FREDERICK W. PURDY, LCDR, USN
Frederick Purdy '33
Date of birth: December 4, 1911
Date of death: July 5, 1943
From the 1933 Lucky Bag:
From the 1953 edition of the book "Double Three Roundup," published by the class of 1933:
Upon graduation, Fred was assigned to duty in the MISSISSIPPI, serving in her until December 1935, when he was ordered to the Staff, Commander Battle Force, for communication duties. Following this assignment, he attended short courses of instruction in torpedoes at the Naval Torpedo Station in Newport and in optics at the Navy Yard, Washington, D.C., prior to reporting to the BAGLEY, then fitting out in Norfolk. "Herman" served aboard the BAGLEY until being ordered ashore for post graduate instruction in June, 1939. This course folded in September, 1939, and he was ordered to the Fifteenth Naval District at Balboa, Canal Zone, for duty. After almost a year in Panama, Fred served aboard the CALIFORNIA for two years and was on board when that ship was damaged in the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941.
In 1942, Fred returned to the States and put the STRONG in commission as Executive Officer. The STRONG operated in the Southwest Pacific until she was torpedoed and sunk by Japanese forces in Kula Gulf, Solomon Islands, on 5 July, 1943. Fred did not survive the sinking of the ship. To show how gloriously he died, we quote from the citation which accompanied the Silver Star Medal awarded Fred posthumously: "Working desperately and with no thought of his own safety during the seven minutes in which the rescue vessel was alongside, Lieutenant Commander PURDY aided all the enlisted men on the foremite of the stricken ship over the side by way of hand lines. Continuing his courageous efforts in behalf of others aboard, he was last seen searching for an injured member of the crew reported to be on the deck behind the gun mount. Lieutenant Commander PURDY's heroic spirit of self-sacrifice and his inspiring conduct throughout a hazardous and critical period were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country."
Fred and Molly Pagan from Washington, D.C. were married in 1941 in Washington, and Molly now resides there at 4550 Connecticut Avenue, N.W. The destroyer PURDY (DD734) was named in honor of Fred; Molly sponsored the ship when she was launched at the plant of the Bath Iron Works Corporation at Bath, Maine on 7 May, 1944. The PURDY was placed in commission in July, 1944, and operated on the East Coast until early 1945. By March, 1945, the PURDY had arrived in the Western Pacific and throughout the remainder of the war she demonstrated the fighting qualities of the man for whom she was named. At war's end she was inactivated for a very short period of time, reactivated in March, 1946, and has remained in active service ever since. Until early in 1952 she was an active participant in Korean operations.
From Destroyer History:
Frederick Warren Purdy, born 4 December 1911 in Chicago, was graduated from the Naval Academy and commissioned ensign 1 June 1933. Prior to World War II he served at sea in Mississippi, Bagley and California and ashore at Newport, Rhode Island, Washington, DC and Annapolis.
On 10 June 1942 he reported to Bath, Maine as prospective executive officer of Attack Squadron (VA) p the fourth 2,100-ton Fletcher-class destroyer (after Nicholas, O’Bannon and Chevalier) built at Bath Iron Works.
After commissioning, Strong sailed in support of the invasion of North Africa and then to the South Pacific where, in March 1943, she and her sisters from Bath were formed into Destroyer Division 41 of Destroyer Squadron 21.
In the early hours of 5 July 1943, Strong was operating with flagship Nicholas in the van of RAdm. W. L. “Pug” Ainsworth’s Task Force 18—light cruisers Honolulu, Helena and St. Louis—with Chevalier and O’Bannon in the rear. Their mission was to bombard Bairoko Harbor, New Georgia Island, in support of the Marine campaign to take Munda airfield.
With insufficient warning to evade, Strong was hit by a “Long Lance” torpedo, determined post-war to have been launched by one of three undetected enemy destroyers, an estimated 11 miles away.
It soon became apparent that Strong was sinking by the stern. Chevalier, approaching from the rear, deliberately rammed Strong forward to take off shipmates. In the confusion, O’Bannon glanced off Chevalier’s stern, then returned fire from shore batteries on nearby New Georgia Island, which had opened fire and quickly found Strong’s range.
Strong remained afloat for seven minutes. During this time, LCdr. Purdy and other officers helped as many crewmembers as possible jump from Strong’s forecastle to Chevalier. When Strong sank out from under them, these officers found themselves in the water. There followed a major explosion—possibly from depth charges or detonation of another torpedo warhead. Fortunately it did not kill all those remaining in the water, some of whom found a floater net to cling to.
In the water, torpedo officer Lt (j.g.) Milt Hackett believed that he and LCdr. Purdy were in close proximity until Hackett and Lt (j.g.) Fulham began swimming to Rice Anchorage on New George Island to get help from US forces there. When they had swum about 3/4 mile from the floater net, they observed a small Japanese landing craft approaching from Kolombangara to the west, which proceeded to shoot many of the survivors in the water. It has been conjectured that LCdr. Purdy was among the victims.
LCdr. Purdy’s body was later found by Robert F. Gregory, S1/c, part of a small group of survivors that reached Kolombangara. Gregory later turned Purdy’s wallet over to the Marines on New Georgia.
For his action that night, Lieutenant Commander Purdy was posthumously awarded the Silver Star Medal for “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity . . .” The citation further noted that Purdy’s “heroic spirit of self-sacrifice and his inspiring conduct throughout a hazardous and critical period were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.”
His wife was listed as next of kin.
From Hall of Valor:
The President of the United States of America takes pride in presenting the Silver Star (Posthumously) to Lieutenant Commander Frederick Warren Purdy (NSN: 0-72289), United States Navy, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity as Executive Officer of the U.S.S. STRONG (DD-467), when that vessel was torpedoed and sunk by enemy Japanese forces in Kula Gulf, Solomon Islands, 5 July 1943. Working desperately and with no thought of his own safety during the seven minutes in which the rescue vessel was alongside, Lieutenant Commander Purdy aided all the enlisted men on the forecastle of the stricken ship over the side by way of hand lines. Continuing his courageous efforts in behalf of others aboard, he was last seen searching for an injured member of the crew reported to be on the deck behind the gun mount. Lieutenant Commander Purdy's heroic spirit of self-sacrifice and his inspiring conduct throughout a hazardous and critical period were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.
Action Date: July 5, 1943
Rank: Lieutenant Commander
Company: Executive Officer
Division: U.S.S. Strong (DD-467)