The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland Tennessee (TN) and Bradley County Tennessee (Tn).

Of Bradley County Tn.

MAY  2008

                            The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland and Bradley County Tn.






The Fightin' Lady Named George

Bizarre, Fascinating, and Wacky World War I & ll Secrets.

by Cecil Owen

Set the depth charges for 155 ft. and drop them now, bellowed the skipper over the intercom! Seconds later, two depth charges from both depth charge racks dropped into the South Pacific Ocean. A terrific explosion followed, causing a tremendous upheaval of the water! Momentarily, the bow of an enemy submarine was blown above the surface of the ocean. Then it disappeared forever, to a grave in "Davey Jones locker" (This is Navy lingo for the bottom of the sea.) Soon oil and debris came floating to the surface. This helped confirm the death of the Imperial Japanese Navy submarine the RO-105! The date is May 31, 1944, and the place is halfway between the Truk Island chain and Manus Island. (Manus Island is in the New Guinea Island chain.)

Admiral Soemu Toyoda of the combined South Pacific Imperial Japanese Naval units needed information in order to figure out our next big invasion in the islands. He asked Tokyo submarine headquarters for submarines to form a scouting line across that part of the ocean. Six submarines were all they had to send to him at that time. But little did he know that a "hunter-killer submarine patrol" was given that same section of the Pacific Ocean! It consisted of three sub-chasers, the USS England DE 635, the USS Spangler DE698, and our Fightin' Lady USS George DE 697! These warships are destroyer escorts that are specifically outfitted to run down and destroy enemy subs, and the USS George had been re-armed to make it twice as deadly.

It was armed with three 3 inch open mount guns, and four 1.1 inch antiaircraft guns. The two 3 inch guns on the main deck, one fore and one aft, were replaced with two 5 inch guns in closed turrets. Twin 40mm antiaircraft guns took the place of the other 3 inch gun. Quad 40mm AA guns were mounted on the stern of the George, while twin 40mm AA guns were

Cecil Owen

mounted on both sides. These eight guns were on the gun deck, which was the next deck above the main deck. Between these eight guns was a small "crows nest" shaped like a big coffee cup. When GQ (general quarters) man your battle stations was sounded, two men were stationed there. One seaman wore headphones, to receive orders from the skipper. The other seaman manned a MK-51 electronic sight, which controlled all eight guns.

Although much of the time, the 40mm AA guns were controlled manually. One side sat at the trainer, who rotated the gun from side to side. Three ammunition loaders on each side were needed to supply the

clips with the bullets because these 40mm AA guns fired so fast, over a hundred rounds of bullets per minute were fired. Sometimes in a long fire fight, a gun barrel became too hot and warped out of shape. Then this gun barrel had to be replaced, or it could blow up. And yes, this was my battle station, up in the little crow's nest (gun control station) on the USS George DE 697!

Our ship was "armed to the teeth", after being given an overhaul. It also had ten 20mm AA guns, which are about like a .50 caliber machine gun. One man is strapped into a harness in order to control the gun. Three torpedo tubes were mounted

amid ship on the second deck, and could be fired off either side. Each torpedo was loaded with 825 lbs. of TNT. One "hedgehog" projector was located just behind the forward 5 inch gun. It fired 24 small depth charge rockets, which spread out to a sub-size pattern. They were contact-fused and each round was loaded with 30 lbs. of TNT.

Then we had eight "K" gun depth charge projectors, mounted four on each side of the ship. These guns shot a depth charge up in a wide arch. The standard depth charge was loaded with 300 lbs. of TNT. Next, on the stern (rear end) of the George, two depth charge racks were mounted. (Each rack held at least eight depth charges.) These are set for the desired depth, and then just rolled off into the water.

Now, why was the USS George called "The Fightin' Lady?" Because all US Navy warships are always called a woman's name, regardless of the name of the ship. (It is just a Navy tradition.) Furthermore, please do not call the George a "boat", for a boat is a small craft like a life boat. It can be hoisted onboard another ship. While the USS George DE697 is 306 ft. long, and has a crew of 213 sailors. (198 seamen and 15 officers.) The George was named after Seaman Eugene Frank George. He was an antiaircraft gunner onboard the heavy cruiser San Francisco CA 38. Because he refused to leave his battle station, he was hit and killed by a Japanese suicide plane on November 12, 1942.

By this time, Admiral Soemu Toyoda was doing his best to pull all of his hair out! But it was so short, he could not grab any! For when the Japanese submarine RO-105 was sunk, it was number five of his six subs lost.

The hunter-killer team of England, Raby, and George accomplished one of the most successful anti submarine actions during World War Two! The team steamed away, on May 16, 1944, from Florida Island, of the Solomon Island chain. Soon their battle actions began, on May 19 at 2:33 PM. The Japanese supply submarine I-16 was sunk. It was carrying supplies to

Bougainville, in the edge of the Solomans. Next on May 22, the first of Admiral Toyoda's six subs, the RO-106 was blown up. The time was around 4:30 AM early in the morning. Then on the very next day, the Japanese sub RO-104 was quickly sunk forever. Now would you believe that the third day in a row, May 24, the Japanese sub RO-116 was blown up! And the time was 1:50 AM, for war sometimes is a twenty-four job. Next, on May 26, at 11:23 PM, the Japanese sub RO-108 was also sent down to "Davey Jones locker"! This was a very remarkable achievement for the three warship hunter-killer team. However, when you have three destroyer escorts steaming along at 4,000 yard intervals, and all three are spewing out depth charges, it is almost impossible for a hapless submarine to escape!

A few days later, the Japanese RO-117 was sunk by a patrol plane from Manus Island. This was the sixth and last scout belonging to Admiral Toyoda!

I certainly enjoyed living onboard a destroyer escort; it was a very grand adventure and experience! We were just like one big happy family. Although some of the jobs we had to do, were not so happy. When you first go onboard, you are assigned to the deck crew, (you are then called a "deck ape"). The deck ape's main job there is to keep the ship painted. And you begin at the bow of the ship. First the old paint and rust must be chipped away. Next, an undercoat of red lead is applied. Then last, a coat of battleship gray is painted on. It is an endless job, for the salt water is very tough and abrasive. By the time the paint crew reaches the tail end of the ship, it is time to start over again at the front end!

The sailor in charge of the paint crew was a coxman named Jacob Jackthaw. But we called him "Wacky Jack", because he knew very little about anything, but thought he knew everything about everything. He would take an air chipping hammer and start chipping rust off a 300 lb. TNT depth charge. He would run for the other side of the ship fast! We would just laugh and say, a depth charge will only blow up if the timer is activated. One day, the damage control officer caught Wacky Jack sitting on a depth charge, with the air chipper hammer operating. He gave Jack a big chewing out, and forbade him to use the air chipping hammer again. How do you know that the chipping hammer would not activate the timer?

Coxswain "Wacky Jack" Jacob Jackthaw was hated by all the other sailors. He was also a big bully, and everyone was afraid of him. However, in the US Navy, something usually happens to that kind of obnoxious person! And so one night, Coxswain Wacky Jack was attending a dance in Hong Kong, China. Somehow, "accidentally", he fell out of a window, which was six stories up! The skipper of the USS George wrote on his death certificate, "killed in action on the high seas!"

I never liked sleeping below deck in the crew's quarters; I have always enjoyed the open fresh air. So I would take my pillow and mattress topside, and sleep under the rear of the forward five inch gun turret. One night we ran into a heavy rainstorm, and I awoke with a start! The waves were sweeping across the deck, and had washed my mattress and I halfway down towards the stern! It was a very good thing that the USS George had a strong guard-rail along the side.

This story of the sinking of the six Japanese submarines has always been very controversial. It depends, to a large extent, which ship a sailor was stationed on. Five hundred sixty three destroyer escorts were built, from 1942 through 1945. It usually took eleven months, but consolidated Steel Corporation in Orange, Texas became so "speedy", it took only eight days! Only eleven were sunk by enemy actions. Thirty four destroyer escorts are still in active service in the Navy of eleven foreign countries!

Anchor "R" Services
The Floating Dry-dock
Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships Volume III
Little Ship Big War
Blue Jackets Manual 1944