MEDITERRANEAN IN 1944
An Account as given in the C. G. Association Bulletin of August, 1945.
The USS Menges, torpedoed in May, 1944, while on convoy duty in the Mediterranean, was saved by the prompt and determined efforts of her officers and men. Under the direction of Lieutenant Commander Frank M. McCabe, she rescued more than one hundred survivors of the USS Landsdale, when that ship went down under the bombing attack of fifteen German planes. Two of the bombers were shot down; guns of the Menges accounted for one of them. Among the survivors picked up from the oily, debris-littered water was Lieut. Robert Morgenthau, USNR, son of the then Secretary of the Treasury. In the same action the Menges captured two German airmen, survivors of the plane her guns had hit.
In May, 1944, just a short time after the Landsdale was sunk, the Menges was on convoy duty in the Mediterranean. A German submarine attacked with acoustic torpedoes. Smashing through the ship's propellors, two torpedoes blasted off the stern section and blew the jagged ends skyward. Hurling all the ship's depth charges into the sea, and even tossing a washing machine 150 feet forward and upward until it smashed against an anti-aircraft gun on the upper deck, the explosion demolished the after third of the ship, killed 29 men and two officers, and wounded 20 more.
Although the ship was listing badly and taking in water fast, Lieut. Comdr. McCabe gave no "Abandon Ship" order. The officers and men who were uninjured went to work. The explosion had started the engines of the Menges' torpedoes; crewmen rendered them harmless. Others of the crew freed their shipmates from a compartment in which they were trapped by wreckage. Two men, blown over the side, were rescued by a radioman who lowered the ship's small boat. Damage control parties secured broken water lines and shut off electricity to oil soaked cabins. By the time a British tug reached the Menges, watertight integrity had been established.
The submarine crew did not have long to gloat over what they must have considered a certain "kill." Less than 26 hours after they hit the Menges, Coast Guard-manned USS Pride and the Navy DE Joseph E. Campbell depth-charged the German craft to the surface and disabled her. French and British ships joined the action, the submarine was destroyed, and many of her crew were captured.
The Menges was first towed to an African port where temporary repairs were made, and then to the Navy Yard, New York. Shortly afterwards, the USS Holder, DE-401, which had been hit amidship by an aircraft torpedo was docked alongside. The Bureau of Ships determined that one complete ship could be salvaged from the wreckage of the two vessels. Accordingly a 94-foot section of the Holder's stern was cut off and moved into position behind the Menges. When the keels were aligned, in no place in the two hulls was there a difference of more than an inch and a half. Slight
differences were corrected and the two sections were welded together to form the new Menges, that name being adopted because the old Menges formed the greater part of the new vessel.
In commenting upon this work, Captain R. B. Lank, Jr., USCG, said, "We were aware of the excellent job accomplished on the Menges, but as the responsibility for keeping this type vessel in repair rested with the Bureau of Ships, the Coast Guard had no part in the matter. It appears to have been an excellent job, and I think present high development of welding technique permits this type job being accomplished rapidly and in a satisfactory manner."
The repair work was not in vain. Several months after being torpedoed, the-Menges and another Coast Guard-manned DE sank a German submarine, the entire crew of which went down with their ship. In that action the Menges found her revenge, and the difficult repair job undertaken by the Bureau of Ships was amply justified.
In August, 1945, Lieut. Comdr. McCabe still commanded the Menges but of the other survivors of the torpedoing only four petty officers were still aboard the "ship that was doomed but lived to fight again."