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Frequently Asked Questions

Why do they call the ship a Destroyer Escort?

Contrary to what the name implies, Destroyer Escorts did not escort destroyers.  Destroyer Escorts had three primary roles: 

  • escort duty:  escorting and protecting convoys of merchant (cargo) ships across the ocean
  • hunter/killer:   small groups of Destroyer Escorts whose sole purpose was to search for, and destroy enemy submarines
  • picket duty:  guarding the outside perimeter of a naval task force (all military ships) against attacks by surface ships, submarines, and aircraft

The 'Destroyer Escort' name came from the first role described above.


What was the purpose of the convoys to Great Britain?

Starting in September 1939, Germany invaded and controlled Poland, Holland, Denmark, France, and most of western Europe.  Next on Germany's agenda was the invasion and control of Great Britain.  With Germany controlling much of the continent of Europe and the European Allies, Great Britain was not able to provide all of the materials needed to fight a war against Germany. 

Convoys sailed from various points of the western hemisphere (New York harbor for the USS Enright convoys) carrying the various items to support the war effort.  Troops, ammunition, fuel, aircraft, tanks, weapons, and food are some of the items that were transported from the western hemisphere to Great Britain.

The ships carrying these materials were called 'merchant ships'.  While the crew of these ships were called the 'merchant marines'. 


How did Destroyer Escorts participate in convoys?

Merchant ships were basically cargo ships and carried very little, if any weapons to protect themselves.  A means of protection against German submarines and the occasional surface ships was devised.

For protection against the Germany Navy, the merchant ships traveled in convoys of typically 30-40 ships.  Destroyer Escorts were used to arm the convoys.  Six Destroyer Escorts formed a defensive perimeter around the merchant ships.  Two 'tools' were need to make the Destroyer Escorts effective defending & fighting ships, 'electronic eyes' and weapons.


How did Destroyer Escorts find submarines and surface ships?

Sonar was used to send sound pings in the water (similar to the chirp of a bat).  If an object was nearby underwater, the sonar ping would bounce off the object (typically a submarine) and bounce back to the Destroyer Escort.  The sonar operator detects this echo and could get a good estimate of a submarines location by knowing which direction the sonar ping was sent, and by how long the echo took to return.

Another 'electronic eye' was the ship's radar.  The radar antenna was mounted high on the mast, about 120-150 feet above the water.  Radar sends out a ping and listens for an echo, very similar to how sonar works.  The primary difference with radar, is that it can see surface craft (ships and submarines which are sailing on the surface).  The radar could see about 12 miles.


How did Destroyer Escorts attack submarines and surface ships?

For submerged submarines, depth charges and hedgehogs were used.  Depth charges are explosive devices, mounted within large cylinders about 2-3 feet in diameter and about 4 feet long.  Depth charges have pressure sensors that trigger the explosion once the depth charge reaches a predetermined depth in the ocean.  This depth can be set by the sailor shortly before it is put into the ocean.  The depth setting is determined by the echo pings returned from the sonar equipment.  Depth charges can be dropped off of the stern (rear) of the ship, or launched from the port and starboard (sides) of the ship using K-guns.  A K-gun uses an explosive charge the launch the depth charge about 100 yards to each side of the ship.

For surface craft (ships and submarines cruising on the surface), Destroyer Escorts used various medium and large caliber guns and torpedoes.


How did a typical North Atlantic Convoy work?

Convoys were formed in the entrance of New York harbor.  The destroyer escorts were based from the Brooklyn Navy Yard, a short distance away.  A typical North Atlantic convoy traveled from New York to Londonderry, Northern Ireland (map).  These convoys were typically comprised of 30-40 merchant ships (civilian ships carrying cargo, troops, munitions, aircraft, tanks, fuel, etc.) plus six destroyer escorts.  Merchant ships were operated by Merchant Marines.


How long did it take to cross the North Atlantic ocean?

Convoys took 10-13 days to cross the North Atlantic ocean one-way.  The variation was affected by weather and the chosen speed of the convoy.


What happened when the convoy reached Londonderry, Northern Ireland?

Once the convoys reached Londonderry, Northern Ireland, the merchant ships were 'passed off' to the British Navy for the final phase of the trip to the southern end of England. 

During this time the six US Destroyer Escorts would wait in Londonderry until the merchant ships traveled to Liverpool, England, unloaded their cargo, and then sailed back to Londonderry while escorted by the British Navy. 

Once the merchant ships arrive in Londonderry, the six US Destroyer Escorts and the merchant ships would begin the 10-13 return trip back to New York harbor.  These merchant ships needed to put extra weight (ballast) in their cargo holds to remain stable during the return trip.  Often, the ballast would be rubble from the buildings destroyed by the German aerial bombing raids over England and London in particular.


Why did the USS Enright visit the Azores?

On the westbound (return) trip from Oran, Algeria, the USS Enright and it's convoy stopped in the Azores (map wp ph).   It was refueling stop for the ship.  A few of the sailors were foolish enough to hoist some kind of alcohol up to the ship from bumboats which came along side.  One signalman was out for two days, while the others covered for him.      -- Al Green


What was a typical "work day" like?

Each person would work two four-hour shifts, with eight hours off in between.

The first shift would be from 0000 to 0400, then back again at 1200 to 1600.  A second shift would be from 0400 to 0800, then back again at 1600 to 2000.  The third shift would be from 0800 to 1200, then back again at 2000 to 2400.

Out of the sack at 0600 with breakfast being about 0700.  Persons on watch were relieved for a quick meal.  In my case, as a Sonarman, we had six people, two for each watch.  Men on lookout were relieved about every half hour if the weather was heavy.  In the North Atlantic this usually meant every day.  Sunday was a "rest" day if you weren't on watch.

General quarters, of course took precedent over everything.  One went to his battle station until the condition ended.  Sometimes there were some modifying conditions which could change until the normal watch condition was declared.

On work days, when not on watch, there were normal and sometimes abnormal maintenance jobs.  One had to become invisible when not on watch to avoid a "work detail."  It was necessary to look busy when not on watch.  It became an art, and easier for sailors with specialties like sonar, radar, signalmen, and quartermasters.  I don't know for sure how the game was played below decks in the engine rooms.  Seaman were always available to maintenance - paint chipping, sweeping, and scrubbing down. 

When we were coming into or leaving port there was a "special sea detail."  These men handled the lines, anchors, etc.  This was a good time to disappear.  In port anyone looking free was enlisted in bringing supplies aboard. 


How was ammunition handled when not at sea?

At the Brooklyn Navy Yard we had to enter without ammunition.  This enlisted anyone who looked idle.  The armaments were taken off at Earle, New Jersey, near Sandy Hook - the entrance to New York Harbor.

After the collision we came to the Brooklyn Navy Yard with ammunition.  Before we went into drydock we tied up to a pier.  This was one time I was in front of the volunteers to remove ammunition.  We were quite edgy, and to test our nerves I guess, a steam pipe on the pier disconnected with a loud hissing sound.  We all broke Jesse Owens' record running away from the pier, until we realized the source.  It was a lesson to me in volunteering.

                                                                                                                          -- Al Green


Who took the photographs onboard the ship?

We did not have a resident photographer.  A man I hardly know in my apartment building was purported to have been a photographer aboard a cruiser.  I'll try to meet him. It seems to me that even a large ship like that must have other tasks for him. Any photographs of the ship as a whole-i.e. at distance cruising was done by whom, I don't know, with security measures.  These group pictures are amateurs' works.  We were not to take pictures, or keep diaries, but obviously both were done.

                                                                                                                    -- Al Green


What was a typical salary for sailors during World War II?

My top rating was Petty Officer Second Class (SoM2/c).  The salary was equivalent to that of an Army Staff Sergeant.  It was under $100/month including sea duty pay.  We had to purchase our own clothes for which we received a clothing allowance to be used in Ship Stores on bases. An after thought-we had a very small-actually an oversized closet in which the store keeper kept and sold some personal items-razor blades, cigarettes (5 cents per pack by the carton).  Each person could purchase one carton per week as long as they lasted.  I, a nonsmoker, was very popular.  Also candy, chewing gum, etc. were available.  I think I recollect sea pay as [an additional] 50%, but I'm not sure.

                                                                                                                    -- Al Green





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