USS Laffey (i) (DD 459)
Destroyer of the Bristol class
|Navy||The US Navy|
|Built by||Bethlehem Shipbuilding Co. (San Francisco, California, U.S.A.)|
|Ordered||1 Jul 1940|
|Laid down||13 Jan 1941|
|Launched||30 Oct 1941|
|Commissioned||31 Mar 1942|
|Lost||13 Nov 1942|
USS Laffey (Lt.Cdr. William Edwin Hank, USN) fought several battles as the Navy's youngest destroyer. At Guadalcanal, 14-inch shells from the Japanese battleship Hiei ripped her open, starting fires. The order to abandon ship was given as a torpedo came and tore her to pieces, detonating her depth charges. 59 of the crew died and 186 were rescued by higgin boats though 114 were wounded. The Commanding officer was killed in the sinking and the Laffey earned a Presidential Unit Citation for this action.
Commands listed for USS Laffey (i) (DD 459)
Please note that we're still working on this section
and that we only list Commanding Officers for the duration of the Second World War.
|1||Lt.Cdr. William Edwin Hank, USN||31 Mar 1942||13 Nov 1942 (+)|
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Notable events involving Laffey (i) include:
25 Aug 1942
Continued operations in the Guadacanal - Tulagi area following the Battle of the Eastern Solomons.
25 August 1942.
During the night of 24 August/ 25 August, Task Forces 11 and 16 retired to the south to refuel or retire from the area for repairs respectively. Task Force 18 had completed fuelling and now proceeded northwards to take their place.
The composition of Task Force 11 was as follows; the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga (Capt. D.C. Ramsey, USN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral F.J. Fletcher, USN), heavy cruisers USS Minneapolis (Capt. F.J. Lowry, USN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral C.H. Wright, USN), USS New Orleans (Capt. W.S. Delany, USN), HMAS Australia (Capt. H.B. Farncomb, RAN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral V.A.C. Crutchley, VC, DSC, RN), light cruiser HMAS Hobart (Capt. H.A. Showers, RAN) and the destroyers USS Phelps (T/Cdr. E.L. Beck, USN, with Capt. S.B. Brewer, USN on board), USS Farragut (Cdr. G.P. Hunter, USN), USS Dewey (T/Cdr. C.F. Chillingsworth, Jr., USN), USS Macdonough (Lt.Cdr. E. van E. Dennet, USN), USS Worden (T/Cdr. W.G. Pogue, USN), USS Bagley (T/Cdr. G.A. Sinclair, USN) and USS Patterson (Cdr. F.R. Walker, USN).
Task Force 16 was made up of Enterprise (Capt. A.C. Davis, USN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral T.C. Kincaid, USN), battleship USS North Carolina (Capt. G.H. Fort, USN), heavy cruiser USS Portland (Capt. L.T. Du Bose, USN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral M.S. Tisdale, USN), AA cruiser USS Atlanta (Capt. S.P. Jenkins, USN) and the destroyers USS Balch (T/Cdr. H.H. Tiemroth, USN, with Capt. E.P. Sauer, USN on board), USS Benham (Lt.Cdr. J.B. Taylor, USN), USS Ellet (T/Cdr. F.H. Gardner, USN), USS Maury (T/Cdr. G.L. Sims, USN), USS Grayson (T/Cdr. F.J. Bell, USN) and USS Monssen (T/Cdr. R.N. Smoot, USN).
Task Force 18, made up of the aircraft carrier USS Wasp (T/Capt. F.P. Sherman, USN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral L. Noyes, USN), heavy cruisers Salt Lake City (Capt. E.G. Small, USN), USS San Francisco (Capt. C.H. McMorris, USN), AA cruiser USS San Juan (Capt. J.E. Maher, USN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral N. Scott, USN) and the destroyers USS Selfridge (T/Cdr. C.D. Reynolds, USN, with Capt. C.W. Flynn, USN, on board), USS Farenholt (T/Cdr. Lt.Cdr. E.T. Seaward, USN, with Capt. R.G. Tobin, USN on board), USS Aaron Ward (T/Cdr. O.F. Gregor, USN), USS Buchanan (T/Cdr. R.E. Wilson, USN), USS Lang (T/Cdr. E.A. Seay, USN), USS Stack (Lt.Cdr. A.J. Greenacre, USN) and USS Sterett (Cdr. J.G. Coward, USN).
The battleship USS North Carolina, the AA cruiser USS Atlanta and the destroyers USS Grayson and USS Monssen were ordered to detach from Task Force 16 and join the other Task Forces.
Another Task Force, Task Force 17, made up of the aircraft carrier USS Hornet (Capt. C.P. Mason, USN , flying the flag of Rear-Admiral G.D. Murray, USN), heavy cruisers USS Northampton (Capt. W.D. Chandler, Jr., USN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral H.H. Good, USN), USS Pensacola (Capt. F.L. Lowe, USN), AA cruiser USS San Diego (Capt. B.F. Perry, USN) and the destroyers USS Morris (Lt.Cdr. R.B. Boyer, USN, with Capt. G.C. Hoover, USN on board), USS Hughes (T/Cdr. D.J. Ramsey, USN), USS Anderson (T/Cdr. R.A. Guthrie, USN), USS Mustin (T/Cdr. W.F. Petersen, USN), USS Russell (T/Cdr. G.R. Hartwig, USN) and USS O'Brien (T/Cdr. T. Burrowes, USN) were approaching the New Hebrides area from the eastward. With them was also the tanker USS Guadalupe (T/Capt. J.S. Freeman, USN). Originally intended as reinforcements but they now could take the place of Task Force 16. USS Guadalupe parted company with Task Force 17 on this day as did USS Hughes which was detailed to escort the tanker.
Shortly after midnight during the night of 24/25 August, enemy destroyers shelled our positions in the Guadalcanal / Tulagi area but they inflicted almost no damage. Casualties among our troops were two killed and three wounded. Some dive bombers took off from Henderson Field and claimed to have obtained on hit on an enemy destroyer. The Japanese destroyers which were operating in the Guadalcanal / Tulagi area this night were the Kagero, Isokaze, Kawakaze, Mutsuki and Yayoi. Our positions on Guadacanal were also bombed by high level bombers shortly before noon this day.
After daylight on the 25th, Task Force 11 and part of Task Force 16 commenced fuelling from the tankers USS Cimarron (T/Capt. R.M. Ihrig, USN), USS Platte (Capt. R.H. Henkle, USN) and USS Sabine (T/Capt. H.L. Maples, USN) which were escorted by the destroyers USS Clark (T/Capt. M.T. Richardson, USN), USS Dale (Cdr. H.E. Parker, USN) and USS Gwin (Cdr. J.M. Higgins, USN).
On completion of the fuelling USS Enterprise, USS Portland, USS Balch, USS Benham and USS Ellet parted company to leave the operations area. USS Maury was ordered to proceed to Tulagi. She rejoined on the 28th. Task-Force 16 arrived at Tonga on 30 August 1942.
Meanwhile Task Force 18 was operating in support of the Marines on Guadalcanal. Three enemy reconnaissance aircraft were shot down by fighters from USS Wasp. In addition aircraft from USS Wasp reconnoitred Rakata Bay which was suspected to be used by the enemy but the Bay was found to be empty.
Two submarine contacts were obtained by Task Force 18 on the 25th. The destroyer USS Grayson sighted a ship on the horizon and was detached to invesitigate. The ' ship ' turned out to be a large submarine which submerged. USS Grayson then attacked with several patterns of depth charges. She was later joined by USS Patterson. When USS Grayson ran out of depth charges USS Monssen took over from her. In the end the Japanese submarine, which was the I-9 (offsite link), managed to escape damaged. The other submarine contact was attacked by a dive bomber from USS Enterprise which claimed a direct hit.
26 August 1942.
Shortly after midnight Task Force 11 (Saratoga Group) completed fuelling and reinforced by USS North Carolina, USS Atlanta, USS Grayson and USS Monssen proceeded northwards to join Task Force 18 (Wasp Group).
At 1215L/26, our positions on Guadacanal were raided by sixteen twin engined enemy bombers supported by twelve Zero fighters. Allied land based fighters intercepted them and shot down seven bombers and five fighters for the loss of one fighter including its pilot.
On joining up both Carrier Task Forces operated during the night of 26/27 August on the parallel of 11°S, between San Christobal Island and the Santa Cruz Islands.
27 August 1942.
During the day the carrier groups had steered to the southward and by sunset had reached position 12°00'S, 165°00'E. In the afternoon the CAP had shot down a large four-engined enemy flying boat which attempted to shadow the carrier forces.
Allied reconnaissance aircraft from Ndeni again found enemy naval forces to the north-east of the Solomons. The forces comprised a battleship, cruisers and destroyers. They were reported on various courses during the day but always in the vicinity of position 02°00'S, 162°00'E.
According to intelligence more and more units of the Japanese Fleet were known to be in the area as were a lot of the Japanese senior naval commanders. This indicated the magnitude of the effort the Japanese are preparing to make in the area.
The Allied Commander South Pacific (Vice-Admiral Ghormley) decided that every effort should be made to reinforce our positions in the Guadalcanal - Tulagi area.
During the day the seaplane tender (former destroyer) McFarland (Lt.Cdr. J.C. Alderman, USN) relieved the destroyer minelayer USS Breese (T/Cdr. H.F. Staut, USN) at Ndeni thus joining the seaplane tender USS MacKinac (T/Capt. N.R. Hitchcock, USN) there.
In the Guadalcanal - Tulagi area there were no reports of enemy activity. A large patrol had been sent to attack a Japanese outpost at Kukumbona (seven miles west of Lunga Point). In the afternoon four additional fighters landed at Henderson Field. On their way in they had damaged and hopefully destroyed a large four-engined enemy flying boat.
During the night Task Forces 11 and 18 cruised around latitude 12°00'S between meridians 165°00'E and 162°00'E.
28 August 1942.
At daylight the two carrier groups were sixty miles south of San Cristobal Island and operated throughout the day to provide cover for a convoy en-route to the Guadacanal - Tulagi area from the New Hebrides area.
This convoy was made up of the transports USS William Ward Burrows (AP 6) (4577 GRT, built 1929) (T/Cdr. E.I. McQuiston, USN) and Kopara (New Zealand, 679 GRT, built 1938). They were escorted by the destroyer minelayers 2157 Gamble (Lt.Cdr. S.N. Tackney), 2368 Tracy (Lt.Cdr. J.L. Collis, USN) and the high speed transports (former destroyers) USS Colhoun (T/Lt.Cdr. G.B. Madden, USN), USS Gregory (Lt.Cdr. H.F. Bauer, USN) and USS Little (Lt.Cdr. G.B. Lofberg, Jr., USN).
Reconnaissance aircraft found no enemy naval forces in the area north-east of the Solomon Islands. Enemy submarine activity in the area between 05°S and 15°S, and 160° to 170° has greatly increased during the last few days and it is estimated that there area now at least ten enemy submarines in the area. It would appear that the enemy is aware of the approximate vicinity of our forces and is andeavouring to achieve some success against our carriers with this concentration of submarines. However, the carrier forces have an ample number of screening destroyers and strong A/S air patrols which are maintained during daylight and have been keeping the submarines down and scoring some successes against them.
During the day Rear-Admiral Scott transferred from the USS San Juan to the San Francisco. The USS San Juan then parted company to join Task Force 16 (the Enterprise Group) as she had a defective gun mount for which she needed to undergo repairs.
In the Guadalcanal area, the US Marines patrol returned after dealing with the enemy detachmentt at Kukumbona. US casualties had been five killed and ten wounded. Enemy casualties uncertain.
An afternoon air patrol from Guadalcanal located an enemy force comprising three large destroyers and one smaller one seventy miles to the northward and steering south. Eleven dive bombers took off and attacked this force resulting in one large destroyer blowing up and sinking, one large destroyer being hit amidships and set on fire and the smaller destroyer being hit and left proceeding at slow speed and in distress. The remaining large destroyer escaped. One of our dive bombers failed to return. It was reported that these destroyer had carried considerable quantities of gear on deck. The destroyer attacked were the Asagiri which was sunk while the Shirakumo and Yugiri sustained heavy damage and the Amagiri sustained minor damage. [All these destroyers were the same size as all belonged to the Fubuki-class, all links are offsite links.]
It was learnt that about 100 Japanese had landed on Mahige Island (South end of Isabel Island) the previous afternoon from two rafts. It is probable that this party consised of survivors from the transport which had been sunk about 120 miles to the northward on the 25th by our aircraft.
During the night of 28/29 August 1942, both carrier groups proceeded to the northward.
29 August 1942.
At daylight the carrier groups were in approximate position 10°00'S, 163°00'E, able to cover the arrival at Guadalcanal of the convoy mentioned earlier. In this position Task Forces 11 and 18 were joined by Task Force 17. During the day they operated to the southward reaching latitude 12°S by sunset.
At 0440L/29, our position in Guadalcanal was bombed by 6 enemy aircraft and at 1155L/29 our position was again bombed. In this raid, which was carried out by 18 twin-engined bombers, supported by 9 fighters, our shore based fighters intercepted and shot down at least three enemy bombers and four enemy fighters (Type Zero). In addition one bombers was brought down by AA fire. Two Allied fighters were destroyer on the ground and two were damaged in aerial combat. Some ammunition and AA material had been destroyed. Allied casualties were 3 killed and 9 wounded.
The Commanding General Guadalcanal has reported that only the F4F Wildcat fighters are able to compete against the enemy's bombing formations owing to the great height at which they approach.
At 1250L/29, our convoy arrived in the Tulagi area with a much needed cargo of ammunition, rations, aviation spirit and stores. After unloading, the three high speed transports (former destroyers) will remain in the area to transport Marine raider detachments in mopping up operations against outlying enemy detachments.
The next movement of supplies to Guadalcanal area began today with the departure from Esperitu Santo of the destroyer USS Helm (T/Cdr. C.E. Carroll, USN) escorting the patrol tenders YP 239, YP 284 and YP 326 and of the destroyer USS Henley (Lt.Cdr. E.K. van Swearingen, USN) escorting the Naval Cargo Ship USS Betelgeuse (AK 28) (6198 GRT, built 1939) (T/Capt. H.D. Power, USN).
A report was received the enemy cruisers or destroyers have left Faisi (Shortland Islands) to proceed to Guadalcanal at high speed. Orders were therefore given for the USS William Ward Burrows, Kopara and their escort to retired to the eastward through the Lengo Channel and to return to the area the next day to complete unloading. Indeed the Japanese destroyers Isokaze, Kawakaze, Suzukaze and Umikaze had departed followed by the Fubuki, Hatsuyuki and Murakumo. They landed Japanese troops near Cape Taivu during the night of 28/29 August 1942.
During the night of 29/30 August 1942, the Carrier Groups cruiser in the vicinity of position 12°00'S, 164°00'E.
30 August 1942.
At daylight the light cruiser USS Phoenix (Capt. H.E. Fischer, USN) finally joined the Carrier Forces which at 0800M/12 were reorganized as follows; Task Force 61 (Vice-Admiral F.J. Fletcher, USN) Task Group 61.1, under Vice-Admiral Fletcher was made up of the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga, battleship USS North Carolina, heavy cruisers USS Minneapolis, USS New Orleans, AA cruiser USS Atlanta and the destroyers USS Phelps, USS Farragut, USS Dewey, USS Macdonough, USS Worden, USS Grayson and USS Monssen. Task Group 61.2, under Rear-Admiral G.D. Murray, USN, was made up of the aircraft carrier USS Hornet, heavy cruisers USS Northampton, USS Pensacola, light cruiser USS Phoenix, AA cruiser USS San Diego and the destroyers USS Morris, USS Anderson, USS Mustin, USS Russell, USS O'Brien, USS Bagley and USS Patterson. Task Group 61.3, under Rear-Admiral L. Noyes, USN, was made up of the aircraft carrier USS Wasp, heavy cruisers HMAS Australia, USS San Francisco, USS Salt Lake City, light cruiser HMAS Hobart and the destroyers USS Selfridge, USS Farenholt, USS Aaron Ward, USS Buchanan, USS Lang, USS Stack and USS Sterret.
During the day the combined Task Force operated in the vicinity of position 12°30'S, 164°00'E.
In the Guadalcanal area there was an aerial engagement in the forenoon in which Allied fighters shot down 8 land-based enemy type Zero fighters for a loss to themselves if 4 aircraft of which 1 pilot was rescued. Around 1500M/30, 18 enemy bombers attacked Allied ships unloading of Kukum during which the high speed transport USS Colhoun was sunk. No other ships were hit. During the night of 29/30 August the transport William Ward Burrows had grounded on Sylvia shoal off Tulagi. She was towed off, with great difficulty, the following day. It was believed that USS Gamble and USS Little each destroyed an enemy submarine in the area on the 29th. [USS Gamble indeed sunk the I-123 (offsite link).]
In the afternoon 17 F4F fighters and 4 scout dive bombers arrived as reinforcements at Henderson Field.
During the afternoon an enemy force of four cruisers was located between Isabel and New Georgia Islands, proceeding to the north-west. They were then bombed by the aircraft which made the sighting but no hits were obtained. [More likely this were destroyers though.]
During the night of 30/31 August 1942 the combined carrier forces steered to the northward. Task Force 18 / 61.3 ('Wasp'-Group) was to be detached during the night to proceed to Noumea for fuel, provisions, ammunition and a few days of in harbour. Task Forces 11 / 61.1 and 17 / 61.2 would reach latitude 10°S at daylight to continue the operations.
31 August 1942.
Shorty after midnight, Task Group 61.3 turned to the southward to proceed to Noumea as planned.
However, at 0748M/31, in position 10°34'S, 164°18'E, USS Saratoga was hit by a torpedo from the Japanese submarine I-26 (offsite link) which had fired a salvo of six. The torpedoes were spotted by USS Macdonough which alerted the carrier which was able to dodge the other torpedoes, one of which had broken surface as well. The carrier came to a standstill. Prior to the attack, at 0310M/31, the new SG radar of USS North Carolina had detected a surface contact and at 0337M/31, USS Farragut had been detached to investigate but she could not find anything [obviously, the submarine had submerged and tried to get into an attack position.]
Towing gear was then rigged and USS Minneapolis and USS New Orleans were ordered to make ready to take the disabled carrier in tow but at 0835M/31, USS Saratoga was able to get underway on one shaft and commenced to leave the area. the destroyer USS Monssen was left behind with orders to keep the sumbarine down until sunset and then rejoin. At the same time USS Phelps obtained a contact. While maintaining contact USS Macdonough came in and dropped depth charges. USS Monssen then took over.
Around 1018M/31, the destroyer USS Bagley joined from Task Force 17 / 61.2 to reinforce the damaged carrier's destroyer screen. Eight minutes later a second shaft could be used to propel the damaged carrier which by now was back on an even keel.
At 1043M/31, all power was however lost and she was dead in the water again. At 1204M/31, a towline was established with the cruiser USS Minneapolis and towing commenced around half an hour later.
Around 1310M/31, both usable shafts were back 'online' and she was able to propel herself again. Towing was still continued though and the ship was towed into the wind and at 1330M/31, 29 aircraft were flown off to Esperitu Santo. Tow was casted at 1637M/31.
During 1 September 1942, 5 more aircraft were flow off to Esperitu Santo while 2 returned from there. Also an A/S patrol was maintained throughout the day. Around 1842M/1, the tug Navajo (T/Cdr. J.A. Ouellet, USN), escorted by the destroyer Laffey (Lt.Cdr. W.E. Hank, USN) joined.
On 2 september USS Saratoga flew off 2 aircraft to Esperitu Santo and a total of 32 fighters to Efate. also the Task Group, less the Saratoga fuelled from the tanker USS Guadalupe which had arrived escorted by the destroyer USS Dale. Also during the day personnel and bagage were transferred to the destroyers USS Monssen and USS Grayson. Early in the afternoon 17 aircraft landed on from Esperitu Santo for gear, torpedoes, etc.. These aircraft later took off again to return to Esperitu Santo but one crashed on taking off, the pilot being rescued by USS Navajo. Again A/S patrols were maintained throughout the day.
On 3 September fuelling was completed and USS Guadalupe and USS Dale were detached around 1245M/3. As usual air patrols were maintained throughout the day. Task Force 11 arrived at Tonga on 6 September 1942.
Meanwhile around 1200M/1, Task Force 18 / Task Group 61.3 turned around. The destroyers then fuelled from the bigger ships.
On 31 August 1942, in the Guadalcanal area, moonlight air patrol had located two enemy cruisers and two destroyers near Cape Taivu. They were close inshore and are thought to have been discharging troops and cargo. Dive bombers then attacked them forcing them to withdraw. [In fact during the night of 31 August / 1 September, 1000 troops and stores were landed by the Japanese destroyers Kagero, Kawakaze, Suzukaze, Umikaze, Fubuki, Amagiri, Hatsuyuki and Murakumo.]
In the afternoon the USS Betelgeuse escorted by USS Henley arrived at Guadalcanal. On board were much needed stores including aviation spirit. Also on board were 200 Navy construction personnel to assist in unloading operations. On their departure these two ships were to evacuate 400 POW's. Also on this day the Kopara completed unloaded and departed escorted by the USS Tracy.
Around 1800M/31, HMAS Australia, HMAS Hobart and USS Selfridge parted company with Task Group 61.3 with orders to proceed to Brisbane, Australia.
Around 1900M/31, USS Phoenix, USS Bagley and USS Patterson parted company with Task Group 61.2 also with orders to proceed to Brisbane, Australia. All these ships were to revert to the control of the Commander-in-Chief South-West Pacific.
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