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DE 576 Barr (CVE 21)

DE 576 USS Barr was commissioned on 16 Feb 1944. Following shakedown and additional training off Bermuda and Maine, the Barr reported to Norfolk for antisubmarine duty in the Atlantic off the Cape Verde Islands. She operated as part of a hunter-killer task group built around CVE 21 USS Block Island and composed of DE 575 USS Ahrens, DE 686 USS Eugene E. Elmore, and DE 51 USS Buckley. The group left Norfolk 29 Apr 1944 and conducted submarine searches for the next several weeks. On 6 May, Buckley rammed and sank an enemy submarine U-66, verifying that the waters of the South Atlantic did hide enemy submarines.

On 29 May, while closing in on a reported submarine, Block Island suffered two torpedo hits. Barr pursued the submarine, later identified as U-549, until around 2030 hours when a third torpedo struck the Barr. The explosion wrecked the ship aft of the No. 2 engine room, killing four of her crew, injuring 14, and leaving 12 missing. Throughout the night, Barr stayed dead in the water while DE 578 Robert I. Paine patrolled around her. DE 686 Eugene E. Elmore took Barr's injured and about half of her crew on board, hooked up a towline to the damaged escort and began the journey to Casablanca. DE 397 Wilhoite relieved Eugene E. Elmore; and the Dutch tug, Antic took over and finally towed Barr into port six days later.

Barr stayed in drydock at Casablanca until 2 Jul while the wreckage of her damaged stern was burned off, spaces cleared of oil and debris, and stern plates welded on for the trip home. On 3 Jul, ATF 66 Cherokee began the long voyage to Boston with Barr in tow arriving on 25 Jul.

The Barr spent the next three months in drydock being refurbished and converted to a high speed transport. Redesignated APD 39, Barr sailed for Norfolk on 3 Nov for boat training, and departed that port on the 15 Nov as escort for AGC 14 Teton. She sailed westward and arrived at Pearl Harbor on 9 Dec.

On 10 Jan 1945, Barr set sail for Ulithi, the main staging area for the invasion of Iwo Jima. Barr arrived off the southern end of the island on 16 Feb and she embarked her underwater demolition team, successfully completed the first mission by placing a navigational light on the hazardous Higashi Rocks despite coming under heavy enemy fire. Barr, however, solved the problem, silencing that gunfire with some of her own.

On 18 Feb, Barr received orders to land her UDT on the Higashi Rocks again to reposition the light before retiring for the night. As she and APD-48 Blessman pulled away from the island, a Japanese bomber flew over Barr, crashed Blessman, and caused many casualties. On D day, 19 Feb, Barr and her UDT frogmen, assisted in guiding marines to the landing beaches.

On the 21st, she stood out of Ulithi as part of the Gun Fire and Covering Force under Rear Admiral Morton L. Deyo. The warships arrived off Okinawa on 25 Mar and during the next four days, Barr put UDT 13 ashore on Keise Shima, a group of small sand and coral islands between Kerama Retto and Okinawa, to gather information and blast passages through the reef for the LST's.

The Japanese maintained an almost constant aerial onslaught in the early days of the invasion. Barr did not close Okinawa on D day, 1 April, but remained in the transport area as a part of the antisubmarine screen. She transferred UDT 13 to APA 54 Wayne 7 Apr and continued screening until 9 April.

Barr got underway again on 23 Apr to escort a convoy of LSTs and LSMs back to Okinawa. Along with hundreds of other Allied ships, including the new CVE 106 Block Island she operated off Okinawa during May 1945. She provided anti-aircraft and anti-submarine defense until 27 May, when she headed for Saipan as a convoy escort.  The fast transport resumed screening duties at Okinawa after her return late in June.

After Japan capitulated on 15 Aug, Barr rendezvoused with HMS King George V and HMS Gambia east of Tokyo, embarked Royal Marines from the two British warships and landed them at Yokosuka. After this mission, she proceeded to the north end of the bay to evacuate 1,135 Allied prisoners of war from central Honshu. On 12 Oct, she was ordered to Nagasaki for duty with the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey. She served there as a base of operations and as a barracks ship until 1 Dec when she began the voyage to the United States.

She was placed out of commission and in reserve on 12 Jul 1946. Barr remained in the Atlantic Reserve Fleet until 1 Jun 1960 when she was struck from the Navy list. Barr received three battle stars for her World War II service..


DE 578 USS Robert I. Paine

DE 578 USS Robert I. Paine, a Buckley-class destroyer escort, was commissioned on 26 Feb 1944. Robert I. Paine completed shakedown and training in Apr 1944. She departed Brooklyn the same day to screen the carriers CV 4 Ranger and CVE 11 Card as they transported Army aircraft and Allied personnel to Casablanca.

Detached on the 10 May 1944, she joined a hunter-killer group centered on the escort carrier CVE 21 Block Island. On the 29th, CVE 21 Block Island was sunk and DE 576 Barr was struck in the stern of torpedoes from U-549. The remaining escorts commenced rescue and search operations, with Robert I. Paine taking on 279 survivors from CVE 21, then moving in to cover the crippled DE. On 4 Jun, Robert I. Paine steamed for Gibraltar, and rendezvoused with GUF-11.

In February 1945, she shifted to escort work off the southern New England coast and in early March she headed east to join the 12th Fleet for patrol work under the Royal Navy's Western Approaches Command. For the remainder of the European War Robert I. Paine guarded convoys on the first or last section of the transatlantic convoy lanes. She was decommissioned on 21 Nov 1945 and struck from the Navy List on 1 Jun 1968.

DD 666 Black (CVE 21)

DD 666 USS Black, a Fletcher-class destroyer, was commissioned 21 May 1943. After several east coast shakedown cruises she sailed for Norfolk, VA for refresher training. On 10 Oct 1943 she collided with the escort carrier CVE 21 USS Block Island and was forced to enter the Navy Yard for repairs. Black proceeded to the Pacific where she was assigned screening duty off Tarawa. She saw her first combat during the invasion of the Marshall Islands, followed by New Guinea, Saipan, and Guam. DD 666 saw action at Leyte and Ulithi where Black participated in the Okinawa operation. She served in the Far Fast on occupation duty until 10 Nov 1945. DD 666 Black was placed out of commission in on 5 Aug 1946.

DD 666 Black was recommissioned on 18 Jul 1951 and reported to the Atlantic Fleet. DD 666 departed Norfolk, Va. for Korea where she continued operations until 4 Jun 1953. Black continued to serve the U.S. Navy until Sep 1969 when she was decommissioned. Black received six battle stars for her World War II service and two battle stars for service off Korea.

DE 686 Eugene E. Elmore (CVE 21)

DE 686 USS Eugene E. Elmore, a Rudderow-class destroyer escort, was commissioned 4 Feb 1944. On 22 Apr 1944 at Norfolk, VA, Eugene E. Elmore joined the antisubmarine group formed around CVE 21 USS Block Island, and sailed for Casablanca to provide cover for convoys moving across the mid-Atlantic. During the return passage, on 29 May 1944, Block Island was torpedoed, as was the escort DE 576 USS Barr. DE 575 USS Ahrens began rescuing Block Island survivors when she made a submarine contact and directed Eugene E. Elmore to the target, German submarine U-549. DE 686 Eugene E. Elmore sank the German submarine and then stood by DE 576 Barr throughout the night. The DE 686 took off her wounded and many of her crew members. She took Barr in tow for Casablanca, and was relieved of her tow one day before reaching port 2 Jun 1944.

Eugene E. Elmore returned to New York City 13 Jun 1944, and during the next 4½ months made two voyages escorting convoys to the Mediterranean Sea. On 3 Nov 1944 she got underway from New York for the South Pacific, arriving at Hollandia 11 Dec to join the 7th Fleet. She joined the escort of a convoy bound with reinforcements and supplies for newly invaded Lingayen Gulf. After arriving on 12 Jan 1945, she joined the ships providing antiaircraft fire to protect the assault shipping for 2 days, then sailed to San Pedro Bay to prepare for the landings at Subic Bay 29 Jan 1945.

DE 686 continued to operate out of San Pedro Bay, supporting the continuing battles of the Philippines by escorting convoys from Biak, the Palaus, Ulithi, and New Guinea. Between 13 Jul 1945 and 22 Aug 1945, she twice escorted convoys from the Philippines to Okinawa, and on 3 Sep arrived off Okinawa once more for occupation duty. In Oct 1945 she escorted transports carrying men to Jinsen, Korea, and on 15 Oct, sailed from Okinawa for San Diego, arriving 5 Nov. There she was decommissioned and placed in reserve 31 May 1946. DE 686 USS Eugene E. Elmore received four battle stars for World War II service.

DD 748 Harry E. Hubbard (CVE 106)

DD 748 USS Harry E. Hubbard, a Sumner-class destroyer, was commissioned on 22 Jul 1944. On 17 Apr 1945 DD 748 Harry E. Hubbard sailed from Hawaii for Ulithi in the Carolinas with CVE 106 USS Block Island. She arrived off Okinawa on 8 May 1945 to serve as a picket destroyer. For nearly two months Hubbard fought off the Japanese planes, shooting down four suicide kamikazes planes. Hubbard remained off Okinawa until 24 Jul 1945 then escorted occupation troops to Jinsen, Korea, and carried the Commander of Destroyer Squadron 64 (DesRon 64) to Chinkai, Korea, to oversee the demilitarization of the former Japanese naval base there. She was decommissioned on 15 Jan 1947.

Following the invasion of South Korea, Harry E. Hubbard was recommissioned on 27 Oct 1950. Besides helping guard the fast carrier task force making repeated airstrikes against the enemy, she frequently joined in gunstrike missions to bombard coastal rail and communication centers and performed as sea-going artillery to support the advance of land troops. Between 1954 and 1966 Harry E. Hubbard served on nine Far East tours with the 7th Fleet. During the Gulf of Tonkin Incident of August 1964, Harry E. Hubbard was nearby in the South China Sea screening Ticonderoga. The carrier task group struck to destroy North Vietnamese torpedo boats and their supporting facilities. In Oct 1965, she departed for the coast of South Vietnam in company with Valley Forge to provided gunfire support for two Marine amphibious landings. In the following months, she acted as escort to Kitty Hawk and Hancock during their strike operations in the South China Sea.

She was decommissioned Oct 1969.

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References:

CDR Roy L. Swift with Robert J Cressman(1986, Winter). The Tale of Two Block Islands., The Hook, 22-39

Dictionary of American Fighting Ships, www.history.navy.mil/danfs/index.html

Naval Historical Foundation Photographic Service. Washington Navy Yard, Washington, DC.

Gudmundur Helgason, The Uboat.net, www.UBoat.net

USS Block Island Association. CHIPS newsletters, vol. 1-23


 

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