A Tin Can Sailors Destroyer History
USS BRAINE DD-630
The Tin Can Sailor, January 2003
The USS BRAINE (DD-630) was launched on 7 March 1943 at Bath, Maine, and was commissioned on 11 May 1943. That summer she left the East Coast for Pearl Harbor where she escorted troop transports until ordered to Wake Island for bombardment between 5 and 6 October 1943. Between 1 and 3 November the BRAINE along with the FULLAM (DD-474), GUEST (DD-472), BENNET (DD-473), HUDSON (DD-475), WADSWORTH (DD-516), TERRY (DD-513), SIGOURNEY (DD-643), CONWAY (DD-507), ANTHONY (DD-515), and RENSHAW (DD-499), covered the landings of U.S. Marines on Bougainville.
In February 1944 she participated in the Green Island landing and joined the FULLAM, BENNETT, GUEST, HALFORD (DD-480), HUDSON, ANTHONY, TERRY, and WADSWORTH at Rabaul. Entering the harbor under enemy fire on the night of 24 February, they began their bombardment of enemy installations. Also pounding the shore were the WALLER (DD-466), PHILIP (DD-498), RENSHAW, SAUFLEY (DD-465), CONWAY, EATON (DD-510), SIGOURNEY, and PRINGLE (DD-477). On 20 March she supported landings on Emirau Island.
On 14 June the BRAINE took part in the bombardment of Tinian Island, silencing several enemy batteries. At 0853 a 4.7-inch shell struck her amidships killing three of her crew and wounding 17 others. She received minor damage but continued operations in the Marianas until 23 June. After a month in the United States, she sailed for the Philippines where she fired in support of the Leyte landings on 20 October 1944 and repelled an enemy air attack on 18 November. Early in January 1945, with the CHARLES AUSBURNE (DD-570), SHAW (DD-373), and RUSSELL (DD-414), she escorted transports to the Lingayen Gulf. At 2214 on 7 January the destroyers ran down an enemy ship and sent it to the bottom, ending the war’s last major surface engagement.
The BRAINE then proceeded to Manila Bay to support landings on the Bataan Peninsula and Corregidor between 14 and 28 February 1945. She served as a radar picket and support ship for the landing forces at Zamoanga and subsequently at Pollack Harbor, Mindanao in March and April. She took part in the Okinawa operations as a radar picket ship 16-25 May. Shortly before 0745 on 27 May, the BRAINE and ANTHONY scored hits on an attacking dive bomber. Trailing smoke and flame, the VAL headed for the BRAINE, coming in over the bow, just above the main deck level. It sheered off a wing on the No. 1 gun and crashed squarely into the ammunition handling room of No. 2 gun. The plane’s 550-pound bomb plunged into the officers’ quarters and exploded, causing widespread fires and ammunition explosions. The kamikaze claimed five of the BRAINE’s officers and 35 men.
Thirty seconds after the first crash, a second VAL swooped in over the bow, lost a wing on the starboard boat davit and crashed into the sick bay and supply office on the main deck forward of the No. 2 smokestack. Its 550-pound bomb exploded over the after fire room and the plane sliced off the stack and wrapped its remnants around the torpedo tubes amidships. This kamikaze killed three more officers and 24 men — a total of 67 dead within one minute and 103 wounded out of a crew of 300. Over the next hour her crew fought fires and exploding ammunition and tried to control the ship, which had been left steaming in a circle at 25 knots. Gradually they reduced her speed to eight knots, but until then the ANTHONY and four LCSs could not move in to help fight the fires or take off the wounded. Many of the BRAINE’s crew were either blown into the water or were forced to jump to escape the fires. Others jumped to help the wounded. As the other vessels chased the out-of-control destroyer, they struggled to pick up those dead, injured, or adrift in the water. As the BRAINE slowed, the LCSs and the ANTHONY were able to bring their firefighting equipment and high-pressure hoses to bear and send damage control parties aboard the stricken ship. At 1430 the navy tug UTE arrived to tow the disabled ship to Kerama Retto for temporary repairs. The BRAINE left for home on 19 June, and reached Boston on 21 July. Following repair, she proceeded to the Charleston Navy Yard for transfer to the reserve fleet on 26 July 1946.
Recommissioned on 6 April 1951, the destroyer operated in the Atlantic, Caribbean, and Mediterranean through 1953 and then moved her home port to San Diego in November 1954. January 1955 found her en route to the Far East for duty in Japanese waters and off Formosa. She alternated between the West Coast and Western Pacific between 1956 and November 1959 when a typhoon damaged Mount 51, bending the gun port seal and gun shield. She returned home in January 1960. Her routine was interrupted again in November 1962 when she was ordered to the Panama Canal Zone during the Cuban Missile Crisis. She returned to alternating West Coast and WestPac duty through 1965.
September 1966 saw her underway for Vietnam where in November, she served with a special task unit interdicting enemy logistic craft, destroying or damaging many of them. At noon on 4 November 1966 the BRAINE and PERKINS (DD-877) came under fire from shore batteries while patrolling 35 miles southeast of Dong Hoi. Both destroyers returned fire and maneuvered to avoid the incoming shells. In the action, the BRAINE sustained slight shrapnel damage. Air strikes were called in at 1300 after which the two ships resumed shelling enemy positions. She completed her Far East deployment in 1967.
With the HORNE (DLG-30), STODDARD (DD-566), and INGERSOLL (DD-652) of DesRon 21 she set out for WestPac in May 1968. On 7 July she entered the Tonkin Gulf en route to the PIRAZ life guard station with the LONG BEACH (CGN-9) and BIDDLE (DLG-34). At various times, she served as plane guard for the AMERICA (CVA-66), CONSTELLATION (CVA-64), INTREPID (CVS-11), and BON HOMME RICHARD (CVA-31). On 25 August she recovered the only survivor of an F-4 Phantom II that had crashed on takeoff from the CONSTELLATION. In October, while returning to Vietnam from Japan, a member of the BRAINE’s crew was killed while attempting repairs on the weather deck during extremely rough seas. Arriving on Yankee Station, she began night and day shore bombardment in and around Danang Harbor. In November she steamed for San Diego via Australia.
Operations out of San Diego took the BRAINE into November 1969 when she transferred to naval reserve training duties homeported in Portland, Oregon. The BRAINE was still engaged in reserve training in the summer of 1971 when on 17 August she was stricken from the navy’s list and transferred to the Argentine navy as the ALMIRANTE DOMECQ GARCIA. She served in that navy until 1983.