Interview with John Rodney Guidry

USA
United States of America


Name & Surname: John Rodney Guidry
City of Birth & Country: born in 1919 in Sunset, Louisiana
Rank in US Navy in 1942: US Navy, destroyer Alden


[This interview with Mr. J.R. Guidry was done in March 2000 via e-mail with a kind help of Carl Hasbrink and is posted here by his kind permission.]


Mr Guidry, can you tell us a little about your background.

Born in 1919 in Sunset, Louisiana. After high school I attempted to fit into the collegiate lifestyle in 1938, but found it to be constraining. After leaving the ivy covered walls I looked around a bit for employment and found that I am qualified for the Navy. I enlisted in 1938.


When and why did you join US Navy?

When were you assigned to USS destroyer Alden (Asiatic Fleet) ?

Who was commander of USS destroyer Alden ?

I can document 2 commanding officers and dates prior to Java Sea. November of 1937 - CO was Lt. Commander Stanley Haight and February 1942 - Lt. Commander L. E. Coley (this included Java Sea Battle).


How would you describe life in Manila in pre-war time ? Did you know that there will be war with Japan ? Were you concern about that ?

The time prior to the war was being almost idyllic. Good times with his comrades and time spent in the pursuits of young men at the time. The Asiatic fleet would sail to China (home port for the the Alden was Chefoo while in China) in the summer and winter in the Phillipines.


How were you preparing for the Japanese attack? Did you conduct any military exercises ?

What orders did your ship receive when you found out for Pearl Harbour attack ?

Were you in those first days of December 1941 ever attacked by Japanese planes ?

Okay, - Klemen, the hostilities with Japan started impacting the US Asiatic fleet in July of 1937. The Alden was detailed to stand by at Chefoo and render aid and assitance to Americans who might be affected by the hostilities. (As previously stated, see the Panay Incident, and read any history concerning Japanese forces in Manchuria, supposedly aiding former Emperor Pu Wi). At the end of 1939, the Alden (and other Destroyers of the Asiatic Fleet were detailed to assist duty units like the South China Patrol. They were withdrawn from the duty in late 1940. Training was interspersed with upkeep in Cavite (Philipines) into autumn of 1941. Actual orders on December 7/8 1941. Admiral Hart lent a Destroyer Division to Admiral Phillips for the defence of Singapore. Alden and 3 of her sister ships including the Black Hawk were directed to proceed to Batavia for "supplies and liberty," but shortly after leaving Balikpapan they received new orders - to sail to Singapore and form a force around the HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse. At about the time the Alden and the balance of the ships arrived in Singapore, the HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse were on their way to the bottom following an attack by Torpedo Bombers from Indo China. The American Ships left harbor to assist in the rescue of Survivors. Survivors had already been rescued by other British ships, which were retiring toward Singapore. Following a sweep of the area (fruitless), they headed back to Singapore. During this return the Alden noted a probable submarine attack. Alden and the balance of the Destroyer Division reached port on December 11th. They remained in Singapore until December 14th, then sailed for Surabaya, Java arriving on December.
The Alden had left Balikpapan bound to join up with the HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse when notice of the attack on Pearl Harbor was received.
Problems with the Japanese arose in China (for reference - see the Panay incident). Tensions heightened almost constantly, and even the local Chinese knew there were storm clouds on the horizon. There were, however not as many opportunities training opportunities as one might think. Remember that it was the depression and there weren't lots of monies in defence coffers. Practice torpedoes had no charge in the warhead, and were routinely retrieved and reused. Fortunately, most of the ratings in the Navy were filled with men who were in for the long haul, and had been through the drills many times. In late November 1941, all ships at sea (in the Pacific) were ordered to war readiness. Please note that the order was ignored by 2 port commands. One was Kimmel - Commander of Pearl Harbor. The second was a Gent named MacArthur. Both commanfders suffered monumental losses but one was court martialed, and one was given the Congressional Medal.



How would you describe your Dutch, British and Australian shipmates ? Any problems ?

I wasn't aware of any co-opted bunks aboard any ship except the Admiral Doorman's Flagship.


When were you ordered to sail for Dutch East Indies? Were you stationed in Soerabaja or Batavia ?

What kind missions did you perform while being stationed in Dutch East Indies ? Mainly convoy escort or did you also took part in any combat actions ?

Was your ship ever attacked by any Japanese submarines ? In fact, how would you describe as crewmember of USS destroyer the threat of Japanese submarines during Dutch East Indies Campaign ? Did they represent any threat to Allied ships in those days or were they more or less harmless ?

Reading and rereading the Alden papers, I am certain that they went to both locations, but I don't think it was ever home port. The little DD's seemed to have been shuffled and dealt into whatever was going on at the minute. There were 2 Destroyer Divisions, and each destroyer was assigned to one or the other, but the assignments changed. On December 20th they were sailing toward Port Darwin in the screen of the Houston. While enroute, she was detaileed to send boarding parties onto small craft and ships enroute, investigating the status of them. She fell into formation with another group of ships (Pecos, Otus, Gold Star) on December 23, and fueled from the Pecos at sea. They ultimately made prot on December 28th and were reassigned to Destroyer Division 58 an spend several weeks escorting Troop and Supply convoys supporting efforts to defend the Malay Barrier. During one trip she was screening the Oiler Trinity (20 January 42) when trinity reported a torpedo attack. Alden reversed course and carried out a depth charge attack, then returned and completed the escort, only to be called back for another contact (same area) at 1620. Underway at 1641, the Alden left a third of hewr crew behind to break out supplies on the Black Hawk. Alden developed a contact the following morning and dropped 6 depth charges. Late that day, a plane from the Langley (a seaplane tender at this time) carried out an attack on the contact later in the day. The Alden returned, used all her remaining depth charges, then returned to Port Darwin. The submarine was I-124. Edsall, HMS Deloraire, Alden and the aircraft were involved, but survivors believe that the Alden was probably the one who got the I-124. Alden cleared Darwin on February 3 bound for Java with a Convoy. Fueling enroute from the Trinity, the Alden reached Tjilatjap on the Java coast on 10 February. Getting underway the next day Alden joined the Paul Jones and HMS Ban Hong Liong on the 12th and convoyed to Koepang, Timor. TheConvoy arrived there on the 16th, and returned to Tjilatjap on the morning of the 19th to refuel from the Pecos. On the 20th the Alden patrolled off the harbor covering the sortie of the Black Hawk


Could you briefly describe USS Alden involment in the Java Sea battle (27 February 1942). Apparently was your destroyer on one ocassion quite close to the Japanese battlefleet for a torpedo attack. Is this right ?

Did the crew have faith in Admiral Karel Doorman's leadership ?

When we left Admiral Doorman's small force it was February the 26th, the cruisers Houston, DeRuyter and Java along with 7 Destroyers (2 Dutch, 5 American including Alden) were organized to go meet a rumored Japanese Invasion Force. They were joined by cruisers HMAS Perth and HMS Exeter along with 3 British Destroyers. The initial sweep (late the 26th) resulted in no contacts. The force was returning and as the Alden was about to enter a friendly minefield the DeRuyter reversed course and signaled it was going to intercept an enemy unit. (The exact transmitter of this message is unclear and contested.). At 1617 on February 27th, gun flashes from the enemy force were observed. These were answered by the Houston, DeRuyter and Exeter (these Cruisers must have been the BIG guns of the force - first to come into effective range). The Destroyers moved to their designated positions on the disengaged side of the column and tried to keep pace with the fast cruisers. At 1714, the Kortenaer (Dutch Destroyer) took a torpedo and broke in two. The Exeter pulled out of the column with shell damage. To cover her retirement, the Alden and her sister ships laid smoke. Admiral Doorman ordered the Destroyers to counter attack. One man on the Bridge was heard remark that he always knew the old 4 pipers (a reference to the Clemson Class Destroyers having 4 smokestacks) would have to save the day. The American destroyers (oldest ships in the ABDA line) steered a course toward the Japanese and launched their starboad torpedoes. Then, following the movement of the John D. Edwards (ahead at the time), Alden reversed course and fired her port side torpedoes, saving the Exeter from destruction at that time. Decreasing visibility and increasing range ended that phase of the battle. At 1958 the column steered westward.


On February 28, 1942 four US destroyers Ford, Paul Jones, Alden and Edwards left Soerabaja in the evening to escape to Australia. You met some Japanese naval forces in the southern leg of the Bali Strait. There was some fire between your and Japanese fleet. How did you managed to escape safely?

When did you finally arrive in Fremantle?

What did you feel knowing you managed to escape safely to Australia ? Were you informed what has happen with other Allieds ships like USS Houston, USS Pope and HMAS Perth for instance?

At the end of the pitched battle the American Destroyer retired independently towards Surabaya with no torpedoes, and little else to throw at the enemy. The balance of the ships in the column went another direction. The American Destroyers anchored at 0210 on February 28, and spent the daylight hours in the Harbor. Alden refueled at Holland Pier and increasing numbers of enemy aircraft were noted. Lt. Commander Calley felt that the best option available was to use the darkness to avoid contact. I recall trying to borrow torpedoes from the Pope. DesDiv 58 cleared port on February 28 at 11:00 P. M. with all hands at general quarters. They steamed close to the coast and turned (undetected) into the Bali Strait. There they encountered the Bali Attack Unit (Japanese Destroyers Hotsuharu, Nenohi, Wakaba and Hatsushimo). The Japanese opened fire, and a 5 minute gun duel broke out. The American Destroyers ended the duel by laying smoke and increasing speed to 28 knots and sailing hell bent for election. The ships of DesDiv 58 reached Freemantle on March 4, 1942. DeRuyter and Java were sunk during the night of the 27th- 28th, and the Houston and Perth tried to take on most of the Japanese fleet in a harbour - resulting in the loss of both ships.




Veterans of the Dutch East Indies Index . Bibliography . Article List . Geographic Names
Copyright 1999-2000 by John Rodney Guidry
Forgotten Campaign: The Dutch East Indies Campaign 1941-1942

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