Haze Gray Photo Feature

A Destroyer Escort at War

USS Herbert C. Jones during WWII

Ship histories usually focus on the larger, more powerful and better-known ships. As a result, the smaller ships, although they too play a vital role in naval operations, are often neglected. This feature looks at one of those "small boys" - the destroyer escort USS Herbert C. Jones. The photos here are from Jones' year-long deployment to the Mediterranean, where she escorted convoys and defended invasion fleets off the Italian and French coasts. These photos show not only the ship, but her crew, and the things they saw while in "the Med" - German defenses, war-ravaged cities, ruined buildings, and the citizens welcoming liberating armies to their cities.

Credits: All photos by the ship's photographer aboard Herbert C. Jones; copies provided by Steve Seely. Ship's history from Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.

USS Herbert C. Jones (DE 137) was launched 19 January 1943 by Consolidated Steel, Orange, TX.; she commissioned 21 July of the same year. Her first combat deployment took her to the Mediterranean in October of 1943. During her first few convoy runs she was tasked with observing and studying the German radio-controlled glider bombs which had been tormenting Allied shipping in the Mediterranean. In December she and a sister, USS Frederick C. Davis (DE 136) were fitted with special jamming and decoying gear to defeat the glider bombs. Thereafter Jones operated off the Anzio beachhead, defending the invasion force against glide bomb attack, as well as operating off other beachheads and on convoy runs.

 [THUMBNAIL] Herbert C. Jones and Frederick C. Davis (DE 136) at Oran, North Africa. The ship's company has been turned out for the photo, and the ships are neat and clean condition. Both DEs were fitted with special jamming gear to defeat German glider bombs.
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 [THUMBNAIL] Herbert C. Jones at Mers-el-Kebir, North Africa, her refuelling depot. The French battleship Lorraine is in the background at right. She was the only WWI-era French battleship to survive the fall of France as a fighting ship; after joining Free French forces in 1943 she lasted through WWII.
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 [THUMBNAIL] Jones at anchor in the Mediterranean, probably off Palmero.

 [THUMBNAIL] View from Jones' open bridge off Gibraltar, at the start of a Mediterranean convoy run. This convoy was a run down the "Med Graveyard" Naples, Italy. The blimp circling overhead unfortunately left the convoy soon after this photo was taken.

 [THUMBNAIL] View of the Allied fleet off the Anzio beachhead, early 1944. Jones patrolled this beachhead from January to March of 1944, using her electronic jamming and decoy equipment to protect the fleet from German glider bombs. She earned the Presidential Unit Citation for this work. The destroyer in the foreground is a Benson/Gleaves class ship.

 [THUMBNAIL] Lurking in the back of this Italian railyard is the massive German railway gun nicknamed the "Anzio Express". This collossal artillery piece, with its sister "Anzio Annie", bombarded the Anzio beachhead from positons high above and behind the front lines. The gun is seen here at Ciuitauecchia, where it was abandoned by the Germans and captured by invading forces.

 [THUMBNAIL] A closer view of the "Anzio Express", showing its German name--"Leopold".

 [THUMBNAIL] A closeup view of the giant gun's frame. U.S. soldiers have written "Anzio Express" on the gun, and left their initials.

 [THUMBNAIL] A general view of the wartime destruction in a railyard, either at Ciuitauecchia or at Naples.

 [THUMBNAIL] Another view of a ruined railyard and buildings.

 [THUMBNAIL] The shattered ruins of buildings, either at Anzio or Nettuno.

 [THUMBNAIL] Wrecked buildings in Nettuno showing the effects of house-to-house fighting.

 [THUMBNAIL] A ruined church, probably in Naples.

 [THUMBNAIL] Another view of wrecked buildings, again believed to be Naples.

 [THUMBNAIL] Caputured Italian torpedo boat MS-24, near Naples. This boat was one of three sisters to survive the war and return to service in the reconstituted Italian Navy. Surprisingly, she survived until the late 1970's.

 [THUMBNAIL] A view of Naples harbor, showing the destruction left behind when the fighting ended. Cleaning out wreck-choked harbors such as this kept salvage crews busy for many months.

 [THUMBNAIL] Jones' officers pose for a photo on the ship's bow in Naples harbor. The Commanding Officer, Rufus Soule, is third from left in the front row.

 [THUMBNAIL] Still more ruined buildings, this time along the coast near Salerno.

 [THUMBNAIL] U.S. troops in the streets of Rome, soon after the liberation. A banner welcomes the liberating forces to the city.

 [THUMBNAIL] The first of three views showing liberating troops in front of Rome's monumental buildings.

 [THUMBNAIL] The second of three views showing liberating troops in front of Rome's monumental buildings.

 [THUMBNAIL] The third of three views showing liberating troops in front of Rome's monumental buildings.

 [THUMBNAIL] Members of the ship's crew enjoying a period of "R&R" on the Italian island of Capri.

 [THUMBNAIL] "Ski", the ship's signalman and 'artist' marking Jones' third kill on the wheelhouse.

 [THUMBNAIL] In due time the ship claimed a fourth kill, as shown by her wheelhouse markings.

 [THUMBNAIL] The ship's mascot, a cute pup named Anzio.

 [THUMBNAIL] Jones swings at anchor off St. Tropez, France, after the French beachheads were secured. The ship had arrived off the French coast on 16 August 1944, D-day plus one, supporting Operation Anvil - the invasion of southern France.

 [THUMBNAIL] The "homeward bound" pennant being threaded through the ship's rigging on her departure from the European theater. Steve Seely (who provided these photos) made the pennant using a sewing machine he borrowed from the French. Crafting the pennant took a week.

 [THUMBNAIL] The "homeward bound" pennant flies proudly from the mast head.

 [THUMBNAIL] Another view of the "homeward bound" pennant.

Jones reached New York on 17 October 1944. She underwent an overhaul, then worked in coastal ASW. Late in 1944 she joined a hunter-killer group to patrol the Atlantic shipping lanes. She sailed for the Pacific soon after peace came to Europe, and was at Pearl Harbor when the war ended. Jones returned to the Atlantic soon after, arriving at Green Cove Springs, Florida on 15 March 1946, scheduled for deactivation. She entered the reserve fleet there on 2 May 1947. USS Herbert C. Jones was stricken from the Naval Vessels Register 1 July 1972 and sold for scrapping 19 July of the following year.

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