History of Destroyer Escorts

DE-349, DE-443 (Campbell), DE-449, and DE-242According to the Destroyer History Foundation, 563 destroyer escorts (DE) were built between 1943-1945 for World War II.   They were a new type of warship that carried heavy anti-submarine & anti-aircraft weapons combined with the latest electronic equipment for detecting enemy vessels.

DE’s were fast ships that maneuvered into areas aircraft carriers couldn’t. They were lightweight and economical, reaching speeds of 24 knots using only 10-20% horsepower required by the larger destroyers. The DE’s were on the frontline to detect threats.  Sonar and radar were essential to their mission. Serving in some of the most dangerous waters of the Pacific theater, they carried 3 or 5-inch guns, torpedoes, depth charges, hedgehogs and other weapons.

My Dad’s ship, DE-443, was named in honor of Kendall Carl Campbell , who   fought courageously as a naval aviator and lost his life at the age of 24 during combat in the Coral Sea.   He was awarded the Navy Cross and Gold Star posthumously.

Today, one World War II destroyer escort is afloat as a museum ship. The Slater (DE- 766), beautifully restored to end-of-war appearance, rests on the Hudson River in Albany, New York.  Every June, they hold a memorial service.  It honors the 1,304 sailors who died when a total of ten destroyer escorts were sunk in action.  As each ship’s name is announced, a solemn bell sounds and a long stem carnation is released into the water.

A second destroyer escort, the Stewart (DE 238) is on static display at Galveston, Texas. Activities are conducted by members of the national Destroyer Escort Sailors Association (DESA), which maintains an extensive web site with ships’ histories and photos.  They also publish a quarterly newsletter,

DESANews is a benefit of membership and is distributed quarterly. A source for all the latest news and events, each issue contains:

1.  Stories about wartime exploits, humor and other memorable moments
2.  Member’s contributions, such as sea stories, remembrances
3.  Individual ship reunion information
4.  New Membership listings by ship
5.  DESA Chapter information and events
6.  TAPS section
7.  Veteran Affairs

There are local DE associations throughout the country.  The John C. Butler Arizona Destroyer Escort Sailors Association meets monthly at the American Legion Post 44 in Scottsdale, Arizona. Originally, they were comprised of  WW II vets with two Korean War vets, Lloyd Brown, radio operator, and Tom Alexander, radar operator, shipmates serving on USS McGinty DE 365.

ARIZONA – John C. Butler Chapter

  • Tom Alexander – 3539 W. Mission Lane, Phoenix, AZ 85051
    (602) 881-5148 E-Mail: dabadwop@gmail.com
Left rear, Destroyer escort. Right rear, destroyer. Left front, submarine.

                    

Diarama at the Naval Museum, Nauticus, in Nofolk, VA shows the size of a destroyer escort in relation to a big carrier as they pursue a submarine.

The Campbell was one of the John C. Butler Class of Destroyer Escorts:

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