#10 Official History of the USS Halsey Powell
This is a departure from my previous posts, but I hope you find it interesting. The Naval History and Heritage Command has official histories on most naval vessels dating all the way back to the foundation of the US Navy. I have recreated the history of the Halsey Powell here in its entirety since it fills in some of the gaps in what Charlie wrote. I have also included many pictures I have found online of the Halsey Powell and their sources are listed in the captions.
Halsey Powell was born 3 August 1883 in McAfee, KY, and graduated from the Naval Academy in 1904. During the next years he served on such famous ships as Kearsarge, Illinois, and Tennessee and studied at the Naval War College, rising to the rank of Captain in 1926. Captain Powell was aide to the Secretary of the Navy in 1926 and Naval Attaché at Peking, 1927-29. After commanding Pittsburgh he returned to Washington, where he died 24 December 1936. Captain Powell was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for outstanding performance as a destroyer division commander on convoy duty during World War I.
Halsey Powell (DD-686) was launched by Bethlehem Steel Co., Staten Island, N.Y., 30 June 1943; sponsored by Mrs. Halsey Powell, widow of Captain Powell; and commissioned 25 October 1943, Comdr. W. T. McGarry in command.
Halsey Powell conducted her shakedown training off the East Coast, and sailed 20 January 1944 from Norfolk to join the Pacific Fleet. Arriving Pearl Harbor 12 February, the destroyer steamed to Majuro to escort tankers back to Hawaii, returning to the Marshalls in March for escort and patrol duty. As the islands fell to American amphibious troops, Halsey Powell and other ships protected the task force from air and submarine attack. The destroyer carried out a series of effective attacks on submarine I-32 23 March, and after running out of depth charges yielded to Manlove and PC-1135 to complete the kill.
Following the Marshalls operation, Halsey Powell departed Pearl Harbor 30 May for rehearsals in connection with the upcoming Marianas invasions. She sortied with the assault force from Eniwetok 11 June, and as troops stormed ashore on Saipan 4 days later she took up fire support station off the beaches, and was an effective force in victory. In addition to screening, radar picket duties, and fire support for ground forces, Halsey Powell sank a net tender, a cargo ship and numerous small craft in the lagoon with her guns. The operation a success, she entered Saipan harbor 21 June, after the carrier forces had decimated the Japanese in the Battle of the Philippine Sea. She then steamed to Tinian, bombarding shore positions, clearing the way for troops and screening through the invasion there 24 July. Following this she spent 2 weeks on screening and radar picket duty off Guam before returning to Eniwetok 22 August to join the fast carrier task force.
Halsey Powell sortied with Vice Admiral Mitscher’s famous Task Force 38, 29 August. Operating for long periods at sea by underway refueling and replenishment, this powerful carrier force represented the ultimate in mobile striking power afloat. During September the carriers, screened by Halsey Powell and other destroyers, struck the Palaus and the Philippines, returning to Ulithi 1 October. Five days later the ships sailed on one of the most important operations of the long Pacific war. After air strikes on Okinawa the great task force turned to its real objective, the airfields on Formosa. The air battle raged 12-15 October, with Halsey Powell assisting in the splashing of many Japanese aircraft. At a cost of 3 damaged ships, the task force had driven off nearly a thousand enemy aircraft, downing over 500.
As the invasion of Leyte began, the desperate Japanese Navy moved with its remaining units into the Philippines. This three-pronged attack, launched almost without air power, precipitated the epochal Battle for Leyte Gulf. Halsey Powell screened Admiral Bogen’s carriers during the strikes which made up one phase of the battle, the Battle of the Sibuyan Sea, 24 October. Battleship Musashi was sunk and Kurita’s ships were delayed and confused. That night the bulk of TF-38 steamed north to meet another Japanese fleet, and in the Battle off Cape Engano next day another major victory was won. Halsey Powell picked up downed pilots 29-30 October and returned to Ulithi with the task force 9 November 1944.
During the remainder of 1944 TF-38 carried out heavy strikes against the Philippines and Formosa. The fleet sailed into the South China Sea 9-15 January to support the Lingayen Gulf operation, and the supporting ships fought off air attacks the carriers struck bases in China and Indochina. With Ticonderoga damaged by a kamikaze 21 January, Halsey Powell was assigned to escort her to Ulithi, where they arrived 24 January 1945.
The carrier task force departed again in February to attack Japan itself. Halsey Powell screened the carriers during this attack, in covering attacks for the Iwo Jima invasion 19 February, and later during more strikes on Japan. The destroyer shot down one attacking aircraft 16 February and assisted with many others. The veteran carrier groups returned 1 March to Ulithi, but were underway again 14 March to soften up Okinawa for the coming assault, and to strike more blows at Japan. On 20 March Halsey Powell was alongside Hancock when Japanese aircraft attacked. As the destroyer was getting clear the aircraft overshot the carrier and crashed Halsey Powell. Her steering gear jammed but alert action with the engines averted a collision. Fires were put out and although 9 were killed and over 30 wounded in the attack the ship reached Ulithi 25 March.
Halsey Powell arrived San Pedro for battle repairs 8 May, though with the Pacific war reaching its climax sailed again for Pearl Harbor 19 July 1945. She arrived Eniwetok 17 August, 2 days after the surrender of Japan, and was present in Tokyo Bay for the formal surrender ceremonies 2 September. The ship then supported the occupation forces until departing 31 October for Puget Sound. Halsey Powell decommissioned 10 December 1946 at San Diego and was placed in the Pacific Reserve Fleet.
With the increased demands on the Navy as a result of the Korean conflict, Halsey Powell recommissioned 27 April 1951. After shakedown and training exercises the ship sailed for the familiar waters of the Far East 23 July from Long Beach, arriving Japan 16 August. Joining Task Force 77, the destroyer acted as plane guard and screening ship while the carrier planes kept up constant pressure on the Communist lines and shore installations. Halsey Powell continued these operations off the eastern coast of Korea until October, when she departed the nearly stabilized war zone for training off Okinawa. Late in the month she returned to take part in destructive bombardments of Suwon Dam, Wonsan, Hungnam, and other areas. Patrolling and screening duties continued until the ship sailed for the United States 20 February 1952.
Halsey Powell got underway for her second tour in Korea 4 October 1952, and in the next 7 months took part in shore bombardment and screening duties as United Nations naval strength continued to seal off North Korea from the sea. The destroyer returned to the United States 6 May 1953, and after training exercises out of San Diego sailed once more for Japan 26 December 1953.
During the next few years Halsey Powell made yearly cruises to the western Pacific, operating with Task Force 77 off Korea, patrolling the Formosa Strait, and engaging in tactical exercises with other units of the Pacific Fleet. In September-October 1958 the ship aided Nationalist Chinese operations in the Quemoy-Matsu crisis, convoying transports and standing by to deter attack by the Communist Chinese. Seapower was a decisive force in checking the spread of communism.
Halsey Powell’s trim silhouette became familiar at many far eastern ports. She continued to alternate these important operations with the Seventh Fleet with training and readiness exercises off the west coast. In recent years this included practice cruises with NROTC midshipmen. Hasley Powell continued to be an important contributor to peace in the Far East as well as America’s readiness at sea. During May-July 1962 the destroyer took part in important nuclear tests in the Pacific, and returned in 1963-64 to her regular pattern of deployments.
On 1 January 1965, Halsey Powell was assigned to Reserve Destroyer Squadron 27 with Long Beach as her home port. She operated as a Naval Reserve training ship through 1967, cruising between Vancouver, Canada, and Mazatlan, Mexico.
Halsey Powell received seven battle stars for World War II service and two for Korean service.
The official Navy history ends here, but the Halsey Powell wasn’t finished. She was transferred to South Korea in 1968 and renamed the ROKS Seoul. The Seoul was finally stricken and scrapped by South Korea in 1982.