USS Whitehurst Logo by: Pat Stephens, Webmaster, DESA

The Story of the Whitehurst's Bell and Memorial Bell



On April 12, 1945, a Kamikaze struck USS Whitehurst DE-634, passed through CIC, and exited the pilot house on the starboard side.  The entire bridge was in flames.  The 500 pound bomb's delayed fuse exploded about 50 feet off the starboard bow.  Forty-two men were lost.  

When Whitehurst arrived at Pearl Harbor for repairs, May 10, 1945, an entire bridge superstructure was waiting on the dock.  I have not been able to determine whether the new structure carried a new bell.  The few WWII vets, with whom I am in contact, do not remember whether the bell was damaged or replaced.  A question is outstanding with the Navy Historical center which could possibly solve the mystery.  

In 1971 shortly before Whitehurst was sunk during the testing of a new torpedo, a wise old Chief “rescued” the Bell. He in turn offered it to GMC Tim Lake, who served on Whitehurst several years.  Tim kept it in his garage until April 2005. 


Excerpt from XO Art Hammarlund's Memories  hammarlund.htm
The ship had been in the reserve fleet at Green Cove Springs, Florida, with her power plant in operation to furnish electrical power to the reserve fleet.  She was commissioned in ten working days, which explains some of the initial problems with the ship's operations.  Things were so bad that even the ship's bell was broken.

2 September 2005: Dave Harlan,
who was the ship's Communications Officer after the 1950 re-commissioning called with this story. 

"Before the Whitehurst left for the west coast, it had to be inspected by the Senior Destroyer Officer in the Atlantic Fleet.  This was the Admiral over Destroyer Flotilla Three in Norfolk.  The inspection was such a ridiculous comedy, but that is a story in itself.

After the inspection the officers and the admiral's staff met in the wardroom and discussed everything that was wrong.  The admiral felt that the Navy should remove the Whitehurst's bell, ship it to the West Coast, and install a new ship under it.

As luck would have it, within two months, the bell disintegrated when we were at anchor off the Coronado Strand in fog.*  We discovered that the bell was not solid bronze, but bronze coated pot metal.

I believe the new bell was a midnight requisition, from the 26th St. Naval Base, by BM McDermott and QM Denardis.  I understand that it may have come from a tug boat.

I was in Philadelphia in May of 1953, and met with McDermott and Denardis.  One of the incidents they laughed about was the ships bell.


Now we know that we do not have the original Whitehurst Bell and the question arises, "Is this the third Whitehurst bell?" We definitely have the bell that was on the ship the longest. See Bell Comparison photo at end. 

In March 2005, Tim called me asking what should be done with the Whitehurst Bell.  It was a total surprise. Like most of my shipmates, I thought it had gone down with the ship.  My suggestion was that it be donated to the DESA Museum aboard the USS Slater, in Albany, NY.  Tim agreed so quickly that I’m sure he had already thought of that.  mc



Tim shipped the bell to me for polishing, photographing, and recording of the sound.  It was displayed at the reunion, September 21-24, 2005 and presented to the DESA Museum aboard the USS Slater DE-766 in a ceremony that took place on the fantail of the Slater, Saturday, September 24th,  last day of the reunion.  

The Whitehurst Bell performed its duty well when QMCM Al Crawford rang
it smartly, honoring our recently departed shipmates.  It had lain dormant for 36 years.  Now it occupies a place of honor in the DE History Museum, aboard USS Slater DE-766, Albany, NY.


Reunion Host, Dick Cromer presents the bell to
Pat Perrella, Curator of the DE Historical Museum.

The  Whitehurst Locker and Memorabilia


The Navy considers all ship’s bells to be Navy property.  DESA Museum Curator, Pat Perella, has made arrangements with the Navy Historical Center in Washington DC, to house the bell aboard the Slater.  After the presentation it was displayed in the after crews quarters beside the last locker on the port side, inboard.  This locker is covered in plexi-glass and already has several pieces of Whitehurst memorabilia.                               Max Crow, Yeoman USS Whitehurst Assn. July, 2005


The Slater has bells mounted just aft of the signal bridge and on the aft side of Mt 33.
The USS Holder and USS Whitehurst Bells are in the museum.  Examination of these four bells convinces me that the Whitehurst Bell is not a DE Bell.  Notice the extra skirt, and the different curvature. The Whitehurst Bell was originally chrome plated over brass. When I had it polished, about 25% of the chrome plating remained. The metal underneath seemed to be brass.  Dimensions are: 11" high, 14" wide at the mouth, 38 lbs. mc


The Whitehurst Memorial Bell


Zane "Zeke" Frazier MMC USN Ret., while preparing to host the 2011 Reunion, suggested that
we should have a "Memorial Bell".  I wholeheartedly agreed.  The "small boat fog bell" was obtained and the stand prepared in summer 2011.  A special shipping box and canvas bag were also constructed. The bell was inaugurated during the Taps Ceremony at the closing banquet of the  Reunion in San Diego, September 11-13, Holiday Inn on the bay.

Bell, Stand, and Shipping Container donated by Max Crow and his XO, Christel.

note: This web page should open with the sound of the Whitehurst Bell striking 8 bells.  However the program code for playing the sound is only compatible with the Internet Explorer Browser.  If you accessed this site via the AOL, Google Chrome, or other browsers, it didn't play.  If you wish to hear the actual Whitehurst Bell, please open the Internet Explorer and type, or paste, the following link into into the I/E address bar. 

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