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The Maine Potato Incident: USS O' Bannon (DD-450)8/2/2016 9:44:31 PM
Published By: Priller

The Maine Potato Incident: USS O' Bannon (DD-450)

USS O' Bannon DD-450

The USS O' Bannon was a Fletcher class destroyer laid down by Bath Iron Works on March 3, 1941 & commissioned at Boston June 26, 1942.

The O' Bannon distinguished itself with not only a long service career that spanned from 1942 until she was retired January 30, 1970 but she is also the US Navy's most decorated destroyer. The O' Bannon and her crew earned the Presidential Unit Citation & 17 Battle Stars during World War II then went on to earn 3 more Battle Starts during her Korean War Service.

The list of operations the USS O’ Bannon took part in matched her service career and included the Battle of Guadalcanal, Solomon Island Campain, Battle of Kula Gulf, Battle of Kolombangara, Battle of Vella Lavella, New Guinea, Battle of Leyte Gulf, & Borneo. At wars end she along with the USS Nicholas and USS Taylor were selected by Admiral Halsey to escort his flagship, the USS Missouri, into Tokyo Bay for the formal Japanese surrender. The O’ Bannon was also the first ship to arrive home from Tokya Bay.

Throughout the course of WWII she and her sister ships, the Nicholas & Taylor, were lucky ships as the O’ Bannon never lost a crew member. The only damage she sustained was when she rammed the USS Chevalier after she had been torpedoed losing her bow and fell into the path of the O’ Bannon. This gives credence as to why the USS O’ Bannon was nicknamed The “Lucky O”.

USS OBannon & Nicholas
USS O' Bannon DD-450 with her Sister Ship the USS Nicholas
 
The Maine Potato Incident:

On April 5, 1943, O’ Bannon and the rest of DesRon 21(Destroyer Squadron) were returning from the New Georgia area of the Solomon’s after night shelling of Japanese shore installations were she picked up a radar contact near the Russel Islands. The contact proved to be a large Japanese submarine RO-34 a Kaichu VI (Ro-33 class) cruising on the surface and the lookouts were apparently fast asleep.

The O’ Bannon approached rapidly with the intentions of ramming the submarine as the Captain and officers were trying to identify the type. Having decided it could be a mine layer & not wanting to blow themselves up along with the sub, it was decided at the last minute that ramming was not a wise idea. Having swung the rudder hard over to avoid a collision with a potential mine layer, the O’ Bannon found itself alongside the Japanese submarine were the crew of the O’ Bannon could see the Japanese sailors sleeping on the deck wearing dark shorts and dinky blue hats. The Japanese sailors awoke and sat up to see the O’ Bannon alongside when the Japanese Captain finally decided that now was a good time to use their 3-inch deck gun.

The O’ Bannon found itself so close that it could not depress the guns far enough to fire on the submarine. It was at this point as the Japanese sailors ran toward the 3-inch deck gun that the O’ Bannon’s deck parties, lacking firearms, went into storage bins and started throwing potatoes at the Japanese sailors on deck. Thus a potato battle ensued as the Japanese sailors threw the potatoes back at the O’ Bannon thinking they were hand grenades. This distraction prevented the Japanese sailors from manning their 3-inch deck mounted gun and allowed the O’ Bannon to open up the distance between the two ships in order to bring her own guns to bear on the submarine. One shell managed to hit the conning tower as the sub was submerging and the O’ Bannon later passed directly over the submarine for a depth charge attack run. It was later learned that the submarine did sink.

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Source: www.destroyerhistory.org, www.history.navy.mil
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Published by Priller 24 months ago under Fletcher USS O' Bannon DD-450The Potato Incident: USS O' Bannon (DD-450)
The USS O' Bannon was a Fletcher class destroyer laid down by Bath Iron Works on March 3, 1941 & commissioned at Boston June 26, 1942.
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