USS Meade

This is the story of the mighty fighting ship called the USS Meade.

fighting ship / wooden chest / japanese belt / tour of duty / combat chronology / items of interest / memories of ww2 / links

Fighting ship

USS Meade DD-602
USS Meade DD-602 (full size).

Destroyers were versatile ships, helping win the war at sea. My father Dr. Rex Allen Gish served as lieutenant (medical officer) on the destroyer USS Meade DD-602 and was onboard for a extended period during various missions in the South Pacific fighting the Japanese enemy. This is a picture to the right and the vital statistics of this fine ship:

B e n s o n   C l a s s   D e s t r o y e r

  • Displacement: 1620 tons.
  • Length: 348'2".
  • Beam: 35'4".
  • Draft:17'4".
  • Speed: 37 knots.
  • Armament: 4 5"/38, 5x4 21" torpedo tubes.
  • Complement: 276 High-pressure super-heated boilers, geared turbines with twin screws, 50,000 h.p. Built at Bethlehem, Staten Island and commissioned 1942.

Wooden chest


Lt. (jg) Rex A. Gish USNR.

My father had an old wooden chest which he kept in our garage and was locked up tight. Sometimes as a boy, my father allowed me to look inside and view all his various war mementos. There was this unused bullet shell, lots of black-and-white pictures, his dog tag, his diary, an old leather-covered war diary and my favorite: a leather belt taken from a Japanese soldier when the USS Meade helped sink an enemy submarine. Interesting to think that my father was actually there. In the war diary it is written that my father went aboard on August 22, 1943. He lists all the officers on the ship on the first page of his diary.



The captain was John Mumholland, and my father relieved an R.J. Lovett. During his voyages at sea he visited the Fiji Islands, New Zealand, Tarawa, etc. He also later served on the USS Cogswell which he boarded on January 11, 1944. He then continued on to the Marshall Islands, Sapian, etc. As a kid I was fascinated with these war adventures, and to me my father was a real American hero. Yet he rarely spoke about these events in his life, and when he did he was short and to the point, avoiding any detail at all.

Dog tag
My father's dog tag.

Japanese belt

The story of the enemy submarine can be found in an archive, and I take the liberty to include the following excerpt from it:

"Two days later, Meade made an underwater sound contact while screening to westward of the transport area. Between 1530 and 1738 Meade and Frazier (DD-607) launched five intensive depth charge attacks. Meade's final barrage forced Japanese submarine I-35 to surface, and both destroyers directed 'a devastating fire upon the target with all batteries.' Five minutes later Meade checked her fire and at 1751 Frazier rammed the sub, hitting her port quarter abaft the conning tower. I-35 settled and sank, stern first, at 1754.

The destroyers launched boats to recover four survivors. One was killed during a brief exchange of gunfire; as Meade's boat returned with a second, seriously wounded prisoner, an American dive bomber mistook it for a submarine conning tower and bombed it with a 600-pound delayed fuze bomb. It landed 3 feet away, and the underwater explosion lifted the boat out of the water and holed it. Meade recovered the motor whaleboat crew who were 'shaken up somewhat.'"


Empty .45 cartridge of a bullet shot from our motor whale boat at Japanese survivors of a submarine which our destroyer had brought to the surface and then sank off Tarawa, Gilbert Islands, Nov. 22, 1943.

Legend has it that the only surviving Japanese soldier was taken alive, seriously injured and ready to die. My father was the only medical doctor on board then, and he felt it was his duty to help this young soldier. In the end, my father had to administer extra morphine in order to ease this poor man's misery and excruciating pain. The fellow shipmates of my father didn't like this too much at all. They felt that the valuable vials of morphine were being completely wasted on this so-called "damn Jap." They kept insisting that the vials should be saved for later just in case they were really needed in real battle, giving my Dad a really tough time. Well, the story continues that my father had quite a row with the others, defending with difficulty his belief that all humans requiring medical help should be treated equally and fairly. In the end, Charlie (as they called him) was held down by others as my father amputated his leg. I can see it now, my father the noble war hero upholding his courage in the face of battle. Hard to believe. I am now the proud owner of that old leather belt which came from that Japanese prisoner of war. There is an tattered tag attached to it on which my father had written:


Belt from Japanese survivor of submarine sunk by U.S.S. Meade off Tarawa, Gilbert Islands Nov. 22, 1943.

When the Japanese prisoner recovered enough, he made a nice watercolor painting for my father, thanking him for having saved his life. It was a picture of Mount Fuji, believe it or not -- probably painted a million times over in the last hundreds of Japanese history. Still this unique version was meaningful enough that my father had saved it all these years in his old wooden chest in the garage. I vaguely remember what it looked like. In the end, just before Dad died, he got rid of it during one evening of cleaning up all his old junk. Gone in a second. Too bad, as it certainly had not only historical value but also sentimental value for me. Oh well. Perhaps discarding the piece of paper was symbolic though, getting rid of the past gesture of thankfulness for saving a life. Just before my father himself passed away.

Tour of duty

As I mentioned, my father never told me much about the details of his war experiences. Mostly just superficial statements, like seeing alot of people and friends getting killed, the powerful gun turrets firing at the enemy, that kind of stuff. Actually, I never really knew that much about the exact areas where he had gone and fought.


A medal which he had received.

At last, I approached him directly on the telephone and requested that for the sake of Gish history he should write down on paper a list of places to which he went. He actually was kind enough to do that for me, and this is the result:

"Yes, I was on two destroyers during the war - USS Meade and USS Cogswell - Alan Shepard (astronaut) was an officer on the latter. He hit a golf ball on the moon! Meade was commissioned 22 June 1942. I do not believe it was ever in the North Atlantic. It saw plenty of action in the North, Central and South Pacific when I was a medical officer (26+ years old!). I have forgotten many of the skirmishes. We were against the Japs, but maybe I can think of the major battles: Aleutian Islands; Tarawa with the 2nd Marine Division; Marshall Islands; Marianas (Saipan, Tinian and Guam); Truk in the Caroline Islands - this is where the kamakazis first came after us. Casualities were high and several US ships were damaged and sunk."

- - from my Dad's letter to me, 19 Sept. 1999.

You can also have a look at my father's official Navy Certificate which attests to his active participation in the naval service.

Combat chronology

The following events have mostly been taken from the Combat Chronology of the US Navy Forces in operations against and from the Marshall Islands (1941 - 1945) in which the USS Meade played an important role:

  • 22 November 1943 - The destroyer USS Frazier (DD-607) is damaged by the intentional ramming of the Japanese submarine I-35, which is sunk with the help of the destroyer USS Meade (DD-602), in the Gilberts.
  • 18 February 1944 - USS Meade (DD-602) sails.
  • 8 March 1944 - USS Meade (DD-602) arrives Majuro.
  • 18 March 1944 - Task group including 1 carrier, 2 battleships (Iowa [BB-61], and destroyers (USS Meade [DD-602] and USS Phelps [DD-360])(Rear Adm. W. A. Lee) bombs and bombards Japanese installations on Mili Island in the Marshall Islands. United States naval vessel damaged: Battleship IOWA (BB-61), by coastal defense gun, Mili Island, Marshall Islands. First shore bombardment against Mili Atoll in Marshall Islands. The USS IOWA received her first hit when she was struck by two Japanese 4.7 projectiles.
  • 13 May 1944 - Naval land-based and Army aircraft stage heavy bombing attack on Japanese installations at Jaluit Atoll, Marshall Islands.
  • 17 May 1944 - USS Frazier (DD-607) shells (with Meade) Eniben Is, Maloelap Atoll.
  • 11 July 1944 - USS Meade (DD-602) sails from Majuro.
  • 25 December 1944 - USS Meade (DD-602) commences escort run between Eniwetok and Guam.

If you want to learn more about the Cogswell, its history including some pictures, the visit the USS Cogswell Website or the personal (archived) geocities site at USS COGSWELL DD651.

Items of interest

Via my never-ending search across the Internet, I have also came across the following items of interest having in some way to do with the USS Meade. I have also included a couple of emails.

  • M. Greenspan, emails January 2013.

    I found a 2001 mention of the USS Meade, DD 602, on your blog. I am looking for an appropriate home for pictures showing life on the Meade during WW II.

    My dad, Harry J. Greenspan, was a Lt JG who served as assistant Communications officer and then Communications Officer on the Meade from 1943-1945. He was detached after the war ended for TDY in New York City, where he helped put the ship's album together. Dad died in October 2012. Going through his belongings, I found 8"x10" glossy prints and small contact prints for the pictures in the album, as well as some pictures that didn't make it into the album. Is there an appropriate home for these?

    Sincerely,
    M. Greenspan

    (Later: My dad told me the story of the wounded Japanese sailor taken onboard Meade after Meade and Frazier sank the Japanese submarine, and wrote it down in a memoir for the family. Dad didn't include the part about the leg amputation or the quarrels over morphine, but he remembered the painting that the Japanese sailor made. In my dad's memoir, written long after the war, he mixed up your father with a later ship's doctor, Doc Healy.)


  • Howard L. Martin, emails May 2005.

    "I served on USS Meade from May 4 1942 til Feb. 1944. My Duty station was # 2 Fireroom. I was the volunteer 1st loader on #1 gun that sunk 4 ships off Savo Island near Guadal Canal in Nov. '42. Car Urban Loaded the Powder, jack Sommers removed the lids off the powder cans. I previously served on the USS Sturtevant DD240 (sunk) 4/26/ 42. I served on the USS Bennington CV 20 from Feb. 44 til Sept. 46...

    ... I was a plank owner on the USS Meade. My first ship the USS Sturdevant was sunk about 90 miles from Key West, FL. After a brief stay in Hospital I was transferred to Brooklyn to board the Meade. After shake down we headed South. Our Doc. at that time was Lt. Lovett. He was very friendly and spent much time with crew members especially after bad skirmishes. He left our ship in Pearl and Lt. jg Gish replaced him. He was all doctor and very attentive to our needs, but did share the same camaraderie with the enlisted crew as his predecessor. Over much objection he bravely insisted on helping the wounded Jap (we named him Charlie). He only had morphine to ease the pain while he removed a leg and stopped the bleeding. He used volunteers to hold the Jap still while he operated on him. The Meade endured many many rough skirmishes, landings, sea battles and sub battles, but kept on a'coming. In 44 new boilers had been designed and built, I was transferred back to Philly to attend the school on how to operate and maintain these boilers After completion I went aboard the USS Bennington CV20 and sometimes was protected by the USS Meade, especially in Leyte Gulf and Okinawa. Regards. Howard"


  • Edgar Eugene Stone (Stoney), emails November 2001.

    "Dear Kiffin : I received your letter about your father & the Meade; yes I was aboard ship from July 1943 till Nov 1945, yes I remember him. Do you have his ships album? If not you can get one from the government archives in Washington, it will have a map of all the places the ship made & time & dates...I was a underwater soundman, I hunted submarines, on a machine. That was my watch job, my GQ job was first shieldman on #2 gun.

    Your Dad gave me my shots for the South Pacific, I did like him for 3 or 4 days, after that he was all right, I talked to him three times out on the fantail of the ship, he was an all right guy.

    We are going to have a ships reunion next spring & you are invited. I will let you know by e/m what, where & time."

    - - Stoney the Old Soundman, FiveSonsStone@aol.com


  • Don Peirce - a so-called "plankowner" aboard the USS Cogswell until June 1944. He has access to the ships deck logs 1943-1944.

    Good Evening,

    I have received your inquiry as regards Dr. Rex Allen Gish. The name does not particularly ring any bells or whistles. However, my memory is one that seems to have become fragmented with the passage of time. I do have the 'deck logs' of the Cogswell from her commissioning though June of 1944 when I left the ship. I have reviewed them during this evening looking for any reference to him. I am attaching some notes I gleaned from said 'logs' the last time there was an inquiry directed to me. They may not have any relationship to your inquiry as I was searching for things of interest to any other shipmate who also was a 'plankowner' as was I. I any event, thank you for your inquiry. Time is running out for those who sailed the Pacific with your Dad. Hope this might help.

    - - Don Peirce

    Post Scriptum:
    I have read the Cogswell's log for January 11, 1944. The ship was moored @ Pearl Harbor in company with the USS' Case; Bailey; Knapp. During the 1600 - 2000 watch your father, Lt. (jg), R. A. Gish, MC-V (G), USNR., File No. 143071 (Ref. CinC Pac. Spd. Ltr. F16-4/00 serial 25-F of 10 January 1944) reported for duty on board this vessel.

    The Officers aboard in February of 1944 were as follows: Charles Frederick CHILLINGWORTH, Commander, USN. (Division Commodore); Harold Thomas DEUTERMAN, Commander, USN. (Captain of the ship.); Reuben Noel PEARLEY. Jr. Lieut. USN. Executive Officer; Bowen BLAIR, Lieut. USNR; Rex Allen GISH, Lt. (jg) USNR; Roy Fred LEVERENZ, Lieut. USNR; Henry Cole SHELTON, Lieut. USNR; Warren Frank ALFSON, Lt. (jg) USNR; John A. DAINO, Lieut. (jg) USNR; Joseph M. GINTHER, Lt. (jg) USNR; Charles Evans HUGHES, III Lt. (jg) USNR; Charles Desarmeaux PULVER, Lt. (jg) USN; James Kelsey COGSWELL, III Ens. USNR; John Adam GEHLING, Ens. USNR; Robert Thomas GOLDER, Ens. USNR; Arthur Donald GRAYBILL, Ens. USNR; Langdon Benjamin Gregg, Jr. Ens. USNR; Thomas Morrow REAVLEY, Ens. USNR; Charles Everett TRYGG, Ens. USNR. Your father is the only one with no next of kin recorded with home address. He is listed as having a wife, but no name.

    I note that 13 March 1944 a Yelke, F. P., FC3c was treated by a Lt. (jg) Kelley MC-USNR.

    Lt. (jg) Rex Gish, (MC), USNR is recorded on 8 February 1944 as treating Goochowski, Peter W. for scalp wounds. He is recorded as treating another scalp wound 25 February 1944 on McLean, J. C., S1c.

    27 February 1944, Lieut. (JG) Rex A. Gish, (MC) USNR was transferred to USS Prairie, for medical treatment.

    [Note: My father was tranferred to the USS Prairie for an appendectomy on February 26th, remained aboard this ship until March 17th, then was on the USS Charles Paddock en route to Pearl Harbor where he arrived on March 26th (taken from his diary)]

    I find no further record of Lieut. Gish being aboard the Cogswell in the following months of March, April, May, or June of 1944.

    - - Don Peirce

  • John L. Batty, M.D. - a short autobiography.
    "After we return to Pearl I decided I wanted to try sea duty, as a year had passed. My request was approved and I was assigned to the USS Meade , a destroyer also identified as the DD602. I really enjoyed this year. We spent time on independent duty, and then operated with the 5th Fleet over the Central Pacific. We were instrumental in taking one island, and we shot up some small atolls that were being by passed. Fortunately we were never hit by any of the Japanese shells. We did get back to Mare Island for a major overhaul."

    - - Lieutenant Junior Grade


  • Email from Greg Thomas (November 12, 2001).
    "I really enjoyed your web-site on the USS Meade. My father was aboard USS Preston when it sank November 14, 1942. He most likely was rescued by the Meade along with the rest of the Preston sailors, though the Meade's action report does not include enclosure A, which listed the names of the survivors. Great job on the web-site. Keep up the good work!"

    - - Greg Thomas (Ceres, California).


  • Message from navydestroyersailors discussion group.

    "Here's what I've found. I have typed it by hand because it is too hard to scan paragraphs out of books this large. All material is from Theodore Roscoe's book "Destroyer Operations in World War II." I believe it may still be available from the US Naval Institute which has a website but I don't have its URL handy. He wrote a similar volume, which I also own, called "US Submarine Operations in World War II." It is awesome material, both books, almost 600 pages in length! Writing about the Guadalcanal campaign-- November 15, 1942: Destroyer PRESTON sinks after Japanese salvos during the battle off Savo Island in the approaches to Guadalcanal. "About 131 of her survivors were picked up the following day by the destroyer MEADE." Later: Japanese transports attempt to land troops on Guadalcanal. "The Jap troops were wading ashore when Marine Corps planes from Henderson (field) spotted the ships. Then destroyer MEADE (Commander R. S. Lamb) came steaming down from Tulagi to investigate. MEADE was armed with new 40mm. batteries, and, as this was her first time in action, she was eager to try them out. She proved their capabilities, and her own, in short order. The first transport was shot to rubbish by 1121. Then one after the other were riddled to junk. Aircraft added bombs to MEADE's bombardment, and "Cactus" artillery joined in the shelling. No more than 2.000 of the large contingent of soldiery carried by the transports succeeded in getting ashore. Having finished off the troopships, MEADE went on that afternoon to pick up the survivors of PRESTON and WALKE. She was assisted by landing and patrol craft, a PT-boat and aircraft spotters. When her rescue effort was concluded she had saved 266 destroyer men. A fitting finale for the naval Battle of Guadalcanal." Then: "Tassafaronga had grown too hot for Japanese shipping. The destructive raid by MEADE guaranteed the 'heat wave.'" Later, on January 29 1943: As a part of Task Force 18, MEADE was a screening unit which was attacked by Japanese torpedo bombers which resulted in the sinking of the cruiser CHICAGO. During late January 1943: MEADE joined a Task Force to attack Japanese forces in the Aleutian Islands as one of a force of 12 destroyers. Her first combat assignment was to provide fire support for the Army's attack on Attu. Then, she became a part of the invasion of Kiska in July 15th, 1943. LCDR J. Mulholland had become her skipper. (No other mention of her in this campaign.) September 1943, Invasion of the Gilbert Islands, including Tarawa: "Six Japanese I-boats (submarines), dispatched to the Gilberts, did not arrive in time to intercept the invasion forces, but two of them managed to get themselves intercepted. In the afternoon of November 22, while screening the heavy units of a cruiser division about nine miles northwest of Betio, destroyer MEADE put a 'pinging' finger on an undersea target. MEADE's report brought destroyer FRAZIER on the run to join the hunt. The destroyers jockeyed into attack position; 'ashcans' were sent rolling; patterned explosions thudded under the sea. The sub, when detected, was at shallow depth, and the blasting must have hampered her diving capacity. Up came a great swirl of oil which clogged the air with fumes. the DD's immediately deposited four more depth charges on the fringe of the oil slick. Results were prompt. The sub came thrashing to the surface, and Japs scrambled out of the conning tower. Both destroyers opened fire as the I-boat broached. Pummeled by 5-inch and 40mm fire, the submarine pitched and rolled in a torment of TNT. Then FRAZIER raced in to ram. Like a ploughshare, the destroyer's bow sliced into the sub's pressure hull just aft of the conning tower. FRAZIER backed off, and the I-boat, with the sea pouring into its vitals, plunged to the bottom of the sea. Two survivors, plucked from the sea, identified the sub as the I-35." Even later: "During the last week of May (1944), four destroyers of Task Group 57.8 bore down on Mille (an island in the Marshalls) for target practice. The DD's were---and MEADE. The ships opened up at a range of 11,000 yards. The Japs answered with an accurate fire that appeared to be director-controlled, and the destroyers retired. 'This type of operation as an exercise does not warrant the risk involved,' reported captain Smoot. 'Approaching the problem as an exercise precludes taking decisive and aggressive action.'" That's all the written material. MEADE was commissioned on June 22, 1942. She was the second ship so-named, the first having been given to the British as one of the fifty old destroyers transferred (lent,{ ha, ha}) to Great Britain on September 2, 1940 in "trade" for leases of British bases. She was a WW1 over-aged four-piper, but GB was happy to get her because in one week alone they had lost 11 DD's to the Germans. The British renamed her HMS RAMSEY. That's all I have for now. I am sending this to the navydestroyersailors list to give them a taste of what it was like in the real war."

    - - Joe Felt

Memories of WWII

Harry Greenspan's memories of USS Meade in World War II is a fascinating read, in which he tells many interesting stories about this destroyer in the same period when my father was also serving on that ship.

With special thanks to the daughter Marian Greenspan and her brother for giving me persmission to publish it on my website.

Links

3 Comments

I was on the USS MEADE and would like to contact anyone who has information concerning the MEADE. I remember the Japanesse sub sailor but I do not remember anyone removing his leg. He had been injured in the head by a gun shot wound. In the best of my remembrance he was transferred to another ship to be sent to Honolulu in a matter of a couple of days.
I also have a complete list of the crew in December 1943 as well as a Christmas menu, at that time we were off of Guadacanal. I would love to hear anything you have.
As far as I can find out I am the only surviving member of the USS MEADE.

I wrote above and my name is Marvin Davis.

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