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Naval History and Heritage Command

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Holton (DE-703)

(DE-703: dp. 1,400; l. 306'; b. 36'10" ; dr. 9'5" ; s. 24 k.; cpl. 186; a. 3 3", 4 1.1", 8 20mm., 3 tt, 2 dct, 8 dcp., 1 dcp. (h.h.).; cl. Buckley)

Ralph Lee Holton was born 19 September 1918, and graduated from the Naval Academy in December 1941. He was awarded the Navy Cross for his valiant rescue work aiding survivors of the stricken carrier Lexington 8 May 1942 in the Battle of the Coral Sea. As officer-in-charge of a boat detailed to rescue survivors from the burning carrier, Ensign Holton, under a hail of flaming debris from bombs, ammunition, and gasoline exploding on Lexington, persistently returned to the stricken ship and thus effected a series of daring rescues in which he saved the lives of many members of the ship's crew who otherwise would have been lost. Less than a month later, 6 June, Ensign Holton was reported missing and presumed dead as his ship, the destroyer Hamman, was sunk during the Battle of Midway.

Holton (DE-703) was launched 15 December 1943 by Defoe Shipbuilding Co., Bay City, Mich.; sponsored by Mrs. Edith Holton, mother of Ensign Holton; and commissioned 1 May 1944 at New Orleans, Lt. Comdr. J. B. Boy, USNR, in command.

After shakedown, the new destroyer escort sailed 24 July on the Norfolk-Bizerte convoy run, returning without incident to Boston 9 September. On her second transatlantic convoy, begun 2 October, Holton went into action 14 October as two ships, a cargo vessel and a tanker loaded with high octane gasoline, collided about 400 miles off the African coast and burst into flames. After picking up the crew of the Liberty ship, Holton remained close aboard and sent over a repair party to salvage the fiercely burning ship. Although her hull was being crushed from rolling against the other ship, Holton lay alongside through a long night with six hose lines running to the stricken ship and by morning had succeeded in getting the fire under control. The next day the ship's crew was transferred back on board and with Holton as escort she proceeded to Dakar, two-thirds of the cargo as well as the ship having been saved.

Ordered to the Pacific, Holton departed Norfolk Christmas Day 1944, and arrived at Manus, Admiralty Islands, 5 February 1945 for duty in the Philippines. From then through the end of the war some 6 months later, her principal duty was escorting convoys within the Philippine Sea Frontier boundaries. After escorting two Navy ships to Tokyo Bay 31 August, Holton shepherded a convoy from Okinawa to Korea 11-13 September and then made two similar voyages to the Chinese coast. Departing Okinawa 8 November, the DE streamed her homeward-bound pennant and reached Boston via Pearl Harbor, San Diego, and the Panama Canal 15 December. Proceeding down the coast, Holton berthed at Green Cove Springs, Fla., 20 January 1946 and remained there until decommissioning and going into reserve 31 May 1946. Holton was moved in January 1947 to Orange, Tex., where she remains.

Published: Wed Apr 20 22:04:50 EDT 2016