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History of USS DENNIS DE 405
Charlie W. Touzell, Mam 3/c, USNR
October 2004

I live in Philadelphia in the Roxbourgh section and have been a member of DESA since its beginning. My Navy career started in September 1943, along with my brother.  We both joined the Navy with our parent's consent as we were both only 17 years of age.

We trained at Sampson NTB and after boot I was shipped to Miami, FL., for anti-submarine warfare school.  My brother went to Great Lakes NTB.

After four months of anti-warfare training I was assigned as a nucleus crew of eight men to Galveston, TX., where our ship, USS Dennis DE 405, was just about ready for completion. After the rest of our crew came aboard from other training bases we departed Galveston for shakedown off Bermuda.

After spending about six weeks in the Atlantic getting to know the ship and all its weapons, we sailed for the Boston shipyard for refitting and final preparations for going to the Pacific. We were dispatched to Pearl for assignment to the 7th Fleet.

Our first test of warfare came at Moratai Island were we shot down two Japanese aircraft. We then went to Ulithi and waited for our next assignment, which was as escort for CVE's. Most of our duties there were with CVE's.

We were then ordered to Guam for preparation for the Iwo Jima invasion. While at Guam I met my brother. He was aboard the USS George Clymer APA 17. We left Guam together, along with the rest of the invasion force.

At Iwo Jima we were assigned to screen the Battleships shelling the Island. A few times we were ordered to close on Mt. Surbachi and shell it as Japanese were climbing up the mount and small firing at the Hospital ships which were right off the mount taking wounded aboard. This was a hellish place as I remember - rainy and somewhat cold for the south Pacific.

After Iwo Jima our next fight came as part of Task Unit 77.4.3, better known as Taffy 3. We were assigned screen for six CVE's stationed off the island of Samar, between Leyte Island and Samar. CVE's were supplying air cover for our troop landings on Leyte.

On the morning of 25 Oct 1944, we were 20 miles off the island and at 0600 the CVE's launched their planes in support of the troops. We had just secured from general quarters (GQ) and I returned to my bunk for some shuteye, when at 0617 GQ was sounded again. A large Japanese fleet was sighted by a cap plane from one of our carriers. The Japanese fleet was approximately 15 miles astern of us and had already commenced firing on us.

By the time I got to my GQ station, a 20mm gun, they had hit the CVE Gambier Bay and she had to be abandoned due to lost all power. She was dead in the water and astern of us at the time.

Adm. Clifford Sprague, our C.O., ordered all escorts to intercept four closing Japanese cruisers and to make smoke around the carriers. Our screen consisted of three Destroyers and four Destroyer Escorts. The Destroyers were USS Johnston, USS Hoel and USS Heerman. The DE's were USS Samuel B. Roberts DE 413, USS Raymond DE 341, USS John C. Butler DE 339 and my ship, DE 405.

The battle raged for about two hours. My ship, USS Dennis DE 405, made two torpedo attacks on a cruiser. We missed on the first run at 2400 yards. We broke through the smoke again and closed on the cruiser to 1800 yards and fired our two remaining torpedoes. Before we could get back into the smoke the cruiser hit us four times with 8 inch armor piercing shells. We lost five shipmates in the attack but managed to stay afloat.

After our second torpedo attack I believe one of our fish had struck the cruiser as I heard a real large explosion and saw fire ball through the smoke. We continued fire with 5 inch guns. After approximately two hours, all of a sudden the Japanese fleet broke off the pursuit and turned north. I believe to this day if the Japanese had continued another 30 minutes or so they would have destroyed our unit.

We lost a lot of good shipmates that day. We lost two destroyers - Johnson and Hoel, who did quite a bit of damage to the Japanese fleet before going down. We also lost the Samuel B Roberts DE 413 along with the CVEs Gambier Bay, and St. LO which was hit by a suicide plane and rolled over right in front of our ship. We managed to pick up 465 survivors from the sea after stopping all engines and lowering our whaleboat and throwing cargo nets over the side.

Our Task Unit continued south to Palau where our hospital ships were. We buried 7 shipmates the next day at sea, our five and two from the St. LO. We had a lot of wounded aboard.

Vice Adm. Clifford Sprague congratulated us on our torpedo hit on the cruiser and gave permission for us to paint it on our bridge. We found out much later that the cruiser was the "Chokai".

After this action we were ordered to proceed to Pearl, then on to the States for repair and overhaul. When we arrived in the States the San Diego newspapers gave us a big splash with two articles, giving us recognition for our sinking of the Japanese cruiser. This was the first sinking for a Destroyer Escort.

I was able to take quite a few photos during our war cruise and have a large photo album of my Navy Career.

Charlie W Touzell, Mam 3/c, USNR

A Crewmember's History  |  More Ship History

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To view rare Christening photos and information about Otis Lee Dennis, DE 405 namesake, visit this website.

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