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 A Tin Can Sailors
Destroyer History

 USS HAGGARD
(DD-555)

Launched at Seattle, Washington, on 9 February 1943, the HAGGARD (DD-555) was commissioned on 31 August, and en route to Pearl Harbor in November . She steamed for the Marshall Islands in January 1944 to cover the landings on Majuro, then sailed to Kwajalein Atoll. Taking up firing position inside the lagoon on 2 February, she provided gunfire support for the advancing marines. During her bombardment, a 5-inch projectile exploded prematurely, killing one man and seriously injuring two others. The island was secured three days later, and the HAGGARD assumed patrol and escort duties in the Kwajalein area until sailing for Engebi on 17 February. There, the destroyer’s shelling helped secure the atoll.

Over the next months, she operated out of Purvis Bay in the Solomons making reconnaissance patrols, convoying, and screening escort carriers. She also screened minelaying operations in Bougainville’s Buka Passage. During the night of 16–17 May 1944, the HAGGARD was patrolling with the FRANKS (DD-554) and JOHNSTON (DD-557) when her sonar picked up an enemy submarine. The three ships delivered depth charge attacks, sinking the I-176.

The HAGGARD joined the Fifth Fleet at Eniwetok on 21 May to prepare for the Marianas operation. On 17 July 1944, she arrived off Guam with the battleships PENNSYLVANIA (BB-38) and NEW MEXICO (BB-40) and other fleet units to deliver a devastating bombardment of enemy fortifications. With the landing of marines on 21 July, the destroyer turned to close fire support. Next in the Pacific island campaign was the Palau group, needed to provide an air base for further advances. The HAGGARD was withdrawn from Guam and in early September joined the Western Escort Carrier Group off the Solomons. During the invasion of Peleliu on 15 September, the HAGGARD screened carrier groups as they provided  close fire support for marines ashore. Aircraft from her group also bombed Ulithi before the ships returned to Manus on 1 October.

The HAGGARD’s next operation was the invasion of the Philippines. She was assigned to an escort carrier group with the FRANKS and HAILEY (DD-556) and during the Battle of Samar between 23 and 25 October, the three destroyers were in the thick of the battle. Positioning themselves between their carriers and the enemy, the HAGGARD and her sister destroyers successfully dodged shells from enemy cruisers. In the action the Japanese hit the DENNIS (DE-405), HEERMANN (DD-532), and two escort carriers and sank the JOHNSTON, HOEL (DD-533), SAMUEL B. ROBERTS (DE-413), and the carrier GAMBIER BAY (CVE-73) they were turned back.

The HAGGARD remained with the escort carriers during air operations supporting the Philippines campaign and then joined Task Force 38 for the December invasion of Luzon. From 10 to 20 January 1945, the HAGGARD and other destroyers screened the carrier groups as they struck Luzon, Formosa, Indochina, and the Chinese mainland.

In February 1945, the destroyer sailed with the carriers RANDOLPH (CV-15) and YORKTOWN (CV-10) for strikes against Tokyo to divert attention from the 19 February landings on Iwo Jima. By mid-March, the HAGGARD was screening Fifth-Fleet carriers as their planes targeted the Japanese home islands. On 18 and 19 March, while their planes were on missions over Kyushu, kamikazes struck back at the task force. The HAGGARD’s gunners joined in splashing several kamikazes, but could not prevent two from crashing the carriers FRANKLIN (CV-13) and ENTERPRISE (CV-6). The fast carrier group moved on toward Okinawa on 22 March with the HAGGARD acting as picket destroyer ahead of the formation. Shortly before midnight her radar picked up a surfaced submarine. When the boat dove, the destroyer went after her with an array of depth charges, the first of which exploded with such force that it damaged the HAGGARD’s propeller shaft. Ten minutes later, the submarine surfaced on the HAGGARD’s port beam, but as her skipper turned his ship toward the enemy, vibrations from the damaged propeller prevented men on torpedo and gun directors from getting the target in their optics. With full throttle and guns blazing, the HAGGARD plowed into the I-371 amidships, sinking her in three minutes. The HAGGARD’s crew made emergency repairs to her damaged bow and escorted by the UHLMAN (DD-687), she limped back to Ulithi.

Repairs complete, the HAGGARD left for Okinawa on 21 April with the IOWA (BB-61), SHANGRI-LA (CV-38), and STEMBEL (DD-644). She resumed her screening and plane guard duties under constant threat of kamikaze attacks. On 29 April while on her way to support the UHLMAN on an advanced picket station, the HAGGARD was attacked by a kamikaze. Though nearly blown apart by the fury of the destroyer’s guns, the aircraft crashed close aboard sending the plane and its bomb into the forward engine room near the waterline killing thirteen officers and men and wounding thirty-eight. As water gushed through the gaping hole in the destroyer’s side and she began to settle, another suicide plane attacked, but was splashed by anti-aircraft fire. Working quickly, damage control parties stopped the flooding and kept the HAGGARD afloat. The cruiser SAN DIEGO (CL-53) arrived to give aid and take off the wounded, and the WALKER (DD-517) took the stricken ship in tow. The two destroyers proceeded to Kerama Retto arriving on 1 May 1945.

Working under constant air alerts, the HAGGARD’s crew succeeded in repairing her so that she could get underway for Pearl Harbor. After a stop at Pearl on 12 July, she headed for the states and arrived at Norfolk on 5 August 1945. She was decommissioned on 1 November, stricken from the naval register on 16 November 1945, and subsequently scrapped.

 

From The Tin Can Sailor, January 2002


Copyright 2002 Tin Can Sailors.
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