Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

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Brock (DE-234)

John Wiley Brock, born on 15 August 1914 in New Brockton, Ala., enlisted in the Navy on 12 May 1936 at Birmingham, Ala. After basic training at the Naval Training Station (NTS), Norfolk, Va., he reported on board the battleship Arkansas (BB-33) on 5 February 1937. Transferred to the Naval Air Station (NAS), Norfolk, on 21 May 1937, Brock was assigned to the receiving ship at the Naval Operating Base, Norfolk, serving as part of the detail fitting out the aircraft carrier Yorktown (CV-5). During the duty at NAS, Norfolk, which followed, he was advanced to the rate of seaman 1st class on 1 September 1937. On 30 September 1937, Brock was assigned to the staff of the Commander, Carrier Division 2, Rear Admiral Charles A. Blakely. Promoted to aviation ordnanceman 3d class on 16 February 1938, Brock was transferred to Torpedo Squadron (VT) 6 soon afterward on 15 April.

On 13 April 1939, Brock was assigned to NAS, Pensacola, where he underwent flight training as a naval enlisted pilot (NAP). Promoted to aviation ordnanceman 2d class on 16 December 1939, he rejoined VT-6 on 10 May 1940, remaining in that squadron until autumn when he received orders to NTS, Norfolk. While serving there, he was advanced in rate to aviation ordnanceman 1st class on 16 November 1940. After a brief assignment to the receiving ship at San Diego, he joined Brazos (AO-4) on 30 June 1941, and ultimately reported to VT-6 for a third time, on 2 August 1941.

Commissioned ensign on 21 April 1942, Brock, attaining the permanent rate of aviation pilot 1st class on 30 April, took part in the Battle of Midway on 4 June 1942. That morning, he took off from Enterprise (CV-6) in one of VT-6's 14 Douglas TBD-1s. In the course of the flight toward the Japanese "Mobile Force," the fighters, dive bombers and torpedo planes of Enterprise's attack group became separated from one another. Thus unable to carry out a coordinated attack as doctrine dictated, VT-6 went in unsupported by fighters or dive bombers. During the melee, as "Zero" fighters vigorously attacked VT-6, Brock lifted the nose of his plane to bring his fixed machine gun to bear on an enemy fighter, only to be shot down moments later. His TBD-1 (6-T-14) crashed into the sea, and neither Brock nor his radio-gunner, Aviation Radioman 3d Class J. M. Blundell, survived. For his part in the "bold and heroic" attack carried out by VT-6 at Midway, Brock was awarded the Navy Cross posthumously.

(APD-93: dp. 1,650 (tl.); l. 306'0"; b. 37'0"; dr. 12'7"; s. 23.6 k. (tl.); cpl. 204; trp. 162; a. 1 5", 6 40 mm., 6 20 mm., 2 dct.; cl. Crosley)

Brock (DE-234) was laid down on 27 October 1943 at the Charleston (S.C.) Navy Yard; launched on 20 January 1944; sponsored by Mrs. James W. Brock, the mother of Ens. Brock; reclassified a fast transport and redesignated APD-93 on 17 July 1944; and commissioned on 9 February 1945, Lt. Comdr. Harrison H. Holton in command.

After fitting out, the new high-speed transport departed her builder's yard on 2 March 1945 bound for Cuba. Reaching Guantanamo Bay on 4 March, she conducted shakedown training until 19 March when she headed for Hampton Roads. Following post-shakedown repairs and alterations at the Norfolk Navy Yard,Brock embarked passengers at the nearby naval operating base on 8 April and got underway for the Canal Zone shortly thereafter as escort for the Pacific-bound attack cargo ships Seminole (AKA-104) and Mathews (AKA-96).

Brock transited the Panama Canal on 14 April and, the following day, sailed for California. She reached San Diego on 23 April, but remained there only 18 hours before putting to sea for Hawaii with Marine replacements embarked. She reached Pearl Harbor on 2 May and soon thereafter conducted amphibious demolition exercises with an embarked underwater demolition team (UDT).

On 12 May, Brock sailed for the Marshall Islands in company with Kane (APD-18) and the attack transports Garrard (APA-84) and Sevier (APA-233). She reached Eniwetok on the 21st and, the following day, sailed for Ulithi in the Western Carolines. Entering Ulithi lagoon on 24 May, Brock dropped anchor; her officers and men enjoyed liberty at Mog Mog.

A week later, the fast transport left that atoll in her wake, bound for the Philippines, and reached San Pedro Bay, Leyte, on 3 June. Pausing there for four days,Brock joined company with Kane once more and sailed on 7 June to escort a convoy to the Ryukyus. Upon reaching Kerama Retto on the 12th, Brock drew duty on a screening station off the southeastern coast of Okinawa. She operated in those waters until the 19th, when she switched to a station between Ie Shima and Okinawa proper.

On the evening of 23 June, orders sent Brock 20 miles to seaward to rescue a downed pilot, who turned out to be 1st Lt. Gustave T. Broberg, USMCR, a former all-American basketball player from Dartmouth. The former Ivy Leaguer had been forced down while returning from a mission over Formosa and, fortunately uninjured, had been in the water two hours.

A few days later, Brock encountered the enemy. While steaming independently on antisubmarine screening station E-23, approximately two miles northeast of Ie Shima, Brock detected a "bogey" at 0113 on the 26th, 15 miles away and closing. As she tracked the intruder, Brock's captain ordered her speed cut to five knots to reduce her wake and to permit rapid acceleration if necessary and had the helmsman steer directly into the moon to reduce her silhouette. The barrels of Brock's after 40-millimeter guns followed the "bogey," himself apparently unaware of her presence, as he flew within 1,000 yards of the ship. Suddenly, the enemy pilot detected the American warship and veered off sharply toward her starboard quarter. Brock's starboard 20-millimeter and 40-millimeter guns aft opened fire at point-blank range, "positively and unmistakably" hitting the plane, which observers identified as a Mitsubishi J4M "Jack" single-engine Navy fighter. The "Jack" paralleled Brock's course until her forward 40-millimeter guns could no longer depress to fire. When the "bogey" reached a point about 1,500 yards ahead ofBrock, he started a turn back toward the ship, perhaps intending to crash into her, but then went out of control and splashed, leaving only a burning gasoline slick to mark his resting place.

On 1 July, Brock departed Okinawa bound for the Philippines in company with three other fast transports, Osmond Ingram (APD-35), Crosley (APD-87) and Joseph E. Campbell (APD-49) and two subchasers, SC-1012 and SC-1474. Arriving in San Pedro Bay at Leyte on 6 July, Brock reported for duty with the Philippine Sea Frontier's forces and carried out local patrols for the remainder of the war.

Winding up that duty late in August, the warship set course for Hollandia, Dutch New Guinea, on the 20th and crossed the equator for the first time on the 23d. In the traditional "Neptune Ceremonies," her 33 "shellbacks" duly initiated nearly 200 "pollywogs," including the captain and 10 of the 12 officers on board. Later that day, Brock dropped anchor in Humboldt Bay. Four days later, on 27 August, the fast transport set a return course for the Philippines, and she reached Leyte on the last day of August. 

Heading for Manila the next day, Brock reached the Philippine capital on 3 September. Underway again on the 7th, the fast transport and Ebert (DE-768) sailed for Japan, escorting 22 attack transports which bore 8th Army troops headed for occupation duty in Japan. Brock reached Tokyo Bay on 13 September and remained in Japanese waters for 10 days before she sailed in the escort for a Leyte-bound convoy. During this voyage, Brock spotted and sank a mine ahead of the convoy. She anchored in San Pedro Bay on 4 October and entered drydock there on the 10th. Along with other work, Brock received a coat of peacetime gray paint over the "green dragon" camouflage that had become standard for her amphibious ship type. Departing Philippine waters on 16 October with passengers embarked, the fast transport escorted a second convoy to Tokyo Bay, where she arrived on the 27th. Following duty in the Inland Sea, Brock sailed for Honshu on 7 November and reached Hiro Wan on the 9th. The fast transport relieved Rowan (DD-782) as harbor entrance control vessel at the entrance to the Bungo Strait on the 11th and served in that capacity and on patrol in the Inland Sea until 15 December.

At that point, she broke her homeward bound pennant and sailed for the United States in company with John Q. Roberts (APD-94). After stops at Nagoya, Eniwetok, Pearl Harbor and San Diego, Brock reached San Pedro, Calif., on 10 January 1946. Following repairs and alterations there, the ship headed for the Atlantic on 15 February. She reached the Canal Zone on the 24th and reported for duty to the Commander, Amphibious Force, Atlantic Fleet, on the 26th. Brockthen proceeded north to Boston where she arrived on 5 March to began a pre-inactivation overhaul. Under-way for Green Cove Springs, Fla., on 11 April, the ship reached her destination on the 13th, and joined the Florida Group, 16th Fleet (later the Florida Group, Atlantic Reserve Fleet). For the next year, Brockserved as one of the "mother ships" for the Florida Group providing steam and power to various ships of the inactive fleet and furnishing quarters and mess facilities for men deactivating ships at Green Cove Springs. Decommissioned on 5 May 1947, Brock was placed in reserve on 4 June 1947 and remained there for nearly 13 years. On 1 June 1960, her name was struck from the Navy list, and she was sold to the government of Colombia in January 1962 for use as a floating power plant.

Brock received one battle star for her World War II service.

Robert J. Cressman
1 December 2005

Published: Thu Apr 14 09:21:48 EDT 2016