Division of Naval History
Ships' Histories Section
HISTORY OF USS MACKENZIE (DD 614)
When war broke out in Europe in September 1939, the American ship-building program was stepped up to support a two-ocean Navy. The USS MACKENZIE (DD 614) was one of the hundreds of ships built during this expansion period to operate in the Atlantic and Mediterranean Fleets.
Authorized by an Act of Congress on 19 July 1940, she was the third vessel to be named in honor of Lieutenant Commander Alexander Slidell MacKenzie, USN. Commander Slidell was born on 24 January l842 in New York, and was appointed midshipman on 29 September 1855. At the outbreak of the Civil War he was serving aboard the USS HARTFORD on the China Station, and in l862 was assigned to the USS KINEO during the taking of Forts Jackson and St. Philip in the lower Mississippi. During the period 1863 to 1864 he participated in the blockade of Charleston, South Carolina, and the attacks on Fort Sumter and Morris Island. At the end of the Civil War he returned to the Far East aboard Admiral Farragut's flagship, the HARTFORD. He served in this ship until 13 June 1867, when he was killed in Formosa while leading a party against the savages who had murdered the entire crew of the American bark ROVER.
The first vessel so named, Torpedo Boat No. 17, was launched on 19 February 1898 at the Charles Hillman Company, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Master Charles Hillman, grandson of the President of the Charles Hillman Company, served as sponsor. The ship was stricken from the Navy List in 1917·
The second MACKENZIE (DD 175) was launched on 29 September 1919 at the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation, San Francisco, California, sponsored by Mrs. Percy J. Cotton, wife of the superintendent of Hull Construction of the Union Works. On 2 September 1940 the MACKENZlE was one of the 50 destroyers transferred to Great Britain in the Destroyer-naval base agreement, Entering the Royal Navy, the old "four-pipers" were re-christened with names common to towns in both England and the United States. Hence the USS MACKENZIE became the HMS ANNAPOLIS, and was fighting the Atlantic Battle for nearly a year before the entry of her native country.
The present MACKENZIE (DD 614) was built by the Bethlehem Steel Company, San Pedro, California, where her keel went down on 29 May 1941. As she nosed into the water for the first time on 27 June 1942, she was christened by Miss Gail Nielson, cousin of the ship's namesake. She was commissioned on 21 November 1942 and turned over to her first commanding officer, Commander D.B. Miller, USN.
Following a shakedown cruise to Panama and a two months training period on the east coast, the MACKENZIE reported for trans-Atlantic convoy duty. During May and June 1943 she made two such trips to the Mediterranean. . In the winter or 1942-43 the menace of the mid-ocean German wolf-pack reached its peak. During that period American and Allied trans-Atlantic convoys lost a total of 334 merchantmen--nearly two million tons of shipping. But the Germans did not keep on at that rate. Clement spring weather, lengthened days, air reinforcements, and revised anti-submarine measures aided the trans-Atlantic convoys. The turning point came in May 1943 when 41 U-boats were sunk. Of that Maytime score one was downed by the USS MACKENZIE.
On 16 May a two-destroyer task unit, consisting of the MACKENZIE and the LAUB, was enroute to Casablanca. At 0350 the MACKENZIE had a radar contact on her surface radar. At 2,700 yards the radar contact was lost, but a good sound contact was established at 1,600 yards. At 0439 the destroyer made a run on the submarine, dropping a l0-charge pattern. While she turned to make a second attack, Sound reported contact at 500 yards. Commander Miller ordered five more depth charges dumped upon the raider. The barrage raised the usual geyser followed by a spreading maelstrom, then silence. The destroyers continued to comb the area, but could not regain contact. At 0458 and at 0503 explosions were heard, but no wreckage could be found. Turning their bows toward Casablanca, the MACKENZIE and LAUB proceeded on their way. However, the wreck left by the MACKENZIE's handiwork was located after the war - - in German Navy records. The records identified the victim as U-182.
By July over 3,200 Allied ships, craft, and boats, 4,000 air craft, and 250,000 troops were assembled in staging areas for the Sicilian invasion. As of that date, this was the greatest armada ever mustered in world history. Known as "Operation Husky," it called for a simultaneous attack on Sicily by British and American task forces. The American Western Task Force would put General Patton's American Army ashore on the southwestern coast of the island. The British Eastern Task Force would land an army division on Sicily's east coast. The troops were to drive for a junction in the mountainous hinterland, while the naval forces patrolled the coasts and cut the sea arteries to the Italian mainland. D-day was set for 1 July 1943.
A rough campaign was in prospect. Enemy strength on Sicily was estimated at four or five first-rate Italian divisions, five coastal defense divisions, and at least two German divisions. Powerful Luftwaffe units were on Sicily and reinforcements could be rushed from Italy.
The American western Task Force was composed of three separate attack forces which were to land American invasion troops on beachheads at Licata, Gela, and Scoglitti. These forces were given the code names "Joss", "Dime", and "Cent". The MACKENZIE joined the "Cent" Attack Force on 5 July at Mers el Kebir. This attack force was the largest of the three, consisting of the cruiser PHILADELPHIA, the British monitor AMBERCROMBIE, one AGC, 18 transports, 19 destroyers, 16 mine vessels, 4 patrol craft, and 28 ocean-going craft of various types. It was the mission of the "Cent" Force to land the 45th Division troops on beaches near Scoglitti, to secure the beachhead area, and to capture the near-by airfields of Comiso and Biscari.
On 5 July, as a member of Destroyer Squadron 16, the MACKENZIE sortied from Mers el Kebir with Task Force 85. At 1745 the next day Squadron 16 joined three cruisers to become the Covering Group for a British and American convoy during transit along the northern coast of Africa and through the Tunisian War Channel. Several enemy mines were sunk during this duty, but no enemy forces were sighted. On 9 July the MACKENZIE rejoined the screen of Task Force 85. The day was clear, but a wind was blowing that whipped itself up to 30-knot strength out of the northwest by sundown. In the afternoon the islands of Malta and Gozo were sighted gleaming faintly gold and red in the late afternoon sun. This was "Point X-RAY" where the transports of Task Force 85 divided into two Assault Units, and screened by Destroyer Squadron 15 and 16 approached the landing beaches off Scoglitti.
At 2330 the destroyers shifted from screening to approach stations. Friendly planes droned overhead, and fires burned along the beach as a result of earlier bombing attacks. Flares, anti-aircraft fire, and the red, green, white, and blue tracers produced a pyrotechnic display. No action occurred during the night although three large anti-aircraft searchlights on the beach swept to seaward periodically.
H-Hour was delayed one hour by the heavy seas in the "Cent" area, but at 0330 on the 10th, the boats of that force raced in for the assault. While the destroyers of Squadron 15 conducted the shore bombardment, the MACKENZIE screened to seaward of the transports. When the fire support ships' ammunition supply ran low, the MACKENZIE, LAUB, and CHAMPLIN relieved them. Scouring the beaches with flame and steel, the MACKENZIE destroyed 14 tanks and guns. Several bombing attacks were conducted on the "Cent" transport area from time to time. Anti-aircraft fire from the destroyers expanded the Ack-ack umbrella that frustrated the Axis aviators. Opposition ashore was not so heavy as anticipated, and by 1415 on the 10th, word came of the fall of Scoglitti.
On the 13th the MACKENZIE conducted a negative search for a reported submarine about eight miles from Cape Scalambri Light. That same day she left the area for Oran, escorting the remaining transports.
From 13 July to 7 October 1943 the MACKENZIE escorted two convoys from the United States to the Mediterranean. Upon her return stateside, Commander Miller was relieved by Commander B. N. Rittenhouse, Jr., USN. She was then assigned to convoying duty between the U. S. and England.
On 18 October 1943 after fueling at Queen's Dock, Swansea, England, she was ordered to shift berths, with the assistance of two tugs. While passing Scherzer bridge the bow tug's tow line parted and the MACKENZIE's starboard anchor scraped one of the supports of the operating rack on the bridge. As she entered King's Dock she was swung clockwise in order that the bow would pass through the swing bridge first. The ship's engines were used to assist in swinging the bow east, but resulted in the stern swinging to port, parting the stern tug's tow line, and backing the MACKENZIE into a sand sucker. Upon resuming forward motion she hit the north wall of the Prince of Wales Dock, and while backing down, lightly hit a tug boat before sternway could be checked. Resuming forward motion the starboard anchor was dropped, but before headway could be checked, she hit the minesweeper HMS FAIRFAX. On clearing the FAIRFAX the anchor was heaved in, and the MACKENZIE prepared to head for her berth. However, the swinging stern lightly hit another minesweeper, and the anchor was again dropped and all way checked. The commanding officer then ordered the ship secured in any berth which appeared available. A line was passed to the north seawall and secured to a bollard astern of the FAIRFAX. After running over one of the buoys located in the middle of the dock, the ship was warped into a berth on the north side of the Prince of Wales Dock. Damages resulting from this series of collisions necessitated a 41 day delay for repairs.
After the repair period the destroyer transited the Atlantic twice more as escort for convoys, and in February 1944 ran a convoy to Gibraltar and Oran, Algeria. On 18 March she steamed to Naples, Italy in time to witness the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius.
Meanwhile the battle for Anzio had been raging since the latter part of January. The Germans had established two solid lines of defense athwart the peninsula to block the Allied drive for Rome. This amphibious assault at Anzio, 55 miles to the rear of these lines, was for the purpose of outflanking these lines, thus facilitating the capture of Rome. Against growing enemy resistance the Allies supplied and reinforced the Anzio beachhead, but were soon hemmed in with elements of six Nazi divisions. Holding on was a day-to-day task, but the beachhead stood as a thorn in the enemy's side, engaging his tactical reserves.
The MACKENZIE sailed for this area on 19 March, as the Allies prepared for the summer offensive. The Fifth Army was transferred to the west coast along the Tyrrhenian Sea as reinforcements, for the Anzio garrison, and the British Eighth Army came over from the Adriatic to take the place of the Fifth around Cassino. With their forces concentrated in the west and center, the Allies could exert the strongest pressure toward Rome. The MACKENZIE operated in the Anzio area from 19 March until 6 June. During this time she served as screen for a British cruiser, and in company with that ship moved along the coast rendering fire support. In addition she ran night patrols along the Italian coast, conducting A/S sweeps around the transport area, and keeping an eye out for possible E-boats.
The stalemate was broken in the first two weeks of the concerted offensive as the southern forces advanced sixty miles. Storming forward, the Anzio and southern forces joined forces on 25 May, and on 4 June 1944 Allied armies marched into Rome.
From June 6th until August 13th the MACKENZIE made short convoy runs in the middle Mediterranean without incident. On the 13th she sailed to take her place with 879 other ships off Toulon, France in preparation for "Operation Anvil" -- an Allied assault on the coast of Southern France. Devised to follow up the Normandy invasion, this operation would not only liberate Southern France and relieve pressure on the southern flank of General Eisenhower's armies, but it would put Allied armies on the Italian Army's Riviera flank. In addition it would practically eliminate the U-boat-Luftwaffe menace in the Western Mediterranean. The MACKENZIE was assigned to the Gunfire Support covering the landing of the 36th Infantry Division. The initial landings on 15 August met little resistance, and within three days Allied forces had captured over ten thousand prisoners.
While continuing to provide call fire to cover the advancing troops on August 17th, shore batteries opened up on the MACKENZIE and straddled her with 11 near misses. The closest fell 200 yards short, but damage was sustained. On the 27th 16 Germans rowed out from their fort that was under fire, and surrendered to the MACKENZIE. On 15 September she was relieved of her station and returned to Boston for repairs and overhaul.
During her five months stay stateside, Commander Rittenhouse was relieved of command in November 1944 by Lieutenant Commander O. D. Hughlett, USN. In February the ship again headed for the Mediterranean. From 26 March to 21 April she spent the days bombarding the French-Italian border in support or the Fifth Army, and the nights conducting a blockade of the Gulf of Genoa in company with British and French destroyers. During the month of May 1945 she ran convoys through the Straits of Gibraltar, and with the fall of the Nazi powers, conducted a cruise of the Mediterranean in June.
The destroyer returned to the U.S. in July, and after a 30 day overhaul at Boston, departed on 13 August for training in Cuba in preparation for Pacific duty. The capitulation of Japan two days later rendered her services in the Pacific unnecessary, and after two weeks training, she was ordered to Norfolk for duty with the aircraft carrier LAKE CHAMPLAIN.
The MACKENZIE earned four Battle Star and the European-Middle-Eastern Area Service Medal for participating in the following operations:
1 Star / First Anti-submarine Assessment -- 16 May 1943
1 Star / West Coast of Italy operations -- 1944: Anzio-Nettuno advanced landings -- 12 May - 4 June 1944
1 Star / Invasion of Southern France -- 15 August - 25 September 1944
1 Star / Sicilian occupation -- 9-15 July 1943
On 3 November 1945 the MACKENZIE proceeded to the U.S. Navy Yard, Charleston, South Carolina for decommissioning and transfer to the inactive fleet. By Directive dated January 1947 the USS MACKENZIE went into mothballs as a member or the U.S. Atlantic Reserve Fleet.
OVERALL LENGTH .................348 feet
BEAM ........................................36 feet
SPEED .......................................38 knots
DISPLACEMENT .....................1620 tons
COMPLEMENT .......................16 officers and 260 men
Compiled: 23 April 1954
Return to the USS MacKenzie Page