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USS Philadelphia
Collision with the USS Laub

According to my Dad's diary, on May 23, 1944 during the invasion at Anzio:
"The destroyer Laub crossed our bow and we had a collision. We fired 80 rounds and had Brooklyn relieve us. Hobbled back to Naples."
He described to me that Philly's bow was crushed, so it was cut off and a new one was welded on.

I believe that my Dad typed this damage report as part of his regular duty..

Summary of Incident
by Bob Stark

            USS Philadelphia was steaming in company with USS Kendrick and USS Laub en route to the fire support area at Anzio.  It was the morning watch on May 23, 1944.  Kendrick was stationed to starboard and Laub to port.  Each was at 3,000 yards, 40 degrees on either bow.   Visibility was reduced by darkness, weather and sea conditions.

The ships were on base course 335 degrees true, at a speed of 20 knots.  At 0427 Laub was ordered to take station astern of Philadelphia.  At 0433 a  signal was made to stand by to change base course to 037 degrees true, to follow the swept channel into Anzio and change speed to 15 knots.   At 0434 this signal was executed.   All of these signals were by TBS and in code. 

            At the instant the signal to execute the change in base course was received,  Philadelphia, sighted Laub about 1,000 yards away apparently headed across Philadelphia’s bow.  Orders were given on Philadelphia for left full rudder and all engines back full .   Philadelphia struck Laub on the starboard side abreast the after stack and caused flooding of the after fire room and after engine room.  Laub lost all power and was unable to operate either engine.  Laub lost two men and had four others injured.  Philadelphia’s  bow was crushed forward of frame 12 and suffered no casualties to personnel.  Laub  began to jettison depth charges, torpedoes and ammunition in order to maintain stability and restored electric power shortly after the collision.    Kendrick was ordered to stand by Laub.  Philadelphia restored watertight integrity forward of frame 19 and eventually proceeded to Malta for repairs.  Laub was later towed to  Naples for repairs.   

Collision as seen from Philadelphia       

            Philadelphia was in Condition Able and at general quarters with Captain Ansel on the bridge.  Lieutenant Caton was OOD and Lieutenant (jg) Erickson was Junior OOD.  Ship was steaming at 20 knots on course 335 true.  Kendrick was 40 degrees on the starboard bow distant 3,000 yards.  Laub was similarly located on the port bow.  Visibility was reduced by darkness, haze and sea conditions.  Wind speed was about 20 knots from west-northwest.  The sea was heavy with intermittent spray coming over the port bow.  Both surface search radars were tracking three distant targets and could not follow movements of the screen as a result of ground clutter within 2500 yards.  At 0427 Laub was ordered by TBS to take station astern.  This order was acknowledged.  At 0433 a coded TBS message was sent to the screen to stand by to change base course to 037 true with Kendrick in the lead and Laub astern of Philadelphia.  Both ships acknowledged this message.  The order to execute the course change was given at 0434.  Immediately after the execute was given, Captain Ansel sighted Laub about 500 to 1000 yards to port and remarked, “That fellow looks as though he is going to cross our bow”.  At that instant the OOD asked “Shall we come right?”  The Captain replied, “Yes, come right.”  He then saw that Laub was on a collision course and ordered “Hard left rudder, All engines stop, All engines back full and all engines back emergency full” in quick succession.

            When the Captain ordered “yes, come right.”  The OOD ordered “right full rudder.”  The helmsman had time to get about six degrees of right rudder on  when the order was changed to “left hard rudder.  After this command was given, the OOD passed the word on the announcing system, ”Stand by collision portside forward” and sounded the siren.  The rudder was over hard left when the ships collided and all four engines were backing down at the time of impact.  Philadelphia’s heading at the time of impact was about 310 true.  The two ships parted soon after impact as a result of Philadelphia’s backing.  At the time Laub was sighted she was about 800 yards distant with a relative bearing of 330 degrees and a target angle of about 50 degrees.

            Damage to Philadelphia consisted of a cut in the bow for about 30 feet caused by impact with the main deck of Laub.  The main deck was twisted to port and the  ship was watertight forward of frame 12.   The next bulkhead aft was strengthened.  

Collision as seen from Laub

            Laub screening on port bow of Philadelphia as described above.  Commanding Officer, Commander Roessler, was not on bridge at time of collision.  Lieutenant Hunley was OOD and Ensign Lucas JOOD.  When ship received directive to take station astern of Philadelphia, OOD requested a maneuvering board solution from CIC for course and speed to take position 2000 yards astern of Philadelphia.  CIC responded with recommendation of course 105 true and speed 23 knots.  An order was given to the helmsman “right standard rudder”.  No course was given and the helmsman was calling off headings at 20 degree intervals.  When he reached 20 true he was told to steady on this heading.           Shortly thereafter, Philadelphia was sighted and orders were given for left full rudder and all engines full speed astern.  The bow of Philadelphia pierced shell plating of Laub from frames 123 to 147.  The after fire room and engine room were both flooded and the starboard shaft damaged.  All electric power was lost.  The ship took a 9 degree list to starboard.  At 0445 ship commenced jettisoning all non-essential topside gear.  All torpedoes, all accessible depth charges, some 5”/38 ammunition from both forward and aft, and quantities of 40mm and 20mm ammunition were jettisoned.  Electric power was restored at about 0520.  At 0530 crew was mustered on station and it was determined that two men had been killed and four men wounded.  At 0715 the ship was taken in tow by USS Symbol (M223) and proceeded to Naples at six knots.  At 0730, the list to starboard had been decreased to 5 degrees.

Final Notes

            A Court of Inquiry was established and met on Philadelphia in Malta and later flew to Naples to visit Laub.  The findings of the Court were never seen by the author of this note, but Captain Ansel and Lieutenant Caton were exonerated of all blame.  It is believed several of the officers in Laub were disciplined in some form.  In retrospect, the most serious error committed that morning was the request by the OOD for a maneuvering board solution for a course and speed to take station astern of Philadelphia.

Laub would have been much better served by slowing until abreast of Philadelphia and then moving slowly astern or by making a slow 360 degree turn to port and falling into position in that way.   Philadelphia spent several months enjoying Malta and later took part in the landings in Southern France.  Since the collision took place on May 23 and D-day at Normandy was June 6, it is doubtful we would have been required to participate in that operation.  I suspect the army would have continued to request assistance at Anzio for quite some time if we had stayed fit.

According to George Brucia, the above photo was taken in Valetta, Malta on May 26, 1944
by Phil Lagatutta, the ship's photographer of the "V" Division.
Philadelphia was tied up alongside the British Cruiser "Dido" waiting for dry dock space so repairs could begin.


Operational Remarks regarding this incident 23 May 1944
(pdf format)

The following photos were provided by Gary Ridenour