|U.S.S. Allen M. Sumner DD-692|
The ALLEN MELANCTHON SUMNER (DD-692), was named for a Marine Corps Captain of the First World War, 81st Company 6th Machine Gun Battalion, who was killed by German shellfire will leading his troops during the advance on Tigny , 19 July 1918. He was posthumously awarded the French Croix de Guerre with star for his actions in saving the lives of many of his men without regard for his own safety. This SUMNER is the successor to the U.S.S. Sumner (DD-333) that was decommissioned in 1930. Since a naval auxiliary vessel carried the name Sumner, in honor of Captain Thomas Hubbard Sumner USN, at the same time as SUMNER was built, this ship carries the full name Allen M. Sumner. SUMNER was the first of a class of destroyers larger and more heavily armed that her predecessors, being 376 feet in length, weighing 3,000 tons fully loaded and designed to engage larger Japanese TERUTSUKI class destroyers.
The SUMNER was laid down on 7 July 1943 at Kearny, N. J., by the Federal Shipbuilding & Drydock Co. and launched on 15 December 1943; sponsored by Mrs. Allen M. Sumner, Capt. Sumner's widow of Montross, Va.; and commissioned at the New York Navy Yard on 26 January 1944, Commander Norman J. Sampson, in command. The commissioning speech was made by Rear Admiral Monroe Kelly, Commandant of the Third Naval District. Sumner was the 48th destroyer and 146th ship built by Federal since Pearl Harbor.
The destroyer was fitted out at the New York Navy Yard until 5 March when she got underway for shakedown training in the waters around Bermuda. She returned to New York on 8 April and commenced post-shakedown availability. Repairs were completed on 3 May, and the warship stood out of New York bound for Norfolk, Va. She arrived there the following day and began two months of duty as a training platform for destroyer nucleus crews. The warship headed north on 5 July and arrived back at New York the next day. Following a five-week availability at the navy yard there, SUMNER put to sea on 12 August, bound ultimately for the Pacific.
Along the way, she conducted antisubmarine
warfare and anti-air warfare exercises, stopping briefly at Norfolk. On August 21 in
company with USS Moale (DD-693) and USS Ingraham (DD-694) escorted the USS Alaska (CB-1)
and USS Missouri (BB-63) to Trinidad, B.W.I. before transiting the Panama Canal on 29
August. The SUMNER stayed overnight at San Pedro, CA on 7 and 8 September before
continuing on to Hawaii. She arrived in Pearl Harbor on 14 September and began five weeks
of exercises in the Hawaiian operating area.
Her stay in Hawaii lasted until 23 October when she steamed out of Pearl Harbor in company with NORTH CAROLINA (BB-55) bound for duty in the western Pacific with the Fast Carrier Task Force. Steaming via Eniwetok, the destroyer entered Ulithi lagoon on 5 November. Her first combat assignment scheduled for November 8th and 9th was cancelled due to rough seas and typhoon weather. On 13 and 14 November she returned to Philippine coastal waters for carrier air strikes. On 19 November the carrier group launched strikes against enemy shipping, aircraft and anti-aircraft installations. The SUMNER opened fire with heavy machine guns at one Japanese "Betty" on the starboard quarter at an altitude of 100 feet. The plane was seen to burst into flame at the horizon. On 21 November she accompanied the carrier group to waters near Yap Island whence the flattops launched air strikes on the 22nd before reentering Ulithi that same day. The SUMNER remained there for 5 days and then returned to sea, bound for newly invaded Leyte in the Philippines. She arrived in San Pedro Bay on the 29th and began patrolling Leyte Gulf. That duty punctuated intermittently by air alerts - lasted until the evening of 2 December when SUMNER set course for Ormoc Bay in company with MOALE (DD-693) and COOPER (DD-695).
Reports from American aircraft earlier that day had indicated that an enemy reinforcement convoy was entering the bay that night, and the three warships were sent to destroy it. Just after 2300 that night, the destroyers suffered the first of many air attacks when a Mitsubishi Ki. 46 "Dinah" - a fast, twin-engine, reconnaissance plane - dropped a bomb which near-missed SUMNER about 30 yards from the ship's starboard bow, pierced her hull with fragments, and started a fire on board. Bomb fragments also wounded one officer and 12 men.
The ship was under combined attacks from the air, surface ships, submarines and shore emplacements, including torpedoes. After a fourth salvo directed at surface targets along the beach an explosion and fire was observed on what appeared to be a small trrop transport. Another salvo hit her superstructure and demolished the ship. Succeeding salvos hit a shed and derrick or crane on the beach just beyond the transport.
The air attacks continued; but, just after midnight, the three destroyers made surface radar contact on a pair of Japanese destroyers later identified as KUWA and TAKE. Less than 10 minutes into the battle, KUWA succumbed to the combined fire of the two destroyers, and the wrecked and burning mass began to sink. TAKE, however, evened the score just as SUMNER and COOPER joined MOALE in firing on the remaining Japanese warship. One of her torpedoes slammed into COOPER amidships, broke that American destroyer's back, and sank her almost immediately. Less than half of COOPER's crew managed to get off the ship. Most of those were later rescued - but by PBY's rather than by COOPER's Division mates who were still being subjected to heavy shore battery fire and air raids. Any attempt at rescue by SUMNER and MOALE would have made them virtually stationary targets. At about 0145 on the 3rd, the two remaining American warships began retirement from Ormoc Bay and set a course for San Pedro Bay where they arrived later that day. Japanese air attacks followed the retiring force until the last attack at 0306 that morning.
SUMNER spent the next nine days in San Pedro Bay undergoing upkeep and repairing the minor damage that she had suffered in the action at Ormoc Bay. Though the area was subjected to intermittent air raids throughout that period, SUMNER recorded only one, long-range in excess of 9,000 yards - approach by an enemy aircraft on the 6th. On 12 December, she departed San Pedro Bay and joined the screen of TG 78.3, bound for Operation Love Three, the landings on Mindoro Island. That task group constituted Rear Admiral Arthur D. Struble's Mindoro Attack Group. Although the group came under air attack during the transit, SUMNER escaped damage. On 15 December, she moved in with the close covering group to participate in the pre-invasion shore bombardment, and the subsequent landings went forward against negligible opposition. Some enemy aircraft attempted to attack the invasion force, and SUMNER joined MOALE and INGRAHAM (DD-694) in splashing an enemy light bomber. On the following day, the destroyer departed Mindoro to return to Leyte where she arrived on the 18th. Between 26 and 29 December, the warship escorted a resupply echelon to Mindoro and back to San Pedro Bay.
On 2 January 1945, the SUMNER stood out of San Pedro Bay, bound for the invasion of Luzon at Lingayen Gulf in the screen for the cruisers and battleships of Vice Admiral Jesse B. Oldendorf's Bombardment and Fire Support Group (TG 77.2). Early on 6 January, SUMNER moved into Lingayen Gulf to support minesweeping operations. Around noon, her unit came under air attack by kamikazes. The first plane retreated in the face of a heavy antiaircraft barrage while the second attacker hovered just out of range as a decoy to mask a run in by a third suicider. The latter plane dove on SUMNER strafing as he came. He swooped in out of the sun on the destroyers port bow and crashed into her near the after stack and after torpedo mount. The warship lost 16 men killed and 27 injured. Extensive damage required her to retire from the gulf and join the heavy units of TG 77.2. Nevertheless, SUMNER remained in action with that unit and supported the Lingayen operation until 14 January including the rescue of a shot down pilot, LT Colombus L. Newburn, from the US Hoggatt Bay (CVE-75) on the 8th.
10 January Commander Destroyer Division 120, in this ship, was assigned as screen commander of a convoy of transports and 13 ships of various types including "cripples" as screen. This force returned to Leyte Gulf. A few attacks were encountered, during one of which the SUMNER shot down a plane raising the ship's total to eight planes downed.
On January 14, she began a long and somewhat circuitous voyage back to the United States for repairs. She arrived at Manus in the Admiralties on 18 January and remained there for nine days. She got underway again on 27 January in company with KADASHAN BAY (CVE-76) and, after stopping at Majuro en route, arrived in Pearl Harbor on 6 February. She departed Oahu the next day and arrived at Hunters Point Naval Shipyard, San Francisco, Calif., on 13 February to begin repairs. Her renewal work was completed on 10 April and four days later, she began duty training prospective destroyer crews along the west coast. On July 3, 1945 during training operations with the USS Takanis Bay (CVE-89) SUMNER rescued ENS W. D. Palmer, USNR whose plane had crashed into the sea. On 17 July, she was relieved of training duty and departed San Francisco to return to the western Pacific. The destroyer arrived at Oahu on the 23d and began three weeks of training operations out of Pearl Harbor.
On 12 August, SUMNER stood out of Hawaii to return to the war zone. However, when she was two days out, the Japanese capitulated. Nevertheless, as the warship continued her voyage west. Following a two-day stop at Eniwetok, she got underway again on 21 August and, six-days later, rendezvoused with TG 38.3 in Japanese waters. SUMNER was one of the escorts for the USS MISSOURI into Tokyo Bay for the signing of the Japanese surrender document. After some three weeks of postwar patrols, first with TG 38.3 and later with TG 38.1, the destroyer put into Tokyo Bay on 16 September. She remained there only six days before getting underway for the Marianas on the 22d. The ship reached Saipan three days later but soon resumed her voyage back to the United States, arriving on the west coast in October and assuming duty as a training platform for prospective destroyer crews. Those operations continued until May of 1946 when the destroyer departed the west coast, bound for the Central Pacific to support Operation "Crossroads", the atomic bomb tests conducted at Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands. At the conclusion of that assignment late that summer she returned to her former west coast duty. On 23 February 1947, SUMNER began an extended cruise to the Far East which included visits to Australia, the Marianas, the Philippines, China, and Japan before her return to the west coast for an overhaul and subsequent local operations.
That duty continued until early in 1949 at which time the ship was reassigned to the Atlantic Fleet. She transited the Panama Canal in mid-April and arrived in Hampton Roads, Va., on the 20th Between the spring of 1949 and the spring of 1953, the destroyer conducted normal peacetime operations out of Norfolk. That routine was broken only by a tour of duty in the Mediterranean Sea with the 6th Fleet between November 1950 and March 1951. Otherwise, she cruised along the eastern seaboard and in the West Indies conducting training - particularly in antisubmarine warfare.
In the Summer of 1952 she went to Boston Naval Shipyard for a major
overhaul which included removal of all 40mm machine gun mounts for replacement by more
modern 3"/50 guns.
On 24 April 1953, SUMNER stood out of Norfolk, bound for her only assignment in the war zone during the Korean conflict. Steaming by way of the Mediterranean Sea, the Suez Canal, and Indian Ocean, SUMNER arrived in Yokosuka, Japan, early in June. After 10 days in port, she joined Task Force (TF) 77 in the Sea of Japan and began two months of duty as a plane guard and antisubmarine screening ship for the fast carriers while they sent their aircraft against targets in North Korea. Late one night an aircraft off of the USS BOXER (CVA-21) suffered a power failure and crashed into the sea. The SUMNER rescued the pilot, LT Clarence R. Johnson, and crew member ACAN D. G. Kennedy. While she was assigned those tasks, the armistice of 27 July ended the Korean hostilities. Following a tour of duty with TF 95 patrolling the southern coast of Korea and a brief stop at Yokosuka, the warship headed back to the United States via the Pacific, the west coast, and the Panama Canal. She arrived back in Norfolk on 27 October.
Over the next eight years, SUMNER alternated east coast and West Indies operations with seven deployments to European waters. During the first two - conducted in the fall of 1954 and the summer of 1955, respectively - she visited northern European waters to participate in exercises with units of other NATO navies. On January 6 she steamed into Philadelphia Navy yard for a three month overhaul where she had new anti-submarine armament installed, her depth charge projectors being removed in the process. Electronic counter-measure devices were installed for the first time and obsolete search radars were replaced and a new target designation system installed. The third European deployment - to the Mediterranean - came in July of 1956. During that four-month assignment, the Suez crisis erupted, and SUMNER supported the evacuation of American citizens from Egypt at Alexandria. In January 1957 SUMNER was one of two U.S. Naval vessels in Washington, D.C., representing the U.S. Navy, at the second inauguration of President Eisenhower. Soon afterward SUMNER entered the Norfolk Naval Shipyard for a four month overhaul and for installation of the latest submarine detection equipment. In June and July she received refresher training with the Fleet Training Group at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. On the fourth deployment of the period, she returned to northern European waters in September and October of 1957. Two weeks of the exercises were spent in operations north of the Arctic Circle. In February of 1958, she embarked upon another deployment to the Mediterranean that lasted until July. After a period of normal east coast operations, the destroyer once again headed toward the "middle sea" in February 1958. That tour of duty differed from those preceding in that SUMNER was assigned to independent duty in the Persian Gulf and in the western portion of the Indian Ocean. She returned to the United States on 30 August and began a year of normal operations in the western Atlantic. The latter part of 1958 was spent in the Norfolk Naval Shipyard.
SUMNER again departed for the Mediterranean in February 1959. During her seven months with the Sixth Fleet SUMNER was sent on independent duty through the Suez Canal and visited Ethiopia, British Somaliland, Aden Protectorate, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain Island, and Pakistan. Following her return to the United States in August, SUMNER entered Norfolk Naval Shipyard for a three month overhaul period. In February and March 1960 she received refresher training at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. In the summer of 1960, SUMNER participated in extensive Atlantic Fleet exercises and Annual Midshipmen Cruise. During the Midshipmen cruise SUMNER was awarded the Destroyer Force Atlantic Fleet Battle Efficiency "E" in competition with other ships of Destroyer Squadron Sixteen. In September 1960, the warship voyaged to the Mediterranean once more and again served on independent duty in the Persian Gulf and in the western Indian Ocean. She returned to the United States on 19 April 1961 and, on 17 May, began a fleet rehabilitation and modernization (FRAM) overhaul during which her antisubmarine warfare capabilities were improved and updated.
SUMNER completed her overhaul on 2 January 1962 and again underwent
refresher training at Guantanamo Bay Cuba. She then resumed her schedule of east coast
operations alternated with Mediterranean cruises. Between March and September of 1962, she
served with the 6th Fleet. Soon after her return to American waters, President John F. Kennedy declared a "quarantine" of Cuba
in response to the siting of offensive Russian missiles on that island. SUMNER, in company
with WILLIAM C. LAWE (DD-763), were the first
warships to take up station off Cuba in October of 1962. On completion of these
operations, SUMNER entered Charleston Naval Shipyard for installation of variable depth
sonar (VDS). She then resumed normal duty out of Mayport, Fla. That employment - including
frequent duty as school ship for the Fleet Sonar School - continued through 1963 and into
1964. In June and July of 1964, the destroyer made a brief deployment to the Mediterranean
for a midshipman cruise embarking some sixty Midshipmen. Upon her return to the western
hemisphere, she resumed normal duty out of Mayport. In the spring of 1965, political
unrest in the Dominican Republic took her to the waters around that troubled island. Upon
concluding that assignment, the destroyer returned to Mayport and resumed operations out
of that port. In October, she embarked upon another deployment in the Mediterranean. After
a routine tour of duty with the 6th Fleet, SUMNER returned to Mayport on 8 March 1966 and
began 11 months of operations out of her home port which included duty as a support ship
for the Gemini 10 space shot in July. On 2 May 1966 SUMNER got underway for Norfolk to
receive her Drone Anti Submarine Helicopter (DASH) installation returning to Mayport 13
May 1966 fully qualified to operate DASH as part of her weapons system.
On 7 February 1967, the destroyer, departed Mayport on her way to her first and only deployment to the Vietnam war zone using the call sign "Road Block". Steaming via Guantanamo Bay, the Panama Canal, Pearl Harbor, and Midway, she arrived in Yokosuka, Japan, on 14 March. Four days later, she got underway for the coast of Vietnam passing through a typhoon during which SUMNER took rolls of up to 54 degrees, stopping briefly at Buckner Bay, Okinawa for refueling. On her first tour in the Gulf of Tonkin, SUMNER served as "shotgun" (screening ship) for LONG BEACH (CGN-9) while the nuclear guided missile cruiser served on positive identification radar advisory zone (PIRAZ) duty in the gulf. She was relieved of that assignment on 5 April to participate in Operation "Sea Dragon", the interdiction of communist waterborne logistics operations (WBLC's). That assignment lasted until the 11th, when she joined the screen of HANCOCK (CVA-19) for a voyage to Sasebo, Japan. She remained at Sasebo from 15 to 22 April before heading back to the Gulf of Tonkin again in company with HANCOCK. Upon her return to Vietnamese waters, SUMNER moved inshore with HMAS HOBART to resume "Sea Dragon" duty and, later, to provide shore bombardment support for marines engaged in Operation "Beau Charger" - Battle of the Ben Hai River, a combined waterborne and airborne amphibious assault conducted near the demilitarized zone on May 18-19. SUMNER fired over 1,100 rounds of 5 inch ordnance during the ensuing 24 hour general quarters setting a new ship's record. On the 25th SUMNER rescued Air Force pilot, 1LT Ronnie E. Randolph USAF, who had been shot down by North Vietnamese antiaircraft fire. At the end of May, she rejoined the fast carriers on Yankee Station (17° 30' N 108° 30' E) and screened (also called plane guard) them until 10 June when she resumed "Sea Dragon" duty. Her work closer to the Vietnamese coast lasted for 12 days. On the 22d, she departed Vietnamese waters and set a course for Kaohsiung, Taiwan, where she visited from 26 June to 2 July. Departing Kaohsiung on the latter day, SUMNER called at Hong Kong from 3 to 9 July. On the 11th, she returned to the coast of Vietnam and began a nine-day gunfire support mission for Operation Pershing in Binh Dinh Province. This was a long-range offensive against elements of the NVA 610th Div and VC units. Leaving Vietnamese waters on the 20th, the destroyer made a six-day stop at Subic Bay in the Philippines from 22 to 28 July before returning to the gunline, supporting Operation Beacon Guide, from 30 July to 1 August. She then began her voyage back to the United States stopping at Yokosuka, Midway, Pearl Harbor, and Acapulco, in Mexico; crossed the Equator and then transited the Panama Canal on 7 September reaching Mayport on 10 September. Captain Beaman and the XO LCDR Bill Moye received the Bronze Star and SUMNER received the Meritorious Unit Commendation for the ship's service during the Vietnam deployment. The ship's major accomplishments during the deployment included: 107 waterborne logistics craft destroyed or damaged, eight coastal defense sites destroyed and two damaged, ten trucks and two bunkers destroyed, sixteen buildings destroyed or damaged, and one U. S. Air Force Pilot rescued at sea. At that time, SUMNER held the unofficial record for the largest number of water borne logistics craft destroyed and damaged by a single destroyer in the Vietnam campaign.
The destroyer resumed normal operations out of Mayport in October. Throughout 1968, she cruised the waters of the West Indies, frequently providing support for the encircled naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. SUMNER also underwent a 1.7 million dollar overhaul at the Charleston Naval Shipyard from June to November 1968. Similar duty carried her through the first four months of 1969. In May, she voyaged to England and northern European waters to participate in a NATO review celebrating the 20th anniversary of the alliance. Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II of England personally reviewed the over sixty ships including SUMNER. On the 22nd, she headed for the Mediterranean and a normal tour of duty with the 6th Fleet. An open house was held while in Sousse, Tunisia for over 6,000 people. She concluded that assignment at Mayport on 10 October. Following 10 months of normal operations out of Mayport, SUMNER embarked upon the final Mediterranean deployment of her career on 27 August 1970. She again was awarded the Meritorious Unit Commendation for her service during the Jordanian Crisis. On September 24th she gained sonar contact on a Russian "N" Class submarine which she conducted Hold Down tactics on for 12 consecutive hours. In December SUMNER received over 9,000 visitors while pierside in Monaco. The guests included Princess Grace along with Prince Albert and Princess Stephene. The destroyer returned to Mayport on 28 February 1971 and briefly resumed normal duty out of her home port.
On 1 July 1971, she was reassigned to duty as a Naval Reserve training ship. In mid-August, she moved to Baltimore, Md., where she began her Naval Reserve training duties. On the morning of Wednesday, the fifteenth of August 1973 at Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, the commissioning pennant was hauled down on this mighty combatant which had seen action in World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam. After nearly thirty years of continuous service in the U. S. Fleet, SUMNER was officially decommissioned with a truly deserved - Well Done!
On 16 October 1974, she was sold for $163,132.00 to the Union Minerals & Alloy Corp. for scrapping and passed from Navy control at 0935 on December 6, 1974.
See also the official Command History Reports (5750-1) submitted to the Chief of Naval Operations from 1968 to 1973