senior destroyer commanders, Asiatic Fleet

senior destroyer commanders, Asiatic Fleet

Nelson
Nelson

April 17th, 2009, 5:54 am #1

Guys,

I have some questions regarding the later war and postwar careers of the five senior Asiatic Fleet destroyer commanders--the COs of one squadron (DesRon 29) and three divisions (DesDiv 57, 58, 59)--in place early in the war. I know that three of them later attained flag rank, but the other two officers seemingly finished the war with nary a trace remaining. In each case, I would appreciate knowing what service each performed subsequently in the war, whether he survived, his final rank attained in the U.S. Navy, etc. The five officers:

1. Capt. (postwar Vice Admiral) Herbert Victor Wiley, commanding DesRon 29. He had enjoyed an amazing and very lucky prewar career in naval aviation, surviving the crashes of both dirigibles AKRON in April 1933 (one of only three crewmen to do so) and MACON in February 1935. Well after leaving the Asiatic Fleet, he was given the command of WEST VIRGINIA (BB 98), winning the Navy Cross for his performance at the battle of Surigao Strait, 24-25 Oct 1944. Pretty complete history, but anything else of significance?

2. Cmdr. Edwin M Crouch, commanding DesDiv 57. He does not seem to have figured in many, if any, of the sharp American destroyer actions that took place in the NEI. Last seen aboard WHIPPLE (DD 217), in which he participated in the decision to depart the scene of PECOS's (AO 6) sinking on 1 Mar 1942. His later war service has been impossible for me to find (or at least in the sources I possess).

3. Cmdr. (postwar Rear Admiral) Thomas Howell Binford, commanding DesDiv 58. He led his division in the battle of Badoeng Strait, 19-20 Feb 1942, for which he won the Navy Cross. Later led four American DDs in the battle of the Java Sea, and also during the escape of these same four ships via Bali Strait to Australia. I cannot find anything about his later war service.

4. Cmdr. Paul Hopkins Talbot, originally commanding DesDiv 59. He led the gallant torpedo and gun attack on Japanese troop transports at Balikpapan, 23-24 Jan 1942, for which he won the Navy Cross. Relieved of that command less than a week later, 30 Jan 1942, Talbot disappeared thereafter from the SW Pacific. It is possible that he was wounded and/or recalled stateside for hero display or for some other reason. I cannot find evidence of his later war service or his promotion to flag rank in my sources.

5. Lt. Cmdr. (postwar Vice Admiral) Edward Nelson Parker, originally commanding USS PARROTT (DD 218) in DesDiv 58. He ably fought his ship in the battle of Balikpapan, 23-24 Jan 1942, for which he was awarded his first Navy Cross, and on 30 Jan 1942, he relieved Cmdr. Paul Talbot as CO of DesDiv 59. Parker led two American destroyers at the battle of Badoeng Strait, 19-20 Feb 1942, for which he won a second Navy Cross. In early November 1942, while in command of CUSHING (DD 376) sunk by enemy action off Guadalcanal, he was awarded his third Navy Cross. Any info on what he did after 1942?

These commanding officers won four Navy Crosses in the NEI, one each by Cmdrs. Talbot and Binford, and two by Lieut. Cmdr. Parker, in only two battles, one of them a major bloody nose for ABDA naval forces. No such awards were made for the battle of the Java Sea, although of course Capt. Albert H. Rooks, commanding officer of HOUSTON (CA 30), won the Medal of Honor (posthumously) for his performance during the period ending 27 Feb 1942 (curiously, not including the battle of Sunda Strait, 28 Feb-1 Mar 1942, in which Rooks was killed in action). It is of interest that Lt. William J. Giles, Jr., was not awarded the Navy Cross, for his splendid navigation for the destroyer division passing at speed through Bali Strait during the night of 1 Mar 1942, for which his commanding officer on JOHN D. EDWARDS (DD 216) had strongly recommended him.

Answers appreciated, thanx.

Nelson
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Klemen L.
Klemen L.

April 20th, 2009, 6:08 pm #2

Hello Nelson,

Here is a short biography I found about Rea-Admiral Binford from the book 10,000 Famous Freemasons from A to J Part One by William R. Denslow.



lp,

Klemen
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Nelson
Nelson

April 21st, 2009, 4:39 pm #3

Klemen,

Thanks for the information on Vice Admiral Binford. By the by, some of these flag ranks were obtained during the officer's active career; others were due to a "bump up" one rank at retirement. I don't know which was which in every case. Here are the vital statistics, complete or partial, for the five officers about whom I originally inquired. There are a few contradictions, so they will require some additional research.

Commanding Destroyer Squadron 29, Captain (later Vice Admiral) Herbert Victor Wiley: b. May 16, 1891; d. April 28, 1954. I wrote d. May 1954 in another thread, but I believe his d.o.d. of April 28, 1954, is the correct datum. Navy Cross, but NOT for action in the NEI.

Commanding Destroyer Division 57, Commander (later Captain) Edwin M. Crouch: graduated USNA, Class of 1921, so born in either 1899 or 1900; died on or about July 30, 1945, after the torpedoing and sinking of USS INDIANAPOLIS, on which he was a passenger.

Commanding Destroyer Division 58, Commander (later Vice Admiral) Thomas Howell Binford: b. August 25, 1896; d. August 1973 (I THINK after his birthday). Navy Cross for action at Badoeng Strait.

Commanding Destroyer Division 59 until late January 1942, Commander (later Vice Admiral) Paul Hopkins Talbot: b. April 3, 1897; d. September 8, 1974. Navy Cross for action at Balikpapan.

Commanding Destroyer Division 59 as of late January 1942, Lieutenant Commander (later Vice Admiral) Edward Nelson Parker: b. July 26, 1904 (his medal citations specify d.o.b. of July 7, 1904); d. October 15, 1989. Three Navy Crosses, for actions at Balikpapan, Badoeng Strait, and Solomons Islands, all in 1942.

Nelson
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Joined: February 27th, 2008, 10:00 pm

April 21st, 2009, 9:50 pm #4

I was fortunate enough some time ago to buy four 'books' that belonged to Binford, two with his signature and 'property of' stamp on, and two which were photo albums. However I have never been able to ID too many of the folks in the photos at the gatherings (of an officers party). One of the albums (the party) was 'supposedly' taken on Java, but I doubt the provenance of that. On a wall in the background however there is a life ring / preserver from USS Stewart, IIRC.
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Joined: April 9th, 2007, 8:37 pm

April 22nd, 2009, 9:38 pm #5

Klemen,

Thanks for the information on Vice Admiral Binford. By the by, some of these flag ranks were obtained during the officer's active career; others were due to a "bump up" one rank at retirement. I don't know which was which in every case. Here are the vital statistics, complete or partial, for the five officers about whom I originally inquired. There are a few contradictions, so they will require some additional research.

Commanding Destroyer Squadron 29, Captain (later Vice Admiral) Herbert Victor Wiley: b. May 16, 1891; d. April 28, 1954. I wrote d. May 1954 in another thread, but I believe his d.o.d. of April 28, 1954, is the correct datum. Navy Cross, but NOT for action in the NEI.

Commanding Destroyer Division 57, Commander (later Captain) Edwin M. Crouch: graduated USNA, Class of 1921, so born in either 1899 or 1900; died on or about July 30, 1945, after the torpedoing and sinking of USS INDIANAPOLIS, on which he was a passenger.

Commanding Destroyer Division 58, Commander (later Vice Admiral) Thomas Howell Binford: b. August 25, 1896; d. August 1973 (I THINK after his birthday). Navy Cross for action at Badoeng Strait.

Commanding Destroyer Division 59 until late January 1942, Commander (later Vice Admiral) Paul Hopkins Talbot: b. April 3, 1897; d. September 8, 1974. Navy Cross for action at Balikpapan.

Commanding Destroyer Division 59 as of late January 1942, Lieutenant Commander (later Vice Admiral) Edward Nelson Parker: b. July 26, 1904 (his medal citations specify d.o.b. of July 7, 1904); d. October 15, 1989. Three Navy Crosses, for actions at Balikpapan, Badoeng Strait, and Solomons Islands, all in 1942.

Nelson
Nelson;

While not 100%, a "tombstone" promotion was awarded to anyone that was awarded the Navy Cross. Thus, it is likely that these men were serving Rear Admirals when they retired.

Mark
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Nelson
Nelson

April 22nd, 2009, 11:51 pm #6

Mark,

< While not 100%, a "tombstone" promotion was awarded to anyone that was awarded the Navy Cross. Thus, it is likely that these men were serving Rear Admirals when they retired. >

Yeah, and it's that darned "not 100%" which is the devil in the dustbin and the wombat in the woodpile. In other instances, at least in the army, the bump-up came at retirement, so there was the practical value of augmented retirement pay....though again, it does not seem to have been automatic. I think if the officer's previous promotion came too close to retirement--a common example was when an officer retired prematurely not long after promotion, but before the mandatory 64 years of age--or if he was somehow undeserving or generally unpopular, there was no such promotion.

No way is this graven in stone (i.e., it needs corroboration), but I think that Herbert V. Wiley had been promoted to vice admiral sometime before his forced medical retirement. For the others, certainly so in the case of Thomas H. Binford, you are likely on the money regarding the retirement or tombstone promotion to vice admiral.

Big question to you: What is--or could be--going on with Commander (eventually Vice Admiral) Paul H. Talbot? During a very dark period when the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Army, and all their friends to be counted anywhere were being rocked and socked and bloodied aplenty, along comes Cdr. Talbot with his division of ancient tin cans, and delivers a sweet torpedo and gun attack that sinks or damages an undetermined number of Japanese troopships, AND gets away clean as a whistle (soon being awarded, most deservedly, a Navy Cross). So, six days later, he is relieved as commander of DesDiv 59 and whisked away to Australia. Okay, the United States needed sterling plate heroes to be paraded around and shown off, right? WRONG!! Talbot was still in Oz cooling his heels and waiting for transport home two months later, and he didn't return stateside until WEST POINT (AP 23)* departed Melbourne on 6 Apr 1942! What was going on?? Here the U.S. Navy had an aggressive and inspired DD division leader and he was just wasted in Australia? After all, Crouch, Binford, and Parker weren't relieved of their divisions, and despite two Navy Crosses in the NEI, Lieut. Cdr. Parker didn't get another destroyer division right away, but was given the command of CUSHING (DD 376). I just don't get Talbot's relief....unless self-requested (but if so, why when he was so badly needed?). Any notions?

*By coincidence, or perhaps not coincidence, the very ship he would later be assigned to as XO.

Nelson
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Joined: April 9th, 2007, 8:37 pm

April 23rd, 2009, 1:47 am #7

Nelson;

There were many scheduled personnel moves in the works prior to 7 December 1941. These duty changes usually involved a positive career change for those relieved (they were going somewhere after all) and their reliefs were getting command.

I strongly suspect that his relief was scheduled to occur, that his relief, Lt.Cdr. Edward Nelson Parker, USNA25 was slated for his division command, and that Lt. John Nelson Hughes, USNA31 was slated to take over USS Parrott (or at the very least another destroyer) prior to the outbreak of the war.

Others, such as Couch, were on the upcoming promotion list, which necessarily would have come with a change of duty prior to July 1942 in peacetime and likely sooner with the war on.

Mark
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Don Kehn, Jr.
Don Kehn, Jr.

April 23rd, 2009, 3:56 am #8

Mark,

Very interesting! If you don't mind my asking, what basis do you have for assuming John Nelson Hughes was going to be given a destroyer BEFORE the war? I am just curious about this because--as you well know--Joshua James Nix (USNA 30) got command of EDSALL in mid-OCT 1941 as a LT, and this was, by common consent, "quite a break for Mr. Nix."

In the midst of so much good, clean print and the nice, firm numbers, there are always those who enjoy tossing a little smoke-grenade of delicious apocrypha...In that vein: there is anecdotal evidence--unsubstantiated but there nonetheless--that LT CDR E. Mason Crouch was not a happy (or altogether healthy) camper when he left EDSALL. Far from it. We have wondered whether this played some part in Nix's appointment. (At least one very peculiar account of the changeover in command reached me during my research, but I discounted it as too outlandish.)

{There were also those who did not take kindly to Crouch's decision to clear the area after WHIPPLE returned to p/u the survivors of PECOS, but that may be another matter.}

CDR Eccles strongly urged his superiors to utilize surplus Asiatic Fleet officers who had survived the campaign--and who he felt were extremely capable-- as a nucleus for new crews & ships. It doesn't strike me as an unsound suggestion...although Wiley(?) didn't take kindly to some of Eccles' sharp comments.

Don
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Nelson
Nelson

April 23rd, 2009, 6:26 am #9

Nelson;

There were many scheduled personnel moves in the works prior to 7 December 1941. These duty changes usually involved a positive career change for those relieved (they were going somewhere after all) and their reliefs were getting command.

I strongly suspect that his relief was scheduled to occur, that his relief, Lt.Cdr. Edward Nelson Parker, USNA25 was slated for his division command, and that Lt. John Nelson Hughes, USNA31 was slated to take over USS Parrott (or at the very least another destroyer) prior to the outbreak of the war.

Others, such as Couch, were on the upcoming promotion list, which necessarily would have come with a change of duty prior to July 1942 in peacetime and likely sooner with the war on.

Mark
Mark,

You wrote:

< I strongly suspect that his relief was scheduled to occur, that his relief, Lt. Cdr. Edward Nelson Parker, USNA25 was slated for his division command... >

I'm not saying I don't wanta believe, but in fact I'm muy dubious. Not a few men of both services held orders for their imminent transport back to the States, but the war threw a terrible monkey wrench into the works and their orders got put on hold. Three realities would argue against your version of events:

1. Every evidence indicates that Parker's elevation to division commander was a temporary thing--though perhaps more than as acting commander--meant only to hold the line. In November 1942, upon winning his third Navy Cross, Parker was no longer a division commander, who despite his repeated bravery in action, remained a lieutenant commander and was back to being a destroyer commanding officer (albeit of a modern can). His division commander, Cdr. T. Murray Stokes, sailed and died aboard Parker's CUSHING (DD 376) the night she was lost in the Solomons.

2. Commander Paul Talbot was cooling his heels and then some in Oz, waiting for transport stateside. Even if he was performing admin duty of some sort until he departed, didn't the U.S. Navy have better use for such an audacious destroyer division commander? It's not like we were winning the naval war in the NEI hands down. I also call to your attention that going into 1944, Talbot was still a commander (despite his NC) and serving as XO...nicht CO...of a troopship (albeit a megatroopship). I have been provided a photo of him in late 1943/early 1944, standing with his boss on WEST POINT, and still wearing three gold rings on his sleeves. This was part of the grand scheme that the navy had planned for such a warrior?

3. IMO, the only senior American destroyer division commander still performing as such was Cdr. Thomas Binford, who fought his division bravely if without effect at Java Sea. I don't know what Crouch or his boss Wiley were up to at the time, but both seem conspicuously absent from belligerent events. And after the intrepid Parker led his two-ship section at Badoeng Strait, he sort of disappears, too. Ironically, one of the most professionally superb--and last--acts accomplished by American DDs acting in divisional strength was their escape through Bali Strait and across the Indian Ocean to safety. Thereafter, we have a series of brave single-destroyer events, most of which led to their destruction.

None of those instances strike me as examples of the sound use of experienced senior personnel, intended as the best measures for at least the short-term prosecution of the war.

Don wrote:

< {There were also those who did not take kindly to Crouch's decision to clear the area after WHIPPLE returned to p/u the survivors of PECOS, but that may be another matter.} >

Yeah, the vast majority of them still afloat in the Indian Ocean. To be fair to Crouch, it must be pointed out that the decision was made as a concensus by him, Abernathy (PECOS), and Karpe (WHIPPLE), but I think it is also fair to surmise that a different man...or different men...would have made a different decision.

Nelson
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Nelson
Nelson

April 23rd, 2009, 3:12 pm #10

Mark,

I found the following description of the naval battle of Guadalcanal, mid-November 1942, in which Lt. Cdr. Edward N. Parker (CO of CUSHING, DD 376) won his third Navy Cross and Cdr. T. Murray Stokes (ComDesDiv 10) lost his life. Until May 1942, Lt. Cdr. Stokes had been commanding officer of GRAYSON (DD 435). For more in this website, see

http://www.skotfred.com/guadal1.txt

but here are a few snippets from same:

"In anticipation of a possible course reversal during the approach or during the battle, [R/Adm Daniel J. Callaghan] had placed his senior destroyer officer, Captain Robert G. Tobin, ComDesRon 12, in the rear division of destroyers, which were the AARON WARD, BARTON, MONSSEN and FLETCHER. Of these, only the latter had the new SG surface-search radar that could reliably make out targets and plot them at 25,000-30,000 yards, as the cruisers HELENA and BOISE had done at the Battle of Cape Esperance. Heading the lead division of destroyers was his other divisional commander, Cdr Murray Stokes, ComDesDiv 10; these were the CUSHING, LAFFEY, STERETT and FLETCHER, the latter again a brand new ship with SG radar. Callaghan may not have known it, but in L/Cdr [Edward N.] "Butch" Parker of CUSHING, the leading one of his thirteen ships, he probably had his most single battle-aware and experienced destroyer captain, as Parker had fought in the Asiatic Fleet in the desperate months after Pearl Harbor."

While the writer does carelessly place FLETCHER (DD 445) in both DesDiv 12 and DesDiv 10 [as we shall soon read, O'BANNON (DD 450) was the trailing destroyer in DesDiv 10], he does establish Cdr. Stokes as ComDesDiv 10, with Lt. Cdr. Parker as captain of the flagship. The account continues a bit later:

"Cdr Stokes, ComDesDiv 10 in CUSHING, advised ComTaskGroup 67.4 by TBS radio: 'Three unidentified ships 45 degrees on our port bow. Be alert.' In fact YUDACHI and HARUSAME would have been in that direction, but a good 5000 yards off. Had CUSHING somehow seen them? Hammel*, having interviewed L/Cdr Parker of CUSHING, makes no mention of such an early sighting."

And later yet:

"ComDesDiv 10, Cdr Murray Stokes in CUSHING, bulled through the crowded TBS circuit to ask Admiral Callaghan at 0143: 'Shall I let them have a couple of fish?' LAFFEY and STERETT had just made the turn to port to follow CUSHING. O'BANNON now turned 45 degrees left at 0144 to follow STERETT..."

It may be indeed that Lt. Cdr. Edward N. Parker was at the time being groomed to be the commander of a destroyer division, and in fact he had had some experience as such while in the Asiatic Fleet, but certainly in November 1942, he was back at being the commanding officer of a destroyer. Thus I must conclude that his relief of Cdr. Paul Talbot as ComDesDiv 59, Asiatic Fleet, had been both fortuitous and transitory. I for one would like to know more about Parker's later wartime career, not to mention Talbot's.

*The Hammel referred to in the preceding text is Eric Hammel, DECISION AT SEA.

Other sources include

C.W. Kilpatrick, NIGHT BATTLES IN THE SOLOMONS
Samuel E. Morison, THE STRUGGLE FOR GUADALCANAL
Theodore Roscoe, UNITED STATES DESTROYER OPERATIONS IN WORLD WAR II (in abridged softcover as TIN CANS)

Nelson
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