WPG / WAGC / WHEC-36
(Ex-John C. Spencer)
The "Treasury" class Coast Guard cutters (sometimes referred to as the "Secretary" or 327-foot class) were all named for former secretaries of the Treasury Department. The cutter Spencer was named for John C. Spencer, the 16th Secretary of the Treasury. He was born in 1788 in Hudson, New York, graduated from Union College in 1806 and studied law. He was admitted to the state bar in 1809 and began a law practice in Canandaigua, New York. He served during the War of 1812 and was elected to and served in the House of Representatives from 1817-1819. He then served in a number of state public offices before being appointed the Secretary of War by President John Tyler in 1841. He was appointed as the Secretary of the Treasury in 1843, following the resignation of Secretary Walter Forward that same year. Spencer resigned in 1844 and was nominated by President Tyler to the United States Supreme Court but was rejected by the Senate. He died in Albany, New York on 17 May 1855.
Radio Call Sign: NRDS
Keel Laid: 11 September 1935
Launched: 6 January 1937
Commissioned: 1 March 1937
Decommissioned: 15 December 1980 (decommissioned and placed in special status as an Engineering Training School, 23 January 1974)
Disposition: Sold for scrap, 8 October 1981 to North American Smelting Company of Wilmington, Delaware.
Builder: New York Navy Yard, New York
Displacement: 2,350 (1936)
Length: 327' 0"
Beam: 41' 0"
Draft: 12' 6" (max.)
Propulsion: 2 x Westinghouse double-reduction geared turbines; 2 x Babcock & Wilcox sectional express, air-encased, 400 psi, 200° superheat; 2 x 9' three-bladed propellers.
SHP: 6,200 (1966)
Maximum Speed: 20.5 knots
Economical Cruising: 11.0 knots (8,000 nautical miles)
Fuel Oil Capacity: 135,180 gallons (547 tons)
1937: 12 officers, 4 warrants, 107 enlisted;
1941: 16 officers, 5 warrants, 202 enlisted;
1966: 10 officers, 3 warrants, 134 enlisted.
HF/DF: (1942) DAR (converted
Radar: (1945) SC-4, SGa; (1966) AN/SPS-29D, AN/SPA-52.
Fire Control Radar: (1945) Mk-26; (1966) Mk-26 MOD 4
Sonar: (1945) QC series; (by early 1950s?) AN/SQS-11
1936: 3 x 5"/51 (single mount); 2 x 6-pounders.; 1 x 1-pounder.
1941: 3 x 5"/51 (single mount); 3 x 3"/50 (single mount); 4 x .50 caliber Browning MG; 2 x depth charge racks; 1 x "Y" gun depth charge projector.
1943: 2 x 5"/51 (single mount); 4 x 3"/50 (single mount); 2 x 20mm/80 (single mount); 1 x Hedgehog; 6 x "K" gun depth charge projectors; 2 x depth charge racks.
1945: 2 x 5"/38 (single mount); 3 x 40mm/60 (twin mount); 4 x 20mm/80 (single mount).
1946: 1 x 5"/38 (single mount); 1 x 40mm;/60 (twin mount); 2 x 20mm/80 (single mount); 1 x Hedgehog.
1966: 1 x 5"/38 MK30 Mod75 (single); MK 52 MOD 3 director; 1 x MK 10-1 Hedgehog; 2 (P&S) x Mk 32 MOD 5 TT, 4 x MK 44 MOD 1 torpedoes; 2 x .50 cal. MK-2 Browning MG, 2 x MK-13 high altitude parachute flare mortars.
SOC-4, USCG No. V159 (1937)
Grumman JF-2, USCG No. V144 (1938)
The 327-foot cutters were designed to meet changing missions of the service as it emerged from the Prohibition era. Because the air passenger trade was expanding both at home and overseas, the Coast Guard believed that cutter-based aircraft would be essential for future high-seas search and rescue. Also, during the mid-1930's, narcotics smuggling, mostly opium, was on the increase, and long-legged, fairly fast cutters were needed to curtail it. The 327's were an attempt to develop a 20-knot cutter capable of carrying an airplane.
The final 327-foot design was based on the Erie-class Navy gunboats; the machinery plant and hull below the waterline were identical. This standardization saved money--always paramount in the Coast Guard's considerations--and the cutters were built in U.S. Navy shipbuilding yards. Thirty-two preliminary designs of a modified Erie-class gunboat were drawn up before one was finally selected. The healthy sheer forward and the high slope in the deck in the wardrooms was known as the "Hunnewell Hump." Commander (Constructor) F. G. Hunnewell, USCG, was the head of the Coast Guard's Construction and Repair Department at that time.
The Secretary class cutters proved to be highly dependable, versatile and long-lived warships--most served their country for over 40 years. In the words of one naval historian, John M. Waters, Jr., they were truly their nation's "maritime workhorses." Waters continued: "the 327's battled, through the 'Bloody Winter' of 1942-43 in the North Atlantic--fighting off German U-boats and rescuing survivors from torpedoed convoy ships. They went on to serve as amphibious task force flagships, as search-and-rescue (SAR) ships during the Korean War, on weather patrol, and as naval gunfire support ships during Vietnam. Most recently, these ships-that-wouldn't-die have done duty in fisheries patrol and drug interdiction. . .Built for only $2.5 million each, in terms of cost effectiveness we may never see the likes of these cutters again."
The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter John C. Spencer (Builder's No. CG-70) was built at the New York Navy Yard in New York, New York and was launched on 6 January 1937. She was the second cutter to bear that name. She was commissioned on 1 March 1937. The ship was 327 feet in length, with a draft of 12 and a half feet. Her propelling plant consisted of geared turbines supplied with steam from oil fired boilers that drove twin screws.
The John C. Spencer was assigned to her first homeport, Cordova, Alaska, after her commissioning. The cutter departed New York for Alaskan waters on 13 May 1937. She arrived in Cordova on 30 June 1937. By this time her name was shortened to simply Spencer. The new cutter participated in the 1938 Bering Sea Patrol, beginning on 20 April 1938 and serving through 3 July 1938. She then sailed to Seward, Alaska where she embarked the Secretary of the Interior, Mr. Harold L. Ickes, and sailed for Juneau, Alaska, where she arrived on 23 July 1938. On 4 January 1939 Spencer was again assigned to duty on the Bering Sea Patrol, the first patrol lasting until 18 February 1939 and again from 25 July 1939 through 5 September 1939. Her JF-2 amphibian was used extensively during these patrols.
She was then transferred to Stapleton, New York, on 8 September 1939 and arrived in New York on 15 October 1939. Here she was ordered to enforce the recently passed Neutrality Act. The Navy, after deciding that destroyers were unsuited for such duty in the prevailing conditions in the North Atlantic, passed the assignment on to the Coast Guard. The commander of the Boston District then assumed control of the Neutrality Patrols, and named them "Grand Banks Neutrality Patrols" or cruises. Her first Grand Banks Cruise began on 15 November and lasted through 27 November 1939. Her second Grand Banks patrol was from 15 December through 26 December 1939 and her final patrol ran from 14 January through 26 January 1940.
When the Grand Banks cruises were discontinued on 27 January 1940 Spencer was then assigned duty with on the weather stations. These had only recently been implemented on a suggestion by then CDR Edward H. "Iceberg" Smith, LCDR George B. Gelly, and a more influential suggestion by President Franklin Roosevelt. Since the war had stopped the flow of weather data from merchant ships, the Coast Guard drew the duty of maintaining a continuous weather patrol consisting of 327-foot cutters at two stations in the mid-Atlantic located as follows: Station No. 1, 35° 38' N x 53° 21' W and Station No. 2, 37° 44' N x 41° 13' W. Here the cutters steamed continuously within a 100 square mile area from the center of the station with each patrol lasting approximately 21 days. Each cutter embarked meteorologists from the Weather Bureau who made observations with radiosondes and balloons, and the cutters provided Pan American Airways Boeing 314 flying boats: Yankee Clipper, Dixie Clipper, and American Clipper, with weather and position reports and transmitted radio signals to allow the planes to take accurate bearings. The Spencer sailed for Weather Station No. 2 on 18 March 1940, where she served until 12 April 1940. She served on Weather Station No. 2 again on 20 May to 18 June 1940, 22 July through 16 August 1940, and 27 September through 19 October 1940.
The Navy ordered that cutters begin to add their approved war-time armament beginning in 1940 and Spencer was ordered to the Bethlehem Steel Corporation in October, 1940. Here additional armament was added, including depth charge racks, a "Y" gun, and sonar equipment. She was at Bethlehem Steel from 28 October to 10 December 1940. Once the rearmament was completed, she departed for Weather Station No. 1 and arrived there on 21 December 1940 and returned to New York the following month. She continued on weather station duty until she became eligible for transfer to the Navy under an Executive Order of 11 September 1941. The Navy designed her WPG-36. On 1 November 1941, the Coast Guard became part of the Navy and Spencer reported for duty with the Destroyer Force, Atlantic Fleet, on 9 January 1942.
On 9 January 1942, while moored at Staten Island, Spencer relieved CGC Active (WPSC-125) of radio and dock guard. The next day she proceeded to the New York Navy Yard where she remained until 9 February 1942, having additional armament added, including six "K gun" depth charge projectors, two 20mm anti-aircraft cannons, and three additional 3"/50 caliber dual-purpose guns, while one of her 5"/51 caliber main batteries was removed [photos of her taken in 1 June 1942 also show her sporting a surface-search radar antenna--we do not know exactly when this was added]. After loading ammunition at Gravesend Bay that day she returned to her duties at Staten Island until February 16th when she departed for Portland, Maine. On the 18th she left for Portsmouth, New Hampshire to convoy USS Sapelo (AO-11) to Portland, where various drills and exercises were conducted until the 22nd. She got underway on the 26th and assumed escort position in a convoy until detached on March 1st and proceeded toward Newfoundland, altering her course as necessary to avoid field ice. She stood into Argentia Bay on 3 March 1942.
After taking on supplies Spencer departed on 5 March 1942, in company with a Navy destroyer. She joined an east-bound convoy on March 6th, taking her position on the port bow. On the 7th she commenced a run on a contact verified on her underwater sound apparatus and dropped seven depth charges. She rejoined the convoy after losing the contact and failing to regain it. Again on March 8th she fired three depth charges on a contact, reestablished contact on the port beam but lost it in attempting to open range and rejoined the convoy. On the 10th she searched unsuccessfully astern for a straggler. On the 16th she stood into Lough Foyle, Ireland, and proceeded up the river to Lisahally where she moored. Her personnel attended anti-submarine, anti-aircraft firing and signaling schools on shore until the 20th.
On 23 March 1942, Spencer got underway in company with a Navy destroyer for Lough Foyle, departing next day with the destroyer and three Canadian corvettes to assume assigned escort positions with a west-bound nine-ship convoy which was sighted on the 20th. She moored at Argentia on April 2nd and departed next day to escort a Navy Tanker to Portland. Relieved of escort duty she proceeded to Boston.
She departed Boston on 10 April 1942, and arrived at Halifax the next day. On the 12th she left Halifax with a Navy destroyer escorting a transport to Argentia. She left Argentia on the 16th acting as escort for USS Tarazed (AF-13) until 0630 on the 17th when that vessel signaled she was ready to proceed alone. The Spencer then awaited an east-bound convoy which she contacted at 1550 and assumed her station as escort. On the 19th she was ordered to stand by a straggler damaged on the starboard bow which at 2150 signaled its intention of proceeding independently to St. John's, Newfoundland, and Spencer rejoined the convoy. The next day, she was ordered to return to the straggler and early on the 22nd encountered HMS Heading who informed her that the straggler was proceeding to St. Johns.
The Spencer changed course and rejoined the convoy. On the 24th she made a contact on her underwater apparatus and heading toward it released a depth charge. Regaining contact she dropped another. Again regaining contact she dropped a barrage of nine charges. Three hours later another contact was made but lost shortly afterwards and Spencer resumed her base course. On the 26th all anti-aircraft batteries were placed in readiness for an air attack. The Spencer stood into Lough Foyle on 27 April 1942, and after fueling moored at Lisahally on the 28th.
On 24 May 1942, Spencer got underway off Lough Foyle, making anti-submarine practice runs and conducting other exercises including night submarine sighting with a Navy destroyer and three Canadian corvettes until the 7th. On that date she stood out of Lough Foyle with this group and another corvette and took her position on the port quarter of a west-bound convoy. On the 11th a boat was lowered to pick up a seaman from a convoyed vessel who was suffering from appendicitis and an emergency appendectomy was performed by the U.S. Public Health Service physician aboard Spencer. On the 12th while cruising behind the convoy, searching for survivors from a torpedoed vessel and for the attacking submarine, Spencer made a contact and heard propeller beats. She released a nine-charge barrage set at 50 feet. She observed a black column of water about 30 feet high after the last depth charge exploded at 0015.
An hour later Spencer picked up 52 survivors from the torpedoed SS Cristales and SS Mont Parnes. Two hours later she sighted red flares on the starboard quarter and passed close aboard of the torpedoed Cristales who was down by the bow and awash. The corvette HMCS Shediac, standing by, signaled "Intend putting crew back on board at daybreak." Half an hour later Spencer contacted the rescue ship SS Bury and was informed that an unidentified freighter dead ahead had been abandoned and Bury was standing by to see if it was advisable to return the crew to the freighter in the event it proved salvageable. Pending receipt of the report of a survey party aboard Cristales, Spencer, after searching further for survivors, rejoined the convoy at 0510. Later that day Spencer's boat made two trips to HMCS Arvida for five injured survivors of Mont Parnes.
At 1850 Spencer sighted a dark object on the horizon which was suspected to be a submarine and headed for it. Smoke was sighted at 1925 and Spencer observed a second submarine. She began firing at 2006 using broadside guns and the U-boat submerged four minutes later. The Spencer made sonar contact with sub at 2024 and fired a depth charge barrage. The contact was renewed and a second barrage fired. At 2045 she lost contact with the sub. On 13 May a submarine was sighted at 0535 and it submerged five minutes later. The Spencer moored in Argentia Bay on 19 May 1942, and departed to Boston same day, arriving on the 21st. Survivors from the torpedoed vessels departed in custody of the security officer, U. S. Naval Drydock, South Boston, and on the 30th Spencer moved to Charlestown Navy Yard, Boston.
Proceeding to Argentia Spencer moored in Little Placentia harbor and was underway on 1 July escorting a convoy of 43 ships to Londonderry, Northern Ireland with Campbell (WPG-32) and four Canadian corvettes. The convoy arrived at its destination on 10 July 1942.
The Spencer stood out of Lough Foyle escorting a 32-vessel convoy, along with four Canadian escorts on 21 July 1942. On the 22nd ship No. 31 dropped astern, unable to maintain position and Spencer was directed to search 30 miles astern for it, but rejoined the convoy after being unable to locate it. Depth charges were dropped by Spencer and two Canadian escorts on the 25th but the results were negative and the contacts classified as doubtful. On 31 July the convoy passed through the anti-torpedo net at Placentia Harbor, Argentia, Newfoundland.
On 7 August 1942, Spencer with flag of the commander of Task Unit 24.1.3, weighed anchor and stood out of Argentia, in company with USS Schenck (DD-159) and four other escorts to intercept the east-bound 41-ship convoy SC-95. The task unit relieved the local escorts. On the 10th one of the escorts obtained a radar contact at 1,200 yards which closed rapidly to 400 yards and then continued to open. The escort changed course toward the contact but obtained no hydrophone effect. The range remained at about 1,000 yards and one lookout reported a low object seen for several minutes but not confirmed. The escort increased speed and dropped two precautionary charges and then rejoined.
On the 14th Iceland escorts Duane (WPG-33) and USS Babbitt (DD-128) joined the convoy, Schenck being relieved by Babbitt and leaving the convoy with Duane and four Iceland ships. On the 17th two escorts and 16 ships of the Loch Ewe section departed and on the 18th another escort left with one ship for Londonderry and Spencer, relieved of escort duty, anchored in Lough Foyle, Moville, Northern Ireland, with Babbitt.
On 31 August 1942, Task Unit 24.1.3 less Babbitt got underway out of Lough Foyle with Spencer and five Canadian escorts. On the 30th they intercepted a west-bound convoy of 28 ships. (Intervening war diaries being missing it is assumed that Spencer reached Argentia about 10 September.)
On 15 September 1942, Spencer was enroute to rendezvous with the 24-ship convoy SC-100 with five escorts, including Campbell. On the 21st Spencer reported a sound contact and sighted a sub on the surface at 0825. The convoy made a 45-degree emergency turn to port and Spencer, an hour later, rejoined the convoy reporting negative results. On the 20th a Canadian escort reported sighting a sub on the surface six miles away and at 1145 ship No. 71, SS Empire, was torpedoed and sank. The convoy reached Lough Foyle on the 28th.
On October 3rd Spencer in company with Campbell weighed anchor and proceeded to sea as part of Task Unit 24.1.3 to rendezvous with the 30-ship convoy ON-135. On the 5th the wind increased to a whole gale with the seas very rough. The convoy scattered in poor formation and Spencer commenced a sweep back along the port flank of the convoy to round up stragglers and then commenced patrolling the entire van of the convoy. Only 17 ships were present, but all escorts. Later at 1545 Spencer returned and there were 31 ships in the convoy, with all escorts present. On the 14th Spencer and Campbell were relieved as escorts and got underway for Argentia where they moored on 15 October 1942.
The Spencer departed Argentia on 3 December 1942, as one of the escorts of convoy SC-111 bound for Ireland. The convoy arrived at its destination on 16 December 1942. On 25 December 1942, Spencer left Northern Ireland as senior escort for convoy ONS-156. On 7 January 1943, a Canadian escort was detached for St. John's. On the 8th Spencer was relieved as senior escort by HMS St. Clair, and proceeded independently to Boston, arriving on 10 January.
On 16 January 1943, Spencer departed Boston with the commander, Task Unit 24.1.3 aboard, in company with Campbell. After mooring for a few hours on the 18th at Argentia, the two escorts stood out to sea and sighted west-bound 50-ship convoy HX-223 on the 19th. On the 24th the Task Unit consisting of Spencer, Campbell, two British and four Canadian escorts relieved the local escort vessels. One of the convoy's ships, taking on water after a collision with another, was ordered to St. John's. Several hours later the other ship reported that she was leaking badly and was attempting to make herself seaworthy, as Campbell stood by, but finally also proceeded independently to St. John's. Coast Guard cutter Ingham (WPG-35) joined on the 22nd and SS Lincoln was detached. Heavy weather on the 23rd and 24th scattered the convoy and SS Kollbjorg was reported broken in two. On the 27th a Canadian escort with Ingham detached to escort four vessels to Iceland. On the 29th a British and a Canadian escort detached to join SC-117. On the 30th Campbell left the convoy. Next day a Canadian escort broke off with the Loch Ewe section of the convoy. The Spencer, with the rest of the convoy proceeded to Londonderry where she was relieved of escort duties and moored on 1 February.
The Spencer stood to seaward on 12 February 1943, after holding anti-submarine exercises in Lough Foyle, and relieved the British escort commander of the 43-ship west-bound convoy ON-166, in company with Campbell four Canadian and one British escort. The convoy received air coverage and some submarines were reported in the immediate vicinity. On the 14th five more vessels joined, air coverage continued and no submarines were reported. On the 16th Babbitt joined with two vessels and then detached to escort one vessel to Iceland. On the 17th about 30 submarines were reported to be between 48 and 56 degrees north and 17 and 39 degrees west. Some were reported ahead of the convoy. On the 18th High Frequency-Direction Finder [hereafter HF/DF] bearings indicated submarines to the north about two or three hundred miles. The course was changed to avoid submarines in the area between 52 and 63 degrees north and 16 and 36 degrees west. Air coverage continued.
On the 20th HF/DF bearings with Campbell definitely fixed a submarine at 52° 32' N x 26° 32' W, and reports indicated that two or three might be shadowing the convoy. At 2315 Spencer made a radar contact at 8,600 yards, increased full speed to investigate and 20 minutes later sighted the conning tower of an enemy submarine about 5,000 yards distant. The submarine dived about seven minutes later. The Spencer lost the radar contact at about 1,800 yards but made a sound contact at 1,500 yards and five minutes later dropped a depth charge pattern of nine charges. The contact was lost at about 300 yards possibly indicating that the submarine was probably down over 200 feet. Forty minutes later at 0030 on the 21st two more charges were dropped on the probable course of the submarine. The submarine Spencer attacked was thought to have been the U-225 and the cutter was credited with sinking the U-boat by the Navy after German records were screened after the war. Later research showed, however, that Spencer in fact probably attacked the U-604 while a British B-24 Liberator from 120 Squadron had actually sunk the U-225 on 15 February 1943. Although Spencer did not sink U-604, she did force the U-boat to submerge and thereby thwarted the U-boat's attempt to sight and attack the convoy at that time. Additionally, according to one authority, one of Spencer's attacks made during this night may have sunk the U-529.
At 0822 aircraft coverage was sighted and the escorts were maintaining a close screen of the convoy ships. At 1250 Campbell departed to investigate a submarine which HF/DF bearings placed at six miles and dropped two patterns of depth charges 40 minutes later. At 1602 a straggler reported being attacked by a submarine and Campbell and a British bomber were dispatched to investigate. A little later a British escort dropped a pattern of depth charges and at 1825 the bomber reported sighting two submarines 26,000 yards from the convoy. The Spencer departed to intercept these and shortly afterward sighted the marker flare dropped by the aircraft about 6,000 yards away. An hour later after a box search she had a radar impulse and sighted a submarine 4,000 yards distant. The Spencer fired three shots and the submarine submerged. A sound contact was established at 3,500 yards and the attack was commenced with bow charges, without mousetraps. After expending two charges on what appeared a doubtful contact she sighted a white rocket in the convoy.
The SS Empire Trader had been torpedoed but was believed salvageable and proceeded, escorted by a Canadian escort. On the 22nd another vessel was reported torpedoed and 0437, with three escorts absent, radar impulses indicated an unidentified object about 5,100 yards distant. As Spencer increased full speed to investigate the impulse faded. At 0504 Campbell reported sighting a submarine. A few minutes later HMCS Dauphin had a sound contact and the HMS Dianthus sighted a submarine. HF/DF bearings kept shifting from port to starboard, then both sides and astern. At 1942 SS City of Chattanooga was torpedoed and ships commenced firing snowflakes. The ORP Burza, a Polish destroyer, attached as additional escort.
At 2050 on the 22nd of February, the Campbell reported sinking one submarine by depth charges and colliding with another, flooding her engine room. The Burza was sent to her assistance. The Campbell had sunk one torpedoed vessel which had failed to remove classified material when abandoned. During the first four hours of the 23rd there were 11 HF/DF bearings, mostly on the starboard side and at 0426 SS Winkler was torpedoed on the port side. Twenty-five minutes later Spencer established a sound contact, then lost it, but commenced dropping charges, reestablished it and dropped a pattern at 0504. At 0513 SS Eulima was torpedoed on her port side. Four other ships, SS Gillitra, SS Hastings, SS Empire Redshank, and SS Expositor were reported by 0730 having been torpedoed at various times during the night.
Two escorts were picking up survivors and HMS Salisbury proceeded to assist the Campbell. Between 1200 and 1600 on the 23rd there were four HF/DF bearings on the port and six on the starboard side of the convoy. The Dianthus, shadowed by several submarines hesitated to return but sought to divert their attention from the convoy which now had only three escorts present with the main body. At the 1810 Spencer departed on an hour's high speed sweep to intercept and drive down shadowing submarines. Three hours later another vessel in the convoy was torpedoed.
On the 24th Spencer was patrolling the bow and two Canadian escorts the port and starboard bows with the convoy changing course at regular intervals. U-boat transmissions indicated the presence of several in the vicinity. At 0450 Spencer investigated a radar impulse at 5,600 yards and sighted the wake of a submarine at 3,900 yards which submerged at 0503. An attack on the sound contact was made with 12 depth charges. When the contact was lost a box search was begun. At 0521 SS Ingria was torpedoed. A minute later Spencer had a radar impulse and sighted a submarine ten minutes later at 2,800 yards. The submarine submerged as Spencer commenced firing. The Spencer began an attack and 10 minutes later the submarine passed down the port side as Spencer fired her three port "K" guns, then lost contact and began a box search. Nine minutes later Spencer had another radar impulse and in eight minutes sighted a submarine on the surface at 2,800 yards. As she commenced firing star shells the submarine submerged. Two minutes later she released a pattern of nine charges, followed fifteen minutes later by eight more charges, and lost it two minutes later after dropping one charge.
At 0720 she observed the stern ships of the convoy firing at a U-boat and charged course to intercept but the submarine submerged and no sound contact developed. At 0806 there were 30 ships and three escorts in the convoy. A Canadian escort rejoined after picking up survivors from Ingria. At 1614 a ship in the convoy reported sighting a submarine at 3,000 yards. An escort vessel which departed for an attack but failed to make contact. At 1712 a PBY Catalina was sighted as it searched ahead of the convoy and an hour later Spencer, while on a high speed sweep released one charge on a contact at 400 yards. Fifteen minutes later a plane reported attacking a submarine 10 miles away and three minutes later Spencer fired mousetraps on a sound contact.
On the 25th of February two British escorts joined the convoy as additional support forces. A submarine was sighted at 0517 after several radar impulses. It dived at once but a sound contact was established and a torpedo track sighted. As a mousetrap attack was being prepared a detonation was heard from the direction of the convoy and a message received that SS Manchester had been torpedoed. The mousetrap failed to fire and one depth charge was released. A sound contact was reestablished 14 minutes later but was classified non-sub. At 0543 a torpedo track was sighted close aboard on the port side and a sound contact established at 2,800 yards. The contact was lost at 800 yards but a pattern of five depth charges was released and a box search commenced. Forty minutes later tracers and flashes of gunfire were sighted astern of the convoy. Twenty-nine ships and four escorts were now in sight.
At 1120 a conning tower of a submarine was sighted at 5,700 yards, which submerged after Spencer's ready gun was fired. Three depth charges were dropped but the contact was not reestablished after a box sweep. At 1500 four local British escorts joined and on the 26th, after transfer of survivors, one British escort was relieved and two others departed for St. John's. At 1652 Task Unit 24.1.3 was relieved of further escort duties with ON-166 and departed for Argentia arriving there on the 27th.
On 1 March 1943, Spencer left Argentia for St. John's with the USS Greer (DD-145) and on the 3rd they stood out of St. John 's with two British and two Canadian escorts, rendezvousing on the 4th with the 56-ship east-bound convoy SC-121. There were six stragglers on the port and one on the starboard. One British escort returned to St. John's with a faulty condenser. Sub reports indicated at least three and possibly more were in the vicinity of the convoy. At 2205 there was heavy gunfire as a submarine was sighted off the port bow by the convoy commodore. An hour later numerous white lights were observed followed by a message that a submarine had been sighted off the starboard bow of the convoy. The cutters Bibb (WPG-31) and Ingham reported as reinforcements to the Task Unit.
On the 7th at 0612 an explosion and gunfire from the starboard bow of the convoy was followed 30 minutes later by the sighting of a submarine at 10,000 yards. The Spencer increased to full speed, the sub submerged in five minutes and a box research resulted in a sound contact at 0727 which was lost after dropping three depth charges. At 0907 a sub was sighted at 4,700 yards, after a radar impulse, then lost and three charges dropped at estimated position of the sub, without gaining sound contact. A convoy vessel was reported to have been torpedoed on the 6th with only three survivors. The Babbitt and a British escort joined as additional support forces.
On 8 March Spencer received a message from an unknown ship using the call letters "VERDO" that she was being attacked and at 0630 the Greer reported that SS Vosvoda Putnik required assistance due to a rudder casualty. At 0657 Spencer saw a ship torpedoed about 10,000 yards away and on arrival at the scene saw life rafts, one boat and several persons in the water. The Spencer established a sound contact and released a pattern of six depth charges. Then lost contact and began a box search, reestablished contact and released two more charges. Then she picked up 35 survivors from the torpedoed SS Guido, with 10 unaccounted for. A morning count showed 33 ships and two escorts with an unknown number of stragglers. A Canadian escort joined as additional escort.
The Greer rescued the survivors of Vosvoda Putnik. The Bibb rejoined the escort. At 1740 Spencer sighted a submarine submerging and released five charges but failed a regain contact. An hour later she dropped nine charges on a sub sighted at 900 yards. At 1910 one ship reported a torpedo passing her port bow and another a sub on her port bow with which she believed she collided as it passed into the convoy. On 9 March one ship reported a torpedo coming from port to starboard and another ship reported sighting a strange object between the columns of the convoy. At 1925 a loud explosion was followed by the report that SS Malantic had been torpedoed. Fifteen minutes later ship No. 74 of the convoy was torpedoed and an anti-submarine search with illumination was ordered. At 2201 two explosions were followed by reports of the torpedoing of SS Nail Sea Court and SS Bonneville.
On 10 March Bibb was standing by the torpedoed ships when SS Scorton at 0823 reported sighting a sub close aboard. She had definitely rammed it with no damage to herself. The morning ship count showed 35 ships present and eight escorts while the submarine report indicated that several U-boats were still shadowing the convoy. Later two escorts dropped charges on sound contacts. On the 11th there were 36 ships and nine escorts present and the convoy received air coverage, the first plane reporting a submarine 44 miles astern. Three escorts detached. On the 12th twelve ships with an escort departed for Loch Ewe and Spencer dropped a depth charge on a sound contact later classified as non-sub. On the 13th, being relieved of further escort duty Spencer proceeded to Londonderry.
On 25 March 1943, Spencer relieved local escorts of the 40-ship west-bound convoy ON-175 with two British and two Canadian escorts. Five ships later detached to proceed independently and the 26th air coverage appeared for the 36 convoy ships while submarine reports indicated several west of the convoy. The Greer joined as escort. On the 28th the base course was changed farther north to avoid the concentration of U-boats reported. On the 29th the convoy hove to in heavy weather, and at 1840, 28 ships and six escorts were in sight. No reports indicated that the convoy had been sighted by enemy submarines. Slow progress was made on the 30th due to heavy weather but no submarines were in the immediate vicinity. On the 31st there were 29 ships and seven escorts present and the submarines appeared to be moving southeast from their previous position. On 1 April 1943, SS Forest reported her rudder carried away and another ship and escort departed to take in tow to Reykjavik. On the 2nd a radar impulse showed a submarine which submerged. After dropping a pattern of depth charges Spencer commenced a box search with a British escort which reported a positive sound and dropped a pattern. On the 6th three escorts dropped charges on sound contacts. On the 7th Spencer was relieved of escort duty and proceeded to St. John' s arriving on 8 April 1943.
On 11 April 1943, Spencer departed St. John's in company with Task Unit 24.1.3 consisting, in addition, of Duane, two British and two Canadian escorts, and rendezvoused with the 56-ship east-bound convoy HX-233, relieving the local escort on the 12th. One straggler was reported. The convoy proceeded due east to avoid submarines reported south of Greenland and Iceland. On the 13th one escort was 25 miles to the north with four stragglers. They joined next day as did another Canadian escort. On the 15th the submarine report indicated that the convoy may have been sighted by U-boats. On the 16th Spencer dropped depth charge and delivered a mousetrap attack on a sound contact, firing eight more rounds of mousetrap ammunition on another contact an hour later. On the 17th SS Fort Rampart was reported torpedoed and Spencer screened the Canadian escort during rescue operations. At 0646 she established a contact and dropped a pattern of 10 charges and half an hour later fired mousetraps on another contact. Subsequent contacts were non-sub or lost and Spencer rejoined the convoy. At 1050 she had a sound contact and dropped 11 charges and on reestablishing it dropped 11 more. At 1117 she regained it and fired mousetraps.
At 1138 a submarine [U-175] surfaced to conning tower depth at 2,500 yards, drawing slowly right, still underway but apparently damaged. At 1140 Spencer commenced firing all guns and observed many hits on the conning tower and at its base. The crew of the submarine was observed to be abandoning ship via the conning tower. The Duane, in the immediate vicinity, assisted, firing all batteries, while merchant vessels in rear columns of the convoy opened fire on the submarine, some projectiles passing it and landing close to and on Spencer. At 1145 Spencer ceased firing and maneuvered in the vicinity of the disabled submarine. The after davit of Spencer's No. 1 boat had been damaged by a projectile and the superstructure had been damaged by shrapnel--all of the damage was caused by friendly fire as the gunners on board many of the nearby merchant ships failed to clear Spencer while firing at the surfaced U-boat. Twenty five of Spencer's men were injured, one dying of his wounds [RM 3/c Julius Petrella].
At 1215 Spencer lowered her No. 2 boat with a submarine boarding party. At 1220 the sub began sinking and sank stern first at 1227. At 1238 Spencer began picking up survivors alongside. The submarine boarding party returned at 1255, having boarded the submarine momentarily prior to it sinking. Three Germans were observed to be dead in the conning tower. One German officer and 18 men were rescued by Spencer and 22 by Duane. [Click here for a photo gallery of this historic battle.]
On 18 April at 0055 a report was received from a plane a submarine was seen to dive in a position three and one half miles distant from the convoy but an investigation brought negative results. Three harassing charges were dropped half an hour later after a search among the convoy ships. Another contact was investigated by an escort vessel but abandoned. Four escorts detached from the convoy to reinforce convoy SC-126. On the 20th Spencer and Duane, relieved of escort duty, proceeded to Greenock, Scotland, and moored, the enemy prisoners being transferred to Naval Officer in Charge, Greenock, Scotland. On the 25th Spencer moored at Londonderry.
On 30 April 1945, Spencer, in company with Duane left Londonderry and proceeded independently. On 2 May one contact was investigated which proved to be non-sub. On the 3rd Duane departed on duty assigned. On the 4th a radar impulse was investigated with negative results. The Spencer entered Boston harbor on 6 May and on the 9th entered drydock for one day. On the 22nd she departed for Casco Bay for training exercises returning to Boston on the 24th. Next day she proceeded, via Cape Cod Canal, to Brooklyn arriving on 26 May.
The Spencer, in company with Duane and six Navy destroyers got underway on 28 May 1943 from Sandy Hook as units of Task Force 69, escorting convoy UGS-9 for Casablanca. The Campbell joined the Task Force on the 30th and next two a merchant vessel and two LST 's escorted by two destroyers joined the convoy. Air coverage was received daily from 2 June 1943, and various drills were held. On the 5th Task Group 21.12 joined DESRON 19 to furnish carrier-based air coverage for the convoy. On the 8th two escorts departed to investigate a submarine sighted by a plane from the escort carrier USS Bogue (CVE-9). On the 9th four escorts departed and proceeding independently with Bogue, accompanied by eight aircraft in formation. On the 10th Task Group 21.12 was detached. Next day air coverage was received from U. S. Army bombers. On the 12th two convoy ships were in collision and fell astern. On the 15th the Task Force was relieved and escorted nine merchant vessels to Casablanca. The Spencer patrolled the outer harbor on the 17th and moored in the inner harbor on 18 June.
On 21 June 1943, Spencer, in company with Campbell, Duane, and three destroyers got underway and next day sighted 15 ships of the Casablanca section of Convoy GUS-8A. On the 27th two carrier based aircraft were sighted. On the 28th the three destroyers departed to investigate a sound contact astern. On the 29th Spencer dropped two charges on a sound contact, and commenced a box search with negative results. On July 8th the convoy divided into two sections, Spencer, Duane, and Campbell escorting the second section of 16 ships to New York arriving on 12 July.
The Spencer remained at the New York Navy Yard from the 12th to the 22nd of July 1943 when she got underway and following anti-submarine exercises on the 23rd and 24th in the Block Island area she proceeded to Norfolk, arriving on July 25th. She was underway on the 26th and on the 27th she assumed her position on the starboard bow of convoy UGS-13, as a member of Task Force 64. The convoy received air coverage until 31 July and on the 1st of August from planes based on the escort carrier USS Card (CVE-11). Air coverage was again received on the 8th to the 11th. On the 12th a British escort group relieved Task Force 64 and that group proceeded with the Casablanca section of the convoy and moored at Casablanca on 13 August.
On 21 August 1943, Spencer with a destroyer proceeded out of Casablanca followed by the Casablanca section of convoy GUS-12. The convoy received land based air coverage until the 23rd. On 5 September the Norfolk section of the convoy was detached with four escorts and Spencer took the position with the New York section, entering the New York swept channel on the 5th. The Spencer detached and arrived the next day at South Boston.
The Spencer was underway on 17 September 1943, standing out of Boston and after three days at Casco Bay engaged in exercises and made rendezvous on the 22nd with five navy destroyers and proceeded to Norfolk where they reported on the 24th as Task Force 64. On the 25th the Task Force took its position with convoy UGS-19 en route Casablanca. Air coverage was received until the 30th and from the 9th to 11th of October when the Casablanca section detached and with Spencer arrived at Casablanca on the 12th.
On 16 October 1943, Spencer, with Task Force 64, departed Casablanca and arrived at Gibraltar on the 17th. On the 19th she took her position with Task Force 64 as escort to convoy GUS-18. On the 20th the Casablanca section joined and four ships detached for Casablanca. Air coverage was furnished until November 5th. The Norfolk section departed on the 4th and the rest of the convoy continued to New York, entering New York Channel on the 6th, when Spencer detached and proceeded to South Boston. Here she moored for 10 days availability, reporting to Commander, Caribbean Sea frontier by dispatch on 18 November 1943, for duty with Task Group 26.4.
The Spencer got underway from Boston on 18 November 1943, en route Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and reported there on the 22nd. On the 23rd she departed with SC-1312 as Task Unit 04.6.2 to rendezvous with convoy KG-67l, as escort of the San Juan section of the convoy. On the 26th she arrived at San Juan, departing after a few hours to patrol the southern entrance to Virgin Passage until the 27th. After a short patrol at the southern entrance to Viequest Passage, she began escorting, in company with Bibb and the French aircraft carrier Bearn en route Cuba. Air coverage was received on the 28th. The Spencer departed from her station long enough to identify the Swiss SS Kassos, 13 miles distant. She was relieved of escort duty on 30 November 1943.
The Spencer was cruising in the vicinity of Puerto Rico at 0959 on 1 December 1943 when she had an underwater contact at 1,200 yards. She reduced speed and passed directly over the target. Ten minutes later she fired a six-charge embarrassing barrage and 15 minutes later an eight-charge barrage. Half an hour later she released a 12-charge pattern. Shortly after this, several on board Spencer thought they saw a periscope on the port quarter about 1,700 yards distant. At 1156 there was an underwater sound bearing 800 yards distant but the target echo could not be kept separate from the disturbance resulting from the previous depth charge explosion. A retiring search was started at noon. Half an hour later Spencer fired an 11-charge barrage on a contact with hydrophone effects and started another retiring search. At 1500 two large oil slicks were noted five miles south of the last attack. A rectangular box search was then begun, ending with a search across the entrance to Mona Passage which ended at 0700 on 2 December and she moored at San Juan. Next day she entered drydock and remained there until 7 December.
On 9 December 1943, after receiving passengers, mail and supplies, she departed for Trinidad, B.W.I. stopping briefly at Willemstad, Curacao on the 10th to escort the USAT El Libertador until the 12th when the transport was turned over to USS SC-1302. The Spencer moored at Trinidad on the 13th. With three PC' s Spencer left Trinidad on 15 December 1943 escorting convoy TAG-103 to Guantanamo. Air coverage from land-based aircraft was furnished during the next five days. On the 17th the Curacao section departed and sections from Curacao and Aruba joined the convoy. On the 19th another PC joined the escort. Three ships were detached on the 20th to proceed independently to Cuban ports, and later Spencer and two PC's were relieved as escorts and proceeded into Guantanamo Bay.
On 25 December 1943, Spencer and four PC's as Task Unit 04.1.3 were underway escorting the Guantanamo section of convoy GAT-107 to Trinidad, meeting the main body of the convoy at 0925, and relieving C.T.U. 02.9.7. Air coverage from land based planes was received daily. One vessel joined that afternoon and another on the 26th. The Spencer departed station to render medical assistance to a convoy vessel on the 28th. On the 29th the Aruba-Curacao section of 12 ships, escorted by one PC departed. The PC-1239 ordered to divert SS Rio Hacha (Ecuador) on the 30th collided with that vessel and towed her to Bonaire. Seven vessels departed independently for Puerto La Cruz. The convoy reached Trinidad on 21 December 1943.
After conducting exercises in formation with Task Unit 04.1.3 on 7 January 1944, Spencer and three PCs got underway on the 9th, with another PC and a YMS joining later as escorts of convoy TAG-108. On the 11th the YMS departed and on the 13th one of the convoyed vessels departed independently for Kingston, Jamaica. Later another departed independently for Cienfuegos and six for Guantanamo. The Task Unit moored at Guantanamo on 14 January.
On 18 January 1944, Spencer with Task Unit 04.1.3 proceeded out of Guantanamo Bay escorting convoy GAT-12 to Trinidad, B.W.I. Later that day convoy NG-410 joined. On the 19th two vessels detached to proceed independently to Kingston, Jamaica. One of the escorts, PC-1239, attacked a sound contact, reattacking 15 minutes later and conducted a search with another P.C. On the 21st one vessel in the convoy departed independently for Las Pietas, Venezuela and another for Curacao. On the 23rd five vessels departed independently for Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela. On 24 January Spencer and the rest of the Task Unit were relieved of escort duty and moored at U. S. Naval Air Station, Trinidad, B.W.I.
After exercises and tactical maneuvers, Task Unit 04.1.3 got underway on 3 February 1944 with Spencer and three PCs and screened the sortie of Convoy TAG-113. Another PC joined. At 1755 Spencer attacked a contact later classified as non-sub, but conducted a box search of the area. On the 5th the Curacao section joined followed by the Aruba section, with vessels for Aruba detaching shortly afterwards. A friendly merchant vessel was identified on the 6th. On the 7th three vessels detached for Guantanamo and Spencer moored after being relieved of escort duty on the 8th.
On 9 February 1944, Spencer stood out of Guantanamo Bay and proceeded independently to Hampton Roads, Virginia, where she moored on the 12th reporting for duty to CINCLANT. She proceeded to Norfolk Navy Yard on the 14th where she was on availability until 1 March 1944. After post repair trails, Spencer stood out of Norfolk on 4 March with Task Force 62, escorting UGS-35. The convoy received air coverage from land based aircraft on the 6th and from carrier based planes on the 13th and 15th. On the 21st the Task Force was relieved of escort duty and proceeded to Gibraltar where it moored. Getting underway for Casablanca at 1800, Spencer had an underwater contact forty five minutes later and fired four hedgehog barrages. Two underwater explosions were heard and she commenced a box search of the area. Another depth charge was fired on the underwater contact. A British and Dutch escort joined in the search which continued until early on March 22nd when Spencer proceeded to Casablanca and moored.
Standing out of Casablanca on 26 March 1944, Spencer in Task Force 62, relieved a Dutch escort of convoy GUS-34. A sick man was transferred by breeches buoy to Spencer from one of the convoyed vessels later in the afternoon for treatment. Air coverage was furnished by land based planes through the 27th. A French vessel joined the convoy on the 28th. The Horta section joined on 1 April 1944. The Spencer took aboard several crew members from other vessels for medical treatment during the voyage. Three seamen died. Air coverage from land-based aircraft was received from the 11th to the 14th. One vessel departed under escort for Bermuda on the 11th. On the 12th the Norfolk section broke off and Spencer proceeded with the New York section, mooring at New York Navy Yard on 14 April.
After 15 days availability Spencer got underway from Brooklyn on 1 May 1944, and moored at Norfolk on the 2nd. On the 3rd she departed Norfolk with Task Force 62 as escort to convoy UGS-41. Air coverage from land based planes and blimps was received on the 3rd and from planes alone through the 7th. On the 17th a sound contact was classified non-sub. One merchant vessel with escort joined the convoy from Santa Maria, Azores, 60 miles distant. Several men were transferred to Spencer by breeches buoy from other vessels during the trip for medical treatment. A British submarine and a British destroyer joined the convoy on the 20th, and aircraft coverage by land based planes was furnished.
On the 21st all hands were called to air attack quarters and a smoke screen was laid for 50 minutes from 0603. Seven hours later air general quarters was again sounded, an unidentified plane being reported eight miles distant, presumed to be an enemy shadow plane. It disappeared and all hands were secured shortly afterwards. At 2046 another call to air attack quarters was made and a smoke screen laid for an hour and a half. Three escorts rejoined and the Oran section detached with 11 merchant vessels from that port joining. Two more escorts joined. On the 22nd one merchant ship and one escort detached for Algiers. Air attack quarters, with smoke screen was called at various times through the 23rd. On the 24th the Task Force was relieved and Spencer proceeded to Gaulet du Lac, Tunisia where she anchored until the 31st, when she proceeded to Bizerte.
After anti-aircraft exercises Spencer got underway with Task Force 62, as escort of convoy GUS-41 on 31 May 1944. On June 4th she was relieved of her escort station and proceeded alone toward Europa Point where two officers departed to be detached from the Task Force and Spencer stood out of Gibraltar Bay to regain her convoy escort station. Air coverage was furnished by land based planes on the 17th, 18th and 19th. On the 18th convoy was divided into two sections, Spencer proceeding with the New York section. Mooring at Brooklyn on 20 June, Task Force 62 flag was transferred to USS Eldridge (DE-173) on the 22nd and on the 25th Spencer departed for Norfolk where she moored on the 26th to undergo conversion to a combined operations-communications headquarters ship or AGC (she was then redesignated as WAGC-36).
The Spencer remained at Norfolk Navy Yard, Portsmouth, Virginia, until 11 September 1944, when, after being depermed, she proceeded to N.O.B., Norfolk, leaving there on the 13th for an anchorage in Chesapeake Bay to seek shelter from a reported hurricane. The 36th Signal Detachment Headquarters Company, U. S. Army, consisting of three officers and 23 men, reported aboard for duty early on the 13th. She underwent a post-conversion shakedown from the 16th to the 23rd and after post-shakedown repairs at NOB, Norfolk, stood out on the 27th escorted by USS Muskegon (PF-24). On 3 October1944, she arrived at Cristobal, Panama, Canal Zone, where she reported to Commander, Seventh (Pacific) Fleet for duty.
On 24 October 1944, Spencer passed through Panama Canal to Balboa, and, operating independently without surface escort or air coverage, proceeded toward Bora Bora, Society Islands. She arrived there on the 18th and left the same day, proceeding independently for Finschhaven, New Guinea. Arriving on the 29th she received orders to go to Langemak Bay and thence to Hollandia. She anchored in Humboldt Bay, New Guinea on October 31st. While en route to this point from Balboa she had held numerous target practices, four fire, two collision and two abandon ship drills. Crew members had been familiarized with their duties through various classes of instructions.
The Spencer moved from Humboldt Bay to Hollandia Bay on 1 November 1944, and reported to Commander, 7th Amphibious Group on 3 November. On the 6th she moored to USS Otus (AS-20) and began undergoing conversion and repair work as directed by Commander, Task Force 76. When a swimming party from Spencer observed three groups of swimmers clinging to flotsam one and one half miles from shore on the 7th, the ship's No. 2 boat picked them up, landing seven of the men at their camp, transferring two Navy reservists and two WAC's to Spencer, the latter four being covered with fuel oil and the WAC's also suffering from shock. They were issued emergency clothing, fed and sent ashore to their units. Repairs and conversion were completed on November 25th.
Getting underway with Task Unit 76.4.5 on 26 November 1944, Spencer proceeded to Leyte where the Task Unit was dissolved on the 30th. The Spencer anchored in the vicinity of USS Mt. McKinley (AGC-7) in San Pedro Bay. Later that day RADM A. D. Struble, USN, and staff reported on board and Spencer became flagship of Task Group 78.3. Later BGEN Dunckel and staff reported on board for duty with the Task Group. On the 6th the flag of the commander, Task Group 78.3 was shifted to USS Hughes (DD-410). On the 7th, while standing up San Pedro Bay to refuel, Spencer became grounded on a reef. The fire room and compartment A-413 were flooded and the main engines and boilers were secured. The USS Quepaw (AFT-110) arrived to stand by and the next day Spencer was floated, towed by an Army light tug (LT-20) and anchored in San Pedro Bay where divers completed temporary repairs by placing a modern patch on the hull. While anchored on the 20th Spencer fired on an enemy plane two miles distant. The 36th Signal Detachment transferred to USS Gilliam (APA-57) for temporary duty, and on the 22nd LCC 's 92 and 94 reported for duty with Spencer, who then moved to Leyte Gulf as examination vessel.
On 28 January 1945, Spencer was underway from San Pedro Bay, Leyte as flagship and guide for the 8th Amphibious Group with LTGEN R. L. Eichelberger, Commanding General, 8th Army and MAJGEN Swing, commanding general, 11th Airborne Division on board. The landing was made on 31 January 1945, after a preliminary naval bombardment. Minor opposition was encountered on the beaches, which was quickly wiped out and the 11th Airborne Division dashed up the valley 35 miles to the southern limits of Manila. On 1 February Spencer patrolled off Nasugu Bay, Luzon, P. I., in company with two other vessels. Later that morning LTGEN Eichelberger, Commanding General U. S. 8th Army and staff departed to take charge of operations ashore. On the 2nd Spencer moved under escort to Mangarin Bay Mindoro, P. I. and left there on the 9th escorted by USS Flusser (DD-368) receiving air coverage from land based aircraft. Anchoring in San Pedro Bay on the 16th she returned to Mangarmn Bay on the 18th.
Following a rehearsal exercise with Task Group 78.2 , on 25 February 1945, Spencer stood out on the 26th as flagship and fleet guide, with BGEN Harold H. Haney, Commanding General, 41st Infantry on board. The amphibious landing to seize the Puerto Princessa area on 28 February. There were estimated to the 3,500 enemy troops on Palawan, of which 2,000 were thought to be in the Puerto Princessa area. Only 600 of these, however, were combat troops. Beaching conditions were generally unfavorable due to fringing reefs, coral heads and mangrove swamps backing some beaches. 5,322 combat and 2,094 service troops were landing in various types of landing craft. Extensive bombing and strafing had been effected two days before landing. The initial landings were completed with no opposition encountered, out troops advancing rapidly inland, securing both the nearby airfields by 1300. During the afternoon, one infantry company was transported in LVTs and LCMs to the mouth of the Iwahig River, where they landed with only a few rounds of opposition small-arms fire. At 1849 Spencer was underway patrolling off Puerto Princessa in company with combatant units of Task Group 78.2. She departed on the 3rd and anchored in Mangarin Bay, Mindoro, on the 4th. Leaving there on the 5th, under escort, she anchored in San Pedro Bay on the 7th.
On 21 March 1945, Acting Commander, Amphibious Group 8, CAPT Albert T. Sprague, Jr., USN, and staff and MAJGEN William Arnold, Commanding General, American Division, U. 5. 8th Army and staff reported aboard. The Spencer participated in rehearsal for V-2 operations with other units of Task Group 78.2 and on the 24th stood out as flagship and guide for the task group, receiving land based air coverage on the 25th. On the 26th Spencer anchored in Bobol Straits off Talisay, Cebu to direct V-2 operations against enemy occupied territory. About 14,000 combat and service troops of the Americal Division landed at Talisay Beach, southwest of Cebu City on 26 March. The assault followed a bombardment of the beaches by cruisers and destroyers of Task Group 74.3 and two weeks of aerial attacks which severely damaged enemy defenses and other installations. Except for numerous land mines and mortar fire on the left flank, no opposition was met on the beaches. Under-water log obstructions hampered unloading of the larger landing craft. Pontoon causeways overcame the low beach gradient. Several midget submarines were attacked south of the city during the afternoon. Cebu city was occupied the day after the landing with the docks found essentially undamaged. The rest of the city, however, was largely in ruins, Japanese demolition squads beginning a systematic destruction of all major installations almost simultaneously with our landings at Talisay. At 1555 on the 26th Major General Arnold departed Spencer to take command of operations ashore and Spencer got underway patrolling Bohol Strait in company with various units of Task Group 78.2. Patrol duty was completed on the morning of the 27th on which date at 1931 there was an air alert and a single Japanese plane, probably a Val dive bomber, dropped two or three bombs on the beachhead and in water off Talisay, without causing any damage. The Spencer departed Talisay on March 28th, anchoring in San Pedro Bay on the 29th.
On 17 April 1945, elements of the U. 5. 10th Army Corps landed unopposed along the eastern shores of Moro Gulf, Mindanao. Troops of the 24th Division were put ashore at Parang, about 15 miles north of Cotabato, after a preliminary bombardment of the beachhead by cruisers and destroyers. By mid-day they had advanced more than 5 miles south of Parang, still meeting light opposition. Meanwhile, farther to the north, other units landed at Malabang. As the amphibious force, of which Spencer served as flagship, approached Malabang, and a few minutes before the heavy naval bombardment of the beach and nearby airstrip were scheduled to begin a small motor boat put out from shore. As she approached the American ensign could be identified in the pre-dawn light. The craft was manned by native guerillas and carried three U. S. Army fliers. They reported that the Japanese had fled the area and that the beachhead was unguarded. Troops of the 24th Army Division were landed and took up pursuit of the fleeing Japanese.
Units of the 24th Division, working overland from Parang, secured Kabacan, an important road junction in the center of the island of Mindanao and moving swiftly through the hills to the east had reached Digos, on the west coast of the Davao Gulf on the 27th of April. Here they spread out while units advancing to the north reached the western outskirts of Davao on 1 May 1945. The same task force that had operated in the Moro Gulf, with Spencer, as flagship, swept around the southern tip of Mindanao and landed troops and material at Santa Cruz near Digos on May 3rd where the 24th Division had already cleared the beachhead of the enemy. The city of Davao was captured on May 4th and the city seaport, Santa Ana, was taken on 3 May. The Spencer proceeded to Polloc Harbor on the 4th and then returned to Leyte on the 9th.
The Spencer proceeded to Morotai, N.E.I. on 23 May 1945 and anchored there on the 25th. On 4 June she departed, together with other units of Task Group 78.1 having been designated primary fighter direction ship for that Task Group and flagship for Commander of White and Green Beach assault units of "Oboe Six" operation, Brunei, North Borneo. Shortly after anchoring of Green Beach. (Muara Harbor), Brunei Bay on 10 June there was an air alert and a Japanese plane, identified as a Nick [Kawasaki Ki-45] twin-engine fighter, dropped one bomb near the transport area off Brown Beach, but caused no damage. At 1230, BGEN William J. V. Windeyer of the Australian 9th Division and staff departed Spencer. Besides providing communications facilities for the 20th Australian Brigade, which had landed on three beaches on the southern side of the Bay, as they pushed toward Brooketon, Spencer had acted as radar guard against Japanese planes coming in near the mouth of the Bay. On the 13th as P-61 "Black Widow" night fighter, controlled from Spencer, shot down one Nick twin-engine fighter about 10 miles south. Relieved by USS Bancroft (DD-598) on the 14th Spencer returned to Morotai.
The Spencer anchored at Morotai on the 20th and reported to Commander Task Group 78.2 for duty on "Oboe Two" operation against Balikpapan, Borneo. On the 22nd CAPT C. W. Gray, USN, and staff and various officers and men of the 7th Australian Division reported aboard. The Spencer was to act as relief group flag ship for the operation. After rehearsal on the 24th, officers and men of the First Australian Air Liaison Group reported aboard for duty on June 25th and Spencer proceeded to her assigned station in the assault echelon on the 26th as the task group got underway. On 1 July Spencer anchored in her assigned station for the Balikpapan operation and staff officers of the Australian 7th Division left the vessel.
The Spencer became flagship for Task Group 78.2 on 3 July. The support force consisted of Seventh Fleet cruisers and escorts carriers and elements of the Royal Australian and Netherlands navies. After preliminary bombardment, the landing was made on 1 July. There were serious enemy mortar fire at the beaches causing temporary withdrawal of some landing craft. This fire was quickly knocked out by destroyer gunfire and the landing operations resumed. Inland, stiff fighting was encountered. On the 7th, escorted by USS Kline (APD-120), Spencer departed for Manila arriving there on the 10th. She proceeded independently to Subic Bay on the 17th, returning to Manila on the 19th, where she remained at anchor until 1 August 1945, as flagship for Commander, Amphibious Group Eight [ComPhibGrp 8].
On 2 August 1945, Spencer, with RADM Albert S. Noble, ComPhibGrp 8 aboard, got underway enroute independently to Zamboanga, Mindanao, where RADM Noble was to confer with the commanding general of the 35th Division. Arriving on the 5th she moored at Government Dock, Zamboanga until the 7th when she returned to Tolosa, Leyte, for emergency repairs. She arrived at Tolosa on the 8th and on the 10th received unofficial news of the Japanese desire to surrender. On the 11th she proceeded to Manila, escorted by USS Brazier (DE-345) arriving there on the 12th. On the 25th she departed for San Fernando, Luzon, where RADM Noble was to confer with the commanding general of the 33rd Division. She returned to Manila on 28 August 1945.
On 10 September, the Commander, Amphibious Group 8, transferred to USS Wasatch (AGC-9) and Spencer reported to Commander, Service Division 101 (ComServDiv 101). She proceeded to Leyte on the 11th and on the 17th was underway independently to join the convoy 10K 31, consisting of LCS Flotilla 5 en route Okinawa. On 22 September she was en route independently to Jinsen, Korea, where she anchored on the 24th, serving as auxiliary communication ship for ComServDiv 101. On 9 October 1945 Spencer was underway for Shanghai, China. While on the way, several floating mines were sunk by gunfire. She moored at Shanghai on the 12th. On 5 December 1945, she was released from ComServDiv 101 and was ordered that when ready for sailing to "load to capacity with personnel" and set "sail to Pearl," surely the best orders received by the crew during the war. The Spencer then sailed independently for Pearl Harbor and arrived on 18 December. She was then ordered when RFS to proceed to San Diego and report to the District Coast Guard Officer (DCGO), 11th Naval District. The cutter arrived at San Diego on 24 December and was then ordered to proceed to New York and report to the DCGO, 3rd Naval District "for further orders & ultimate reconversion."
The Spencer then remained at New York in reduced commission status until a yard was ready to convert her back to her peace-time configuration, including the removal of her war-time armament and structural modifications made when she was first converted to an AGC. She departed New York on 23 February 1946 and proceeded to the Charleston Navy Yard, arriving there on 25 February. She remained under repair and reconversion until July, 1946 and when that was completed she reverted to her earlier classification of WPG-36.
After she was returned to her peace-time configuration, she returned to her traditional Coast Guard duties of law enforcement, search and rescue, and weather station patrols. The weather patrols (later termed "ocean station patrols") consisted of sailing for three weeks on one of four assigned stations in the North Atlantic, soon expanded to eight in the Atlantic and six in the Pacific, and each cutter assigned performed four or five such patrols each year. Their primary task was to report meteorological information, which was used in weather forecasts for the burgeoning trans-Atlantic commercial air traffic as well as for surface vessels. The ocean station vessels also provided communications and navigation assistance and were always standing by for and search and rescue emergencies.
The Spencer was then ordered to Boston, which remained her home port until August 1947. From 9 November until 1 December 1946 she served on Ocean Station "A" or Alpha. On 12 August 1947 she was assigned to Brooklyn, New York, and St. George, Staten Island, New York, where she served until 1969. She was then assigned to Governor's Island, New York, which remained her homeport for the remainder of her Coast Guard career.
She went back to Ocean Station Able from 2 to 23 February 1947; Ocean Station Charlie on 8 to 29 March; she then sailed on the International Ice Patrol along with the cutter Mendota (WPG-69) from 14 May through 23 July 1947. Then it was back to ocean station duty: Ocean Station Able from 6 to 16 June 1947; Ocean Station Charlie from 13 September to 4 October 1947; 20 December to 14 January 1948 on Ocean Station Able; Ocean Station Charlie from 30 March to 12 April 1948 and again on 11 June to 2 July 1948; 29 August to 2 September 1948 on Ocean Station Charlie; 17 November 1948 to 10 December 1948 on Ocean Station Able; 12 to 15 January 1949 on Ocean Station Able but departed early due to a medical emergency. 15 March to 5 May 1949 on Ocean Station Easy; 15 May to 4 June 1949 on Ocean Station Dog. On 25 June 1949 Spencer patrolled the Poughkeepsie Regatta and then sailed back for duty on Ocean Station Charlie from 15 July to 6 August 1949 and again from 8 to 29 October 1949.
The Spencer served on ocean stations throughout the 1950s as well: 21 December 1949 to 11 January 1950 on Ocean Station How; 20 March to 4 April 1950 on Ocean Station Able; 28 May to 18 June 1950 on Ocean Station Dog; and she escorted the disabled motor vessel Belfri to St John's from 8 to 11 August 1950. From 14 August to 1 September 1950 she served on Ocean Station Baker; 15 November to 6 December 1950 she served on Ocean Station Easy; from 25 January to 15 February 1951 she was on Ocean Station How and while there, on 27 January, she helped fight a fire on board the motor vessel Meirdizengoff. From 20 April to 12 May 1951 she served on Ocean Station Baker; Ocean Station Dog from 30 June to 21 July 1951; Ocean Station Baker from 14 September to 5 October 1951; 5 to 27 December on Ocean Station How where on 19 December she assisted the motor vessel Atlantic Enterprise. The next year she served on: Ocean Station Charlie from 8 to 28 March; 13 May to 4 June on Ocean Station Easy; 1 to 28 August on Ocean Station Charlie; 17 October to 8 November 1952 on Ocean Station Bravo. The Spencer offered medical assistance to the fishing vessel Batavia on 9 November 1952. On 12 to 13 November 1952 she towed the disable fishing vessel Brighton to Portland, Maine.
In 1953 she again sailed on ocean station patrols. From 16 January to 6 February she served on Ocean Station Echo; 17 April to 8 May on Ocean Station Delta; on 22 June to 13 July on Ocean Station Hotel; and on 30 October to 20 November 1953 she served on Ocean Station Bravo. On 14 January 1954 Spencer medevaced a crewman from the motor vessel Vema off Bermuda. Then it was back to the ocean stations. She served on: Ocean Station Bravo from 6 to 27 March 1954; 22 May to 12 June on Ocean Station Delta and again at Ocean Station Delta from 24 September to 16 October 1954. She finished out 1954 on Ocean Station Echo, where she patrolled from 6 to 31 December 1954.
Her next assignment was to Ocean Station Bravo, where Spencer served from 24 February to 18 March and again 24 to 28 March 1955. From 27 May to 17 June 1955 she served on Ocean Station Coca; Ocean Station Echo from 30 July to 20 August 1955; from 31 December to 22 January 1956 she served on Ocean Station Delta; Ocean Station Echo from 16 March to 6 April 1956. She served on Ocean Station Bravo from 13 to 30 July 1956 and on Ocean Station Charlie from 19 November to 11 December 1956. The following year she first served on Ocean Station Bravo from 6 to 26 February 1957; 25 June to 16 July 1957 on Ocean Station Delta; and from 20 August to 9 September 1957 on Ocean Station Charlie. From 5 to 7 January 1958 she escorted the disabled motor vessel Sydney Breeze to Bermuda. She then served on Ocean Station Delta from 4 to 24 March 1958; she served on Ocean Station Echo from 2 to 24 May 1958; and patrolled the Newport-to-Bermuda Race from 14 to 19 June 1958. She served on Ocean Station Bravo from 14 July to 4 August 1958. On 8 September 1958 she sank, as a hazard to navigation, the derelict Portugese fishing vessel Anna Maria at 44° 12' N x 50° 14' W by gunfire. She served on Ocean Station Delta from 9 to 29 September 1958 and on 18 September she provided medical assistance to USNS Rose. From 29 November to 19 December 1958 Spencer served on Ocean Station Echo.
The following year she was not assigned ocean station duty until April when she was ordered to patrol Ocean Station Charlie from 18 April to 8 May 1959. From 14 to 18 May 1959 she served on Ocean Station Delta and again on 28 June to 19 July 1959. From 9 November to 1 December 1959 she served on Ocean Station Bravo. The next year Spencer served on Ocean Station Charlie from 6 to 26 February 1960; on Ocean Station Delta from 17 April to 8 May 1960; from 22 August to 12 September 1960 on Ocean Station Echo; and on Ocean Station Charlie from 4 to 26 November 1960. She medevaced a crewman from the motor vessel American Farmer on 2 May 1961 and then sailed on to patrol Ocean Station Ocean Station Bravo from 8 to 29 May 1961. She served on Ocean Station Echo from 25 July to 15 August 1951. There is no record of ocean station duty then until July 1964. On 30 November 1962 she escorted the disabled motor vessel Erwin Schroeder until Spencer was relieved.
She served on Ocean Station Charlie from July and into August 1964 and served on Ocean Station Delta in July 1965. On 1 May 1965 the Treasury class vessels were re-designated as High Endurance Cutters or WHEC. This designation indicated a multi-mission ship able to operate at sea for 30-45 days without support and Spencer was then re classified as WHEC-36. In February 1966 she served on Ocean Station Bravo but sustained a shaft casualty. In January and February 1967 she served on Ocean Station Echo. Also in February 1967 she medevaced a crew member from the French motor vessel Fort Fleur d'Epee. In May to June 1967 she served on Ocean Station Bravo and on 6 June 1967 she evacuated an injured Coast Guard crewman from the cutter Evergreen (WLB-295). From 11 July to 3 August 1967 she served on Ocean Station Delta; she served on Ocean Station Charlie from 9 October to 1 November 1967. On 3 December 1967 she escorted the disabled Yugoslavian motor vessel Kotor to Halifax, Nova Scotia. The Spencer then served on Ocean Station Charlie from 24 February to 18 March and again from 31 July to 21 August 1968.
The Spencer returned to combat for the first time since World War II in 1969 when she was assigned to Coast Guard Squadron Three operating in the waters off Vietnam. She departed from Governor's Island on 2 January 1969 and arrived in theatre on 11 February. There she served until 30 September 1969, supporting the Navy's Operation Market Time, a campaign to to interdict communist waterborne supply lines. Spencer cruised for almost 44,000 miles and was at sea for 70-percent of the nine months she was deployed with Coast Guard Squadron Three. She detected over 4,200 suspicious vessels and craft, closely monitored the movement of more than 1,320 of them and had boarding teams board 27 vessels for a check of both the cargo and crew. They detained 52 "enemy suspects" and turned them over to the South Vietnamese military for questioning. The Spencer also carried out 13 naval gunfire missions in support of operations on land, destroying or damaging over 160 enemy structures, bunkers, and base camps.
Returning to Governor's Island, Spencer once again resumed her normal peace-time duties of law enforcement, search and rescue, and her primary mission of ocean station patrols. She first went to Ocean Station Bravo from 24 January to 16 February 1970; Ocean Station Echo from 6 to 29 June 1970; Ocean Station Charlie from 11 July to 3 August 1970; Ocean Station Bravo from 11 September to 4 October 1970; Ocean Station Bravo again from 21 May through 13 June 1971; Ocean Station Echo from 17 December 1971 to 10 January 1972; from 17 to 26 February 1972 she served on Ocean Station Hotel; Ocean Station Bravo from 4 to 24 March 1972; 16 May to 8 June and again from 18 July to 9 August 1972 she served on Ocean Station Charlie; Ocean Station Bravo from 23 September to 17 October 1972; 21 November to 7 December 1972 she served on Ocean Station Hotel; Ocean Station Charlie from 27 January to 16 February 1973 and again from 26 September to 16 October 1973; and her final ocean station patrol was on Ocean Station Hotel from 4 to 28 November 1973.
She was decommissioned on 23 January 1974 and then served as an "Engineer Training School" where students trained using her steam propulsion plant until 15 December 1980. Spencer was then sold for $27,955 on 8 October 1981 to the North American Smelting Company of Wilmington, Delaware, and scrapped.
Presidential Unit Citation
American Campaign Medal
World War II Victory Medal
China Service Medal
National Defense Service Medal w/ one battle star
Philippine Presidential Unit Citation
Vietnam Service Medal w/ two battle stars
Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces
American Defense Service Medal
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal w/ four battle
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal w/ four battle stars
Navy Occupation Service Medal
Philippine Liberation Ribbon w/ two battle stars
Meritorious Unit Citation w/ Gallantry Cross w/ Palm
CDR Edward H. Smith, 1937-1939
CDR Frederick A. Zeusler, 1939-1941
CDR Edward H. Fritzsche, 1941-1943
CDR Harold S. Berdine, 1943-1944
CDR Walter C. Capron, 1944
CDR James R. Hinnant, 1944-1946
CDR William P. Hawley, 1946-1947
CAPT John E. Fairbank, 1947-1948
CAPT George M. Phannemiller, 1948-1950
CAPT Walter C. Capron, 1950-1951
CDR Karl O. A. Zittel, 1951-1952
CAPT Harold J. Doebler, 1952-1954
CAPT Quentin McK. Greeley, 1954-1956
CAPT John T. Stanley, 1956-1958
CAPT Bernard E. Scalan, 1958-1960
CAPT Edward C. Allen, Jr., 1960-1961
CAPT James W. Paine, 1961-1963
CDR Robert J. Clark, 1963-1964
CAPT Lewis W. Tibbitts, Jr., 1964-1966
CAPT Williiam J. Zinck, 1966-1968
CAPT Mark Welliver, II, 1968-1970
CDR James R. Kelly, 1970-1972
CDR James C. Irwin, 1972-1974
Spencer Cutter File, US Coast Guard Historian's Office.
The Coast Guard at War V: Transports and Escorts. Part I [Escorts]. Washington, DC: U.S. Coast Guard, 1 March 1949. pp. 13-21.
Robert Scheina. U.S. Coast Guard Cutters & Craft of World War II. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1982.
Robert Scheina. U.S. Coast Guard Cutters & Craft, 1946-1990. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1990.
"Spencer Leaves Fleet and Joins Commercial Firm." Commandant's Bulletin #1-83 (January 3, 1983), p. 4.