Classified ABDA Documents from a Destroyer Wreck
After reading Andrew K. Blackley’s fine article on the American-British-Dutch-Australian (ABDA) Command (“An Object Lesson on Allied Interoperability,” April, pp. 26–33), I wanted to point out some findings first published in the National Archives’ Prologue publication in the spring 2015 issue (vol. 47, no. 1). As a former declassification archivist, I had the privilege of examining about 2.5 cubic feet of documents salvaged from the wreck of the USS Peary (DD-226), sunk in Darwin Harbor on 19 February 1942. Although the documents lay submerged in the registered-publications safe for more than 15 years, NARA conservators were able to reveal enough details of the documents to give a pretty good idea of how prepared the Peary was for the still-new war in the Pacific.
Among the documents saved were a copy of the British Cypher No. 3, parts II and III, dated 1 March 1940; “Most Secret Appendix to the NEI Pilot” dated 25 August 1938; “Secret” and “Top Secret” Dutch charts, including minefield charts; and Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) monographs on Japan (either ONI-11 or -13), among others. Unfortunately, although several documents could be made legible in whole or in part, most of the pages await further treatment, and all the Peary records remain unavailable to researchers.
While I agree with Mr. Blackley’s conclusion that “ABDACOM was never truly a unified command,” I would only add that Admiral Thomas Hart did make “near-superhuman efforts” to make the ships of his Asiatic Fleet ready for war, at least tactically. The Peary, at least, had the administrative means to fight as part of a coalition.
Ominous Last Words of a Templar Grand Master?
I enjoyed Captain Sam J. Tangredi’s article on the Knights Templar (“The Elusive Fleet of the Knights Templar,” April, pp. 48–53), especially his tongue-in-cheek opening. According to legend, there may be something that suggests the Knights Templar were indeed “God’s warriors.” As described in Desmond Seward’s book The Monks of War: Military Religious Orders (Penguin, 1996), the French crown seized Templar property and funds and tortured its officers into confessions of sin and heresy, resulting in sentences of death for its officers.
In 1314, as the Templar Grand Master Jacques Molay was being burned alive over a slow charcoal fire, he summoned King Philip IV and the Pope, who had abetted the French king in the Templar persecutions, to come before God for judgment.
The Pope died within a month, and Philip before the end of the year. In addition, all Philip’s sons and successors died young.
Forged-in-Battle Officers Worthy of Emulation
J. C. Heminway
Thomas J. Cutler’s “Profiles in Command” article on the USS Johnston (DD-557) (“Harm’s Way: Ernest Evans,” February, p. 55) dredged up old memories and a desire to celebrate some deserving recipients.
Captain Leon Samuel Kintberger was commanding officer (CO) of the USS Norfolk (DL-1) when I reported for duty in 1958. Earlier in his career he had been the CO of the USS Hoel (DD-533) in 1944 and the Zellars (DD-777) in 1944–45.
The Johnston was not the only destroyer sunk by Japanese fire at the Battle off Samar on 25 October 1944. The Hoel was the second U.S. destroyer to be lost. Following their attacks on the Japanese cruiser force, both ships were rapidly reduced to powerless, sinking hulks. However, their actions gave the carriers that they were screening much valuable time.
Following Rear Admiral Clifton Sprague’s order, the Hoel made two torpedo runs at a vastly superior Japanese force that included the Yamato, the largest and arguably most powerful battleship ever built. Kintberger’s action was at the cost of 253 lives. He later stated, “Fully cognizant of the inevitable result of engaging such vastly superior forces, these men performed their assigned duties coolly and efficiently until their ship was shot from under them.”
Kintberger was not finished in the Pacific. He was CO of the USS Zellars when she was attacked by three kamikaze aircraft on 12 April 1945 while supporting the Okinawa invasion. The third kamikaze hit the bridge and knocked out all communications. After some effective damage control, she was able to get under way at the cost of 29 lives and 37 wounded—in the words of Samuel Eliot Morison, using “judicious use of profanity for communications.”
Kintberger’s successors in command of the Norfolk (during my tenure) demonstrated similar and effective leadership characteristics to me, although perhaps of a less spectacular quality. This may have been due in part to the ships that they had been assigned to command. World War II U.S. destroyers differed widely as to displacement, speed, armament, range, and other factors. They were used based on capability and need.
Kintberger was followed as Norfolk CO in August 1958 by Joseph William Koenig, earlier CO of the USS Maury (DD-401) in 1943–44. The Maury earned 16 Battle Stars and a Presidential Unit Citation. My third Norfolk CO was Hugh Quinn Murray, who had commanded the USS Jeffers (DD-621) during his World War II service. I learned much from each of these men, in a variety of ways. To my knowledge, none of them ever mentioned their World War II service. Would that today’s sailors were able to somehow easily benefit from those who have demonstrated leadership in the past. With those who do not talk of their experiences, we must live and act from their examples.
Corrections: On page 63, line 9, of the February issue, “ordinary seaman” should read “midshipman.” On pages 16 and 17 of the April issue, the captions should read “Trieste” instead of “Trieste II.”