|Ship Class||Fletcher-class Destroyer|
|Builder||Bethlehem San Francisco Shipyard|
|Laid Down||4 Jun 1942|
|Launched||9 Dec 1942|
|Commissioned||29 Jul 1943|
|Sunk||25 Oct 1944|
|Displacement||2,050 tons standard; 2,500 tons full|
|Machinery||4 oil-fired boilers, 2 geared steam turbines, 2 screws|
|Power Output||60,000 shaft horsepower|
|Range||6,500nm at 15 knots|
|Armament||5x5in, 6x40mm, 10x20mm, 2x5x21in torpedo tubes, 6x depth charge projectors, 2x depth charge tracks|
Contributor: David Stubblebine
ww2dbaseThe Fletcher-class destroyer USS Hoel was named for William R. Hoel, Mississippi Riverboat pilot and Civil War hero. The ship was laid down on 4 Jun 1942 at the Bethlehem Shipyard, San Francisco, California, United States and launched 19 Dec 1942. She was sponsored by Mrs. Louise Hoel Mills Crane, granddaughter of William Hoel. USS Hoel was commissioned 29 Jul 1943 with Commander William D. Thomas in command.
ww2dbaseHoel completed her shakedown period in and around San Diego where on 27 Aug 1943 practice became real. A patrol craft reported seeing a submarine conning tower and periscope where none were known to be. As one of the closest ships, Hoel responded and made a positive sound contact. Six depth charge attacks produced no visible results.
ww2dbaseAfter a post-shakedown refit at San Francisco, Hoel set out for the Pacific combat zone. For her first taste of combat, Hoel sailed from Pearl Harbor on 10 Nov 1943 for the Gilbert Islands and Operation Galvanic. Hoelâ€™s role was to escort the invasion forceâ€™s small component of escort carriers. On the morning of 20 Nov 1943, this force struck Butaritari Island in the Makin Atoll while a larger force assaulted Tarawa.
ww2dbaseThe battle raged for days with Hoel remaining offshore screening the carriers. In the early morning darkness of 24 Nov 1943, one Type 95 torpedo from Japanese submarine I-175 struck the carrier USS Liscome Bay near the stern. The explosion detonated Liscome Bayâ€™s bomb magazine and blew off most of the shipâ€™s stern section. The ship sank within 23 minutes and killed 644 officers and men, the deadliest carrier sinking in United States Naval history. Among the dead was Pearl Harbor hero Doris Miller, the first African-American sailor to be awarded the Navy Cross. Nearly 300 survived, however, and Hoel did her part in picking up survivors and unsuccessfully trying to chase down the elusive submarine.
ww2dbaseHoel continued to screen the task force in support of the Makin and Tarawa invasions, shifting first to escort one group of heavy cruisers and then another. On 1 Dec 1943 while part of the screen for cruiser USS Indianapolis, Hoel struck an uncharted shoal within two miles of Betio Island, Tarawa Atoll. Hoel was hard aground with over one-fourth of her length on the shoal in just two fathoms of water and her bow lifted fully above the surface. With assistance from fleet tug Arapaho and repair ship Clamp, Hoel was freed the following day after 18 hours of being fully exposed to enemy attack. Hoelâ€™s propeller blades were bent and her underwater sound gear had been carried away so she set sail for Pearl Harbor in company with battleship USS Tennessee.
ww2dbaseAfter a week in drydock, some further maintenance, and several weeks of training exercises for the upcoming Marshall Island campaign, Hoel sailed 23 Jan 1944 for operations against the Majuro, Kwajalein, and Eniwetok Atolls. This time her assignment was to escort the invasionâ€™s reserve force. After Majuro and Kwajalein were secured, Hoel escorted destroyer USS Miller as Miller carried Admiral Chester Nimitz on an inspection of the operations.
ww2dbaseHoel made her first shore bombardment on 17 Feb 1944 when she fired on Japanese troops seen moving about Parry Island in the Eniwetok Atoll. She spent the rest of the month in the area of Eniwetok providing fire when called upon and other regular destroyer functions.
ww2dbaseOn 5 Mar 1944, Hoel left Eniwetok for the Majuro anchorage where Hoel took advantage of the maintenance services of destroyer-tender USS Prairie. Then in mid-month, Hoel sailed for Port Purvis, Florida Island in the Solomons. At 0828 local time on 16 Mar 1944, Hoel crossed the equator for the first time at longitude 172Â° 4â€™ 31.7"E. Her log officially recorded, â€śThe ship teemed with low marine life. Polywogs in particular were in abundance. These were brought before the royal court of Neptunus Rex and duly initiated.â€ť Two days later, Hoel and her destroyer squadron put in to Port Purvis and reported for duty with the Third Fleet.
ww2dbaseHoel sailed the next day for the area of Emirau Island in the Bismarck Islands where United States Marines were landing. Hoelâ€™s task group was assigned to patrol the Japanese supply routes leading to Emirau in an effort to cut off enemy supplies and reinforcements. On 27 Mar 1944, Hoel lookouts spotted a 40-foot outrigger canoe in the open ocean southwest of Emirau. The canoe was later found to hold 27 Japanese naval landing force troops. As Hoel approached, however, the Japanese began firing small arms on one another for reasons that were never determined. Hoel answered with 40mm fire of her own and all aboard the canoe were killed. No sign of any intent to surrender was observed. Hoel recovered some documents from the canoe and made a special note in her log that, â€śThe Japanese personnel were all of large stature. All appeared to be in excellent physical condition.â€ť
ww2dbaseHoel continued patrolling the supply routes to the Bismarck Islands into Apr 1944 with one small break to escort a convoy to Guadalcanal. Hoel spent a week repairing and replenishing in Purvis Bay before joining cruisers USS Montpelier and Cleveland for some training workups.
ww2dbaseOn 15 May 1944, Hoel and her destroyer division were sent north to search for a submarine spotted by a patrol aircraft leaving Truk three days earlier. Along with another destroyer division on the same mission, eight destroyers spent the following day sweeping a swath of ocean 60 miles wide. That night, destroyer USS Haggard made a sonar contact and along with and USS Franks and Johnston, they executed an aggressive depth charge attack that continued for two hours. A heavy underwater explosion was heard by all ships and by the next morning, several square miles of ocean had a heavy slick of diesel fuel with items of Japanese manufacture floating within it. Later it would be learned that I-176, commanded by LtCdr Hideo Okada, had been sunk with all hands (I-176 was the same boat whose torpedo had so badly damaged cruiser USS Chester in 1942).
ww2dbaseBy the end of May 1944, Hoel was part of the destroyer screen for escort carrier USS Hoggatt Bay and her submarine hunter-killer group, an assignment that only lasted off and on for about a month without detecting any submarines. Arriving at Purvis Bay 24 Jun 1944, Hoel began a period of maintenance availability. Hoel spent Jul 1944 with gunnery and depth charge drills interspersed with merchant ship escorts. On 29 Jul 1944, Hoel moored to the repair dock at Ilse Nou, NoumĂ©a, New Caledonia. Within a week, Hoel was back at sea escorting and drilling.
ww2dbaseHoel spent most of Aug 1944 engaged in rehearsal exercises for the upcoming operations in the Palau Islands. Hoelâ€™s role was to be part of the screen for the escort carriers that would be providing air support for the Peleliu landings set to begin 12 Sep 1944 ahead of the landings themselves on the 15th. Hoel remained in the Peleliu area for the rest of the month and retired to Seeadler Harbor at Manus Island, Admiralty Islands on 4 Oct 1944.
ww2dbaseAt Manus, Hoel reported to Seventh Fleet and was assigned to Rear Admiral Thomas L. Spragueâ€™s Task Group 77.4 consisting of three sub-units of escort carriers and their screening ships. They were part of the preparations for the upcoming invasion of Leyte Island in the Philippines. Hoel was assigned to Task Unit 77.4.3 made up of escort carriers USS Fanshaw Bay, St. Lo, White Plains, Kalinin Bay, Kitkun Bay, and Gambier Bay with screening destroyers Hoel, Heermann, and Johnston and destroyer escorts Dennis, John C. Butler, Raymond, and Samuel B. Roberts. During the landings, this task unit was to be deployed north of similarly configured Task Units 77.4.1 and 77.4.2. Hoelâ€™s task unit would later become better known by its radio call sign, Taffy 3.
ww2dbaseWhile still at Seeadler Harbor, Commander Leon S. Kintberger relieved Commander Thomas as Hoelâ€™s commanding officer while Commander Thomas remained on board in command of Taffy 3â€™s screening force. Hoel and her Task Unit sailed on 12 Oct 1944 bound for the Philippines. After weathering some rough seas, Taffy 3 took station about fifty miles east of the island of Samar 18 Oct 1944. Over the next several days, the carriers launched aircraft to cover the US Army landings on Leyte that began 20 Oct 1944.
ww2dbaseOn 25 Oct 1944 just after it became light, Hoel was on station at the northernmost point in the Taffy 3 formation when she received a radio signal that one of Taffy 3â€™s anti-submarine aircraft was under fire from Japanese surface forces to the northwest. At the same time, one of Hoelâ€™s lookouts reported seeing anti-aircraft fire on the horizon in that direction. In very rapid succession, Hoelâ€™s surface radar began picking up many ships, large caliber shells began falling around the escort carriers at the center of the formation, and another radio message announced they were being closed upon by a large portion of the Japanese fleet. This fleet turned out to be Vice-Admiral Takeo Kuritaâ€™s formidable Center Force made up of four battleships, six heavy cruisers, plus escorts. Soon, towering splashes from Japanese shells began bracketing all of the ships of the task group. Hoel, Johnston, and Samuel B. Roberts started laying smoke to obscure the carriers and when the Japanese closed to within range, Hoel opened fire with her main guns while steaming up the middle of the two Japanese columns. Johnston and Samuel B. Roberts made similar headlong attacks on the Japanese warships. Hoel was quickly targeted herself when Yamatoâ€™s big guns scored a hit on Hoelâ€™s bridge. This knocked out all voice radio communication, killed four men, and wounded Kintberger and Screen Commander Thomas. Barely a moment later, however, Hoel was still able to launch a spread of five torpedoes at the nearest battleship. The results were unobserved because while the torpedoes were still running, Hoel took another direct hit in her after engine room and turbine. This resulted in the loss of Hoelâ€™s port engine and reduced her speed at the same time her three after 5-inch gun batteries lost power and Hoelâ€™s rudder jammed causing the ship to make a steady right turn back into the path of the approaching warship she had just fired torpedoes at. Manual steering was restored and, operating on one engine, Hoel was able to come about and gained position to fire another spread of torpedoes at the leading cruiser in the opposite column.
ww2dbaseWith no torpedoes left, a 10-degree port list, one engine and one propeller knocked out, steering by hand, and with only her two forward guns able to shoot but without functioning gun directors, Hoel spent almost an hour zigzagging about shooting more than 250 5-inch rounds at whatever ships she could while also taking several more hits herself. Johnston and Samuel B. Roberts did much the same thing in what was described as a â€śgeneral meleeâ€ť type action. Then Hoel took another direct hit that knocked out her remaining engine room and left her dead in the water. Within minutes, the order was given to abandon ship. Her two forward guns continued firing for ten more minutes until the shipâ€™s list advanced to the point the guns could not be aimed. Five minutes after that, Hoel rolled over and sank, the first of the Taffy 3 ships to be sunk.
ww2dbaseAbout 100 men were cast into the water with the remaining 240 or so either killed in combat or going down with the ship. The survivors clung to rafts and floater nets as six Japanese warships passed by them close aboard. Captain Kintberger, who was among the survivors, reported there was no attempt by the Japanese to fire on the men in the water but other survivors said some Japanese sailors threw hand grenades at the floating men (but with no effect). The Hoel survivors remained adrift for 48 hours until they were found by two passing LCI(L) landing ships. One small group of men paddled to the shores of Samar where they were rescued by Filipino fishermen. Fifteen men died of their wounds while in the water. In total, only 86 officers and men of the Hoel survived. Many Hoel survivors, including Captain Kintberger, questioned why they had been left adrift for so long without a more concerted effort to locate and recover them.
ww2dbaseIn the action that would be later called The Battle off Samar, the Taffy 3 task unit lost two carriers, two destroyers, and one destroyer escort but the encounter was enough to convince Admiral Kurita to reverse course and withdraw, giving the Americans a decisive victory. The Taffy 3 commander, Rear Admiral Clifton A.F. Sprague, wrote in his report, â€śThe battle performance of the Destroyers and Destroyer Escorts during this engagement is considered so intrepid that it ranks with the most outstanding in naval warfare.â€ť In the following years, many authors have echoed that sentiment.
ww2dbaseHoel was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for her actions during her final engagement. Commanders Kintberger and Thomas each received the Navy Cross, and several Silver Stars and Bronze Stars were awarded as well, many posthumously.
ww2dbaseIn her short fifteen months in commission, Hoel earned five World War II Battle Stars.
United States Navy
United States National Archives
James Hornfischer: The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors
NavSource Naval History
Valka Naval History
CombinedFleet Imperial Japanese Navy History
Last Major Revision: Nov 2020
Destroyer Hoel (DD-533) Interactive Map
Hoel Operational Timeline
|4 Jun 1942||Fletcher-class destroyer Hoel was laid down at the Bethlehem Shipyard, San Francisco, California, United States.|
|19 Dec 1942||Fletcher-class destryer Hoel was Launched at the Bethlehem Shipyard, San Francisco, California, United States with Mrs. Louise Hoel Mills Crane as sponsor.|
|29 Jul 1943||Fletcher-class destryer Hoel was placed in commission at the Bethlehem Shipyard, San Francisco, California, United States with Commander William Dow Thomas in command.|
|27 Aug 1943||Destroyer USS Hoel made a depth charge attack on a reported submarine off the coast of San Diego, California. No results were observed.|
|20 Nov 1943||USS Hoel served as part of the destroyer screen for US escort carriers providing air support for the Butaritari Island in the Makin Atoll.|
|1 Dec 1943||USS Hoel struck an uncharted shoal off Betio Point, Tarawa Atoll. Hoel was hard aground with her bow lifted fully above the surface. Hoel was freed the following day after 18 hours of being fully exposed to enemy attack. Hoelâ€™s propeller blades were bent and her underwater sound gear had been carried away.|
|17 Feb 1944||US Marines landed on Eniwetok Atoll in the Marshall Islands. USS Hoel fired her main guns in anger for the first time on when she fired on Japanese troops seen moving about Parry Island.|
|7 Mar 1944||USS Hoel arrived at the Majuro anchorage for five days of tender availability alongside USS Prairie.|
|16 Mar 1944||Destroyer USS Hoel crossed the equator for the first time. Her log recorded, â€śThe ship teemed with low marine life. Polywogs in particular were in abundance. These were brought before the royal court of Neptunus Rex and duly initiated.â€ť|
|27 Mar 1944||Lookouts on USS Hoel spotted a 40-foot outrigger canoe in the open ocean southwest of Emirau Island with 27 Japanese naval landing force troops. As Hoel approached, the Japanese began shooting one another. Hoel answered with 40mm fire and all aboard the canoe were killed. No sign of any intent to surrender was observed. Hoel made a special note that, â€śThe Japanese personnel were all of large stature. All appeared to be in excellent physical condition.â€ť|
|29 Jul 1944||Destroyer USS Hoel moored to the repair dock at Ilse Nou, NoumĂ©a, New Caledonia for repairs.|
|12 Sep 1944||USS Hoel screened escort carriers whose planes flew pre-invasion bombardments of Peleliu in the Palau Islands.|
|18 Oct 1944||As a screening destroyer of the 'Taffy 3' escort carrier task group, USS Hoel took station east of the Philippine island of Samar as part of the covering force for the upcoming landings at Leyte Gulf.|
|25 Oct 1944||The Fletcher-class destroyer USS Hoel was sunk by the Japanese cruiser Kongo off Samar, Philippine Islands.|
|25 Oct 1944||In the Battle off Samar in the Battle of Leyte Gulf, destroyers USS Hoel and Heerman launched three Mark XV torpedoes at two different Japanese cruisers and missed. The torpedoes went on to advance on the battleship Yamato, the Japanese force flagship. Yamatoâ€™s evasive action took the force commander, Admiral Takeo Kurita, so far from the action that he effectively lost his ability to command the battle and likely contributed to his ultimate decision to break off the engagement and withdraw his force.|
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