Raymond Phillips Barker

Raymond Phillips Barker
US Navy – Naval Supply Corps – Lieutenant Commander
USS Worden & USS General M.M. Patrick (AP-150)
World War II (1940 – 1948) Pearl Harbor Survivor

Raymond Phillips Barker, an unassuming veteran of World War II, survived the attack on Pearl Harbor and the sinking of the USS Worden in the Aleutian Islands.  Despite professing that he was merely a paymaster, Barker quickly rose through the naval ranks from Ensign to Lieutenant Commander in the Supply Corps in only two years.  Barker’s served on two ships and traveled around the world from Pearl Harbor, Calcutta, Perth, to the Aleutian Islands.  Never one to boast about his service, Barker did not participate in World War II veteran organizations, nor Pearl Harbor survivor groups.  It wasn’t until 2006 that Barker became nostalgic about his time in the service when he returned to Pearl Harbor for the 65th Anniversary celebration.  A humble man from the Depression that does not need to brag; it is enough for Barker that he survived the war. 

Raymond Phillips Barker was born on May 8, 1917 in Sausalito, California.  He grew up in Sausalito and later graduated from Tamalpais High School in Mill Valley in 1934.  He attended UC Berkeley and graduated in 1938.  The Depression was still ongoing and Barker was thankful for a job offer with the Federal Reserve in San Francisco through a family friend.  After working for the Federal Reserve for only three years, Barker felt the pressure of the draft.  It was clear that the United States was going to get involved with the war in Europe and he wanted to avoid being drafted in the army.  In December of 1940, Barker received a commission as an ensign in the naval supply corps. 

In March 1941, Barker received a letter from the Navy requiring him to report to Washington DC for what he called “indoctrination into the Navy”.  Barker trained in Washington from March through June of 1941. From there, he was sent to Harvard University until August 1941 and acted as an officer at the Naval Supply Corps School.  In August 1941, Barker was given the choice of his assignment and he requested to be assigned to destroyers because they were smaller, more informal ships. Barker was to be a paymaster to Division One of the destroyers and specifically assigned to the USS Worden (DD-352), a Farragut class destroyer with a crew of 186.  As a paymaster, Barker’s duties included the procurement, maintenance and issue of all provisions and supplies needed for the ship.  He also handled the disbursement of money. 

In August 1941, the USS Worden operated as part of a unit with other destroyers on Neutrality Patrol in Hawaii. In 1939, after hostilities commenced in Poland, the Navy directed that two heavy cruiser divisions, a destroyer flotilla flagship (a light cruiser), two destroyer squadrons, one destroyer tender, an aircraft carrier and base force units necessary for servicing those ships all be transferred to Hawaii. This marked the establishment of the Hawaiian Detachment.  The USS Worden was attached to this new force, commanded by Vice Admiral Adolphus Andrews.  The USS Worden worked primarily in the Hawaiian Islands and conducted intensive type-training, tactical evolutions, task force exercises and maneuvers. 

On December 7, 1941, the USS Worden was moored at Pearl Harbor and undergoing routine upkeep alongside destroyer tender, U.S.S. Dobbin (AD-3) at Berth X-2.  Nested to portside of the USS Worden were the U.S.S. Hull, U.S.S. Phelps, U.S.S. Dewey and U.S.S. MacDonough.  The USS Worden did not suffer any damage in the attack.  Barker recalls, “it was about 8am and I was finishing breakfast and all the excitement started.  I went above to look at it all and could see the planes coming over, bombs being dropped, and torpedoes on battleship row”.  According to Barker, “they were one of the first destroyers to get out of that nest”.  Although they were in ready condition, the USS Worden initially cruised down to battleship row and saw the USS Arizona on fire, the USS Oklahoma turned over, and the USS California burned.  Barker explained that he could see the USS Pennsylvania in dry dock and in bad shape.  In addition, he witnessed the USS Nevada trying to get out and they took a hit and were ordered to go ashore to get out of the way.  For the most part, on December 7, 1941, Barker’s duties were limited to breaking down codes.  From his perspective, Barker did not feel that there was much aim or purpose to what they were doing. He seemed unsure of what the destroyer was doing at all.  Despite Barker’s feelings, one of the men aboard the USS Worden, Quartermaster 3d Class Raymond Brubaker, shot down a bomber with a .50-caliber Browning machine gun.  The USS Worden was able to get underway and out to open sea without injury to the destroyer or crew.  Although, in the operational plans for the attack, Japanese submarines were supposed to attack American ships as they emerged from Pearl Harbor, their attempts to carry out the mission failed. The danger of enemy submarines, however, did exist; and purported submarine sightings proliferated.  While in open sea, the USS Worden picked up a submarine contact and the destroyer experienced a near miss by a bomb about fifty yards astern that jarred the ship.

The destroyer joined a task force built around the light cruiser Detroit (CL-8), the flagship of Rear Admiral Draemel, and helped search the seas southwest of Oahu.  The USS Worden rendezvoused with the fleet oiler Neosho and escorted her to a fueling rendezvous with Admiral Fitch’sTask Force built around the aircraft carrier Lexington (CV-2).  While the Neosho fueled the ships of the Task Force, the USS Worden assumed a screening station on the Lexington’s bow.  Thereafter, the destroyer escorted the Neosho to a safe haven at Pearl Harbor.  The USS Worden returned to open sea as part of the covering force moving toward Wake Island. The Wake Island Relief Expedition was recalled on December 22, 1941 and the island fell.  Thereafter, the USS Worden was employed on patrol and escort duties in the Hawaiian Islands during the first part of 1942, making two round-trip voyages to the South Pacific between February and May.  While engaged with the Lexington task force, the USS Worden dropped depth charges twice on suspected enemy submarine contacts off Oahu.

On February 5, 1942, the USS Worden left Pearl Harbor to escort the seaplane tender Curtiss (AV-4) and the fleet oiler Paltte (AO-24), via Samoa and the Fiji Islands, to New Caledonia.  The destroyer also assisted the merchantman SS Snark which had struck a mine in the Bulari Passageand pulled her clear of the channel entrance and safely to port.  According to Barker, “they were the first ship down to New Caledonia”.  The destroyer, in company with the tender Curtiss, returned to Pearl Harbor.  The USS Worden headed back out to sea in the company of the Lexington task force, bound for a rendezvous area southwest of the New Hebrides Islands, to join Rear Admiral Fletcher’s task force.  The destroyer was then luckily detached from the task force to escort the fleet oiler Tippecanoe to Nouméa and avoided the Battle of the Coral Sea.

Shortly after reaching Nouméa, the USS Worden was joined by the cruisers and destroyers of the former Lexington task force.  The Lexington received massive internal damage as result of the battle.  The USS Worden put back to sea and rendezvoused with Task Force 16 in the New Hebrides. This new task force was formed around the carriers Enterprise (CV-6)and Hornet (CV-8)and commanded by Vice Admiral Halseyand later Rear Admiral Spruance.  This task force rendezvoused with Task Force 17 which was formed around the replenished Yorktown to the north of Midway Island.  The USS Worden screened the Enterprise and Hornet throughout the Battle of Midway from June 4-6, 1942.  According to Barker, the USS Worden basically “ran station on the Hornet which had ships on her bow to look for submarines”.  During the Battle at Midway, Barker recalled numerous planes launching from the Hornet and many never returned.

The USS Worden returned to Pearl Harbor and was then assigned to the screen of a revitalized Task Force 11 built around the newly repaired Saratoga (CV-3). The destroyer escorted the Saratoga as she sailed to Midway and flew off reinforcement groups of Army and Marine Corps aircraft before returning to the Hawaiian Islands for training.  Thereafter, the destroyer headed for the South Pacific with the Saratoga’s task force, but was temporarily detached to escort the Platte to Nouméa to replenish cargo.  The Platte and the USS Worden later rejoined the Saratoga.  En route, the USS Worden sighted signal lights in the darkness and rescued 36 survivors of the sunken Army transport, Tjinegara, which had been torpedoed by a Japanese submarine.  The USS Worden returned to the Saratoga group to the south of the Fiji Islands and joined marine troop transports that had sailed from New Zealand for the invasion of the Solomon Islands.The destroyer was then detached to escort the fleet oiler Cimarronto Nouméa where she landed the Tjinegara’s survivors.  Later, the destroyer caught up with Task Force 16 and resumed screening the Saratoga, as the carrier launched air strikes against Japanese positions on Guadalcanal and Tulagi.  Barker recalls a tense time when the USS Worden encountered a hurricane in the harbor in Guadalcanal which they were lucky to ride out in open sea.

For the next two weeks, the USS Worden operated with the Saratoga south of the Solomons protecting supply and communication lines leading to Guadalcanal. During the Battle of the Eastern Solomons, the USS Worden screened the Saratoga as she launched air strikes, in conjunction with the  Enterprise, to sink the Japanese carrier Ryujo and damage the seaplane tender Chitose.  Less than a week later, however, a Japanese submarine torpedoed the Saratoga and put her out of action.  The destroyer screened Saratoga’s retirement via Tongatapu in the Tonga Islands to Pearl Harbor.  Five days later, the USS Worden sailed with two other destroyers, screening the battleships Idaho (BB-42) and Pennsylvania (BB-38) and continued to screen for other carriers.

In December 1942, the USS Worden sailed from San Francisco to support the occupation of Amchitka Island in the Aleutian Islands.  According to Barker, the destroyer had taken Aleution scouts aboard and the crew was certain the Japanese were located in the islands.  “The destroyer moved quickly and it was an uncomfortable journey”, claimed Barker.  In January 1943, the destroyer guarded the transport Arthur Middleton (AP-55) as she put the preliminary Army security unit on the shores of Constantine Harbor, Amchitka Island. The USS Worden had maneuvered into the rock-edged harbor and stayed there until the last men had landed. As the USS Worden tried to clear the harbor, a strong current swept the destroyer onto a pinnacle that tore into her hull beneath her engine room, and caused a complete loss of power. The heavy seas began moving the USS Worden, totally without power, toward the rocky shore. The destroyer then broached and began breaking up in the surf.  Barker notes that it was a very chaotic time and he kept hearing different orders.  As the paymaster, Barker was responsible for the money on ship.  He retrieved the $30,000 in cash from the safe and put it in a satchel. Barker sat on the bow of the damaged ship waiting for orders.  After hearing orders to abandon ship, he tied the satchel to an old powder can and planned to tow it with him.  He threw it overboard.  Only then did Barker discover that the call to abandon ship had not been given.  Finally after an hour, Barker received the order to abandon ship.  He was rescued by a whale boat and delivered to safety.  Later in Anchorage, Barker discovered that the can with the $30,000 had been retrieved and Barker received credit for the $30,000 recovered.  Unfortunately, fourteen of the crew drowned and the USS Worden was a total loss.  In total, the USS Worden earned four battle stars for her World War II service.

After the grounding of the USS Worden, Barker was assigned in 1943 to Babson Park, Massachusetts to the Naval Supply Corps School at Babson College.  According to Barker, he was expected to train senior personnel in naval aviation supply.  However, he had no experience in this field and he only had thirty days to train the men.  His earlier training had consisted of many months.  Barker felt frustrated because he didn’t have the background to provide the training needed and did not have sufficient time.  After one year, Barker requested a transfer.  By this time, Barker had received the rank of Lieutenant Commander after only 2 short years in the navy.  Barker, however, still only considered himself a paymaster and felt he didn’t have much experience. 

Next, Barker was sent to Richmond, California where Kaiser was building C3 transports.  He was assigned to the USS General M.M.Patrick (Ap-150) and helped it be commissioned.  His duties were similar to the USS Worden and he was the supply officer.  The USS General M.M. Patrick was a squire – class transport ship and had a capacity of 3,434 troops and 425 officers & enlisted.  The USS General M. M. Patrick (AP-150) was launched on June 21, 1944 in RIchmond, California, and commissioned in San Francisco, California on September 4, 1944 under the command of Captain George W. Stott.  This new ship was assigned to the Asiatic-Pacific theater.

After shakedown, the USS General M. M. Patrick departed San Francisco in October 1944 and transported nearly 3,000 troops to Pearl Harbor and Guam before returning to San Francisco after three months with military passengers. Between February and March of 1945, she carried more troops from Seattle to Hawaii and returned sailors to San Francisco. With a full load of troops embarked, the Patrick then sailed for the Southwest Pacific, where she arrived in the Phillipines.  After shuttling troops from Allied bases along the northern coast of New Guinea to Luzon, the Patrick departed Manilla and brought home returning veterans to San Francisco.  Thereafter, she transported 3,000 troops and passengers to Fremantle, Australia;steamed to Calcutta, India,to embark passengers; then sailed via the Suez Canal to New York.  In total, the Patrick would make three trips to Calcutta and back to New York, and embarked more troops at Calcutta, Karachi, and Tuticorin, India; steamed via Ceylon and Signapore for the West Coast; and eventually arrived in San Pedro, California in January 1946.  The USS General M.M.Patrick was decommissioned on March 8, 1946 after only a few years of service. 

Once the ship was decommissioned, Barker was then sent to San Francisco for one year to the Naval Purchasing Office.  Barker served as the executive officer.  While in San Francisco he married Eva Jean Marcus.  After a year, Barker was sent to the Naval Station in Algiers, Louisiana. While in Algiers, Barker contacted dysentery and his experience was miserable.  After a few years, he resigned from the military.  Barker returned to San Francisco and received his old position back at the Federal Reserve where he worked until 1953.  In 1953, he took a position with the E.D. Bullard Company in Sausalito, California which made industrial safety equipment.  Barker served in a financial capacity with the company and his experiences as a paymaster and supply officer during World War II paid off.  Barker started in purchasing in 1953, moved up to treasurer, and finally became second in command.  He retired from the company in 1982. 

After his retirement, Barker moved from Mill Valley to Tiburon until 1995 when his wife passed away.  He moved briefly to Belvedere and later settled in Greenbrae.  Barker never participated in veterans groups or Pearl Harbor survivor organizations.  He did, however, attend the 65th anniversary celebration of the attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.  He shared the celebration with his two sons which was important to him.  Clearly with age, Barker had become a little nostalgic.  In his spare time, Barker enjoyed traveling and hiking in the hills of Marin County.  In addition, he was active on the Marin County Mosquito Abatement District Board of Directors.  At the age of 88, Barker had to give up hiking.  Barker claimed, “he expected aging to be more gradual”.  His advice was “you just have to take what comes”. 

Barker clearly had experience with taking what comes.  He survived the attack on Pearl Harbor, a hurricane, the grounding of a ship, and the worst case of dysentery ever.  His common sense and hard work attained during the Depression served Barker well.  Barker does not need to boast about his achievements in the war or life; he just takes every day as they come and enjoys life. 

Narrative by Nicholas W. Elsbree on June 16, 2012.      

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     

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