Coast Guardsmen Arrighi and Deyampert
On 3 February 1943, the U.S. Army Transport (USAT) Dorchester steamed 100 miles off the coast of Greenland, loaded with soldiers headed for the war in Europe. At about 0100, a torpedo from a German submarine struck the converted passenger liner's starboard side. The ship immediately lost power and, as she began listing to starboard, the order was given to abandon ship. The story has many times been told of the four chaplains who were immortalized when they selflessly gave their lifejackets to other men and went down with the ship. But they were not the only heroes that night.
The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Escanaba (WPG-77) moved in to rescue those soldiers and crewmen who had gone into the foreboding waters. Ensign Richard Arrighi was the first to go over the side and was soon followed by others, including Steward's Mate Third Class Warren Deyampert. The two men worked in the dark, frigid, oil-covered water, assisting those men who were injured or otherwise unable to help themselves.
Petty Officer Deyampert worked for nearly four hours, pulling rafts in close to the Escanaba and tying bowlines around floating victims so they could be hauled out of the water. When one man drifted under the counter of the vessel's stern, Deyampert stayed with him, ignoring the danger to himself while he kept the survivor clear of the propeller.
Just when one of the Dorchester's lifeboats was secured to the Escanaba's side, one of the survivors fell in between the two. The man was covered with oil and the men in the lifeboat could not extricate him from his perilous position. Ensign Arrighi swam between the boat and the ship—placing himself in grave danger of being crushed between the two vessels—and pulled the man out, then held him up so a line could be put around him for rescue. Arrighi continued his efforts until his rubber suit became worn and filled with water, and he was hauled on board the Escanaba, where he was then treated for exposure.
Both Coast Guardsmen were awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for their heroism that night, and both men perished four months later when the Escanaba was torpedoed off the coast of Newfoundland while protecting another convoy and went down with all but two survivors. Pictured above and on the far right is Ensign Arrighi in late 1942.
USS Melville (AD-2)
The first U.S. Navy ship built as a destroyer tender was the Melville (AD-2), named for the first Chief of the Bureau of Engineering and former Arctic explorer Rear Admiral George W. Melville. Laid down on 13 November 1913 by New York Shipbuilding Corporation at Camden, New Jersey, the Melville launched on 2 March 1915 and commissioned on 3 December of that year. The ship's first operational duty came with the U.S. entry into World War I, when she was deployed to Queenstown, Ireland, during May 1917 to act as tender to U.S. destroyers protecting Allied convoys and as flagship for the Commander, U.S. Naval Forces, in Europe, Vice Admiral William S. Sims. The ship's ability to rig some 330 portable cots also made her useful as a troop transport when she returned home in January 1919. In May of that year, the 7,150-ton, 417-foot Melville deployed to the Azores to support the transatlantic flight of the Navy's NC-series seaplanes. The Melville deployed to the Pacific Fleet in July 1919 and arrived at her new home port of San Diego at the end of October, having undergone repairs in Panama after a boiler explosion that caused the only personnel casualties the ship ever suffered.
The Melville served the Pacific Fleet until November 1940, when she was detached to the East Coast to service the newly established Patrol Forces, U.S. Fleet; she was permanently reassigned to the Atlantic Fleet on 1 February 1941. During January 1942, the destroyer tender deployed to Londonderry, Northern Ireland, where she gave support to Allied convoy escorts. During 1942-1943, the Melville operated at bases established in Iceland, Brazil, and Scotland, and at U.S. East Coast ports. From May 1944 to the end of the war in Europe, the ship was based at Portland, England, primarily as a minesweeper and amphibious warfare craft tender. Her planned transfer to the Pacific was canceled by the Japanese surrender, and the aged tender was sent to Jacksonville, Florida, to assist in the mothballing of escort vessels. The Melville, now too small and too worn to serve with a much-reduced postwar fleet that had numerous newer and far better-equipped tenders, was decommissioned at Norfolk, Virginia, on 9 August 1946, stricken on 23 April 1947, and sold for scrap on 19 August 1948.