The Beginning

World War II

Calendar Year Index

(Click on the year desired.)

1944 1945


The day after Commissioning, Soley was underway for the first time as a Navy ship for a one-day cruise off New York to test fire her guns. The crew, mostly recruits, got their first taste of sea duty that produced an abundance of seasick sailors. Upon her return to the Navy Yard the crew began preparations for her Bermuda shakedown cruise.

Soley sailed from Brooklyn on December 29th for shakedown in Bermuda waters under command of the DD-DE Shakedown Group. Two days later the ship arrived in Bermuda, sailed through the Narrows, and moored to a buoy. Shakedown was an intensive period of day and night training in all evolutions that the ship would be expected to perform in future wartime operations. The gunnery practice, towing drills, underway fueling, abandon ship drills, etc. slowly began to convert green recruits into "old salts". Shore leave was among the last priorities for the crew as they were allowed liberty in Bermuda from about noon until 6 p.m. on one day only.

Return to Index


With shakedown completed by the end of January, Soley departed Bermuda only to encounter a fierce Atlantic storm that seemed to last forever. The ship was assigned to patrol the Atlantic Coast on a "Secret Mission" which later proved to be in support of President Roosevelt's ocean crossing enroute to the Big Three Conference in Yalta. The storm would take it's toll on Soley in the form of loosened rivets, damage in the fantail area due to a depth charge broken loose, caved in bulkheads, and cracked seams. Many of the "old salts" who only recently were green recruits found it more comfortable sleeping in main deck passageways wrapped in their life jackets rather than chancing a trek below decks to their bunks.

On February 1 Soley "limped" back into New York harbor and waved a welcome salute to the Statue of Liberty as she returned to the Brooklyn Navy Yard for a post-shakedown availability. Jim “Whitey” Cowardin relates that 12 crewmembers went AWOL after their first liberty in New York. On February 18th, Soley reported to Commander Fleet Operational Training Command for temporary duty as a training ship for destroyer personnel at the Naval Training Station, Norfolk, Virginia. During this period, the ship was also assigned anti-submarine patrol duties along the Atlantic Coast during the closing days of the war in Europe. She was rated as one of the best training ships ever assigned to the Norfolk training group.

By June 22, Soley was relieved as a training ship and spent a short overhaul period at the Norfolk Navy Yard in preparation for deployment to the Pacific war zone. A crewmember reported that a number of his shipmates were chased back to the ship by Shore Patrol after destroying a local bar on the eve of their departure. July 31st saw the ship departing Norfolk enroute to Culebra Island for gunnery practice and thence to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba for refresher training before heading for the Pacific Fleet. Enroute to the Pacific war, Soley transited the Panama Canal on August 8, and headed for San Diego. While on this leg of her journey, the news of V-J Day was received as a cheer went up and Dave Latshaw remembers many a white hat was tossed into the Pacific Ocean. While the crew was elated with the war's end, there was also a feeling of disappointment that Soley was unable to engage the enemy.

Soley was credited with being the last major combatant U.S. vessel to transit the Panama Canal prior to V-J Day. She arrived in San Diego August 17 then on to Pearl Harbor for a brief stop before departing Hawaii on August 29th for Kwajalein. The ship arrived at Ebeye Island in the Kwajalein Atoll on September 5, and reported to the Commander Marshall-Gilbert Island Area for duty. After two days in Ebeye, Soley was assigned to Task Unit 96.15.1 and, in company with USS Hyman, proceeded to Kusaie Island in the Eastern Carolines to take part in the surrender of Japanese forces on the island. Kusaie was one of the smaller islands by-passed by American forces during the Pacific war.

On September 8, Lt. Gen. Harada of the Imperial Japanese Army signed the surrender documents officially turning over his garrison of some 4,000 troops to Commodore Ben Wyatt, USN, who commanded the two-ship force. Later that day Commodore Wyatt departed Kusaie on board USS Hyman leaving Soley there to enforce the surrender terms. Soley remained at Kusaie as station ship until mid-October. Andrew Black wrote home to describe being a member of the landing party during the surrender ceremony and related tales of the Japanese soldiers who had not seen anyone from the outside world for nearly three years. One Japanese ship had managed to get through to the harbor about a year earlier but was sunk by U.S. aircraft prior to off-loading.

Soley's Commanding Officer was charged with the responsibility of disarming the Japanese, collecting or rendering inoperative all weapons, destroying all ammunition, and segregating the Japanese and the various native groups on the island. He was also responsible for setting up a military government, dispensing food and medicines, and maintaining order.

Mail was scheduled to be flown in twice a week, but the first attempt at airmail service met with disaster as the arriving PBM on September 12th crashed on a reef on take-off. After that mail was airdropped, sometimes on the beach and sometimes in the water.

In spite of the "Memorandum to All Hands" issued on September 7 by the Executive Officer, LCDR R. W. Frieden, prohibiting the crew from dealing with bumboats, Robert F. (Smitty) Smith managed to negotiate a deal for a genuine native canoe paddle. While cigarettes and candy were standard bartering items, Smitty had to part with something much more valuable to the natives...his pants.

From October until December 1945, Soley operated directly under the Commander of the Marshall-Gilbert Islands Area. According to a personal log maintained by Bailey Groome, Soley transported some 45 Japanese prisoners from Majauro to Kwajalein on October 23-24 and, in early November, proceeded to Wake Island for other prisoners for possible trial before the War Crimes' Commission. The most prominent among those transported was Rear Admiral Sakaibara, Commander of Wake Island, and Colonel Oishi, Japanese commander at Milli. During the trip from Wake, Admiral Sakaibara got an unexpected scare when John Aives, TM1 "accidentally” fired a blast from his riot gun while on sentry duty outside the CPO quarters that were being used as the "brig" for the prisoner.

The remainder of November and first part of December were spent at Kwajalein with "liberty" consisting of a few beer parties, ball games and movies. The ship had a big birthday party on December 7th to celebrate its first year in commission.

December 18 saw Soley departing the Marshall Islands enroute to Japan for duty with the occupation forces. Enroute stops were made in Roi to pick up passengers for transport to Eniwetok and Wake Island, finally arriving at Yokosuka on December 27th. The ship was scheduled to arrive in Japan on Christmas day but was delayed by a severe Pacific storm. Harlan Dahl provided a copy of Soley's first newspaper, "The Soley Scoop", which described the storm and the ship's arrival in Japan.

During the final months of 1945 all Navy ships began to experience a drastic turnover of crewmembers as reserve personnel began returning home to be "mustered out". A "point" system was initiated in which personnel were awarded credit for their length of service and other factors. Each month those with enough points were embarked in other Navy ships returning to the West Coast for eventual transfer to a separation center. The ships employed for this duty were fondly referred to as the "Magic Carpet Fleet".

Soley was underway only three times while serving in Japan, twice for training cruises and once to make an emergency at-sea transfer of a doctor to a ship with a sick crewman.

Return to Index

To Learn More