Hamilton W. Howe was born January 15, 1904, in Albert Lea, Minnesota. He graduated from Hyde Park High School in Chicago and then attended the Kenilworth Military School in Illinois, where he received an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy. After graduating from the Academy in 1926, he went to the Naval War College. During World War II, he commanded the destroyers USS ROPER (1942-1943) and USS EARLE (1942-). Towards the end of the war he was commanding officer of the U.S. Naval Training Center in Miami, Florida. He retired on July 15, 1956 with the rank of rear admiral. He received the Navy Cross, two Bronze Star Medals, the Commendation Ribbon for performance in the invasion of Sicily, and foreign decorations.
In his interview, Howe describes events during his World War II service dealing with anti-submarine warfare off the coast of North Carolina and in convoy duty in the Atlantic Ocean. Howe details his sinking the German submarine U-85 of the 7th U-Boat Flotilla (pp.11-12) while performing North Carolina coastal patrol duties in the ROPER on April 13 and 14, 1942. He also discusses the difficulty of determining whether a submarine has been sunk (p. 14) and with discriminating submarines from the many civilian vessels when searching for submarines during the early days of World War II (p. 16). As an example of this difficulty, Howe relates the incident of an armed guard crew of a U.S. merchantman scoring a hit on the USS DICKERSON (p. 17), mistaking it for an enemy submarine.
Between December 12, 1942, and April 28, 1943, while in command of the EARLE, which was acting as an escort for a convoy of troop and supply ships in the Atlantic Ocean out from Casablanca, Howe talks about his encounter with two unidentified submarines, one Italian (pp. 12-13) and one German (p. 15). He also discusses the effective, late-model radar on the EARLE that twice detected enemy submarines when no other ship was able to do so (pp. 14 & 16). Howe relates his difficulty convincing the commanding officer of the convoy that the EARLE had actually detected something (pp. 14-16).
Included in the interview are two other interesting encounters. In the first, Howe recounts his memory of meeting Lieutenant Richard Barthelmess who, in civilian life, was a silent film star (p. 18). The second is the saving of the survivors of the torpedoed M.S. CITY OF NEW YORK off the Virginia capes while Howe was in command of the ROPER. In this incident he talks further about a baby being born on one of the lifeboats and later being named after the ROPER (pp. 18-20).
The interview also contains a list of forty-eight recommendations for a prospective commanding officer of a destroyer (pp. 1-8). They are aimed at helping the commander avoid pitfalls which might damage either the officer's image or the smooth running of the ship. Many of the recommendations deal with when and where to relax the rules and when to fully enforce them. In a similar vein is included a sample letter for a young man about to enter the Naval Academy, advising him among other things not to be discouraged and to stay out of trouble (pp. 8-10).
For related material see Collection #368.
Gift of Hamilton W. Howe
Processed by G. Pritchard, April 1991
Encoded by Apex Data Services
Repository does not own copyright to the oral history collection. Permission to cite, reproduce, or broadcast must be obtained from both the repository and the participants in the oral history, or their heirs.