The need for a Destroyer Escort class of ship came during World War II to be used against the German U-Boat threat in the Atlantic. When needed, the Destroyer Escort could accomplish the mission of the larger Destroyer by attacking surface ships with guns and torpedoes and serving as scout ships of the fleet. A specially designed Destroyer was then built to protect transports in convoys, these lighter Destroyers were designated DEs, developed for anti-submarine patrols. The first DEs main battery were 3-3 inch/50 plus 2- 40 mm and 9-20 mm and depth charges, no torpedo tubes. Next the DEs, had two 5 inch mounts and a set of three torpedo tubes. There was little difference in their size and tonnage.
With the constant threat of the U-Boat to Allied shipping the Destroyer Escort became a necessity. A Destroyer Escort could be built for about five million dollars compared to ten million for a Destroyer. They were smaller than a Destroyer and had not that firepower, but they could accomplish many of the same task that the Destroyer were designed to do for half the cost. The order for 1005 Destroyer Escorts was placed, but only 563 were completed (other sources state 503 and 457 DEs). This was due to the success the Destroyer Escort had in stopping the German U-Boat threat in the Atlantic. Some had been partially built and their construction was halted, and they were never commissioned. Some of the remaining keels which had been laid were completed as other type ships such as APDs. The APD was a Attack Personal Transport.
Of the 563 Destroyer Escorts built during and shortly after World War II, 78 were for England, 6 for France, and 8 for Brazil. The US Coast Guard had 30 Edsall Class Destroyer Escorts under their command, they were used mainly in the Atlantic. The rest of the DEs was delivered to the US Navy to be used in the Atlantic and Pacific Wars. They were used as convoy screens, anti-submarine warfare, shore bombardment, picket duties, surface engagements, electric power supply, and troop transports. The first orders were only placed on November 1,1941 and the first keel laid at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. The first Destroyer Escort that was commissioned was the USS Brennan DE 13 on Jan 20, 1943, at Mare Island, Vallejo, Calif. The DEs supplied the United States Navy with the economical destroyer type ship which could be mass produced using less expensive material.
With the large amount of Destroyer Escorts that had been ordered, there were not enough ship yards available to build these warships. Even at the existing yards there was a lack of space. To make up for this problem parts of the Destroyer Escort then were constructed at welding and fabrication shops across the United States and then when that piece or part of the ship was called for it would be sent, usually by rail to the shipyard for assembly of the ship.
Generally the ships carried 12-15 Officers and 175-200 Crewmen. The DEs top speed was 20 to 24 knots, generally cruised at 17 knots. Six classes of Destroyer Escorts were built: Evarts, Buckley, Rodderow, Cannon, Edsall and Butler
After the end of World War II, many of the Destroyer Escorts were de-commissioned and placed in moth balls. Other DEs stayed in commission for several years. The machinery of a DE compared to that of the DD made the DE more suitable for Naval reserve duty. By 1950 the force of active DEs was reduced to 27 ships. During the Korean War the number of DEs in commission was increased to 52. In 1960 only 3 Destroyer Escorts served with fleet units. Another 28 DEs trained reservists. Mass scrapping of ships remaining in reserve began five years later. The last World War II-built DEs were stricken in 1973. The Destroyer Escorts were known a heavy rollers, but also as good sea boats, at least in U.S. service. The Destroyer Escort provided a valuable service for the United States of America during World War II. In 1975 all Destroyer Escorts then in commission were re-designated Frigates (FF) and the type name DE was discontinued by the US Navy.
The ship on which the PX allegedly took place was identified by Carlos Allende as DE 173. The ELDRIDGE was constructed at the Federal Shipbuilding and Drydock at Kearny, N.J. together with a series of other DEs. In 1951, the ELDRIDGE was transferred to the Hellenic (Greece) Navy and served as D-54 LEON until the mid-80ties.
Some believe, that the PX took place with a special hand-picked test crew, before the DE 173 was officially commissioned and that therefore the ships log books (normally showing the full ship history from the date of commissioning on) were manipulated (the first pages were allegedly ripped out of the books) in order to hide the experiment. This manipulation would have included all of the ships certificates and other documents itself, showing a later date of commissioning, although the vessels had been already completed and was fully sea worthy.
By the muster rolls of the DE 173, I was able to verify the identities of following crew members:
* Theodore Roosevelt Davis Jr.(Ted Davis), Service # 372-51-03,
enlisted 07. December 1942 in Denver, Colorado, now living at Grand
Island, Nebraska. He was a crew member from 27. August 1943 ( the day of
the official commissioning of the DE 173) until at least 30. June 1944
(that's the end of my records).
* Edward James Tempany,(Ed Tampeny), Service # 710-43-62, enlisted 13. December 1942 in New York, now living in Carteret, N.J.. He was a crew member from 27. August 1943 until at least 30. June 1944
* Edward J. Wise, (Ed Wise), Service # 301-10-05, enlisted 30. November 1942 in Chicago, Illinois, now living in Salem, Indiana. He was a crew member from 27. August 1943 until at least 30. June 1944
* William K. van Allen,(Bill van Allen), he appears as Executive Officer on each chapters front page, right above the signature of the Commanding Officer C. R. Hamilton, starting with the 27. August 1943
In an TV interview by the History Channel (broad casted in March 2001), one of those former crew members, Ed Wise, stated, that there were already some crew members at the Federal
Shipbuilding and Drydock, while the ship was assembled. According to this eyewitness, there was no chance for a secret test with the ship before it was commissioned,
because some of the later crew members were permanently with that ship from construction and the following usual test phase until it was official commissioned.
This leads us to the speculation, that the PX test ship indeed was not the ELDRIDGE and therefore Allende did not recall the ships markings (DE 173) correctly. This could be possible, because one DE of the Cannon Class looks like the other. So it could be any other Cannon Class DE, which was nearly or fully completed at the time, that the PX took place. The time period is said to be around September or October 1943. At that time, some other DEs were just about completion: DE 170 USS BOOTH and DE 171 USS CARROLL.
Looking at the history of those vessels, one can find some unexpected details: While the other DEs needed about 6 month from keel laying till launching, Booth needed 9 and Carroll 8 1/2 month for this construction phase. And more strange facts: Completed about 57%, both ships were towed to Norfolk for final assembling of the weaponry and machinery. No other DEs were treated that way. Official sources don't state the reasons why the vessels had to move during construction phase, which was a strange measure because this of course led to some additional delays and extra co-ordination needs between Kearny and Norfolk. Very unusual during a time, were the US Navy needed desperately every vessel that could be used for protecting the convoys crossing the Atlantic Ocean.
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