A Tin Can Sailors Destroyer History
USS BORIE DD-215
The Tin Can Sailor, October 2001
Launched in October 1919 in Philadelphia, the BORIE (DD-215) was commissioned on 24 March 1920. Following a year operating in Turkish waters, she reported to the Asiatic Fleet, and for the next four years she spent winters in the Philippine Islands and summers in Chefoo and Shanghai, China. In September 1923, when an earthquake destroyed Yokohama and part of Tokyo, the BORIE and other U.S. ships sped to Japan to join disaster relief efforts. Her sister ship, the STEWART (DD-224) was the first foreign naval vessel to reach Yokohama after the quake. The BORIE returned home to serve with the Atlantic Fleet in the Caribbean and Europe until 1929 when she began a three-year tour with the Asiatic Fleet.
Following conversion to a squadron leader she operated along the West Coast until late 1939 and then, with the BARRY (DD-248), GOFF (DD-247), TATTNALL (DD-125), and J. FRED TALBOT (DD-156), she transferred to the Panama Sea Frontier Command. With the coming of war, the old four-pipers struggled to meet the U-boat challenge in the Caribbean and along the East Coast with inoperative World War I sound gear and no radar. On 9 June 1942, the BORIE was ordered to hunt for the sub that had torpedoed the freighter MERRIMACK off Cozumel and look for survivors. The U-boat escaped but a week later, the destroyer found eight men clinging to life on a raft.
The BORIE subsequently assumed role of escort commander in the sub-infested Caribbean where her fellow escorts were usually no more than two or three patrol craft and converted yachts. Hoping to ward off the enemy, her crew rigged a bunk bed spring to her foremast to simulate a radar installation. Not until August 1942 did the BORIE receive four 20-mm machine guns and effective sound gear. She finally got her radar in January 1943 and reported to the South Atlantic to escort convoys on the 4,000-mile route between Trinidad and Recife, Brazil. In the BORIE’s group were the corvettes COURAGE (PG-70) and TENACITY (PG-71) and a couple gunboats. With as many as ten ships in a convoy, the escorts were hard put to prevent U-boat attacks. In March and May 1943 enemy submarines loosed their torpedoes and escaped, leaving crippled merchantmen in their wake despite the best efforts of the BORIE and her fellow escorts.
The BORIE left the Caribbean and on 30 July 1943 joined one of the newly organized hunter-killer groups. With the escort carrier CARD (CVE-11), the BORIE, BARRY (DD-248), and GOFF (DD-247) set out sweep the U.S.-North African convoy route. In the first month, the carrier’s planes netted three submarines. On 9 August, while rescuing forty-four survivors from one of the doomed U-boats a trio of torpedoes forced the BORIE to end the effort.
In September and October 1943, the CARD’s planes accounted for four more submarines and on the stormy night of 31 October, the BORIE sank a fifth. Continuing her search at 0153 on 1 November, she made radar contact again and attacked with depth charges. As she drew back from the area of the attack, the U-405 rose from the disturbed water where the BORIE’s search light found her. Closing on the U-boat, the destroyer opened fire with her main battery and 20-mm machine guns. As the destroyer and U-boat maneuvered for position, their gunners waged a deadly machine-gun battle. The submarine managed to fire one torpedo, which missed, while the BORIE’s 4-inch gun obliterated the sub’s deck gun.
As the U-405 tried to run, the tin can’s skipper, Lieutenant Charles H. Hutchins, gave the order to ram. Increasing her speed to twenty-five knots, the BORIE set a crash course. Just seconds before the collision, the sub turned to parallel the destroyer, and a huge wave lifted the BORIE and put her down on the U-boat’s deck, pinning it under her bow. Men on both vessels opened fire with small arms as the two ships lay locked bow over bow. In the meantime, the pounding of sub against ship caused severe underwater damage along the BORIE’s entire port side, including both engine rooms. The ensuing gun battle lasted ten minutes, until the U-405 pulled away and again attempted to escape. In slow pursuit, the BORIE fired her guns, torpedoes, and finally depth charges, which straddled the sub, lifting it out of the water. Nearly dead in the water, herself, the destroyer shook with the explosions. Her main battery gunners kept up their fire and ultimately brought the sub to a halt. Signaling their surrender, the boat’s crew launched life rafts and abandoned the sub minutes before it went down. The entire encounter with the U-405 lasted one hour and four minutes.
As the BORIE maneuvered to port to pick up the U-boat survivors, her sound operator heard a torpedo, and the destroyer turned hard to port, evading the torpedo but running down the men in the water as she cleared the area. Soon, however, her forward engine room had flooded completely, and she lost all power. The crew managed to keep her nose into the huge waves and she remained afloat through the night and into the next morning when the CARD’s search planes spotted her. By afternoon, the task group reached the BORIE, which by that time was beyond saving. Lieutenant Hutchins gave the order to abandon ship, but the seas were too rough for a rescue ship to go alongside. As the GOFF and BARRY stood by in the gathering darkness to pick up her crew, the men of the BORIE went overboard, into rafts and icy cold water. Three officers and twenty-four men survived the battle but died when they abandoned the ship.
The task group stood by overnight, and on the morning of 2 November 1943, gunfire from the BARRY and depth bombs from the CARD’s planes sent the BORIE to the bottom at 0955.