had been conducted in three separate phases, each a small fleet problem in itself. As in Fleet Problem XVII, the exercises also tested the ability of the fleet to seize and hold advanced bases.
The destroyer returned to San Diego on 28 April 1938 and, on 9 May, resumed her coastwise training schedule. She underwent brief upkeep alongside Whitney before getting underway on 21 June for the Pacific Northwest and cruising along the coast through July, touching at such places as Port Angeles, Wash.; Ketchikan, Territory of Alaska; Humpback Bay, Wrangell Narrows, Taku Inlet, Yakutat Bay, Sitka, Seattle, and finally, Portland. She returned via San Francisco to San Diego in mid-August, underwent tender upkeep alongside Whitney, and conducted training off the southern California coast before getting underway on 26 September for Hawaii.
Reaching Pearl Harbor on 2 October 1938, Aylwin underwent repairs and alterations there through November. She arrived back at San Diego on 12 December and conducted training exercises off South Coronados Island, Mexico, before ending the year 1938 berthed in a nest in San Diego harbor.
Four days into 1939, Aylwin got underway for Panama and reached Balboa on 13 January. After transiting the Panama Canal the next day, she operated out of Gonaives, Haiti; Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; and, Port-au-Prince, Haiti, before getting underway on the 13th for her initial station during Fleet Problem XX. Those exercises, slated to take place in the Caribbean, were formulated to test the ability of an American fleet to control the Caribbean Sea lanes while maintaining sufficient naval strength in the Pacific to protect vital United States interests there and to exercise the fleet in long-range search operations, the protection of merchantmen, the establishment and defense of advanced bases, and the conduct of the inevitable fleet battle. They arrayed the Battle Force against the Scouting Force.
After fueling from Maryland (BB-46) on 17 February 1939, Aylwin operated with Lexington (CV-2) and Enterprise (CV-6) that constituted a raiding force during one phase of the problem. Ultimately, the “battle” reached its conclusion, after which the forces engaged all retired to Culebra Bay, Puerto Rico. There, President Franklin D. Roosevelt reviewed them from the deck of Houston on the last day of February.
After visiting Cienfuegos and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Aylwin operated briefly out of Gonaives before returning to Guantanamo on 31 March 1939. She got underway on 8 April for Yorktown, Va., and, en route north, acted as plane guard for Lexington. Aylwin reached Yorktown on 12 April, but the Fleet's visit to that area was soon cut short by orders to return to the Pacific. Speculation ran rampant through the Fleet that the Roosevelt administration harbored strong concerns about possible aggressive moves by the Japanese in the Far East.
Underway at 0404 on 20 April 1939, Aylwin took station with the rest of her division around the carriers. She plane-guarded for Yorktown (CV-5) en route to Panama; transited the Canal on 29 April; and cleared Balboa for San Diego on 2 May. Reaching her home port on the 12th, the destroyer operated off southern California before entering the Mare Island Navy Yard on 18 June for repairs and alterations lasting until 8 October. She got underway on the morning of 11 October, bound once more for Hawaii.
In keeping with the Roosevelt administration’s continuing concern over Japan's aggressive course in the Far East, the Navy formed a Hawaiian Detachment under Vice Admiral Adolphus Andrews and based it at Pearl Harbor. Aylwin arrived at Pearl Harbor on 18 October 1939 and, over the next few months, alternated periods in port at Pearl with varied exercises in the Hawaiian operating area. In the spring of 1940, Aylwin, as a unit of the “Maroon” Fleet, participated in Fleet Problem XXI, the last pre-war fleet problem. Indicative of the security-mindedness at that time, Aylwin alternated with other destroyers in patrolling off the port of Honolulu and off Pearl Harbor’s entrance during the course of those evolutions, investigating all vessels sighted, including small fishing craft.
Detachments from the Fleet rotated back to the west coast at intervals. Aylwin thus returned briefly to the west coast during the summer of 1940, reaching San Diego on 9 July before shifting to the Mare Island Navy Yard on the 14th. She underwent repairs and alterations there until 22 September before returning, via San Diego, to Pearl Harbor on 21 October.
From that port, Aylwin maintained her normal routine into the critical year 1941. On 7 February 1941, she put to sea and, after rendezvousing with Enterprise and sister ship Farragut (DD-348), headed back to the west coast for a brief visit. They arrived at San Diego on 13 February, but turned around again two days later and rejoined Enterprise, which was ferrying a shipment of U.S. Army fighter planes to Hawaii. The three ships reached Oahu on 21 February.
On 17 March 1941, Aylwin left Pearl Harbor for off-shore patrol and exercises. Two days later, the ship conducted a two-hour night tactical exercise on a dark, moonless night, commencing at 2000. At the conclusion of the evolution, all destroyers were directed to proceed to a rendezvous astern of the fleet’s center. At 2251, Aylwin turned on her running and fighting lights but sighted a ship materializing out of the murk on her port bow. She maintained her course and speed until backing emergency full at 2303. At that point, the other ship, Farragut, loomed on a collision course and also backed to avoid contact. Shortly after 2304, Farragut’s bow sliced into Aylwin’s port side at a 90-degree angle, causing extensive damage for about 23 frames and nearly severing Aylwin’s bow.
A fire immediately blazed up as high as Aylwin’s masthead, illuminating the two ships, and quickly spread aft through the wardroom and into the area occupied by the ships officers' cabins. Aylwin's electrical installation burned with intense heat until controlled at 0140 on the 20th. Fire parties from Dale, Stack (DD-406), Philadelphia (CL-41), and Sterett (DD-407) all contributed men to help contain the blaze; and a party from Indianapolis (CA-35) joined the one from Philadelphia in assessing the damage and making temporary repairs. Tragically, fires and wreckage prevented CSM (PA) Roy E. Benedict, Class F4C, U.S. Fleet Reserve, from being able to escape the affected area. Despite being evacuated from Aylwin to Philadelphia for medical treatment as soon as practicable, Benedict’s injuries proved fatal, and he died soon after his arrival on board the light cruiser.
After a parting cable frustrated an attempt by light cruiser Detroit (CL-8) to tow Aylwin back to Pearl Harbor, minesweeper Turkey (AM-13) came to the rescue and towed the destroyer in, stern first. Following extensive repairs in dry dock alongside Farragut, Aylwin resumed her operations in Hawaiian waters. After conducting her last peacetime training late in November, she moored to buoy X-14 at 1347 on the 28th, and remained there into the first week of December. On the night of the 6th, her watch logged ship movements into, or out of, Pearl Harbor, noting the arrival of the oiler Neosho (AO-23) and the departure of the destroyer Litchfield (DD-336).
As Aylwin lay moored in a nest with her squadron mates on the morning of 7 December 1941, one small boiler was in operation to provide enough power for auxiliary services on board. Approximately half of her men were enjoying leave and liberty that weekend. At 0755 that Sunday morning, shortly before morning colors, the sound of airplane engines surprised Aylwin’s men and countless others. At that time, Japanese planes began dive-bombing Naval Air Station Ford Island, and torpedoed the target ship Utah (AG-16).
Three minutes later, Aylwin – with just 50 per cent of her crew on board -- opened fire with her main battery and .50-caliber machine guns. At 0800, the “black gang” lit fires under two boilers, cutting them in on her main steam line within 15 minutes. At 0829, Commander Destroyers, Battle Force, directed his ships to get underway. Monaghan, soon after beginning to move toward the harbor entrance at 0845, encountered a midget submarine and rammed and sank the small submersible. At about 0850, a Japanese plane dropped a bomb that exploded some 75 yards off Aylwin’s starboard bow.
Eight minutes later, Aylwin, leaving her stern wire and anchor chain behind, headed for the channel and the open sea under the command of Ens. Stanley Caplan, D-V(G), USNR, a University of Michigan graduate (Class of 1939) who had reported on board 4 April 1941. Ens. Hugo C. Anderson, D-V(G), USNR, who had joined the ship on 3 May 1941, assisted Caplan with some “very important decisions” and proved an adept shiphandler. Aylwin proceeded out of Pearl Harbor, stripping ship for war and simultaneously maintaining a “continuous fire.” Her machine gunners claimed three planes.
As Aylwin stood out, those who chanced to look astern beheld the sight of Lt. Cmdr. Robert H. Rodgers, her captain, and other officers, in a motor launch about 1,000 yards off the entrance buoys. Nevertheless, in view of ComDesRon 1’s instructions, Aylwin could not slow down, but continued out to sea for patrol duty, leaving most of her officers orphans on board the destroyer Chew (DD-106). A little less than a half hour later, Aylwin investigated a reported submarine sighting, but found nothing. During the patrol, the destroyer vibrated abnormally because of a screw damaged soon after she got underway when a bomb explosion near her starboard quarter threw her stern into a buoy.
Late on the afternoon of 8 December 1941, meanwhile, Aylwin followed the Enterprise task force into Pearl Harbor. She stopped in the channel at 1720 and embarked Cmdr. Ralph S. Riggs, the division commander, and got underway again. At 1801, the ship again slowed to a stop, and Cmdr. Rodgers came on board to resume command. The next day [9 December], Aylwin got underway and conducted antisubmarine patrols in sector 2, off the entrance to Pearl Harbor. She made a sound contact on 10 December. After going to general quarters, she dropped a five-charge pattern. Farragut joined her in the hunt, but neither ship found the quarry. Entering Pearl Harbor again on the 11th, Aylwin underwent repairs to her damaged propeller.
On 12 December 1941, Cmdr. Rodgers praised his men for their actions during the attack of the previous Sunday. “The conduct of the personnel was magnificent .... Every man more than did his job and was eager to fight.” Of Ens. Caplan, Rodgers wrote, “The conduct [of this officer] . . . in superbly taking command for 36 hours during war operations of the severest type is a most amazing and outstanding achievement.” Rodgers also praised Ens. Anderson as “responsible for much of this vessel’s successful operation.” Both Caplan and Anderson stayed on the bridge the entire time. He also lauded Ens. William K. Reordan, D-V(G), USNR, and CFCM Edward Sutorowski for their work in directing the ship’s gunfire, and Ens. Burdick H. Brittin, D-V(G), USNR, who had only been on board 16 days, for his “excellent” performance as junior officer of the deck. CMM (PA) Claude H. Cochran and his engineers doggedly stood their watches unrelieved until 0700 on Monday morning, when members of the damage control parties relieved them.
Meanwhile, plans matured for an operation a part of which was hoped to be the first American offensive action of the war, the relief of Wake Island. One task force would head for Wake with relief aircraft in Saratoga (CV-3) while a second force, formed around Lexington, would raid the Mandated Islands as a diversion. Aylwin sortied as part of the latter at 1103 on 14 December 1941 and, along with the heavy cruisers Chicago and Portland and the destroyer Phelps (DD-361), took station ahead of Lexington. The next day, destroyers Dewey (DD-349) and Worden, the cruiser Indianapolis, and the oiler Neosho joined the force. On the 20th, Aylwin’s war diarist recorded: "Up to this point, the force had been headed for a bombing and bombardment of Wotje Island, in the Marshalls. Now we were to try to save Wake."
Time was running out, however, for the valiant garrison on that little atoll. Carriers Hiryu and Soryu, detached from the homeward-bound Japanese task force whose planes had struck Oahu, had joined the forces attempting to reduce the defenders. The change in the situation prompted a careful reconsideration and resulting cancellation of the relief attempt. The terse entry in Aylwin’s war diary for 23 December reveals little of the bitter disappointment felt by all hands in the relief effort: “At 0758 [the] force was informed by despatch that a large portion of the Jap fleet was concentrated just beyond Wake Island and that we were to proceed back to Pearl Harbor . . .” Wake fell that day.
After investigating several suspected submarine contacts en route, Aylwin covered the arrival of TF 11 at Pearl Harbor three days after Christmas. On the last day of 1941, Aylwin sortied from Pearl Harbor, screening a convoy taking evacuees from the Hawaiian Islands to the west coast. She then underwent repairs and alterations in the Mare Island Navy Yard until 10 January 1942, receiving new 20-millimeter machine guns to replace the .50 caliber Brownings. Two days later, she sailed with Perkins (DD-377) to escort the Navy troopships President Coolidge and President Monroe and the War Shipping Administration-operated troopship Mariposa to San Francisco. Underway again on the 17th, Aylwin and Perkins escorted a convoy consisting of Neosho, Castor (AKS-1), Pyro (AE-1), and Crescent City (AP-40) back to Oahu where they arrived on the 25th.
On the last day of January 1942, the destroyer sortied with TF 11 (Vice Adm. Wilson Brown) formed around Lexington, and performed plane-guard duties for that carrier as she moved southwestward toward New Guinea. After accidentally firing a live torpedo in Hull’s direction during maneuvers on 13 February, Aylwin warned her sister ship by blinker, enabling the latter to sheer away out of danger. Aylwin followed the errant ordnance at 28 knots until it sank at the end of a normal run.
Three days later, the ANZAC cruiser force, Chicago, HMNZS Leander, HMNZS Achilles, and HMAS Australia, screened by Lamson (DD-367) and Perkins, arrived. As the destroyers formed a circular screen, the heavy ships hove to and transferred officers for a conference. Shortly thereafter, TF 11 reformed and assumed a northwesterly course toward Bougainville Island and the Bismarck Archipelago.
Unfortunately, before Vice Adm. Brown could launch his raid against the Japanese base at Rabaul, New Britain, flying boats from the Yokohama Kokutai spotted the task force. Accordingly, 17 land-based Mitsubishi G4M1 Type 1 land attack planes from the Fourth Kokutai set out from Rabaul. Lexington’s air search radar picked up the incoming raid at 1030, and the task force increased speed to 21 knots. As the enemy formation approached, lookouts could see that the carrier’s fighters, and the scout/dive bombers utilized in the anti-torpedo plane role, were already shrinking the enemy’s numbers. During the defense of their carrier, Fighting Squadron (VF) 3’s pilots performed most creditably. One Wildcat pilot, Lt. Edward H. “Butch” O'Hare, downed at least four enemy planes in about as many minutes, a performance that earned him the Medal of Honor.
While Lexington’s planes were thinning out the attackers, the ships’ gunners below were putting up a tremendous barrage of antiaircraft fire. Aylwin’s spotters noted one enemy bomber falling in flames after bursts from their ship had exploded in its vicinity. Then, when a second wave attempted to breach the screen of the task force, Aylwin’s 20-millimeter guns splashed an enemy bomber attempting to crash into the stern of the nearby Bagley (DD-386). “By 1712,” recorded Aylwin’s chronicler, “no enemy planes were in view and ship ceased firing, having expended 305 rounds.” The force’s gunnery had been excellent, for the following day Aylwin’s historian wrote: “OTC [officer in tactical command] reported to the Task Force that of an estimated 18 planes that attacked the formation yesterday only one probably returned safely to his base at Rabaul...” No ship in the formation was damaged.
However, since it had been discovered, the American force retired from the area. Aylwin soon left TF 11 to escort the fleet oiler Platte (AO-24) to Pago Pago, Samoa, and then shepherded that auxiliary back to Pearl Harbor, reaching port on 8 March 1942. Two days later, Aylwin began screening the 18 ships of Convoy 4072 from Honolulu to San Francisco Bay where they arrived on 22 March. Following repairs at the Mare Island Navy Yard, she sortied on the 31st as part of the screen for Hawaii-bound convoy 2054. Reaching Pearl Harbor on 12 April, Aylwin returned to sea on the 15th with TF 11. En route to the South Pacific on the 18th, Lexington flew off 14 Marine Brewster F2A-3 Buffaloes to Palmyra Island.
Meanwhile, intelligence reported a substantial enemy movement toward New Guinea and Australia, aimed at strategic Port Moresby. Accordingly, on 26 April 1942, Lexington and her screen received orders to rendezvous with TF 17 on 1 May. When they met that morning, the two forces came under the latter’s commander, Rear Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher, in Yorktown. Aylwin was assigned as Lexington’s plane guard.
The next few days passed quietly until, about two hours after securing from usual dawn general quarters alert on 7 May 1942, Aylwin received word that an enemy force of two carriers and four cruisers was some 200 miles distant. At 0955, Aylwin observed Lexington launch fighters and torpedo planes for the attack. Shortly thereafter, Yorktown’s aircraft also took to the air. The American planes sank the Japanese small carrier Shoho, but did not touch the other enemy carriers, Pearl Harbor veterans Zuikaku and Shokaku. Three of their aircraft in turn hunted for the American task force, and mistakenly entered Yorktown’s landing circle at 1910. Antiaircraft fire knocked down one and forced the other two away. Other Japanese planes, though, acting on an erroneous sighting of a carrier and cruiser, had attacked the oiler Neosho and destroyer Sims (DD-409). At 0114 on the 8th, Monaghan received orders to leave the disposition and search for survivors of the two ill-fated ships.
Later that morning [8 May 1942], Lexington’s radar picked up an aircraft contact 18 miles distant, while American scouts almost simultaneously picked up the scent of the enemy’s two carriers, four cruisers, and three destroyers. Soon thereafter, the enemy character of that force established definitely, Yorktown and Lexington launched their strikes at 0900 and 0905, respectively.
Meanwhile, Aylwin had been at general quarters since 0844 and, when enemy planes were reported closing two hours later, took station between the heavy cruisers Chester and New Orleans (CA-32), 3,000 yards from Yorktown. She maintained that position during the ensuing battle, conforming her movements to those of Yorktown. She fired 150 rounds of 5-inch ammunition and 950 rounds of 20-millimeter fighting the enemy planes. Yorktown had been damaged, however, as had Lexington, the latter fatally. After an SBD-3 of Scouting Squadron (VS) 5 (Yorktown) ditched near Aylwin, the destroyer altered course to pick up Ens. John H. “Yogi” Jorgenson, A-V(N), USNR, the wounded pilot, and Seaman 1st Class Anthony W. Brunetti, his radio-gunner. Steaming through an oily wake caused by fuel from a ruptured tank in Lexington, Aylwin observed smoke issuing from the wounded carrier’s starboard quarter as she rejoined the formation at 1405. At about the same time, returning U.S. aircraft drew fire from jittery gunners in some of the ships of the screen before their “friendly” character was established. Lexington, rocked by internal explosions and ravaged by uncontrollable fires, soon thereafter, ultimately had to be scuttled by torpedoes from the destroyer Phelps.
Soon thereafter, the task force retired from the scene of battle toward the Tonga Islands. While alongside New Orleans to refuel two days later, Aylwin rigged breeches buoys forward and aft, and took on board 37 officers and 92 enlisted men from Lexington and one Yorktown pilot, Lt. (j.g.) Elbert S. McCuskey, A-V(N), USNR, of VF-42, who had had to land his fuel-starved Wildcat on board Lexington. That task completed, the destroyer cast off and resumed her screening duties.
On the morning of 15 May 1942, Aylwin drew alongside Yorktown and transferred charts of the Tonga Islands to her. Less than an hour later, while the carrier’s planes flew protective cover, TF 17 entered Nukualofa Harbor, where Aylwin transferred her passengers to Portland while fueling from the heavy cruiser. She then served as channel entrance guard until relieved by Anderson (DD-411) the following day. In turn relieving Hammann (DD-412) on the morning of the 17th, Aylwin patrolled off Nukualofa during TF 17’s sortie, then joined Astoria (CA-34) in escorting transport Barnett (AP-11), carrying Lexington survivors gathered from all ships of the task force, on the first leg of her voyage back to the west coast of the U.S. Later that day, after Barnett suffered an engine casualty, Aylwin remained with the transport until she completed the repairs. Six days later, TF 17 reached Pearl Harbor.
The following day, 28 May 1942, Aylwin got underway to sortie in the screen of Enterprise and Hornet (CV-8) as those carriers proceeded to waters north of Midway to lie in ambush for a Japanese force heading for that important atoll. While the task force steamed northwestward in the days that followed, the ships in its screen fired their guns against 5-inch bursts which in turn had been fired to simulate all varieties of air attack, dive-bombing and torpedo-bombing included. As the ships neared the optimistically named “Point Luck,” the pace of training slowed to one of watchful waiting. The contest began in earnest on 4 June, as Midway’s radar picked up the approaching enemy.
Enterprise and Hornet launched strikes as did Yorktown, made seaworthy at Pearl after being severely damaged during the battle of the Coral Sea. The torpedo planes from the American carriers suffered grievous losses from Japanese flak and fighters, but dive bombers from Yorktown and Enterprise fared better, dropping lethal loads of bombs on Akagi, Kaga, and Soryu that turned all three into burning and exploding cauldrons.
Planes from the only undamaged Japanese carrier – Hiryu -- managed to locate TF 17 and launched a determined dive-bombing attack that stopped Yorktown dead in the water. That carrier’s crew managed to get her underway again, but a second Japanese attack – again launched by Hiryu -- hit her again, that time with torpedoes, causing her abandonment. Later that day, American carrier-based planes from Enterprise (including those orphaned from her crippled sister ship) crippled Hiryu. The Japanese submarine I-168 (Lt. Cmdr. Tanabe Yahachi) subsequently caught Yorktown on 6 June, however, and fired a spread of torpedoes that sank destroyer Hammann, alongside supporting salvage operations, and inflicted additional damage to the carrier that led to her sinking early the following morning.
On 11 June 1942, Aylwin was detached from the Hawaii-bound TF 16 to escort oiler Kaskaskia (AO-27) northward toward the Aleutians to fuel the warships of TF 8. Over the next five days, the two ships proceeded through foggy and rainy weather until meeting Humphries (DD-236) and Gilmer (DD-233) on 16 June. Aylwin screened while the older “flush-deckers” fueled from Kaskaskia.
The following day, Aylwin joined TF 8 -- that included heavy cruiser Louisville (CA-28), three light cruisers, and six destroyers -- for operations in northern waters. Except for two escort runs to Women’s Bay, Kodiak Island, Alaska, she worked with that task force until getting underway on 10 July 1942 to escort Kaskaskia back to the Hawaiian Islands. On the 13th, the oiler transferred her, remaining fuel to Guadalupe (AO-32) and the two ships reached Oahu four days later. The destroyer spent the remainder of July in the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard undergoing repairs.
Meanwhile, enemy message traffic indicated that Japan was building an airfield on Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands. Such an installation would pose an unacceptable threat to Allied shipping from the United States to Australia and New Zealand. Accordingly, the target of an Allied thrust into the South Pacific was shifted from the Santa Cruz Islands to Guadalcanal.
As the forces gathered in the South Pacific to launch the first Allied offensive of the war and headed toward their objective, Aylwin completed her post-repair trials and then departed Pearl Harbor on 2 August 1942 to screen the auxiliary aircraft carrier Long Island (AVG-1) which had embarked the Marine air units earmarked to operate from the airfield on Guadalcanal after its capture. The planes, Douglas SBD-3's of VMSB-232 under Maj. Richard C. Mangrum USMC and Grumman F4F-s of VMF-223 under Maj. John L. Smith, USMC, came under the forward echelon of Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 23, under the group executive officer, Lt. Col. Charles L. Fike, USMC.
On 7 August 1942, as Aylwin and her charge headed across the Pacific, the leathernecks of the First Marine Division splashed ashore on Guadalcanal, Tulagi, and Gavutu. On that day, the officers and men in Aylwin and Long Island conducted the festivities traditional to crossing the equator. Meanwhile, the marines secured a beachhead on Guadalcanal by late on the 7th. Tulagi and Gavutu, defended to the death, held out until early on the 8th. That night, however, a Japanese cruiser force (Vice Adm. Mikawa Gunichi) sank three U.S. heavy cruisers and one Australian, and damaged a fourth U.S. cruiser in the disastrous Battle of Savo Island (8-9 August). That news, combined with the withdrawal of the three carriers supporting Operation Watchtower, prompted orders on the 10th for Aylwin and her charge to put into Suva, Fiji, to fuel and there await further instructions.
Aylwin and Long Island reached Suva on 13 August 1942, covered on the last leg of their voyage by a PBY. The “further orders” came soon enough, directing the destroyer and the carrier to the New Hebrides. They arrived at Fila Harbor, Efate, during the forenoon watch on 17 August. Reaching Mele Bay, Efate, on the 17th, the ships soon received their new sailing directions. On the following afternoon, Aylwin, joined by Dale (DD-353) and Helena (CL-50), got underway to screen Long Island during the auxiliary aircraft carrier’s passage to Guadalcanal. Then, on the afternoon of the 20th, Long Island reached her flying off point, and catapulted off 19 F4F-4s and 12 SBD-3s 200 miles southeast of Guadalcanal. The timely arrival of Long Island’s charges at “Henderson Field” provided the marines with the air support they so desperately needed in those early days of Operation Watchtower and not a day too soon.
Two days later, the little squadron arrived back at Efate, where Cimarron (AO-22) replenished Aylwin’s fuel bunkers. Over the ensuing days, the destroyer conducted offshore patrols at Efate before receiving orders on 30 August 1942 to escort Long Island to Espiritu Santo to embark survivors of the sunken destroyer Tucker (DD-374), that had struck a mine while entering Segond Channel on 1 August.
After refueling at Pago Pago, Samoa, on 6 September 1942, Aylwin met Conyngham (DD-371), Raleigh (CL-7), and Wharton (AP-7) off Canton Island on 11 September and screened the transport as she disembarked troops. Forming TG 15.4, Aylwin and Conyngham shepherded Wharton, via Suva, toward Noumea before Aylwin was directed on the 18th to proceed to Tongatabu to join North Carolina (BB-55) for duty, to escort that torpedo-damaged battleship back to Pearl Harbor for repairs. Late on the afternoon of the 30th, she and Dale safely reached Hawaiian waters with their charge, and Aylwin moored alongside Dixie (AD-14) for upkeep. Aylwin then spent most of October training in Hawaiian waters before she escorted a convoy to Espiritu Santo which she reached on 7 November.
Because of Japanese submarine activity in the Santa Cruz Islands, Aylwin arrived at Vanikoro Island on the 10th to screen Ballard (AVD-10). After protecting that seaplane tender, four days later, she escorted Ballard to Vanua Levu to pick up sick Army coastwatcher before returning to Espiritu Santo for fuel from the oiler Tappahannock (A0-43).
During a brief patrol out of Espiritu Santo, Aylwin developed trouble in her steering engine. Once repaired, the ship conducted channel entrance patrols there, before joining Russell (DD-414) in plane-guarding Nassau (CVE-16) between 19 and 22 November.
After reaching Noumea, Aylwin escorted the damaged battleship South Dakota (BB-59) from Tongatabu before refueling at Bora Bora, in the Society Islands, on 1 December 1942. The destroyer then steamed to California, passed through the Golden Gate on 10 December, for repairs at the Mare Island Navy Yard that extended into the New Year. She departed San Francisco on 8 January 1943, bound for Alaskan waters in company with Bancroft (DD-598) and Dale, and arrived at Dutch Harbor five days later. Over the next three months, Aylwin conducted escort missions in the Aleutians. Shifting southward, she then worked with Nassau during flight training before shifting north to Dutch Harbor to take part in the invasion of Attu. The landings commenced on 11 May 1943 and were covered by the naval forces under Rear Admirals Thomas C. Kinkaid and Francis W. Rockwell.
Some two months later, Aylwin shelled antiaircraft gun positions on Kiska on the night of 8 and 9 July 1943. Approaching her target under an overcast sky, she maneuvered into range guided solely by her SG radar. Utilizing director-controlled indirect fire, the destroyer made two passes at that island, firing 46 rounds of 5-inch on the first run and 38 rounds on the second. She subsequently bombarded the enemy's main camp on Kiska on the evening of 2 August, unaware that shortly before, on 28 July, the Japanese had skillfully evacuated their entire force. The ensuing Allied landings on 15 August found only three dogs left behind.
Departing Adak on 31 August 1943, Aylwin steamed to San Francisco and remained in the Bay area through mid-October. Leaving the west coast on the 19th, the destroyer served as part of the screen for the escort carriers Sangamon (CVE-26), Chenango (CVE-28), and Suwannee (CVE-27) as they sailed toward the New Hebrides and arrived at Espiritu Santo on 5 November.
From mid-November through the first week of December 1943, Aylwin screened carriers Sangamon and Suwannee during the operations to capture the Gilbert Islands. Detached on 8 December, she joined Bailey (DD-492) in escorting Maryland (BB-46) to Pearl Harbor where they arrived on the 14th. She then helped to screen that battleship along with Tennessee (BB-43) and Colorado (BB-45) to San Francisco which they reached four days before Christmas.
Following repairs at Alameda, Calif., by Union Engineering, Ltd., Aylwin picked up a convoy of tank landing ships (LST) and motor minesweepers (YMS) at San Diego to escort to Hawaii. After pausing at Kauai between 16 and 20 January 1944, she moved on to the Marshalls, reaching Kwajalein on the last day of the month. But for a run to Majuro and back between 8 and 11 February, she served there until shifting to Eniwetok on the 21st to join Hall (DD-583), MacDonough (DD-351) and Monaghan in delivering fire support that night to soften up defensive works on Parry Island for Marines who were about to land there. When released from fire support duty at 0630 on the 22d, she had expended 480 rounds of 5-inch AA common and 20 rounds of white phosphorus.
The destroyer then reported to Commander, Southern Screen, for duty. Steaming back to Kwajalein on 26 February 1944, Aylwin patrolled off Eniwetok and Majuro through mid-March as mop-up operations continued at those places. Assigned next to TG 58.2, including carriers Bunker Hill (CV-17) and Hornet (CV-12), and the small carriers Monterey (CVL-26) and Cabot (CVL-23), Aylwin screened those flattops as they carried out strikes intended to reduce Japanese airpower in the Central Pacific. On 30 March, the Fast Carrier Task Force commenced intensive bombing of Japanese airfields, shipping, fleet servicing facilities, and other installations in the Carolines, continuing the raids until 1 April. Aylwin helped to drive off snooping enemy planes during the approach of the carriers on the 29th and 30th and, at 1343 on the latter day, sighted a damaged Curtiss SB2C Helldiver from Bunker Hill’s embarked air group ditch a short way off. The destroyer altered course and soon thereafter picked up the pilot and his radioman.
Returning to Majuro to replenish, Aylwin sortied once more on 13 April 1944 in the screen of Rear Admiral Alfred E. Montgomery’s TG 58.2, bound for waters off New Guinea to support Army landings at Aitape, Tanahmerah Bay, and Humboldt Bay, from D-l Day (21 April) through the 24th. The establishment of those beachheads in New Guinea demonstrated the capability of American carrier-based air power to provide ample air support for military operations far beyond the range of the nearest friendly land-based planes. Planes from the ships that Aylwin screened pounded Hollandia’s airfield, beach and supply areas, and coastal defenses on the 21st, and maintained a heavy schedule of pre-invasion strikes that denied the enemy use of the Hollandia airfield. Aylwin returned to Majuro on 4 May for tender repairs alongside Prairie (AD-15) which ended on the 21st.
After screening Bunker Hill and Cabot during their work-ups in late May and early June, the veteran destroyer departed Majuro on 6 June 1944 bound for the Marianas in company with TF 58. On the 12th, the planes from the carriers bombed enemy air facilities and coast defenses in the Marianas and damaged two Japanese convoys. The overpowering attack smothered Japanese air opposition -- the initial fighter sweep from TF 58’s fighters destroying 124 planes at the cost of 11 Grumman F6F Hellcats. The strikes continued over ensuing days to prepare for the landings on Saipan, slated for 15 June.
On 13 June 1944, Aylwin formed part of the Northern Bombardment Unit (TU 58.7.2) that shelled Japanese positions on the northern coast of Saipan and also served in the antisubmarine screen for the battleships Alabama (BB-60) and South Dakota. When the bombardment ended at 1715, she rejoined the carriers and guarded them as they refueled the next day. During that operation, the destroyer received orders to rescue a pair of Bunker Hill aviators and, less than an hour later, picked up Ens. George W. Snediker, A-V(N), USNR, and Aviation Radioman 3rd Class R. E. Lincoln, USNR. The destroyer effected another rescue on the 16th while covering the cruiser bombardment of Guam when a plane piloted by Ens. Frank P. Kleffner, A-V(N), USNR, crashed 1,800 yards astern.
On the 17th, Aylwin received orders to help screen the transports, and thus missed the Battle of the Philippine Sea on the 19th and 20th, a far-ranging action that almost wiped out Japanese carrier-based aviation. Aylwin next proceeded to Eniwetok where she arrived on 28 June for a fortnight’s upkeep.
The Pacific Fleet next stood toward Guam, which had been under Japanese control since10 December 1941 (west of the International Date Line). Aylwin screened Wichita (CA-45) and St. Louis (CL-49) as those cruisers shelled enemy installations ashore on 18 and 19 July 1944 before taking part in a bombardment of the northern shores of Guam, concentrating her fire on Japanese defensive positions near Asan Beach. At the outset of the mission, Dewey and two LCIs [infantry landing craft] provided harassing fire into that area. Later, Minneapolis (CA-36) and Dewey stood in close to the beach, lying close to Adelup Point and covered the night beach pre-landing preparations by underwater demolition teams (UDT's), screened by Aylwin and Dale, and the high speed transport (ex-destroyer) Dickerson (APD-21).
Aylwin relieved Dewey on station at 0130 on 21 July 1944, closed in to 1500 yards off Asan Beach, and carried out harassing fire, maintaining a systematic 5-inch and automatic weapons fire while illuminating the area with star shell. Dale in turn relieved Aylwin on station at 0330 and continued the harassment of the enemy ashore. Minneapolis and the LCI's remained in the vicinity the entire night. Relieved at 0530, Aylwin retired to the transport screen northwest of Orote Point and Agana Bay. On 25 and 26 July, the destroyer screened a cruiser bombardment of Rota Island and departed the area on the 30th, bound for Eniwetok on the first leg of a voyage home. Aylwin stopped at Pearl Harbor (9-11 August) and reached Bremerton, Wash., on the 17th for an overhaul.
Completing overhaul and post-repair trials, the ship headed down the coast in company with Colorado and Farragut, reached San Pedro on 10 October 1944, and set out for Hawaii the next day. Making port at Pearl Harbor on 18 October, Aylwin then trained in Hawaiian waters until 11 November, when she sailed for the western Pacific in company with Baltimore (CA-68), San Juan (CL-54), and three destroyers. She reached Ulithi, in the Western Carolines, on 21 November and operated between that port and the Philippines into the first week of December 1944, screening replenishment groups supporting operations in the Philippines.