The Pittsburgh Press (October 17, 1941)
U.S. DESTROYER TORPEDOED
German submarine blamed
Warship heading for port; Navy indicates there were no casualties
The USS Kearny (DD-432) in 1940. U.S. Navy photograph.
Washington, Oct. 17 (UP) –
The USS Kearny, one of the United States Navy’s newest destroyers, was damaged by a torpedo today in the first successful attack on an American naval ship in the Atlantic since the European war started.
The attack, according to the Navy Department’s brief announcement, occurred 350 miles south and west of American-defended Iceland.
The preliminary Navy dispatches indicated that there were no casualties.
At the time of the attack, the Kearny was on patrol duty, carrying out its assignment in the North Atlantic Patrol which is under President Roosevelt’s orders to shoot Axis submarines, warplanes or surface raiders on sight in American defensive waters. The sealanes to Iceland are considered American defensive waters.
The Navy did not identify the attacker, but officials believed it was undoubtedly a German submarine.
On Sept. 4, a German submarine attacked the USS Greer with torpedoes in the same general area, but missed.
The text of the Navy’s announcement follows:
The Navy Department announced that the USS KEARNY, destroyer, was torpedoed this morning while on patrol duty about 350 miles south and west of Iceland.
No casualties to personnel were indicated in dispatches received by the Navy Department.
Despite the damage received, the ship is able to proceed under her own power.
The USS KEARNY is under command of Lieutenant Commander A.L. Danis, U.S. Navy.
The ship is one of the Navy’s newest destroyers. She was laid down in 1939 and completed in 1940. This ship has a standard displacement of 1630 tons. The ship is 341 feet long and has a 36-foot beam. She is armed with the standard 5-inch battery of her class.
No other details are available to the Navy Department at this time.
Despite damage, the Navy said, the Kearny was able to proceed under her own power.
It was not indicated whether she would seek the shelter of harbor in Iceland, or Greenland, or would cross the North Atlantic to a base in this country or Canada.
Names and home addresses of the Kearny’s crew may not be available until tomorrow.
On Sept. 4, the Greer, notified of the presence of a German submarine by a British patrol plane, followed the submarine. During the course of this observance, the submarine fired two torpedoes and the Greer counterattacked with depth bombs. Although the action occurred over a period of hours, neither warship was hit.
At the time of the Greer incident, ships of the U.S. Atlantic Patrol were under orders just to report the presence of Axis warships which they encountered, and not to attack unless they were attacked first.
But on Sept. 11, President Roosevelt directed the Navy to shoot on sight all Axis warships or planes found in American defensive waters. So far as has been revealed, today’s attack on the Kearny was the first engagement in which an American warship has been involved since those orders were issued.
The German government has declared the area around Iceland and as far west as the shores of Greenland a war zone where vessels of any description are subject to destruction. The United States does not recognize this zone.
The first naval report did not state the extent of the damage to the Kearny. Officials said they expected further details later today.
It was pointed out that the torpedoing occurred only this morning, and there has been little time for the commander of the destroyer to make a full report. He is expected, however, to give a complete account to his superiors as soon as possible.
Since the American Atlantic Patrol was given orders to shoot on sight, there has been a marked decline in German sinkings in the North Atlantic, according to both United States and British authorities.
American and British merchantmen, as well as those of other friendly nations, are being convoyed by American patrols as far as Iceland. From that island, ships en route to Britain would have to be convoyed by the Royal Navy, which is enabled by the shortened line to concentrate more warships for this duty.
Although the Kearny was the first United States warship to be damaged by hostile action in the Atlantic since the war started, American-owned merchant ships have not been so fortunate.
Three U.S.-owned freighters carrying supplies to Iceland have been sunk in the waters between Greenland and Iceland.
The three ships were sailing under the Panamanian flag. They were the SS Sessa, on Aug. 17; the SS Montana, on Sept. 11, and the Pink Star, on Sept. 19. The Pink Star sinking occurred after Mr. Roosevelt issued his “shoot-on-sight” orders.