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Little I (Destroyer No. 79)

(DD-79: dp. 1,191; l. 314'5"; b. 30'11"; dr. 9'2"; s. 35 k.; cpl. 133; a. 4 4", 2 1-pdrs., 12 21" tt.; cl. Wickes)

Born 10 April 1754 in Marshfield, Mass., George Little was appointed first lieutenant of the Massachusetts ship Protector in 1779, and was aboard in 1781 when she fought a running battle with the British ship Thames. In a later engagement he was captured, imprisoned, but later escaped. He was given command of Massachusetts ship Winthrop which captured two British privateers, armed brig Meriam, and a number of other vessels. Commissioned captain, USN, 4 March 1799, Little was given command of frigate Boston. He culminated a brilliant fighting career during the quasi-war with France by capturing Le Berceau and seven other ships. Little died at Weymouth, Mass., 22 July 1809.


The first Little (Destroyer No. 79) was laid down by Fore River Shipbuilding Corp., Quincy, Mass., 18 June 1917; launched 11 November 1917; sponsored by Mrs. Samuel W. Wakeman; and commissioned 6 April 1918, Comdr. Joseph K. Taussig in command.

Little departed Norfolk 5 May 1918 for convoy escort duty with Patrol Force, Coast of France, and operated from Brest until she sailed for home 26 December. During this period she escorted President Woodrow Wilson-s party to the Continent to attend the Paris Peace Conference.

The ship arrived Boston 18 January 1919 for drydock and operations with Destroyer Force, Atlantic. She escorted the President's party back into New York 6 to 8 July, and then engaged in tactical exercises, She was transferred to Reserve Status with ComDesRon 3 at Philadelphia 17 November where she remained until 4 January 1921. The ship then operated along the Atlantic coast until she returned to Philadelphia and decommissioned 5 July 1922.

Converted to a high-speed transport, Little was redesignated ADP-4, 2 August 1940, and recommissioned 4 November 1940, Lt. Comdr. K. Earl in command. She sailed for the Caribbean in February 1941 for maneuvers with the Atlantic Fleet, and then steamed to San Diego where she arrived 9 March for amphibious training. The ship returned to the east coast in late summer, and arrived Norfolk 1 December for drydocking.

As flagship for TransDiv 12 she departed for San Diego 14 February 1942 for repairs and alterations. Upon completion of amphibious landing exercises in April, she steamed for Pearl Harbor. A short cruise to Midway Island in late June preceeded her departure to New Caledonia 7 July for the Solomons campaign.

Supplies for American troops on Guadalcanal had been badly distrupted by the Battle of Savo Island 9 August 1942. High-speed destroyer-transports were called upon to remedy this shortage. As she discharged stores on the Guadalcanal beaches 30 August, Little witnessed the destruction of her sister ship, Calhoun (APD-2), by enemy aircraft.

The three remaining APDs, Little, Gregory (APD-3), and McKean (APD-5), continued to support and help supply the marines. On 4 September, Little and Gregory brought a detachment of Marine raiders to Savo Island on an unfounded rumor that enemy forces had occupied it. The troops were returned to Lunga Point, Guadalcanal. That night was unusually dark, so division Comdr. Hugh W. Hadley decided to patrol off Lunga Point rather than attempt to negotiate Tulagi Harbor with no visible landmarks.

About 0100 5 September, Little observed gun flashes to the east and believed this to be an enemy submarine. Moments later a Navy Catalina flying over Savo Sound released a string of five flares to illuminate what he also thought was a submarine. The flares illuminated the APDs instead. A surprised Japanese surface force, source of the flashes presumed to have come from a submarine, shifted their guns toward the APDs, and searchlights stabbed through the darkness. Though outgunned, Little opened fire on the enemy destroyers, but took direct hits from salvos which left her helpless and ablaze by 0115. Gregory had suffered the same fate. The Japanese, to assure their kill, steamed between the two stricken ships firing shells and straffing survivors. Gregory sank stern first about 0140. Little went down on an even keel about 2 hours later. Fleet Adm. Chester W. Nimitz paid sincere tribute to these gallant ships: "With little means, the ships performed duties vital to the success of the campaign."

Little received two battle stars for World War II service.

Published: Thu Feb 25 00:11:34 EST 2016