USS GILLESPIE DD-609 Ship History
Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships (Published 1968)
Gillespie (DD-609) was launched 1 November 1942 by the Bethlehem Steel Corp., San Francisco, CA; sponsored by Mrs. Hugo W. Osterhaus, wife of Rear Admiral H. W. Osterhaus; and commissioned 18 September 1942 Lt. Comdr. C. L. Clement in command.
After shakedown the destroyer sailed from San Francisco 28 December 142 for the fog-shrouded Aleutians and reached Sand Bay, Great Sitkin Island, 9 January 1943. After conducting escort, ASW, and patrolling duties among the scattered Aleutians, she saw her first action 18 February when, with Indianapolis and Richmond, she bombarded Attu Island, without return fire. The destroyer poured over 400 rounds of 5- inch into enemy installations at Holtz Bay and Chicago Harbor, and on the evening of the same day began an anti-shipping patrol southwest of Attu with Indianapolis and Coglan. At 2225 Coglan’s lookouts spotted smoke on the horizon and Gillespie went into action. The smoking ship was Akagane Maru, a 3100-ton cargo ship bound for Attu with troops, munitions, and supplies, but she was not to close her port of call. The game was up when she answered Indianapolis’ challenge in Japanese Morse Code; the American warships opened fire at 2316 and scored repeatedly. Within 3 minutes the cargo ship was burning forward; a coup de grace single turret salvo by Indianapolis set her afire from stem to stern. Malfunctioning torpedoes failed to sink the gutted maru, but she finally slid under at 0126 20 February in 53º 05’ N, 171º 22’ E.
After further patrolling, Gillespie returned to San Francisco 4 March for overhaul and subsequently sailed via San Diego and the Panama Canal to moor at New York 11 April 1943. Through the spring, summer, and fall of 1943 the destroyer made four round-trip transatlantic escort voyages to Casablanca, French Morocco, and return shepherding troop and cargo ships to the North African theater. On 2 January 1944 she departed Norfolk for the Pacific, reaching Funafuti atoll 20 days later, and escorting troop ships thence to Milne Bay, New Guinea, where she put in 7 February. As part of the 7th Fleet the destroyer supported the consolidation of Saidor in late February and escorted LST’s from Cape Sudest, New Guinea, to Cape Gloucester, New Britain, and Los Negros in the Admiralties. On March the LST’s made landing in Hayne Bay, Los Negros, while Gillespie patrolled from five to fifteen miles off the northeast coast. While acting as a call fire ship for Army forces in Seeadler Harbor, Manus Island, she bombarded the eastern tip of Pityilu Island on 14 March and until the 16th continued to support the Manus assault by bombarding installations and gun emplacements on Manus. On 24-25 March Gillespie plastered targets on Pityilu, Manus, and Rambutyo Islands returning to Oro Bay, New Guinea, 2 March.
Training exercises and patrolling occupied her until 27 May, when she lent fire support for the initial landing on Biak Island. From 31 May to 2 June 1944 she served as a fighter director and warning picket off Biak, and bombarded that island again to often up Japanese defense. Gillespie came under repeated air attacks, but escaped damage or casualties. Duties in New Guinean waters continued; 5 July she blasted enemy positions on the west coast of Noemfoor Island to speed the advance of the 6th Army toward the Namber Drone area, and 20 July her 5-inchers laid waste Insomeken Point and Arimi Island on the east coast of Noemfoor during the mopping up following the initial landings.
Through the summer of 1944 the destroyer continued patrolling and training exercises off New Guinea and the Solomons, and was on hand from 15 September-14 October for screening activities during the amphibious assault on Peleliu in the Palau Islands. With success assured, Gillespie sailed 14 October 144 for overhaul at Bremerton, WA, mooring there 5 November, and after refresher training, sailed from San Diego 3 January 1945. She conducted training exercises at Pearl Harbor and closed Ulithi 8 February, and subsequently as part of the Logistic Support Forces she escorted supply ships and units of the 5th Fleet during the seizure of Iwo Jima.
From 1 March-28 Mar 1845 Gillespie participated in the landings and occupation of Okinawa and adjacent islands of the Nansei-Shoto group. 8 April the destroyer came under attack by two Japanese planes, the first of which tried to kamikaze her. At dawn, just before 0600 an enemy fighter swooped down and Gillespie’s 5-inch battery opened fire at a range of 9,800 yards. As the plane closed the 2,500 yards, her automatic weapons took up the hail of fire and the destroyer turned hard to port to keep the batteries unmasked. The smoking plane passed low over the fantail and made an abrupt wingover in an attempt to crash the ship, but Gillespie’s fire had been too accurate and the plane spun off into the sea. Minutes later, another plane came in and was quickly splashed. The destroyer put in at Ulithi 31 May and from 1 July to 15 August 1945 screened other warships during the pre-invasion softening up of the Japanese home islands. From 16 August to 2 September she continued her escort and patrolling duties, and anchored triumphantly in Tokyo Bay 10 September 1945. Underway once more 12 October, she sailed via Manila and Pearl Harbor to moor at San Diego 23 November, and steamed thence to close Boston 11 December. Following overhaul there, she reached Charleston, SC, 14 January 1946 and she decommissioned at that port 17 April 1946. In reserve since that time, she is now assigned to the Texas Group, US Atlantic Reserve Fleet, Orange, TX.
Gillespie earned nine battle stars during World War II.