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 A Tin Can Sailors
Destroyer History

 USS RENSHAW
(DD-499)

Named for Civil War hero Commander William B. Renshaw, the DD-499 was launched 13 October and commissioned 5 December 1942. She reported to the Pacific Fleet in the spring of 1943 to screen transports off the Solomons followed in July by bombardment of the Vila Stanmore and Shortland Islands. Over the winter of 1942-43, her guns pounded targets in Empress Augusta Bay, on northeast Bougainville, Buka and Green Islands, and Bougainville Island itself. Again, during landings in the New Britain-New Ireland area, her fire hit enemy airfield installations and a gun emplacement. By the summer of 1944, she was off Tinian supporting U.S. forces under a heavy counterattack with regular and illuminating fire. She was close enough to shore for her lookouts to see bodies and machine guns in the debris tossed into the air by successful hits. Near Ormoc Bay that November, the RENSHAW and other destroyers engaged and sank a surfaced Japanese submarine and went on to destroy an enemy barge.

While on convoy duty in the Mindanao Sea on the morning of 21 February 1945, lookouts aboard the RENSHAW spotted a periscope, but before the ship could take evasive action, the torpedo hit, exploding on contact about ten feet below the waterline. Nineteen of her crew were killed, twenty injured. The explosion tore a twenty-six-foot hole in the hull, twisted the keel, damaged bulkheads and decks and caused flooding in the forward engine room and after fire room. Almost immediately, the ship lost power. Quick action by damage control parties greatly reduced the flooding, prevented damage to the ship’s main propulsion machinery, and restored power. Later, after temporary repairs by the ship’s crew and those on the destroyer tender WHITNEY (AD-4) and repair ship PROMETHEUS (AR-3), the RENSHAW was able to proceed under her own power to Tacoma, Washington, for permanent repairs. On Navy Day, 27 October 1945, she was in New York Harbor with President Harry S. Truman aboard as he reviewed the victory parade of ships on the Hudson River.

Decommissioned in February 1947, she was placed in reserve until 1949 when she received the latest antisubmarine armament and electronic detection gear and was redesignated escort destroyer DDE-499. She was recommissioned in June 1950 and, with the coming of war in Korea, was back in action in May 1951. Much of her time was spent in shelling the enemy rail line between Sonjin and Ilsin Dong and railway targets in the Tanchon area. On the morning of 11 October 1951, the RENSHAW was on a bombardment mission when a quartermaster on the bridge noticed large camouflage screens sliding down a 200-foot bluff adjacent to her target. Thus revealed was battery of four guns, which opened fire as their camouflage slipped away. The first two salvos were short, the next two were long and peppered the bridge and midships areas from the waterline to the topmast radar with shrapnel. Topside damage to the ship was superficial, and the one sailor who was hit suffered only slight wounds. The rest of some thirty salvos fell short as the destroyer took evasive action and blasted the enemy guns. Her fourth salvo struck an enemy gun emplacement and blew it and its crew out of their cave and down the bluff into the water, making the RENSHAW the first ship to sink an enemy shore battery. Now 6,000 yards offshore, beyond the range of enemy guns, she was joined by the ERBEN (DD-631). As the two moved in toward shore, the RENSHAW’s gunners fired on the remaining gun emplacements and the ERBEN’s knocked out the bridges that the shore batteries had tried to protect. She was back in icy Korean waters in December 1952, when she rescued four survivors of a downed navy patrol bomber as part of escort, search and rescue, and bombardment duties that continued into June 1953.

The following spring, she served with the Surface Security Unit for nuclear tests at Bikini Atoll, and that summer, rescued a British airman while serving as plane guard for the carrier HMS WARRIOR. She continued regular Far East deployments for hunter-killer and task force exercises into 1961. That December, she recovered the satellite nose cone of DISCOVERER 36 north of Oahu. In August 1962, she was redesignated DD-499 and in October participated in the recovery of Mercury astronaut Walter M. Schirra. In April 1965, the RENSHAW and other units of Destroyer Division 252 were on station in the South China Sea off Vietnam serving in surveillance roles and supporting carrier strike force operations. Following a stint with the Taiwan Patrol Force, she returned to the coast of Vietnam for surveillance with the BENNINGTON (CVS-20) and ASWGROUP 5. Beginning in August 1966, she served at various times with the KEARSARGE (CVS-33), ORISKANY (CVA-34), FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT (CVA-42), and CHICAGO (CG-11); participated in antisubmarine warfare exercises; patrolled the Taiwan Strait; and fought fifty-knot winds and high seas of tropical storm Olga. Her next service in the Tonkin Gulf was in 1968 and again in 1969 when she rescued a downed pilot. During these tours, she operated with the BUCHANAN (DDG-14), GEORGE K. MACKENZIE (DD-836), ROWAN (DD-782), and HAMNER (DD-718) as well as the EPPERSON (DD-719), NICHOLAS (DD-449), and COCHRANE (DDG-21).

The RENSHAW’s career ended at Pearl Harbor where she was decommissioned and struck from the navy’s list on 14 February 1970. She was sold for scrap in October 1970.

 

From The Tin Can Sailor, July 2000


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