(DD-770: dp. 2,220; l. 376'6"; b. 41'2"; dr. 15.8"; s. 34 k.; cpl; a. 6 5", 12 40mm., 11 20mm., 6dcp., 2 dct; cl. Sumnar)
WORLD WAR 11
THIS PAGE IS DEDICATED TO THE FOLLOWING SHIPMATES WHO DIED FOR OUR WAY OF LIFE
Laverne Lee Ferguson, Yeoman 3c, USNR
William Rice Johnson, Seaman 2c, USNR
Robert Arent, Fireman 1c, USNR
George Layton Menke, Jr, Coxswain, USNR
Richard William Foster, Seaman 1c, USN
Leonard Lester Keith, Seaman 1c, USNR
Kenneth Earl Hammons, Seaman 1c, USNR
MAY WE ALWAYS HONOR THESE SHIPMATES MEMORIE
U. S. S. LOWRY (DD-770) is named in honor of Commodore Reigert B. LOWRY, U. S. Navy, a naval hero of the civil war. She is the first ship of the fleet to bear the name. Her keel was laid on 1 August 1943 and she was launched on 6 February 1944 under the sponsorship of Miss Ann Lowry, great grandaughter of the Commodore. USS LOWRY (DD-770) was commissioned on 23 July 1944.
The following text of history comes from different cruise books of the different wars and cruises she participated in. I hope you enjoy this as I know I'm enjoying putting this together for all my shipmates.
WORLD WAR 11
From the Cruise Book
And so it began, July 23, 1944, the Lowry was commissioned a ship of the United States Navy. It was a hot, dusty day and we were all in our "blues". All the new crew and officers fell in on the fantail, wives and admiring parents, friends, and best girls were on the dock nearby. The band played and the ceremony began.
Captain Carstarphen, USN, did the honors. He spoke briefly of the Navy and the ships and men who served in them. He then bid us "good hunting" but about the only thing we wanted to hunt at the time was a cool place and a long, tall drink. Commander L. H. Martin, USN, accepted the ship for the Navy.
Commander L. H. Martin read his orders to put the Lowry in Commission. When he finished, the colors and the commission pennant were hoisted, the band played the "Star Spangled Banner" and we were officially a man of war of the U. S. Navy. CBM Rupnik piped "On deck the first section, set the watch" and the routine had begun. The families and friends wandered about the ship asking questions, most of which went unanswered, as we were as "green" as they were.
After commissioning, we spent a little time around San Pedro, compensating the compass, making speed runs, structural firing and other test. It was usually a bleary-eyed gang that got underway in the mornings, but by 1600 the "spirit was willing" again. This is the San Pedro side of the channel, the scene of many a gay old time.
Remember the ferry that plied between Pedro and the Long Beach side? What a mad dash it was to catch the one that would get you back to the ship before liberty expired. Of course a morning never passed but what some unlucky soul "missed the boat" and ended up having a "heart to heart" talk with "the man" at Captain's mast. The forecastle was usually pretty crowded for those little get-togethers. However, we had begun to get the feel of the ship by now. At least we could find our way around without too much trouble. We had been together for some time, so knowing each other was no problem. It was getting used to the watches, getting back on time, and just getting used to shipboard life in general that caused the most trouble. And as on all ships, the "scuttle-sutt" started. When we were going on shakedown, where we were going, and so on. It never fails. Get a bunch of Navy men together and the most fantastic stories imaginable will get started, all directly from the guy "who knows". We all began to brag about being "tin can" sailors and to curse the "shore station" boy, or everyone else in the Navy who wasn't on a destroyer. And way back in the minds of the "new guys" were suspicions that this ship had been build to fight, and soon too. The "oldtimers" began to get the feeling "this is where I come in". There was nothing unusual about this, it was always this way when a "tin can" goes in commission. It shows the men have a spirit and a keen interest in their new ship. Friendships started to spring up, many of which last a lifetime.
We were off for San Diego and shakedown. The shakedown seemed like a sort of vacation and a chance to save up a little money for our return. Our shooting was pretty poor and we were mostly willing and little else on the first runs. In fact we all had one heck of a time when Mount No. 3 trained around and let go. A nice quiet spot in the magazine looked like the best deal. It seemed just a little hard to really get into the swing of things at first. It seemed impossible to keep track of your life jacket, gas mask and helmet and have them ready when the bell rang. But time and practice brought about many changes.
There must have been a blond around somewhere because usually the control officer was reading a magazine and the lookouts looked out with their eyes shut. The torpedo gang was hot as a firecracker and set one of the best records ever fired by any destroyer on shakedown. If any expert advice were ever needed, you could always wake Crum and Emery up and they would be glad to inform you.
Shakedown was about over by now and for the short time we'd been operating the Lowry began to look and act like a real man-of-war. Shooting became darn good, our seamanship improved, and the engineers were doing a real job. Admiral Denebrink, the Commander of the Operations Training Command at San Diego, inspected us before we left the San Diego Area and rated us above the average. Then we were on our way back to San Pedro for our last few liberties before shoving off for the forward areas. Those were the hectic days with everyone trying to clear up the last minute details on the ship and either getting married or trying to get their wives and families home before we left. Then came a little "gear" trouble and we were held up for another month. Finally like all other things that are good, this vacation came to an end and we moved on to Pearl Harbor. Everyone figured they had seen the last of the States for quite a while although some of the engineers put out the "straight dope" that the gears couldn't possibly last over a month. They did though, and quite a few more too. On the way to Pearl we did a little test and suprise firing.
At Pearl Harbor Captain Martin was relieved as commanding officer by Commander E. S. Miller, who had accompanied us from the states. We hated to lose Captain Martin. He'd been a good skipper and the experience he had piled up while serving on destroyers for 15 years had certainly stood us in good stead and helped make us the fine ship we were.
About this time the Lowry was beginning to hang up her record for being one of the best shots to ever go through San Diego. We really began to raise particular hell with the sleeves and "drones" they sent us to practice on. Yes, looking back to shakedown is when we really earned a reputation for gunnery, And from then on we never took a back seat to anyone, where it was concerned. No. 42 was the pride and joy of Holbrook who swears he would have married the gun if she could have cooked.
Captain Martin said goodby on the forecastle which seemed a very appropriate place because that was the place he had met most of us at one time or another, however the meeting usually took place over the small stand and consisted of an explanation that the "arlarm" didn't go off this morning.
Captain Miller had come to us from the USS CABOT, where he had been navigator. This was his first command and the first ship for most of so we all started out new, and even. We soon saw he knew his business and the routine went on as before. We had a short period of combat training at Pearl and then headed out.
It was a long trip from Pearl to Ulithi Atoll in the Caroline Islands. It was hard to believe that there was so much water and so little land. After a little overhaul in Ulithi we headed for Leyte in the Philippines Things were pretty hot in this area. We figured we would be jumped on the way up but no attack materialized. On arrival at Leytewe found the rest of our squadron gone so we just sat around a few days. The boredom was relieved by frequent air attacks both day and night and we spent a good deal of time at general quarters. Then the word came that we were to take LST Resupply convoy to Mindoro. It sounded like a hot job and it was. But like everything else it had its humor. The second day out we sighted a sail on the horizon, figured it to be a jap and started after it. Imagine our embarrassment when we arrived at 30 knots, all guns trained out, to find a small Filipino sailboat with a group of Filipinos waving American flags. The humore soon ended and the trouble began. First two fighter bombers jumped us, dropped their bombs and got away. Then a formation of Vals and one Betty dropped on the formation. The vals commenced suicide diving the LST's we had with us. Many scored hits and LST and cargo ships were burning fiercely. Then a twin-engined Betty came tearing through this formation and dropped it's bombs. All the ships and destroyers were firing. The big plan went through it all then made a turn and headed for us. Guns 42, 44 and all port 20MM were firing like mad. Suddenly he burst into flame and hit the water. Of course we all cheered. We received official credit for the plane.
We fired all night at snopper planes and feel we downed at least one if not two planes that closed us. We had been at general quarters nearly 24 hours by then. The next afternoon a plane sneaked over the formation and began a dive on the Lowry. For some reason he changed his mind and swerved for the destroyer astern, missing her by about 10 feet. The trip home was unevenful. Our nest venture was with the cruiser striking force in an effort to intercept a Jap battleship force that had shelled Mindoro. No attack materialized. We then moved in with the main bombardment force in the invasion of Luzon. These were days none of us will ever forget. For two straight days we were under constant suicide attack. Ships on all sides were being hit. One plane got within a couple of hundred yards before we shot his wing off and he twisted over the ship, missing us by a narrow margin. As we entered Lingayen Gulf we saw one of our destroyers that had been sunk resting on the bottom. In addition to air attacks we were constantly fired at by shore batteries.
During the air attacks Robert Arent Flc. was hit and killed instantly. He was buried at the mouth of Lingayen Gulf with full military honors. All the crew not on watch turned out to pay their last respects. The war was brought home pretty close then. It's one thing to see another ship hit but seeing one of your shipmates killed is different.
While relaxing and takeing a few pictures a jap plane suddenly dived on us and broke up our happy scene. All smiles vanished and Byrne swalled his cigarette. The day before the invasion one of our minesweepers was hit with Jap shorerfire. We moved in and took off their wounded then, moved on up and pounded the beach where the fire had come from. All the time we were under constant threat of enemy air attacks. It is impossible to remember the number of times we fired on enemy aircraft diving on us or some other ship.
The next day we moved in to shell the beach again. We went to the far end of the gulf where we supported the underwater demolition teams as they cleared away all obstacles and underwater mines to prevent our boys from reaching shore. We shelled the beach with 5 inch and 40MM to prevent Jap artillery or snipers from working on them. That night the rest of the formation left the gulf and the Lowry stayed in and systematically shelled the Jap positions with 5 inch for the balance of the night. Every once in a while a bright red fire and explosion would occur and we would know we had hit our mark. The boys in CIC did a fine job that night, keeping us off the reefs and designating targets as well. All this took place three days before the landings. On January 9, 1945, the first American troops went ashore. In the first half hour we fired 600 rounds of 5 inch projectiles at the Nips. After the first wave landed we moved in and provided close support. During the air attacks of two days before we had been hit by a 40MM from another ship. This was the only damage done to the Lowry in this series of actions. We were one of the few ships to get out so lucky.
On January 25, we left Lingayen and headed for Ulithi to join the fast carrier force. While with them we participated in the first carrier raids on Tokyo and supported the landings at Iwo Juma. Although some destroyers got into shooting matches with jap picket ships, the only thing we fought was the weather. We did blaze away at a couple of Jap planes one evening with no results. The weather was terrible. It buckled the mounts and ship everywhere. Everyone had to exercise care to keep from being washed over the side. During our trip we fueled at sea several times. It was usually fun fueling at sea if it wasn't too rough. We could holler over and insult the tanker crew and then there was always the question as to who would be covered with oil this time. It seems as though everyone concerned with fueling, from the Exec on down, was covered with oil at one time or another.
Also on this trip we begin to pick up aviators on a big scale. It seems as though the poor old "Zoomies" have enough troubles keeping from being shot up by the japs but that doesn't seem to be enough. They are forever lighting in the water. Several times a day we get the signal "Pilot down" and the nearest "can" is off to get the pilot and crew. Generally we are successful and the rescue proceeds.
First of all we have to locate the piolet. He has usually fired a flare or broken a green dye marker so we can see him. However one or two men make a tiny spot in the ocean so it's no easy job to spot them. Once we have them in sight, the ship has to be maneuvered so they won't be hurt by the screws or other parts of the ship. A ladder is put over the side of the and the piolet climbs up if he is able. If he isn't, we send a couple of men down the latter to give a hand. It's hard to describe how glad they are to see us, especially if they have been in the water for some time. I suppose the closest way to figure is is that they are about as glad to see us as we are to see them when some Kamikaze boys are in the vicinty.
We didn't do a heck of a lot ourselves on this trip but we did learn to think a great deal of the boys in the Naval Air Force. They flew in all kinds of weather, hit their targets and got back home. They are a great bunch and have done a real job in this war. In making these strikes at the Japanese homeland we operated under the protection of bad weather and storms. The pitch and roll and the mighty carriers was a no handicap to the "fly boys" who fulfilled their missions with all necessary regularity. Being a light unit we suffered quite a lot going over from the heavy seas, but all ended well and happily.
We weren't out too long this time and soon came orders to proceed to Ulithi, for a short overhaul period. Though there hadn't been much fighting on this trip we were all sick of the rough weather and plenty ready to head back to the base and try out a little beer we found there.
The overhaul period went without incident though rumors started to come in as to our next operation. The rumnors didn't help our peace of mind any as "Okinawa" was mentioned freely in all of them. None of us knew much about Okinawa but we did know for sure that it was plenty close to Japan and we were certain the japs would fight like the dickens for the island. They did.
March 20th we were on our way for Okinawa with Escort Carriers, providing air cover for the close bombardment group. Everyone expected trouble and we had the usual number of false alarms on the way. However for some unknown reason no real attacks materialized and we reached our assigned position off the southeastern tip of Okinawa without incident. The bombardment group then left and proceeded to the beach.
The next four or five weeks the LOWRY lived up to her nickname "Lucky." It seemed as though we were always in the right place at the right time, and time and again we succeeded in leaving an area just prior to a heavy attack. During this period we were engaged in screening the carriers as they sent planes in to protect our ships and men on the beach head. ano real aerial attacks materialized although one night we fired at an unknown plane and another. A plane or bomb of some type landed about 100 yard astern. We also engaged in anti-submarine warfare and dropped charges on what seemed like a good contact one night. No known results were obtained. During this period we also made periodic trips to Kerama Retto for replenisment purposes. On one relenishment trip we loaded up with several tons of rockets and explosives. The material was stacked all around the deck and we felt like sitting ducks. About 1500 word came to stand to repel an enemy air attack in force. I suppose all of us thought our time had not only come, but was past due. Luckily the weather closed in, the attack failed to materialize and the LOWRY slipped out of port in the nick of time. The next day bright and early the Nips hit the place with everything they had and succeeded in hitting and sinking the ammunition ship we had been alongside the previous day. Each time we made the replenishment an enemy air attack was expected and for some miraculous reason never seemed to materialize. Ships of our group who proceeded or followed us were always jumped. Luck was with us.
However luck hadn't been with all our ships. Destroyers were taking a terrible pounding while operating as radar picket and fire support ships. Each night when Lt. Hagen would read the "daily communique" word would reach us of another one of our squadron or another ship we knew of with our friend aboard had been badly hit or sunk. From our squadron the Laffey made her heroic stand and came back hit by six planes and four bombs. The O'Brien was badly hit. This coupled with the loss of the Meredith in the Normandy invasion, the Cooper in Ormoc Bay, and the damaging of the Sumner and Walke at Luzon left our squadron in rather a precarious position. The Moale had suffered severe material damage in the Tokyo raids and had been returned to Pearl Harbor. This left only the LOWRY, Barton and the Ingraham in operating condition.
We knew it was only a matter of time until we moved into a little more active job. Word reached us we were to proceed to Kerama Retta on the first of May and be outfitted for radar picket, and fighter director duty. This was really "it."
Into Kerama we went, picked up a fighter director team and some gear, we received the condolences of all our friends and headed for radar picket station number 2, "the hottest station" of them all. We were located about 60 miles north of Okinawa, right in the middle of the most direct route from Japan to Okinawa. With us was another destroyer, some LCI gun boats and our assigned Marine fighter planes from Okinawa. Weather was soupy the first couple of days and although we picked up several contacts none pressed home an attack on us. This was too good to be true and sure enough things changed soon. Early morning on may 4, 1945 we started picking up enemy contacts. "Bogies" were all over the place. We took several under fire and blazed away with no results. Soon our night fighters arrived on the scene and a couple of Nips burst into flame and lit in the "drink". There is no better sight than to be peering into the darkness and suddenly see a large flame slowly turn and plung from a high altitude into the water when you know for sure it is the enemy. All the activity gave us our cue. We were certain there would be plenty of activity the next day. We were right.
Early the next morning word began to come in from all stations of intense air activity from all sides. All the ships were fireing, the Marines were tearing into the jap planes and confusion was rampant. Our station was still quite for some reason. As always, bad news began to come in. Of the three stations north of Okinawa all the ships from the stations on either side of us were either sunk or badly hit including our sister ship the Ingraham. The ship with her had gone down and the Ingraham was badly hit after putting up a terrific battle. The station on the other side of us was also wiped out. That left us. Soon we picked up a group moving in on us. Radar showed them being friendly but their actions seemed quite suspcious so we watched them carefully. Both planes began wobbling his wings and we opened fire. He headed for us in a straight. About 1500 yards away he burst into flames, swerved and crashed into the water between the LOWRY and the other picket ship. Suddenly a plane was sighted only a few hundres yards astern about 25 feet above the water. We had been played for a sucker by the first plane and this second suicider had gotten in on us before we saw him. We got off a few 40s and 20s at him but our luck had run out. It looked for sure as though there would be quite a few winners of the purple heart in short order. There were.
However, his luck was non too good either. Just as he turned to crash us he misjudged his distance. He went right between the barrels on Mount No. 3. His wing struck the face plate of the mount caving in the shield. However the main body of the plane and the bomb ricocheted off the top of the mount, semi-scalped Joe Bass, the mount captain, bounced over the torpedo tubes, Mount 44 and the whale boat and landed in the water about 15 feet from the ship, exploding with a terrific concussion. The ship was sprayed from stem to stern with bomb fragments,parts of engine, wing and fuselage. Men on all sides were hit, some so badly they fell to the deck, others not wounded so severely remained at their guns. The repair parties went into action. Several small fires were put out. They began to pick up the wounded and move them to the wardroom. The engineers went to work and repaired the damage done to the engineering spaces. All hands did a splendid job. Many of the wounded refused to leave their stations. In the middle of all the confusion another suicider started for us. Both ships were firing with everything they had and down he went in flames. The scrap was over. We had been hit hard but not as hard as we thought we would be when the Nip was first sighted. We had shown we could take it as well as put it out. Things were plenty tough and everyone came through with flying colors. We were mighty proud of our ship and its crew. Our losses, 2 killed, 23 wounded in action. Any elation we might have felt disappeared at the knowledge some of our shipmates wouldn't be going home with us. During this fracas the Marine pilots had been in it with Japs all over the place and every so often another smoke trail and fire on the water signified another slant eye had died for the emperor.
That night we transferred the wounded to a PCE for further transfer to a hospital ship. It was rather tricky business trying to get the wounded off the ship with enemy planes in the vicinity at all times. They were finally away and headed for Hagushi Beach with all our best wishes for a speedy recovery. The night fighters got another plane that night. A couple of days later we were relieved and headed for Kerama Retto after stopping by on the way to pick up a Marine pilot in the water off a Jap island. We all itched to throw a few 5 inchers into them but no targets were visible.
We rested and replenished the ship for a couple of days and then headed out for Radar Picket station No. 16 to the west of Okinawa. We all figured this would be rather a quiet station. Things weren't too bad, however we were visited quite definitely on one occasion. One night toward sunset a Jap plane caught us flat footed. He was within 1500 yards low on the water before we saw him. He dropped a torpedo and turned away. One of the Marines caught him and shot him down. The torpedo passed either directly under the ship or closely astern, and exploded at the end of its run. Luck was with us again.
We continued the rest of the month with the same kind of duty. General quarters most of the time, under attack frequently and a generally tired bunch we were. The last of the month we again went north this time with the Drexler. Again we had a tough time. Early morning we were attack by a large formation of enemy fighters and bombers. Our fighters engaged their fighters but their bombers succeeded in getting through to us. The first missed us by a few feet and crashed into the Drexler. The second and third planes went down in flames close aboard. Number four finished the game however. He started for us then changed his mind and headed for the Drexler, now dead in the water. A marine fighter was right on his tail pouring everything he had into the bomber to no avail. His run was good and he crashed into the Drexler, hitting a boiler and magazine and completely demolishing the ship. There was a terrific explosioin reaching high into the air. The next thing we saw was the bow of the ship protruding from the water and then even that had gone. She had lasted only about 45 seconds after the second hit. It was a terrible sight. Planes were still all around. Our combat air patrol was engaging them on all sides. We were all alone now. It was a lonesome feeling. The LCIs moved in and began picking up the suvivors. They looked bad. Losses had been heavy. Finally the attack was over. Additional destroyers had come out from Hagusi Beach to help us and the rescue was completed. We were all dead tired. Things were fairly quiet from then on until we were relieved by another ship. We headed for Hagushi for a much needed rest. The rest consisted of working during the day and staying at general quarters most of the night with enemy planes overhead.
Our next picket station was number 5. Things were rather lively here too. We had to dodge a typhoon. On our return we picked up a large formation of enemy planes and successfully directed our fighters to intercept and shoot them down. The next evening we went to general quarters on the Captain's "hunch," although no planes were known to be in the area. We had no sooner set Condition 1 than the first plane appeared over the horizon, low on the water, coming in fast. Our companion ships weren't at general quarters so we opened up on the plane right away. He closed to 2000 yards and then went down in flames. We picked up another trying to get in astern of him and got him at 4000 yards. We were again relieved and while on the way back to the beach picked up seven Japs in a canoe attempting to escape from Okinawa. They put up no struggle though they were a bit reluctant to come aboard. We took them to Okinawa and turned them over to the Marines for questioning.
In a few days we went to picket station No. 11A, where we had the usual activity and interceptions of enemy planes attempting to get to Okinawa. We supported the operations of Marines landing on nearby islands. Planes attacked nearby ships but didn't bother us.
Our next and last picket station was number 15, always known to be a lively spot. It lived up to its expectations. We were involved in a six hour night engagement with what seemed like a thousand planes although it is rather certain there were considerably less than that. There was a full moon out that night and visibility was very good. Just about the time it seemed as though we were really cooked, a complete eclipse of the moon took place to save the day, or rather the night. Things quieted down again, the eclipse was over, the attacks picked up and this time smoke from the smoke screen at Okinawa drifted up and covered us. During this affair we succeeded in shooting down one jap plane. We used up all of our ammunition that night and had to go into the beach to replenish, thus ending our tour of picket duty. A pleasant day it was too. It was all over. It had been a rough time and we were completely worn out, but no one could be more prouder of the ship than we all were of the LOWRY. She had come through operations that had caused the sinking or heavy damaging of over 60 destroyers and had come through on top. She wasn't a good ship any more, she was a great ship.
Our next operaton was in connection with the mine sweeping force operating between Okinawa and the China coast. Our activity there consisted of dodging mines, which were plentiful, and standing by to protect the sweeps from planes or Jap surface ships. It was rather a quiet time in general although a large horned mine passing close aboard is enough excitement for the average person. All we wanted to do now was go somewhere and rest. We had gone over four months without securing the main engines or the watches and everyone was nearly at the end of his endurance. Finally at the end of July we were ordered to Leyte for a rest, recreation and overhaul. It was the happiest moment we had known in many months. Just to know we were leaving the area for even a little while was the best news possible.
We were finally on our way. Everyone was relaxed and happy at the prospect of a short snort and the ending of watches of all kinds. On the way down we were picked up by a Jap reconnaissance plane and all hands expected our vacation to end before it began. Later that afternoon we sighted a large column of smoke from the far horizone. We started for it at all speed. We didn't arrive on the scene until late that night when we picked up a large amount of wreckage. Upon investigation we found evidence to show it was all that was left of the USS UNDERHILL, a DE that had been sunk that afternoon by Japanese submarines. We scoured the area for any survivors and then commenced searching for the sub.
It was about this time the ship suffered by far the greatest tragedy of her career. A working party was removing some decontamination gear from one of the voids. According to the lable it was impossible for this material to explode. However such did not prove to be the case. The right conditions were present and a terrific explosion took place. Nearly 25 men were injured by the blast and the gas that escaped. Quick work by the repair parties got the majority of them out in short order. All hands turned to with a will and every effort was made to help the injured. One man was killed instantly and two others died shortly thereafter. It's one thing to have men killed in battle and another to see them die in an accident, unavoidable though it may have been. We made 27 knots all the way to Leyte and transferred all the injured to a hospital ship for treatment. Most of the boys were back on the ship in a comparatively short time but some were injured so badly they were sent to the States for treatment. They were the last casualties we were to suffer and probably the most tragic.
The Jap proposal of surrender found us still in Leyte Gulf near the end of a much needed rest and repair period. From there we traveled up near the coast of Japan where we operated with the big carriers, providing air support for the occupation forces. The end of the trail finally came, and we entered Tokyo Bay on September 16, 1945.
After a brief stay in Japan waters, we left for Okinawa, picked up some passengers, and headed for good old "Uncle Sugar." October 21 found the "Lucky" LOWRY tied up at the foot of Broadway, San Diego, California, U.S.A.