< Heywood L. Edwards DD- 663

Heywood L. Edwards DD- 663


Heywood L. Edwards

(DD-663: dp. 2,700, 1. 376'6", b. 39'8", dr. 13', s. 35 k.;
cpl. 319; a. 5 5"; 10 21" tt.; cl. Fletcher)

Heywood L. Edwards (DD-663) was launched by Boston Navy Yard 6 October 1943: sponsored by Mrs. Louise S. Edwards, mother of the namesake; and commissioned 26 January 1944, Comdr. J. W. Boulware in command.

Heywood L. Edwards conducted her shakedown beginning 25 February off Bermuda and after gunnery exercises off the Maine coast departed to join the Pacific Fleet. Sailing from Boston 16 April, she transited the Panama Canal, stopped at San Diego, and arrived Pearl Harbor 8 May. There Heywood L. Edwards, took part in training maneuvers with Task Force 52 under Vice Admiral R. EL. Turner, helping to weld the coordinated amphibious force which was to sweep across the Pacific. The ships got underway from Pearl Harbor 29 May for the Marianas with Heywood L. Edwards acting as screening unit for the transport group, and during the initial landings on Saipan 15 June the destroyer took up patrol station to seaward of the invasion beaches. From 21 30 June she closed the beaches to deliver vital fire support for the advancing Marines, and continued that highly effective duty until 2 July. Heywood L. Edwards then joined cruiser Montpelier for the bombardment of Tinian, another island objective of the Marianas campaign.

The destroyer returned to her gunfire support role off Saipan 6 July, and the next night, 7 July, she was called upon to rescue a group of soldiers cut off from the American lines and stranded on the beach. Heywood L.Edwards put over her whaleboat and made four shuttle trips over the treacherous reefs to rescue the 44 men, transferring them to a nearby LCI. Between 19 and 21 July she fired more bombardment missions off Tinian in support of the impending landing there, returned to Saipan fire support duties for a few more days, and got underway from the Marianas 30 July for Eniwetok.

With the Marianas secured, the next objective in the push across the Pacific was the capture of advance bases for the invasion of the Philippines. Heywood L.Edwards took part in the Peleliu operation, departing 18 August for training exercises with amphibious forces on Florida Island and sailing for the western Carolines 6 September. Arriving 11 September, the destroyer maintained an antisubmarine patrol around the heavier bombardment units until 13 September, when she was detached to provide close support for underwater demolition teams working on beach obstructions. On 15 September, the day or the assault on this strategic island, Heywood L.Edwards provided fire support to forces ashore, illumination fire at night, and succeeded in knocking out an ammunition dump next day as the struggle continued. She encountered a group of barges loaded with reinforcements shortly after midnight 23 September, and after illuminating them with star shell opened with her main battery. By dawn she had sunk 14 of the barges, aided by landing craft, and had helped prevent the landing of some 650 Japanese troops.

The landing a success, Heywood L. Edwards proceeded to Manus, Admiralty islands, where she arrived 1 October. There she joined with Rear Admiral Oldendorf's fire support and bombardment group for the historic return to the Philippines, departing for Leyte 12 October 1944. She conducted pre-invasion bombardment 18-20 October and provided gunfire support for the landings 20 October. This work continued for 4 days under frequent enemy air attack. Then Heywood L. Edwards joined once more with Rear Admiral Oldendorf's force for the impending Battle of Surigao Strait, as the Japanese made a desperate attempt to destroy the landing force.

As Oldendorf's masterfully deployed forces waited at the end of Surigao Strait, Heywood L. Edwards headed section 3 of Destroyer Squadron 56, screening the left flank of the cruiser line. Torpedo boats and destroyers made the initial attacks, farther down the strait, and just after 0300 26 October H Heywood L. Edwards and her unit were ordered to attack. In company with Leutze and Bennion the destroyer steamed down the port side of the enemy column and ran through a hail of gunfire to launch torpedoes. Two hits were obtained on Japanese battleship Yamashiro, with Albert W. Grant on the American side damaged but afloat. After this intrepid attack, the Japanese steamed into Oldendorf's trap. As the destroyers retired, his heavy units pounded the enemy line, allowing only cruiser Mogami (later sunk by aircraft) and one destroyer to escape. As morning broke over Surigao Strait, Heywood L. Edwards took station on the port bow of the cruisers in search of enemy cripples, patrolled the eastern entrance to the strait for a day, then returned to take up station in Leyte Gulf.

With the American victory complete at sea, Heywood L. Edwards remained in the invasion area until 26 November, patrolling and protecting the shipping building up in the gulf. She arrived Manus for a much-needed rest and repair period 29 November. Soon underway again, however, she sailed 16 December, and after training exercises in the Palau Islands departed 1 January with Oldendorf group for the second important phase of the Philippine invasion, Lingayen Gulf. Fighting off suicide planes as they steamed, the ships arrived Lingayen Gulf 6 January, and Heywood. L. Edwards downed two of these aircraft during a strong attack that day. She then took up her fire support duties for UDT teams, and with the landings 9 January covered troops on the beachhead and fired at strong points ashore. She continued these assignments in addition to protecting arriving and departing convoys until 22 January, when she departed for Ulithi.

Next on the relentless timetable of Pacific victory was Iwo Jima, seen as a key base for B-29 operations against the mainland of Japan. Heywood L. Edwards participated in landing rehearsals 12-14 February 1945 and screened heavy units during the pre-invasion bombardment, As the Marines stormed ashore 19 February ~he began firing support missions, aiding the hard fighting ashore until 27 February, when she sailed for Saipan. The destroyer then sailed on to Ulithi and formed with the supporting forces for the coming invasion of Okinawa.

The task force for this landing departed Ulithi 21 March, and after her arrival 4 days later Heywood L. Edwards covered the UDT teams' reconnaissance of Kerama Betto. As those islands were captured 27 March in preparation for the larger landings, the destroyer found herself in the midst of heavy suicide attacks and shot down many of the kamikazes She covered the UDT landings on Okinawa 30 March, bombarded an airfield ashore that afternoon, and 1 April joined in the bombardment of the assault areas. During the next weeks of bitter fighting ashore naval forces effectively sealed off the island from any possible reinforcement and effectively supported the troops with gunfire. Heywood L. Edwards and the other vessels had to fight off continuing suicide attacks and other menaces. When destroyer Longshaw ran aground on a reef 18 May, Heywood L. Edwards knocked out shore batteries which had opened on the stricken ship. She then continued performing fire support and radar picket duties off Okinawa until 28 July, when she sailed for Leyte Gulf. She had helped to carry out one of the most prolonged and successful fire support operations in the history of amphibious warfare.

The destroyer departed Leyte 2 August, and after a time at Saipan and Eniwetok she got underway again 29 August. Sailing toward Japan, Heywood L. Edwards covered the initial occupation of the Ominato area 6 September 1945 and departed that port 22 October for the United States, via Pearl Harbor. She arrived Seattle 10 November, decommissioned 1 July 1946, and entered the Long Beach Group, Pacific Reserve Fleet. Brought out of reserve in 1959, she was loaned to Japan under the Military Assistance Program, where she serves as Ariake (DD-183).

Heywood L. Edwards received seven battle stars for her service in World War II and a Navy Unit Commendation for her outstanding part in the great amphibious operations of 1944-5.