Little Ship, Big War: The Saga of DE 343 Book Review



Little Ship, Big War: The Saga of DE 343

By CDR Edward P. Stafford, USN (Ret)

Hardcover in dustjacket, illustrated, 313 pages

Published by William Morrow & Co, 1984

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0688032532

ISBN-13: 978-0688032531

Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.5 x 1.4 inches

The USS Abercrombie (DE 343) was a Butler class Destroyer Escort.  LT Edward Stafford was her First Lieutenant, which was the third senior officer after her Captain and Exec.  Stafford joined Abercrombie when she was fitting out at Orange, Texas, and served with her from her commissioning on 01MAY44 through the end of the Pacific War and her return to San Pedro after the war.

While only in service for the last sixteen months of the war, they were a very active sixteen months.  Abercrombie was part of Taffy Two’s screen during the Battle of Sumar on 25OCT44, and was control ship for the amphibious landings at Lingayen on 09JAN45.  From there she was a part of the effort to secure Kerama Retto as a prelude to the invasion of Okinawa, where she fought Kamikazes as part of the radar picket screen.

In between major operations was a constant stream of training and other duties.  Destroyer Escorts were a very useful type of ship and were in constant demand.  The adventures of sister ships in the same areas are related, such as the loss of the Samual B. Roberts (DE 413) at Samar and the Kamikaze attacks on Oberrender (DE 433) off Okinawa.  Stafford relies on the Ship’s Log, after action reports, correspondence with other crew members, and his own journal to provide details and dates for all of Abercrombie’s adventures.  The story is full of specifics, and the reader really gets a feel for just how busy life at sea really is.    At time this is a double edged sword, as the effort to supply a complete accounting turns into laundry lists of unnecessary details which interrupt the flow of the narrative.

A good read, all the more impressive when one considers that this story was repeated literally thousands of times as warships of all sizes were built then launched into war, crewed by men who usually had previously never even thought of going to sea.