USS Barber (DE 161)

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USS Barber (DE 161)
USS Barber DE 161.jpg
Career
Flag 48 star flag.png US Naval Jack 48 stars.png Flag of Mexico.png
Owner United States Navy
Armada de México
Shipyard Norfolk Navy Yard
Portsmouth, Virginia
Type Destroyer escort
Buckley-class
Authorized 1942
Keel laid 27 April 1943
Launched 30 May 1943
Commissioned 10 October 1943
Status Stricken, 27 November 1968
Sold to Mexico, 17 February 1969
Characteristics
Displacement 1,768 t
Length 306 ft
Beam 37 ft
Draft 9 ft 6 in
Speed 23 knots
Armament Three 3"/50 cal. guns
One quad 1.1"/75 caliber gun
Eight single 20 mm guns
One triple 21 in (533 mm) torpedo tubes
Eight K-gun depth charge projectors
One Hedgehog anti-submarine mortar
Crew 213 officers and men

USS Barber (DE 161) was laid down on 27 April 1943 at Portsmouth, Virginia, by the Norfolk Navy Yard and launched on 24 May 1943. However, because the sponsor, Mrs. Peter Thomas Barber, the mother of the Barber brothers, could not be present at the launching of the ship, Barber's christening was delayed until the day of her commissioning—10 October 1943—when the two ceremonies were held simultaneously. Mrs. Barber christened the ship and she was placed in commission, Lt. Eugene T. B. Sullivan in command.

Following shakedown training off Bermuda, the destroyer escort was assigned convoy duty along the Atlantic coast. She escorted troopships to Panama as her first duty and, on her return trip northward, escorted the crippled New Zealand light cruiser HMNZS Leander to Boston. Although they arrived in Boston on 23 December, Barber could not spend Christmas in port. Instead, she pulled out of the harbor on Christmas Day and headed for North Africa escorting a convoy of 95 merchantmen. She arrived in Casablanca, French Morocco, after an uneventful transatlantic crossing. While waiting for a return convoy, she patrolled the Strait of Gibraltar for several days in search of German submarines. After another uneventful voyage, the ship left the convoy at Norfolk and continued on to the New York Navy Yard.

She spent most of February and March 1944 performing escort duties between New York and Norfolk; and, then, on 24 March, received orders to join an antisubmarine "hunter killer" group built around USS Croatan (CVE 26) and joined by four other destroyer escorts. Formed to hunt German U boats, the group recorded its first success on 26 April when the escorts teamed up to sink the German submarine U 488. Relieved by another hunter killer group, Barber's unit headed for home on 11 May. After a brief availability at the New York Navy Yard and two weeks of maneuvers at Casco Bay, Maine, Barber resumed her convoy escort duties. She made two more transatlantic voyages to North Africa before October 1944 but did not encounter any enemy ships.

On 9 October, Barber entered the Philadelphia Navy Yard for conversion to a high speed transport. Although she was reclassified APD 57 on 23 October, she did not complete the preparations for her new role until January 1945. On the 17th, she left Philadelphia and proceeded to Norfolk's convoy escort piers. For a month, the fast transport served as "school ship" for crews of APD's not yet commissioned. Each day she got underway to train these crews in evolutions such as fueling, gunfire, target tracking, and other combat procedures.

On George Washington's Birthday, the warship steamed out of Norfolk bound for the Pacific and her first combat duty as a high speed transport. After a short stay in San Diego, she continued on westward and arrived at Pearl Harbor on 26 March. The fast transport then conducted specialized training at Maui with underwater demolition teams (UDT's). The mission of such teams was to destroy obstacles on landing beaches, and APD's such as Barber delivered these teams to the areas four or five days before the actual invasion. Just two days after receiving word of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's 12 April death, she sailed via Eniwetok for Ulithi.

Barber arrived there on 30 April and spent five days preparing for front line duty at Okinawa. She departed the safety of Ulithi with a merchant convoy on 5 May and continually felt the presence of the enemy through possible submarine contacts, floating mines, and radio message traffic emanating from Okinawa. The high-speed transport anchored in Hagushi Anchorage on 10 May and, throughout the daylight hours, heard not a sound from the Japanese. However, with sunset, the Japanese air attacks began in earnest.

On 11 May, Barber received orders to assist USS Hugh W. Hadley (DD 774) on a radar picket station north of the anchorage. That destroyer had been hit by two kamikaze planes and two bombs. Barber mustered all the hands she could spare to help evacuate the injured from Hugh W. Hadley and then to work on saving the damaged warship. The fast transport assumed picket duty north of Ie Shima on the 12th. The enemy never came close by air; but, on 15 May, Barber picked up four Japanese soldiers in a raft and later transferred them to an Army boat for internment in an Okinawa camp.

Barber's good luck continued to hold. Every picket station on which she served had been the scene of a casualty either immediately before her duty there or would become one soon after she departed. On 20 May, the Japanese directed a massive force of midget submarines, mines and kamikaze planes at the Allied naval forces. Barber pursued two midget submarines and evaluated one as a "probable kill." The high speed transport continued on patrol, enduring nightly general quarters alarms for Japanese air raids. On 14 June, she captured three more prisoners. On the evening of 16 June, while Barber stood rescue-ship watch at anchor off Hagushi, USS Twiggs (DD 591) suffered a hit by air raiders and sank within an hour. Barber rushed to the area immediately to search for survivors. The fast transport worked through the night assisting in the rescue of the 188 sailors who survived before returning to the anchorage early the next morning.

Released from duty at Okinawa on Independence Day 1945, Barber joined a convoy of four other escorts and 32 LST's headed for Saipan. One day out of Saipan, Barber received orders to accompany a part of the convoy to Guam. Her new course took her across the routes used by American B 29 bombers headed for the Japanese mainland. On 9 July, the fast transport witnessed the crash of a returning bomber. Barber raced to the site and, despite fears of complete destruction, a raft appeared some 20 miles in the distance. Closer investigation revealed that the raft held all 11 members of the bomber's crew. The fast transport took them to Guam the next day.

Barber remained at Guam until 21 July when she sailed for Ulithi escorting escort carrier USS Salamaua (CVE 96). She continued on to Leyte Gulf where she screened battleships USS Texas (BB 35) and USS Mississippi (BB-41) on 8, 9 and 10 August and then returned to Leyte to await further orders. While there, the news of Japan's capitulation reached Barber and she headed for Okinawa escorting Mississippi and her sistership USS Idaho (BB 42). Arriving on 21 August, she departed the next day for a brief visit to Manila Bay. On 2 September, the fast transport commenced three weeks of duty in Subic Bay, at the conclusion of which she moved to Lingayen Gulf to join Transport Division (TransDiv) 20. From there, she led a procession of 20 transports for occupation duty. The group entered Wakanoura Bay at Honshu on 7 October and passed three slow weeks while minesweepers cleared a channel to Nagoya. Finally, TransDiv 20 was able to enter the channel safely while Barber remained behind to control the harbor entrance.

After another three weeks of screening incoming and outgoing ships, the transport received welcome orders to load passengers to capacity and return home. On 21 November, she embarked on the long voyage home. After steaming via Sasebo, Eniwetok, Pearl Harbor, San Diego, and Panama, Barber returned to the east coast for pre-inactivation overhaul. The fast transport was decommissioned on 22 May 1946 and was berthed with the reserve fleet at Green Cove Springs, Fla., where she remained for more than two decades. Her name was struck from the Navy list on 27 November 1968, and she was sold to the government of Mexico on 22 December 1969. Renamed ARM Coahuila (B07) she served until 1994, after which she was briefly-renamed Vincente Guerrero. She ultimately served until 16 July 2001, when she was decommissioned and stricken from the rolls of the Mexican Navy. Her ultimate fate is unknown.

Barber received three battle stars for her World War II service.[1]

This article incorporates text from the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, a work in the public domain.

References

  1. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships