I’d like you to meet the USS Allen. Named after Commander William H. Allen, a hero in the War of 1812. The concept of a ship called a “destroyer” was hardly 20 years old when this one was built in 1916. She escorted the first wave of the Expeditionary Force to France, then was based in Queenstown, Ireland (where this picture was taken.) After the end of the War to End all Wars, she then escorted the Washington and President Wilson to France.
After an uneventful couple of decades she narrowly escaped being transferred to Great Britain in 1940. In December of 1940 she proceeded to Pearl Harbor and was there on the morning of December 7, 1941. Commander D. B. Miller says in his report:
Two planes were definitely shot down by this ship’s fire – one by Gun No. 6 and the second by starboard waist 50-caliber. The latter plane exploded in mid-air and was seen by bridge personnel to fall between USS Detroit and Ford Island. The former fell in hills about one mile northwest of AIEA mill stack. Our fire persisted for approximately 45 minutes, expending 57 rounds of 3-inch and 600 rounds of 50-caliber. It is possible a third plane was shot down by Gun No. 6, although fire from other ships were also concentrated on it.
She stayed at Pearl on anti-submarine duty and on the 27th of Dec. rescued 12 men from a merchant ship that had been hit by an enemy sub.
Then in early June of ’42 they received orders to steam toward Midway. As they set out, they had no idea that the most epic sea battle in history had just taken place. But, when they arrived, they would pickup survivors of the USS Yorktown, the flagship of the Operational Commander Admiral Fletcher. (As it so happens, Fletcher’s second assignment was to the USS Allen in 1918.)
She served most of the remainder of the war either at Pearl or running back and forth from Pearl to San Francisco. She was the oldest Destroyer in service and the only “4-stacker” or “1000-ton” left afloat. Finally arriving at her final resting place in Philadelphia on September 13, 1945; she was sold to Boston Metals Co. for scrap. In November, the name was struck from the Navy list and no ship has been given that name since.
Before Pearl Harbor was ever attacked young Martin W. decided that he should join the service now, instead of waiting for what he felt sure was the inevitable. That way, he’d be released before the war ended, thereby spending less time in active service during war-time. And, he figured that the navy has to better than the Army because at the end of the day he’d have a bed to sleep in. So, he joined the Navy and found himself in Hawaii on Dec. 7, 1941. A mess-cook on the oldest Destroyer in the Navy; what a life! Those Japs really know how to make a mess out of a mess-cook’s life.
He had a young bride back in St. Louis. When they were kids, Irene and a couple of girlfriends had tried to get into the nearby Presbyterian church, but failed. One of them said, “hey, there’s a Methodist Church down the street and I know how to get in that one.” She’d been a Methodist ever since. The church was then, and still is, central to her life. Possibly more so since Martin passed away in 1995. She still attends each and every Sunday and has returned to attending Sunday School.
When she pulled this humble Sunday School teacher aside to say, “I’ve been attending church a long time and today…you really made me think about things…” well, it was simply the highpoint of all of my days of teaching.