The USS Kendall C. Campbell and sister ship, USS Goss, were launched on the same day in March 1944.
Campbell’s Flag Hoist / Radio Call Sign:
N – K – O – F
Dad was a Lieutenant JG and a plank owner (original crew member) aboard the USS Kendall C. Campbell. It was commissioned at the Brooklyn Navy Yard on July 28, 1944. The ship’s deck log noted visitors coming onboard for a luncheon at 12:30 and leaving by 13:20. My mother fondly remembered being invited to dine in the officers’ quarters and the special treatment afforded her as an officer’s wife.
Several days after the commissioning, the ship left for Bermuda with 201 crew and 12 officers sharing 306 feet of space to undergo their shakedown cruise operation. Then back to New York for post-shakedown availability.
Before the Campbell could begin war duties it steamed to the Naval Operating Base (NOB) in Norfolk, VA, and joined another DE and two Navy tankers.
|USS Kendall C. Campbell History|
|Laid down:||16 December 1943|
|Launched:||19 March 1944|
|Commissioned:||31 July 1944|
|Decommissioned:||31 May 1946|
|Fate:||sold for scrapping 15 January 1973|
|Length:||306 ft (93 m) (oa)|
|Beam:||36 ft 10 in (11.23 m)|
|Draught:||13 ft 4 in (4.06 m) (max)|
|Propulsion:||2 boilers, 2 geared turbine engines, 12,000 shp, 2 screws|
|Range:||6,000 nm @ 12 knots|
|Complement:||14 officers, 201 enlisted|
|Armament:||2-5 in (130 mm), 4 (2×2) 40 mmAA, 10-20 mm AA, 3-21 inch (533 mm) TT, 1 Hedgehog, 8 DCT’s, 2 DC tracks|
On October 4, 1944, there was a terrible accident while still in Norfolk. A hand grenade exploded, unfortunately causing the death of James B. Ardrey, S2c from Oklahoma City, OK. He’d only been in the Navy for a year and a half. Despite the tragedy, the Campbell left the next day for the Panama Canal where they reported to the Commander-in-Chief, Pacific fleet, for duty. Then on to San Diego, CA and Pearl Harbor, HI.
According to the ship’s muster, there were men from nearly every state in the USA, and also from Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides and Noumea, New Caledonia. New Hebrides, located in Micronesia, is now known as Vanuata. Vanuata served as a military base for the Allies and provided crewmen for the Navy as well.
The map below outlines the route the Campbell took in the South Pacific. My father served as: assistant engineering officer, senior deck watch officer, and my personal favorite, the movie officer.
Growing up, most of my friends’ fathers served in World War II, but for whatever reason never talked about it. When I was seven years old, my father told me, “The birds had squinty eyes.” I either believed him or sensed he didn’t want to talk about it. However, my husband, Gene, talked to my father about the Campbell and where it went.
I came to be in possession of my father’s weathered service file in a round-a-bout way. My mother saved it after my father’s death in 1996, and the record ended up in a box of old family photos at my sister Mimi’s house. Mimi gave it to Gene in 2013 when he started to build his 1/96 scale model of the USS Kendall C. Campbell. The file sat on a shelf gathering dust for a year in Gene’s study.
In January 2014, I was searching for ancestry vital records, specifically about my father’s family, so opened the file. While I didn’t find family records as hoped, it was a pleasant surprise to learn about my father’s career in the Navy and the journey of the USS Kendall C. Campbell.
It had a wealth of Navy records that were produced on typewriters, carbon copies, and mimeograph machines. The pages were so fragile and worn that tiny pieces broke off when I handled them.
I didn’t read about my father’s Navy service until 70 years after it happened. The file made the story of the Campbell come alive.
Dad was promoted to lieutenant while at sea. His duty station was down below in Engine Room Number 2. I cannot imagine what it must have been like to be in constant fear of attack by torpedoes, mines, or Kamikaze pilots.
Besides the enemy, another danger facing ships was stormy weather. The USS Kendall C. Campbell saw severe turbulence weather and was able to avoid the typhoon named Cobra near Luzon from December 14- 19, 1944. Winds were up to 140 miles per hour.
Len Nowak, sonar operator on the Campbell, told me during choppy weather it was hard to keep from being thrown out of their sleeping sacks, and food would just fall off their plates.
Even though the crew on my father’s ship were not storming the beaches in hand-to-hand combat, as seen on television and in movies, they served heroically by destroying enemy mines, fending off air attacks, rescuing twenty downed pilots, and participating in the destruction of Japanese midget subs.
Officers inspecting the crew on deck. My father is the junior officer second from the bottom.
In terms of combat, the USS Kendall C. Campbell joined the Luzon Attack Force at Lingayen Gulf in the Phillippines as an escort and anti-submarine vessel on New Year’s Day in 1945. The Campbell endured numerous enemy air attacks but successfully repelled them during this operation.
The ship also participated in the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa, and the final action prior to the invasion of Japan.
I was able to find old Life magazines from that time period on eBay. In 1945, Life was published weekly and cost ten cents.
Commander “Dick” Warner oversaw day-to-day operations and was responsible for writing the ship’s history from July 1944 to October 1945. He wrote a memoir about his naval service, and his diary gave me insight into life aboard the Campbell.
The ship’s history gave details of its success as part of Hunter Killer Task Forces credited with sinking three (3) Japanese midget submarines in August 1945.
The men earned four (4) bronze stars for their support in the Philippine Liberation, battles of Iwo Jima, Okinawa, and the final coastal raids prior to the planned invasion of Japan.
“The Campbell also sighted and destroyed twenty-three (23) enemy mines by gunfire during the period covered by this history.”
“The Campbell was fortunate enough to rescue (20) pilots and air crewmen of navy aircraft which were downed in the Pacific waters, a record of which we feel justly proud.”
The individual name, rank, and ship of the rescued men are listed at the end of the ship’s history.
On September 2nd, the ship’s men joined thousands of sailors and newsmen who had the honor of witnessing the official Japanese surrender aboard the Missouri in Tokyo Bay.
Lieutenant Commander Elmer wrote a personal thank you note to my father on October 15, 1945:
“As an engineering officer and senior deck watch officer, and while serving on this ship from 31 July 1944 to the present, you performed your duties in a manner which met the high standards of the naval service. Your knowledge of engineering and dependability as a watch officer in wartime contributed materially to the successful completion of the mission of this command.”
After the War, my father received a letter from James Forrestal, Secretary of the Navy.
My sister also gave us a brass plaque that she found with my father’s service file. Gene researched it and identified that it belonged to one of the 5-inch guns on my father’s ship and described the tram angles for mounts #1 and 2.
Campbell Awards, Citations and Campaign Ribbons
Precedence of awards is from top to bottom, left to right
Top Row: Combat Action Ribbon (retroactive)
Second Row: American Campaign Medal – Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal w/ 4 stars – WWII Victory Medal
Third Row: Navy Occupation Service Medal w/ Asia Clasp – Philippine Republic Presidential Unit Citation – Philippine Liberation Medal
My father’s ship did its job well, ever-vigilant against enemy attacks. It never suffered damage or lost a man during combat operations (although one man died during training before the sShip left for the Pacific).
Dad served aboard for 16 months until disembarking at San Pedro, California in November 1945. After several days processing, he boarded a train to go back to his famiy in Philadelphia. The 3,020 mile trip took him five days.
On completion of my research, I wrote an article “My Father and the USS Kendall C. Campbell” and submitted it to Tim Rizutto, Executive Director, USS Slater museum. He was kind enough to publish it in the Slater’s 4th Q 2015 newsletter.