"Memorial Weekend Update" "The Ship That Wouldn't Die" Looks Like It Will

Once again, this diary is recycled from back in February, but this will probably be the last time I have a chance to relay the story of this ship and her crew before it is be lost to the sea as an artifical reef or worst sold as scrap metal.  If you have a chance, watch the History Channels reenactment of that ”dogfight” between ship and Kamikaze which are included as frames in this story below.  This is just one story of the many of those we remember today. 

This is the second update to my original posting from February 19th of 2009.  It seems that the situation looks dire for my grandfather’s ship that is docked beside the U.S.S. Yorktown at the Patriots Point Naval Museum in South Carolina. 

From an article posted on April 29th by Allyson Bird at the Post and Courier

The aircraft carrier Yorktown is one of four museum vessels berthed at Patriots Point. The struggling attraction might have to reduce the number of exhibits it has to maintain. Its development authority is seeking a long-term plan to carry it into the future.

“We have ships 25 years old and no structure in our funding to maintain them,” Hagerty said. “That leads to some very difficult choices.”
</p Over the past several months, the attraction’s dire situation became increasingly clear: All four ships need repairs, and the Patriots Point Development Authority does not have the necessary money or any plan for how to get it.

Experts gave the destroyer Laffey, known in World War II as “The Ship that Would Not Die,” a year before the hundreds of holes in the hull sink it. Hagerty pointed out that the Laffey Foundation contributed some $30,000 but that short-term costs exceed $300,000 and long-term needs extend into the millions.

“Can you imagine how we have blown our trust if she sinks?” Hagerty said.

Instead, he told the authority, “Pick what we can do and do it right. Don’t ever be in this position again.”

Other board members questioned the idea of turning a naval museum into a single-ship attraction, and the group decided to wait until its May meeting to take action.

Officials reviewed the status of each ship. The submarine Clamagore might eventually head to a land-side exhibit, while the cutter Ingham could move to the care of a Coast Guard group in Florida.

The cash strapped Patriots Point is talking about using its only funds to concentrate on fixing the Yorktown and eliminating the other vessels in the floating museums of which includes the U.S.S. Laffey.  I am saddened to hear such news, but it brings me to Memorial Day.  The U.S.S. Laffey is ready to be lost to the sea, but the ships history should give you a stark reminder of the service of our fellow countrymen in the effort to maintain our way of life.  The U.S.S. Laffey is also a reminder of the courage and “can do” spirit that uniquely identify us as Americans.  This Memorial Day, I will specifically remember those that served and I will use the Laffey’s story once again as a singular event that characterizes those that we honor on this holiday.  

The floating musuems are the USS Yorktown commissioned in 1943, USS Laffey commissioned in 1944, USS Clagamore (diesel sub) commisioned 1945 and the USCG Cutter Ingahm commissioned in 1936.  All four of these majestic naval vessels are all in need of repair at 34 million 7.7 million,  5 million, and  2.7 million respectively.  A description of the repairs needed to all four of these vessels can be found at the following link: http://www.laffey.org/patriots_point_needs.htm

The USS Laffey organization is not completely confident that the federal funds are available; therefore they are still open to any donations.  I have included the original story that was in this diary for all to read or re-read again.  If you get some time to do some research on the Yorktown, I recommend it, the ship and the men that served aboard have great tales to tell and are exemplary men and women. 

From my original Diary “Save the “Ship that Would Not Die” USS-Laffey DD-724? posted on February 19th 2009:

I write you all today at Redstate® for reasons other than politics.  Today, I write to you as simply a proud American and grandson of WWII Naval Veteran, Al Dorris whose ship dubbed the “Ship That Would Not Die”, is in serious trouble of being lost to the sea.  The following is taken from a press release which can be found at the following link: http://www.laffey.org/press_release__uss_laffey_needs.htm

Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina – Dec 12, 2008
            In the early hours of Monday morning, December 1st, staff personnel at Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum noticed the last remaining Sumner class destroyer in existence, the USS Laffey, sitting lower than usual in the water.
            When staff personnel arrived, they discovered five feet of water in the lower section of the ship.  As emergency procedures began and pumping commenced, water was entering the ship at a rate of 2,000 gallons per hour.  After over 90,000 gallons of sea water were pumped from the ship, the location of the leak was determined late Wednesday evening.  Environmental personnel were called to oversee the operations to ensure that all procedures were being conducted in a safe and efficient manner.  There were no hazardous materials released into the outside water.
            Survey teams and divers were on the scene Thursday morning to attempt temporary repairs and assess the extent of the hull’s deterioration.  By late afternoon Thursday, the leak was stopped with an epoxy patch, thereby allowing a marine survey to be conducted.

            The December 11 holes are not connected with the holes discovered three weeks ago or those discovered on December 1, but they highlight Patriots Point Development Authority’s challenges with the cost and the need for constant maintenance of its aging fleet of four naval museum vessels. An early estimate of the cost to tow the USS Laffey to a repair facility and repair her is $3.5 million. Patriots Point is weighing its alternatives to deal with the Laffey given her deteriorated hull condition. In addition to this early estimate of $3.5 million needed for the Laffey, the aircraft carrier Yorktown, submarine Clamagore and Coast Guard Cutter Ingham collectively need approximately $50 million of maintenance and repairs. This need is not unique to Patriots Point’s fleet. The aircraft carrier museum ship Intrepid moored in New York recently received over $120 million of repairs and maintenance.

I am writing this diary and including the history of my Grandfathers ship for I hope that in some small way, I can help save a piece of history for future generations.  If you take anything away from the diary, my hope is that you enjoyed the story and the show.   

The USS Laffey DD-724 is the last Sumner class “Tin Can” Destroyer and the only destroyer left to see action in WWII in both the Pacific and the Atlantic campaigns.  The history of this ship is amazing and it is chronicled in the book “The Ship That Would Not Die” by her WWII Captain, the late USN Rear Admiral F. Julian Becton.  When you watch the following videos from the History Channel, you will know why the ship enjoys that moniker and you will know the famous phrase of her Captain “I will never abandom ship as long as I have a gun that fires”.  I think some of our fellow Republicans could learn something from this quote.


Luckily, I do not have to give you my grandfather’s story, nor do I have to write verbatim, the events of April 16th, 1945 on radar Picket Station 1 North of Okinawa.  The reason for not having to relay this history to you, the Redstate® patrons, the History Channel has provided an excellent show with animated computer graphic reenactment of the events of that day.  The show was Dogfights “Kamikaze” Part 2.  I have provided the three parts of that show for your viewing pleasure.  See Below…


I think you will feel the same overwhelming feeling of pride I felt when you finish watching the reenacted events of April 16th 1945.  Additionally, these video will provide a much needed respite for many of you from politics.  I hope you enjoy and once again, my grandfather’s experience is documented for his future descendents which is just awesome.  In the video titled 4 of 5 The History Channels Dogfights “Kamikaze”, the plane that was hit straight on the nose by the 5? MT52 gun was heading straight for my grandfather’s position on 40mm guns below the bridge.  Ari Phoutrides discusses the take down of the Val with the 5? gun, that is amazing! 


Part 2 of 5 The History Channels Dogfights “Kamikaze”

Part 3 of 5 The History Channels Dogfights “Kamikaze”

Part 4 of 5 The History Channels Dogfights “Kamikaze”

The Commendations and Battle Ribbons of the USS Laffey are indicative of the hardiness of this ship and the valor of her crew. Presidential Unit Citation for action off Okinawa, April 16, 1945, Meritorious Unit Commendation for the Jordanian Crisis 1970, Navy “E” Battle Efficiency Award, American Campaign Service Medal, European-African-Middle, Eastern Campaign Medal with Battle Star, Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal with 4 Battle Stars, World War II Victory Medal, National Defense Service Medal with Star, Korean Service Medal with 2 Stars, Naval Reserve Sea Service Award, Philippine Republic, Presidential Unit Citation, Korean Presidential Unit Citation, Philippine Liberation Medal Philippine Independence, United Nations Service Medal, Korean War Service, Jubilee of Liberty (France) and Chinese War Memorial (China-Taiwan).

The only preserved Allen M. Sumner class destroyer, as well as the only surviving U.S. World War II destroyer that saw action in the Atlantic, USS Laffey acted as an escort for convoys to Great Britain. On D-Day, the destroyer helped bombard Utah Beach at Normandy. Sent into the Pacific, Laffey was involved in one of the most famous destroyer-kamikaze duels in the war.  Hit several times, racked by explosions and fires, Laffey remained afloat because of the valiant efforts of her crew to earn the sobriquet “the ship that would not die.” Laffey earned five battle stars and a Presidential Unit Citation for her World War II service and two battle stars for her Korean War service.

Stricken from the Navy Register in 1977, Laffey (DD 724),  is now displayed with the aircraft carrier Yorktown, the submarine Clamagore, and the Coast Guard Cutter Ingham in Patriots Point, Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina.


USS Laffey is a National Historic Landmark.

Class:  Allen M. Sumner Destroyer
Launched:  November 21, 1943
At:  Bath Iron Works, Bath, Maine
Commissioned:  February 8, 1944

Length:  377 feet    Beam:  41 feet
Draft:  19 feet    Displacement:  2,200 tons
Armament: Six 5-inch/38 caliber guns; six 21-inch torpedo tubes

Present Address:
Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum
40 Patriots Point Road
Mount Pleasant, SC 29464

For all those wishing to help out with the enormous effort to keep this ship afloat visit the following website  www.laffey.org/sos.htm.   The text of the USS Laffey Association President’s message to the organizations members which provides an additional brief of the ships history as well as an SOS is as follows:

            The USS LAFFEY DD-724 fought at Normandy, Iwo Jima, Philippines and took on 22 kamikazes in 80 minutes at Okinawa.  She survived the Korean War and 25 more years of Cold War sailing.  She has now sprung some very bad leaks and is need of dry dock service.

            As you know, the LAFFEY is based at Patriots Point Naval Museum in Charleston, SC. She has been there since 1981.

            She is the last of her kind and is taking on water at the rate of 2000 gallons per hour. The pumps are handling it right now but we need your help. To pull her, dredge to get her out of her mooring, tow her up river to the dry dock and repair the bottom will cost in the area of 3 million dollars.

            Patriots Point and the Laffey Association are looking for any donations we can get to save this important piece of naval history.  Any amount you can afford would help immensely to help save our ship.

            Many of you have visited our ship and enjoyed the memories that she brought you.  Please do what you can to help preserve this great ship so others can share the experiences that you had aboard your tin can.

Thanks for your help.

Sonny Walker, President

Once again, I hope you enjoyed a brief history about a WWII Destroyer that you may have never heard about before.  I will leave you by saying this, my grandfather would never admit to being a hero that day; however, his grandson is more than proud of his service to this country and he will always been my hero for doing his duty in as a crew member of the USS Laffey.  Lastly, my great appreciation and admiration to all that died in service to this great country and Semper Fi to the Marine Corps CAP that took care of “mop up” on the remaining Vals and Judys, because without you who knows, I may not be here. 


A special thanks to the people at RedState for allowing me to post this as well as stick around for as long as I have.


For more information on the USS Laffey (DD-724) and her historic background, please go to their website at www.patriotspoint.org and access “Ships & Museums – USS Laffey”.


Thanks to all,