Monday, January 13, 2014

USS Roper (DD-147)-- Part 1: The U-85 Incident

From Wikipeia.

Wickes-class destroyer commissioned at the end of World War I, 1090 tons, 314-feet long, 101 crew four 4-inch and two 3-inch guns.

Named for Lt. Cmdr. Jesse M. Roper who died during the Spanish-American War while rescuing his crew. First U.S. warship to sink a German U-boat in World War I. After commissioning and during the inter-war period, served in the Mediterranean, Atlantic and along the U.S. west coast.

Immediately before U.S. entry into World War II, the Roper was part of the Neutrality Patrol and then escorted convoys after Pearl Harbor.

On the night of April 13-14, 1942, made contact with a surfaced U-boat off the coast of North Carolina, chased the U-85 and sank it with gunfire.

In 2002, former U-boat commander Helmut Schmoeckel wrote a book suggesting that the USS Roper not rescuing the U-85's crew after they abandoned the submarine was a war crime.

The Roper reported that after initial contact with the U-85, it was almost hit by a torpedo. After sinking it, the Roper's commander delayed rescue operations until morning and the arrival of air support from a PBY Catalina and another ship for reasons of fear of another U-boat possibly operating in the area.

No charges were filed against the Roper's crew or commander, Lt. Cmdr. Hamilton W. Howe. Howe received a Navy Cross medal for the action and retired in 1956 as a rear admiral.

War Crime Or Not? --GreGen

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