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Gamble (Destroyer No. 123)


Named in honor of two brothers, Lt. Peter Gamble and Brevet Lt. Col. John Marshall Gamble, USMC, both heroes of the War of 1812.

Peter Gamble – born on 5 November 1793 in Bordentown, N.J. – was appointed a Navy midshipman on 16 January 1809. He served on the New York Station and on board the frigate President. He was promoted to the rank of lieutenant on 8 October 1813 and transferred to the brig Enterprise. On 4 May 1814 he was ordered to proceed to Vergennes, Vt., and report to Commodore Thomas Macdonough, commanding officer of naval forces on Lake Champlain. While acting as first lieutenant of Macdonough’s flagship Saratoga, Gamble was killed while sighting his gun on 11 September 1814 during the Battle of Lake Champlain. Macdonough mourned Gamble’s death and praised his bravery in a letter to the young officer’s father. In its vote of thanks to Macdonough for the victory on Lake Champlain, Congress expressed its gratitude for Gamble’s service and authorized the presentation of a commemorative silver medal to his nearest male relative, stating that his name “ought to live in the recollection and affection of a grateful country.”

John M. Gamble – born in New Jersey on 12 March 1790 – ­­was, like his younger brother Peter, appointed a Navy midshipman on 16 January 1809. U.S. Marine Corps records indicate that on 16 July 1809, John Gamble took the oath as a second lieutenant of Marines, with his appointment effective on 10 July. He was promoted to first lieutenant on 5 March 1811.

Lt. John M. Gamble, USMC. Photo from portrait in possession of his grandson. (Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph NH 49482)
Caption: Lt. John M. Gamble, USMC. Photo from portrait in possession of his grandson. (Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph NH 49482)

By October 1811, Gamble had been put in charge of a detachment of marines on board the frigate Essex commanded by Capt. David Porter. With the country at war with Britain, Essex sailed south from Delaware on 27 October 1812, capturing numerous vessels of the British whaling fleet along both coasts of South America over the next several months. Porter placed Gamble in charge of one of the prize ships, Greenwich, which had been captured off the Galapagos Islands on 28 May 1813. On 13 July, the out-manned and out-gunned Greenwich, under Gamble’s command, captured the British privateer Seringapatam, which Porter later described as “an armed vessel of the enemy which had long been the terror of the American ships which had been engaged in commercial and other pursuits” in the Pacific Ocean.

With Essex in need of some upkeep, Porter decided to bring his fleet to Nuku Hiva in the Marquesas Islands, arriving in late October 1813. On 12 December, Porter stood out for Valparaiso with Essex and some of her prizes, leaving Gamble in charge of three ships, 18 men, and six prisoners at Nuku Hiva. Not long after Porter’s departure, hostile island natives attacked and took property from Gamble’s outpost. In response, Gamble “found it absolutely necessary, not only for the security of the ships and property on shore, but for our personal safety, to land my men and regain by force of arms the many articles they had in the most daring manner stolen from the encampment.” After this initial conflict, the natives and Gamble’s detachment of sailors co-existed peacefully for a time.

Porter had left Gamble with orders to sail to Valparaiso with two of the prize ships if Essex did not return to Nuku Hiva in five and a half months’ time. On 12 April 1813, Gamble and his crew began to prepare Seringapatam and Sir Andrew Hammond for this voyage. Sensing a change in demeanor among some of his men, Gamble had the entire store of arms and ammunition placed on board Greenwich, upon which he still berthed. Gamble’s intuition proved correct as on 7 May 1813, several of his sailors staged a mutiny, during which Gamble was assaulted, bound, confined, and accidentally shot through the heel. The mutineers plundered Greenwich and Sir Andrew Hammond and then absconded with Seringapatam. When the ship cleared the harbor, they placed the badly wounded Gamble and two of his captured men in a leaky rowboat and set them adrift.

After rowing and bailing the boat all night long, the exhausted men reached shore, where the remainder of Gamble’s worried crew informed him that the island natives, aware of the sailors’ plight, had already begun looting the encampment. Gamble decided that the best course of action would be to leave Nuku Hiva as soon as possible and sail for Valparaiso. The men prepared Sir Andrew Hammond to get underway and were retrieving some items from shore when the natives “made an unprovoked and wanton attack.” In an 1815 letter to Secretary of the Navy Benjamin W. Crowninshield, Gamble recalled, “Our situation at that moment was most desperate—the savages put off in every direction with a view to intercept the boat, and board the ship, but were driven back by my firing the few guns we had just before loaded with grape and canister shot.” Gamble lost four of his men in the fighting that ensued, leaving him with a crew of eight, “out of which there was one cripple confined to his bed, one man dangerously wounded, one sick, one convalescent, a feeble old man just recovering from the scurvy, and myself unable to lend any further assistance, the exertions of the day [9 May] having so greatly inflamed my wound as to produce a violent fever.” With only three sailors fit for duty, this sad company put to sea immediately in Sir Andrew Hammond.

Lacking charts, instruments, weapons, and provisions as well as able bodies, Gamble followed the trade winds and remarkably guided the ship to the Sandwich Islands [Hawaiian Islands] in 17 days. At Whytetee [Waikiki] on the island of Waohoo [Oahu], Gamble received the assistance of some Americans, particularly Capt. Nathaniel Winship, as well as the natives of the island in making repairs to and securing provisions for Sir Andrew Hammond. With approximately 40 natives and their cargo of tributes to be delivered to Tamaahmaah [King Kamehameha I] embarked, the ship departed for the island of Owyhee [Hawaii] on 11 June 1814, but the British sloop Cherub shortly captured Gamble’s defenseless ship. Gamble was held as a war prisoner aboard Cherub for seven months, finally being put ashore in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on 15 December 1814. From there he secured transportation back to the United States, arriving at New York on 28 August 1815.

Writing to the Navy Department, Porter later praised Gamble’s conduct. “Captain Gamble at all times greatly distinguished himself by his activity in every enterprise engaged in by the force under my command,” Porter wrote, “and in many critical encounters by the natives of Madison’s Island [Nuku Hiva] rendered essential services, and at all times distinguished himself by his coolness and bravery. I therefore do, with pleasure recommend him to the department as an officer deserving of its patronage. I now avail myself of the opportunity of assuring you that no Marine officer in the service ever had such strong claims as Captain Gamble, and that none have been placed in such conspicuous and critical situations, and that none could have extricated themselves from them more to their honor.”

Gamble’s gunshot wound left him crippled and unable to return to sea. An obituary from the New York American noted that Gamble was appointed commander of the marine garrison at Philadelphia, Pa., after returning to the United States and remained there for ten years. He later held the same position at Portsmouth, N.H., and finally at New York.

While still a prisoner of the British, Gamble had been promoted to captain on 18 June 1814. He was brevetted major on 9 April 1816 and officially achieved this full rank on 1 July 1834. He attained the rank of lieutenant colonel by brevet on 3 March 1827.

John M. Gamble married Hannah Lang around January 1817. They had at least three sons, John, William M., and Thomas T. Gamble, and at least two daughters, Sarah Lang, who died young, and Mary Gamble. He died in Brooklyn, N.Y., on 11 September 1836.

The sons of Maj. William Gamble, John and Peter Gamble had two other brothers who served in the Navy. Capt. Thomas Gamble died in 1818 while commanding the sloop-of-war Erie in the Mediterranean. Lt. Francis B. Gamble commanded a schooner and died in the West Indies in 1824.

(Destroyer No. 123: displacement 1,306; length 314'4"; beam 31'; draft 9'10"; speed 35 knots; complement 125; armament 4 4-inch, 2 3-inch, 12 21-inch torpedo tubes; class Wickes)

Breese (Destroyer No. 122) and Gamble (Destroyer No. 123) on the ways at Newport News Ship Building Company, Newport News, Va., between November 1917 and May 1918. (Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph NH 43018)
Caption: Breese (Destroyer No. 122) and Gamble (Destroyer No. 123) on the ways at Newport News Ship Building Company, Newport News, Va., between November 1917 and May 1918. (Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph NH 43018)

Gamble (Destroyer No. 123) was laid down on 12 November 1917 at Newport News, Va., by Newport News Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Co.; launched on 11 May 1918; sponsored by Miss Evelyn H. Jackson, relative of Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels; and commissioned at Norfolk on 29 November 1918, Cmdr. Harry J. Abbett in command.

After a post-commissioning dry dock period (3–11 December 1918), Gamble sailed on 15 December to Newport, R.I., to load torpedoes and then continued on to New York City, arriving on the 17th. The destroyer operated locally until 13 January 1919, when Gamble steamed in company with [EMN1] Dent (Destroyer No. 116), Dorsey (Destroyer No. 117), Breese (Destroyer No. 122), Delphy (Destroyer No. 261), and Perkins (Destroyer No. 26) to Guantánamo Bay to take part in maneuvers off Cuba. The destroyer returned to Norfolk on 2 February and spent three days in dry dock for repairs prior to trials. Gamble completed her trials off Rockland, Me., on 18 February and arrived at Boston [Mass.] Navy Yard the following day. On 21 February, Gamble was among the ships that steamed out to meet the troop transport George Washington (Id. No. 3018), which was carrying President Woodrow Wilson back to the U.S. from peace negotiations in Paris, to escort her into Boston Harbor on the 23rd. Gamble returned to Norfolk on 27 February and steamed south again on 6 March, stopping at Key West, Fla., before arriving back at Guantánamo Bay for additional training exercises. The destroyer stood out of Guantánamo Bay on 9 April with the Atlantic Fleet and arrived at New York on the 14th for recreation and final trials.

Gamble at Boston, Mass., 24 February 1919. (Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph NH 105190)
Caption: Gamble at Boston, Mass., 24 February 1919. (Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph NH 105190)

On 1 May 1919, Gamble set course to Ponta Delgada in the Azores Islands in company with Wilkes (Destroyer No. 67), Sampson (Destroyer No. 63), and Cassin (Destroyer No. 43) to support the Navy’s upcoming first transatlantic flight. American destroyers would be positioned across the Atlantic at roughly 50 mile intervals acting as navigational landmarks for the planes, in some cases providing weather data, and reporting in to central command as each plane passed the station. Gamble arrived at Ponta Delgada on 7 May, and the next day, three Navy Curtiss NC flying boats took off from New York on the first leg of their journey. One of the aircraft, NC-4, experienced engine trouble during this leg that necessitated major repairs and thus delayed the transatlantic attempt. On the 15th, Gamble departed Ponta Delgada to assume Station No. 5 on the Azores-to-Portugal leg of the flight. The planes finally departed from Trepassey Bay, Newfoundland, Canada, to attempt the ocean crossing on the 17th, but of the three aircraft, only NC-4 successfully landed at the Azores. Mishaps with the other two planes again delayed the completion of the transatlantic flight.

Gamble maintained her station until an emergency medical situation on 22 May 1919 sent the ship back to Ponta Delgada. Early on the 27th, Gamble arrived at her new position at Station No. 6, and NC-4 took off from Ponta Delgada. At 1348, Gamble began making smoke to create a screen to guide the plane, which lookouts spotted at two points on the port quarter at 1400. Ten minutes later as the destroyer steamed ahead at 25 knots, NC-4 passed overhead. By 1420, the plane had passed out of Gamble’s view. Upon receiving word at 1440 that NC-4 had passed over the next station, Gamble set course once again for the Azores. Later that day, NC-4 landed at Lisbon, Portugal, thus becoming the first plane to cross the Atlantic Ocean successfully.

With Gamble’s role in the transatlantic flight mission thus concluded, the destroyer returned to Ponta Delgada and then continued on to Horta, also in the Azores. On 29 May, she sailed from Horta in company with Ramsay (Destroyer No. 124), Lamberton (Destroyer No. 119), and Hopewell (Destroyer No. 181) bound for Norfolk Navy Yard, Portsmouth, Va. After stopping with Hopewell at St. Georges, Bermuda, and arriving back at Norfolk on 6 June, Gamble entered overhaul at Hampton Roads and was reassigned to the Pacific Fleet.

Gamble arrived at New York City to join with the rest of Destroyer Division 12 on 26 June 1919. Two days later, World War I drew to its formal conclusion when the Allied Powers and Germany signed the Treaty of Versailles. On 8 July, Gamble again was among the naval ships sent to greet President Wilson in George Washington upon his return to the United States from the peace conference at Paris. The destroyer remained at New York until 14 July, when Gamble, Lamberton, and Montgomery (Destroyer No. 121) left for Hampton Roads, Va., to assemble with the Pacific Fleet.

On 19 July 1919, Gamble stood out with Destroyer Division 12 and other ships of the Pacific Fleet, beginning their journey to the West Coast. Gamble transited the Panama Canal (24–25 July) and called at Balboa in the Canal Zone for three days to refuel and load fresh provisions. Resuming the voyage on the 28th, the fleet steamed north and commenced an extended post-war victory tour of the Pacific coast. Arriving at San Diego, Calif., on 7 August, the fleet passed in review before Secretary of the Navy Daniels. After participating in fleet maneuvers, Gamble arrived at San Pedro, Calif., on the 9th and then anchored with the fleet at Monterey, Calif. (25–30 August). On 1 September, the dressed destroyer steamed into San Francisco Bay and once again passed in review before the Secretary of the Navy, embarked in Oregon (Battleship No. 3). Destroyer Division 12 continued its northward journey on the 9th, sailing for the ports of Puget Sound. Gamble greeted President Wilson with a 21-gun salute as he reviewed the fleet on 13 September, and Daniels once again reviewed the ships on the 15th.

Gamble and Radford (Destroyer No. 120) steaming into Seattle, Wash., after the review of Pacific Fleet, 13 September 1919. (Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph NH 109514)
Caption: Gamble and Radford (Destroyer No. 120) steaming into Seattle, Wash., after the review of Pacific Fleet, 13 September 1919. (Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph NH 109514)

After calling at Seattle, Tacoma, Port Angeles, and Port Townsend, Wash., Gamble got underway in company with Montgomery for San Francisco Bay, arriving at Mare Island Navy Yard, Vallejo, Calif., on 20 September for overhaul. On 1 October 1919, Gamble was placed in reserve status with the 30th Division and switched to the 12th Division on 1 December.

Gamble (second from right) nested with other destroyers of the Fleet at Mare Island Navy Yard in 1919. (Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph NH 42538)
Caption: Gamble (second from right) nested with other destroyers of the Fleet at Mare Island Navy Yard in 1919. (Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph NH 42538)

On 26 February 1920, Gamble left Mare Island and returned to San Diego, arriving on the 28th. On 11 June, Division 12 assisted an active flotilla with torpedo practice and then returned to base. From 31 August through 4 September, Gamble was underway to provide onboard training for Naval Reservists. On 15 October, Gamble once again set course for Mare Island, arriving on the 19th to commence a dry dock period and machinery overhaul.

The ship returned to San Diego on 27 October 1920 and then (3–6 November) participated in maneuvers with a battleship force, acting as an antisubmarine screen for battleships Texas (BB-35) and New York (BB-34). Destroyer Division 12 participated in gunnery drills over several days at mid-month before getting underway with the 33rd and 15th Destroyer Divisions on 28 November. As they sailed to the north, the ships of Division 12 provided antisubmarine screening for Battleship Division 1. On 1 December, Division 12 detached from the larger fleet to refuel at San Francisco. The destroyers then proceeded to Portland, Ore., where they stayed briefly (3–6 December) before returning to San Diego late on the 8th for upkeep and machinery overhaul at Bunker’s Wharf.

Gamble ca. 1920. (Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph NH 77268)
Caption: Gamble ca. 1920. (Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph NH 77268)

Gamble actively participated in numerous training and maneuver exercises through much of 1921. During January and February, she participated in rehearsals for short range battle practice with the destroyers of Division 12. In April, they participated in frequent maneuvers to prepare for long range day battle practice, and in May, the division’s training emphasis switched to night battle practice. Beginning in late May, Destroyer Division 12 joined with other destroyer divisions and later with battleship squadrons for tactical exercises. Beginning on 22 June, Gamble toured ports along the California coast with the Pacific Fleet, visiting Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, and Monterey. After spending the first two weeks of July at San Francisco, Gamble returned to San Diego on the 18th for a month of machinery upkeep.

On 15 August 1921, Gamble arrived at Mare Island for overhaul, with drydocking from 1-9 September. Joined by Radford (DD-120), Breese, and Montgomery, Gamble departed the Bay Area on 20 September and returned to San Diego late the following day, where she continued her upkeep routine for the rest of the year.

Gamble returned to Mare Island on 16 January 1922 for additional repairs. On 23 February, the destroyer moored off of Sausalito, Calif., and then moved to Man of War Wharf in San Francisco on the 27th, where she remained until 15 March. She returned to San Diego on the 17th and commenced inactivation procedures. Gamble was decommissioned on 17 June 1922 and was held in reserve at San Diego.

On 24 May 1930, the Navy reactivated and recommissioned Gamble, Cmdr. Alexander Sharp in command. After completing a shakedown cruise on 7 June, the destroyer departed San Diego on the 9th with the tug Sonoma (AT-12), which took the recently decommissioned destroyer Ludlow (DD-112) in tow. The trio arrived at Mare Island on 12 June, and the next day, Gamble began conversion to a light minelayer. The ship was reclassified and given the new identification number DM-15 on 13 June 1930.

With her conversion completed, Gamble steamed from Mare Island on 25 June 1930 with Ramsay (DM-16), also newly converted to a light minelayer, as well as the minesweeper Tanager (AM-5). Upon her 4 July arrival at her new home port of Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii, Gamble became flagship of Mine Squadron 2. From 12–26 July, Gamble cruised around the Hawaiian Islands with embarked naval reservists receiving instruction in mine warfare. The ship underwent an overhaul and repair availability period from August through November 1930. As of 24 November, Gamble served as flagship of Mine Division 1, Mine Squadron 1. From 5–11 December, she conducted experimental operations with seaplanes and on the 16th carried out battle mining practice.

Effective 1 January 1931, Gamble became the flagship of Mine Division 1, Minecraft, Battle Force, U.S. Fleet. On 22 January, Gamble stood out for San Diego in company with Ramsay, Tanager, and Whippoorwill (AM-35) to join the ships participating in Fleet Problem XII held off the coast of Balboa, Panama Canal Zone, during much of February and March 1931. After exercising with various units of the Pacific Fleet and with the Mine Craft Battle Force, Gamble returned to San Diego on 4 April and got underway for the return trip to Pearl Harbor on the 7th, arriving home on 16 April.

For the next several years, Gamble operated in the Hawaiian Islands, following a routine training regimen with the ships in her division that culminated with the annual fleet problems. At this time, the minelayers drilled in short- and long-range gunnery, battle tactics, and mine warfare; served as target or screen ship for submarine battle torpedo firing exercises; acted as plane guard and radio tracker station for seaplanes; participated in joint exercises with the Army; and occasionally conducted special assignments such as Navy Reserve training ship duty or search and rescue operations. During the first week of August 1931, for example, Gamble sped to the assistance of Lanikai, ex-Hermes, a schooner-rigged, diesel-powered yacht registered with the Hawaiian Sea Products Company and operated as a fishing boat, which lay disabled in the vicinity of Fanning Island. At the end of the month while on plane guard duty, the ship recovered the splashed plane 4-P-10 and towed it back to Pearl Harbor. The Douglas PD-1 flying boat (BuNo A-7998), manned by Lt. W.L. Reese, ACMM H. Wagner, AP1c P.C. Diez, and EM1c J.E. Schneider of Patrol Squadron 4B, flew a routine search when its starboard engine backfired. The crew could not maintain the plane’s flight and it splashed hard about 60 miles southwest of Pearl Harbor. The flying boat sustained some damage, but the four men escaped without major injuries. On 10–11 September 1931, Gamble transported Governor Lawrence M. Judd of the Territory of Hawaii from Honolulu to Hilo.

After relatively routine years in 1932 and 1933, Gamble began 1934 by participating in Hawaiian Tactical Exercise No. 2, a variation on the Fleet Problem that included advanced base operations and a simulated bombardment of Kahului, Maui. During this exercise (29 January–9 February), the ship practiced antisubmarine tactics and simulated laying a mine field across the entrance to Hilo Harbor. Late on 6 June, Gamble got underway to assist steamer President Lincoln, which was on fire north of Maui. Early the next day, she reached the disabled ship’s position and escorted her to Honolulu. Two weeks later, the minelayer began a three-month upkeep and repair availability period at Pearl Harbor. From 22–26 October, Gamble took part in Hawaiian Tactical Exercise No. 3, which included a simulated night bombardment of Pearl Harbor and several simulated attacks on the harbor defenses of Honolulu.

The minelayer rounded out 1934 (4–11 December) by joining the search for the missing aircraft Stella Australis, flown by noted Australian aviator Charles T. P. Ulm with a crew of two men. Attempting to fly from Oakland, Calif., to Australia via Hawaii in preparation for commercial airline service, Stella Australis ran out of fuel and went down on 3 December in an unknown position thought to be off of Honolulu, and despite a massive air and sea search effort that included nearly two dozen U.S. Navy ships and numerous private vessels, no trace of the airplane or its crew was ever found.

Gamble commenced another extensive overhaul period on 29 April 1936. Upon completion of her upkeep on 6 August, the minelayer returned to her regular routine save for a three-day call at Palmyra Atoll in late August. From 4–8 May 1937, Gamble and the ships of Mine Division One participated in Fleet Problem XVIII in Hawaiian waters. After duty as antisubmarine patrol for the sortie of the U.S. Fleet (19–20 May), Gamble’s crew prepared the ship for her second decommissioning. Departing Pearl Harbor in company with Breese and Ramsay on 19 June, Gamble returned to San Diego and was decommissioned there on 22 December 1937.

As Europe plunged into World War II, Gamble was once again recommissioned at San Diego on 25 September 1939, with Cmdr. Allan E. Smith serving as Gamble’s commanding officer and as Commander, Mine Division Five, as well. After satisfactory dock trials, the minelayer departed San Diego on 18 October and headed for Mare Island, where she completed a drydocking from 26–31 October. Upon leaving Mare Island on 8 November, Gamble sideswiped her sister ship Montgomery (DM-17) in San Pablo Bay, causing a large leak in the forward engine room that sent the ship right back to dry dock. After leaving dry dock for a second time and successfully completing dock trials on 16 November, Gamble joined Mine Division 5 in patrol duties out of San Francisco through mid-December 1939 before a holiday stand down period.

Gamble resumed local patrol operations on 2 January 1940. On 15 January, the minelayer got underway in company with Montgomery to participate in joint Army-Navy exercises. On the 18th, the ship then independently simulated laying a minefield. From 14–29 February, again in company with Montgomery, Gamble traveled south to conduct day battle practice gunnery exercises off the coast of San Diego and Los Angeles. From mid-March to early April, she provided surface escort service for submarines and in May conducted numerous tests of underwater sound equipment. On 6 June, the ship took part in joint exercises with the Army, Navy, and Coast Guard. On 6 July, Gamble embarked reservists from the Bay Area for a two week training cruise, exercising off of San Clemente Island, and cruised with a second group of reservists from the San Diego area from 17–30 August.

In late September and early October 1940, the ship conducted mine laying training school, and following a two-day call at Pittsburg, Calif., Gamble returned to Mare Island for maintenance and upkeep on 14 October. The minelayer completed a drydocking (25–31 October), including a Board of Inspection and Survey on the 28th and 29th. Repairs continued into November, and the ship passed her post-repair trials on the 23rd.

Gamble (DM-15) dressed with flags while tied up in port, circa 1940. Note circular Mine Force insignia, red/blue/white with a black center and outline. Courtesy of the Mariners Museum, Newport News, Virginia. Ted Stone Collection. (Naval History ...
Caption: Gamble (DM-15) dressed with flags while tied up in port, circa 1940. Note circular Mine Force insignia, red/blue/white with a black center and outline. Courtesy of the Mariners Museum, Newport News, Virginia. Ted Stone Collection. (Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph NH 66812)

After completing her upkeep availability, Gamble prepared to get underway to transfer to her new home port of Pearl Harbor. In company with the other units of Mine Division Five, which also included Breese (DM-18), Ramsay, and Montgomery, Gamble steamed for Hawaii on 3 December 1940. The transit to Pearl Harbor took one week, and after arriving on the 10th, Gamble remained in port for the rest of the month for holiday leave and upkeep.

On 14 January 1941, Gamble commenced routine operations out of Pearl Harbor with Mine Division Five, which became Mine Division Two on 28 January. The division frequently conducted Short and Long Range Battle Practice runs and Battle Mining Practice exercises to maintain war readiness. Gamble spent most of the month of March engaged in exercises with the Pacific Fleet, providing antisubmarine screens for various cruisers and battleships and practicing battle tactics, including a simulation of laying a drifting mine field ahead of the enemy battle line.

In September 1941, Gamble entered a repair availability at Pearl Harbor. The minelayer was in dry dock (16–22 October) and continued repairs into November. Post-repair trials conducted on 13 November evidently did not go as planned as Gamble was towed back to Pearl Harbor by the tug Sunnadin (AT-28). However, by 28 November, the ship was underway off of Lahaina for exercises with Mine Division Two and Battleship Division One. Over the next eight days, Gamble provided antisubmarine screens for Arizona (BB-39) and Nevada (BB-36) and conducted tactical exercises with Mine Division Two. While underway on the morning of 2 December, Gamble picked up a sound contact at 2,800 yards. The ship investigated for more than an hour but did not locate the source of the echo. She returned to port at Pearl Harbor for the weekend on 5 December.

On the morning of 7 December 1941, Gamble lay moored starboard side next to Montgomery, nested with the other ships of Mine Division Two at berth D-3 at Pearl Harbor. The sound of explosions on Ford Island broke the minelayer’s peaceful Sunday morning routine at 0754, followed shortly thereafter by the first of the Japanese carrier-based planes attacking the Pacific Fleet’s ships in the harbor. Gamble’s gunners quickly joined the fire of other warships and had the satisfaction of seeing one enemy plane fall into the water on her port beam.

After the attack, Gamble got underway at 0930 and commenced an antisubmarine patrol. Shortly before noon, the ship picked up a sound contact believed to be a submarine and dropped three depth charges in the contact area with no results. Gamble resumed patrol of the channel approach area, and at 1632, she opened fire on a surfacing submarine. Her initial shot fell short and to the left of the target, while a second shot failed to fire. Sending up an emergency recognition red smoke bomb to identify herself as friendly, Thresher (SS-200), with a critically injured sailor on board, re-submerged immediately, and Gamble ceased firing. An hour later, the minelayer assumed station as antisubmarine screen and plane guard for the carrier Enterprise (CV-6), en route to Pearl Harbor from Wake Island.

The next morning, Gamble detached from Enterprise and began offshore patrol of the Pearl Harbor entrance area. In the following days, the ship investigated several sound contacts and reports of submarines and also escorted naval and merchant ships in the waters surrounding Pearl Harbor and Honolulu. Gamble encountered a floating mine while on patrol on 21 December 1941. However, the mine did not explode when it was sunk by rifle fire, leading to the conclusion that the object was an errant U.S. Navy training mine.

The next afternoon, the minelayer made an underwater sound contact and dropped six depth charges. Twenty minutes later, the ship sighted an object believed to be a periscope at 200 yards on the port beam. While maneuvering to investigate the sighting, Gamble hit an object in the water and dropped six more depth charges at the site, but the ship found no further evidence of a submarine in the area. On the 29th, Gamble pursued another possible periscope sighting and dropped four depth charges but again observed no evidence of a strike.

By early 1942, Gamble had established a routine of conducting antisubmarine patrols, investigating sound contacts for potential enemy submarines, escorting convoys and ships, and occasionally investigating plane crashes at sea. In mid-February, Gamble headed south escorting a three-ship convoy to Pago Pago, Samoa, with Ramsay (DM-16). Then (4–27 March) Gamble joined Ramsay in laying a protective mine field off Tutuila, Samoa. The two minelayers stopped at Apia, at the New Zealand-governed Western Samoa Trust Territory, and returned briefly to Pago Pago before departing on 31 March en route to Suva, Fiji Islands. The ships arrived on 3 April and laid a minefield in Nandi waters (7–14 April).

While rehearsing mine laying with Ramsay and the minesweeper Kingfisher (AM-25) as the operation began on 7 April 1942, however, Gamble hit an uncharted coral pinnacle with her port propeller, which could then no longer operate over five knots. Gamble secured the propeller and continued the mine laying mission with only her starboard engine. On the 10th, two officers and six sailors took the ship’s whaleboat into the minefield to fire at and sink a mine that was floating on the surface, which could reveal the location of the field to the enemy. The men were commended “for courageous and intrepid conduct” at mast two days later.

On 15 April 1942, Gamble proceeded independently to Pago Pago to meet the oiler Cuyama (AO-3) to escort her to Pearl Harbor. While en route to Hawaii on 25 April, the two ships searched unsuccessfully for a downed plane. The search was called off on the morning of the 26th and the ships arrived at Pearl Harbor the next afternoon. At Pearl Harbor, Gamble underwent a 12–day availability period including three days in dry dock to replace the damaged port propeller. At this time, Gamble also switched out her .50 caliber machine guns with 20 millimeter guns.

After completing repair work, Gamble resumed off-shore patrol out of Pearl Harbor and inter-island escort duty on 13 May 1942. From 12–17 June, Gamble escorted the cargo ships Sirius (AK-15) and Midway (AG-41) from Pearl Harbor to Midway Island. On 23 June, Gamble embarked Japanese Cmdr. Kunizo Aiso as a prisoner of war. Cmdr. Aiso served as the chief engineer on board the aircraft carrier Hiryū, which sank on the morning of 5 June during the Battle of Midway. Aiso and 34 crewmen survived afloat at sea for nine days in a cutter until they were rescued by the destroyer seaplane tender Ballard (AVD-10) on the 14th. With Sirius transporting the remaining Hiryū survivors, the original convoy plus the gasoline tanker Kaloli (AOG-13) and seven motor torpedo (PT) boats departed for Pearl Harbor. Armed guards met Gamble upon her return on 1 July to transfer Aiso from the ship.

Following a brief upkeep period with destroyer tender Black Hawk (AD-9) (3–7 July), Gamble returned to her shore patrol and escort duties. On 19 July 1942, the ship engaged in a search and rescue mission after observing a U.S. Navy dive bomber, most likely a Douglas SBD Dauntless, crash but only recovered minor wreckage as the plane sank immediately. Gamble stopped at the Naval Ammunition Depot at West Loch at Pearl Harbor on 22 July to load 85 Mark VI mines and then joined with Breese and Tracy (DM-19) to begin transit to Espíritu Santo Island in the New Hebrides [Vanuatu]. The convoy stopped for fuel at Palmyra on the 25th and Suva, Fiji, on the 31st and arrived at Segond Channel, Espíritu Santo, on 2 August.

The next day, the ships planted mine fields at the entrances to the channel. On the morning of 4 August 1942, the three minelayers got underway to rendezvous with the seaplane tender Curtiss (AV-4) and destroyer seaplane tender McFarland (AVD-14) to safely lead the ships into the eastern entrance of Segond Channel. At the same time, Tucker (DD-374) was leading the cargo ship Nira Luckenbach toward the channel’s western entrance. At 1215, the destroyer struck one of the newly-laid mines as she entered Segond Channel. Three men in the forward fireroom died, and Tucker eventually sank. Later investigation revealed that Tucker had not been told about the new minefield.

Gamble spent the next several weeks patrolling near Espiritu Santo and piloting friendly ships into Segond Channel. During this time, on 7 August 1942, fighting began at Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands. On 27 August, Gamble joined Task Unit (TU) 62.2.4 to proceed to the Guadalcanal – Tulagi area.

On the morning of 29 August 1942, her lookouts sighted a large enemy submarine that immediately submerged. Gamble made several runs at the submarine, dropping a total of 11 depth charges before losing contact with the enemy ship. After more than an hour of searching, Gamble passed through an oil slick which led them to a large and growing pool of oil. The ship soon reestablished contact with the submarine and dropped ten more depth charges. In this area, Gamble observed “considerable submarine deck planking and other debris” as well as a large air bubble and smaller bubbles of air and oil coming to the surface. Later her victim was identified as Japanese submarine I-123 (Lt. Cmdr. Nakai Makoto, commanding), which signaled “under heavy enemy attack” before she made her final plunge.

At 1330 that afternoon, Gamble proceeded at full speed to Nura Island where she rescued four aviators of Torpedo Squadron (VT) 8 flying from Saratoga (CV-3) who had ditched their damaged TBF-1 Avenger (Bu. No. 00396) [EMN1] five days earlier during the Battle of the Eastern Solomons. The minelayer then rejoined her task unit en route to Tulagi Harbor. Continuing to aid in the bitter struggle for Guadalcanal, on 31 August she transported 158 marines to the island. Gamble then returned to Tulagi on 1 September to assist her task unit guide transport William Ward Burrows (AP-6), which ran aground on Sylvia Reef while entering the harbor on 29 August. Gamble succeeded in freeing the troop transport on 2 September, but early the next day, William Ward Burrows grounded again on a shoal and Gamble once more provided towing support. After freeing the transport ship for a second time, Gamble then escorted her to Guadalcanal to unload. The ships went back to Tulagi on the 4th and then proceeded on to Lunga Roads the next day. From there, Gamble escorted William Ward Burrows to Espíritu Santo, where they arrived on 8 September.

Gamble resumed patrol and escort duty in the area around Segond Channel and save for a brief run to Mele Bay, Efate Island, in the New Hebrides (14–16 September), continued with this tasking through the fall of 1942. On 12 September, the ship rescued two aviators whose plane had crashed off Palikulo Bay. One month later, the ship towed plane 11-P-4 to Segond Channel after spotting the Consolidated PBY Catalina having engine trouble and landing in the water off the east coast of Malo Island. Gamble conducted another aircraft search and rescue on 11 November, but the plane’s crew evidently had been rescued by a patrol aircraft before Gamble arrived on the scene. Later that same day, the minelayer was sent to investigate a report of a man adrift on a raft near Malakula Island, but an overnight search yielded no results.

In December 1942, Gamble was assigned off-shore patrol duty and operated off the coasts of Espíritu Santo and Malekula in New Hebrides, and Nouméa in New Caledonia for the next several months. On 21 December, Gamble reinforced the minefield at the eastern entrance of Segond Channel with 42 new mines. The ship also served as convoy escort and antisubmarine screener, making trips to Viti Levu, Fiji; Brisbane, Australia; and Guadalcanal in the early months of 1943. On one such run to Lunga Point, Guadalcanal, a Japanese bomber attacked Gamble’s convoy on 20 March 1943. Three Navy escort ships fired at the plane, but it did not come within range of Gamble’s guns and she did not open fire.

Shortly after midnight on 6 May 1943 in rainy weather and poor visibility, Gamble, Preble (DM-20), and Breese planted more than 250 mines across Blackett Strait in 17 minutes. The narrow western entrance to Kula Gulf between Kolombangara and Kohinggo Islands in the Solomons was a favorite route of the fast and stealthy transport ships of the Imperial Japanese Navy’s “Tokyo Express.” Just two nights later, very early on 8 May, three Japanese destroyers entered the mined waters, and all three struck the hidden explosives. Kuroshio, the last ship to hit the mines, exploded and sank instantly. Oyashio and Kagerō, both dead in the water and badly damaged by the mine strikes, became targets for American dive bombers after sunrise, and both ships sank later that evening.

On 2 June 1943, Gamble got underway from Dumbea Bay in New Caledonia with Preble, bound for Sydney, Australia, where the crew enjoyed some rest and relaxation (5–15 June). On the morning of the 16th, the ship departed Sydney and headed for Nouméa. Gamble caught up with Preble later in the day, and the two minelayers arrived at Nouméa Harbor on 19 June. The next day, Gamble briefly entered the floating dry dock ARD-2. After steaming into Havannah Harbor at Efate the 24th, three days later Gamble stood out as part of TU 36.2.2 with Pringle (DD-477), Preble, and Breese. The ship refueled at Tulagi on the 29th, and then very early on 30 June during the invasion of New Georgia, Gamble laid a string of mines off the beachhead before returning to Tulagi.

In July 1943, welcome orders sent Gamble back to the continental United States. On 11 July, the minelayer arrived at Viti Levu Island to rendezvous with Curtiss. The ships stopped at Funafuti for fuel on the 13th and departed together the next day. Gamble was detached from Curtiss on the morning of 15 July and continued the voyage to the West Coast independently. After refueling again at Palmyra on the 17th and Pearl Harbor on the 20th, Gamble arrived at San Francisco Bay on 29 July for overhaul at Hunter’s Point Navy Yard. Following dry dock (17–27 August) and post-repair trials on 17 September, Gamble departed the mainland to return to Pearl Harbor on 20 September. Arriving there on the 26th, Gamble spent the next several days engaged in gunnery and submarine exercises and a practice mining run.

Gamble returned to convoy escort and antisubmarine screen duty in the southern Pacific islands on 2 October 1943 when she stood down the channel to escort the attack cargo ship Thuban (AKA-19) on a six-day voyage to Funafuti. In November 1943, Gamble also participated in several mining runs off of Bougainville in the Solomon Islands in support of the Allied offensive there. Early on the morning of 2 November, Gamble, Breese and Sicard (DM-21) laid a minefield in Empress Augusta Bay off Cape Moltke. During this run, Gamble had difficulties with her port mine track, and the last 16 of 85 mines she deployed were launched at irregular intervals. Joined by Tracy and Pruitt (DM-22), the minelayers placed another field in Bougainville Strait on 8 November. Finally, just after midnight on 24 November, Gamble deployed 85 additional mines off Bougainville in company with Tracy, Sicard, and Pruitt. Gamble’s starboard track gear jammed during the last three minutes of this run, and the crew launched her remaining starboard mines by hand.

Through late 1943 and much of 1944, Gamble generally served as convoy escort ship screening for enemy submarines while operating between Guadalcanal and Florida Island in the Solomons; Espíritu Santo; and Nouméa, with additional runs to Suva, Fiji; Finschhaven and New Britain Island, New Guinea; Sydney; and Tarawa Atoll in the Gilbert Islands [Kiribati]. Working with Sicard and the coastal minelayer Monadnock (CM-9), Gamble did set more mines at Espíritu Santo and Havannah Harbor on 10 and 14 February 1944. In mid-July, Gamble’s sound gear began to fail, and the ship completed an availability with the destroyer tender Dixie (AD-14) at Purvis Bay (1–7 September) to address the issue.

On 26 September 1944, Gamble departed Purvis Bay, bound for overhaul at San Francisco via Funafuti Harbor in the Ellice Islands [Tuvalu] and Pearl Harbor. Gamble steamed into San Francisco Bay on 12 October and moved the next day to the Bethlehem Steel Repair Yard at Alameda, Calif., to commence a major maintenance and repair availability. Upon completion of overhaul and post-repair trials, Gamble steamed for San Diego on 23 December, arriving the next day. The ship underwent inspection on the 26th and then immediately departed on a shakedown cruise and refresher training through the 31st.

Gamble left San Diego on 7 January 1945 in company with the escort ship French (DE-367), en route to Pearl Harbor. The next day, the large cruiser Alaska (CB-1) joined the pair, and Gamble commenced antisubmarine screening for the convoy until their arrival at Pearl Harbor on 13 January. Gamble set course for Eniwetok in the Marshalls as part of Task Group 51.12 on 27 January but detached from the convoy the next day to screen the attack transport Brule (APA-66), which experienced difficulties with her engines. The two ships reversed course and returned to Pearl Harbor on 31 January.

Getting underway again three days later, Gamble escorted Carteret (APA-70) to Saipan, Marianas Islands. Arriving on 14 February 1945, Gamble then proceeded independently to Iwo Jima in the Kazan Rettō (Volcano Islands), rendezvousing with a convoy en route. Upon her arrival at Iwo Jima on 17 February, Gamble provided fire support, targeting various on-shore positions. During her shelling of the island that afternoon, a direct hit on an ammunition dump exploded an enemy magazine at the foot of Mt. Surabachi, “sending a column of fire, smoke and debris approximately 1,000 feet in the air,” according to her war diarist.

In the early morning hours of 18 February 1945, Gamble provided antisubmarine screening for Task Force 52. She then covered the minelayer Terror (CM-5), which was engaged in fueling operations, and patrolled uneventfully at her assigned station off of Iwo Jima. That evening, Gamble was ordered to join the circular screen for battleship Nevada and assumed her station at 2115. Ten minutes later, a twin-engine plane came straight in on the starboard beam, flying very fast only 15 feet off the water, too low to be picked up by the ship’s radar. Leaving Gamble no time to react with her guns, the aircraft released two 250-pound bombs that struck the minelayer amidships about two feet above the waterline. All of Gamble’s boilers exploded, both firerooms immediately flooded, and the ship stood dead in the water with two holes in her bottom as all hands fought raging fires, jettisoned topside weight, and shored damaged bulkheads. At 0150 on 19 February, Dorsey (DMS-1) took the crippled minelayer in tow to a point about 10 miles northeast of Iwo Jima, and Gamble’s crew spent the rest of the night doing everything they could to stabilize their ship. Fortunately, the sea was calm, and at 0845, everyone except the commanding officer, six officers, and 39 men transferred with their gear to the salvage vessel Clamp (ARS-33).

As a result of the attack, five crewmen died, eight were wounded, and one sailor was missing in action and presumed dead. In his action report for the event written one month later, Lt. Richard J. Peterson, USNR, Gamble’s commanding officer, praised the efforts of his crew on that dreadful night: “It was due to the quick action and quick thinking on the part of several members of this organization that the casualties were kept to a minimum and the ship was kept afloat. The cool headedness and lack of panic on the part of all hands helped the situation appreciably.”

As marines stormed the shores of Iwo Jima on 19 February 1945, the salvage party continued to jettison weight and pump water out of Gamble’s ravaged hull. That evening, medium landing ship LSM-126 took her under tow for passage to Saipan. The tug Mataco (AT-86) assumed the tow on the 22nd, and two days later, the ships arrived at Saipan, where Gamble went alongside the destroyer tender Hamul (AD-20) to await a decision on repair and disposition of the ship.

For several months, some hope remained that Gamble would be repaired and would rejoin the Fleet, but on 1 June 1945 the battered minelayer was decommissioned, and her name was stricken from the Navy Register on 22 June. On 16 July 1945, Gamble was towed outside Apra Harbor, Guam, and sunk[EMN2] .

Gamble received seven battle stars for service in World War II.

Commanding Officers Date Assumed Command
Cmdr. Harry J. Abbett 29 November 1918
Cmdr. Randall Jacobs 12 January 1919
Lt. Cmdr. Hanz Ertz (acting) 16 February 1919 
Lt. Cmdr. Jabez S. Lowell (temporary additional duty) 16 March 1919
Lt. Cmdr. Hanz Ertz (acting) 29 March 1919
Lt. Cmdr. Robert K. Awtrey (temporary additional duty) 31 March 1919
Lt. Cmdr. John H. Everson 18 July 1919
Lt. John B. Heffernan (acting) 5 January 1920
Lt. Cmdr. Lee P. Johnson 7 October 1920
Lt. John B. Heffernan 10 December 1920
Lt. (j.g.) Stephen E. Haddon (acting) 29 July 1921
Ens. Roy W. M. Graham 21 November 1921
Lt. (j.g.) (T) Herman A. Berch 2 December 1921
Lt. Cmdr. Robert H. Skelton 9 December 1921
Lt. (j.g.) John F. W. Gray 23 December 1921
Lt. Cmdr. Lewis W. Comstock 4 January 1922
Cmdr. Alexander Sharp Jr. 24 May 1930
Lt. David W. Roberts 5 April 1931
Cmdr. Reuben R. Smith 7 April 1931
Lt. Cmdr. Linton Herndon 7 July 1931
Lt. Cmdr. Justin M. Miller 18 May 1932
Lt. Sidney L. Huff (acting) 6 June 1933
Lt. Cmdr. George C. Dyer 1 July 1933
Lt. Cmdr. Mays L. Lewis 2 June 1934
Lt. (j.g.) Ward Bronson (acting) 11 September 1937
Lt. (j.g.) Frank V. List (acting) 17 October 1937
Cmdr. Allan E. Smith 25 September 1939
Lt. Donald A. Crandell 10 June 1940
Lt. Elliott M. Brown 8 February 1942
Lt. Cmdr. Stephen N. Tackney 15 April 1942
Lt. Warren W. Armstrong 3 March 1943
Cmdr. Donald N. Clay 25 July 1944
Lt. Richard J. Peterson USNR 28 February 1945


Stephanie Harry
21 June 2018

Published: Wed Aug 22 10:00:48 EDT 2018