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John D. Henley (DD-553)

(DD-553: dp. 2,050; l. 376'6"; b. 39'8"; dr. 17'9"; s. 35 k.; cpl. 273; a. 5 5", 10 40mm., 7 20mm., 10 21" tt, 6 dcp. 2 dct.; cl. Fletcher)

John Dandridge Henley was born 25 February 1781 at Williamsburg, Va., and was commissioned Midshipman 14 October 1799. During offensive operations against Tripoli in 1804, he served in Gunboat No. 6, commanded by Lt. John Trippe. In a stirring attack 3 August against a larger enemy warship, the two officers with only nine other men boarded and took the enemy ship in hand-to-hand fighting, although out-numbered three to one. Midshipman Henley also took part in several other attacks in the months that followed as Commodore Treble's squadron carried out aggressive and successful operations against the Tripolitan pirates that made them ready to end their aggression. Later in his career, during the war of 1812, Henley commanded schooner Carolina during the Battle of New Orleans. After the gallant delaying action by Lt. Jones at Lake Borgne, Carolina and other ships harrassed the British with naval gunfire while protecting Jackson's flank on the Mississippi. Henley contributed importantly to the large role the small squadron played in this last great victory of the war. Rising to the rank of Captain 5 March 1817, John D. Henley continued to serve with distinction until 23 May 1835 when he died on board Vandalia at Havana, Cuba.

John D. Henley (DD-553) was laid down 21 July 1941 by Gulf Shipbuilding Co., Chackasaw, Ala., launched 15 November 1942; sponsored by Miss Shelah Keith Kane, great-great-great-granddaughter of Captain Henley; and commissioned 2 February 1944, Comdr. C. H. Smith in command.

Following exhaustive shakedown training out of Bermuda, the new destroyer arrived Norfolk 28 March 1944. Sailing for the Pacific via the Panama Canal, she arrived Pearl Harbor 23 April 1944. After operational training, John D. Henley escorted fleet oilers to Majuro and returned 17 May. She departed 27 May for Majuro once more and there became flagship of a refueling task group. Departing 6 June 1944, the ships moved to the Marianas to refuel the fleet during the capture and occupation of Saipan and Tinian. During this long at-sea period the ships came under air attack 17 and 18 June. They returned to Eniwetok 14 August.

As the Navy's mobile amphibious forces prepared to move into the Palaus, John D. Henley joined Task Group 30.8 and departed Manus 1 September as flagship of the refueling group during strikes on Peleliu and its eventual capture. The oilers and their escorts continued to operate out of Ulithi well into November, supporting the vast carrier task forces striking the Philippines. This unit, headed by Captain J. T. Acuff, had much to do with the great success of the wide-ranging carrier forces.

In December the destroyer moved to Guam for independent operation as an escort and patrol ship in the Marshalls and Marianas. She then steamed to Ulithi, where she arrived 31 January 1945 to undergo operational training in covering Underwater Demolition Teams. She sailed 14 February for the next major landing on the island road to Japan, Iwo Jima. Arriving 2 days later, she took part in the pre-invasion bombardment and, after the assault 19 February, performed yeoman fire support, screening, and radar picket duties during the bitter flighting ashore. She returned to Ulithi 5 March to prepare for the Okinawa invasion.

John D. Henley got underway 21 March for the last and largest of the Pacific amphibious operations, Okinawa. Her assignment consisted of screening the light carriers as their planes provided vital air support to ground troops. Undergoing periodic air attacks, she continued to screen her carrier group, with occasional logistics stops at Kerama Retto until 24 June. She arrived Leyte Gulf 27 June 1945.

The veteran ship returned to waters north of Okinawa I July to cover minesweeping operations. John D. Henley returned to Buckner Bay 7 August and was there at war's end 15 August. She took air-sea rescue station off Japan 24 August, then departed 2 September, the day of Japan's formal surrender, for the long voyage to California, arriving in San Francisco 24 September. She was overhauled and decommissioned at San Diego 30 April 1946, entered the Pacific Reserve Fleet, and is at present berthed at Bremerton, Wash.

John D. Henley received six battle stars for World War II service.

Published: Wed Jul 22 15:44:47 EDT 2015