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DD 388 Helm (CVE 106)

DD 388 USS Helm, a Bagley class destroyer, was commissioned on 16 Oct 1937. At 0755 hours on the morning of December 7, 1941, DD 388 Helm had just turned into West Loch in Pearl Harbor when Japanese planes attacked the naval base. She was the only ship under way at the time of the attack. DE 388 brought down at least one of the attackers while she was strafed and slightly damaged by two bombs. She remained active in the South Pacific before joining Admiral Turner's fleet as they struck Guadalcanal and Tulagi. The destroyer screened the transports as troops disembarked, shooting down several attacking aircraft during the first two days.

For the next few weeks Helm remained in the dangerous waters near Guadalcanal, escorting transports and patrolling.  She arrived 7 Jun to join the invasion of the Marianas. The great American and Japanese fleets approached each other on 19 Jun for the biggest carrier engagement of the war. As four large air raids hit the American fleet formation, fighter cover from Helm's task group and surface fire from the ships annihilated the Japanese planes. They succeeded in sinking two Japanese carriers while inflicting such staggering losses on the enemy that the battle was dubbed the "Marianas Turkey Shoot".

Following the decisive Battle of the Philippine Sea, Helm and the fast carriers turned their attention to neutralizing the enemy bases on the Bonin and Volcano Islands and supporting the invasion of Guam. The mobile carrier groups, screened by destroyers and cruisers, also began attacks on the Palau Islands on 25 Jul 1944. With occasional respite at Eniwetok or Ulithi, the carriers attacked Iwo Jima and other islands in the western Pacific until well into September.

Strikes were launched against Okinawa on 10 Oct after which the carriers turned to their real objective, the airfields and military installations on Formosa. In a devastating 3-day attack carrier planes did much to destroy that island as a supporting base for the Japanese in the battle of the Philippines and other invasions to come.  DD 388 Helm brought down one enemy bomber with her 5-inch guns and assisted in shooting down several more.

By 24 Oct it was clear that the assault on Leyte had called forth one final effort on the part of the Japanese to destroy the American fleet. Its three major fleet units moved toward the Philippines. The Northern Group was to lure the American carriers northward away from Leyte, before the others converged on the assault area in Leyte Gulf for a two-pronged death blow. In for the historic Battle of Leyte Gulf, Helm with Rear Admiral Davison's Task Group 38.4 turned her attention toward Admiral Kurita's Center Force. Planes from the carriers struck the Japanese ships near mid-day in the Battle of the Sibuyan Sea, sinking giant battleship Musashi and damaging other heavy ships.

Admiral Halsey took the carrier groups north to engage the powerful fleet of Admiral Ozawa. Screened by Helm and other surface units, the carriers made air contact on 25 Oct and, in a series of devastating strikes, sank four Japanese carriers and a destroyer. The great sea battle was thus ended, with the invasion of Leyte secured and the Japanese fleet no longer an effective fighting unit. On 28 Oct Helm and companion destroyer Gridley made a contact around noon with a submarine and dropped depth charges sinking I-46.

Departing Ulithi  on 5 Nov 1944, DD 388 Helm steamed from Ulithi for Manus as the ship began preparations for the next important amphibious operation in the Philippine campaign, the landings at Lingayen Gulf on Luzon.

As the ships entered the Sulu Sea, the Japanese struck with suicide planes on 4 Jan 1945 and sank escort carrier Ommaney Bay. Gunfire from Helm and the other screening ships took a heavy toll of the attackers.  The carrier groups were hit repeatedly by desperate air attacks, with Helm and the other destroyers accounting for many suicide and torpedo planes. When escort carrier Bismarck Sea was sunk in a massive suicide attack, Helm rescued survivors.

The veteran destroyer continued screening operations off Iwo Jima until she headed for Okinawa to provide close air support. CVE 106 Block Island was escorted by DE 183 Samuel S. Miles and DD 388 Helm to provide for for pre-invasion strikes. During her stay off Okinawa the destroyer shot down many suicide planes which menaced the carriers during fanatical, last-ditch efforts by the Japanese to repel the invasion. DD 388 Helm steamed to Leyte on 19 Jun with Okinawa secured.

Following the Okinawa operation Helm served as an escort and patrol ship out of Ulithi and Leyte and eventually Japan. She earned 11 Battle Stars for her service and was decommissioned on 26 Jun 1946.

DD 463 Corry (CVE 21)

DD 463 USS Corry, a Gleaves-class destroyer, was commissioned 18 Dec 1941. On 16 Feb 1944, Corry sailed for hunter-killer operations in the Atlantic with CVE 21 Block Island's Task Group 21.16  On 16 Mar joined with Bronstein in attacking German submarine U-801. Corry's depth charge attack caused the submarine to surface and then DD 463 sank her with gunfire, picking up 47 survivors. On 19 Mar 1944, Corry rescued eight survivors of U-1059, which was sunk southwest of the Cape Verde Islands by aircraft from CVE 21 Block Island.

Corry cleared Norfolk on 20 Apr 1944 for Great Britain, and the staging of the Normandy invasion. Getting underway from Plymouth, England, she was the lead destroyer of the Normandy Invasion task force, escorting ships and transports across the English Channel. Upon arriving off the coast of Normandy, France, she headed for Îles Saint-Marcouf. On D-Day morning 6 Jun 1944 her station was to provide fire support for the front lines at Utah Beach. DD463 fired several hundred rounds of 5-inch ammunition at numerous Nazi targets. As H-Hour, 0630 hours, neared, the plane assigned to lay smoke for Corry to conceal her from enemy fire suddenly got shot down, leaving Corry fully exposed. During a duel with a shore battery, Corry suffered direct heavy-caliber artillery hits in her engineering spaces amidships. Still under heavy fire, DD 463 Corry began sinking rapidly with her keel broken and a foot-wide crack across her main deck amidships. After the order to abandon ship, crew members fought to survive in bone-chilling 54-degree water for more than two hours as they awaited rescue under constant enemy fire. One crew member raised the American flag up Corry's main mast, which remained above the surface of the shallow 30-foot deep water when the ship settled on the bottom. DD463 survivors were rescued by Fitch, Hobson, Butler, and PT-199. Of her crew, 24 were killed and 60 were wounded.

DE 575 Ahrens (CVE 21)

DE 575 USS Ahrens, a Buckley-class destroyer escort, was commissioned on 12 Feb 1944. Following shakedown training in Bermuda and Maine, she joined Task Group 21.11 a hunter/killer group — built around the escort carrier CVE-21 USS Block Island on 22 Feb 1944 at Norfolk, VA. On 29 May, German submarine U-549 torpedoed and sank Block Island and severely damaged DE 576 Barr. Ahrens rescued 673 officers and men in a period of 40 minutes. While carrying out rescue operations, the ship assisted the destroyer escort DE-686 Eugene E. Elmore in locating the submarine. Eugene E. Elmore made two hedgehog attacks which sank U-549.

On 23 Jul, Ahrens assumed duty as an escort for transatlantic convoys. On 13 Oct 1944 after a merchant ship collided with a gasoline tanker, starting large fires on both ships, Ahrens rescued survivors and then assisted DE 703 Holton in putting out the fires.

On 15 Dec 1944, Ahrens sailed with TG 27.7 to join the 7th Fleet in the Pacific. She sailed to Leyte, Philippines, arriving there on 9 Feb and was attached to TG 75.2 . Ahrens escorted merchant and naval convoys until 25 Aug 1945. In late Aug 1945, Ahrens was detached from the Philippine Sea duties and began supporting occupation forces operating in China and Korea.

An interesting note on the Ahrens history is that Edward E. Lull replaced H. Mullins, Jr. as Commander Escort Division Sixty. Ahrens was the Flagship of Division 60. Commander Mullins had been aboard CVE 21 Block Island and actually brought his Flag aboard the Ahrens when he was fished out of the water with the other Block Island survivors on 29 May 1944. This action indicates that an officer that was rescued from that sinking actually later became the Commander of the very ship that saved his life. Ahrens was decommissioned on 24 Jun 1946, and her name was struck from the Navy List on 1 April 1965.


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