The Seaweed

USS Champlin DD-601  

Fall 2001

Ship's Bell Photo


In an e-mail, former Champlin Executive Office Steve Anastasion writes, "Regarding the material from Operation Dragoon as written by Breuer, here's my recollection of a brief portion of the Southern France invasion about which he writes, most of which is correct but perhaps not in the order in which things happened. The plane action occurred well before the invasion instead of during it as Breuer writes. Bob Baughan and Taisto Ranta can correct or add to this. Just before the invasion, Champlin was part of a fleet task force patrolling the area between North Africa and Italy preliminary to the invasion. The Task Force was under strict orders to maintain silence. Bob Baughan had taken over as Exec. and was CIC; I was the gunnery officer in the Gun Director. One night during patrol, we were at GQ when our CIC picked up a surface contact whose speed was such that it was clearly an aircraft. The gun director was trained on the target and it was evident that the plane was hugging the surface. Both the gun director and CIC held the contact and before long, at a distance of perhaps 4000-6000 yards, I'm not too certain of the distance, the plane turned directly at us.

"Let me backtrack here. A few months before that, I had found a fire control computer ordalt in a BuOrd bulletin and ordered it. It was an ordalt that would allow the FC computer operator, by turning a crank (little electronics in those days) to move the burst height at the computed advance range from near surface to about 50 feet. Taisto installed it on our computer not too long before the patrol operation. Now back again. The plane kept coming in and both CIC and the Gun Director kept Captain Fleck informed almost second by second. Keep in mind that we're under strict silence order from the Force Commander. At a target distance of perhaps 2000 to 3000 yards, I called the Captain again, told him the plane was still coming straight in at us and asked permission to open fire. It took only a few seconds but he did give the command to open fire.

       (continued top column 2)

Also in this issue:

Annual Dues are 1
Operation 1
More 2
Raymond 2
Otto 2
John 2
Enlisted Men to 3
Colorado Springs 3
Howard L. 3
USS Champlin Voyages - 4
Champlin 5
Ship's 5
Gone to 5
Changing 5
Reunion 5
Questions are 6
Veteran's Benefit 6
Thought for the 6

(continued from column 1)

The forward batteries were ready and kicked out only a few rounds before the plane burst into flames. We probably had as many rounds left in the barrels after cease-fire as we had fired. Breuer is right about the cheers. Since there were no other targets on the radar screen, I gave permission to the Gun Captains to allow their handling room crews to peek out at the sight; in retrospect of wartime possibilities, not the wisest thing to do. But there is more to the story. Right after we broke the ordered silence with our gunfire, the fleet commander did so himself by going on the air via the TBS and asked who fired those shots. His first query was directed at the DD Squadron Flagship, Boyle, whose Captain answered something like "No sir, not my ship." When it came to our turn Captain Fleck gave him a short and straight answer that it was Champlin. Then instead of a few angry words, the Task Force Commander came back with a short reply of his own, something like "Good work, Captain. Congratulations." "As far as the invasion itself, my most vivid recollection of that is going into our invasion area, Champlin was ordered to be the lead ship. By that I mean we were all alone and ahead of the entire landing force by several miles. It was Champlin's mission to steal in close to shore, a mile or so, and anchor at a designated spot. Then, as the rest of the fleet came in and disembarked the troops, we were to turn on all our lights and act as a beacon guide for the landing craft. The beach area and towns were lit up and it appears we were either not expected, not detected, or both as it turned out. Hope the above is of some interest. Thanks again for all your work in keeping us altogether via the Seaweed."

On the same topic, Nathan Lerner TM3c writes, "I have two short memories of the landing in Southern France. The first is of the night we shot the German plane down. We were at General Quarters. It was about 9:30 in the evening. My GQ station was at the fantail depth charges. I was hanging out with the guys at the port and starboard K-guns. It was very quiet. Suddenly, all four gunmounts started training out to the starboard side. The three of us got as far away from the gunmounts as we could. Fortunately, our phones had long leads. The gunmounts continued to be training on something in the air. We didn't hear any planes. Without warning, mounts #1 and #2 fired and there was an explosion in the air, and a fire ball drifted to earth. That was it. The eerie part of the whole story, is that until the guns went off, the air was deathly quiet. All you heard was the gunmounts training left and right.

"The other memory I have is of the Champlin being sent in close to shore, during the day, to draw fire to see where their (German) guns were. Captain Fleck went in so far I thought they were going to call a Liberty Party. We did draw fire and I watched from the shore side of the ship until we were bracketed by a couple of German 88s. Some of the shrapnel landed on deck. And when I saw the jugged shrapnel and what it could do to you my observer days were OVER! If the shore was on the port side, I went over to the starboard side - and vice versa. Those are the only memories of Southern France that still remain."

Seaweed Request: Connors and Staller have an interesting tale regarding their role in the destruction of the German aircraft. Please send us the story for inclusion in the next Seaweed.

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