Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

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Ordronaux (DD-617)

(DD-617: dp. 1,620; l. 348-; b. 36-; dr. 13-4-; s. 37.6 k.; cpl. 276; a. 4 5-, 4 40mm, 5 21- tt.; cl. Benson)

John Ordronaux, born 16 December 1778 at Nantes, Brittany, France, was one of the most successful privateersmen of the War of 1812. At the outbreak of the war, he commanded the French privateer Marengo and on 28 October 181:3, he took command of the American privateer Prince Be Neufchatel, which was fitted out in France.

Captain Ordronaux made his first cruises in her in the English and Irish Channels capturing some 30 prizes.

His greatest accomplishment took place, in the fall of 1814, off Boston. Prince De Neufchatel, with a prize in tow, was sighted by the British frigate Endymion, which gave chase. Becalmed that night, the British commenced a boat attack. After several attempts, despite fierce defense, they succeeded in boarding the prize, and were driving back the Americans, when Captain Ordronaux seized a lighted match and threatened to blow tip the ship if his men retreated further. The Americans rallied and within 20 minutes the remaining British cried for quarter.

With only eight of his men uninjured, Captain Ordronaux returned to Boston, turned over his command and became part owner of Prince De Neufchatel.

Captain John Ordronaux died at Cartagena, Colombia in 1841.

Ordronaux (DD-617) was laid down 25 July 1942 by the Bethlehem Steel Co., Fore River, Mass.; launched 9 November 1942; sponsored by Mrs. J. Henry Judik; and commissioned 13 February 1943, Lt. Comdr. Robert Brodie, Jr. in command.

After shakedown, Ordronaux departed New York 1 May 1943 enroute to Mers-El-Kebir, Algeria, escorting a convoy. Her first encounter with the enemy came on 6 July, while at anchor at Bizerte Naval Base. Attacked by German planes, she helped down several.

In the invasion of Sicily 9 July, Ordronaux was assigned a squadron of torpedo boats to patrol the harbor of Port Empedocle and force out German E boats and Italian MAS boats, so they could be destroyed. She screened allied ships from Axis submarines and rendered fire support for the invasion until the 21st.

For nearly a year, following the invasion, Ordronaux sailed back and forth across the Atlantic and through the Mediterranean on convoy duty.

On 7 April 1944, while operating with a hunter-killer task unit comprised of DD's and DE's, Ordronaux spotted U-856 south of Nova Scotia. Champlin (DD-601) made first contact by sounding and with Huse (DE-145) made several depth charge attacks forcing the submarine to surface. Both ships opened fire, and Champlin rammed the sub. Nields (DD-616) and Ordronaux captured 28 survivors.

On 12 May, Ordronaux was back in the Mediterranean with Mackenzie (DD-614) screening HMS Dido while the British cruiser bombarded Terracina and Gaeta on the west coast of Italy in support of the U. S. 5th Army, which was advancing on Rome. For the rest of the month, Ordronaux operated with Dido and French cruiser Emile Bertin supporting the beachead at Anzio.

On 9 August Ordronaux was attached to a fire support force for the invasion of southern France. On the 15th, she operated within 3000 yards of the beach providing "call fire" for Navy liason officers and Army spotters. Many times she was straddled with 88 min projectiles from enemy shore batteries.

After the invasion of southern France, she returned to convoy duty. On 1 May 1945, after returning to New York for alterations, Ordronaux sailed for the Pacific, via the Panama Canal. On 24 July she arrived in Pearl Harbor and sailed immediately for Wake Island. There on 1 August, Ordronaux conducted close fire support, meeting accurate counter-fire.

Ordronaux arrived at Okinawa several days before Japan capitulated. After the surrender, she took part in two occupation landings: at Wakayama and at Nagoya. She made several cruises to ports in Honshu, including two to Tokyo Bay, before sailing for the United States 31 October.

Returning to the East Coast, she was assigned local operations off Charleston, S. C. until she was placed out of commission in reserve January 1947, and attached to the Charleston, S. C., group of the Atlantic Reserve Fleet. Into 1970, she remains berthed at Orange, Texas.

Ordronaux earned three battle stars for service in World War II.

Published: Mon Apr 04 10:55:06 EDT 2016