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Destroyer escort monument to be dedicated

The St. Louis Chapter of the Destroyer Escort Sailors Association will dedicate a granite monument next week to honor the men who served on destroyer escort ships primarily during World War II and Korea, plus some who served in Vietnam.

The ceremony will take place at 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 25, at the Jefferson Bar-racks National Cemetery.

During World War II, destroyer escorts were manned by Navy and Coast Guard crews. The longest battle of World War II, the Battle of the Atlantic, raged from 1938 to 1945. Many ships and lives were lost and the war almost was lost due to German U-boats.

The destroyer escort was designed to combat this threat of the German submarines, especially in the North Atlantic, serving as escorts to merchant and Navy ships. They also served in the Mediterranean, Pacific and other areas.

Destroyer escorts carried a crew ranging from 190 to 200 men. The ships were not as fast or heavily armed as a fleet destroyer, according to a news release, but did an excellent job of performing their duties.

The ships were highly maneuverable and it was said they could turn on a dime. They had the latest electronic underwater search sonar and radar for locating enemy submarines.

Some later were converted to assault personal destroyers called APDs. They were fitted with four landing craft to be used for underwater demolition teams, raiders and reconnaissance units for pre-invasion landings.

Seventeen destroyer escorts and APD ships were lost, but there were many that were damaged beyond repair from Kami-kaze attacks at Okinawa and with a great loss of lives. The British also lost 17 de-stroyer escorts, which the United States had furnished under the Lend Lease Act.

During World War II, a destroyer escort, the USS Mason, was the first Navy warship with an all African-American crew, including two members from St. Louis. The USS Mason did a great job in escorting convoys back and forth across the Atlantic.

In 1944, destroyer escort ships also captured German U-Boat 505 during combat at sea — this was the first time a U.S. Navy vessel had captured an enemy vessel at sea since 1814.

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