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 A Tin Can Sailors
Destroyer History

USS CONY
(DD-508)

Launched on 16 August and commissioned at Boston on 30 October 1942, the FLETCHER-class destroyer CONY (DD‑508) was bound for the Pacific on Christmas day. By 6 March 1943 she was underway with the destroyers WALLER (DD-466) and CONWAY (DD-507) to screen the cruisers MONTPELIER (CL-57), CLEVELAND (CL-55), and DENVER (CL-58) as they bombarded the Japanese airstrip at Vila on Kolombangara Island. Shortly after midnight, the American force met two enemy destroyers, one of which was quickly dispatched by a torpedo from the WALLER, the first sinking by a destroyer-fired torpedo since the Battle of Balikpapan. The cruisers sank the second destroyer and headed for the Vila airstrip while the destroyers battled the shore batteries to silence.

Following a stateside overhaul, the CONY returned as flagship for the fire support group covering the landings on Vella Lavella on 15 August 1943. She and the destroyers WALLER, EATON (DD-510), RENSHAW (DD-499), SAUFLEY (DD-465), RADFORD (DD-446), GRAYSON (DD-435), and LAVALETTE (DD-448) formed a strike force to intercept Japanese barges evacuating Kolombangara. On the first night, they sank twenty barges, and the EATON claimed a submarine kill. The next night, the CONY, WALLER, EATON, RALPH TALBOT (DD-390), TERRY (DD-513), and TAYLOR (DD-468) ran off four Japanese destroyers and sank a torpedo boat and another twenty barges.

At dawn on 27 October 1943, the CONY and PHILIP (DD-498) covered troop landings in the Treasury Islands. The CONY, as fighter director and radar picket, stood off Mono Island’s Laifa Point. The PHILIP was off Stirling Island busy silencing coastal mortars that had damaged the LSTs 399 and 485. That afternoon, U.S. fighter planes drove off a bomber attack on the landing craft, and later the two destroyers fought off some 25 enemy bombers, splashing 12. The CONY claimed five of those, but suffered severe damage when the bombers scored two hits. Fire and flooding caused serious damage in the after engine room, living spaces, and magazines, and the loss of electricity put three of her 5-inch guns out of action. She retired from the area, as her crew fought the fires until 0630 the next morning. She lost eight of her crew killed and ten wounded and had to return to the states for repairs.

Beginning in March 1944, the CONY hunted off Bougainville for Japanese barges and submarines, patrolled the Southern Surigao Straits, and supported landings in the Empress Augusta Bay area. On 14 June she was en route to Saipan when her sonar picked up a submarine. Five runs and 46 depth charges brought the end of the sub, I-5. The next day, her crew picked up an I-5 survivor and later turned him over to the authorities at Saipan. The destroyer screened transports at Saipan and hunted enemy submarines until 20 July when she joined the bombardment of Tinian and screened for submarines during the landings on 24 July. August found the CONY en route to Guadalcanal to screen carriers during the landings on Peleliu between 15 and 30 September. In October 1944 she screened and fired in support of underwater demolition teams and bombardment groups in the Leyte Gulf.

 

She was in the Battle of Surigao Strait on the night of 24 October positioned north of Hibuson Island with five cruisers and the destroyers AULICK (DD-569) and SIGOURNEY (DD‑643). The battle raged through the night and ended in a decisive American victory. That didn’t stop the enemy from supplying their troops on Leyte through the port of Ormoc, which became the next target of U.S. action. On 27 November 1944, after the minesweepers PURSUIT (AM‑108) and REVENGE (AM‑110) cleared the Canigao Channel into Ormoc Bay, the WALLER, PRINGLE (DD‑477), RENSHAW (DD‑499) and SAUFLEY (DD‑465) entered the bay to strike at harbor installations. During that action, the WALLER sank a surfaced enemy sub with gunfire. That night and the one following, the CONY, WALLER, RENSHAW, and CONNER (DD‑582) found Ormoc Bay quiet and free of ships. On the night of 1 December, however, the CONY, CONWAY, EATON, and SIGOURNEY intercepted an enemy transport and sent it to the bottom. The next day, three new SUMNER-class DDs, the ALLEN M. SUMNER (DD‑692), MOALE (DD‑693), and COOPER (DD‑695) found a very different situation in Ormoc Bay. They immediately came under heavy air attack as they entered the bay and inside, were met by enemy PT boats, and fire from shore batteries. In the meantime, they were dodging barrages of torpedoes from enemy submarines and destroyers. They sank the destroyer KUWA, but the trio lost one of their own, in the melee, the COOPER was hit by a torpedo and sank almost immediately.

In mid-December, the CONY screened carriers off Mindoro and began 1945 screening transports during the Lingayen Gulf landings. On 1 March, she covered the destroyer escort FORMOE (DE‑509), the minesweepers SENTRY (AM‑299) and SALUTE (AM‑294), and two infantry landing craft (LCI) for minesweeping and reconnaissance in the Luzon area. In March and April, the CONY’s and CONWAY’s guns supported landing on Caballo Island in Manila Bay and on Mindanau and Parang. In May and June, the CONY patrolled the Davao Gulf, covered landings at Brunei Bay, Borneo, and supported mine sweepers and underwater demolition teams near Balikpapan, Borneo. She screened transports and supported the landings at Sarangani Bay, Mindanau, in July 1945.

With the end of hostilities, the CONY’s operations included escort duty, assisting minesweepers in the Yangtze River area and Taiwan Straits, and monitoring activity around Shanghai. She returned to the states on 20 December and was decommissioned at Charleston, SC, on 13 March 1946.

After her recommissioning and conversion to an escort destroyer (DDE) for antisubmarine warfare (ASW) operations, she headed for the Korean War zone in May 1951. There she provided gunfire support through October. Over the next several years she was busy with hunter-killer operations; NATO exercises in the North Atlantic, English Channel, and Mediterranean; and ASW exercises with the British Royal Navy. In April 1958 the CONY joined Task Force Alpha, an experimental group specializing in developing ASW tactics.

April 1961 found Task Force Alpha, which included the carrier ESSEX (CV-9); two submarines; the destroyers CONY, CONWAY, EATON, MURRAY, WALLER, BACHE (DD-470), and BEALE (DD-471) in the Caribbean. The CONY and other destroyers carried an armed force of Cuban exiles bound for a secret landing in the Bay of Pigs on 17 April 1961 to bring about the overthrow Fidel Castro’s Communist regime.

The CONY’s whaleboat was part of the invasion flotilla led by the EATON, but the landing was no surprise. They immediately received fire from the beach and later, a Cuban helicopter fired on the CONY’s whaleboat returning to the beach to rescue survivors. The disastrous operation cost the Cuban exiles and Americans with them 114 lives and 1,189 captured. The Communist forces lost 106.

In October 1962 the CONY returned to the Caribbean to participate in the blockade during the Cuban Missile Crisis. She was engaged in hunter-killer operations with the carriers RANDOLPH (CVS-15) and ESSEX, and the destroyers BACHE, EATON, and MURRAY. As they patrolled the Sargasso Sea they made contact with the Soviet submarine B-59 prowling along the quarantine line. The destroyers, tracker aircraft, and helicopters maintained contact with the sub, which tried unsuccessfully to shake them. Beginning on the morning of 27 October 1962, the CONY and BEALE tracked the sub and, as ordered, began dropping practice depth charges, which made it rough going for the B-59. They dogged her for twelve hours before her captain had to surface to recharge his boat’s batteries. Soon after the CONY’s signalman had established a communications link by signal light.

As the American destroyer and Soviet submarine continued toward the northeast, a U.S. Navy surveillance plane flew over during the night to photograph the B-59. It dropped incendiary devices for illumination, but the unexpected explosions startled the watches on both destroyer and sub. The latter quickly went to battle stations and prepared to launch her torpedoes at the CONY, whose skipper immediately had the destroyer’s signalman flash an explanation and an apology to the submarine. Only later did the Americans learn that the B-59’s torpedoes were armed with nuclear warheads and the incident was far more dangerous than they had thought.

The CONY returned to Norfolk and routine operations along the East Coast and in the Caribbean. She took midshipman on a training cruise to Northern Europe; conducted surveillance of Soviet activity in the Red Sea; and visited several Middle-Eastern ports. By the summer of 1967, she was bound for Vietnam with the LEARY (DD-879), WALDRON (DD-699), and DAMATO (DD-871). From 28 August to 24 September, the CONY provided gunfire support for the First Air Cavalry’s operations in the II Corps area and, on her second tour in Vietnam, for the I and III Corps and navy seal teams operating in the Mekong Delta. The CONY’s next assignment was with Task Group 77.8 on Yankee Station in the Gulf of Tonkin, followed by plane guard duty for the ORISKANY (CVA‑34). During her last deployment, from 14 August 1967 to 25 December 1967, she patrolled the Taiwan Straits and was on gunfire support and plane guard duty in Cam Ranh Bay, Cape Saint Jacques, Vung Ganh Rai, the Saigon River, and Mui Ba Kiem, Vietnam.

She returned to Norfolk where she was decommissioned and struck from the navy ship register on 2 July 1969. On 20 March 1970 she was towed to a spot 60 miles off Puerto Rico where an amphibious task force sank her with their 3-inch and 5-inch batteries.

 

From The Tin Can Sailor, July 2004


Copyright 2001 Tin Can Sailors.
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