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 A Tin Can Sailors
Destroyer History

 USS RHIND
(DD-404)

USS RHIND was the only BENHAM class destroyer to be constructed at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. The new destroyer was named for Rear Admiral Alexander Colden Rhind whose half-century of service included daring exploits during the Civil War.

DD-404 was laid down on September 22, 1937 and launched just ten months later. Commissioning ceremonies took place on November 10, 1939. Following an extensive shakedown and subsequent repair work, RHIND took up the role of escort for fast carrier and battleship forces. She was pressed into service in screening President Franklin D. Roosevelt's cruise aboard USS AUGUSTA (CA-31) to Newfoundland for meetings with Prime Minister Winston Churchill of Great Britain. The conferences, which led to the Atlantic Charter, created the agreement which defined America's role in the upcoming war and provided guidelines for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. She also protected Churchill's return, via Iceland, aboard HMS PRINCE OF WALES.

In the early months of the war USS RHIND was detailed to convoy troops and cargo across the North Atlantic on the "Iceland Run." U-boats already abounded, both on the ocean routes and on the approaches to America's major cities. In her first attempt to alleviate the U-boat menace, DD-404 depth charged a submarine after the underwater raider shelled a Norwegian freighter. The submarine, probably U-752, escaped unscathed, after devastating coastal traffic just east of Perth Amboy, New Jersey. The active destroyer was soon on the track of other submarines, this time operating with the British Home Fleet in an effort to keep the convoy routes to North Russia open. Like many of her sisters, she remained on convoy duty until after the North African invasion in the winter of 1942.

Off the North African invasion beaches, RHIND screened USS MASSACHUSETTS (BB- 59) and two cruisers as the heavy weights blasted away at French naval forces on the coast of Morocco. Her accurate fire, along with that of other destroyers, blocked a potentially disastrous sortie by Vichy French naval forces which could well have wrecked Allied plans on the "Dark Continent." The surrender of German and French forces in the area signaled RHIND's return to the convoy escort role.

Early convoys to the Allied bridgeheads in North Africa were no "milk runs" and DD- 404 battled her way across the Atlantic with convoy UGS-6 in March. The convoy was heavily defended, with no fewer than seven American destroyers to protect forty-five heavily laden merchantmen. As the convoy neared the Azores, it was spotted by U-boats using the area to refuel. A running ambush was prepared for the unfortunate group, at least four submarines on station around the embattled convoy at any given time. Five cargo ships were lost, and DD-404 dodged at least one torpedo during the action, but the convoy got through, thanks in no small part to the efforts of USS RHIND.

As Allied operations extended to Sicily and the Italian boot, DD-404 shifted her base to Oran on the North African coast. Coastal operations were no less hazardous, whether off the coast of Africa or along the Italian seacoast. In July she was called upon to aid the heavily damaged MAYRANT (DD-402) while herself evading a German air raid off Palermo. By August, it was time for the veteran destroyer to go hunting.

German E-Boats (actually, they were called S-boats by the German Navy for "Schnellboote") were a major nuisance along the Italian coast. From hidden bases along the coast, the swift craft, armed with two torpedo tubes and a variety of automatic weapons, could easily wreck a cargo vessel or a landing craft. Nightly raids on the edges of the invasion fleet had to be stopped. USS RHIND and USS GHERARDI (DD-637) were given the duty.

Nearly seventy-five miles east of the Palermo, the destroyers encountered two S-Boats just after 2223, protecting a large landing craft. The strategy of attack was carefully planned.

GHERARDI would sweep close to the coast, while RHIND would patrol two thousand yards outboard, with the intention of coming in astern of GHERARDI when targets were engaged. The plan worked perfectly. GHERARDI wrecked the large landing craft while one of the torpedo boats disappeared under RHIND's accurate barrage. The second torpedo boat, after firing a torpedo which the destroyers deftly eluded, succeeded in making her escape. By mid-1944, RHIND again resumed convoy duty, both in the Mediterranean and on the Atlantic "run."

By the summer of 1945, the war in Europe was over and units began shifting to the Pacific for the final thrust against Japan. The veteran destroyer alternated between screening fast carrier forces and conveying troop and cargo ships to the embattled islands on the way to Japan. With the end of hostilities, RHIND was assigned to accept the surrender of the Japanese garrison on Pagan Island.

Upon her return to the States, DD-404 was stripped in preparation for her final service, as a target for the atomic bomb tests at Bikini. She survived both bombs used in the month-long tests, but the level of contamination was so great that the now-obsolete destroyer could serve no more with the fleet. USS RHIND was sunk by American surface units in deep water off Kwajalein on March 22, 1948.

USS RHIND earned four battle stars for her service in World War II.

 

From The Tin Can Sailor, October 1998


Copyright 1998 Tin Can Sailors.
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