Ellyson and Hambleton (DMS 19 and 20) in 1947.

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USS Ellyson (DMS 19) USS Hambleton (DMS 20) USS Rodman (DMS 21) USS Macomb (DMS 23) USS Hobson (DMS 26) USS Harding (DMS 28)
“No praise could be enough” for the fast minesweepers of Mine Squadron (MinRon) 20—twelve 1,630-ton Gleaves-class destroyers including eight of the nine original ships of Destroyer Squadron 10 (Corry had been lost at Normandy) plus DesRon 17’s Jeffers, Butler and Gherardi and DesRon 18’s Harding, which were converted in late 1944 as high-speed minesweepers—the Ellyson class.
Mine Squadron 20
March 1945
Mine Division 58
USS Forrest (DMS 25), flag
USS Hobson (DMS 24)
USS Fitch (DMS 26)
USS Macomb (DMS 23)
Mine Division 59
USS Ellyson (DMS 19),
group flag
USS Hambleton (DMS 20)
USS Rodman (DMS 21)
USS Emmons (DMS 22)
Mine Division 60
USS Butler (DMS 29), flag
USS Gherardi (DMS 30)
USS Harding (DMS 28)
USS Jeffers (DMS 27)

Modified at East Coast navy yards, they underwent refresher training and then transited the Panama Canal in ones and twos. In the Pacific, they trained for Operation “Iceberg,” the Okinawa Gunto invasion, at Hawaii in February and Ulithi in March. There on the 14th, while following Ellyson over a reef during calibrating operations, Fitch struck a coral head and badly damaged both screws. Under repair at Pearl Harbor from 10 April to 6 August, she missed “Iceberg” but afterward joined the Third Fleet off Japan.

Under Capt. Richard Larken, the remaining 11 ships were organized as Task Group 52.3 with light minelayers Gwin (MinRon 3 flagship, attached to MinDiv 58), Lindsey (attached to MinDiv 59) and Henry A. Wiley (attached to MinDiv 60). Sortieing from Ulithi on 19 March, they were the first Allied task group to arrive off Okinawa. From 24 to 30 March they conducted sweeping operations to clear the approaches for support and joint expeditionary forces. They then took station as escort, radar picket, anti-submarine and small craft screen, shore bombardment and fire support ships and remained on station until the island was secured on 21 June.

Woefully undergunned, with only three 5-inch/38s and two 40mm twins (about half the armament of the Fletcher- and Allen M. Sumner-class destroyers with which they shared radar picket duty), the 11 DMSs collectively shot down 46 enemy planes—15 alone by Emmons and Rodman on 6 April 1945—but sustained 16 suicide plane crashes plus bomb hits and near misses. Personnel casualties exceeded 300 officers and men, including over 100 killed. Individual ships losses and battle damage were as follows:

Mine Squadron 20
2088K March 1945.
2193K April 1945.
2204K May 1945.
1520K June 1945.
942K July 1945.
1111K August 1945.
1659K September 1945.
  • Rodman was hit 6 April 1945 by three suicide planes and a near bomb miss, which completely flooded her below decks from frame 45 and gutted her superstructure by fire, putting her out of the war. She later was awarded the Navy Unit Commendation.
  • Emmons, circling Rodman to provide defensive firepower, was herself hit by five suicide planes in two minutes on the bridge, Mount 2 and the stern. Decimated and drifting, with more than half of her officers and men killed or wounded, she was abandoned and scuttled the next day by gunfire from Ellyson. She later received the Navy Unit Commendation.
  • Jeffers received a suicide near miss 12 April, which caused a 2x5-foot hole on the port side three feet above the waterline and severed frames. Repaired at Kerama Retto and later Guam, she remained in the theater.
  • Harding received one bomb hit on 16 April, which caused extensive damage between frames 14 and 67. She was not repaired, but decommissioned 2 November.
  • Hobson sustained a bomb hit on the main deck 16 April, which exploded in the forward engine room, putting her out of the war.
  • Macomb received one suicide plane hit on 3 May, which demolished Mount 3 and caused minor cable and structural damage to the after deck house, rendering the starboard 40mm mount inactive. Repaired at Saipan, she returned to operate off Japan in August. She was later awarded the Navy Unit Commendation.
  • Butler received a suicide near miss at on 25 May, which flooded the forward fireroom. She decommissioned 8 November and later received the Navy Unit Commendation.
  • Forrest was hit by a suicide plane on 27 May, which gutted the wardroom and forward living spaces and created a hole on the port side 20 feet high. She decommissioned 30 November.

With the Okinawa operation complete, the survivors (rejoined by Fitch) continued on to Japan. There on 28 August, Ellyson and Hambleton swept ahead of the Task Group 31.2 (cruiser San Diego and screen on a mission to occupy the Yokosuka Naval Base) and thus became the first converted destroyers to enter Tokyo Bay at the end of the war. The next day, as the main ten-mile-long column of victorious Allied ships steamed into Tokyo Bay in preparation for the surrender four days later, Ellyson, Macomb and Jeffers led the way.

A second group of twelve 1,630-tonners was converted in 1945 and entered service as Mine Squadron 21.

Source: Report of Capture of Okinawa Gunto, Phases One and Two, 19 March–21 June 1945, W.R. Loud, Commander, Mine Squadron TWENTY; War diaries.