In the history books, chapters about the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor are often accompanied by an iconic image: the explosion of a ship taken from a distance. The ship in the image is the destroyer USS Shaw (DD-373). The snapshot was taken just as fires ignited when she was hit by three bombs ignited her forward magazine. Though the violent explosion makes it look as if she was damaged beyond repair, like many other ships that were at Pearl Harbor that morning, Shaw was actually repaired within months and sent back to service.
On the morning of the attack on Pearl Harbor, USS Shaw was in drydock where she was scheduled for repairs. The forward magazine explosion caused significant damage, but she remained intact and, after preliminary repairs at Pearl Harbor, in January of 1942, she was ready to sail to San Francisco where the remainder of her repairs would be completed.
By August 31, 1942, the newly-repaired USS Shaw was ready to join the fighting on the Pacific.
USS Shaw Before Pearl Harbor
Named for revered naval officer Captain John Shaw, the USS Shaw was laid down in October of 1934 and commissioned into service on September 18, 1936.
Until April, 1940, Shaw remained stationed on the west coast, participating in naval exercises and training, and providing assistance to carriers and submarines. She eventually made her way to Hawaii for Fleet Problem XXI, which emphasized the defense of Hawaii. After the exercise, she returned to the west coast for an overhaul. In February 1941, Shaw was once again sent back to Hawaii and she remained in the Pacific waters until November, when she was ordered to the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard for repairs. She was drydocked at YFD-2 and remained there until the Japanese attack in December.
Repaired and Returned to War
With her repairs completed in August, 1942, USS Shaw returned to service, serving as an escort vessel for convoys between the west coast and Hawaii. In October, she was directed to sail west with the USS Enterprise carrier force and meet up with the Hornet carrier force. Now a part of Task Force 61, Shaw and her fellow ships headed for the Santa Cruz Islands to intercept Japanese vessels on their way to Guadalcanal.
On October 26, TF 61 came under fire. Shaw survived the attack and provided support for the crew of USS Porter (DD-356), which was torpedoed and later sunk. After the engagement, Shaw sailed for New Hebrides and escorted supplies and troops to Guadalcanal for the next two months. Shaw was stuck for five days in January of 1943 after running aground in Noumea Harbor, New Caledonia. With damage to her hull, Shaw sailed back to Pearl Harbor for extensive repairs and rearmament. By October 6, 1943, she was back in service and heading toward Milne Bay, New Guinea.
As a member of the 7th Amphibious Force, Shaw provided escort for reinforcements to Lae and Finschhafen. When the assault on Cape Gloucester was launched, Shaw was there escorting units and providing fire support. While she was fighting at Cape Gloucester, she suffered damage when “Val” dive bombers attacked. Thirty-six men sustained injuries, and three died.
Throughout 1944, Shaw assisted with the assault on Guam and provided further escort services until January of 1945. At Lingayen Gulf, she provided “call fire” support for the troops on land, lit up the sky with “star shells,” and took part in shore bombardments. Towards the end of the war, Shaw was again damaged and sent to San Francisco, where she remained until August 20. By then, the fighting was over.
After having earned 11 battle stars, USS Shaw was decommissioned on October 2, 1945, and struck from the Naval Vessel Register two days later.