Story of the USS Terror

This summary was collected by Anne Wilson, whose father Paul Malonson served on the USS Terror during World War II. Additional updates were added by Frank A. Anderson

¨ From: “The Dictionary of American Fighting Ships” pages 106-109…


The TERROR was the third U. S. Navy ship to bear the name and the only ship of her type built by the Navy during World War II. She was built as a replacement for the old Cruise-Minelayers.

Displacement: 5875 tons

Length: 453’ 10″

Breadth: 60’ 2″

Draft: 19’ 7″

Speed: 20 knots

Armament: Four 5″ guns; sixteen 1.1″ guns; four 20 mm guns

Complement: 481 men

Vessel Class: Terror

Built: 3 September 1940

Launched: 6 June 1941

Sponsored by: Mrs. Ralph A. Bard

Commissioned: 15 July 1942

Commander Howard Wesley Fitch in command

Following fitting out and shakedown, TERROR arrived in New York on 30 October 1942 to prepare for her first large-scale operation. With Task Group 38.3, the new minelayer left the harbor on 2 November 1942 and set her course for North Africa. Rain squalls, strong winds, and heavy seas forced the convoy to alter its course, but its goal remained the same…the support and reinforcement of Operation Torch.

At dawn on 14 November 1942, TERROR parted company with the convoy and, escorted by a single destroyer, made her way at 20 knots to the newly taken port of Casablanca. Sunken ships added to the congestion of the harbor as TERROR fueled MIANTONOMAH (CM-10) and supplied the vessel with mines.

TERROR then prepared for her primary mission in Casablanca and the task for which she had been designed, minelaying. Her departure was delayed on the morning on the 16th due to continued congestion in the harbor. Later, as TERROR’s crew made ready to get underway, they discovered that a large old-fashioned anchor with a heavy chain was fouling the ships’ starboard anchor. After correcting this problem, TERROR got underway in the company of two minesweepers and in short order began laying the minefield that would protect the ships in the harbor. When completed the minefield provided Allied shipping a protected channel entrance to Casablanca. It stretched seven miles out from El Hank Light and created a formidable barrier for any marauding submarine to penetrate. Steaming at 16 knots, TERROR made her way back to port as night fell.

On the following day, despite the obstacles imposed by rudimentary receiving facilities on shore and an extreme shortage of lighters, TERROR unloaded her cargo of depth charges and ammunition. Having accomplished her mission, TERROR departed Casablanca and rendezvoused with a convoy bound for the east coast of the United States. Strong head winds, heavy seas, and the slowness of the convoy made it difficult for TERROR to keep her station. Off the Virginia capes, TERROR was detached from the convoy and made for the Naval Mine Depot in Yorktown. She arrived on 30 November 1942 to commence overhaul and training.

In the months that followed TERROR operated out of Yorktown, making frequent voyages to Chesapeake Bay for exercises and occasionally stopping off at Norfolk for repairs or overhaul. Often students from the Mine Warfare Training Facility came aboard for instruction tours.

Meanwhile, members of the TERROR’s crew, when not attending classes ashore, participating in drills, training and exercises in gunnery, mine warfare, and damage control. In February of 1943, the minelayer assisted NUTHATCH (AM-60) as that vessel tested the Mark 10 Hedgehog off Yorktown.

May 1943, TERROR participated in tactical exercises in the Chesapeake Bay throughout the summer. Late in September she began loading mines in preparation for her departure from the Atlantic coast. At Norfolk she rendezvoused with Task Unit 29.25 and on 2 October 1943, she got underway for the Canal Zone and Pacific ports.

On the morning of 19 October 1943, TERROR passed under the Golden Gate Bridge and anchored in San Francisco Bay. The next day, she departed the west coast and steamed via Pearl Harbor to the Ellice Islands.

¨ From: “Developments in Naval Warfare” by John D. Hayes, Rear Admiral U. S. Navy, Retired…

Naval developments in World War II may be divided into four categories: (1) carrier operations, (2) amphibious operations, (3) mobile Logistics, and (4) antisubmarine warfare. The development that overshadowed all others was the Task Force system whereby both carrier and amphibious operations were conducted in the Pacific. Also of major importance was the development of the mobile logistics that enabled the Task Force system to be employed.

The major carrier and amphibious operations in the Pacific could not have been carried out without a highly developed system of mobile logistics. By means of these system ships of the Pacific Fleet were able not only to remain indefinitely in forward areas adjacent to enemy territory, but also to cruise at sea for long periods in readiness for combat. Such mobile logistics enabled combat ships to receive fuel and other needs from service ships either while underway or at anchorages near operating areas. Advanced base facilities were maintained afloat at all times, and techniques were developed for transferring fuel, ammunition, stores, and personnel at sea, thus freeing combat ships from the necessity of returning to port at frequent intervals.

With the capture of the Marshall Islands in February of 1944, the practice of mobile logistics came into its own. Most of the service ships at Pearl Harbor were transferred to Majuro to form Floating Service Squadron 10. This force was a medley of floating equipment, including repair ships, floating dry docks, tenders, provision ships, ammunition ships, hospital ships, station tankers, lighters, tugs, floating cranes, distilling ships, survey ships, cold storage ships, and floating barracks. The largest piece of floating equipment used during the war was the ABSD (Advanced Base Sectional Dock), capable of lifting 90,000 tons and docking any ship in the Pacific. Any of its sections (a maximum of 10) could be towed forward separately and be docked by the others.

¨ Continuing from: The Dictionary of American Fighting Ships…

TERROR arrived at Funafuti on 9 November 1943, unloaded pontoon barges, and took on fresh water. During the nearly 3 weeks she remained at Funafuti, TERROR supported the many small craft that surveyed and mined the approaches to the atoll, supplying them with provisions, water, repairs, and medical services. At the same time, she assisted in the conversion of a 1,500 ton covered lighter into a barracks for a construction battalion of SEABEES, sending skilled personnel to speed the work and providing water and messing facilities for the battalion until the task was completed.

On the 17th of November 1943 TERROR’s gunners fired on the enemy for the first time when Japanese planes bombed the runway on Funafuti. The Japanese raiders dropped 40 bombs near the airstrip, causing a fire that burned for an hour. Another alert followed in the afternoon, but no further action occurred. TERROR laid mooring buoys in the harbor before getting underway for Hawaii on 28 November 1943. (See enclosed picture-Not Available)

Early in December, she loaded mines and gear at Pearl Harbor, then set her course for Tarawa, where she provided heavy equipment and mines for the mine details. At night, search lights from shore combed the dark, spotting enemy planes in an attempt to foil the persistent raiders.

On Christmas Day, 1943, TERROR left Tarawa. She delivered mines and heavy equipment to units at Espiritu Santo and Guadacanal before arriving at Makin Island on 18 January 1944. The minelayer anchored in the lagoon and readied her self propelled barges to mine the channels.

She departed Makin Island on the 28th and proceeded independently to Tarawa where she embarked on mine detail No. 19.

On the last day of January 1944, she left Tarawa for Pearl Harbor with 500 extra passengers. They were accommodated on a temporary wooden deck constructed over the tracks on the main deck. She discharged her passengers at Pearl Harbor, where they were to be transported to San Francisco, and, after a 3 day stay, she departed Pearl Harbor and steamed to Majuro where she arrived on 10 March1944.

During the rest of March and into April, she conducted minelaying operations in the Marshall Islands before returning to the Hawaiian Islands on 22nd April 1944. There she underwent repairs, loaded mines, and participated in gunnery exercises before departing on 24 May 1944. In the following months she carried ammunition, mines, and bombs to the Marshall and Mariana Islands, returning once to Pearl Harbor to load ammunition.

On 17 August 1944, she departed Pearl Harbor, this time setting her course for the west coast. TERROR arrived at San Francisco on the 24th for dry-docking and overhaul. On 9 September 1944, she got underway carrying cargo of ammunition. After loading mines and minesweeping gear at Pearl Harbor she steamed to Ulithi where she began defensive mining operations.

On 15 October 1944, TERROR was transferred from ServRon 6 to Minecraft Pacific Fleet. During October and November, she carried cargo to the Mariana, Caroline, and Admiralty Islands. On 25 November she entered the Navy Yard at Pearl Harbor for repairs and alterations to accommodate the Staff Commander, Minecraft Pacific Fleet.

On 6 January 1945, TERROR assumed duty as the flagship of Rear Admiral Alexander Sharp. For two weeks, TERROR conducted exercises out of Pearl Harbor. Then in January, she got underway and proceeded via Eniwetok to the Caroline Islands. At Ulithi, TERROR supplied mines and gear to minecraft preparing for the invasion of Iwo Jima. She then steamed to Tinian to act as tender for minecraft in that staging area. On 13 February 1945 she departed the Marianas setting her course for the Volcano Islands.

At 0717 on February 1945, TERROR arrived in the fire support area off the coast of Iwo Jima. Preassualt bombardment and minesweeping were well underway when fire from guns on the cliff-lined shore began to interfere with the minesweepers operating close in shore, north of the eastern beaches. TERROR got to within 10,000 yards of the shore and for 20 minutes, added her five ¼” gunfire to the bombardment in an attempt to aid the small craft. Nevertheless, the formidable barrage put out by the enemy began to take its toll as first PENSACOLA (CA-24) and then LEUTZE (481) suffered hits. Shortly afterward, damaged landing craft began coming alongside the tender for assistance.

¨ From page 49 of “Iwo Jima, Legacy of Valor” by Bill D. Ross…

A third explosion sent hot shrapnel into the body of 449’s skipper, Lieutenant J. G. Rufus H. Herring. The 25 year old North Carolina native fought for the next 30 minutes to stay alive and save his 1st command. Blood gushed from the three deep wounds as he steamed toward TERROR, where the stricken little boat was lashed to the cruiser’s side. There wasn’t one unwounded man aboard, and Herring refused to be hoisted to the TERROR’s deck until the last of 20 men still alive were taken from his craft.”

¨ From “Iwo Jima” by Richard Newcomb…

Lt. J. G. Herring took the 449, worst smashed ship of all, alongside the TERROR, flagship of the minefleet. 17 of his men lay at the base of the conning tower, nearly unconscious, and the decks were strewn with dead. All gun positions had been smashed. The TERROR helped 3 more gunboats that day, slinging one of them in wire cables to keep it from sinking.

¨ Continuing from The Dictionary of American Fighting Ships…

TERROR acted as casualty evacuation vessel for minesweepers and small craft acting in support of demolition teams. Soon her medical facilities were severely taxed. One after another of these small craft came alongside to transfer their wounded and to receive assistance in repairing their vessels. TERROR continued her duties off Iwo Jima until 1835 on 19 February 1945, when she headed for the Marianas. On 21 February she transferred battle casualties to an army hospital at Saipan. She then steamed to Ulithi where she arrived on the 23rd. At that base, she serviced and supplied minecraft staging for the assault on Okinawa. She arrived off Kerama-retto on 24 March 1945 to act as flagship and tender to minecraft.

¨ Note:

Okinawa and Kerama-retto are both Islands in the Ryukyus chain off Japan. Kerama-retto is actually a group of small islands 20 miles to the west of Okinawa.

¨ From “Okinawa” author unknown to me…pages 63-65

“From Okinawa” one lieutenant told his platoon, “We can bomb the Japs anywhere- China, Japan, Formosa….” “Yeah,” a sergeant mumbled, “and vice versa.”

It was true, of course, that the Japanese had 65 airfields on Formosa as well as 75 or so scattered around the Ryukyus, but such discouraging information is not normally disseminated among the troops. More pointed and helpful information came from veterans such as Corporeal Al Biscansin of the Sixth Marine Division, who offered this earnest advice to the boots… “When you aren’t moving up or firing, keep both ends down! The GI Bill of Rights don’t mean a thing to a dead Marine!”

“Home alive in 45!’, they said, a happy revision of Guadalcanal’s gloomy estimate of “the Golden Gate in 48.” They sang, “Good-bye Mama, I’m off to Okinawa,” and joked about the horrendous estimates of American disasters broadcast by Radio Tokyo.

The Kerama Island landings caught the Japanese unprepared. Only Ushijima’s handful of obsolete crates on Okinawa and a few Kamikaze from Kyushu were able to intervene, but they inflicted considerable damage. On March 28th, the GIs and Marines aboard the transports heard Radio Tokyo announce the sinking of a battleship, six cruisers and one minesweeper, and then the voice of an American-educated announcer simpering:

“This is the Zero Hour, boys. It’s broadcast for all you American fighting men in the Pacific, because many of you will never hear another program… Here’s a good number, “Going Home”…it’s nice work if you can get it… you boys off Okinawa listen and enjoy it while you can, because when you’re dead you’re a long time dead… let’s have a little jukebox music for the boys and make it hot… The boys are going to catch hell soon, and they might as well get used to the heat…”

Then, having described the varieties of death instantly impending for “the boys off Okinawa” the voice concluded: “Don’t fail to tune in again tomorrow night.”

Two days later the voice was somber. “Ten American battleships, six cruisers, ten destroyers, and two transports have been sunk. The American people did not want this war, but the authorities told them it would take only a short while and will result in a higher standard of living. But the life of the average American citizen is becoming harder and harder and the war is far from won…”

On March 31st, the assault troops were given an eve-of-battle feast. “We had a huge turkey dinner,” the famous war corespondent Ernie Pyle reported, “fattening us up for the Kamikaze, the boys said.”

The next day Radio Tokyo had lost its audience: “The boys off Okinawa” had gone ashore.

That was on April 1st – Easter Sunday, 1945. April Fool’s Day, or L Day as it was called officially. The L stood for “landing,” but the Americans who hit the beaches with hardly a hand raised to oppose them had another name for it…They called it “Love Day.”

¨ Continued from “The American dictionary of Fighting Ships”…

TERROR operated off Kerama-retto the morning of the 26th of March, 1945. She anchored in the island’s harbor and there despite the constant threat of Kamikaze attacks, performed her dual role as a tender and flagship. Her entire crew labored long hours to maintain the supply of water, oil, gear, and ammunition required by minecraft in the area. At the same time, her resources were further strained by the duties imposed by her status as flagship.

On the morning of 2 April 1945, Japanese planes penetrated the harbor. TERROR took two of the attackers under fire and witnessed the slash down of one plane only 600 yards away. In the following days, TERROR, responding to warnings to be prepared for attacks by Japanese planes, swimmers, and suicide boats, stationed special night sentries on deck and in a picket boat to intercept any ingenious attackers.

Predicted mass air attacks materialized on 6 April 1945, when Japanese planes pounded the harbor at Kerama-retto for four hours, coming in on TERROR from all quarters and keeping her gunners busy. The tender joined other ships in downing two Japanese planes and furnishes rescue boats, clothing and treatment of survivors of LST 447 and SS LOGAN VICTORY. Throughout April, TERROR remained at Kerama-retto providing logistic services and receiving causalities from ships hit by Kamikaze. Combat air patrols kept raiders outside the harbor most of the time. But, on 28 April 1945, PINCKNEY (APH-2), anchored near by, was hit by a suicide plane. TERROR fired on the enemy aircraft, sent boats to PINCKNEY’s aid, and treated many casualties.

During the long and arduous month of April, TERROR’s crew went to general quarters 93 times, for periods ranging from 7 minutes to 6 ½ hours. Minutes before 0400 on May 1, 1945 as TERROR lay at anchor in Kerama-retto, a kamikaze dove toward the ship. Darting through a hole in the smoke screen and coming in on TERROR’s port beam, the attacker banked sharply around the stern, then came in from the starboard corner so rapidly that only one of the minelayer’s stern guns opened fire. As the plane crashed into the ship’s communication platform, one of its bombs exploded. The other penetrated the main deck through the ship’s bulkhead to land in the wardroom. Fire flared immediately in the superstructure but was soon controlled and, within two hours, was extinguished. Flooding of the magazines prevented possible explosions, and no engineering damage occurred, but the Kamikaze had exacted its toll. The attack cost TERROR 171 casualties: 41 dead, 7 missing, and 123 wounded. The following day, the battered ship was moored to NATRON (APA-214) for emergency repairs.

She got underway on the 8th of May, 1945, to rendezvous with a convoy bound for Saipan. Since a survey of the vessel revealed that her damage was too great to be repaired in a forward area, TERROR streamed via Eniwetok and Pearl Harbor to the west coast.

She reached San Francisco on 1 June 1945, unloaded ammunition, and then began her overhaul.¨ Continued from the Dictionary of American Fighting Ships…

Her repairs completed, she departed San Francisco Bay on 15 August, 1945, and steamed for Korea via the Hawaiian Islands, Saipan, and Okinawa. Moored in Buckner Bay on 16 September, she weathered a furious typhoon. Pounding against the PATOKA (AO-9) put a few holes in TERROR’s side but she was soon repaired. On 9 October, while still in Korea, she emerged undamaged from another typhoon that beached or wrecked over 100 vessels at Buckner Bay. In December, PANAMINT (AGC-13) replaced TERROR as flagship for Minecraft Pacific Fleet, and the veteran of many Pacific campaigns again crossed the Pacific to arrive at San Francisco in February of 1946. She made one voyage to Pearl Harbor in March, then returned to the west coast. TERROR remained there until February 1947 when she departed San Francisco and steamed through the Panama Canal. She arrived in San Juan, Puerto Rico in late February. Following exercises in the Caribbean, she operated out of east coast ports until July 1947 when she arrived at the Charleston Navy Yard for inactivation. Terror was decommissioned the first time at Charleston Navy Yard, SC on 30 November, 1947. Her preservation maintenance was accomplished by the navy personnel of Sub Group 1, Atlantic Reserve Fleet, who were billeted in USS Arcadia AD 23. During the Korean War, she was placed in service in reserve; and on 7 February 1955 she was redesignated a fleet minelayer (MM-5). Her designation symbol was changed to MMF-5 in October 1955, and she was decommissioned on 6 August, 1956. In 1971, her hull was sold to the Union Mineral and Alloys Corporation, of New York City. TERROR received four battle stars for World War II service.