The ship was launched at the Boston Navy Yard, Charlestown, Massachusetts, on January 16, 1943 by Mrs. Mark Hanna Crouter, the widow of Commander Mark Hanna Crouter, U.S.N., who was the Executive Officer of the U.S.S. San Francisco when he was killed in action in the Battle of Guadalcanal, 12-15 November 1942, and in whose honor the ship was named. The ship was placed into commission by Captain R.C. Grady, U.S.N., on May 25, 1943. Lieutenant John E. Johansen, U.S.N.R., of Mobile, Alabama, was the ship's first Commanding Officer.
The ship underwent shakedown at Bermuda, completing its schedule in twenty-three days, a record at that date, and then returned to Boston for post shakedown repairs. On the first of August the ship passed through the Panama Canal and reported to the Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Fleet. The ship, stopping enroute at Bora Bora, reached Nouméa, New Caledonia and reported for duty on September 3, 1943 with the South Pacific Force.
From that time until April 1, 1944, the ship was engaged in escort and screening duties in the areas around Guadalcanal, Espiritu Santo, Treasury, Munda, Efate and the Fiji Islands. The ship participated in the consolidation of the Northern Solomons, escorting a light cruiser bombardment force to the vicinity of Buka and Bougainville Islands. On another occasion while off Cape Torokina, the ship was fired upon by a Japanese shore battery, but was undamaged.
On November 8, 1943, Lieutenant William M. Lowry, U.S.N.R., of Olympia, Washington, relieved Lieutenant John E. Johansen, U.S.N.R., as Commanding Officer.
While convoying from Guadalcanal to Espiritu Santo, this ship surprised a Japanese submarine on the surface during the night of December 2, 1943. After attempting to ram, deliberate depth charge attacks were made during the night. No official evaluation has as yet been made of this attack.
On February 19, 1944, Lieutenant George W. Worth, U.S.N.R., of Arlington, Massachusetts, relieved Lieutenant William M. Lowry, U.S.N.R., as Commanding Officer.
On June 1, 1944, after an interim overhaul at Hunter's Point Navy Yard, San Francisco, California, the ship proceeded to the Central Pacific and was assigned escort duty between Pearl Harbor and Eniwetok in the Marshall Islands during June, the time of the invasion of Saipan.
On July 4, 1944, the ship conducted a three day search for the submarine U.S.S. S-28, which had failed to surface after a practice dive. Commander E.R. Swinburne, U.S.N., Commander Submarine Division 41, was embarked aboard in charge of operations. Five oil slicks were sighted but no survivors or debris was found.
The ship was next ordered to duty as a training ship for submarines operating out of Pearl Harbor. On July 15, 1944, the ship was again called on for rescue work, this time to pick up the crew of a crashed SB2c Helldiver. The operation developed into a double rescue when a PBY that had landed to take aboard the survivors damaged itself and was unable to take off. Guided by search planes, the Crouter reached the sinking PBY after dusk. After several attempts were made in the rough sea to rescue the plane crews, the PBY sank, spilling the men into the sea. The ship was brought alongside the survivors and sharks were seen swimming under them. These sharks were driven off by small arms fire until gasoline fumes from the sunken plane made this too hazardous. At this time Edwin J. Bernik, GM2c, USN, of Erie Pennsylvania, dove into the water and aided the exhausted swimmers. The entire crew of the two planes, ten men in all, were safely brought aboard. While the ship had been maneuvering two of the ship's officers, Lieutenant Nat Brown, Jr., U.S.N.R., and Lieutenant (jg) John F. Cykler, U.S.N.R., were cast adrift while attempting to float a life raft to the plane. They were recovered after rescue operations had been completed.
On August 2, 1944, Lieutenant Charles F. Braught, U.S.N.R., of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, relieved Lieutenant Commander George W. Worth, U.S.N.R., as Commanding Officer.
From August 13 until October 24, 1944, the ship was stationed at Majuro Atoll, Marshall Islands, where it continued its duty of training submarines and in addition acted as an escort to and from the points where the submarines began their war patrols.
From October 1944 until March 1945, the ship was an escort for convoys composed largely of fast tankers that ran from Eniwetok to Ulithi in the Western Caroline Islands and Kossol Road in the Palau Group. The fuel thus delivered was used by the Third and Seventh Fleets operating at that time in the Philippines and to the north in the vicinity of Formosa and Nansei Shoto. Sixteen convoys were safely brought to their destination, one of the convoys being the largest to sail through the Central Pacific.
Orders were received in March to proceed to Leyte, where this ship joined a task unit of the Fifth Fleet composed of transports and destroyers under the command of Rear Admiral J.L. Hall, U.S.N., that was to comprise the southern attack forces in the forth coming operation to take Okinawa. Included in this task unit was the flagship for the amphibious operation with Vice Admiral Turner aboard.
The task unit of which the U.S.S. Crouter was a part arrived off Okinawa on the morning of the assault, April 1, 1945. This ship was assigned a screening station off Kerama Retto, retiring with the transport groups to seaward during the period of darkness. On April 6, 1945, the ship went to Saipan and returned to Okinawa with a convoy of assault shipping. On the return trip, contact was made on a possible submarine which was attacked with depth charges. Nearing Okinawa, a marine pilot, Second Lieutenant R.L. Wickser, from Kadina Air Strip, Okinawa, was rescued after he crashed into the sea off the starboard bow of this ship.
Upon the return to Okinawa, the ship was assigned to the screening station off Ie Shima. On the 21st of April, at night, a Jap plane attempted to torpedo the ship and was probably shot down. The same night a Jap observation plane dropped a bomb, which exploded astern of the ship. The next day groups of civilians were observed on Ie Shima waving white flags in an attempt to surrender to the ship and this was reported to the Task Group Commander. During the night of April 27th, a torpedo wake was seen crossing the bow. On the next night four suicide bombers attempted a coordinated attack on four ships, one crashed into the sea missing the U.S.S. Crouter, the second crashing in the wake of the U.S.S. England and the remaining two made successful crashes into the U.S.S. Talbot. During this attack, the suicide planes used running lights and employed recognition devices similar to ours in an attempt to confuse our radar operators, which was detected and reported by the U.S.S. Crouter to Vice Admiral Turner. Later that night, another Jap plane attempted to attack the ship and was driven off by machine gun fire. On the 30th of April, a twin engine Jap bomber attempted to crash into the ship. It was repeatedly hit by all guns on the ship and passed over the forecastle in flames, crashing close aboard. From the first until the 6th of May, the ship patrolled screening stations off the southern tip of Okinawa, behind the Jap lines, and at the entrance to Chimmu Wan on the western side of Okinawa. During this time another pilot, Lieutenant (jg) F.S. Sidall, USNR, flying a Corsair F4U from the U.S.S. Shangri-La, was rescued uninjured after he made a water landing following a surprise attack on his plane by Jap fighters.
On the 9th of May, the ship was detached and escorted a convoy to Saipan. During the two periods at Okinawa the ship accounted for two planes surely and one probably, without receiving any casualties to the ship or personnel.
The ship was ordered to Guam, M.I., on the 20th of May 1945, and remained there carrying out submarine training exercises until the end of the war. From the 15th of August until the 15th of September the ship stood by in readiness to place prize crews on any Jap submarines that might surrender. On September 18, the ship was released from duty at Guam, M.I., and ordered to proceed to the West Coast of the United States for decommissioning. The ship had travelled 135,000 miles since commissioning, had escorted sixty-nine convoys and without loss of a single ship.
1[Return to Text] Originally misspelled as "Charleston"; without the 'w' (since so many pronounce it as such; silent 'w'). Our author obviously misspelled this name in his book, not only because of the spelling in this document, but due to the fact almost every US Navy document of that era (including the Crouter's War Diary) spelled it without the 'w'.
3[Return to Text] We have confirmed from multiple sources this was the USS Ralph Talbot (DD-390), not the USS Talbot (APD-7; whose War Diary mentions no direct attack nor damage to their ship). Note: Without studying the War Diaries of these ships, some books about the battle may confuse their identity since both ships were operating around Kerama Retto at the same time. A portion of the DD-390's War Diary for 27 APR 1943 states: "At 2201 one enemy suicide plane crashed the starboard side at frame 165, causing extensive under-water hull damage and personnel casualties. A second enemy suicide plane scored a near miss close aboard at 2204, causing no additional damage." The phrase "scored a near miss" means that at least part of the plane did hit the ship, but it did not cause any additional damage.
*[Return to Text] This document had been compiled and updated by the commanding officers of the USS Crouter, then sent to the Secretary of the Navy. The scan below shows the cover page of the last revision of this document by the last CO, Lieutenant C.F. Braught; the remaining four pages being shown above:
For those interested in such things: The date stamped at top right is "OCT 8 - '45 AM" with "00R" penciled below it, but the clock stamp there is too faint for us to determine which hour was indicated. Directly below the clock face is stamped "RECEIVED" with the remaining two lines too smudged to determine for sure. Along the left side of the page is a small, smudged stamp, though we could determine the last two words from our larger photo as being: "Mail Room"; possibly preceded by "(XO)". To the left of commander's Braught's signature is a 24-hour time stamp which appears to indicate 11 AM, and inside it are the words: "RECEIVED / OFFICE OF / PUBLIC RELATIONS / 8 OCT 1945 / ROUTE TO " wiht "D - 4" penciled in. Micro Serial Number: "156652". The stamp at the very bottom of the page is too smudged to decipher; though further research into the nature of such documents (that is, what may be stamped more clearly on others like it) could help in determining what they most likely were.