Hamilton Wilcox Howe, USN

Born  16 Jan 1904Freeborn, Freeborn County, Minnesota, USA
Died  1 Apr 1993(89)Winston-Salem, Forsyth County, North Carolina, USA


30 Jun 1936 Lt.
1 May 1941 Lt.Cdr.
15 Aug 1942 T/Cdr.
1 Aug 1943 T/Capt.
  Rear Admiral

Retired: 1956


13 Apr 1942 Navy Cross (1)

Warship Commands listed for Hamilton Wilcox Howe, USN

USS Roper (DD 147)Lt.Cdr.Destroyer10 Oct 194122 Jun 1942
USS Earle (DD 635)T/Cdr.Destroyer1 Sep 194224 Aug 1943 (2)

Career information

Rear Admiral (RADM) Hamilton Wilcox Howe (1904 - 1939) was a 1926 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy. During World War II, he served as commander of the destroyers USS Roper, September 1941 to August 1942, and the USS Earle, as her first commander beginning in September 1942 (when this command ended I do not know). At the end of World War II, Howe was in command of the U.S. Naval Training Center in Miami, Florida.

Howe received the Navy Cross (citation below) for his actions on the night of 13 – 14 April 1942 in command of the Roper, when his destroyer sank the German U-boat U-85, the first German u-boat sunk off the East Coast of the United States in World War II, and the first u-boat sunk after the start of Operation Drumbeat (Paukenschlag) in January 1942. The U-85 rests in approximately 100-110 feet of water, around 14 miles east of Oregon Inlet.

In the summer of 1946, Howe commanded the attack transport USS Appling at Bikini Atoll during Operation Crossroads from 2 June until 15 August. The ship was assigned to support the preparation, placement, and salvage of the target fleet bombed in shots Able and Baker.

Following his retirement from the U.S. Navy in 1956 with the rank of Rear Admiral (RADM), Howe became the director of the Forsyth County – Winston-Salem Civil Defense office. Howe held this position from 1956 until 1969. In addition to his duties as civil defense director, Howe also was the past president and a charter member of the State Association of Civil Defense Directors (North Carolina Civil Defense Association) and served on the U.S. Civil Defense Council.

His son, Jonathan Trumbull Howe, retired from the U.S. Navy in 1992 with the rank of Admiral (ADM) and is currently the Executive Director of The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations.

The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to Hamilton Wilcox Howe, Lieutenant Commander, U.S. Navy, for extraordinary heroism and distinguished service in the line of his profession as Commanding Officer of the Destroyer U.S.S. ROPER (DD-147), when his ship made a successful attack upon the German submarine U-85 in the waters of the Atlantic on the night of 13 - 14 April 1942. Lieutenant Commander Howe with an offensive singleness of purpose tracked, attacked and completely destroyed the German U-85 off the Coast of Virginia, without injury to his vessel or its personnel. Lieutenant Commander Howe's inspiring leadership and the valiant devotion to duty of his command contributed in large measure to the outstanding success of this successful mission and reflect great credit upon the United States Naval Service.
Bureau of Naval Personnel Information Bulletin No. 304 (July 1942)
Born: January 16, 1904 at Freeborn, Minnesota
Home Town: Norfolk, Virginia

Events related to this officer

Destroyer USS Roper (DD 147)

23 Mar 1942
USS Roper sank the bow section of the damaged American tanker Naeco with gunfire. The Neaco was torpedoed by German U-boat U-124 about 65 nautical miles south-east of Cape Lookout, North Carolina in position 33°59'N, 76°40'W.

31 Mar 1942
USS Roper picks up 70 survivors of the American passenger ship City of New York that was torpedoed and sunk on 29 March 1943 by German U-boat U-160 40 nautical miles east of Cape Hatteras in position 35°16'N, 74°25'W.

14 Apr 1942 (position 35.55, -75.13)
On this day USS Roper (Lt.Cdr. Hamilton Howe) sank U-85 near Cape Hatteras, USA.

U-85 was the first U-boat to be sunk off the North American coast after the start of Operation Drumbeat (Paukenschlag) on 13 January 1942.

On the day that she was sunk U-85 stayed on the surface through the engagement. After repeated gunfire hits on the boat, fatally damaging her, the order to abandon ship was given and maybe half of the crew got into the water and then U-85 started to sink again fast. USS Roper then dropped 11 depth charges onto the already sinking U-boat and its 2 dozen survivors and in the process killed everyone in the water.

The wreck of U-85 is now a popular dive site.

23 Apr 1942
USS Roper picks up 30 survivors from the Panamanian merchant Desert Light that was torpedoed and sunk on 16 April 1942 east of Cape Hattaras in position 35°35'N, 72°48'W by German U-boat U-572.

29 Apr 1942 (position 37.47, -71.28)
USS Roper picks up 14 survivors from the British merchant Empire Drum that was torpedoed and sunk on 24 April 1942 southeast of New York by German U-boat U-136. 13 more survivors from the same ship were picked up on 1 May.

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