+14 Hudson History #1

Thanks to Thomas F. Reilly, Philadelphia PA for the sending most of the following HUDSON HISTORY.

Fletcher Class Ships
  • ARMAMENT: Five 5-in .38 caliber dual purpose guns,
    Five 40mm Twins
    And a number of 20mm AA guns.
    Ten 21-in. torpedo tubes
  • LENGTH OVERALL: 375 ft. 0 in.
  • BEAM: 39 ft. 4in.
  • SPEED: 35 knots
  • COMPLEMENT: 300 men plus




Thanks to Thomas F. Reilly, Philadelphia PA for the following HUDSON HISTORY.

On 28 August 2001 I received email from Ann Pratt Roy, daughter of Admiral Richard R. Pratt, informing me that the following came from book "A NAVY FAMILY" written by Admiral Pratt and his wife Ann. I have entered the email from Ann Pratt Roy in the contributors page.
Thanks to Ann Roy for providing the information.

World War II - USS Hudson
From a book "A NAVY FAMILY" written by
Admiral Richard R. Pratt, USN Retired and wife Ann Virginia Pratt.

Coming from the heat and humidity of the Solornons to Boston in the middle of winter was quite a change. Again we were involved with the commissioning of a new ship, training its crew and preparing for deployment to the South Pacific. I soon found out that being Exec and Navigator was quite a job. Hudson was a brand new 2100 tonner which I think proved to be the finest type destroyer the Navy had in World War 11. She was assigned to Squadron 45 in a nine ship squadron. About half the ships were built in Bath and the rest in the shipyard at Charlestown, just next to the Mystic Bridge and Chelsea, not the best neighborhood. All the ships were commissioned by the Commandant of the First Naval District who lived in quarters at the Boston Navy Yard. Hudson's commissioning went off without incident as well as her shakedown training at Casco Bay. We made several trips through the Cape Cod Canal before ending up at Norfolk where we made final preparations for distant deployment. Mom followed the ship as best she could and was in Norfolk when she deployed, again for the South Pacific.

Being Exec and two classes behind the Chief Engineer at the Naval Academy, a Reservist, was a difficult situation. lie had left the Navy and had returned, so though I was senior he never accepted the fact. He undermined much of what I was trying to accomplish and I complained to the Captain that we didn't need this kind of a morale problem what with everything else we should be thinking about while readying the ship for combat. One morning when we had completed a long all night transit of the Panama Canal most of the officers including the Captain were in the wardroom for breakfast. The Chief had obviously had a long rough night and in a very overbearing manner allowed as how he was really one of the few officers aboard who was doing his job. This was the last straw as far as I was concerned and I am glad the Captain felt the same way. The Captain went to his cabin and wrote a letter to the Bureau of Naval Personnel and gave me the letter to mail before we sailed. On our arrival in the New Hebrides we received orders to detach this malcontent. He was ordered back to the shipyard in New York where he stayed for the rest of the war. His assistant, Ltd.(jg) Tippen, a very capable reservist, relieved him and we had no more troubles of this kind. Thank Heavens!

It was now the Fall of 1943 and we were basking in the beautiful Havanah harbor, Efate, one of the New Hebrides. Many of the heavy ships were on hand including our newest battleships. It was a different situation from 142 when our Navy was virtually on the "ropes:' There was an excellent system of assigning destroyers to "mother ships;" ours was the new battleship Alabama. Due to another fine policy the Navy had standardized equipments and spare parts so that what was needed by one ship could usually be found in another. The Alabama could provide just about anything we needed.

Our immediate assignment was to prepare for the amphibious landing at Bougainville. This involved hopping beyond many Japanese held islands such as Kolombongara, the Shortlands and Buin and landing our Marines not too far from the major Fleet base used by the Japs at Rabaul, where heavy Jap air support was also at hand. Following the customary rehearsal and pre-sail critique, our squadron.joined a Transport Group as an ASW screen and escort to Empress Augusta Bay. Our charts were hopelessly inadequate; they were old British relics dating back to the turn of the century. The coastline was eight miles inland from that shown-on our charts and there were no useful soundings. To enter the huge bay we were advised to head for a large mountain, Mt. Balbi, on a course of 035 true, almost northeast. Despite this hair raising initiation, we all made it to the objective area though one of transports ran aground at that point. The initial landing was just after daybreak, on the first of November. Our Marines were opposed and a sizeable Jap surface Force was intercepted by Task Force 39, Admiral Merrill and his cruiser division consisting of Columbia, Montpelier, Cleveland and Denver, with assigned destroyers. This Jap force could have played havoc with the amphibious ships. During an air attack I recall one torpedo plane which made a run on our part of the objective area. It was fairly close aboard and its torpedo hung below ready for launching; just in the final stage of approach, it received a direct hit from one of our ships. An explosion occurred and the plane disintegrated. Near our assigned fire support station there was a dead Japanese pilot who had been shot down. We put a boat in the water and recovered some of his belongings including his navigational chart showing his track from Truk South to the Empress Augusta Bay objective. Typical of all our landings our job at sea was simple compared to the Marine tasks ashore. After a couple of days unloading we would escort the transports and cargo ships back to their staging areas for replenishment. Generally we would have a day or two in port before returning with another echelon of cargo ships carrying whatever was needed to support our troops at Cape Torokina, Bougainville. Once we went into the Russell Islands, north and west of Guadalcanal where we had one of the first Seabee bases. Exiting to the South through Sunlight Channel we joined a convoy proceeding to Bougainville. While patrolling our station we hit a coral pinnacle which bent both propellers and reduced our speed though we continued as part of the screen. Our investigation convinced proper authorities that we had struck an uncharted coral head so there was no administrative action. When we returned from this convoy we had to make a trip south to Espiritu Santo to replace the damaged screws. Just before leaving, Daddles came over to the ship in Purvis Bay for dinner. He had been ordered as Commander Naval Base at Espiritu Santo which had become the most important base the Navy had supporting our operations in the Solomons. As the war progressed, these supporting bases were moved further North.

Arriving at Espiritu Santo I learned that the Commanding Officer of the Combat Information Center school, Bill Wylie, was looking for his relief and that I had been earmarked. Fortunately Captain Smedberg interceded in my behalf and stifled this attempt. After a few hours in a floating drydock, we were ready to go again with our new underpinnings. About the end of November 143, Hudson accompanied a large group of combatants to Sydney, Australia for our,first week of relaxation. It was a welcome respite.

In December, I received a wonderful set of orders to "fleet up" and relieve Captain Smedberg in command of Hudson. This was a tremendous break, since I was the first in my class to have command of a 2100 ton destroyer; my good fortune was entirely because of a great skipper. I relieved in Purvis Bay on December 23rd, 1943 and kept command until the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, just before the war ended. Captain Smedberg relieved as Chief of Staff to Admiral Merrill in his flagship, Montpelier.

The day I took command we were sent out in the middle of the night in search of a submarine outside the harbor; no success. Then came an assignment to Rendova, across the Strait from Munda, which was now in our hands. Our job was to develop a coordinated Destroyer - PT doctrine, utilizing our superior search radar for controlling and vectoring the PT's into position for attacks on barges and smaller craft in water too shallow for our ship. On one occasion, before I took command, Hudson and Anthony were sent ahead of our Bougainville convoy to go after barges in the approaches to Empress Augusta Bay. My brother Bill was Exec and Navigator of Anthony and Whitey was the Division Commander embarked. An Army Air Force liberator sighted us and we were unable to identify ourselves by recognition signals. This plane made a few strafing runs on us. One bullet entered the Anthony wardroom just above the transom where the Medical Officer, Doctor Seal was reclining. Fortunately he wasn't standing or sitting. About that time Captain Smedberg told the Commodore that the next time he was going to fire on this plane. Whitey Taylor replied, "Don't, it's friendly." About that time the liberator dropped a bomb, estimated to be a 500 pounder close to both ships. The Captain got on the voice circuit again and said, "Some Friend." This time we were carrying a very excitable correspondent as we headed into a very poorly charted area while making over thirty knots. He kept reminding me that we might very well be running a risk of going aground. He added that if we did when dawn came we would be right under the guns and within range of the many shore batteries. Trying to navigate and keep this character pacified was quite a job. He was right, too! Once while making our sortie and thirteen miles from the beach, Fullam, our squadron flagship, 1000 yards abeam, hit an uncharted coral head and suffered quite a bit of damage.

While Hudson was involved in the rather unglamourous milk runs to Bougainville and also Green Island where we landed New Zealanders, Captain Burke and Squadron 23, known as the Little Beavers, were conducting shipping strikes and night forays against destroyers and cruisers which were supporting their forces as we strengthened our hold on the Solomons. This was the era when Burke became known as '131 knot" Burke, as he used to run the legs off his ships in order to meet his commitments. We would hear of their exploits at the Iron Bottom Bay Club in Purvis Bay. This was the former home of the Bishop of Melanesia and the Seabees converted it to take care of a few hundred people. I have often wondered about the many similar clubs the Seabees constructed throughout the islands in the Pacific. Whenever we would move to a new island the construction of a proper 110" club might not have been officially "top priority," but I can't recall when such a hangout was not operational soon after the beach was secured. Admiral Halsey was Commander South Pacific and quite an admirer of Burke and his Little Beavers. The rest of us were a bit envious I guess. Finally Halsey decided to give Burke's squadron a much needed rest. His message to reassign Burke's squadron was classic, citing how magnificently they had performed over the past several months, and just as thoroughbreds it was now their turn to "stud in the lush green pastures." The message added that Squadron 23 would be relieved by our squadron. We were delighted. By this time Whitey Taylor had moved up to command the squadron, relieving Ralph Earle. My brother Bill had been detached to command the Grayson, another destroyer. He had commissioned Anthony as Exec about the same time I became Exec of the newly commissioned Hudson.

Soon after we assumed our new role as the fair haired squadron, we received a fascinating job of conducting a shipping sweep at night through St. Georges Channel between New Britain and New Ireland passing the heavily fortified Jap stronghold at Rabaul in the middle of the night. We were operating as a nine ship squadron and arranged to fuel at dusk in the tiny harbor at Treasury Island, a base used by our PT's in the the northern Solomons and the last point from which fuel was available. Leaving Treasury and heading towards Rabaul was quite a sensation. No other ships had made this passage. We were to engage any worthwhile targets but found nothing. The next morning we arrived off Kavieng, a heavily fortified base which was to be the area of one of our next major landings. I am glad this operation was cancelled as it would have been very costly in terms of men and ships. We took under fire several small fishing vessels and barges. One of our ships received quite accurate fire from a shore battery at a range of about six miles. Following a long period of firing our squadron formed a scouting line patrolling East and West covering the northern approaches to the Jap bases at Buka and Rabaul. It was believed the Japs would make every effort to evacuate from the Solomons through the area we were patrolling. Our stay on this mission was ten days; one of our oilers rendezvoused to fuel and provision us. While we had little success one of the DE'S in another group nearby happened to be in the right spot and accounted for several subs, more than any other ship in the war. She was the DE, England.

The rest of the Spring of 144 was spent in one odd job after another; it was possible to relax in the Solomons since we controlled the air and most of the key positions. Now our main object was to prepare for the invasion of Guam and Saipan. Daddles was now settled in very comfortable quarters in Espiritu Santo; each time I would enter port I had a chance for a nice visit with him. He ran a great base, better than any of the others. Once while heading South from Guadalcanal and making 26 knots enroute to Espiritu Santo, the excessive speed being authorized because of our impending deployment to Saipan, we sighted one of our subs, an 5 Boat on the surface; it was sending us a message by flashing light. As I recall the message read, "What are you doing Captain trying to get home for dinner?" I believe he was right, too, for food such as steaks with all the trimmings and heart of palm salad was hard to beat and a wonderful change.

Finally we headed for Saipan, one of our largest operations. The landing was in early June of '44 and the scheduled landing at Guam was to be three days later. I shall never forget that for quite a while, it appeared we might not be able to hold our beachhead. The Amphibious Commander, Vice Admiral Kelly Turner, called Rear Admiral Harry Hill on a voice circuit which all ships guarded and he was clearly dissatisfied with the information he was receiving as to our "Front Lines." He told Hill to send someone ashore and that he had to have this information immediately. The gist of the conversation impressed me that we were not doing well. After a day our situation improved. About this time word was received from submarine contact reports that the major portion of the Jap fleet was heading for Saipan and the hundreds of excellent targets in the Amphibious Objective Area. The planned landing on Guam was delayed and the combatant ships formed into four groups to counter the Japanese Fleet. Three of the groups contained all the available heavy carriers and the other all our newest battleships, heavy and light cruisers and a screen of about twentyfour destroyers. Our squadron was assigned to this surface action group and Whitey Taylor was the screen commander. He had quite a job. Our first requirement was to join up with this impressive force and fuel during an all night replenishment. I have often marvelled at how such an evoulution as this conducted without any lights involving all our newest battleships, cruisers and destroyers could be handled so efficiently. Vice Admiral Lee was the surface group commander; Admiral Mark Mitcher had the carrier groups, each with a separate commander. On another occasion Lee positioned his heavy ships in the manner he desired and brought the entire group at some 25 knots into their replenishment position before releasing them to go alongside. Admiral Spruance, the Fleet Commander, was in the cruiser Indianapolis, his flagship, which operated with our group. One day with this formidable Fleet deck load strikes from the carriers were launched in late afternoon. Our planes literally blackened the sky as they headed towards the Japanese Fleet. I heard Arleigh Burke, the Chief of Staff to Admiral Mitcher, on the voice radio remark, "The Japanese have many bogies." His reference was to the tremendous air strike we had just launched. Because our planes had to fly such a distance to reach their targets they were very late in getting back. About ninety ran out of fuel on their return before reaching their carriers. To assist the planes in finding the carriers, all ships turned on their most powerful searchlights, disregarding the danger to themselves. Planes would land on the first available carrier, but many didn't make it home and landed in the water. Destroyers were quick to rescue the downed pilots. One of those in the water that night was Bill Kane, one of our closest friends. Bill was picked up by a destroyer and when transferred back to the Enterprise, his carrier, I understand that most of the crew were out on deck to welcome him back. Bill was highly regarded by everyone. While the carrier planes engaged and badly mauled the Jap Fleet in the Battle of the First Philippine Sea, we never came to grips with their surface ships. However, the Jap planes which survived reached us and damaged some of our ships including South Dakota steaming next to us. At the time we were in a circular Anti-Aircraft formation, with Indiana, a new battleship, in the center. Speed was twenty-two knots and we were maneuvering by emergency turns during the attack. At least one Jap plane got inside our formation and everyone had it under fire. We were hit, probably by one of our ships, and two men were killed on the port forty millimeter just below the bridge. A shell fragment hit the magazine below the bridge causing a hump in the deck and loss of steering control on the bridge. However, we were well trained and immediately shifted steering to steering aft in the steering engine room without losing our position in the radically moving tight formation. After the threat by the Jap Fleet had subsided, landing operations were resumed and our special task groups for action with the Japs were dissolved. At night we would be heckled by planes, mostly Bettys; Hudson was credited with shooting one down at night with a large explosion at about seven miles. The plane was hit several seconds after we had ceased fire.

I had tried to get ashore in Saipan to look up my brother John, who was an intelligence officer in a Marine Air Group, Mag 12. Because of the Japanese threat to our landing, I never made contact. He had been wounded at Roi Namur in the Marshalls, had a close call in a jeep on Tinian, and that Fall lost his arm when a corsair careened off the runway at Tacloban in the Philippines. He ended up in the Admiralty Islands at Emiru and for a long while we had no word from or about him. Eventually he was hospitalized at Oakland and then transferred to Philadelphia, the West and East coast prosthetic centers.

There were a few interesting sidelights concerning Saipan that are memorable to me. The heavy transports and cargo ships remained at the objective area until unloaded; then a convoy would be formed with escorting destroyers to return to the bases for reloading stores and provisions. Until one of these convoys departed all the heavy ships would leave the objective area for night steaming to reduce the concenteration of shipping at the beaches. Generally they would return at daybreak. The reason for this was that night air attacks could generally be expected. It was always quite a hassle joining one of these groups at the last minute, not knowing the base course and speed, the zigzag plan in effect, the identity of the screen commander as well as the officer in tactical command. But somehow there were few collisions or mishaps. However, I remember one amusing incident involving a confused destroyer captain who had joined late in the van of a large formation of maneuvering heavy ships, about 15 cruisers and support ships. The destroyer had arrived about dark and hadn't picked up the zigzag, or so it seemed, and drifted back through the heavy ships narrowly missing one after another, but finally managing to extricate herself astern of the main body. Of course the poor Captain was being shouted at over the voice radio as she "threaded the needle," and this didn't help. Finally the screen commander wisely told the ship to stay where she was astern rather than regain her assigned station ahead.

The literally hundreds of destroyers, destroyer escorts, and other ASW ships occupied assigned screening stations around Saipan and the job of keeping track of their location, fuel, ammunition and provision requirements fell on a Destroyer Squadron Commander, Captain Ruthven Libby, formerly on Admiral King's Staff. Libby had no suitable staff for being the screen commander responsible for such a great number of ships. I often marvelled at how he kept track of all his "chickens" and arranged for whatever they required in such a timely fashion. (I later told him so when they lived nearby in Coronado many years later). As our Marines pushed North on Saipan, there were reports of Japs committing suicide by drowning, leaping from the cliffs from the North end of the island. Men, women and children were included. Even out on our screening station the smell of dead was nauseating. I remember seeing one bloated baby on what we called our floater patrol because of the numerous bodies in the water. There was a huge horsefly sitting on top of the baby's forehead, a heartbreaking sight. Frequently we were called upon for close fire support for our Marines ashore. Our battery had to be in perfect alignment as we would fire in close proximity to our own troops. At night they would expect infiltration so we frequently provided star shell illumination, almost converting night to day. Occasionally an air attack over the transport area would call for a smoke screen from all ships with smoke screen generators. This made it difficult for the Japs to find us yet we had a hard time keeping track of each other.


Go to More Hudson History page 2
Return to Hudson History
Return Hudson Home Page