A Letter No Submariner’s Father Ever Wants – Lieut. Tsutoma Sakuma and Japanese Submarine No. 6 4

Submarines have always been dangerous.

The early submarines were even more so because of the emerging technologies that had not yet evolved. The men who rode the early boats were a different breed. This story is about one of them who was a national hero in Japan and left a legacy that would have implications for decades to come. The story is about the Last Letter he ever wrote to his father. It is certainly a letter no submariner’s father ever wants to receive.

The beginning of the Japanese Submarine Fleet had its roots in America

The Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) acquired its first submarines during the Russo-Japanese War on 12 December 1904 where they arrived in sections at the Yokohama dockyards. The vessels were purchased from the relatively new American company, Electric Boat, and were fully assembled and ready for combat operations by August 1905. However, hostilities with Russia were nearing its end by that date, and no submarines saw action during the war.

The submarines that Electric Boat sold to Japan were based on the Holland designs, known as Holland Type VIIs similar to the American Plunger-class submarines. The five imported Hollands were originally built at Fore River Ship and Engine Company in Quincy, Massachusetts under Busch’s direction for the Electric Boat Company back in August–October 1904. They were shipped by freighter from Seattle, Washington in Knock-down kit form to Japan, and then reassembled by Arthur Leopold Busch at the Yokosuka Naval Arsenal, which was then Japan’s largest naval shipyard, to become Hulls No. 1 through 5 and were designated Type 1 submarines by the Japanese Navy.

Frank Cable, an electrician who was working for Isaac Rice’s Electro-Dynamic and Storage Companies along with Rice’s Electric Boat, arrived some six months after Busch, training the IJN in the operation of the newly introduced vessels.

In 1904 Kawasaki Dockyard Company purchased plans for a modified version directly from Holland, and built two boats (Hulls No. 6 and 7), with the help of two American engineers, Chase and Herbert, who had been assistants to Holland. The Kawasaki-type submarines displaced 63 and 95 tons when submerged, and measured 73 and 84 feet in overall length, respectively. Both vessels measured 7 feet at the beam. This contrasted with the original five imported Holland type submarines which had arrived that same year, at over 100 tons submerged, 67 feet in overall length and 11 feet beam. The Kawasaki Type #6 and #7 submarines had gained extra speed and reduced fuel consumption by 1/4. However both boats could launch only one 18″ torpedo, and each was manned by 14 sailors, whereas the imported Holland-type submarines could fire two torpedoes and could be operated by 13 sailors. This new type was designated the Type 6 submarine by the Japanese Navy, and was used primarily for test purposes.

The Kaigun Holland #6 was launched at Kobe on 28 September 1905 and was completed six months later at Kure as the first submarine built in Japan. It sank during a training dive in Hiroshima Bay on 15 April 1910. Although the water was only 58 feet deep, there were no provisions at all for the crew to escape while submerged. The commanding officer, Lieutenant Tsutomu Sakuma, patiently wrote a description of his sailor’s efforts to bring the boat back to the surface as their oxygen supply ran out. All of the sailors were later found dead at their duty stations when this submarine was raised the following day. The sailors were regarded as heroes for their calm performance of their duties until death, and this submarine has been preserved as a memorial in Kure, Japan

SINKING OF JAPANESE SUBMARINE No. 6

When the Japanese submarine No. 6, which foundered while maneuvering in Hiroshima Bay on April 16, was raised, the following message was found. It was written by Lieut. Tsutoma Sakuma, the commander, after it became evident that the submarine could not be raised by the efforts of the crew. The translation appeared in the Kobe Herald, and is as follows:

Although there is, indeed, no excuse to make for the sinking of His Imperial Majesty’s boat and for the doing away of subordinates through my heedlessness, all on the boat have discharged their duties well, and in everything acted calmly until death. Although we are departing in pursuance of our duty to the State, the only regret we have is due to anxiety lest the then of the world may misunderstand the matter, and that thereby a blow may be given to the future development of submarines. Gentlemen, we hope you will be increasingly diligent without misunderstanding (the cause of this accident), and that you will devote your full strength to investigate everything, and so insure the future development of submarines. If this is done we shall have nothing to regret.

While going through gasoline submarine exercises we submerged too far, and when we attempted to shut the sluice valve the chain in the meantime gave way. Then we tried to close the sluice valve by hand, but it was then too late, the rear part being full of water, and the boat sank at an angle of about 25 degrees. –

The boat rested at an incline of above 13 degrees, pointing towards the stern. The switchboard being under water, the electric lights gave out. Offensive gas developed, and respiration became difficult.

At about 10 a. m. on the 15th the boat sank, and under this offensive gas we endeavored to expel the water with a hand pump.

At the same time as the vessel was being submerged, we expelled the water from the main tank. The light having gone out the gauge cannot be seen, but we know that the water has been expelled from the main tank. We cannot use the electric current entirely The electric liquid is overflowing, but no salt water has entered, and chlorine gas has not developed.

We only rely upon the hand pump now. The above has been written under the light of the conning tower, when it was 1145 o’clock. We are now soaked by the water that has made its way in. Our clothes are pretty wet and we feel cold.

I had always been used to warn my shipmates that their behavior (on an emergency) should be calm and delicate while brave; otherwise we could not hope for development and progress, and that, at the same time, one should not cultivate excessive delicacy lest work should be retarded. People may be tempted to ridicule this after this failure, but I am perfectly confident that my previous words have not been mistaken.

The depth gauge of the conning tower indicates 52, and despite the endeavor to expel the water, the pump stopped, and did not work after twelve o’clock. The depth in this neighborhood being ten fathoms the reading may be correct.

The officers and men of submarines must be appointed from the most distinguished among the distinguished, or there will be annoyance in cases like this. Happily all the members of this crew have discharged their duties well, and I feel satisfied.

I have always expected death whenever I left my home, and therefore my will is already in the drawer at Karasaki. (This remark refers only to my private affairs, and it is not necessary.

Messrs. Taguchi and Asami ! Please inform my father of this.)

I respectfully beg to say to His Majesty, I respectfully request that none of the families left by my subordinates shall suffer. The only thing I am anxious about now is this.

Please convey my compliments to the following gentlemen:

(the order may not be proper) : —Minister Saito; Vice-Admiral Shimamura; Vice-Admiral Fujii; Rear-Admiral Nawa; Rear Admiral Yamashita; Rear-Admiral Narita. (Atmospheric pressure is increasing, and I feel as if my tympanum were breaking.)

Captain Oguri; Captain Ide; Commander Matsumura (Junichi); Captain Matsumura (Riu); Commander Matsumura (Kiku) —my elder brother. Captain Funakoshi; Instructor Narita Kotaro; Instructor Ikuta Kokinji. –

12.30 o’clock, respiration is extraordinarily difficult. I mean I am breathing gasoline. I am intoxicated with gasoline.

Captain Nakano

It is 12.40 o’clock.

 

After the submarine was lifted from the sea, the tone soon changed to praise of Sakuma and his crew for the glorious way they died while carrying out their duty.

Lt. Sakuma was in the conning tower, just as he had been when commanding his crew in majestic fashion, but instead lying in eternal repose as though still alive. The helmsman had expired with his hand still on the handle of the rudder … That they kept their composure is the mark of military men, and their devotion to the duty in the face of death is moving in the extreme. *

* Tokyo Asahi Shimbun, April 20, 1910. Furthermore, in the Kobunbiko Maki 26-2, Dairoku Sensuitei Sounanji ni Okeru Teinai Eisei Jokyo ni Kansuru Chosahokoku (Report on the Conditions Inside the Vessel at the Time of the Submarine No. 6 Accident), Lt. Sakuma is described as having been found at the aft side of the bottom of the conning tower.

The newspapers published a copy of his original letter. The original letter was stored at the Kure Naval Shipyard and was destroyed in a fire during the Great Kanto Earthquake.

I have read through the letter three times now.

It reminds me of a dream I used to have a long time ago.

Mister Mac

Pittsburgh Pennsylvania – Serving the Navy in World War 2 (and Beyond) 1

Sometimes people forget the strong bond the Navy has always had with the City of Pittsburgh

On this Labor Day, I thought it would be appropriate to highlight the men and women who contributed to the victory in World War 2. Many never carried a gun, but their efforts were instrumental in delivering not only men and weapons, but the many supplies needed to bring the Nazi’s and Imperial Japan to their knees.

Geographically, Pittsburgh is situated far from either the Atlantic or Pacific oceans. This was both a blessing and a challenge. The blessing was that at the time, the city was well out of range of traditional attacks. She was also located in an area that is still rich with natural resources and a well maintained systems of rivers with locks and dams. The challenge was building anything of significance and delivering it intact to the war effort. While the rivers are well suited for the many coal barges that routinely sail from the mines, they are not deep enough or wide enough to manage a larger vessel.

The answer came in the form of a unique new vessel that was desperately needed on both coasts. The LST  Landing Ship, Tank, or tank landing ship, is the naval designation for ships built during World War II to support amphibious operations by carrying tanks, vehicles, cargo, and landing troops directly onto shore with no docks or piers. This provided amphibious assaults to almost any beach. The bow of the LST had a large door that would open with a ramp for unloading the vehicles. The LST had a special flat keel that allowed the ship to be beached and stay upright. The twin propellers and rudders had protection from grounding. The LSTs served across the globe during World War II including: Pacific War and European theatre.

These unique vessels were built in a number of places but Pittsburgh was ideally suited for their construction.

Here is their story from the Book “Building the Navy’s Bases in World War II “Volume I (Part II)

Neville Island, Pittsburgh, Pa. – Construction of LST’s took place along the seacoast and on inland waterways. One of the building sites which was farthest from the ocean was Neville Island, on the Ohio River, a short distance below Pittsburgh, where the Dravo Corporation, a prime contractor for the Navy, built facilities for the construction of twelve LST’s at a time. Prior to the war expansion for the Navy, Dravo had built on Neville Island a plant where barges and other river craft were produced.

Under the war program, the existing yard was expanded by the construction of a seven-position assembly line. The first construction operation took place in position one, parallel to, and farthest from, the river. The growing ships were moved sidewise to each successive building position and finally into the Dravo side-launching ways, which existed before the Navy project was initiated.

Other new facilities constructed included a mold loft, a main office building, a warehouse, a machine shop, and two platens. The platens were open, rectangular, steel platforms for welding assemblies before installation in the ships. The platens were built at the stern ends of positions 1, 2, and 3 in the assembly line. The expanded old yard was called West Yard.

Upstream on Neville Island, separated from West Yard by another industrial property, an entirely new yard area, East Yard, was built. The assembly line at East Yard had five building positions. Side-launching ways were built, as were a service shop, warehouse, carpenter shop, sheet metal shop, two platens, and several minor buildings for personnel and offices.

To facilitate the equipping and outfitting of ships, two fitting-out quays were constructed on the river bank. One, 1,350 feet long, was located at the East Yard; the other, 300 feet long, was just east of the West Yard launching ways. Together the piers accommodated ten ships, moored two abreast. The quay was constructed as a filled steel, sheet pile cellular type. Three icebreaker piers, consisting of steel sheet piling driven in a 30-foot-diameter circle were constructed adjacent to each other, in a line at right angles with the shore, near the upstream end of the longer quay. They served as a means of breaking ice and downstream drift and for ship mooring. Additional mooring, in the non-quay waterfront area, was obtained by the construction of four dolphins in a line 50 feet from the shore and parallel to it.

In each yard, whirler-type gantry cranes were used in the pre-assembly and ship construction areas for handling ship sections and materials. Seven gantry-crane tracks were built, as were tracks for side-movement of ships on the assembly lines and tracks for railway service.

Three architect-engineer firms were used by the prime contractor. One handled the heavy-construction design and supervised the work of a heavy-construction contractor. The second handled shop and warehouse design; the third handled design of offices, cafeterias, and locker buildings. Work in the second and third categories was performed by a second construction contractor. Each of the two construction contractors performed almost $3,000,000 worth of work. The overall cost of the facility, including the non-civil works, was more than $10,000,000.

On Memorial Day, 1944, more than 25,000 gathered in Pittsburgh to watch the launch of LST-750, which Allegheny County residents had financed by purchasing $5,000,000 worth of extra war bonds. In 1944, Dravo Corporation’s Neville Island Yard worked round the clock. It built 15 LSTs in a six-week period before the D-Day invasion. Damaged by a Japanese kamikaze, the LST-750 sank near the Philippines’ Negros Island in December 1944.

The Pittsburgh Area has always been a representative community for what makes America exceptional.

The LST story is just one of the many contributions her citizens made to the war effort. Many of her own sons went to sea on these ships and helped free the world from Fascism and Imperialism.

Mister Mac

To help celebrate the Navy’s 243rd Birthday, Pittsburgh is holding its traditional Navy Birthday Celebration on October 12th, 2018. We are offering an opportunity for anyone who would like to contribute to the celebration to help by making a donation to the Navy League Pittsburgh Council Navy Ball Fund. In exchange for a contribution of $15.00 or more, you will receive this commemorative coin.

The Navy League is a 501 C3 organization

These limited Edition Coins will go fast so contact me at bobmac711@live.com if you would like to help celebrate the Navy’s Birthday

 

Now More Than Ever – a Strong Navy and Peace 5

The Navy League has been tireless in its mission to support the sea services throughout the last 116 years. From its founding in 1902, they have tried to always live the spirit that Theodore Roosevelt embodied when he said “A good Navy is not a provocative of war, it is the surest guarantee of peace.”

Three years after he said those fateful words, the world was changed forever on May 27, 1905 when a smaller Japanese fleet defeated the powerful Russian Navy in the Straits of Tsushima.

This unexpected naval battle set the tone for naval conflict for the next century. It showed that a willful and resourceful nation could project sea power and influence the course of history in a way that the world would have to notice. It clearly demonstrated that no country, no matter how small or limited in resources, should ever be taken for granted.

Despite that warning, America was not ready for the Great War that was to come. We had lulled ourselves into thinking that the vastness of the oceans surrounding us would keep us from harm. We were wrong. An entirely new menace called the submarine destroyed that perception of safety once and for all. 100 years ago today, fighting men and women would serve in a cause that should have been avoidable. But the oceans brought the threat to us.

As many countries did, we relied on the promise of peace through disarmament when that war completed. The navy was shrunk and a peace dividend was expected in its place. It never came. Instead, the Axis of Japan, Italy and Germany once more used the oceans to project their power. We were ill prepared for that war too, but the drive and determination of the American people carried the day once more.

The global situation is much the same today as it was before the major wars. Countries are once more expanding their forces and influence through sea power.

  • China is pushing the boundaries in the seas and islands around her country that once enjoyed freedom;
  • A resurging and aggressive Russian Navy has a global reach and an eye on returning to their once unlimited status
  • Rogue nations that are seeking to capitalize on technology are once more challenging freedom around the globe.

 

On Memorial Day, we honor the fallen. We remember their sacrifices. But we honor and remember them best when we remain ever ready and ever vigilant. We pay them the ultimate tribute when we are once more ready to defend that which they gave everything for.

The Navy League stands with all of our sea services in paying honor and tribute to our fallen. We stand for maintaining the strongest military on the face of the planet. America stands for freedom in this world. In the face of so many challenges, maintaining that strength is the only way to maintain our freedom. America needs to be alert now more than any time in history.

Mister Mac

The Thin Veneer Called Civilization 1

Even the most ordered society can fall into despotism.

One of the classical examples is the transition of Japan from an enlightened kingdom to a brutal conqueror within a few short generations. How did it happen? Just as importantly, could it happen again?

At the time of Emperor Meiji’s birth in 1852, Japan was an isolated, pre-industrial, feudal country dominated by the Tokugawa shogunate and the daimyōs, who ruled over the country’s more than 250 decentralized domains. By the time of his death in 1912, Japan had undergone a political, social, and industrial revolution at home and emerged as one of the great powers on the world stage. The New York Times summed up this transformation at his funeral in 1912 with the words: “the contrast between that which preceded the funeral car and that which followed it was striking indeed. Before it went old Japan; after it came new Japan.”

The word “Meiji” means “enlightened rule” and the goal was to combine “modern advances” with traditional “eastern” values

From a recent history of his reign and the aftermath:

“With the death of Emperor Meiji in 1912 a great deal of uncertainty about Japan’s future followed. Many believed that Meiji Japan had flourished under the steadfast rule of the emperor who reigned for more than 40 years. Now his first son, Yoshihito, ascended to the throne and took the name Taisho, ushering in the next era. Those deeply loyal to Emperor Meiji and resistant to modernization efforts were particularly vulnerable. Some would hold fast to the centuries of Japanese tradition, rejecting any shifts in gender roles or education and military reforms, while other reformers embraced change.

The young Taisho emperor was born in 1879 and at an early age contracted cerebral meningitis. The ill effects of the disease, including physical weakness and episodes of mental instability, plagued him throughout his reign. Because of his sickness there was a shift in the structure of political power from the old oligarchic advisors under Meiji to the members of the Diet of Japan—the elected representative officials increasingly gaining influence and power. By 1919 Emperor Taisho’s illness prevented him from performing any official duties altogether. By 1921 Hirohito, his first son, was named ses-ho, or prince regent of Japan. From this point forward, Emperor Taisho no longer appeared in public.

Despite the lack of political stability, modernization efforts during Taisho continued. A greater openness and desire for representative democracy took hold. Literary societies, mass-audience magazines, and new publications flourished. University cities like Tokyo witnessed a burgeoning culture of European-style cafés, with young people donning Western clothing. A thriving music, film, and theater culture grew, with some calling this period “Japan’s roaring ’20s.”

For these reasons the Taisho era has also been called Taisho democracy as Japan enjoyed a climate of political liberalism unforeseen after decades of Meiji authoritarianism.”

“One of the leading political figures, and the man who coined the term Taisho democracy, was professor of law and political theory Dr. Yoshino Sakuzo. After observing and traveling extensively in the West, he returned to Japan and wrote a series of articles promoting the development of a liberal and social democratic tradition in Japan. In the preface to his 1916 essay “On the Meaning of Constitutional Government,” Yoshino wrote:

 The fundamental prerequisite for perfecting constitutional government, especially in politically backwards nations, is the cultivation of knowledge and virtue among the general population. This is not the task that can be accomplished in a day. Think of the situation in our own country [Japan]. We instituted constitutional government before the people were prepared for it. As a result there have been many failures. . . . Still, it is impossible to reverse course and return to the old absolutism, so there is nothing for us to do but cheerfully take the road of reform and progress. Consequently, it is extremely important not to rely on politicians alone but to use the cooperative efforts of educators, religious leaders, and thinkers in all areas of society.”

With such ideas openly circulating, Japan also saw the rise of mass movements advocating political change.

Labor unions started large-scale strikes to protest labor inequities, political injustices, treaty negotiations, and Japanese involvement in World War I. The number of strikes rose from 108 in 1914 to 417 strikes in 1918. At the outset of World War I, there were 49 labor organizations and 187 at the end, with a membership total of 100,000.

A movement for women’s suffrage soon followed.

While the right of women to vote was not recognized until 1946, these early feminists were instrumental in overturning Article 5 of the Police Security Act, which had prevented women from joining political groups and actively participating in politics. They also challenged cultural and family traditions by entering the work- force in greater numbers and asserting their financial independence.

One of the most widespread political protests occurred in 1918 with Japan’s rice riots. Like the rest of the world, Japan was experiencing wartime inflation and low wages. The dramatic increase in the price of rice, a staple of the Japanese diet, had an impact on the entire country. In August 1918 in the fishing village of Uotsu, fishermen’s wives attempted to stop the export of grain from their village in protest against high prices. By October more than 30 separate riots were documented, the vast majority organized by women workers. They refused to load grain, attacked rice merchants, and protested the continued high prices. They inspired other protests, such as the demand by coal miners for higher wages and humane work conditions.

Much of this social unrest, political uprising, and cultural experimentation came to a halt on September 1, 1923.

On this day a powerful earthquake struck Japan measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale. This natural disaster is referred to today as the Great Kanto Earthquake. The force of the quake was so strong that a 93-ton Buddha statue 37 miles from the epicenter moved almost two feet. The disaster devastated the entire city of Tokyo, the third largest city in the world at that time, destroyed the port city of Yokohama, and caused large-scale destruction in the surrounding area. The earthquake and subsequent fires killed more than 150,000 people and left over 600,000 homeless. Martial law was immediately instituted, but it couldn’t prevent mob violence and the targeting of ethnic minorities. Koreans living in Tokyo were targeted, as rumors spread that they were poisoning the water and sabotaging businesses. Newspapers reported these rumors as fact. According to standard accounts over 2,600 Koreans and 160–170 Chinese were killed, with about 24,000 detained by police. The numbers include political opponents such as the anarchist Osugi Sakai, his wife, and their six-year-old nephew, who were tortured to death in military police custody. The officer responsible for this crime later became a high-ranking official in Manchuria.

Using the social unrest as an excuse, the Japanese Imperial Army moved in to detain and arrest political activists they believed were radicals.

After events surrounding the earthquake, the relationship between the military and the emperor began to shift. According to the Meiji Constitution, the emperor led the army and navy. However, all military decisions were actually made by the prime minister or high-level cabinet ministers. As political activists became more vocal, many were abducted and were never seen again. Local police and army officials who were responsible claimed these so-called radicals used the earthquake crisis as an excuse to overthrow the government. More repression and violence soon followed. Prime Minister Hara (1918–1921) was assassinated, and a Japanese anarchist attempted to assassinate Taisho’s first son, Hirohito.

Order was firmly restored when a more conservative arm of the government gained influence and passed the Peace Preservation Law of 1925.

Besides threatening up to 10 years imprisonment for anyone attempting to alter the kokutai (rule by the emperor and imperial government, as opposed to popular sovereignty), this law severely curtailed individual freedom in Japan and attempted to eliminate any public dissent.

The transition in the emperor’s role to one of greater power began with the death of Emperor Taisho on December 18, 1926.

Following tradition, his son Hirohito ascended to the throne and chose the name Showa, meaning “peace and enlightenment.” Hirohito neither suffered from physical or mental ailments like his father nor held the commanding presence of his grandfather. Rather, Hirohito began his reign by per- forming all the ceremonial duties flawlessly but appearing in public only for highly orchestrated formal state occasions. Over time as the political climate within Japan shifted to a more militaristic stance, so did the role of the emperor. One specific gesture is emblematic of the changes occurring in the role and power of the emperor. When Hirohito first appeared in public in the early years of his reign, commoners would always remain dutifully seated to avoid appearing above the emperor, but they were permitted to look at him. By 1936 it was illegal for any ordinary Japanese citizen to even look at the emperor.”

We all know what happened next.

 

When I see the chaos that is brewing within the United States in 2018 because of the divided political and social groups that claim leadership, I fear that we have a very thin veneer between an organized and civilized society and one that drops into complete anarchy followed by a harsh structure that will ultimately please no one.

The great earthquake of 1923 that claimed so many lives and caused the breakdown of their system could easily be mimicked today by any number of catastrophic events in America. We have been warned for years about the vulnerability of the power grid (with recent reports suggesting it remains so) and the very real concerns of pandemics which could easily leap across the wide oceans and affect the entire population. Rogue nations with nuclear technology and evil minded regimes could disrupt life as we know if in many different ways.

What would be our response?

Would we find ourselves in the mother of all martial law situations leading to a brutal and repressive regime? Could the world survive? As our chaos continues to grow and some groups are demanding a national disarmament, I would encourage them to study their history books before they willingly surrender their rights. I am not so inclined to go along with any suggestion of abolishing our basic freedoms. I will fight to the death to preserve them.

Mister Mac

 

The one thing you can’t stop 2

Today marks the end of yet another year.

The world has turned 365 more times in its journey and I feel fortunate to have had more good days than bad ones during that time. I find myself in a much better place today than I did a year ago and for that I am grateful.

Time has a way of creeping up on you.

Even if you take the best care of yourself, the elements and time itself play havoc with what we try to preserve. This is just as true of the things we have made as it is to the people that made them. This year saw the 75th Anniversary of many of the most notable naval battles of World War II. Midway, Coral Sea, the seven battles of Guadalcanal, and many other important actions all marked the turning point of the war in the Pacific.

The ships that fought those battles were legendary. Against enormous odds in most cases, the American’s fought back against the Imperial Japanese fleet and stopped their progress. In 1942, that meant that mostly pre-war vessels and their crews fought back in battles that could have spelled doom for many if we had lost.

We have some remarkable nautical memorials

One of my passions is going to visit and learn about the memorial ships around the country that have been preserved. While I favor the remaining battleships as my primary destinations, I will willingly spend hours and hours crawling through everything from destroyers to submarines and the occasional aircraft carrier. We are blessed as a nation that many such monuments still exist and I strongly support the efforts of the many men and women who have volunteered over the years to keep the memories alive.

    

The ones we didn’t save

Many of the ships I would have loved to have seen preserved were active in 1942. It should not come as a surprise that the USS San Francisco CA 38 would be on the very top of my list. She was unique and had a very storied history before and during the war. This New Orleans class cruiser was commissioned in 1934 and saw the beginning of the war in Pearl Harbor. She quickly showed her worth as the fast moving battles of the first year unfolded. But nothing will ever replace her glory in the night battle of November 13th near Guadalcanal. She was the flag ship for Admiral Callaghan and a small force of cruisers and destroyers that went up against two Japanese battleships.

Out gunned and out maneuvered, she led her brave force into action and paid a ferocious cost. At the height of the attack, she came under close fire from the 14 inch guns of the Hiei and Rear Admiral Callaghan, Captain Cassin Young, and much of the staff were killed in a blinding flash. But the well trained crew, under the leadership of Lieutenant Commander Bruce McCandless and Lieutenant Commander Herbert E. Schonland continued to fight the ship and saved her to fight another day. 77 sailors, including Rear Admiral Daniel J. Callaghan and Captain Cassin Young, had been killed. 105 had been wounded. Of seven missing, three were subsequently rescued. The ship had taken 45 hits. Structural damage was extensive, but not fatal. No hits had been received below the waterline. Twenty-two fires had been started and extinguished.

San Francisco was sent home for repairs. When she returned, she would fight and serve through many harsh battles. She was one of many ships targeted by the dreaded kamikaze weapons the Japanese had mustered. But the Frisco Maru would beat them all and was part of the victorious fleet that finally subdued the enemy.

A Remarkable Record

The night battle of November 13th resulted in four Medal of Honors being awarded. Lieutenant Commander Herbert E. Schonland, Lieutenant Commander Bruce McCandless, and Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class Reinhardt J. Keppler (posthumous). Admiral Callaghan was also awarded the Medal of Honor (posthumous). San Francisco was among the most decorated ships in US service during World War II.

Despite her many accolades, the country ended the war with a surplus of ships. The Cold War was just a short time away from its official start but the cost of maintaining such a large fleet was unacceptable. San Francisco was decommissioned in February of 1946 and in 1959 she was sold for scrap. So were nearly all of her surviving partners. The only physical memory of her now is the rescued bridge section that was saved when she was rebuilt after the horrific battle in 1942. It was a point of honor for the crews of the subsequent USS San Francisco (SSN 711) to visit and pay honor when the boat was in port in the city.

I would have given anything to be able to walk her decks and stand where so many brave men gave their all in a battle that was so notable. So I do understand why so many people do their best to preserve the vessels that have survived. I wish there was more money and more public commitment. But unfortunately, time continues to exact a price and the public is easily distracted. No matter how important a mission may have been, preservation almost always comes down to a few people who do the lion’s share of the work.

Patriots Point, Mount Pleasant SC

I ended 2017 at Patriot’s point with a fellow retired Chief Warrant Officer. He and I served on the submarine San Francisco in the beginning and we have watched her over the past 37 years. She of course is infamous for a sea mount collision that nearly cost the country a crew and vessel. The loss of our shipmate MM2/SS Joey Ashley still affects those who loved him and recognize his sacrifice with a solemnness earned with such a sacrifice. The 711 boat is undergoing a conversion to a new mission as a training ship and we are all filled with a bittersweet feeling of pride in her continued life but sadness in knowing she will no longer sail the oceans and face unseen enemies.

Time takes its toll on everything.

I had visited Patriot’s Point in Mount Pleasant five years ago and toured the ships and boat located there. The USS Clamagore is a treasured part of the collection of diesel boats on display around the country. Her history did not include service in the war, but she more than made up for that through her conversions to several classes of GUPPY boats and her service helped to pave the way for the submarine technology that would aid the coming nuclear fleet.

How a Docking Officer views the world

Seeing her this week was kind of shocking. I should tell you that one of my roles in the Navy was as a Docking Officer on a floating drydock that primarily docked submarines. Whenever I see any vessel, I often do a mental calculation of what I would have to do to create the “build” for that vessel. The build consists of the blocks topped with wood that the vessel would sit on once the water has been pumped down. It is incredibly important that the docking officer builds a safe crib that support the keel of the vessel in such a way that it will not be damaged.

Like most docking officers, I know that each ship and boat has a docking plan. That plan includes the exact location for each block to ensure maximum safety for the landed vessel. Even an inch or two off the mark could have an impact.

As we approached the submarine, the first thing that was noticeable was the exterior damage near the waterline. While I understand that the damage may not be indicative of the pressure hull, I also know that in order to safely dock a boat, any compromise in the plan would have some impact. I felt kind of sick to my stomach as I saw her tied up next to the pier and couldn’t help but wonder if this would be the last time I saw her. To be fair, the inside tells a great story and you can see the work so many have done over the years. But time is catching up to her.

Can’t we save them all?

I know there is a lot of passion around saving Clamagore. Four of the boats I served on are gone now and both of my surface commands have long since been torn down and scrapped (except for some parts of the USS Los Alamos that are still in use in a civilian yard). All of them served honorable and several made marks on Naval history that should have automatically made them eligible for some kind of living memorial (USS George Washington SSBN 598 and USS Halibut her dual roles as a Regulas Boat and her remarkable role as a Special Projects Boat)

But time and events were not in their favor. They remain alive in the stories that have been written and the hearts of those who sailed on them. There will never be boats like these again. There will never be mighty warships like the USS San Francisco CA 38. But her impact on the war she fought will live forever in the halls of United States Naval history.

A proper remembrance

In a cemetery in Mount Pleasant SC just up the road from Patriots Point is a marker in a small cemetery for one of my greatest heroes. Captain Cassin Young was a Commander on board the USS Vestal, a repair ship tied up next to the Arizona on December 7th. He was awarded the Medal of Honor that day and his story is remarkable. I will be telling it in detail later this year in a special way. His body is not there however. He was one of those killed on the bridge on the morning of November 13 on the bridge of the CA 38. He was buried at sea along with many others.

It is fitting for a sailor to be buried at sea after such a death. I can imagine the grief the family felt but how much worse it would be to see the burned and fragmented remains that would have had to have been shipped back those many thousands of miles. The family would have a loving memory of their sailor in his glory days.

The future

I do not know what will become of the Clamagore. I hope some solution comes soon. I have to admit that seeing her in such a condition makes me sad for those who have worked so hard to save her. But time marches on. It is the one element that has never been completely mitigated. It makes me wonder about the remainder of the boats and what it will take to preserve them properly. Where is the strategy? What is the plan? Would it make more sense to view each from a bigger picture? Resources are not unlimited but the elements and the weather have no limits.

Every boat tells a story. Every boat means so much to those who have given so much to save them from the scrap yard or reef. The sad reality is that not all of them will be able to be saved.

I am sure there are probably a few diesel boat sailors that will start a “I hate Mister Mac” campaign after this is published. I am sorry for that. This is not intended to say let’s kill this or any other boat memorial. I do not have that power or ability. But I do hope that there is a strategy to remember the boat in a way that is respectful and memorable. I also hope we have a good long discussion about the other boats that are either going through the same challenges or are about to.

If someone does come up with a strategy for stopping time, please let us all know what it is.

Some of us are more interested than others.

Mister Mac

Attack at Pearl Harbor by Japanese Planes on December 7, 1941 – Battleships, Battle Force After Action Report 3

 

A16-3/(0923)

UNITED STATES PACIFIC FLEET
  BATTLESHIPS, BATTLE FORCE
  U.S.S. MARYLAND, Flagship
  December 19, 1941
 
From: Commander Battleships, Battle Force.
To: Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet.
Subject: Attack at pearl Harbor by Japanese Planes on December 7, 1941.
 
Reference: (a) CO West Virginia ltr BB48/A16-3 of Dec. 11, 1941., with Combat ships lst end A16-3,(0974) of Dec. 13, 1941.
(b) CO Maryland ltr BB46/A16/0f10/(0229) of Dec. 15, 1941.
(c) CO Tennessee ltr BB43/A16-3/(0157) of Dec. 11, 1941.
(d) CO Pennsylvania ltr BB38/A16-3/(01535) of Dec. 16, 1941.
(e) CO California ltr (1002) of Dec. 13, 1941.
(f) CO Arizona ltr BB39/A16 of Dec. 13, 1941.
(g) CO Nevada ltr BB36/A9/A16(Nev-10) of Dec. 15, 1941.
Enclosure: (A) Berthing Plan of Battleships on December 7, 1941.
(B) Radio Log of Commander Battleships.
(C) Signal Log of Commander Battleships.
(D) Report of Captain W.R. Carter, U.S. Navy, Chief of Staff to Commander Battleships.
(E) Report of Lt.Col. R.R. Robinson, U.S.M.C.
(F) Report of Comdr. E.P. Kranzfelder, U.S. Navy.
(G) Report of Comdr. W.F. Fitzgerald, jr., U.S. Navy.
(H) Report of Comdr. W.V. Hamilton, U.S. Navy.
(I) Report of Comdr. L.S. Sabin, jr., U.S. Navy.
(J) Report of Lt.Comdr. D.H. Johnston, U.S. Navy.
(K) Report of Lt.Comdr. R.G. Lockhart, U.S. Navy.
(L) Report of Lt.Comdr. C.F. Horne, jr., U.S. Navy.
(M) Report of Lieut. E.P. Holmes, U.S. Navy.
(N) Report of Lieut. R.S. Mandelkorn, U.S. Navy.
(O) Report of Lieut. (jg) K.W. Patrick, U.S. Navy.
(P) Report of Ensign P.H. Dunkle, U.S.N.R.
(Q) Report of Ensign W.O. Beach, U.S.N.R.
(R) Report of Ensign F. Johnson, U.S.N.R.
(S) Report of Ensign C. Koeningberger, jr., U.S.N.R.
(T) Report of Ensign W.S. Bradway, jr., U.S.N.R.
(U) Report of Ensign C.H. Bradford, jr., U.S.N.R.
(V) Comments on Fire-fighting.
  • On the occasion of the treacherous surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, battleship ready guns opened fire at once. They were progressively augmented as the rest of the antiaircraft battery was manned as all battleships went to General Quarters with commendable promptness. This resulted in an early and great volume of antiaircraft fire. Considering all the circumstances, including the necessity for local control in the early stages of the attack, the control of fire was gratifyingly good as attested by the fifteen to seventeen enemy planes which were brought down. That such an antiaircraft fire could be inaugurated and sustained in spite of the difficulties resulting from early damage by torpedoes and bombs and great and menacing oil fires is a tribute to the courage, constancy, efficiency and resourcefulness of the officers and men. not only were they maintaining a sustained and aggressive fire whenever the enemy threatened, but they were engaged in valiant efforts to save the ships, prevent their capsizing and fighting large and menacing oil fires, enveloped in dense clouds of smoke. Severe structural damage and flooded magazines made replenishment of ammunition a serious problem, in overcoming which great courage and ingenuity was exhibited.
  • Commander Battleships’ endorsement on the detailed report of the West Virginia was forwarded separately, reference (a). Detailed reports of other ships, references (b) to (g), inclusive, were forwarded direct to the Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet with the exception of the U.S.S. Oklahoma whose report has not yet been received. Individual reports by members of Commander Battleships’ staff are forwarded herewith as enclosures (D) to (U), inclusive. Radio and signal logs of Commander Battleships are forwarded as enclosures (B) and (C) respectively. The signal log is known to be incomplete. That is probably true in less degree of the radio log.
  • Situation at beginning of attack. The battleships were disposed as follows: (See enclosure (A)).

Pennsylvania in drydock.
California in Berth Fox 3.
Maryland in Berth Fox 5 inboard.
Oklahoma in Berth Fox 5 outboard.
Tennessee in Berth Fox 6 inboard.
West Virginia in Berth Fox 6 outboard.
Arizona in Berth Fox 7 inboard, with the U.S.S. Vestal outboard.
Nevada in Berth Fox 8.

  • Movements of ships. During the action the Nevada got underway and was bombed while standing down the channel. The Vestal managed to clear the side of the Arizona and stood up to the northeastward in the channel. The positions of the berths and the approximate course of the Nevada and Vestal are shown on enclosure (A).
  • Description of attacks. The attacks were made apparently in four overlapping waves commencing at about 0755, and lasting until about 0915 as far as attacks on the battleships were concerned. it was noted that the last attack continued on the ships in the North Channel until about 0920.
  • The first attack, from about 0755 until shortly after 0800, was apparently a dive bombing attack or low altitude bombing attack, the objective being the Air Station on Ford Island. it is estimated that between five and ten planes made this attack. While this attack was in progress the second attack was made by torpedo planes commencing a minute or two before 0800 and continuing for ten or fifteen minutes. It is estimated that about eight to fifteen planes made the attack, coming in from the southeast at about 200 feet altitude and launching the torpedoes at an altitude estimated form 15 to 75 feet. The objective of this attack was the battleships and it is believed that all outboard ships at the berths with the exception of the Vestal were hit at least once. Apparently the torpedo which hit the Arizona passed under the Vestal. It was noted that during this attack a strafing attack was made from the rear cockpit of the torpedo planes.
  • During the latter part of the torpedo plane attack, dive bombing attacks were made from various directions. it is difficult to estimate the number of planes engaged in the dive bombing attack. The California estimated nine; the Tennessee estimated forty. it is probable that the correct number is about the average of these two. During the dive bombing attack it is believed that three types of bombs were used: light, medium, and incendiary. Numerous hits were made on the battleships resulting in considerable smoke and fire. A number of bombs fell near the battleships causing damage from fragments and splinters. During this attack many of the planes barely cleared the tops of the ship after releasing their bombs.
  • The fourth and last attack was a high-altitude horizontal attack during which heavy bombs were dropped. it is estimated that this lasted from about 0825 until shortly after 0900. The damage from these bombs was serious. it is believed that at least some of these bombs were converted fifteen or sixteen-inch shells. They penetrated with about 20-inch holes, low order detonation, and very little flame.
  • Action taken. When the attack first started, the Chief of Staff, Operations Officer and Assistant Material Officer were on board the flagship, Maryland. Other members of the Staff returned to the ship as soon as practicable, all arriving on board either during the action or shortly thereafter. Commander Battleships arrived on board about 0905 and immediately took general charge not only of the salvage and rescue work of the battleships but also assisted in retransmitting messages received from the Commander-in-Chief addressed to various light forces.
  • Material damage. Battleships have been requested to submit detailed reports of material damage, which will be forwarded upon receipt. The following is a preliminary summary of damage incurred by Battleships, Battle Force:
  • Nevada — the ship was struck by a torpedo at frame 40 port, at about the turn of the bilge, and by five bombs forward, of which two were heavy bombs. The anchor machinery and neighboring ship’s structure is wrecked, and the foremast is burned out from the bridge superstructure to the main deck. The ship is hard aground, in water shoaling from 9 fathoms forward to 2-1.2 fathoms aft. Within the ship, water is above the main deck forward, and above the second deck aft. The starboard screw has been damaged by grounding.
  • Oklahoma — The ship was struck by a number of torpedoes estimated at from 3 to 5, on the port side, and by an undetermined number of bombs. The almost immediate loss of stability caused her to capsize to port. Due to the shallowness of water at her berth, the upper works struck the bottom, and have kept the ship from capsizing completely. At present the starboard side of the ship, from the keep to about 15 feet above the turn of the bilge is above water. She is about 150° from upright. As far as is know, magazines were not flooded and fuel tanks are intact, except for those hulled by torpedo hits.
  • Pennsylvania — The ship was struck by a bomb in way of the starboard after antiaircraft battery. Damaged antiaircraft gun has been replaced, and as has the wrecked broadside gun below. Fire from destroyers forward in drydock caused no more than superficial burning of paint on the bow of the Pennsylvania.
  • Arizona — The ship was struck by a number of torpedoes estimated at from one to three, on the port side, and by three bombs from dive bombers. one bomb struck the face plate of No. 4 turret, was deflected, and exploded on the third deck; one penetrated just forward of the stack, and one went down the stack. The ship broke in two as a result of the explosion of a 14-inch powder magazine, probably abaft turret number 2, and a fierce fire ensued, which ravaged the portion of the ship still above water. The portion of the ship abaft the stack was relatively undamaged, and is aground in water four feet over the main deck.
  • California — The ship was struck by two torpedoes at frame 110 port, and by one torpedo at frame 47 port, and by from three to five bombs in the waist and forward part of the ship, one or more of which caused serious fire in the crew’s living spaces, which gutted that portion of the ship before it was flooded. The ship is now resting on the bottom, in water almost up to the boat deck level.
  • Tennessee — The ship was struck by two 15-inch A.P. bombs. One striking the center gun of No. 2 turret, cracked it. The other two guns are operable. The second, striking the rear left side of the roof of turret No. 3 pierced the roof plate, damaging the catapult, roof plate, roof girder, rangefinder, and rammer of the left gun. Repairs are underway.

The heat from the blazing Arizona, astern, and fuel oil afire on the water, started a fire in officer’s quarters aft, with subsequent damage to wiring, airplane machinery, and warping of shell plating aft, causing cracks and opening of joints. Repairs are underway on all of these items, including blanking shell airports aft in the affected area.

During the above fire, the ship flooded the after group of magazines. these were found to have suffered no damage when they were unwatered.

The stern airplane crane has been operated on full load but not on overload. A dead load shot has been fired by the after catapult.

Main deck plating aft is somewhat buckled due to heat, and the planking is charred. Repair is not considered urgent to prepare the ship for sea.

The Tennessee was pinched between the West Virginia and the forward interrupted quay. There is no evidence of excessive strain of the ship’s structure. Armor belts have been examined and found tight.

    • Maryland — The ship was struck by a light fragmentation bomb on the forecastle deck forward, which blew a hole about 12 feet by 20 feet in the deck, and caused minor structural damage in the compartments on the main deck below. This has been repaired.

A 15-inch A.P. bomb entered the water on the port bow close aboard, and pierced the shell at the twenty-three foot water line, near frame 11, exploding in compartment A-103-A, sail and awning stowage, causing widespread structural damage and flooding. Repairs are underway to make the ship seaworthy.

The torpedo air compressor rooms were flooded incident to this hit, placing both compressors out of commission. A steam air compressor has been installed in the ship to provide H.P. air until these compressors can be repaired. Small arms and .50 caliber machine gun magazine was flooded by the ship.

      • West Virginia — The ship was struck on the port side by 4 torpedoes, one bomb struck in the waist on the ship on the port side, and one struck the roof of turret No. 3, blew out its base plug and burned. Counter flooding prevented capsizing, but fire gutted the ship from the waist forward. The ship is aground, with water well over the second deck. The after magazines were flooded by the ship but it is uncertain whether or not the forward magazines were flooded.
      • General notes on material.
  • Information available at present indicates that machinery and fireroom spaces have incurred little or no damage from explosion or fire. On the Nevada, Oklahoma, Arizona, California and West Virginia the engineering plants are submerged.
  • The fires in the forward portions of the West Virginia and Arizona have caused warping and collapse of a considerable portion of structure.
  • Planes were ship based on the following ships: West Virginia, California, and Oklahoma. The West Virginia’s planes were destroyed by fire. one engine and propeller may be salvaged. California’s planes: 2-0-4 was taxied to the Naval Air Station, Pearl Harbor, after the bombing; 2-0-5 was thrown overboard as a fire hazard; 2-0-6 sustained minor damage. The Oklahoma’s planes were lost, although one was hoisted in after 48 hours submergence. This plane was so covered with fuel oil as to be unserviceable. Some parts including the engine will be salvaged.
  • The need for adequate splinter protection for topside personnel was vividly demonstrated. For example, the protection afforded by the King Board bulkheads provided considerable protection so far as it went. These bulkheads were pitted by many .50 caliber bullets and fragments. in no case were the bulkheads which were inspected holed. However, the protection afforded was inadequate. There should be gun shields, or better still, gun turrets. In the case of the Nevada, a bomb hit the boat deck and wiped out most of the personnel because no protection was afforded from inboard.

The need for splinter protection with lateral, all around, and overhead protection has been stressed by Commander Battleships in previous correspondence and the attack on Pearl Harbor served to emphasize its urgent necessity.

  • Commander Battleships’ previous correspondence regarding the turret roof armor was verified by the piercing of the turret top in the case of the West Virginia and Tennessee.
    1. Fire-fighting, rescue and salvage. As stated in paragraph 6 above, Commander Battleships upon his arrival took general charge of fire-fighting, rescue and salvage work. Burning oil from the Arizona was being carried on the surface of the water surrounding the Tennessee-West Virginia group and at times on the Maryland and capsized Oklahoma. The YG17 upon the initiative of her commanding officer, Chief Boatswain’s Mate, L.M. Jansen, U.S. Navy, took aggressive action in fighting the fire, taking station at the quarter of the West Virginia and maintaining her position there in spite of dense smoke and flame. Commander Battleships directed the Tern to assist and later when the Widgeon reported to assist in the rescue work on the hull of the capsized Oklahoma, directed that vessel to fight the fire. Later, the Bobolink was also directed to assist. These vessels kept the fire under control throughout the night and with the assistance of the Navajo on December 8 succeeded in extinguishing the fire in the West Virginia. These vessels were then directed to fight the fire in the Arizona which was gotten under control before dark the night of December 8.

The California was listing dangerously to port. The Nevada, which had gotten underway from her berth, and had been bombed in the channel, was beached in order to prevent sinking or capsizing.

Rescue work on the hull of the capsized Oklahoma was initiated by Commander Battleships and directed by Commander E.P. Kranzfelder and Lieutenant Mandelkorn of Commander Battleships’ staff, assisted by officers and men of the Oklahoma, men from the Rigel and Navy Yard Pearl Harbor and fire and rescue parties from the battleships. As a result of these efforts 32 men were rescued alive from the hull of the Oklahoma. See Enc. (V).

    1. Care of Survivors and Replacement of Ammunition. Shortly after the engagement, Captain H.D. Bode, U.S.S. Oklahoma, was directed to take charge of the survivors of the damaged battleships, then at Naval Air Station, Ford Island, and to contact Naval Ammunition Depot, Oahu and to arrange for the replacement of the ammunition expended. This officer, assisted by survivors from the Oklahoma, set up headquarters at West Loch and took over the responsibility of replacing ammunition, not only to the battleships but to other vessels in the harbor and Navy Yard, augmenting the force at Naval Ammunition Depot, Oahu.
    2. Personnel losses. (a) The following is a personnel table indicating the total officers and men attached to the ship prior to the attack, the number of casualties, the number of survivors, and the name of the senior surviving officer on each ship. The reports on which these figures are based are being corrected daily.
  On Board 1 Dec. Killed Injured Missing Survivors Senior surviving officer
Ship Off Men Off Men Off Men Off Men Off Men
Maryland* 108 1496 2 1 0 14 0 1 106 1480 Capt. Godwin
W. Virginia 87 1454 2 25 0 52 0 130 85 1247 Cdr. Hillendoetter
Tennessee* 94 1372 0 4 1 20 0 2 93 1337 Capt. Reordan
California* 120 1546 3 45 3 58 2 56 112 1382 Capt. Bunkley
Pennsylvania 81 1395 2 17 0 30 0 6 79 1340 Capt. Cooke
Arizona* 100 1411 2 54 5 39 47 1059 54 259 Cdr. Geiselman
Oklahoma 82 1270 0 20 2 30 21 415 59 805 Capt. Bode
Nevada 94 1390 3 34 5 104 0 16 85 1236 Capt. Scanland
Total 766 11334  14  200  16  347  70 1685  674  9086  
* Includes Flag personnel attached.
  • (b) The following named Division Commanders and Commanding Officers were killed:
  • Rear Admiral I.C. Kidd, U.S. Navy, Commander Battleship Division One.
    Captain F. Van Valkenburgh, U.S. Navy, Commanding Officer, U.S.S. Arizona.
    Captain M.S. Bennion, U.S. Navy, Commanding Officer, U.S.S. West Virginia
  • Conduct of personnel. In separate correspondence Commander Battleships has submitted to the Commander-in-Chief a report of the distinguished conduct of various individuals, as well as the ships’ companies in general. Commander Battleships cannot, however, conclude this report without paying homage to the universal exhibition of courage and magnificent fighting spirit by absolutely all the personnel of the battleships. Their conduct was in accord with the highest traditions of the Service.

[signed]
W.S. ANDERSON.

The Official Navy Department Statement regarding the Pearl Harbor Attack published One year after (1942) Reply

Seventy Five Years ago (1942) The Navy Department released a statement on the events that had transpired nearly one year before on December 7, 1941. The world was vastly different in those days when it came to the press and communications. The magnitude of the damage in Pearl was probably not understood fully by the people back home. After reading this report, I am not sure they were even then aware of how bad the attack was. The largest casualty was the strategy that had been built around the giant Battleships of the line that formed the core part of the nation’s defense. While most of the battleships were salvaged, none of the ones present would serve in a leading capacity against the Japanese Fleet. Aircraft and submarines that were freed from their limitations under the older doctrines would turn the tide and account for many of the decisive victories that would come in the next three years.

 

STATEMENT BY THE NAVY DEPARTMENT ON THE ATTACK AT PEARL HARBOR ON DECEMBER 7, 1941

Washington, D. C., December 5, 1942

New York Times, December 6, 1942.

 

On the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese aircraft temporarily disabled every battleship and most of the aircraft in the Hawaiian area. Other naval vessels, both combatant and auxiliary, were put out of action, and certain shore facilities, especially at the Army air bases, Hickam and Wheeler Fields, and the Naval air stations, Ford Island and Kaneohe Bay, were damaged. Most of these ships are now back with the Fleet. The aircraft were all replaced within a few days, and interference with facilities was generally limited to a matter of hours.

When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, two surface ship task forces of the Pacific Fleet were carrying out assigned missions at sea, and two such task forces were at their main base following extensive operations at sea. Discounting small craft, eighty-six ships of the Pacific Fleet were moored at Pearl Harbor. Included in this force were eight battleships, seven cruisers, twenty-eight destroyers and five submarines. No United States aircraft carriers were present.

As a result of the Japanese attack five battleships, the Arizona, Oklahoma, California, Nevada and West Virginia; three destroyers, the Shaw, Cassin and Downes; the minelayer Oglala; the target ship Utah and a large floating drydock were either sunk or damaged so severely that they would serve no military purposes for some time. In addition, three battleships, the Pennsylvania, Maryland and Tennessee; three cruisers, the Helena, Honolulu and Raleigh, the seaplane tender Curtiss and the repair ship Vestal were damaged.

Of the nineteen naval vessels listed above as sunk or damaged, the twenty-six-year-old battleship Arizona will be the only one permanently and totally lost. Preparations for the righting of the Oklahoma are now in process, although final decision as to the wisdom of accomplishing this work at this time has not been made. The main and auxiliary machinery, approximately 50 per cent of the value, of the Cassin and Downes were saved. The other fifteen vessels either have been or will be salvaged and repaired.

The eight vessels described in the second sentence of paragraph three returned to the Fleet months ago. A number of the vessels described in the first sentence of paragraph three are now in full service, but certain others, which required extensive machinery and intricate electrical overhauling as well as refloating and hull repairing, are not yet ready for battle action. Naval repair yards are taking advantage of these inherent delays to install numerous modernization features and improvements. To designate these vessels by name now would give the enemy information vital to his war plans; similar information regarding enemy ships which our forces have subsequently damaged but not destroyed is denied to us.

On Dec. 15, 1941 only eight days after the Japanese attack and at a time when there was an immediate possibility of the enemy’s coming back, the Secretary of the Navy announced that the Arizona, Shaw, Cassin, Downes, Utah and Oglala had been lost, that the Oklahoma had capsized and that other vessels had been damaged. Fortunately, the salvage and repair accomplishments at Pearl Harbor have exceeded the most hopeful expectations.

Eighty naval aircraft of all types were destroyed by the enemy. In addition, the Army lost ninety-seven planes on Hickam and Wheeler Fields. Of these twenty-three were bombers, sixty-six were fighters and eight were other types.

The most serious American losses were in personnel. As a result of the raid on Dec. 7, 1941, 2,117 officers and enlisted men of the Navy and Marine Corps were killed, 960 are still reported as missing and 876 were wounded but survived. The Army casualties were as follows: 226 officers and enlisted men were killed or later died of wounds; 396 were wounded, most of whom have now recovered and have returned to duty.

At 7:55 A.M. on Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese dive-bombers swarmed over the Army Air Base, Hickam Field, and the Naval Air Station on Ford Island. A few minutes earlier the Japanese had struck the Naval Air Station at Kaneohe Bay. Bare seconds later enemy torpedo planes and dive-bombers swung in from various sectors to concentrate their attack on the heavy ships at Pearl Harbor. The enemy attack, aided by the element of surprise and based on exact information, was very successful.

Torpedo planes, assisted effectively by dive-bombers, constituted the major threat of the first phase of the Japanese attack, lasting approximately a half hour. Twenty-one torpedo planes made four attacks, and thirty dive-bombers came in in eight waves during this period. Fifteen horizontal bombers also participated in this phase of the raid.

Although the Japanese launched their initial attack as a surprise, battleship ready machine guns opened fire at once and were progressively augmented by the remaining anti-aircraft batteries as all hands promptly were called to general quarters. Machine guns brought down two and damaged others of the first wave of torpedo planes. Practically all battleship anti-aircraft batteries were firing within five minutes; cruisers, within an average time of four minutes, and destroyers, opening up machine guns almost immediately, averaged seven minutes in bringing all anti-aircraft guns into action.

 

From 8:25 to 8:40 A.M. there was a comparative lull in the raid, although air activity continued with sporadic attack by dive and horizontal bombers. This respite was terminated by the appearance of horizontal bombers, which crossed and recrossed their targets from various directions and caused serious damage. While the horizontal bombers were continuing their raids, Japanese dive-bombers reappeared, probably being the same ones that had participated in earlier attacks; this phase, lasting about a half hour, was devoted largely to strafing. All enemy aircraft retired by 9:45 A.M.

 

Prior to the Japanese attack 202 United States naval aircraft of all types on the Island of Oahu were in flying condition, but 150 of these were permanently or temporarily disabled by the enemy’s concentrated assault, most of them in the first few minutes of the raid. Of the fifty-two remaining naval aircraft, thirty-eight took to the air on Dec. 7, 1941, the other fourteen being ready too late in the day or being blocked from take-off positions. Of necessity, therefore, the Navy was compelled to depend on anti-aircraft fire for its primary defensive weapon, and this condition exposed the Fleet to continuous air attack.

By coincidence, eighteen scout bombing planes from a United States aircraft carrier en route arrived at Pearl Harbor during the raid. These are included in the foregoing figures. Four of these scout bombers were shot down, thirteen of the remaining fourteen taking off again in search of the enemy. Seven patrol planes were in the air when the attack started.

 

This is one of the first pictures of the Japanese raid on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941. A P-40 plane which was machine-gunned while on the ground. (AP Photo)

There was a total of 273 Army planes on the Island of Oahu on Dec. 7, 1941. Very few of these were able to take off because of the damage to the runways at Hickam and Wheeler Fields.

It is difficult to determine the total number of enemy aircraft participating in the raid, but careful analysis of all reports makes it possible to estimate the number of twenty-one torpedo planes, forty-eight dive-bombers and thirty-six horizontal bombers, totaling 105 of all types. Undoubtedly certain fighter planes also were present, but these are not distinguished by types and are included in the above figures.

The enemy lost twenty-eight aircraft due to Navy action, and the Army pursuit planes that were able to take off shot down more than twenty Japanese planes. In addition, three submarines, of forty-five tons each, were accounted for.

The damage suffered by the United States Pacific Fleet as result of the Japanese attack on Dec. 7, 1941, was most serious, but the repair job now is nearly completed, and thanks to the inspired and unceasing efforts of the naval and civilian personnel attached to the various repair yards, especially at Pearl Harbor itself, this initial handicap soon will be erased forever.

Mister Mac

Diamond Anniversary – The First Battle of Savo Island (Part 8 – The Battle from the Japanese Perspective) Reply

Disaster at Savo Island, 1942

 by

Lieutenant Colonel David E. Quantock
United States Army

USAWC Class of 2002

U.S. Army War College, Carlisle Barracks, PA

These excerpts are from a Report called Disaster at Savo Island, 1942. This unique perspective of the battle is taken primarily from the Japanese point of view.

 

“Mikawa’s approach into the “Slot” of Savo Island was a feat of skillful seamanship augmented by luck. He had been sighted by submarines and different aerial reconnaissance missions on 8 August, all of which combined to give Admiral Turner an untimely and incomplete picture of Mikawa’s intentions. Mikawa was aided by the weather, as overcast skies with occasional rain squalls hid his task force, and he timed his attack to close on the Allied forces in the dark. Through the day of 8 August, he sent numerous organic reconnaissance aircraft (float planes) to compile a picture of the Guadalcanal and Tulagi area. By the time of the attack, he had nearly perfect intelligence on the disposition of the Allied force. Most importantly, he knew that the security forces were split into separate task forces divided by Savo Island. Though Mikawa was inferior in numbers, his plan created an opportunity to engage and destroy the unalerted Allied Force piecemeal.

 

Mikawa’s battle plan was drawn up and signaled to his strike force at 1642, 8 August. The plan called for his task force to sweep to the south side of Savo Island and torpedo the Allied ships off Guadalcanal. They were then to turn east and north to destroy the Tulagi landing force with torpedoes and gunfire. After the attack, the Japanese Force was to proceed around the north side of Savo Island and depart the area as soon as possible. Mikawa planned to order the attack at 0130 on 9 August 1942. The plan allowed enough time to conduct the attack and to get 120 miles away under the cover of darkness before daylight would permit counter-attack by aircraft from the U.S. carrier groups. Mikawa did not know the exact location of the carriers, but assumed they were about 100 miles to the south of Guadalcanal. His battle plan was executed nearly to perfection.

 

The weather was perfect for the attacking force. Cloud cover and intermittent thunderstorms created a screen between the Northern and Southern Forces and thus precluded mutual support.

At 1800 Mikawa received confirmation from his reconnaissance planes that all was well. At 1840 he signaled “Let us attack with certain victory in the traditional night attack of the Imperial Navy. May each one calmly do his utmost!”6

Vice Admiral Fletcher, already suffering the strain of Midway and Coral Sea, had a tough fight on 8 August. While the initial amphibious landings at Guadalcanal and Tulagi went well, his carriers lost twenty-one aircraft defending the Expeditionary Force against three Japanese air raids–air raids which could have distracted him from the sketchy and uncorrelated intelligence reports of Mikawa’s approaching 8th Fleet. These air raids disrupted the off-loading of General Vandegrift’s supplies and support equipment, and left Fletcher focused on attack by Japanese bombers and torpedo planes. At 1807, while Mikawa was approaching, Fletcher signaled Ghormley requesting permission to withdraw his carriers due to aircraft losses and low fuel state. While awaiting Ghormley’s reply, Fletcher repositioned the carriers, opening Savo Island.

Although Fletcher’s message was not meant for Admiral Turner, he received a copy of it and was immediately furious. The departure of the carrier group would deprive him of air cover and force the withdrawal of his amphibious force ships. Although land based aircraft were available from Admiral McCain’s task force, their distant bases and the obsolete, inadequate types of aircraft virtually mooted their role in defending against Japanese air raids. Turner’s forced departure placed the Marines in a precarious position; they lost both their transport ships and the warships that were providing them fire support. At 2042, Turner called a meeting with Admiral Crutchley and Major General Vandegrift. The meeting took place at 2315. The items of discussion at that meeting were of far less importance than the meeting’s very effect on the defending force. The meeting pulled Crutchley away from command of the defense force and, more importantly, took HMAS Australia from the Southern Force. This reduced the Southern Group’s combat power by a third. On departure from his force, Crutchley put Captain Bode in charge of the entire Southern Group but somehow neglected to inform the force. Bode assumed that Crutchley would return shortly and did not reposition USS Chicago to reoptimize the screening disposition, did not assert his new authority, and went to bed without issuing night orders. Crutchley, having finished the late meeting with Turner, decided to keep HMAS Australia close to shore with the transport ships because of the danger of rejoining the screening force at night, under poor weather conditions and without radio communications, which would risk a friendly fire situation or possible collision.

Meanwhile, Mikawa was heading towards Savo Island at 26 knots. At 2313, he launched two of his scout planes for a final look at the disposition of the Allied force. These scout planes were also responsible for dropping parachute flares at the proper time to illuminate the transports at Guadalcanal and Tulagi. These planes were spotted on radar and visually by a number of the Allied ships, but were assumed to be friendly because they were flying with running lights. Not a single ship took action against the planes beyond a single message from Ralph Talbot to Admiral Turner’s ship warning of the aircraft. The report, in any case, never got to Turner.

Mikawa headed toward his objective with his force in column formation. His flagship, Chokai, was in the lead. Because few of the other ships had ever worked together before, they were spread approximately 1300 yards apart. At 2230, the “Battle Warning” was sounded and the Allied Southern Force was sighted moving along the southern side of Savo Island.

 

The command “Prepare to Fire Torpedoes” was given at 0025 followed by “Battle Stations Alerted” at 0045.

Torpedoes

In the early stages of the war, no weapons system was more effective than the Japanese torpedo. It was dropped from airplanes, launched from just about every type of Japanese surface warship, and used by submarines. The Japanese torpedo caused more trepidation among naval commanders than any other type of munition. It would consume Admiral Crutchley’s defense of Guadalcanal. It would drive Fletcher’s focus to the security of his carrier group. The very threat of its presence would force Fletcher and Turner into an early exit from the landing areas.

There was good reason to respect the huge Japanese advantage in torpedoes. Their Long Lance torpedo dwarfed any U.S. torpedoes. The biggest advantage of the Japanese torpedo was that, unlike its American counterpart, it worked. The Long Lance exploded when it hit its target. The Long Lance weighed 1,090 pounds, could hit targets out to 22,000 yards (40,000 yards when traveling at 35 knots), and traveled at 49 knots. Powered by oxygen instead of air, unlike standard torpedoes the Japanese torpedo left a nearly wakeless trail. In comparison, the U.S. Torpedo Mark XV had a much smaller warhead and could only reach 6,000 yards at 45 knots or 15,000 yards at 26.5 knots. More discouragingly, U.S. torpedoes seldom detonated, even when scoring direct hits. A Long Lance torpedo sank one of Admiral Fletcher’s carriers during the Battle of the Coral Sea.

At the outbreak of the war, the Japanese Navy possessed some of the world’s finest torpedoes, including the fabled Long Lance. The quality of these weapons was no accident, but rather the result of Japan’s intensive efforts during the 1920’s and 30’s to make good the shortcomings of her battle fleet. Laboring as she did under the unfavorable 5:5:3 ratio of capital ships imposed by the Washington Naval Treaty, Japan would most likely be at a disadvantage in any Pacific conflict with the United States. She also knew well enough that the U.S. modeled its fighting doctrine on the famous ‘Plan Orange’, which called for an advance of the American battle fleet across the Pacific to relieve the Philippines. It was anticipated that at some location in the Western Pacific a decisive battle would be fought. In Japan’s view, some means must be found to offset its disadvantage in capital ships before this battle occurred, or its inferior battle line would be destroyed by the American force. Torpedo tactics and night combat were seized upon as one way to whittle down the American battle line as it made its way across the Pacific. Accordingly, Japan worked diligently to develop the tactics needed to implement this new doctrine, and also to create the weapons with which to carry it out. The result was that Japanese torpedoes showed a steady progression of improvements throughout the 1930’s, culminating in the development of the famous ‘Long Lance’ in 1935.

Designing and perfecting the Long Lance required solving some extremely difficult technical problems, most of which centered around the usage of pure oxygen as a fuel (rather than compressed air). Compressed air is nearly 77% nitrogen, which is useless for combustion, and also contributes to the visibility of the torpedo by leaving a bubble track on the surface. The usage of pure oxygen promised far greater power and propulsive efficiency, but it came with certain costs. The most glaring of these was how to use pure oxygen safely aboard a ship or submarine, given its inherently inflammable nature. Premature detonation of the torpedo upon firing was also a problem. However, the Japanese overcame these hurdles. Further, through meticulous live-testing of their weapons against ship targets, they perfected a warhead detonator that was rugged and reliable (The U.S. Navy’s BuOrd could certainly have taken a lesson or two here). The resulting weapon, the Type 93 torpedo, was fantastically advanced in comparison with its Western counterparts, possessing an unequaled combination of speed, range, and hitting power. This weapon, coupled with the flexible battle tactics practiced by Japan’s cruisers and destroyers, led to victory after victory in the early stages of the war. Only as American radar and gunfire control became increasingly sophisticated would the Japanese advantage in night battles begin to disappear, and even then a Long Lance-armed Japanese destroyer was still a thing to be feared.

 

At 0054, the lookouts on Mikawa’s ship spotted the picket ship USS Blue heading directly at them approximately 5 miles away. Just as Mikawa prepared to engage her, Blue made a 180 degree turn and headed away from the Japanese task force. With Ralph Talbot, the other screening ship, approximately 10 miles to his north, Mikawa had slipped between the pickets undetected. Neither of the picket ships detected Mikawa’s task force.

At 0133, as his force moved around the southern side of Savo Island, Mikawa gave the order “All Ships Attack!” Three minutes later his scouts picked up the destroyers Bagley and Patterson leading the Southern Force, followed shortly by the cruisers Canberra and Chicago. At 0136, Mikawa ordered “Independent Firing.” The Southern Force was then brought under torpedo attack. USS Patterson was the first to sight the attacking force and announced “WARNING–WARNING: STRANGE SHIPS ENTERING HARBOR!” Shortly after Patterson’s warning, Mikawa’s scout planes dropped their flares, illuminating not only the transports at Guadalcanal, but Chicago and Canberra as well. Canberra was the first ship hit and ultimately received two torpedo hits and a total of 24 gun hits. Captain Getting of the Canberra was killed. Canberra sank at 0800, 9 August. Both Bagley and Patterson escaped with minor damage while Mikawa’s force focused on Chicago. Chicago took a torpedo and a gun hit with little damage, and was saved further hits when she saw the trail ship of Mikawa’s force and went after it, sailing in the opposite direction of the attacking force. Chicago then lost sight of the enemy ship and was left without an enemy to pursue. Significantly, Captain Bode never warned the Northern Group that an attack was in progress. In 6 minutes, Mikawa had severely damaged the Allied Southern Group and was turning around Savo Island headed toward the unalerted Northern Group.

Mikawa’s luck only got better. At 0144, he made a rapid course change with his leading three cruisers, Aoba, Kako, and Kinugasa. The maneuver was missed by the last three, Yubari, Tenryu, and Furutaka, but this inadvertent split created two separate attacking divisions. Although this created a command and control problem for Mikawa, it put the Northern Force between two attacking forces.

For the Japanese, it was like shooting ducks in a pond.

The Northern Force was caught completely by surprise and pounded by Mikawa’s force. The devastating fire brought to bear on the task force sank Astoria, Vincennes, and Quincy.

Extremely successful at his first pass around Savo Island, Mikawa contemplated another. Fortunately for the Allied Forces, Mikawa had a number of concerns. His force was divided, it would take him almost three hours to bring it back together, and daylight was not far away. Daylight meant that he was very susceptible to air attack and he still had no idea where the carrier group was located. Finally, his ships were out of torpedoes, and a second attack using only guns would be much riskier. At 0220, Mikawa gave the order to retire up the Slot.

Mikawa left 1,023 sailors killed and over 700 wounded in his wake. In addition, he sank four Allied heavy cruisers and severely damaged a number of destroyers. This defeat expedited the departure of Turner’s Amphibious Task Force, leaving the under-supplied Marines to fend for themselves on Guadalcanal.”

End of part 8

 

Diamond Anniversary – The First Battle of Savo Island (Part 7 – The Marines on Shore and the Consequences) Reply

The operation at Guadalcanal was named “Watchtower” but to the Marines involved, it would forever be known as Operation Shoestring. As history records, the entire operation was put together in a hurry with limited resources and even less intelligence. One misstep after another compounded their misery and the disastrous events of the First Battle of Savo Island would mean the Marines on shore would have to fight twice as hard with meager supplies.

This Story comes from the book

Marines in World War II,  Historical Monograph, The Guadalcanal Campaign

by Major John L. Zimmerman, USMCR Historical Section, Division of Public Information Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps 1949

The Naval Withdrawal

The burning of the Elliott had two adverse consequences, entirely apart from the loss of the ships herself. Included in the supplies aboard her had been a good shore of the material of the 2d Battalion, 1st Marines, and that was lost. The second, and more serious, consequence was the fact that the glare caused by her burning allowed enemy observers in the neighborhood of Tassafaronga to see the cruisers and destroyers which were shortly to be attacked on that night of 8-9 August, and to report their presence to the advancing enemy task force.

In the evening of 8 August, General Vandegrift was called to a conference aboard the USS McCawley, flagship of Task Force 62. While there he was told that Admiral Turner had decided to remove all transports and cargo vessels from the area at 0600 next morning, 9 August. The reason given for this decision was the fact that advice had come from Admiral Fletcher, Commander, Task Force 61, telling of a shortage of fuel and of the loss of 21 of his 99 planes, and of his consequent decision to withdraw.

This posed a new and most alarming problem for General Vandegrift and his staff. Plans made by the division had been formulated on the assumption that the ships would remain for four days in the target area so that all supplies could be put ashore. However, even with the removal of all supplies to the beach, the division would have been in a somewhat precarious position, for the shortage of shipping and the unforeseen demand for haste had made necessary a cut below the basic allowances ordinarily prescribed. The unloading process, as we have seen, had been complicated by a condition approaching chaos on the beach, and the movement from ship to shore had been stopped as a result. The withdrawal of the supply ships, therefore, was, from a troop standpoint, little short of a catastrophe, but Admiral Turner’s decision was not changed.

Shortly after midnight of 8-9 August, moreover, friendly surface forces operating in the Solomons area suffered a sudden and overwhelming defeat. The events leading up to the disastrous Battle of Savo Island are interesting.

There can be no doubt at this time that the American attack on Tulagi and on Guadalcanal came as a surprise to the enemy at Rabaul as well as to the smaller forces in the target area.

The American convoy had been sighted as it approached the area by an enemy lookout in the vicinity of Cape Esperance. There appears to have been a breakdown in communications between his post and Tulagi, for his warning did not alert the people on the latter island. The attack, moreover, cut the area off from communication with the enemy rear areas (the radio installations on Tulagi, Gavutu, and Tanambogo had been destroyed by the prelanding bombardment by the San Juan and the two destroyers which accompanied her). Captain Miyazaki, of the Imperial Japanese Navy, who was on duty at Rabaul at the time, was questioned on November, 1945, as a prisoner of war. He said, in speaking of the events of 7 August 1942, “Early in the day we lost communication with Gavutu, so did not know what happened.”

Communication must have been reestablished quickly, however, or else the enemy must have been able to deduce, from the silence that had fallen over its forces in the Tulagi area, that an attack had been mounted. By afternoon of 7 August a naval task force was being assembled from units in Kavieng and Rabaul. It was formed from elements of the 8th Fleet, and consisted of five heavy cruisers–Chokai (flying the flag of Rear Admiral Gunichi Mikawa, CinC, 8th Fleet), Kako, Furutaka, Aoba (Rear Admiral Goto), Kinugasa, the light cruiser Tenryu (Rear Admiral Matsuyama), and Yubari–with one old destroyer Yunagi from the 4th Destroyer Division. Rendezvous was effected northwest of Bougainville, and the force came down the stretch of water which lies between the parallel chains of islands of the group and which was later to become known as the “Slot”.

This force was sighted at 1130 on the morning of 8 August by a U.S. observation plane which maintained contact with it for about an hour.39 The results of the observation were reported at once, but through some mix-up in the communication chain which has never been satisfactorily explained, the screening force of United States and Australian ships apparently was not apprised of the potential danger which the enemy task force presented.

The screening force, divided in two groups, was patrolling the approaches to the transport area on each side of Savo Island when, at about 0130 of the morning of 9 August, it was attacked and overwhelmingly defeated by an enemy force which immediately retired from the area. No attempt was made by the Japanese to pursue the advantage which had been gained, and the transport area was left unmolested. The attack had been preceded by the dropping of flares from Japanese cruiser-based planes, and information subsequently got from prisoners indicates that the attacking force was aided by observation from Cape Esperance made possible by the illumination from the flares and from the burning transport, Elliott.

The results of the attack were little short of catastrophic for the Allied forces. Of the five cruisers on station at the time, four were sunk and the other badly damaged. Chicago sustained damage, while Astoria, Vincennes, Canberra, and Quincy sank during the night and the early morning.

Post-war interrogation of Japanese prisoners answered a question which arose immediately after the Japanese withdrawal–why had the attacking force refrained from annihilating the then defenseless transports? It appears that one 8-inch round fired from the second group to be attacked–the Northern Group–penetrated the operations room of Chokai, destroying all equipment and charts. This together with the fact that there was some delay in resuming proper formation, impelled Vice Admiral Mikawa to withdraw rather than run the risk of being overtaken by planes during a later withdrawal.

A belated vengeance overtook another ship of the force when Kako, about to enter the harbor of Kavieng the next morning, was sunk off Simberi Island by an American submarine, the old S-44.

End of Part 7

 

Diamond Anniversary – The First Battle of Savo Island (Part 5 – End of the Canberra and Astoria) 1

Part 5

END OF THE CANBERRA

When the enemy left the Canberra she was lying helpless and afire approximately 5 miles southeast of Savo Island. Capt. Getting was fatally wounded, and the executive officer, Comdr. J. A. Walsh, R. A. N., took command. He at once initiated measures to save the ship. Gasoline tanks were jettisoned and torpedoes fired. Bucket brigades were formed and enough progress was made in fighting the fire to permit some ammunition to be reached and dumped overboard. All magazines had been flooded. All rafts and cutters were lowered, and as many wounded as possible were placed in the cutters.

About 0300 the Patterson, which had been directed by the Chicago to stand by the Canberra, approached and was asked to come along the windward side amidships to supply hose for fighting the fire. As the Patterson drew up, however, the remaining ready service ammunition on the Canberra began to explode and the cruiser signaled, “You had better wait.” It was not until an hour later that the destroyer could finally secure along her port side to pass over four hoses and a pump. By this time the fires had gained considerable headway, and the ship was listing about 17° to starboard. Heavy rain squalls with thunder and lightning passed over from time to time. They made the sea choppy, but not enough water fell to aid appreciably in controlling the fires.

The Patterson about 0500 received Admiral Crutchley’s message stating that it was urgent that the Task Force leave the area by 0630, and that if the Canberra could not be put in condition to depart by that time, she should be abandoned and destroyed. When this order was communicated to Comdr. Walsh he “realized that the situation was hopeless” and decided to abandon ship. Some of the wounded had already been transferred to the destroyer, but abandonment of the ship was delayed because none of the Canberra’s crew would leave until all wounded had been removed.

This process was presently interrupted by a radar contact made by the Patterson about 8,000 yards on the port quarter. The contact slowly approached to 3,000 yards. The Patterson challenged three times without receiving any reply. Then she ordered all lights out on the Canberra and hastily got underway, cutting or parting all lines.

The Patterson then illuminated the strange ship, and was at once fired upon. The Patterson fired three salvos in reply before it was realized that the ship resembled the Chicago, and an emergency identification signal was fired. Thereupon both ships ceased fire. Fortunately no damage resulted from this exchange.

When this incident occurred, the Chicago was en route from the XRAY area to investigate gunfire seen in the direction of Savo. At 0525 a vessel which she had been tracking by radar illuminated her. Although orders had been given not to fire, two guns of the starboard 5-inch battery at once fired on the searchlight. The officer in charge of the starboard battery immediately ordered cease fire, but when the destroyer returned the fire, the starboard 5-inch and 1.1-inch control officers ordered fire. The captain then ordered cease fire. The destroyer made what the Chicago considered the wrong identification signal, but both ships ceased fire.

Meanwhile on board the Canberra preparations continued for removing the rest of the wounded and abandoning ship. Dawn was breaking when about 0550 a cruiser and a destroyer were seen on the port beam, and soon afterward the Chicago, the Patterson and the Blue could be identified. The two destroyers completed taking off personnel. The Patterson had on board 400 survivors and the Blue about 250, who were subsequently transferred to the transports at XRAY. When the Canberra was abandoned she was listing about 20° and was burning furiously amidships.

This task was scarcely completed when (0640) the Selfridge arrived in the vicinity of the Canberra. She was returning from the destroyer rendezvous with the Mugford when at 0540 she received orders that all ships were to retire at 0630. The Mugford on the way toward the transport area stopped to pick up survivors from the cruisers, chiefly from the Vincennes, while the Selfridge received orders to stand by the Canberra. On the way she again passed the Astoria, still burning. The sun was just rising when she approached the Australian cruiser, the last of the personnel of which were being removed by the Patterson. The Selfridge was then ordered to sink the Canberra. She fired at her 263 rounds of 5-inch shells and 4 torpedoes. Only one of the torpedoes exploded under the cruiser. One passed the Canberra and exploded in the wake of the Ellet, which was coming up at full speed. While the Selfridge was firing these shells into the Canberra, the Ellet, which had spent the last few hours picking up survivors of the Quincy, came up about 0730. The Ellet from a distance observed the Selfridge firing on the burning cruiser. Being unable to contact the Selfridge by TBS, the Ellet concluded that she was engaged with a disabled Japanese cruiser. She therefore closed at full speed, setting course to cross the bow of the cruiser. At 5,000 yards she fired her first salvo, which was on for several hits. She then ceased fire on information from CornDesRon FOUR that the cruiser was the Canberra. The Selfridge’s large expenditure of ammunition having failed to send the Canberra down, the Ellet was a little later ordered to complete the job. Choosing a favorable angle she fired a torpedo into the cruiser, which turned over to starboard and sank by the bow at 0800.

END OF THE ASTORIA CA 34

When the enemy ceased fire at 0215, the Astoria had lost power and steering control. The captain abandoned the now useless bridge and took a station on the communication deck forward of turret II. About 400 men, 70 of whom were wounded, were assembled on the forecastle deck. The ship had a 3ƒ list to port, but the first lieutenant, Lt. Comdr. Topper, after an investigation reported that the ship was tight forward of the engineering spaces and that there were no serious fires below the second deck. The fires amidships prevented access aft, and conditions there were unknown, but the ship appeared to be on fire all the way from the navigation bridge aft.

There was, however, a group of about 150 men, headed by the executive officer, Comdr. Frank E. Shoup, Jr., on the fantail of the vessel, similarly unaware that there were any other survivors on the ship. Comdr. Shoup and others had abandoned Battle II about the time of the near-collision with the Quincy. Because all regular access was cut off, they came down by means of a rope, after lowering the wounded. All mainmast stations were abandoned about the same time. As it was feared that the enemy was closing in to finish off the ship, turret III was kept manned, although it had no power, and the 1.1-inch guns were kept manned until the ship was abandoned. The 8-inch magazine remained cool and so was not flooded until sometime later when smoke began to enter it. The blowing up of the Quincy astern, however, caused considerable apprehension about a magazine explosion.

Life rafts were lowered over the side and secured, and the wounded were put on them with enough able-bodied men to care for them. Those who were too badly injured to be moved were lashed to buoyant mattresses.

Meanwhile an effort to salvage the ship was underway. The engineer officer, Lt. Comdr. John D. Hayes, had appeared on deck, almost overcome by smoke, but soon recovered and assisted in directing this work. He thought that the engine rooms were intact and most of the firerooms. Upon reception of this encouraging report, bucket brigades were formed and were soon making sufficient headway to be able to penetrate a little into the hangar. The work was greatly assisted by rain, which began about 0330.

Meanwhile the captain had organized a similar effort forward and made some progress in driving the fire aft along the starboard side. During this work it was discovered that No.1 fireroom was completely in flames, and the fire in this area appeared so extensive that the captain ordered the flooding of the magazines. The 8-inch rooms were flooded, but it seemed doubtful that the flooding of the 5-inch magazines was successful. A particularly intense and persistent fire in the wardroom area defied all attempts to subdue it, and ultimately balked the effort to save the ship. A gasoline-powered handy billy had been rigged up, but the small stream of water it could pump into this fire had very little effect. The sound of this pump about 0400 was the first indication to those on the fantail that there was other life on the ship. In spite of these efforts, the fire continued to spread until it reached the ammunition in the hoists, causing frequent explosions.

The Bagley was finally attracted by blinker and was asked to come alongside and place her starboard bow against that of the Astoria. The wounded were transferred, followed by the able bodied. While the Bagley was pulling away a flashing light could be seen on the stern of the Astoria, welcome evidence that there were men alive in that part of the ship.

Since there seemed to be no dangerous fire aft on the Astoria, the Bagley signaled to those on the stern that they had been seen and then turned to the more urgent task of rescuing survivors from the Vincennes on rafts or in the water and those who had been forced by fire to jump overboard from the Astoria. At daylight the Bagley put her bow alongside the Astoria’s stern and took off the men.

Inasmuch as a survey of the situation indicated that the cruiser might yet be saved, a salvage crew of about 325, headed by the captain and all able bodied officers, was put back aboard. The list had not increased, and the engineer officer reported that he thought he could get up steam if he could get power. The fires seemed to have moderated and the prospects seemed good.

Bucket brigades were again formed, and the engineer officer and his men went to work. About 0700 the minesweeper Hopkins came up and attempted to take the Astoria in tow. The first line parted, but a cable from the Astoria held and the Hopkins was making progress, in spite of the cruiser’s tendency to swing sideways, when the minesweeper was called away.

A report to the Task Force Commander that there was a possibility of salvaging the Astoria if power and water were made available brought up the Wilson about 0900. She began to pump water into the fire forward, but an hour later she too was called away. Word was sent that the Buchanan was coming to help fight the fire and the Alchiba to take the ship in tow. Before they arrived, the fire gained new headway and the list increased to 10ƒ. There were frequent explosions, and after a particularly heavy one at 1100, yellow gas could be seen coming to the surface abreast the forward magazine. When the list increased to 15ƒ the holes in the port side began to take water. Attempts had been made to plug them, but these were ineffective. When the Buchanan came up at 1130 it was already evident that the ship would not remain afloat much longer. By 1200 the main deck was awash to port, and the order was given to abandon ship. The crew left with the two life rafts and with powder cans which had been lashed together.

By the time the executive officer and captain left, the list was close to 45° and water on the main deck had reached the barbette of turret III. Soon afterward “the Astoria turned over on her port beam and then rolled slowly and settled slightly by the stern. The bottom at the bow raised a few feet above the water as she disappeared below the surface at 1215.”

Before the Buchanan had finished picking up the survivors from the water, she made a submarine contact and left to track it, but returned later and, with the Alchiba, picked up the entire salvage crew.

End of Part 5