Highlights of events and interesting occurrences
Comdr. Benjamin Katz

Comdr. (later Rear Admiral) Benjamin Katz, USN was Taylor’s first commanding officer.


July 9, 1981

Dear John,
I’m glad that you had such a good reunion and I’m sorry that I couldn’t be with you.
Perhaps if all goes well, I’ll see you in Chicago next year.
Your letter came at a very opportune time—my class is preparing its history and in doing my contribution, I though that we all know where we had been and what awards we had received, but many of us don’t know about the individual highlights of our careers that should be put down.
I therefore wrote mine along the lines of the enclosed and as you can see, I told about those events that were important in my own career. If you want to use it, please feel free to do so, as there is so much about our work when I had command of the Taylor. Maybe Tom Brown would like to have it for next year.
With best wishes to all,

Benjamin Katz,
Rear Admiral, USN Ret.

During World War II, with so much combat, many of us had the opportunity to engage the enemy and receive awards. However, besides such awards, there were other messages I believe are of interest, and I am including them later in this write-up.

On December 7, 1941, an escort unit in which Bill Ramoser in command of the Upshur and I in command of the Dallas, both old four stackers, took the first convoy across the North Atlantic to Londonderry, in Northern Ireland. Previous to that time, we had been turning over the convoys to the British south of Iceland to take the rest of the way, and then reversing the procedure for the return to the U.S.

Of the first nine of the new 2100-ton Fletcher-class destroyers in DesRon 21, four were commanded by the Class of ’24, three by ’25, and the last two, the Radford and Taylor, by Bill Ramoser and me. He and I were the first in our class to get command of these fine ships in 1942.

After escorting the Support Force for the North African invasion to Africa, the Taylor was in a large task force that was ordered to the South Pacific. I later learned that Frank Busey was the Executive Officer of the CVE Chenango. We were both present when the task force was attacked at dusk by Japanese aircraft north of Guadalcanal in January 1943 and the cruiser Chicago was torpedoed and sunk. We both remember the urgent call from the task force commander demanding immediate night fighter coverage—we actually didn’t get any night fighters for at least another year.

During most of 1943, the war around Guadalcanal, the Solomons and the Slot was carried out by destroyers, which were called on for many missions. The Taylor took part in five night shore bombardments, one early morning bombardment, three night surface engagements, three night minelaying expeditions, several interceptions of aircraft, numerous contacts with the enemy trying to escape from the Kula Gulf area, and several rescues. The Taylor sank the Japanese submarine I-25 by gunfire and depth charges in Kula Gulf; this was the submarine that fired on Fort Stevens, Oregon in 1942—only the second time that the continental US was fired upon since the War of 1812. In one night engagement with the Japanese, the Jap cruiser Jintsu turned her searchlight directly on the Taylor and lit her up as though it was broad daylight. This was pretty scary for a few seconds until our gunfire zeroed in on her and shot out the searchlight. The Jintsu was one of the Jap ships sunk during this action.

The Taylor led a rescue group at night through waters never previously traversed by a US man-of-war, to rescue survivors from the cruiser Helena on the Japanese-held island of Vella Lavella, north of Guadalcanal. John Sweeney had command of the APDs, which made the actual pick-up of survivors, and Bill Ramoser in the Radford was in the covering unit.

Altogether, the Taylor made 25 trips up the Slot, 10 in a 14-night period, and participated in 15 recorded actions. The standard message we received from Admiral Wilkinson on Guadalcanal was, “Get underway and go up the Slot. More later.” And of course he became known as “More Later” Wilkinson.

During this period, I received several awards, but I don’t believe the words in any of them can compare with those in three messages I received: they had added significance to me as I am sure that they must have been written by those three fine officers, themselves.

The first was from Captain Arleigh Burke, ComDesDiv 44, and reads as follows: “Tulagi, Solomon Islands, July 26, 1943. The prompt submission of concise well-conceived action reports written during a period when sleep must have meant much to all of you is a further indication of the extremely high standard your ship sets for itself and keeps.”

The second was from Admiral Halsey to DesRon 21: “Nouméa, New Caledonia, October 29, 1943. DesRon 21 always will be remembered when Guadalcanal, Munda, Kula Gulf, Vella Lavella and the Slot are mentioned. Your habit of getting into winning scraps with the Japs has made history. On your detachment from the South Pacific Fighting Forces, I wish you Godspeed, and you may be sure that I will welcome you back with open arms at any time in any ocean.”

The third was from Admiral Nimitz, CinCPacFlt: “Pearl Harbor, December 10, 1043 to DesRon 21. Special greetings to the veterans of the Slot. We are proud to have you with us.”

After almost a year without having been in a liberty port, the Taylor enjoyed a week in Sidney, Australia and then joined the Central Pacific Force for the capture of Tarawa. I was with a fast carrier task group consisting of four carriers, two new battleships, two cruisers, one anti-aircraft cruiser and a screen of twenty destroyers. For the first time, I saw some of the might that Admiral King had created, which led to the defeat of Japan. During the assault on Tarawa, I learned of the heavy Marine casualties from my chief radioman, who was listening on the landing force frequencies.

Later in the war, I commanded the Rocky Mount (AGC 3), flagship of Admiral Kinkaid, Commander Seventh Fleet. I recall the incident in getting underway at Inchon against an 8- or 9-knot current: the ship was riding upstream and the only way to turn around without tugs and in a very crowded harbor was to turn the ship on its anchor. Despite the words from many voices, “He’ll never make it, he’ll never make it,” we did get turned around and left for Shanghai. The Rocky Mount was the first American or Allied ship to sail up the Yangtze and Whangpoo to Shanghai since the outbreak of the war.

After World War II, I had three shore assignments: one in New York as Communications Officer at Third Naval District Headquarters; another at Pearl Harbor as Pacific Fleet Communication Officer; and my last tour in the Communication Division of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

I had two sea assignments: one in the Atlantic Fleet as Chief Staff Officer of Service Squadron Two, and the other as ComDesRon One in the Pacific Fleet.

When the Korean War broke out, I was ordered to duty in Tokyo at Navy Headquarters, first as Logistics, then as Communications Officer. When Admiral Joy. Navy Commander in Japan, was named as United Nations Truce Negotiator, I accompanied him to Korea to supervise communications.

After retiring from our Navy, I received a master’s degree in engineering administration from the George Washington University, Washington, DC. I then worked for twelve years in two manufacturing firms in Alexandria, Virginia, managed a hotel there, and became active in business and community affairs. I help small businesses with their business problems on a voluntary basis. I have written and published two books for small businesses and one for the survivor of a person who dies.

My wife “B” is active in the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia, which teaches adult illiterates to read and right and foreign-born to learn English. As Executive Director, she was selected in 1981 as one of the ten outstanding women of the year in Alexandria.

We have two daughters and one grandson.

July 4, 1981

Courtesy, collection of Susan Katz Clark, daughter of RAdm. Katz.