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Burden R. Hastings (DE-19)

Burden Robert Hastings, born on 1 August 1910 in Washington, D.C., entered the Naval Academy on 20 June 1929 under an appointment from Indiana. After graduating on 1 June 1933, he served successive tours in the battleships California (BB-44) and Idaho (BB-42) before reporting to the Naval Air Station, Pensacola, Fla., on 20 February 1936 for flight training. Designated a naval aviator, Hastings, promoted to lieutenant (junior grade) on 1 June 1936, initially remained at Pensacola as an instructor.

Following a brief assignment at San Diego with the Fleet Air Detachment, Aircraft, Battle Force, from 19 May to 7 June 1937, the young officer joined Bomber Squadron (VB) 1 in aircraft carrier Ranger (CV-4). He remained with that unit after it was redesignated Torpedo Squadron (VT) 2 on 1 July 1937 and transferred to Lexington (CV-2). While in that assignment, Lt. (jg.) Hastings took part in an important transition in naval aviation when VT-2 replaced its venerable Martin BM-1 and BM-2 biplanes with more modern monoplanes, Douglas TBD-1s, between January and May 1938.

Detached from VT-2 on 24 June 1939, Lt. (jg.) Hastings transferred to Patrol Squadron (VP) 18, a unit equipped predominantly with the Consolidated PBY-4 "Catalina" flying boat. Duty with VP 13 followed from 1 July 1938 to 18 January 1940, and then he joined VP-26, remaining with that unit through its redesignation to VP-101 on 5 December 1940 and its assignment to the Asiatic Fleet with the reorganization of Patrol Wing (PatWing) 10 on 16 December 1940.

For the next year, as war with Japan edged nearer, PatWing 10's PBYs carried out patrols over Philippine waters. When hostilities finally broke out on 8 December 1941 (7 December east of the International Date Line), the squadron's planes were ready since they had begun operations under wartime conditions late in November. The Asiatic Fleet carried out a fighting withdrawal from the islands, retiring to the "Malay Barrier" while devastating Japanese hammer blows quickly reduced the American Army's highly touted air forces in the Philippines to impotence. Moreover, another force, the Asiatic Fleet's submarines, plagued by torpedo failures, achieved far less than had been expected. On 15 December 1941, PatWing 10, its bases at Cavite and Olongapo rendered untenable, began heading south toward Ambon, in the Netherlands East Indies.

At 2300 on 26 December 1941, six of the squadron's PBYs, under Hastings' command, took off from Ambon and set course for the island of Jolo to bomb Japanese ships reported in the harbor there. En route to the objective, the first section lost sight of the second and circled at 12,000 feet some 30 miles south of Jolo awaiting their absent companions. As dawn began to streak the sky, it became evident that the second section was not going to arrive in time to carry out the attack before broad daylight, as planned. Hastings, therefore, decided to go ahead without the second section and set course to approach Jolo from the south. Antiaircraft fire soon began blossoming in the sky above Jolo; and Lt. (jg.) J. B. Dawley, flying 101-P-6, sighted approaching two formations of three enemy planes each. "Extremely heavy" antiaircraft fire from both ship and shore greeted the three lumbering PBYs.

When the trio of "Catalinas" were still too far from their target, six Mitsubishi A6M2 "Zero" fighters swept down on them from astern. Hastings' port waist gunner opened fire directly over Dawley's aircraft. As the "Zeroes" swept in, the flight leader commenced evasive action, turning the PBY and making "quick zooms" to spoil the attackers' aim. Unable to maintain his place in the formation because of Hastings' low air speed, his wingman, Dawley, dove out of formation and carried out his own attack alone, losing sight of the other planes. According to eyewitnesses below, Hastings' plane cleared the harbor with a "Zero" apparently on its tail. The PBY crashed in flames. Filipinos recovered the bodies of Hastings and at least four of his crew and accorded them a proper burial on shore. For his heroism in leading the mission, Hastings was awarded the Navy Cross, posthumously.


(DE-19: dp. 1,140; l. 289'5"; dr. 8'3"; s. 21 k.; cpl. 156; a. 3 3". 4 1.1", 9 20mm., 8 dcp., 1 dcp. (hh.), 2 dct.; cl. Evarts)

Duckworth (BDE-19), a destroyer escort originally allocated to the United Kingdom under lend-lease, was laid down on 1 April 1942 by the Mare Island Navy Yard; launched on 20 November 1942; reallocated to the U.S. Navy; renamed Burden R. Hastings (DE-19) on 19 February 1943; and commissioned on 1 May 1943, Lt. Comdr. Philip A. Walker, USNR, in command.

After taking on fuel and stores, Burden R. Hastings conducted her final trials before departing Mare Island on 19 May escorting Prince William (CVE-31). The destroyer escort reached San Diego on 21 May and carried out shakedown training from that port for the next two months. On the morning of 8 July, Burden R. Hastings and Tracy (DM-19) departed the west coast and headed for the Hawaiian Islands, escorting the transports President Tyler and Ernest R. Hinds. Reaching Kahului Harbor, Maui, on the 14th, the destroyer escort pressed on for Pearl Harbor the following day, screening Ernest R. Hinds. She sailed for the California coast on 19 July, escorting President Tyler, and reached San Francisco on the 26th.

While undergoing repairs and alterations at San Francisco, the ship became the flagship for Escort Division (CortDiv) 10 when Comdr. John Melgard embarked on 28 July. She next sailed in company with Austin (DE-15) and again headed for Hawaii escorting President Tyler. The destroyer escort reached Pearl Harbor on 15 August and, after two weeks of training and availability, sailed for the forward areas for the first time, escorting the oiler Schuylkill (AO-76) to Baker Island. Reaching Baker Island on 4 September, Burden R. Hastings then spent the next three weeks in screening landing exercises and in refueling and provisioning at sea. Relieved on station on 26 September, she turned her bow toward Hawaii and, after refueling at Palmyra en route, reached Pearl Harbor on 2 October.

During the month after her return, Burden R. Hastings enjoyed a shipyard availability and then carried out antisubmarine warfare (ASW) training. On 31 October, she set sail in convoy for Wallis Island and arrived there on 11 November. After two weeks at anchor in Baite de Mua Bay, Burden R. Hastings headed for the Gilbert Islands with the transport Jane Adams and several tank landing ships (LSTs), delivering her convoy safely to Apamama Island on 28 November. After screening the transports off that atoll as the mop-up operations in the Gilberts continued (Tarawa and Makin had been invaded on 20 November), Burden R. Hastings spent the period between 2 and 31 December escorting convoys between Apamama, Funafuti in the Ellice Islands, and Tarawa.

Burden R. Hastings departed Tarawa on the last day of 1943, in company with Caelum (AK-106), and delivered her charge safely to Pearl Harbor on 8 January 1944. Clearing Pearl Harbor again on 28 January, the warship and three other escorts set course for the Marshall Islands in the screen of an 11 ship convoy. While these ships were en route, units of the Marine Corps and Army under marine Major General Holland M. ("Howlin' Mad") Smith landed on the atolls of Kwajalein and Majuro on 31 January. Burden R. Hastings and her charges reached Kwajalein on 5 February "to find the resistance quite active." The next day, she sailed for Hawaii in company with Indiana (BB-58) and Remey (DD-688) and arrived at Pearl Harbor on 13 February.

After availability and training, Burden R. Hastings cleared Hawaiian waters and, on 29 February, headed for the Marshalls in company with Harold C. Thomas (DE-21), Charles R. Greer (DE-23), and eight transports under their joint care. The ships arrived at Eniwetok on 11 March, and Burden R. Hastings then operated on antisubmarine patrol off Eniwetok before being reassigned to Majuro. There, she performed local screen and patrol duty, escorting friendly submarines through the safety lanes and escorting convoys between the various islands.

Detached from duty at Majuro on 13 June, Burden R. Hastings headed via Eniwetok for Pearl Harbor, proceeding independently. At 0250 on 16 June, the warship's SL radar picked up a surface contact 10 miles away that showed no IFF (Identification, Friend or Foe) signal. The small "pip" on the radar screen indicated either a surfaced submarine or a small craft, so the captain decided to close range to 5,000 yards and challenge the stranger visually. Burden R. Hastings proceeded ahead through the moderate sea while her quarry moved at 18 knots. The destroyer escort rang up 19.5 knots to close range and went to General Quarters. At 0337, when the two ships were 5,000 yards apart, Burden R. Hastings challenged thrice with an Aldis lamp but received no reply. She then fired four star shells in an effort to illuminate; but, after the second burst, radar plot reported that the "pip" had disappeared from the screen.

Burden R. Hastings then began to hunt a submarine. Opening her sonar search at 0344, she latched onto the contact at 0354, picking up a slow-moving submarine, 1,700 yards distant. Following one fruitless "hedgehog" attack, Burden R. Hastings repeated the procedure after regaining contact. A heavy underwater explosion and a phosphorescent flash beneath the waves testified to the success of her second "hedgehog" run. The destroyer escort then passed over the submarine, and four depth charges splashed into her wake, drifting downward toward the target. Five seconds after the four charges exploded, a violent explosion rumbled up from the depths. The concussion knocked out Burden R. Hastings' gyro compass and caused other minor damage througout the ship. Further searching failed to disclose any other contact. At sunrise, lookouts spotted debris and a "moderate" oil slick. Burden R. Hastings launched her motor whaleboat and its crew picked up wreckage. Characters on top of a small spare parts box indicated that her victim had been RO 44. Postwar examination of Japanese records corroborated the sinking of RO-44.

At 1900 on the 16th, Burden R. Hastings resumed her voyage to Pearl Harbor where she arrived on the 22d. After an availability that extended to 4 July, she spent the next three days screening Ommaney Bay (CVE-79) as that escort carrier conducted carrier qualifications in the Hawaiian operating area. On 9 July, Burden R. Hastings and four other destroyer escorts left Pearl Harbor to escort a large convoy of troopships to Eniwetok. Reaching that atoll on the 17th, she cleared the Marshalls the same day, on her way back to Hawaii in company with North Carolina (BB-55), Bataan (CVL-29), Windham Bay (CVE-92), and Hugh L. Scott (AP-43). The formation arrived at Pearl Harbor on the 23d. The next day, Burden R. Hastings commenced a tour of duty under Commander, Submarine Training, Pacific (ComSubTrainPac). On 23 August, Burden R. Hastings sailed for San Francisco, escorting SS Philippa. Arriving on the last day of August, the destroyer escort unloaded ammunition and moored at the Hunters Point Naval Drydocks for a yard overhaul. 

On 26 October, the destroyer escort took on ammunition, and spent the next few days engaged in post-overhaul trials. On 6 November, Burden R. Hastings sailed for Hawaii as part of the escort for a 16 ship convoy and arrived at Pearl Harbor 10 days later. After an availability, the warship set course for the Marshalls on the 26th and arrived at Eniwetok on 4 December. For the remainder of December 1944 and for most of January of 1945, Burden R. Hastings escorted convoys between Eniwetok and Ulithi, in the Western Carolines.

During her stay at Ulithi on 12 January 1945, the Japanese submarine I-36 launched a kaiten (manned torpedo) attack against the anchorage. At 0654 that morning, one of the torpedoes struck and damaged Mazama (AE-9) as that ammunition ship lay at anchor in Ulithi lagoon. Since the deed was thought to be the work of a midget submarine, all ASW-equipped ships, Burden R. Hastings included, conducted a thorough, but futile, search until late in the afternoon. Two weeks later, wreckage of what resembled the afterbody of a torpedo washed up on one of the islands ringing the lagoon.

Leaving the Marshalls on 24 January 1945 with Afoundria, Burden R. Hastings touched at Roi, Kwajalein, and Majuro where the Army transport picked up troops bound for Hawaii. After arriving at Pearl Harbor on 2 February, the destroyer escort commenced four months of work with carriers and submarines, planeguarding and participating in the training of the "fleet boats" as they worked up in Hawaiian waters. During the course of her planeguarding, she picked up the crews of several planes that had splashed. On 22 June, Burden R. Hastings departed Pearl Harbor with the rest of CortDiv 10, the first time that the ships had operated together as a unit, escorting a convoy of transports to the Marshall Islands. Upon reaching Eniwetok on the 30th, the ship embarked upon a series of convoy-escort runs between Eniwetok and Ulithi, a routine which she maintained through July and into the first part of August. While returning from Ulithi to Eniwetok on 14 August, she learned of Japan's acceptance of the provisions of the Potsdam Declaration and agreement to surrender to the Allies.

Reaching Eniwetok on 17 August 1945, Burden R. Hastings remained inactive in the Marshalls until receiving orders to return to the United States for decommissioning. In company with Wileman (DE-22) and two other destroyer escorts, she sailed for Kwajalein on 11 September, rendezvoused there with the rest of the division, and left the Marshalls on 14 September bound for Pearl Harbor. Reaching Hawaii five days later, the destroyer escort pushed on to San Pedro, Calif. Reporting to the Commandant, 11th Naval District, for disposition on 29 September 1945, Burden R. Hastings was decommissioned on 25 October 1945 at Terminal Island, Calif.; and her name was struck from the Navy list on 13 November 1945. She was sold to the National Metal and Steel Corp., of Terminal Island, and was delivered to her purchaser on 1 February 1947.

Burden R. Hastings was awarded four battle stars for her World War II service.

Robert J. Cressman
22 November 2005

Published: Tue Apr 05 10:02:24 EDT 2016