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Longshaw (DD-559)


William Longshaw, Jr. -- born in Manchester, England, on 26 April 1836, to William and Margaret Longshaw – emigrated with his parents to the United States, arriving in New York on 31 March 1842. At the age of 16, William entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He later studied pharmacology at the University of Louisiana and eventually received a medical degree from the University of Michigan in 1859. He entered the Navy as an assistant surgeon on 25 April 1862.

While serving in the single-turret monitor Lehigh as her medical officer, Dr. Longshaw showed outstanding courage in an engagement with Confederate batteries on Sullivan’s Island, Charleston, S.C., on 16 November 1863, in support of Union forces on nearby Morris Island. After Lehigh ran aground while shelling Confederate forts at Cummings Point, she received 22 hits from enemy fire. Determined to move Lehigh, single-turreted monitor Nahant stood by to render assistance. Dr. Longshaw, Gunner’s Mate George W. Leland and Coxswain Thomas Irving volunteered to row a boat through the hail of fire to Nahant. Making their way in an open boat, the three men carried a line for the first two hawsers across to the steamerConfederate fire became so intense that both hawsers were quickly shot away, requiring a third trip by Longshaw and his two comrades. Lehigh eventually refloated when Nahant pulled her free with a third hawser. Rear Adm. John A. Dahlgren and Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles praised Dr. Longshaw’s actions in the battle. His companions, Leland and Irving, both received the Medal of Honor for their part in the battle. Due to military regulations at the time, officers could not receive the award, prohibiting Longshaw from becoming the third man to receive the Medal of Honor for the same action.

Subsequently, although he received a leave of absence that day, Assistant Surgeon Longshaw voluntarily postponed his departure to take part in the Union assault on Fort Fisher, N.C, on 15 January 1865. During the attack, the dedicated young doctor stopped to provide aid to a dying marine, until heavy enemy fire slew them both. Rear Adm. Thomas C. Selfridge witnessed the event. Adm. Selfridge later recalled: “Dr. Longshaw, at the peril of his life, went to [the marine’s] assistance and dragged him beyond the incoming tide…[Longshaw] while attending to [the marine’s] wounds was shot dead.” Union forces recovered the bodies of both men the next morning.

(DD‑559: displacement 2,050; length 376'6"; beam 39'8"; draft 19"1'; speed 35 knots; complement 273; armament 5 5-inch, 10 40-millimeter, 7 20-millimeter guns, 10 21-inch torpedo tubes, 6 depth charge projectors, 2 depth charge tracks; class Fletcher)

Longshaw (DD‑559) was laid down on 16 June 1942, at Seattle, Wash., by the Seattle-Tacoma Shipbuilding Co.; launched on 4 June 1943; sponsored by Mrs. Ella Mae Richards, a local mother of five sons who served during World War II; and commissioned on 4 December 1943, Cmdr. Daniel T. Birtwell in command.

Longshaw completed her post shakedown availability on 14 February 1944. At 1247, she got underway for a voyage from Seattle to San Francisco. Arriving at San Francisco at 1321 on 16 February, she took on fuel and reported to Birmingham (CL-62) for duty. Two days later, Longshaw sailed at 1223 for Pearl Harbor as part of Task Group (TG) 12.4.

Longshaw at sea on 18 February 1944, as seen from a ZP-32 airship at 1400 on 18 February 1944. (U.S. Navy Photograph 80-G-223364, National Archives and Records Administration, Still Pictures Division, College Park, Md.)
Caption: Longshaw at sea on 18 February 1944, as seen from a ZP-32 airship at 1400 on 18 February 1944. (U.S. Navy Photograph 80-G-223364, National Archives and Records Administration, Still Pictures Division, College Park, Md.)

Longshaw arrived at Oahu at 1322 on 23 February 1944. Three days later, at 0655, she got underway for a sortie to conduct training exercises alongside cruiser Birmingham, and destroyers Newcomb (DD-586), and Marshall (DD-676). For the rest of February, the new destroyer held tracking and radar drills off Hawaii. Steaming for the Marshall Islands, she arrived at the entrance to Kwajalein Lagoon on 4 March. Longshaw joined Task Force (TF) 50 commanded by Adm. Raymond A. Spruance on board flagship New Jersey (BB-62). On 5 March, Longshaw received assignment to TG 50.15, operating alongside Destroyer Division Fifty-Five (DesRon 55) ships Laws (DD-558), McDermut (DD-677), and Callaghan (DD-792).

Anchored off Kwajalein, Longshaw got underway for Majuro on 15 March 1944, conducting patrols off Wotje and Maleolap Islands until 21 March. The next day, she stood out from Majuro, screening the replenishment group for the Fast Carrier Task Force during strikes on Palau, Yap, Ulithi, and Woleai, from 30 March–1 April. Steaming back for Majuro on 6 April, the destroyer got underway six days later to escort the task group to Hollandia. Longshaw screened flight operations conducted by escort carriers Suwanee (CVE-27) and Santee (CVE-29) off the coast of New Guinea while General Douglas A. MacArthur’s force landed.

After the report of a submarine from Callaghan on 3 April 1944, Longshaw steamed at 17 knots for the supposed position of contact. After finding no sign of a sub, the destroyer rejoined her task group and conducted fueling with other groups involved in the Palau strike. Longshaw and the task groups of TF 58 proceeded to Majuro, arriving on 6 April. She remained in Majuro Lagoon until 12 April, getting underway at 1200 with TG 50.17. Longshaw finally anchored at 1505.

Sighting Manus Island on 20 April 1944, she protected a patrol lane for entry of tankers into Seeadler Harbor, Manus, anchoring at 1505. Two days later, on 22 April, she got underway at 0700 to fuel from Monongahela. She set out for a sortie at 1120 from Seeadler Harbor, and joined TG 50.17. The task group consisted of the oilers Caliente (AO-53), Neosho (AO-23), Lackawanna (AO-40), Cahaba (AO-82), Monongahela (AO-42), and Neshanic (AO-71), and destroyers Porterfield (DD-682), Laws, Morrison (DD-560), Callaghan, and Longshaw.

On 27 April 1944, Longshaw remained on her patrol station until 0618 on 29 April, joining TG 58.1, 58.2, and 58.3 to conduct fueling operations. After securing from fueling, at 1130 she formed a patrol screen with Porterfield and Callaghan until TG 50.17 formed up at 1700. From 1-9 May, Longshaw steamed from Manus to Pearl, arriving there at 1115 on 9 May. During 10 – 14 May, Longshaw lay anchored at Oahu. On 15 May, she got underway with TG 52.14 at 0705 for a sortie from Pearl Harbor with TU 52.14.2, screening carriers of TU 52.14.1 and 52.14.2.

Over a two-day period, 16–18 May 1944, Longshaw steamed with a task unit before returning to Hawaii on 19 May where she moored from 20–21 May. Longshaw completed training exercises while underway from 26–29 May, before joining the Central Pacific Force (ComCenPac and Com Fifth Fleet in Indianapolis (CA-35)), under Adm. Raymond A. Spruance, and TF 51, Joint Expeditionary Force, Vice Adm. Richmond K. Turner, commanding. Underway out of Pearl Harbor from 30 May–9 June, Longshaw acted as part of the destroyer screen for carriers Kalinin Bay (CVE-68) and White Plains (CVE-66) while they conducted flight operations.

On 3 June 1944, at 0931, two planes from White Plains crashed simultaneously. Callaghan recovered the pilot of one of the planes, but Longshaw, but found nothing except a rubber life raft. Longshaw entered Eniwetok Atoll at 0830, and received 2,613 barrels of fuel oil. Her crew went to general quarters at 1153 because of a Condition Red alert (air attack imminent) prompted by unidentified aircraft. At 1204, Cmdr. Speck announced Condition White (the lack of enemy aircraft in the vicinity) throughout the ship.

Longshaw sortied on 11 June 1944 from Eniwetok as part of a screen for TG 52.14, en route to Saipan for an attack and occupation by the Northern Attack Force. At 1548, she picked up Lt. (j.g.) Samuel B. Francovitch, of VC-3, who crashed in his Grumman FM-2 Wildcat (BuNo 16492) just after taking off from Kalinin Bay. Two days later, Longshaw transferred Francovitch back to his ship. On 15 June, Longshaw screened carriers operating eastward of Saipan. At 0530, planes from the carriers launched to conduct air strikes on the landing beaches. At 1809, the destroyer went to general quarters. Five minutes later, CAP planes identified enemy aircraft and intercepted them eight miles from the task group. Several of the enemy planes managed to break through, however, and attacked a number of ships in the task force.

At 1103 on 16 June 1944, Longshaw picked up Grumman FM-2 Wildcat (BuNo 16218) pilot Lt. Eugene Straughn from White Plains. Lt. Straughn experienced engine failure almost immediately after takeoff and crash-landed in the water off the port bow. At 1153, Straughn transferred back to White Plains. Longshaw went to general quarters on two separate occasions throughout the day due to enemy aircraft in her vicinity first at 1416 and then later at 1809. At 1850, several ships in the formation opened fire on incoming enemy aircraft, at least one of which crashed in flames. The escort carrier Fanshaw Bay (CVE-70) received one direct hit by a single bomb. At 1920, ship’s radar became clear of enemy planes allowing for the recovery of friendly aircraft by the escort carriers. Longshaw’s war diarist stated, “Darkness caused many landing casualties and screening destroyers picked up four of six pilots from planes that crashed on the water.” She continued cruising eastward of Saipan.

Resuming steaming off Saipan for the next several days, the destroyer twice went to general quarters on 23 June 1944, at 0150 and 1208. From 24 June-13 July, Longshaw screened carriers off Saipan. On 28 June, she made a good sound contact at 0120 at a distance of 900 yards. Passing over the contact, Longshaw made a deliberate approach and attack, dropping a pattern of 11 depth charges at 0223. She then searched the area until 0330, finding no visible results of a destroyed submarine. Rejoining the task group formation, she resumed screening carriers for flight operations. At 1405, a carrier pigeon landed on Longshaw’s bridge. Despite Japanese markings on its leg, the bird did not carry any messages. Crewmembers transferred the pigeon to White Plains at 1520.

On 13 July 1944, Longshaw steamed for Eniwetok, arriving three days later. While shifting berths later that day, several members of the crew reported hearing a scraping sound. After backing down and anchoring, an inspection revealed a bent port propeller. Longshaw entered the floating dry dock ARD-13 for drydocking and repairs to her propeller. With her new screw installed, the destroyer stood out with the carrier group, TU 53.19.5 en route to Guam, on 18 July. Arriving on 22 July, she later departed for Saipan, joining TU 52.14.1 to begin air operations for the assault and occupation of Tinian. She remained in the area supporting the carriers while their aircraft conducted strikes until returning to Saipan on 31 July. Upon dropping anchor at Saipan, the workhorse destroyer had compiled an impressive 55,314 nautical miles in the Pacific in just under seven months. During the month of July alone, she steamed 10,330 nautical miles in 691 hours, and was at anchor for only 53 hours.

Longshaw stood out to sea on 1 August 1944, operating east of Saipan during the night. The following day, she took up a patrol station off Tinian Island before closing on White Beach. Longshaw’s medical officer, Lt. Maurice N. Manning, visited rescue and salvage ship Clamp (ARS-33), after reports of an undiagnosed illness rapidly spread throughout Clamp’s crew. Transiting to Saipan to refuel on 9 August, she later escorted Indianapolis to Guam, arriving at 1035 on 10 August. Returning to Eniwetok on 22 August, Longshaw had been underway for 63 days, steaming 23,397 nautical miles during the Marianas operation.

Joining TF 38 on 29 August 1944, Longshaw received orders to accompany Rear Adm. Frederick C. Sherman’s TG 38.3. The force sortied the same day, setting course for the Palaus again. At 1240, the carriers launched the first strikes, recovering them at1525. Longshaw remained in the area conducting patrols until 8 September.

The following day, on 9 September 1944, in company with Santa Fe (CL-60), Birmingham, Laws, Morrison, and Pritchett (DD-561), the group steamed to Mindanao Island to intercept a convoy of small Japanese luggers north of Sanco Point, Mindanao. Arriving off Sanco Point at approximately 1200, Longshaw opened fire on five of the coastal vessels in a larger group off Mawes Island in Bislig Bay. In an hour and forty minutes of firing, she observed hits on all five vessels, with two burning and three soon running aground. In total, Longshaw sank 20 luggers while a remaining 40 were either set afire or forced to beach. Lt. (j.g.) Frank H. Sonntag, assistant gunnery officer, exclaimed, “The water was full of Japs, but we couldn’t stop to pick them up. We wanted to get out of there before the Jap planes came.” Longshaw departed the area at approximately 1400 and proceeded with the group to rejoin TG 38.3 at 1725.

Additional strikes by the task group against the Visayas Islands began on 12 September 1944, and continued for two days. On the 14th, U.S. ships retired eastward. A week later, on 21 September, lookouts on board Longshaw spotted Luzon Island, and a day later air strikes against the island began. Longshaw refueled on 23 September and returned a day later. Meanwhile, carrier aircraft struck the Visayas group again on 24 September. After recovering the carrier aircraft, the task group moved east, arriving at Palau on 27 September.

On 2 October 1944, Longshaw proceeded to Ulithi and began a short upkeep period. Four days later, on 6 October, she stood out of the area en route to Okinawa to protect escort carriers launching aircraft. After the strikes, on 10 October, Longshaw and the task group retired to refuel before proceeding toward Formosa to conduct air raids. On 12 October, the group arrived off the eastern coast to prepare for further sorties. The first began at 0530, four minutes after radar detected enemy aircraft approaching the formation. Japanese planes continued harassing the task group until 0200 on 15 October.

At 2210 on 12 October 1944, the task force commander advised all units that the enemy would attack in one hour. At 2338, he again advised that all enemy planes in the area were going to illuminate the group in preparation for a big attack. Shortly thereafter, several flares lit up the sky to the westward of Longshaw. By 0125, the task force commander advised that the “Jap target coordinator has lost his torpedo strike. They are opening as far as Tokyo.”

Radar picked up approaching enemy aircraft at sunset, and at 1842, Longshaw commenced firing on an unidentified Japanese plane closing from ahead. Closing to within 2,000 yards, the pilot thought better of pressing his luck and turned away from the destroyer. At this same time, Canberra (CA-70) reported taking a torpedo in her armor belt, killing 23 men. All enemy aircraft in the area cleared by 2000, and friendly air strikes against Formosa extended in order to cover the retirement of Canberra and her escort. The combat air patrol (CAP) kept Japanese planes away from the task group until 1500, when the enemy seemed to close in on the formation.

At 1711, a low-flying Nakajima B5N Navy Type 97 carrier attack plane, or Kate, flew over the formation from the south, passing over the center of the task group. After dropping his torpedo near the battleships and carriers, the pilot flew east, maneuvering low between the ships. Fired on the entire time, the enemy plane suffered no damage until Longshaw joined in the firing from her port quarter. The Kate began smoking before bursting into flames. The Japanese pilot attempted to gain altitude, but fell off and crashed into the sea approximately 2,000 yards off the destroyer’s port beam.

After refueling on 26 October 1944, Longshaw and the task force turned toward the Philippines again and the following day found the carrier planes of the task force pounding enemy positions in that area. On 28 October, the group began retiring to Ulithi, arriving on 30 October. The next day, 1 November, Longshaw again stood out with TG 38.3 en route to the Philippines. On 3 November, the cruiser Reno (CL-96) reported hitting a mine. In actuality, she suffered two torpedo hits from Japanese submarine I-41 (Lt. Cmdr. Fumitake Kondo, commanding) and while the first lodged in her outer hull and managed to be defused, the second exploded four decks below topside and killed 46 men. This marked the first successful enemy submarine attack in nearly two years on a U.S. warship operating with fast carriers.

Strikes against Luzon continued on schedule on 5 November 1944, upon completion of which, the task group retired to Ulithi on 17 November. After making repairs to her sound dome at Ulithi five days later, on 22 November, Longshaw steamed out to overtake the earlier departing TG 38.3. Joining the task force on 24 November, she fueled prior to setting course for an area north of Pollilo Island off the east coast of Luzon. From there, she participated in strikes against shipping in Manila Bay and at Luzon airfields.

At 1225 on 25 November 1944, an enemy air raid approached the task group, sending all ships to battle stations, for about an hour, during which time the fleet carrier Essex (CV-9), fell victim to a kamikaze, which struck her flight deck, near the port side elevator that killed 15 men. The carrier sustained little overall damage, however, remaining in action while crewmembers made small repairs to her. On 2 December, the task group put into Ulithi Harbor to replenish ammunition and fuel, standing out again on 10 December.

Longshaw (third ship from left) nested at Ulithi alongside the destroyer tender Markab (AD-21), between 2 and 10 December 1944; order of ships (L-R): Markab, Thatcher (DD-514), Longshaw, Preston (DD-795), Porterfield (DD-682), and Cassin Young (D...
Caption: Longshaw (third ship from left) nested at Ulithi alongside the destroyer tender Markab (AD-21), between 2 and 10 December 1944; order of ships (L-R): Markab, Thatcher (DD-514), Longshaw, Preston (DD-795), Porterfield (DD-682), and Cassin Young (DD-793). Note that Thatcher has the early rounded bridge in the class’s original design; that two of the ships have erected movie screens forward, and there is a gig moored at Cassin Young’s bow. Also note the differences in the disruptive camouflage patterns from ship to ship, and the two sailors engaged in painting part of Longshaw’s hull near her bow. (U.S. Navy Photograph by Lt. Cmdr. Charles Jacobs, 80-G-408161, National Archives and Records Administration, Still Pictures Division, College Park, Md,)

Four days later, on 14 December, the task group maintained a position off Luzon to conduct air strikes. At 0705, the carriers launched the first strike groups with the destroyers screening them from submarine attack. Raids continued for the remainder of that day and into the next.

On 16 December 1944, the group turned away from the area to refuel later that evening. A sudden storm disrupted fueling operations as high winds and heavy seas tossed the task group around. Two days later, the barometer dropped off to 29.22 and a 65-knot wind howled, forcing the group to reduce speed to 10 knots. The typhoon, later known as “Cobra” or “Halsey’s Typhoon,” unexpectedly struck and then scattered Adm. William F. Halsey, Jr.’s Third Fleet, after the admiral ordered vessels to sail into the storm. Three destroyers sank and nearly 800 men lost their lives during the five days of horrific conditions at sea. Searching over the next several days for any sailors blown overboard or tossed from the three destroyers proved futile.

On 1 January 1945, Longshaw formed an eight-ship partial screen ahead of the carriers. Battleship Division 6 (BatDiv 6) and CruDiv 14 left the formation at 0705 to form part of TF 34. Three days later, Longshaw maintained cover for the carriers launching an air strike against Formosa at 0700. Four strikes occurred throughout the course of the day. At 1605, Longshaw cleared the area to refuel. She commenced refueling operations in calm seas at 0645 on 5 January. Arriving the next day in the strike launching area off Luzon at 0500, rain squalls and zero visibility delayed all sorties. The first strike launched at 1055. Two further strikes sortied during the day, and at 1843, Longshaw steamed to an area off Formosa for expected strikes on the island the next day.

By 2 January 1945, Longshaw supported the task group carriers on high-speed runs hitting Formosa. Overcast weather and poor visibility forced the cancellation of strikes on 3 January. The weather improved enough the next day to commence four separate strikes. By 1605, all flights were back on board and the task group retired later that night to the fueling area. On 6 January, TG 38.3 returned to Formosa, and struck the island once more. Bad weather moved in by late afternoon, resulting in the group deciding to raid Luzon.

The first strikes occurred at 0645 on 7 January 1945, with three more following before the end of the day. Two days later, on 9 January, the fast carrier task group began pounding away at Okinawa around the clock. Longshaw escorted the carriers through Bashi Channel into the South China Sea during the night, arriving off Indochina two days later. Air strikes against Camranh Bay continued for the next several days, including several at Formosa on 15 January, and one against Hainan and Hong Kong on 16 January.

Refueling on 20 January 1945, Longshaw transited Balintang Channel to leave the South China Sea. Suddenly finding herself in the middle of a Japanese air raid, Longshaw opened fire briefly on three unidentified enemy planes, but scored no hits. On 21 January, Langley (CVL-27) suffered a hit from a single-engine glide bombing attack. At 1206 the same day, a kamikaze smashed through Ticonderoga’s (CV-14) flight deck and its bomb exploded just above the carrier’s hangar deck, igniting several of her armed aircraft. Ticonderoga shot down three more suicide planes, but a fourth managed to get through and smashed into her starboard side. Suffering over 100 casualties in the chaos, excellent damage control measures helped save the carrier from further losses. At 1250, Longshaw fired upon one of the glide-bombs as it passed overhead at about 3,000 feet “in a very shallow glide.” The single-engine plane went into a climbing turn before bursting into flames. Though enemy aircraft continued flying overhead until 2115, no further damage to the task group occurred.

Continuing to steam and launch strikes against Okinawa through 22 January 1945, Longshaw returned to Ulithi for replenishment four days later. While at Ulithi, the destroyer underwent repairs to her sound dome and on 9 February, she also received a night fighter team and radar maintenance team from Enterprise (CV-6). These alterations equipped Longshaw for her future role as a fighter director destroyer.

Longshaw comes alongside Saratoga (CV-3) on 4 February 1945, in an image captured by PhoM3c L. L. Hodge. (U.S. Navy Photograph 80-G-315217, National Archives and Records Administration, Still Pictures Division, College Park, Md.)
Caption: Longshaw comes alongside Saratoga (CV-3) on 4 February 1945, in an image captured by PhoM3c L. L. Hodge. (U.S. Navy Photograph 80-G-315217, National Archives and Records Administration, Still Pictures Division, College Park, Md.)

Standing out on 10 February 1945, Longshaw accompanied TF 58 to strike Tokyo and surrounding areas. Longshaw’s secondary duty was to function as a radar patrol vessel to extend the radar range of the task force against low-flying enemy planes and to control a CAP in order to destroy Japanese aircraft if possible.

Assigned to the southernmost patrol area on 16 February 1945, Longshaw and Benham (DD-397) took up radar picket duties. At 0737, an enemy plane flew in straight from the port beam, waggling its wings several times. Longshaw opened fire with her 5-inch guns as the aircraft closed to within 4,000 yards. After the plane banked vertically to port, the outline of an enemy twin-engine Betty revealed itself. When the Betty retired to the north, Cushing’s CAP closed in for the kill, sending the Japanese bomber into the sea. At 1117, the CAP scored a kill as a Nakajima Army Type 4 fighter plane (Frank) came in low over the destroyer on a snooping mission. At 1654, the task group’s CAP splashed another enemy plane. Apparently, during the latter stages of the chase, the Japanese pilot kept insisting he was “friendly,” though his ruse did not fool the American pilots, who summarily splashed him.

The task group completed scheduled strikes through the next two days, retiring from the area on 18 February 1945. Two days later, Longshaw continued supporting the fast carriers who in turn supported the Iwo Jima operation until 9 March when she sailed for Ulithi. Arriving on 12 March, she refueled and took on ammunition. On 21 March, she steamed out of Ulithi alongside TG 54.2, participating in various drills until 24 March, when she joined a fire support unit preparing for the assault on Okinawa.

Patrolling off the southeastern tip of Okinawa on 25 March 1945, Longshaw supported minesweeping operations. Assigned to conduct night harassing fire on the enemy on 26 March, she kept up fire throughout the night with unknown results, although the following night brought better ones. On 29 March, Longshaw received orders to cover an underwater demolition team (UDT) making an assault on Okinawa and clearing paths for the landing craft.

Conducting routine patrols off Okinawa, on 7 April 1945, Longshaw narrowly avoided a kamikaze diving on her that missed her by only a few feet. On 12 April, as she finished distributing guard mail to battleships and cruisers, she cast off from alongside West Virginia (BB-48) when an air alert sounded. At 1445, one enemy plane dived on the formation and a minute later, three more planes streaked low over the water to the west. On an obvious collision course with Longshaw, the three Kates carried torpedoes to ensure maximum damage. As the Japanese planes came within range, the ships on the port side of the formation began firing. All enemy aircraft crashed only 5,000 yards from the destroyer.

At 1451, destroyer Zellars (DD-777) fired upon three Jills before one of them struck her in the port side. Despite an intense barrage of 40-millimeter gunfire from the damaged destroyer, Zellars continued firing at three Kates roaring in from the west to target the group. At 1507, Longshaw added her fire to those of the task force, and managed to scramble the suicide planes away from the ships. The destroyer took up position in a fire support sector at 1900, remaining on duty until 26 April 1945. Longshaw’s 291 enlisted and 22 officers remained at general quarters for days on end, and the first 17 days of May continued on the same. Fire support missions followed night harassing missions, and still the exhausted crew carried on. During hours when Longshaw temporarily left her station, she steamed around the anchorage, seeking to secure ammunition from any ship that could spare it.

Longshaw off Okinawa, 11 May 1945; note that she is now a solid color scheme instead of the disruptive pattern camouflage. (U.S. Navy Photograph 80-G-320328 by PhoM3c E. Gilder of battleship New York (BB-34), National Archives and Records Adminis...
Caption: Longshaw off Okinawa, 11 May 1945; note that she is now a solid color scheme instead of the disruptive pattern camouflage. (U.S. Navy Photograph 80-G-320328 by PhoM3c E. Gilder of battleship New York (BB-34), National Archives and Records Administration, Still Pictures Division, College Park, Md,)

The destroyer’s crew continued this perpetual state of readiness, her men averaging only four hours of sleep a day. From 1 April-18 May 1945, Longshaw remained on station minus the two days she was ordered from the line to undergo radar repairs. On 12 May, Cmdr. Theodore R. Vogeley stood relieved by Lt. Cmdr. Clarence W. Becker. On the night of 17–18 May, the destroyer fired approximately 500 rounds of 5-inch projectiles after being at general quarters for several hours. On the morning of 18 May, all hands were thoroughly fatigued from a strenuous week of constantly being on the alert. After dawn, Cmdr. Becker relaxed general quarters so the crew could rest before the coming day’s firing assignment.

At 0630, Longshaw set course to screen to the south, arriving in the patrol area off Naha, forty minutes later. After getting a position fix and studying the charts of the area, Lt. Raymond L. Bly, Jr., the officer of the deck (OOD), ordered the destroyer to maintain course. At 0719, Longshaw suddenly stopped, running hard aground on Ose Reef. After the engines came to a full stop, Lt. Bly ordered back full, with no success. The destroyer listed to starboard at eight degrees as crewmembers battened down all watertight doors. The captain relieved the young lieutenant for the latter to assume his normal damage control duties. In a matter of minutes, a scenario eerily similar to the Civil War action undertaken by Assistant Surgeon Longshaw, the destroyer’s namesake, began to unfold.

At 0735, Longshaw backed with full power, again proving unsuccessful. No compartments reported taking on water, but crewmembers checked them every 18 minutes. The engine rooms also reported no water or damage to any machinery. Upon further investigation, the destroyer’s keel rested on two large coral rocks, one centered a little forward and the other centered at frame 50. At 0815, Lt. Bly inspected all lower deck spaces and found them dry with no sign of any openings or breaks in the deck’s plating. Men began bringing up all of the 5-inch ammunition from the forward section of the ship and placed the rounds on the main deck on the fantail. A half-hour later, Picking (DD-685) made the first of several unsuccessful attempts to take Longshaw in tow.

Arikara (ATF-98) anchored in close to the grounded destroyer at 0945. Fifteen minutes later, the fleet ocean tug’s commanding officer, Lt. John Aitken, came on board to investigate the location of the ship on the reef. Expressing confidence that Longshaw could clear the coral rocks, he recommended waiting until high tide prior to making an attempt. Cmdr. Becker agreed to the recommendation, and Arikara sent over a bridle and tow line to the destroyer.

At 1050, ammunition handling ceased as the crew removed all 5-inch projectiles from the lower magazines and the number one 5-inch handling room except for one 5-inch projectile at the bottom of the hoist and one at the top of the hoist to the gun. The number two 5-inch gun’s ammunition remained in the upper handling room. All hands not standing watch received orders to move to the fantail to throw ammunition over the side and lighten the forward part of the ship.

Arikara commenced an attempt to pull Longshaw off the reef as the destroyer backed full on both engines. Several members of the crew gathered on the port side aft, almost trying to will the destroyer off the reef. Suddenly, at 1101, the crew watched in horror as a Japanese shell splashed between Arikara and the stuck destroyer only 100 yards distant. Still exhausted from the long days of battle, the crew ran for their battle stations as the first enemy shells struck Longshaw, one hitting the forward engine room.

Several more hits followed in rapid succession, with one round damaging the superstructure, and another striking the number four 40-millimeter gun. One shell each landed in the number four 5-inch upper handling room, the bridge, CIC, and the number two upper handling room, all striking the port side.

The Japanese had little trouble hitting the stranded destroyer. Longshaw managed to return fire with four rounds from her 5-inch guns, but the enemy scored a direct hit on her forward magazine, the resulting explosion disintegrating the forward part of the ship.

With the ship on fire, several men below decks died from asphyxiation or were trapped and unable to escape. Survivors making their way topside jumped overboard in order to escape the flames and enemy gunfire, while others quickly attempted throwing ammunition on the fantail over the side. These efforts proved futile, and several more men received wounds while standing on the open fantail.

In the midst of the chaos, with communications out, word had passed by mouth to abandon ship, presumably originating from the bridge, and Cmdr. Becker himself. Men began leaving Longshaw in an orderly manner. Despite all the lights being out across the ship, several men began launching life rafts and floatation devices for survivors in the water. Others, including Lt. Bly, remained on board in order to assist the wounded. Thirty minutes later, all hands had abandoned ship except a few severely wounded men unable to leave. Cmdr. Becker himself had lain mortally wounded on the bridge; surrounded by the dead, wounded, and stunned. Witnesses later claimed the captain reportedly wandered around the bridge badly wounded and giving orders to abandon ship.

As quickly as the enemy battery gunfire began, it stopped. The damage to Longshaw, however, was fatal. Isolated groups of men still hoping to save their ship had battled fires with two hoses until the loss of main pressure. Efforts quickly turned to helping the wounded abandon ship, fearing enemy shelling might resume at any moment. The Japanese batteries remained silent, and the shattered destroyer sank after Picking sent five torpedoes into her.

Rescue efforts began immediately, and nearby ships, including heavy cruiser Salt Lake City (CA-25) and large infantry landing craft LCI(L)-356 pulled some 113 Longshaw survivors from the sea. The casualties proved astonishing, especially for a small crew of only 291 men. Longshaw lost 86 men killed in action, and another 95 wounded for a casualty rate of 62 percent. Fleet tug Arikara received a Navy Unit Commendation (NUC) for her efforts attempting to extract Longshaw off the reef.

Salt Lake City (CA-25) sailors turn-to to carry a wounded Longshaw bluejacket to receive medical treatment, 18 May 1945. (U.S. Navy Photograph 80-G-343594, National Archives and Records Administration, Still Pictures Division, College Park, Md.)
Caption: Salt Lake City (CA-25) sailors turn-to to carry a wounded Longshaw bluejacket to receive medical treatment, 18 May 1945. (U.S. Navy Photograph 80-G-343594, National Archives and Records Administration, Still Pictures Division, College Park, Md.)

According to surviving damage control officer, Lt. Bly, the grounding and loss of Longshaw “can be laid indirectly to the fatigue of officers and men.” Operating in the forward areas for 15 months, the crew “had no recreation except the meager amount available” at Ulithi and Eniwetok. Transportation and recreation on the two islands were so poor “that many men preferred to remain on board.” Up until the Okinawa campaign, the crew remained tired but not exhausted. Lt. Bly later stated the destroyer’s attachment to TF 58 from August 1944–March 1945 taxed the crew mentally and physically. He believed the crew would have benefitted from a fair and consistent system of rotation amongst the destroyers.

In an attachment to the action report, Bly concluded he believed that the psychological condition of the crew contributed to Longshaw’s sinking. The report stated “several times after the first 3 weeks of the campaign [that] many of the men on board were on the verge of breaking down completely with combat fatigue.” Personally observing 15–20 shipmates in such a state of distress, Lt. Bly claimed that the combat fatigue patients might have benefitted from a transfer off ship. However, he recognized the problems such a solution placed on every crewmember on board. All stations, with only 291 crewmembers, “could just barely be manned with that number of men.” The young officer later received the Silver Star for remaining on board the beleaguered Longshaw for over an hour, in spite of the order to abandon ship, searching areas “that were afire and continually a hazard from ammunition that was exploding” for shipmates too injured to get off the ship.

Lieutenant Frank H. Sonntag, assistant gunnery officer, received the Bronze Star for quickly organizing firefighting efforts on board before initiating the “first measures to extinguish fires” that were “burning on the torpedo warheads.” Lt. Sonntag and several of his team were making their way aft to combat further fires when a violent explosion in one of the magazines blew him and several of his team overboard.

Longshaw’s sailors relax on board Salt Lake City, 18 May 1945, showing various emotions after their ordeal. (U.S. Navy Photograph 80-G-343592, National Archives and Records Administration, Still Pictures Division, College Park, Md.)
Caption: Longshaw’s sailors relax on board Salt Lake City, 18 May 1945, showing various emotions after their ordeal. (U.S. Navy Photograph 80-G-343592, National Archives and Records Administration, Still Pictures Division, College Park, Md.)

Longshaw was stricken from the Navy Register on 25 June 1945.

By authorization of the Secretary of the Navy on 10 July 1957, the government of Ryukyu Islands received Longshaw’s hulk as a donation from the U.S.

Longshaw received nine battle stars for her World War II service.

Commanding Officers Dates of Command
Cmdr. Daniel T. Birtwell, Jr. 4–8 December 1943
Cmdr. Robert H. Speck 13 December 1943–28 January 1945
Cmdr. Theodore R. Vogeley 28 January 1945–10 May 1945
Lt. Cmdr. Clarence W. Becker 10–18 May 1945

Guy Joseph Nasuti

18 July 2019

Published: Wed Aug 23 10:22:57 EDT 2023