Sunday, November 1, 2015

USS Slater...the President, the Princess and Lobsters!

USS Slater, Albany, NY

The USS Slater (DE 766) is a World War II destroyer escort that is moored on the Hudson river in Albany, NY (  She was built by the Tampa Shipbuilding Company in Florida and launched in February 1944.

Her purpose was to help fight and win the battle of the Atlantic that raged from the start of the war in 1939 until its conclusion in 1945.  She was designed and equipped to sink Nazi U-boats.

Winston Churchill
Feared the German U-boat menace
After the war was over Winston Churchill admitted that "the only thing that ever really frightened me during the war was the U-boat peril".  Britain simply could not survive without the merchant ships that fed and supplied the island.  The battle of the Atlantic was a logistics conflict that was absolutely crucial to the war's final outcome.  America entered this conflict even before Pearl Harbor when FDR ordered the USN to join in convoy duty for ships crossing the north Atlantic.  The USS Reuben James, for example, was sunk by a German torpedo while providing convoy escort on 31 October 1941.
Depth charge - Could be adjusted to explode at 300 feet below the surface
To accomplish its mission the Slater was armed with depth charges that were commonly called "ashcans".  These devices were manually adjusted to explode at different depths after being dropped or launched from the ship.

MK10 hedgehogs
The Slater also had MK10 hedgehogs that had been developed by the British. These could be launched 300 feet from the ship singly or twenty four all at once forming an oval pattern.

The Slater was also armed with 40mm Bofors guns which were used as anti-aircraft weapons.  In the Norway chapter of  America Invades we relate an anecdote about the Swedish designed Bofors guns...
Bofors 40 mm gun, USS Slater, Albany, NY
And in the summer of 1940, President Franklin Roosevelt sent a troopship, the USS American Legion, on a special mission to Petsamo in what was then northern Finland (it’s now, after border changes, in Russia). Its main mission was to evacuate Crown Princess Martha of Norway, plus hundreds of other assorted civilians, including one Dane then called Børge Rosenbaum. This it successfully did, being the last neutral ship out of Petsamo. On arrival in the United States, Princess Martha went on to become close (very, very close, some suggest) to President Roosevelt while Børge Rosenbaum went on to become Victor Borge. However, it wasn’t just people that the USS American Legion rescued from Petsamo that day; it also carried away something that would make a huge contribution to the US war effort. Taken on board at Petsamo was a Swedish-made 40 mm twin-mount Bofors anti-aircraft gun. In America, the USN would adopt the type, order its domestic production, and fit it on its ships.
Crown Princess Martha of Norway
The Slater was manned by a crew of over 200 sailors and officers.  She was too small for a ship's doctor but she did have a pharmacists mate who was trained for minor surgery such as an appendectomy.   The Slater ward room contains a device that would sterilize tools prior to surgery.  It was also used to steam lobsters purchased by officers on board the Slater!
Lobster steamer!
USS Slater
In 1951 the Slater was sold to the Greek navy where she served for many years.  The Slater was even used while filming the classic The Guns of Navaronne.

The Slater today is supported by a private charitable organization which receives no support from the US or local government.  You can support its mission of remembrance by donating here...

Italy Invades the USS Slater
You can purchase your copy of America Invades
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You can also now purchase our sequel Italy Invades: How Italians Conquered the World 

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