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May 6, 1944- USS Buckley (DE-51) rams and sinks U-66, crew photos


aerialbridge
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aerialbridge

The USS Buckley (DE 51), commissioned April 30, 1943, was the lead ship in her class of 102 long- hulled destroyer escorts designed for convoy escort duty and anti-submarine warfare (ASW). On the night of May 5-6, 1944, in the Atlantic sea-lanes west of the Cape Verde Islands off the coast of North Africa, Buckley engaged the German submarine U-66 in an unusual battle that included hand-to-hand combat after Buckley pursued the U-boat on the surface and then rammed it. U-66 was the 7th most successful U-boat in WW2, having sunk 33 merchant vessels (200,021 gross register tons) and damaged 2 British motor torpedo boats since her launch in 1940. As the destroyer escort sat perched on the sub's forecastle for about a minute, some of the U-boat's sailors managed to board Buckley, but were repelled by Buckley's crew, who used all means available, including fists and coffee cups. Buckley's skipper, LCDR Brent M. Abel, USNR, filed his after action report, reprinted below, that details the exciting and unique combat. For the action against U-66, Abel was awarded the Navy Cross, the Buckley was awarded a Navy Unit Commendation and all crewman were entitled to wear a bronze battle star on the European- African Theater ribbon. Fortunately, there were no Purple Hearts earned by Buckley's crew for combat with U-66, though at least one sailor bruised his knuckles. Unidentified group photos of some of Buckley's 188-man crew and some of the 36 sailors from U-66 that Buckley rescued after sinking the sub follow.

 

Nearly 70 years later, in tribute to the courageous men of both ships, former foes, who after the war periodically met for reunions, with no lingering animosity, and recognizing that all had done their duty to the best of their ability.

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aerialbridge

Photos of some of the Buckley's crew, taken May 1944. If anyone reading this topic is able to identify any of these crewmen, feel free to point out who they are and anything you'd like to tell about them.

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aerialbridge

Some of the 36 survivors of U-66--POW's treated humanely and glad to be alive. If anyone reading this can identify any of these men and would like to write something about them here, feel free.

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Garandomatic

Something about DDs and DEs... You mess with them and they fight like cruisers and battleships. Just ask Admiral Kurita!

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Jack's Son

Fantastic account in the report, the pix are dynamite as well. I actually found myself smiling as I read the AAR. Thank you.

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Tin Cans, miserable things to serv in, but tough and fierce! Notice in pic #3, back row, second man from right, left hand wrapped and splinted. Possibly The Casualty? Love these pics. They are what Sailors are supposed to look like. These are the guys I grew up with.

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ww2relichunter

Great story amazing how the it bent the buckley so much !!! Thanks for posting

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RustyCanteen

Thank you for posting these photos and the description.

 

This is one of my favorite WWII USN events!

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aerialbridge

Guys, it was fun preparing this post and I appreciate each of your comments. Buckley’s action against U-66 is a great story. Sigsaye— eagle eye for finding the “casualty” among the roughly 120 men in the nine crew photos. (“BUCKLEY suffers only casualty of engagement when man bruises fist knocking one of enemy over side”. Action report. P. 4) If you’d been in the crow’s nest of Titanic, she might be the tourist attraction in Long Beach, not the Queen Mary. I noticed after the opportunity to edit the post had passed that I’d pasted a duplicate crew photo and left one out. Here’s the 9th crew photo and a cropped close-up of “the casualty”.

 

 

USS Buckley (DE-51)- The only official casualty of combat with U-66.

 

 

After your keen observation, I looked at the photos again. I’m wondering the story behind the long bandage on the side of this sailor’s jaw.

 

One other item—in the caption of the photo of LCDR Brent Maxwell Abel receiving the Navy Cross, I misspelled his last name. Like his crew, he was more than “ABLE”, but that’s not how his name is spelled. Brent Maxwell Abel, Sr. was a well-respected California lawyer who passed away in 2006 at 89. Not surprisingly, many who worked with him were not even aware that he received the Navy Cross or the action against U-66, which occurred on his 28th birthday.

 

Obituary for LCDR Brent Maxwell Abel, Sr., S.F. Chronicle.

 

http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Brent-Maxwell-Abel-hero-of-WWII-naval-battle-2524207.php

 

 

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normaninvasion

Nice!! By grandfather was a radio operator on the Esso Heinrich Von Riedmann, sunk Apr 17 1942 by U-66, commanded by Richard Zapp. Avenged!!

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  • 1 year later...
aerialbridge

BTT for the 70th anniversary of this engagement and in tribute to the "tin can" sailors of WW2 this Memorial Day. Thanks to Administrator Brig who restored the image scans to this thread today and all the Administrators who are diligently working to return images to lots and lots of threads since Photobucket kicked the bucket.

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  • 10 months later...
Bob Iovanni

I found this thread while I was searching for additional information on the USS Buckley. My father served on this ship,and I actually have copies of all the photos above in a scrapbook my mother kept during the war. So here's one more picture to help complete the story. My father is on the left, and unfortunately there was no inscription on the back of this one, so I don't know the identity of the man on the right.

 

The story of the Buckley is really something, though while he was alive my dad never talked much about it.post-158299-0-44576900-1429590378.jpg

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Wow that is awesome. That is one detailed and graphic account of the action, smashing coffee cups into the enemy's heads??? you just don't make that up!

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Funny, last week I was down in San Diego taking note of the Taffy 3 memorial.

Something about DDs and DEs... You mess with them and they fight like cruisers and battleships. Just ask Admiral Kurita!

 

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aerialbridge

I found this thread while I was searching for additional information on the USS Buckley. My father served on this ship,and I actually have copies of all the photos above in a scrapbook my mother kept during the war. So here's one more picture to help complete the story. My father is on the left, and unfortunately there was no inscription on the back of this one, so I don't know the identity of the man on the right.

 

The story of the Buckley is really something, though while he was alive my dad never talked much about it.attachicon.gifRPI_002.jpg

 

Welcome, Bob, and thank you for posting that great picture of your dad on the Buckley. I'm happy that you found this post and honored it with your family's personal connection to a real "attaboy" piece of WWII naval history. You may well already have this, but if not, here is his name on the commissioning muster roll for the Buckley in 1943, second from the top. I gather your family is from Boston, which is the station where most of the V-6 crew for the Buckley came from, the ship being launched at Boston Harbor. Your dad certainly didn't get the "traveled the farthest" distinction when he mustered on, but I'll bet some of his family was there for the commissioning. Would love to see more of your scrap book photos if you'd like to post any. Best regards, AB

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Model makers of a certain age were well familiar with the story of the USS Bukcley, thanks to Revell.

 

It does seem to be a bit odd now to have a logo "Revell Models are FUN" right above the U-Boat conning tower as it is being rammed.

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aerialbridge

Model makers of a certain age were well familiar with the story of the USS Bukcley, thanks to Revell.

 

It does seem to be a bit odd now to have a logo "Revell Models are FUN" right above the U-Boat conning tower as it is being rammed.

 

Ha! I'd never seen that version of the box for the Revell Buckley kit, looks like a 50's one? I guess the "FUN" depends on whose ox is getting gored (or conning tower rammed.) I wonder if any of the 50's-60's plane kits have the FUN slogan over a dogfight showing the loser plumetting in flames? Kind of a simpler time, since although the CGI graphics in "games" today make that scene look "quaint", the slogan would be considered "so five minutes ago". A little checking on good, old Revell, and I was surprised to see that it was founded in 1943..... in Venice, Calif. of all places. For those of us that know freaky Venice, it's hard to picture a factory there churning out WW2 models, even 50 years ago. I built a few Revells in the 60's, including the B-24, but it didn't look this good-

 

Totally, OT, but good stuff-

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Ramming u-boats was a prescribed method for sinking them while on the surface. In my book, I write about the rammings of U-233, U-405, and U-550. Interestingly, corresponding with the families, the commanding officer of one of the ships involved with ramming U-233 remained bitter about the event all the way to the grave. As far as he was concerned, the u-boat was already sinking, and all the ramming did was cause additional, needless, loss of life. Kind of an interesting perspective...

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They filmed the ramming of U-233...unfortunately, you can't put a film in a book (yet) so I had to work with stills that the National Archives had...

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