Robert Maitland La Prade was born on 4 August 1916 at Kennedy, Texas, the younger of two sons to James T., and Lillian La Prade. His older brother James Louis La Prade graduated from the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, N.Y., with the Class of 1939; Robert La Prade served in the U.S. Army prior to enlisting in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve on 16 April 1940, and received a Bachelor’s Degree from Rice University on 1 June 1942.
Commissioned as a first lieutenant, USMCR, on 1 January 1943, Robert La Prade was operating with L Company, Third Battalion, Sixth Marines, in the Guadalcanal campaign behind Japanese lines on 20 January 1943, commanding a patrol that wiped out a machine gun position, but during which attack he was twice critically wounded. He insisted that he be left behind, but the marines in his patrol carried him back to friendly lines, where he, with “unfaltering disregard for his own ebbing strength, continued to give directions and retained command until he lost consciousness.” First Lieutenant La Prade was transported to the hospital ship Solace (AH-5), where he died on 23 January. For his “indomitable fighting spirit and inspiring devotion to the accomplishment of an important mission” resulted in his being awarded the Navy Cross (posthumously).
Sadly, his older brother, Lt. Col. James La Prade, AUS, 101st Airborne Division, was killed in action during the Battle of the Bulge on 19 December 1944, five days before Christmas.
(DE-409: displacement 1,350; length 306'; beam 36'8"; draft 9'5"; speed 24 knots; complement 186; armament 2 5-inch, 4 40-millimeter, 10 20-millimeter, 3 21-inch torpedo tubes, 8 depth charge projectors, 1 depth charge projector (hedgehog); 2 depth charge tracks; class John C. Butler)
La Prade (DE-409) was laid down 18 November 1943 at Houston, Texas, by the Brown Shipbuilding Co.; launched on 31 December 1943; sponsored by Mrs. J. T. La Prade, mother of the late 1st Lieutenant La Prade; and commissioned at Houston on 20 April 1944, Lt. Cmdr. Carl M. Fellows, USNR, in command.
Completing shakedown off Bermuda, British West Indies, followed by post-shakedown availability at the Boston (Mass.) Navy Yard, La Prade departed Norfolk, Va., on 27 June 1944 for the Pacific. Proceeding via the Panama Canal and San Diego, Calif., she arrived at Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii, on 25 July, reporting to Commander Destroyers Pacific for duty upon arrival. The ship trained out of Pearl until 9 August, when she sailed to escort the small carrier Cowpens (CVL-25) to Eniwetok [Enewetak], in the Marshall Islands.
Returning to Hawaiian waters, La Prade carried out anti-submarine warfare (ASW), as well as torpedo and gunnery exercises there until departing on 7 September 1944 for Eniwetok, where she received assignment to Task Force 57 for patrol and escort duties in the forward areas, to operate from Eniwetok and Ulithi, in the western Carolines. On 26 September, La Prade was assigned to Task Unit (TU) 30.8.10 for escorting it to Kossol Roads, in the Palaus, thence to join TU 30.9.2 for a Hunter-Killer operation east of the island of Babelthuap during the invasion of Peleliu and Angaur, acquiring needed logistic bases for the invasion of the Philippine Islands. Securing from those operations with TU 30.9.2 on 3 October, La Prade returned to Eniwetok and resumed escort and patrol duties.
While escorting the damaged heavy cruiser Canberra (CA-70) to Manus, in the Admiralties, for part of her long journey home for permanent repairs, on 12 November 1944, La Prade was detached to aid a downed Martin PBM Mariner. The escort vessel safely removed the flying boat’s crew, salvaged portable equipment and stood by the damaged plane until the small seaplane tender Onslow (AVP-48) arrived to relieve her.
On 10 December 1944, La Prade reported to Commander Task Group 94.6 at Kossol Roads for escort and patrol duty. From that date until 6 March 1945, the ship shepherded convoys to Leyte, in the Philippines, Manus, in the Admiralties, and Ulithi, serving as an Air-Sea rescue vessel for various periods, and spending most of her time patrolling the east entrance to Kossol Roads. At the end of that period, on 6 March, she reported to Commander, Escort Division 65 at Ulithi, for an availablility.
La Prade reported to Commander Fifth Fleet for duty with TG 50.8 on 12 March 1945, joining the screen for the oilers engaged in replenishing Vice Adm. Marc A. Mitscher’s fast carrier task force. With American troops struggling to establish a garrison next door to Japan, the oilers and their screening units played a vital role in keeping supplies moving into the embattled island. La Prade continued to provide support for the Okinawa campaign until the island was declared secured on 26 June, at which point she was detached and ordered to Commander Task Force 51 off Okinawa. On 3 July, she reported to Commander TG 99.1 and operated off Okinawa as part of a screening and covering force in the Ryukyus until the end of hostilities that came with the Japanese surrender in Tokyo Bay on 2 September.
Reporting to Task Force 55 for duty with the Fifth Fleet Occupation forces, La Prade escorted a seaplane tender to Sasebo, Japan, joining the occupiers at Sasebo on 23 September 1945. The escort vessel returned to Okinawa on 10 October and four days later set course for home, reaching San Diego on 5 November. Subsequently decommissioned on 11 May 1946, La Prade was placed in the San Diego Group, Pacific Reserve Fleet, on 19 July 1946.
Ultimately stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 15 January 1972, ex-La Prade was sold for scrap one year later, on 15 January 1973.
La Prade received one battle star for her World War II service in participating in the assault and occupation of Okinawa Gunto (24 March-30 June 1945) and for her participation in the Fifth and Third Fleet raids in support of the Okinawa Gunto operation (31 March-11 June 1945).
Updated, Robert J. Cressman,
7 July 2020