Following his graduation, he served in battleship Mississippi (BB-41) (28 June 1938–2 July 1940). Dufilho married Betty M. Sharpe of Long Beach, Calif., during a ceremony at Yuma, Ariz., on 12 July 1940. He then completed flight training at Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola, Fla. (27 July 1940–19 February 1941), where he was designated Naval Aviator No. 7153 on 15 February 1941. Dufilho followed that training two months later with advanced flight instruction at NAS Miami, Fla. On 2 April he received orders to report to Fighting Squadron (VF) 3 on board aircraft carrier Saratoga (CV-3).
The Japanese attacked the Hawaiian Islands and other Allied bastions across the Pacific on 7 and 8 December 1941. Saratoga had just completed an interim drydocking at Puget Sound Navy Yard at Bremerton, Wash., and neared San Diego, Calif., when the enemy struck. The national emergency compelled the Navy to dispatch reinforcements on board the carrier, and she hurriedly embarked the additional planes and men and set out during the forenoon watch on 8 December for Pearl Harbor. The enemy carriers had disappeared into the vast expanse of the Pacific and could reappear to wreak havoc at any moment, so Dufilho joined his fellow pilots in their Grumman F4F Wildcats and stood daily alerts during the voyage.
Japanese ships and planes meanwhile began attacking the U.S. garrison on Wake Island, bombing the island almost daily during the ensuing two weeks. The garrison, primarily marines, repulsed an attempted Japanese landing on 11 December. The Americans organized a relief expedition for the beleaguered garrison, and on 16 December Task Force (TF) 14, Rear Adm. Frank J. Fletcher in command, including Saratoga and seaplane tender Tangier (AV-8), sailed from Pearl Harbor to relieve the garrison. Saratoga and Tangier encountered delays owing to the slower speed of oiler Neches (AO-5), and from Fletcher’s decision to refuel the screening destroyers, which prohibited him from reaching launching range in time to affect the outcome. Doubt concerning the movements and number of Japanese carriers and reports of the landings persuaded Vice Adm. William S. Pye, Commander Battle Force and temporarily in command of the Pacific Fleet, to avoid risking his carriers. Pye ordered Fletcher to retire and, disregarding the recommendations of his staff, Fletcher came about for Hawaiian waters while 425 miles from Wake. The Japanese consequently overran the island on 23 December 1941.
Japanese submarine I-6 fired a deep-running torpedo into the port side amidships of Saratoga about 500 miles southwest of Oahu on 11 January 1942. Six men died, water poured into three firerooms, and the ship listed to port. Saratoga made for Oahu, where her 8-inch guns were removed, and then for repairs and modernization that included improved watertight integrity and antiaircraft armament at Puget Sound Navy Yard. Saratoga’s departure temporarily reduced U.S. fleet carrier strength in the Pacific to three ships, and led to the distribution of her air group among the other carriers. Fighting Three thus relieved VF-2 on board Lexington (CV-2) on the last day of the month.
The Japanese continued their drive southward and landed at Rabaul, New Britain, and Kieta on Bougainville in the Solomons on 23 January 1942. The Allies counterattacked the invaders and dispatched TF 11, Vice Adm. Wilson Brown Jr., in command and formed around Lexington. The carrier crossed the equator on 5 February, and Dufilho took part in the traditional mariner’s ceremony, when the Shellbacks (those men who had already met King Neptune’s court) good naturedly heaped indignities upon the Pollywogs. Dufilho hoisted Ens. Leon W. Haynes onto his shoulders so Haynes could use binoculars to search the horizon “for icebergs known to be in those waters.”
Japanese Lt. (j.g.) Sakai Noboru piloted a Kawanishi H6K4 Type 97 flying boat of the Yokohama Kōkūtai (Air Group) and spotted the ships on 20 February. Brown cancelled the planned strike and two waves of 17 Japanese Mitsubishi G4M1 Type 1 land attack planes of the 4th Kōkūtai attacked the Americans off Bougainville. The F4F-3 Wildcats from VF-3 and Douglas SBD-3 Dauntlesses from Scouting Squadron (VS) 2 broke-up the attackers. The carrier avoided damage from bombs and from two bombers that attempted taiatari (body-crashing) suicide dives. Fifteen Japanese bombers, three flying boats -- including Sakai’s -- and an Aichi E13A1 Type 0 floatplane failed to return, mostly splashed. Wildcat pilot Lt. Edward H. O’Hare shot down four of the attackers and damaged two more, an exploit for which O’Hare received the Medal of Honor. Dufilho flew as O’Hare’s wingman, but his guns malfunctioned and he could not engage the Japanese directly. Lt. Cmdr. John S. Thach splashed a bomber and assisted in downing a second bomber and a H6K4 Type 97 flying boat. Two Wildcats fell to the enemy with the loss of Ens. John W. Wilson, and seven fighters received damage, some of these planes from Lexington’s guns.
The Battle of the Coral Sea followed, the first naval engagement fought without the opposing ships making contact. The Japanese launched Operation MO—the seizure of Port Moresby, New Guinea, and points in the Solomon Islands, Nauru, and the Ocean Islands, preparatory to the neutralization of Australia as an Allied bastion. Fletcher led TF 17 against the invading Japanese at Gavutu and Tulagi in the Solomons on 4 May 1942. Japanese transports sailed from Rabaul for Port Moresby. On 7 May TF 17, which had been joined by TF 11, Rear Adm. Aubrey W. Fitch in command and including Lexington, turned north to engage the Japanese Carrier Strike Force, Vice Adm. Takagi Takeo in command, including carriers Shōkaku and Zuikaku. SBD-2s from Bombing Squadron (VB) 2, SBD-3s of VS-2, and Douglas TBD-1 Devastators from Torpedo Squadron (VT) 2, embarked on board Lexington, and Dauntlesses of VB-5 and VS-5 and Devastators of VT-5, flying from Yorktown (CV-5), sank light carrier Shōhō of the Close Support Force, Rear Adm. Goto Aritomo commanding, in the Coral Sea. Japanese planes sank destroyer Sims (DD-409) and damaged oiler Neosho (AO-23), which was afterward scuttled.
The battle concluded the following day. Dauntlesses from Lexington and Yorktown damaged Shōkaku and forced her retirement. Pilot Lt. John J. Powers of VB-5 pressed an attack in an SBD-3 on Shōkaku but failed to recover from his dive and received the Medal of Honor posthumously. Japanese carrier bombers and attack planes struck TF 17. Dufilho flew as part of Lexington’s combat air patrol (CAP) during the fierce affray, and Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox awarded the pilot a Letter of Commendation for his “gallant and fearless conduct,” commending Dufilho for his “courage, skill and determination” in fighting the Japanese.
The few available U.S. fighters, however, compelled the Americans to continue to use Dauntlesses to battle the attackers. Lt. William E. Hall, USNR, of VS-2 in an SBD-2 defended Lexington. Although wounded, Hall returned in his damaged Dauntless after participating in the destruction of at least three carrier attack planes and later received the Medal of Honor. The Japanese bombed and torpedoed Lexington and bombed Yorktown. Gasoline vapors flowing through Lexington ignited and triggered massive explosions that led to her abandonment, and destroyer Phelps (DD-360) scuttled the carrier. The Americans sustained heavy casualties including the loss of at least 69 planes to a Japanese loss of approximately 92 aircraft. The damage to Shōkaku and the aerial losses temporarily denied the Japanese the availability of Shōkaku and Zuikaku. The U.S. achieved a strategic victory by halting the push southward and blunting the seaborne thrust toward Port Moresby. The Japanese deferred and then abandoned their occupation of Port Moresby by sea and shifted their advance overland across the Owen Stanley Mountains.
Lt. Dufilho served briefly with VF-42 (8–26 June 1942), and was then transferred to VF-5, reporting on 1 July. Fighting Five had previously flown Grumman F3F-2s from Yorktown, but when she deployed to the Atlantic Fleet in the spring of 1941, the squadron went ashore at NAS Norfolk, Va., where it replaced its aging biplanes with F4F-3As. The squadron variously embarked on board Ranger (CV-4) and Wasp (CV-7) during brief voyages in the Atlantic, received F4F-4s, and then deployed to Pearl Harbor to rejoin Yorktown, just missing the carrier when she sailed to participate in the Battle of Midway. The squadron thus embarked on board Saratoga on 7 June, and on 18 June she steamed toward Midway but the Japanese came about following the battle and the carrier returned uneventfully to Pearl Harbor. On the morning of 7 July, Dufilho thus sailed with VF-5 on board Saratoga and Fletcher’s TF 11 for Operation Watchtower—amphibious landings on Japanese-held Guadalcanal, Florida, Gavutu, Tanambogo, and Tulagi in the Solomon Islands. The venerable carrier turned her prow southward, crossed the equator on 11 July, and subsequently rendezvoused with other ships. The combined force then formed TF 61 -- led by Fletcher -- including Task Group (TG) 61.1, Rear Adm. Leigh Noyes in command, based on Enterprise (CV-6), Saratoga, and Wasp. The carriers launched planes that covered the marines when they landed on 7 August. Allied planes of TF 63, Rear Adm. John S. McCain in command, flying from New Caledonia and the New Hebrides (Vanuatu) also supported the landings. The marines wrestled control of the neighboring islands from the Japanese, and simultaneously moved inland on Guadalcanal.
Japanese planes struck back vigorously and during one of these raids Lt. Inoue Fumito led nine Aichi D3A1 Type 99 kanjō bakugekiki or kanbakus -- carrier bombers -- of the 2nd Kōkūtai against the transports and their escorts off Guadalcanal. Dufilho flew as a section leader with Scarlet 5, six squadron F4F-4 Wildcats led by Lt. Richard Gray flying screen combat air patrol (SCAP). Scarlet 5 raced to intercept the attackers, and Inoue realized that his slower planes would not reach the transports in time before the Wildcats tore into them, and ordered his flight of six kanbakus to wingover and attack the nearest U.S. ship, destroyer Dewey (DD-349), which he mistakenly identified as a light cruiser. The ships opened fire with their antiaircraft guns and the Wildcats twisted and turned through their own bursting flak to tangle with their opponents.
Dufilho and squadron mates Gray, Lt. (j.g.) Mark K. Bright, USNR, Lt. Hayden M. Jensen, and Lt. (j.g.) Carlton B. Starkes, USNR, sliced into the enemy bombers, and Machinist Donald E. Runyon led Scarlet 6, four VF-6 Wildcats from Enterprise, into the mêlée. One of the bombers sheered-off and Dufilho determinedly pursued it, but his engine sprayed oil onto his windshield, compelling him to lean out the left side of the cockpit to sight in his guns. The Japanese rear gunner suddenly opened fire and his 7.7 millimeter rounds shattered the Wildcat’s plexiglass windshield, shards wounding Dufilho in his neck and right shoulder. He broke away but Scarlet 6’s Runyon, Ens. Joseph D. Shoemaker, and AP1 Howard S. Packard pounced on the bomber, Runyon received credit for shooting it down into a ravine about four miles south of Lunga Point. Dufilho was credited for splashing two of the Japanese planes and damaging a third in total, and he later received the Navy Cross (posthumously) for his “cool courage and superb airmanship” in contributing “materially” to defeating the enemy counterattack. The Japanese damaged destroyer Mugford (DD-389) during the brief but deadly battle, but all nine of their planes fell to American guns or fuel exhaustion.
During the Battle of the Eastern Solomons on 24 August 1942, Fletcher’s TF 61, including Enterprise, Saratoga, and Wasp, supported by USMC and USAAF planes flying from Henderson Field, turned-back a Japanese attempt to recapture Guadalcanal and Tulagi. The Japanese deployed multiple forces including one of carriers Shōkaku and Zuikaku to cover a group of four transports, and a diversionary force formed around light carrier Ryūjō. During the forenoon watch Saratoga launched a number of planes to clear her flight deck for aircraft returning from Henderson Field. Dufilho was catapulted aloft as part of Gray’s Scarlet 5 and flew CAP over the ships. At 1245 Lt. Cmdr. Calvin E. Wakeman, Saratoga’s fighter direction officer, vectored Scarlet 5 toward a “snooper” (an apparent Japanese plane), south on 185° at an altitude of 7,000 feet. Five minutes later, he told the Wildcats to orbit, because the enemy plane appeared to be approaching the ships from ahead of their intended course. The fighter pilots watched carefully for the intruder and at 1253 Gray sighted what he initially believed to be a four-engine aircraft and identified it as a USAAF Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, but the plane had dropped so low that it flew barely a couple of hundred feet above the waves, about 20 miles from the ships. Gray closed the range and spotted a two-engine Japanese Mitsubishi G4M1 Type 1 land attack plane of the Misawa Kōkūtai. Some of the American pilots incorrectly speculated that the Japanese plane carried a torpedo, but it was actually searching for the Allied ships during a long range patrol from Rabaul. The four Wildcats nosed over and pounced on the bomber, Gray and Bright making their runs from astern, and Dufilho and Haynes approaching from high-astern. The four pilots splashed the enemy plane about seven miles from the ships and as lookouts watched the battle. Gray reported that all four men made the kill, but later received sole credit for shooting down the aircraft.
The Japanese subsequently discovered and attacked TF 61 during the afternoon and first dog watches. Lt. Cmdr. Seki Mamoru led their first strike group, 27 kanbakus and Nakajima B5N2 Type 97 carrier attack planes (kanjō kōgekiki or kankōs—torpedo bombers), escorted by ten Mitsubishi A6M2 Type 0 carrier fighters. A series of brief but fierce battles occurred as the Wildcats flying CAP attempted to intercept the attackers. Fighting Five’s Scarlet 5, together with Scarlet 7, three Wildcats led by Lt. David C. Richardson, sighted enemy dive bombers off to their side and spread out into line-astern as they prepared to intercept the Japanese. Their tactically sound attack formation also rendered them temporarily vulnerable, however, when, at 1638, Lt. Hidaka Saneyasu led a chūtai (an air group division) of six Type 0s flying cover from Zuikaku and they suddenly surprised the Americans by making steep high-side attacks from out of the sun. The opponents maneuvered in lethal duels, some planes peeling off and breaking their formation as they attempted to gain tactical advantages. During the mêlée the enemy shot Dufilho down, though none of his squadron mates marked his fall. He posthumously received the Distinguished Flying Cross for his “courage, initiative and aggressive devotion to duty” while “opposed by an overwhelming number of Zero fighters.”
Enterprise fought-off Japanese torpedo bombers but enemy dive bombers inflicted three direct bomb hits and four near misses that killed 74 men and wounded 95. Her crewmen controlled the fires and Enterprise came about for Pearl Harbor. The Americans also struck back during the battle and SBD-3 Dauntlesses of VB-3 and VS-3, and Grumman TBF-1 Avengers of VT-8 from Saratoga, sank Ryūjō and damaged seaplane carrier Chitose. A Dauntless of VMSB-232 damaged light cruiser Jintsū north of Malaita Island, and planes from ashore sank armed merchant cruiser Kinryu Maru and destroyer Mitsuki, and damaged destroyer Uzuki. The Japanese lost less than 90 aircraft to U.S. casualties of 20 planes.
In compliance with Section 5 of Public Law 490, Dufilho was declared dead on 25 August 1943. The intrepid pilot was survived by his wife. He received the Purple Heart posthumously, as well as the American Defense Service Medal, Fleet Clasp, and the Asiatic-Pacific Area Campaign Medal.
(DE-423: displacement 1,350; length 306'; beam 36'8"; draft 9'5"; speed 24 knots; complement 186; armament 2 5-inch, 4 40 millimeter, 10 20 millimeter, 3 21-inch torpedo tubes, 8 depth charge projectors, 1 depth charge projector (hedgehog), 2 depth charge tracks; class John C. Butler)
Dufilho (DE-423) was laid down on 31 January 1944 at Houston, Texas, by Brown Shipbuilding Co.; launched on 9 March 1944; sponsored by Mrs. Betty W. Dufilho, widow of the late Lt. Dufilho; and commissioned on 21 July 1944, Cmdr. Albert H. Nienau, USNR, in command.
Dufilho accomplished additional yard work at Galveston, Texas, into August, and then completed her shakedown cruise with TF 23 to Bermuda (15 August–9 September 1944). Following those exercises the ship carried out minor repairs and adjustments at the Boston Navy Yard, Charleston, Mass. (11–18 September). The ship then steamed to Norfolk, Va., arriving there two days later. Dufilho and another escort from Escort Squadron (CortRon) 77, Douglas A. Munro (DE-422), screened gunboat Vixen (PG-53), with Adm. Royal E. Ingersoll, Commander-in-Chief Atlantic Fleet, embarked, when the admiral sailed from Hampton Roads, Va., to inspect Allied Atlantic and Caribbean naval bases (18 September–19 October). Ingersoll inspected Bermuda (22–24 September); San Juan, P.R. (27–29 September); Cuidad Trujillo, San Domingo (30 September–2 October); Charlotte Amalie, Virgin Islands (3–5 October); Port-of-Spain, Trinidad (7–10 October); and Willemstad, Curaçao (12–13 October). When the admiral reached Willemstad, he received orders directing him to return via plane to Washington, D.C. Dufilho, Douglas A. Munro, and Vixen came about, Dufilho delivered mail to San Juan the following day, and when they reached the entrance to Chesapeake Bay on 18 October, Dufilho detached and proceeded to New York, mooring the next day in the busy metropolis.
On 24 October 1944, Dufilho and Douglas A. Munro set out across the Atlantic shepherding escort aircraft carrier Kasaan Bay (CVE-69) to Casablanca, Morocco. Heavy seas pounded the ships during their crossing, and Dufilho’s historian wryly noted that many “boots” became “old salts” during the stormy voyage. The battered escort reached Casablanca on 2 November, refueled and provisioned during a brief three-day stay, and returned to the United States, detaching from the carrier outside the harbor of Norfolk, and steaming in company with Douglas A. Munro to New York Navy Yard for an overhaul in dry dock (14 November–3 December). Her crewmen enjoyed the sights and sounds of liberty in the city, but returned to the ship to learn that orders directed the seasoned escort and the other ships of the squadron to the Pacific to fight the Japanese.
Dufilho consequently sailed in company with Formoe (DE-509) from Brooklyn on 3 December 1944, refueled at Pier 7 at Norfolk, and on 7 December stood down the channel for the Pacific. Dufilho joined her squadron mates at Cristóbal, and on 14 December passed through the Panama Canal. Dufilho won an informal race while the ships crossed Gatun Lake, her historian gleefully noting that she “proved more than a match for her sister ships, by leaving them far astern…” CortRon 77 emerged into the “calm waters” of the Pacific and steered southwesterly courses, refueling at Aeolian Bay in the Galapagos Islands on the morning of 20 December. That same day Dufilho also crossed the equator at 90°45'W, and her Shellbacks initiated the Pollywogs into the mysteries of the deep. The ships completed refueling and continued their voyage, celebrating Christmas 1944 while at sea between the Galapagos and the Society Islands. Wartime security precautions prevented her crewmen from stringing bright lights, but they joined in prayer, sang carols, and an “almost realistic” Santa Claus distributed Red Cross Christmas packages.
New Year’s Day of 1945 found Dufilho and her consorts tied up at the fueling dock at Bora Bora in the Society Islands, but the ships resumed their voyage the same day. They set their clocks back an hour but advanced the calendar a day, skipping 6 January, when they crossed the 180th meridian. Dufilho entered Espíritu Santo in the New Hebrides (Vanuatu) for supplies on 9 January, and after several days at that port made for Seeadler Harbor at Manus in the Admiralty Islands, arriving on 15 January. The ship accomplished voyage repairs, and her gun crews practiced using land based batteries.
Dufilho got underway for Leyte in the Philippines on 23 January 1945, but two days later orders diverted her independently to Morotai in the Halmahera Group of the Netherlands East Indies (N.E.I.—Indonesia). At Morotai she joined the escort for a convoy of 80 tank landing ships (LSTs) bound with reinforcements of men and supplies for the Allied troops that landed in Lingayen Gulf on Luzon. Lookouts spotted fires and flashes from the fighting ashore more than once as the ship passed Mindoro, Subic Bay, and upper Lingayen Gulf en route to the beachhead. She patrolled there on 9 and 10 February while the men and supplies were unloaded, then sailed to San Pedro Bay at Leyte on 14 February. Dufilho continued to escort supply convoys from Morotai and Leyte to Subic Bay and Lingayen Gulf until 27 February, when she was assigned to Task Unit 78.9.4, the San Bernardino-Verde Islands Minesweeping Unit, guarding minecraft as they cleared mines from San Bernardino Strait to the Verde Islands Passage, the sea lane to shores and islands along this route.
The following day, Dufilho sailed in company with another escort and three auxiliary minesweepers from Subic Bay through the Sibuyan Sea and the Masbate Pass. Reversing course on 2 March 1945 in order to widen the swept channel, the group proceeded to Ticao and Masbate Passes en route to Malapingan Point on Masbate. The ships repeatedly stood alerts because of reports of possible Japanese midget submarines and suicide boats believed to be prowling along the route, as well as enemy troops ashore. During fighting between the Americans, Filipino guerillas, and the Japanese on the evening of 2 March, the Japanese burned the town of Bulan near Legazpi, and the ship’s watchstanders observed the flames reflect off the clouds throughout the remainder of the night. The convoy otherwise completed the voyage without incident, and Dufilho returned to Subic Bay on 6 March.
The escort spent the next several months operating primarily on what her crewmen called the “Ping Line,” patrolling for Japanese submarines outside the entrance to Subic Bay. From time to time, she also rendezvoused with U.S. submarines and escorted them to their nesting place, or screened small convoys steaming around Bataan Peninsula to Manila. While on one such patrol on 18 March 1945, the ship detected an apparent Japanese submarine stalking Allied ships just outside the entrance to Subic Bay. The ship fired a full pattern from her forward projectors on her first run, and while the hedgehogs exploded she came about and made a second run raining a full pattern of heavy charges from her stern racks and K-guns. The ship’s fathometer traces showed the likely submarine lying on the bottom. Very little debris emerged but an oil slick bubbled to the surface and lasted for nearly 72 hours. TF 78 credited the ship with a probably submarine kill, but post-war research failed to confirm the sinking.
On 13 April 1945 Dufilho escorted Rear Adm. Daniel E. Barbey, Commander Seventh Amphibious Force, who wore his flag in amphibious force flagship Blue Ridge (AGC-2), during the fierce fighting for control of the forts guarding Manila Bay. Dufilho lay to between Corregidor and Fort Drum, located on El Fraile Island, and many of her crewmen observed the battle for Fort Drum as U.S. troops assaulted the island, poured fuel into the air vents and ignited it, wiping-out the determined Japanese defenders. Dufilho carefully edged past sunken ships when she anchored in Manila harbor on 25 April, and the following day she stood out to escort a trio of LSTs to Morotai, reaching that anchorage on 2 May. On 5 May the ship sailed from Morotai, crossed the equator and two days later anchored at Mios Woendi on Biak in the N.E.I. Dufilho flew CortRon 77’s pennant when she escorted six LST’s back to Morotai (9–15 May).
Vice Adm. Barbey led an Allied naval force during Operation Oboe 1—landings by the Australian I Corps on Tarakan on Borneo in the N.E.I., on 1 May 1945. Dufilho consequently joined TG 78.1 and sailed from Morotai on 19 May to support the Allied forces in the battle. The ship reached Tarakan on 22 May, refueled, and the next day acted as an inner-harbor radar and antisubmarine picket ship outside the harbor entrance. On 24 May she sailed as part of the escort for a convoy bound for Morotai. On the morning of 26 May, her lookouts sighted apparent signal flashes on Makaleki Island in the Saugiha Group. Dufilho detached from the convoy and closed the beach, and discovered a band of islanders near a wrecked PBY. Fighter planes circling overhead stated that the Catalina had crashed several days previously, and that motor torpedo (PT) boats had rescued the patrol plane’s crewmen. Some of the islanders rowed out in a small boat flying the Dutch flag, and handed over a Japanese prisoner they had captured during the fighting ashore. The ship turned the man over to the Australian Army when she reached Morotai the following day.
The ship next proceeded with Task Unit (TU) 78.1.19 to Brunei Bay, Borneo (5–11 June 1945). She patrolled the waters off that anchorage for enemy suicide planes or boats and submarines for several days, and on 10 June escorted some of the ships of TG 74.3, Rear Adm. Russell S. Berkey in command, when they shelled Japanese positions ashore while Australian troops stormed the beach. Dufilho joined a convoy that returned to Morotai, embarked reinforcements, and transported the men back to Brunei Bay (14–30 June). Early the next month (1–5 July) she helped escort a flotilla of infantry landing craft (LCIs) from Brunei to San Pedro Bay. The ship completed a couple of weeks availability for upkeep and repairs at that anchorage, and then rounded-out the summer by patrolling Philippine waters with CortRon 77, Capt. H.G. White, USNR, in command, and escorting several convoys to Okinawa in the Ryūkyūs.
On 1 August 1945 she sailed from Leyte for patrol station Charlie, an area covering from 128° to 130° E, stretching along the shipping lane from 10° to 30' E. Dufilho relieved high-speed transport Greene (APD-36), and began performing antisubmarine, air-sea rescue, weather reporting, and escort operations. Japanese submarine I-58 torpedoed and sank heavy cruiser Indianapolis (CA-35) northeast of Leyte, near 12°02'N, 134°48'E, on 29 July. Her crewmen who abandoned ship suffered horrifically from exposure and shark attacks. On 2 August, a Lockheed PV-1 Ventura from Fleet Air Wing (FAW) 18, commanded by Lt. (j.g.) S.M. Worthington, USNR, and flown by a relief crew from Patrol Bombing Squadron (VPB) 28, en route from Saipan in the Marianas to Jinamoc in the Philippine Islands, sighted some of the ship’s survivors in what appeared to be a lifeboat, as well as rafts and life jackets, around 11°32'N, 133°34'E. The Ventura reported the sighting, and the Philippine Sea Frontier Command relayed the discovery to a number of ships operating in the region.
During the afternoon watch Dufilho received the command’s orders to make for the area and help rescue the survivors. The ship came about at 1440 and steamed at flank speed, the ship’s historian observing that she strained her “boilers to the very limit.” Dufilho reached the area near 11°30'N, 133°30'E, at 0117 on 3 August 1945. Planes flew overhead and fired flares and turned on their searchlights to illuminate the survivors for the rescue ships, which also initially included destroyers Ralph Talbot (DD-390) and Madison (DD-425), high speed transports Bassett (APD-73), Register (APD-92) and Ringness (APD-100), and escort vessel Cecil J. Doyle (DE-368). Two Consolidated PBY Catalinas had landed in the water before dusk and also illuminated the scene.
When Cmdr. Nienau learned of the dreadful plight of the survivors, he made the difficult decision to risk enemy submarine attack and ordered his men to turn on their 24-inch searchlights to facilitate the search in the inky darkness. The ship gingerly maneuvered through scores of dead bodies floating in the water as her crewmen desperately searched for “the spark of human life” they but located only one man, S2 Frank Rincay, using several life jackets to keep himself above water -- and away from the sharks -- off the ship’s starboard beam at 0307. Dufilho stopped within several minutes, lowered her motor whaleboat, and the boat crew brought Rincay on board. PhM Reeve evaluated Rincay as suffering from exhaustion and “slight shock” following his harrowing ordeal. The ship’s crewmen continued their grim task, examining corpses for signs of life, looking for a reported lifeboat, and twice unsuccessfully investigating smoke floats that planes dropped to mark the locations of apparent survivors. At 1400 the escort joined four other ships in a scouting line from left to right: Madison; Ringness; Register; Ralph Talbot; and Dufilho. The ships initially steered 135° at 15 knots, and Dufilho transferred Rincay to Register at 1456.
Dufilho and her men undauntedly continued to search into the following day and found more bodies, but at 1236 on 4 August 1945, her sonar detected an apparent submarine lurking nearby. The ship fired a full pattern from her ahead-firing depth charge projector but without results. The escort continued her vigilant watch and made a second firing run at 1350, though again without results. Destroyer Aylwin (DD-355) joined Dufilho at 1630, and the two ships searched for the elusive Japanese submarine until 0350 on 5 August. Dufilho then formed up in company with seven other ships in a scouting line in order: Helm (DD-388); Aylwin; Ralph Talbot; Madison; Dufilho; Alvin C. Cockrell (DE-366); French (DE-367); and Cecil J. Doyle. The Officer in Tactical Command (OTC) sailed on board Madison, and the ships proceeded in column on an initial course of 108°, spaced approximately eight miles apart, at a speed of 14 knots. Register and Ringness joined the column at about 1000, and Alvin C. Cockrell relieved Madison as the OTC and guide at 1405. The ten ships continued their search at various courses and speeds until they covered the area determined to be the most likely to contain survivors, by 1907. Dufilho did not recover any additional survivors of the tragedy, and she was released and came about at 0427 the following day. She briefly escorted U.S. freighter Sarah Orne Jewett, relieved Tinsman (DE-589) on Charlie at 1606, until Biven (DE-536) in turn relieved her at 0700 on 8 August. Dufilho then made for the Tolosa area at San Pedro Bay, Leyte, anchoring to refuel and replenish during the first dog watch. Dufilho lay anchored there when she learned of the Japanese surrender.
Concerns that Japanese forces that did not learn of the surrender -- or might disregard orders to capitulate and launch suicide attacks -- compelled the ship to maintain wartime precautions while she helped escort a convoy of 34 LSTs and 36 mechanized landing craft (LSMs) from Okinawa to Leyte for repairs (16–21 August 1945). On 25 August Dufilho and the ships of CortRon 77 passed to the control of the South China Naval Force, Rear Adm. Elliott Buckmaster in command. She therefore helped screen a large convoy that sailed from Leyte to Okinawa (6–12 September). Heavy seas pounded the ships en route, and some of the landing craft changed course, delaying their passage by several days. On 7 September, however, they resumed the use of peacetime running lights as the Navy relaxed the wartime blackout conditions, and the sailors kept their doors and hatches open at night, providing a welcome relief in the sweltering tropics. The ship stood out from Okinawa to ride out a typhoon on 16 September, and after taking a considerable “pounding” from the foul weather, joined a convoy of merchantmen bound for Chinese waters. Dufilho anchored off the Măˈān (Saddle) Islands at the mouth of the Yangtze River on 21 September, and the following day passed thousands of “wildly cheering” Chinese as she steamed up the Yangtze and Hwang Po (Huangpu) Rivers and took her place in ‘Warship Row’ at Shanghai.
On 3 October 1945 Dufilho sailed in company with Coast Guard operations and communications headquarters ship Ingham (WAGC-35), which flew Buckmaster’s flag and served as the convoy’s guide. Crossing the South China Sea, Dufilho anchored in the West Point Anchorage at Hong Kong on 7 October 1945. The ship stood by for air-sea rescues, and made two voyages between Okinawa and Hong Kong (18–21 November and late November–6 December) carrying primarily mail and freight, earning her the nickname among her crewmen as the “South China Courier.”
On the day after Christmas 1945, the ships company received their eagerly awaited orders to return home. Originally scheduled to depart on New Year’s Eve, the ship’s relief did not arrive on time, and she thus did not sail for the west coast until 5 January 1946. With the “Homeward Bound” pennant flying from her masthead, Dufilho turned her prow toward the United States. Refueling at Guam in the Marianas, Eniwetok in the Marshalls, and Pearl Harbor, Dufilho arrived at San Diego on 12 February. She was placed out of commission in reserve with the Nineteenth Fleet on 14 May 1946.
Dufilho lay berthed at the Naval Inactive Ship Maintenance Facility at San Diego when she was stricken on 1 December 1972, and on 1 August 1973 was sold for scrapping by the Defense Reutilization and Marketing Service. On 2 October 1973 civilian tug Pacific Ranger took ex-Dufilho and ex-Dennis (DE-405) in tow from San Diego and brought them to National Metal & Steel Corp., at Terminal Island, Calif., where they were subsequently scrapped.
Dufilho received one battle star for her World War II service. In addition, she received the Navy Occupation Service Medal with dual eligibility (2 September 1945–6 January 1946).
Commanding Officers Date Assumed Command
Cmdr. Albert H. Nienau, USNR 21 July 1944
Lt. Oliver K. Brooks, USNR 16 December 1945
Lt. Cmdr. Percy A. Lilly Jr. 27 December 1945
Mark L. Evans
2 June 2016