Final Planning

As Miller wrapped up the airmen’s training, Duncan flew to Pearl Harbor to see the Pacific Fleet commander Adm Chester Nimitz on Mar 19. The sole record of Duncan’s secret visit was the terse notation in Nimitz’s Gray Book, the admiral’s detailed operational diary: arrived for conference. The audacious operation existed only in the form of a handwritten plan, one so secretive that Duncan refused to allow even his trusted secretary to type it. I had been told by Adm King to tell Adm Nimitz that this was not a proposal made for him to consider but a plan to be carried out by him, Duncan recalled. So that cleared up any matter of whether we should do it or not; it was on the books by then.

Nimitz understood the incredible risk involved in a raid against Tokyo – his own staff had even proposed and then nixed just such an idea in February. Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor and the Philippines had wrecked two of America’s three fleets. Even with the addition of the Hornet, the backbone of America’s Pacific defense rested on just five aircraft carriers, half the number Japan counted. Two of America’s five Pacific carriers – the flattops Japanese Adm Isoroku Yamamoto so hungered to destroy – would steam to within 400 miles of the enemy’s homeland. The opportunities for disaster were numerous. This strike force would have to thread its way across the Pacific in complete radio silence, avoiding the constellations of Japanese bases that stretched from the Marianas to New Guinea. Enemy fighters, bombers, and reconnaissance planes crowded the skies, while warships, patrol craft, and submarines plowed the Pacific waters, any one of which could jeopardize the mission.
But as Duncan had made things clear with Adm Nimitz that had no choice because the mission was a go. He asked V-Adm William Bull Halsey Jr if he thought the operation would succeed. They’ll need a lot of luck, Halsey replied. Nimitz then asked if Halsey was willing to lead the task force. Yes, I am. Good, Nimitz replied. It’s all yours! On the eve of the task force’s departure, Halsey flew to San Francisco to review the operation with Doolittle. During the three-hour conference on Mar 30, in a room at the Fairmont Hotel atop Nob Hill, Halsey and Duncan walked Doolittle through the Navy’s plan. The submarines Trout (SS-202) and Thresher (SS-200) would scout weather conditions and search out enemy naval forces the surface ships might encounter. The Hornet, two cruisers, four destroyers, and an oiler would depart Alameda on Apr 2 as Task Force 16.2 under the command of Capt Marc Mitscher.

After flying back to Pearl Harbor, Halsey would put to sea on Apr 7 in command of Task Force 16 (TF-16), consisting of the carrier Enterprise, plus another two cruisers, four destroyers, and a second oiler. The two task forces (16.1 and 16.2) would rendezvous at sea on Apr 12 to create TF 16. These 16 warships would then steam toward Tokyo, refueling some 800 miles from Japan. At that point, the oilers would remain behind while the carriers, cruisers, and destroyers steamed to within 400 miles of the enemy’s capital.

Task Force 16 (TF-16), was one of the most storied task forces in the US Navy, a major participant in a number of the most important battles of the Pacific War. It was formed in mid-Feb 1942 around the USS-Enterprise (CV-6), with VAdm William F. Halsey in command, and supported by two cruisers, the USS-Salt Lake City (CA-25) and the USS-Northampton (CA-26), along with a half-dozen destroyers. The task force’s first mission was to shell Wake Island and Marcus Island, then, joined by USS-Hornet (CV-8) and the rest of Task Force 18 (TF-18). In Apr 1942, the force conducted the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo.

Order of Battle US Navy – Doolittle Raid

CV-6 USS Enterprise (Aircraft Carrier)
CV-8 USS Hornet (Carried B-25 bombers)

CA-25 USS-Salt Lake City (Heavy Cruiser), was a Pensacola-class cruiser, later reclassified as a heavy cruiser, sometimes known as Swayback Maru or Old Swayback. She had the (unofficial) distinction of having taken part in more engagements than any other ship in the fleet. She was also the first ship to be named after Salt Lake City, Utah. The USS-Salt Lake City was laid down on Jun 9, 1927, by the American Brown Boveri Electric Co, a subsidiary of the New York Shipbuilding Co, at Camden, New Jersey; launched on Jan 23, 1929, sponsored by Mrs Helen Budge, a granddaughter of the leading Mormon missionary, William Budge; and commissioned on Dec 11, 1929, at the Philadelphia Navy Yard with Capt Frederick Lansing Oliver in command. After the war, the Salt Lake City was used in evaluating the effects on surface vessels during an initial test with an aerial atomic bomb burst on July 1 and during the second test of a subsurface burst on July 25. Surviving two atomic bomb blasts, she was decommissioned on Aug 29 and laid up to await ultimate disposal. She was sunk as a target hull on May 25, 1948, 130 mi off the coast of California, and struck from the Naval Vessel Register on Jun 18, 1948.

CA-26 USS-Northampton (Heavy Cruiser), was the lead Northampton-class cruiser in service with the US Navy. She was commissioned in 1930, originally classified a light cruiser because of her thin armor but later reclassified a heavy cruiser because of her 8-inch guns. During WW-2 she served in the Pacific and was sunk by Japanese torpedoes during the Battle of Tassafaronga on Nov 30, 1942. She was named after the city of Northampton, Massachusetts, the home of former President Calvin Coolidge.

CA-44 USS-Vincennes (Heavy Cruiser), was a US Navy New Orleans-class cruiser, sunk at the Battle of Savo Island in 1942. She was the second ship to bear the name. She was laid down on Jan 2, 1934, at Quincy, Massachusetts, by the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Company’s Fore River plant, launched on May 21, 1936, sponsored by Miss Harriet Virginia Kimmell (daughter of Joseph Kimmell, mayor of Vincennes, Indiana), and commissioned on Feb 24, 1937, with Capt Burton H. Green in command. The New Orleans-class cruisers were the last US cruisers built to the specifications and standards of the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922. Such ships, with a limit of 10.000 tons standard displacement and 8-inch caliber main guns may be referred to as ‘treaty cruisers’. Originally classified a light cruiser when she was authorized, because of her thin armor, the Vincennes was reclassified a heavy cruiser, because of her 8-inch guns. The term ‘heavy cruiser’ was not defined until the London Naval Treaty in 1930. This ship and the Quincy were a slightly improved version of the New Orleans-class design.

CL-43 USS-Nashville (Light Cruiser), was a Brooklyn-class cruiser. She was laid down on Jan 24, 1935, by New York Shipbuilding Corporation, Camden, New Jersey. She was launched on Oct 2, 1937, sponsored by Misses Ann and Mildred Stahlman and commissioned on Jun 6, 1938, with Capt William W. Wilson in command. After the war, the Nashville departed eastward from San Francisco on Jan 21, 1946, and she arrived at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard for a pre-inactivation overhaul. Decommissioned on Jun 24, she remained in reserve until 1950. After an overhaul at the Philadelphia Naval Yard, she was sold to Chile on Jan 9, 1951, and she served in the Chilean Navy as the Chilean cruiser Capitán Prat (CL-03) until the arrival of the Chilean destroyer Capitán Prat (1967) in 1982. Then, the old Prat was renamed Chacabuco and served until 1985.

DD-363 USS Balch (Destroyer), was a Porter-class destroyer in the USN. She is named after Adm George Beall Balch. The second Balch was launched on Mar 24, 1936, by the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation’s Fore River Shipyard in Quincy, Massachusetts; sponsored by Miss Gertrude Balch, granddaughter of Adm Balch; and commissioned on Oct 20, 1936, under the command of Commander T. C. Latimore. On Dec 1, 1941, the Balch put to sea as a unit of Task Force 8 and remained with the Task Force after the Pearl Harbor attack. She cruised in the Pacific during the early months of the war and participated in the bombardment of Tarawa Island, Marshall Islands (Feb 1, 1942). Between Feb 1942 and Jun 1944, Balch performed widespread screening, patrolling, and fire support duties during the Wake Island raid (Feb 24, 1942), the Doolittle Raid (Apr 18, 1942), the decisive Battle of Midway (Jun 4/7), during which she rescued 545 survivors of the Yorktown; Guadalcanal landings (Aug 7/30); Attu invasion (May 11 – Jun 2); Toem-Wakde-Sarmi landings (May 25/28, 1944) and Biak Island invasion (May 28 – Jun 18). On Jul 15, 1944, Balch arrived in New York. Between Aug 2, 1944, and May 23, 1945, she completed five trans-Atlantic convoy escort crossings to various North African ports. On Apr 12, 1945, Capt Alfred Lind took command and participated in Task Group 60 until May 8, 1945 (VE Day).

During this time, they rescued 46 survivors from a torpedoed SS Belgium (Apr 14) and also anchored at Oran, Algeria, and passed thru the Straits of Gibraltar. On Jun 16, 1945, she commenced her pre-inactivation overhaul at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She was decommissioned on Oct 19, 1945, and scrapped in 1946.

DD-385 USS Fanning (Destroyer), was a Mahan-class destroyer, in the USN named for Nathaniel Fanning. Her first action was during WW-2, immediately following the Dec 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor. The Fanning continued to serve in the Pacific Theatre throughout the war. She was one of the last Mahan-class destroyers. the Fanning and the USS Dunlap were built from the same basic Mahan design but slightly modified. Some sources refer to them as the Dunlap-class destroyers. The Fanning was decommissioned under the command of Commander Earnest ‘Bud’ Conant at Norfolk, Virginia, on Dec 14, 1945, and later sold.

DD-397 USS Benham (Destroyer), was the lead ship of her class of destroyers and the second ship of the USN to be named for Andrew Ellicot Kennedy Benham. It missed the attack on Pearl Harbor, being an escort for the USS Enterprise on its way to Midway at the time. It also served off Hawaii during the Doolittle raid, rescued survivors from several ships, and operated during the Battle of Midway and the landings on Guadalcanal, among other missions. It was torpedoed and rendered unusable, for which she was sunk at the end of 1942.

DD-398 USS Ellet (Destroyer), was a Benham-class destroyer in the USN during WW-2. She was named for five members of the Ellet family of Pennsylvania who rendered service during the American Civil War: Col Charles Ellet, Jr.; Gen Alfred W. Ellet; Col Charles R. Ellet; Col John A. Ellet; and Edward C. Ellet. The first two officers commanded the Ellet Ram Fleet. The Ellet was launched on Jun 11, 1938, by the Federal Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company, Kearny, New Jersey; sponsored by Miss Elvira Daniel Cabell, granddaughter of Col Charles Ellet, Jr.; and commissioned on Feb 17, 1939, under the command of Lt Commander F. J. Mee. When hostilities ended, the Ellet was repairing at Mare Island. She was decommissioned there on Oct 29, 1945, and sold on Aug 1, 1947.

DD-433 USS Gwin (Destroyer), a Gleaves-class destroyer, was the third ship of the USN to be named for Lt Commander William Gwin, an American Civil War officer who commanded riverboats against Confederate forces in Alabama. The Gwin was launched on May 25, 1940, by the Boston Navy Yard; sponsored by Mrs. Jesse T. Lippincott, the second cousin of Lt Comdr Gwin. The destroyer was commissioned at Boston on Jan 15, 1941, under the command of Lt Comdr J. M. Higgins. The Gwin was sunk by a torpedo launched by a Japanese destroyer during the Battle of Kolombangara in the Solomon Islands Campaign in Jul 1943.

DD-434 USS Meredith (Destroyer), a Gleaves-class destroyer, was the second ship of the USN to be named for Jonathan Meredith, a USMC sergeant who served during the First Barbary War. Meredith was laid down on Jun 1, 1939, by the Boston Naval Shipyard and launched on Apr 24, 1940, sponsored by Miss Ethel Dixon Meredith. The ship was commissioned on Mar 1, 1941, under Lt Comdr William F. Mendenhall, Jr.

DD-435 USS Grayson (Destroyer), a Gleaves-class destroyer, was the only ship of the USN to be named for R-Adm Cary Travers Grayson, who served as personal physician and aide to President Woodrow Wilson during WW-1. He also served as chairman of the American Red Cross from 1935 until his death on Feb 15, 1938. The Grayson was laid down on Jul 17, 1939, by the Charleston Navy Yard, South Carolina, and launched on Aug 7, 1940; sponsored by Mrs. Alice Gertrude Gordon Grayson Harrison (Mrs. George Leslie Harrison), widow of R-Adm Grayson. The ship was commissioned on Feb 14, 1941, under the command of Lt Cmdr Thomas M. Stokes.

DD-436 USS Monssen (Destroyer), a Gleaves-class destroyer, was the first ship of the USN to be named for Mons Monssen, who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions aboard the USS Missouri (BB-11) in 1904. Commissioned in 1941, the destroyer saw service during World War II in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The Monssen was sunk in Guadalcanal on Nov 13, 1942.

AO-22 USS Cimarron (Oiler) was a Cimarron-class oiler serving with the USN and the second ship to be named for the Cimarron River in the Southwestern USA. She was launched on Jan 7, 1939, by the Sun Shipbuilding and Drydock Company, Chester, Pennsylvania; sponsored by Mrs. William D. Leahy; and commissioned on Mar 20, 1939, under the command of William W. Behrens, Sr.

AO-25 USS Sabine (Oiler) was a Cimarron-class fleet replenishment oiler serving in the USN, was the second ship named for the Sabine River on the Texas-Louisiana border.
The Sabine was laid down on Sep 18, 1939, as SS Esso Albany, MC hull 10, by the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation, at the Bethlehem Sparrows Point Shipyard, Sparrows Point, Maryland; launched on Apr 27, 1940; sponsored by Miss Ellen Klitgaard; renamed the Sabine on Sep 19, 1940; acquired by the Navy through purchase on Sep 25, 1940; and commissioned on Dec 5, 1940, under the command of Edmund W. Strother.

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