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John D. Edwards (Destroyer No. 216)

(DD-216: dp. 1,215; l. 314'4"; b. 31'; dr. 9'4"; s. 35 k.; cpl. 124; a. 4 4", 1 3", 12 21" tt.; cl. Clemson)

John D. Edwards, born in Isle of Wight County, Va. 2 August 1885, was appointed Machinist in the U.S. Navy 31 December 1908. During World War I Lt. Edwards was assigned to destroyer Shaw in British waters. While escorting troopship HMS Aquitania into Southampton, England, Shaw collided with Aquitania. Lt. Edwards, as one of 12 men who lost their lives, was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross.

John D. Edwards (Destroyer No. 216) was laid down 21 May 1919 by William Cramp & Sons, Philadelphia, Pa.; launched 18 October 1919; sponsored by Mrs. May Marshall Edwards, widow of Lt. Edwards; and commissioned 6 April 1920, Comdr. Alexander Sharp in command.

After shakedown, John D. Edwards departed Philadelphia 14 May 1920 to protect American lives and interests in Turkish waters. With the Near East in turmoil, the destroyer evacuated refugees and furnished communication facilities for that area. She remained in Turkish waters until she sailed 2 May 1921 for duty with the Asiatic Squadron.

Upon arrival at Cavite, P.I., 29 June, John D. Edwards immediately began patrols to protect American interests in the Far East. She was to remain there for 4 years operating out of the Philippines in the winter and China during the summer. Continuing the Navy's long and distinguished record of missions of mercy, she gave vital aid to victims of the Japanese earthquake in 1923 and carried food and rescue workers to Yokohama. As the Chinese Civil War flared in 1924, the destroyer was on station to protect the rights of the foreigners in China. She departed the Far East 18 May 1925, arriving New York 13 July.

For the next 3 years she operated out of Norfolk making periodic training cruises along the coast and in the Caribbean. Following a Mediterranean cruise in late 1927, John D. Edwards transited the Panama Canal and arrived San Pedro, Calif., for service in the Pacific. She operated along the West Coast until 1 August 1929 when she sailed for the Far East, arriving Yokohama 26 August.

Subsequent to 1929, John D. Edwards became a permanent and important unit of the Asiatic Fleet. Operating out of the Philippines along the Chinese Coast and off Japan, she maintained American strength and prestige in that key area of the world and guarded our interests during the Sino-Japanese War in the late 1930's. She constantly trained in maneuvers and battle practice and, in addition, operated with the Yangtze, South China Sea, and Neutrality Patrols.

As Japan became more aggressive in the Far East, John D. Edwards increased operations with submarines in various training exercises. Upon the commencement of hostilities with Japan 7 December 1941, she departed Balikpapan, Borneo, to search for survivors of HMS Prince of Wales. For the next 2 months she engaged in patrol, escort, and ASW operations in an attempt to halt the southward advance of powerful Japanese forces from the Philippines into the Netherlands East Indies. Assigned to Destroyer Squadron 29, she departed Bunda Roads, Madura Island. 4 February 1942. As part of a cruiser-destroyer striking force, she sailed for Makassar Strait to intercept a reinforced Japanese convoy heading for the Java Sea. That morning enemy bombers attacked the ships as the striking force steamed north of Bali. Despite antiaircraft fire, the Japanese planes carried out several attacks which heavily damaged Marblehead (CL-12) and Houston (CA-30). Following the attack. John D. Edwards escorted the damaged cruisers via Lombok Strait to Tjilatjap on the southern coast of Java.

Despite the heroic defense by the combined Allied forces, the Japanese continued their push southward during the month of February. In mid-February John D. Edwards took part in the unsuccessful attempt to intercept a Japanese invasion convoy off Banka Strait in Palembang, Sumatra. Following this action, she steamed to the eastern coast of Bali to attack an enemy destroyer-transport force in Badoeng Strait. During the early hours of 20 February, John D. Edwards, accompanied by three other destroyers, engaged Japanese destroyers in a spirited torpedo and gunfire battle that severely damaged the enemy destroyer Michishio. The American destroyers returned to Surabaya, Java, later that day.

As part of the Combined Striking Force under Rear Admiral Doorman, RN, John D. Edwards engaged the Japanese Java Invasion Force 27 February in the Battle of the Java Sea. The gallent Allied ships courageously attempted to thwart the invasion of Java, and for 7 hours they fought the enemy against great odds. Japanese might prevailed and five Allied ships were lost. After expending all torpedoes during the battle, John D. Edwards returned to Surabaya to refuel. Accompanied by three other four-pipers, she departed for Australia after dark 28 February. While transiting Bali Strait during midwatch 1 March, the destroyers fought a brief duel with patrolling enemy ships. Lacking torpedoes and low on ammunition, the American ships opened range and steamed southward for Fremantle where they arrived early in March.

For the next 2 months John D. Edwards escorted convoys out of Australia before arriving Pearl Harbor 1 June. She escorted convoys from Pearl Harbor to San Francisco until 15 June 1943 when she arrived at Brooklyn to commence escort duty in the Atlantic. The destroyer cruised along the coast and to North Africa escorting supply ships during the next 9 months.

For the duration of the war, John D. Edwards escorted convoys in the Atlantic and trained submarines off the Canal Zone. Following the end of the conflict in Europe the destroyer arrived Philadelphia 15 June 1945 and decommissioned there 28 July 1945. John D. Edwards was sold to Boston Metal Co., Baltimore, Md., January 1946.

John D. Edwards received three battle stars for World War II service.

Published: Wed Feb 24 07:42:25 EST 2016