Aboard the Campbell

The Campbell was launched with sister ship, USS Goss, on March 19, 1944.

Campbell’s Flag Hoist / Radio Call Sign:
N – K – O – F

USS Kendall C. Campbell launching in March 1944


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.

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Invitation to Commissioning Ceremony  (courtesy of Len Nowak)

Several days after the commissioning, the ship left for Bermuda with 201 crew and 12 officers sharing 306 feet of space.  They underwent a shakedown cruise to test the performance of the ship by simulating working conditions on the vessel. For most new ships, the major reasons were to familiarize a crew with a new vessel and to ensure all of the ship’s systems were functional.

After successfully completing their shakedown operation, the Campbell steamed to the Naval Operating Base (NOB) in Norfolk, VA, and joined another DE and two Navy tankers.

USS Kendall C. Campbell History
United States
Laid down: 16 December 1943
Launched: 19 March 1944
Commissioned: 31 July 1944
Decommissioned: 31 May 1946
Struck January 1972
Fate: sold for scrapping 15 January 1973
General characteristics
Displacement: 1,350/1,745 tons
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
Speed: 24 knots
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 an accident on the ship 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.    The explosion also wounded Kenneth McIntosh and Howard L. Heath.

Despite the tragedy, the Campbell left the next day for the Panama Canal where they reported to the Commander-in-Chief, Pacific fleet, for wartime duty.  Then on to San Diego, CA and Pearl Harbor, HI.

According to the ship’s muster (roll of everyone onboard and their positions), there were men from nearly every state in the USA, and  also from Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides and Noumea, New Caledonia.  New Hebrides was located in Micronesia and is now known as Vanuatu.  Vanuatu 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.

Route the Campbell took during WW II

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 the places it went.

I came to be in possession of my father’s service file in a round-a-bout way.  My mother saved it after my father’s death in 1996, and the folder 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 January 2014, I was searching for ancestry vital records so opened the file.  While I didn’t find family information, it was a pleasant surprise to learn about my father’s career in the Navy and the journey of the USS Kendall C. Campbell.

His navy file had a wealth of documents 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.

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When I read about my father’s Navy service it was 70 years later.  His service file made the story of the Campbell come alive.

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Dad was promoted to lieutenant while at sea.  His duty station was down below on the ship in Engine Room Number 2.  One engine room machinist described it as “ungodly hot, humid, nasty, and built for short people.”  He said the men who worked in the engine room often would have skin peel off the soles of their feet because of the hot, damp conditions. There was also a constant loud “thrumming” of the engines.

The Campbell underway at sea (photo courtesy of Phil Jordan)

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In October 1944, the Battle of Leyte Gulf took place, one of the largest naval battles in world history. United States, Australian, and Filipino forces landed in Leyte Gulf, which began the invasion of Japanese-occupied Philippines. The Japanese suffered heavy losses, and this marked their first kamikaze aerial attacks. The Allies won the battle and their victory led to the liberation of the Philippines. This was a turning point in the war against Japan as it effectively cut off their supply route in Southeast Asia and was a devastating loss to their naval forces with many of their ships destroyed and thousands killed. I cannot imagine what it must have been like in constant fear of attack by torpedoes, mines, or Kamikaze pilots.

Another danger facing ships was stormy weather. The USS Kendall C. Campbell experienced severe turbulence but was able to avoid the typhoon named Cobra near Luzon from December 14-19, 1944.   Winds were up to 140 miles per hour.

 A crew member’s sleep berth was smaller than a twin-size bed, and a sailor often had to tie himself to the berth or risk getting dumped out onto the floor…of which there wasn’t much.  Each man had his berth and a small compartment for personal effects.  Len Nowak, sonar operator on the Campbell, told me during choppy weather it was hard to keep from being thrown out of his sleeping sacks.

Eating a meal could be an adventure when they had to chase things around the plate  when seas were rough.  Sometimes food would just fall off their plates.

The crew on my father’s ship destroyed enemy mines, fended off air attacks, rescued twenty downed pilots, and participated in the destruction of Japanese midget subs.

Officers inspecting the crew on deck in April 1945. My father is the junior officer second from the bottom. (Photo Courtesy of Len Nowak and Carmen Trimarchi)

On December 22, 1944, the Campbell celebrated Christmas at anchor with liberty on Mog Mog Island.

The USS Kendall C. Campbell  joined the  Luzon Attack Force at Lingayen Gulf in the Philippines 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.

On January 5, 1944, two enemy destroyers exiting Manila Bay were taken under fire by the larger vessels of the forward van group.  The Campbell’s group was under attack by a sizeable group of Kamikazes, sustaining a direct hit on the USS Seiverling, DE 441, as well as a hit on the USS Omaney Bay CVE 76, resisting sinking by the USS Burns DD 588 — also hit USS California and an Australian cruiser.

There was a continuation of daylight air attacks from January 7-14, 1945.  The Campbell rescued two downed fighter pilots from the USS Bismark CVE 95 and three from the USS Hogattbay.

On January 27, 1945, at night, the Campbell was struck mid ship on the starboard side followed by damage to the propeller, probably from a torpedo.  Despite excessive vibration and starboard shaft — it was able to maintain screen speed.

In addition to its participation in the invasion and landing operations at Leyte Gulf, the Campbell also was involved with Iwo Jima, Okinawa, and Third Fleet final action operations against the Japanese mainland as a hunter-killer anti-submarine group.

The Campbell detached from the escort group to anchor south of Iwo Jima on March 11, 1945 and serve as a mail ship.  They viewed the raising of the US flag on Mount Suribachi.  There’s one crew member alive today who remembers the flag raising.

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View of Iwo Jima from the USSS Kendall C. Campbell  (courtesy of Len Nowak)

On March 25, 1945, the Campbell was under attack from kamikaze enemy planes out of  Okinawa.  By April 6th these attacks were almost daily.  Great air protection coverage from the USS Tulagi‘s fighter squadrons shielded the Campbell and others.  The attackers were downed before reaching the group.

View of the Campbell from the deck of the USS Tulagi CVE-72 off the coast of Okinawa (from my father’s photo album)

I  purchased old Life magazines on eBay.  In 1945, they used to be published weekly and cost ten cents.

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Battle of Iwo Jima in February-March, 1945

On July 30th an approaching typhoon required the Campbell to change its patrolling station to the south.

The Campbell’s Commander, “Dick” Warner, oversaw day-to-day operations and was responsible for documenting the ship’s history.  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 atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, August 6, 1945, made the invasion unnecessary as the War ended.

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 a total of (20) pilots and air crewmen from navy aircraft which were downed in the Pacific waters, a record of which we feel justly proud.”

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Returning a downed pilot to his carrier (courtesy of Len Nowak and Carmen Trimarchi)

The individual name, rank, and ship of the rescued men are listed at the end of the ship’s history.

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The names of the rescued crew members, with rank, name of plane, date, and assigned ship
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Tokyo Bay for the signing ceremony (courtesy of Len Nowak)

The Campbell was with the first group of US Naval groups to enter Tokyo  Bay prior to the signing of the surrender.  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.

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Ships present on 9/2/45 for signing of surrender (Courtesy of Len Nowak)
Oct 30, 1945: Dad with a Japanese officer in Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan

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.

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Letter to my father from the 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 the Campbell and described the tram angles for mounts #1 and 2.

Tram Plate
Brass plaque from gun mount on the Campbell

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 serious damage.  And never lost a man during combat operations although one man died during training before the ship 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 return home to his family 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.

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