History of
USS Charles Lawrence (DE-53/APD-37)
by H.B. Cranford, UMCS (SS) USN, Ret.

Charles Lawrence, AMM-2, USN
(12-29-16 -- 12-7-41)

Charles Lawrence was born in Portland, Oregon, on 29 December 1916 where he spent his childhood. he was a big baby, weighing over 9 pounds and the nurses called him "Buster," a nickname that stayed with him. he loved to play softball. As a young boy, he and his playmates spent time building forts with scrap lumber form a nearby mill. They had hills to coast on in the summer and sledding in the winter. he went to elementary school about 8 blocks from his home and then to Benson Polytechnic High School, where he majored in aviation mechanics, graduating in June 1935. This was in the middle of the Depression, so it was hard to find a job.

Charles wanted to join the Navy after graduating form high school, but every time he went for a physical, his blood pressure was too high. he later found out that his high blood pressure was the result of having to walk up eight flights of stairs to the Recruiting Office. He finally gave up on joining the Navy and applied and was accepted by the Army on 24 August, 1973. After recruit training he was sent to the Army Aviation Machinist School, graduating with high grades. he was then transferred to Luke Filed, Hawaii, and was later transferred to a B-18 squadron stationed at Hickam Field in Hawaii. he didn't want another tour of duty in Hawaii so when his tour was over, he was returned to the States and was discharged on October 11, 1939.

On 12 February 1940, he joined the Navy at San Francisco. he went through 'boot' camp at San Diego and was then sent to Aviation Machinist Mate School at North island in San Diego. After graduation, he was transferred to a PBY squadron at Naval Air Station, Pearl Harbor. In March 1941, his PBY-1 Squadron was transferred to the Naval Air Station, Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, the first PBY squadron to be located at this Naval Air Station. Later on, two more PBY Squadrons were sent to Kaneohe.

In November 1941, Charles Lawrence, along with others, flew their old PBY-1 planes from Kaneohe to San Diego to pick up new PBY-5 Flying Boats. Navy PBY-1 squadrons had never flown from Hawaii to the mainland before. It was an historic first flight and took approximately 20 hours to cross the pacific Ocean to the states. It was unheard of in those days to have such young Naval personnel occupy such important positions on a Flying Boat.

On 7 November 1941, the new PBY Flying Boats returned to Kaneohe Naval Air Station and 30 days later, the Japanese attacked and destroyed all the new planes. Kaneohe Naval Air Station was attacked before Pearl Harbor because it was first in the lines of flight by the Japanese forces.

[See the Action Report of the attack filed by Patrol Squadron 12.]

Charles Lawrence was in charge of an anti-aircraft battery as his battle station during the attack. He was wounded twice but continued to give directions and encouragement to his crew until he was struck down. He was one of the first casualties, if not the first, of World War II.

Charles Lawrence was described by his shipmates as steady, truthful, and dedicated and was looked upon as a leader. He was a few years older than the rest of the crew and was nicknamed "Pop." Said one shipmate, "You couldn't ask for a nicer person or a friend." His hobbies were swimming and baseball. He was once hit in the face with a ball and his jaws were almost closed for six weeks, living on ally liquids during that time. he was never married. His parents died in 1945 and 1947. He had a sister who till lives in Oregon [2000]. He had no brothers. Charles Lawrence was one of 19 sailors who defended, with their lives, the U.S. Naval Air Station, Kaneohe Bay against enemy attack on 7 December 1941. He was awarded the Navy Department Commendation Medal, citing his bravery and devotion to duty under attack.

USS Charles Lawrence (DE-53/APD-37)

The USS Charles Lawrence was constructed by the Bethlehem-Hingham Shipyard, Inc., Hingham, Massachusetts during 1942 and 1943. The keel for the USS Charles Lawrence was laid on 1 August 1942, and she was launched on 16 February 1943. She was commissioned on 31 May 1943, with Mrs. Sidney Lawrence, mother of the ship's namesake serving as sponsor.

When USS Charles Lawrence was commissioned, Lieutenant Commander Leon S. Kintberger, USN, assumed command as her first Commanding Officer, and the ship spent several weeks at the Boston Navy Yard for fitting out. After her fitting out period, she sailed for Bermuda on her shakedown cruise. After a three-week shakedown, which consisted of drills and exercises of all kinds, such as firing all guns and torpedoes, laying smoke screen, fueling at sea, antisubmarine warfare drills, antiaircraft gunnery practice and station keeping, USS Charles Lawrence headed back for the east coast to await assignment to the fleet.

On 1 August 1943, USS Charles Lawrence was in Norfolk Navy Shipyard awaiting her first convoy, which was due to sail in about two weeks. In the meantime, she was available for general duty and she soon got it. She received orders to proceed in company with USS Hopping and search for an enemy submarine which had been reported off the coast. After searching for two days, a suspicious radar contact was made. The USS Charles Lawrence immediately went to General Quarters, closed the target, and illuminated it with starshells and searchlights. The target was a large German submarine, estimated at over 1600 tons, which submerged immediately. Sound contact was made and an attack followed. However, no results were observed and the submarine slipped away into the darkness and depths without further contact being made.

Assigned first to escort central Atlantic convoys of tankers between Norfolk and Casablanca, USS Charles Lawrence made one such voyage. On 16 August 1943, she sailed from Norfolk with her first convoy, proceeding to Casablanca. It was a quiet orderly convoy, both over and back, with no enemy contacts.

Upon returning from Casablanca, Lieutenant Francis Kerning, USNR, relieved lieutenant Commander Kintberger, USN, as Commanding Officer of USS Charles Lawrence in August 1943.

USS Charles Lawrence and five sister destroyer escorts (USS Griffin (DE-54), USS Donnel (DE-56), USS Sims (DE-154), USS Hopping (DE-155) and USS Reeves (DE-156) comprised Escort Division SIX, with USS Charles Lawrence serving as flagship. Escort Division SIX was transferred to the high-speed tanker convoys formed at New York from t ships which had sailed independently up the East Coast. Between 13 October 1943 and 23 September 1944, Escort Division SIX in USS Charles Lawrence escorted eight (8) such convoys to Northern Ireland, returning with the tankers in ballast to New York. This flow of the fuel of war was so safely guarded by this escort group that only one tanker and one escort were lost in the sixteen (16) crossings of the Atlantic.

In February 1944, Lieutenant George r. Seidlitz, USNR, assumed command of the USS Charles Lawrence, relieving Lieutenant Francis Kernan, USNR.

The Division was escorting a convoy to the United States about three days out of Londonderry, Northern Ireland in march 1944, when USS Daniel T. Griffin reported a sound contact and commenced dropping depth charges. About the same time as the depth charges exploded, a torpedo struck the tanker Seakay which had a cargo of planes and fuel oil and burst into flames. USS Griffin pursued its attack on the submarine. The tanker sank very slowly and USS Reeves dropped back and picked up all 86 men of the tanker's crew with but only one casualty. USS Griffin made several depth charge attacks on the submarine but got no positive evidence of having sunk the U-boat. [Saturday, 18 March 1944: U.S. tanker Seakay, in Avonmouth, England-bound convoy CU 17, is torpedoed by German submarine U-311 at 51°10'N, 20°20'W, and abandoned. One Armed Guard sailor perishes in the abandonment; destroyer escort Reeves (DE-156) rescues survivors. Escort ships scuttle the irreparably damaged tanker with shells and depth charges.]

One the next crossing, in approximately the same general location, the Division and convoy came under submarine attack again. USS Donnel picked up a sound contact and started her attack on the U-boat. At 0955 on 3 May 1943, she took an acoustic torpedo hit in the stern; however, she remained afloat. [Wednesday, 3 May 1944: Destroyer escort Donnel (DE-56) is damaged by German submarine U-765, 450 miles southwest of Cape Clear, Ireland.] After much time, difficulty, and danger, she was towed into Londonderry. Casualties among the USS Donnel consisted of five known dead, 31 missing and 29 wounded. The Donnel was later reclassified as IX-182 and was towed across the channel where she was used to provide electric power for the city of Cherbourg during critical weeks during and after the Normandy invasion.

The USS Charles Lawrence had to maintain a high standard of seamanship to keep sailing the seas in all kinds of weather. During the Winter of 1943-1944, she ran into some bad weather in the North Atlantic, the worst being what became known as the "Christmas Hurricane." For about 20 hours, the ships in the convoy , as well as the escorts, were virtually hove-to. The seas were so high that the ships could make no headway against them, and the convoy became wildly scattered. There were reports of 'green' water coming in over the flying bridge. All ships came through safely and with only minor damage, and by noon the next day, the convoy had reformed and was on its way again.

USS Charles Lawrence arrived in New York with her last convoy in September 1944, and on 23 October 1944, entered the Sullivan Drydock and Repair Corporation facility in Brooklyn, NY, for conversion from a Destroyer Escort (DE) to a High-Speed Transport (APD). The conversion was completed in January 1945, and she was again ready for another short shakedown cruise and the long journey to join the Pacific Fleet. She left Norfolk on 27 January 1945, and arrived at Cristobal, Canal Zone on the morning of 2 February. By midafternoon she was underway through the Panama Canal and up the West Coast to San Diego. From San Diego, she sailed to Pearl Harbor for a short stay.

On 5 march 1945, she left Pearl Harbor enroute to the Solomon islands by way of Funafuti, Ellice Islands. When she arrived at Guadalcanal, the staging area for the coming Okinawa invasion, she was assigned to Commander Amphibious Group FOUR. This group had left a couple of days before she arrived, so she was routed onward to Ulithi, Caroline Islands. At Ulithi, logistics were completed and she sailed for Okinawa on 27 March 1945, as one of the eight escorts for Task Group 51.11, which consisted of 20 troop transports.

"Love Day" was set at 0830 on 1 April 1945 at Okinawa. After the initial landings, USS Charles Lawrence was assigned a station in the anti-submarine screen which was a semicircle of destroyers, destroyer escorts, and high-speed transports. They formed around Hagushi Beach where the landings were made.

Patrolling was her duty for the next three months, steaming back and forth in a 7000-yard station, searching for submarines and looking for suicide boats and suicide planes. Occasionally she would be relived from the screen to escort task groups that were returning to Ulithi or Guam, but she always returned to Okinawa.

During the first few weeks after the invasion of Okinawa, there were a few attacks by Kamikaze planes, but after that, suicide planes came in force. usually from 100 to 300 planes would come in just before sunrise and again at night just prior to sunset. This routine kept up until after Okinawa was secured. Several escorts on the perimeter patrols were hit by the Kamikazes. Firing often against these desperate Kamikazes, USS Charles Lawrence escaped injury. She did not get credit for any planes shot down, however, she came under attack several times. On one occasion, a Kamikaze plane made two attacks one evening, missing on the first run and crashing close aboard on the second attempt.

In early July 1944, USS Charles Lawrence was released and ordered into Leyte Gulf for a tender availability and overhaul. During this availability period, Lieutenant Commander Seidlitz was relieved as Commanding Officer on 21 July 1945 by Lieutenant Commander D.F. Larkin, Jr., USNR.

She was ready for sea and at anchor in Leyte, awaiting her next assignment, when the Japanese capitulated. her last major job was as escort with the USS Griffin to cover the landing of the Kure Occupation Force in the Japanese Inland Sea. She then acted as transport between the Philippines and Manus. She returned to San Diego on 16 December 1945, and through the Panama Canal to Norfolk on 30 December. On 21 June 19456, she was decommissioned, in reserve at Green Cove Springs, Florida.

USS Charles Lawrence earned one Battle Star in the Asiatic-Pacific Area for participating in the Assault and Occupation of Okinawa Gunto from 1 April 1945 to 30 June 1945. She also earned the Navy Occupation Service Medal for the period 25 September to 12 October 1945.

On 1 September 1964, USS Charles Lawrence (DE-53/APD-37) was sold to Southern Scrap Metal, New Orleans, Louisiana.

Transcribed and formatted for HTML by Patrick Clancey (patrick@akamail.com)