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Bulmer (DD-222)

1920-1946

Roscoe Carlyle Bulmer -- born in Virginia City, Nev. on 4 November 1874, the second son of Richard A. and Jane Anderson Bulmer -- entered the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Md., and was appointed a naval cadet on 26 September 1890. He received his commission as ensign on 1 July 1896, and served in Bennington (Gunboat No. 4) during the war with Spain. He was promoted to lieutenant (junior grade) on 1 July 1899, to lieutenant on 9 February 1902, to lieutenant commander on 3 January 1908, to commander on 1 July 1918, and to captain (temporary) simultaneously. While assigned to duty in Washington, D.C., as naval aide to President Theodore Roosevelt, Bulmer wed Anita Tyler Poor on 7 March 1905, a union that produced a daughter, Anita Poor Bulmer.

Given command of the Mine Force repair ship Black Hawk (Id. No. 2140) on 18 December 1917 during the World War, he was promoted to captain (temporary) on 1 July 1918. During his service, he gained recognition for his understanding of naval mines and countermining techniques. Shortly before the end of the World War, Bulmer was appointed to serve as the U.S. representative to the British Admiralty conference on mine clearing (31 October 1918).

On 9 July 1919, while Bulmer was participating in mine-clearing operations on board Auk (Minesweeper No. 57), Pelican (Minesweeper No. 27) suffered severe damage when an estimated six mines detonated beneath her. She began taking on water at an alarming rate. Bulmer assumed command of the situation, first ordering Pelican’s crew transferred to Eider (Minesweeper No. 17). Then, employing the pumps from Auk and Eider, Bulmer was able to keep Pelican afloat and she eventually returned to port for repairs. “With great skill and plucky seamanship on the part of Capt. R. C. Bulmer,” Rear Adm. Joseph Strauss later declared, Pelican had been saved.


Capt. Roscoe C. Bulmer, circa 1919, probably on board Black Hawk (Id. No. 2140). (Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph NH 64381)
Caption: Capt. Roscoe C. Bulmer, circa 1919, probably on board Black Hawk (Id. No. 2140). (Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph NH 64381)

Tragically, just less than one month later, while ashore at the Orkney Islands, Scotland, Bulmer and Lt. (j.g.) Dudley A. Nichols, USNRF, were returning to Kirkwall from Stromness. A slight dip in the road caused the driver to lose control of the automobile on the rain-slicked surface, and Bulmer was thrown from the car, suffering a fractured clavicle among other injuries. Taken to his flagship, Black Hawk, he died on 5 August 1919. “Capt. Bulmer’s death is a distinct loss to the Service,” Rear Adm. Strauss lamented to Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels on 8 August, “He was zealous and plucky with a sound knowledge of his profession. His unfailing cheerfulness contributed greatly to the happy spirit prevailing in the Mine Force.”

Capt. Roscoe C. Bulmer is interred at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va.

(DD-222: displacement 1,190; length 314'4½"; beam 30'8"; draft 9'4"; speed 35 knots; complement 122; armament 4 4-inch, 1 3inch, 12 21-inch torpedo tubes; class Clemson)

The unnamed Destroyer No. 222 was laid down on 11 August 1919 at Philadelphia, Pa., by the William Cramp & Sons Ship & Engine Building Co.; named Bulmer in General Order No. 512 (Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels personally directed that a destroyer be named for Bulmer); launched on 20 January 1920; sponsored by Miss Anita Poor Bulmer, the daughter and only child of the late Capt. Bulmer; re-designated as DD-222 on 17 July 1920; and commissioned at the Philadelphia Navy Yard on 16 August 1920, Lt. Cmdr. John C. Jennings in command.

After her sea trails, she joined the U.S .Pacific Fleet as a unit of Destroyer Division (DesDiv) 10 based at San Diego, Calif.  Over the next year, Bulmer operated along the coasts of North and South America. During that period, she made many foreign and domestic port calls such as Valparaiso, Chile (31 January- 5 February), Balboa, Panama (15-23 February), Monterey (17 June-1 July) and San Francisco, Calif. (1-8 July 1921). Bulmer also carried out extensive training in the waters of San Lucas Bay, Magdalena Bay, and around Los Coronado Islands, Mexico. In October, she entered dry dock at Mare Island Navy Yard, Vallejo, Calif., for a period of maintenance and repairs (3 October -17 November 1921). After returning to San Diego (23 November) she got underway with Destroyer Divisions 39 and 27 to transit the Panama Canal (16 December) en route to her new homeport at Charleston, S.C. (28 December 1921).


Bulmer circa 1921, her identification number in white on her bow and at her stern. (U.S. Navy Bureau of Ships Photograph 19-N-6467, National Archives and Records Administration, Still Pictures Branch, College Park, Md.)
Caption: Bulmer circa 1921, her identification number in white on her bow and at her stern. (U.S. Navy Bureau of Ships Photograph 19-N-6467, National Archives and Records Administration, Still Pictures Branch, College Park, Md.)

After spending a few months in port, Bulmer got underway to the shipyard at Philadelphia, Pa. on 28 March 1922 where she was placed in dry dock (28 April-13 May). While still in Philadelphia, she received orders (22 May) assigning her join the U.S. Naval Forces operating in European and Asiatic waters. On 5 June she got underway with Litchfield (DD-336), Parrott (DD-218), Edsall (DD-219), MacLeish (DD-220), Simpson (DD-221), and McCormick (DD-223) to rendezvous off Newport, R.I. After assembling into formation, the fleet was underway to Gibraltar (12-22 June 1922). When she arrived in the Mediterranean, Bulmer was then dispatched to join the U.S. Naval Detachment at Constantinople [Istanbul], Turkey.   

Since the U.S. was not directly involved in the defeat of Turkish forces during the World War, and both countries had long ties in missionary work, business and industry, it was able to maintain amicable relations with Turkey. Since the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, a coalition was formed, the Allied High Commission in Istanbul, to govern the former Ottoman territories, an entity that did not include a representative of the United States. Eventually the U.S. was able to establish diplomatic relations and established the U.S. Naval Detachment in Turkish Waters on 28 January 1919. At the conclusion of the war, the entire region was left in a devastated condition. Basic necessities, such as food and clothing, were in desperate need as well as communication and transportation systems. The primary purpose of the American effort in Turkey was to facilitate relief of the deplorable conditions. On 24 February 1919, the U.S. Congress allocated $100 million to provide aid to non-enemy populations in the area, under the supervision of Herbert C. Hoover, former U.S. Food Administration director. Under those conditions, many independence movements began to emerge in the former Ottoman territories. In May 1919, Turkish nationalists began fighting to gain independence, primarily against Greece, France, and Great Britain.

It was into those conditions that Bulmer was steaming during the summer of 1922. She operated in the Black Sea making visits to ports in the region: at Novorossiysk (12-13 July, and 19 September), Odessa (1-2 July, 26 August-16 September), Theodosia [Feodosia] (18 September), Yalta (16-17 September) and Varna, Bulgaria (18-15 August). She also put in to Samsun, Turkey (31 July-1 August, 21-29 September) and conducted exercises around Prinkipo [Büyükada], Turkey in the Sea of Marmora (30 October-11 November, 14-19 November 1922)  In late November, Bulmer ventured into the Eastern Mediterranean Sea to make port calls at Jaffa, Palestine (1-2 December), Alexandria, Egypt (3 December) and Beirut, Syria (5 December). She returned to Constantinople on 24 December after stopping at Mersina, Turkey (9-21 December).

With the end of the Turkish War of Independence, also known as the Greco-Turk War, in October 1922, a conference convened in Lausanne, Switzerland, to settle peace terms between the former belligerents. A critical element to finding resolution to the conflict was the exchange of Greek and Turkish populations resided in the opposing countries. Having come to terms on the exchange in November 1922, the Lausanne Conference proved unable to secure an overall agreement and decided to dissolve. It would not resume negotiations until 23 April 1923.

Taking part in the evacuations, Bulmer arrived in Trebizond, Armenia (3 January 1923) serving as an escort for the Turkish merchant ship Exfinos-Pontos.

With the finalization of the Treaty of Lausanne on 23 July 1923, the Allied powers began to initiate the slow laborious withdrawal of their military forces caught between the Greeks and Turks. While Bulmer lay in port at Bostanjik, in the Sea of Marmora on 3 August 1923, she received the news from the U.S. that President Warren G. Harding had died in San Francisco, Calif. On 23 August, the withdrawal of Allied forces from Constantinople began as Bulmer lay anchored. Innumerable vessels and small boats from various European countries evacuating their civilians and troops filled the waters off the city. With the last of the foreign forces having withdrawn on 23 September, Turkish troops entered Constantinople on 6 October, and on 29 October, proclaimed the establishment of the Republic of Turkey.

Subsequently, Bulmer began operating primarily in the Aegean and the western Mediterranean, punctuating those operations with a brief return to Constantinople on 21 December 1923 before returning to Piraeus near Athens, Greece. She continued to operate throughout the Mediterranean Sea during in her final year (1924) assigned to the fleet in Europe. During her remaining months, Bulmer visited Palermo, Sicily (1-19 January), Naples, Italy (31 January-13 February), Alexandria (16-18 February), Marseilles, France (25-30 March), Bizerte, Tunisia (31 March-18 April) and Venice, Italy (21-28 June).

On 1 June 1925, Bulmer got underway to transit the Strait of Gibraltar with Edsall, en route to Boston, Mass. After a brief diversion to the New York Navy Yard, Bulmer arrived in Boston on 26 July 1924. She immediately entered the yard to undergo an extensive overhaul until 11 December. Exiting the shipyard, Bulmer got underway for the Philadelphia Navy Yard (12 December) to continue her overhaul, maintenance and repairs during the last days of 1925.

Bulmer began 1925 steaming to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba with Edsall and MacLeish for training as new members of DesDiv 39. After completing several weeks of battle practice and gun drills, she got underway to transit the Panama Canal (14 February 1925) to return to the Pacific and her original homeport at San Diego. After she completed transiting the canal, Bulmer rendezvoused with DesDivs 39, 40, 41, 42 and the light cruiser Concord (CL-10) at Balboa, Panama, then proceeded to San Diego (24 February). The group arrived at San Diego on 12 March 1925.

While Bulmer was transitioning to her new assignment, and operating off the Southern California coast, events were taking place on the other side of the Pacific that would soon play a major role in her service. In January 1925, the nascent Republic of China was struggling through a post-revolutionary period. After the overthrow of the Ching Dynasty, internal struggles continued between powerful forces for control of the new republic. By the 1920s, control was in the grasp regional warlords. This government was not without opposition. There was also increasing anger within the population over the influence of foreign governments and missionaries that had been allowed to spread in China. By 1925, the U.S. Navy’s South China Patrol and Yangtze River Patrol had stepped up its operations to protect U.S., French, and British concessions at Shanghai and Hong Kong, among other locations.                                           

On 15 April 1925, Bulmer got underway with the Scouting Fleet, DesDiv 13, DesRon 39, operating with the aircraft carrier Langley (CV-1). After spending nearly the entire month conducting maneuvers out of Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii, the group departed for the Midway Islands on 29 May, bound, ultimately, for Chefoo, China, arriving there on 3 June.

At Shanghai, China, local workers there were protesting the working conditions at a Japanese owned cotton mill. On 15 May 1925, the Japanese rejected a proposal by the workers to end the dispute. When the workers sent forward representatives for further negotiations, Japanese security fired into the crowd killing one worker and wounding eight others. The Shanghai Municipal Council refused to prosecute the accused Japanese gunmen. As the protest continued, British municipal police fired into a crowd killing thirteen more laborers on 30 May. The incident fed burning anti-foreign sentiment and spread anger through every sector of the Chinese population. The unrest lasted for several months. It was under these conditions that Bulmer arrived at Chefoo on 3 June  to begin her mission protecting American military forces and civilians as well as commercial interest and property.

During her first month in China, Bulmer was not exposed to the violence that was occurring in China. As she steamed between Chefoo, Shanghai, Swatow [Shantou] and Amoy [Xiamen], several of her sister ships were in the thick of the action. On 10 June 1925, the landing party from the gunboat Villalobos (PG-42) was sent ashore at Hankow [Hankou] to provide assistance to British forces. Two days later, her bluejackets were withdrawn and replaced with the landing parties from sister ships Paul Jones (DD-230) and Stewart (DD-224). Villalobos was moved to provide support for gunboats from the Great Britain, Japan, Italy and France at Changsha (14 June). Further fueling the protest, on 23 June, British and French troops fired into a crowd of protesters that attempted to cross the bridge and enter their concession on Shameen [Shamian] Island at Canton [Guangzhou].

Bulmer continued to operate with the South China Patrol, making port calls to Swatow (23-27 June 1925) Amoy (27 June-12 July) and Hong Kong (14-24 July) before mooring at Chefoo on 28 July. She continued to operate out of Chefoo until getting underway for Shanghai on 25 September. As was common practice during this period, Bulmer left Shanghai on 16 October 1925 for the Asiatic Fleet winter port of Manila, Philippines, then steamed north to China in the spring, Bulmer arrived at Shanghai on 19 March 1926 and returned to Chefoo on 21 March.

Bulmer remained in Chefoo during the entire month of April 1926 before returning to Shanghai to join the Yangtze River Patrol on 11 May. She commenced patrolling the Yangtze with DesDiv 29 the following day, after which she returned to Chefoo. Bulmer continued her patrol and training operations throughout the summer before getting underway to Manila for the winter. While en route, she stopped at Hong Kong (8-14 October) and arrived at Manila on 16 October 1926.

As stability in China decreased, and anti-foreign sentiment increased, Bulmer departed Manila for Shanghai on 6 January 1927. In the days preceding her departure, a mob attempted to storm the British concession at Hankow on 3 January. Pope (DD-225) and the gunboat [converted minesweeper] Pigeon (AM-47) deployed their landing forces to assist the British. The next day, foreign forces were withdrawn and the mob calmly moved into the concession without causing damage to property. Before Bulmer arrived at Shanghai (7 January), another mob peacefully overran the British concession at Kiukiang [Jiujiang]. While Bulmer lay anchored at Wuhu, the local British concession was also overrun on 11 January. At Changsha, Villalobos and British river gunboat HMS Woodlark evacuated foreign citizens from Hankow on 12 January 1927. On 24 January, the Fourth Marine Regiment, USMC, arrived at Shanghai to protect U.S. property and residents. Bulmer briefly returned to Shanghai on 28 January, before steaming back to Manila on 1 March.

Beginning in early 1927, the once-allied Nationalist and Communist forces split into opposing camps. In August 1927, Nationalist commander Chiang Kai-shek launched the Northern Expedition, the civil war that began at that time placing foreign property and citizens in the crossfire. Bulmer spent much of 1927 steaming between ports on the south China coast. Over the next several years, as the military and political conditions in China remained fluid, Bulmer continued serve alternating between the South China and Yangtze Patrols, spending most of her winters in the Philippines undergoing training. Part of the cycle including upkeep and repairs at the Cavite Navy Yard and drydocking at the Dewey Dry Dock, Olongapo, P.I. As the situation changed, Bulmer’s winter schedule would be altered as she received order to return to China. Occasion, she was allowed respite from the conflict ridden shores making port visits to Bangkok, Thailand (2-7 November 1927), Saigon, French Indochina (9-15 November 1927) and Nagasaki (16-17 April) and Yokohama (22-28 September 1928).


Bulmer, anchored off Tsingtao, China, circa 1928 (U.S. Navy Photograph 80-G-1035053, National Archives and Records Administration, Still Pictures Division, College Park, Md.)
Caption: Bulmer, anchored off Tsingtao, China, circa 1928 (U.S. Navy Photograph 80-G-1035053, National Archives and Records Administration, Still Pictures Division, College Park, Md.)

Adding to an already tumultuous period, China faced external threats against Manchuria from the Soviet Union and the Empire of Japan. In the summer of 1929, forces of the Soviet Union defeated the Chinese Northeastern Army in Inner Manchuria. Then again, in September 1931, Japan successfully invaded Manchuria and eventually established the puppet state of Manchukuo (1931-1934) placing the deposed Chinese Emperor, Henry Pu-yi, at the head of the government.

On 28 January 1932, Japanese forces attacked Shanghai and the following day Bulmer was underway from Manila to the Yangtze port city. She arrived at Shanghai on 1 February. With the city under attack before her, Bulmer mustered her landing force in full battle equipment on 4 February in preparation for their possible deployment ashore. Her sailors could see the Japanese bombardment of the fort in the Woosung [Wusong] District in Northern Shanghai. Already ashore were the U.S. Army 31st Infantry Regiment, the Shanghai Volunteer Corps, a British infantry brigade and an estimated 3,000 French troops. On 6 February, Bulmer moved closer to Woosung with Borie (DD-215), Truxtun (DD-229) Paul Jones, Parrott, Smith Thompson (DD-212), Barker (DD-213), John D. Edwards (DD-216), Whipple (DD-217), Pope, Pillsbury (DD-227) and the Asiatic Fleet flagship, the heavy cruiser Houston (CA-30). After shifting to Chinkiang [Zhenjiang] on 8 February 1932, she returned to Shanghai (21-22 February) before getting underway for Manila (22 February).

After a month of upkeep and repair in the Philippines, with the crisis still on-going, Bulmer rejoined the Yangtze Patrol at Shanghai on 14 April 1932. She departed that port on 15 May to return to Chefoo. While she was in the South China Sea, the crisis at Shanghai came to a close. On June 13, the 31st Infantry returned to its base in the Philippines. Bulmer concluded her tour with the South China Patrol on 30 August at Swatow, then returned to Manila.

Although China was still locked in internal struggle between her indigenous forces, Bulmer’s life with the Asiatic fleet remained relatively calm. On 7 July 1937, after Japanese and Chinese forces clashed at the Marco Polo Bridge, outside of Peking, Sino-Japanese conflict resumed. Then, on 13 August 1937, while Bulmer lay at Chefoo, Japan began the first phase of attacks on Shanghai. Gunboat Sacramento (PG-19), followed by the Asiatic Fleet flagship Augusta (CA-31), sent their bluejacket landing forces and marines ashore to reinforce the Fourth Marines. Bulmer was dispatched to Tsingtao from Chefoo on 15 August, where she remained until getting underway for Shanghai on the 31st. While at Tsingtao, she mustered her landing party and issued instructions to the men in case they would be required to go ashore.

Bulmer arrived at Shanghai on 1 September 1937 and anchored in the Yangtze, in waters congested with Japanese warships and those of neutral nations standing by to evacuate their citizens or protect their interests. The waters were filled with Japanese men-of-war as well as British destroyer HMS Defender (H.07) and the sloop HMS Grimsby (U.16). Also present was Augusta, with the Commander in Chief, Asiatic Fleet, embarked, Edsall, Stewart, Parrott, and the cargo ship Gold Star (AK-12). Over the next several weeks, the waters of the Yangtze and Whangpoo [Huangpu] rivers were a beehive of activity as Japanese forces bore down on Shanghai and the surrounding districts. As Bulmer was either anchored, or escorting non-combatant ships, the Battle of Shanghai raged around her. On 21 September 1937, as she was anchored at a quarantine buoy in the Yangtze, her crew could hear heavy gunfire in the distance and see artillery shells falling into the river. Her logs note a steady increase in the number of Japanese troop transports and warships in the Whangpoo River. Bulmer’s sailors could also see the number of Japanese troops and the amount of equipment growing and also witnessed numerous Chinese and Japanese aerial bombardments as the belligerents struggled to strengthen their grip on the vital port city.

On 15 October 1937, Chinese aircraft struck Shanghai, dropping nine bombs on Japanese positions. Three of the bombs fell within one mile off Bulmer’s bow. Her men could see Japanese aircraft rising from the airfield to defend the city. In the midst of the chaos, on 29 October, Bulmer’s crew mustered in full dress to honor the fifteenth anniversary of the March on Rome that placed Benito Mussolini at the head of the government in Italy.

The situation in Shanghai was much calmer in early November 1937 as the Japanese overwhelmed the last Chinese resistance. On 11 November, Bulmer got underway for Yokohama, Japan, where she underwent upkeep and maintenance (13-23 November). She returned to Shanghai on 26 November, the same day Japanese combat operations concluded bringing an end to the Battle of Shanghai.

Bulmer remained at Shanghai until getting underway for Manila (17-22 December 1937). In April 1938, she returned to Shanghai (5 April-3 May) then sailed for the South China Sea on 6 May. For the rest of the summer, Bulmer spent her time steaming between Chefoo, Tsingtao, Amoy and Swatow. In early August she was bound for Manila after making a port call to Hong Kong (5-6 August 1938). From late August 1938 until March 1940, she conducted training operations and exercises in the Philippines including one month of maintenance and repair at Cavite (1-29 September 1938)

On 1 April 1939, Bulmer was steaming back to China. The situation was relatively calm compared to previous years in the Asiatic Fleet. While she was at Amoy, along with Marblehead (CL-12), she witnessed the continuing aggression between China and Japan as Japanese aircraft dropped bombs and propaganda pamphlets on Chinese positions. With the exception of a brief visit to the Dewey Dry Dock at Olongapo, Bulmer remained at Southern China before returning to Manila on 8 September 1939. She continued operations in the Philippine for the next several months, staying in the Philippines longer than usual, until she departed Manila on 30 June 1940 for Tsingtao. She completed another tour with the South China Patrol, with a brief trip up the Yangtze to Shanghai (25 September- 7 October 1940). Bulmer was back in the Philippines on 11 October 1940.

With Japanese ambitions and hostilities increasing in East Asia in 1940, many foreign governments began to withdrawn their military and civilian populations. In August, the United Kingdom withdrew the entirety of their ground based forces and the majority of the naval forces from China. Adm. Thomas C. Hart, the Commander in Chief, U.S. Asiatic Fleet, ordered the withdrawal of all major Navy resources from China on 21 October 1940, leaving only the gunboats on the Yangtze. By December 1940, the U.S. evacuated nearly all military dependents from Chinese territory.

With the Asiatic Fleet reducing its presence in China, Bulmer’s operations were shifted to the Philippines indefinitely. During 1941, the bulk of her activities included training and patrols around the Philippine Islands. On 24 August, she entered the navy yard at Cavite (24 August- 28 September) before being placed on keel blocks in the Dewey Dry Dock off Mariveles, P.I. (29 September- 6 October 1941). On 28 August 1941, Adm. Hart wrote to Adm. Harold R. Stark, the Chief of Naval Operations, containing his recommendation for the withdrawal of American forces.  

After maintenance and repairs were completed at Cavite on 7-13 October 1941, Bulmer returned to patrol operations in Philippine water. On 6 November 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt approved the withdrawal of marine detachments at Peking [Beijing], Tientsin [Tianjin] and Shanghai. The first contingent of marines departed Shanghai in President Harrison on 28 November 1941 with plans to withdraw the rest by 10 December in President Madison.

On 7 December 1941 [8 December east of the International date Line], when the Japanese onslaught began across a wide area, from the Far East to Pearl Harbor, Bulmer lay anchored in Manila Bay, along with Boise (CL-47), Luzon (PR-7) and several other ships of the Asiatic Fleet. The U.S. military forces that had remained in China were quickly captured and the river gunboat Wake (PR-3) was seized at Shanghai. The next day, Bulmer was underway with her crew at general quarters patrolling the waters south of Corregidor. She returned to Manila Bay to serve as a minefield escort (11-16 December) before getting underway with Seadragon (SS-194) for Netherlands East Indies [Indonesia] on 16 December 1941. For the next several days, she served as screen for submarine tender Holland (AS-3) before mooring at Surabaya, Java (24 December).

On 27 December 1941, Bulmer stood out of Surabaya with Task Force (TF) 5, consisting of Holland, Whippoorwill (AM-35), Langley, Marblehead, William B. Preston (AVD-7), Stewart and Parrott. After brief port calls at Booby Island (1-3 January 1942) and Darwin (5-8 January), Australia, Bulmer commenced patrolling around Timor [West Nusa Tenggara]. She put into Kupang Harbor (10-11, 18-19 January), Saleh Bay (15-16 January) and Waworada Bay (21-22) before returning to Surabaya (25-30 January 1942).

After a few days in Surabaya, Bulmer accompanied TF-5 into Makassar Strait (1 February 1942). At 0930 on 4 February, she received a report that a PBY-5 Catalina had sighted 37 Japanese bombers flying toward Surabaya. Twenty minutes later, 28 bombers were sighted heading toward the TF-5 formation. The Japanese came at the formation in waves of nine aircraft primarily targeting the larger cruisers in the formation. Bulmer’s sailors immediately began to fire on the advancing aircraft while she took evasive action. The attack lasted approximately thirty minutes during which two enemy bombers crashed into the sea. At 1030, it was believed that the enemy aircraft had left the area. During the attack, Marblehead, having been struck by two bombs, was damaged and uncontrollably steaming in circles. Bulmer set a course to provide assistant to the wounded cruiser. Just before 1100, more enemy bombers appeared and began attacking the formation once again bearing down upon the cruisers. Bulmer again took evasive actions to avoid the falling bombs. By 1248, the attacks had stopped. Bulmer took up a position astern of Marblehead to provide her assistance. The formation put into Tjilatjap [Cilicap] Inlet on the south western coast of Central Java (6-7 February).

On 7 February 1942, Bulmer was patrolling the Java Sea. On 14 February she began providing screen services for Dutch light cruiser De Ruyter with Stewart and Barker. The next day, the combined American, Dutch and English fleet came under attack by Japanese bombers. The first wave of attacks came at 1151 and again at 1707 while steaming in night formation with Stewart. As before, the enemy aimed for the cruisers and ceased their bombing runs by 1718. Steaming with a formation consisting of ships from different navies proved to be rather difficult and hazardous. At 2000, Bulmer was forced to put her engines in full reverse to avoid colliding with British heavy cruiser HMS Exeter (D.68). At 1045 on 16 February she put in to Batavia, Java before steaming back to Tjilatjap. Bulmer departed Java with Black Hawk (AD-9), Holland, Barker, and Stingray (SS-186) on 21 February 1942 en route to Exmouth Gulf (27-28 February), Australia.

While she streamed for Australia, the Allied fleets fought the Battle of the Java Sea. During the successive engagements (27 February-1 March 1942), Houston and Pope (DD-225),  British HMS Electra (H.27), Exeter, HMS Encounter (H.10) and HMS Jupiter (F.85), the Dutch destroyer Kortenaer, cruisers Java and De Ruyter, and Australian HMAS Perth (D.29) were sent to the bottom by the Japanese. In addition to the incredible loss of ships, over two thousand men lost their lives in three days.  The Japanese only suffered damage to one destroyer and light loss of life. The engagement was a crushing defeat for the Allied naval forces.

For the next two months, Bulmer served as a minefield escort out of Fremantle, Australia. She also provided anti-submarine service along Western Australia for numerous ships including Black Hawk, Gold Star, transport Mount Vernon (AP-21) and Australian light cruiser HMAS Adelaide. On 1 May 1942, she departed Fremantle for Sydney, Australia (8-9 May). She operated along the Southeastern Australian coast making port calls at Melbourne (1-6 May), Port Adelaide (14-15 May) and Williamstown (17-18 May) before returning to Sydney. On 22 May 1942 began the long journey back to Pearl Harbor with sister ship Paul Jones.

The two ships refueled, then rendezvoused with the New Zealand light cruiser HMNZS Leander, at Nouna, New Caledonia [Nouvelle-Calédonie] on 25 May 1942. The three ships steamed to Fila Harbor, Efate Island, New Hebrides [Republic of Vanuatu]. After a few days in port at Efate (26-30 May) the three got underway for Suva, Fiji arriving on 1 June. Bulmer, Paul Jones, and Wright (AV-1) on 4 June, rendezvoused with Black Hawk and Parrott the next day, en route to Naval Station Tutuila at Pago Pago, American Samoa (6 June). Bulmer and her compatriots, Paul Jones, and Wright, began the final leg of the journey on 7 June. On 16 June, she and Paul Jones moored in a nest with Russell (DD-414), Balch (DD-363), Ellet (DD-398), and Dixie (AD-14) at Pearl Harbor.

After upkeep (17-21 June 1942), Bulmer got underway for San Francisco providing convoy escort services as a new member of TF 15 on 22 June. At approximately 209 nautical miles west of San Francisco on 28 June, Bulmer received a radio communication directing her to pick up two men who had fallen overboard from the transport Republic (AP-33). Once Bulmer arrived at the designated coordinates, the crew discovered the two men were Japanese prisoners of war that had jumped overboard in an attempt to escape. The men were brought on board, given “restoratives” by the ship’s pharmacist’s mate and provided dry clothing by members of the crew. Bulmer put in to San Francisco on 29 June and was relieved from her escort duties, then steamed north to Mare Island Navy Yard, Vallejo, Calif., where she transferred her prisoners ashore, and was placed in overhaul status.


Bulmer stands out into San Francisco Bay on 28 August 1942, following her refit at the Mare Island Navy Yard. Note that her no. 4 stack has been removed, but that she retains her full 4-inch/50 battery, and that 20 millimeter guns have been installed (along with depth charge gear) on the galley deckhouse amidships and on the main deck, aft, replacing the after banks of torpedo tubes on both sides of the ship. (U.S. Navy Bureau of Ships Photograph 19-N-33040, National Archives and Records Administration, Still Pictures Division, College Park, Md.)
Caption: Bulmer stands out into San Francisco Bay on 28 August 1942, following her refit at the Mare Island Navy Yard. Note that her no. 4 stack has been removed, but that she retains her full 4-inch/50 battery, and that 20 millimeter guns have been installed (along with depth charge gear) on the galley deckhouse amidships and on the main deck, aft, replacing the after banks of torpedo tubes on both sides of the ship. (U.S. Navy Bureau of Ships Photograph 19-N-33040, National Archives and Records Administration, Still Pictures Division, College Park, Md.)

Coming out of overhaul on 8 July 1942, Bulmer began her new duties serving as a convoy escort steaming between San Francisco and Pearl Harbor. Throughout 1942 and early 1943, she escorted convoys across the Eastern Pacific, quite often steaming with her fellow Asiatic Fleet survivor Parrott. While at Pearl Harbor, while awaiting a return convoy to California, Bulmer participated in antisubmarine training as well as patrolling around the Hawaiian Islands.

On 21 May 1943, Bulmer departed San Francisco to transit the Panama Canal en route to join the Atlantic Fleet. Entering the Atlantic Ocean for the first time since 1925, Bulmer set a course for Casco Bay, Maine.

Once at Casco Bay (7 June 1943), Bulmer participated in several antisubmarine training exercises with the battleship Iowa (BB-61), and the submarines Barracuda (SS-163) and Bonita (SS-165). On 11 June, she entered the New York Navy Yard for a few weeks of upkeep, maintenance and repairs (11-24 June) before steaming to Hampton Roads, Va., for her first operational assignment. In July she was serving as a screen ship for Core (CVE-13) hunting German submarines in the Central Atlantic.


Bows-on view of Bulmer making her way through various harbor craft, New York City, 23 June 1943, following an availability the New York Navy Yard. Note that her identification number is painted in a higher location on the starboard side than that on the port side, and that ports have replaced windows on her bridge. (U.S. Navy Bureau of Ships Photograph 19-N-47721, National Archives and Records Administration, Still Pictures Division, College Park, Md.)
Caption: Bows-on view of Bulmer making her way through various harbor craft, New York City, 23 June 1943, following an availability the New York Navy Yard. Note that her identification number is painted in a higher location on the starboard side than that on the port side, and that ports have replaced windows on her bridge. (U.S. Navy Bureau of Ships Photograph 19-N-47721, National Archives and Records Administration, Still Pictures Division, College Park, Md.)

On 21 July 1943, while conducting nighttime flight operations, one of Core’s aircraft, a Grumman TBF-1 Avenger, had difficulty returning to the carrier. Bulmer launched several star cluster flares in the hope it would help guide the wayward plane home. The aircraft, call sign “Tommy Two,” was piloted by Ens. Doyle Hall and carrying two other crewmen. At 2234, Bulmer received a transmission, “Tommy Two going down.”  She was immediately dispatched to the TBF’s last known location. On 21 July 1943 at 0837, Bulmer rescued all three men, alive and in good condition, 1,300 nautical miles east of the Canary Islands.

After a brief visit to the New York Navy Yard (1-6 August 1943), Bulmer was back at sea with Core and her task group. On 24 August 1943, aircraft from Core reported sinking a German U-boat. Barker was detached from the formation to investigate. She returned to the formation carrying twenty two survivors from ­U-185. Twenty nine of the U-boat crew had perished with their ship. Barker transferred the German prisoners of war to Core.

In early September 1943, Bulmer was drydocked at the New York Navy Yard for maintenance and repairs (1-8 September).  After steaming to Norfolk, Va. (15 September), Bulmer got underway with Barker and Macomb (DD-458) to Argentia, Newfoundland. Once at Argentia, she and her companions provided escort services to a convoy steaming to Swansea, South Wales, United Kingdom (22-28 September 1943). The escort ships returned to Argentia on 12 October 1943. Bulmer returned to New York Navy Yard for more repairs (13-24 October) before steaming to Port Royal, Bermuda (27 October 1943) to return to escort duty with Task Force (TF) 61.

For the rest of 1943 and a part of 1944, Bulmer escorted convoys across the Atlantic and into the Mediterranean Sea. Once she had seen her charges safely to their destinations, typically Casablanca, Morocco or Bizerte, Tunisia, she would rendezvous with another convoy steaming to North America. While steaming with a convoy out of Casablanca on 11 January 1944, Bulmer’s task group carrier, Block Island (CVE-21) lost one of her aircrew. During flight operations off of the coast of North Africa, a Grumman F4F Wildcat piloted by Ens. Thomas P. Ridley crashed into the Mediterranean.

Three days later (11 January 1944), while proceeding west in the Atlantic, Bulmer detected a submerged sound contact. Confident she had intercepted an enemy submarine, Bulmer launched an aggressive depth charge attack along with Parrott. Bulmer dropped a series of ten, eleven and then nine charges in roughly thirty minute intervals between 0140 and 0415. Following the last salvo, she reported seeing two large air bubbles bursting in her wake. She released eight more charges. Parrott assisted Bulmer in searching the area but no other evidence of an enemy submarine was discovered. The two destroyers rejoined the convoy formation. Several hours later, Bulmer recovered what was determined to be a German decoy balloon. Approximately one hour later, Bulmer and Parrott, pulled a U-boat captain, two junior commissioned and a warrant officer along with thirteen enlisted sailors from the water. The crew was from a submarine that had been sunk by land based aircraft. Although the U-boat is not identified in Bulmer’s War Diary, it is quite possible the men were from U-231. According to Bulmer’s recorded position, she was 367 nautical mile north east of the Azores at 43°41'N, 23°01'W. It was in this area that U-231 is reported to have been lost. She was attacked while surfaced by British Wellington bombers. Forty three of the fifty man compliment survived. On 16 January, Bulmer came along side Block Island to transfer her prisoners. During the transfer Core’s yardarm damaged Bulmer’s radar antenna. After a brief port call for repairs at Horta, Azores, Bulmer was back underway the next day (17 January 1943).

After returning to North America, Bulmer stood in to the Naval Drydock at Boston on 1 February 1944. She remained at Boston until getting underway with Barker on 16 February for ASW refresher training at Casco Bay (18-28 February 1944). She returned to escorting convoys to the Mediterranean on 4 March, joined by Spencer (WPG-36). On the conclusion of her final Atlantic escort voyage, Bulmer was placed in dry dock on 25 June 1944.

Bulmer returned to Casco Bay for refresher training on 5 July 1944 then put into Boston for maintenance and sea trials (13-29 July). After the completion of her sea trials she was assigned to Task Force Group 28 at Quonset Point, R.I. (1 August 1944) where she was tasked with sweeping Narragansett Bay. In October, Bulmer journeyed to Port Everglades, Florida where she two participated in antisubmarine exercises (4 October- 15 November). On 18 November she entered the navy yard at Boston (19-30 November 1944).

Bulmer’s days as a destroyer came to a close when she completed her overhaul at Boston. She was converted to serve as an aircraft tender and her designation was changed to AG-86 on 30 November 1944. After several brief port calls at New London, Conn. (9 December) and Norfolk (15-20 December) she was underway returning to the Pacific. She transited the Panama Canal on 27 December where she was met by Lamprey (SS-372). Bulmer was anchored at Saboga, Panama for New Year’s Eve (31 December 1944).

Bulmer started 1945 engaged in  ASW training operations with Lamprey, Hackleback (SS-295), Tigrone (SS-420), Tirante (SS-419) and fellow Asiatic veteran, Paul Jones (17-24 January 1945). The group was joined in late January by Shangri-La (CV-38) and Harry E. Hubbard (DD-748). During the next several months, Bulmer was continually involved in antisubmarine training out of Sabago. In July 1945, she returned to Port Everglades to serve as a target ship to train aviators in surface attack tactics. Bulmer underwent what be her last overhaul at Brooklyn Navy Yard (19 August- 26 September 1945).

In January 1946, the aging destroyer was steaming to Boston with an uncertain future. While she was moored at Boston, it was determined by the Board of Inspection and Survey that Bulmer was no longer vital to the defense of the U.S. She was slated for disposal on 13 April and later decommissioned on 16 August 1946. On 25 September 1946 Bulmer was stricken from the Naval Register and remained at Boston. On 28 February 1947, Bulmer was sold to the Marine Salvage Corporation of Atlanta, Ga., and moved to U.S. Naval Base, Newport. She was scrapped in December 1947.

Bulmer received two battle stars for her World War II service, the first for Philippine Island Operations (8 December 1941- 6 May 1942) and the second for her service in TG 21.12 (27 June- 21 July 1943).

Commanding Officers Dates of Command
Lt. Cmdr. John C. Jennings 16 August 1920 - 10 April 1921
Lt. Cmdr.  Lee P. Johnson 10 April 1921 - 29 July 1921
Cmdr. Thomas A. Symington 29 July 1921 - 23 July 1922
Cmdr. Alfred W. Atkins   23 January 1922 – 9 June 1924
Lt. Cmdr. Raymond A. Spruance 9 June 1924 - 10 September 1924
Lt. Alfred J. Byrholdt 10 September 1924 - 24 December 1924
Lt. Cmdr. Francis E. M. Whiting 24 December 1924 - 4 January 1925
Lt. Cmdr. Murphy J. Foster 4 January 1925 - 20 April 1928
Lt. Cmdr. DuPree J. Friedell 20 April 1928 - 26 January 1929
Lt. Cmdr. Allan W. Ashbrook 26 January 1929 - 28 June 1930
Lt. Cmdr. Harry D. Hoffman 28 June 1930 - 9 October 1931
Lt. Cmdr. Lawrence P. Bischoff 9 October 1931 - 20 April 1932
Lt. Cmdr. Melville C. Partello 20 April 1932 - 18 April 1933
Cmdr. Francis P. Traynor 18 April 1933 - 10 February 1934
Lt. Cmdr. Edward Sparrow 21 April 1935 - 8 July 1935
Lt. Cmdr. Thomas V. Cooper 8 July 1935 - 7 May 1937
Lt. Robert DeC. Baker 7 May 1937 - 19 June 1937
Lt. Cmdr. Walter C. Ansel 19 June 1937 - 21 April 1939
Lt. Cmdr. James J. McGlynn 21 April 1939 - 5 January 1940
Lt. Cmdr. John H. Lewis 5 January 1940 - 19 October 1940
Lt. Cmdr. Leon J. Manees 19 October 1940 - 28 January 1942
Lt. David A. Harris 28 January 1942 - 16 June 1942
Lt. Cmdr. Louis F. Volk 16 June 1942 - 21 October 1943
Lt. Cmdr. George T. Baker 21 October 1943 - 1 December 1944
Lt. Thomas C. Farrell 1 December 1944 - 17 October 1945
Lt. George M. Heinitsh Jr. 17 October 1945 - 24 November 1945
Lt. John L. Henderson 24 November 1945 - 18 August 1946

 

John W. Watts, Jr.
26 April 2016

Published: Thu Apr 27 13:39:27 EDT 2017