USCGC Taney (WHEC-37) - World War II

World War II

The message: "Air Raid, Pearl Harbor. This is no drill" came at 07:55 on December 7, as Japanese planes swept overhead in an attempt to cripple the Pacific Fleet. Taney, moored alongside Pier 6, Honolulu harbor, manned her anti-aircraft guns swiftly when word of the surprise attack reached her simultaneously. As no Japanese attacks were directed at Honolulu harbor, the Coast Guard cutter was only given the opportunity to fire at stray aircraft which happened to venture into her vicinity. She was firing upon unidentified aircraft as late as noon, indicating that the eager Coast Guardsmen were probably shooting at American planes—not Japanese.

Taney patrolled the waters off Honolulu for the remainder of 1941 and into 1942, conducting many depth charge attacks on suspected submarines in the wake of the Pearl Harbor attack. During this time, the ship received the classification WPG-37. On January 22, 1942, the cutter departed Honolulu in company with SS Barbara Olson, and arrived at Kanton Island on the January 28. After sending a working party ashore to unload supplies, Taney screened Barbara Olson offshore until February 7, when both ships got underway to evacuate the American colony on Enderbury Island. Embarking the four colonists at 10:15 that day, Taney shelled the island and destroyed its buildings to prevent them from being used by Japanese forces. Taney subsequently escorted her merchantman consort to Jarvis Island, where she evacuated the four Interior Department colonists and burned all structures to the ground before departing. Reaching Palmyra Atoll on the February 12, the ships remained there until the February 15, before Taney headed back for the Hawaiian Islands, arriving at Honolulu on March 5. She made another voyage to Palmyra Island later that spring and when heading back to Hawaii, she received orders to search for survivors in the waters around Midway Island after the Battle of Midway, including a stop at the island itself.

Taney operated locally out of Honolulu into 1943 before sailing for Boston late that winter. Prior to heading for the east coast, the ship received a re-gunning at Mare Island, being fitted with four single-mount, 5-inch guns, making her the only ship in her class with this modification. After making port at Boston on March 14, 1944, Taney soon shifted south to Hampton Roads, where she arrived on March 31. Early in April, she departed Norfolk as a unit of Task Force 66 (TF 66) as convoy guide for convoy UGS-38. The passage across the Atlantic proved uneventful, as the convoy made landfall off the Azores on April 13.

Some 35 minutes after sunset on April 20, however, the convoy was spotted and tracked by the Germans, who launched a three-pronged attack with Junkers Ju 88 and Heinkel He 111 medium bombers. Each flew very low, using the shoreline as a background, thus confusing the search radar of the Allied ships. The first wave struck from dead ahead, torpedoing SS Paul Hamilton and SS Samite. The former, which had inexcusably been carrying both a load of ammunition and hundreds of Army Air Corps personnel, blew up in a shattering explosion—killing all 504 men on board.

The second wave of German torpedo planes hit the SS Stephen F. Austin and SS Royal Star. During this melee, two torpedoes churned past Taney close aboard. The third wave mortally wounded USS Lansdale (DD-426), which later sank. All of the damaged vessels—save Paul Hamilton and Lansdale—reached Bizerte, Tunisia, on April 21. Taney later departed Bizerte with homeward-bound convoy GUS-38 and arrived at New York on May 21.

Taney participated in two more round-trip convoy escort missions, with convoys UGS/GUS-45 and UGS/GUS-52. Detached as a unit of TF 66 on October 9, 1944, she sailed for the Boston Navy Yard soon thereafter for extensive yard work to convert her to an amphibious command ship. During this metamorphosis, Taney—classified as WAGC-37—was fitted with accommodations for an embarked flag officer and his staff, as well as with increased communications and radar facilities. Her main battery also underwent change: she now sported two open-mount 5-inch guns, as well as 40- and 20-millimeter antiaircraft guns. With the work completed in early January 1945, Taney departed Boston on January 19, bound for Norfolk, Virginia.

She conducted shakedown and training in her new configuration before departing the east coast and sailing, via the Panama Canal and San Diego, to Hawaii. Arriving at Pearl Harbor on February 22, 1945, she soon embarked Rear Admiral Calvin H. Cobb and later underwent various minor repairs. New communications equipment was also installed before the ship departed the Hawaiian Islands for the Marshalls on March 10.

Taney proceeded independently via Eniwetok and arrived at Ulithi on March 23, remaining there until April 7. Joining Task Group 51.8 (TG 51.8), the amphibious command ship proceeded to Okinawa and arrived off the Hagushi beaches amidst air raid alerts on April 11. During one raid, her antiaircraft gunners scored at least three hits on a Mitsubishi G4M "Betty" bomber which crossed the ship's bow 1,200 yards (1,100 m) away, and later during her first day at Okinawa experienced four more "red alerts". The ship briefly shifted to Kerama Retto from April 13 to 15 before returning to Hagushi on the latter date.

By the end of May, Taney had gone to general quarters 119 times, with the crew remaining at battle stations for up to nine hours at a stretch. During this period off Okinawa in April and May, Taney downed four suicide planes and assisted in numerous other "kills". The command ship also conducted combat information center duties, maintaining complete radar and air coverage, receiving and evaluating information on both friendly and enemy activities. On one occasion, Taney's duties took her close inshore close enough to even receive fire close aboard from a Japanese shore battery.

Suicide air attacks by the Japanese continued throughout June, although most were intercepted by combat air patrol (CAP) fighters and downed before they could reach their targets. Such raids took place on 18 out of 30 days that month. On June 25, at 01:20, a float seaplane passed near Taney, provoking return fire from the command ship and batteries ashore which combined to splash the intruder. During this month-long period, at least 288 enemy planes attacked the ships in Taney's vicinity, and at least 96 of these were destroyed.

As if the Japanese menace alone were not enough, in mid-July a typhoon forced the ships at Hagushi to take evasive action. Taney led a convoy eastward on July 19 and returned the next day when the storm passed. She performed the same duties again on August 1 when she led a convoy to sea on typhoon-evasion operations. The ship returned to its anchorage on August 3.

The end of the war found Taney still off Okinawa. On August 16, she got underway to support USS Pennsylvania (BB-38) as three Japanese planes were detected approaching from the northeast. One crashed 30 miles (48 km) to the north, and two splashed into the sea shortly thereafter. On August 25, TG 95.5 was dissolved, and Rear Admiral Cobb, who had been embarked during the Okinawa campaign, hauled down his flag and departed.

Taney soon proceeded to Japan, where she took part in the occupation of Wakayama, anchoring off the port city on September 11 and sending a working party ashore the next day. While anchored there, Taney weathered a typhoon on September 17. She was, in fact, one of the few ships which stayed at her berth during the storm, her ground tackle holding well in the sticky clay bottom.

Departing Wakayama on October 14, Taney returned to the west coast of the United States, via Midway, and arrived at San Francisco on October 29. Moving on for the east coast, Taney transited the Panama Canal and later arrived at her ultimate destination, Charleston, South Carolina, on November 29. During the ensuing period of conversion, the Coast Guard vessel was reconfigured as a patrol cutter. She now sported a main battery of a single-mount, 5-inch gun, a hedgehog, a twin 40-millimeter mount, and two 20-millimeter guns, in addition to depth charge tracks and projectors and was reclassified once again as WPG-37.

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