Like Halford, it was intended that Leutze be fitted with a seaplane catapult. After this arrangement proved impractical, however, Leutze completed with the typical 1943–44 armament and finally commissioned 4 March 1944, the 156th ship of the 2,100-ton Fletcher class—by which time shipmates were referring to her as “USS Never Sail.”
After several months of shakedown and convoy duty, Leutze joined Destroyer Squadron 56 at Manus Island where the Palau pre-invasion force of battleships, cruisers, destroyers and minesweepers was gathering. Leutze remained a proud part of DesRon 56 through the invasions of Palau, Leyte Gulf, Lingayen Gulf, Iwo Jima and Okinawa.
When arriving off Peleliu, Leutze joined the minesweepers to destroy mines as they popped to the surface. Next she participated in the pre-invasion bombardment, called fire and night illumination for the marines ashore and engaged in anti-submarine and air defense. This was generally true for all the invasions.
While on ASW duty on the far side of Peleliu, fragments of an 8-inch shell fired by one of our cruisers ricocheted over the island hitting the Leutze, putting a dent in the director base, which almost stopping rotation of the director as it passed the dent. It also put several small holes in her hull and hit one crewman seriously damaging to his foot. He was transferred for medical care.
When in Manus before the Leyte invasion and with the help of tender personnel, sufficient medal was cut from the director's hold-down system to permit near normal rotation of the director.
The Leyte Gulf operation was under General Macarthur. Rear Admiral Oldendorf remained in command of the pre-invasion force. This force went from Manus to the Marianas to rehearse the landing operation. Enroute to Leyte Gulf after the rehearsal the ocean was very rough, feeling the affect of a nearby typhoon.
Upon arriving off Leyte Gulf on 18 October 1944, Leutze and Ross followed minesweepers to destroy the mines that were swept. Leutze then entered the Leyte Gulf with the pre-invasion force and participated in pre-invasion bombardment and Underwater Demolition Team (UDT) protection in the Dulag area. The Japs fired repeatedly on the UDT. Leutze along with other supporting ships and aircraft stopped the enemy fire.
On invasion day, 20 October 1944, Leutze destroyed her first aircraft. A few days later, while providing called fire support to the troops ashore, Leutze fired on two Jap aircraft making a surprise bombing run. When the bombs exploded nearby and fragments hit Leutze.
Late in the afternoon of 24 October 1944, Leutze went alongside a merchant ship to obtain needed 5-inch ammunition. When this was completed, Leutze sped to join DesRon 56 destroyers gathering to help defend the invasion forces against an expected Japanese fleet approaching Leyte Gulf through Surigao Strait. The battleships and cruisers were forming in an east-west line ready to fire on the expected arrival of the Jap ships into Leyte Gulf. Before DesRon 56 began its torpedo attack, two other destroyer squadron had made an undetected attack, DesRon 56 destroyers would close the Japs to launch their salvos of five torpedoes in three parallel columns of three ships. Leutze followed Heywood L. Edwards, the leader of the second column, with Bennion in the rear.
Shortly after three o’clock the morning of 25 October 1944 DesRon 56 destroyers began their attack. Shortly after they began, the Jap ships fired starshells over us and soon began to fire at us. We fired torpedoes on signal at a range of about 5,000 yards at the larger of two radar targets, believed to be the Yamashiro, and retreated back toward our battleships and cruisers. At the time that Leutze’s torpedoes should arrive at the target a large explosion was observed on the target’s bearing.
The morning of 1 November 1944, there was a large coordinated air attack on the naval units supporting the invasion. Besides making bombing, torpedo and staffing attack, several aircraft made suicide attacks on the screening destroyers. Lucky Leutze fired on many aircraft but remained undamaged.
That afternoon Leutze relieved two damaged destroyers on Station Dog. This was a station on the north end of Surigao Straits to provided early warning of approaching enemy forces. For three days and nights Leutze remained at GQ and was attacked by Jap aircraft that used the ground cover to prevent their early detention. Captain Robbins had a way of maneuvering Leutze to make the weapons released by the attacking aircraft miss Leutze. Although we fired on each of the attacking aircraft and observed some hits, none were seen to crash. While at GQ for the three days Captain Robbins had the ship bakers make bread and provide the crew on-station spam, jam or peanut butter sandwiches with coffee or water. Early the morning of 4 November 1944 Lucky Leutze was relieved by two destroyers and returned to the invasion area until she departed Leyte Gulf on 20 November 1944.
Leutze departed Kossol Roads for the Luzon Invasion at Lingayen Bay as part of Task Group 77.2 on 1 January 1945. The group arrived off Lingayen on 6 January. Leutze departed the area with the group on 22 January and arrived at Ulithi on 27 January for tender availability to repair battle damage suffered when an LST strafed Leutze while firing at a suicide boat.
Enroute to Lingayen Leutze witnessed CVE Ommaney Bay being hit by a suicide Jap aircraft and later abandoned and sunk, and made a night recovery of a man overboard from the CVE Makin Island. Recovering this man overboard on a black night is another demonstration of the seamanship skills of Captain Robbins. Before the task force arrived off Lingayen Jap suicide aircraft had crashed on a cruiser Louisville, destroyer escort Stafford and the Australian destroyer Arunta.
The morning of 6 January, while screening the battleship and cruisers as they bombarded off Lingayen Gulf, Richard P. Leary and Leutze fired on an approaching Jap aircraft. It skimmed over Leary between Gun Mounts #1 and #2 and crashed in the sea. That afternoon as TG 77.2 entered the gulf, it was attacked by many Jap aircraft. During this attack battleship California and cruisers Louisville and Columbia were hit by suicide planes. That evening Leutze and Barton while screening the minesweepers detected a Jap patrol craft which they sank with gun fire. On 9 January Leutze was off Lingayen during the pre-invasion bombardment when we observed men standing on the beach in what appeared to be Scout uniforms sending a semaphore message saying they were McArthur Scouts reporting for duty. Captain Robbins had the signalmen tell them, in semaphore, to report aboard. They came aboard in a small boat and were given something to eat while they waited for a small craft from USS Rocky Mount to pick them up. Late that night Leutze was off the landing area among the LSTs on called fire duty, when suddenly a small power boat was spotted at very close range, apparently attempting to damage Leutze. Captain Robbins orders flank speed to pull away from the boat. The boat was then destroyed by 20mm gun fire. A short time later a nearby LST fired their 40mm and 20mm at another small boat. Before Captain Robbins could get the LST to cease firing or get Leutze out of the LST’s line of fire, Leutze was sprayed and suffered six casualties.
Leutze arrived off Iwo Jima on 16 February, 1945 as a part of Admiral Spruance’s Invasion Force. The next morning while working with the minesweepers, Leutze along with the cruiser Pensacola returned fire on the Japs who were firing on the mine sweepers. Pensacola was hit several times by artillery fired from Mt Suribachi. Next, Leutze, along with other destroyers with UDTs aboard, moved close to the beach near Suribachi to launch and protect the UDTs as they cleared the beach of obstacles. The Jap fire was severe from the beach areas as well as from Mt. Suribachi. The destroyers counter fired and the LCI group launched their rocket attack. Within 10 minutes, an artillery or mortar shell from Mt. Suribachi struck Leutze’s forward stack area, damaging boilers #1 and #2 and seriously wounding Captain Robbins and three crewmen. Leutze’s counter fire continued as Lt. Grabowsky, the XO, relieved Captain Robbins who lay paralyzed on the starboard wing of the bridge. That afternoon Captain Robbins and the other seriously wounded were transferred for needed medical care.
The next morning, 18 February, Leutze and another destroyer began escorting the battleship New York to Ulithi for evaporator repairs. While in Ulithi, Leutze had a tender availability to repair battle damage. Leutze returned to Iwo Jima on 6 March and participated in called fire until departing on 10 March when DesRon 56 destroyers began departing for Ulithi.
Leutze along with other ships of DesRon 56 arrived in Ulithi from Iwo Jima on 17 March 1945. The next evening Leutze got underway for Manus to escort USS New York (BB 34) to Okinawa. The Leutze with the Whitehurst (DE 634) and England (DE 635) and New York arrived off Okinawa at about 0100 27 March during an air raid. Two aircraft launched torpedoes at Leutze. One torpedo passed close astern and exploded.
That afternoon Leutze, Whitehurst and England departed for Ulithi to escort USS Mobile (CL-63) and USS Oakland (CL-91) to Okinawa. This escort assignment required the group to pass near a typhoon going and returning. The group returned with only the Mobile on April 3, two days after the invasion. Leutze was then assigned radar picket to the west of Okinawa. The USS Newcomb (DD-586) with ComDesRon 56 aboard was on a station 10 miles to the north.
On 6 April Rear Admiral Deyo, CTF 54, received word that a large group of kamikaze aircraft was approaching off Okinawa. He ordered his force to rendezvous west of Okinawa. The large ships were stationed 3000 yards from fleet center and the destroyers formed a defense screen 6,000 yards from fleet center. Leutze was in the north sector to the east of Newcomb and the west of Heywood L. Edwards.
Four kamikazes were sighted to the north at nine miles heading for Leutze. At 1640 Leutze’s 5-inch guns commenced firing on the first aircraft. Soon the first plane was hit and crashed then the second. All batteries were firing on the third and the fourth plane which hit repeatedly and crashed one after the other at about 2000 yards.
At 1757 many bogies were sighted to the west and reported to CTF 54. A few minutes later Leutze’s 5-inch guns commenced fire on closest plane heading for Leutze range about 8,000 yards. This kamikaze changed course and headed toward Newcomb. When the firing bearing approached that of the Newcomb fire was shifted to next Kamikaze headed for Leutze. This plane crashed in the water at about 4,000 yards.
Leutze changes course to render assistance after observing a large secondary explosion on Newcomb.
At 1804 commenced firing on Kamikaze off the starboard bow at 7,000 yards. Ceased firing, this aircraft engaged by friendly fighter. Shifted to aircraft attacking Newcomb but could not fire, Newcomb in the line of fire. Plane crashed the Newcomb amidships.
Leutze tied alongside the Newcomb which was dead in the water at about 1810. Leutze’s doctor and corpsmen went over to render assistance to Newcomb’s wounded aft and repair parties with fire hoses and equipment commenced fighting Newcomb’s fires from mainmast to 5-inch gun mount #3.
About five minutes after being along side Newcomb a suicide aircraft was sighted at low altitude approaching a little forward of the port beam of Newcomb which masked Leutze’s guns. Newcomb’s forward 5-inch mount fired several rounds in manual control.
The aircraft skipped across Newcomb and crashed into Leutze’s 5-inch gun mount #5. The aircraft’s bomb was evidently either or broke lose and hit Leutze port side aft near the waterline.
The quick thinking of the Captain and crew the after engine room rear bulkhead was shore and held, quickly extinguished the fire in the aft handling room, quickly began shifting ballast to stop the sinking of Leutze’s stern. Then the Captain had the whaleboat launched to recover those overboard that needed help and then sent to the Newcomb the message “Am in serious danger of sinking, am pulling away.”
At 1842 Leutze pulled away a short distance form Newcomb using her starboard screw. Then after putting the torpedoes and depth charges in a safe mode they were jettisoned. Slowly Leutze’s rear deck returned above the sea and the she was stabilized. Leutze’s personnel casualties were eight killed and thirty-four wounded.
With the help of its whaleboat Leutze received a tow line from USS Defense (AM-317). Destroyers Porterfield and Beale escorted Leutze and Newcomb to Kerama Retto anchorage where Leutze waited for three months to be repaired enough to return under steam to Hunters Point, San Francisco, California. She arrived at Hunters Point on 3 August 1945 for repairs, but these were halted following the war and she was scrapped in New Jersey in 1947.
Leutze earned 5 battle stars.