Jul. 3, 1905 Salt Lake City Salt Lake County Utah, USA
May 28, 1956 Salt Lake City Salt Lake County Utah, USA
United States Navy Chief Gunner's Mate (GMC) aboard the USS BUCKLEY (DE-51) when it pursued, rammed and sank the German submarine U-66 during WW2. Hendrickson enlisted in the Navy at Salt Lake City, UT and served from December 6, 1928 until January 4, 1954. Among the ships he served on before World War II were the battleships USS MISSISSIPPI (BB-41) for 2 years, USS ARIZONA (BB-39) for more than 7 1/2 years (2 tours) and the coastal gunboat USS TULSA (PG-22) for 2 years in China and the Philippines. During World War II he was the senior non- commissioned gunnery officer during perhaps the most daring "submarine kill" of the war, when the destroyer escort USS BUCKLEY (DE-51) rammed and sank the German submarine U-66 in the Atlantic sea-lanes off North Africa on the night of May 5-6, 1944. U-66 was the 7th most successful German U-Boat in World War II, having sunk 33 merchant ships, total 200,021 gross register tons and damaged two British motor torpedo boats, since her launch in January 1941.
For BUCKLEY'S actions in the engagement with U-66, the Secretary of the Navy issued the ship a Navy Unit Commendation that reads:
'For outstanding heroism as part of a Hunter-Killer Group in action against the German U-66 in the sea-lane approaches to the Mediterranean on the night of May 5-6, 1944. Ordered to investigate a surface contact reported by search aircraft, the USS BUCKLEY proceeded to the rendezvous at high speed and approached the target up the path of the moon. With the enemy clearly silhouetted against the light, the BUCKLEY was maneuvering to attack when a torpedo wake was sighted aft. Taken under machine-gun fire, the destroyer escort quickly countered, scoring a direct hit on the enemy's forecastle and rapidly closing range while raking the submarine from bow to stern with withering machine-gun and 3-inch fire. Alongside the U-66, the BUCKLEY gave a hard right rudder and rode up on the target. As enemy boarders swarmed over the side, the BUCKLEY crew battled with guns, fists, and even with coffee cups, to rout the Germans. Suffering no casualties in this sharp encounter, the destroyer escort backed off to prevent further boarding. Striking a glancing blow as the two ships came abreast, the U-66, her bow riding under BUCKLEY's after engine-room, slowly rolled to a 6-degree angle and took a hand grenade in her flaming conning tower. After 16 minutes of desperate action, the enemy went down, her interior ablaze, her hatches open, and 36 of her men captured. The BUCKLEY's success in repelling and capturing enemy boarders, an operation patterned on traditional Naval practices of more than 100 years ago, was the direct result of her own combat readiness and the fighting spirit of her officers and men, and reflects the highest credit upon the United States Naval Service.'
All personnel attached to and serving on board the USS BUCKLEY on May 5-6, 1944, are authorized to wear the NAVY UNIT COMMENDATION ribbon.
BUCKLEY remained on scene for 3 hours after sinking U-66 and rescued 36 survivors, including 4 officers. Based on the firepower hitting them, the German POWs were surprised to learn they had been attacked by a destroyer escort and not a light cruiser. At midnight on 7 May, BUCKLEY was detached from HUK TG 21.11 and stood out for the Boston Navy Yard for repairs, her bow bent from ramming the U-Boat and with only one propeller screw, the shaft of the other sheared off when the U-boat struck BUCKLEY in the final moments before sinking.
BUCKLEY'S captain, LCDR Brent Abel, USNR, was awarded the Navy Cross for his combat action against U-66. In addition to the Navy Unit Commendation awarded BUCKLEY, her crewmen were authorized to wear a battle star on the European- African Theater ribbon. High ranking Navy officers of the day considered the battle between BUCKLEY and U-66 to be the "most exciting" submarine kill of World War II. Following WWII, Chief Hendrickson was stationed aboard the light cruiser USS FARGO (CL-106) and later several shore stations, including the Washington Navy Yard, before retiring in 1954. He died two years later.
The 1957 20th Century Fox war movie, "The Enemy Below", starring Robert Mitchum and Curt Jurgens, tells the fictional story of the battle between the captain of an American destroyer, the fictional USS HAYNES, a BUCKLEY -class destroyer escort and the commander of a German U-boat during WWII.