USS DENNIS DE 405

Famous Destroyer Escort Enters Harbor From Pacific Triumphs With War-Weary
Crew Anxious To Feel Home Soil Underfoot

The Tribune-Sun, San Diego, CA, November 6, 1945

How a tiny task force of lightly armed escort carriers destroyed escorts and destroyers gallantly stood up to the overwhelming fire power of four Jap battleships, eight cruisers and a dozen destroyers in the crucial Philippines battle off Samar Island Oct. 25, 1944, was told here today on arrival of the 1500-ton destroyer escort Dennis.

The vessel was one of nine due in San Diego today with more than 6000 veterans returning from overseas for discharge, leaves or reassignment.  It was reported the largest number of men to arrive here from overseas in any one day since the war ended.

Preceding the Dennis here was the ship's first lieutenant, Lt. (jg) Wayne A. McCurdy, 25, of Williamstown, W. Va., who flew to San Diego from Pearl Harbor to make advance arrangements for its being placed in reserve status at the local naval repair base.  McCurdy has been aboard ever since the craft was commissioned at Houston, Tex., March 20, 1944.

He told how the Dennis participated in the first recorded torpedo attack by destroyer escorts on an enemy cruiser line, resulting in the destruction of a 10,000 ton Jap cruiser off Samar. 

"We were in a group of three DE's and four destroyers escorting five escort carriers providing aerial cover for the Leyte landings," McCurdy explained.

"Practically all our planes had been launched at dawn for Leyte operations and we were without any air protection except for one plane on anti-submarine patrol.  Suddenly we heard from this pilot, 'I've got four Jap battlewagons, eight cruisers and I don't know what all down below, and they're shooting.'

"We were trapped by a masterful Japanese maneuver, which apparently had been believed impossible - getting a major task force through the narrow, treacherous passage of San Bernardino straits at night.

"Meanwhile, our biggest battleships, heavy cruisers and fast carriers had gone on a wild goose chase north in search of what was believed to have been the main fleet.

"Well, there was nothing to do but bluff our way through.  The biggest guns we had were five-inchers against the 16-inchers on the battleships and eight-inchers on the cruisers.  We laid down a heavy smoke screen, made a run on a heavy cruiser and launched our torpedoes at 7500 yards.  She went down and several Jap destroyers were sunk and damaged in close-in fire from the five-inch guns of our force.

"But we were taking a hell of a beating.  Direct hits were being scored on every one of our ships and the escort carrier Gambier Bay was sunk by gunfire.

"The Dennis had been hit five times, had suffered five killed and 12 wounded, had expended all her torpedoes, and was taking water forward.  Every one of the other ships was badly damaged.  In another 15 minutes the Jap task force could have wiped us out.  We had already lost a carrier, two destroyers and a destroyer escort.

"And then, for some reason still a mystery, the Japs turned away.  To us on the Dennis, at least, this remains one of the great unanswered riddles of the war."

Large-scale kamikaze attacks by land-based Jap planes from Leyte followed.  The escort carrier St. Lo was sunk in this action and the Dennis picked up 465 survivors.

"That evening, after it was all over, the planes from Halsey's fleet, which had gone north, finally showed up," McCurdy said.  "They chased the damaged Jap vessels and polished some of them off."

The little task force scattered to various ports to discharge their wounded and to effect temporary repairs.  Eventually the Dennis made her way to Alamedia for permanent repairs and a return to the Pacific.  At Okinawa, the vessel won further distinction by shooting down a Jap kamikaze plane and rescuing 87 survivors of the escort carrier Sangamon, hit by a suicide craft.

The skipper in all these actions, Lt. Comdr. Sigurd S. Hanson, of San Francisco, was awarded the Navy Cross for heroism at Samar and was recommended for the Bronze Star for the Okinawa battles.  Lt. Comdr. Stanley N. Gleis, former Los Angeles attorney, took command last June and brought the Dennis home today.

More than 6000 men were expected here today from the Pacific aboard nine ships, the largest number to be returned here in any one day.  Besides the Dennis, slated to arrive were the auxiliary ship Zane, the assault transports Wayne and Howell Lykes, the escort carrier Kalinin Bay, the destroyer Nicholson and the destroyer escorts Bull, Rowell and Edmonds.(*)

The navy's Underwater Demolition Team Five arrived yesterday aboard the destroyer transport Hobby after pre-invasion action at Saipan, Tinian, Leyte and Lingayen and special operations off the Japanese mainland in conjunction with the landing of Allied occupation forces.

The 27,000-ton Essex class carrier Shangri-La, flagship of famed Task Force 38, tied up at North Island yesterday on a routine trip from San Pedro.

About 300 men will arrive tomorrow on the destroyer transports Amesbury and Balduc.(*)

Due Thursday are the assault transport Merriwether, 1063 passengers; escort carrier Bougainville, 447; destroyer escort Till, 94; destroyer Henninger, 95; destroyer escort Metiver, 61; destroyer escort Roberts, 95; assault transport Lavacka, 1013.(*)

Expected Friday are the escort carrier Cape Gloucester, 594; escort carrier Kasaan Bay, 1369; destroyer escort McClelland, 100; light carrier Cabor, number unknown.(*)


webmaster note:
(*) USS Bull DE 693/APD78, USS Richard M. Rowell DE 403, USS Edmonds DE 406
USS Amesbury DE 66/APD 46, USS Balduck (misspelled above) DE 716/APD 132
USS Tills (misspelled above) DE 748, USS Metivier (misspelled above) DE 582, USS Roberts DE 749
USS McClelland DE 750

Article submitted by Charlie W Touzell, Mam 3/c, USNR

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Official History of USS Dennis DE 405

Namesake Information

Otis Lee Dennis was born March 25, 1913 in Scottsville, Kentucky. He enlisted in the
Navy on October 25, 1940. Radioman Third Class Dennis was cited posthumously for his
heroic conduct as an aerial gunner in the initial attack on Kwajalein, in which he was killed
in action on February 1, 1942.

Career

USS DENNIS (DE 405) was launched on December 4, 1943 by Brown Shipbuilding
Company, Houston, Texas. She was sponsored by Mrs. Dennis, mother of the late
Radioman Third Class Otis L. Dennis, and commissioned on March 20, 1944. LCDR S.
Hansen was her Commanding Officer.

Campaigns

First Duties

DENNIS arrived at Pearl Harbor on June 19, 1944 to escort a convoy to Eniwetok and
Kwajalein. She returned to Eniwetok on July 29 screening BELLEAU WOOD (CVL 24).

Morotai - September 1944

Joining the Fifth Fleet, she escorted Carrier Division 22 to Manus for exercises, then
sortied with Task Force 77 on September 10 to supply air support for the landings on
Morotai Island from 15 to 27 September.

Leyte Gulf/Samar - 17 to 25 October 1944

From October 12, DENNIS prepared to screen the escort carriers supplying the air cover
for the invasion of Leyte. She was assigned to Carrier Division 26 with sister DEs JOHN
C. BUTLER, RAYMOND, and SAMUEL B. ROBERTS. The unit sortied from Manus
with the escort carriers KITKUN BAY and GAMBIER BAY. Arriving at Leyte on October
17, they soon joined Carrier Division 25's four escort carriers and three FLETCHER class
destroyers. The combined unit was designated as Seventh Fleet Task Unit 77.4.3, radio call
sign, Taffy III.

The task unit operated routinely off the east coast of Samar until 0658, October 25, when
the Imperial Japanese Navy Centre Force placed the American warships under fire.
"...Quickly laying down a heavy smoke screen, the gallant ships of the task unit waged
battle fiercely against the superior speed and fire power of the advancing enemy...." At
0742 the destroyer escorts were ordered to attack a heavy cruiser column with torpedoes.
At 0750 DENNIS received word again and she turned northward to engage the Japanese
warships.

Operating independently, the small 1,350 ton warship approached the much larger
12,000-14,000 ton Japanese warships under a hail of large caliber 8-inch shells. By 0759
she had approached to within 8,000 yards of the enemy heavy cruiser column consisting of
HIJMS' HAGURO, TONE, CHOKAI, and CHIKUMA. DENNIS' commanding officer,
Lieutenant Commander Hansen, chose the second ship in line as her target and loosened
her three torpedoes. All of her fish ran hot, straight, and normal, but all missed. With her
primary weapons gone, she turned southwest at maximum speed to rejoin the fleeting
escort carriers. On her return, her #2 5-inch gun shot back at the approaching Japanese.
By 0809 DENNIS was able to join up with TU 77.4.3 destroyers HEERMANN and
JOHNSTON, and sister DE SAMUEL B. ROBERTS.

At 0840 the escort carriers were once again in danger of being flanked by the Japanese
heavy cruisers. Rear Admiral Sprague ordered the destroyer escorts to engage the enemy
warships. DENNIS and BUTLER, on the starboard quarter of the CVE's, crossed the
formation and joined the attack on the leading cruiser with 5-inch gunfire. Shortly
thereafter, her #2 5-inch gun mount became inoperative due to a broken breach. DENNIS
remained in action with her remaining gun.

Fighting on unequal terms all morning long, DENNIS was eventually hit by an 8-inch
armor-piercing shell shortly after 0850. It punched a clean hole through her thin hull, from
port to starboard, just above the waterline. The damage control party in the CPO Quarters
was killed instantly and the forward ammunition magazine was flooded. At 0900 three more
8-inch shells from the heavy cruiser HIJMS TONE found their mark on DENNIS. One
shell destroyed her 40mm director, the next made a relatively small hole in her port side
aft and cut electrical cables. The last shell hit the #1 5-inch gun mount. Shortly after 0902,
DENNIS turned into JOHN C. BUTLER's smoke screen to make repairs, with both of her
5-inch guns out of action. During the remainder of the battle, DENNIS was utilized to lay
protective smoke.

DENNIS rescued 434 survivors from the kamikaze-bombed ST LO (CVE 63). For this and
the surface action she shared in the Presidential Unit Citation awarded to Task Unit 77.4.3.
Arriving at Kossol Roads, Palaus on October 28, she sailed three days later for the west
coast, arriving at San Francisco on November 26 for overhaul.

1945 and Okinawa

Returning to the forward area DENNIS departed Guam on February 16, 1945 for the
invasion of Iwo Jima, patrolling off the island until March 8, when she sailed to escort a
convoy to Ulithi. On March 21, she proceeded to join a carrier group launching air strikes
in preparation for the invasion of Okinawa. She remained with the carriers as they gave
close support to the invasion forces ashore.

Final Duties

Again she performed rescue services on May 4, saving 88 of the crew of SANGAMON
(CVE 27), a kamikaze victim. She served on radar picket duty at Ulithi from May 9 to June
3, then returned to Okinawa to join the Third Fleet for strikes against the Japanese
mainland until June 26.

From June 30 until the end of the war DENNIS escorted convoys among Ulithi, Okinawa,
the Philippines, and New Guinea. After the war she escorted landing craft to Okinawa, then
departed Leyte Gulf on October 14 for the west coast, arriving at San Diego on November
6. She was placed out of commission in reserve on May 31, 1946.

USS DENNIS (DE 405) received four Battle Stars for her service in World War II.

Information courtesy of the bosamar.com.
 

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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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