On 9 March 1944, one of the 30 destroyer escorts the Coast Guard manned during WWII, USS Leopold (DE-319), was sunk south of Iceland, in the midst of a Gale, by what was then a new, cutting edge weapon, an acoustic homing torpedo.
All of the Leopold’s 13 officers and 158 of her complement of 186 enlisted men were lost. There were only 28 survivors.
This was the second largest loss of life (171) in a single incident in Coast Guard history, exceeded only by the Explosion of the USS Serpens (AK-97) which killed 196 Coastguardsmen. It is more than the USCGC Tampa (111), the Escanaba (103), or the USCGC Muskeget (116) and many more than D-Day of the Normandy invasion (13).
USS Joyce (DE-317), also Coast Guard manned, was Leopold’s sistership. She rescued 28 survivors from a crew of 199.
Photo: Leopold’s CO, LCdr Phillips
Specifications for the Leopold and Joyce. Edsall Class Destroyer Escort
- Displacement: 1,253 tons standard; 1,590 tons full load
- Length: 306’ (93.3 m) oa
- Beam: 36’7” (11.2 m)
- Draft: 10′ 5′ (3.2 m) full load
- Machinery: 2-shaft Fairbanks Morse diesels, 6,000 bhp
- Range: 10,800 nmi at 12 knots
- Top Speed: 21 knots
- Complement: 186
- Armament: 3 x 3”/50; 2 x 40mm; 8 x 20mm; 3 x 21″ torpedo tubes; 2 x depth charge tracks; 8 x depth charge projectors; 1 x hedge hog.
Twelve of this class were transferred to the Coast Guard 1951 to 1954 for service as Ocean Station Vessels. Ten of those had been Coast Guard manned during WWII. This class had the logistics and training advantage, that they had the same engines as the 311 foot cutters
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A recent reviewing of episode #3 of Victory at Sea, which my dad and I used to watch in the 50s, brought to mind my ex-wife‘s father‘s beloved brother, Elmer, who died in this attack. Remarkable patriotism and sacrifice. So underappreciated, in my opinion, the Coast Guard gave their all, as much as the other branches. Thank you!