USS Trathen (DD-530) was a World War II-era
Fletcher-class destroyer in the service of the United States Navy,
named after Lieutenant Commander James Trathen, commander of USS
Midnight (1861) during the American Civil War.
Trathen was laid down on 17 March 1942 at San Francisco, California,
by the Bethlehem Steel Co.; launched on 22 October 1942; sponsored
by Mrs. Cassin Young, wife of Captain Cassin Young who was awarded
the Medal of Honor for his valor as commanding officer of Vestal
(AR-4) during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor; and commissioned
on 28 May 1943, Commander Alvoord J. Greenacre in command.
More in detail
Following training operations in the Hawaiian area, Trathen joined
Rear Admiral Willis A. "Ching" Lee's Task Force (TF) 11 to take part
in the reoccupation of Baker Island. The target isle, a tiny
elliptical speck of land, lay nearer to the Japanese-held northern
Gilbert Islands than Funafuti in the Ellice group and presented a
valuable staging area for projected aerial search and photo
reconnaissance missions against the Japanese mandates. Lee, in
Hercules (AK-41), led TF 11's sortie from Pearl Harbor on 25 August
1943, and his ships arrived off Baker on 1 September. While the
transports and Ashland (LSD-1) disembarked their troops and
disgorged their cargoes shoreward, Trathen stood by and provided
fighter-direction services to the Grumman F6F Hellcats from Belleau
Wood (CVL-24) and Princeton (CVL-23). During the action, the
destroyer directed the F6F's to a radar contact 32 miles away. They
soon came upon the snooping Kawanishi H8K (Allied identifier:
"Emily") flying boat and dispatched her so fast that no radio report
from the Japanese got out over the airwaves. Two days later, Trathen
again vectored the Hellcats to another "Emily" which they also
splashed into the sea.
With Baker secure and the priceless airfield constructed and ready
for use by 11 September, Trathen headed for Hawaii. On 29 September,
the ship commenced screening operations for Task Group (TG) 14.5, as
it sortied from Pearl Harbor, bound for Wake Island. Under the
command of Rear Admiral Alfred E. Montgomery, this fast carrier task
force—the largest yet assembled—consisted of Essex (CV-9), Yorktown
(CV-10), Lexington (CV-16), Cowpens (CVL-25), Independence (CVL-22),
and Belleau Wood. On 5 and 6 October, Montgomery's planes made six
strikes, flying 738 combat sorties while battleships and cruisers
provided their heavy gunfire for further harassment of the
Japanese-held island. Despite a cracked high pressure turbine
casing, Trathen retired with the task force back toward the Hawaiian
Islands and arrived at Pearl Harbor on the 11th.
Temporary patching at Pearl Harbor permitted the destroyer to
proceed to Bremerton, Washington, and permanent repairs at the Puget
Sound Navy Yard. The ship sailed for the Hawaiian Islands on 21
November and reached Pearl Harbor six days later. Following training
exercises with land-based aircraft off Oahu, Trathen's commanding
officer was designated Commander, Task Unit (TU) 16.15.2, and his
ship joined Martin (DE-30) and SS Mormacport. The ships sailed via
Canton Island, Funafuti, and Tarawa to Makin Island where they
arrived on 18 December. The next day, the destroyer sped 125 miles
to the scene of a downed PBY Catalina, rescued the patrol bomber's
crew, and returned to Makin on the 20th. On the return leg of the
mission, the ship's radar picked up a formation of Japanese medium
bombers bound for the Gilberts. Evidently attracted to bigger game,
the bombers sped on. However, one which passed over the ship was
taken under fire but apparently suffered no damage.
After pressing on to Abemama Island, Trathen and Le Hardy (DE-20)
got underway on Christmas Day 1943 to escort SS Mormacport back to
Hawaii. One day out, an "Emily" spotted the three-ship convoy but
stayed tantalizingly out of reach of the Allied ships' guns.
Detaching Le Hardy that evening, Trathen and Mormacport proceeded on
to Hawaii and arrived at Pearl Harbor on New Year's Day 1944.
Trathen conducted gunnery exercises in the Hawaiian area before
departing Pearl Harbor on 23 January, bound for the Marshalls.
Entering Kwajalein lagoon on 2 February, Trathen relieved Schroeder
(DD-500) off Kwajalein Island as a fire-support ship and shelled
Japanese positions ashore until the fire control party could locate
no further targets. On the 5th, Trathen joined McCord (DD-534) and
cruisers Minneapolis (CA-36) and San Francisco (CA-38) off Gugegwe
delivering support fire for the three battalions of marines,
embarked in six LST's, as they swarmed ashore in LVT(A)'s and 17
amphtracs, with 16 M4 Sherman tanks. At 0720, Trathen commenced fire
with her main battery, sending 5-inch shells whistling shoreward.
The destroyer and her consorts then stood by as the landing craft
reached the beach.
Trathen continued to provide gunfire support until the Kwajalein
operations ended on 7 February. The destroyer headed for Majuro on
the 8th and arrived there the next day. On the 10th, Trathen
returned to Kwajalein to conduct antisubmarine patrols.
Trathen next formed up with Indianapolis (CA-35) off Eniwetok. Based
on an intelligence report that the island was unoccupied, the
American warships carried out relatively light bombardment. In the
meantime, analysis of papers captured at Kwajalein revealed that
Eniwetok was, in fact, defended by tough, crack Japanese troops.
Too late for a radical change of plans, Indianapolis and near-sister
Portland (CA-33), accompanied by Trathen and Hoel (DD-533),
stationed themselves on the flanks of the LCI(G)'s, with waves of
LVT's in the middle. Trathen screened the former cruiser while Hoel
drew the latter, and the ships joined the gunboats (LCI(G)) in
firing on the island.
Eniwetok soon fell to the mailed fist of American land and sea
power. Trathen furnished fire support intermittently until the 29th
of the month and thereafter remained at Eniwetok until 4 March when
she headed for Majuro for a tender availability. Then, following
exercises at Purvis Bay in the Solomon Islands and patrol duty
between the Emirau and New Hanover Islands, Trathen subsequently
joined the 7th Fleet on 3 May.
The destroyer departed Manus, in the Admiralty Islands, on 15 May in
company with TF 74 and 75, bound for New Guinea waters. The target
island, Wakde—occupied in 1942 by the Japanese—possessed an
excellent airstrip and vital facilities which would be immensely
useful to the Allies as they "island-hopped" closer to the
Philippines and Japan. Arriving on the 17th, Trathen provided
gunfire support for the force which landed on Wakde and later
operated off the coast supporting the operation until the 25th, when
the ship sailed for Biak Island.
The next target on the Navy's timetable, this island—the largest of
the Schouten Islands group—lay fringed with coral reefs. The attack
force scheduled to bombard the island arrived off the landing
beaches 15 minutes ahead of schedule; and, at 0629 on the morning of
27 May, the 6-inch guns of cruisers Phoenix (CL-46), Boise (CL-47),
and Nashville (CL-43) began lobbing the first of 1,000 rounds of
shells shoreward, while the destroyers looked for "game" along the
landing beaches—such as small Japanese patrol craft.
At 1100, four Japanese fighters made half-hearted passes over the
airstrips on Biak. Two fighter-bombers came over late in the
afternoon shortly thereafter followed by four twin-engined
planes—three of which were destroyed by antiaircraft fire. The
fourth was damaged. Trathen remained on patrol station off the
Schoetens until 31 May, when she retired to Humboldt Bay to rejoin
The Japanese' first reinforcement attempt towards Biak had been
detected, and the Nipponese had turned back. On 3 June, as the enemy
was retreating, TF 74 and 75 received orders to go after the fleeing
Japanese. At 23:18 on 3 June, Trathen got underway with the other
units of Destroyer Division (DesDiv) 48 and gave chase. The next
day, 10 Japanese Aichi D3A "Val" dive bombers tried to pounce on the
American force but were driven off. On the 5th, Japanese torpedo
bombers attacked American forces, and one of them fell to Trathen's
heavy antiaircraft fire.
Subsequently, the enemy launched a second effort aimed at
reinforcing their beleaguered outpost on Biak. Six Japanese
destroyers—three with troops embarked and three towing landing
barges—joined cruisers Aoba and Kinu north of Misool Island, west of
the "parrot beak" of New Guinea. The enemy force was under Rear
Admiral Naomasa Sakonju in destroyer Shikinami. Proceeding towards
Biak, the Japanese reinforcement group remained undetected until 10
B-25 Mitchells, escorted by P-38 Lightnings, spotted them and
launched a devastating attack which sank Harusame and damaged three
of her sister destroyers. Resuming the run to Biak once the planes
had departed, the Japanese continued on an unknowing collision
course with Vice Admiral V.A.C. Crutchley's cruisers and destroyers
prowling between Biak and Hollandia.
Unaware of Sakonju's position, Crutchley decided to commence a sweep
parallel to the coast of Biak. About 2200 on the night of 8 June, a
PB4Y bomber on night patrol, detected the Nipponese force and
reported five unidentified ships making 12 knots in the direction of
Crutchley's cruisers and destroyers. Deploying for battle on a
northerly course, the British Admiral ordered his ships to general
quarters. The Japanese simultaneously detected the American's
presence and turned to fire torpedo spreads before retiring.
Trathen, in DesDiv 48, followed astern of DesDivs 42 and 47, under
orders from Crutchley to pursue the fleeing enemy. Then, while the
two divisions charged ahead on the heels of the retreating
Nipponese, Trathen and her division mates fell back on orders to
screen Crutchley's cruisers.
The American force never caught up with the enemy and returned to
Humboldt Bay on the following day. Trathen subsequently participated
in the invasion of Noemfoor Island. Assigned to TG 77.2, the
covering force, she conducted shore bombardment missions there on 2
July before retiring to Humboldt Bay. She later served in the
covering forces during the landings at Cape Sansapor, New Guinea, on
30 July, laying smoke screens and patrolling 25 miles off shoreline
to cover the invasion.
Recreation and availability at Sydney, Australia, from 13–20 August,
provided Trathen's officers and men with a welcome respite from the
toils of war. Heading back north after a week of Australian
hospitality, the destroyer conducted exercises and drills in the
vicinity of Purvis Bay in preparation for the Western Carolines
Operation. On 6 September, she departed from Purvis Bay as part of
TG 32.5. After screening the carriers as they launched devastating
air strikes in support of the Palau invasion, the destroyer retired
on 26 September to refuel and replenish depleted ammunition stocks
in Kossol Passage.
With the dissolution of her task, the destroyer headed for Manus and
arrived there on 2 October. Next assigned to TG 77.4, Trathen set
her course towards Leyte Gulf in the Philippine Islands. Landings on
Dinagat and Suluan Islands in the entrance to Leyte Gulf commenced
on the 17th; and the destroyer stood by to provide antiaircraft and
gunfire support. Three days later, three Japanese fighters roared
low over the area which Trathen was guarding. Within minutes, the
ship's gunners splashed their second plane of the war; and the
destroyer even managed to capture the aircraft's pilot whom they
transferred to carrier Sangamon (CVE-26).
Again on the 24th, Japanese aircraft harassed the ships of the
invasion force, and the alert combat air patrol (CAP) downed two
more of the enemy. Trathen retired to Manus early in November but
returned to Leyte Gulf on the 16th for patrols in Surigao Strait.
Relieving Sigourney (DD-643) on the 19th, Trathen remained in the
Philippines until the 23d when she headed to the Western Carolines.
After sinking a medium barge with 5-inch and 40-millimeter fire en
route, she reached Ulithi on 25 November.
Exercises off Ulithi occupied the ship from 30 November to 29
December before Trathen joined TG 38.2 on 5 January 1945. She served
as plane guard and screening vessel for this group and TG 38.5
through the end of the month. The former group participated in
preinvasion strikes on the island of Luzon before turning to the
South China Sea for a series of strikes on Japanese-held Taiwan from
9 to 11 January. The French Indochina coast next received its share
of attention, with Japanese shipping and coastal installations
feeling the might of the American naval air arm. Then, moving
northward against virtually no opposition from Japanese planes or
ships, the task group aircraft bombed Hong Kong and Hainan Island.
Monsoon and typhoon-type winds and seas buffeted the group on the
17th and 18th, with Trathen's inclinometer registering a staggering
67 degrees from the vertical at the height of the storm.
After leaving the South China Sea through the Balintang Channel,
Trathen and her mates participated in more strikes against Taiwan
and in raids on Sakishima Gunto which served Japan as a staging area
for the kamikazes. In the course of her plane-guarding duties,
Trathen steamed astern of Hancock (CV-19) on 21 January and
witnessed the detonation of a TBF Avenger as it landed hard on the
flight deck. One man was blown overboard by the explosion, but
Trathen soon fished him from the water.
Following the strikes on Okinawa, Trathen got underway from Ulithi
on 10 February to support carrier operations between Iwo Jima and
the Japanese home islands. Six days later, TF 58 commenced the first
strikes against Tokyo launched from 150 miles south east of the
Imperial city. After a night retirement, the group conducted further
strikes the next day. With the landings at Iwo Jima, Trathen arrived
in the vicinity on the 20th and screened the carriers as they
conducted air strikes for the next four days supporting the American
marines fighting for that fanatically defended island.
The force swept north with Trathen in its screen and arrived at a
point off Tokyo at dawn on the 25th to launch strikes to hit the
Japanese capital again. That night, the carriers steamed in the
direction of Nagoya, but heavy weather cancelled the strikes
scheduled to be launched against that industrial city on the 26th.
While in Japanese waters, Trathen and her division mates sighted a
number of floating mines. The destroyer herself sank one with gun
fire on 27 February.
Following availability at Ulithi, Trathen returned to the "front
lines" on 14 March, rendezvousing with TG 58.4 in preparations for
air strikes on the Japanese home islands and on Okinawa. Temporarily
detached to pick up a downed pilot, the destroyer rejoined the group
as it plowed on towards Japan. She later sank several more floating
mines while screening the carriers against air attacks. Slashing
through CAP and antiaircraft fire, some kamikazes managed to crash
into their targets and give their lives for the Emperor.
Antiaircraft fire from Trathen's group accounted for five of the
winged marauders, but one hit Intrepid (CV-11) on 18 March.
Nine days later, Trathen, in company with battle cruisers Guam
(CB-1) and Alaska (CB-2), cruisers Flint (CL-97) and San Diego
(CL-53) and four other destroyers left the carriers to bombard
Minami Daito Shima. All ships shelled the target area with impunity.
The battlecruisers, light cruisers, and destroyers rejoined the
carriers on 28 March and resumed their screening duties.
In the months that followed, American forces—aided by the small
British Far East Fleet—continued hammering at the Japanese homeland
with air strikes and bombardments by surface ships. On 11 April,
still attached to TF 58, Trathen hammered away at attacking Japanese
planes with her antiaircraft batteries. During the third raid that
day, a 5-inch shell from a "friendly" ship hit the destroyer near
her number five 5-inch mount handling room. It killed three men,
wounded 21, and rendered the after mount inoperative.
Tender availability soon made good the damage, and Trathen returned
to the Fleet. Departing Ulithi on 3 May, she rejoined TF 58 on the
5th near Okinawa. Six days later, Bunker Hill (CV-17), flagship of
TF 58, was hit by a kamikaze. Another Japanese pilot, with similar
intentions for Trathen, dived toward the destroyer. While the ship's
guns hammered at the suicide plane, help came from the air. A
"friendly" fighter, braving the antiaircraft fire from his own
ships, also attacked the kamikaze which crashed into the sea off
Trathen's port bow.
Anchoring in Ulithi lagoon for a needed rest, Trathen got underway
again 10 days later and sortied with TG 58.4 to screen the carrier.
On 4 June, air operations were cancelled as the barometer began to
plummet. The storm center of a typhoon passed some 70 miles to the
southeast, and the ships in company with Trathen emerged unscathed
from the fringes of the storm. On 6 June, while carrying out
plane-guard duties, the destroyer rescued the two-man crew of a
downed SB2C Helldiver. She recovered both men, but the pilot was
dead when he was brought on board.
These operations proved to be Trathen's last of World War II, for
she soon departed Leyte to begin the long voyage back to the United
States. After a stop at Pearl Harbor, Trathen arrived at Seattle,
Washington, on 9 July 1945, for an overhaul at the Todd Shipbuilding
Co. While the destroyer was in the shipyard, the war in the Pacific
ended. Upon completion of the refit, the ship sailed for San Diego
on 29 September and arrived there on 2 October. On 18 January 1946,
Trathen was decommissioned and berthed with the San Diego Group,
Pacific Reserve Fleet.
Post-World War II
When North Korean forces swept southward across the 38th parallel on
25 June 1950, the United States soon came to the aid of the
embattled South Koreans. Called out of reserve service on 14 June
1951, Trathen was recommissioned on 1 August. As flagship of
Destroyer Squadron (DesRon) 28, the ship was transferred to the
Atlantic Fleet on 5 October, based at Norfolk, Virginia, and
operated off the east coast and in the Caribbean through the end of
Subsequently ordered to the Far East, Trathen arrived at Sasebo,
Japan, on 12 February 1953. During her Korean deployment, Trathen's
main and secondary batteries pounded railroad lines, trains,
bunkers, and transformer stations. On 11 March, the destroyer joined
the "Train Buster Club" when she destroyed a railroad train. Two
days later, after the ship completed her patrols between Wonsan and
Hungnam, she was relieved on station to return to Sasebo for
repairs. Later becoming a part of TF 77, Trathen continued on duty
until 7 June. She departed Sasebo on the following day, bound for
Returning to the United States via Southeast Asia and the
Mediterranean, Trathen operated with the Atlantic Fleet until
January 1955, when she was transferred back to the Pacific Fleet and
subsequently deployed to the Western Pacific (WestPac). On 21 April,
Trathen departed Long Beach, California to begin successive WestPac
deployments which would last through 1964, interspersed with tours
of duty on the west coast. When in the Orient, she followed a varied
itinerary visiting such ports as Kaohsiung, Taiwan; Hong Kong;
Sasebo and Yokosuka, Japan; as well as Pearl Harbor, Guam, Midway,
and Subic Bay. During this period, she took part in antisubmarine,
antiaircraft, and other exercises; served as plane guard when
operating with fast carrier forces, and patrolled the Taiwan Strait
as part of American forces protecting that island.
While Trathen was at Kaohsiung during her last deployment to WestPac,
word arrived early in August of the Gulf of Tonkin Incident. Getting
underway shortly thereafter, Trathen operated at sea throughout the
remainder of the month but for brief replenishments at Kaohsiung.
Relieved on station, Trathen sailed for Hong Kong to serve as
station ship before traveling to the South China Sea to support
naval operations off the coast of the Republic of Vietnam. On 8
October 1964, the destroyer departed for eastern waters and
proceeded via Guam and Midway to the west coast.
After arriving at Long Beach on 28 October, the destroyer conducted
routine carrier operations off the west coast. On 12 February 1965,
Trathen reported to the Commander, San Diego Group, Pacific Reserve
Fleet, to begin her second inactivation period at the Todd Shipyard,
San Pedro, California. On 15 March, she made her final voyage at the
end of a towline. Brought to San Diego, she completed the process of
deactiva-tion and was decommissioned on 11 May 1965 and placed in
reserve. A survey of the ship conducted in June 1972 reported that
the costs of modernization to Trathen would be disproportionate to
the value of the ship. Accordingly, Trathen was struck from the
Naval Vessel Register on 1 November 1972
Trathen received eight battle stars for World War II service and two
for Korean War service.