BRIEF HISTORY OF THE KIMBERLY THROUGH 1945
[Submitted to The Korean War Educator by Don Pribble of Danville, IL]
The keel of the USS Kimberly (DD521), a 2,050 ton destroyer of the FLETCHER Class of 1940, was laid July
27, 1942, in the yards of the Bethlehem Steel Company, Mariners Harbor, Staten Island, New York, the ship
having been authorized by an Act of Congress of July 19, 1940. The destroyer was launched February 4, 1943,
at which time Miss Elsie Kimberly, of Bonita, California, daughter of the late Rear Admiral Lewis Ashfield
Kimberly, christened the ship as the official sponsor.
The DD521 was named in memory of Rear Admiral Lewis Ashfield Kimberly, USN, who was born on April 22,
1830, at Troy, New York. Rear Admiral Kimberly was appointed midshipman December 8, 1846 and from 1847 to
1860 served in the African, Pacific, and East India Squadrons. During the Civil War, he served aboard the
USS POTOMAC with squadrons blockading the West. He also took part in operations on the Mississippi River at
Port Hudson, Grand Gulf, and Vicksburg. Admiral Kimberly was executive officer of the USS HARTFORD in the
Battle of Mobile Bay and was commended for gallantry. From 1866 to 1889 he cruised in European, Atlantic,
Pacific, and Far Eastern waters and, on June 10-11, 1871, he was in command of land forces in an attack on
Korea. Rear Admiral Kimberly died on January 28, 1902, at West Newton, Massachusetts.
The USS KIMBERLY was placed in commission on May 22, 1943, with Commander Harry W. Smith, USN, as her
first commanding officer. The KIMBERLY, with a brave and gallant name to live up to, entered upon an
intensive shakedown period soon after commissioning, since the need was pressing for ships to perform escort
and patrol duties in both Atlantic and Pacific waters.
With shakedown completed, the destroyer reported to the Navy Yard, New York, where the three forward 20
millimeter mounts were replaced by twin 40 millimeter anti-aircraft batteries as well as other operational
gear being installed.
On September 10, 1943, the USS KIMBERLY, in company with the USS BUNKER HILL, USS ERBEN, and USS ABBOT,
weighed anchor from the Naval Operating Base, Norfolk, Virginia, en route to the Pacific. She arrived at
Pearl Harbor, Oahu, T.H., on October 3, 1943, and spent over a month conducting training exercises and
maneuvers in Hawaiian waters.
On November 10, 1943, as a part of Task Force 52, the DD 521 departed from Pearl Harbor and set course
for the Gilbert Islands, where the task force participated in the invasion of objectives there, beginning on
November 20th. As a fighter-director ship, the KIMBERLY directed aircraft from the carriers to intercept the
many daily plane raids from the Jap-held Marshall Islands to the northward. As an antisubmarine escort for
the battleships and cruisers, she dropped depth charges on seven different occasions when her sound gear
picked up possible enemy submarines. When the hoped for counterattack by the Japanese Fleet did not
materialize, the KIMBERLY left the hallowed waters of Tarawa and Makin on December 5th, escorting five LST’s
to Pearl Harbor.
Arriving at Pearl Harbor in time to receive welcome Christmas mail and packages, the ship was given a
12-day availability period, after which she was sent to the Bethlehem Steel Company’s shipyard in San
Francisco, California, for repairs. She arrived at San Francisco on January 8, 1944, and after two weeks
departed for Adak, Aleutian Islands, on the 22nd. The KIMBERLY arrived in Adak Harbor and reported to
Commander North Pacific on January 30th, after which she was immediately ordered to report to Commander Task
Force 94 at Attu for duty.
As a part of Task Force 94 under Rear Admiral Baker, the KIMBERLY left Attu on February 1, 1944, with the
objective Paramushiro in the Jap-held Kurile Islands. She bombarded Suribachi Wan and Kurabi Saki on
February 4, 1944.
The next eight months were spent in the Aleutians on antisubmarine patrols, training exercises, offensive
sweeps, and bombardments of the Kurile chain. On March 4, 1944, Task Force 94 penetrated the Kurile Islands
south of Shashuktan in search of an enemy convoy and remained within the Sea of Okhotsk for a period of 36
hours during low visibility. Under Rear Admiral Smith, in the CHESTER, the task force bombarded Matsuwa on
June 13th and Paramushiro on June 26th. On July 28th six destroyers, of which number the KIMBERLY was
included, made a sweep for enemy picket boats in the northern Kurile areas, but the results were negative.
The task force got underway on August 1, 1944, for another bombardment of the Kuriles but retired before the
bombarding operations were begun. Surprise was to be one of the prime factors in the operation and the force
had been sighted at sea by a prowling Jap "Betty."
The KIMBERLY departed Adak on September 18, 1944, en route to San Francisco for a ten-day availability
period at the Mare Island Navy Yard. With repairs completed, the destroyer left the San Francisco area on
October 6th and proceeded to Pearl Harbor, arriving on the 12th.
On October 25, 1944, Commander J.D. Whitfield, USN, relieved Commander Harry W. Smith, USN, as commanding
officer of the USS KIMBERLY.
The KIMBERLY next sailed for Manus, Admiralty Islands, where she dropped anchor on November 9, 1944. The
following day she narrowly escaped serious damage when she shifted berths from within 1,000 yards of the USS
MT. HOOD to another anchorage. Fifteen minutes later, the MT. HOOD, an ammunition ship, blew up – her only
survivors being one officer and 13 enlisted men who were ashore at the time.
The KIMBERLY joined Task Unit 79.15.4, a supply convoy bound for Leyte Gulf, Philippine Islands, and
screened by the units of Destroyer Squadron 49. This was the first time since August that the KIMBERLY had
been with the squadron and, upon arrival in San Pedro Bay, Leyte, on November 18, 1944, fired her first shot
at Japanese aircraft since a year previously in the Gilbert Islands operation.
On November 20th, the ship departed for Borgen Bay, Cape Gloucester, New Britain, where she remained for
three weeks while troops in the area were evacuated in preparation for the Philippine landings on Luzon.
Orders were received on December 10th to proceed to San Pedro Bay, Leyte Gulf, via Hollandia, and the DD 521
dropped anchor in Leyte Gulf six days later.
On December 19, 1944, eleven destroyers including the KIMBERLY left Leyte with a convoy of LST;s, LCI’s,
and liberty ships as the First Mindoro Resupply Echelon, bound for Mangarin Bay. In the Sulu Sea, during the
late evening of December 21st, the formation was attacked by Japanese single-engine suicide planes and
During the first attacks by the Kamikaze planes on December 21, 1944, the KIMBERLY had her first chance
to really show that she wasn’t only a fighting ship in name, but also in action. For nearly two hours the
attacking planes kept the destroyer fully occupied and the "521" narrowly missed damage several times when
flaming planes fell into the water close by. She had another close cal when a jap bomber flew directly over
her bridge with bomb bays open but was unable to release its bomb-load until it had passed beyond. Not an
enemy plane escaped, and the KIMBERLY had chalked up one sure kill and was credited with several assists.
Though the DD 521 sustained no damage, the convoy did not escape unscathed. Throughout twilight and
darkness of December 21st, many survivors of damaged ships were rescued from the water and, for bringing the
"Might K" in close to an exploding LST and taking off her wounded personnel, Commander J.D. Whitfield, USN,
the commanding officer, later received the Bronze Star Medal – as did Lieutenant (jg) Robert McIlroy, USNR;
Chief Electrician’s mate Art Foster, USNR; and Fireman First Class H.F. McIntyre, USN, for their part in the
During the following day more suicide attempts were made, but the accuracy of the KIMBERLY’s
anti-aircraft fire and the shooting of the air cover of U.S. P38’s were so effective that each plane was
knocked down before it reached its objective. That night the Japs continued their air attacks after the
unloaded ships had begun their voyage back toward Leyte Gulf, but no further damage was sustained by the
After a week of rest and resupply, the KIMBERLY turned her guns in the direction of Lingayen Gulf. With
the pre-invasion bombardment group, composed of such veteran battleships as the USS CALIFORNIA, USS NEW
MEXICO, USS IDAHO, USS PENNSYLVANIA, and the cruisers USS COLUMBIA, USS LOUISVILLE, HMAS AUSTRALIA, and HMAS
SHROPESHIRE, the KIMBERLY set out for Luzon on January 2, 1945, as a part of Task Unit 77.2.1. Two days
later, not far from the scene of the attack of two weeks before, the formation was subjected to repeated
enemy Kamikaze attacks which were pressed home with great persistence. Many Jap planes were sent into the
sea in flames, but some scored hits on the USS OMMANEY BAY, USS MANILA BAY, USS LOUISVILLE, and HMAS ARUNTA.
Again the KIMBERLY came through unharmed and her blazing guns had added another sure kill to her credit.
When the bombardment forces arrived off Lingayen Gulf and before the sun had risen, the KIMBERLY suffered
her first casualty of the war. An enemy plane, flying close to the water and seeing the 521 silhouetted in
its sights against the first streaks of dawn, strafed the bridge area and wounded 13 officers and men.
However, only one man was seriously injured and the ship’s fighting efficiency was not impaired.
The entire day of January 6th, 1945, was spent warding off Kamikaze attacks. In the early afternoon the
Japanese increased their tempo until one attack followed another with hardly a moment’s interval between.
The combined fire of the task group was effective, often bringing down smoking and flaming aircraft into the
Gulf. Once, while separated from the formation to lower a boat and rescue the survivors of damaged ships,
the KIMBERLY brought down two planes before they could reach the other ships. The work of the doctor and the
pharmacist’s mates bordered on the heroic as they administered to the overload of patients, giving plasma
and morphine, bandaging wounds, and making the men comfortable.
As darkness came on, the task group retired to seaward and prepared for the next day’s scheduled
bombardments. Throughout January 7th, the DD 521 destroyed specified targets on the beaches and supported
the underwater demolition teams by knocking out enemy machine gun emplacements when they fired upon the
swimmers clearing the shallow waters. That night the KIMBERLY remained in the Gulf when the formation
retired to sea. Throughout a long six hours, the destroyer kept up a constant bombardment to harass the
enemy troops – hitting railroad centers, road intersections, and starting fires in supply dumps and storage
When the task force reentered the Gulf as the sun rose on January 8th, the KIMBERLY again joined in the
stepped-up bombardment until at the end of the day she was out of ammunition. The mission of the bombardment
group had been well accomplished and the next day the troops landed with little opposition.
Again the KIMBERLY’s commanding officer was rewarded. This time he received a Gold Star in lieu of a
second Bronze Star Medal. This award was for the rescue of survivors of damaged ships from the water, for
enemy aircraft shot down, and for supporting the underwater demolition teams in their work.
For the remainder of the month, the ship acted as a part of a task group in the South China Sea, prepared
to intercept any possible counterattack envisioned by what remained of the humbled Imperial Japanese Fleet.
During February 1945, the KIMBERLY stood by in Leyte Gulf, where the crew enjoyed several days of rest
and relaxation, and began preparations for the Okinawa campaign which was next on the schedule of
On March 21, 1945, the KIMBERLY was underway with Task Group 51.5 and the fist light of the early morning
of March 26th revealed the destroyer on a radar picket station a few miles from Kerama Retto, the scene of
the first landings in the Ryukyus. The outline of the Okinawa hills could be seen on the hazy blue horizon.
Suddenly two Jap planes came out of the clouds, one (a "Val"), directing its attack on the KIMBERLY. The DD
521’s guns opened up and repeatedly hit the suicider until he was trailing flames and smoke. The Captain
maneuvered the ship violently, but still the crazed pilot was able to crash on top of one of the gun mounts
aft. Immediately flames and explosions enveloped the after part of the ship, but quick action on the part of
the repair parties brought the fires under control. However, the KIMBERLY had suffered considerable damage.
Everything in the vicinity of the hit was demolished, including three vitally needed guns. Nine men were
killed, 18 were found missing, and 33 were wounded in action. The heroic and courageous performance of the
men at the guns into which the Kamikaze crashed will never be forgotten by any of those who saw the action.
Emergency repairs were made during the remainder of the day and then the DD 521 reported to the Task
Force Commander ready for duty. She remained in the area until April 1, 1945, when, with her tired,
exhausted men, she headed for Mare Island Navy Yard, California, for a complete overhaul and repair of
With her availability period completed on June 26th, the KIMBERLY spent the next month undergoing
refresher training – first at San Diego, California, and then at Pearl Harbor. During her overhaul period
the destroyer had her after torpedo tube mount removed and in its place quadruple 40 millimeter batteries
were installed. These new guns, with a new director system amidships, proved a great advantage for increased
effectiveness of anti-aircraft fire. In her shore bombardment practices, the KIMBERLY was given a "superior"
Upon leaving Pearl Harbor on August 10, 1945, the KIMBERLY was assigned to the THIRD Fleet, Task Force
38, under the command of Admiral William F. Halsey, USN, and reported to Commander Task Group 38.4 on August
28, some 100 miles off Tokyo Bay. The destroyer entered Tokyo Bay on September 4th and two days later was
underway for sea again, escorting the USS MISSOURI.
The KIMBERLY arrived at Pearl Harbor on September 20, 1945, where she was ordered to proceed to
Wilmington, Delaware, for the 1945 Navy Day ceremonies after which she was to further proceed to her
"reserve" base, as yet unassigned.
The USS KIMBERLY’s first commanding officer, Commander Harry W. Smith, USN, was awarded the Commendation
Ribbon for his actions as commanding officer of the DD 521 when she was a part of the task force which
participated in the first bombardment of Paramushiro, Kurile Islands, on February 4, 1944.
The USS KIMBERLY steamed 140,000 miles, operating in the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, Pacific Ocean,
Bering Sea, Sea of Okhotsk, Bisbarck Sea, Sulu Sea, Mindanao Sea, South China Sea, Philippine Sea, and East
China Sea. Her ports of call were: Brooklyn, NY; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; Casco Bay,
Maine; Boston, Massachusetts; Norfolk, Virginia; Panama City, Panama; San Diego, California; Pearl harbor,
Oahu, T.H.; Makin Lagoon and Tarawa, Gilbert Islands; San Francisco, California; Kulak Bay, Adak, Alaska;
Massacre Bay, Attu, Alaska; Great Sitkin, Alaska; Dutch Harbor, Alaska; Kiska, Alaska; Vallejo, California;
Tanua, Admiralty Islands; Hollandia, New Guinea; Cape Gloucester, New Britain; Lingayen, Luzon, Philippine
Islands; Mindoro, P.I.; Kerama Retto, Ryukyus Islands; Ulithi Atoll, Western Carolines; Eniwetok Atoll,
Marshall Islands; Iwo Jima, Volcano Islands; Tokyo Bay, Japn; and Guam, Marianas.
By Directive dated January 1947, the USS KIMBERLY (DD521) was to be placed out of commission, in reserve,
attached to the U.S. Atlantic Reserve Fleet.
* * *
The USS KIMBERLY (DD 521) earned four (4) battle stars on the Asiatic-Pacific Area Service Ribbon for
participating in the following operations:
- 1 Star/Gilbert Islands Operation – 13 November to 8 December 1943
- 1 Star/Kurile Islands Operation
Masashi Wan-Kurabu Zaki – 4 February 1944
Matsuwa – 13 June 1944
Kurabu Zaki – 26 June 1944
- 1 Star/Leyte Operation
Leyte Landings – 10 October to 29 November 1944
- 1 Star/Okinawa Gunto Operation
Assault and Occupation of Okinawa Gunto – 24 March to 30 June 1945
The KIMBERLY also earned the Navy Occupation Service Medal, Pacific, for her activities in that area
during the periods of September 2-8 and September 19-20, 1945.