|Ship Class||Farragut-class Destroyer|
|Builder||Boston Naval Shipyard, Boston, Massachusetts, United States|
|Laid Down||21 Nov 1933|
|Launched||9 Jan 1935|
|Commissioned||19 Apr 1935|
|Sunk||18 Dec 1944|
|Displacement||1365 tons standard|
|Armament||5x5in guns, 8x21in torpedo tubes|
Contributor: David Stubblebine
For such a little ship, USS Monaghan (DD-354) played a very prominent role in the Pacific conflict. Monaghan was among the few vessels inside Pearl Harbor to get under way during the Japanese air attack (sinking a midget submarine on her way out of the harbor) and she was one of three ships lost in the terrible Typhoon Cobra three years later. In between, she participated with distinction in twelve principal engagements of the war.
Monaghan was the second ship named for Ensign John Robert Monaghan who died a heroic death in 1899 attempting to defend his superior officer against an attack by a vastly superior force of Samoan natives. USS Monaghan was laid down 21 November 1933 at the Boston Navy Yard and was launched 9 January 1935. Miss Mary F. Monaghan, niece of Ensign Monaghan, sponsored the vessel and the ship was commissioned 19 April 1935, Cdr R. R. Thompson in command.
Of the eight Farragut-Class destroyers built, Monaghan spent more of her time in the Atlantic. She was used extensively in her early years of operation for training purposes. The Navy had already begun the training program that would supply the nation with capable crews in the war to come and many hundreds would learn their trade aboard Monaghan. This alone would have been a worthy legacy for this ship but she was ultimately transferred to the Pacific for operations with her sisters. Plan Orange, the Navy Department's strategy to defeat Japan in the war every planner saw as inevitable, was in full effect. The destroyers required months of "joint operations" to perfect the skills needed in those fleet actions.
December 7, 1941 found Monaghan serving as the ready duty destroyer at Pearl Harbor. At 0751 hours, four minutes before the air attack began, Monaghan was ordered to join USS Ward at the harbor's entrance after Ward fired on an unauthorized submarine attempting to enter Pearl Harbor. As Monaghan was making preparations to get underway, the Japanese air raid began. Monaghan, like all ships in the harbor, opened fire on the attacking planes as soon as ammunition could be brought to her guns.
Just as Monaghan was getting underway to join Ward, USS Curtiss signaled the presence of a midget submarine in the harbor. So surprising was this signal that Monaghan's commanding officer, Cdr W.P. Burford, remarked out loud that "Curtiss must be crazy." Then he saw what looked to him like over-under shotgun barrels pointed at him out of the water off Curtiss' starboard quarter; he was looking at twin torpedoes in the bow of a breaching Type-A midget submarine. Burford ordered flank speed across the harbor with the idea of ramming the sub. The sub fired a torpedo roughly in Monaghan's direction that porpoised twice before passing along Monaghan's starboard side and striking land near Pearl City behind her. Monaghan's Executive Officer ordered depth charges set at thirty feet, the depth of the harbor channel. All hands prepared for a hard collision as Monaghan bore down upon the sub, but only a "small shock" was felt throughout the ship. Crewmember G.S. Hardon was manning a depth charge rack on the fantail and saw the sub pass under Monaghan's stern close aboard. Acting without orders and on his own initiative, Hardon rolled one depth charge nearly on top of the sub. When the charge detonated, the sub's bow and superstructure were seen momentarily lifted above the surface of the churning water and the sub was not seen again. Hardon was later commended for his good judgment, initiative, and swift action.
Captain Burford's earlier order for flank speed across the harbor was not without consequence. Immediately upon reaching the sub's position, full emergency reverse was ordered, but the ship's headway was such that Monaghan still struck a derrick moored at Beckoning Point and also ran aground. Monaghan was undamaged and the crew reacted smartly to free her to resume her sortie out of the harbor.
She remained on offshore patrol for the next week, then joined Lexington on a mission to relieve the doomed Wake Island. Wake was captured by the Japanese before Lexington's force could bring aid and the American ships returned to Hawaii.
Monaghan served as an escort vessel for convoys to and from the mainland and then again sailed with Lexington to the Coral Sea. During the ensuing engagement, part of Monaghan's assignment was to stand out from the main body of the Task Force to transmit important radio messages, thus preserving radio silence within the main formation but creating considerable risk for Monaghan.
Monaghan screened Enterprise and Yorktown in the decisive Battle of Midway before sailing to support the defense of the Aleutian Islands. A collision in heavy fog required initial repairs at Dutch Harbor and then Mare Island in San Francisco Bay. Monaghan rejoined the fleet at Fiji just in time for an accident to damage her again. She bent a propeller at Noumea and had to return to Pearl Harbor.
Monaghan returned to the Aleutians as part of TG 16.6. On 26 March 1943 this group engaged the Japanese in the significant Battle of the Komandorski Islands. This was the last true surface battle in naval history and the "never give up" fighting spirit of the US forces gave them a decisive victory. A month later, Monaghan pursued submarine I-7 until the sub was driven onto the rocks of Kiska Island and abandoned.
In Dec 1943 Cdr Waldemar F.A. Wendt took command of Monaghan after his duties in Operation Torch in North Africa. Cdr Wendt commanded Monaghan for a year, transferring to his next assignment days before Monaghan's demise. After the war, as a 4-star Admiral, Wendt served as Commander-in-Chief of US Naval Forces in Europe from 1968 until his retirement in 1971.
Monaghan served in many more operations against Japanese strong points in the Central Pacific; screening the fast carriers off Saipan, Eniwetok, Guam, and in the Battle of the Philippine Sea.
On 25 July 1944 Monaghan sailed for Puget Sound for an overhaul. After training off California and Hawaii, she sailed for Ulithi 11 November. There she joined the escort for three fleet oilers bound for a December 17th rendezvous with Task Force 38, whose planes had been striking central Luzon in support of the Mindoro invasion. TF 38 and the refueling group sailed directly into what would later be called Typhoon Cobra, a fierce storm that claimed 790 lives and sank three destroyers: Spence (DD-512), Hull (DD-350), and Monaghan. The nearly 100-knot winds and sixty-foot waves railed the Monaghan on her beam-ends but, for a time, she recovered from the rolls. Finally, a huge wall of water hammered the vessel under. Three days later, only six survivors of the gallant Monaghan were rescued by USS Brown (DD-546). Admiral Nimitz said the tragedy of Typhoon Cobra, "represented a more crippling blow to the Third Fleet than it might be expected to suffer in anything less than a major action." Veteran of so many actions against a human enemy, in the end Monaghan fell victim to the sailor's oldest enemy, the perils of the sea.
Despite her many days under repair during the war, Monaghan received 12 battle stars for World War II engagements.
The midget submarine sunk by Monaghan on December 7, 1941 was later brought to the surface. Without ceremony, the hulk was used as part of the landfill for an expansion of the Pearl Harbor Submarine base in the 1960ís. Some sources suggest the bodies of the two Japanese submariners, Naoji Iwasa in command and crewman Naokicki Sasaki, were still aboard when the sub was placed in the fill, but this is uncertain.
Sources: Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships; US Navy Report of Japanese Raid on Pearl Harbor, USS Monaghan; Wikipedia; Patriot Defenders; Pearl Harbor History Associates; Samuel Eliot Morison's Rising Sun In The Pacific, Gordon Prange's At Dawn We Slept, Japan-101.
USS Monaghan Operational Timeline
|19 Apr 1935||Monaghan was commissioned into service.|
|14 Jul 1943||Destroyer USS Monaghan bombarded Japanese positions at Gertrude Cove, Kiska, US Territory of Alaska unopposed, firing 100 127mm rounds.|
|20 Jul 1943||US destroyers USS Aylwin and USS Monaghan bombarded Kiska, Aleutian Islands.|
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Thomas Dodd, late 1945