Converse II (DD-509)
Born 13 May 1844 in Norwich, Vt., George Albert Converse was appointed midshipman 29 November 1861. He was a pioneer in the use of electricity on board men-of-war, in experimentation with and introduction of smokeless powder in the Navy, and in development of torpedo boats. In command of Montgomery from 1897 to 1899 he took an active part in operations off the coast of Cuba with Admiral Sampson's squadron during the Spanish-American War. From 1903 to 1906 he served successively as Chief of the Bureaus of Equipment, Ordnance, and Navigation, continuing as Chief of the latter Bureau for a year after his retirement in 1906. He died in Washington, D.C., 29 March 1909.
The second Converse (DD-509) was launched 30 August 1942 by Bath Iron Works Corp., Bath, Maine; sponsored by Miss A. V. Jackson; and commissioned 20 November 1942, Commander D. C. E. Hamberger in command.
After training at Guantanamo Bay and Pearl Harbor, Converse arrived at Noumea 17 May 1943, and through the summer covered convoys carrying men and supplies to New Georgia, then escorted ships moving between Espiritu Santo and Guadalcanal. Arriving at Port Purvis 16 September 1943, she joined Destroyer Squadron 23, with whom she was to win a Presidential Unit Citation for operations in the northern Solomons between 31 October 1943 and 4 February 1944.
On the first of those dates, Converse sortied with her squadron and cruisers to provide cover for amphibious landings on Bougainville, and on the night of 31 October-1 November 1943, bombarded Buka and Bpnis airfields and targets in the Shortlands. The next night her force intercepted a Japanese group of cruisers and destroyers heading for an attack on the transports lying at Bougainville, and opened fire in the Battle of Empress Augusta Bay. One Japanese cruiser and one enemy destroyer were sunk in this action, and the enemy was turned back from their intended attack on the transports, although the American defenders came under severe attack by aircraft from Rabaul supporting the Japanese ships.
Converse continued bombardments and escort duty supporting the Bougainville operation, and on the night of 16-17 November 1943 joined Stanly (DD-478) in firing on a surfaced submarine, scoring several hits. On the night of 24-25 November, the squadron intercepted five Japanese destroyers attempting to evacuate critically needed aviation troops from Buka to Rabaul. In a skillfully executed torpedo attack followed by a persistent chase during which Converse was struck by a torpedo which failed to explode, the squadron sank three of the enemy ships and caused heavy damage to a fourth, while emerging unscathed themselves.
While escorting a group of ships carrying reinforcements and supplies to Bougainville 3 December 1943, Converse came under heavy attack from six waves of Japanese bombers. A near miss caused an electrical failure, putting her radar out of commission and resulting in a loss of power forward. Repairs were quickly made, and the Japanese force fought off, but Converse sailed from Port Purvis 14 December for complete repairs at Sydney, Australia. She rejoined her squadron at Port Purvis 30 January 1944 for bombardments and hunting forays against Japanese shipping through February and March in the northern Solomons.
Converse cleared Port Purvis 27 March 1944 to join the great carrier TF 58 for screening duty during the air strikes on the Palaus from 30 March to 1 April, and with that force covered the Hollandia landings through preinvasion air attacks and bombardment, continuing their fire during the landings 22 April. Carrier attacks on Truk, Satawan, and Ponape at the close of the month found Converse continuing her screening duties. Attacks preparatory to, and covering, the invasion of Saipan began 12 June as targets throughout the Marianas were hit. While the landings themselves were made on 15 June, Converse's task force hit at Japanese bases in the Bonins, then returned to the Marianas to continue their close support. When the Japanese fleet challenged the American operations in the Marianas on 19 June, Converse continued her screening through the resulting aerial Battle of the Philippine Sea, a 2-day engagement which resulted in the sinking of three Japanese carriers and the loss to Japan of many aircraft and their irreplaceable pilots. After joining in shore bombardment of Guam and Rota at the, close of June, Converse replenished at Eniwetok, and on 4 August, sailed for overhaul at Mare Island.
The destroyer returned to action 3 November 1944 when she joined the screen of carriers covering the convoy routes to newly invaded Leyte. On 21 December, while escorting the first resupply echelon to Mindoro, Converse came under attack by desperate Japanese suicide planes, and fired to drive them away as well as rescuing 266 survivors of LST-749. She gave fire support to the landings in Lingayen Gulf on 9 and 10 January 1945, and then joined the task unit assigned to recapture Corregidor. Her guns destroyed gun emplacements, barges, suicide boats, and entombed about 100 enemy troops by sealing the entrance to Malinta Tunnel.
After brief overhaul in Subic Bay, Converse patrolled off Corregidor until mid-March 1945, and from 18 March to 1 April joined in the invasion of Panay and Los Negros. Through the next month she carried out a variety of duties in the development of Iloilo as a staging center for the planned invasion of Japan. On 16 May, Converse arrived off Okinawa, where she operated on dangerous and demanding radar picket duty until the close of the war. Often firing to drive off suicide-bent Japanese aircraft, she received no damage during the difficult months that followed. On 10 September she sailed from Okinawa for Pearl Harbor, the Panama Canal, and Washington, D.C., where on 19 October, the ceremonial award of the Presidential Unit Citation was made to her squadron. After overhaul at Brooklyn, she was decommissioned and placed in reserve at Charleston, S.C., 23 April 1946. On 1 July 1959 she was transferred under the Mutual Assistance Program to Spain, with whom she serves as Almirante Vaides (D-43).
In addition to the Presidential Unit Citation, Converse received 11 battle stars for World War II service.