U.S.S. WALLER (DD466)
1 October 1942 to 23 December 1945
The U.S.S. WALLER, a 2100-ton destroyer built by the Federal Ship-building Company, was commissioned at Kearney, New Jersey, 1 October 1942, and was in action in the Pacific from January 1943 until December 1945, serving in the Solomons, the Marianas, the Philippines, the Borneo area, and Chinese waters as a unit of Destroyer Division 43 and Squadron 22.
In more than two and one-half years of combat the WALLER accounted for, or assisted in accounting for, 16 enemy aircraft, at least two light cruisers or destroyers, a submarine and more that 15 troop-carrying barges. She protected convoys and provided fire support for allied troops in 15 amphibious landings, bombarding enemy troop concentrations and shore installations in 14 combat areas. The ship rates ten announced battle stars.
During her war cruise the WALLER’s powerful engines carried her more than 190,000 nautical miles, the equivalent of nine times around the earth, and her guns poured nearly 23,000 rounds of ammunition at the enemy’s land, sea, and air forces, including 10,665 rounds fired from her main 5-inch battery.
Enemy torpedoes sizzled down her sides and even under her bow, would-be suicide planes were shot into the water close aboard, her hull was shaken by countless near bomb misses, she steamed through unswept mine fields and hazardous shoal waters, she was caught in the crossfire of shore batteries- yet, in all her campaigning, the U.S.S. WALLER never suffered a single fatality among her personnel. Two men were slightly wounded due to enemy action during the war and 22 were injured by a mine explosion in the Yangtze River after the Japanese surrender.
The WALLER received her baptism of fire while under the command of Comdr. L.H. Frost, USN, near Guadalcanal on 29 January 1943, when enemy torpedo bombers came in at dusk to attack the small task force with which she was operating.
The cruiser CHICAGO was torpedoed in this attack and left dead in the water. One plane strafed the decks of the WALLER, injuring one man, but the destroyer’s A.A. batteries claimed two possible kills.
The Task Force was attacked by 11 more planes the following day, and the CHICAGO was sunk. Despite the fact that the attack came in from the opposite side of the formation, the WALLER’s gunners succeeded in shooting down one enemy plane and contributed to the demise of two others.
It was a little more than a month later, on 5 March 1943, that the WALLER, with Commander Destroyer Division 43 aboard, made the first of many expeditions up the famous Solomons “slot”, leading a force of three cruisers and three destroyers on a night sweep into Kula Gulf.
Shortly after entering the gulf, the WALLER detected two enemy light cruisers or heavy destroyers standing out of Blackett Strait at 24 knots. Closing the range to less than 8000 yards, the WALLER fired a 5-tube spread of torpedoes; then all of our ships opened up with gunfire. Brief minutes later the WALLER's “fish” found their mark, causing a terrific explosion which tore the leading enemy ship into two parts. It sank immediately.
The second vessel, burning heavily from gunfire, went to the bottom less than half an hour later. Apparently taken by complete surprise, the enemy had failed to fire a single damaging shot in return.
Another trip up the “slot” came the night of 29-30 June 1943, when the WALLER accompanied cruisers and destroyers of the third fleet on a successful bombardment of Vila-Stanmore, Kolambangara Island, and the Shortland Islands. Again, on the night of 11-12 July, the WALLER led a column of ships in the bombardment of Munda Airfield.
While covering the return of forces from New Georgia a few nights later, the WALLER and other destroyers of Squadron 22, investigating a patrol plane’s report, encountered three vessels which were believed to have been enemy destroyers off Vanga Point, Kolambangara Island. Hit and straddled by gunfire, two of the targets were believed sunk. Out units were attacked by enemy planes seven times during the night, without damage. One plane was shot down.
Serving as a screening vessel during the occupation of Vella La Vella, from 15 to 18 August 1943, the WALLER went through numerous heavy air attacks, shooting down at least three enemy planes and taking credit for three “assists”. The night of 17-18 August enemy bombers and torpedo planes were overhead almost continuously for eight hours.
Commander FROST’s action report describes a portion of the battle in these words:
“At 2137 a near bomb miss on WALLER’s port quarter-75 feet. Another on starboard quarter. At 2146 a torpedo plane dropped one torpedo about 200 yards to starboard and sheared off over forecastle. This plane was knocked down and fell on port bow in heavy cloud of smoke. The men below, in engine room, heard the torpedo and believe it passed under ship.”
“We do not know how many bombs were dropped on the ship. Most of them were well clear astern and explosions were hidden in smoke. The planes continued to come in and all ships were firing and reporting planes from time to time. Flares were being dropped to mark our position.”
Shortly before midnight, while maneuvering radically in the smoke screen to avoid bombs, the WALLER and the U.S.S. PHILIP sideswiped and suffered moderate structural damage. Both ships were able to maintain full power, however, and the battle continued. At least five more bombs were dropped on the WALLER later in the night, the nearest landing 50 yards off the starboard quarter.
Another memorable night up the “slot” occurred 1-2 October 1943 when the WALLER, Captained by Lt. Comdr. W.T. DUTTON, USN, accompanied other destroyers of Squadron 22 on a hunt for enemy destroyers, and encountered a fleet of more than 20 troop-laden barges, between Kolambangara and Choiseul Islands. Six barges were hit and believed sunk by the WALLER, only nine escaping from the fire of the squadron. The WALLER tallied at least four more barges in another “turkey shoot” the following night. One man was wounded by enemy return fire.
While participating in the Bougainville operation during November 1943, the WALLER helped fight off two heavy air attacks, each of three hours’ duration, and bombarded Magine Island, pouring 400 rounds of five-inch ammunition into enemy positions.
Back in the Solomons after a New Year’s “rest” trip to Sydney, Australia, the WALLER made itself obnoxious to the Nipponese again during February 1944.
Bombardment of Buka and Choieul Islands early in the month, during which the ship was unsuccessfully fired upon by three-inch shore battery, was followed by the Green Island landing. From 0145 until dawn on 15 February the ship was under air attack. Two bombs fell within 500 yards of her port quarter.
The night of 29 February-1 March the WALLER bombarded airstrips, a radar station, and gun positions in the Capt St. George, Borpop Harbor, and Namatanai areas of New Ireland, expending nearly 1200 rounds of five-inch ammunition. A shore batter which took the ship under fire was effectively silenced.
The next major operation in which the destroyer participated was the occupation of Saipan. After convoying D-plus-1 echelon of transports to the objective area, the WALLER was assigned to fire support and screening duties from 16 to 22 June, and furnish both direct and call fire against gun positions, troop concentrations, and small boats. Entering upswept Magicienne Bay 18 June on a bombardment assignment, the WALLER was taken upon crossfire by shore artillery on both sides of the Bay. Opening up immediately with counterbattery fires, the WALLER’s gunners scored a direct hit on one battery, knocking it out with the first salvo.
After serving as a screening unit during the landing on Guam, the WALLER returned to fire support duties for the occupation Tinian, throwing 1468 rounds of five-inch shells into enemy positions.
Following a navy yard overhaul in San Francisco, the WALLER returned to the combat zone under command of Comdr. H. L. THOMPSON, Jr., USN, in November 1944, joining the battleships, cruisers, and destroyers of the Seventh Fleet in Leyte Gulf on 27 November just in time to be subjected to one of the heaviest suicide-plane raids of the Philippines campaign. Fifteen planes staged the attack shortly before noon, and of this number the WALLER was officially credited with shooting down one and assisting in the destruction of a second.
The night of 27-28 November Capt. Robert Hall SMITH (Com DesRon 22) aboard the WALLER led four ships of Destroyer Division 43 on a sweep into Ormoc Bay and the Camotes Sea - the first penetration of the inland waters of the Philippines by major U.S. surface units since 1942.
The mission of the task unit was two-fold: to bombard troop concentrations in the Ormoc Bay area, and to destroy and shipping encountered. In both respects it was successful.
After pouring shells into the bay area for an hour with results which the army later described as highly satisfactory, the division proceeded westward through the Camotes Sea in search of shipping. Shortly after 1 o’clock a radio report was received revealing that a patrol plane had sighted a surface submarine south of Pacijan Island, heading toward Ormoc Bay.
The division reversed course to intercept the submarine, and at 0126 the WALLER’s radar detected the target just off the northeast coast of Penson Island. Firing with all five-inch and automatic weapons which would bear, the WALLER headed directly for the sub, and the word as passed, “standby to ram.”
The ramming order was countermanded at the last minute as the target already appeared to be seriously damaged. The WALLER passed the submarine 50 yards to starboard, blanketing it with heavy flow of armor piercing 40mm projectiles, as well as five-inch fire, and receiving only a few inaccurate rounds of three-inch shells and light machine gun fire in return. At 0145, while the WALLER was coming about for another firing run, the submaring sank stern first. A few survivors were seen to swim away.
The WALLER remained in the Leyte Gulf area until 2 December, making a second sweep into the Camotes Sea the night of 29-30 November for the purpose of destroying a reported 10 ship enemy convoy. No trace of the convoy could be found, but half a dozen barges werer smashed with gunfire. The task unit was under sporadic air attack throughout both Ormac raids, three bombs falling within a few hundred yards of the WALLER.
In mid-December 1944 the WALLER participated in the Mindoro invasion as a unit in the covering force of battleships, escort carriers, cruisers, and destroyers. On 15 December this force successfully repelled a heavy attack by suicide planes in the Sulu Sea. Of the eight planes shot down over the formation, one sure kill and one assist were officially credited to the WALLER. One plane, a twin-engine bomber, was attempting a suicide run on the WALLER when it was destroyed.
With ComDesRon 22 aboard as a screen commander, the WALLER served in the transport screen during the Lingayen Gulf assault in January 1945. The ship fired more than 3300 rounds of ammunition at air and surface targets, scoring hits on two suicide boats and an undetermined number of aircraft.
Occupation of Palawan Island and Zamboanga Peninsula in February and March 1945 again found the WALLER performing escort and screening duties. She served as flagship and fire support ship with a small task unit which carried out the landing on Basilan Island on 16 March and received additional fire support assignments in the Tawi Tawi and Jolo (Sulu Archipelago) landing during April.
In the Borneo campaign, from May to July 1945, the WALLER escorted convoys to Tarakan Island, Bruei Bay, and Balikpapan, and covered minesweeping operations which preceded the landings in the Miri-Lutong area, below Brunei.
After eight months of Seventh Fleet duty, the WALLER rejoined the Third Fleet early in August 1945 for the expected “big push” and was escorting a convoy to the Honshu area when Japan accepted unconditional surrender.
The destroyer returned to the Seventh Fleet for duty with the Yangtze Patrol Force and entered Shanghai with the first Allied naval units 19 September. The Fleet was given a heroes’ welcome by the liberated Chinese, who lined the banks of the Hwangpoo River, cheering lustily, waving victory flags and setting off firecracker salutes.
Two weeks later, while supervising minesweeping operations in the Chusan Archipelago, off the China coast, the WALLER climaxed its career by singlehandedly immobilizing a Japanese suicide boat garrison and assisting Chinese authorities in disarming 2700 Japs near the city of Tinghai.
The “Kamikaze” unit surrendered its arms to the WALLER landing force of 21 men, who kept the Japanese at work all night carrying ammunition and removing explosive charges from 87 suicide boats.
The anticlimax came a few days later when, on 9 October, the WALLER struck a mine in the Yangtze River while returning to Shanghai. Twenty-two men were injured, and the ship received structural damage which necessitated drydocking in Shanghai.
After another minesweeping assignment and duty as Yangtze River entrance control vessel and mail courier, the WALLER hoisted its “homeward bound” pennant 12 December 1945 and left Shanghai in company with Destroyer Division 43 for decommissioning in the United States.
The veteran “2100-tonner” is scheduled to enter the inactive reserve fleet at Charleston, S.C., Navy yard.
NOTE: This history of the U.S.S. WALLER is being distributed to all hands for their information, but is not to be construed as an official news release of the Navy Department. However, personal letters or narratives incorporating the information contained herein may be published in hometown newspapers or house organs without restriction, in accordance with ALPAC #142.
H. L. THOMPSON, Jr.,