Ships of Pearl Harbor: USS Dobbin

July 03, 2018

On May 5th, 1921, a new destroyer tender was launched. Commissioned into the US Navy in July of 1924, USS Dobbin (AD-3) was named for former Secretary of the Navy James Cochrane Dobbin.

USS Dobbin spent much of her early years sailing between the United States, Guantanamo Bay, and eventually San Diego via the Panama Canal to the Pacific Ocean.

In October of 1939, USS Dobbin was transferred to Pearl Harbor. In the summer of 1941, Dobbin and her crew experienced a mysterious loss that dominated local news coverage in the months leading up to the December 7, 1941 Japanese attack.

The Missing Captain

In 1910, Thomas Calloway Latimore began a military career that would last 31 years. Appointed captain of USS Dobbin in April of 1941, Latimore was transferred to Pearl Harbor.

During his time on Oahu, he took up hiking in the Aiea Mountain Range, at the time an undeveloped region that overlooked the harbor. Though he had previously been injured in a fall at the range, he continued to return there to enjoy the peace and quiet away from the bustling naval base.

While on a hike one day in July of 1941, 51-year-old Latimore failed to return. Sailors and local police scoured the mountains looking for signs of his body. Even tracker dogs from Schofield Barracks searched the region, but his remains were never found.

Despite the extensive investigation into his disappearance, no trace of Latimore ever surfaced. In July, 1942, after a year of being missing, Latimore was officially declared dead.

USS Dobbin at Pearl Harbor

On December 7th, 1941, USS Dobbin was anchored to the northeast of Ford Island when a fleet of Japanese fighters and bombers began their devastating attack on Pearl Harbor.

USS Dobbin (AD3) at Pearl Harbor

USS Dobbin (AD3) lined up with destroyers at Pearl Harbor

Dobbin was moored alongside the destroyers USS Hull (DD-350), USS Dewey (DD-349), USS Worden (DD-352), USS Macdonough (DD-351), and USS Phelps (DD-360. Given her minimal armament, Dobbin’s crew was forced to watch as the Japanese attackers decimated Battleship Row. Though she was not considered a primary target, Dobbin also came under fire, suffering minor damage from shrapnel from nearby explosions.

Although they couldn’t assist in repelling the warplanes, the crewmen of USS Dobbin were tasked with pulling survivors and wounded out of the oily waters of the harbor. Over the course of the day, Dobbin's men were responsible for saving hundreds of sailors, and had 200 men from the stricken USS Raleigh (CL-7) aboard when she departed Pearl Harbor in search of the Japanese carriers.

Dobbin remained stationed at Pearl Harbor until May, 1942, when she was sent to Sydney, Australia to join the war effort in the Pacific against Japan.

USS Dobbin in World War II

Dobbin spent much of her time at war escorting Navy destroyers. On May 31st, 1942, while still anchored off Sydney, Dobbin was present during a Japanese midget submarine attack. Having survived the attack, she was sent to Brisbane, Mackay, Cleveland Bay, and Townsville before finally settling in Milne Bay, New Guinea. From September 30th, 1943 to February 14th, 1945, Dobbin remained in New Guinea, and was then ordered to the Philippines, where she remained for the rest of the war.

On December 7th, 1945, exactly four years after the Pearl Harbor attack, Dobbin returned to San Diego. She was decommissioned on September 27th, 1946.

For her service, USS Dobbin was awarded an American Defense Service Medal with a “FLEET” clasp, an Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with one battle star, and a World War II Victory Medal. Honored for her service during World War II, her legacy is still overshadowed by the disappearance of her captain just months before the outbreak of the War in the Pacific.

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