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Beatty I (DD-640)


Frank Edmund Beatty, born in Jefferson County, Wis., on 26 November 1853, graduated with the Naval Academy Class of 1875, and then served at sea in the wooden screw-sloop Tuscarora before receiving his ensign's commission in 1876. After service at sea in a succession of ships (Minnesota, Richmond, Despatch, and Tallapoosa) between 1878 and 1889, he completed two tours of duty on shore, first in the Library and War Records Office (among the predecessor offices of the present Naval History and Heritage Command) and then participating in the deliberation of the International Marine Conference.

In the spring of 1892, Beatty returned to duty afloat, serving briefly in Ranger before being ordered to the monitor Miantonomah. After torpedo instruction, the young officer, by then a lieutenant, served in the dynamite cruiser Vesuvius; and spent the next few years alternating between duty ashore at the Naval Academy and afloat, in Monongahela. Reporting to the gunboat Adams in the summer of 1897, he became that ship's executive officer in October and served in that capacity until transferred to the monitor Monterey in March 1898. The following spring, Beatty became the executive officer of gunboat Wheeling

Shore duty at the Washington Navy Yard preceded a tour in charge of the Department of Yards and Docks in the Navy Department from 13 February 1901 to 21 January 1902. Two commands followed in succession: first, the nautical school ship Saratoga and then Gloucester, before he became Commander, Naval Base, Culebra, Puerto Rico, in February 1904, with additional duty commanding Gloucester.

After a brief tour first as assistant inspector and later as the inspector of the 9th Light House District, headquartered at Chicago, Ill., Beatty spent the next decade alternating between ordnance duty ashore and service afloat, commanding in turn the cruisers Columbia and Charleston and the battleship Wisconsin. His shore duty included a tour as Assistant Superintendent of the Naval Gun Factory, Washington Navy Yard; one in the Bureau of Ordnance as a member of the board on sights; and, ultimately, a stint as Commandant of the Washington Navy Yard and Superintendent of the Naval Gun Factory. While holding the latter post from 1905 to 1907, Beatty was instrumental in the development of an electric range finder.

Upon attaining flag rank in the spring of 1912, Beatty became a fleet division commander. Rear Admiral Beatty commanded a succession of Atlantic Fleet divisions (4th, 1st, and 3d) in 1913 and 1914. The outbreak of war in Europe in the summer of 1914 found him in command of Division 3, with his flag in Virginia. Detached from that duty in December 1914, he took up new duties as Commandant of the Norfolk Navy Yard and of the Norfolk Naval Station on 4 January 1915. Temporary duty in command of forces engaged in a war game in the spring of 1915 interrupted his tour at Norfolk; but, he soon returned to his duties there and carried them out until June 1916. 

Reporting to the Chief of Naval Operations for "temporary duty in connection with naval districts" in October 1916, Beatty served briefly as the Commandant, 5th Naval District, before being switched to the 6th Naval District, at Charleston, S.C., in February 1917. He served in that post for the rest of World War I and into 1919. Detached from all active duty in September 1919, he retired on 6 October 1919. Rear Admiral Beatty died at Charleston on 16 March 1926.


The projected Fletcher-class destroyer DD-528, previously named Beatty, was renamed Mullany (q.v.) on 28 May 1941 after the name Beatty was reassigned to DD-640 to accommodate Rear Admiral Beatty's daughter, Mrs. Charles H. Drayton, who had asked that the ship honoring her father be built at Charleston instead of at San Francisco.



(DD-640: displacement 2,060; length 348'1"; beam 36'; draft 11'10" (mean); speed 37 knots; complement 261; armament 4 5-inch, 4 40 millimeter, 5 20 millimeter, 5 21-inch torpedo tubes, 2 depth charge tracks, 6 depth charge projectors; class Gleaves)

The first Beatty (DD 640) was laid down on 1 May 1941 at the Charleston (S.C.) Navy Yard; launched on 20 December 1941; sponsored by Mrs. Charles H. Drayton, the daughter of the late Rear Admiral Beatty; and commissioned on 7 May 1942, Cmdr. Frederick C. Stelter, Jr., in command.

Following shakedown, Beatty escorted the Norwegian tanker Britainsea and the American SS Barstowe from Isle of Shoals to Portland, Maine, on 8 August before she was detached for patrol duty and antisubmarine warfare training. She next steamed to Boston to embark Admiral Royal E. Ingersoll, Commander in Chief, Atlantic Fleet, on 12 August. In company with Quick (DD 490), the destroyer transported her high-ranking passenger to Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Argentia, Newfoundland, before disembarking him at Portland on 22 August. The destroyer then escorted the armed yacht Vixen (PG 53), in which Admiral Ingersoll had embarked, from Portland to New London, Conn., where she arrived on the 23rd.

Beatty took part in exercises out of New London with friendly submarines until the 25th and then sailed south to Charleston, S.C., for voyage repairs. After that, she steamed to the West Indies and the Gulf of Mexico, reaching Cristobal in the Canal Zone on 10 September. There, she joined Convoy NC 5, four Army transports, which got underway for the British West Indies on the 11th. The warship shepherded her charges to Trinidad, and made port on the 15th.

Clearing Trinidad shortly before noon on 16 September, Beatty joined Davis (DD-395) and Eberle (DD-430) in an antisubmarine sweep near Tobago Island. At 1858, Eberle reported a submarine contact, close aboard, and carried out an attack, but without achieving any definitive results. Beatty then rendezvoused with a convoy on the 17th and conducted it to a dispersal point off Georgetown, British Guiana, before heading back to Trinidad. After shifting to San Juan, where she made port on the 23d, Beatty sailed with Convoy NC 5, via Kingston, Jamaica, and Belize, Honduras, to New Orleans. Sailing for the east coast on 6 October, she reached Charleston on the 8th to prepare for her next operation.

Underway again on 16 October, Beatty sailed for Hampton Roads and there joined Task Group (TG) 34.10, the Southern Attack Group assembling there for Operation "Torch," the invasion of North Africa. This group was slated to assault Safi, French Morocco. Arriving off the North African shore on 7 November, TG 34.10 began preparations for landing early the following morning. Beatty joined the transport area's antisubmarine screen at midnight and patrolled south of Bernadou (DD-153) and Cole (DD-155), a pair of old flush deckers reconfigured as fast transports, as they circled slowly waiting for the order to land their troops at Safi.

Enjoying the element of surprise, Beatty proceeded in toward the beach, staying on Bernadou's starboard quarter as she and Cole began their movement shoreward. At 0415, Beatty took her station along with other ships of the fire support group, and, at 0430, heard the prearranged code words "Play Ball." Uncertain as to the position of the assault groups, Beatty checked fire momentarily until intercepting a radio transmission that told of the assault wave's arrival at the line of departure. Thus assured that no friendly troops had yet landed in the sector she was to fire into, Beatty opened fire at 0431, continuing for 10 minutes before checking fire to await instructions for fire support.

Beatty lost communication with the Army troops on shore, however, and by 0520 maneuvered seaward toward the transport area to take station as an antiaircraft and antisubmarine screen before sunrise. At 0640, she observed enemy fire from batteries at Point de la Tour, and saw some splashes close aboard and in the vicinity of the boat lane to the "Red" and "Blue" beaches. A minute later, Beatty took these guns under fire and silenced them in 20 minutes. For the remainder of her participation in "Torch," Beatty served in the screen. She returned to the United States late in November and entered the New York Navy Yard for voyage repairs and alterations.

For the next four months, Beatty covered convoys plying the Atlantic between New York and French Morocco. During this period she made three round-trip cycles interspersed by voyage repairs at the New York Navy Yard and training. Ending the third cycle upon her arrival at New York on 28 April, Beatty underwent the usual voyage repairs and conducted type training before getting underway for Hampton Roads on 13 May. Reaching Norfolk the following day, she escorted Vixen, with Admiral Ingersoll embarked, to New York, arriving on the 15th. Further type training in the Chesapeake Bay area, with shore-bombardment and anti-submarine measures emphasized, followed before she stood out of Hampton Roads on 8 June as part of the escort for fast Convoy UGF 9, bound for Algeria. She arrived at Mers el Kebir on 25 June 1943.

Patrolling, escorting, and training followed Beatty's arrival in the Mediterranean basin. On 5 JuIy, the destroyer sailed for Sicily, assigned to the "Cent" attack force. Arriving off the transport area on 9 July, she observed antiaircraft shells bursting in the skies over Sicily at 2240. The fire grew in intensity over Gela, Biscari, and Vittoria, as well as Santa Croce Camerina. She observed several planes crashing around 2325, and a large fire burning to the southward of Biscari. Beatty screened the southeastern flank of the transport area until they anchored offshore in their assigned zone, and then took her station in her fire support area.

Led by subchaser PC-557 and minesweeper Speed (AM-116), the first landing craft from the attack transport Neville (APA-9) began nosing shoreward around 0342. Cowie (DD-632) lay on Speed's port beam, with Beatty 500 yards off Cowie's port beam. At about 0407, six minutes after dawn began to lighten the eastern skies, Speed requested the destroyers to open fire. Beatty promptly complied, beginning with rapid fire and then slowing to eight rounds per gun per minute. Having observed no return fire, she ceased fire at 0416.

After the neutralization of the landing zone, Beatty returned to the transport area to take up screening duties and to await contact with her shore fire control party (SFCP). At 0830, SFCP-7A, attached to the 2d Battalion of the Army's 180th Regimental Combat Team, informed Beatty that the landing had been successful.

During the forenoon, Beatty observed enemy planes appearing low and fast out of the Valle Forte, over Lagi di Biviere, and from the valley just west of the Fiume Acati, strafing ground troops, bombing the beaches and seemingly disappearing almost as soon as they were seen. Hedge-hopping, keeping low, and taking advantage of the low cloud cover until they were almost at their objectives, these enemy planes "maintained their nuisance value the entire period of daylight," enjoying what almost amounted to immunity due to the fact that "ships could not fire on them also without danger to (our) own forces." The enemy aircraft proved devastating to Allied spotting planes. Beatty observed four Italian Regianne RE 2001's gang up on and shoot down a Curtiss SOC at 1021. At 1315, a Focke Wulf FW l90 downed another SOC to the southeast of Scoglitti.

In such close quarters, there were bound to be mix ups. Beatty claimed some solid hits on one of the RE 2001's that had downed the first SOC, observing it disappear over a nearby section of high ground. At 1046, a plane, first identified by lookouts as an FW 190, roared out of the "favorite valley" toward the ships. Beatty opened fire, pumping out 26 rounds of 40 millimeter and 60 rounds of 20 millimeter before the plane, fortunately undamaged, was seen to be a North American P 51.

For the remainder of the 10th, Beatty remained off the invasion beaches. Shell fragments hit Beatty's main deck and port side when tank landing craft (LCTs) nearby fired on "friendly" planes at 1847. The threat of further air attacks prompted the destroyer to help to lay a dense smoke screen over the LCTs.

The harassment continued after sunset. A heavy bomb landed about 500 yards astern of the ship, shaking her "considerably," while she observed a nearby dogfight. One of the antagonists shot the other down. The latter crashed in flames, starting a brush fire where it fell. Meanwhile, considerable gunfire from the beach and from the ships off shore criss-crossed the night skies.

Enemy bombing raids ushered in the next day, the 11th; and Beatty took a Messerschmitt Bf .110 under fire at 0651 as it retired from the scene at high speed after bombing Allied positions on "Dime" beach. At 0735, SFCP-7A requested Beatty to "stand by for target designation." After receiving the target coordinates, Beatty set to work at 0738, blasting a railroad and highway junction until 0811. Her shore party later informed her that the targets had been "tanks and bridges." In just over three hours, Beatty hurled 799 rounds at targets designated by her spotters, inflicting what she suspected was a considerable amount of damage on the enemy positions. When she left the beaches only 192 rounds remained.

When she was relieved by Laub (DD-613) at 1100, her crew had then been at battle stations since 2024 on 9 July. Nevertheless, Beatty took station in the antisubmarine screen at 1140; and she sent her men to general quarters several times during the afternoon due to air attacks on transport and beach areas. Near 1900, Beatty moved into an area southeast of a minefield to await the formation of a convoy she had been directed to escort and took up antiaircraft and antisubmarine screening patrol south of Scoglitti, crossing the waters between Point della Camerina and Point Braccetto. At 2224, the enemy began dropping flares and bombs near Scoglitti. Many flares cast their ghostly light over the ships offshore, marking them as targets.

About 2230, eight flares lit up the waters south of Point Braccetto, followed by two heavy bombs. Beatty, suitably wary, stood towards the transport area around 2246 and detected the sound of an approaching aircraft. The plane made an unusual amount of noise as it approached the beaches at Scoglitti through the darkness so that the destroyermen could hear it but could not see it. At almost the same time, Beatty suffered hits on her starboard side by what were believed to be machine gun bullets. Beatty's men suddenly noticed the plane pass across the ship's bow at an altitude of about 40 feet, "missing the forecastle by a few feet" and turned down the port side of the ship, landing in the water abreast number two stack and about fifty feet away. Beatty's 20 millimeter guns chattered out two bursts before the plane came to a stop in the swells alongside.

At that point, Beatty's sailors could see that the "enemy" plane was, in fact, an U.S. Army Air Force Douglas C-47A troop transport. Beatty ceased fire as six flares, directly overhead, lit up the area. The destroyer then rang up flank speed as she pulled away from the sinking C-47A. Experience had taught the destroyermen that bombs usually accompanied the illumination.

Beatty's executive officer, Lt. Cmdr. William Outerson, marked the charts with the American plane's position. After the flares had burned out, Beatty returned to the spot and found a rubber boat with all four members of the Douglas’s crew. The plane, attached to the 15th Troop Carrier Squadron,had had quite an evening since leaving Malta with paratroops on board. She had been heavily hit by gunfire from both foe and friend alike. The plane had disgorged her paratroops before she crash-landed at sea; and her pilot, Pilot Officer P. J. Paccassi, USAAF, earned praise from Beatty's commanding officer for the skill with which he had landed his badly damaged aircraft. The large amount of noise Beatty's sailors had heard had been caused by one of the C 47A's engines disintegrating.

Beatty remained on antisubmarine patrol until 2100 on 12 July 1943, when she departed the Scoglitti in the screen for a group of transports returning to Algeria. The warship arrived at Oran on the 15th. Underway for the United States on 21 July, Beatty escorted a convoy to New York where she arrived on 3 August. Following voyage repairs at the New York Navy Yard, she again sailed for the Mediterranean on 21 August.

Action soon followed her return to the Mediterranean. On 2 September 1943, while part of the antisubmarine screen of Section II of Convoy UGF 10, bound for Bizerte, Tunisia, Beatty went to general quarters upon the report of enemy aircraft in the vicinity. None came near enough for Beatty to take them under fire, but one managed to torpedo Kendrick (DD-612) at around 2117. Almost immediately, Beatty closed the damaged destroyer and stood guard until relieved by Davison (DD-618) later that night.

While anchored off Bizerte four days later, Beatty received a red alert at 2030 and again went to general quarters. Intense antiaircraft fire commenced at 2050, directed toward what later evaluation considered to have been German Junkers Ju.88s. Clearing Bizerte on 7 September 1943, the destroyer joined up with a fast U.S. bound convoy, GUF 10, the next day. Outside of a submarine contact one day out, upon which Beatty dropped depth charges, the voyage homeward proved uneventful. She reached the New York Navy Yard on 21 September for voyage repairs.

Post availability trials and further antisubmarine training were completed by 7 October 1943 when Beatty embarked upon her last transatlantic crossing. She screened a convoy to Bangor, Ireland, from 7 to 17 October, and then joined the screen for Convoy KMF 25A, en route to the Mediterranean. Making rendezvous on schedule, the destroyer took her assigned station in the screen and proceeded into the Mediterranean. Convoy KMF 25A sailed deployed in three columns, with the escorts steaming in a protective circle around the troopships and merchantmen that comprised its core. Beatty, the last ship between any enemy planes that chose to attack from astern, brought up the rear and was steaming in that position at 1800 on 6 November 1943.

At general quarters, Beatty observed machine gun fire on the port side of the convoy at 1803. Many small pips appeared on her radar screen in the direction of Tillman (DD-641), the ship that in the corresponding position on the other side of the convoy. A minute after observing the gunfire, Beatty noted a large caliber bomb explode close aboard her colleague, actually a glider bomb which had missed its target. Beatty's radar picked up five incoming aircraft, two of which passed the port side of the convoy, inside the screen.

The action proved fast and furious. At 1805, Beatty's radar picked up two more incoming planes that showed American IFF (Identification, Friend or Foe) signals. Lt. Cmdr. Outerson passed the word to his main battery control to pick them up and open fire if they came within range. Control identified one as a Junkers Ju.88, but a smoke screen obscured the view over the next few moments, and radar alternatively picked up and lost contacts in the heavy haze.

While Beatty strove to fight her assailants, one German plane managed to close within about 500 yards and dropped a torpedo which struck the ship near frame 124 at about 1813, only 10 minutes after the start of action. The blast jammed mounts 51 and 54 in train, hurled a "K" gun and a depth charge stowage rack overboard, bent and jammed the starboard propeller shaft, flooded the after engine room knocking the port shaft out of commission, cut off all electrical power, caused extensive structural damage on the starboard side, flooded a magazine and put the ship in a 12-degree list to port. A quick muster showed 11 men, chiefly from the engine room spaces, missing, one officer and six men injured, and a man at the battle searchlight platform badly, ultimately fatally, burned by steam. One sailor at the starboard depth charge projector who had been blown overboard, was picked up the next morning by Boyle (DD-600).

The torpedo explosion in Beatty's vitals broke her back at about frame 124. It left the port side of the main deck awash from the break of the forecastle to about mount 54 and only 30 inches of freeboard on the starboard side. As a result, the ship slowly settled aft. While a bucket brigade valiantly attempted to de-water the flooding compartments, Beatty's sailors jettisoned practically everything that could be cast loose from ready ammunition to her searchlight and smoke generator. Through a mistake of haste, even the towing cable went by the boards as well.

Hopes of saving the ship flickered for the next four hours, as Beatty battled for her life. More and more stations were secured to release men for damage control tasks until only a bridge detail and crews on two 20 millimeter guns remained at battle stations. Around 1900, things looked bleak as her sailors placed her boats and rafts in the water. Forty minutes later, Beatty transferred her wounded to Parker (DD-604). As the list increased, her crew continued abandoning her until around 2230 when the last group, 70 men, left the ship and reached the rescue vessel, Laub. After breaking in two, Beatty sank at 2305 on 6 November 1943.

Beatty (DD-640) received three battle stars for her World War II service.

Robert J. Cressman

Updated, 19 October 2021

Published: Thu Oct 21 20:09:01 EDT 2021