USS DRUM (SS 228) was launched at Portsmouth, New Hampshire on 12 May 1941 with Mrs. Thomas Holcomb, the wife of the Marine Commandant, as sponsor. She was commissioned on 1 November 1941 under the command of Robert H. Rice and ordered to Pearl Harbor on completion in January 1942.
Gerard J. DeRosa was launched on 10 August 1925 at Bayonne, New Jersey, sp0nsored by his parents, August and Josephine DeRosa. He attended Bayonne High School but left in February 1943 during his senior year, forged his father’s signature, and followed his brothers into the service, Paul into the Navy and Milton into the Army.
DRUM was the first new construction submarine (and possibly the first new ship of any type) to arrive at Pearl Harbor after the start of hostilities. On 15 March 1942 she proceeded through black oil and ships utterly destroyed to the Submarine Base where she loaded torpedoes and other supplies, and departed on her first war patrol on 17 April 1942. While DRUM was never awarded a Unit Citation, she completed 13 war patrols with a commendable record of 15 ships sunk for 80,000 tons and another 15 damaged, putting her eighth on the list of tonnage and 20111 for ships sunk.
Highlights of her career included:
- On her first night in her assigned area south of Nagoya, Japan on 2 May 1942, she sank MIZUHO, a Japanese seaplane tender (and the largest ship sunk to that date) with one torpedo in a night surface attack. Shortly thereafter, having submerged, she fired three torpedoes at a stopped escort, only to have the torpedoes run deep under the target and fail to explode. She was harassed for the next 22 hours by numerous depth charge attacks. Her first patrol netted three ships sunk and three damaged.
- On her fourth patrol, under the command of Lieutenant Commander Bernard F. McMahon, she encountered a Japanese carrier in mid ocean, ferrying a load of aircraft to Truk Atoll. Because half her tubes were loaded with mines for planting in the Bungo Suido, she was able only to damage the carrier and send her back to the Empire for repairs.
- On her eight war patrol out of Brisbane, Australia, under the command of Commander Delbert F. Williamson, she sank a submarine tender of 11,500 tons. In the ensuring counter-attacks by a group of escorts, DRUM received a crack in the after bulkhead of her conning tower. She was ordered to Pearl Harbor for repairs which resulted in the near collapse of the conning tower during a deep test dive, necessitating her transit to Mare Island Navy Shipyard, California for a new conning tower with a 400 foot depth capability.
- On her 11 111 war patrol, under the command of Lieutenant Commander Maurice H. Rindskopf, she provided intelligence on Japanese activity in the vicinity of Leyte Gulf in the Philippines prior to General Douglas MacArthur’s famous “I have returned” landing after which she was ordered to patrol in Luzon Strait. In five days she expended all 24 torpedoes, sinking three ships and damaging another three.
DRUM was at Midway Island in transit to her 14th patrol when the Japanese capitulated. She was ordered to her building yard in Portsmouth, New Hampshire and decommissioned on 16 February 1946. Jerry DeRosa received his boot training at Great Lakes, Illinois. Upon graduation as a Seaman 2nc1 Class, he was ordered to Brisbane, Australia to join USS FULTON (AS 11) Relief Crew. There he met Chief Machinist Mate Ned Zelkowski who also hailed from Bayonne, New Jersey and knew Jerry’s parents. Jerry expressed a desire to join a submarine, was tutored by the Chief, promoted to Seaman l” Class, and was assigned to DRUM prior to her seventh war patrol in August 1943. As a member of the Commissary Division, Jerry’s feisty and affable personality made him a crew favorite, and earned him an additional nickname of Guinea. His cooking skills earned him promotion to Ships Cook 3111 Class by the 11th patrol. On 7 November 1943, he cooked his last meal of meat loaf with gravy, mixed vegetables (because the labels had washed off the cans}, and freeze-dried potatoes, with jello for dessert for the 13 officers, four Chief Petty Officers, and 67 crew as DRUM returned to Majuro Atoll in the Marshall for refit. He was detached on 23 November 1944 along with the Commander Officer, Lieutenant Commander Mike Rindskopf, who had served on board for exactly three years, made all 11 patrols and over 1000 dives.
Jerry reponed to HOWARD W. GILMORE (AS 16), and with her made a circuit of the Southwest Pacific including Brisbane, Australia, and Humboldt Bay, New Guinea, before arriving at Subic Bay, PI in March 1945 to resume a heavy schedule of submarine upkeeps. Jerry DeRosa volunteered for further patrols by seeking ships’ cooks willing to swap billets. He was rebuffed by the cook in LAGARTO (SS 371). However, the BULLHEAD (SS 332) cook was prepared to trade billets until the Division Personnel Officer decreed that Jerry would be returned to the States for further assignment because he had served in the war zone for two years. LAGARTO was lost in May 1945 and BULLHEAD in August.
Jerry enjoyed 30 days leave, spent time in the galley at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and was discharged from the Navy at the Sampson, New York Naval Training Center in March 1946.
DRUM was transferred to the District of Columbia Naval Reserve program as a training ship on 18 March 1947 and was moored at the Washington Navy Yard until 15 June 1969. A reunion of nine officers, led by the second and fourth Commanding Officers, Rear Admirals Berny McMahon and Mike Rindskopf, was held on board in 1963. DRUM was destined for scrapping until the USS ALABAMA Memorial Commission requested that the Navy tow her to Mobile where she would join USS ALABAMA (BB 60) as a tourist attraction.
Jerry DeRosa, as a young man of 22, joined his father in a grocery store in Bayonne, after which he gained employment at the Sherry-Netherlands Hotel in New York City as a cook’s helper. Although he received promotions, he decided to resume his military career. Since he was unable to return to submarines, he enlisted in the U.S. Army as a corporal and was ordered to Ft. Dix, New Jersey for a refresher course prior to assignment to Jump School and the 82 nd Airborne Division in Ft. Benning, Georgia. After marrying his first wife, Ruth, in 1951, he was assigned to the 187 RCT in Korea as a Mess Sgt. 1st Class. When the Division returned to Japan in 1952, he adopted a son from the Bepo Orphanage, and then another when the Division was stationed in Germany in 1956. Sadly, after Jerry’s return to the United States, his wife died in 1958. Her parents cared for the children as he completed the remainder of his 20 years’ service in Korea and Italy. He retired from the Army in May 1966 as a Staff Sgt. E6. In retirement, he worked for the State of New Jersey in a school for the mentally retarded as a Food Service Instructor, and taught cooking to prisoners in a minimum security prison.
DRUM opened for business at Battleship Park on 4 July 1969 with Mrs. Jolene Edwards, wife of then Congressman Jack Edwards, as the sponsor. Approximately 10 million visitors have toured the ship which has been maintained by the Staff of the Battleship Commission and volunteers from Submarine Veterans, Incorporated. In July 2001 DRUM moved from her 31 year berth alongside the quay wall, astern of USS ALABAMA (BB 60), to a cofferdam ashore where she now rests on concrete saddles, some 15 feet above sea level, and is once again open for visitors.
The DRUM crew, under the successive leadership of Lieutenant Commander James D. Watson (formerly a Quartermaster), Lieutenant Commander Robert E. White (formerly a Motor Machinists Mate), and Bill Lister (formerly a Chief Radioman), has enjoyed a reunion at the ship every year since 1971. The 1989 reunion drew a high of 29 along with wives, children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. At each reunion, a memorial service is held for departed shipmates and wives. As a ship’s bell tolls, a rose from the magnificent Commission garden alongside the ship is dropped into Mobile Bay.
Jerry DeRosa, who married his second wife, Doris, in 1982 is now living in retirement in New Smyrna, Florida. Together they have manned the hospitality room for many reunions, including that in 2002. In addition, he made good his 2001 vow, and cooked the banquet dinner for some 50 guests, consisting of Chicken Kiev, roast pork with gravy, broccoli, and fresh mashed potatoes, with a celebratory layer cake decorated with an American flag for dessert. The banquet speakers, including Ms. Rosamond Rice, the daughter of DRUM’s first Commanding Officer, poignantly brought back memories of DR UM’s illustrious career-13 war patrols from April 1942 until April 1945.
A ship and a ship’s cook 1941-2002!
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