In memory of Dale E. Hall – United States Army Air Corps

UGS-38 (ref http://www.oocities.org/pentagon/base/1250/ugs37_38.html)

The F in these convoy designations meant Fast, and the S meant Slow. To a destroyer sailor, the F meant Slow, and the S meant Slower. UGS-38 approached Cape Benegut just two weeks after UGS-37. There were 11 U.S. Destroyer Escorts. The flag was in Coast Guard Cutter Taney. The Taney was commanded H.J. Wuensch, United States Coast Guard. Captain W.H. Duvall USN was CTF 66, escort and convoy commander. In the convoy were 85 merchant vessels, the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Duane and two Navy fleet oilers. Destroyer Lansdale was again an AA supplement ship, along with H.N.M.S. Heemskerck. There were two British minesweepers and one British tug.

Heemskerck, an AA cruiser from the Netherlands, joined at Gibraltar and was stationed with Lansdale on the port side of the convoy. Minesweepers Sustain and Speed, along with Lansdale had the glide bomb radio link jamming gear. Minesweeper Speed was ahead of the convoy and Sustain was on the beam to starboard. The convoy approached Cape Benegut on April 20, 1944.

Captain Duvall had re-emphasized gunnery doctrine. According to Theodore Roscoe’s “U.S. Destroyer Operations in World War II”, sometime just before the Mediterranean transit of this convoy, Duvall stated for the record, “Doctrine this area directs escorts to fire machine guns only at seen targets at night and only when satisfied own ship’s position is known to plane. At longer ranges, main-battery controlled fire only will be used.” The first phrase is certainly a reiteration of Admiral Hewitt’s concept and is the direct result of experience in the Mediterranean. The extra caveat, “only when satisfied own ship’s position is known to plane”, would mean refraining from shooting at a bomber or glider bomb when they clearly had a bead on another ship in your force. It certainly is a self protection caveat but Edison never received such instructions and I am glad she did not.

Again, with all the convoy search radar, the Luftwaffe got on the convoy at 2100 without early warning. Captain Duvall noted in his action report the complete absence of fighter protection.

The attack came from the east, almost directly from the waters the convoy was about to transit. The attackers came in low, with no flare announcements, using low lying shore as a shrouding background and moonlight to the west as an horizon to outline their targets. Five attackers were first seen by DE Lowe just after 2100. Torpedoes from several leading Ju-88s were dropped and SS Paul Hamilton was hit with deadly effect. SS Samite was also hit. The second wave of aircraft split, some taking the starboard and some the port. Torpedoes hit the SS Stephen T. Austin and SS Royal Star. The next wave went at the port side of the convoy. Although Lansdale was credited with effective AA fire, a torpedo struck her. The Royal Star, along with the Paul Hamilton went to the bottom, as did the USS Lansdale. We will come back to the fight to save Lansdale. In his commentary Admiral Hewitt felt that even with surprise, smoke should have been used and my own inference has to be that he was here in effect agreeing with Captain Headden’s denial of horizon to enemy aircraft if at all possible. This attack succeeded because horizon advantage was gained by the Luftwaffe which could choose its attack sector. That advantage was denied to the AA gunners of the escorts who faced the black coastal background now devoid of light. In his report after the attack, Hewitt asked for more firepower, and for more effective use of same, from Destroyer Escorts. But, these were ASW ships in a compromised environment where the Luftwaffe still had an offensive sting.

The airborne torpedo entered Lansdale’s forward fire room and broke her keel. With all power lost, Lansdale could do little but let the sea have its way. Her CO ordered the crew to abandon ship about 2130. She broke up and sank shortly after. 235 men survived the initial blast and were picked up by U.S. Destroyer Escorts Menges and Newell. 47 men were not recovered.

Merchant Ships listed in UGS-38

Andrew T. Huntington

20-Apr-44

Convoy UGS-38

Cardinal Gibbons

20-Apr-44

Convoy UGS-38

Carrillo

20-Apr-44

Convoy UGS-38

Cartago

20-Apr-44

Convoy UGS-38

Dorothy Luckenbach

20-Apr-44

Convoy UGS-38

Ethan Allen

20-Apr-44

Convoy UGS-38

Fitzhugh Lee

20-Apr-44

Convoy UGS-38

George Chamberlain

20-Apr-44

Convoy UGS-38

Gulfcoast

20-Apr-44

Convoy UGS-38

Henry Groves Connor

20-Apr-44

Convoy UGS-38

Israel Putnam

20-Apr-44

Convoy UGS-38

James Gordon Bennett

20-Apr-44

Convoy UGS-38

James Hoban

20-Apr-44

Convoy UGS-38

James McKenna

20-Apr-44

Convoy UGS-38

John Gorrie

20-Apr-44

Convoy UGS-38

John Mason

20-Apr-44

Convoy UGS-38

John N. Maffitt

20-Apr-44

Convoy UGS-38

John Sedgwick

20-Apr-44

Convoy UGS-38

Josiah Bartlett

20-Apr-44

Convoy UGS-38

Leslie M. Shaw

20-Apr-44

Convoy UGS-38

Pan Maine

20-Apr-44

Convoy UGS-38

Paul Hamilton

20-Apr-44

Convoy UGS-38

Robert Battey

20-Apr-44

Convoy UGS-38

Robert Ellis Lewis

20-Apr-44

Convoy UGS-38

Robert Newell

20-Apr-44

Convoy UGS-38

Royal Star

20-Apr-44

Convoy UGS-38

Samite

20-Apr-44

Convoy UGS-38

Samuel Livermore

20-Apr-44

Convoy UGS-38

Stephen P. Austin

20-Apr-44

Convoy UGS-38

Stephen W. Gambrill

20-Apr-44

Convoy UGS-38

U. S. O.

20-Apr-44

Convoy UGS-38

Willie Jones

20-Apr-44

Convoy UGS-38

Merchant Ships References

 http://www.usmm.org/battle-a-f.html

http://www.usmm.org/battle-g-m.html

http://www.usmm.org/battle-n-z.html

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