Coincidences of # 387
DE 387 Destroyer Escort
WDE 487 Coast Guard Destroyer Escort
DER 387 Destroyer Escort Radar Picket
Coincidences of DD387, DE387 and U873

Story contributed by George Blust EN2

HMAS Canberra, a 9850-ton heavy cruiser of the British Kent class, was built at Glasgow, Scotland. She was commissioned in July 1928 and soon steamed to Australia. Following the outbreak of World War II in September 1939, Canberra mainly operated in Australian and Indian Ocean waters, but also served in the South Atlantic in 1940. In March 1941, she helped to sink the German support ship Ketty Brovig in the Indian Ocean.

In early August 1942, the cruiser participated in Operation "Watchtower", the invasion of Guadalcanal and Tulagi in the southern Solomon Islands. During the early hours of 9 August, while on patrol off Guadalcanal, she was badly damaged in combat with a force of Japanese cruisers. HMAS Canberra was scuttled several hours later, becoming one of the first ships sunk in what would soon be called "Iron Bottom Sound". LT(jg) J.W.Vance was amoung the casualties. DE387 was named for him.

Canberra's wreck was discovered and examined in July-August 1992, almost exactly fifty years after her loss. She lies upright on the sea floor, some 2500 feet deep, with visible signs of shell hits and fire damage amidships. Her turrets are still trained out to the port side, as they were during her brief and fatal engagement with the Japanese.

photo BLUE387.jpg
photo BLUE387.jpg

U.S. destroyers remove the crew from the fatally-damaged HMAS Canberra, off Guadalcanal at about 0630 on the morning of 9 August 1942, following the Battle of Savo Island. USS Blue (DD-387) is alongside Canberra's port bow, as USS Patterson (DD-392) approaches from astern.

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The first BLUE (DD-387) was launched 27 may 1937 by Norfolk Navy Yard; sponsored by Miss Kate Lilly Blue, sister of Admiral Blue; and commissioned 14 August 1937, Lieutenant Commander J. Wright in command.

After spending her first year in shakedown and training cruises along the east coast and in the Caribbean, BLUE sailed for the Pacific in August 1938 to become flagship of Destroyer Division 7, Battle Force. She exercised with the Battle Fleet in west coast waters until April 1940 when she accompanied her division to Pearl Harbor. Except for an overhaul at Puget Sound Navy Yard (February-March 1941) and exercises out of San Diego during April, she remained based at Pearl Harbor until war broke out.

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor 7 December 1941 caught BLUE in port but she safely made her way to sea with only four officers on board (all Ensigns). She served with the offshore patrol in the approaches to Pearl Harbor during December 1941- January 1942 and then joined ENTERPRISE (CV-6) for the attacks at Wotje, Maloelap, Kwajalein Atolls, Marshall Islands (1 February 1942) and the Wake Island attack (24 February). During March-June 1942 BLUE escorted convoys between Pearl Harbor and San Francisco and then proceeded to Wellington, New Zealand, where she arrived 18 July. She joined TG 62.2 for the invasion of Guadalcanal (7 August), providing fire-support and screening. Although present, she took no active part in the Battle of Savo Island (9 August). After patrolling off Noumea, New Caledonia, (13-17 August), BLUE returned to Guadalcanal, arriving 21 August. At 0359, 22 August, while patrolling in Iron Bottom Sound she was torpedoed by the Japanese destroyer KAWAKAZE. The explosion wrecked BLUE's main engines, shafts, and steering gear, as well as killing nine men and wounding 21. Throughout the 22nd and 23rd unsuccessful attempts were made to tow BLUE to Tulagi. She was scuttled at 2221 on 23 August 1942 after valiant attempts to save her failed.

BLUE (DD-387) received five battle stars for her nine months service in World War II.


Date of Action: 16 May 1945
USCG Unit(s) Involved: USS Durant and Vance
Sinking/Capture/Assist? Surrender
Location of event: Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Credit by US Navy? Yes
Enemy warship's Commanding Officer: Kapitšnleutnant Friedrich Steinhoff
Enemy casualties: None
USCG casualties: None
Misc: U873 surrendered to the Coast Guard-manned USS Durant DE389 and USS Vance DE387

On 2 May 1945, USS Vance DE387 departed New York with her last Mediterranean-bound convoy. On the morning of 11 May-four days after Germany had surrendered -Vance sighted a light up ahead in the convoy and rang down full speed to investigate. Upon closing the light, the destroyer escort discovered a surfaced U-boat, U873, which had been at sea for 50 days. While the submarine began to run, Vance hailed the erstwhile enemy in German by bullhorn, ordering the submariners to heave to. Vance placed a prize crew on board the captured U-boat who delivered the prize at Portsmouth, NH, on the 16th.
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