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  USS Peary DD-226
USN
Clemson Class Destroyer

1,215 Tons
314' 5" x 31' 8" x 9' 10"
4 x 4"/50 guns
1 x 3"/223 AA
12 x 21" torpedoes
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USN prewar

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USN February 19, 1942

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Phil Bradley 2002

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Goh Loon 2008

Ship History
Built by William Cramp and Sons of Philadelphia, PA. Laid down on September 9, 1919. Launched on April 6, 1920. Named in honor of Admiral Peary. Commissioned on October 22, 1920. Peary was assigned to the Far East starting in 1922 with annual deployments off China protecting American interest. She patrolled the Yangtze River during 1923 to 1931.

Wartime History
On December 10, 1941, USS Peary was docked at Cavite alongside the central wharf for an overhaul when Japanese aircraft attacked the area with a bomb hitting the foremast, snapping it off and shrapnel hit the bridge, fire-control platform killing many of the crew including the Commander Harry Keith was badly wounded also Executive Officer. The efforts of minesweeper USS Whippoorwill (AM-35) got her out of from under the Japanese bombs. Afterwards, Commander Keith was replaced by Lt Cdr Bermingham.

On December 27, 1941 Peary departed Manila Bay bound for Java. While passing Campomanes Bay off Negros again attacked by Japanese aircraft and shadowed down to the Celebes Sea by torpedo planes. While transiting through the Molucca Passage, accidentally attacked by RAAF Hudsons.

Prior to the Battle of Sunda Strait, Peary joined the Allied Navy force helping to escort USS Houston CA-30. Afterwards, evacuated to Darwin Harbor.

Sinking History
On February 19, 1942 Peary was docked in Darwin Harbor when Japanese carrier aircraft attacked and was hit by two bombs just after 10:00am. The first bomb wrecked the fantail and tearing off the depth charge racks and propeller guards, flooding the engine room. The second bomb was an incendiary and it crashed into the galley setting the ship ablaze.

The damage control parties and the gunners kept up the fight for the next three hours as the planes kept coming at them. But another bomb hit, maiming the brave ship once more. Then a fourth bomb crashed into the forward magazine and finally a fifth, another incendiary, striking the after engine room. Dragging her shattered fantail, the Peary was dead in the water and at 1:00pm and broke up and sank. As she went down by the stern, her machine guns continued to fire at enemy aircraft. Aboard, ninety-one of her crew went down with the ship, the U. S. Navy's greatest loss of life in Australian waters.

Shipwreck
During the 1950's one of the 4" gun made by Root & Van Dervoort Engineering Co., East Moline, Illinois was recovered from the wreck by Carl Atkinson and restored by the Royal Australian Navy. Afterwards, this gun was installed as a memorial at Bicentennial Park off the Esplanade at Darwin. Also, a single .7.7mm Lewis machine gun was salvaged from the shipwreck and is today part of the Naval History and Heritage Command.

Memorials
The 91 dead were officially declared dead on February 20, 1943. All are memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery. The crew are also memorialized on a plaque in Darwin.

The restored 4" naval gun and a memorial plaque are displayed at Bicentennial Park off the Esplanade at Darwin overlooking Darwin Harbor and the location where the destroyer was sunk. The memorial plaque reads: "USS Peary DD 226 In remembrance of these men who lost their lives February 19, 1942 during the bombing of Darwin, Australia by Japanese aircraft." The plaque also lists the ninety-one lost in the sinking.

A second memorial plaque reads: "A Story of Sacrifice Darwin Harbour is the resting place for the U.S. destroyer Peary sunk on 19th February 1942 by Japan's Pearl Harbour veterans. This 4 inch gun was salvaged from the Peary in the 1950's by diver Carl Atkinson (dec.). It was restored by the RAN for the Northern Territory's 1992 War Service Memorial Year and now points towards the Peary's grave. This plaque was unveiled by the Chief Minister The Hon. Marshall Peron MLA on 29th January 1992 in the presence of Peary survivors Dallas Widick and Melvin Duke and a colour guard from the U.S. frigate Robert E. Peary. The wartime Peary came under repeated fire from December 1941 - February 1942. In her last action she sank with her guns still blazing and represents the U.S. Navy's greatest loss of life in Australian waters. Her gallant sacrifice is forever part of Darwin's history."

References
Centralian Advocate - Alice Springs "Sunken 'Peary' Located Darwin Air Raid Echo" November 5, 1948
"The Sunken American destroyer Peary (lost in Darwin Harbor in the first raid in February 1942) has been located by an American L.S.T. vessel this week. The American ship is in the service of the American Army Graves Registration Organization and is collecting bodies of American service men killed during the war, to transport them back to America for re-burial. It is also understood that there is a quantity of bullion aboard the sunken Peary but official circles are reticent on this matter. The American L.S.T. caused a flurry when berthing in Darwin on Sunday preparatory to beginning its successful search for the sunken destroyer. The L.S.T. bumped the Darwin jetty, and then caromed off against the sunken Neptuna (another air raid victim). No damage was done."
Loss of DD-226 USS Peary by Phil Bradley
USS Peary DD-226 Crew MIA/KIA February 20, 1942

USS Peary Memorial via Wayback Machine August 18, 2002

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Last Updated
January 10, 2018

 

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