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Andrew Stanley Eubanks

Seaman, First Class, U.S. Navy

02440101

USS BUCK DD-420

Entered the Service from: New Jersey
Died: October 9, 1943
Missing in Action or Buried at Sea
Tablets of the Missing at Sicily-Rome American Cemetery
Nettuno, Italy
Awards: Purple Heart


SEAMAN FIRST CLASS ANDREW STANLEY EUBANKS graduated from Haddonfield (NJ) High School in 1941. He enlisted in the United States Navy in December of 1941, after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. After initial training, he was stationed in Boston MA, as reported in the June 17 edition of the Camden Courier-Post. 

Seaman Eubanks was assigned to the destroyer USS BUCK DD-420. The USS Buck, DD 420, had been launched on May 22, 1939 by the Philadelphia Navy Yard; sponsored by Mrs. Julius C. Townsend, wife of Rear Admiral Townsend, and commissioned 15 May 1940, Lieutenant Commander H. C. Robison in command. 

Buck joined the Atlantic Squadron after a brief period of trial runs. From February until June 1941 she was with the Pacific Fleet and then rejoined the Atlantic fleet serving on convoy escort duty between the United States and Iceland and along the eastern seaboard.

With the entry of the United States into World War II Buck continued to serve as a convoy escort, steaming from the seaports of the eastern United States to ports in Newfoundland, Iceland, Northern Ireland, North Africa, and the Caribbean. It was during this period that Seaman Eubanks joined her crew.

On 22 August 1942 during one of these crossings, Buck was hit starboard side aft by SS Atwatea while trying to escort another vessel of the convoy to her correct position during a dense fog. The impact cut about two-thirds through Buck’s fantail and broke her keel. Seven of her personnel were lost. The starboard propeller was inoperative and within a few hours the port propeller dropped off. The fantail section, which had been secured by lines and wires, had to be allowed to sink w hen it became apparent that it would damage the hull by banging and chafing. On 26 August Buck, in tow of Cherokee, AT 66, reached Boston where she underwent repair until November. Upon completion of repairs she returned to Atlantic convoy escort duty until June.

Arriving in North Africa 21 June 1943, she was assigned to patrol duty off Tunisia and Algeria and then participated in the invasion of Sicily (10 July–2 August 1943) carrying out bombardment, screening, and patrol duties. On 3 August, while escorting a convoy of six liberty ships from Sicily to Algeria, Buck attacked and sank the Italian submarine Argento in 36°52' N., 12°08' E., and took 45 of her crew as prisoners.

Returning to the Mediterranean in late September 1943, after escorting a convoy to the United States, Buck supported the invasion and occupation of Italy. On October 9, 1943 while on patrol off Salerno, Italy, Buck was hit forward by at least one and possibly two torpedoes. The damage sustained was so complete that the ship had to be abandoned within three minutes after she was hit and she sank a minute later. The loss of life was very heavy. Only 97 of her personnel survived. They were rescued by Gleaves, DD 423, and the British LCT-170.

Buck received three battle stars for her World War II service.

Andrew Stanley Eubanks was one of those lost October 9, 1943 when the USS BUCK DD-420 was torpedoed and sunk during the landings at Salerno, Italy. Initially listed as missing in action, he was declared dead on October 10, 1944. His death was reported in the October 26, 1943 and October 31, 1944 editions of the Camden Courier-Post. He is memorialized on the Gloucester Township War Memorial. He was survived by his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Franklin Eubanks, of Sicklerville Road, Sicklerville NJ, and two brothers, Benjamin and Joseph, both of whom saw duty in the Navy during World War II.


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A Report of the Sinking of the USS Buck, DD420, on October 9, 1943 near Salerno, Italy

Contributed by Mary D. Kendall, widow of report author Robert J. Kendall

From: Ensign R. J. Kendall

To: The Senior Surviving Officer of the U.S.S. Buck

General Quarters sounded about 0030. I was in the wardroom at this time, having just come off watch. I immediately went to my G.Q. station which was in the 40m/m control aft on the port 40m/m director. I was wearing the 15 JY phones and listening to the range come in from the radar contact that we were heading for. The ship was speeding up. It was policy to go to 25 knots when we investigated such contacts. I heard a range near 5000 yards and then felt the ship hesitate as though she had a collision, and at the same instant I saw an explosion on the starboard side near the break in the deck. This was about 0045. I could see this since my station gave me an unobstructed view of the bridge. I was knocked down and felt flying debris and water hit me. There must have been almost a foot of water going over the deck. When I got up, the phones were out and all the men had left their stations and were back on the after deckhouse. I immediately went back to them and called out the order to set all depth charges on safe.

I went back to my station and looked forward to see if I could tell anything. I could see no bridge or stack so I thought the ship must have been cut in two and would surely sink. I know now that there was considerable smoke and steam from the forward fireroom and that it may have kept me from seeing the bridge, but I still believe the stack was gone. By that time Lt. (jg) Cummings had come on deck and was telling the torpedomen to set the depth charges on safe and for everyone to keep cool and not lose their heads. I grabbed a few men and we set about releasing the port life raft which was on the after deckhouse. We had it released and were holding it near the ship when Cummings came back and passed the word to abandon ship.

We all jumped in the water and began swimming away from the ship. I must have been about 50-75 yards from the ship when she went down. Shortly after she went down I felt a terrific shock as a depth charge went off. I was numb from the chest down for about ten minutes. Practically all those who got off near me grouped around the life raft, those with belts getting on and those with belts or jackets clinging to sides or to floating spars. I had an inflated belt at first but it was ruined by the blast and would not hold air so I took a kapok jacket which floated nearby. We must have had 50 or more men around the life raft when we started but by morning we had only a little more than 30. Others had dropped off, drifted away, or been so injured by the blast that they could not stand the night in the water.

There were three other officers besides myself and we kept the men's spirits up as best we could by keeping the raft headed N.E. which was toward shore. We did not know exactly where we were but we knew our approximate vicinity. When morning came we thought the sun would warm us, but it rained hard and we received no warmth until later in the morning. When the sun finally did come out, the combination of sun, oil, and salt water practically blinded all of us. We thought surely we would be seen soon since we had many planes on previous days over that area but we saw nothing until late in the morning.

The first plane we saw did not see us and flew on, but the second was attracted by dipping an oar in the water and turning it over and over so that it flashed. It flew over us several times to get a good look and then dropped three rubber boats, one to someone I could not see and two to us. Several of us struck out for the boats and boarded them. We had about 10-11 to a boat, but when ours began to leak and half of it deflated completely, a few men went back to the main raft and only seven men stayed on ours. Of these, three men were in the water all the time. I was in better condition than most, so I stayed in the water. Shortly before sunset we found a way to blow up the deflated half of the life raft and all started to climb in to try to keep warm for the night, when someone sighted the destroyer. We had only two things left after the boat capsized, one being 3 pints of water and the other being a Very's pistol in waterproof bag. We broke this out and fired three red flares which the ship saw.

She turned and came to pick us up. We were picked up in a motor whaleboat at about 8:30 p.m. The destroyer was the U.S.S. ____________. I was led aft to the showers when I cleaned myself up as best I could. They then got Diesel oil and cut the crust of fuel oil which lay next to my skin. I said I thought I was all right and they gave me some soup and coffee. I then went to sleep. The next morning I had some oatmeal and coffee. The hospital diagnosed my case as Stomach Compression and Exposure from which I have almost completely recovered.

(Signed) R. J. Kendall, Ensign, U.S. Navy

Author's notes on the sinking of the Buck:

I have read the official report made by Lt. (jg) Cummings along with a story about a survivor group consisting of Lieutenant David T. Hedges, Coxswain Anthony Pepponi and Steward Leroy Highe. That story appeared in the Stars and Stripes Weekly issue of November 6, 1943. Those same Very Pistol flares that attracted the first surface rescue vessel also led to the rescue of the Hedges group. I also have a copy of a letter dated March 10, 1997 written to Dean Lambert (brother of Lieutenant Commander G. S. Lambert, the XO of the Buck, who did not survive her sinking) by Buck survivor Leon (Red) Roberts who later retired from the Navy as Master Chief Lithographer.

Piecing these communications together, I believe that Bob Kendall was rescued by the destroyer USS Gleaves after about 20 hours in the water. Leon Roberts' GQ station was near Kendall's. Roberts was blown directly into the water by the initial blast and was one of the last to be rescued two days later, by the destroyer USS Plunkett.

Cummings' battle station was in the forward engine room. After securing some live steam leaks and causing the throttle to be closed, Cummings and his men made their way topside. Cummings could see that the forward fire room was ablaze. His report stated that water was coming over the main deck on the port side just aft of the break in the forecastle deck. With the Buck's stern "about 45 degrees in the air" Cummings jumped about 5 feet into the water. With his kapok life jacket on, he swam away from the ship. The depth charge explosion after the stern went under doubled him up and paralyzed his legs. He managed to grab two drifting kapok jackets, putting one on each leg, and then moved toward voices until he came upon a raft with about 50 men clinging to it. The next day this group made it to one of the three air dropped rubber rafts mentioned in Kendall's report. These men were picked up by H.M. LCT #170 about 2000 that evening. The Cummings report and the Roberts letter came to the author in a thoughtfully assembled packet from Jim Lingafelter. Jim is the son-in-law of Helmuth Timm, a Buck survivor who recuperated from his chest down compression injury due to the depth charge explosion in a hospital in Palermo, Sicily. Mr. Timm's story is in Chapter Eight of the paperback. It seems quite likely that there were more survivors from the initial blast, but that their injuries weakened their ability to stay alive in the hostile water environment. Then those that might still have made it were further weakened by the depth charge concussion that every survivor experienced. My guess is that one 300 pound depth charge from a forward K-gun that was almost immediately under water after the torpedo hit could not be re-set on "safe" simply because it was not accessible. A stern that subsequently rose out of the sea at a 45-degree angle as reported by Lt. (jg) Cummings supports such an inference.

A group of Buck men on reunion near NOB Norfolk in September 1988 were spotted during a harbor cruise (from their hats, with Buck insignia) by a German expatriate working in the U.S. This man knew the skipper of U-616, the submarine that sank the Buck and was in turn itself later sunk by the U.S. destroyers Rodman and Ellyson. That skipper, in his letter of 11 November 1988 to George L. Brooks of the crew of the Buck, identified himself as Dr. Siegrfried Koitschka. He wrote that his sub fired an early version of the T-5 acoustic torpedo, which fortuitously for the U-boat, had been unconfidently placed in its after torpedo tubes. The sub had no time to develop a fire control solution on the Buck as she found herself running as fast as she could away from the Buck which was coming on at high speed ("black steam came out of her funnel", Koitschka wrote). Firing this acoustic-homing torpedo in which they had little confidence was, in the German skipper's view, a last ditch effort to save his U-boat from a lethal depth charge attack. I am again indebted to Jim Lingafelter for providing copies of this correspondence. And from my first efforts to write my sea story I received encouragement and support from Dean Lambert.

Copyright 1998 Franklyn E. Dailey Jr. - dailey@crocker.com