What did you do in the war Grandpa?

The story of the USS Pillsbury is important to me because my maternal grandfather, Ernest George Lengel, served on the ship from September 03, 1942 (the time the ship was put to sea and tested) until November 24, 1944. He served on the ship as a Fire Controlman, which was a sailor responsible for the operation of range finding gear and to perform ballistic calculations to control the firing of the ship’s guns. These skills were used in naval gunfire support and surface combat.   I am very proud of his service and happy that I was able to get a glimpse of his duties on the ship.


There were two USS Pillsbury’s in World War II. Both were named after John E. Pillsbury.

The first USS Pillsbury (DD-227) was a destroyer serving in the Asiatic Fleet. After the start of the war, she operated on reconnaissances and anti-submarine patrols. On March 2, 1942, the Pillsbury was sunk with a loss of all hands after being overtaken by two Japanese cruisers.

The second USS Pillsbury (DE-133) was also a destroyer. It was built in Orange, Texas. The ship was launched on January 10, 1943. The Pillsbury was assigned to Task Group 21.12 which consisted of an aircraft carrier USS Guadalcanal and four destroyers, the Pillsbury, USS Flaherty, USS Jenks, and USS Chatelain. They were tasked with destroying enemy submarines along the convoy routes between the United States and Europe.



After capturing six officers and fifty-seven crew men and sinking a German U-Boat on April 08, 1944, the ships returned to Norfolk, Virginia for repairs. There they were given a special mission to capture a German submarine and bring it back.

On June 4, 1944, in the area of the Cape Verde Island (off the coast of West Africa), contact was made with a U-boat trying to get a shot at the Guadalcanal. The Pillsbury, Jenks, and Chatelain rushed to the attack and blew a hole in the outer hull of the submarine. The new German captain, thinking his boat was a loss, surfaced and ordered the crew to abandon ship, which they did. However, they left the U-Boat’s engines running! The USS Pillsbury lowered a boarding crew onto the circling ship and found it deserted. They were able to secure the submarine by tearing out time-delayed demolition charges, closing valves, and plugging leaks. The U-Boat is now on display at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry.

The USS Pillsbury received five battle stars and the Presidential Unit Citation for its service in World War II.




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