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Hugh W. Hadley (DD-774)


Image related to Hugh W Hadley
Caption: Fighting side-by-side off Okinawa 11 May 1945, USS Hugh W. Hadley (DD-774) and USS Evans (DD-552) splashed 38 planes.

Hugh William Hadley was born 17 February 1901 at Moro, Oregon, and was appointed to the U.S. Naval Academy in 1918. Commissioned ensign on 29 May 1922, he served on board many ships, including Pennsylvania (BB-38)and S-27 (SS-132) and various shore stations in the prewar years. After serving as executive officer of Roper (DD-147) 1936-1939 and on board Maryland  (BB-46) 1941-1942, he was promoted to commander and assigned to command Transport Division 12 in the Pacific.

Hadley's high-speed [destroyer] transports made nightly runs into Guadalcanal and while on board Little (APD-4) on 5 September 1942 Hadley was surprised by the Japanese destroyers Yudachi, Murakumo, and Hatsuyuki off Lunga Point, after a U.S. Navy Consolidated PBY flying boat mistakenly illuminated Little and her sister ship Gregory (APD-3). His outgunned ships fought valiantly but were both sunk.  Cmdr. Hadley was killed in the action and was posthumously awarded the Silver Star for his outstanding performance of duty.

DD-774 : displacement 2,220; length 376'6" ; beam 41'2" ; draft 15'8" ; speed 34 knots; complement 336; armament 6 5-inch, 12 40 millimeter, 11 20 millimeter; 10 21-inch torpedo tubes, 6 depth charge projectors, 2 depth charge tracks; class Allen M. Sumner)

Hugh W. Hadley (DD-774) was laid down on 6 February 1944 at San Pedro, Calif., by Bethlehem Steel Shipbuilding Co., launched on 16 July 1944; sponsored by Mrs. Hugh W. Hadley, widow of the namesake ; and commissioned on 25 November 1944, Cmdr. Leonard C. Chamberlin in command.

After intensive shakedown training off the coast of California, Hugh W. Hadley sailed on 21 February 1945 in company with the British escort carrier HMS Ranee for Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii. The ships arrived on 27 February, but Hugh W. Hadley was soon underway again, sailing eight days later for Ulithi and the Okinawa invasion. The ship departed in company with a large group of tank landing ships (LSTs) and their escorts on 25 March bound for the Japanese island stronghold, and arrived off the Okinawa group on 31 March. As the night approach was made, Hugh W. Hadley led a group of LSTs toward the beach, shooting down an attacking Japanese plane en route. The destroyer escorted her charges safely to the beach, watched them unload their troops and equipment the morning of 1 April, and then took up antisubmarine patrol station outside the transport area. As the bitter fighting ashore continued, Hugh W. Hadley helped protect against submarines and aircraft as the Japanese made a final effort to stop the invasion. The ship remained on patrol until 4 April, when she sailed with a group of transports to Saipan, arriving on 14 April.

Hugh W. Hadley was soon on her way back to Okinawa, however, and arrived from Saipan on 27 April 1945 to resume her outer patrol. For the next few days the destroyer fought off numerous air raids, picked up a downed fighter pilot, and carried out antisubmarine patrol. She went alongside destroyer Brown (DD-546) on 1 May for transfer of communication equipment, and then took up additional duties as a fighter direction ship for the Combat Air Patrols, so vital to the invasion's air cover.

As radar picket ships were scarce, Hugh W. Hadley was assigned this duty on the afternoon of 10 May. Joining destroyer Evans (DD-552) and four smaller craft, she took station 15 west of Okinawa and early the next morning began vectoring aircraft to meet the oncoming Japanese. For nearly two hours on the morning of 11 May, Hugh W. Hadley and Evans came under severe attack, as the Japanese mounted their sixth assault against U.S. forces at Okinawa. Both ships maneuvered at high speed, downing many suicide planes and directing air attacks on formations of Japanese. The attackers numbered some 150 planes. After Evans took several serious hits and went dead in the water about 0900, Hugh W. Hadley fought on alone. At 0920, she was attacked by 10 planes simultaneously, from both ahead and astern. The ship destroyed all 10, but not without damage to herself. One bomb hit aft, a Baka bomb hit, and two kamikaze crashes were inflicted on the gallant ship as her gunners ran low on ammunition. Finally, as the attack ended, all but 50 of the crew were ordered over the side in life rafts, the remaining men fighting fires and working to control the damage. Although her engineering spaces were flooded and she was badly holed, Hugh W. Hadley was kept afloat by the determination and skill of her damage control parties and eventually arrived at le Shima.

During this remarkable battle. Hugh W. Hadley had succeeded in downing some 23 enemy aircraft and aided in splashing countless others. After temporary repairs, the ship was taken to Kerama Retto on 14 May 1945, where men from repair ship Zaniah (AG-70) worked on her battered hull. Hugh W. Hadley subsequently was taken to Buckner Bay, Okinawa, in a floating dry dock towed by Avoyel (ATF-150), on 15 July 1945, and after 20 days there began the long voyage under tow to the United States. After encountering heavy weather during the passage the ship arrived Hunters Point, Calif., via Pearl Harbor, on 26 September 1945.

Decommissioned on 15 December 1945, she was stricken from the List of Naval Vessels on 8 January 1946, and sold on 2 September 1947 to Walter W. Johnson Co., San Francisco, and scrapped.

In addition to one battle star for her World War II Service, honoring her participation in the assault and ocupation of Okinawa Gunto (1 April--30 June 1945), Hugh W. Hadley received the Presidential Unit Citation for her performance in the action off Okinawa on 11 May 1945.

Updated, Robert J. Cressman

28 December 2023

Published: Thu Dec 28 10:34:37 EST 2023