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Leutze (DD-481)


Eugene Henry Cozzens Leutze was born in Düsseldorf, Prussia, on 16 November 1847 to Emanuel and Julia Lottner Leutze. His father, who had lived in the United States and then returned to Prussia to study painting, became a renowned painter of American Revolutionary War tableaux including the iconic Washington Crossing the Delaware (1851). The younger Leutze arrived in the United States sometime between 1859 and 1863.

Portrait of Midshipman Eugene H. C. Leutze, painted by his father, Emanuel Leutze, circa 1863. (Naval History and Heritage Command Library, “Eugene H. C. Leutze,” ZB File Box 169)
Caption: Portrait of Midshipman Eugene H. C. Leutze, painted by his father, Emanuel Leutze, circa 1863. (Naval History and Heritage Command Library, “Eugene H. C. Leutze,” ZB File Box 169)

Leutze was appointed to the U.S. Naval Academy from Washington, D.C., by President Abraham Lincoln on 4 March 1863. During the summer of 1864, he volunteered for active service during the Civil War, serving in the wooden screw steamer Monticello in the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron. He returned to the Academy that fall and graduated on 6 June 1867. On 1 July, Luetze reported to the steam frigate Minnesota. Over the next two years, he also served in the European Fleet in the screw sloop-of-war Ticonderoga and the receiving ship Vermont. He was commissioned ensign on 18 December 1868.

During his time in the new screw sloop-of-war Severn, the flagship of the North Atlantic Squadron, from 23 August 1869–December 1871, Leutze was promoted to master on 21 March 1870 and to lieutenant exactly one year later. On 16 June 1870, the ironclad Terror rammed Severn at anchor in Key West (Fla.) Harbor. Cmdr. Reigart B. Lowry, Severn’s commanding officer, praised Leutze in an official report of the incident for his “promptness and coolness exhibited” in releasing the anchor chain at the moment of the collision, which in Lowry’s opinion prevented Severn from sinking.

Following a short tour in sloop-of-war Worcester, Leutze took part in several special surveying assignments. In 1872 and 1873, Leutze participated in the Nicaraguan Surveying Expeditions, leading a survey party in and around Lake Nicaragua to study potential canal routes across Central America to shorten significantly the travel time between the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans. Departing for New York in mid-June 1873, Leutze officially detached from the Nicaragua Expedition on 11 July and was granted a six-month leave of absence. During his time off, he married Julia Jarvis McAlpine on 29 July 1873 in Pittsfield, Mass. Their union produced two children, Trevor (born October 1877) and Marion (born November 1887).

For the majority of 1874, Leutze served in the Hydrographic Office in Washington, D.C. In early 1875, he was assigned to the Inter-Ocean survey as the executive officer, leading a team charting the upper Chagres River in Panama. After returning to the Hydrographic Office in April, Leutze was assigned in late September 1875 to the screw sloop Tuscarora, which conducted deep-sea sounding between Honolulu, Sandwich Islands, and Brisbane, Australia. After a brief assignment in sloop-of-war Portsmouth in August 1876, Leutze was ordered to the Coast Survey to measure and chart the U.S. Pacific coast. He joined USCS McArthur on 31 October 1876 and assumed command of both the steamer and the survey party early in 1878. At the conclusion of Leutze’s duty on 1 November 1880, Carlile P. Patterson, Superintendent of the Coast Survey, commended Leutze’s efforts: “I take great pleasure in stating that the conduct of the hydrographic party under your charge on board the steamer McArthur has been marked by an amount of energy and zeal, an intelligent appreciation of the requirements of the work, and a praiseworthy economy in expenditures, that could not fail to produce abundant and valuable results.” Patterson additionally noted, “Your hydrographic sheets are regarded as among the best that have been turned in to this office.”

On 16 December 1880, Leutze was granted a six-month leave of absence, which was ultimately extended several times. During this time away from naval service, Leutze returned to Central America working for the Tehuantepec Railroad Co. to locate and survey a harbor on the Pacific side of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in southern Mexico that would be a good location for the western terminus of the railroad.

Returning to the Navy in late July 1882, Leutze received orders to report to Annapolis, Md., to serve as executive officer of the monitor Nantucket. From 25 October 1882 until the end of 1885, Leutze was the executive officer in the newly-recommissioned steam sloop-of-war Juniata, which embarked upon a world cruise that took her through the Mediterranean and the Suez Canal to the Persian Gulf, India, and ports on the Asiatic Station before returning to New York City via the east coast of Africa and Madagascar.

Leutze began a tour of duty at the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis on 12 January 1886, initially joining the Department of Seamanship. In May 1887, he sailed the sloop Constellation from Norfolk to Annapolis for use as a practice ship and subsequently served as her executive officer. As of 1 September 1887, Leutze became the head of the Department of Modern Languages and also served as Executive Officer of the Academy. He was promoted to the rank of lieutenant commander on 26 March 1889.

Departing the Naval Academy in March 1890, Leutze joined Philadelphia (Cruiser No. 4) during her pre-commissioning fitting out period and became her executive officer upon her commissioning in July 1890. Detaching on 1 November 1892, Leutze next came to the Navy Yard, Washington, D.C., for ordnance duty. He took charge of the Department of Yards and Docks in July 1893 and remained at the navy yard until April 1896, when he took command of the sidewheel steamer Michigan at Erie, Pa. Commissioned as commander effective 5 January 1897, Leutze served as assistant inspector of the Ninth Lighthouse District from 1 May through the end of the year.

Leutze assumed command of screw steamer Alert at Mare Island, Calif., on 7 January 1898. The next day, the ship sailed for Nicaragua to survey Brito Harbor in a renewed effort to identify a suitable route for a canal across Central America. His ship was sent to San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua, to protect American interests there during an uprising of rebels and Costa Ricans. He landed a party of 14 marines and 19 sailors there on 7 February to protect the American consulate as Nicaraguan troops attacked the city and ultimately expelled the rebels. On 26 April, representatives from Costa Rica and Nicaragua signed a peace treaty on board Alert, which returned to the United States shortly thereafter.

Three days after returning to San Francisco, Leutze took command of Monterey (Monitor No. 6) on 24 May 1898. Intended as a coastal defense ship, Monterey set course across the Pacific Ocean with the collier Brutus on 11 June to reinforce Adm. George Dewey’s forces at Manila following the outbreak of the Spanish-American War. After arriving in the Philippines on 4 August, Leutze participated in the taking of Manila on the 13th, earning a commendation from Secretary of the Navy John D. Long. While still in command of Monterey, Leutze also served as commandant of the Cavite Navy Yard from October 1898, reestablishing the formerly Spanish shipyard. Monterey continued to support the occupation of Luzon, including at the Battle of Zapote River in June 1899 and in the Subic Bay area later in the year. In October 1899, Leutze assumed the additional duty of defending the peninsula of Cavite from Philippine rebels.

Departing the Philippines in December 1899, Leutze reported to the Bureau of Ordnance at the end of February 1900 and returned to the Washington Navy Yard to become Superintendent of the Gun Factory there on 31 March. Leutze advanced to the rank of captain on 9 October 1901. In September 1902, Leutze received orders to take command of the new Maine (Battleship No. 10), then fitting out at Philadelphia, Pa. Detaching from Maine in mid-November 1904, he next joined the Board of Inspection and Survey through 15 October 1905. He then resumed his role as Superintendent of the Naval Gun Factory with concurrent duty as Commandant of the Washington Navy Yard.

Promoted to rear admiral on 6 July 1907, Leutze desired to return to sea duty, but at the behest of Secretary of the Navy Victor H. Metcalf, he continued on at the Washington Navy Yard. “I don’t believe that there is any private manufacturing establishment that has been better managed or more economically run than has the Washington Navy Yard under your administration,” Metcalf wrote to Leutze, who became rear admiral of the senior nine on 15 May 1908. Upon reaching the mandatory retirement age of 62 on 16 November 1909, Leutze was transferred to the retired list. However he remained in active service in his current roles until 21 March 1910, when he assumed command of both the New York Navy Yard as well as the Third Naval District. Detached from all duty on 6 June 1912, he spent time during his retired years in Washington, D.C.; Woodstock, Vt.; and Annapolis. Leutze died at Naval Hospital, Brooklyn (N.Y.) on 15 September 1931 and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery two days later.

Rear Adm. Eugene H. C. Leutze at the New York Navy Yard circa 1914. (U.S. Navy Photograph F644 N188, National Archives and Records Administration, Still Pictures Division, College Park, Md.)
Caption: Rear Adm. Eugene H. C. Leutze at the New York Navy Yard circa 1914. (U.S. Navy Photograph F644 N188, National Archives and Records Administration, Still Pictures Division, College Park, Md.)

(DD-481: displacement 2,050; length 376'6"; beam 39'4"; draft 13'5"; speed 35.5 knots; complement 325; armament 5 5-inch, 10 40-millimeter, 7 20-millimeter, 10 21-inch torpedo tubes, 6 depth charge projectors, 2 depth charge tracks; class Fletcher)

Leutze (DD-481) was laid down on 3 June 1941 at Bremerton, Wash., by Puget Sound Navy Yard; launched on 29 October 1942; christened on 20 January 1943; sponsored by Miss Caroline Rowcliff, granddaughter of the ship’s namesake and daughter of Rear Adm. Gilbert J. Rowcliff, member of the General Board, Navy Department, Washington, D.C.; and commissioned on 4 March 1944, Cmdr. Berton A. Robbins, Jr., in command.

Just two days following her commissioning, tragedy struck the new destroyer. While away from the ship on authorized liberty, Leutze sailor MM3c Albert V. Barnett, USNR, accidentally fell into Puget Sound Navy Yard’s No. 3 Dry Dock. Yard police discovered Barnett’s body at 0800 on 6 March 1944. Members of the crew participated in the machinist mate’s full military funeral five days later. Meanwhile, Leutze remained at Bremerton fitting out through the end of March.

As snow falls, Leutze fits out in dry dock at Bremerton, 12 March 1944. Note her Measure 31, Design 16D camouflage and that her forward 40-millimeter guns have not yet been fitted, but her radar is in place atop her Mk. 37 director. (U.S. Navy Bu...
Caption: As snow falls, Leutze fits out in dry dock at Bremerton, 12 March 1944. Note her Measure 31, Design 16D camouflage and that her forward 40-millimeter guns have not yet been fitted, but her radar is in place atop her Mk. 37 director. (U.S. Navy Bureau of Ships Photograph RG 19-LCM, Box 324, National Archives and Records Administration, Still Pictures Division, College Park, Md.)

During the first week of April 1944, the ship loaded ammunition, torpedoes, and depth charges, degaussed, and completed structural firing tests in the Puget Sound area before moving to Pier 41 at the U.S. Naval Supply Depot in Seattle, Wash., on the 5th.

Starboard bow view of Leutze on a foggy day in Bremerton, 2 April 1944. Note her sailors (even the sentry with his slung Springfield ’03 rifle, among the men forward of Mt. 51) all looking toward the photographer. (U.S. Navy Bureau of Ships Photo...
Caption: Starboard bow view of Leutze on a foggy day in Bremerton, 2 April 1944. Note her sailors (even the sentry with his slung Springfield ’03 rifle, among the men forward of Mt. 51) all looking toward the photographer. (U.S. Navy Bureau of Ships Photograph 19-N-63359, National Archives and Records Administration, Still Pictures Division, College Park, Md.)

Port broadside of Leutze near the Puget Sound Navy Yard, 2 April 1944. (U.S. Navy Bureau of Ships Photograph 19-N-63360 National Archives and Records Administration, Still Pictures Division, College Park, Md.)
Caption: Port broadside of Leutze near the Puget Sound Navy Yard, 2 April 1944. (U.S. Navy Bureau of Ships Photograph 19-N-63360 National Archives and Records Administration, Still Pictures Division, College Park, Md.)

On the afternoon of 10 April 1944, Leutze put to sea and headed for San Diego, Calif. After arriving on the evening of the 13th, the destroyer underwent two days of inspections with Commander Fleet Operational Training Command, Pacific Fleet (COTCPAC) representatives. She then began her shakedown training, practicing essential skills that the destroyer would need to be proficient in during wartime operations, including antisubmarine warfare, gunnery, battle tactics, screening, and towing. She departed for Bremerton on 14 May and entered Puget Sound Navy Yard for post-shakedown availability on the afternoon of 17 May. Leutze moved to Pier 91 (formerly known as Pier 41) on 2 June and prepared for her first mission.

Getting underway on 8 June 1944, Leutze rendezvoused with liberty ships George Flavel, John W. Weeks, and Lew Wallace and destroyer Smalley (DD-565), and the group set off for Honolulu. Approaching the Territory of Hawaii on the 16th, the convoy rendezvoused with submarines Sunfish (SS-281), Snook (SS-279), and Pomfret (SS-391) and their escorts Kyne (DE-744), Lyman (DE-302), and Crowley (DE-303). The combined group then conducted exercises with the submarines making simulated attacks on the convoy and the surface ships practicing evasive maneuvers and tactics. The underway training continued through 0100 on the 17th, and then the submarines and their escorts departed. Just after noon that same day, Leutze detached from the convoy and headed in to Pearl Harbor independently. She completed a shore bombardment exercise at the island of Kahoolawe (19–20 June) with Smalley, and then on the morning of the 21st, Leutze tied up next to destroyer Allen (DD-66) for “urgent repairs.”

Steaming from Pearl Harbor on the afternoon of 23 June 1944, Leutze served as escort with Smalley for the aircraft carrier Intrepid (CV-11) en route to Eniwetok in the Marshall Islands. After arriving on the 30th, the ships remained there for several days. Leutze conducted upkeep while Intrepid delivered a load of torpedoes and took aboard hundreds of casualties for transportation back to the United States. The group plus transport Storm King (AP-171) departed on 4 July and headed back to Pearl Harbor, arriving on the morning of the 11th. That afternoon, Leutze got underway again to join escort carrier Ommaney Bay (CVE-79) and Richard S. Bull (DE-402) while the escort carrier exercised her air squadron. Just after 1800, Leutze detached to investigate an emergency beacon signal ten miles distant. At the scene the destroyer discovered Ens. Milton J. Theno, USNR, and ARM3c Robert J. Davidson of Scouting Squadron (VS) 69 floating in a raft. The men ditched at sea after the engine failed in their Douglas SBD-5 Dauntless (BuNo 28675) flying approximately 50 miles off Oahu from Naval Air Station Barber’s Point, Hawaii. The destroyer picked up the uninjured men and returned to her station. For the next several days, she completed drills and exercises while serving as plane guard and escort for Ommaney Bay. She returned to port on the afternoon of 14 July and moored alongside destroyer tender Sierra (AD-18). On the 18th, Leutze stood out to complete antiaircraft battle practice with Ommaney Bay. Destroyer Mahan (DD-364) joined later that day to help screen during the escort carrier’s flight exercises. Leutze completed gunnery exercises on the 20th and then returned to port.

On 21 July 1944, Leutze and Smalley conducted antiaircraft exercises with and served as plane guard for the small aircraft carrier Independence (CVL-22). At 1420 while serving as plane guard, Leutze watch-standers observed a Grumman F6F-3N Hellcat (BuNo 40922) go over the starboard side of Independence’s flight deck as it was trying to land. Five minutes later, the destroyer rescued the pilot, Ens. Joe S. Allen, USNR, who received minor injuries in the crash. The next morning at 0500, General Motors TBM-1C Avenger No. 25 (BuNo 25588) splashed shortly after launching from the carrier. Nearly two hours later, Leutze spotted a smoke bomb 5,000 yards away, which led the ship to Ens. John D. Haigler, USNR, and AOM3c Alvin R. Huss in the water. The destroyer recovered the slightly-injured pilot and turret gunner, but a third man, ARM3c E. J. Glazer was lost when the plane sank 30 seconds after impact. The ships continued with exercises without further incident, and Leutze returned to port on the afternoon of 24 July.

Escorting the battleship North Carolina (BB-55), which was headed for Puget Sound Navy Yard for overhaul, Leutze departed Pearl Harbor on 25 July 1944. After an uneventful transit to the West Coast, the ships went their separate ways in Puget Sound, and the destroyer put in to Pier 91, Seattle. After making the return trip to Pearl Harbor independently (2–9 August), Leutze completed gunnery exercises at Kahoolawe (10–11 August) and then reported for duty with the Third Fleet. On 13 August, the destroyer escorted Mississippi (BB-41) to Kahoolawe and screened the battleship as she conducted various gunnery exercises. After Mississippi completed a practice shore bombardment on the afternoon of the 14th, the two warships set course for Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands.

Leutze reached Purvis Bay on the afternoon of 24 August 1944. Following several days of upkeep, the destroyer conducted a practice shore bombardment at Cape Esperance on the 29th and then returned to Purvis Bay. On 1 September, Leutze got underway with Task Force (TF) 35, led by the light cruiser Honolulu (CL-48), for three days of exercises and battle maneuvers. Then on the 4th, Leutze conducted a special low velocity firing exercise during a practice bombardment of Nugu Island with destroyers Newcomb (DD-586) and Richard P. Leary (DD-664). She returned to Purvis Bay that evening to prepare for operations in the Palau Islands.

As the forenoon watch began on 6 September 1944, Leutze steamed for Peleliu as a member of Task Group (TG) 32.5. On the 11th, the destroyer detached from the larger group with Task Unit (TU) 32.5.2—consisting of flagship Honolulu, as well as battleships Maryland (BB-46) and Pennsylvania (BB-38); heavy cruiser Indianapolis (CA-35); and destroyers Newcomb, Bennion (DD-662), and Heywood L. Edwards (DD-663)—and headed for the unit’s assigned fire support position. At 0530 on the morning of 12 September, the heavy ships of the task unit began shore bombardment while the destroyers screened them. Leutze detached at 0730 and assumed a picket station, firing some illuminating starshells and occasional harassing gunfire overnight. The next morning, Leutze sustained minor damage when a large-caliber shell, presumably from one of the cruisers firing nearby, ricocheted and exploded 50 yards off the destroyer’s starboard bow. Aside from several small holes made in the ship’s superstructure, the most significant material damage was a two-inch dent to the face of the director tower that blocked its train. One sailor, Cox(T) Clen D. Harris, USNR, received serious injuries when a shell fragment struck his right ankle and foot. At 1354, Heywood L. Edwards assumed the picket station, and Leutze joined the task unit offshore. During the day of 14 September, the destroyer screened for Pennsylvania and Maryland as the battleships continued to fire at onshore targets. That evening, she joined Honolulu off the southwestern side of the island providing cover for Underwater Demolition Team (UDT) Seven as it worked to remove obstacles off of the White Beaches for the next morning’s landing operations.

Early on the morning of 15 September 1944, Leutze began harassing fire on Peleliu’s White and Orange Beaches. After about an hour, she then screened Honolulu again. At 0700, the destroyer moved to her assigned fire support station on the southeastern side of the island and at 0810, Leutze began firing special reduced velocity ammunition at the beach as the marines moved towards the shore and commenced landings. The destroyer continued firing until 0930, and for most of the rest of the day, she provided call fire, close support, and harassing fire for various targets on the southwest side of the island until relieved by Mississippi and replenishing her ammunition the next morning. Enemy troops proved to be tenacious and well-fortified in a system of caves on a strategic ridge, and the marines would fight the Japanese at Peleliu for more than two months. Leutze remained on the scene completing gunfire support missions by day and providing starshell illumination while serving as picket ship at night through 23 September. Late on the morning of the 24th, the ship rendezvoused with Louisville (CA-28) and along with Robinson (DD-562) escorted the heavy cruiser to Kossol Passage in the northern Palaus.

After refueling and taking on additional ammunition, Leutze joined TU 32.19.9 and stood out from Kossol Passage en route to Manus, New Guinea, on the afternoon of 25 September 1944. The following afternoon, the destroyer detached from the task unit with Louisville and the two ships headed for Hollandia [Jayapura], New Guinea, anchoring in Humboldt Bay [Yos Sudarso Bay] on the afternoon of the 27th. At Hollandia, Rear Adm. Jesse B. Oldendorf, Commander of Cruiser Division Four, and his staff disembarked his flagship Louisville for temporary duty ashore with the Seventh Fleet. Departing on the morning of the 29th, the two warships arrived at Seeadler Harbor, Manus, at midday on the 30th. Following four weeks of “vigorous operation” in connection with the Peleliu landings, Leutze spent the first week of October in recreation and upkeep. She tied up alongside Sierra on 7 October for a tender availability, which included the installation of radar countermeasures equipment.

Leutze set course for the war’s next major objective, the Philippines, on 12 October 1944 with TG 77.2, led by Adm. Oldendorf in Louisville. The transit proceeded smoothly until the ships encountered the heavy rain squalls, strong winds, and high seas of a near-typhoon intensity storm beginning on the 16th. Following behind three minesweepers, Leutze and TU 77.2.2, the Southern Bombardment and Fire Support Group, entered Leyte Gulf at 0915 on the morning of 18 October. In the afternoon, the destroyer screened flagship Louisville offshore while she and the task unit’s other heavy units—Pennsylvania, Denver (CL-58), and Minneapolis (CA-36)began pre-landing bombardment of the beaches near Dulag. Shortly thereafter, Leutze maneuvered into position to provide close fire support for the UDTs removing mines and obstructions from the beach area. She experienced minimal opposition from the shore and ceased firing at 1645. Overnight, Leutze provided harassing and interdiction fire for the landing beaches slightly to the north of Dulag. The following day, the destroyer screened the battleship and cruisers as they continued to bombard the beaches ahead of the invasion.

On the morning of the Leyte landings, 20 October 1944, Leutze shelled the beach for about an hour as the U.S. Sixth Army made its way to shore. Then for the next three hours, she provided neutralization fire and fired white phosphorous shells at Catmon Hill, approximately two miles north of the southern landing beaches. Relieved by destroyer Braine (DD-630) at 1324, Leutze next assumed a station screening the transports, where she remained until late on the 21st. She then departed to join her squadron, Destroyer Squadron (DesRon) 56, to screen TG 77.2 patrolling in the Gulf. On the morning of the 22nd, the destroyer returned to the transport area but was back with the task group patrolling southeastern Leyte Gulf in the evening. At 1847, the collective firepower of the task group sent an enemy plane crashing into a nearby hillside. Overnight, the task group patrolled the entrance to Surigao Strait. On the 23rd, Leutze refueled from Ashtabula (AO-51) and reported for fire support duty, providing harassing and interdiction fire overnight.

While awaiting her next assignment at the beginning of the forenoon watch on 24 October 1944, Leutze spotted three enemy aircraft overhead. Two of these planes, identified as Aichi D3A1 Type 99 carrier bombers, made a low bombing and strafing run on the destroyer at 0825. As she unleashed 40-millimeter fire at the Vals, the ship maneuvered to avoid the planes’ bombs. Leutze narrowly evaded two bombs, one exploding 30 feet off her port beam and the other 50 yards astern. Shrapnel and gunfire caused minor damage to the ship and injured 11 sailors, all but two of whom quickly returned to duty. Although the destroyer’s gunfire had inflicted damage on both aircraft, the Vals flew away, one “flying with difficulty.” Twenty minutes later, Leutze fired at another Val that quickly retired. Leutze proceeded to the west of the transport area and made smoke for 45 minutes, ending just after midday. Ten minutes later, she fired at another enemy plane but could not observe if she struck her target. That afternoon, the destroyer received word to prepare for a possible engagement with Japanese warships in Surigao Strait that evening. As she did so, Leutze had another close encounter with a projectile when a shell from a friendly vessel burst 150 yards distant on her port beam. Fortunately, the mishap caused no damage.

Shortly thereafter, Leutze steamed into position with the other DesRon 56 destroyers, split into three sections to screen the cruisers of TG 77.2 patrolling the northern end of Surigao Strait. Japanese warships, led by Vice Adm. Nishimura Shoji, were indeed approaching the strait with the aim of destroying the Allied ships, particularly the vulnerable transports, in Leyte Gulf. Nishimura’s force consisted of two battleships, one heavy cruiser, and four destroyers, while a second group of two heavy cruisers, one light cruiser, and four destroyers led by Vice Adm. Shima Kiyohide followed some 35 miles behind. By midnight, Rear Adm. Oldendorf’s TG 77.2 stood ready to take on the Japanese in the Surigao Strait. Leutze steamed in column on an east-west line with Heywood L. Edwards and Bennion awaiting the enemy.

At 0318 on 25 October 1944, Leutze made her first radar contact with the Japanese ships at 34,000 yards due south. By the time the enemy advanced to within torpedo range of Leutze’s section, a gauntlet of Allied destroyers had already effectively reduced Nishimura’s force to one battleship, one heavy cruiser, and one destroyer. Beginning at 0330, the destroyers of DesRon 56 stationed on the left flank, including Leutze’s section, received orders to launch a torpedo attack. Eight cruisers and the main battle line of six American battleships opened fire on the Japanese ships. As Leutze maneuvered into position on the opposing column’s port bow, enemy gunfire splashed about her, but she took no hits. At 0357 she fired a half-salvo of five torpedoes at the battleship Yamashiro from 9,900 yards. She then began making smoke and turned to retire up the eastern coast of Leyte with Heywood L. Edwards and Bennion. After rejoining DesRon 56 and the cruisers, the combined group then turned south once again to search for disabled Japanese ships. Shortly before 0700, the ships came upon the Japanese destroyer Asagumo, struck earlier by torpedoes from destroyer McDermut (DD-677), and opened fire. After sinking the helpless ship at 0720, the destroyers reformed on the cruisers and turned north to head back through the strait to Leyte Gulf.

For the action at Surigao Strait, Cmdr. Berton A. Robbins, Jr., Leutze’s commanding officer, earned the Navy Cross. Bronze Star recipients included Lt. Leon Grabowsky, executive officer; Lt. (j.g.) Charles A. Ernst, Jr., communications officer and officer of the deck; Ens. Walter J. Fillmore, Combat Information Center (CIC) officer and assistant evaluator; Ens. John R. Goff, torpedo officer; CTM Thomas C. Treharn; TM2c Harry A. Brocker; and RM3c Ben F. Greenwald. In addition, CEM Stanley O. Nomer received a Letter of Commendation with Ribbon for his efforts during the engagement.

At midday on 26 October 1944, Leutze rendezvoused with Bryant (DD-665) to transfer SoM2c Tom G. Sheppard, USNR, and RdM3c Don V. Siriani, USNR—the two men most seriously injured in the strafing incident on the 24th—for hospitalization. Continuing to steam with TG 77.2 on patrol in Leyte Gulf, the destroyer fired at an unidentified enemy aircraft at the beginning of first watch that evening. Just prior to the mid watch early the next morning, Leutze rendezvoused with TG 77.3, and then at 1035 she joined TU 77.4.1 east of Mindanao, screening the escort carriers Sangamon (CVE-26) and Petrof Bay (CVE-80) during flight operations. She rejoined TG 77.3 early on the morning of the 29th. The ship returned to San Pedro Bay and over the next three days replenished her ammunition and fuel by day while getting underway at night to screen TG 77.1 patrolling the entrances of Leyte Gulf.

Overnight on 31 October–1 November 1944, TG 77.1 stood on high alert for increased enemy aircraft activity. After 0900, several groups of planes began to close the formation from the northwest, attacking the task group around 0945. The Allied ships aimed their guns at whatever targets were closest, and Leutze chased off a Val with her gunfire. Less than ten minutes later, a Mitsubishi G4M1 Type 1 land attack plane made a suicide run at Ammen (DD-527), operating in the screening station next to Leutze. The destroyers’ combined gunfire succeeded in demolishing the Betty, but the plane still hit Ammen amidships, killing five sailors, wounding 21, and sheering off the tops of both of her stacks, among other structural damage. Ammen was able to remain with the task group, but destroyers Killen (DD-593) and Claxton (DD-571) sustained serious damage during this attack and had to drop out of the formation. Later that afternoon when the Japanese attacked again, Abner Read (DD-526), while guarding Claxton, took a kamikaze and ultimately sank.

At 1800 on 1 November 1944, Leutze detached from the screen and an hour later relieved Bush (DD-529) on the picket station patrolling the entrance to Surigao Strait between Amagusan Point, Leyte, and Tamoyanas Point, Dinagat. Early in the morning of 2 November, an enemy plane, possibly an Aichi E13A1 Type 0 reconnaissance floatplane (Jake), approached the destroyer undetected from the mountains of Leyte. The aircraft dropped a bomb at the destroyer that splashed 50 yards off Leutze’s port bow, causing no damage. At daybreak, the ship shot at an oncoming Betty, turning away the damaged plane at 5,000 yards. Less than an hour later, a Yokosuka P1Y1 Ginga Navy land-based bomber (Frances) closed on Leutze and launched a torpedo at 1,000 yards distance. The fish passed harmlessly astern of the destroyer, which was able to inflict damage on the plane with her gunfire. That evening, several more enemy planes approached Leutze, but she was able to repel them all before any could launch an attack against her. The following night, a single-engine enemy aircraft attacked Leutze with a bomb that missed 100 yards off the destroyer’s starboard quarter. Almost immediately, the ship fought off another plane that came within 3,500 yards without attacking.

After Robinson arrived to assume the station on the afternoon of 4 November 1944, Leutze steamed to northern Leyte Gulf to refuel from Arethusa (IX-135). For most of the next two weeks, she patrolled the eastern and southern entrances of the Gulf, either in company with a task group or on an independent picket station. She faced no enemy opposition except for the night of 11 November, when numerous air contacts appeared on radar and one plane approached the formation twice, but both times the destroyer’s gunfire deterred the assailant. On 20 November, Leutze detached from TG 77.2 and joined Richard P. Leary to screen the battleship California (BB-44) en route to Seeadler Harbor. After arriving at Manus on the morning of 25 November, Leutze refueled from Silver Cloud (IX-143) and then moored alongside destroyer tender Whitney (AD-4) for an availability.

Leutze’s maintenance and recreation period continued through the first week of December 1944. Getting underway again on the 8th, the destroyer conducted antiaircraft drills, tracking exercises, simulated torpedo attacks, and tactical exercises with Richard P. Leary and HMAS Shropshire (73). On the 11th, she conducted gunnery practice with TG 77.1—battleships Mississippi, Pennsylvania, and California and destroyers Izard (DD-589), Richard P. Leary, and Heywood L. Edwards. Departing on 15 December with TG 77.2, composed of the same ships as TG 77.1 with the addition of destroyer Taylor (DD-468), Leutze headed for Kossol Roads, arriving on the 18th. Aside from two underway days on the 22nd and 28th to conduct exercises, the destroyer remained in port through the rest of the year completing preparations for her next assignment. Christmas Day provided a bit of excitement when the ship went to general quarters for nearby bogies, but shortly after the unidentified aircraft proved to be friendly, the ship returned to regular status and held a crew’s amateur show on the forecastle to celebrate the holiday.

Just a few hours into the new year, Leutze put to sea with TG 77.2—the Bombardment and Fire Support Group consisting of four battleships, a light cruiser, and three additional destroyers—in company with TG 77.4, 12 escort carriers accompanied by eleven destroyers and seven escort ships as well as a separate task unit of seven high-speed transports. After completing an antiaircraft exercise in the Philippine Sea, the task groups headed for their next operation in the Lingayen Gulf on the western side of the Philippine island of Luzon. The warships re-entered Leyte Gulf early on 3 January 1945, and additional vessels joined the task groups as they transited Surigao Strait. Leutze’s first contact with the Japanese came later that evening when the group’s combat air patrol (CAP) engaged with some enemy aircraft. One Kawasaki Ki-61 Hien Army Type 3 Fighter (Tony), appearing to be out of the pilot’s control, attempted a suicide attack on HMAS Shropshire, operating to Leutze’s starboard at 1,500 yards distance, but missed 100 yards wide on the Australian heavy cruiser’s port beam.

Shortly after midnight on 4 January 1945, more enemy aircraft appeared on radar. At 0051, Makin Island (CVE-93) reported a man overboard. Fifteen minutes later, Leutze rescued S2c John W. Frankland, USNR, who had apparently run in the wrong direction and over the side of the ship when the escort carrier called general quarters. No attacks materialized, and the task groups continued onward towards their objective. At 1250 that day, Leutze pulled alongside Makin Island to deliver the uninjured seaman back to his ship via breeches buoy. The destroyer’s war diary noted that as thanks for their assistance, “Makin Island rewarded us with enough ice cream for all hands.” Bogies continued to be reported all day, but it was not until 1715 while transiting the northern Sulu Sea that the Japanese attacked the formation. In the van where Leutze screened, one plane, identified by Makin Island as a Mitsubishi A6M5 Type 0 carrier fighter (Zeke), made an unsuccessful suicide run on Lunga Point (CVE-94), splashing 50 yards off the escort carrier’s fantail. At the rear of the formation, a kamikaze crashed into Ommaney Bay (CVE-79), causing fires that soon raged uncontrollably. The escort carrier was later abandoned and scuttled by Burns (DD-588).

As the task groups entered the Mindoro Strait on the morning of 5 January 1945, hostile aircraft lurked in the vicinity until dawn, when the carriers launched the CAP. That afternoon, carrier planes attacked two Japanese destroyers operating near another task group 29 miles away. Around 1700, the ships went to general quarters and commenced evasive maneuvering on reports of incoming aircraft. Shortly thereafter, two Japanese aircraft flew through the van formation at high speed low to the water. With other ships in the line of fire, Leutze could not bring her guns to bear on the attackers. One headed for HMAS Arunta (130), crashing close aboard on the Australian destroyer’s starboard quarter. The second plane smashed into Louisville’s Turret II, causing fires, damage to the cruiser’s bridge, and injuries to numerous crewmen, including the commanding officer. Leutze received orders to stand by Louisville to assist if needed, but the cruiser was able to quickly control her fires all the while maintaining her position in the formation, so at 1750 the destroyer assumed HMAS Arunta’s station as the Australian vessel’s steering gear was inoperative. At about the same time at the rear of the formation, a kamikaze crashed into and severely damaged escort ship Stafford (DE-411) and another hit HMAS Australia (D.84). Bogies remained nearby through the end of the dog watch, but no further attacks ensued.

Nearing the objective in the early hours of 6 January 1945, TG 77.4, the escort carrier group, detached to assume station offshore northwest of Lingayen Gulf while TG 77.2, the bombardment and fire support group, took position to commence their offensive. In the forenoon hours, Leutze screened the battleships and cruisers as they shelled Santiago Island and Cape Bolinao at the mouth of the gulf. At 1153, the destroyer began firing at a Nakajima J1N1-S Gekko (Irving) coming in from ahead on the starboard bow low to the water. The combined fire of Leutze and Richard P. Leary struck the enemy plane, which hit Mt. 51 and Mt. 52 on Richard P. Leary with one of its wings before splashing. Leutze next aimed her gunfire for several minutes at a small freighter beached on the shore of Cape Bolinao before returning to her station in the screen. At 1258, the destroyer fired on another plane on her starboard bow with no results observed.

With the morning bombardment completed, the ships of TG 77.2 headed for the entrance of Lingayen Gulf at 1400. A half hour later, Leutze observed three incoming Vals and began firing on the closest one. Two of the planes eventually retired while a third attempted unsuccessfully to crash light cruiser Columbia (CL-56). The Japanese renewed their attack after the beginning of the dog watch, coming in hard at the task group. Just after the cruisers and battleships began to bombard the beach at 1721, Leutze began firing at two low-flying planes, splashing one, but the other, a Zeke, struck California in the after superstructure. Within five minutes, the formation opened fire on two more incoming planes, setting them on fire. One plane struck Columbia and the other slammed into Louisville, causing significant damage to both cruisers. The destroyer dropped a life raft for the Louisville men in the water and screened the cruiser as the Japanese continued their air assault. Leutze contributed her gunfire to help splash three enemy planes just after 1800.

At 1835, Leutze joined Barton (DD-722) to escort a group of five minesweepers. Returning to Lingayen Gulf from their night retirement position in the early hours of 7 January 1945, the two destroyers went to investigate a slow-moving surface contact 18,000 yards distant. Closing to 6,000 yards at 0239, the destroyers fired on the target, a Japanese patrol vessel, for more than ten minutes, sinking it. The destroyers then rejoined the minesweepers, which continued their work in the northeastern gulf. Shortly before retiring for the night, Leutze observed two Japanese kamikazes attack and sink minesweeper Palmer (DMS-5) seven miles to the south.

Leutze rejoined TG 77.2 on the evening of 8 January 1945 and overnight assumed her fire support station near Portuguese Point in the southwestern Lingayen Gulf. At 0814, a group of six men on the beach signaled to the destroyer by semaphore “We are reporting for duty.” Leutze signaled back “Report to this ship” and then reported the interaction to Vice Adm. Theodore S. Wilkinson, Commander of TF 79 and the Third Amphibious Force. Shortly before the shore bombardment began at 0845, the men—identified as Jovillo Pantaleon, Antonio Fernandez, Teodoro Bantista, Hermogenes Verzosa, German Perez, and Manerto Vocal—began paddling out to the destroyer in a native canoe displaying both American and Filipino flags. Arriving on board Leutze at 0900, the former Philippine scouts “urgently requested that we cease the bombardment to spare the lives of Philippine citizens still in the area,” as the occupying Japanese forces had already moved away from the beaches and into the surrounding hills. After delivering their message, an LCV(P) soon transferred the men to amphibious force flagship Rocky Mount (AGC-3) for further questioning, and the bombardment and troop landings continued.

After completing the bombardment, Leutze remained on station for call fire support. In the final hour of the mid watch on 10 January 1945, an LST 4,000 yards northeast of the destroyer began firing at an unidentified object. Leutze then received reports of small Japanese boats in the vicinity. At 0409, Leutze spotted two of these craft, thought to be attempting to attach either limpet mines or depth charges to Allied ships in the transport area. The destroyer began firing at the enemy craft closing on each side of her bow as she maneuvered to avoid, and the boats fell astern without attacking. A half hour later, Leutze opened up with her guns on an enemy demolition boat, causing it to explode and burn, and several minutes later achieved the same result on a second such craft. At 0452, friendly 20- and 40-millimeter automatic fire from an LST shooting at another Japanese boat hit Leutze, wounding nine crewmen and causing minor damage to the ship including several small holes in the hull, a shattered RDF antenna, and a broken searchlight lens.

Successfully averting the Japanese demolition boats, Leutze next took on more enemy aircraft. At 0701, a plane believed to be an Irving splashed 400 yards off the ship’s starboard beam. She then fired at an incoming Nakajima Ki-43 Hayabusa Army Type 1 fighter (Oscar) on her starboard bow, although the plane turned away without striking. Later in the morning, the destroyer pursued a sound contact, searched for reported Japanese swimmers carrying demolition charges, and fired at an enemy position on shore. Relieved by Bennion that afternoon, Leutze then joined TG 77.2, which headed for a rendezvous with TG 77.4 the next morning. For the next several days, Leutze patrolled northwest of Lingayen Gulf with the task groups but did not encounter any Japanese planes or ships.

On 17 January 1945, Leutze, Ingraham (DD-694), and Kimberly (DD-521) escorted the battleships New Mexico and Pennsylvania into the gulf to the anchorage area, where the destroyer remained for the next few days. Steaming in company with California, New Mexico and nine other destroyers as TG 77.15, Leutze departed Lingayen Gulf on the evening of the 22nd. Cmdr. Berton A. Robbins, Jr., the ship’s commanding officer, would later receive a Bronze Star for his “cool and capable direction in spite of continued and determined attack” during the action at Lingayen Gulf. The task group charted a course for Leyte Gulf, and the transit proceeded smoothly until the evening of the 24th. Entering the Mindanao Sea from the west, New Mexico reported a periscope and two torpedo wakes. None of the ships in the task group was harmed, but about an hour and a half later, dock landing ship Gunston Hall (LSD-5), steaming with another task group five miles to the north, sustained significant damage after being struck by a torpedo. TG 77.15 entered Leyte Gulf the next morning, made a brief mail call, and then continued on for Ulithi. Arriving on the evening of 27 January, Leutze refueled and reloaded ammunition, and on 30 January she moored next to destroyer tender Cascade (AD-16) for a maintenance availability.

During her repair period, Leutze reported to Fifth Fleet and was assigned to TU 51.1.2 for the impending operations at Iwo Jima. She interrupted her availability on both 3 and 6 February to conduct close fire support exercises in support of UDTs at Losiep Island. The destroyer completed her availability on the 9th and then the next afternoon sailed with TF 52 and TF 54 for the Saipan-Tinian area to conduct final rehearsal landing operations for the Iwo Jima mission (12 and 13 February). On the morning of 14 February, the U.S. warships shaped a course for Iwo Jima.

Arriving off the objective shortly before sunrise on 16 February 1945, Leutze assumed her position on an antisubmarine patrol line 11 miles offshore to screen the heavier ships as they conducted bombardment of the shore. The day proceeded uneventfully for the destroyer, and at 1800 she formed up with TU 54.9.2 for night retirement north of Iwo Jima. At dawn, Leutze resumed her offshore antisubmarine patrol south of the island, but at 0920 after shore batteries opened up on the minesweepers and capital ships operating near the eastern beaches, Leutze received orders to move in close to the island to provide fire support for the minesweepers. Completing this duty at 1030, the destroyer next trained her five-inch and 40-millimeter batteries on Red Beach 1, supporting the UDTs working there, from a position about 3,600 yards from Mt. Suribachi.

By 1100 on 17 February 1945, Leutze had become the target of heavy fire from Japanese batteries on shore, with many near misses. At 1106, a three- or four-inch shell crashed into the ship’s No. 1 stack below the searchlight platform on the starboard side. The explosion put a large hole in the stack, with shrapnel piercing the superstructure in numerous places. A large shell fragment also penetrated the forward 40-millimeter handling room, breaking open several powder cases and causing the loose powder to catch fire. The captains of Mt. 41 and Mt. 42, GM3c Eugene Balinski, USNR, and GM3c Warren H. Gurwell, USNR, sprang into action immediately, directing fire hoses toward the flames and extinguishing the fire within ten minutes. They then grabbed still-smoking powder cases and tossed them overboard. For their swift action that prevented an even greater disaster for their ship, Balinski and Gurwell each earned the Bronze Star. RM1c Lennard McCabe and S1c Granville Helton received letters of commendation with ribbon for their assistance in putting out the blaze.

More significant than the physical damage to the ship, flying shrapnel injured six men, among them Cmdr. Berton A. Robbins, Jr., Leutze’s captain, who sustained a serious neck injury. Lt. Leon Grabowsky, the executive officer, took command of the destroyer, and Leutze continued with her shore bombardment unabated, moving in closer to shore shortly before noon. At 1217, Leutze sent a message to the commanders of TF 52, TF 54, DesRon 45, and DesRon 56 apprising them of Robbins’ condition—in need of X-rays and immediate surgery—and requesting transfer for him and three other seriously injured men to a ship better equipped to handle these medical cases. The ship ceased fire at 1253 and headed offshore to rendezvous with the amphibious force flagship Estes (AGC-12), which at 1415 received the captain as well as MM3c Buford O. Burns, USNR; TM3c Richard L. Kleiber, USNR; and St1c John J. Nelson Jr., USNR, for medical treatment. Leutze then provided fire support for UDTs on the western beaches, firing at Beach Brown 2 and then shooting white phosphorous at Mt. Suribachi. Although enemy shore batteries did return fire, the destroyer took no further hits.

Leutze returned to antisubmarine patrol duty on 18 February 1945. That afternoon, she joined battleship New York (BB-34) and cleared Iwo Jima, returning to Ulithi for emergency battle damage repairs. Arriving on the 22nd, the ship refueled from Sepulga (AO-20) and replenished her ammunition from Nitro (AE-2) and then moored alongside the tender Cascade. The destroyer completed her repairs on 3 March and stood out the next day to make the trip back to Iwo Jima independently. Approaching Iwo on the afternoon of 6 March, Leutze received an Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) emergency signal 21 miles distant and diverted to investigate. Determining the indicator to be false, the ship continued on to the island, reporting at 1800 that evening.

For the next several days at Iwo Jima, Leutze alternated between antisubmarine patrol and call fire support duty. On the morning of 10 March 1945, the ship rendezvoused with fellow destroyers Capps (DD-550), Twiggs (DD-591), Bennion, Hall (DD-583), and Mannert L. Abele (DD-733) and set course for Ulithi. Leutze suffered a steering casualty on 12 March that crewmen quickly repaired, and she arrived at Ulithi with the rest of her unit that afternoon. On 15–16 March, the destroyer assumed a radar picket station 45 miles off the coast of Mangejang Island. After midnight on the 18th, Leutze departed en route to Manus Island, joining with Cassin Young (DD-793) early in the morning. The two destroyers escorted New York, destroyer tender Sierra, and the British escort aircraft carrier HMS Reaper (D.82) back to Ulithi, arriving on the morning of the 22nd.

On 23 March 1945, Leutze departed Ulithi and rendezvoused with England (DE-635) and Whitehurst (DE-634) to escort New York to Okinawa. The transit proceeded without incident, and in the early morning hours of 27 March, the ships approached the objective, passing south and then west of the Kerama Retto island group to the southwest of Okinawa. The destroyer made her first radar contact with enemy planes at 0130 and observed heavy antiaircraft firing from northern Kerama Retto. One hour later, Leutze fired at an unidentified plane making an “unfriendly approach,” chasing the aircraft away. At 0342, England reported being attacked by two planes, one of which fired a torpedo from 500 yards distance. Shortly thereafter, Leutze felt a heavy underwater explosion close aboard resulting from the enemy torpedo detonating in the destroyer’s wake. At dawn, the ships arrived off the western beaches of Okinawa and soon the ships of TF 54 gathered there came under attack from Japanese aircraft, although none of the planes flew near enough for Leutze to engage with her guns.

Released from escort duty, Leutze and the two escort ships joined the antisubmarine screen for the capital ships providing call fire support in the vicinity of Zampa Misaki Point. Shortly thereafter, destroyer Callaghan (DD-792), operating 3,000 yards from Leutze, made a depth charge attack on a midget submarine, destroying it. Relieved of patrol duty around midday, Leutze rejoined England and Whitehurst to return to Ulithi. Their departure was slightly delayed, however, when the destroyer made a sound contact 800 yards distant at 1318. She dropped nine depth charges in a first run and eleven in a second. Unable to regain the contact after the second attack, she reported to CTF 52 that she believed the submarine to be sunk, and the three ships headed for Ulithi at 1422.

After steaming through a moderate typhoon, Leutze arrived at Ulithi on 30 March 1945, where she refueled from Chotauk (IX-118) and replenished her ammunition from Nitro. She got underway again early the next morning with Whitehurst and England screening light cruisers Mobile (CL-63) and Oakland (CL-95) to return to Okinawa. Destroyer McDermut joined the group that evening. The transit proceeded uneventfully until early on the morning of 2 April, when the ships encountered more typhoon-like weather conditions. Oakland and McDermut detached that evening, and after the weather abated early on the 3rd, the remaining ships arrived off Okinawa. Leutze proceeded independently to the fire support area near Zampa Misaki Point and fulfilled fire support duty assignments off the western beaches through the morning of 6 April. The destroyer briefly refueled at the Kerama Retto anchorage and then returned to the fire support area that afternoon.

Leutze received orders to escort the battleship Tennessee (BB-43) to rendezvous with TF 54 south of Ie Shima at 1545 on the afternoon of 6 April 1945. Heavy antiaircraft fire could be seen northwest of Zampa Misaki, and as the destroyer maneuvered into her screening station a half hour later, the ship seemed to be surrounded by antiaircraft activity, particularly to the east. At 1635, four enemy aircraft flying in box formation headed towards Leutze from the north nine miles out. The destroyer turned east, putting the planes off her port bow, and increased her speed to 25 knots. She took the closest plane under fire, splashing it, and then trained her main battery on the second plane, which appeared to be making a kamikaze run on the ship, and shot it down 2,500 yards off the port bow. Heywood L. Edwards, operating nearby, sent the other two planes into the water on Leutze’s port beam. Leutze returned to her screening station at 1645.

Shortly before 1800, with many bogies showing on radar, Leutze spotted a Zeke headed towards her eight miles off her starboard bow. She fired at the enemy aircraft at 8,000 yards, and it swerved, heading instead for Newcomb, operating in an adjacent station 4,000 yards away. With Newcomb in the line of fire, Leutze aimed her guns instead at another plane making a suicide run from 8,000 yards broad on the starboard bow, sending it into the water. Meanwhile, the first Zeke hurtled into Newcomb near her after stack, creating a large burst of fire. As Leutze maneuvered to assist her sister ship, she began firing at another enemy plane 7,000 yards off her starboard bow, which a friendly fighter arriving on the scene soon shot down. Meanwhile Newcomb suffered a “terrific explosion” amidships, which was caused by a flaming Japanese plane slamming into the destroyer near the after fireroom. Leutze’s guns turned their attention to yet another kamikaze headed in towards Newcomb, but once again, the other ship was in the line of fire and Leutze’s guns could not engage the suicider, which then plunged into Newcomb amidships at the base of her forward stack.

By 1810, Leutze reached the hapless Newcomb—dead in the water and ablaze from her mainmast to the No. 3 gun with smoke billowing 1,000 feet in the air—and came alongside portside to. “Conditions were very grave with little prospect for improvement when Leutze came to our assistance,” wrote Lt. Arlie G. Capps, Newcomb’s executive officer, in his ship’s action report. “With hoses all ready she passed them quickly across Newcomb’s starboard side” and Leutze’s repair parties valiantly fought the inferno spanning nearly one-half the length of their sister ship, whose ammunition magazines could have blown up at any time. Cdr. Ira E. McMillian, Newcomb’s commanding officer, judged Leutze’s assistance to his imperiled ship “invaluable.”

Suddenly, through the fire and smoke, another Zeke appeared 2,500 yards off the port bow, flying 100 feet above the sea towards Newcomb’s bridge. With the other destroyer close aboard on her port side, Leutze’s shot was once again blocked, and her gunners could only watch as Newcomb’s two forward five-inch guns under local control fired at their nemesis. At 1815 with the plane now 1,000 yards from Newcomb, a five-inch shell exploded beneath the kamikaze’s left wing, knocking the aircraft off its course and causing it to skim across Newcomb’s deck and then strike Leutze at water level on her port quarter. A large explosion thought to be from a 500-pound bomb on the plane ripped her hull open to the sea, and water poured into the destroyer’s aft engine room and several other compartments astern. The blast also jammed the ship’s rudder full to the right, resulting in lost steering control, and also sparked a fire in the No. 4 handling room, which the sprinkler system extinguished quickly. While one repair crew continued to help fight Newcomb’s fires, the other two crews quickly went below decks to stem the flooding in their own ship.

Five minutes after the impact, Leutze’s crewmen began to jettison all extra topside weight. They also lowered the motor whaleboat to retrieve any men who had gone overboard and put two life rafts over the side to pick up survivors from Newcomb. Ten minutes later, at 1830, the destroyer’s fantail was already awash, indicative of serious flooding. Commanding officer Grabowsky informed CTF 54 at 1836 that his ship was in danger of sinking and requested help. With destroyer Beale (DD-471) now on the scene to aid Newcomb, Leutze discontinued assistance to her burning sister and gingerly moved ahead on a single engine, her stern section shuddering badly. Valiantly fighting to remain afloat, the crew jettisoned all depth charges and torpedoes on safe setting to save weight. With the destroyer’s after fuel and diesel tanks 100% full, the captain issued the order to pump the tanks at 1840. Meanwhile the damage control parties continued to throw excess weight overboard and shored up the bulkheads of damaged compartments.

The emergency measures taken likely saved the ship. By 1900, the crew had stemmed the flooding and shortly thereafter regained steering control, and an hour later, the fantail had risen two feet above the waterline. Most fortunately, Leutze experienced no further air attacks as damage control efforts continued throughout the night. Lt. Grabowsky praised his crew for their resolve and fearlessness during the events of 6 April. “It is with the greatest pride that the Commanding Officer reports that under these extreme circumstances the conduct of all hands was courageous in the highest sense of the word and could serve as an outstanding example of steadfastness under fire,” he wrote in his action report.

At 2050, minesweeper Defense (AM-317) took Leutze in tow and headed for Kerama Retto in company with escorts Porterfield (DD-682) and Beale. Also with the group was fleet tug Tekesta (ATF-93) towing the fire-ravaged Newcomb. Steering by hand, Leutze began steaming on her own power at six knots at 2332. The group arrived off the northern entrance to the anchorage about two hours later, and at 0730 on the morning of 7 April 1945, Leutze anchored at Kerama Retto. Soon the fleet tug Yuma (ATF-94) moved her to the side of landing craft repair ship Egeria (ARL-8) and emergency repairs began on the battered destroyer. At this point, Leutze still had numerous compartments fully or partially flooded, and the weight of the water in her stern continued to cause her fantail to sag low to the sea, which had in turn bent both propeller shafts, particularly on the port side. Additionally, she had a large hole in the main deck port side from five to 14 feet wide spanning from frames 170–193. Her shell plating was buckled or dented in many areas, and her No. 5 gun sustained severe damage and would need to be replaced.

Leutze at Kerama Retto, showing significant damage to the ship’s port side aft sustained in a kamikaze attack, 9 April 1945. (Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph NH 69110)
Caption: Leutze at Kerama Retto, showing significant damage to the ship’s port side aft sustained in a kamikaze attack, 9 April 1945. (Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph NH 69110)

The human toll Leutze incurred as a result of the kamikaze attack was significant although not overwhelming. BM1c John J. Prosper, USNR, died from injuries he sustained in the blast, while 34 other crewmen were wounded, with one man in serious condition. The whereabouts of seven sailors could not be accounted for during muster on the morning of 7 April 1945. As work commenced to make the destroyer seaworthy enough to make the long voyage back to the West Coast for a comprehensive repair availability, on the morning of 10 April, workers recovered the body of one of the missing men, EM3c(T) You Hing Quan, USNR, from the No. 5 powder magazine. Shortly thereafter, survivor Ck2c Charles H. Estell returned to the ship. Estelle had been blown overboard by the blast and was retrieved from the water by Newcomb on the 6th and later transferred to the attack transport Wayne (APA-54). On 11 April, divers searched unsuccessfully for additional bodies, leaving five men still missing.

Although Leutze was out of the battle at Kerama Retto, she was not out of danger. She experienced frequent air raid alerts throughout the month of April 1945 and well into May. “Enemy air activity was very heavy in this area,” the ship’s historian noted. “Hecklers were present in the general Okinawa area from dawn to dusk almost every day.” Bombers and suiciders successfully hit several ships in the vicinity, although fortunately Leutze escaped further harm. As Allied forces made gains at Okinawa, the frequency of the air raid alerts began to subside in late May. As Leutze awaited a spot in dry dock, on the morning of 29 May, high speed transport Bunch (APD-79) dragged her anchor and collided with Leutze in her starboard bow. The destroyer did not sustain any further damage in the incident. Later that day, the commanding officer presented the Purple Heart award to 32 members of the crew.

Finally on the afternoon of 7 June 1945, rescue tug ATR-77 towed Leutze into floating dry dock ARD-27 to make repairs to the ship’s hull astern below the waterline. Work commenced early the next morning, and as the flooded No. 4 magazine was being drained, the body of F1c Robert P. Grab, USNR, was discovered. That afternoon, the remains of S1c Calvin Johnson, USNR, and MM3c Arthur Villasenor, USNR, were also recovered. The remains of Leutze’s final two missing sailors, GM3c John Jurich, USNR, and SF3c Murray L. Westbrook, USNR, were never located.

Over the next three and a half weeks in dry dock, workers rebuilt Leutze’s stern on the port side, replaced the deck plating on the ship’s fantail, and realigned the starboard propeller shaft. The destroyer exited dry dock on the evening of 2 July 1945. The next morning, she completed trial runs north of Kerama Retto, reaching a maximum speed of 16 knots. Upon completion of trials at midday, she moored with Cascade for additional emergency repairs. Five days later, Leutze refueled from Brazos (AO-4) and steamed to Hagushi Beach, Okinawa, to await sailing orders to return to the U.S. for overhaul.

Leutze got underway on the morning of 10 July 1945 to rendezvous with a convoy consisting of 32 tank landing ships, 14 medium landing ships, one general stores cargo ship, one high speed transport, one escort ship, and one submarine chaser. The group reached the vicinity of Guam on the morning of the 16th and Leutze detached to stand in to Apra Harbor. Her eastward journey next took her to Eniwetok escorting Long Island (CVE-1) with Ellet (DD-398) (17–20 July). The two destroyers then continued on to Pearl Harbor escorting attack transport Clinton (APA-144) (21–27 July). Leutze made the final leg of the voyage independently, sailing across the eastern Pacific at 16 knots and arriving at the U.S. Naval Dry Docks, Hunter’s Point, at San Francisco on 3 August.

Entering the reinforced concrete Dry Dock No. 7 on the evening of 7 August 1945, Leutze finally began the overhaul work to restore her to battle readiness. One week later on the afternoon of the 14th, President Harry S Truman addressed the nation, delivering the news that Japan was ready to surrender. Immediately following the announcement, repair work ceased on Leutze and the yard workmen left the ship. They returned on the morning of 17 August but left again at 1100 based on a notice from the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) that overhaul work was to stop until the Bureau of Ships issued further instructions. Until that happened, only work necessary to make the ship habitable could be performed. Leutze left dry dock on 30 August and moored next to Newcomb, which had also made her way back to the U.S. for repairs.

The war with Japan officially concluded on 2 September 1945 with the ratification of the instrument of surrender on board the battleship Missouri (BB-63) in Tokyo Bay. During this month, Leutze’s crew made preparations for an inspection by the Board of Inspection and Survey on 21 September that would determine the fate of their ship. According to the ship’s historian, the inspection party concluded “that the cost of repairs was not disproportionate to the vessel’s future value if kept in commission, in view of its modern design and the excellent condition of the engineering plant.” While the inspection party recommended that Leutze should be repaired and returned to active service, an official determination would still need to be made by the Board of Inspection and Survey. Until that time, all repair work on the ship ceased per instructions from the CNO. Finally, on the morning of 13 October, word of the Board’s decision arrived—Leutze would be decommissioned.

Over the next several weeks, the destroyer’s remaining crew prepared the ship for decommissioning. On 24 November 1945, Leutze held one last awards ceremony for honors earned at Okinawa on 6 April, with Capt. Edgar P. Kranzfelder (EDO) making the presentations. Lt. (j.g.) Francis C. Kiefer, engineering officer, received the Silver Star. Bronze Stars were awarded to Lt. (j.g.) John J. Grelis III, USNR, assistant damage control officer; Ens. R. Malcolm Fortson Jr., main battery control officer; and EM1c(T) Harold A. Keane, USNR. EM1c Herbert W. Gadeberg and EM2c(T) Robert I. Beals, USNR, both received a Type Commander’s Letter of Commendation. Additional award recipients for their actions that day included Lt. Leon Grabowsky, the commanding officer, earning a Navy Cross for his “fearless leadership and outstanding courage” in “handl[ing] his ship like a veteran commander” during the engagement; F1c John R. Stuck, awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for saving a total of three men from rapidly flooding compartments; CEM Stanley O. Homer, awarded a Bronze Star; and Lt. Charles A. Ernst, Jr., communications officer and officer of the deck, receiving a letter of commendation with ribbon.

Leutze decommissioned on 6 December 1945 and was placed in the custody of the U.S. Naval Shipyard Mare Island. She was stricken from the Navy List on 3 January 1946. J. C. Beckwith purchased the hull on 11 February 1947, and she was ultimately purchased for scrap on 17 June 1947 by Thomas Harris of Barker, N.J.

Leutze was awarded five battle stars for her World War II service.

Commanding Officers Date Assumed Command
Cmdr. Berton A. Robbins, Jr. 4 March 1944
Lt. Leon Grabowsky 17 February 1945

Stephanie Harry

7 November 2019

Published: Wed Dec 04 15:48:59 EST 2019