South African Military 
History Society


Newsletter # 419
January 2011

Contact: Ken Gillings 031 702 4828
Bill Brady 031 561 5542
Society's web site address: -

The December Darrell Hall Memorial Lecture was presented by fellow member Roy Bowman entitled USS CASSIN YOUNG, DD793 FLETCHER CLASS DESTROYER.

After the FIRST WORLD WAR the U.S. Navy, like the other victors, sank into a state of complacency with all of her peace-time requirements taken care of by the warships built to face the Kaiser and his allied fleets. The destroyer fleet consisted of 4 PIPERS of the WILKES and SAMPSON class. As you know 50 of these destroyers were lent to Britain to replace her losses during the opening period of the war in Norway and at Dunkirk. These Destroyers were shocking sea keepers with poorly designed machinery space and poor armaments. The Japanese expansionist policies initiated the scramble to design and build destroyers as quickly as possible, and between 1930 and 1939 nine different classes of destroyer were produced, each an improvement on its predecessor, until finally the FLETCHER class arrived. It was a case of this class becoming available at the right time and embodying everything the destroyer men wanted in their ships.

Fletcher class destroyers are particularly significant and played a major role in the defeat of Japan in the Pacific. Fletcher class destroyers were the first to break with design practices that had been developed as a result of the LONDON TREATY of 1930. They were large ships that carried sufficient food, fuel, ammunition and stores for extended operations in the Pacific. With 175 built, Fletcher's were the largest class of destroyers constructed by the United States in World War II. The FLETCHERS were so successful that after the war ended they were sold on to other navies such as Germany, Italy, Japan, Turkey Greece, Spain, Norway, Peru, Mexico, Argentina some remaining in active service into the 1980's. One remained on active service with the Mexican Navy fighting drug runners until 2001.

The 2050 ton FLETCHER class (named for Adm. Frank F. Fletcher), were 376 ft long with a beam of 39ft. Their main battery were 5 x 5" guns, 6 to 10 x40mm AA guns, 7 to 10 x20mm AA guns, 10 x 21" torpedo tubes and a large amount of depth charges for sub hunting. Fully laden she could make a blistering 38 knots making the class ideal escorts for the new fast Essex Class Aircraft Carriers joining the fleet. Our destroyer, in US Navy tradition, was named after a deceased navy hero, in this case Congressional Medal of Honour awardee Capt. Cassin Young. Captain Young commanded USS San Francisco in the heated battles of Cape Esperance and Guadalcanal with great distinction which resulted in the award of the Navy Cross to him and the Presidential Unit Citation to his ship. He was killed in action in the Battle of Guadalcanal on 13th At Saipan the Cassin was involved with bombardments to silence shore batteries, in support of Marine invasion forces, acting as carrier guard to rescue downed pilots and as radar picket to protect the invasion fleet. The first Kamikaze attacks were experienced over this period leaving the crew of CASSIN YOUNG more than ever determined to protect their charges.

The year 1945 arrived with the CASSIN YOUNG still supporting her Carrier group in the attacks on Okinawa, Formosa, Luzon, Hong Kong, Cam Rahn Bay, Canton and Nansei Shoto. After a brief visit for repairs and R&R at Ulithi she was off again to support the landing on Iwo Jima with her artillery support and then on to support her group with their air strikes on Okinawa, and then back to Iwo Jima for the final assault on 19th February 1945. A massive wave of Kamikaze's came in at midday. Her accurate gunfire aided in shooting down 5 aircraft but a sixth crashed into her foremast and exploded 15 metres from the ship. Casualties were light with one man killed and one wounded. CASSIN YOUNG, although damaged, made the repair base at Keramo Retto under her own power and after repairs at Ulithi she returned to Okinawa on 1st May and resumed her radar picket duties.

For her determination and gallantry during her service in the Pacific she was awarded FOUR BATTLE STARS and for her valiant service as radar picket at Okinawa the NAVY UNIT COMMENDATION was presented. A sobering fact is that more ships were lost at Okinawa than in any other battle in the history of the US Navy, the majority of them destroyers on radar picket duty.

She was decommissioned and placed in reserve ON 28TH May 1946 until 8th September 1951when she was reactivated for service in Korea. From 1951 until 1960 she was busy with fleet exercises, an Around the World Voyage, showing the flag in the Mediterranean, patrols off Korea and a round of visits to Northern European ports. Once again a very busy ship!

Decommissioning took place on 29th April 1960 and she was placed in reserve until, 1978 when it was decided to donate her to the National Park Service and berth her in Boston Harbour with the USS Constitution, as a memorial ship to the thousands of destroyer men who served in the U.S. Navy during World War Two. She was opened to the public in 1981and received over 2 million visitors in the first eight years after opening.

Ian Sutherland delivered a vote of thanks to Roy for a well researched talk and excellent presentation. Ian took the opportunity to thank the committee for all their efforts in producing a most successful year.

This was followed by a most enjoyable cocktail party.

Thursday 20th January 2011 (Third Thursday)
- 19h00 for 19h30.
Venue: Murray Theatre, Dept of Civil Engineering, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.
The Darrell Hall (DDH) Memorial Lecture will be presented by guest speaker Col. Steve Bekker on ' Steve versus the Kudu.'

The Main Talk will be presented by Capt. Brian Hoffman on "The Spy who Disappeared."

FUTURE SOCIETY DATES: February - April 2011.

10th FEBRUARY 2011
DDH - Aerial Bombing of Civilian Targets by Brian Davies
MAIN TALK - Operation Torch 1942 by Bill Brady

10th MARCH 2011
DDH - My Experience in the Armed Struggle by Sunny Singh.
MAIN TALK - Major General Sir Charles Warren in Northern Natal.

14th APRIL 2011
MAIN TALK - The Rhodesian War by 'Prop' Geldenhuys.

Depart 8th July 2011; return 20th July 2011. The tour will include participation in the official commemoration of the 95th anniversary of the Battle of Delville Wood. For full itinerary contact Ken Gillings, 031 702 4828 / 083 654 5880 or

The chairman and committee wish to express their gratitude to all members for their support during the year. We wish all and families a most joyous festive season and a healthy and prosperous 2011.

* * * * * * *

South African Military History Society /