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Task Group       Operations Date
                   
      1944
       
TG 21.12   Dep Norfolk, VA for Azores/Casablanca (for ASW operations) 05 Jan
    Arrv Casablanca, French Morocco (for replenishment) 26 Jan
    Dep Casablanca (for ASW operations) 29 Jan
    Rtn Norfolk (for repairs and alterations) 17 Feb
 
Units: USS Guadalcanal, VC-13, USS Ford (DD228), USS Alden (DD-211), USS John D. Edwards (DD-216), USS Whipple (DD-217), Destroyer Division 57 in USS Whipple
 
Results: U-544 sunk, 16 Jan 44
 
Click here to proceed to the U-544 pages at the U-boat Archive website
 
LTJG James F. Schoby's TBF VT #17 Bu 24502, crashes over the side while attempting to land during a recovery in rough weather, 10 January 1944
 
LTJG Schoby and ARM2/c A.R. Martin were not recovered from the crash. AMM2/c James A. Lavender was rescued by the USS Whipple, 10 January 1944.
 
Flying operations were discontinued due to rough weather, 11 January 1944. Heavy weather often made flying conditions difficult during this cruise.
 
USS Alden (DD-211) comes alongside USS Guadalcanal for refueling, 15 January 1944
 
USS Whipple (DD-217) breaks away from USS Guadalcanal after refueling, 15 January 1944
 
ENS B. G. Hudson launches on mission to attack U-544, later crashing over the side attempting to land at night
 
What Was It?
        While on submarine patrol in the dead of winter in the Atlantic, I was standing watch on 40mm gun mount on port side aft around midnight. Dressed with everything I could get on to keep warm, I had the phone set on (if you ever stood watch you will remember that the head phones and mouth piece were strapped to your head and chest with about 25 feet of phone cord). Sitting on the spent shell discharge on the 40mm gun mount with foul-weather gear on looking out into the black of the night (being a land-lover from Colorado and a young age of 17) I observed a large phosphor wake about 50 yards out and traveling aft to forward. I became concerned and got excited ( a short time before we had been advised that the Germans had developed a device on their torpedoes when fired could seek out a ship and home in on the engine rooms or the screw turning). About this time, the wake made a right turn and headed for the ship underneath where I was sitting. Thinking it was a torpedo, I jumped to my feet and leaped onto the flight deck (thinking that I needed to be on the other side of the ship if it exploded). Running quite fast, I came to the end of the cord … this jerked me off my feet and slammed me to the deck…lying there frozen to the deck and waiting for the explosion. I soon came to my senses and realized that it must have been a porpoise or large fish swimming alongside and went beneath the ship as they do at times. Getting to my feet and feeling quite foolish, I realized I had pissed my pants. I was soon relieved of watch and went below not saying anything to anyone ……just feeling embarrassed and went to bed.
...John C. Donahoo S1/c, 2nd Div, USS Guadalcanal
 
U-544 was refueling U-129 with U-216 waiting nearby when ENSs Bert J. Hudson and William M. McLane arrived on the scene. U-216 submerged immediately leaving U-544 and U-129 with refueling hoses still attached. Hudson attacked first with rockets and depth bombs. His last pair of rockets holed U-544 and his depth bombs straddled U-129. U-129 submerged leaving the fatally damaged U-544. McLane attacked next. In this photo, McLane's second pair of rockets land just short of U-544. The boat sank quickly by the stern. Twenty to thirty-five men were seen in the water but DEs sent to search for them found no survivors.
 
ENS McLane describes the day's action to Captain Gallery (from left to right) LCDR A. H. Perry (VC-13 CO), Captain Gallery, ENSs McLane, ENS Hudson and their aircrewmen, 17 January 1944
 
LTJG D. F. Walton's F4F VF #7, aircraft bursts into flames on touchdown when the aircraft's drop tank separates and rolls down the flight deck, 21 January 1944
 
Flight deck crewmen fight the fire around LTJG Walton's F4F, 21 January 1944
 
Disaster or High Comedy?
        Sometimes only a fine line separates disaster from high comedy. Perhaps some of you may remember this incident. On our first cruise out of Norfolk in January 1944 we began a routine patrol in the Atlantic headed for Casablanca. We had been encountering heavy weather ever since leaving Norfolk but for a change the weather was clear this morning with a light wind and a moderate swell running as we went to flight quarters to launch a TBM and two accompanying Wildcats. The Wildcats were carrying extra fuel in external wingtanks attached to the bomb racks in order to extend their time in the air. The launch was accomplished without incident and we V1 division "green shirts" settled down to routine maintenance on the arresting gear equipment, awaiting the return of the flight. Buckets of graphite grease were broken out and donning leather welders gloves we set to greasing the AG wires. Reaching into the bucket we would grab a handful of grease and work it into the cables. This was one messy but necessary task; the aircraft tailhooks would wear through a wire pretty fast if they were not kept heavily greased.
        Suddenly, "Flight Quarters" sounded, well before the flight's expected return. The ship began a turn into the wind and one of the DD's slipped into the plane guard position astern. Norbert Homer AMM 1/c and I were on the #1AG Station back on the starboard catwalk near the 40mm gun tubs. We checked the hydraulic accumulator and check-valve pressures, raised the arresting wires, and reported the station ready for the landings. Directly across the deck from us we could see the LSO on his platform above the port side catwalk, #2AG Station manned and ready, and Joe Shepard’s barrier crew standing by (Joe just loved to flip those barriers up when some unlucky pilot failed to catch a wire! His best day was when he caught a bosun's mate in the barrier ...but that's another story). We were all set to land aircraft. Only one thing was missing; there were no aircraft in sight.
        Suddenly, "Flight Quarters" sounded, well before the flight's expected return. The ship began a turn into the wind and one of the DD's slipped into the plane guard position astern. Norbert Homer AMM 1/c and I were on the #1AG Station back on the starboard catwalk near the 40mm gun tubs. We checked the hydraulic accumulator and check-valve pressures, raised the arresting wires, and reported the station ready for the landings. Directly across the deck from us we could see the LSO on his platform above the port side catwalk, #2AG Station manned and ready, and Joe Shepard’s barrier crew standing by (Joe just loved to flip those barriers up when some unlucky pilot failed to catch a wire! His best day was when he caught a bosun's mate in the barrier ...but that's another story). We were all set to land aircraft. Only one thing was missing; there were no aircraft in sight.
        After several minutes the announcement came over the flight deck bullhorn, "Prepare to recover aircraft". What aircraft? The only things in sight were the DDs sailing in formation around us. Then we spotted a lone Wildcat heading directly toward us flying just a few feet above the surface. As he passed abeam the plane pulled up into a steep climb and began a series of acrobatics. This impromptu airshow was completely unexpected. The pilot dived, rolled, performed a few barrel rolls, and otherwise rocked and rolled to the delight and amazement of the flight deck crew. We all clapped and cheered him on. It wasn't until later we learned what had precipitated this spectacular performance. As it turned out the pilot was unable to draw fuel from the wing tank and had to return to the ship before his main tank went dry. He had attempted to drop the wing tank before coming aboard but the release mechanism had malfunctioned and the tank was hanging in a nose down position only partially released. The aerobatic performance was an attempt to shake the tank loose before coming aboard. But that tank with its full load of high octane aviation fuel refused to release.
        Finally the pilot radioed he was out of fuel and would have to ditch if we didn't take him aboard. Decision time! Well ...the decision was to bring him in - tank and all. As the little fighter entered its final turn just a few yards astern, the LSO had him in the groove and we knew he was coming aboard. From our position close to the stern we could see that partially released wing tank waving in the breeze. Homer looked at me and I looked at him and we knew instinctively what was going to happen. As the Wildcat hit the deck right in front of us we dropped facedown on the catwalk. We heard the AG hydraulics begin its moaning squeal and knew he had picked up a wire.
        With the shock of the arrested landing the wing tank came loose and slammed into the deck. Gasoline dumped all over the flight deck, igniting in one gigantic, explosive ..Whoomp..! A blast of heat passed over us and we looked up to see a wall of flame and smoke, which completely blocked our view of the island. The wind coming down the flight deck was blowing burning gasoline and it was getting hot where we stood staring at the flames. With each roll of the ship, little rivulets of burning gasoline poured out of the tie-down tracks in the deck and onto the catwalk. When it began running into the 20mm clipping rooms where ammunition was stored we knew it was time to get cracking. The Wildcat was not to be seen. It was completely engulfed in flames.
        One of the fire-fighting foam dispenser stations was located adjacent to the AG station. Some other hands arrived on the run and some of us began opening the foam canisters and pouring the powder into the hopper while others dragged out the hose. Because of the wall of flames and smoke we could not see what was happening up on the flight deck or over in the port catwalk. When the water was turned on the foam came shooting out of the nozzle with tremendous force in a thick, ropy, mixture that we aimed at the fire on the flight deck. The foam had enough range to squirt clear across the flight deck and land in the catwalks on the other side. We knew this for a fact because the hands on the other side of the deck had their foam going and it was shooting over the fire and landing on top of us. Soon we were scrambling around up to our waists in foam like wet snow as the stuff piled up in the catwalk. We must have looked like the characters in the old Al Capp Lower Slobovia cartoon strip. We even managed to get some of the foam on the fire and put it out. The people in the DD's, now pulling alongside to lend assistance, must have been captivated by this scene.
        When the flames died down we could see the remains of the Wildcat sitting in the middle of the flight deck. When things cooled down a bit we climbed up to the cockpit. Thank God, …the cockpit was empty and we knew the pilot had somehow gotten out. The fire was so hot the aluminum in the engine cowling and fuselage had melted and dripped like candle wax. We later learned that as he engaged the AG wire and came to rest, the pilot had jumped out of the cockpit onto the port side wing, where he ran through the flames and jumped from the wingtip into the catwalk - where he was no doubt treated to some foam. Amazingly, no one was seriously injured in this affair; a few second and third degree burns which were treated in sickbay and some scorched eyebrows but that was about it.
        What could have quite easily been a disaster ended up with comic overtones. Stationed far back on the flight deck, we took a blast of charcoal right in the face every time a plane took off or landed on the deeply charred flight deck. For the remainder of the cruise we spent flight quarters covered in clouds of dust and soot, coming off flight station looking like a couple of chimney sweeps. If that wasn’t bad enough, we also had to endure the laughter and kidding of our erstwhile buddies who for some reason found this pretty funny. Norfolk never looked better than when we pulled in to the yard and got those charred planks replaced.
...Don Baker ABM1/c, USS Guadalcanal
 
CAPT Gallery (to the left of CDR Johnson), CDR Jesse F. Johnson (Executive Officer of Guadalcanal) (in front of hatch in dress uniform), LCDR John J. Kane and officers of VC-13 aboard Guadalcanal, 8 February 1944
 
Barriers, Bosun's Mates, and Football
        As those of you who served on the U.S.S. Guadalcanal know, the V1 division was inhabited by the "airedales", a happy and freespirited bunch of characters who called the flightdeck home; these were the catapult and arresting gear operators and the plane handlers. However, someone at one point in time must have decided the "airedales" needed the tender ministrations of a Bosun's Mate to shape things up; a rating not usually found in an air division. We needed somebody who really knew how to swab decks, wipe down bulkheads, and wield the chipping hammers and paint brushes. So, in due course, a real Boatswains Mate 1/c arrived on the scene and life became ...shall I say… more strenuous, and Guadalcanal's upper works more shipshape.
        Our bosun was a real salt. His white cap was worn pulled down low on his forehead and cocked over the right eye from which he glared out at the world in disdain. He was built like the proverbial backyard brick edifice and brooked no nonsense from his charges. He was indeed an imposing sight as he rolled down the catwalks looking for work to be done and the people to do it. One could tell when he was about to appear by the sight of people running for cover ahead of him like the bow wave on a destroyer.
        One day while we were in the yards for repairs we were having a spirited discussion of football. "Boats" informed all hands he had played football in Chicago and was, by his own account, a pretty damn good player. Not many days later, a large crate was hoisted aboard and deposited on the flight deck. Breaking it open, we discovered it was full of recreational equipment, one item being a football. Nothing would do but that we had to have a game right then. Sides were chosen up on the spot, and a friendly game of football commenced. Inasmuch as the hard wooden deck of an aircraft carrier is hardly conducive to a game of "tackle", and there were no pads available anyway, it was decided the game would be "touch football". The game was in full progress, everyone having a great time passing and blocking and running down the deck...there might even have been a few wagers on the outcome ... when "Boats" appeared on the scene. Of course, being a great footballer, he had to get in the game. Right away he let it be known to all hands in no uncertain terms, he didn't much hold with this sissy "touch" game and real men played "tackle". Consternation reigned ... this might really screw up the bets!
        Taking charge of the game in his own inimitable fashion, he insisted the ball be centered to him play after play. Charging straight into the line like a runaway locomotive he left a trail of prostrate bodies in his wake. You could almost see the splinters fly as people thudded into the deck and a growing list of the bruised and maimed retired to the sidelines. The guy was in his glory showing the dumb "airedales" how to play football. The game was out of control and something had to be done.
        Now, while the average "airedale" probably wasn't much good at chipping paint and scrubbing bulkheads, most of them could think pretty good when life, limb, and pocketbook were at stake. A plan was hatched during the huddle. In the confusion of the next play the AG crew’s intrepid barrier operator slipped into the catwalk and headed unseen up to the port side barrier control station where he signaled when he was in place. The ball was handed off to "Boats", who in his usual fashion charged straight up the flight deck doing about 100 mph, scattering bodies in all directions. As he neared the goal line, still gaining speed and no doubt figuring he had another touchdown in the bag, "Boats" was greeted by a pair of black, greasy 11/16 inch plowsteel barrier cables which flipped up from the deck and whacked him square across the chest. The impact knocked him reeling backward about ten feet where he landed flat on his back staring up at the sky. But I'll have to give "Boats" credit; he hit that barrier so hard the shear pins gave way. We were astounded, never having seen anything like that before! Until this moment, only an out-of-control aircraft smashing into the wires had accomplished that feat. By the time he recovered his senses and picked himself up the game was over... or at least everyone had disappeared. And so ended another day of fun and games on the old "Can Do" with the sound of laughter rippling softly in the air over the flight deck.
        And, ah... do you know ...to this day, no one really knows for sure who flipped that barrier up with such exquisite timing.
...Donald M. Baker ABM1/c, USS Guadalcanal