Velos (D 16)

Former USS Charrette (DD-581)


International Call Sign: November-Echo-Charlie-Lima

USS Charrette (DD-581) was a Fletcher-class destroyer of the United States Navy, named for Lieutenant George Charrette (1867–1938), who was awarded the Medal of Honor for heroism during the Spanish–American War. Entering service during World War II, she spent her career in the Pacific theatre. Placed in reserve following the war, Charette was transferred to Greece in 1959 and renamed Velos (D16). Velos remained in service until 1991 and was then turned into a museum ship at Palaio Faliro.

Charrette was launched on 3 June 1942 by the Boston Navy Yard, sponsored by Mrs. G. Charrette. The ship was commissioned on 18 May 1943, Commander E. S. Karpe in command.

Charrette cleared New York 20 September 1943 to escort the aircraft carrier Monterey to Pacific service. Arriving at Pearl Harbor 9 October, Charrette took part in training exercises until 10 November, when she put to sea with Task Force 50 (TF 50), for air raids on Japanese bases in the Marshalls. These strikes neutralized enemy air opposition to the landings at Makin and on Tarawa which followed. On 26 November, Charrette joined the screen of the task group assigned to air-cover operations over Makin and Tarawa themselves, providing protection to the assault shipping and support for the Marines ashore. Twelve days later, the destroyer screened battleships in a pounding bombardment on Nauru, then rejoined the aircraft carriers sailing on to Efate. From this base Charrette sailed on 21 December to screen the carriers as they launched strikes against Kavieng, New Ireland, during the three days preceding the assault on Cape Gloucester 26 December. Continuing north, the group arrived at Funafuti 21 January 1944 to prepare for the operations against the Marshall Islands.

From 23 January to 5 February 1944, Charrette screened the carriers in a series of strikes on Kwajalein and Eniwetok. On the night of 4–5 February, Charrette left her screening station to investigate a radar contact reported by one of the battleships. After tracking the contact to 3,200 yards (2,900 m), she opened fire on the target, a submarine which dived at once. Charrette pressed home a depth charge attack, then used her radar to coach the destroyer escort Fair in for the sinking of what was probably I-175, the first Japanese submarine to be sunk by the Hedgehog anti-submarine mortar.[1] The next day, Charrette moored in the newly-won Majuro Lagoon.

The destroyer sailed 12 February 1944 for the first of the series of massive raids through which the great Japanese base at Truk was eventually sealed off from effective contribution to the Pacific war. After screening the carriers into position for their strikes, Charrette joined Task Group 50.9 (TG 50.9) in a sweep around the island on 17 February to catch Japanese shipping fleeing the air attacks on their base. Katori, Maikaze, and a submarine chaser were sent to the bottom by TG 50.9, which rejoined the carriers next day.

After screening an oiler group to Majuro, Charrette sailed on for a brief overhaul at Pearl Harbor until 15 March 1944, when she put out to rejoin the carriers for attacks on Japanese ships which had retreated from Truk to the Palaus, a necessary preliminary to the New Guinea operation. A mighty force was assembled at Majuro for this bold thrust deep into Japanese-held waters, which sailed on 22 March. Charrette joined in beating off a Japanese air attack on 28 March, and continued her protective screening through the strikes of 30 March and 1 April. The carriers returned to Majuro 6 April, and sailed 7 days later to strike at airfields and defenses on New Guinea itself and to provide direct support to the landings at Humboldt Bay 22 April. After replenishing at Manus, Charrette sailed on with the carriers to screen strikes against Truk 29 April, and to guard the force's battleships as they pounded a bombardment at Ponape 1 May.

Charrette's next contribution came in the lengthy Marianas operation, for which she sailed 6 June 1944. She supported the carriers in their strikes on Guam, Saipan, and Rota 11 through 14 June, then turned north for strikes against the aircraft massed on Iwo Jima for attacks against the American landings on Saipan. As the carriers came into position on 15 June, scouting aircraft spotted a 1,900-ton freighter, and Charrette, with the destroyer Boyd sped to sink the Japanese ship, recovering 112 survivors. After successful strikes, Charrette's group wheeled south to concentrate with the Fast Carrier Task Force (then TF 58) to meet the Japanese naval force known to be coming out. The great air Battle of the Philippine Sea broke on the morning of 19 June, and Charrette continued her screening, antiaircraft firing, and plane guard duties throughout the two days of action that broke the back of Japanese naval aviation. On the night of 20 June, she participated in the memorable night recovery of the last strikes, flashing beacon lights, and rescuing aviators forced to ditch by lack of gasoline. On 21 June, the carrier force steamed back to cover the invasion forces in the Marianas, hurling strike after strike at Guam, Rota, and later the bases in the Pagan Islands and on Chichi Jima. Charrette fired in the bombardment of Chichi Jima 5 August, then returned to Eniwetok for training operations.

Charrette sailed from Eniwetok 29 August 1944 for the air strikes of early September against targets in the Palaus and the Philippines which paved the way for the invasion of Peleliu and marked the beginning of the return to the Philippines. In direct preparation for the invasion of Leyte, the carrier task force sailed again on 4 October for strikes designed to neutralize Japanese airfields on Okinawa, Northern Luzon, and Formosa during the assaults in the Philippines. On 12 October began the most important part of these strikes, against Formosa, which provoked return attacks by Japanese aircraft on the carrier forces. Charrette aided in splashing attackers and driving off the raids during which the cruisers Canberra and Houston were hit. Charrette joined the screen which guarded the cripples during their slow retreat from enemy air range, then rejoined her carrier group for the dash north to intercept the approaching Japanese force. Thus she began her part in the epic Battle for Leyte Gulf, the decisive action which resulted in the end of the Imperial Japanese Navy as an effective fighting force. The carriers she guarded launched strikes at the Japanese northern force in the action termed the Battle off Cape Engaño, sinking four Japanese carriers and a destroyer on 25 October.

Charrette replenished at Ulithi 29 October to 2 November 1944, then joined the screen of the fast carriers for strikes on Luzon airfields early in November, which sharply reduced enemy air opposition at the Leyte beachhead. Charrette returned to Manus 30 November to prepare for the Lingayen Gulf operation.

Sailing 2 January 1945, Charrette joined the screen of the group which protected and supported the landings at Lingayen from 4 to 18 January, then guarded the approach and withdrawal of reinforcement convoys into Lingayen Gulf. She left the Philippines 2 February, and on 25 February arrived at Puget Sound Navy Yard for overhaul. She returned to action waters in June, beginning a month of support for the Borneo operations, followed by patrol duty in the Netherlands East Indies. On 2 August, she and the destroyer Conner made contact with a ship which they tracked through the night, finding in the morning that it was the hospital ship Tachibana Maru. A boarding party from Charrette found much ordnance and other contraband and able-bodied troops, who were made prisoners of war. Charrette and Conner brought their prize into Morotai 6 August.

Charrette cleared Morotai 13 August 1945 to call at Subic Bay before reporting at Buckner Bay, Okinawa, in September for duty escorting ships loaded with occupation troops, equipment, and supplies for Chinese ports. She sailed from Shanghai 12 December for San Francisco, California which she reached 30 December. Charrette was placed in commission in reserve at San Diego 4 March 1946, and out of commission in reserve 15 January 1947. On 16 June 1959 she was transferred to Greece.

The ship was accepted by Commander G. Moralis, RHN, on 16 July 1959 in Long Beach, California, and arrived in Greece on 15 October 1959.[2] She served in the Hellenic Navy as Velos (D16) (Greek: Βέλος, "Arrow"). Velos took part in almost every Greek and NATO exercise and actively participated in the crises with Turkey of the years 1964, 1967, 1974 (Cyprus crisis) and 1987.

On 25 May 1973, Velos, under the command of Nikolaos Pappas, while participating in a NATO exercise and in order to protest against the dictatorship in Greece, anchored at Fiumicino, Italy, refusing to return to Greece.

When in patrol with other NATO vessels between Italy and Sardinia (85 nautical miles (157 km) southwest of Rome) at midday on 25 May 1973 the captain and the officers had learned by radio that naval officers had been arrested and tortured in Greece. Commander Pappas was a member of a group of democratic officers, loyal to their oath to obey the Constitution and planning to act against the junta. Pappas knew the arrested officers opposed the junta and realised there was no further hope for a movement inside Greece. He decided to act alone to motivate global public opinion.

Pappas mustered the crew on the stern and announced his decision, which was received with enthusiasm. Pappas signaled his intentions to the commander of the squadron and NATO Headquarters, quoting the preamble of the North Atlantic Treaty (founding treaty for NATO) which declares that "all governments ... are determined to safeguard the freedom, common heritage and civilization of their peoples, founded on the principles of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law". Leaving formation, he sailed for Rome.

That afternoon, he anchored about 3.5 nautical miles (6.5 km) off the coast at Fiumicino. Three officers (Ensigns K. Gortzis, K. Matarangas, G. Stratos) went ashore in a whaleboat. From Fiumicino Airport they telephoned the international press agencies to inform them of the situation in Greece and the presence of the destroyer. They arranged for a press conference to be held the next day by Commander Pappas. This action sparked international interest in the situation in Greece. The captain, six officers, and twenty-five petty officers requested asylum and remained in Italy as political refugees. Initially, the entire crew wished to follow their captain (170 men signed a request), but they were advised (and some ordered) by their officers to remain on board because of the fear of retaliation by the regime against their families. The men were told to return to Greece and to inform their families and friends about what had happened. Velos returned to Greece a month later with a replacement crew, and the refugees continued the struggle against the dictatorship. After the fall of the junta on (24 July 1974), some of the officers and petty officers returned to the Navy. Commander Pappas reached the rank of Vice Admiral and served as the Chief of the Hellenic Navy General Staff from 1982 to 1986.

Velos was decommissioned on 26 February 1991, having sailed 362,622 nautical miles (671,576 km; 417,298 mi) in her 48-year career.

In 1994 the Hellenic Navy General Staff declared her a Museum of the Struggle against the Dictatorship. The ship, then anchored at Poros Naval Base, was transferred on 14 December 2000 to Salamis Naval Base for maintenance and restoration work in order to be converted into a visitable naval museum. Since 26 June 2002 she has been anchored in the Park of Maritime Tradition at Palaio Faliro near Athens. Velos is regarded as still in commission.


Museum info:
Address: Marina Trokadero, Faliron 17510. Athens, Greece
Phone: + 30 2109888211
Velos' website

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