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Palmer (Destroyer No. 161)


While the first Palmer retained the name, in shortened form, she carried at the time she was acquired, the second Palmer honored James Shedden Palmer, born in 1810 in New Jersey, was appointed Midshipman 1 January 1825. He commanded Flirt during the Mexican War, and Iroquois and Hartford during the Civil War. He commanded the Naval Station at New Orleans and the West Gulf Squadron during 1864. Appointed to command the West Indian Squadron in 1865, he was commisioned rear admiral on 25 July 1866 and died on 7 December 1867 at St. Thomas, Virgin Islands.

(Destroyer No. 161: displacement 1,191; length 314'5"; beam 31'8"; draft 9'2"; speed 35 knots; cpl. 122; armament 4 4-inch, 2 3-inch, 12 21-inch torpedo tubes; class Wickes)

Palmer (Destroyer No. 161) was laid down on 29 May 1918 at Quincy,. Mass., by the Fore River Shipbuilding Co.; launched on 18 August 1918; sponsored by Mrs. Robert C. [Grace] Hilliard, the wife of Naval Constructor Robert B. Hilliard, who was on duty at the shipyard at that time; and commissioned on 22 November 1918, Cmdr. Ralph R. Stewart in command.

Assigned to the Pacific, Palmer--redesignated as DD-161 on 17 July 1920--joined in fleet operations until she was decommissioned at San Diego on 31 May 1922. There she lay in reserve until being recommissioned on 7 August 1940. Converted to a high speed minesweeper [DMS] with the designation DMS-5 from 19 November 1940, she returned to the Atlantic and joined Mine Division 19 out of Norfolk, Va., for escort duty in the Atlantic and Caribbean.

She sortied on 24 October 1942 screening TF 34 to the invasion of North Africa, arriving on 7 November off Fedala, where she made an exploratory sweep before taking station in the antisubmarine screen. The next day ,Palmer seized the French trawler Joseph Elise, and engaged an enemy shore battery.

Palmer served on patrol and escort off North Africa until 12 December 1942, then returned to Atlantic escort duty through 1943, plying coastal, Caribbean and Northwestern Atlantic routes. Ordered to the Pacific, she trained out of San Diego, Calif., then joined TF 53 at Pearl Harbor, sailing with it 22 January 1944 for the assault on Kwajalein. Palmer remained in the Marshalls until 12 February laying buoys and screening transports, then made escort voyages to Pearl Harbor and Majuro.

Preceding the invasion force by two days, Palmer arrived off Saipan for a five hour sweep 13 June, then screened transports during the landings. Screening duty to Eniwetok caused her to miss the Battle of the Philippine Sea, but she returned to Saipan for screening duties, 22 June-8 July.

Palmer arrived off Guam 22 July, the day after the island was invaded, to screen transports off Apra for five days. Returning to Pearl Harbor, Palmer prepared for the return to the Philippines, a vast operation in which the aging converted destroyers would once again prove themselves. Staging at Manus, her force arrived in Leyte Gulf on 17 October to sweep the main channels and transport areas during the three days before the landings. After escorting the transports through the safe channels, the minesweepers made a quick sweep in Surigao Strait, then returned to Manus on 23 October, the eve of the Battle for Leyte Gulf.

Replenished, Palmer cleared Manus on 23 December 1944, two days before Christmas, for Lingayen Gulf, where she was to repeat the successful operations carried out at Leyte. Harassed en route by enemy ships and planes, Palmer and her force successfully penetrated Lingayen Gulf early on 7 January 1945, and began their sweep under enemy air attack. At about 1545, a violent explosion occurred, knocking out Palmer's port low pressure turbine. She began recovering sweeping gear and left formation to make repairs. Three hours later, at 1840, a Japanese twin-engine bomber flew low overhead and dropped two bombs which hit portside. A huge fire, threatening the magazines, billowed skyward, and Palmer sank in six minutes. Of her crew, 2 were killed, 38 wounded, and 26 missing in action.

Palmer received 5 battle stars for her World War II service.

Updated, Robert J. Cressman

16 May 2022

Published: Mon May 16 09:54:08 EDT 2022