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Henry A. Wiley (DM-29)

(DM-29: dp. 2,200; l. 376'5" ; b. 41'; dr. 15'8" ; s. 34 k.; cpl. 336; a. 3 5", 8 20mm.; cl. Robert A. Smith)

Henry Aristo Wiley was born in Pike County, Ala., 31 January 1867 and graduated from the Naval Academy in 1888. He served in Maple during the Spanish-American War and attained his first command, Villalobos, in 1904. During the First World War Wiley commanded battleship Wyoming attached to the 6th Battle Squadron of the British Grand Fleet and received the Distinguished Service Medal for his outstanding performance. After various shore and fleet commands, he was appointed Admiral in 1927 and served as Commander-in-chief, U.S. Fleet, until his retirement in 1929 after over 40 years of service. Admiral Wiley served in the years that followed as Chairman of the Maritime Commission and in other important government posts until being recalled to active duty in 1941. In the next year he headed the Navy Board of Production Awards. Admiral Wiley retired once more 2 January 1943 and died 20 May 1943 at Palm Beach, Fla.

Henry A. Wiley (DM-29) was launched 21 April 1944 as DD-749 by Bethlehem Steel Co., Staten Island, N.Y.; sponsored by Mrs. Elizabeth W. Robb, daughter of Admiral Henry A. Wiley; reclassified DM-29 20 July 1944 and commissioned 31 August 1944, Comdr. R. E. Gadrow in command.

After shakedown in the Caribbean, the new minelayer rendezvoused with the battleships Texas, Arkansas, and Missouri and sailed 8 November for the Pacific to earn her nickname "Hammering Hank." Henry A. Wiley reached Pearl Harbor 9 December to prepare for the impending Iwo Jima campaign. As escort to the battleship New York, she rendezvoused with other ships of the Gun Fire and Covering Force off the rocky Japanese island 16 February 1945, 3 days before the initial landings. She remained there until 9 March, to provide fire support and screen ships often operating a mere 400 yards from Mount Suribachi. The minelayer poured some 3,600 rounds into the Japanese fortress.

A second and even more arduous campaign followed for Henry A. Wiley, Okinawa, the largest amphibious operation of the Pacific war. Reaching her position 23 March, D-day minus eight, she began to screen minesweepers as they cleared channels for transports and support ships. Japanese resistance was fierce and air attacks were almost unceasing. On 28 March Henry A. Wiley splashed two kamikazes, and the next morning in 15 hectic minutes saw a bomb explode 50 yards astern, downed two more kamikazes, and rescued a downed fighter pilot. While screening transports on 1 April, D-day at Okinawa, Henry A. Wiley destroyed his fifth kamikaze.

The battle-tried ship then shifted to radar picket duty and spent a total of 34 days on this important task alerting other ships of enemy air attacks. In this period Henry A. Wiley took 64 enemy aircraft under fire, destroying several. The morning of 4 May proved especially eventful. She began by splashing a Betty at 0307. When her sister ship Luce was reported sinking, Henry A. Wiley proceeded to her aid, but came under heavy air attack. In less than a quarter hour of heavy fighting, the valiant ship splashed three kamikazes and two Baka bombers, one of which was closing from the starboard quarter when it was hit by Henry A. Wiley's accurate fire. It hit the water, bounced over the fantail, and exploded just off the port quarter. Having expended nearly 5,000 rounds of 5 inch and AA ammunition, the minelayer then proceeded to rescue survivors from Luce. For her intrepid actions off Okinawa, which resulted in the destruction of 15 Japanese planes, Henry A. Wiley received the coveted Presidential Unit Citation, and her skipper the Navy Cross and Legion of Merit.

From Okinawa Henry A. Wiley sailed for the East China Sea, entering 12 June to screen minesweepers attempting to clear that vast body of water. She remained on this duty, with brief respites at Buckner Bay, until peace came. Even this was ushered in to the sound of "Hammering Hank's" guns, as on the night of 14 August, 24 hours before final orders to cease offensive operations against the Japanese were received, she went to General Quarters 6 times at the approach of enemy aircraft, finally opening fire on the 6th run as an attack run was commenced. Henry A. Wiley remained in the Pacific to screen and guide minesweepers through the end of 1045. She streamed her homeward bound pennant 17 January 1946 and on 7 February reached San Francisco via Eniwetok and Pearl Harbor. Henry A. Wiley decommissioned at San Francisco 29 January 1947 and went into reserve at San Diego, where she remains into 1967.

In addition to the Presidential Unit Commendation, Henry A. Wiley received four battle stars for her participation in World War II.

Published: Wed Jul 15 10:29:23 EDT 2015