USS Gillis (DD-260/AVD-12) was a US Navy Clemson-class destroyer built in 1918 and named after Commodore John P. Gillis and Rear Admiral James Henry Gillis. She was converted to serve as a seaplane tender in 1940 and remained in service with the US Navy until the end of World War II.
USS Gillis was launched 29 May 1919 by the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation. Her construction had been sponsored by Miss Helen Irvine Murray, grand daughter of Admiral Gillis and Mrs. Josephine T. Smith, and niece of Commodore Gillis. She was commissioned on September 3, 1919, with Lieutenant-Commander Webb Trammell as captain.
USS Gillis departed from Newport, Rhode Island on December 17, 1919, and moored at San Diego, California January 20 1920. She joined the Pacific Fleet Destroyer Force until May 26, 1922, when she was decommissioned. Recommissioned on June 28 1940, she was reclassified August 2 as a seaplane tender destroyer and numbered AVD-12. After her conversion she was placed in full commission at San Francisco, California, March 25, 1941.
USS Gillis was assigned as tender ship to Patrol Wing 4, Aircraft Scouting Force, US Pacific Fleet. In the following months she performed plane guard patrol between San Diego and Seattle, Washington with time out for aircraft tending duties at Sitka, Alaska on June 14 to 17 and at Dutch Harbor and Kodiak on July 15 to 31. After an overhaul in the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard she returned to Kodiak October 16, 1941 to continue with her tending duties of amphibious patrol planes in Alaskan waters. She was operating at Kodiak when the Japanese launched their attacked Pearl Harbor, and returned to the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard on February 9, 1942 for a second overhaul in preparation for deployment for war.
USS Gillis continued in tender duties at Kodiak until May 26, 1942. She was stationed at Atka on June 11 to 13 to tend to amphibious patrol aircraft bombing the Japanese on Kiska Island. On an air-sea rescue patrol on June 6, 1942, she made three depth charge runs on an underwater sound contact. A Japanese submarine violently surfaced, revealing it's conning tower and propeller, then disappeared. USS Gillis was unable to regain contact. She was credited with damaging this Japanese underseas raider in the combat area off Umak Island. She was attacked by three Japanese patrol bombers while at Adak on July 20, in which a dud bomb landed only ten feet off her portside. Despite a downpour of bombs ahead and astern, and being tossed about by the explosions, she escaped without damage or casualties.
USS Gillis continued her varied duties as an aircraft tender and air-sea rescue patrol ship throughout the Aleutian Campaign. Brief intervals of repair were accomplished in the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. Upon her return to the Aleutians she aided in tending to Higgins PT boats of Squadron 13. Her service in these roles ended, however, on April 19, 1944, when she departed Dutch Harbor for an overhaul in the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. She arrived at San Diego on June 13 and spent the following months as a plane guard for aircraft carriers training along the Californian coast. She was then routed on to Pearl Harbor, arriving on December 8, 1944. She operated in Hawaiian waters as a plane guard for escort carrier USS Makassar Strait until February 20, 1945. She then sailed with Rear Admiral Morton L. Deyo's Gunfire and Covering Force, passing by the Marshalls, Marianas and Ulithi Islands for the invasion of Okinawa.
USS Gillis arrived off Kerama Retto on March 25, 1945. She guarded minesweepers before covering underwater demolition teams clearing approaches to the western beaches of Okinawa. After invasion forces stormed ashore on April 1, she tended observation and patrol planes at Kerama Retto and served in air-sea rescue patrol duties. On April 28, she departed Okinawa making way for San Pedro Bay in the Philippine Islands as the consort for USS Makassar Strait. She returned by the same route as the consort for USS Wake Island. USS Wake Island launched aircraft on June 29 to land bases on Okinawa and USS Gillis served as her consort on her way back to Guam on July 3, 1945.
USS Gillis finally departed Guam on July 8, 1945 on her final voyage. She arrived at San Pedro, California on July 28, and was decommissioned there on October 15, 1945. Her name was struck from the Navy List on November 1, 1945, and she was sold for scrapping January 29, 1946. USS Gillis had received two battle stars for service in World War II. As of 2005, the name Gillis has not been used by the United States Navy.
- ↑ The Hamlyn History of Ships - Bernard Ireland