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Weber (DE-675)


Image related to Weber
Caption: Weber (APD-75) in reserve, her 40-millimeter gun mounts covered with plastic domes for dehumidification. The large davit abaft her stack is designed to carry and launch two LCVP. The masts on each side of the davit belong to a radar-picket escort ship (DER) moored behind Weber.

Frederick Thomas Weber, born on 4 February 1916 at Des Moines, Iowa, attended college at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill., in 1933 and 1934 before transferring to Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1935. He graduated from the latter during the summer of 1938 and enlisted in the United States Naval Reserve on 30 August of that year.

During the ensuing winter, Sea2c Weber successfully completed elimination flight training at the Naval Reserve Aviation Base, Kansas City, Kansas; and, on 27 July 1939, he was appointed an aviation cadet in the Naval Reserve. After 10 months of training at the Naval Air Station (NAS), Pensacola, Fla., Weber was appointed a naval aviator on 10 May 1940. A little over a month later, he concluded his training and, on 12 June 1940, received his commission as an ensign in the Naval Reserve. That same day, he received orders to report for duty with Bombing Squadron (VB) 6 attached to the carrier Enterprise (CV-6).

"Bombing Six" proved to be Ens. Weber's only squadron assignment during his brief naval career, flying the Northrop BT-1 and its successor, the Douglas SBD. During the remainder of 1940 and for 11 of the 12 months of 1941, he served with his ship and squadron operating out of San Diego, Calif., and later out of Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii. His duties consisted entirely of training in aerial warfare in preparation for the conflict with Japan expected to erupt at any time.

At the end of the first week in December 1941, he was at sea with Enterprise which was returning from Wake Island where she had just delivered 12 Grumman F4F-3 Wildcats of Marine Fighting Squadron (VMF) 211. Foiled in their attempt to locate the Japanese striking force on 7 December, Weber and his colleagues rode their carrier into devastated Pearl Harbor on the 8th. The following morning, they put to sea in Enterprise and began defensive patrols of the area to assure that no enemy invasion force was on its way to Hawaii.

In January 1942, Weber's ship guarded reinforcement convoys on their way to the southern Pacific. In February, he participated in the carrier raids on Japanese-held islands in the Central Pacific. In April, his ship served as an escort for Hornet (CV-8) during the Halsey-Doolittle bomber raid on Tokyo and returned to Oahu on 25 April. Dispatched too late to join in the Battle of the Coral Sea, his ship returned to Pearl Harbor on 26 May to prepare for what would be an even more important strategic battle, the first real defeat of Japanese naval airpower during the struggle over Midway Island.

On 28 May 1942, Weber's ship steamed out of Pearl Harbor, accompanied by Hornet and the cruisers and destroyers of Task Force 16, to lie in ambush north of Midway. Swiftly repaired Yorktown (CV-5) followed two days later. On the morning of 4 June, land-based patrol planes from Midway made contact with the advancing Japanese force spearheaded by four of the six carriers that had attacked Pearl Harbor. While Midway defended itself against enemy air attacks and land-based air unsuccessfully tried to pierce the Japanese defenses, Weber and his comrades in VB-6 took to the air to begin a long gruelling search. By 0730, the entire attack group was aloft and streaking off toward the enemy's reported position. Lt. Cmdr. Clarence W. McClusky, the Enterprise air group commander, led the squadron himself as the formation winged on toward Vice Adm. Nagumo Chuichi's Carrier Striking Force.

At 0920, the squadron arrived at the supposed location of the enemy. Gazing down, pilots and radiomen strained for a glimpse of the enemy but saw only empty sea. At that juncture, the air group commander made a hard decision. His planes had already consumed a great deal of fuel; and, were they to initiate a search, some would surely fail to return as a result. On the other hand, if they returned for fuel, Midway might fall or, even worse, the enemy might find and sink or severely damage one or more of the Pacific Fleet's three remaining carriers. Therefore, the importance of stopping Nagumo's carriers at almost any cost dictated the course of action. The U.S. pilots ignored their fuel gauges and started hunting for the Japanese.

At 1005, Weber and his colleagues were rewarded for their perseverence and determination. On the horizon to the northwest loomed a task force composed of three large carriers and numerous escorts. Initially, some Americans believed that they had inadvertently circled back to their ships, but pagoda masts and yellow flight decks of the carriers below quickly dispelled that fear.

Though originally intending to attack Akagi, Lt. Richard H. Best, the squadron leader, noticed that Scouting 6 had only near-missed Kaga, so he switched targets at the last minute and headed for the latter. Ens. Weber followed his squadron leader in on carrier Kaga as the third plane in the first section. The Bombing 6 Action Report states that ". . . at least three 1,000-pound bomb hits were observed on that target and it became a mass of flame and smoke." Since only the three Bombing 6 planes which participated in the attack on that carrier carried that size bomb, Weber and his two squadron mates all apparently scored direct hits on the target. Hence Weber contributed as much as anyone to the sinking of Kaga.

Pulling out of his dive, Weber formed on his leader, and the squadron headed home to refuel and rearm. At least one Japanese carrier remained intact, Hiryu, whose position far ahead of the other three saved her momentarily.

That afternoon, Weber took off from Enterprise with a composite attack group made up of the remnants of the several groups decimated earlier. At about 1545, planes from Scouting 6 and 14 of Yorktown's Bombing 3 joined with the four operational aircraft remaining to Bombing 6 and sped off in chase of the remaining carrier. Unfortunately, the American fighters still extant had to remain with the carriers as combat air patrol so the attack group was denuded of fighter cover.

About an hour later, the American hunters found their quarry. The U.S. planes climbed to 19,000 feet and maneuvered their way up sun of Hiryu and her escorts. During the jockeying for position, Japanese fighters jumped the unprotected dive bombers. Before reaching the "push over" point, Ens. Weber's plane fell victim to the enemy fighters. He and his aircrewman, Aviation Ordnanceman 3d Class E. L. Hilbert, spiraled into the sea and to their deaths. For his part in sinking Kaga and for his supreme sacrifice in assisting his colleagues to sink the remaining enemy carrier, Ens. Weber was promoted retroactively to lieutenant (junior grade) and was awarded the Navy Cross posthumously.

(DE-675: displacement 1,400; length 306'0"; beam 36'10"; draft 9'5" (mean); speed 24 knots; complement 186; armament 3 3-inch, 4 1.1-inch, 8 20 millimeter, 8 depth charge projectors, 1 depth charge projector. (hedgehog), 2 depth charge tracks class Buckley)

Weber (DE-675) was laid down on 22 February 1943 at Quincy, Mass., by the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Co.; launched on 1 May 1943; sponsored by Mrs. Matt A. Walsh, mother of the late Ens. Weber; and commissioned on 30 June 1943, Cmdr. Rollo N. Norgaard in command.

The escort vessel completed fitting out and then departed Provincetown, Mass., on 23 July 1943 for Bermuda, Britsh West Indies At the conclusion of shakedown training in waters surrounding those islands, she returned north and arrived in Boston, Mass., on 21 August. Following post-shakedown availability, the new warship left Boston for several days of additional training in antisubmarine tactics out of New London, Conn. Upon completing that assignment, Weber entered New York harbor to prepare for her first combat duty.

On 5 September 1943, the warship stood out of New York in the screen of a transatlantic convoy. Following a relatively uneventful voyage, she and her charges entered port at Londonderry, Northern Ireland, on the 16th. There, she remained until the 21st, when she headed back across the Atlantic with a return convoy. She ended that voyage at St. John's, Newfoundland, on 1 October but, soon thereafter, moved to New York for a 10-day availability at the New York Navy Yard, Brooklyn, N.Y.

In mid-October 1943, Weber escorted a convoy from New York to the Dutch island of Curacao, off the coast of Venezuela. She arrived in Willemstad on 24 October and remained there five days awaiting the formation of a transatlantic convoy. This group of Allied ships departed Curacao on 29 October and set a course for the British Isles and arrived in Londonderry on Armistice Day 1943.

At that point, Weber settled into a routine of escorting convoys between Londonderry and New York which lasted until August of 1944. By that time, she had made six more round-trip voyages between those ports. On many occasions during the period, she and her consorts in the screen made sonar and radar contacts on unidentified ships. While on such occasions they frequently attacked the strangers with depth charges, Weber and her sister escorts directed their greatest efforts to diverting their transports and cargo ships from the paths of U-boats. When doing so, they informed nearby hunter/killer groups of the location of the contacts and delegated to them primary responsibility for offensive antisubmarine warfare. As a result, confirmed U-boat kills eluded Weber; but she and the other escorts in the screens accomplished their primary mission of shepherding the convoys safely across the ocean.

On 7 August 1944, she departed Londonderry for the last time. Her convoy arrived safely in New York on the 20th and, after voyage repairs, the warship began preparations to embark upon a new but brief phase in her wartime career. After the Allied forces which invaded Europe in June established control over the coast of France, convoys no longer needed to travel the long northern route around Ireland to avoid German planes and U-boats based on that coast. Instead, they now could use the shorter and more economical route around the southern coast of England directly to the French channel ports primary among which was Cherbourg. In September, Weber made one round-trip voyage to Cherbourg; then returned to the United States via that route and arrived back at New York near the end of the month.

After a 10-day availability and four days of exercises, Weber proceeded to Norfolk to join a convoy bound for North Africa and the Mediterranean Sea. She departed Norfolk with the convoy on 21 October 1944. En route to Gibraltar, she rescued the crew of a Portuguese fishing vessel damaged badly in a collision with Weber during an investigation of the then-unidentified vessel. Soon after the rescue, the Portuguese vessel sank. After landing the fishermen at Gibraltar, Weber continued on to Bizerte, Tunisia, where she stopped on 12 November, and thence proceeded to Palermo, Sicily, for repairs to damage sustained in the collision with the Portuguese trawler. She rejoined her escort group at Oran, Algeria, and embarked upon the return voyage on 23 November. Weber escorted one section of the attached convoy into Philadelphia on 10 December.

Five days after her arrival in Philadelphia, Weber was redesignated a high-speed transport and received a new identification number, APD-75. Conversion work on her began immediately. During the following three months, she exchanged her 3-inch battery for a new 5-inch, dual-purpose gun which had proven highly effective both for antiaircraft defense and for bombardment work. In addition, her relatively weak antiaircraft battery was beefed up substantially. Her spaces were modified to provide berthing for underwater demolition teams (UDT) and their equipment. Her conversion indicated an impending reassignment to the Pacific theater where the UDT men played an important role in the initial stages of amphibious operations. She completed her conversion in mid-March 1945.

During the latter part of the month, she moved to Norfolk where she practiced shore bombardments and antiaircraft defense. On 14 April, she departed Norfolk. Arriving at Panama on the 19th, she transited the canal the following day and reported for duty with the Pacific Fleet. Continuing her voyage, the warship stopped briefly at San Diego and then headed for the Hawaiian Islands. She arrived in Pearl Harbor on 8 May and underwent a brief period of voyage repairs. During the middle part of May, she conducted reconnaissance and demolition exercises at Kahoolawe, Maui, with members of UDT 23. After a short series of refresher training and antisubmarine warfare exercises, she departed Oahu on the 24th for the western Pacific. She entered the lagoon at Eniwetok on 1 June, remained for a day due to a fueling delay, and then continued on to Ulithi where she arrived on 6 June.

On 13 June, Weber departed Ulithi to escort California (BB-34) to Okinawa where the battleship was needed to render gunfire support to American forces subduing the defenders on the southern portion of the island. The task unit arrived off the island four days later. Following a short time at Hagushi anchorage, Weber put into the roadstead at Kerama Retto for fuel. On 25 June, she was assigned to a surface force built around battleships California and West Virginia (BB-48), and cruisers Wichita (CA-45), Tuscaloosa (CA-37), San Francisco (CA-38), St. Louis (CL-49), and Chester (CA-27). Serving as antisubmarine and mine escort for that unit, she patrolled the waters around Okinawa until 1 July, protecting communications and supply lines. She returned to Hagushi for a week on 1 July and departed the Ryukyus on the 8th in the screen of a convoy bound for the Marianas. Delivering her charges safely at Saipan on July 12th, she continued her voyage the following day and arrived at San Pedro Bay, Leyte, on the 17th. She spent the remaining weeks of World War II at Leyte engaged in training exercises in preparation for the expected invasion of the Japanese home islands. Fortunately, the Japanese agreed to surrender terms on 15 August, making that operation unnecessary.

Soon after the cessation of hostilities, Weber returned to Okinawa to prepare for the occupation of territory remaining in Japanese hands. She arrived back in the Ryukyus on 21 August 1945 and reported for duty with Task Force (TP) 95. She trained briefly with that task organization at Okinawa until 7 September when she reported for duty with TF 55. On 10 September, she departed the Ryukyus with Task Unit (TU) 55.7.1 bound for Japan. She and her colleagues arrived at Nagasaki the following day and began two weeks of service evacuating and caring for former Allied prisoners of war held in Japan. She completed that assignment on 23 September and returned to Okinawa on the 25th. On 7 October, the warship put to sea once more, this time bound for Tsingtao and Taku in northern China with a convoy carrying marines for duty ashore there. A severe typhoon, however, scattered the little flotilla and damaged some of the ships, forcing Weber to return to Okinawa as an escort for the more severely damaged ones. She rejoined the remainder of the convoy just before mid-month and escorted a portion of it into Taku on 16 October. The next day, she got underway for the Philippines with two U.S. merchant ships which she saw safely to Okinawa before breaking off and continuing on to Luzon. The ship arrived in Manila on 23 October and, after discharging about 100 passengers, headed back to China. During the month of November, she shuttled Nationalist Chinese troops from Hong Kong to strife-torn northern China.

She concluded that duty at Tsingtao on 25 November 1945 and sailed for the east coast of the United States that same day. Steaming via Okinawa, Guam, and Eniwetok, she arrived in Pearl Harbor on 13 December. On the 16th, she resumed her voyage home and arrived in San Diego on the 22nd. Following a week's layover, she left San Diego and set course for the Panama Canal. The warship transited the canal between 7 and 9 January 1946 and headed for New York on the latter date. She entered the New York Naval Shipyard, Brooklyn, N.Y., on 15 January, discharged passengers, and began her preinactivation overhaul. On 18 February, she departed New York and, after a two-day stop at Norfolk, Va., arrived in Green Cove Springs, Fla., on the 23rd. There, she reported to the Atlantic Reserve Fleet for layup.

Placed out of commission by directive in January 1947, Weber remained inactive for more than 15 years.  Weber was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register from the Navy list on 1 June 1960; and, a little over two years later, she was sunk as a target on 15 July 1962 by Bullpup air-launched missiles.

Weber earned one battle star during World War II.

Published: Thu Mar 24 19:00:30 EDT 2022