USS WILHOITE (DE-397)
Wilhoite (DE-397) was laid down on 4 August 1943 at Houston
by the Brown Shipbuilding Co.; launched on 5 October 1943; sponsored by Mrs. Corinne M. Wilhoite
the mother of Ensign Wilhoite; and commissioned at Houston on 16 December 1943
Lt. Eli B. Roth in command.
After her shakedown out of Great Sound
Bermuda from 9 January to 10 February 1944
Wilhoite underwent post-shakedown availability at the Charleston (S.C.) Navy Yard from 11 to 21 February. She then got underway for Gibraltar with Convoy UGS (United States to Gibraltar) 34 on 23 February. On two occasions during the voyage
the destroyer escort depth-charged presumed submarine contacts with inconclusive results. After turning the convoy over to British escort vessels once she had passed through the Strait of Gibraltar
Wilhoite returned to the United States with Convoy GUS (Gilbraltar to the United States) 33 and arrived at New York City on 3 April.
After a 10-day availability at the New York Navy Yard
the destroyer escort operated briefly with submarines and PT boats and conducted antiaircraft firing practice in Block Island Sound
before shifting south to the Tidewater area to pick up Convoy UGS-40 in Hampton Roads late in April.
The transatlantic passage proved largely uneventful; but
as the Allied ships transited the Strait of Gilbraltar
the British antiaircraft cruiser HMS Caledon
the destroyer Benson (DD-421)
and two minesweepers equipped with special jamming apparatus
Steady (AM-118) and Sustain (AM-119)
joined the convoy. A recent increase in German air activity had prompted concern over the safety of UGS-40
a large and important convoy consisting of some 80 vessels.
At 2106 on 11 May
Wilhoite's search radar picked up "bogeys" some 18 miles northeast of UGS-40. Two minutes later
the screening ships commenced their barrage. Observers in Wilhoite saw the attacking planes
torpedo-carrying Junkers (Ju.) 88's
sheer away from the flak
fly aft along the transport screen to the northward
and then cut across the stern of the convoy
as the Ju. 88's came around the stern of the convoy
Wilhoite-coordinating the defense of that sector-sent up several barrages with her 3-inch
40- and 20-millimeter guns.
one Ju. 88 singled out Wilhoite as her target and attacked. The destroyer escort responded by bringing all her guns to bear and fired such a heavy and accurate barrage that the German pilot dropped his torpedo about 2
000 yards from its target. The plane
apparently damaged by the flak
then banked sharply and disappeared in the ship's smokescreen.
The heavy antiaircraft fire from the convoy's escorts and the support by friendly fighters downed an estimated 17 of the enemy torpedo planes. The convoy itself suffered no losses and safely reached its destination
Tunisia. For his part in directing Wilhoite's highly successful sector defense of UGS-40
the ship's commanding officer
received a Letter of Commendation.
Wilhoite rested at Bizerte from 13 to 21 May before getting underway to return to the United States with Convoy GUS-40. At 2105 on 29 May
Wilhoite and Evarts (DE-5) were detached from the screen of GUS-40 to go to the aid of Task Group (TG) 21.11 which the German U-boat U-549 had brazenly attacked northwest of the Canary Islands
torpedoing Block Island (CVE-21) and Barr (DE-576). The former sank quickly
but the latter remained afloat while Ahrens (DE-575) and Eugene E. Elmore (DE-686) cooperated in sinking the U-boat. The latter then took the stricken Barr in tow.
Wilhoite and Evarts arrived on the scene at 1715 on the 30th; soon thereafter
Robert I. Paine (DE-578) and Ahrens sailed for Casablanca
Morocco. The remaining ships then set course for Casablanca as well
avoiding the track of two homeward-bound U-boats reportedly in the area. On the 31st
the small seaplane tender Humboldt (AVP-21) arrived and assumed command over the little force.
At 0930 on 1 June
Eugene E. Elmore cast off the tow of Barr
and Wilhoite picked it up. Moving ahead at eight knots
Wilhoite towed the damaged Barr
despite the latter's cracked hull which made the task of pulling the ship immeasurably more difficult by causing the damaged ship to yaw. Good damage control in Barr later lessened that problem; and
as the convoy neared Casablanca on 5 June
a Dutch tug
joined and took the damaged destroyer escort in tow
relieving Wilhoite. PC-480 then relieved Wilhoite and Evarts of screening duties as the ships neared the swept channel at their destination.
Upon finishing fueling at Casablanca
Wilhoite departed that Moroccan port-her commanding officer
having earned a second Letter of Commendation for his ship's performance in towing Barr to safety-and sailed to New York with GUS-41. After her arrival there
the ship received repairs at the New York Navy Yard before she sailed on 24 June for battle practices in Casco Bay
Maine. She later acted as a target in training exercises for submarines operating out of New London
before she once more touched at New York and shifted south to Norfolk where
on 21 July
she joined a hunter-killer task group based around the escort carrier Bogue (CVE-9).
Four days after her assignment to Bogue's group
Wilhoite sortied with that carrier and the rest of her screen
and Janssen (DE-396)
bound for Bermuda. While exercising in that area on antisubmarine warfare (ASW) exercises and night battle practice
Bogue and her consorts honed their respective and collective skills in those areas for the rest of July and into the following month.
At 0630 on 3 August
a message arrived that abruptly cut short the training. TG 22.3 was to proceed to the vicinity of 46°15' N
21°15' W for offensive operations against a westbound enemy submarine. At 1646 on the next day
Wilhoite picked up a sound contact and attacked at 1702; listeners picked up seven detonations but could ascertain no positive results. At 1405 on the 7th
the destroyer escort laid two "hedgehog" projectile patterns and one standard depth charge pattern on a target later evaluated as a school of fish.
the Bogue group pressed on with the hunt. Their vigilance and training utimately paid off. At 0043 on 19 August
night-flying aircraft from Bogue attacked a submarine running on the surface. Wilhoite was the first ship to hear the transmission and relayed it to Bogue. Six minutes later
and Swenning headed for the scene
detached to take part in the hunt while Wilhoite and Willis remained with Bogue as her screen. Meanwhile
the carrier launched planes
maintaining the start of a continuous air patrol over the area.
the trio of destroyer escorts returned empty handed at 1225 on the 20th. However
no sooner had they returned
when carrier aircraft reported attacking a submarine that had just surfaced. Wilhoite Janssen
and Willis headed for the scene-a spot some 60 miles distant-hearing a report at 1443 that the submarine (which had apparently submerged but had been damaged and brought to the surface) had again surfaced and was under attack.
the planes from Composite Squadron 42
flying from Bogue
inflicted enough damage on the submarine-later identified as U-1229-to force the German crew to abandon ship. While Bogue's airmen watched
U-1229's crew went over the side. The submarine-scuttling charges apparently set-exploded and settled into the Atlantic. Later
the destroyer escorts arrived on the scene; Wilhoite picked up one body of a German sailor
who was summarily buried at sea. Janssen picked up U-1229's survivors.
along with the other units of TG 22.3
later received the Presidential Unit Citation for the group's submarine-hunting activities. Wilhoite had been a part of the powerful and sustained offensive during a period of heavy U-boat activity threatening the uninterrupted flow of supplies to the European theater that
since the Allied invasion of France in June of 1944
had assumed great importance. As the citation text concluded: "The gallantry and superb teamwork of the officers and men who fought the embarked planes and who manned Bogue and her escort vessels were largely instrumental in forcing the complete withdrawal of enemy submarines from supply routes essential to the maintenance of our established military supremacy."
for ships like Wilhoite
there was little time to rest on her laurels. Germany was not beaten yet; there would still be more U-boats to fight.
Proceeding to Argentia after TG 22.3's kill of U-1229
Wilhoite and her consorts again went after enemy submarines reported in that area. Attacks made over a three-day period
and 10 September
were all unsuccessful. Wilhoite then patrolled off the Grand Banks before she sailed for the New York Navy Yard at the end of September for voyage repairs.
Upon completion of her yard period on 7 October
Wilhoite trained off Montauk Point
in ASW tactics before she got underway for Norfolk on 14 October with the remainder of CortDiv 51. Joining Bogue at Norfolk and becoming TG 33.3
the ships headed south to Bermuda
arriving there on 23 October. Wilhoite and her consorts subsequently trained in ASW tactics out of Great Sound
Wilhoite returned to New York with TG 33.3 before the unit put to sea for a "barrier patrol" between Brown's Bank and the Nova Scotia entrance to the Gulf of Maine in early December. Detached from Bogue's screen at 1235 on 7 December
Wilhoite assisted Cockrill (DE-398) in developing a sonar contact until 11 December
when Wilhoite headed for Norfolk.
Wilhoite rejoined Bogue's screen and departed Norfolk on the day after Christmas 1944
bound for Bermuda. The destroyer escort patrolled with TG 22.3 out of Port Royal Bay before she returned to New York for repairs on 16 January 1945. Wilhoite resumed operations with that illustrious aircraft carrier on 20 January
planeguarding for her as she conducted carrier qualifications (carquals) off Quonset Point
Detached from that duty on the 21st
Wilhoite sailed for Casco Bay
where she exercised in ASW and gunnery for a week. She again screened and planeguarded for Bogue off Quonset Point into early February
while the carrier once more ran carquals for her embarked air group. The destroyer escort then spent a period of availability at the New York Navy Yard from 8 to 19 February before she engaged in training operations into late March
out of Casco Bay and Portsmouth
Wilhoite departed Casco Bay on 28 March and
on the following day
rendezvoused with TG 22.14-the unit assigned the task of hunting a reported southbound U-boat placed by intelligence information at 46°45' N
41°30' W. At 1139 on 31 March
Janssen-part of Task Unit (TU) 22.3.1-made a sound contact. Wilhoite picked it up soon thereafter and attacked at 1146
her "hedgehog" hurling a pattern of projectiles six minutes later. She left two deep explosions soon thereafter but could ascertain no evidence of having scored any hits.
After another brief period of unsuccessful "barrier patrols" between 1 and 6 April
Wilhoite trained out of New London in ASW tactics with Mackerel (SS-204) and units of Bogue's TG 22.3
before she resumed active U-boat hunting activities. At 2327 on 19 April
Wilhoite went to general quarters to investigate a radar contact and
illuminated the area with starshell. The object of the attention turned out to be a large
the war on the European continent had been nearing its end; but the Battle of the Atlantic continued. Soon after the encounter with the iceberg
Wilhoite resumed "barrier patrols" with Bogue's TG 22.3. She was screening the carrier when Bogue's planes spotted a U-boat running on the surface at 1300 on 23 April. The aircraft attacked
but the U-boat "pulled the plug" and went deep in time to escape.
The next day
U-546 torpedoed and sank Frederick C. Davis (DE-136)-the last American combatant ship loss in the Battle of the Atlantic. However
the U-boat had little time to savor the victory
for the entire scouting line of desroyer escorts moved swiftly to the scene to rescue their sistership's surivivors and to commence ASW operations. U-546 was brought to the surface
and sunk by gunfire from the destroyer escorts
quickly avenging Frederick C. Davis' loss.
Over the next few days
Wilhoite conducted more "barrier patrols" as part of a group of warships carrying out sweeps in scouting line formation. The ships formed around two escort carriers
Bogue and Card (CVE-13); the former parolling to the south
the latter to the north.
At 2000 on 7 May
and Flaherty (DE-135) proceeded to the scene of a "disappearing radar contact" that had been made by Otter (DE-210). At 2125
Wilhoite reached the point of contact and commenced a search in company with Haverfield
and Varian (DE-798). At 2202
however the search was canceled abruptly
and the ships returned to their previous scouting line stations. While the ships had been engaged in their search
Germany-worn down by pressure from the western Allies on the one hand and the ceaseless heavy pressure by the Russians on the other-surrendered at Reims
on 7 May. World War II
as far as the European theater was concerned
Wilhoite remained at sea on "barrier patrol" until 9 May
when she headed for New York City. The destroyer escort was repaired there from 11 to 19 May before she shifted south for more major repairs and alterations at the Charleston (S.C.) Naval Shipyard in preparation for the ship's upcoming deployment to the Pacific-still very much an active theater of war in the spring of 1945.
Wilhoite trained at Guantanamo Bay after her refit at Charleston and then headed for the Pacific
transiting the Panama Canal on 16 July. Arriving at San Diego
on the 24th
Wilhoite sailed for Hawaii with CortDiv 59-Edsall (DE-129)
and Moore (DE-240)-arriving there on 5 August. In ensuing days
Wilhoite and her consorts trained in Hawaiian waters.
Wilhoite had arrived too late to participate in active operations
because the war in the Pacific ended while she was training in the Hawaiian Islands. On 14 August 1945 (west of the international date line)
the Japanese capitulated.
Wilhoite departed Pearl Harbor on 20 August bound for Saipan in the Marianas. After her arrival there
she escorted SS Sea Sturgeon to Okinawa in company with the minesweeper Ptarmigan (AM-376). While engaged in that local escort duty
Wilhoite was forced to reverse course off Okinawa during a typhoon; the ship did not enter Buckner Bay
but proceeded instead back to Saipan.
the surrender of Japanese garrisons was proceeding apace. In late September
Wilhoite sailed for Marcus Island
relieving Gilmore (DE-18) there as station ship on 27 September. Anchoring off the south shore of the island
Wilhoite supported the small American occupying force in case of any trouble with the garrison of some 2
400 Japanese troops still on the island. By 8 October
the latter was on board the transport Daikai Maru and on its way back to Japan. Wilhoite
in company with LCI-336
departed Marcus on 12 October bound for Saipan.
Wilhoite subsequently operated on local escort missions to Pagan Island
and Iwo Jima and then she supported the American occupation of Japan until 6 January 1946. At that time
the destroyer escort-her task in the Far East completed-sailed for the United States
via Saipan and Pearl Harbor. After touching at San Diego
she proceeded on to New York
via the Panama Canal. Following a complete overhaul at the New York Naval Shipyard
Wilhoite shifted south to Green Cove Springs
where she was decommissioned on 19 June 1946 and placed in the Atlantic Reserve Fleet.
Her sojourn in reserve was to last through the Korean War of 1950 to 1953. Taken out of reserve and reactivated in 1954 Wilhoite underwent an extensive conversion to a radar picket ship
receiving sophisticated radar equipment.
Reclassified to DER-397 on 2 September 1954
Wilhoite was recommissioned on 29 January 1955 at the Charleston Naval Shipyard
Lt. Comdr. Lambert V. Forde in command
but remained in dockyard hands at Charleston for final installation of equipment and further tests until 22 March. She then proceeded
to Guantanamo Bay
for a rigorous 10-week shakedown. After her post-shakedown availability
Wilhoite sailed for the Pacific on 20 July; she officially became part of the Pacific Fleet's Cruiser-Destroyer Force on the 24th.
Upon her arrival at her new home port
on 12 August
Wilhoite became a unit of Cort Ron 5 and soon commenced what would become a regular routine of duty as a coastal radar picket ship under the overall direction of Commander
Western Continental Air Defense Command. In the next three years and seven months
Wilhoite conducted a total of 30 picket tours before she sailed for Hawaii and her new home port of Pearl Harbor on 4 March 1959.
For the next four years
Wilhoite operated out of Pearl Harbor on "barrier patrols" and special operations; ranging as far north as Adak
on one occasion in December of 1964
a heavy storm with 50-knot winds buffeted the ship against a pier
causing some damage. In 1961
Wilhoite took part in Operation "Deep Freeze '61
" crossing the Antarctic Circle on 8 February. During that cruise
she visited ports in New Zealand and Australia before she returned to Pearl Harbor via Pago Pago
Besides "special operations" on "barrier patrols" from Pearl Harbor
Wilhoite carried out search and rescue (SAR) missions
ready for any eventuality while on station. During her third SAR patrol
in the autumn of 1963
the ship sighted an approaching Japanese fishing vessel
Kayo Maru. Wilhoite subsequently took on board Eichi Nakata
a man who had been bitten by a shark
and carried him to Midway where he received medical treatment. After that mission of mercy
Wilhoite returned to Pearl Harbor on 22 October 1963.
By the mid-1960's
further changes were in store for the veteran warship. The growing pace of incursions by North Vietnamese-backed Viet Cong communist guerrillas against South Vietnam had resulted in escalating American support of the latter. Wilhoite accordingly was deployed to the Western Pacific (WestPac) in the spring of 1965
beginning a cycle of WestPac tours that lasted into 1969.
Wilhoite conducted intermittent WestPac deployments
with corresponding "Market Time" patrols off the coast of Vietnam
into January of 1969. Her's was unsung duty-long hours of ceaseless patrol
aiding the fledging South Vietnamese Navy in detecting and preventing supplies
and other materials from being infiltrated into South Vietnam by the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese. Often assisted by only two small boats
a Coast Guard patrol boat and aircraft
Wilhoite upon occasion had the responsibility for patrol over 2
750 square miles of ocean-an ample assignment for a ship with the size and range of a radar picket destroyer escort.
there were periods of excitement to enliven an otherwise tedious duty. On 19 June 1965
Wilhoite relieved Kretschmer (DER-329) on "Market Time" station and assumed the duties of "mother ship" to two Navy "Swift" (PCF) boats
providing berthing accommodations for extra crew members and supplying them with food
and fresh water.
At approximately 2000 on 11 July
a "Market Time" patrol aircraft detected a steel-hulled trawler running darkened some 55 miles from the coast of South Vietnam
on a westerly heading. Wilhoite
notified by radio of the trawler's course
set hers to close and identify the ship
commencing covert surveillance as soon as she picked up radar contact. The next morning
Wilhoite closed for identification purposes but later opened the range.
By that point
the trawler had changed course
heading away from the coast; Wilhoite accordingly maintained surveillance for three more days. Entering the "Market Time" area
the trawler drew more pursuers-Gallup (PGM-85)
USCGC Point Orient (WPB-82319)
and PCF-79-all under the command of Comdr. C. R. Stephan
embarked in Wilhoite. On 15 July
Wilhoite intercepted the unidentified trawler five miles from the beach. Ignoring calls to surrender broadcast by a psychological warfare unit embarked in Point Orient
the trawler was soon taken under fire
running aground in flames on a sandbar at the mouth of the River De Say Ky in Quang Ngai province.
Throughout the night
Wilhoite and the other ships intermittently fired into the beached trawler
the following morning
a party went on board the wreck to inspect the damage and learn the nature of her cargo. The holds were found jammed with guns
and explosives-the largest arms cache captured during the Vietnam War. Ultimately relieved of her "Market Time" patrol duties on 26 July
Wilhoite sailed for Hong Kong and a period of recreation.
Alternating the tours of duty on Market Time stations with periods in port at Hong Kong
Wilhoite periodically returned to such ports as Pearl Harbor and Subic Bay.
Not all of the ship's highlights of "Market Time" operations were combat-oriented ones. On 6 September 1968
Wilhoite was called upon to perform an SAR mission
while she was riding out the tail-end of Typhoon "Bess." Assigned to locate a lost Vietnamese Navy PGM
Wilhoite centered her search on a point some 30 miles from the port of Danang. Although she never sighted the PGM
the radar picket destroyer escort maintained contact via voice radio; and ultimately
the PGM was able to reorient herself and continue on her voyage.
while returning to her patrol station
Wilhoite came across an Army landing craft
which had been adrift and lost for some 48 hours. Typhoon "Bess" had proved a nuisance to the LCU
for it had caused damage that had rendered the craft powerless. Wilhoite stood by while another LCU was dispatched from Danang to take the stricken LCU-1481 in tow and bring her to port safely.
Later that autumn
Wilhoite received an availability alongside the veteran destroyer tender Dixie (AD-14) at Subic Bay from 25 to 28 September. On the latter day
the radar picket destroyer escort sortied for "Market Time" once more
relieving the Coast Guard cutter Ingham (WPG-35) on station. Wilhoite later saw her first action of that deployment when she was called upon to deliver gunfire support in an area north of An Thoi. There
Wilhoite shelled an area heavily infested with Viet Cong
destroying or damaging several enemy junks that had attempted to infiltrate war materiel from the north.
Wilhoite departed Vietnamese waters on 15 January 1969
bound for Hawaii. She stopped for fuel at Subic Bay and at Apra Harbor
before she continued on
arriving at Pearl Harbor on 1 February. After a period of tender availability alongside Isle Royale (AD-29)
from 17 February to 3 March
Wilhoite underwent a restricted availability at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard before she conducted her sea trials at the end of May. On 2 June
the radar picket destroyer escort departed the Hawaiian Islands for the west coast
and she arrived at Bremerton
a week later. There
on 2 July
Wilhoite was decommissioned.
Simultaneously struck from the Navy list
Wilhoite was sold on 19 July 1972 to General Metals Corp.
and subsequently scrapped.
Wilhoite received the Presidential Unit Citation
a Navy Unit Commendation
and one battle star for World War II service and six battle stars for her duty in Vietnam.
[Note: The above USS WILHOITE (DE-397) history may or may not contain text provided by crew members of the USS WILHOITE (DE-397) or by other non-crew members and text from the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships]