This U.S. Navy Escort Group Changed the Course of World War II in the Pacific
England’s triumph was more than just an amazing feat of seamanship; it held strategic consequences as well. After learning that most of his submarine pickets had been destroyed, Admiral Toyoda became convinced the American fleet was heading south toward Palau or the Philippines. Issuing orders for Operation A-Go, his decisive sea campaign, Toyoda began moving Japanese forces from the Marianas southward. Consequently, many ships and planes needed to defend the islands of Saipan, Tinian, and Guam were not available when a U.S. invasion fleet appeared off those islands in mid-June.
For this reason, historian W.H. Holmes considers England’s 12-day battle as “the most brilliant antisubmarine operation in history.” Admiral Ernest King, chief of naval operations, expressed his satisfaction in another way. “There’ll always be an England in the United States Navy!” King exclaimed in an uncommonly exuberant congratulatory message.
Security concerns meant the exploits of England and her fellow DEs could not be made public for months. In fact, the key role FRUPac played in this campaign was not recognized until decades later when the U.S. Navy finally declassified its operational records. Great credit also belongs to the crews of George and Raby. While their sister ship made all the kills, these DEs provided invaluable assistance by detecting and running down several enemy submarines.For their outstanding combat performance, the men of England were awarded the Presidential Unit Citation, making them one of only three destroyer escort crews in World War II to be so recognized. Receiving the Navy Cross and promotion to commander, Walton Pendleton left the ship he loved to command an escort division in Alaska until war’s end.
And John Williamson, the officer who had contributed so much to England’s record of accomplishment, received the best prize of all. When in September he again took USS England out to sea, Williamson did so as her newly assigned commanding officer.
Patrick J. Chaisson is a retired military officer who writes from his home in Scotia, New York.
This article originally appeared on Warfare History Network.
Image: U.S. Navy