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Plunkett DD-431 - History

Plunkett DD-431 - History


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Plunkett DD-431

Plunkett(DD-431: dp. 2,060 (f.); 1. 348'1"; b. 36'1"; dr. 17'5"; s. 35 k.;cpl. 208; a. 4 5", 2 1.1", 4 40mm., 2 20mm., 5 21" tt., fi dcp., 2 act.; cl. Gleaue~)Plunkett (DD-431) was laid down 1 March 1939 by the Federal Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co., Kearny, N.J. Iaunehed 7 March 1940, sponsored by Mrs. Charles P. Plunkett, widow of Rear Admiral Plunkett; and commissioned 17 July 1940 Lt. Comdr. P. G. Hale in command.Prior to 7 beeember 1941, Plunkea operated in the Western Atlantic and in the Gulf-Caribbean area on Neutrality Patrol. Initially in the latter area, she joined other Neutrality Patrol vessels off Tampico to prevent the departure of several German steamers, then cruised off Martinique, French Antilles to prevent the dispatching of warships, equipment, and gold to the Vichy government. Patrol and convoy missions in the North Atlantic followed, and, on 7 December 1941, she was enroute from Reykjavik to Argentia.Plunkett continued such duty until joining TF 39 on 20 March 1942. Six days later she departed the east coast for Seapa Flow and arrived in the Orkneys 4 April to eommenee operatichs with the British Home Fleet. EmploYed on North Sea patrols and escort work over the first leg of the Murmansk run, she was relieved, by Mayrant, in mid-May and assigned to escort New York back to the United States. Coastwise and Caribbean escort duty followed and in August she returned to the North Atlantic to accompany U.K. bound convoys. On 2 November, she departed New York On her first escort run to North Africa. Delayed enroute to allow time for the clearanee of wreckage from her port of destination, her group delivered its charges with their reinforcement troops and equipment to Casablanea on the 18th. Then, after patrolling off the Moroccan coast she returned to New York and local operations off southern New England.Another transatlantic convoy to Casablanea preceded shore bombardment exercises in Chesapeake Bay, after which she escorted coastal convoys until May, 1943. On the 10th she sailed for Oran, Algeria, with TF 60; and, between the endof May and July, she was employed on HUK, ASW, and convoy escort assignments in North African waters.On 6 July, she cleared Mers-el-Kebir as a unit of the Western Task Force for the invasion of Sicily. During the invasion, she screened the merchant ships and minelayers of TG 80.5, then patroOed off the Gela anchorage and covered minelaying operations. On the 12th, she departed the asEault area, returning on the 17th, to Seogletti, and on the 31st, to Palermo, with convoys. During August, she participated in numerous landings on the Sicilian coast and, in September, joined TG 81.6 to screen the transports and landing craft for the assault on the Axis boot at Salerno. Early on the morning of 13 September, she aided bombed and burning British hospitalship Newfoundland. The struggle to save the ship continued for over 36 hours, but, in the evening of the 14th, Plunkett, on orders, fired on and sank the hulk.North Africa-Naples convoys, interspersed with fire support missions, continued until 21 January 1944, when she sailed to escort the follow up assault group to Cape Anzio. After deLvering the craft, she remauled in the area to screen the transports. On the 24th she fell victim to one of the numerous air attacks which, previously, she had helped to drive off. At 1738 condition red was sounded. A few minutes later the attack was launched with 2 glider bombs coming in on the port beam, and 2 Ju.88's closing in from up ahead. Speed was increased; maneuvering was radical. The glider bombs finally dropped, at 200 yards distance, but more planes had joined the foray to eommenee a sustained 17 minute battle. It ended at 1757 as Plunkett took a 250kg. bomb and caught fire. The bomb killed 23, left 28 missing, with as many, and more, wounded, and caused extensive damage to her fire control apparatus, armament, and port engine. By 1821, all fires were out and the destroyer proceeded, on one engine, to Palermo. Temporary repairs enabled her to reach Casablanea and, finally, New York, where repairs were eompleted.On 5 May 1944, she again departed New York for European waters. Arriving at Belfast on the 14th, she remained until 3 June, then sailed toward the English Channel to join the armada staging for the invasion of France. On 6 June, she screened the transports off Omaha beach. Fire support and patrol duties followed until the 9th, when she sailed back to England. Returning to the French coast a few days later, she added shore bombardment to her duties.In July, Plunkett returned to the Mediterranean to prepare for another assault landing, and on 13 August, she sailed from Naples to support operation "Dragoon", the invasion of southern France. During that operation she carried officials to and from the beaches in addition to performing her screening duties. She next added fire support and shore bombardment off St. Topez, Port de Boue, and Marseilles to her mission, and continued those duties, partienlarly on the Italian-French border, until 23 November. She then sailed for Oran, whence she escorted a convoy baek to the United States, arriving at New York, 16 January 1945.Plunkett engaged in training exercises, ASW patrols, and experimental testing until early May, when she resumed transatlantic escort work. The war in Europe ended before she reached the U.K., but hostilities in the Pacific still raged. On 27 May~ she returned to the east coast, underwent extenEve alterations and refresher training, and got underway for the Pacific 6 August. She transited the Panama Canal 13 August and was enroute to San Diego the day the war ended. In September she escorted occupation forces from the U.S. to Japan; then, in October and November, assisted in ferrying more from the Philippines. Later in November, she sailed northeast to the Aleutians, where she operated until ordered back to the east coast for inactivation.Plunkett decommissioned 3 May 1946 and was berthed at Charleston as a unit of the Atlantic Reeerve Fleet. She remained there until reactivated and traneferred, under the loan provisions of the Military Assistanee Program, to the Nationalist Chinese government, 16 February 1959. Renamed Nan Yang (DD-17), she remains with that country's navy irto 1970.Plunkett earned five battle stars during the Second World War.


Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships

Plunkett (DD-431) was laid down 1 March 1939 by the Federal Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co., Kearny, N.J. launched 7 March 1940 sponsored by Mrs. Charles P. Plunkett, widow of Rear Admiral Plunkett and commissioned 17 July 1940 Lt. Comdr. P. G. Hale in command.

Prior to 7 December 1941, Plunkett operated in the Western Atlantic and in the Gulf-Caribbean area on Neutrality Patrol. Initially in the latter area, she joined other Neutrality Patrol vessels off Tampico to prevent the departure of several German steamers, then cruised off Martinique, French Antilles to prevent the dispatching of warships, equipment, and gold to the Vichy government. Patrol and convoy missions in the North Atlantic followed, and, on 7 December 1941, she was enroute from Reykjavik to Argentia.

Plunkett continued such duty until joining TF 39 on 20 March 1942. Six days later she departed the east coast for Scapa Flow and arrived in the Orkneys 4 April to commence operations with the British Home Fleet. Employed on North Sea patrols and escort work over the first leg of the Murmansk run, she was relieved, by Mayrant, in mid-May and assigned to escort New York back to the United States. Coastwise and Caribbean escort duty followed and in August she returned to the North Atlantic to accompany U.K. bound convoys. On 2 November, she departed New York on her first escort run to North Africa. Delayed enroute to allow time for the clearance of wreckage from her port of destination, her group delivered its charges with their reinforcement troops and equipment to Casablanca on the 18th. Then, after patrolling off the Moroccan coast she returned to New York and local operations off southern New England.

Another transatlantic convoy to Casablanca preceded shore bombardment exercises in Chesapeake Bay, after which she escorted coastal convoys until May, 1943. On the 10th she sailed for Oran, Algeria, with TF 60 and, between the end of May and July, she was employed on HUK, ASW, and convoy escort assignments in North African waters.

On 6 July, she cleared Mers-el-Kebir as a unit of the Western Task Force for the invasion of Sicily. During the invasion, she screened the merchant ships and minelayers of TG 80.5, then patrolled off the Gela anchorage and covered minelaying operations. On the 12th, she departed the assault area, returning on the 17th, to Scogletti, and on the 31st, to Palermo, with convoys. During August, she participated in numerous landings on the Sicilian coast and, in September, joined TG 81.6 to screen the transports and landing craft for the assault on the Axis boot at Salerno. Early on the morning of 13 September, she aided bombed and burning British hospitalship Newfoundland. The struggle to save the ship continued for over 36 hours, but, in the evening of the 14th, Plunkett, on orders, fired on and sank the hulk.

North Africa-Naples convoys, interspersed with fire support missions, continued until 21 January 1944, when she sailed to escort the follow up assault group to Cape Anzio. After delivering the craft, she remained in the area to screen the transports. On the 24th she fell victim to one of the numerous air attacks which, previously, she had helped to drive off. At 1738 condition red was sounded. A few minutes later the attack was launched with 2 glider bombs coming in on the port beam, and 2 Ju.88's closing in from up ahead. Speed was increased maneuvering was radical. The glider bombs finally dropped, at 200 yards distance, but more planes had joined the foray to commence a sustained 17 minute battle. It ended at 1757 as Plunkett took a 250 kg. bomb and caught fire. The bomb killed 23, left 28 missing, with as many, and more, wounded, and caused extensive damage to her fire control apparatus, armament, and port engine. By 1821, all fires were out and the destroyer proceeded, on one engine, to Palermo. Temporary repairs enabled her to reach Casablanca and, finally, New York, where repairs were completed.

On 5 May 1944, she again departed New York for European waters. Arriving at Belfast on the 14th, she remained until 3 June, then sailed toward the English Channel to join the armada staging for the invasion of France. On 6 June, she screened the transports off Omaha beach. Fire support and patrol duties followed until the 9th, when she sailed back to England. Returning to the French coast a few days later, she added shore bombardment to her duties.

In July, Plunkett returned to the Mediterranean to prepare for another assault landing, and on 13 August, she sailed from Naples to support operation "Dragoon", the invasion of southern France. During that operation she carried officials to and from the beaches in addition to performing her screening duties. She next added fire support and shore bombardment off St. Topez, Port de Boue, and Marseilles to her mission, and continued those duties, particularly on the Italian-French border, until 23 November. She then sailed for Oran, whence she escorted a convoy back to the United States, arriving at New York, 16 January 1945.

Plunkett engaged in training exercises, ASW patrols, and experimental testing until early May, when she resumed transatlantic escort work. The war in Europe ended before she reached the U.K., but hostilities in the Pacific still raged. On 27 May she returned to the east coast, underwent extensive alterations and refresher training, and got underway for the Pacific 6 August. She transited the Panama Canal 13 August and was enroute to San Diego the day the war ended. In September she escorted occupation forces from the U.S. to Japan then, in October and November, assisted in ferrying more from the Philippines. Later in November, she sailed northeast to the Aleutians, where she operated until ordered back to the east coast for inactivation.

Plunkett decommissioned 3 May 1946 and was berthed at Charleston as a unit of the Atlantic Reserve Fleet. She remained there until reactivated and transferred, under the loan provisions of the Military Assistance Program, to the Nationalist Chinese government, 16 February 1959. Renamed Nan Yang (DD-17), she remains with that country's navy into 1970.


Notes

  1. ↑ Morison, Samuel Eliot (1975). The Battle of the Atlantic September 1939-May 1943. Little, Brown and Company. pp.㻊–79. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. ↑ 2.02.12.22.3"HX convoys". Andrew Hague Convoy Database . Retrieved 19 June 2011 . <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. ↑ 3.03.13.23.33.4"ON convoys". Andrew Hague Convoy Database . Retrieved 19 June 2011 . <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. ↑"SC convoys". Andrew Hague Convoy Database . Retrieved 19 June 2011 . <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. ↑"AT convoys". Andrew Hague Convoy Database . Retrieved 20 June 2011 . <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. ↑"Nan-Yang Destroyer". culture.teldap.tw . Retrieved 3 May 2016 . <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

The USS Plunkett: The Unsinkable Navy Destroyer That Fought at Manzio, D-Day, and Southern France History Unplugged Podcast

The USS Plunkett was a US Navy destroyer that sustained the most harrowing attack on any Navy ship by the Germans during World War II, that gave as good as it got, and that was later made famous by John Ford and Herman Wouk.

Plunkett’s defining moment was at Anzio, where a dozen-odd German bombers bore down on the ship in an assault so savage, so prolonged, and so deadly that one Navy commander was hard-pressed to think of another destroyer that had endured what Plunkett had. After a three-month overhaul and with a reputation rising as the “fightin’est ship” in the Navy, Plunkett (DD-431) plunged back into the war at Omaha Beach on D-Day, and once again into battle during the invasion of Southern France – perhaps the only Navy ship to participate in every Allied invasion in the European theatre.

Today's guest is James Sullivan, author of "Unsinkable: Five Men and the INdomitable Run of the USS Plunkett." Featuring five incredibly brave men — the indomitable skipper, who will receive the Navy Cross the gunnery officer, who bucks the captain every step of the way to Anzio a first lieutenant, who’s desperate to get off the ship and into the Pacific a 17-year-old water tender, who’s trying to hold onto his hometown girl against all odds, and another water tender, who mans a 20mm gun when under aerial assault — the dramatic story of each plays out on the decks of the Plunkett as the ship’s story escalates on the stage of the Mediterranean.

The USS Plunkett was a US Navy destroyer that sustained the most harrowing attack on any Navy ship by the Germans during World War II, that gave as good as it got, and that was later made famous by John Ford and Herman Wouk.

Plunkett’s defining moment was at Anzio, where a dozen-odd German bombers bore down on the ship in an assault so savage, so prolonged, and so deadly that one Navy commander was hard-pressed to think of another destroyer that had endured what Plunkett had. After a three-month overhaul and with a reputation rising as the “fightin’est ship” in the Navy, Plunkett (DD-431) plunged back into the war at Omaha Beach on D-Day, and once again into battle during the invasion of Southern France – perhaps the only Navy ship to participate in every Allied invasion in the European theatre.

Today's guest is James Sullivan, author of "Unsinkable: Five Men and the INdomitable Run of the USS Plunkett." Featuring five incredibly brave men — the indomitable skipper, who will receive the Navy Cross the gunnery officer, who bucks the captain every step of the way to Anzio a first lieutenant, who’s desperate to get off the ship and into the Pacific a 17-year-old water tender, who’s trying to hold onto his hometown girl against all odds, and another water tender, who mans a 20mm gun when under aerial assault — the dramatic story of each plays out on the decks of the Plunkett as the ship’s story escalates on the stage of the Mediterranean.


Plunkett DD-431 - History

(DD-431: dp. 2,060 (f.) l. 348'1" b. 36'1" dr. 17'5" s. 35 k.cpl. 208 a. 4 5", 2 1.1", 4 40mm., 2 20mm., 5 21" tt., 6 dcp., 2 dct. cl. Gleaves)

Plunkett (DD-431) was laid down 1 March 1939 by the Federal Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co., Kearny, N.J. Iaunched 7 March 1940, sponsored by Mrs. Charles P. Plunkett, widow of Rear Admiral Plunkett and commissioned 17 July 1940 Lt. Comdr. P. G. Hale in command.

Prior to 7 December 1941, Plunkett operated in the Western Atlantic and in the Gulf-Caribbean area on Neutrality Patrol. Initially in the latter area, she joined other Neutrality Patrol vessels off Tampico to prevent the departure of several German steamers, then cruised off Martinique, French Antilles to prevent the dispatching of warships, equipment, and gold to the Vichy government. Patrol and convoy missions in the North Atlantic followed, and, on 7 December 1941, she was enroute from Reykjavik to Argentia.

Plunkett continued such duty until joining TF 39 on 20 March 1942. Six days later she departed the east coast for Scapa Flow and arrived in the Orkneys 4 April to commence operations with the British Home Fleet. Employed on North Sea patrols and escort work over the first leg of the Murmansk run, she was relieved, by Mayrant, in mid-May and assigned to escort New York back to the United States. Coastwise and Caribbean escort duty followed and in August she returned to the North Atlantic to accompany U.K. bound convoys. On 2 November, she departed New York On her first escort run to North Africa. Delayed enroute to allow time for the clearance of wreckage from her port of destination, her group delivered its charges with their reinforcement troops and equipment to Casablanca on the 18th. Then, after patrolling off the Moroccan coast she returned to New York and local operations off southern New England.

Another transatlantic convoy to Casablanca preceded shore bombardment exercises in Chesapeake Bay, after which she escorted coastal convoys until May, 1943. On the 10th she sailed for Oran, Algeria, with TF 60 and, between the end of May and July, she was employed on HUK, ASW, and convoy escort assignments in North African waters.

On 6 July, she cleared Mers-el-Kebir as a unit of the Western Task Force for the invasion of Sicily. During the invasion, she screened the merchant ships and minelayers of TG 80.5, then patrolled off the Gela anchorage and covered minelaying operations. On the 12th, she departed the assault area, returning on the 17th, to Seogletti, and on the 31st, to Palermo, with convoys. During August, she participated in numerous landings on the Sicilian coast and, in September, joined TG 81.6 to screen the transports and landing craft for the assault on the Axis boot at Salerno. Early on the morning of 13 September, she aided bombed and burning British hospitalship Newfoundland. The struggle to save the ship continued for over 36 hours, but, in the evening of the 14th, Plunkett, on orders, fired on and sank the hulk.

North Africa-Naples convoys, interspersed with fire support missions, continued until 21 January 1944, when she sailed to escort the follow up assault group to Cape Anzio. After delivering the craft, she remained in the area to screen the transports. On the 24th she fell victim to one of the numerous air attacks which, previously, she had helped to drive off. At 1738 condition red was sounded. A few minutes later the attack was launched with 2 glider bombs coming in on the port beam, and 2 Ju.88's closing in from up ahead. Speed was increased maneuvering was radical. The glider bombs finally dropped, at 200 yards distance, but more planes had joined the foray to commence a sustained 17 minute battle. It ended at 1757 as Plunkett took a 250kg. bomb and caught fire. The bomb killed 23, left 28 missing, with as many, and more, wounded, and caused extensive damage to her fire control apparatus, armament, and port engine. By 1821, all fires were out and the destroyer proceeded, on one engine, to Palermo. Temporary repairs enabled her to reach Casablanca and, finally, New York, where repairs were completed.

On 5 May 1944, she again departed New York for European waters. Arriving at Belfast on the 14th, she remained until 3 June, then sailed toward the English Channel to join the armada staging for the invasion of France. On 6 June, she screened the transports off Omaha beach. Fire support and patrol duties followed until the 9th, when she sailed back to England. Returning to the French coast a few days later, she added shore bombardment to her duties.

In July, Plunkett returned to the Mediterranean to prepare for another assault landing, and on 13 August, she sailed from Naples to support operation "Dragoon", the invasion of southern France. During that operation she carried officials to and from the beaches in addition to performing her screening duties. She next added fire support and shore bombardment off St. Topez, Port de Boue, and Marseilles to her mission, and continued those duties, particularly on the Italian-French border, until 23 November. She then sailed for Oran, whence she escorted a convoy back to the United States, arriving at New York, 16 January 1945.

Plunkett engaged in training exercises, ASW patrols, and experimental testing until early May, when she resumed transatlantic escort work. The war in Europe ended before she reached the U.K., but hostilities in the Pacific still raged. On 27 May she returned to the east coast, underwent extensive alterations and refresher training, and got underway for the Pacific 6 August. She transited the Panama Canal 13 August and was enroute to San Diego the day the war ended. In September she escorted occupation forces from the U.S. to Japan then, in October and November, assisted in ferrying more from the Philippines. Later in November, she sailed northeast to the Aleutians, where she operated until ordered back to the east coast for inactivation.

Plunkett decommissioned 3 May 1946 and was berthed at Charleston as a unit of the Atlantic Reserve Fleet. She remained there until reactivated and transferred, under the loan provisions of the Military Assistance Program, to the Nationalist Chinese government, 16 February 1959. Renamed Nan Yang (DD-17), she remains with that country's navy into 1970.


Convoys escorted [ edit | edit source ]

Convoy Escort Group Dates Notes
task force 19 1–7 July 1941 [1] occupation of Iceland prior to US declaration of war
HX 151 24 Sept-1 Oct 1941 [2] from Newfoundland to Iceland prior to US declaration of war
ON 24 13-15 Oct 1941 [3] from Iceland to Newfoundland prior to US declaration of war
SC 48 16-17 Oct 1941 [4] battle reinforcement prior to US declaration of war
HX 159 10-19 Nov 1941 [2] from Newfoundland to Iceland prior to US declaration of war
ON 39 11 Nov-4 Dec 1941 [3] from Iceland to Newfoundland prior to US declaration of war
HX 166 24-31 Dec 1941 [2] from Newfoundland to Iceland
ON 53 9-19 Jan 1942 [3] from Iceland to Newfoundland
HX 174 9-17 Feb 1942 [2] from Newfoundland to Iceland
ON 69 25 Feb-1 March 1942 [3] from Iceland to Newfoundland
ON 92 16–17 May 1942 [3] from Iceland to Newfoundland
AT 18 6-17 Aug 1942 [5] troopships from New York City to Firth of Clyde

Excerpt

Chapter 1: The Goddamned Harbor 1: THE GODDAMNED HARBOR
JANUARY 1944

Every year on the Fourth of July through the early 1970s, my extended family gathered in the backyard of our house in Quincy, Massachusetts. They came with dented metal coolers, crockpots, and foil-covered casserole dishes, in Bermuda shorts and headscarfs, with webbed lawn chairs and Polaroid cameras, from jobs as union pipe coverers, tool-and-die mechanics, and subway car drivers (the men) and housework and child-rearing (the women). They’d bang the earwigs out of the aluminum tubes of their lawn chairs, set them in a great circle, and call for the younger kids to fetch cans of Schlitz and Narragansett. My great-uncle Frank Gallagher used to call for his whiskey with two thick fingers waved overhead, as if giving the signal to move out, and some obliging niece or nephew would pour him a neat one from the gang of bottles on our porch. Most of the great-uncles, like Frank, had gone away to World War II, which was a circumstance of personal history so ordinary in that backyard on those languorous afternoons that the details hardly qualified as something to talk about. Little was said, for example, about the shell that blew my grandmother’s youngest brother, Eddie Martin, out of a foxhole after he’d waded ashore at Omaha Beach and fought his way into Normandy. (They recovered Eddie upside down in a tree, good to go for another thirty years, albeit with one leg missing.) As a boy, I’d have liked to have heard that story, or what it was like for my great-uncle Billy Lydon to burst into Bastogne on a tank during the Battle of the Bulge. Billy saw more combat than any of us, my great-uncle Leo Meehan told me after Billy died, shaking his head over what he knew. Instead in those days, rather than remember the horror and the anguish of what they’d seen and experienced, they talked about what was funny or improbable. One great-uncle’s most frequently told story involved an ice cream machine he’d dropped in the Pacific when he was trying to transfer it by haul line from his supply ship to another Navy vessel. Another great-uncle liked to tell about how he’d tapped an electrical circuit in a colonel’s bunker so his crew in the neighboring bunker, on a godforsaken beachhead, could also have light. And then there was the time Frank Gallagher slipped from camp and made his way into Naples, Italy, one day in January of 1944…

It was before sunset, and a U.S. Navy destroyer, the USS Plunkett, lay at anchor in 32 fathoms (180 feet) of water. From the bridge, the officer of the deck had recorded the ship’s position in the deck logs with respect to several local landmarks. Fort Dell’Ovo, a modular fifteenth-century edifice known in English as Egg Castle, rose sheer from the water’s edge about a half mile distant. Clockwise through twenty-five degrees of arc that included the storied seaside neighborhood of Santa Lucia was Nuovo Castle, a more archetypal citadel with rounded, crenellated towers. And farther still to the right was the mile-long reach of the harbor’s principal pier, or mole as they called them along the Mediterranean seaboard. Seven other U.S. Navy destroyers were moored nearby, embedded in a larger contingent of the Allied fleet, preparing for the greatest invasion of the war thus far.

After the Allies had come ashore at Salerno four months earlier, the march on Rome had ground to a halt at the Germans’ Gustav Line near Monte Cassino, halfway between Salerno and Rome. The Germans commanded the high ground here above two valleys the Allies had not been able to punch through, and needed to, if they were to take Rome. Ever the man for military micromanagement, Winston Churchill concocted a scheme to do an end run around Cassino with an amphibious landing. In Naples, which the Allies had taken three weeks after the Salerno landings in September and whose port was funneling the American Fifth Army into the war on the Italian mainland, everyone knew an invasion was imminent—just how imminent no one could say. Every day more vessels crowded the harbor. They were on the verge of something.

Late that Sunday afternoon, Private Frank Gallagher stole away from his camp, without a pass, and made his way into Naples, half-filling a jerry can with Italian red wine along the way. They’d been telling everyone to stay out of Naples, the typhus was running rampant, but Frank figured “ that was the shit.” At the harbor’s edge, he walked along the mole, scanning a panorama of ships for hull number 431.

A medic in the 36th Infantry Division of the Fifth Army, Frank had come into Italy from North Africa at Salerno, on a beach so hot German Panzer tanks had rumbled right down onto the sand in the midst of the American assault. The beachhead was tenuous for a week after the initial landing, prompting the Fifth Army’s commander, General Mark Clark, to think about evacuating back out to sea. If this next invasion was to be anything like Salerno, Frank wanted to see his brother John one more time.

On shore, no one Frank asked could tell him whether Plunkett was among the anchored vessels. At the Navy task force’s flagship—the “admiral’s ship,” Frank called it—he addressed one of the topside sailors, asking whether Plunkett was out there. It was in the area, he was told. There wasn’t any way out among the ships from the mole, so Frank walked the edge of the harbor until he came into the neighborhood of Santa Lucia, which inspired a song that Neapolitan immigrants carried to America in the late nineteenth century. The lyrics of the song invite a boatman to shove off in his boat to enjoy the cool of the evening. “Come into my nimble little boat,” the song goes. “Oh, how beautiful to be on the ship!” The boatman Frank encountered was offering no such palliative.

Instead, after coming down a stairway from the Santa Lucia promenade onto an ample stone terrace jutting into the water, Frank hopped into a little boat, a bumboat, tied to one of the terrace’s cleats, and told the boatman to row him out. The man protested, arguing back in Italian that was Greek to Frank.

“No,” Frank said, cutting him short. “Row out in the goddamned harbor.”

At a glance, Frank didn’t appear physically intimidating. He was of average height and build, his face square and no-nonsense. He was naturally abrupt, and skeptical, but ever alert for the possibility of a little fun. He’d been hauling off that can now and then, and he was already a little glorious with the wine this afternoon.

The Italian worked his oars, and the boat jerked from behind a crescent of breakwater stones and headed out among the moored Navy vessels. Frank directed the boatman to steer for the telltale profiles of two-stacked destroyers, casting about for the hull number that would identify the ship as the one he wanted. “And don’t you think I saw the Plunkett,” he said.

The destroyer was as long as a football field plus most of its end zones, big but by no means titanic. It had four boilers, two propellers, thirteen ship’s officers, plus seven additional squadron officers, and 265 sailors, including a twenty-seven-year-old water tender from Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood whose day job on the ship was in the aft fire room, but whose battle station at general quarters was on a 20mm machine gun, one of six on Plunkett.

The shanghaied Italian mariner brought his boat up to Plunkett’s accessibly low fantail, the deck just four-and-a-half feet above the waterline, and Frank hauled himself and his can up and aboard. “I should have been shot dead,” he said. “I had a can. It could have been a mine or anything.”

One of Plunkett’s sailors was onto him straightaway. “Where’d you come from?”

“That little guinea just rowed me out here,” Frank said, referencing the Italian as the Irish disparaged them back in Boston.

The sailor summoned Plunkett’s skipper, Eddie Burke, a thirty-six-year-old graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, who’d grown up in a small town outside Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, and who’d won acclaim as an All-American football player, and as a light heavyweight boxer. Six feet tall, and built like a linebacker still, with a broad, fleshy face and a gap between his front teeth, Burke looked like the kind of guy James Cagney would send for to do the heavy work.

As Burke laid into Frank on the fantail, a boatswain’s mate in the ship’s bridge piped a shrill whistle into the intercom, as he did every afternoon before sunset and before dawn, when German bombing attacks were most likely. In the wake of the whistle came the boatswain’s call: “General quarters, general quarters, all hands man your battle stations.” Then he activated a klaxon, and a harsh, electric whang throbbed from the ship’s speakers like the pulse of a magnificent metal beast.

No one on Plunkett dallied. No one played sluggish. They vaulted the eighteen-inch-high thresholds of the bulkheads between compartments below deck and scrambled up and down ladders with a facility honed over six months in combat. Men heading to forward positions streamed up the wider, starboard side of the ship men heading aft moved portside. As the crew hustled to station that afternoon, Mount Vesuvius loomed over the bay, coughing up clouds of ash. A week earlier, lava had begun channeling down one of the volcano’s outflows for the first time in decades.

“They were all there, about two hundred and fifty sailors on the destroyer,” Frank said. “They were all up on the bridge and down. And I’m standing, little khakis, and my five-gallon can of wine, and [the skipper’s] blasting the shit out of me.”

This was always the moment in Frank’s story, the one that reverberates across the decades in shimmery sepia light, flickering through the imagination like a scene from one of those Movietone newsreels that played in cinemas before the coming of television, backed by trumpets and trombones and narration by journalist and broadcaster Lowell Thomas. The camera pans the armada of Navy ships, and the sailors at their battle stations, to pause on one soldier in khaki getting chewed out by the skipper. And then finally settles on another sailor, leaning over the skirt of his gun tub on the starboard side of the ship by the no. 2 stack, together with two of the men who worked on his gun, looking toward this scene playing out on the fantail. John J. Gallagher stared at this spectacle, as amused as any of his shipmates, and then all of a sudden he’s way more interested than any of them. “That looks like my brother. Jesus!”

He hopped out of the gun tub and approached Burke to confirm that, in fact, this wayward infantryman was his brother. Burke looked at the vaguely familiar water tender, whom he recognized as one of his machine gunners, and he did something he never did if we’re to read from how Burke handled men at captain’s mast when he revoked liberties and brought down court-martials. He went easy on Frank.

“Go down and bunk with your brother [until] we find out what we’re going to do with you.”

I might have been seven or eight when I first heard this story, and after that first time, I heard it repeatedly. In time, each of us, the children and grandchildren of all the Gallagher brothers and sisters, was capable of painting the broad brushstrokes of Frank’s story as eloquently as someone sat down before one of Ken Burns’s cameras. It was always lying to on the near horizon of any Gallagher family get-together, from the Fourth of July to Christmas when we all gathered in the stately Victorian the Gallaghers had moved into in 1919 and where an oil portrait of John in his dress blues hung from the parlor wall. In this anecdote, there was serendipity and pathos, and for each of us personally an inextricable link to the most cataclysmic event of the twentieth century. Each of us knew in a general way how the story ended, though none of us knew what had transpired through two years of the war or exactly what had happened at the end.

On the verge of a family holiday to Italy in 2016, I googled Plunkett and found a citation for Edward J. Burke, who’d received the Navy Cross for action on January 24, 1944. Another page on the web archived a handful of old photos of the Plunkett and listed a man’s name at the bottom for crew contact and reunion information. It hadn’t occurred to me that anyone from the Plunkett might still be living. In my family we’d printed the legend and failed to consider the existence of facts—facts that would prove to be the substance of a story more wrenching and imbued with more drama and sorrow than any of us could have imagined. That was all to be found out. In the meantime, I phoned Ted Mueller off that website. He was ninety-two years old and had organized the last several reunions of Plunkett sailors. They’d “disbanded” three or four years earlier, he told me, for the “World War Two guys are getting old.”

Ted sent me a roster from the last Plunkett reunion, in 2011, and I began to phone, somewhat frantically, cognizant of the clock. First, I checked the name of the man against the possibility of an obituary, more often than not finding one. Occasionally I’d get a voice on the other end of the line. I’d ask to speak to the name of the man on the roster, and my question would be as quickly countered by the flattened voice of a woman who wanted to know who was calling, having been down this road many times before with telemarketers. I’d tell her my name, and that I was a journalist, and that I was calling about the USS Plunkett. Everything changed with the invocation of that word, Plunkett, as I touched a chord that vibrated back decades and resonated with the signal experience of a life. There would be joy in her voice as she passed off the phone.

One Plunkett sailor didn’t let me get past the part about my being a journalist before he blurted, “And I’m on welfare!” There would be no money coming my way from him if that was why I was calling.

I rushed the rest of my introduction. “I’m calling about the USS Plunkett.”

Waves of silence rippled over my deployment of that word. “Oh,” he said, suddenly muffled. And then the words, almost sotto voce. “Yes, I was on the Plunkett.”

This was a thing that was holy within him, within them, and should never be associated with people who just wanted a few minutes of his time. We talked for twenty minutes, and he told me that when Plunkett was under attack they’d go at the enemy with the five-inch guns first, and then as the planes came closer, with the 40mm gun, and then if they got closer with 20mm guns, and then if they got closer with potatoes. “Potatoes?” I asked, and the old sailor just laughed.

I began to scrub histories of the war in Europe, looking for the destroyer, and found the ship all over the place, intersecting with the greatest events and personages of the war, like Forrest Gump. One of Plunkett’s crew put it to me this way: “We was everyplace, all the time.” I found the ship at Casablanca, at Gela in Sicily, at Salerno and Anzio in Italy, and then on Omaha Beach, so close to shore at the landings that she about scraped her hull in the sand. The ship had been in on every invasion in Europe. What happened to the ship at Anzio, where the Germans met the Allied invasion with twenty-five thousand men and hundreds of aircraft, was so “savage,” so harrowing, and so relentless the Navy wasn’t sure any other destroyer in Europe had been through what Plunkett had.

Somewhere else online, I found reference to the ship’s gunnery officer, Ken Brown, who’d been living in La Jolla as recently as 2009. I clicked into an obituary for a Ken Brown and read that this Ken Brown was the son of the Ken Brown I was looking for. His survivors included a sister named Karen Fratantaro of Costa Mesa, California, and there was only going to be one of her in Costa Mesa. A few clicks later, I had a phone number, and a few moments later, I was leaving a voice mail. The next morning, my phone rang, and I picked up on a woman who said, “Hello, Jim, I’m Karen Brown, and it so happens I’m with my father right now.”

It had taken my great-uncle Frank all of three-and-a-half minutes to tell the Naples reunion story in 1998 when I sat down with him and a tape recorder after my grandfather died and it had occurred to me that once a voice was silenced, it was liable to stay that way for good. Frank didn’t put any pressure on the set piece of his Naples story for any larger meaning about family or war, or why we remember things. And he never talked in any great detail about what happened afterward. His story rose to that one incredulous moment when he found himself on a Navy destroyer in the midst of the war, when “ornery” Captain Burke was “blasting the shit” out of him, and John recognized him. “That looks like my brother,” Frank would always say, quoting John. It was the darnedest thing.

Hours after boarding, while he and John and other men in the engineering department played cards on a bunk in their quarters below the fantail, the ship resounded with what Frank remembered as a red alert. The crew hurried into preparations to get underway, and it was now imperative to get this wayward soldier of the Fifth Army back to shore.

They all knew where they were going. They’d been talking about the destination at dinner parties in Naples. The Italian vendors on the shore were hawking postcards of the destination. And there was talk about what Nero had done there back in the day when Rome was burning.


ANCESTORS:

The founder of the family was John Plunkett who accompanied William the Conqueror to England in 1066 he died in 1082, and his direct descendant John Plunkett is recorded in Louth during the reign of Henry III. John's elder son was the ancestor of Sir Oliver Plunkett who was created Lord of Louth in 1541, and his younger son Richard was the grandfather of Sir Christopher Plunkett, created Lord of Killen in 1403. Thomas Plunkett of Louth was Chief Justice of the Common Pleas of Ireland in 1316. Lucas Plunkett, first Earl of Fingall, was the father of Christopher Plunkett (died 1649) who was outlawed for his support of the Cromwellian Rebellion of the 1640s. St. Oliver Plunkett, Archbishop of Armagh, was martyred for his faith in 1681, and John Plunkett was a noted Jacobite in 1690. William Conyngham Plunkett (1764-1854), Lord Chancellor of Ireland, belonged to a Monagham branch of the family.


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Product Description

USS Plunkett DD 431

"Personalized" Canvas Ship Print

(Not just a photo or poster but a work of art!)

Every sailor loved his ship. It was his life. Where he had tremendous responsibility and lived with his closest shipmates. As one gets older his appreciation for the ship and the Navy experience gets stronger. A personalized print shows ownership, accomplishment and an emotion that never goes away. It helps to show your pride even if a loved one is no longer with you. Every time you walk by the print you will feel the person or the Navy experience in your heart (guaranteed).

The image is portrayed on the waters of the ocean or bay with a display of her crest if available. The ships name is printed on the bottom of the print. What a great canvas print to commemorate yourself or someone you know who may have served aboard her.

The printed picture is exactly as you see it. The canvas size is 8"x10" ready for framing as it is or you can add an additional matte of your own choosing. If you would like a larger picture size (11"x 14") on a 13" X 19" canvas simply purchase this print then prior to payment purchase additional services located in the store category (Home) to the left of this page. This option is an additional $12.00. The prints are made to order. They look awesome when matted and framed.

We PERSONALIZE the print with "Name, Rank and/or Years Served" or anything else you would like it to state (NO ADDITIONAL CHARGE). It is placed just above the ships photo. After purchasing the print simply email us or indicate in the notes section of your payment what you would like printed on it. Example:

United States Navy Sailor
YOUR NAME HERE
Proudly Served Sept 1963 - Sept 1967

This would make a nice gift and a great addition to any historic military collection. Would be fantastic for decorating the home or office wall.

The watermark "Great Naval Images" will NOT be on your print.

This photo is printed on Archival-Safe Acid-Free canvas using a high resolution printer and should last many years.

Because of its unique natural woven texture canvas offers a special and distinctive look that can only be captured on canvas. The canvas print does not need glass thereby enhancing the appearance of your print, eliminating glare and reducing your overall cost.

We guarantee you will not be disappointed with this item or your money back. In addition, We will replace the canvas print unconditionally for FREE if you damage your print. You would only be charged a nominal fee plus shipping and handling.

Check our feedback. Customers who have purchased these prints have been very satisfied.

Buyer pays shipping and handling. Shipping charges outside the US will vary by location.

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Watch the video: USS Plunkett in Naples 1944 (November 2022).

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