USS Abner Read (DD-526)
USS Abner Read (DD-526) was a Fletcher-class destroyer in the service of the United States Navy, named after Lieutenant Commander Abner Read (1821 – 1863), who fought in the American Civil War. The ship fought in World War II, seeing action in the Aleutian Islands Campaign, where she survived a mine explosion that blew off her stern in 1943. After repairs, she returned to service and operated in support of Allied forces in the New Guinea campaign and the Battle of Leyte. She was sunk off Leyte in 1944.
USS Abner Read (DD-526) July 1943
|Builder:||Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation, San Francisco, California|
|Laid down:||30 October 1941|
|Launched:||18 August 1942|
|Commissioned:||5 February 1943|
|Fate:||Sunk by kamikaze, 1 November 1944|
|Class and type:||Fletcher-class destroyer|
|Length:||376 ft 6 in (114.76 m)|
|Beam:||39 ft 8 in (12.09 m)|
|Draft:||17 ft 9 in (5.41 m)|
|Propulsion:||60,000 shp (45,000 kW); 2 propellers|
|Speed:||35 knots (65 km/h; 40 mph)|
|Range:||6,500 nmi (12,000 km) at 15 kn (28 km/h)|
Construction and commissioning
Abner Read was laid down on 30 October 1941 at San Francisco, California, by Bethlehem Steel, and launched on 18 August 1942, sponsored by Mrs. John W. Gates. The ship was commissioned on 5 February 1943 with Commander Thomas Burrowes in command.
Abner Read held shakedown along the California coast into April 1943 and then got underway with Task Group (TG) 51.2, bound for the Aleutian Islands. She assumed patrol duties on 4 May 1943 and, on 11 May 1943, shelled targets on Japanese-occupied Attu Island, supporting soldiers of the United States Army's 7th Division who invaded that island. Abner Read again bombarded Attu on 16 May 1943 before returning to San Diego, California, which she reached on 31 May 1943.
After two weeks in drydock at San Francisco, Abner Read got underway on 14 June 1943 for Adak, Territory of Alaska, in the Aleutian Islands. Upon her arrival there, she joined Task Force (TF) 16 and, soon thereafter, began patrolling the waters around Japanese-occupied Kiska Island in the Aleutians. On 22 July 1943, as part of Task Group 16.22, she took part in a heavy bombardment of Kiska. Between 12 and 15 August 1943, Abner Read again shelled Kiska in support of Operation Cottage, in which U.S. and Canadian forces landed on Kiska. On 17 August 1943, the American and Canadian forces discovered that Japan had removed its forces from the island prior to the Allied invasion.
Abner Read had been conducting an antisubmarine patrol off Kiska for two days without any sign of the enemy, steaming in a figure-eight pattern, when, while making 5 knots, she was shaken by an explosion aft at 0150 on 18 August. The nearest Japanese minefield was thought to be 2,000 yards (1,829 meters) away, and the exact cause of the blast was unknown, although her crew initially thought a torpedo had struck her; the U.S. Navy later concluded that the destroyer had struck a mine. The concussion tore a huge hole in her stern and set off the ship′s smoke screen generator, which began to pour toxic smoke over the stern. Men sleeping in aft compartments suffered from smoke inhalation. In the darkness, a few men fell through holes in the deck into fuel oil tanks below. After remaining attached to the ship by the starboard screw shaft for a few minutes, the stern broke away and sank, taking the ship′s after 5"/38 caliber gun with it. About 90 men either went down with the stern or ended up in the water, which was covered with fuel oil. Once in the water, the men recovered from the effects of the smoke and could breathe. Abner Read′s crew threw flotation devices to the men in the water and launched a boat to rescue them, but the fuel oil created slippery conditions that made rescuing them difficult, and the cold water apparently killed many of the men in the water before they could be brought aboard Abner Read. About 20 men were pulled from the water, as was the body of a dead crewman. The destroyer lost 70 men killed, one missing, and 47 wounded.
Disabled and adrift, Abner Read was in danger of drifting ashore on Kiska or onto more Japanese mines, but the destroyer USS Bancroft (DD-598) arrived on the scene and towed her out of immediate danger. At 0355, Abner Read was taken under tow by the tug USS Ute (AT-76), which pulled her to Adak for temporary repairs. After Abner Read underwent a month of repair work in various Alaskan ports, the tug USS Oriole (AT-136) towed her to the Puget Sound Navy Yard at Bremerton, Washington, where she was laid up on keel blocks on 7 October 1943 to receive extensive repair work. The yard work was finished on 21 December 1943, and Abner Read commenced training exercises and trials. She moved to Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii, in February 1944, and while she was underway for Hollandia, New Guinea, her starboard propeller was damaged. This accident required her to put into Milne Bay, New Guinea, on 1 March 1944 for repairs. The ship was then attached to Task Force 75 and participated in the bombardment of Hollandia on 22 April 1944. She provided fire support for the initial landing at Humboldt Bay by the central attack group in Operation Reckless. Her next targets were on the Wakde Islands off the coast of Dutch New Guinea. She sought to neutralize Japanese airstrips located there by concentrated bombardment, which she conducted on 30 April 1944. Abner Read then moved on to Wewak, New Guinea, and on 12 May 1944 bombarded Japanese shore batteries which had been hindering the efforts of American motor torpedo boats to destroy Japanese barge traffic.
Abner Read rendered fire support for the landings at Arara, New Guinea, and bombarded the Wakde-Toem area on 17 May 1944. As part of Task Group 77.3, she pounded Japanese targets on Biak in the Schouten Islands. On the night of 8-9 June 1944, she was involved in an engagement with an Imperial Japanese Navy task force off the north coast of Biak. Abner Read took part in a night bombardment of Wewak on 18 and 19 June 1944. Her next target was Noemfoor Island, which she bombarded on 2 July 1944 to cover the U.S. landing operations on the island. Following this extended period of action, she retired to Seeadler Harbor for repairs by a destroyer tender.
Getting underway on 8 August 1944, Abner Read made a trip to Sydney, Australia, before returning to wartime activities in the Pacific. The destroyer supported the US Army landing on 15 September 1944 at Morotai Island in the Halmahera group. Her next action was a shore bombardment of Ponam Island in the Admiralty Islands on 7 October 1944. On 17 October 1944, she began steaming toward Leyte Gulf, and she entered San Pedro Bay on 20 October 1944, D-day for invasion of Leyte, and patrolled off the beachheads in ensuing days.
In the hope of turning back the American invasion, the Japanese struck back fiercely with sea and air power. On 1 November 1944, the Japanese launched kamikaze attacks on members of TG 77.1, which was patrolling lower Leyte Gulf to protect a beachhead. Around 13:41, an Aichi D3A (Allied reporting name "Val") dive bomber dived toward Abner Read. Abner Read′s antiaircraft guns blew a wing off the dive bomber, but a bomb from the plane dropped down one of the destroyer's stacks and exploded in her after engine room. The plane, in the meantime, crashed diagonally across the main deck, setting fire to the entire aft section. The ship lost water pressure and this made firefighting efforts impossible. At 13:52, a tremendous internal explosion occurred, causing her to list about 10° to starboard and to sink by the stern. At 14:15, Abner Read rolled over on her starboard side and sank stern first. Destroyers quickly came to the aid of survivors and rescued all but 22 members of Abner Read′s crew. Her wreck lies at 10°47′N 125°22′E.
Discovery of original stern section
Abner Read′s original stern section, presumably containing many of the crewmen lost when the stern was blown off in 1943, and lost aft 5"/38 caliber gun were discovered on 17 July 2018 by an expedition funded by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and run by Project Recover, a partnership of the University of Delaware, the University of California San Diego′s Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and the BentProp Project focused primarily on finding World War II aircraft lost at sea. Originally intending to find the wreckage of a B-24 Liberator bomber near Kiska, Project Recover personnel during a two-week expedition to the Kiska area in July 2018 aboard the research ship Norseman II decided to look also for Abner Read′s original stern. Using multibeam sonar, they found the stern section – 75 feet (22.9 meters) long and 18 feet (5.5 meters) high – near where it sank off Kiska, lying on its side on the ocean floor about 290 ft (88.4 m) down. They sent down a camera-equipped remotely operated underwater vehicle, which sent images of the gun, stern section, and rudder control to the surface and photographed the wreckage. All of the wreckage was encrusted with corals and other sea life. Project Recover announced the discovery on 15 August 2018. The U.S. Navy′s Naval History and Heritage Command announced at the time that the Navy regarded the site as a war grave had no plans to conduct or expectation of conducting recovery operations.
- Brown p.129
- E. Ruane, Michael (15 August 2018). "Searchers find the sunken stern of a doomed World War II destroyer off the coast of Alaska". Washington Post. Retrieved 16 August 2018.
- Almasy, Steve, "WWII destroyer remains found off the coast of Alaska," cnn.com, August 16, 2018, 12:34 p.m. EDT Retrieved August 18, 2018
- Smith, Peter C (2014). Kamikaze To Die For The Emperor. Barnsley, UK: Pen & Sword Books Ltd. pp. 29–31. ISBN 9781781593134.
- wrecksite 2012.
- Price, Mark (15 August 2018). "Ocean explorers find lost WWII shipwreck that 'entombed' 70 US sailors as they slept". Charlotte Observer. Retrieved 15 August 2018.
- "Stern of World War II U.S. destroyer discovered off remote Alaskan island by NOAA-supported scientists". noaa.gov. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
- wrecksite (24 August 2012). "USS Abner Read (DD-526) (+1944)". Wrecksite. Retrieved 3 August 2016.