STATUS: Decommissioned, Out-of-Service
SHIPS-IN-CLASS (85): Edsall Jacob Jones Langley / Hammann Robert E. Peary Pillsbury Pope Flaherty Frederick C. Davis Herbert C. Jones Douglas L. Howard Farquhar J.R.Y. Blakely Hill Fessenden Fiske Frost Huse Inch Blair Brough Chatelain Neunzer Poole Peterson Stewart Sturtevant Moore Scott / Keith Tomich James R. Ward / J. Richard Ward Otterstetter Sloat Snowden Stanton Swasey Marchand Hurst Camp Howard D. Crow Pettit Ricketts Sellstrom Harveson Joyce Kirkpatrick Leopold Menges Mosley Newell Pride Falgout Lowe Gary / Thomas J. Gary Brister Finch Kretchmer O'Reilly Koiner Price Strickland Forster Daniel Roy O. Hale Dale W. Peterson Martin H. Ray Ramsden Mills Rhodes Richey Savage Vance Lansing Durant Calcaterra Chambers Merrill Haverfield Swenning Willis Janssen Wilhoite Cockrill Stockdale Hissem Holder
PROPULSION: 4 x FM diesel engines with 4 x Diesel generators developing 6,000 horsepower while driving 2 x Shafts.
Detailing the development and operational history of the USS Pillsbury (DE-133) Destroyer Escort Warship.
Entry last updated on 9/26/2018.
Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com.
The United States Navy grew into a formidable fighting force during World War 2 (1939-1945) as all manner of warships were constructed to serve in both major fronts of the conflict. Types included aircraft carriers, escort carriers, destroyer escorts, cruisers, battleships and submarines. USS Pillsbury (DE-133) marked a destroyer escort of the Edsall -class, a group of American warships numbered eighty-five vessels in all. The class went on to serve beyond the U.S. Navy, being adopted by the navies of Mexico, the Philippines, Tunisia and South Vietnam.
Destroyer escorts were developed to provide security for lesser-armed merchantmen and important USN warships and were thusly given good inherent endurance, "blue water" capabilities and a useful weapon fit. USS Pillsbury's major role was in convoy protection for Allied naval vessels during World War 2 and in this role she excelled. She was part of the massive military buildup seen after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor (December 7th, 1941) that thrust the United States into Total War. Her exploits netted her and her crews a total of five Battle Stars for their service in the conflict as well as a Presidential Unit Citation.
USS Pillsbury saw her keel laid down by Consolidated Steel Corporation of Orange, Texas on July 18th, 1942. She was launched on January 10th, 1943 and formally commissioned on June 7th, 1943, the vessel carried the name of Rear Admiral John E. Pillsbury (1846-1919), United States Navy.
As completed, Pillsbury showcased a length of 306 feet, a beam of 36.5 feet and a draught down to 10.4 feet. Power was from 4 x FM diesel engines coupled with 4 x diesel generators outputting 6,000 shaft horsepower to 2 x screws. Maximum speed in ideal conditions could reach 21 knots with ranges out to 9,100 nautical miles. Her typical crew complement numbered 209 personnel.
Armament-wise, the ship carried a primary battery of 3 x 3" (76mm) /50 caliber turreted main guns. Anti-aircraft (AA) protection was through 2 x 40mm guns and 8 x 20mm guns. She held 3 x 21" torpedo tubes and 8 x depth charge projectors, 2 x depth charge tracks and a sole hedgehog launcher unit. Her broad armament fit allowed her to engage both surface and underwater threats while far out at sea.
Once in service, Pillsbury was pressed into action as part of Escort Division 4, serving as its flagship. Her first sorties were in escorting Allied convoys to the African northwest coast across the treacherous Atlantic -this body being prowled aggressively by German U-boats and surface warships. She was then reassigned as part of Task Group 21.12 (TG21.12) to actively hunt down marauding enemy submarines in the North Atlantic.
Because U-boats could not stay submerged indefinitely they remained along the surface for much of their time at sea (unlike modern submarines which can stay submerged for months on end). Only when the situation called for it were the boats taken under - their diesel units giving way to battery power. In this way, many attacks on Allied surface ships would happen at night or during low-light hours / bad weather when the boats were harder to spot and identify at range.
USS Pillsbury (DE-133) (Cont'd)
Destroyer Escort Warship
In the nighttime hours of April 8th, 1944, U-515 was spotted and assailed by aircraft launched from USS Guadalcanal (CVE-60). This action called destroyer escorts to the area to begin their sub-hunting routines (involving sonar) and USS Pillsbury was one to respond. Her crew released depth charges and hedgehogs, the latter being nothing more than anti-submarine mortars launched from the destroyer escort's deck. The pressure of the attack was enough to force U-515 to surface lest the boat and her entire crew be sent to a watery grave.
Once surfaced, the submarine did not give up - launching her torpedoes in a last-ditch attempt to stave off complete elimination - or take down as many adversaries as it could prior to meeting her own end. Pillsbury, joined by USS Flaherty, USS Pope and USS Chatelain, persisted in its action and engaged with its guns. Additional support was had through rockets launched by attacking American carrier warplanes which ultimately led to the boat's sinking. Forty-four of the German crew were captured in the aftermath. The action took place just north of Madiera near the Portuguese coast.
Just two days prior to the D-Day invasion of Normandy, France of June 6th, 1944, USS Guadalcanal, operating near the Cape Verde Islands of Western Africa, was targeted by a U-boat but caught on Allied sonar screens in time. The submarine was sighted just under the surface of the water by spotter planes which once again called Pillsbury and her kind to the scene. The usual process was enacted - depth charge attacks and skillful maneuvering - and this forced a damaged U-505 to the surface. Overestimating his hull's condition, the captain of the boat ordered his men to abandon and surrender. After charges were set and hatches opened for flooding, the boat was emptied. Her engines, still running, kept her going in circles while American crews responded.
USS Pillsbury put out a boarding party which took full control of U-505. Beyond vital intelligence collected, the charges aboard were neutralized, hatches sealed and the boat taken in full. The submarine was then towed to Bermuda and dissected for additional intelligence - some of it proving absolutely critical to German naval operations in the Atlantic. Rather than scrap the war prize when her usefulness had run out, the submarine became a permanent piece of the Museum of Science and Industry of Chicago, Illinois.
USS Pillsbury was then credited with the sinking of U-546 on April 24th, 1945 as part of Task Unit 22.7.1 (TU22.7.1) to add to her modest wartime legacy. This enemy boat managed just three complete war patrols and claimed her 1,200 tons from USS Frederick C. Davis that same day. Pillsbury formed a portion of the pursuit party that ultimately claimed the enemy vessel. With the end of the war in Europe coming in May of 1945, USS Pillsbury joined USS Pope in escorting U-858 across the Atlantic to New Jersey - becoming the first U-boat to surrender during this period. With her wartime service career over, USS Pillsbury was decommissioned during 1947.
The rise of the Soviet Union and global communism in the immediate post-war period forced the United States Navy to remain a sizeable force and broaden its radar capabilities at sea. This led to the Pillsbury being reconstituted as a "radar picket" ship. Work to bring her up to speed in the new role was handled through the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard in 1954 which led to her being recommissioned under a new classification as USS Pillsbury (DER-133). Her new commissioning date was March 15th, 1955. The remainder of her career was spent on patrols in the Atlantic until she was decommissioned for a second, and final, time on June 20th, 1960. She was struck from the Naval Register in 1965 and stripped of her useful equipment before being sold for scrap in 1966.