Destroyer Escorts

In stories, movies and songs they were called "The Greyhounds of the Fleet." By the old salts who sailed aboard them, the gray ladies were lovingly referred to as "The Tin Can Navy." The production of destroyer escorts was first seriously considered by the United States Navy in the spring of 1939 when war clouds were gathering in Europe. Even then, it was suspected that, in the event of war, there would be a need for a mass produced destroyer type capable of transoceanic convoy and anti-submarine warfare.

The capability of submarines to interdict their enemy's supply lines and to destroy his ability to wage war was the single reason for the inception of the destroyer escort. Since the destroyer was the only surface fleet unit that could effectively locate, attack and destroy a submarine, it was logical that we should develop a destroyer type that would concentrate on the submarine and thereby release destroyers for fleet assignment.

Hence, the destroyer escort. By July of 1943, the program was going full blast. No less than sixteen U.S. yards were involved in building DEs. Between February 1943 and the end of the war in September 1945, 563 DEs were built. Of these, 37 were manned by the U.S. Coast Guard, 78 went to the Royal Navy, eight to the Brazilian Navy and six to the Free French. In 1944, 95 destroyer escorts were converted to APDs, high speed transports. Like destroyers, all DEs and APDs commissioned in the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard were named after Navy, Marine or Coast Guard heroes.

Destroyer Escorts varied from 1140 to 1450 tons unloaded displacement, 300 tons more when fully loaded, and 290 to 308 feet in length. Complements ranged from 180 to 220 officers and men. They did not have the offensive armament and fire control of destroyers, nor the speed. They were, however, vastly more maneuverable than destroyers and had a much smaller turning circle.

US Navy DEs also had the latest and best equipment in antisubmarine warfare (ASW), including sonar echo ranging gear with a maximum underwater detection range of 4000 yards (two miles). This was an electronic apparatus that obtained accurate ranges and bearings on submerged objects through supersonic sound transmission. Supersonic sound, unlike audible sound, travels in a straight line like a light beam. When it strikes a solid, metallic object, it bounces back on the same bearing to the source. Instrumentation at the source (the DE) heterodynes supersonic sound to audible "pings" and indicated true compass bearing and range or distance to the target, enabling the destroyer escort to attack.The great majority of officers and men were reserves. DEs were commanded by reserve officers with ranks of senior grade lieutenant or lieutenant commander.

The destroyer escort was classified as a major combat vessel. In general, DEs were deployed in four types of operations.

The first consisted of escort divisions of six or more DEs each, escorting merchant marine convoys, navy supply vessels, or troop transports. Convoy escort was a defensive operation designed to ward off enemy submarine and aircraft attacks on ships carrying men and equipment for the overseas war effort.

The second grouping operated as part of "hunter-killer" (HUK) teams in task forces, each consisting of a small aircraft carrier (CVE) and five or six DEs that went to sea for the specific purpose of locating and destroying submarines.

A third operation, more common in the Pacific than the Atlantic, was antisubmarine and antiaircraft screening of capital ships as they bombarded enemy shore installations prior to amphibious assaults

The fourth assignment developed in the Pacific in the later stages of the war. The DEs manned "picket" stations on the outer perimeter of fleet and landing operations to engage kamikazes and to warn inner perimeter vessels of their approach. This was very hazardous duty, and DEs suffered personnel and material casualties.

The destroyer escorts played a major role in breaking the back of the German and Japanese submarine fleets and, together with APDs, contributed heavily to the defense against the kamikaze corps. From North Africa to Anzio to Normandy, across the broad reaches of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, from Leyte to Iwo Jima to Okinawa to Tokyo Bay, their crews cheered, laughed, fought, bled and died.

An example of this important naval asset is the GEORGE E. DAVIS (DE-357):
CLASS - John C. Butler
Displacement 1,350 Tons, Dimensions, 306' (oa) x 36' 8" x 13' 4" (Max)
Armament 3 x 5"/38, 4x 40mmAA, 10x 20mm AA, 3 x 21" TT, 1 Hedgehog, 8 DCT's 2 DC racks.
Machinery, 12,000 SHP; Geared Turbines, 2 screws
Speed, 24 Knots, Range 6000 NM @ 12Knots, Crew 186.

GEORGE E. DAVIS (DE-357) was laid down 15 February 1944 by the Consolidated Steel Corp., Orange, Tex.; launched 8 April 1944; sponsored by Mrs. George E. Davis, Jr., widow; and commissioned 11 August 1944, Lt. Comdr. Frederick L. Lincoln in command. She departed Norfolk for the Pacific 21 October 1944 and arrived Hollandia, New Guinea, 28 November.

As a convoy escort, she sailed 7 December for the Philippines where she arrived San Pedro Bay, Leyte, 12 December. Assigned to the Philippine Sea Frontier, during the remaining months of fighting in the Pacific, she served in the Southwest Pacific on convoy escort and antisubmarine patrols.

For the duration of the war in the Pacific she served throughout the Asiatic Pacific Theater operating out of Leyte, New Guinea, the Admiralties, Luzon, Western Carolines, and Okinawa. After the Japanese capitulation, she continued escort and patrol duties in the Philippines and in the East China Sea. In that September, she guarded convoys carrying occupation troops from the Philippines to Japan. Then she sailed to China where she supported American and Chinese Nationalist troops during reoccupation operations along the coast of northern China. During January and February 1946, she operated along the coast of Japan before returning to Tsingtao, China, 20 February. She patrolled the East China and Yellow Seas off mainland China until 16 April when she departed for the United States. She arrived San Pedro, Calif. 11 May, decommissioned at San Diego 26 August, and entered the Pacific Reserve Fleet.

USS George E. Davis DE-357 Battle Ribbons

Battle ribbons and medals are awarded to naval vessels and crew as a testament of service. The George E. Davis was awarded the American Campaign Medal; National Defense Medal; Philippines Liberation Medal (w/battle star); China Service Medal; Asiatic Pacific Theater Medal (w/battle star); Victory Medal; Occupation Asia Medal; and the Escort Battle Ribbons as see above. NOTE: To visit the USS George E. Davis Memorial Page click on the medal display above.

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