The USS Laffey (DD 724)was commissioned at Boston Navy Yard on 8 February 1944, with Commander F.J. Becton, USN, assuming command. After fitting out, the ship underwent shakedown at Bermuda, arriving back at Boston on 2 April. While in the Bermuda area, on 10 March, Laffey rescued nineteen survivors of a PBY-5A which had crashed 24 hours before, about 40 miles northwest of Bermuda.
The ship remained in Boston Navy Yard, undergoing postshakedown repairs and alterations, until 5 May, proceeding at that time to Washington, DC for a period of 2 days. During this time, the ship was under inspection by flag officers of the Navy Department who were anxious to inspect this new class of destroyers. Ffrom Washington, DC, the Laffey proceeded to Norfolk to serve as a school ship for COTCLANT'S DD Pre-Commissioning trainees at NTS, Norfolk. On 9 May the ship left for New London but on arrival on 10 May was directed to proceed to New York. Departing New London in late afternoon of 11 May, the ship arrived at New York on 12 May.
Laffey and other ships of DesDiv 119, less Meredith, got underway on 14 May enroute from New York to United Kingdom, as part of the screen for convoy TCU 24B, Meredith joining at sea on 18 May. On 24 May, DesDiv 119 was detached from screen and proceeded to Greenoch, Scotland. After fueling at Greenoch, DesDiv 119 got underway on May 25 for Plymouth, England, escorting TransDiv 5 to Portland, and then proceeded to Plymouth, arriving on 27 May.
Laffey got underway on 3 June as a screening ship in Task Group 125.6 (CTG Captain William L. Freseman, USN, ComDesDiv 119 and ComDesron 60 in Barton (DD722)), along with Barton, a rescue tug, a Dutch gunboat , and 5 YMS's, to escort two section of LCT's to the assault area, Baie De La Seine, France. After a 24 hour delay because of adverse weather conditions, Laffey arrived at dawn on D-day, 6 June, and screened to seaward on the 6th and 7th. During the night of 7-8, Meredith was hit, and sank about a day later. Laffey furnished fire support in vicinity of assault beaches on 8 and 9 June, expending 985 rounds of 5"/38 AA common. In early morning of 9 June, call fire was urgently requested of Laffey and upon completion the following was received from shore fire control party; "Excellent shooting. Targets were 88 MM guns and machine guns which had been giving our troops a lot of trouble. You made direct hit on two enemy pillboxes containing 88 MM guns and inflicted great damage. Will call you again when we have another opportunity to plaster them."
Returning to Plymouth to replenish ammunition and fuel on 10 June, the ship went back to the assault area on 11 June, in company with Tuscaloosa and Plunkett, and thereafter screened to seaward of the beaches.
Shortly after midnight on 12 June, while in a line of screening ships, Nelson, the DD next to this ship was struck by a torpedo from a surface contact to the north. Laffey chased the attackers and opened up on them with starshells and AA common. They were presumed to be German E-boats, which retired at high speed under cover of smoke. No damage was assessed but the formation definitely broke up into two groups and disappeared from the radar scope. Neither of the groups reappeared on radar scope.
On 21 June, with four cruisers and eight destroyers, Laffey left the assault area and proceeded to Portland, England. On 25 June, as a member of Bombardment Group w (Task Group 129.2, under Rear Admiral Bryant), Laffey proceeded from Portland and participated in the bombardment of the Cherbourg defenses, operating with Texas, Arkansas, Hobson Plunkett, and Barton and O'Brien of DesDiv 119. It was during this operation she was struck with an 8" armor-piercing shell in the bow and that did not detonate.
On 29 June, two BB's, two CA's and ships of DesRon 10 and DesDiv 119 left Portland enroute to Belfast, Ireland. Laffey turned back several hours later, to return to port to repair an engineering casualty, leaving Portland that evening to proceed independently, escorting Ancon as far as Plymouth. The ship arrived at Belfast on 1 July. On 3 July, DesDiv 119, designated as TG 120.5, got underway enroute Boston, arriving there on 9 July.
Laffey remained in the Boston Navy Yard until 11 August, while bridge and superstructure alterations were made, Mark 12 and Mar 22 fire control radar and QGA gear installed, and shaft struts were modified.
From 11 to 21 August, tests were run on fire control radar Naval Research Laboratory personnel, the ship spending a week, either at anchor in the Chesapeake off North Beach, Maryland and on the Atlantic seaboard or underway between Cape Henry and Cape Cod searching for rough weather to more adequately test the gear. From 22 to 24 August, the ship exercised with tame submarines off New London, arriving at NOB, Norfolk on 25 August.
Laffey and Shadwell (LSD 15) with designation of TU 20.17.7, left Norfolk 26 July enroute to Panama, where they parted company upon arrival 1 September, Laffey proceeding to San Diego on 2 September in company with Taussig (ComDesDiv 122) and Mansfield. Arriving in San Diego 10 September, this ship shoved off for Pearl Harbor on 12 September, proceeding singly and arriving on 18 September. During the next 36 days, Laffey took part in shore bombardment, torpedo, AA firing, fighter director practice, radar calibration and anti-submarine exercises, and had eight days availability in the Navy Yard for ordnance repairs.
On 23 October, DesRon 60, less O'Brien, Ingraham, and Lowry, got underway to escort North Caroline to Eniwetok and thence to Manus, under the designation of TU 12.5.2. When about midway between Manus and Eniwetok, where the ships had stopped over for the night of 30-31 October, destination was changed to Ulithi, at which port the task unit arrived on 5 November.
From 5 November until 22 November, Laffey and other ships of DesRon 60 operated in the screen of Task Group 38.4 while Task Force 38 carriers made air strikes against shipping, aircraft, and airfields in the Philippines on 11,13,14, and 19 November. On 11 November, this ship left the screen to rescue a flyer who had parachuted into the water five miles from the group. The survivor proved to be a badly wounded Japanese pilot. We learned from him that he flew from a Luzon field, was formerly aboard a Shokaku class carrier which had been sunk, presumably in the second Battle of the Philippines. While waiting on deck the next morning to be transferred to a larger ship, he was apparently amazed at the large number of fighters airborne as if some propaganda artists had been misleading him. His eyes never left those Hellcats. Task Group 38.4 returned to Ulithi 22 November, having had meager opposition. Laffey didn't fire a shot. Enemy planes seldom closed within range, so successful ere the CAP interceptors, and this ship never had an enemy plane within range on a clear bearing.
On 27 November, DesRon 60, less Ingraham and Lowry, got underway for San Pedro Bay, Leyte, P.I., to join the 7th Fleet. Arriving on 29 November, the squadron joined Task Group 77.2 which was patrolling in Leyte Gulf. On 1 December, DesRon 60 left the task group and anchored in San Pedro Bay. On 6 December, DesDiv 119, with seven other DD's, set out for Ormoc Bay, Leyte, as screening and fire support ships of Task Group 78.3 (Rear Admiral Struble). While in the assault area on 7 December, Laffey carried out prelanding bombardment, then silenced a shore battery and took enemy troop concentrations under fire. The Task Group fought off numerous enemy attacks during the eight daylight hours of the return trip to San Pedro Bay, where the group arrived on 8 December.
Laffey, with two other DD's of DesDiv 119, relieved three DD's of DesDiv 120 as screen of Task Group 77.3 on 10 December, as the group patrolled in Leyte Gulf. In the evening, the group went to the rescue of Hughes (DD 410) which had been hit by a suicide plane and left dead in the water in Surigao Strait during patrol between Leyte and Dinagat. While screened by the cruisers and destroyers of TG 77.3, Laffey went alongside Hughes, removed casualties, commenced pumping out flooded spaces with gasoline handy billy pumps, and towed her clear of Land and Headed for Leyte Gulf. After towing for about one hour, a tug took over the tow from us. With tug and tow screened by the task group, the ships proceeded to San Pedro Bay, arriving at daylight on 11 December.
From 12 to 17 December this ship participated in the operations in connection with landing of troops on Mindoro, serving as fighter director ship throughout this period. A part of Task Group 77.3 (close support group) until initial landings were completed, Laffey was detached and served in the screen and as fighter director for the first returning echelon of APD's, LCI's, and LSM'S, which arrived at San Pedro Bay on 17 December.
This ship as part of Task Group 77.14, got underway late on 26 December to join Task Groups 77.14 and 77.3, enroute to Mindoro to intercept enemy surface units reported by patrol planes. Laffey overtook and joined at dawn on 27 December. After an uneventful patrol off Mindoro, the groups returned to San Pedro Bay, arriving in the afternoon of 29 December.
Between 2 January and 22 January, this ship was involved in operations in connection with the Landing at Lingayen Gulf, as a screening and fire support ship of Task Group 77.2. Laffey fired shore bombardment in support of underwater demolition operations on 7 January, some counter-battery fire on 8 January as the heavy ships bombarded, and pre-landing bombardment on 9 January. During the night before the landings, 8-9 January, this ship engaged in all-night harassing fire in the San Fabian Damortis area. On 11 January, while with TG 77.2 and the CVE's of TG 77.4, operating west of Luzon, Laffey and Kimberley were sent to rescue survivors near the beach, about 60 miles north of San Fernando Point. Rejoined the group at dawn on 12 January after a fruitless search, with the strong possibility that the survivors had reached the nearby shore. After the task group had been at anchor in Lingayen Gulf since 18 January, on 22 January, Laffey, with eight other DD's, got underway as part of Task Group 77.15, to screen two BB's and two AO's from Lingayen Gulf to Ulithi, where the group arrived on 27 January.
Laffey and other DD's of DesRon 60 operated with Task Group 58.4 between 10 February and 2 March, as Task Force 58 made air strikes against the Japanese homeland and furnished air support for the Iwo Jima operation. TG 58.4 left TF58 on 27 February and proceeded to Ulithi, Laffey being detached on 28 February to deliver mail and photographs to CinPac at Guam. This ship made the deliveries on 1 March and then rejoined the task group at Ulithi on 2 March.
On 11 March Laffey, with Baron (ComDesRon 60) and O'Brien, was detached from Task Group 58.4 and reported to ComBatRon One for duty in Task Force 54, getting underway from Ulithi with TG 54 on 21 March to take part in the Okinawa campaign.
Arriving off Okinawa during the night 24-25 March, Laffey participated in capture of Kerama Retto, the pre-invasion bombardment of Okinawa, in close support of the initial landing, and in a variety of the assignments until seriously damaged on 16 April by four bomb hits, five kamikaze hits, and by three more Japanese aircraft which grazed the ship. Up until this time the ship had been a radar picket for two days, had engaged in shore bombardment on five different days, had fired harassing fire through two nights, and illuminating fire on two other nights and shad spent the balance of the time in screening heavy units of the fleet or in patrolling area screens.
It was on Radar Picket Station #1, 49 miles north of Okinawa that Laffey suffered heavy damage. The ship had relieved J.W. Ditter (DM 31) on 14 April, and fighter director personnel had assisted in the destruction of thirteen Japanese planes soon after arriving on picket station. The 15 of April was quiet, with no attacking aircraft. During this lull, Laffey recovered bodies and wreckage of a Japanese airplane, including code books, logs, notes, and recognition books. Before 0820 on 16 April, four enemy planes had been splashed by Laffey's combat air patrol. Between 0827 and 0947 that day, the ship was under incessant and constant attack with upwards of 50 enemy aircraft involved. Although our fighter planes accounted for numerous enemy aircraft, at leas 22 Japanese got through to attack the ship' of these, nine were shot down by our AA gunners unassisted, and several more splashed by combined AA and CAP efforts. **
The attack was over as suddenly as it had begun, and no more enemy aircraft were sighted, which was fortunate because the steering gear was jammed 26 degrees left;' the Laffey could steam only in circles, fires and flooding aft were not fully under control, the after twin 5" mount was destroyed, as were 7 of the 11 20MM's. Four of the 12 40MM guns were knocked out and what remained of the ship's fire power could be operated only in local control. Personnel casualties totaled 103, with 32 killed or missing.
At 1245 the ship was taken in tow by Macomb (DMS 23), and two hours after that a tug took over the towing job, while a PCE evacuated the casualties. Fires were extinguished and flooding controlled, the latter with the aid of a second tug, which moored alongside. Laffey finally arrived a the anchorage off Okinawa at 0614 the following morning, 17 April.
With the assistance of several rescue tugs, temporary repairs were completed and the ship got underway as part of screen for TransDiv 50 for Saipan on 22 April, arriving there on 27 April. Between 28 and 30 April, further repairs to radar and steering gear were effected and on 1 May Laffey got underway and proceeded independently to Eniwetok, stopping for two hours on 2 May to repair a soft patch below the water line, where the ship was taking water.
Laffey arrived Eniwetok on 4 May, departed for Pearl Harbor as escort for USS Dashing Wave on 5 May, arriving on 12 May. After further emergency repairs, the ship got underway for San Francisco as escort for the USS Wisconsin on 14 May. Arriving off the Farallone Islands on 21 May, Laffey proceeded independently to Seattle, Washington arriving 24 May.
In connection with a drive for shipyard workers for overburdened West Coast yards, Laffey was on public exhibit in Seattle for five days and in Tacoma for two days, before entering Todd Shipyards on 4 June. Alteration, overhaul, and battle damage repairs continued until 31 August. On 26 June, Commander F.J. Becton, USN, the Commanding Officer since the ship had been put into commission, was relieved by Commander O.D. Waters, Jr., USN.
** Composite sketch of suicide planes, 16 April 1945
The "Second Life" of the Laffey began in November of 1950. Having been decommissioned in June of 1947, the Laffey remained tied to the pier at the old Destroyer Base in San Diego. In November of 1950, she was towed to Pier 8 where her refurbishment was completed.
On 26 January 1951 she was recommissioned under the command of Cdr. Charles Holovak, USN. After an extensive training period on the West Coast, orders were received in April, 1952 to proceed to NOB, Norfolk, Virginia for a major overhaul. The aft torpedo tubes on the 0-1 deck were removed along with the K guns in that area. They were replaced by a quad 40MM mount controlled by a more sophisticated director and radar unit. New radar, sonar and radio equipment were also installed. On the forward 0-1 deck, anti-submarine warfare hedgehog units were installed on the port and starboard sides.
Upon completion of the overhaul, and for a period of 6 weeks, Laffey participated in the Atlantic Fleet Maneuvers in the Caribbean, operating out of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Upon her return to Norfolk, orders were received to proceed to Yokosuka, Japan on 22 January 1952. Laffey carried the flag of ComDesRon 26 (Captain William H. Whiteside. Ports of call would be Panama (27 Jan), San Diego (6 Feb), Pearl Harbor (15 Feb), Midway Island (20 Feb), and Yokosuka (27 Feb).
Upon arrival in Japan, the Laffey became part of Task Force 77 and officially assigned to Unit 95.21 as Carrier Chase duty. She operated with the USS Boxer (CV 21) and the USS Princeton (CV 37) whose planes made daily strikes on enemy positions in North Korea. Other destroyers in company were the USS Fox (DD 779), USS Lowery (DD 770), and the USS Maddox (DD 731). One occasion, the task force was caught in a typhoon and the Laffey suffered sever damage to MT43.
On 28 April 1952 the Laffey, together with Maddox, was ordered to Wonsan Harbor in North Korea. On the 30th of April, both ships were taken under fire by the enemy shore batteries. During a 6 hour period, approximately 420 shells bracketed both vessels, with neither of the destroyers receiving a direct hit. During this same period, the Laffey expended over 1,000 rounds of 5" shells - an amount later recorded as the longest ship-to-shore bombardment of the Korean War. For this action, the Laffey received her second Presidential Unit Citation.
The Laffey continued its interdictory firing on a daily basis. On May 8, the USS Manchester (CL 83) and the USS Evans (DD754) entered Wonsan Harbor for additional support effort.
On 17 May, in company with the USS Bremerton(CA 130),Laffey was ordered to Hungnam to assist in shelling operations. She was joined by the USS St. Paul (CA 73) and the USS Thomas (DDR 833). Over 600 rounds of 5" shells were expended by the Laffey in this operation.
On 16 June, after approximately 6 weeks in the Wonsan Harbor area, the Laffey - together with the Fox, Maddox, and Lowery - were relieved and ordered to return to Yokosuka.
From Yokosuka, the Laffey participated in an "Around the World Cruise" with ports of call at Singapore ( 29 June), Colombo (5 July), Bahrain (12 July), through the Suez Canal to Aden (18 July), Port Said (22 July), Istanbul (25 July), Athens (28 July), Naples (1 August)., Cannes (6 August), Gibraltar (10 August), and arriving in Norfolk Virginia on 19 August 1952. During this cruise, the Laffey crossed the equator on 3 July at Longitude 88-30-00, Latitude 00-00-00.
Survivors of action on April 16, 1945
Official Action Report, April 16, 1945
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