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USS Albert W. Grant
Focus on the Family within Clan Grant
Rand Allan, Commissioner & Director-at-Large
John Pratt, Jr., Clansman of Clan Grant
We have much documentation on the history of Clan Grant and all of its leaders of the past and the present. However, we have not been very good about documenting the contribution to history of the various people claiming membership with Clan Grant or ancestors of people originating from our clan. When you look throughout the history of Scotland, the British Isles, Canada, Australia/New Zealand, and the United States, you will find that there are Grants present at all levels of history.
John Pratt, a member of the Clan Grant Society USA, brought an example of the involvement of Grants in our U.S. history to my attention. It involves a World War I vice-admiral, the commissioning of a warship bearing his name, its involvement in World War II, and the presence of John's father and people of other septs of Clan Grant aboard that ship.
Vice-Admiral Albert W. Grant
Albert Grant was born in Benton, Maine in 1856. Never having access to any education beyond elementary school, Grant directly entered the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis in 1873, graduating in 1877. In 1898, during the Spanish-American War, Grant served aboard the battleship USS Massachusetts at the battle of Santiago, Cuba, where the ship and its crew played a key role in the destruction of the Spanish Fleet.
In December 1907, Grant assumed command of the newly-recommissioned USS Arethusa, a torpedo flotilla tender, and participated in the flotilla of military ships sent on a two-year around-the-world tour by President Theodore Roosevelt. Known as the Great White Fleet, for the characteristic white ships with gilded scrollwork on their bows, these ships were intended as a grand show of US military sea power. Albert Grant continued to advance through the ranks, and by 1908-09, he had been appointed Chief-of-Staff of the Atlantic Fleet. Grant was commander of the USS Texas from its commission in March 1914 through June 1915. During the first half of his command of the USS Texas, Commander Grant was involved in tactical support in the Gulf of Mexico during tensions with Mexico. In late 1915, he was promoted to real-admiral, reaching the rank of vice-admiral during World War I. Although not involved in any major battles during World War I, the Navy had the job of keeping the sea lanes open and free of the German U-boat submarine menace. By 1918-19, Vice-Admiral Albert W. Grant commanded the entire West Atlantic U.S. Fleet. At the time of his retirement in 1920 at the age of 64, Grant was commandant of the Washington Navy Yard. He died September 30, 1930, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
U.S.S. Albert W. Grant (destroyer class, DD649), her Crew, and her History
The USS Albert W. Grant, Fletcher Class Destroyer, which we will refer to as the GRANT (even though there was a submarine called the USS Ulysses S. Grant and a transport ship called the USS U.S. Grant), was laid down (construction was started) on 30 December 1942 at the Charleston Navy Yard. It was launched on 29 May 1943, sponsored by Miss Nell Preston Grant, grandaughter of Vice-Admiral Albert W. Grant, and commissioned on 24 November 1943 with Commander T.A. Nisewaner in command. On board was a fantail gunner, Boatswain's Mate 1st Class John Robert Pratt, father of the current Clan Grant Society member John Pratt Jr., machinist Warren M. McElroy (a sept name of Clan Grant), and Machinist's Mate 1st Class Clyde A. Cairns (while not a sept of Clan Grant, a name closely-associated in friendship with the Clan).
On April 4, 1944, the GRANT sailed for Majuro where she joined Task Force 58 for the invasion of Hollandia, New Guinea. She engaged in picket duty, inshore patrol duty, and covered landing force operations. Following conclusion of those operations, the GRANT embarked for the Caroline Islands and covered the carriers during strikes on the Truk Atoll.
After a brief rest in Hawaii, the GRANT left for the invasion of the Marianas, helping to capture Saipan and Tinian. During this operation, the ship covered the initial landing, fired on numerous targets of opportunity and furnished illumination, counter-battery and call fire, which succeeded in destroying many of the pill boxes and other defense structures that had pinned down Allied troops attempting to secure the islands.
By August, the entire Pacific defense structure of the Japanese military was beginning to crumble. The GRANT helped to wrestle Peleliu and Angaur in the Palana from the Japanese, blasting a hole on the beach for our troops during the pre-invasion stage and covering them with anti-aircraft and call fire once they were established.
The ship and her crew departed for the Philippines on October 12 to participate in the initial stages of the Philippine campaign, where she provided protection for the fast transport Crosby, while they unloaded US Rangers on Suluan Island in the Philippines. The destroyer was one of the first to pierce Leyte Gulf, and from 17 to 24 October, covered the first troops to land on Philippine soil.
On October 24, the GRANT, and the US Pacific Fleet she sailed with, steamed towards a deadly encounter with a Japanese task force moving north from the Suli Sea towards the Surigao Strait. During the night, the Japanese fleet came into view as a series of dark blobs on the horizon. The US Fleet began pouring in round after round of fire at the Japanese, but it was the job of the GRANT to get as close in as she could to the Japanese Fleet and launch a torpedo attack. With a constant barrage from the guns of the US Fleet whistling just overhead, the GRANT moved in to make its run. Several minutes later, she launched her torpedoes at Japanese targets. Two minutes before the torpedoes were due to hit the ships of the Japanese fleet, the GRANT was hit by 2 shells near the water line, one on either side of the ship. A split-second later there was a tremendous explosion inside the ship, and the GRANT shuddered and paused. Fires broke out and then ammunition began exploding. Power lines and fire mains were destroyed by the explosions. With the steering control knocked out, the GRANT began swinging in a wide circle back towards the Japanese Fleet.
As if it wasn't enough that there was no power to the ship, explosions were wracking its interior, and the dead and dying were lying on the decks, the engine of the GRANT cut out right when the ship was at point-blank range to the Japanese Fleet. The GRANT was now in the direct line of fire between the two fleets, and was repeatedly raked by gunfire from both sides, suffering 22 major hits, many by 6-inch shells. The GRANT was down by the head, listing heavily to port, and was in serious danger of coming apart at the seams. Then, as suddenly as the attack started, all firing ceased. In the quiet that followed, heroes were born by the score. A gunner's mate dove down into the dark, flooding depths of the ship to retrieve unexploded shells and heave them overboard. An engineer dove underwater into flooded bilges to close seacocks that were allowing water to flood in. Others stuffed mattresses into shell holes below the waterline and rigged emergency patches. An assistant engineering officer ran through scalding steam below deck to secure steam lines and fuel valves.
Dawn saw the GRANT still afloat with enemy planes circling overhead safe from guns that wouldn't work. The crew rigged emergency power lines and the GRANT slowly regained the power to fight back. Finally, the engines were patched up so that power could be restored and the ship slowly backed out of the line of fire into the safety of the US Fleet.
Even though she took several major hits during the battle, the GRANT threw out shells at the Japanese Fleet by the thousands. Even though she was in danger of sinking, she continued fighting and was still directly involved in assisting 2 Japanese battlewagons, 4 cruisers, and 10 other ships to the bottom of the Surigao Strait. After the battle, the GRANT was taken in tow, but before reaching the safety of a friendly port, she still had to face one more trial by weathering a typhoon. Following temporary repairs, the GRANT was towed to Mare Island, California, where she underwent major repairs.
Wounded during the attack were 104 crewmen with 38 men killed, among them machinist Warren M. McElroy and Machinist's Mate 1st Class Clyde A. Cairns. The crewmembers of the GRANT had triumphed over their adversity, unknowingly behaving exactly the way the motto of the Clan of their ship's namesake, Vice-Admiral Albert Grant, exhorted them to do….STAND FAST!! The crew was steadfast and unwavering in their task and finally came out on top. While the GRANT was undergoing repairs, the crew put together a newsletter, called "The Deck Ape Gazette". They recounted all of the horrors and triumphs of their battles in the Pacific. It was clear to see their intense pride in what they had done and why they were doing it. They had great admiration for the men who had fought the good fight, and knew and loved each other as brothers. Men such as:
· 1st Lt. Crissy - "A humanitarian devoted to duty. Expecting the best of you, ignoring the worst. Good to have with you and bad to have against you".
· Vuksta - "Conscientious, hard-working, reliable, came aboard as a second class, and never looked back".
· Pratt - "Quiet, a gentleman, exacting obedience and respect. Has piled up an amazing amount of man-hours mooning over probable future love affairs.
· Ball - "A Second Division Simon Legree, hard worker, conscientious, serious disciplinarian, but fair. Entrances crews by interposing notes from Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata into his efforts to pipe chow down".
In spite of all their pride for what they went through and the manner in which they conducted themselves, they mourned their dead in a memorial to their fallen crewmates: "They did not ask to die, nor did they want to die, but all of them knew they were going to die and they were brave. Some died with a smile on their face, some with a prayer on their lips, some bid a last farewell to shipmates close by. But all of them were brave. We know because we were with them. Let it be known to all of you now, who are not members of our crew, that we miss them, we will remember them; for what they were, for what they did, and for what they are".
John Pratt, Sr.
Boatswain's Mate 1st Class
Even after all of the devastation, the GRANT and the remainder of its original crew continued active service for the war effort. On 23 April 1945, the ship sailed for the Phillippines to join the General Douglas MacArthur Tour, currently in the process of securing the Phillippines from the Japanese. While with the tour, the GRANT sailed southwest to Brunei Bay in Borneo to cover the June 10 assault on Brunei Bay. Rejoining the MacArthur tour, the GRANT continued operations from Manila Bay until mid July, when she traveled to the North Pacific for a tour of duty in Adak, Alaska. On the day before her arrival in Alaska, the crew received word of the Japanese surrender on August 15 and set sail for Ominato on Honshu, Japan, arriving there on the 10th of September.
The GRANT remained on occupation duty in Japan until mid-November when it went to the shipyards in Seattle, Washington for overhaul. On 16 July 1946, the GRANT was placed out of commission on reserve in San Diego, receiving seven battle stars for its World War II service. On 14 April 1971, the GRANT met a quiet end to its honorable history when its name was struck from the Navy list and the ship was sold for scrapping.
Although most of us reading this article are proud citizens of the United States, there is something special in who we are and what we have done that causes our hearts to stir. Our Scottish ancestors brought to this land a determined, fiery, defiant Scottish blood and spirit that infused the people of this country with the same determination and defiance, helping to shape the developing nation that we call the United States. This same blood rises up again and again during times of crisis and rough times, saying "Never quit, never say die". The GRANT and her crew had that same fiery defiance so characteristic of many of our country. Although crippled in action, they still sent many a Japanese ship to the ocean floor. They had to fight on through the night to keep their ship from sinking, but there was something in their hearts that said, "Never say quit. Never say die…STAND FAST!!!"