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Solar (DE-221)

Adolfo Solar was born on 8 May 1900 in San Antonio, Tex. On 1 June 1922, he enlisted in the Navy as a Seaman Second Class at Houston, Tex.; and he served four consecutive enlistments in New Mexico (BB-40) before signing up for a fifth time and serving in Nevada (BB-36). Boatswain's Mate First Class Solar was on board Nevada on the morning of 7 December 1941 when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. He was credited with “ . . . the early opening of fire by antiaircraft battery of the U.S.S. Nevada prior to the arrival of the battery officers at their stations, and thereafter controlling his gun in an outstanding manner until killed by shell fragments.” He was posthumously commended by the Secretary of the Navy.

(DE-221: dp. 1,400; l. 306'0"; b. 37'0"; dr. 13'6"; s. 23.6 k. (tl.) ; cpl. 213; a. 3.3", 6 40mm.; 3 21" tt.; cl. Buckley)

Solar (DE-221), a destroyer escort was laid down on 22 February 1943 by the Philadelphia Navy Yard; launched on 29 May 1943; sponsored by Mrs. Regina Solar; and commissioned at Philadelphia on 15 February 1944, Lt. Comdr. Hadlai A. Hull, USNR, in command.

Solar completed post-commissioning trials in the Delaware River and shakedown training in the Bermuda area; then returned to Philadelphia at the beginning of April 1944. After post-shakedown availability, she headed for Casco Bay, Maine, for more training.

On 25 April, Solar put to sea from New York with Task Group 27.1 in the screen of a Casablanca-bound convoy. The convoy made Casablanca on 4 May; and, three days later. Solar headed back toward the United States. She arrived in New York on 16 May. Solar was next assigned to Task Force 64, and spent the next six months escorting three convoys from the United States to the Mediterranean and back.

On 16 December 1944, the destroyer escort was assigned to the Commander, Operational Training Command, Atlantic Fleet (COTCLANT), to help train destroyer and destroyer-escort crews. On 2 February 1945, she resumed Atlantic convoy escort duty as an element of TG 60.9. On her first voyage of this new assignment, Solar encountered her first combat, though she herself was unable to engage the enemy submarines. Her convey, UGS 72, lost two tankers at the entrance to the Straits of Gibraltar. Solar fueled and provisioned at Oran, Algeria; then escorted convoy GUS 74 to the United States. After yard work at New York, she got underway in the screen of another Gibraltar-bound convoy.

During the return voyage from Oran with convoy GUS 86, the ship received the news of Allied victory in Europe. Upon her return to the United States, Solar was scheduled for her usual yard period in New York. However, after several sets of confusing and sometimes contradictory orders, the availability was carried out in Boston.

In the spring of 1945, Solar was slated to be converted to a radar picket ship by the Philadelphia Navy Yard, but the yard was unable to work on her. Instead, she was assigned to training duty with submarines out of New London, Conn. By 18 July, she was in the Boston Navy Yard preparing for duty in the Pacific. Her conversion to radar picket ship had been canceled and, with the declaration of V-J day in mid-August, her orders were changed again. She departed Boston on 7 September for two weeks of refresher training at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. At the completion of refresher training, she headed for Casco Bay; but, en route there, she was diverted to Miami, Fla., where she became the training group flagship. In late October, she visited Baltimore for the Navy Day celebration. On 19 December, Solar was assigned to the Commander, Operational Development Force, for antiaircraft and fighter director practice. The beginning of 1946 brought an assignment as a sonar test ship.

On 30 April 1946, Solar was berthed at Leonardo Pier I of the Naval Ammunition Depot at Earle, N.J., to discharge ammunition. The operation went smoothly until, shortly after 1130, three explosions blasted the ship near her number 2 upper handling rooms. Her number 2 gun was demolished and the bridge, main battery director, and mast were all blown aft and to starboard. Both sides of the ship were torn open, and her deck was a mass of flames. The order to abandon ship came after the second explosion and was carried out expeditiously. Nevertheless, the tragedy claimed the lives of 165 Sailors and injured 65 others.

Salvage work on Solar was begun by 1500, and her wrecked superstructure was cut off to prevent her capsizing. She was moved to New York, where she decommissioned on 21 May 1946. Solar was then stripped of all useable equipment, towed 100 miles to sea, and sunk on 9 June 1946 in 700 fathoms of water. Her name was stuck from the Navy list on 5 June 1946.

Published: Thu Apr 14 07:33:28 EDT 2016