A Tin Can Sailors Destroyer History
USS EBERLE DD-430
The Tin Can Sailor, July 1999
Edward W. Eberle served with the U.S. fleet at Santiago de Cuba during the Spanish-American War, and later as superintendent of the Naval Academy, as commander of the Atlantic and Pacific Fleets, and as Chief of Naval Operations.
The EBERLE (DD-430) was launched 14 September 1940 and soon after her commissioning on 4 December 1940, she steamed south for training in the Caribbean and along the East Coast. She remained in southern waters, operating out of Bermuda with the United States’ neutrality patrol, until the end of August 1941. The EBERLE made history when she joined the ERICSSON (DD-440), and three ‘four-pipers,’ DALLAS (DD-199), UPSHUR (DD-144), and ELLIS (DD-154), as part of Task Unit 4.1.1. A pioneer group, they were the first U.S. ships to escort convoys along the western end of the vital North Atlantic lifeline to Britain. On September 17, they picked up the convoy of forty-four merchant ships about 350 miles east of Nova Scotia. The untried American crews and their ships would not be tested by German U-boats on this first run, but the men of the EBERLE had an opportunity to prove their mettle on the night of 24-25 September. Rain, gale-force winds, and high seas were tossing ships about when fire broke out aboard the freighter SS NIGARISTAN. Plowing through rough seas and damaging winds, the EBERLE steamed toward the stricken ship. Arriving on the scene in record time, she found that the freighter’s sixty-three-man crew had abandoned ship and were helplessly adrift in wildly plunging lifeboats. Displaying skill and bravery, the EBERLE’s crew began hauling the desperate men aboard. In the process, one of the seamen fell between his lifeboat and the destroyer and was in immediate danger of being crushed. According to the ship’s action report, Ensign L. C. Savage went well “beyond the normal call of duty” when he swung over the side with a bowline, grabbed the sailor, and held on as the destroyer’s crew hauled them to safety. The EBERLE went on to successfully rescue the entire crew of the doomed NIGARISTAN and then, continued on her way. Later on the 25th, she and the rest of the pioneer escort group turned the remaining thirty-nine ships over to the British and proceeded with four of the merchantmen into Reykjavik, Iceland.
Continuing escort duty after the United States entered the war, the EBERLE sailed the North Atlantic as far as Scotland and then transferred to Norfolk. By August 1942, she was escorting tankers through the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean to South American ports. That fall, the Allies were preparing for the invasion of North Africa, and on 25 October, the EBERLE left Norfolk with the Northern Attack Group of Task Force 34. She was assigned to antiaircraft duty with the HAMBLETON (DD-455) and MACOMB (DD-458) while escorting army transports headed for landings at Mehdia, French Morocco. On the morning of D-Day, on 8 November, the EBERLE opened fire on a French shore battery that had begun shelling the landing craft approaching Green Beach. Within two minutes, her gunners had silenced the enemy guns.
Returning to Norfolk on 27 November, she put to sea again on 26 December heading for the South Atlantic. She was operating out of Recife, Brazil, on 10 March 1943, when she intercepted the German blockade runner KARIN. When a fourteen-man boarding party from the EBERLE went aboard the KARIN, they found themselves in the midst of a conflagration. The Germans had planted demolition charges throughout the ship. The first explosions killed half of the party outright. Undaunted, the remaining seven tried to save the KARIN, but fire and further explosions finally forced them to abandon the effort. They joined seventy-two Germans who leapt overboard and were picked up by the EBERLE.
After an overhaul at Charleston, the EBERLE returned to escort duty in North African waters until 31 January 1944. She then sailed for Naples to provide fire support for American and British troops ashore at Anzio and protection for troops on transports at sea. On 20 April, she broke up an attack by German E-boats on the transport anchorage, sinking one and damaging three others so badly that they were subsequently beached.
The EBERLE continued her patrol and escort duty until 15 August 1944 and the invasion of southern France. On 21 August, her shelling brought about the surrender of the Ile de Porquerolles and the capture of seventy-two Germans by Allied forces. She closed out the year on transatlantic escort duty and then spent six months in New York for overhaul and training before sailing for the Pacific in June 1945. Sailing out of Pearl Harbor, she provided an antiaircraft screen for the ANTIETAM (CV-36) and visited the Russian port of Petrovavlovsk, Kamchatka, before heading for Charleston, South Carolina, in January 1946. She returned stateside with three battle stars for World War II service. The EBERLE was assigned to the Naval Reserve Training program until she was placed in reserve 19 May 1950. Finally decommissioned at Boston on 22 January 1951, she was transferred to Greece under the Mutual Defense Assistance Program. Renamed NIKI, the destroyer joined the Greek navy where she served until 1972.