O' Bannon II DD- 450 - History

O' Bannon II DD- 450 - History


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O'Bannon II
(DD-450: dp. 2,700; 1. 376'4"; b. 39'9"; dr. 13'; s. 35.5 k.; cpl. 273; a. 5 5", 6 20mm., 1 1.1" quad., 10 21" tt.; cl. Fletcher)

The second O'Bannon (DD-450) was laid down by Bath Iron Works Corp., Bath, Me., 3 March 1941 Launched 19 February 1942; sponsored by Mrs. E. F. Kennedy, descendent of Lieutenant O'Bannon; and commissioned at Boston 26 June 1942, Comdr. R. Wilkinson in command.

O'Bannon briefly trained for war in the Caribbean and sailed from Boston 29 August 1942 for the Southwest Pacific where the long and arduous battle for Guadaleanal had just begun. For over a year the Navy, stretched thin to cover its world-wide commitments at a period when new ships were just beginning to join the fleet in any number, was to fight and fight again in the Solomons in one of the most bitterly contested campaigns of history, wresting air and sea control from the Japanese, and providing the Marine Corps and the Army with every possible eupport as they gained ground inch by ineh on the myrind islands. O'Bannon played a valiant part in these endeavors, it was to win her a Presidential Unit Citation.

Based at Noumea, New Caledonia O'Bannon first escorted Copahee (CVE-12) on a run to duadaleanal where on 9 October, twenty Marines flew their Wildeats off Copahee's decks, desperately needed as reinforcements at beleaguered Henderson Field. Through the remainder of the month O'Bannon sailed the New Hebrides and southern Solomons on escort duty. On 7 November at Noumea, she joined Rear Admiral Daniel J. Callaghan'e Support Group, ready to sail with a convoy carrying critical reinforcements, replacements food, ammunition, and aviation material.

On the approach to Guadaleanal, O'Bannon sighted and fired on a surfaced enemy submarine] holding it down while the convoy passed safely. On the evemng of 12 November, the partially unladen transports were attacked by fifteen enemy torpedo bombers, all but one were shot down. O'Bannon fired on four of the downed enemy planes. Now eame word that the Japanese were moving south in force. Two battleships a light cruiser and 14 destroyers were bound to destroy Henjerson Field by bombardment, to break up the American reinForcement miseion, and to cover reinforcement movements of their own. O'Bannon and the other ships of the Support Force, two heavy and three light cruisers, and eight destroyers, confronted the greatly superior enemy early 13 November in Ironbottom Sound, so named for the number of ships on both sides sunk there during the Guadaleanal campaign. O'Bannon boldly attacked the Japanese battleship Hiei, closing so near that the battleship could not deprees her guns far enough to fire on the gallant destroyer. O'Bannon's gunfire, in eombination with the attacks of the rest of the force, damaged Hiri so badly that she was a sitting duck for the air attack which sank her next day. This Naval Battle of Guadaleanal was long and desperate, two American light cruisers, in one of which Admiral Callaghan lost his Iife, and four destroyers were lost, while two Japanese destroyers were sunk and Hiei prepared for her doom. Above all, the Japanese were turned back, and Henderson Field saved from destruction. The importance of this sueeess is illustrated by the feet that next day Henderson aviators sank eleven enemy troop transports attempting to reinforce the island.

Through October 1943, O'Bannon protected landings, carried out escort duties from Noumea and Espiritu Santo to Guadalcanal and Tulagi, joined in bombardments at Guadalaeanal, Munda, Kolombangara, and shouldered her share of the nightly patrols up the "Slot" between the Solomons, guarding against Japanese reinforcements. Retiring from such a run early 5 April, O'Bannon sighted on the surface and fired on Japanese submarine RO. During this period she also splashed at least two enemy aircraft in various attacks

This duty was tense and demanded the best of men and their ships. In-port time was minimal—a few hours to fuel and reprovision, and the ships were off again. O'Bannon fought in many surface actions. The Battle of Kula Gulf (6 July) in which O'Bannon fought with three cruisers and three otter deetroyers againE;t ten Japanese destroyers, swept the enemy from the area, though an American cruiser was lost. But a week later, a second battle had to be fought in the same waters against a Japanese cruiser, five destroyers and four destrovereseorte. The same American force sank the Japanese cruiser and turned the smaller ships away, losing none themselves.

For the next two months, O'Bannon spent most of her time in Vella Gulf, guarding landings, intercepting Japanese troop convoys and their covering escorts, and fighting off air attacks. With the aid of sister destroyers, she sank a number of barges, two submarine chasers, an armed boat, and a gun boat on various patrols. The climax of operations in the area was the Battle of Vella Lavella, 6 October, brought on by Japanese attempts to evacuate their troops from that island. With Selfridge (DD-357) and Cheualier (DD-451), O'Bannon made the first attack on the evacuation force, a group of nine or ten destroyers and smaller armed craft. The three American ships eontseted six enemy destroyers, shrugged at the odds, and raced at 33 knots to launch torpedoes and open gunfire. Japanese destroyer Yugumo was turned into a blazing hulk but both Selfridge and Cheualier took torpedo hits. O'Bannon was close on Cheualier's stern when the latter was struck, and the most radical maneuvers could not keep her from swinging into her sister's side. The enemy retired with three newlyarrived American destroyers in pursuit, while O'Bannon guarded her stricken sisters, rescuing the survivors of Cheualier.

O'Bannon made battle repairs at Tulagi, then sailed to the west coast for overhaul. By 18 March 1944 she was back in the Solomones, ready for her part in the series of westward-moving amphibious assaults which won New Guinea. Again, it was escort and bombardment repeatedly until 18 Ootober, when O'Bannon cleared Hollandia to escort reinforcements for the invasion of Leyte. The convoy was brought in safely 24 October, the eve of the Battle for Leyte Gulf. O'Bannon guarded the Northern Transport area and patrolled the entrances to Leyte Gulf during the battle, coming under air attack. Thus she played her part in the definitive destruction of the Japanese Navy.

Through June 1945 O'Bannon operated primarily in the Philippines, serving in the escort or assault force for the long roll eall of invasions: Ormoe, Mindoro, Lingayen, Batsan, Corregidor, Palawan, Zamboanga, Cebu, Caraboa. Air attacks were frequent in the early period, and O'Bannon splashed several raiders. During the Lingayen offensive, 31 January 1945, O'Bannon, with three other destroyers, attacked and sank an enemy submarine, Japanese records studied after the war indicate it was most likely RO-115. At the end of April and early in May, O'Bannon interrupted her Philippine operations to give fire support at Tarakan, Borneo and cover minesweeping operations there.

O'Bannon rendezvoused with a group of escort carriers off Okinawa 17 June, and guarded them as they struck against Sakashima Gunto. In July it was the large carriers that she protected as they flew etrike6 on northern Honshu and Hokkaido. With the close of the war, O'Bannon patrolled the coast of Honshu until 27 August, when she joined two other destroyers to escort Missouri (BB-63) into Tokyo Bay There she patrolled until 1 September. She then sailed to San Francisco and San Diego, where she decommissioned after overhaul 21 May 1946.

Between 17 January 1949 and 10 February 1950, O'Bannon was converted to an escort destroyer at Long Beach Naval Shipyard. She was redesignated DDE 450, 26 March 1949.

O'Bannon recommissioned 19 February 1951 to serve out of Pearl Harbor. She sailed for her first tour of duty with the United Nations forces repelling Communist agression in Korea 19 November, and during the next seven months she guarded carriers at sea as their air groups struck targets in Korea; served as flagship for the Wonsan Element, East Coast Bloekade and Eseort Group; fired on enemy gun emplacements, road and rail supply routes, ammunition depots, and troop concentrations, and protected convoys moving between Korea and Japan.

A training period out of Pearl Harbor began upon her return home 20 June 1952, and she took part in AEC operations off Eniwetok. O'Bannon cleared Pearl Harbor late in April 1953 for the Far East where her primary mission was screening carriers. Thereafter ehe served on the Taiwan Patrol and in exercises off Japan and Okinawa.

Between the Korean War and the Vietnam War, O'Bannon took her part in the intricately planned schedule which assures the United States that its 7th Fleet is always eomposed of ships and men whose readiness for any emergency is at its keenest. For O'Bannon this has meant an alternation of roughly six-month deployments to the Far East and periods spent in training operations and necessary overhauls at Pearl Harbor. While in the Far East, she visited ports in Japan, the Philippines, Taiwan, Australia and New Zealand, with brief, welcome recreation ealls at Hong Kong. She was often in either New Zealand or Australia for the annual commemoration of the Battle of the Coral Sea, a time of national rejoicing in those countries at which Americans are partienlarly welcome. She conducted combined operations training with the SEATO allies as well as exercising with Marines at Okinawa and taking part in exercises preparing for any eonceviable demand that might be made on the 7th Fleet. While at Pearl Harbor' ehe often aided in training reservists in addition to her own training, and at various times sailed down-range for space orbits and missile shots. In the summer and fall of 1962, she took part in atomic tests at Johnston Island.

O'Bannon first closed the coast of Vietnam during her 1964-5 deployment, when on 26 December she left Hong Kong to patrol and eonduet hydrographie surveys. Much of her 1966 tour was spent as planeguard for Kitty Hawk (CVA 63). while the carrier's jets struck targets in South and North Vietnam to lessen Communist ability to wage war in the South. For a week each in May and June O'Bannon fired shore bombardments, destroying Vieteong base camps, troop concentrations, and small craft.

The veteran destroyer returned via Yokosuka to Pearl Harbor 30 July. During operations out of home port, she trained for Apollo space craft recovery operations in August and was a member of the eontingeney recovery force for the Gemini 11 space flight early in September. She visited Guam in the spring of 1967 and returned home early in July to prepare for another Far Eastern deployment.

O'Bannon got under way for Japan 28 September, reached Yokosuka 7 October and Subic Bay on the 15th. She returned to the war zone with Constellation (CVA-64) and operated as plane guard on Yankee Station through 4 November. After a fortnight's respite at Subic Bay and Hong Kong O'Bannon sailed to Da Nang for shore bombardment. She visited Taiwan early in December but returned to the fighting on the 15th to provide gunfire support just south of the DMZ. Two days later she helped to rescue the crew of an American plane which had been hit over the DMZ and had managed to erash just off chore. An enemy battery shelled the destroyer during the operation but failed to score. As 1967 ended O'Bannon was still on the gun line eupporting allied ground forces

O'Bannon received the Presidential Unit Citation and 17 battle stars for World War II service, and 3 battle stars for Korean War Service.


O BANNON DD 450

This section lists the names and designations that the ship had during its lifetime. The list is in chronological order.


    Fletcher Class Destroyer
    Keel Laid March 3 1941 - Launched March 14 1942

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Contents

O’Bannon briefly trained for war in the Caribbean and sailed from Boston 29 August 1942 for the Southwest Pacific where the long and arduous battle for Guadalcanal had just begun. For over a year the Navy, stretched thin to cover its worldwide commitments at a period when new ships were just beginning to join the fleet in any number, was to fight and fight again in the Solomon Islands in one of the most bitterly contested campaigns of history, wresting air and sea control from the Japanese, and providing the Marine Corps and the Army with every possible support as they gained ground inch by inch on the myriad islands. O’Bannon played a valiant part in these endeavors, which was to win for her a Presidential Unit Citation.

Based at Nouméa, New Caledonia, O’Bannon first escorted Copahee (CVE–12) on a run to Guadalcanal where on 9 October, twenty Marines flew their Wildcats off Copahee’s decks, desperately needed as reinforcements at beleaguered Henderson Field. Through the remainder of the month O’Bannon sailed the New Hebrides and southern Solomons on escort duty. On 7 November at Nouméa, she joined Rear Admiral Daniel J. Callaghan’s Support Group, ready to sail with a convoy carrying critical reinforcements, replacements, food, ammunition, and aviation material.

On the approach to Guadalcanal, O’Bannon sighted and fired on a surfaced enemy submarine, holding it down while the convoy passed safely. On the evening of 12 November, the partially unladen transports were attacked by fifteen enemy torpedo bombers, all but one were shot down. O’Bannon fired on four of the downed enemy planes. Now came word that the Japanese were moving south in force. Two battleships, a light cruiser and 14 destroyers were bound to destroy Henderson Field by bombardment, to break up the American reinforcement mission, and to cover reinforcement movements of their own. O’Bannon and the other ships of the Support Force, two heavy and three light cruisers, and eight destroyers, confronted the greatly superior enemy early 13 November in Ironbottom Sound, so named for the number of ships on both sides sunk there during the Guadalcanal campaign. O’Bannon boldly attacked the Japanese battleship Hiei, closing so near that the battleship could not depress her guns far enough to fire on the gallant destroyer. O’Bannon’s gunfire, in combination with the attacks of the rest of the force, damaged Hiei so badly that she was a sitting duck for the air attack which sank her next day. This Naval Battle of Guadalcanal was long and desperate two American light cruisers, in one of which Admiral Callaghan lost his life, and four destroyers were lost, while two Japanese destroyers were sunk and Hiei prepared for her doom. Above all, the Japanese were turned back, and Henderson Field saved from destruction. The importance of this success is illustrated by the fact that next day Henderson aviators sank eleven enemy troop transports attempting to reinforce the island.

The "potato" incident

Through October 1943, O’Bannon protected landings, carried out escort duties from Nouméa and Espiritu Santo to Guadalcanal and Tulagi, joined in bombardments at Guadalacanal, Munda, Kolombangara, and shouldered her share of the nightly patrols up the “Slot” between the Solomons, guarding against Japanese reinforcements. Retiring from such a run early 5 April, O’Bannon sighted on the surface and fired on Japanese submarine RO–34, damaging the conning tower. However, both vessels drifted so close to each other that O'Bannon's guns could not be depressed far enough to be effective, and the Japanese crew came out on deck to ready the sub's 5-inch gun. Several sailors then grabbed hold of an unusual option: on deck was a crate of potatoes, and the sub was pelted with them. Apparently thinking they were hand grenades, the sub crew darted back into their vessel, which was ordered to dive. Unfortunately, the damage to the conning tower let water rush in and the sub sank.

This duty was tense and demanded the best of men and their ships. In-port time was minimal—a few hours to fuel and reprovision, and the ships were off again. O’Bannon fought in many surface actions. The Battle of Kula Gulf (6 July), in which O’Bannon fought with three cruisers and three other destroyers against ten Japanese destroyers, swept the enemy from the area, though an American cruiser was lost. But a week later, a second battle had to be fought in the same waters against a Japanese cruiser, five destroyers and four destrover-escorts. The same American force sank the Japanese cruiser and turned the smaller ships away, losing none themselves.

For the next two months, O’Bannon spent most of her time in Vella Gulf, guarding landings, intercepting Japanese troop convoys and their covering escorts, and fighting off air attacks. With the aid of sister destroyers, she sank a number of barges, two submarine chasers, an armed boat, and a gun boat on various patrols. The climax of operations in the area was the Battle of Vella Lavella, 6 October, brought on by Japanese attempts to evacuate their troops from that island. With Selfridge (DD–357) and Chevalier (DD–451), O’Bannon made the first attack on the evacuation force, a group of nine or ten destroyers and smaller armed craft. The three American ships contacted six enemy destroyers, shrugged at the odds, and raced at 33 knots to launch torpedoes and open gunfire. Japanese destroyer Yugumo was turned into a blazing hulk, but both Selfridge and Chevalier took torpedo hits. O’Bannon was close on Chevalier’s stern when the latter was struck, and the most radical maneuvers could not keep her from swinging into her sister’s side. The enemy retired with three newly arrived American destroyers in pursuit, while O’Bannon guarded her stricken sisters, rescuing the survivors of Chevalier.

O’Bannon made battle repairs at Tulagi, then sailed to the west coast for overhaul. By 18 March 1944 she was back in the Solomons, ready for her part in the series of westward-moving amphibious assaults which won New Guinea. Again, it was escort and bombardment repeatedly until 18 October, when O’Bannon cleared Hollandia to escort reinforcements for the invasion of Leyte. The convoy was brought in safely 24 October, the eve of the Battle of Leyte Gulf. O’Bannon guarded the Northern Transport area and patrolled the entrances to Leyte Gulf during the battle, coming under air attack. Thus she played her part in the definitive destruction of the Japanese Navy.

Through June 1945 O’Bannon operated primarily in the Philippines, serving in the escort or assault force for the long roll call of invasions: Ormoc, Mindoro, Lingayen, Bataan, Corregidor, Palawan, Zamboanga, Cebu, Caraboa. Air attacks were frequent in the early period, and O’Bannon splashed several raiders. During the Lingayen offensive, 31 January 1945, O’Bannon, with three other destroyers, attacked and sank an enemy submarine (Japanese records studied after the war indicate it was most likely RO–115). At the end of April and early in May, O’Bannon interrupted her Philippine operations to give fire support at Tarakan, Borneo and cover minesweeping operations there.

O’Bannon rendezvoused with a group of escort carriers off Okinawa on 17 June, and guarded them as they struck against Sakashima Gunto. In July it was the large carriers that she protected as they flew strikes on northern Honshu and Hokkaido. With the close of the war, O’Bannon patrolled the coast of Honshu until 27 August, when she joined two other destroyers to escort Missouri (BB–63) into Tokyo Bay. There she patrolled until 1 September. She then sailed to San Francisco and San Diego, where she decommissioned after overhaul 21 May 1946.


O' Bannon II DD- 450 - History

A Tin Can Sailors
Destroyer History

The new destroyer's brief training period in the Caribbean ended in August with the order to report to American forces in the Southwest Pacific. The land and naval battles of Guadalcanal had reached the critical phase and control of the island, just over eight hundred miles from Australia, could decide the outcome of the war in the Pacific. The new destroyer was based southeast of the embattled island, at the American facility at Noumea, New Caledonia. Each time she sailed toward the battle zone, O’BANNON faced a new challenge.

On her first voyage to Guadalcanal, DD-450 served as an escort for USS COPAHEE (CVE-12) a "jeep" or "escort" carrier delivering replacement aircraft to the Marines at Henderson Field. Her escort duties took her all over the region, but her activities in November 1942, were among the most significant. On her approach to the island, defending a large convoy of reinforcements and supplies, O'BANNON spotted a large enemy submarine on the surface. The destroyer succeeded in forcing the sub to submerge, then, with an adroit application of depth charges, was able to hold the undersea attacker down while the convoy passed. Within days, after the convoy had arrived and begun to unload cargo and troops, O'BANNON's charges were attacked by fifteen Nakajima B6N2 "Jill" torpedo bombers. All but one of the enemy aircraft were shot down O'BANNON engaging four herself. The battle seemed won, but heavier Japanese forces were moving south into the battle.

Early in the morning of November 13, 1942, heavy Japanese surface units steamed toward Guadalcanal. Two battleships, a light cruiser, and fourteen destroyers were supposed to bombard the American air base at Henderson Field, smash the concentration of troop transports reinforcing the Allied beachhead, and cover reinforcements of their own. Two heavy cruisers, three light cruisers, and eight destroyers stood between the marauding Japanese and victory at Guadalcanal. The American force, formed in a column with destroyers in the van and the rear guard, hit the lead destroyers of the Japanese unit in pitch darkness. The subsequent battle was bloody and critically important.

USS O'BANNON, fourth in line in the van of the attack, broke through the screen of destroyers and headed for the Imperial Japanese battleship HIEI. DD-450 passed so close to the Japanese battlewagon that the huge vessel could not depress her guns sufficiently to fire on the speeding tin can. Spraying the battleship with every weapon that would bear, the destroyer steamed past the KONGO-class behemoth, her 14-inch weapons impotent against the destroyer. Several other American destroyers took their chances with the Japanese battleship as well. The fire was so effective that HIEI was a sitting duck for American carrier planes, which sank the big battleship the following day. Henderson Field had been saved and the American reinforcements were landed successfully.

For the next several months, O’BANNON would have little rest. She helped sweep the Japanese from the Solomons Island group in a series of classic surface actions. Her anti-barge patrols were legendary. In a two-month period, she was credited with sinking or damaging more than a score of barges, two submarine chasers, an armed boat, and a gunboat. At the Battle of Vella Lavella, DD-445, in company with USS SELFRIDGE (DD-357) and USS CHEVALIER (DD-451), USS O’BANNON slashed at the final Japanese effort to evacuate the area. The three American destroyers took on six Japanese destroyers. The Imperial Japanese destroyer YUGUMO was sunk, but SELFRIDGE and CHEVALIER were heavily damaged. O'BANNON protected the stricken tin cans until help, in the form of three American destroyers, could aid the ships. SELFRIDGE would survive, CHEVALIER would not.

For the remainder of the war, O’BANNON would serve in a variety of roles. She would escort convoys, screen fast carriers, protect oilers providing fuel for the attacking task forces, and furnish gunfire support for landings from Vella Gulf to the Philippines and Borneo. The end of the war found her patrolling off the Japanese island of Honshu. She joined two other destroyers to escort USS MISSOURI (BB-63) into Tokyo Bay for the formal Japanese surrender. DD-450 sailed for the West Coast on September 1, 1945. She was decommissioned in the summer of 1946.

Strained relations between the United States and the Soviet Union prompted a recommissioning program which saw the re-equipping of a number of FLETCHER-class destroyers with the latest of anti-submarine weaponry. Relabeled DDE for destroyers fitted out as anti-submarine escort craft, the FLETCHERs would go to sea again. Under the program, O'BANNON became DDE-450.

With the beginning of the Korean War, O’BANNON found herself back in the Pacific. For the duration, she would alternate between screening carrier groups of both coasts of the peninsula and providing fire support United Nations forces. DD-450 also served as flagship of the Wonsan Element, East Coast Escort and Bombardment Group. Service off Korea alternated with all-too-brief training periods, centered around Pearl Harbor. At one point, the destroyer screened Atomic Energy Commission experiments at Eniwetok.

Following the cease-fire in Korea, O'BANNON began a cycle of deployment and training that marked the routine for many Cold War units. Service with the U.S. Seventh Fleet meant that the destroyer screened carrier forces and patrolled the trouble-spots of the Pacific rim, then rotated back to Pearl Harbor for training and refit.

The destroyer's third Pacific war began for O'BANNON in December, 1964 with her first combat tour off Vietnam. For much of her service, she served as plane guard and screen for USS KITTYHAWK (CVA-64), although, during the summer months off the coast of Southeast Asia, she was frequently found firing shore bombardment missions against Viet Cong base camps, troop concentrations, and coastal craft.

O'BANNON would also serve as capsule recovery vessel in the American space program and provide security for nuclear testing sites in the Pacific. DD-450 was finally stricken from the Navy List in 1970 and was sold for scrapping in 1972.

USS O'BANNON earned seventeen battle stars for service in World War II as well as three battle stars for Korean service and additional awards for service off Vietnam.


Presidential Unit Citation ceremony aboard the USS O'Bannon (DD-450 / DDE-450), probably in the Philippines in the 1940s

Presidential Unit Citation ceremony aboard the USS O'Bannon (DD-450 / DDE-450) for outstanding performance in combat against enemy Japanese forces in the South Pacific from 7 October 1942 to 7 October 1943. Probably in the Philippines in the 1940s.

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Hold the Potatoes: A Destroyer Officer’s Dream and His Legendary Crew

USS O’Bannon (DD-450) moored in mid-1942. Wartime censors re-touched the image to remove her radar and Mark 37 gun director. She’s painted in Camouflage Measure 12 (modified). National Archives Photograph. 80-G-44177.

Seventy-five years ago today, on 5 April 1943, USS O’Bannon (DD-450), the legendary WWII destroyer, sank Japanese submarine RO-34 using a well-placed shot-and potatoes. Among the many sea stories of the US Navy throughout our nations history, the sinking of an enemy submarine from potatoes has become legendary. It sounds like something only Superman or Captain America could pull off, except in this case, what happened that day 75 years ago actually did occur. Minus the potatoes.

On 4 April 1943, several U.S. destroyers of Destroyer Squadron Twenty-One (DesRon 21) had shelled enemy shore installations on New Georgia. Among those destroyers were the USS Strong (DD-467), USS Taylor (DD-468), USS Nicholas (DD-449), USS Radford (DD-446), USS Jenkins (DD-447), and O’Bannon. All were steaming back towards their base at Tulagi Harbor after the mission, when at 0225 on the morning of 5 April 1943, O’Bannon proceeded to investigate a radar contact with Strong standing by to assist.

O’Bannon’s skipper, Cmdr. Donald J. MacDonald, received word from his radarmen of an enemy submarine running on the surface at 7,000 yards. He brought O’Bannon close enough to the enemy submarine that his lookout, the ship’s cook, from his watchstanding station on deck, later told his captain that he thought he could have thrown potatoes at the boat.

Commander Donald J. MacDonald, Commanding Officer of USS O’Bannon (DD-450), received two awards of the Navy Cross, three Silver Stars, two Legions of Merit and two Bronze Star awards during the war. (National Archives Photograph. 80-G-44101-A).

The legend holds that MacDonald prepared to ram RO-34, but suddenly worried at the last second the sub may have been in the middle of mine-laying operations. Fearing this would needlessly put his ship and crew in harm’s way, he ordered hard rudder left. Suddenly, O’Bannon was steaming parallel with the Japanese submarine. The American crew saw right away that the Japanese submariners were all asleep out on deck, but were unable to lower and fire their larger caliber guns at the sub, and did not carry small arms with them. The Japanese, finally waking up to Americans staring in amazement and curiosity at them, also had no weapons on hand. However, they did have a 3-inch deck gun that could fire upon the O’Bannon, and quickly made a run to reach it. In a newspaper article written some 40 years after the incident, some of O’Bannon’s veterans claimed the ship was able to fire “once” (they don’t say from which gun), took out the sub’s conning tower, and then found bins full of potatoes (why they’d be on the main deck and not on the galley deck is unknown) and began throwing them at RO-34, incredibly only 󈬢 feet away”(!)

The Japanese, believing the potatoes to be either hand grenades, or having an irrational fear of vegetables, threw them overboard or back at the sailors on O’Bannon. But the sudden and inspired food fight worked. The Japanese were so distracted by the potato assault that every single one of them stopped running towards, or was unable to reach the 3-inch deck gun, and O’Bannon was able to pull away and then proceed to sink RO-34.

So what really happened?

MacDonald was a fighting captain (and an extremely highly decorated one to prove it). He immediately went into action. Attacking RO-34, he dropped three depth charges and also ordered his 20-millimeter and 40-millimeter gun crews to open fire. The depth charges straddled RO-34, while 16 rounds from the 20mm and 40mm guns struck her conning tower. O’Bannon came around for a second pass and dropped more depth charges while firing again from both of her 20mm and 40mm guns. RO-34 began to sink by her stern. By the time O’Bannon circled around and came in for her third attack, she reported the target “blew up as a result of firing.” The crew on deck watched as RO-34 jumped out of the water and was slammed down again, settling by her stern moments before feeling a violent explosion underwater.

View of ship’s after 20-millimeter battery, on the fantail, while at sea, c.1943.
(National Archives Photograph. 80-G-K-3975).

At 0250, she reported to the task group that the enemy vessel was still on the surface and damaged but “unable to dive.” Cmdr. MacDonald later wrote: “This contact may be considered a destroyer officer’s dream…First there were radar contacts, then sight contact, then the submarine was hit and remained dead in the water while the O’Bannon came in close enough to throw depth charges at her and finally send her to the bottom.” RO-34 sank shortly after with all 66 hands. Already by 1943, O’Bannon’s crew, under MacDonald became legendary fighters, never losing a single man during the war. Their skipper recalled, “All I had to do was say, ‘Commence firing!’ and they put on a wonderful show.”

When daylight finally arrived on 5 April, pilots reported a thick oil slick, as well as debris from the location, giving O’Bannon credit for a probable sinking of the submarine. However, the American press quickly picked up the story, and printed it as the epic tale of an American destroyer that attacked an enemy submarine by throwing potatoes at surprised Japanese sailors standing around on their ship. O’Bannon even received a plaque from a group called the Maine Potato Growers, to honor the occasion. The tall tale began taking on such a huge life of its own that even some of O’Bannon’s own former crewmen began telling and re-telling it to audiences, making it more difficult to disprove. But long after the war, MacDonald himself admitted, “I’ve been trying to drive a stake through this story for years.” He agreed that he maneuvered O’Bannon close to RO-34, but explained that even the crewmember with the best throwing arm could not have tossed a potato or anything else across the gap. “From that single remark [of the cook] has grown the entire legend of the use of Maine potatoes to sink a Japanese submarine.”

Commander Donald J. MacDonald, CO, USS O’Bannon (DD-450) (left), and Captain Thomas J. Ryan, CO, Destroyer Division Twenty-One (DesRon 21) (right). Commander MacDonald received the Navy Cross on board his ship on 22 August 1943. Captain Ryan presented the award. (Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. 80-G-56139).

Colleen Johnson, “This Spud’s For You: Shipmates Recall Holding off Japanese Sub,” The Pittsburgh Press, July 14, 1984.

John Sherwood, “The Legend of the Deadly Potatoes,” Washington Times, April 17, 1974.

John Wukovits, Tin Can Titans: The Heroic Men and Ships of World War II’s Most Decorated Navy Destroyer Squadron (Boston: Da Capo Press, 2017), 132.

USS O’Bannon (DD-450) War Diary, Monthly War Diary, June 1942 to October 1945


USS O’Bannon DD 450 (1942-1967)

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1964� [ edit | edit source ]

In 1964, O'Bannon took part in the 1965 film In Harm's Way.

O'Bannon first closed the coast of Vietnam during her 1964󈞭 deployment, when, on 26 December, she left Hong Kong to patrol and conduct hydrographic surveys. Much of her 1966 tour was spent as planeguard for Kitty Hawk (CVA-63), while the carrier's jets struck targets in South and North Vietnam to lessen Communist ability to wage war in the South. For a week each in May and June, O'Bannon fired shore bombardments, destroying Vietcong base camps, troop concentrations, and small craft.

The veteran destroyer returned via Yokosuka to Pearl Harbor on 30 July. During operations out of home port, she trained for Apollo space craft recovery operations in August and was a member of the contingency recovery force for the Gemini 11 space flight early in September. She visited Guam in the spring of 1967 and returned home early in July to prepare for another Far Eastern deployment.

O'Bannon (right) as part of TG 76.5 off Vietnam in March 1965.

O'Bannon got under way for Japan on 28 September and reached Yokosuka on 7 October and Subic Bay on the 15th. She returned to the war zone with Constellation (CVA-64) and operated as plane guard on Yankee Station through 4 November. After a fortnight's respite at Subic Bay and Hong Kong, O'Bannon sailed to Da Nang for shore bombardment. She visited Taiwan early in December but returned to the fighting on the 15th to provide gunfire support just south of the DMZ. Two days later, she helped to rescue the crew of an American plane that had been hit over the DMZ and had managed to crash just off shore. An enemy battery shelled the destroyer during the operation but failed to score. As 1967 ended, O'Bannon was still on the gun line supporting allied ground forces.

On 30 January 1970, O'Bannon was decommissioned in a ceremony at Pearl Harbor (side-by-side with her sister Nicholas, as at their launching) and stricken from the Navy List. She was sold for scrap on 6 June 1970 and broken up two years later.

O'Bannon received the Presidential Unit Citation and seventeen battle stars for World War II service, placing her among the most decorated US ships of the Second World War. She also received three more battle stars for service during the Korean War. Nicknamed the "Lucky O", none of her crew were awarded the Purple Heart.


オバノン (DD-450)

オバノンはカリブ海で短期間の訓練の後、1942年4月29日にボストンを出港し、すでにガダルカナルの戦いが始まっていた太平洋南西部へ向かった。日米両軍による一進一退の激戦が続くソロモン諸島において、オバノンは第21駆逐戦隊Destroyer Squadron 21, DesRon 21)に加わり活躍、同隊の他の艦と共に殊勲部隊章を受章した [7] 。1943年3月の編成当初の第21駆逐戦隊は、旗艦ニコラス以下、オバノン、フレッチャーUSS Fletcher, DD-445)、ラドフォードUSS Radford, DD-446)、ジェンキンスUSS Jenkins, DD-447)、シャヴァリアUSS Chevalier, DD-451)、ストロング (USS Strong, DD-467)、テイラーUSS Taylor, DD-468)から成っていた [8] 。

オバノンはニューカレドニアのヌーメアを拠点に、10月9日に護衛空母コパヒーUSS Copahee, ACV-12)を護衛して最初の護衛任務を実施した。コパヒーはヘンダーソン飛行場へ展開させる海兵隊所属の20機のF4Fワイルドキャットを輸送していた。オバノンは同月の間、ニューヘブリディーズとソロモン諸島南部で護衛任務を実施した。11月7日、ヌーメアにてオバノンはダニエル・J・キャラハン少将の支援艦隊に加わり、緊急の増援部隊、補充部隊、糧食、弾薬、そして航空機材を輸送する船団の護衛に備えた [7] 。

11月13日の第三次ソロモン海戦の第一次夜戦では、オバノンは戦艦比叡に果敢に攻撃をかけ、主砲で射撃できない至近距離まで接近した。オバノンの射撃は他の艦による攻撃と共に比叡に大きな損傷を負わせ、翌日処分へ追い込んだ [7] [9] 。一説によると、オバノンはまた重巡洋艦サンフランシスコ (USS San Francisco, CA-38) と共同で駆逐艦を撃沈したともされる [10] 。

1943年4月5日午前2時18分、第21駆逐戦隊の僚艦ストロングと共に夜間の沿岸砲撃任務から帰投中だったオバノンは、ラッセル諸島付近で日本の潜水艦呂号第三十四潜水艦が浮上しているのを9,350ヤード(約8,550m)の距離からレーダーで発見、急速に距離を詰めて午前2時30分に体当たりを試みた。しかし衝突する直前、艦長ドナルド・マクドナルド(Donald MacDonald)少佐らオバノンの士官たちは呂三十四を機雷敷設艦と誤認して衝突を避けるため急転舵を命じた。この行動の結果、オバノンは呂三十四の真横に並ぶことになった [11] 。

この時、呂三十四の乗員が甲板上の8cm高角砲で攻撃を行おうとしているのを確認したが、阻止しようにも近すぎて主砲は使用できず、またオバノンの乗員たちは接近戦を想定しておらず小火器を持っていなかった [注 3] 。そのため、やむなくオバノンの乗員は何かしら彼らに抵抗する道具を探し、近くの保存容器に入っていたジャガイモを掴むと呂三十四に投げつけたとされる [12] 。そして、呂三十四の乗員は投げつけられたジャガイモを手榴弾と誤認し、慌てて投げ捨てながらオバノンから船体を離した [7] 。

しかし艦長のマクドナルド少佐によるとこれは事実ではない。彼は、「潜水艦が非常に近接していたのでオバノンの司厨員がジャガイモを投げられると信じていた」とだけ語っている。マクドナルド少佐は実際にはジャガイモが投げられていないと繰り返し主張してきたが、「アメリカの駆逐艦が日本の潜水艦をジャガイモで沈めた」という話はメディアに取り上げられ、今日でもよく信じられている伝説が急速に広まったという [13] 。この事件を記念して贈られた飾り板は1970年代まで メイン海事博物館 (英語版) で展示されていたが、その後所在不明になっている [12] 。

ジャガイモを投げたのかその真偽はともかく、オバノンは射撃可能な距離に離れた呂三十四を約1,000ヤード(約914m)から5インチ砲で射撃して少なくとも1発を命中させ司令塔に損傷を与えた。呂三十四はなおも潜航したため、オバノンは爆雷8発を投下した。この攻撃の後に呂三十四が艦尾から沈んでいくのが見え、翌朝には厚い油膜が広がっていた [11] 。これが呂三十四の最期であったとみられている [14] [15] [注 4] 。またこの期間、オバノンは少なくとも2機の敵機を撃破している [7] 。

続く2か月間、オバノンは大部分をベラ湾で過ごし、上陸援護、日本の増援輸送とその護衛の阻止、敵機への防空任務に従事した。第一次ベララベラ海戦をはじめとする数々の哨戒任務を通じ、オバノンは姉妹艦たちの助力を受けて数隻の舟艇、2隻の駆潜特務艇、1隻の武装艇、そして砲艇1隻を沈めた。この海域における戦いのクライマックスであった10月6日の第二次ベララベラ海戦では、オバノンと セルフリッジ (英語版) (USS Selfridge, DD-357)、シャヴァリアの3隻が魚雷と砲撃で駆逐艦6隻からなる日本の夜襲部隊に攻撃をかけ駆逐艦夕雲を撃沈した。しかしシャヴァリアとセルフリッジが被雷し、オバノンもシャヴァリアの後方に接近しすぎていたため避けきれずシャヴァリアの艦尾に衝突してしまう。オバノンは艦首を破損したが、損傷した2隻の僚艦を護衛しシャヴァリアの乗員を救助した。その後日本側は退避していった [7] 。

1945年6月までの間、オバノンは主にフィリピン各地での護衛、戦闘任務をおこなった。一連の活動には、オルモック湾、ミンドロ島、 リンガエン湾 (英語版) 、 バターン (英語版) 、 コレヒドール (英語版) 、パラワン島、サンボアンガ、セブ島そしてカラボアでの戦闘が含まれる。初期には頻繁に空襲が行われたが、オバノンは数機の敵機を撃退した。リンガエン湾で活動中だった1945年1月31日、オバノンは3隻の駆逐艦と共同で敵潜水艦を撃沈した。この潜水艦は戦後調査された日本側の記録から、呂号第百十五潜水艦であったと考えられている。4月の終わりから5月初めにかけて、オバノンはフィリピンでの活動を中断して タラカン島 (英語版) とボルネオ島で火力支援を行ったほか、現地での掃海作業の援護を実施した [4] [7] 。

オバノンは6月17日に沖縄近海で護衛空母群と会合し、先島諸島を空襲する彼らを護衛した。7月には本州北部と北海道を空襲する大型空母の護衛を行った。終戦に伴いオバノンは8月27日まで本州近海の哨戒を実施。戦艦ミズーリUSS Missouri, BB-63)が東京湾に入った時、オバノンはニコラスとテイラーと共にミズーリを護衛した。これは「南太平洋から最後の最後までの長い道程での彼女らの勇敢な戦いのために」(because of their valorous fight up the long road from the South Pacific to the very end.)というウィリアム・ハルゼー大将の言葉によるものだった [4] 。それから降伏文書調印式の前日である9月1日まで哨戒を実施した後にサンフランシスコへ向けて出港し、日本近海から初めて本国に凱旋した艦艇となった [5] 。オバノンはオーバーホールの上で1946年5月21日に退役した [7] 。

朝鮮戦争 編集

1949年1月17日から1950年2月10日にかけて、オバノンはロングビーチ海軍造船所において護衛駆逐艦に改装された。そのため、オバノンの艦番号は1949年3月26日にDDE-450に変更されている [2] 。

1952年6月20日に帰国後は真珠湾の周辺で訓練を行い [7] 、さらにエニウェトク環礁で初の水爆実験(アイビー作戦)に参加した [5] 。オバノンは1953年4月下旬に真珠湾を出港後、空母の護衛として台湾海峡への展開や日本および米統治下の沖縄沖で演習を行った [7] 。

1962年6月30日にオバノンの艦番号はDD-450に戻された [2] 。

ベトナム戦争 編集

1964年、オバノンはジョン・ウェイン主演の映画「危険な道」(原題:In Harm's Way)の撮影に使用された [4] 。

オバノンが初めてベトナム沿岸に接近したのは1964年から1965年にかけての展開においてであり、12月26日に哨戒と海域調査のために香港を出港した。1966年の洋上展開の多くを、オバノンは南北ベトナムで艦載機による空爆に従事する空母キティ・ホーク(USS Kitty Hawk, CVA-63)のプレーンガードとして過ごした。同年5月と6月には、それぞれ1週間オバノンは地上砲撃を行い、南ベトナム解放民族戦線の宿営地や集結中の兵員、小型艇を破壊した [4] [7] 。

オバノンは9月28日に日本へ向かい10月7日に横須賀へ到着。15日にはスービック湾へ到着した。空母コンステレーションUSS Constellation, CVA-64)と共に戦闘海域へ向かい、11月7日からヤンキー・ステーションでプレーンガードを務める。スービック湾と香港での2週間の休養の後、オバノンはダナンへ艦砲射撃任務のため出港した。12月初めには台湾を訪問するが、15日には軍事境界線のすぐ南で火力支援を行うために戻った。2日後、オバノンは軍事境界線上空で被弾し沿岸で不時着した米軍機の乗員の救助を支援した。敵の沿岸砲台がオバノンに砲撃を行ったが被害はなかった。1967年の終わりを迎えても、オバノンはいまだ友軍地上部隊への砲撃支援を行っていた [7] 。


The Maine Potato Episode

The history of the Pacific war can never be written without telling the story of the U.S.S. O’Bannon. Time after time the O’Bannon and her gallant little sisters were called upon to turn back the enemy. They never disappointed me.

– Admiral William F. Halsey

In 1942 the USS O’Bannon, an American destroyer, was dispatched to the South Pacific to face off against Japan’s naval forces. By the end of the Second World War, the O’Bannon earned more service and battle stars, a total of 17, than any other American destroyer. Additionally, it also participated in one of the oddest and most perplexing incidents during the War.

The USS O’Bannon 450, an American destroyer used during WWII in the South Pacific. Photo Credit: USS O’Bannon

The event, later known as “The Maine Potato Episode,” occurred on April 5, 1943 when the destroyer came across a large Japanese submarine, the RO-35, which was cruising on the surface and oblivious to the approaching ship (someone was obviously neglecting their lookout duty). The O’Bannon decided to ram the sub to sink it. At the last minute, however, they decided against it because some feared the sub was a minelayer, a ship/sub used to lay out sea mines, and if it was rammed it would blow up the destroyer as well.

Because of this quick withdrawal, the O’Bannon found itself moving directly parallel to the RO-35. On closer inspection, Ernest Herr, a sailor onboard the destroyer, stated that the Japanese sailors were sleeping on the deck. The sleeping crew quickly woke up and found themselves directly across from their enemy. The O’Bannon was at a disadvantage because it was too close to the sub to lower its guns and the sub had 3-inch deck guns at the ready.

Faced with the sub’s guns, the O’Bannon crew began to use whatever they had at their disposal to fight the Japanese. Reaching inside nearby storage bins, the crew began to pelt the Japanese sailors with the barrels’ content. Inside the containers were potatoes and soon an epic potato battle began. Either the Japanese were not used to potatoes or were expecting the worst since they believed the potatoes were actually hand grenades. The sub’s sailors were too preoccupied with throwing these potato “grenades” overboard, or right back at the O’Bannon, that they were not manning their deck guns.

The O’Bannon took the opportunity to gain distance as their enemies were busy handling their potato issue. Once the O’Bannon was far enough away, they properly lower their guns and began firing at the sub, who, by now, started their decent. Before the RO-35 was fully submerge, the O’Bannon damaged the sub’s conning tower. After it disappeared from the surface, the destroyer maneuvered over the sub and delivered a depth charge attack. After the war, information was released that the Japanese RO-35 submarine did, in fact, sink as a result of O’Bannon‘s actions.

Upon hearing about the potato incident, the Association of Potato Growers of Maine sent a plaque commemorating the event. It was mounted near the crew’s mess hall, since, as Herr noted, “it was the crew’s battle.”

Prisoner of war picking potatoes at Camp Houlton in Maine around 1945. Photo Credit: Maine Memory Network


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