The USS Slater (DE-766) is a Cannon-class destroyer escort that served in the United States Navy during World War II. One of 563 similar ships constructed between 1943 and 1945, the SLATER is the last destroyer escort remaining afloat in the United States today. Destroyer escorts were built as a result of a critical shortage of anti-submarine vessels in the Atlantic at the outset of World War II. At the request of the British Navy, American designers developed a new type of warship, based on the British HUNT class destroyer, which combined heavy anti-submarine and anti-aircraft weapons with the latest electronic equipment for detecting enemy vessels. In addition, destroyer escorts were designed to be maneuverable, high speed, long ranged vessels that could be built quickly due to their all-welded construction.
The destroyer escorts were a vital component of the Allied strategy for victory in the Atlantic. They escorted the convoys of supply ships that carried the forces needed to win the war in Europe. Destroyer escorts also served in some of the most dangerous areas of the Pacific Theater. They escorted convoys, conducted shore bombardments, and served as radar picket ships towards the end of the war. The USS SLATER served in both the Atlantic and Pacific Theaters during and immediately after the war. Following its World War II service, the ship was deactivated until 1951, when it was transferred to the Hellenic Navy. The SLATER, renamed AETOS, remained in Greek service until 1991, when it was transferred back to the United States under the care of the Destroyer Escort Historical Foundation, which began a painstaking restoration of the ship. Today the SLATER is one of less than a dozen surviving destroyer escorts, and it is the only ship that is still in its World War II configuration.
The USS Slater is named for Seaman Frank O. Slater of Alabama, a sailor killed aboard the USS San Francisco during the Battle of Guadalcanal in 1942.
After her commissioning in May 1944, the USS SLATER sailed to Bermuda for her sea trials and to spend time as both a target ship and a sonar school ship. Throughout the end of 1944 and into 1945, the SLATER was assigned to Atlantic convoy duty. Following the Allied victory in Europe on 8 May 1945, the SLATER was sent to the Pacific for further convoy duty, passing through the Panama Canal on 28 June. The ship remained on duty in the Philippines after the war's end, transferring to Green Cove Springs, Florida, in April1946 for deactivation. The SLATER was decommissioning in May of 1947. See the Ship's Wartime Chronicle for the complete war record and images. See the Ship's Log for the ships's log from May 1944 to June 1946.
The SLATER was transferred to Greece on 1 March 1951 as AETOS 01 under the Military Defense Assistance Program. Under this program, it was expected that if Communist forces invaded Western Europe, escort vessels given to European NATO nations would be available to assist in convoy escort and antisubmarine warfare. The ship began Greek service in July 1951. For the next forty years, the AETOS completed more than 3,223 voyages for cadet training, patrols, exercises and independent missions and sailed 617,876 nautical miles. These missions involved NATO maneuvers, naval academy voyages and trips to ports within the Mediterranean, Africa, Scotland, the North Sea and South American ports. The AETOS also played a small role in the movie The Guns of Navarone. By the late 1980s, the need for the ship's services had diminished and it was deactivated on 5 July 1991, just two days short of forty years from the date of its arrival in Greece. The AETOS was stricken in Crete and stripped of all useable gear and equipment.
The AETOS was awaiting disposal in Souda Bay, Crete, when it was granted a new lease on life by the members of the Destroyer Escort Sailors Association (DESA). In 1993, the Board of Directors of DESA voted for and established a new organization, the Destroyer Escort Historical Museum. This institution was incorporated as a not-for-profit educational corporation that anyone with an interest in preserving destroyer escort history could join. This was the group charged with maintaining and operating a preserved destroyer escort should one be found. Several DESA Board members took on roles in the new organization.
The then 15,000 members of the Destroyer Escort Sailors Association raised $290,000 to rescue the USS SLATER and bring it home from Greece. The Hellenic Navy deeded the ship to DESA and the group raised the funds necessary to insure the ship and tow it to New York. The rusty hulk of a ship started its journey from the port of Crete and arrived safely in New York Harbor with the assistance of a Ukrainian ocean going tug. The SLATER was berthed adjacent to the Aircraft Carrier USS INTREPID at the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum. In 1993 the USS SLATER was towed into New York Harbor after a perilous transit across the Atlantic Ocean. In 1997, after a brief stay of 4 years in New York City, the SLATER transferred up the river to its permanent home in Albany, New York.
The restoration of the USS SLATER has been a continuous project for the past seventeen years. When the ship was towed to New York City in 1993, the first in a long line of volunteer crews began chipping away at her, literally and figuratively, in an attempt to restore her to her 1945 condition. This massive effort continued after the ship moved to Albany in 1997. Throughout the years the SLATER has undergone a thorough overhaul, which included the removal of all the Greek modifications, chipping and repainting nearly every inch of her hull, decks, and bulkheads, and the location and re-installation of several tons of authentic WWII naval equipment. The restored spaces were stocked with not only the requisite equipment found aboard every naval vessel, but also the personal items and gear of the men who once served aboard her. Thanks to the dedication, perseverance and hard work of the hundreds of volunteers and staff associated with the SLATER over the last two decades, her once rusted and decaying hulk is now a living, breathing memorial to destroyer escorts and the men who served aboard them.
To read in depth about the entire restoration process, please see our monthly newsletter, SLATER Signals.
Of the 563 destroyer escorts built, 479 remained in service with the US Navy. These ships were named for American naval heroes, particularly those from the early years of WWII. Forty-four destroyer escorts were named for men from the state of New York, more than any other state in the country. One ship, the USS STERN DE187, was named for an Albany native. Charles M. Stern, Jr., was born on 10 March 1915 and enlisted in the United States Naval Reserve on 1 August 1940. He was assigned to active duty on 22 November 1940 and appointed ensign on 28 February 1941. Ensign Stern was ordered aboard the battleship Oklahoma BB37 on 9 April 1941 and was killed when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on 7 December of that year.
It is fitting that the USS SLATER DE766: monument, memorial and museum dedicated to all destroyer escorts, should be home ported in the capitol city of the state which gave up so many of her native sons to the preservation of freedom.
|The Slater on her way back to homeport Albany after dock maintenance|