USS Cummings (DD-44) before First World War

USS Cummings (DD-44) before First World War

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U.S. Destroyers: An Illustrated Design History, Norman Friedmann .The standard history of the development of American destroyers, from the earliest torpedo boat destroyers to the post-war fleet, and covering the massive classes of destroyers built for both World Wars. Gives the reader a good understanding of the debates that surrounded each class of destroyer and led to their individual features.

USS Cummings (DD-44) before First World War - History

(DD-365: dp. 1,500 1. 341'4" b. 35' dr. 9'10" s. 36 k.
cpl. 158 a. 5 5", 12 21" tt. cl. Dale)

The second Cummings (DD-3'65) was launched 11 December 1935 by United Shipyards, Inc., New York sponsored by Mrs. W. W. Mills, niece of Lieutenant

Commander Cummings and commissioned 25 November 1936, Commander C. P. Cecil in command.

Departing New York 29 September 1937, Cummings arrived at San Diego 28 October to join the Battle Force. She participated in the fleet problem in Hawaiian waters in April 1938 and a Presidential Fleet Review at San Francisco in July. In 1939 the exercises were held in the Canal Zone and the Caribbean from January to April. Returning to San Diego 12 May 1939, Cummings participated in flotilla and fleet training, and served as plane guard for the carriers Yorktown (CV-5) and Lexington (CV-2). When the security patrol was begun on the west coast in 1940, Cummings served on it intermittently, while continuing to conduct exercises in antiaircraft and submarine tactics, and target practice.

Cummings was based at Pearl Harbor from 26 April 1940. Except for a west coast overhaul and a cruise to Tutuila, Samoa Auckland, New Zealand and Tahiti between 4 March and 3 April 1941, Cummings remained in Hawaiian waters conducting patrols and constantly exercising and drilling.

When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, Cummings weathered bombs which fell ahead and astern, receiving only minor casualties from fragments, and sortied on patrol almost immediately. From 19 December 1941 to 4 May 1942 Cummings escorted convoys between Pearl Harbor and San Francisco, then sailed between Suva, Fiji Islands, and Auckland, New Zealand., from 9 June to 13 August on similar duty.

After overhaul at San Francisco, Cummings escorted a convoy to Noumea, and Wellington, New Zealand in November 1942 then began patrol and escort missions for the Guadalcanal operation from bases at Espiritu Santo and Noumea until 17 May 1943 when she sailed to Auckland, New Zealand, for brief overhaul. Returning to Noumea 4 June, Cummings screened transports to Auckland in July, then served at Efate from 5 August until 4 September.

Overhauled on the west coast again, Cummings joined TF 94 to patrol off Adak, Alaska, between 1 and 16 December before returning to Pearl Harbor 21- December. Assigned to the 5th Fleet, she sortied on 19 January 1944 for the Marshalls operations, accompanying the carriers for air strikes on Wotje and Eniwetok until 21 February. Cummings sailed from Majuro 4 March for Trincomalee, Ceylon, where she rendezvoused 31 March with British ships for exercises. She sailed 16 April with British Force 70 to screen during air strikes on Sabang, Sumatra, on 19 April, then returned to Ceylon until 6 May when she cleared for Exmouth Gulf, Australia. With British Force 66, she sortied 15 May for air strikes on Soerabaja, Java, then left the British forces and returned by way of Sydney to Pearl Harbor.

Arriving at San Francisco 7 July 1944, Cummings sailed 21 July to escort President F. D. Roosevelt embarked in Baltimore (CA-68) to Pearl Harbor, Adak, and Juneau. The President and his staff came aboard 8 August for transportation to Seattle and upon arrival there, 12 August, President Roosevelt broadcast a nationwide address from the forecastle of Cummings.

Departing Seattle 13 August 1944, Cummings joined TG 12.5 at Pearl Harbor for an air strike and shore bombardment of Wake Island on 3 September. With the 3d Fleet, she joined in the bombardment of Marcus Island on 9 October, then screened the escort carriers as they launched the supporting air strikes on Luzon, Cebu, Leyte, Samar, and Negros, during the Leyte landings, and gallantly engaged the Japanese in the decisive Battle for Leyte Gulf. She took part in the bombardment of Iwo Jima on 11 and 12 November, then returned to Saipan 21 November for local duty. She interrupted this duty to join in the repeated strikes on Iwo Jima from 8 December 1944 to 19 March 1945 when she supplied fire support for the invading troops. She was stationed off Iwo Jima, occasionally escorting convoys to Saipan and Guam until the end of the war. Her duties included local convoy escort and control duty, and the important air-sea rescue work that accompanied the intensified strikes on Okinawa and the Japanese home islands. She supervised the occupation of Haha Jima on 9 September, then sailed from Iwo Jima 19 September for San Pedro, Calif., Tampa, Fla., and Norfolk. Cummings was decommissioned 14 December 1945 and sold 17 July 1947.

Learn more about:

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A sighting of unidentified planes by radar station operators minutes before the attack was discounted by an officer at the command center headquarters, squandering time that could have been used to prepare defenses. Suddenly, planes bearing the red sun swept in, and the bombing began. Before the day was over, 2,403 Americans were dead, and our Pacific Fleet was in ruins.

Even in this time of crisis, however, records were being created on board the ships moored in Pearl Harbor&mdashrecords that are now part of the holdings of the National Archives. These are firsthand accounts from the logbooks of the U.S. Navy's ships and stations compiled from 1941 to 1978. And they provide some insight into the events of the day&mdashbefore, during, and after the attack&mdash through the eyes of those who witnessed it.

The day&mdashthe one that President Franklin D. Roosevelt said would "live in infamy"&mdashstarted out routinely, as the deck logs show. To maintain an accurate description of events as they happened, the assigned officer placed entries into the log every four hours. The intervals are found at the beginning of each entry as seen in the excerpts below. For instance, before the first entry from each ship you will see the number 4&ndash8 or a variation thereof. This represents the time period from 4 a.m. to 8 a.m.

Navy ship deck logs are the "running record" of all events that occur aboard a naval vessel. Deck logs were, and are, kept for both legal and administrative reasons. Generally, the deck logs document a ship's movements and encounters along with the accidents, injuries, deaths, disciplinary actions, and provisions of her crew.

In addition, the names of the ship crew members were also included in the logs when mustered in or when charged with a crime. The vast majority of these entries document routine functions carried out aboard a ship, yet those entered at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, also capture elements of the shock and confusion brought by the Japanese attack.

On the day of the Pearl Harbor attack, the logs begin with routine entries, noting the reception and inspection of provisions. The USS Chew, USS Conyngham, USS Cummings, and USS Maryland were loading provisions, mostly ice cream, milk, and ice. The Chew received 10 gallons of milk and 4½ gallons of ice cream the Conyngham received 6 gallons of ice cream the Cummings received 15 gallons of milk and 7 gallons of ice cream and the Maryland received 2,000 pounds of ice.

At 7:55 a.m., crew members of the Conyngham reported an attack by Japanese planes and had to conduct emergency repairs on the main engines. By 8:08 a.m., crew members had opened fire on the Japanese planes, using all of their machine guns. The deck log reports that they shot down at least three enemy planes. A cease-fire was reported at 11:04 a.m., and between noon and 4 p.m., crew members of the Conyngham rescued their comrades whose ships were destroyed, pulling more than 30 people from the waters.

Although heavily damaged, the USS Maryland was also active in the rescue efforts. The ship was able to rescue 25 survivors from the USS Oklahoma, transferring some to the USS Solace. Meanwhile, the USS California was nearly destroyed, and its crew was ordered to evacuate as burning fuel oil on the surface of the water threatened the ship. However, the flaming oil slick cleared the ship, and the crew returned to battle mode.

Log entry for the USS Conyngham:

Moored as before. 0630 Received the following provisions for use in general mess, inspected at [sic] to quantity by Lt (jg) J.R. HANSEN, USN., and as to quality by PARCHESKI, P.C., PhMlc., from Dairyman's Association Ltd.: ice cream&mdash6 gals. 0755 Japanese planes commenced bombing Pearl Harbor Area. Held general quarters, manned all guns, commenced breaking out powder. Commenced emergency repairs on main engines to get underway. Captain on the bridge.

Lieutenant (jg), USN

Moored as before. At 0808 opened fire with 5" guns (#4 and #5 in local control) at Japanese planes over Ford island and with all machine guns on attacking planes as they flew low past the nest heading to Northward from vicinity of Ford Island. At 0813 attacking plane shot down by combined fire of nest and crashed in vicinity of CURTIS. At 0818 opened fire with 5" guns (#1 and #2 in director control) at horizontal bombers passing overhead in direction of Schofield Barracks. At 0825 opened fire with fwd 5" and machine guns at planes strafing nest from direction of Pearl City. At 0826 planes crossing low ahead of nest to NE were taken under fire one burst into flames and crashed in clump of trees in Aiea Heights and exploded. At 0830 plane diving toward Ford Island from NE was shot down by combined fire of nest. At 0855 opened fire at planes strafing ahead and astern. At 0908 one plane attacking on stbd bow was shot down by nest and crashed in directions of Schofield Barracks. At 0920 opened fire on planes diving from port side of nest. 1045 REID got underway and stood out of channel. 1100 opened fire with #1 and #2 guns on planes attacking on port bow. 1104 Ceased firing. Rounds fired gun #1, 20 gun #2, 24 gun #4, 30 gun #5, 40 machine guns 2500 rounds.

Lieutenant (jg), USN

Log Entry for the USS California:

4 to 8: Moored as before. 0621 YG-17 came alongside to port. . . . [lists men leaving ship for shore patrol] . . . 0750 Japanese planes without warning attacked units of the United States Fleet and U.S. Naval Air Station, Ford Island. Sounded General Quarters and manned Battle Stations.

A.T. Nicholson, jr., Ensign, U.S. Navy.

8 to 12: Moored as before, U.S.S. OKLAHOMA berthed outboard of U.S.S. MARYLAND at berth F-4, was hit by three or four torpedoes. Naval Air Station, Ford Island was bombed. 0803 ship's of the U.S. Pacific Fleet opened fire on attacking planes. Opened fire with 50 caliber machine guns #1 and #2 at one torpedo plane. 0805 struck with one or two torpedoes port side at frame 110. 0810 made preparations to get underway. Opened fire with 5" A.A. guns #2 and #4 on dive bombers. Ship commenced listing to port. 0815 U.S.S. OKLAHOMA capsized. 0820 ship was struck at frame 47 with torpedo. 0825 opened fire with 5" A.A. battery at horizontal bombers. Ship shaken by four near bomb hits. 0830 bomb struck topside abreast casemate #1, frame 59, penetrated main deck and exploded on second deck causing large fire. Ship listed 8° to port, commenced counter-flooding starboard voids. 0845 Executive Officer returned aboard and assumed command vice First Lieutenant. Commander Battle Force returned aboard. 0845 U.S.S. VESTAL underway. 0847 U.S.S. MONOGHAM and NEOSHO underway. 0900 ship violently shaken from cause undetermined and there followed a large issue of smoke from starboard side gallery deck. 0914 U.S.S. NEVADA and FARRAGUT underway. 0905 captain returned aboard. 0920 U.S.S. PENNSYLVANIA bombed. 0922 U.S.S. NEVADA bombed and afire midstream. 0925 U.S.S. ALWYN and ST. LOUIS underway. 0925 U.S.S. CALIFORNIA plane #2-0-5 capsized while getting off ship. 0930 fire broke out on main deck, starboard side, "F" Division Compartment and Casemates #3, 5, and 7. 0930 large patch of fuel oil between berths F-3 and F-4 was ignited and commenced drifting toward ship. Lowered plane 2-0-4 over the side, plane taxied to Naval Air Station, Ensign S.M. Healy, U.S.N.R., pilot. U.S.S. NEVADA engulfed by flames in vicinity of foremast. 0945 U.S.S. OGALA capsized. 1002 Captain with approval of Commander Battle Force ordered the ship to be temporarily abandoned due to enveloping flames of fire of fuel oil on surface of water. 1015 flames from fire on water having cleared ship, the order to abandon ship was cancelled and ship battle stations were remanned and fire on main deck starboard and casemates fought. Attack resumed by enemy aircraft. Ship commenced settling with about 10° list to port. Secured engineering plant. USYT NAKOMIS came along starboard side forward to assist in fighting fire. Commander Battle Force shifted flag and staff to Submarine Base, Pearl Harbor, T.H. Navy Yard fuel oil barge came along port side to pump out fuel oil tanks and lighten ship. 1140 U.S.S. PHOENIX stood out.

Log Entry for the USS Cummings:

4 to 8.
Moored as before. 0400 Received the following fresh provisions for use in the General Mess: from Dairymen's Association, Ltd., 15 gallons of milk, 7 gallons of ice cream. Inspected as to quantity by Lt. (jg) J.B. CARROLL, USN, and as to quality by R.G. VLIET, CPhM, USN. 0629 Secured the special security watch. 0630 Received the following fresh provisions for use in the General Mess: from Oahu Ice and Cold Storage Co., 300 pounds of ice. 0758 Air Raid. Japanese planes commenced torpedo attack on battleships in Pearl Harbor. Sounded General Quarters.

Lieutenant (jg), U.S. Navy.

8 to 12.
Moored as before. Manning battery at General Quarters. 0803 After machine guns opened fire on Japanese Torpedo Planes. 0808 Opened fire on horizontal bombers with main battery. 0810 Commenced preparations for getting underway in accordance with signal flying on signal tower. 0811 Opened fire on dive bombers with main battery. 0820 Lull in air attack. Ceased fire. 0840 Opened fire to repel straffing attack. 0842 Following machine gun fire from after machine guns, glide bomber was observed veer away from ship with smoke trailing from it it passed over Planning shop and disappeared in cloud of smoke issuing from Drydock #1. 0900 Sighted twelve scattered planes over Ford Island. 0903 Air raid resumed. Opened fire with main battery. 0910 Dive bombers attacked ships at Pier 19, bombs fell in water near ship, ahead and astern, within 25 yards if ship. As a result of bomb fragments, three casualties occurred as follows the first two of which were subsequently transferred to the Naval Hospital, Pearl Harbor for further treatment, following first aid treatment by R.G. VLIET, CPhM, USN: GROUND, Orla L., 372 12 45 f3c, USN, suffered a wound, left lower lef #2576, condition not serious MOORE, Grover C., Jr. 256 33 15, Seal, USN, suffered a lacerated wound in the left scapular region #2563, condition not serious Smith, Fred A., 310 84 65, GMlc, USN, suffered a superficial wound in the right thigh #2576, condition favorable. Commander L.P. LOVETTE, USN. Commander Destroyer Division FIVE reported aboard to Commander Destroyer Squadron THREE for temporary duty, the CASSIN, flagship, Destroyer Division FIVE having been destroyed in drydock by bombing. 0920 A Karigane Fighter Plane was observed to break into heavy smoke as it veered in direction of West Loch. 1000 Opened fire to repel horizontal bomber attack from southward. 1002 Gunfire from main battery knocked wing off horizontal bomber. 1015 . . . officers from U.S.S. Case, unable to return to their own ship, reported on board to Commander Destroyer Squadron THREE for temporary duty. SHED, J.W., CRM (AA), USN reported on board for temporary duty from U.S.S. PREBLE. 1040 Underway in accordance with general signal directing sortie and verbal orders of Commander Destroyer Squadron THREE, proceeding out of harbor on various courses at various speeds on boilers #1 and #2 Captain at the conn Navigator on the bridge. Standard speed 15 knots. 1102 Passed channel buoy #1 a beam to starboard, and commenced observing International Rules of the Road. 1120 Changed speed to 10 knots changed course to 200°T, distant about 1700 yards. Maneuvered to attack. 1127 Dropped three depth charges. Maneuvered to make second.

The logs also documented the confusion caused by the surprise attack, recording false reports and tense investigations of unidentified ships and sonar contacts. The USS Maryland received erroneous reports that a group of Japanese troops had parachuted into Barbers Point Naval Air Station and onto the North Shore of Oahu island. In this log, the crew even gave descriptions of the mysterious group, describing them as wearing blue overalls with red emblems.

Many of the logs contained detailed accounts of the damage caused by the attack. In the two-hour attack, the U.S. Pacific Fleet was left nearly in ruins, with 8 battleships, 3 cruisers, and 188 airplanes destroyed. The log of the USS Medusa notes that the USS Utah settled on its port side after being attacked. It also reported ships that were hit by air torpedoes and sank. Many also reported their own success, including the USS Dale, which recorded prominently that the ship was able to shoot down an enemy aircraft. The Maryland reported crew members performing several diving efforts to repair damaged parts to save the ship.

Log Entry for the USS Maryland:

Moored as before. 0640 Received aboard from Oahu Ice and Cold Storage Co., of Honolulu, T.H. 2000lbs. of ice for use in ships ice boxes. 0750 Japanese planes commenced bombing attack on yard. Dive bombers. 0752 Sounded General Quarters. U.S.S. OKLAHOMA hit by unknown number of torpedoes. Control shifted to conning tower.

J. B. Thro
Ensign, U.S. Navy

Moored as before. Commanding Officer restored Lieutenant (jg) Nelson H. Randall, C-V(S), USNR and Ensign James A. Parks, Jr., D-V(g), USNR, to duty. Commenced getting up steam and making all preparations for getting underway. 0805 Opened fire with 1.1" battery, the 50 caliber machine gun battery, and the 5"/25 caliber battery had opened fire in that order shortly before. 0810 U.S.S. OKLAHOMA alongside to port listed to port until lying on starboard side with keel showing. 0815 Conning tower took steering and engine control. 0838 Stood by all lines. 0839 All ready boxes refilled during lull. 0840 Received report that an enemy submarine was inside Pearl Harbor. 0848 U.S.S. NEOSHO underway from fuel oil pier directly ahead of this vessel. Various destroyers standing out of harbor. 0855 Commenced firing with 5"/25 caliber battery. 0857 U.S.S. NEVADA getting underway, U.S.S. OGALA getting underway. 0858 U.S.S. WEST VIRGINIA settling, fire appeared on or near U.S.S. TENNESSEE. 0859 U.S.S. CALIFORNIA listing to port. 0900 Opened fire with remaining A.A. Batteries. 0909 Received one and possibly two bomb hits on forecastle on amidships line about frame 10, detailed report of damage to be given later, and about three near misses on each side and ahead of bow. 0914 Torpedo air compressor reported out of commission, lost air pressure on Port 5"/25 caliber battery. Burning enemy plane fell on U.S.S. CURTIS. 0925 Recommenced firing. 0928 Slight fire on forecastle and signal bridge out. Received report that Rear Admiral W. S. Anderson came aboard at 0905. 0930 Lull in attack. 0936 U.S.S. PHELPS standing out. Japanese submarines reported inside and outside of Pearl Harbor. 0940 U.S.S. WEST VIRGINIA abandoning ship. 50 caliber magazines flooded. 0943 Turret three (3) covered with flames from burning oil on water. 0945 Received report that enemy planes massing south of Pearl Harbor. 0947 Received from CincPac all battleships remain in Pearl until further orders, channel probably mined. 0949 Catalina patrol bombers taking off. 0950 U.S.S. OGALA sank alongside 1010 dock. 0955 Fire under control around quarterdeck. 1005 U.S.S. SOLACE underway, U.S.S. SHAW in floating drydock enveloped in flames. 1009 Commenced firing on enemy aircraft. 1012 Commenced pumping in forward trunks. 1022 Floating drydock sinking, explosions on U.S.S. SHAW. 1029 Report of casualties, one (1) officer dead, 1 one enlisted man dead, one (1) enlisted man wounded. 1025 Parachute troops reported near Barbers Point. 1034 Submarine reported 10 miles south of Barbers Point. 1039 U.S.S. CUMMINGS underway. 1040 Explosion on U.S.S. WEST VIRGINIA. 1044 U.S.S. CALIFORNIA settling. 1051 Enemy submarine sighted by U.S.S. SOLACE. 1055 Commenced firing on enemy aircraft coming from port side. 1100 Enemy reported approaching towards Pearl from South. 1150 Commenced firing. 1104 U.S.S. PHOENIX standing out. 1105 Cruiser and Destroyer standing out. 1106 450 rounds of 5"/25 caliber expended up to this time. 1107 Commenced firing on enemy planes on starboard beam. 1112 Enemy tanker reported to southward. 1114 Commenced firing on enemy planes. 1119 oil fire on water around U.S.S. WEST VIRGINIA getting worse, approaching stern of this vessel. 1124 Opened fire on plane on port quarter. 1127 Eight enemy ships reported at Latitude 21° 10' N, Longitude 160° 16' west. 1127 Commenced firing at enemy planes, expended 15 rounds 5"/25 caliber. 1137 Parachute troops reported landing on North Shore. 1143 Report received enemy troops wearing blue coveralls with red emblems. 1145 Called away fire and rescue party to assist in rescue of U.S.S. OKLAHOMA personnel.

H. W. Hadley
Lieut-Comdr., U.S. Navy

Moored as before, 1201 Parachute troops reported landing at Barbers Point and enemy tankers reported four (4) miles off Wainae. 1204 Flames from oil fire coming forward along port side. 1229 Sighted enemy planes on port beam, enemy submarines reported south of Pearl. 1327 Sent 400 rounds 5"/25 caliber ammunition to U.S.S. CALIFORNIA. 1350 Oil fire astern of U.S.S. TENNESSEE. 1355 Commenced firing on enemy planes. 1400 No change of draft of ships in last four (4) hours, 7 feet down by bow, 3½° list by starboard. 1428 Secured boilers #5-6-7 and 8. 1441 U.S.S. CALIFORNIA reported settling with list to port, U.S.S. HELENA down by bow. 1445 U.S.S. BOGGS standing in. 1446 Received 15000 rounds of 50 caliber ammunition from West Lock. 1458 U.S.S. DEWEY standing out. Pumping in forward trunks not showing progress. 1501 Planes reported overhead, very high. 1508 U.S.S. CURTIS reported sighting submarine. 1525 U.S.S. BEHAM dropping depth charges to north channel. 1523 Two unidentified planes sighted on starboard beam. 1529 Unidentified plane sighted on starboard bow. 1538 Three navy Bombers landed at Ford Island and Hickman Field. 1551 Mines reported between Diamond Head and Barbors Point. 1553 Two (2) Battleships and many destroyers reported sighted at Latitude 21° 21' longitude 158° 37'.

H. W. Hadley
Lieut-Comdr., U.S. Navy

Log Entry for the USS Dale:

Moored as before. 0758 Waves of torpedo planes, level bombers, and dive bombers marked with Japanese insignia attacked Pearl Harbor Sounded General quarters set condition affirm lit off boilers #1 and #2 and #4. Breaking out ammunition.

F.M. Radel
Ensign, U.S. Navy

Moored as before. 0810 Oopened fire on planes with machine guns followed by main battery. 0815 One enemy plane believed shot down by machine gun fire from USS DALE. 0825 Boilers #1, #2 and #4 cut in on main line. 0836 Underway on various courses and at various speeds proceeding out of Pearl Harbor. Ensign F.M. RADEL, U.S.N. Commanding Officer, following named Officers and men absent:- Lt.Comdr. A.L. Rorschach, U.S.N. Lt. R.L. Moore, Jr., U.S.N. Ensign K.G. Robinson, U.S.N. Ensign D.J. Vellis U.S.N., Ensign L.C. Huntley, U.S.N.R. Ensign M.D. Callahan U.S.N.R. EDWARDS, G.L. CMM U.S.N. WARREN, R.H. U.S.N. COULSON, S.E.M. 2c, U.S.N. SMITH, J.V. Sea lc. U.S.N.FALCONER, D.D. Ylc., U.S.S.N. NEHRING, R.A. F.C. 3c, U.S.N. GAWBILL, M., U.S.N. ENGLISH, J.F., U.S.N. JENNINGS, A.V. F.2c, U.S.N. 0844 Stopped while USS MONAGHAN dropped two depth charges on what was thought to be an enemy submarine near USS CURTIS. 0848 Changed speed to 25 knots proceeding out of channel. 0907 Passed Pearl Harbor entrance buoy #1 passed from Inland to International waters. 0909 Established off shore patrol in sector #1 on various courses and at various speeds maneuvering to avoid strafing and bombing attacks. 0911 Shot down enemy dive bomber with .50 Caliber machine gun fire. 0959 Investigated small boat carrying small white flag with several Oriental passengers. 1114 Joined up with USS WORDEN (CDS-1) on course 340°T, 328°psc, speed 11 knots. 1149 Formed column, order of ships in column WORDEN, ALWYN, DALE, AND FARRAGUT: on course 271°T, 260°psc, speed 25 knots.

F.M. Radel
Ensign, U.S. Navy

Steaming as before. 1200 Changed course left to 076°T, to close USS DETROIT. 1205 Steadied on course 076°T 065°psc, speed 27 knots. 1228 Formed inner anti-submarine screen on three light cruisers. DALE on station nine course 245°T 065°psc, speed 20 knots. Commenced zig zagging plan #2. 1238 USS FARRAGUT left formation to investigate reported landing of enemy at Nanakuli beach. 1244 USS FARRAGUT returned to formation. . . . [series of course changes] . . . 1345 Opened fire on planes of undetermined nationality. 1346 Ceased firing. 1351 Changed fleet speed to 25 knots. 1410 Burned out L.P. pinion bearings on port reduction gear proceeding on starboard engine speed 22 knots. 1440 Changed speed to 10 knots maximum available speed about 15 knots. 1458 Changed speed to 15 knots fleet speed 20 knots. DALE dropping astern formation. 1503 Sighted patrol plane bearing 150°T. Average steam 400, average rpm 156.1

F.M. Radel
Ensign, U.S. Navy

Admiral Chester W. Nimitz pins the Navy Cross on Doris Miller at a ceremony in Pearl Harbor, May 27, 1942. (208-NP-8PP-2)

One thing missing from the logs, are the many acts of heroism that reflect the spirit of patriotism among nearly all who served the military during this period. One sure example of heroism missing from the logs is that of Cook Third Class Doris "Dorie" Miller, assigned to the USS West Virginia. Like many of the African Americans who joined the Navy, Miller was stationed in a position where he would never engage in a combat situation.

However, during the attack, Miller became more than just a cook. After retrieving his ship's mortally wounded captain, Miller manned a 50-caliber Browning antiaircraft machine gun. Miller fired at the Japanese planes until he was ordered to abandon ship. The inexperienced Miller shot down between four and six Japanese planes. For his efforts, Miller was awarded the Navy Cross, becoming the first African American to receive that citation. Adm. Chester W. Nimitz, the commander in chief of the Pacific Fleet, personally presented the award to him.

Following the devastating attack, Congress declared war on Japan, bringing America officially into World War II. All of the Pearl Harbor battleships save three, the USS Arizona, the USS Oklahoma, and the USS Utah, were raised, rebuilt, and put back into service during the war.

Log Entry of the USS Chew:

4 to 8.
Moored as before. Received the following provisions for the general mess inspected as to quantity and quality by Ensign W.H. HARTZ, Jr.: from Dairyman's Association Ltd., 10 gals. milk, 4½ gals. ice cream. 0757 Suffered surprise air attack by Japanese torpedo and bombing planes. Sounded General Quarters and manned anti-aircraft battery. Light and heavy Japanese bombers crossed Pearl Harbor at high altitude scoring direct hits on various fleet units.

W.H. Hartz Jr., Ensign, USNR.

8 to 12.
Moored as before at General Quarters. 0803 Commenced firing. 0811 Continuous attack by Japanese bombers and dive bombers. Three inch AA gun scored direct hit on one dive bomber, demolishing plane in mid-air. Hit observed by executive officer and various members of the crew. Two other probable hits scored, one in tail assembly of dive-bomber. There appeared to be three waves of attacking planes&mdashtorpedo planes, high altitude bombers, dive bombers. Made all preparations for getting underway. 0814 Cut boiler No. 2 in on main steam line. 0934 Bombing attack ceased. 1000 Underway for defensive sea area on various courses at various speeds. Captain conning navigator on the bridge, degaussing coils cut in, crew at General Quarters. 1020 Passed entrance buoys conducting search for enemy submarines. 1030 Made supersonic contact, 1000 yards west of entrance buoys: commenced attack, released one depth charge. No explosions heard. 1052 Released four depth charges three explosions heard. 1100 Mustered crew on station. Following officers and men absent through circumstances beyond their control: Lieut. (jg) C.F. MacNISH, USNR, Ensign J.F. MORRISON, USNR . . .

1114 Received MINNEAPOLIS motor launch alongside and following officers and men came aboard: . . . [another list of names, includes ships they came from, e.g. USS Alwyn, USS Dale] . . . 1142 Made supersonic contact in western half of defensive sea area. Released two depth charges. Average steam 250 average rpm 126.6.

W.H. Hartz Jr., Ensign, USNR.

12 to 16.
Patrolling as before. 1214 Made supersonic contact in defensive sea area. Dropped two depth charges, one explosion heard. 1243 Relieved USS WARD of patrol duty in defensive sea area. 1515 Made supersonic contact in defensive sea area west of entrance buoys. Dropped four depth charges, two explosions heard. Average steam 250 average rpm 74.1.

W.H. Hartz Jr., Ensign, USNR.

16 to 20.
Patrolling as before in condition of Readiness 2. 1630 Following officers and men reported on board: . . . 1845 Sounded General Quarters. 1905 Secured from General Quarters."

With time, old wounds heal and memories fade, leaving important events reduced to a point in a timeline. The attack on Pearl Harbor was one of those rare galvanizing events that united the nation behind a single cause. Such an episode was not to be repeated in American history until the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

Through these entries drawn from deck logs&mdashcreated as routine administrative documents&mdashmodern readers can get a sense of the shock, surprise, and confusion felt by the soldiers and sailors who experienced this pivotal moment in American history firsthand.

The authors, members of the Holdings Management Division, were part of the team that processed Navy Deck Logs, 1941&ndash1979, between October 2009 and October 2010 at the National Archives at College Park.

Lopez D. Matthews, Jr., joined the National Archives and Records Administration in 2009. He earned his bachelor's degree in history from Coppin State University in 2004, a masters degree in public history in 2006, and his Ph.D. in U.S. history from Howard University in 2009.

Zachary Dabbs joined the National Archives and Records Administration in 2009. He received a bachelor's degree in history from the University of Wisconsin&ndashMadison in 2007 and earned a masters degree from New York University's archival management program in 2009.

Eliza Mbughuni joined the National Archives and Records Administration in 2008 as a student while working for a masters degree at the University of Maryland College, College Park. She received a bachelor's degree in history from the University of Wisconsin&ndashMadison in 2004.

Note on Sources

The deck logs of vessels at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, are part of the Records of the Bureau of Naval Personnel, Record Group 24. The records are located at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) in College Park, Maryland, in the Modern Military Branch. Logs included in this article were from the following ships: USS Chew (DD-106), USS Conyngham (DD-371), USS Cummings (DD-365), USS Dale (DD-353), USS Maryland (BB-46), USS Medusa (AR-1), and USS California (BB-44).

Every effort has been made to produce a faithful transcript by retaining the capitalization, punctuation, and overall structure of the document. However in order to preserve space and improve readability the authors have silently corrected spelling errors and have omitted long technical descriptions and long lists of names.

USS Cummings (DD-365)

Figure 1: USS Cummings (DD-365) underway at sea, 29 November 1937. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 2: USS Cummings (DD-365) underway in San Diego harbor, California, 11 April 1938. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 3: USS Cummings (DD-365) underway at sea during the later 1930s. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 4: USS Cummings (DD-365) photographed by Ted Stone, circa the later 1930s. Courtesy of the Mariners Museum, Newport News, Virginia, Ted Stone Collection. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 5: USS Cummings (DD-365) photographed by Ted Stone, circa the later 1930s. Courtesy of the Mariners Museum, Newport News, Virginia, Ted Stone Collection. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 6: USS Case (DD-370), USS Shaw (DD-373), USS Cummings (DD-365), and USS Tucker (DD-374) with USS Brooklyn (CL-40) behind in Auckland, New Zealand, March 1941. Courtesy Gary Hines. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 7: 3 September 1944 the day Cummings participated in an attack on Wake Island. Note light gun shields forward, no shields aft. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 8: A series of images from the collection of Garold White, whose father served on board Cummings during World War II. The first is Cummings’ “Scoreboard.” Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 9: A Japanese vessel that surrendered to Cummings. Courtesy Garold White. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 10: More of the crew from the Japanese vessel that surrendered to Cummings. Courtesy Garold White. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 11: A Japanese pilot that had been shot down by Cummings. Courtesy Garold White. Click on photograph for larger image.

Named after Andrew Boyd Cummings, a Union naval hero who was killed during the Civil War, USS Cummings (DD-365) was a 1,465-ton Mahan class destroyer that was built by United Shipyards at New York City and was commissioned on 25 November 1936. She was approximately 341 feet long and 35 feet wide, had a top speed of 36 knots, and had a crew of 158 officers and men. Cummings was initially armed with five 5-inch guns, four .50-caliber machine guns, 12 21-inch torpedo tubes, and depth charges, although this armament was substantially modified during World War II.

Following a shakedown cruise in the Atlantic, Cummings was assigned to the Pacific in the fall of 1937. Aside from attending US fleet maneuvers in the Caribbean in 1939, Cummings spent the next six years of her career in the Pacific. She was based at Pearl Harbor in April 1940 and made a trip that took her to Samoa, New Zealand, and Tahiti in March and April 1941. But as war drew closer in the Pacific, Cummings spent most of her time patrolling the waters off the coast of Hawaii.

Cummings was docked at the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard when the Japanese attacked on 7 December 1941. Although bombs exploded ahead and astern of her, no direct hits were scored on the ship. Flying bomb fragments, though, did cause some minor damage. Cummings quickly built up steam and left Pearl Harbor. She then spent the rest of 1941 and the first four months of 1942 escorting convoys between Hawaii and the US mainland. In May 1942, Cummings was sent to the south Pacific, where she was assigned to patrol and escort missions during the struggle for Guadalcanal and the Solomon Islands. Cummings went back to San Francisco for an overhaul in the fall of 1943 and then was assigned to the Aleutian Islands. Cummings patrolled the Aleutians for several weeks before returning to Pearl Harbor on 21 December.

During January and February 1944, Cummings escorted US aircraft carriers during the Marshall Islands campaign and then worked with the British Royal Navy in the Indian Ocean from March to May. Cummings returned to Hawaii to resume duties in the central Pacific and in July 1944 she escorted the heavy cruiser USS Baltimore (CA-68) as it carried President Franklin D. Roosevelt to Hawaii and Alaska and then back to the US mainland. Roosevelt was on board Cummings for several days in August during trips between Seattle, Washington, and the Puget Sound Navy Yard. While on board Cummings, President Roosevelt broadcast a nationwide address from the forecastle of the ship.

Cummings participated in the raids on Wake and Marcus Islands in September and October 1944 and she escorted aircraft carriers during the invasion of Leyte in October. Cummings then operated in the Marianas and Bonin Islands areas, taking part in patrol, escort, and air-sea rescue missions. She also was part of the assault on Iwo Jima in February and March 1945 and provided gunfire support for the troops on shore. In September 1945, after Japan surrendered, Cummings supervised the occupation of the island of Haha Jima, part of the Bonin Islands. On 19 September 1945, Cummings was sent back to America, making stops in San Pedro, California Tampa, Florida and finally Norfolk, Virginia. She was decommissioned on 14 December 1945 and sold for scrapping on 17 July 1947.

Cummings received seven battle stars for her service during World War II. She was at Pearl Harbor on the very first day of the war on 7 December and she was with the US Navy in Japanese waters when the war ended in 1945. She was a typical destroyer, taking on numerous escort, patrol, and shore bombardment duties during the war. She even transported the President of the United States, an honor few ships can boast. But once the war was over and she was no longer needed, Cummings was quickly decommissioned and scrapped, a fate that claimed many fine ships. Although she no longer exists, her career is still worth noting.

World War II Database

ww2dbase The destroyer Cummings was one of the six “New Deal” ships built for the United States Navy and Coast Guard. That means the ships were paid for entirely with funds from the Public Works Administration (PWA), a federal component of The New Deal designed to provide work during The Great Depression (distinct from the similar WPA, the Works Progress Administration). Cummings was laid down at United Shipyards on Staten Island, New York, United States on 26 Jun 1934. Named for Lieutenant Commander Andrew Boyd Cummings who on 14 Mar 1863, as executive officer of the sloop USS Richmond, distinguished himself with conspicuous gallantry as his ship passed the batteries at Port Hudson near Baton Rouge, Louisiana and later died of wounds received in that action. The destroyer Cummings was launched 11 Dec 1935 with Mrs. W.W. Mills, niece of Lieutenant Commander Cummings, acting as sponsor. USS Cummings was commissioned 25 Nov 1936 with Commander Charles P. Cecil in command.

ww2dbase Departing New York 29 Sep 1937, Cummings arrived at San Diego a month later. She participated in the Apr 1938 fleet problem in Hawaii and in a Presidential Fleet Review at San Francisco in July. In 1939 the fleet problem was held in the Panama Canal Zone and in the Caribbean. Returning to San Diego 12 May 1939, Cummings participated in training exercises and served as plane guard for the carriers Yorktown (Yorktown-class) and Lexington (Lexington-class). Cummings served intermittently in the 1940 west coast security patrol while continuing to exercise in antiaircraft and anti-submarine tactics.

ww2dbase Cummings participated in Fleet Problem XXI around Hawaii in Apr 1940 and beginning 26 Apr 1940, she was based at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii along with the rest of the fleet. Except for a Mare Island overhaul and a cruise to the South Pacific in the spring of 1941, Cummings remained in Hawaiian waters conducting patrols and constantly exercising and drilling.

ww2dbase On 7 Dec 1941 when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Cummings was moored at the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard repair piers at the heart of the action, with bombs falling within the piers close aboard. She made all preparations for getting underway but with no boilers lit, it took two hours for her to actually begin her sortie from the harbor. Even so, Cummings was the only ship in her nest to get underway. Once underway, Cummings proceeded out of the channel without incident and joined the anti-submarine patrol operating off Pearl Harbor entrance.

ww2dbase Cummings spent the next eight months on escort duties, first between San Francisco, California and Hawaii and then in the South Pacific between Fiji and New Zealand. She returned to the United States for a two-month overhaul at Mare Island Naval Shipyard before returning to escort duty in the South Pacific, which lasted another ten months until Sep 1943. After another refit, this time at San Pedro, California, Cummings sailed for the Aleutians. Her Alaskan patrol only last two weeks before Cummings returned to Pearl Harbor.

ww2dbase On 19 Jan 1944, Cummings sortied from Pearl Harbor and part of the screen for carrier USS Saratoga for strikes on Wotje, Taroa, and Eniwetok in the Marshall Islands. Cummings stayed with Saratoga as the carrier sailed to Australia and on to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) for Saratoga’s loan to the British Fleet. As such, Cummings was present for the Royal Navy’s Dutch East Indies raids on Sabang off Sumatra and Soerabaja (now Surabaya) on Java. The Saratoga group made a few more stops in Australia before returning to Pearl Harbor in Jun 1944. Saratoga sailed on to Puget Sound for a refit while Cummings stayed at Pearl Harbor for a drydocking of her own.

ww2dbase Cummings sailed on 1 Jul 1944 for San Francisco and Mare Island. She sailed for San Diego on 17 Jul as an escort for cruiser USS Baltimore. In San Diego, Baltimore boarded President Franklin Roosevelt for transportation to Hawaii. Baltimore sailed in the dead of night with Cummings as one of the escorts. In Hawaii, Roosevelt held his historic meeting with Nimitz and MacArthur that decided the course of the Pacific War before sailing again on the Baltimore for Adak, Alaska, again with Cummings as an escort. From Adak, the group sailed to Kodiak Island, Alaska where the President boarded Cummings for transportation to and from the pier. The President sailed aboard Baltimore from Kodiak to Auke Bay near Juneau, Alaska where he transferred to Cummings once more. With the President still aboard, Cummings navigated Alaska’s Inside Passage and arrived in Puget Sound, Washington on 12 Aug 1942. At the President’s request, all honors were dispensed with upon his arrival at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton. A podium was placed on Cummings’ forecastle ahead of the No. 1 gun mount and the ship was brought to the head of Drydock 2. The President spoke from the ship’s deck so that he could remain aboard ship and still be close to the people crowded around the dock. The crowd of workers was estimated at 8,000 to 10,000 and the address was broadcast over nationwide radio. Cummings crossed over to Seattle where the President departed and boarded the presidential train that was waiting for him on the same pier.

ww2dbase Cummings sailed the next day for Pearl Harbor. On 29 Aug 1944, Cummings left Pearl Harbor escorting carrier USS Monterey for a strike on Wake Island 3 Sep. Cummings detached from Monterey and spent the rest of Sep 1944 on off-shore patrols around Saipan and Tinian in the Mariana Islands. On 9 Oct 1944, along with cruisers Chester, Pensacola, and Salt Lake City, the task group bombarded Marcus Island. Cummings then became part of the screen for the Fast Carrier Task Force for strikes in the Philippines. For the Battle of Leyte Gulf on 25 Oct 1944, Cummings was part of the screen for carriers USS Wasp, USS Hornet, USS Yorktown, and USS Hancock (all Essex-class) as their air squadrons pursued Admiral Takeo Kurita’s Center Force withdrawing from Samar.

ww2dbase A crack was discovered in Cummings’ hull plating below the waterline so upon her arrival at Ulithi Lagoon, she entered Floating Drydock ARD-15 for repairs. Those repairs only lasted a few hours and Cummings was afloat in time to weather a typhoon warning. Cummings sailed 8 Nov 1944 as part of the destroyer screen for cruisers USS Chester, USS Pensacola, and USS Salt Lake City for a midnight shore bombardment of Iwo Jima involving all eight ships of the task unit before returning to Ulithi.

ww2dbase On 20 Nov 1944, Cummings and the same cruiser task unit were exiting the Ulithi Lagoon at dawn when they were alerted by a minesweeper at the channel entrance that a periscope was visible heading into the channel and approaching the cruisers. Almost immediately, one of the destroyers in the cruiser screen, USS Case, reported a midget submarine close aboard. With few options, the Case’s captain, Maurice Curts, rammed the submarine. Moments later, a periscope was reported 400 yards astern of Cummings. Cummings’ own war diary says that her response was to drop an “embarrassing depth charge pattern” with no positive results. After a sound contact and another (better) depth charge pattern with no positive results, Cummings lay to and remained in the channel while the cruiser force continued out to sea.

ww2dbase While all of the US Navy reports filed that day described the adversary as a group of Japanese midget submarines, the truth was that the attack was the first tactical deployment of the kaiten human-guided torpedo. Japanese submarines I-36 and I-47 launched a total of five kaitens against the Ulithi anchorage that morning and all five were lost with only one achieving the results desired by the Japanese. About the same time Cummings was dropping her “embarrassing” depth charge pattern in the channel, that one successful kaiten struck and sunk the fully loaded fleet oiler USS Mississinewa inside the anchorage. Mississinewa’s several million gallons of fuel oil and gasoline burned furiously for hours with a huge column of thick black smoke rising straight up into the tropical sky for the entire US fleet to see.

ww2dbase Cummings left Ulithi’s channel and caught up with the cruisers and they all shifted to Saipan. Cummings then began patrol, radar picket, and lifeguard duties around Saipan and Tinian with occasional one-day sorties with the cruisers for bombardment of Iwo Jima. Back on lifeguard duty on 14 Dec 1944, Cummings picked the entire uninjured crew of a downed B-29 Superfortress bomber, before sinking the bomber with gunfire. On 5 Jan 1945, Cummings and the cruiser group conducted a bombardment of Haha Jima, Chichi Jima, and Iwo Jima islands. On 15 Jan 1945, while at sea, Cummings’ medical officer successfully performed an emergency appendectomy. On 22 Jan 1945, battleship USS Indiana and her destroyer screen joined the cruisers’ bombardment group and they sailed for another bombardment of Iwo Jima. Beginning in Feb 1945 and for the remainder of the war, Cummings plied the waters around Saipan, Iwo Jima, and the escort routes to and from Eniwetok escorting replenishment ships, making off-shore patrols, performing lifeguard duties, and related assignments.

ww2dbase In mid-Sep 1945, Cummings supervised the occupation of Haha Jima, working closely with a Japanese liaison team for several days. Cummings departed the Bonin Islands for the last time on 19 Sep 1945 and headed east. She made a four-hour stop at Eniwetok for fuel before pressing to Pearl Harbor, arriving 28 Sep 1945. Flying her Homeward Bound pennant, Cummings left the next day with six other destroyers bound for San Pedro, California. She laid over five days before departing for the Caribbean. Transiting the Panama Canal 18 Oct 1945, she arrived at Tampa Bay, Florida four days later. After participating in Tampa’s Navy Day festivities on 27 Oct 1945, Cummings sailed to Norfolk, Virginia for her deactivation overhaul. USS Cummings was decommissioned 14 Dec 1945 and held in reserve until she was sold for scrap 14 Jul 1947.

ww2dbase For her service in World War II, USS Cummings was awarded seven battle stars.

ww2dbase Sources:
United States Navy
United States National Archives
NavSource Naval History
Destroyer History Foundation
Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library
The New Deal in New York City 1933-1943 by Frank da Cruz
CombinedFleet Imperial Japanese Navy Page

Last Major Revision: Oct 2020

Destroyer Cummings (DD-365) Interactive Map

Cummings Operational Timeline

26 Jun 1934 The keel of destroyer Cummings was laid down at the United Shipyards facility in Staten Island, New York, United States.
25 Nov 1936 USS Cummings was commissioned at United Shipyards on Staten Island, New York, United States with Commander Charles P. Cecil in command.
29 Sep 1937 Destroyer USS Cummings departed New York Harbor, New York, United States bound for San Diego, California.
28 Oct 1937 Destroyer USS Cummings arrived at San Diego, California, United States.
12 May 1939 Destroyer USS Cummings returned to San Diego, California, United States after completion of Fleet Problen XX in the Panama Canal Zone and Caribbean.
26 Apr 1940 Destroyer USS Cummings was based at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii following Fleet Problem XXI held in Hawaiian waters.
10 May 1942 Just before midnight, destroyer USS Cummings crossed the equator heading south at longitude 163 39 12W en route from Pearl Harbor, Hawaii to Nouméa, New Caledonia.
19 May 1943 Destroyer USS Cummings arrived at Caliope Dock, Devonport Navy Yard, Auckland, New Zealand for a brief overhaul.
27 Mar 1944 HMS Cumberland met US Task Group 58.5 (Aircraft Carrier USS Saratoga and destroyers USS Cummings, USS Dunlap, and USS Fanning) SW off Cocos Islands with ships of Eastern Fleet.
31 Mar 1944 USS Saratoga, HMS Cumberland, USS Cummings, USS Fanning, USS Dunlap, and ships of the Royal Navy Eastern Fleet arrived at Trincomalee, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka).
19 Apr 1944 Admiral Sir James Somerville's new Eastern Fleet launched a devastating raid on the oil refinery at Sabang in Sumatra, Dutch East Indies with aircraft flown from the carriers HMS Illustrious and USS Saratoga escorted by HMS Cumberland, HMS Renown, USS Cummings, and others.
17 May 1944 The oil refineries at the Wonokromo district of Surabaya, Java, Dutch East Indies and the nearby Braat Engineering Works were struck by British and American carrier aircraft struck by carrier aircraft of the Royal Navy’s Eastern Fleet made up of carriers HMS Illustrious and USS Saratoga escorted by HMS Cumberland, HMS Renown, USS Cummings, and others.
7 Jul 1944 USS Cummings arrived at San Francisco, California, United States after completing her loan to the Royal Navy in the Indian Ocean and enteredMare Island Naval Shipyard for maintenance.
21 Jul 1944 USS Baltimore depart San Diego, California, United States, with destroyers USS Fanning and USS Cummings in escort and US President Franklin Roosevelt aboard, for Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
9 Aug 1944 Franklin Roosevelt disembarked the cruiser USS Baltimore and embarked the destroyer USS Cummings at Auke Bay, Alaska near Juneau.
12 Aug 1944 Franklin Roosevelt aboard USS Cummings addressed a crowd of 8,000 to 10,000 people surrounding Drydock 2 at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, Washington. He spoke for over 35 minutes and his remarks were rebroadcast over nationwide radio.
3 Sep 1944 Task Group 12.5 consisting of carrier USS Monterey, cruisers USS Chester, USS Pensacola, USS Salt Lake City, and destroyers USS Cummings, USS Reid, and USS Dunlap conducted a bombardment of Japanese positions on Wake Island in the Pacific.
18 Oct 1945 Destroyer USS Cummings transited the Panama Canal as part of her final voyage.
14 Dec 1945 Cummings was decommissioned from service.
28 Jan 1947 Destroyer Cummings was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register.
17 Jul 1947 Destroyer Cummings was sold for scrap.

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Visitor Submitted Comments

1. Wm Bielefeld says:
22 Apr 2012 04:45:09 PM

my father served on the USS Cummings for most of his carrer then was Transfered to the Battleship Iowa - President Roosevelt gave him a small bronze statue of his Scottish Terrior Fala as my father helped take care of Fala while on the Cummings I'm looking for my dads service reocrd and maybe come crew photos'

2. Anonymous says:
29 May 2016 05:37:36 AM

My father Gerald W. Brown served on the USS Cummings . I have pictures of Fala and of the President's visit. I'd be happy to scan and share them.

3. Anonymous says:
30 Nov 2017 05:05:05 PM

My father in Law, Arthur Milton Werline served aboard the USS Cummings and when President Roosevelt made his trip.

4. Anonymous says:
23 Jul 2018 06:06:49 PM

My dad, Robert Bristow, was a radioman on the Cumming. He was also at the visit with the President at the signing of the treaty in Alaska. Our family has pictures of my dad with the dog.

All visitor submitted comments are opinions of those making the submissions and do not reflect views of WW2DB.

The Zimmerman Telegram

Meanwhile, in January 1917, the British intercepted and deciphered an encrypted message from German Foreign Minister Arthur Zimmermann to the German minister to Mexico, Heinrich von Eckhart.

The so-called Zimmerman telegram proposed an alliance between Germany and Mexico𠅊merica’s southern neighbor—if America joined the war on the side of the Allies.

As part of the arrangement, the Germans would support the Mexicans in regaining the territory they𠆝 lost in the Mexican-American War—Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. Additionally, Germany wanted Mexico to help convince Japan to come over to its side in the conflict.

The British gave President Wilson the Zimmerman telegram on February 24, and on March 1 the U.S. press reported on its existence. The American public was outraged by the news of the Zimmerman telegram and it, along with Germany’s resumption of submarine attacks, helped lead to the U.S. to join the war.

First Shots Fired At Pearl Harbor

The Crew of the USS Ward’s number three gun—a four inch, 50 caliber low-angle weapon typical of old destroyers like the Ward—fired upon and sunk a Japanese mini sub off Oahu.

Steve Twomey
December 2016

An old vessel and its new captain and crew of reservists encountered the enemy off Oahu in the crucial minutes before the Pearl Harbor attack.

With the dawn of December 6, 1941—the 8,426th consecutive day of peace in America—the venerable USS Ward took in its lines and began slipping through the sedate waters of Pearl Harbor, bound for the channel and, unknowingly, history. The ship had been given an unglamorous duty, a destroyer’s lot. It was to carve lazy laps offshore, east to west and back, not even out of sight of Oahu, a sentinel primed to challenge any unknown vessel on or below the surface that inched toward the den of the U.S. Pacific Fleet.

However prosaic the mission, the Ward’s leader could hardly have been happier. Stuck as a number two serving a captain he loathed on another destroyer, the Cummings, a week before, Lieutenant William W. Outerbridge had taken command of his new assignment less than a day earlier. “These boys on here don’t know how strange it is to me to be called ‘captain,’” the lieutenant wrote to his wife, Grace, “but it is music to my ears.”

Outerbridge’s successor, as executive officer of the Cummings, had not only been named, but reported for his new assignment sooner than expected. Outerbridge was free at last, in time to take the Ward on a scheduled patrol. “December is my lucky month,” he continued. “I got a good ship, and the best wife in the world.”

In another letter he said he hoped to measure up as a destroyer captain.

Just a week prior, Outerbridge’s overriding goal was to find any way to get transferred off the Cummings and be done forever with his captain, the “nasty, suspicious” Lieutenant Commander George Dudley Cooper, or “Dud,” as Outerbridge called him. Dud was “a small person,” he told Grace earlier that month. Dud was “an ass.” Dud was “the devil.” His rules were arbitrary, his paranoia great.

Lieutenant William W. Outerbridge (as a Lieutenant Commander in his service record photo) took command of the 1918-vintage destroyer USS Ward on Friday, December 5, 1941. The destroyer was to patrol waters just off Oahu. (U.S. Navy map by Brian Walker)

With a slight build, glasses, and big ears, Outerbridge, 35, was hardly a prepossessing figure. In a photo of a group of officers taken some time later, he appears in the front row, knees and feet jammed together, hands tucked between thighs, shoulders pulled in, the absolute model of diffidence. It is as if a shy history teacher is not sure he belongs in the navy. But Outerbridge had backbone enough to relentlessly argue with Cooper. His contempt for him was so sizable and obvious that Outerbridge was actually looking forward to getting his tonsils out, which had become a medical necessity. “It would tickle me if the ship got under way while I was in the Hosp.,” he wrote his wife.

The best solution to the Cooper problem would be a shore assignment, anywhere. And Outerbridge was trying. “Hope someone in the [personnel] bureau decides that we have had enough sea duty and also that we should be promoted,” he wrote on November 18. A billet at a naval base would mean family reunification. Outerbridge missed his three little boys back on Jackdaw Street in San Diego. “I wish I could be there to raise them more personally, as I feel they have the makings of good men,” he wrote. He missed Grace. He felt that the two of them seemed to be entering a good phase of life—older and wiser. “I only wish that we could be together more,” he told her, “but our time will come.”

As a military family, they had a military family’s financial worries. Outerbridge made $356 a month, which meant that the recent but necessary purchases of a new car and a washing machine in San Diego had drained so much from their bank account that they would have to hold back on any further large expenditures.

He had made sure, however, that Grace and the boys would be all right financially without him, and he explained why. “If I am killed, you will get immediately by wire $1,500 from Navy Mutual Aid and $1,500 from the Treasury Dept. as gratuity, 6 mos. pay,” he told Grace. “I have made provisions for the amount of the policy of Mutual Life, N.Y. ($5,000.00) to be held in reserve for emergency or education of the children. It will be payable on demand.” He outlined some other smaller payments she would get as well. “This is all in case I die this year.”

Death was certainly possible. Outerbridge was only a junior officer on a small ship in a fleet that contained more than 100 vessels, and he was not privy to top-level correspondence or included in meetings with the commander in chief. And he was unaware that on November 27 the navy had issued a “war warning,” sparked by knowledge of Japanese forces on the move. But Outerbridge read the newspapers. He listened to local radio. He heard the talk. A clash with Japan seemed so close now, he thought, that it might interfere with his tonsillectomy. That evening, he wrote Grace that if nothing big happened, he would head to the hospital on Monday, December 1. “I wonder what the Japs are going to do now,” he said.

Then, soon after—without the slightest hint or hope that he would be free of the detestable Captain Cooper so beautifully soon—Outerbridge’s crusade to get off the Cummings ended in victory. Someone, somewhere, in the navy bureaucracy read his request for a transfer and decided Outerbridge was ready to immediately command a ship, specifically the destroyer Ward. His tonsils had a stay of execution. They would not come out on December 1, as he had planned. There was too much to do.

The Ward was hardly a prized stallion. Its hull had first touched the water on June 1, 1918, at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard near San Francisco. Because Outerbridge had served aboard two of its identical four-smokestack sisters, Ward’s silhouette, size, and passageways were as familiar to him as old shoes. “Being on one of these old cans seems like old times,” he said.

“I was particularly impressed with the spirit of the crew,” Outerbridge wrote. “They are almost all reserves, but are very much alive and full of pep. They seem to be much above average.” He added: “Hope I can have a happy, hard working, and efficient ship. I can’t tell you much about how it feels to be captain, but so far it is very fine.”

His new home was not assigned to the Pacific Fleet but to Oahu’s 14th Naval District, for close-in submarine patrol around the island. His days of extremely long cruises on the rollicking, open seas were over for now, which was fine by him. His stomach never did get used to the choppy waters, which were a part of being a career naval officer. The new job entitled him to quarters ashore.

It might even be a brand-new dwelling, given how much building was under way in and around Pearl, he thought. Grace and the three boys could come out. They would be a family again. Outerbridge assured her that any house would be near a school, as well as “near the commissary, near the gas station, near the ships service store, near the hospital and not far from town,” he stated, as if trying to convince his wife that Oahu was modern and American, and not some misty, primitive isle of the sort found in National Geographic.

For American servicemen, life in Hawaii before December 7, 1941, was an exotic—but expensive—paradise. A Honolulu street oozes glamour. (Library of Congress/Corbis via Getty Images)

“The mess of moving and getting settled is something, but I am sure that you will enjoy living out here,” he told her. “It is expensive but everyone enjoys the climate, and I feel that we will be happy.” If she got lucky with a booking, she and the boys could arrive aboard a Matson liner after Christmas. He had already shipped holiday packages with gifts, he said. “If Japan just stays quiet, we shall have a very happy sojourn on the island.”

Twenty-four hours into his first patrol, Outerbridge fell asleep on a cot in the chart room near the Ward’s bridge. The night had been fitful. Shortly before 4:00 a.m., a navy minesweeper, the Condor, had reported a periscope seen off the harbor entrance. The Ward had gone to inspect, but had found nothing and resumed its back-and-forth patrol. Now, at 6:37 a.m., a cry penetrated Outerbridge’s unconsciousness—“Captain, come on the bridge!” It was a summons he knew heralded something out of the ordinary.

The sun was 10 minutes up. December 7 was going to be mild and partly cloudy.

Slipping on his glasses and robe—a kimono—Outerbridge reached the bridge to find the helmsman and several other men staring at a black object barely poking out of the water, approximately 700 yards ahead. Off to port was a navy cargo ship, the Antares, towing a barge on a long line and headed into the harbor. The moving object appeared to be sneaking between the Antares and its tow, as if hoping to draft in the wake of the hauler.

And not shaped like an American one.

Outerbridge was new to his job, but he knew exactly what to do. “One look he gave,” the helmsman, H. E. Raenbig, later said, “and [he] called General Quarters.” Gun crews galloped toward their mounts, the crew sealed doors and hatches, a demand for ahead-full descended to the engine room, and the Ward shot forward, climbing from five knots to 25, setting a course to get between the Antares and the intruder—a near ramming speed.

The submarine, which bore no markings, was oblivious to the destroyer’s rapid closure. It was a mere 80 feet long, Outerbridge estimated, a miniature version of the norm—a rusted, mossy oval plagued by barnacles, both its bow and stern awash as it plowed ahead. The sub appeared to have no deck guns. The crew of the Ward was unaware they were bearing down on one of a handful of tiny submarines the Imperial Navy hoped to sneak into the harbor.

Like the Ward’s prey, this two-man Japanese Ko-hyoteki-class midget submarine was one of five to attempt to enter Pearl Harbor. Instead it rests, beached and captured, in eastern Oahu. (National Archives)

A less confident captain would have doubted this really could be the Japanese in the waters near Oahu and the end of peace. Outerbridge told his boys to fire away. At 100 yards, as the Ward cut across the enemy’s path, the forward four-inch gun spit, the shell roaring over the little vessel and into the sea beyond. At 50 yards, with the midget sub directly to starboard, the Ward’s number three four-inch gun amidships fired, punching a hole in the conning tower at the water line. The mini recoiled. As the Ward’s momentum took it past the sub, it “appeared to slow and sink,” Outerbridge said, the Japanese vessel submerging through the destroyer’s wake. Four depth charges rolled off the Ward’s stern were set to explode at 100 feet, and they did. “My opinion is that the submarine waded directly into our first charge,” said W. C. Maskzawilz, the enlisted man who dropped the explosives.

The destroyer came about and retraced its path. An oil slick bloomed on the sea. Sound detection equipment heard nothing from below.

Only a few minutes had slipped by. The Ward had fired the first shots of the American war in the Pacific. Quickly Outerbridge wrote, encoded, and radioed a message to Pearl: “We have dropped depth charges upon subs operating in defensive sea area.” Then he reconsidered. The phrasing might suggest they had responded only to vague, underwater sound contacts, when they had seen an actual submarine on the surface. They had shelled it and hit it. It was there. There was oil on the water. Two minutes later, Outerbridge sent a second message, more precise and more alarming. “We have attacked, fired upon, and dropped depth charges on a submarine operating in defensive sea area.”

Outerbridge wanted to be absolutely certain he was clearly heard and understood.

“Did you get that last message?” he radioed.

His report left the ship at 6:54 a.m. Outerbridge had been sent out to be on guard, and he had been. The new captain and the old Ward had just provided Pearl with a chance.

Outerbridge’s message crawled up the chains of two navy commands, the 14th Naval District and Pacific Fleet. On the District side, to which the Ward belonged, there was skepticism. The chief of staff, Captain John B. Earle, had the impression “it was just another one of these false reports which had been coming in, off and on.” He called Admiral Claude C. Bloch, the District commandant, who asked, “Is it a correct report, or is it another false report? Because we had got them before.” Earle ordered the on-call destroyer, the Monaghan, to head out and join the Ward, just in case.

Commander Vincent R. Murphy, the fleet’s duty officer, learned second-hand of the Ward’s report at about 7:20 a.m. as he was getting dressed at home. He wanted details, such as whether there had been some sort of chase before the destroyer fired, but the telephone line to the officer who had taken Outerbridge’s message was busy. Murphy went to fleet headquarters, where his regular job was assistant war plans officer, and where he finally got through to the man who had Outerbridge’s initial report. Murphy then called Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet. The time was approximately 7:40 a.m., almost 46 minutes after Outerbridge had radioed that the Ward had opened fire.

Kimmel told Murphy he was coming to the office, but he issued no orders. “I was not at all certain that this was a real attack,” Kimmel said of Outerbridge’s report. A few minutes later, the duty officer called the admiral back to say the Ward filed a second message about having detained a sampan.

Suddenly a yeoman burst into Murphy’s office: “There’s a message from the signal tower saying the Japanese are attacking Pearl Harbor, and this is no drill.”

Murphy related this to Kimmel on the phone. It was just before 8:00 a.m.

In the days following the attack, perhaps the happiest man on Oahu was Lieutenant William W. Outerbridge. “Joined the ship Friday, got under way Saturday morning, and started the war on Sunday,” he said to his wife, Grace, in a letter that would not reach her in San Diego for days. “The Ward has a fine reputation now.” The destroyer was being called the “Watchdog of Pearl Harbor,” he said, even if its vigilance had turned out to be only another “what if” in the painful saga. “Have had the time of my life,” Outerbridge wrote, somewhat insensitively considering what had happened. “This life has its compensations.”

Outerbridge did not realize Grace had no idea whether he was still alive. In the naval community of San Diego, many wives were not immediately made aware of their spouse’s fate.

“Really, the atmosphere around here is ghastly,” Grace wrote to her husband, hoping he would receive the letter. The next day, she wrote, “Don’t know how much longer I can stand it.” Shortly after, the casualty lists came out. “I haven’t been notified,” Grace wrote him, “so I’m sure you must be alright.” But even that hard data did not douse her anxiety. “Would give anything to know where you are, and what you’re doing.” Nearly a week after the attack, a telegram finally arrived, and Grace hesitated for several moments before opening it only to find five words.

Well and happy, William Outerbridge.

“I was so relieved, I sat down and bawled,” Grace wrote back, “and then I fixed myself a drink, and drank it while I sat at the phone and called up all the folks who have been inquiring about you.”

Outerbridge and the Ward parted company in 1942, only to be reunited later in the war in surreal fashion. While the Ward was escorting a convoy near the Philippines, Japanese bombers set upon it, one of them crashing into its starboard side at the water line and exploding. With fires raging, and having no water pressure with which to fight them, the crew abandoned ship. Rather than leave a hulk adrift, the nearby destroyer O’Brien was ordered to sink the Ward with gunfire. The old destroyer went down on the morning of December 7, 1944—three years to the day after it had warned Pearl Harbor.

The captain of the O’Brien was Commander William W. Outerbridge. ✯

Proof Positive

(Hawaii Undersea Research Library)

For more than 60 years after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the USS Ward’s crew had their doubters. If they had sunk a Japanese sub, where was it? Even famed undersea explorer Robert Ballard came up empty in a 2000 search. Then in 2002 a team of scientists on a routine mission in two submersibles discovered the midget sub 1,200 feet underwater, some three miles south of the harbor. Its hatch was closed, its two torpedoes retained—and its conning tower had a shell hole. Terry Kerby, pilot of one of the submersibles, called it a “sobering moment, realizing that was the shot that started the Pacific War.” ✯

This story was originally published in the November/December 2016 issue of World War II magazine. Subscribe here.

Fallen Hero

Born on October 7, 1916, in Banner Springs, Tennessee, Edgar Blannam Atkinson was the eldest of eight siblings born to John Wesley Atkinson and Bertha Pearl Stowers Atkinson. His father worked as a pastor of the Midway Circuit of Methodist churches and served as the postmaster in Lutts, Tennessee. Atkinson’s mother stayed at home to care for their children and their home and garden.

Edgar came from five generations of Methodist ministers and seemed destined to follow suit. Even though Edgar’s family had little money to spend on education, they were determined to send their oldest son to Baxter Seminary in Baxter, Tennessee.

The aim of Baxter Seminary, as published in various printed materials, was to offer “a Christian education to the boys and girls of the Cumberland Plateau who need to work their way in order to secure an education. It trains them in Christian citizenship for a life of usefulness.” While there, Edgar worked in the kitchen and on the school farm in exchange for tuition. Edgar also served as a chaplain for the YMCA and Polyhymnian Literary Society and was an active participant of the National Forensics League and Debate Clubs at school. He held the position of Vice President of the Wesley Club, a Christian fellowship student organization, at Baxter Seminary during his final year there.

"To Learn a Trade"
Following his graduation from Baxter Seminary in 1935, Edgar chose to pursue a different path, enlisting in the U.S. Navy. According to his enlistment paperwork, Edgar planned to make the Navy a career and wanted “to learn a trade.” Following training and time spent on several ships, in the fall of 1939, Atkinson was transferred to the USS Cummings for duty. This is where he would remain stationed for the duration of his service.

Military Experience

USS Cummings
The USS Cummings (DD-365) was a Mahan-class destroyer in the U.S. Navy that served as a patrol and escort vessel in the Pacific prior to and during the war. Before the war, the Cummings participated in many flotilla and fleet training exercises and served as an airplane guard for the carriers USS Yorktown and USS Lexington. In 1940, the Cummings took part in security patrols that began along the West Coast. On April 26, 1940, she was based at Pearl Harbor, and her crew remained busy with drills, exercises, and patrols.

“A Date Which Will Live in Infamy”
Sunday, December 7, 1941, began just as any other for the USS Cummings. The Cummings was at the Navy Yard, Pearl Harbor, nested at berth B-15 next to the USS Preble, acting as squadron leader for Destroyer Squadron Three. She was also undergoing preliminary radar installation work, placing her in a restricted availability status. The USS Cummings even noted the following in its action report, “Moored as before. 0400 Received the following fresh provisions for use in the General Mess: from Dairymen’s Association, Ltd., 15 gallons of milk, 7 gallons of ice cream,” indicating it was business as usual onboard.

However, just a few lines down in the report, appear the words, “0758 Air Raid. Japanese planes commenced torpedo attack on battleships in Pearl Harbor. Sounded General Quarters.” During the attack, the Cummings suffered minor damage and three minor personnel casualties, all resulting from bomb fragments that peppered the ship as the attack occurred.

Despite the chaos, the destroyer was one of the first to open fire on attacking planes. It was noted in their action report that the USS Cummings completed all repairs and reassembly aboard their ship by Sunday night. Following repairs, it proceeded out of the channel, joining the anti-submarine patrol at the entrance of Pearl Harbor. During their patrol, the Cummings was one of the first to come out of their defensive position to make an attack on the Japanese, rolling depth charges on a submarine contact just hours after the attack.

Lieutenant Commander George Dudley Cooper stated that Edgar Atkinson, “participated in the defense of Pearl Harbor on Sunday, December 7, 1941, on board the USS Cummings as Quartermaster, on bridge. He displayed coolness, courage and efficiency under fire in the performance of his duties and contributed to the effectiveness of this ship’s actions.”

"A Rough Sea"
For the first six months of the war, the USS Cummings escorted convoys between Pearl Harbor and the West Coast. Atkinson’s role as a Quartermaster Second Class often put him on bridge watch duties, standing watch as an assistant to officers of the deck and the navigator. Quartermasters also served as helmsmen and performed ship control and navigation duties.

On January 27, 1942, while enroute from San Francisco to Pearl Harbor on convoy, Edgar Blannam Atkinson was lost overboard in a rough sea at 6:55 a.m. An investigation and report of Atkinson’s death tells the story as follows,

The Commanding Officer saw the man fifty yards astern drifting aft rapidly and ordered bridge personnel and director crew to keep an eye on him and to take bearings on him as the ship was turning. The Commanding Officer lost sight of the man at a distance of about 400-500 yards and about twenty or thirty degrees abaft the port beam. He last appeared on the crest of a wave with his left arm high in the air and appeared to be trying to divest himself of his coat or jumper, disappeared in the trough and was not seen again. The wave behind which the man disappeared was breaking over the top and left a considerable track of foam. At the same time all others who were watching announced that they had lost sight of the man. The ship was turned as quickly as possible. Condition of the sea was such that it would have been dangerous to lower a boat on any other heading than down the wind, or to attempt to back down toward the man when he first went overboard, as the sea was on the starboard beam on the original heading. Three life rings were sighted and the ship was circled around them. An object was sighted which was at first believed to be the man, but which on close approach was identified as his pea coat. This was circled three times using it as a marker from which to search and was then picked up from the forecastle on the third turn. The area in the vicinity of the life buoys and pea coat was thoroughly searched both down and up wind to a distance of at least fifteen hundred yards radius, with all hangs looking out for the man. The Commanding Officer is certain if the man had been on the surface, he would have been sighted. After a search of two hours and a half, during which the man was not sighted, it was decided that he was not on the surface and must have been dragged under by the weight of his clothing or was unable to reach the life rings due to an injury in falling over the side, and the ship headed on a course and speed to rejoin the convoy.

The crew of the Cummings conducted a two-and-one-half hour search for Atkinson, but all they could recover was the peacoat he had been wearing. In letters that Atkinson’s shipmates wrote to his family, his shipmates described Atkinson as “cool in action, brave in an emergency, and an exemplary credit to the Navy of the United States.”


Atkinson’s body was never recovered, making him one of the nearly 80,000 Americans unaccounted for following World War II. This number includes those buried with honors as unknowns, those buried or lost at sea, and those missing in action. Also included in this number are those non combat casualties, whose remains were not recovered, similar to Atkinson’s, that cannot be attributed to enemy action. These non combat casualties occurred due to injury or death from environmental elements, disease, self-inflicted wounds, or training accidents.

John Wesley Atkinson and Bertha Pearl Stowers Atkinson were notified of their son’s death on February 13, 1942. His family held a memorial service and placed a headstone for him in Banner Springs, Tennessee, following notification of his death.

Edgar Atkinson is commemorated at the West Coast Memorial in San Francisco, California. The West Coast Memorial commemorates those servicemen lost in United States territorial waters. His family thought fondly of Atkinson. His sister, Irene Wells, recalled him being “really intelligent, hardworking, kind to others, and a faithful servant of God.”


Atkinson Family Photographs. 1919-1945. Courtesy of the Atkinson Family.

Baxter Seminary. The Highlander 1935 Yearbook. Baxter, TN: Graduating Class of 1935. Courtesy of the Atkinson Family.

Davis, Lorene. Interview with the author. June 27, 2017.

Edgar Atkinson, Individual Deceased Personnel File, Department of the Army.

Edgar Atkinson, Official Military Personnel File, Department of the U.S. Navy, Records of the Bureau of Naval Personnel, National Archives and Records Administration - St. Louis.

“Edgar B. Atkinson.” American Battlefield Monuments Commission. Accessed November 18, 2016.

“Edgar B. Atkinson.” East Tennessee Veterans Memorial Association. Last modified 2008. Accessed November 19, 2016.

“History of Baxter Seminary, Baxter, Tennessee.” Audrey and Mike Lambert. Last modified 2014.
Accessed November 25, 2016.

Kelso, Jean. Interview with the author. January 29, 2017.

Kelso, Jean. Interview with the author. November 20, 2016.

“New National Archives Video Short Gives Fresh Look at Pearl Harbor Attack.” National Archives. Last modified 2016. Accessed April 2, 2017.

Ships, Stations, Units, and Incidents Casualty Information Records, 1941-45, Records of Bureau of Naval Personnel, Record Group 24 (Box 20) National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD.

Wells, Irene. Interview with the author. January 29, 2017.

Wells, Irene. Interview with the author. November 20, 2016.

World War II War Diaries Records of the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, Records of Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, Record Group 38 (Box 774) National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD.

USS Cummings (DD-44) before First World War - History

For some American sailors, World War II began before December 7, 1941. During the latter part of 1941, U.S. Navy ships provided escorts for convoys bound for Great Britain carrying war materials from our "Arsenal of Democracy." Because German U-boats (submarines) considered all ships in the convoys fair game, it was only a matter of time before we became involved in a "shooting war."

Disaster struck in the early morning hours of October 31, 1941. While escorting convoy HX-156, the American destroyer U.S.S. Reuben James was torpedoed and sunk with the loss of 115 of 160 crewmen, including all officers. Although not the first U.S. Navy ship torpedoed before the war, the Reuben James was the first one lost. After the news of the sinking reached America, many concerned people wrote letters to the Navy to find out the fate of friends or loved ones. Sadly, most of the country ignored the sinking. One who did not was folk singer Woody Guthrie, who wrote his now famous song immediately after the incident:

Tell me, what were their names?
Tell me, what were their names?
Did you have a friend on the good Reuben James?

USS Cummings (DD-44) before First World War - History

Between 1945 and 1955, the submarine was transformed from a fast surface ship that could hide briefly underwater into a true underwater boat, able to move and fight for weeks on end without ever surfacing. The process began with German U-boats captured by the Allies at the end of World War II. Displaying a number of advanced features that greatly enhanced underwater speed and endurance, such as highly streamlined hulls and snorkels, these boats inspired new thinking in every major navy.

In the United States, the first step was upgrading existing submarines in a program called Guppy (greater underwater propulsive power). New hull designs followed, emphasizing better underwater performance. Nuclear propulsion was the final stage in creating the true submarine. The world's first nuclear-powered submarine, USS Nautilus (SSN-571), went to sea in January 1955.

Last U.S. Diesel-Electric Combat Submarine
USS Blueback (SS-581) was the last American combat submarine that was not nuclear powered. One of three Albacore-hulled diesel-electric submarines built, she served from 1959 until 1990. Courtesy U.S. Naval Institute

A design model of a radically new whale- or teardrop-shaped hull, intended for USS Albacore (AGSS-569 AGSS indicates an auxiliary or test submarine), is readied for testing at the David Taylor Model Basin in Carderock, Maryland. Completed in 1953, Albacore attained a remarkable submerged speed exactly how fast is still classified, but it was well over 25 knots (46 km/hr).

Studies of captured German Type XXI submarines inspired revolutionary changes in submarine design after World War II.


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