The below is a true copy of the original document written by a Collett Shipmate circa October 1945. The original is neither dated nor signed.
30 April 2001
HISTORY OF U.S.S. COLLETT
[Actually, WWII History of the USS COLLETT]
The U.S.S. Collett (DD730), built by Bath Iron Works at Bath, Maine, was placed in commission at 1500, May 16, 1944 at the Charlestown Navy Yard, Boston, Massachusetts, under the command of Commander James D. Collett, U.S.N.
After a brief fitting out period at the Navy Yard, the ship was ordered to Bermuda for her shakedown cruise of five weeks. During this shakedown period, every effort was made to make the ship ready for the action to come in the Pacific. Training was continuous: Anti-aircraft and surface firing, torpedo attacks, anti-submarine operations, simulated shore bombardments, fueling at sea, towing, and intensive communications training. On 8 July, the ship completed her shakedown and proceeded to Boston for overhaul.
On 18 August, the Collett reported to Commander Service Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet, for duty as a training ship in the destroyer training program. The ship got underway daily with capacity groups of inexperienced officers and men to make short indoctrination cruises out of Norfolk. Chesapeake Bay holds no mysteries for the Collett.
Her next job was to escort HMS Queen Mary to sea, and on 20 September, in company with U.S.S. Moore and U.S.S. Haynsworth, she was underway from New York with the great transport. The group proceeded at about thirty knots to a point south of Sable Island where relief of escort was affected, and the destroyers returned to New York. For two days - the two last precious days - the Collett lay moored to the 35th street Pier and then proceeded to Deleware Bay to join a Task Group consisting of the U.S.S. Wisconsin, Pasadena. S.N. Moore, Sperry, Haynsworth, and Waldron. She was at last bound for the Pacific.
The transit of the Canal and a short stop at San Diego marked an otherwise uneventful trip to Pearl Harbor, where she arrived on 16 October and immediately commenced a shakedown "PacFleet" style; i.e., continuous day and night training exercises. To everyone's surprise, all hands survived this, and on 24 October, the Collett was underway with the U.S.S. Yorktown and the destroyers Ingraham and O'Brien bound for Ulithi Anchorage, Western Caroline Islands, via Eniwetok. On November 3rd, the ship entered Ulithi Lagoon, fueled, provisioned, and reported to the Commander Third Fleet for duty (as a unit of DesRon 61).
On 5 November, as a unit of Task Group 38.4, she sortied from Ulithi for operations against the enemy. Thereafter, the Collett participated in every Third and Fifth Fleet operation until the termination of the war with Japan: neutralization of enemy air power and shipping in the Philippine area; occupation of Luzon, China Sea foray; Formosa and Okinawa strikes; occupation of Iwo Jima; bombardment of Okino Daito and Minami Daito Shima; occupation of Okinawa; and operations against the Empire from Kyushu to Hokkaido.
On the evening of 19 November, off the Philippines, the Collett was on station as Task Force strike picket. The day had been uneventful until dusk when four Japanese heavy bombers were spotted about seven miles to starboard, low on the water, heading for the Task Force some twenty miles distant. The ship opened fire with her main battery, and the bombers turned and came in for attack. Two torpedoes were launched, one passing close ahead, and the other close aboard on the starboard quarter. Two Bettys were shot down, one was hit and damaged, and the fourth left the area rather hurriedly. The ship was maneuvered radically by the officer of the deck to avoid the torpedoes, and the adept utilization of the maneuvering ability of this class vessel indubitably saved the ship from damage in the face of so concentrated an attack. The Commanding Officer was later awarded the Silver Star as a result of this action.
In the second series of Third Fleet carrier strikes against Luzon, the major opposition was from the elements rather than the enemy, and the typhoon which caught the Fast Carrier Task Force in December caused far more damage than the Japs had ever been able to do. Three destroyers were lost, and many ships, small and large, suffered heavy damage. To witness the power of the storm was an extraordinary experience - one which no one had any desire to repeat.
During January, while fueling alongside a tanker in the China Sea in heavy weather, one officer and two enlisted men were lost overboard when the ship was boarded by a heavy sea. Rescue was attempted but was ineffectual. These men, so unfortunately lost, were the only casualties sustained by the Collett during her wartime career. Shortly afterwards, she left the rough waters of the China Sea, and on the night of 20-21 January found herself stationed as advanced navigational picket while Task Force 38 passed through Balintang Channel, Luzon Straits, to reenter the Philippine Sea. Some Japanese birdman assisted the navigator by furnishing illumination, but it proved hardly adequate for sound navigation.
Turning north, the force struck Okinawa and Formosa in succession in the face of almost continuous enemy air activity; and, upon completion of these operations, returned to Ulithi for replenishment and rest. At this time, too, operational command of the Fast Carrier Task Forces passed from the Commander Third Fleet to the Commander Fifth Fleet. Thus it was as a unit of Task Force 58 that the Collett sortied from Ulithi early in February to take part in the first Tokyo strike. To the great surprise of all hands, opposition was slight, and after a day of uninterrupted pounding of the Tokyo area, the force proceeded southward to provide direct air support for the assault on Iwo Jima. At the conclusion of this operation, Desron 61 with the cruisers San Diego, Vincennes and Miami attacked Okino Daito Shima to keep their hands in on shore bombardment. Several large fires were started, no return fire was observed.
Toward the middle of March the Task Force commenced the preliminary strikes directed against enemy air power in the Kyushu-Southern Honshu area as a preparation for the assault on Okinawa. The Japs reacted strongly with high altitude and Kamikaze attacks by day, and torpedo attacks, aided by illumination at night. A great number of enemy planes was destroyed by the Force - - combat air patrols and ship's AA fire sharing in the destruction. To assign credit to individual ships for planes shot down in the night actions was generally impossible as all vessels on the engaged side of the formation would open up simultaneously, and planes were crashing in flames on all sides. Despite high losses to combat air patrols and AA fire, some Japs would contrive to close to hailing distance, and on one of these occasions the Wasp took a bomb which caused considerable damage and casualties. The Collett had a number of brushes with the enemy during this period, usually during the lonely hours on picket duty. On one occasion, when about to open fire on a plane closing rapidly, she was ordered to hold fire as a night fighter had contact. The night fighter closed rapidly, but so did the bomber. At last tracers appeared in the darkness, and the Jap was finally splashed about 2,500 yards ahead of the ship. This sort of thing was a little wearing.
On another occasion - it was the Collett's lucky night to be picket (again) - the Japs selected her particular station to harass. From dusk until midnight there were bogies in generous quantity. An excellent illumination was staged, flares were placed in all four quadrants, and one plane made a torpedo run which missed. Once again the high maneuverability of the 2200 ton destroyer paid off.
On 18 April, off Okinawa, the Collett joined the Mertz in working over a Jap submarine which had been detected in the area. Three runs were made by the Collett without apparent result, but the fourth attack was followed by a heavy underwater explosion. An oil slick three or four miles long gradually formed, and from this slick human remains and floating debris carrying Japanese markings were recovered. The submarine was considered definitely sunk, and the Commanding Officer was awarded the Legion of Merit medal.
In company with two divisions of destroyers, the Collett conducted a day bombardment of Kita Daito Shima and Minami Daito Shima in the southeast Mansei Shoto group. No opposition was encountered except irregular small arms fire; spotting planes reported considerable damage inflicted on the target area.
About this time, unpleasant noises began to be heard in the after part of the ship, and soon it was apparent that something had let go on the port propeller shaft. The ship was detached from Task Group 58.1 and proceeded independently to Ulithi where drydock inspection revealed a broken strut. Repairs were completed on the 2nd of May, and for several days thereafter the Collett was out on picket duty 60 miles southeast of Ulithi to give early warning of air attacks from Jap-held islands in the vicinity. On the 9th, the ship rejoined Task Group 58.1 in actions supporting the campaign on Okinawa. Save when the Force struck airfields on Kayushu the Japs left us pretty much alone and concentrated on the ships near the beach. For a couple of days off Kyushu, however, there was enough activity to keep every one occupied. The 14th of May was one of those days. At 0700 the Collett, with adjacent ships, shot down a Judy which had elected to try landing on one of us. During the course of the morning, the Task Group destroyed 21 enemy planes by gunfire alone.
Early in the morning of 5 June (by this time we were Third Fleet again), there was another workout with a typhoon. Throughout the night, wind and sea had been building up rapidly from the southeast, and between 0600 and 0700 the Hornet's barograph showed winds of 100 knots - which was plenty for most of us. The ship behaved extremely well in the steep and confused seas, although it was frequently necessary to ring up full speed on one engine and use full rudder to keep the ship headed into the wind. The Collett was outside the formation (picket, again) which minimized danger of collision in the zero visibility, and there seemed little cause for concern until ships began reporting damage - flooded steering engine rooms, weakened structure, and then the Pittsburgh reported that a hundred feet of her bow had broken off and was floating away. Suddenly it began to seem quite rough. About 0700 we entered the center of the typhoon, and the wind dropped rapidly; the seas, however, were extremely confused, rising like pyramids and falling suddenly, not at all like the long, regular seas customary in the open ocean. About forty minutes after entering the center, the wind started to blow again, now out of the northwest. But we were in the "safe" semi-circle, and when her head was brought close to the wind again, the ship rode surprisingly well. Before long, the force of the storm had slackened noticeably, the visibility improved rapidly, and we found ourselves with the Lyman K. Swenson and a stray merchantman that had become separated from the logistics group. The Task Group was dispersed - no other ships were in sight - and the merchantman confessed that his knowledge as to his whereabouts was extremely hazy. Could he come along with us? Frankly, he disliked roaming about enemy waters unescorted. The Collett and Swenson led him to the rendezvous with the Task Group, and about 1500 the Group was reformed. Some of the ships looked a little peculiar: the Hornet and Bennington, for example, had their flight decks angling down over their bows, and the Pittsburgh was a good deal shorter than designed, but all ships were accounted for. Some were forced to return to port at once to effect repairs while the remainder continued operations for another week. In this connection, it is interesting to recall that because of her damaged bow, the Hornet was forced to back down and launch planes over her stern until temporary repairs could be affected. By the middle of June the Force had retired to San Pedro Bay, Leyte, P.I., for repairs and replenishment.
On 1 July, Task Force 38 sortied from San Pedro Bay for what was to prove the longest and the concluding operation of the war. Not until the 14th of September did the Collett's anchor hit bottom again, and by that time it had become so accustomed to riding in the hawsepipe that it refused to let go. Offensive action began on the 10th with a strike against Tokyo, and from then until the end of the war Task Force 38 stood off the coast of Japan, launching strikes from Kyushu to Hokkaido and punctuating these with heavy bombardments of shore installations and light forces' anti-shipping sweeps at night.
DesRon 61 made one of these anti-shipping sweeps on the night of 22-23 July. The plan called for entering the Sagami Nada from the east, rounding O'Shima and making exit through the western passage. Because of the short nights of the season and the distance to be covered, high speeds were required, and even without delays dawn would find the squadron uncomfortably close to Tokyo - with no aircover. Our ability to make the necessary speed was problematical, too, as a typhoon had just passed that way and left a troublesome sea behind. Fortunately, however, things worked out very simply. As the squadron tore into the Sagami Nada, a convoy of three merchantmen and one escort was discovered sneaking around Nojima Saki to the north. Eighteen torpedoes were fired, and all ships opened up with five-inch batteries. Two merchantmen were believed to have been sunk, a third probably sunk, and the escort damaged. AT 0100, the squadron commander commenced a high speed retirement to the southeastward and proceeded to rendezvous with the Task Force.
On 15 August, Japanese acceptance of the Allied surrender terms was announced, and shortly thereafter many Japanese planes were shot down in the vicinity of the Task Force. One of these planes crashed in flames 8,000 yards on the port beam of the Collett. Evidently some Japs hadn't received the word. For the next month, the ship served in the screen of carrier groups furnishing air cover for the occupation forces. This work, while highly essential, was also highly boring, and all hands were overjoyed to receive orders on September 13th to proceed to Tokyo Bay to arrive on the 14th.
Early next morning, the Collett steamed past the scene of her recent encounter off Nojima Saki, past Yokosuka, and anchored in Tokyo Kaiwan - she had been 76 days continuously at sea.
On the 20th, she was underway again, this time as part of a Task Group returning veterans to the United States for discharge. Enroute, a stop was made at Okinawa to take on passengers, and on the 24th the Group took its departure and set course for Pearl Harbor, arriving on 4 October to replenish and effect a final distribution of personnel according to their designated ports of entry.
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The U.S.S. COLLETT (DD730), a 2200 ton destroyer, was built by the Bath Iron Works at Bath, Maine and commissioned on 16 May 1944 at the Charlestown Navy Yard, Boston, Massachusetts. Assigned to Destroyer Squadron 61, the Collett during her war career, destroyed one Japanese submarine, two heavy bombers and assisted in the destruction of a Jill. She participated in three shore bombardments and assisted in the sinking of one and the possible sinking of two Japanese merchantmen, Six engagement stars and the Philippine Liberation ribbon were earned by her crew.