Walter B. Cobb


Walter Benjamin Cobb-born on 8 September 1919 at Grays, Kentucky-enlisted in the Navy on 17 November 1937 and attained the rating of coxswain.


While assigned to Mugford (DD-389), Cobb served in the crew of that destroyer's number four 5-inch mount. On 7 August 1942, Mugford screened transports unloading troops off Guadalcanal on the first day of the landings. At 1457, lookouts spotted seven planes with distinctive fixed landing gear. Mugford rang up 30 knots and prepared for action-putting her helm over hard right. Four of the planes-identified now as "Vals" -dove toward the destroyer; and each, in quick succession, dropped its bomb. The first struck the water 25 yards off Mugford's starboard propeller guard; the second splashed 25 yards to port, abreast her number four torpedo tube mount; the third hit the ship's after deckhouse, silencing her after 5-inch and 20-millimeter guns as well as disabling her secondary conning and after radio stations; and the last missed to starboard, some 200 yards off the bridge. In return, Mugford splashed two "Vals."


The direct hit aft blew four men overboard-including Cobb, who was uninjured. After Ralph Talbot (DD-390) picked up the four displaced sailors, Cobb volunteered to join the crew of that destroyer's number four gun.


In the early morning darkness of 9 August, Ralph Talbot patrolled the waters to the northeast of Savo Island to protect the northern flank of the transport forces still unloading off Tulagi and Guadalcanal. Between the destroyer and the transports, steamed the northern force of Allied cruisers: Vincennes (CA-44), Astoria (CA-34), and Quincy (CA-39). Unbeknownst to the Americans, a strong force of Japanese cruisers steamed into these waters. With lightning-like speed, the Japanese torpedoed Australian heavy cruiser Canberra and Chicago (CA-29) further to the south. They also set Canberra afire in a flurry of shellfire. Then, turning north, Rear Admiral Gunichi Mikawa's force, led by cruiser Chokai, proceeded to subject the other three American cruisers to an avalanche of shellfire.


Ralph Talbot sighted the first gun flashes at 0200 and altered course to close. At 0217, Tenryu spotted the destroyer and, in company with Yubari and Furutaka, loosed seven salvoes at Ralph Talbot. One shell struck her number one torpedo tube mount. Thinking that she was under fire from friendly guns, Ralph Talbot called out her identity over TBS radio; flashed her recognition lights and drew a respite-but not for long. Yubari, bringing up the rear of Mikawa's force, opened fire and, on the second salvo, got the range. Illuminated by searchlights and skewered by the shaft of light like a bug on the end of a pin, Ralph Talbot staggered under the impact of the Japanese barrage. Four 5.5-inch salvos struck in quick succession-the last of which hit the American destroyer's number four gun mount, killing Cobb. For his gallantry Cobb was awarded the Silver Star.


(APD-106: dp. 1,650; 1. 306'0"; b. 37'0"; dr. 13'9";s. 23.6 k.; cpl. 203; a. 1 5", 6 40mm., 6 20mm.; cl. Crosley)


Walter B. Cobb (DE-596) was laid down on 15 January 1944 at Hingham, Mass., by the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Co.; launched on 23 February 1944; sponsored by Mrs. Huey Cobb; reclassified as a high-speed transport and redesignated APD-106 on 15 July 1944; and commissioned on 25 April 1945, Lt. Comdr. R. E. Parker, USNR, in command.


Following shakedown in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Walter B. Cobb departed Hampton Roads, Va., on 24 June, bound for the California coast, emerged from the Panama Canal on 1 July, and arrived at San Diego a week later. She conducted amphibious training exercises out of that port into August, preparing for the assault on the Japanese home islands. Shifting to Oceanside, Calif., on the 13th, Walter B. Cobb embarked Underwater Demolition Team (UDT) 27. But the following day, 14 August, Japan capitulated, obviating further invasions.


There now remained the occupation of the erstwhile enemy's land. Walter B. Cobb got underway for Japan on the 17th, steamed via Pearl Harbor, and entered Tokyo Bay on 4 September. Her embarked UDT 27 reconnoitered beaches, marked and mapped landing areas, and generally helped to set the stage for the occupation landings in the Tokyo area. The ship then returned, via Guam and Eniwetok, to Pearl Harbor and joined in the massive sealift of demobilized military men, Operation "Magic Carpet."


Walter B. Cobb made a cruise between Pearl Harbor and San Diego before sailing on 30 October 1945 for the Philippines. Proceeding via Guam, she arrived at Manila on 13 November; later touched at Subic Bay, Samar, and Leyte; and made two other visits to Manila before departing the Philippines on 22 January 1946. She sailed to San Pedro, Calif., and thence moved south to the Canal Zone before making port at New York on 9 March. Decommissioned on 29 March 1946, at Green Cove Springs, Fla., the ship was subsequently towed to Mayport, Fla., in April 1948, for berthing. She remained in reserve there until the communist invasion of South Korea in the summer of 1950.


As a result of the Navy's increased need for ships, Walter B. Cobb was recommissioned on 6 February 1951, Lt. Comdr. William D. Craig, USNR, in command. The ship conducted shakedown in Guantanamo Bay before engaging in amphibious exercises off Little Creek, Va., her new home port. From 1951 to 1954 Walter B. Cobb was homeported at Little Creek, Va., and made two Mediterranean deployments, as well as three midshipmen's cruises-to England and Ireland; to Canada and Cuba, and to Brazil. After landing exercises at Little Creek and at Onslow Beach, N.C. Walter B. Cobb got underway from Little Creek on 30 November 1954, bound for the west coast.


Homeported at Long Beach, Calif., Walter B. Cobb spent her next tour of duty primarily deployed to the Far East-from the spring of 1955 through the summer of 1956. She conducted local operations and exercises out of Yokosuka, Sasebo, and Kure before she returned, via Pearl Harbor, to the west coast of the United States for decommissioning. On 15 May 1957, Walter B. Cobb was placed out of commission and in reserve at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard, Vallejo, Calif. Her name was struck from the Navy list on 15 January 1966.


Sold to Taiwan on 22 February 1966, Walter B. Cobb and Gantner (APD-42) were accepted by the Chinese Navy on 15 March. The Chinese dispatched tug Ta Tung to tandem-tow the two transports to Taiwan. While en route to the western Pacific, the two APD's collided on 21 April and both suffered heavy damage. Gantner was towed to Treasure Island, Calif., but Walter B. Cobb, however, listed progressively from 18 to 40 degrees while settling aft. At 2340 on 21 April, the former high-speed transport filled with water and sank, stern first, in 2,100 fathoms of water.