World War II History

History of the USS Hunt (DD-674)
World War II (1943 – 1945)

The HUNT DD674 was on the ways at the Federal Shipbuilding and Drydock Company in Kearny, NJ. DD 674 was launched on August 1, 1943. The HUNT DD 674 was a member of the FLETCHER class; FLETCHERS represented the largest class of destroyers built, and would serve into the Fifties and Sixties. The FLETCHER class were workhorses, designed with few frills and an eye toward efficiency.

Slightly more than a month after her launching, USS HUNT was commissioned and skippered by Commander Frank P. Mitchell, set out for a shakedown off Bermuda and a return to New York Navy Yard for modifications. By December, she was underway for the Pacific; she was not destined to visit an Atlantic coast port again for almost ten years.

On the day before Christmas, 1943,USS HUNT entered Pearl Harbor, finally meeting up with mighty Task Force 58 (TF 58). Vice Admiral Marc Mitchner’s fast carrier task force included two fleet carriers and a light carrier with more than two hundred aircraft aboard, a tempting target for Japanese submarines. HUNT’s job was to protect the carriers.

HUNT’s log recorded her participation in some of the most famous naval operations of the Pacific War. In February, she screened TF 58 while the carriers’air group neutralized the huge Japanese base at Truk. Two battleships, two heavy cruisers, and three destroyers joined her in circling the atoll to prevent the escape of any enemy forces. The effort was successful; TF 58 accounted for almost 140,000 tons of merchant shipping as well as two light cruisers, four destroyers, three auxiliary cruisers, and six other naval craft sunk.

For the next three months, HUNT swept the Pacific, screening carriers on operation in the Marshalls, Palau, and Hollandia. Days were hectic for her crew. At Palau, HUNT’s deadly anti- aircraft fire helped to drive off three flights of Japanese torpedo bombers intent on destroying the American carriers.

The Marianas came next. DD 674 stood guard while her charges, the BUNKER HILL carrier group, decimated Japan’s naval air arm in the battle of the Philippine Sea; the air massacre became the “Marianas Turkey Shoot” after nearly three hundred fifty enemy aircraft and two Japanese carriers fell to American pilots in eight hours of fierce action. Two oilers and another Japanese carrier were destroyed during the pursuit the following day. HUNT rescued eleven air crewmen during two hectic days of unrelenting action. DD 674 then supported landings at Saipan, Tinian, and Guam.

After a brief visit to Pearl Harbor for repairs, HUNT joined the screen of Admiral Halsey’s flagship, USS NEW JERSEY, then rejoined the BUNKER HILL carrier group. DD 674 was chosen to ferry Halsey to conferences aboard USS LEXINGTON and was pressed into service to carry the Admiral to Peleliu. Once again, HUNT shielded carriers in some of the most pivotal operations in the Pacific. DD 674 picked up American pilots who had ditched after strikes against Okinawa and Formosa. During the battle of Leyte Gulf, HUNT’s carrier group sank four carriers and a destroyer. Off Iwo Jima, HUNT’s guns brought down an enemy plane.

By January, 1945, HUNT’s task group was approaching Japan. On almost a monthly basis, HUNT sheparded her carriers to within striking distance of the “Home Islands.” By March 15, HUNT and FRANKLIN, along with other destroyers in the carrier’s screen, had maneuvered closer to Japan than any other carrier had previously ventured. An enemy aircraft broke through FRANKLIN’s screen and hit the carrier with two heavy bombs. Burning furiously, with bombs and ammunition adding to the inferno, the big carrier seemed doomed. HUNT closed on the FRANKLIN, rescuing 429 of the FRANKLIN’s crew, then, with three other cans, protectively circled the huge vessel, by this time dead in the water less than fifty miles off the coast of Japan. HUNT’s and FRANKLIN’s luck held; USS PITTSBURGH took the carrier under tow, and CV-13 reached the fleet anchorage at Ulithi. HUNT put FRANKLIN’s survivors ashore and left for a picket station off Okinawa.

In the Ryukyus, HUNT’s amazing luck nearly ran out. After six days on the picket line, a kamikaze singled out DD 674. Another of HUNT’s scathing barrages hit the intruder, but not in time. The aircraft hit DD 674 at deck level, badly bending the main mast and slicing her right wing in the ship’s forward stack. Fortunately, the plane’s forward motion carried her over the side and she hit the water less than twenty-five yards off the can’s beam. HUNT’s crew put out the small fires and repaired the damage quickly. Left with only the TBS and one TAJ antenna ET, Ivan Jensen, connected them to a receiver to be able to copy “skids”; until such a time as he could get the other antennas repaired. A second kamikaze that day didn’t get nearly that close before she went down to a HUNT barrage. By the time she left the picket line for a tender overhaul in Leyte Gulf, HUNT’s crew had been to general quarters no less than fifty-four times.

In Dec 1944 the fleet was caught in the middle of a killer typhoon. The winds peaked at 130 mph and the waves were 65 feet high. The fleet was rendezvoused with tankers for refueling and the storm was so fierce that ships were breaking off the fuel lines and could not refuel fully. The USS Spence was refueling on the starboard side of the NEW JERSEY and only got 1000 gallons of fuel when her fuel lines parted. The HUNT was refueling on the port side of the NEW JERSEY and got 23000 gallons of fuel before her fuel lines parted. After the storm was over, the USS SPENCE along with two other destroyers were sunk. The HUNT sustained relatively minor damage, but her forward 5 inch gun was put out of action.

By mid-June,19945 HUNT was on her way home. Repairs began in San Francisco on July 6, 1945 and DD 674 was decommissioned on December 15, 1945.