By God’s Help and Teamwork – The Naval Battle of Guadalcanal November 1942 Reply

Thanksgiving Weekend 1942 – Washington DC

The headlines on the front page of the Washington Evening Star on November 28th, 1942 were focused on the recent events in the Battle of Tunis in Northern Africa. Thanksgiving was just completed and the Navy football Team was lauded for a surprise win over Army in the annual traditional game. Mrs. Tom Girdler of Cleveland was granted a divorce in Reno Nevada from her husband who was a Cleveland Steel Manufacturer (Republic Steel) and manufacturer of airplanes in San Diego for the war effort. (buried later in the paper on page A-11 was the announcement of his nuptials to his 36 year old secretary on the same day).

But the interesting story was buried on page A11. Eugene Burns (associated Press War Correspondent) was finally able to file his reports on a battle that had happened between the dates of November 12-15.

In recent conflicts, the American people have been treated to nearly instant reports from the press about the actions of our armed forces. Almost as soon as the missile leaves the tubes of a submerged submarine, reports are made available to the public. Live shots from the shock and awe campaign in Iraq were spread all over the globe with the accompanying sirens of the Iraqi air raid system as a backdrop.

But things were different in November of 1942 and throughout most of the Second World War. Restrictions on information were considered necessary so that the enemy could not gain any advantage from having too much information. The full report from Pearl Harbor’s disaster was not even released until the following year. While rumors of the extent of the damage had already been shared by returning servicemen and civilians who fled the island, official confirmation was rare and sketchy.

So it is no surprise that the Navy and the press would be reluctant to share the complete story of what was later known as the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal.

The battle that raged from November 12th to the 15th was both heroic and horrific. The stunning losses would not be revealed for quite some time after the battle but the losses in men and ships on both sides had consequences that changed the course of the war. Combined with the sacrifices of Marines and Army troops on the straggled little island of Guadalcanal, the road to Tokyo took a decidedly sharp turn on the final day of the battle.

To read the story in the Washington Star, however, you would have a sense of the battle but little detail of any use.

From the beginning of the battle to the end, the United States would lose more ships and Navy men than in any battle of its kind to date. It would also be one of the most significant surface actions ever recorded in US Navy history. But at a tremendous cost. 

Washington Evening star. [volume], November 28, 1942, Page A-11, Image 13

Jap Task Force Demolished Off Guadalcanal By ‘God’s Help’ and Teamwork of All Hands
Here are three delayed dispatches from Eugene Burns, Associated Press correspondent, giving an eyewitness account of the naval battle at Guadalcanal November 12 to 15.

By EUGENE BURNS,
Associated Press War Correspondent. WITH THE UNITED STATES PACIFIC FLEET, Nov. 16 (Delayed).

We have been slaying the Japs for the last four days. We left some 20,000 of their best pioneer troops swimming in the ocean. We sent tens of thousands of tons of their irreplaceable forced steel into the Jap sinkhole off Guadalcanal. As we steam away from that wreckage the “well done” from Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, commander of the Pacific Fleet, is still ringing over our loudspeaker system.

This we know: The entire Jap transport fleet of 12 vessels was hopelessly destroyed.

A Jap battleship was badly damaged and perhaps sunk by cruiser gunfire, and then seven torpedoes and several heavy bomb hits. Five Jap cruisers were badly damaged and perhaps sunk by shellfire and heavy bomb hits and torpedoes. Many Jap destroyers were hit and sunk. A Jap air group was knocked from the sky. Some of our heavy ships have yet to send in their bag. Indications are that it will be considerable.

(A Navy communique November 16 describing this action listed the Japanese losses as one battleship sunk, three heavy cruisers sunk, two light cruisers sunk, five destroyers sunk, eight transports sunk, one battleship damaged, six destroyers damaged and four cargo transports destroyed.)

The smashing victory, the biggest since Midway, took a Navy pilot to fly beyond the safe distance of his gasoline supply to locate the Jap transport fleet and to send back a more accurate disposition of the enemy than yet achieved in the Pacific war.

San Francisco Waded in.

It took the cruiser San Francisco, already damaged by a flaming crash-diving plane, to wade in and polish off a Jap destroyer, explode a Jap cruiser, and then slug it out with a Jap battleship of the Kongo class—8-inch batteries against 14 or 16 inchers at a range of 2.000 yards.

It took the Army’s B-17s and fighter planes to keep the Jap fleet harassed, to knock down their fighters, to soften the opposition, to demoralize the Jap air force and to give our attacking force much-needed protection. It took an Army transport with 6-inch guns to get into the fight. It took men in compartments deep below the water line to man their battle stations while relief crews stood by hour after long hour, until night came, ready to replace instantly worn out crews.

It took the marines, who had been bombed and shelled and harried for four months and who had talked of home and had cherished pocketbook pictures of loved ones and who had been sick with dysentery and joked about pulling their belts up tighter to stand off the Jap and to hold Henderson Field so that air superiority never was lost.

Battle Took God’s Help.

It took God’s help. The seamen will be the quickest to acknowledge it. Our striking forces moved in on the Jap with everything but numbers in our favor. The weather  was right. The disposition of the Jap was right. The disposition of our forces, gathered from thousands of miles, was right.

To fill out the background of the picture: For four months the Jap had perfected his plans for this knockout blow to keep this Tokio Guadalcanal air express, via Jap mandated and occupied islands, intact. His schedule was upset the dawn of August 7, when the biggest United States naval force ever assembled in the Pacific landed marines who proved a five-to-one match with the jungle-fighting Japs.

He then used Rabaul as a terminal to his hop, skip and jump route from Tokio by making his airpower available to the tips of his conquest. Because his planes from Rabaul could not gain supremacy of the air over Guadalcanal, he projected a terminal to Buin, Faisl, Rekata Bay, Gizo and Buka. The Jap used everything in the book to wipe out American forces from their projected Guadalcanal base. Submarines shelled positions, transports attempted and made landings. Small patrol boats, landing barges, destroyers, cruisers were used to bring in overwhelming numbers of Japs. They hacked at the marines. United States Army forces. Coast Guardsmen, day in and day out, night in and night out.

Camouflaged Invasion Barges.

At one time they had 50 invasion barges camouflaged with trees and brush on their way to Guadalcanal. Two young Navy carrier pilots hit that group and strafed it and sent it back to its base, after which the marine pilots joined with the Navy pilots to wipe it out. The Jap then prepared for a giant frontal assault to overcome any opposition and to take the field at all costs and to drive American forces into the sea.

On October 25 the Japs had what seemed overwhelming power massed to shell the island with battleships, to knock it out with a carrier-based airplanes, and to occupy it with a strong transport force.

On October 26 an American task force sought out the enemy ships in his own submarine filled waters northeast of Santa Cruz and although outclassed 2-to-l engaged him. We lost a carrier and a destroyer. The Japs suffered damage
to one carrier, perhaps the loss of a second and damage to several heavy
warships. More important, perhaps, the Japs had four air groups consisting of 167 to 177 planes chewed up. A carrier attacked by 84 planes knocked down 34.

Reorganized Striking Force

Without air protection the Japs retired and quickly reorganized a surface striking force to move into the Solomons in sufficient numbers for a frontal assault supported by heavy night bombardment by battleships. heavy cruisers and destroyers.

It was an A, B, C maneuver. The battleships, cruisers and destroyers would lie out 250 miles out of reach of our aircraft and protected by carriers farther back. At 4 o’clock in the afternoon they would begin steaming in at high speed for their night shelling.

On the afternoon of November 12, 25 Jap torpedo planes and eight fighters struck at our cruisers screening force and transports at Guadalcanal. One of 30 which were shot down crash-dived on the cruiser San Francisco as announced
by a Navy communique.

That night off Guadalcanal the Japs sent in their mighty sweeping force. They were engaged by what seemed a puny screening force of American cruisers and destroyers.

The hopelessly outmatched American force waded in. Typical of that night’s action was the work of the already damaged cruiser San Francisco. While blowing up a Jap cruiser, she engaged a destroyer on the side and sank it. Then she closed in on a Jap battleship of the Kongo class, called the Pagoda by our flyers because of its superstructure, and hit it 18 times at 3,000 yards. Other Jap units also were hit.

Dead in Water.

The Japanese battleship was observed next morning dead in the water. She got under way at seven knots when seven torpedoes were rammed through her hull and some heavy bombs penetrated her deck. The San Francisco received no vital damage.

This determined action of our staunch little cruiser force and destroyers prevented any shelling of Henderson Field that night, thus enabling aircraft to operate from it to maintain local air superiority.

The next morning, Friday, November 13, two hours’ before day break, Lt. (j. g.) Martin D. Carmody, 25, San Jose, Calif., took off on search and found the Japanese transports by flying beyond his assigned area despite the fact that this endangered his return by lowering his fuel supply. After making his report—described by Lt. Hubert B Harden, Iowa Falls, Iowa, air operations officer, as the most accurate of any aerial report of the war in the Pacific—he flew his Douglas Dauntless back to the Japanese convoy and his bomb was a near miss off the stern of one transport. His group attacked other units, causing heavy damage to two heavy cruisers, perhaps sinking one of them. It was a raging furnace when the flyers left.

Led Flyers for Kill

Lt. Carmody returned to his carrier long overdue and later led attacking bombers and strafers in for the kill. Planes raked the transports with a murderous fire from guns capable of driving projectiles through thick steel plate. Discharged from screaming dive bombers the machine gun bullets can sometimes penetrate several decks and even pass out through the hull of a transport.

After the first group finished knocking out the escort opposition a pilot going in inquired of a returning pilot, “Did you leave any opposition?” “A little but nothing to worry about.” “There isn’t any task force there anymore. Just some transports. I’d say about five good ones left,” it was reported by one of the pilots of the second group which participated. A third attack group was told “I’d suggest you attack the good ones and dump ’em all. Just pick out any one and go to it.”

Carrier Strength Expended

Apparently the carrier strength of the Japanese had been expended the day before when 33 planes attacked our cruiser screening force and as they were engaged in protecting transports. The carriers during this last action apparently had pulled out and were streaking for safety.

On the afternoon of the 14th Lt. Macgregor Kilpatrick. 26, of Southampton. N. Y. “found and downed” a second Kawanishi which sighted our attack force. His wingman. Ensign William K. Blair. 26, of Toledo, said that it took about 40 shots apiece to drop the four-motored job flaming into the water.

During the night of the 14th one Japanese transport and three cargo vessels succeeded in getting to Guadalcanal attempting to land about 10 miles from the American Henderson field positions. These four ships were met with gunfire. A heavily damaged American cruiser limped out of port and completed the utter devastation of the Japanese transports. That night to complete the carnage several of our heaviest units moved into Guadalcanal and gave the Japanese a taste of heavy caliber gunfire. Marines who watched the engagement off Guadalcanal said that today’s firing was the heaviest they had heard.

Planes’ Attack on Battleship Left Only Oil Slick


WITH THE UNITED STATES FLEET IN THE SOUTH PACIFIC, Nov. 17 (Delayed) (A5).

Lt. Albert P. Coffin submitted the first report of how one small squadron of torpedo plane pilots torpedoed a Kongo-class Japanese battleship, two cruisers and four transports.

Lt. Coffin, who was graduated from Annapolis in 1934, was leading his flight through some protective clouds when he saw the enemy battleship, accompanied by a cruiser and four destroyers, steaming slowly past Savo Island, off the northwest coast of Guadalcanal. It was the morning of Friday, the 13th. (He was to learn later that the battleship had been hit earlier that morning by a torpedo from a Marine Corps plane.)
Lt. Coffin’s squadron climbed for a torpedoing position. The planes then dived and swooped down from opposite sides for their prize. Columns of water funneled into the air as the Americans’ torpedoes struck the ship’s vitals. The battleship stopped dead in the water.

This action occurred when the battleship was only about 20 minutes from a position to shell Henderson Field on Guadalcanal, where American Marines and Army troops were expecting a Japanese offensive to recapture the island.

May Have Saved Day.

By stopping this battleship short of its objective, Lt. Coffin and his fellow flyers may have saved the day for the Americans in their sea victory over the Japanese fleet during the November 12-15 fight. Navy officers said that if the battleship had succeeded in shelling Henderson Field, it might have been Impossible for our planes to use the field for takeoffs to help the surface ships during the fight.

Lt. Coffin’s torpedo squadron scored more hits on the battleship and, when last seen that evening, the ship’s stern was afire and men were abandoning the vessel. The next morning, the scene was marked only by an oil slick 2 miles in

diameter.
That was November 14. That day more Japs ships were intercepted by the squadron which torpedoed two cruisers, leaving one of the Mogami class, burning fiercely. The planes also set upon transports, making life most unpleasant for perhaps a division of 15,000 amphibious troops bound for an attack on Guadalcanal.

Turned to Landed Troops.

The flyers then turned their attention to troops and equipment that had been landed on Guadalcanal from four transports which had managed to escape the fire of American planes and surface ships.

Many bombs were dropped on these troops, Lt. Coffin said. During the entire action, every plane in Lt. Coffin’s squadron received at least one anti-aircraft hit, but not one man was injured. Lt. Coffin gave credit for his squadron’s performance to Marine Corps fighter pilots who “gave my planes splendid fighter protection which was beautifully coordinated.”

Log of Action.

“Those marines don’t know fear,” Lt. Coffin declared. “If one of them sees something he’ll go up and take a poke at it regardless.” The log of the attacks gives a picture of what Lt. Coffin’s pilot, with marine fighter protection, did during the battle:

November 13 – first attack. Fish (torpedo) on port side forward and on starboard side amidships. About 13 Zeros overhead. Moderate antiaircraft fire. Second attack. Hits on starboard side of the battleship and on her port bow. At this time the Kongo vessel was about 10 miles north of Savo Island and heading north at about two knots.

November 14—Third attack consisted of intercepting Japs’ ships 170 miles away. Found five cruisers and four destroyers. Lead cruiser of Mogami class. Hits on right flank starboard side. Hit and one near miss and direct bomb hits on second cruiser. Leading Mogami – class cruiser observed burning fiercely and second cruiser observed smoking. Fourth attack against Jap transports some 125 miles distant. Two undamaged transports hit with torpedo amidships. Six Zero fighters gave opposition. Thousands of Japs seen jumping overboard. Fifth attack diving on two transports dead in the water. Hit and near miss scored on each. The hit broke one transport in half.

November 15.—Raids made on four transports which had been aground west of Point Cruz. Direct bomb hits scored and ships burning fiercely. Remnants of Japs estimated at three divisions amphibious troops bombed and received Molotov baskets (bomb clusters) with our compliments

Opening Battleship Salvos Made Direct Hits on Japs

ABOARD A UNITED STATES BATTLESHIP IN THE SOUTH PACIFIC, Nov. 18 (Delayed).

Opening salvos of two United States battleships scored direct hits on the surprised Japanese fleet from a distance of about 8 miles in the historic naval battle off Savo Island the night of November 14-15.

The action was related today by the communications officer on “unidentified ship” which participates in the mighty blow which, sank one Jap battleship or heavy cruiser, three heavy cruisers and at least two Jap destroyers in addition to several ships damaged. Here is his story:

“On the morning of the 14th we received reports of heavy Jap bombardment of Guadalcanal. Our first job was to get there. We were too late. That day we milled out of sight of the Japs. We received news that two large groups of Jap transports with escorts were on the way to Guadalcanal. One group consisted of two battleships, one heavy cruiser, two light cruisers and about six destroyers.

‘‘Engage and Destroy.”

‘‘Orders were given to us “engage and destroy Jap transports which were crippled by air attacks during the day.’ “About 6 p.m. we made our first definite change of course to Savo Island. At sunset, about 7:46 p.m., we went into battle stations. An announcement of our task and known disposition if the enemy was made to the men in keeping with our normal policy of keeping our men intelligently informed.

When that news was delivered the men were asked ‘Men, what is your answer?’ Every man responded ‘Yea!’
A captain or Marines said over the speaker system, ‘the Marines are ready to give them hell any time.’
“Our best record of going into general quarters, was bettered by one and one-half minutes. The men were out to break records. This was the chance we wanted.

“Shortly after 9 o’clock we saw fires which appeared to be explosions to the northwest, about 30 to 40 miles west of the Russell Islands. It is my belief that the Japs were either firing upon their own units or that they were dispatching their own damaged ships to the ocean floor.

Tension on Ships Increased.

“As we approached Savo Island the tension of our ships increased. Our men began seeing things that were not there. Innumerable false reports were received. Rocks looked like ships and shadows like submarines. The men were straining to get a Jap target. “As we came around at 11:15 p.m. we passed over the spot where the cruisers Astoria, Vincennes and Quincy had been sunk August 9.

This word was passed to all hands. Our men were even more determined to get the “There was a quarter moon, the sky was overcast about 60 to 70 per cent. The water was nice and smooth, perfectly calm. “At 12:50 a.m. I sighted what first suspected to be the enemy. My eyesight is unusually good at night. “Right after that others saw three ships. “We received orders, ‘Commence firing when ready.”

Direct Hit on First Salvo

“Our first ship’s first salvo set her target on fire. It was a direct hit. “Within 15 to 20 seconds our target was lined up. We also got a hit on our first salvo. I could see fires start. “The Jap fire started after we got off three salvos. I counted at least six and possibly eight Jap ships returning the fire.

“After firing several minutes, our ships saw two large explosions near Savo Island and silhouetted against them were two large ships, either heavy cruisers or battleships, about 12.000 to 14,000 yards away.

“This engagement lasted about 10 minutes, I would Judge. It was furious. Then we had about a 5 minute lull. During the lull three Jap ships were reported on our starboard beam and suddenly the Japs illuminated us with searchlights. They were right on us. Their range was about 5.500 yards.

One of our ships started firing almost as soon as the Jap searchlights showed up.

Jap Searchlights Went Out.

“Our salvo was still in the air en route to the Jap ship when the Jap searchlight on the leading ship went out.

“The Japs did not begin firing until 20 seconds after their illumination. This is slow.

“The leading Jap ship was enveloped in smoke. It billowed up in great volumes. I am of the opinion that it was a battleship because it had four searchlights on it.

“Our battery concentrated on the second Jap vessel, and her search lights were knocked out. Smoke issued from her also. I believe she was a light cruiser.

“The enemy ceased firing. We fired several more salvos at her in the general direction of the smoke, but the engagement was finished. We ceased firing at 1:02 a.m., the engagement including a five-minute comparative lull lasting 44 minutes.

Jap Fire Opened Safe.

“During the illumination of the second engagement, they hit us. The hits sounded like big chunks of hail dropping on a tin roof. “We had a useless safe aboard which we could not open because the combination was lost. The Japs opened it for us with an 8-incher.

“The supposition that we caught the enemy by surprise I believe is correct.

“Our losses were about 2 per cent of our crew killed and 3 per cent Injured.

“Our bag was one possible battleship or heavy cruiser; three heavy cruisers; at least two destroyers.

“The enemy knows we hit him well.”

 

The actual battle was much more remarkable in its dramatic fury and devastation on both sides

The Task Force that was employed by the American on the morning of Friday the 13th was badly mauled. Admiral and seaman both shared the crushing blows from the Japanese guns and torpedoes.

In the 34-minute Cruiser Night Action of 12-13 November, one of the most furious sea battles ever fought, our ship losses admittedly were large. The enemy, however, suffered more severely, and his bombardment of Guadalcanal was frustrated with results which became impressively apparent during the next two days. United States losses were as follows:

Sunk                                                 Damaged

CA      0                                                          2 (Portland, San Francisco)

CL      0                                                         1 (Helena)

CLAA 2 (Atlanta, Juneau)                                     0

DD 4 (Barton, Cushing, Laffey, Monssen) 3 (Aaron Ward, O’Bannon, Sterett)

Casualties on both sides were heavy, with the American force having the serious misfortune to lose both its commander, Admiral Callaghan, and its second in command, Admiral Scott.

In the opening salvos, Both Admiral Scott and Callaghan were killed along with MOH awardee Cassin Young and many others on the bridge of the USS San Francisco. The Atlanta was sunk in a blaze of gunfire and the Juneau infamously was sent to the deeps by a Japanese submarine’s torpedo taking along with her the five Sullivan Brothers.

Tenacity is such a mild word compared to what they showed.

It is probably just as well that the country did not have a better idea of how significant the victory in the waters off of Guadalcanal were or how costly. In the end, it was the sheer tenacity of the American Naval fighters that carried the day. It was the spirit of never giving up that the Marines and Army troops on the little island displayed that proved that the Japs could be stopped and their fortunes reversed. These men were giants.

“The fight for this small corner of the south Pacific had cost the Allied navies 24 destroyers and larger warships totaling 126,240 tons, which included two fleet carriers and six heavy cruisers. The Japanese lost two battleships among a total of 24, totaling 134,839 tons. While naval losses were relatively even in terms of tonnage, on the ground Japan lost a great deal more men compared to their American opponents. Japanese lost 25,000 men in action or to starvation and disease out of 60,000 deployed; meanwhile, the Americans had only lost 1,600. Far greater numbers were lost on the seas, but neither side ever counted how many sailors and naval officers were lost during the campaign. Before this campaign, Guadalcanal was an out-of-way tropical jungle island that hardly any had heard of. After, the battles on and near Guadalcanal would come to be known as among the bloodiest in the war across Pacific. “For us who were there,” said Morison, “… Guadalcanal is not a name but an emotion, recalling desperate fights in the air, furious night naval battles, frantic work at supply or construction, savage fighting in the sodden jungle, nights broken by screaming bombs and deafening explosions of naval shells.”

General Alexander Vandegrift, the commander of the troops on Guadalcanal, paid tribute to the sailors who fought the battle:

We believe the enemy has undoubtedly suffered a crushing defeat. We thank Admiral Kinkaid for his intervention yesterday. We thank Lee for his sturdy effort last night. Our own aircraft has been grand in its relentless hammering of the foe. All those efforts are appreciated but our greatest homage goes to Callaghan, Scott and their men who with magnificent courage against seemingly hopeless odds drove back the first hostile attack and paved the way for the success to follow. To them the men of Cactus lift their battered helmets in deepest admiration.

Mister Mac

 

The unluckiest day Reply

Sailors by and large are a very superstitious lot.

The things that set a sailing man or woman on edge are as ancient as the sea itself. I am not sure if it is the dangers they know they will face once they are divorced from the shore or just a strong feeling that fate will reach out and touch them in return for all they did on their last liberty.

One of the oldest traditions that causes sailors to be concerned is setting sail on a Friday. In a few old books (including Lovette’s Naval Customs and Traditions) this is alluded to a number of times. It’s just bad luck to sail on a Friday. As someone who spent more than a few weeks at sea, I can assure you that being underway on any Friday had its down side but on a rare occasion, you would add weight to the day when it happened to fall on the 13th day of the month.

From Legends and superstitions of the sea and of sailors. Bassett, Fletcher (1885):

Ancient Irish chronicles record that a certain king was not allowed to sail on a marauding expedition on Tuesday, or to go in a ship the Monday after Bealtaine (May-day).

Wednesday was consecrated to Odin, who, as Hnickar, was the Northern mariner’s chief deity. Hence it was a lucky day to undertake a voyage. And so with Thursday, which was also dedicated to a favorite deity (Thor) with the Northern warlike mariner.

Saturday seems also to have generally borne a good character. But we are told in an old English work,* ” Certayne craftsmen will nocht begin their worke on Satterday; certain schipmen or mariniers will not begin to sail on the Satterday — quhilk is plane superstition.”

But Friday is of all days the one proverbially unlucky for sailors. Its bad character on shore is well known, and we should not wonder that it also obtained such at sea.

As Marryat says of one of his heroes: “His thoughts naturally reverted to the other point, in which seafaring men are equally bigoted, the disastrous consequences of sailing on a Friday; the origin of which superstition can easily be traced to early Catholicism, when, out of respect for the day of universal redemption, they were directed by their pastors to await the ‘morrow’s sun.’ ”

Southey says, “Many a ship has lost the tide which might have led to fortune, because the captain and crew thought it unlucky to sail on Friday.”

The earliest account of this superstition that I find is in the “Itinerary” of Fynes Moryson (1553), who, speaking of the king of Poland at Dantzig, says: “The next day the king had a good wind, but before this, the king and the queen, whilst sometimes they thought Monday, sometimes Friday, to be unlucky days, had lost many fair winds.”

Cooper says of a certain hero: “As for sailing on Friday, that was out of the question. No one did that in 1798, who could help it.” Brand tells that a London merchant said, in 1790, that no one would begin any business or voyage on Friday.

Thatcher writes, in 1821: “Seldom would a seaman then sail on Friday.” And Cheever, in 1827: “He (the sailor) will never go to sea on Friday, if he can help it.”

0lmstead also writes, in 1841: “There has been a singular superstition prevalent among seamen about sailing on Friday; and in former times, to sail on this day would have been regarded as a violation of the mysterious character of the day, which would be visited with disaster upon the offender. Even now, it is not entirely abandoned; so if a voyage, commenced on Friday, happens to be unfortunate, all the ill luck of the voyage is ascribed to having sailed on that day. An intelligent shipmaster told me that, although he had no faith in this superstition, yet so firmly were sailors formerly impressed with superstitious notions respecting the day, that, until within a few years, he should never have ventured to sail on a Friday, for the men would be appalled by dangers which they would think light of on common occasions.”

For the United States Navy, one of the worst Friday the 13th’s occurred on November 13th, 1942.

Pearl Harbor’s horrendous attack was less than a year before that fateful day. The battleships that were meant to repel any Japanese incursion into the Pacific were either laying on the floor of the harbor or in various stages of repair. The Battle for Guadalcanal had been raging since August and a superior Japanese surface fleet was wreaking havoc on the Marines trying to defend a tenuous position on this little island in the Solomons.

The US Navy could muster some cruisers and destroyers but the new battleships were still being held in reserve for a later attack. On November 12th, a battle group under Admiral “Fighting Dan” Callaghan on the USS San Francisco came to the defense of the battle weary Marines. They had accompanied supply ships and reports reached them of a superior Japanese fleet coming down the slot that would try and pound the airfield into the Stone Age.

Callaghan hastily prepared his forces to try and counter attack the incoming force of surface ships. What he was unaware of at the tie was the size and scope of the opposing forces. The Japanese Commander was bringing the Battleships Hiei and Kirishima along with her escort of a cruiser and destroyers to bombard the island in a night attack.

A bad way to begin

The day before the main battle did not start out well for the San Francisco. The Japanese air forces were still within range and they saw an opportunity to sink the American supply ships and weaken the garrison. The cruisers and destroyers put up a brave fight but one of the Japanese planes was able to hit the San Francisco causing damage and many deaths. Her new Captain, Cassin Young had only been on board for a few days and was already receiving his baptism of fire. Young had been awarded the Medal of Honor after the Pearl Harbor attack but had to feel the weight of a thousand anchors as he helped his ship battle the fires and get back into line for a night action that was still to come.

As nightfall on the 12th arrives, there are storms north of the island in which the approaching Japanese fleet is hidden. Callaghan initially has no idea of the size and makeup of the forces he will oppose. It probably didn’t matter. He was a fighting Admiral and he was going to use his forces in whatever way he could to help the Marines.

After midnight on the 13th, the two forces converge. Utter chaos ensues. As one officer would later record, it was like a ballroom brawl with the lights turned off.

Before the battle is over, the American force is bloodied but not completely beaten.

Admiral Callaghan and Captain Cassin Young, among many others on the bridge of the San Francisco are killed by the blasts from Hiei’s fourteen inch guns.

The battle proper only lasted around twenty minutes with sporadic fighting occurring well into the daylight hours.

At 1101, Commander Yokota Minoru’s submarine I-26 fires three torpedoes at retiring San Francisco. They miss, but one continues on and narrowly misses Helena. Another continues on and hits JUNEAU port side amidships near where she was hit the previous night. A minute later, a magazine explosion blows Juneau in half. She sinks in about 20 seconds.

On board the Juneau are the Five Fighting Sullivan Brothers. None would survive the sinking.

The Japanese retired that night and the Marines got a precious reprieve. For them, Friday the 13th ended up being one of the luckiest days they would ever know. The Naval Battle continued on for a few more days and the Japanese would end up losing their two battleships. That battle marked the turning point in the overall campaign and even though the Japs fought on tenaciously, they were never again able to mount a serious attack that could topple the forward progress of the allies through the Pacific.

What happened to the Sullivan’s?

Eight days after the sinking, ten survivors were found by a PBY Catalina search aircraft and retrieved from the water. The survivors reported that Frank, Joe and Matt died instantly, Al drowned the next day, and George survived for four or five days, before suffering from delirium as a result of hypernatremia (though some sources describe him being “driven insane with grief” at the loss of his brothers); he went over the side of the raft he occupied. He was never seen or heard from again.

Security required that the Navy not reveal the loss of Juneau or the other ships so as not to provide information to the enemy. Letters from the Sullivan sons stopped arriving at the home and the parents grew worried, which prompted Alleta Sullivan to write to the Bureau of Naval Personnel in January 1943, citing rumors that survivors of the task force claimed that all five brothers were killed in action.

This letter was answered by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on January 13, 1943, who acknowledged that the Sullivan’s were missing in action, but by then the parents were already informed of their fate, having learned of their deaths on January 12. That morning, the boys’ father, Tom, was preparing for work when three men in uniform – a lieutenant commander, a doctor and a chief petty officer – approached his door. “I have some news for you about your boys,” the naval officer said. “Which one?” asked Tom. “I’m sorry,” the officer replied. “All five.”

After this unlucky day, the Navy adapted a policy where brothers were no longer able to sail together. It remained in effect for many years.

USS San Francisco SSN 711

When I reported on board the USS San Francisco (a nuclear fast attack submarine) she was in the Newport News Shipyard being constructed. My brother Tom was a Machinist Mate on board a destroyer that was stationed in nearby Norfolk Virginia. The 711 boat was my third submarine and I had learned to love the submarine life. After a number of conversations, Tom finally volunteered for sub duty and upon completion he was assigned to the boat with me.

My Mom, who was old enough to remember the Sullivan Brothers incident, was a bit concerned. But we convinced her that being together on the same boat we would be able to keep an eye on each other. I have had many men who were qualified that I still call Brother, but this one was both a submariner and a Brother. We had a lot of great adventures together and at one point the 711 boat had four sets of brothers on board.

We are all either retired or closing out our working lives but I can assure you that the bond will never be broken.

It was an honor to serve on board a submarine named after the famous USS San Francisco that was the centerpiece of that fateful action. While it was the unluckiest day for them, it helped to shape the fortunes of the country on its way to Tokyo Harbor in 1945. Their sacrifices must never be forgotten. I think of them every time I hear the Navy Hymn.

Eternal Father, strong to save…

Special Note: I am putting the finishing touches on my book this week that tries to capture the Amazing Life of Captain Cassin Young. I will be telling you more about that in the coming weeks.

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

 

Cassin Young, Captain, United States Navy MOH Recipient, Information request 1

Good morning. For the past few years, I have been searching through Naval Records, newspaper articles, period books and a number of other sources to help complete the picture of one of the greatest heroes the Navy has ever produced, Captain Cassin Young. The journey has had a lot of twists and turns but I am nearing completion of the project.

I am missing one crucial element of the story that the rest hinges upon. During 1940-1942, then Commander Young was the Executive Officer of the Naval Submarine Base in New London Connecticut. He was a submariner from his earliest days in the Navy during some very pivotal times and served as a Submarine Squadron commander prior to this assignment.

But something happened at the base that changed the course of his life. I have part of the story but it comes to me from a second hand source. The only way I can validate it is to speak with a family member that can corroborate what I have found. I have reached out to them on social media and in other ways but so far no response.

So I am taking a shot in the dark.

I am asking that if you read this, you would consider sharing it to your own Blog or to any social media that you are connected to. Have them reach out to me here at theleansubmariner and I will do the rest.

When I started the project, my motivation was that so little was known about the amazing life and service of an American Hero. Last Christmas, I was given a book about Pearl Harbor and the author and one of the men he wrote about alluded to something that was both reprehensible and unthinkable. They attacked someone who had spent a lifetime preparing for just the moment that occurred on that December morning in Pearl. My book will show a different view of those events based on many sources. I feel compelled that the rest of the real story be told.

The time period Young spent in New London would help to fill in one last gap in the book. Any help would be appreciated.

Thanks

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

An Outsider in Paradise – A Pocket Guide to Hawaii (1940’s) Reply

This information comes from the Navy Heritage Center. During the Second World War, Hawaii was the crossroads for the Pacific. Men, material, ships and planes on their way to the battles in the South Pacific and eventually Japan travelled through Hawaii in many cases. Not much changed over the many decades following the war since Korea and Vietnam were also located far from the shores of the mainland. Hawaii remains a vital part of America’s defense even today.

When I arrived in 1973, I really wish I had a book like this. As I read through the manual, my mind travelled back to those early days of being an outsider in paradise. Now that I am older and have been exposed to so many cultures around the world, I have a better understanding for the people of Hawaii.

Like most young men that get to see paradise up close and personal, the experience was one of the most influential of my life. Hawaii in 1973 was more advanced than it probably was in 1943 but there was still adventure and opportunity. I made it back there several more tours and have visited it once since retiring. Of all the wishes I have ever wished, one would be to go back and spend the rest of my life on the Big Island. But for too many reasons that will have to remain an unfulfilled wish.

By the way, I make no apologies for any cultural insensitivity that may be included in this handbook. It was the war after all and someone felt it was a good idea to at least take a stab at educating the troops. I present the unedited version for historical purposes only.

Aloha

Mister Mac

For use of Military Personnel only.

Not to be republished in whole or in part, without the consent of the War Department.

Prepared by

SPECIAL PROJECTS BRANCH, MORALE SERVICES SECTION

CENTRAL PACIFIC BASE COMMAND

 

Produced by

ARMY INFORMATION BRANCH

INFORMATION AND EDUCATION DIVISION

WASHINGTON, D.C.

A Pocket Guide to HAWAII

Illustration of mountains, hut, male native and farm animals.

THIS IS ABOUT HAWAII, to introduce you to a new country. New countries are like new friends. You can’t get to enjoy them until you’ve learned something about them – until you know the score. So here’s the score on Hawaii.

Your Hawaiian Islands are a chain of volcanic peaks reaching up out of the Pacific about halfway between the United States and Asia.

The base of this mountain range is some 18,000 feet below sea level; so if you climb to the top of Mauna Loa – the 14,000-foot volcano on the Island of Hawaii – you can boast that you’ve stood at the summit of the highest mountain in the world. Even when you’re at sea level you’re high up the mountainside.

Eight of the Hawaiian Islands are big enough to write home about. Some of the rest of them are so small that there isn’t a pen point fine enough to put them on the map.

Before the Japanese went berserk, the Hawaiian Islands had three salable products – sugar, pineapple, and climate. The sugar and pineapple were shipped to the Mainland (continental U.S.) where you ate them. The climate was used by an ever-increasing horde of enthusiastic tourists.

It all worked out pretty happily.

Then came December 7, 1941 – and the foul blow that brought us all to Hawaii, soldier, on the way to Tokyo.

The main island of the Hawaii group is called Oahu. It isn’t the biggest, but it’s the most important, because the city of Honolulu is on it. Oahu is only 40 miles long and 26 wide; but here you’ll find an astonishing variety of scenery, floral beauty, and bustling human activity.

Honolulu is 2,091 nautical miles from San Francisco and 3,394 from Yokohama.

This means that it’s a long way home from Honolulu.

The first thing you will notice about the city of Honolulu is that it’s full of drug stores, department stores, soda fountains, movies, offices, and even Americans. It has busses that charge 10 cents a ride, three tokens for 20 cents.

There are cops, public schools, dial telephones, churches, hot-dog stands, public libraries, YMCA’s, restaurants, daily newspapers, radio repair shops, gas stations, public parks, and playgrounds.

On the streets you’ll see such sights as newsboys hawking evening papers, people from offices jostling to get on busses so they won’t arrive home late for supper, taxicabs dodging traffic, red fronts of the 5-and-10, and the little wire baskets on wheels in the supermarkets.

So you’re not as far away from home as you think.

Of course, you’ll see palm trees, giant ferns, tropical flowers that may be unfamiliar to you. And in the background will be the mountains.

When you go outside the city, around the island of Oahu, you’ll see fields of pineapples stretching for miles. And more acres of sugarcane.

You’ll see people working in those fields. They’ll be just as American as you. And just as proud of it.

Illustration showing size of Hawaii compared to Connecticut and Rhode Island.

Maybe you’ll go to one of the other Islands in the group. The largest is Hawaii. Most people think that Honolulu is on Hawaii. But that’s only because they don’t know. Its 200 miles from Oahu to Hawaii.

The island of Hawaii is big – as big as Connecticut and Rhode Island put together. It is 83 miles long, 73 miles wide, and 283 miles around – more than 4,000 square miles of land.

Illustration of sugar as a king.

Some of the most beautiful scenery in the world is on Hawaii. There are snowcapped mountains, two of which are more than 13,000 feet high, and there are two volcanoes, active hot stuff.

The people out here say that sugar is king in Hawaii. That’s because the Islands produce so much. But they also are proud that one of the largest cattle ranches in the world is on the island of Hawaii – the Parker Ranch. When you eat fresh meat at mess out here, chances are it came from this ranch.

The other six large islands are Maui, Kauai, Lanai, Molokai, Niihau, and Kahoolawe. Sound like hard names to remember. But after you’ve been out here awhile you’ll learn how to pronounce them and they’ll become as familiar to you as Massachusetts, Iowa, Connecticut, or Arkansas.

Maui is second in size of the Islands. It is called the “Valley Island” because of its several beautiful winding stream-beds. It’s famous for its hospitality and for a volcano 10,000 feet high with a burned-out crater 15 miles across.

Kauai is the “Garden Island” of the group, because of the breath-snatching beauty of its lush foliage and flaming blooms. Its highest peak is called Waialeale, which is pronounced Wah-ee-ah-lee-ah-lee, and means “rippling water” without the bubbles. A good name for a mountain peak that’s all wet with 500 inches of rain a year. Sixteen miles away, at Barking Sands, the annual rainfall is only 20 inches.

Kauai is also renowned for the astonishing beauty of the Canyon of Waimea, which is Hawaii’s own Grand Canyon.

Lanai is called the “Pineapple Island” because it is completely owned by a pineapple company.

Molokai is the “Friendly Island,” a title that has been earned by its hospitality to homesteaders and its harboring of the leper colony which Robert Louis Stevenson made famous in his description of the great and good work done by Father Damien, who devoted his life to the welfare of those afflicted with that tragic disease.

Kahoolawe is the stepsister of the Islands. “Goat Island,” or “Dust Island,” they call her. There are no streams or springs on the island and practically no foliage. Last figure on population was two (2) people.

Niihau is another dry spot, but it possesses a tableland which gives good grazing; entirely devoted to stock raising.

That’s the list of the big ones. You’ll come to be as proud of them as the people who live here are proud of calling themselves Americans.

 

WE, THE PEOPLE

There are a lot of civilians on the Islands. Most of them were here before the Japs attacked Pearl Harbor. And they have every intention of staying when we GI’s go home.

In 1941 there were 465,339 inhabitants.

You’re going to meet these people. They’re your neighbors. And it’s a good idea if, right at the start, you know a few things about them. It may prevent you from making mistakes.

There’s one primary point to remember. No matter what the color of their skin, no matter how they appear, the civilians you see in the Hawaiian Islands are Americans. They’re just as proud of the Stars and Stripes as you are. Never forget that.

You’re going to run into a lot of Japanese during your stay. In 1941 there were 157,990 people of Japanese descent here. That means that 34 out of every 100 civilians were Japanese.

Now get this straight. Most of these went to American schools. They learned to pledge their allegiance to the same flag you salute. They like American soft drinks. And one of their favorite radio comics is Bob Hope. They’re Americans.

What’s more, many of them have husbands, sons, and brothers fighting for Uncle Sam. These Japanese-Americans (Nisei) aren’t just talking patriotism. Their battalions proved, in the battle of Italy, that they are willing to die for it. Don’t sell them short.

The native Hawaiians are a much smaller group: In 1941 there were only 14,246 pure Hawaiians and 52,445 part Hawaiians.

These Hawaiians are fine folk. Don’t let any fantastic fiction you may have read about them back home throw you off the beam. These people have certain fundamental ideals: They believe in strong bodies, in clean living and in democracy.

The second largest group on the Islands is composed of the folks from back home who came over here to live, and their children. In 1941 there were 139,299 of them. Some arrived for a visit and liked the place so well they never went back. Others came out to work for a year, or two, fell in love with these hunks of America in the Central Pacific, and remained.

Talk to the business people in the center of Honolulu.

Again and again you’ll hear the same story: “I came over for a year in ’24. But I’m still here. I only wish you could see our city when we don’t have a war on.”

You’ve probably heard Hawaii referred to as the Crossroads of the Pacific. That’s an apt phrase. People from all the far-flung corners of the world have come to live in Hawaii. The big influx started back in the 1860’s when shipload after shipload came over to work on the plantations.

In addition to the Japanese on the Islands, there are 8,000 Puerto Ricans, 29,000 Chinese, 7,000 Koreans, and 52,000 Filipinos.

Today these people are fired with a common purpose – to do their level best to help win the war. Not only have a great many joined the armed forces, but they’re buying bonds, doing Red Cross work, taking part in all the civilian war activities the same as the people at home.

But keep this in mind, when you meet the people over here. They’ve been under attack. They’ve been living in a war atmosphere for a long time. They’ve been working long hours, suffering the inconveniences of overcrowding, curfew, gas rationing, and other necessary wartime restrictions.

They haven’t complained. They aren’t complaining now. But it hasn’t been easy for them. So give them a break, and they’ll meet you more than halfway.

A LITTLE HISTORY

If you’re ever on a quiz program and the $64 question is “From what race do the Hawaiians come?” you’ll take the money if you answer “Polynesian.”

Scientists who study races have plucked out their beards arguing the origin of the Hawaiians. But the most generally accepted theory is that they emigrated from Asia more than a thousand years ago, sailing thousands of miles across the Pacific in double canoes. Here they set up a feudalistic farm system.

Recorded history in the Islands begins with their discovery by Capt. James Cook, British, on a Sunday morning in January of 1778.

Cook had come from the Society Islands in the southeast Pacific and was hunting for a passage from the Pacific to the Atlantic. He had a quick temper, a flowing beard, a couple of ships, and a great uncertainty about where he was going.

When he arrived, he didn’t know where he was.

The natives were equally confused. Believing in a large number of gods and never having seen a white man, they hit upon the idea that Cook was a chief god (Lono). He had them eating out of his hand. The Islands (he called them the Sandwich Islands in honor of the Earl of Sandwich) were his. But he made the mistake of hanging around. The natives got to trading with Captain Cook and his boys. And pretty soon they came to realize that white men were a long way from being gods.

The natives, like all people who find their confidence betrayed, were considerably sore about it, and Cook’s men annoyed them still further by chopping up a couple of their sacred idols for firewood. During one of the ensuing scuffles a native chief, with close combat training, stuck a wooden dagger into Captain Cook’s back. He died on the beach at Kaawaloa on the Island of Hawaii.

The rest of the expedition took to their boats and no other white men visited the Islands for 7 years.

Up until 1795 there had been a number of little kingdoms throughout the eight islands. There was plenty of room for all of them, but a few big chiefs wanted more than their share. The result was war, plenty.

Then a chief of Kona, named Kamehameha, decided that this wrangling had gone on long enough. He was a big bayonet; you can see a statue of him in a golden feather cloak outside the judiciary Building on King Street in Honolulu. He decided the only way to crush force was with greater force. With the help of some white advisers he conquered all the other chiefs on the Island of Hawaii. Then he built a fleet of outrigger canoes, some mounting brass ordnance, and set out for Maui and Oahu. It wasn’t long before he had united all the islands under one rule, and he proceeded to govern with a firmness and wisdom which won him the title of Kamehameha the Great, and gained Hawaii real respect.

When Kamehameha was a boy, Hawaii was living in a stone-age culture, worshipping pagan gods, and was unknown to the rest of the world. Within one lifetime all this was changed. Stone tools and weapons were scrapped when metal tools and weapons arrived.

Wooden idols were burned and deadly tabus broken. Kamehameha 1 died in 1819. The next year a boatload of missionaries arrived from Boston. They spread Christianity and they started schools. Hawaii became a bit of New England in the tropical Pacific. As a result, by the middle of the 19th century, the Hawaiians were just as well educated as the average throughout the United States. Well-to-do families in California sent their children to Honolulu for schooling. The result is that when you’re in Hawaii, you’re in an enlightened part of the United States, and one of the most democratic. Dr. Sun Yat-sen, founder of the Chinese Republic, was educated here in Hawaii.

While this was going on, Western people and Western ideas were taking hold. Trading posts were set up. Ships docked to take on cargoes of sandalwood, salt, food, and water. Whalers established a great base here. In 1840 a British sea captain gained control of the Islands. But after a few months, his superior gave them back to the reigning king, Kauikeauoli, son of old Kamehameha, better known as Kamehameha III. His nephew, Alexander, who ruled as Kamehameha IV, also favored Great Britain, but this was balanced by strong American interests. The rulers were worried about the possible fate of the Islands as long as they remained independent. Apprehensive looks were cast toward Germany and Japan.

Back in the States, Washington was interested too. Hawaii was the perfect site for a naval base to guard our West Coast. Then, too, American economic ties with the Islands were growing stronger. For example, the Monarchy and Uncle Sam in 1876 signed a treaty which, among other things, let Hawaiian sugar enter the States duty-free.

In 1893 an internal bloodless revolution dethroned Queen Liliuokalani, and a provisional government, headed by Sanford B. Dole, was formed. Annexation to the United States was requested, but President Cleveland disapproved. Disappointed, the provisional government set up an independent republic. This functioned until 1898. Then a new move for annexation was made, and this time Congress ratified the treaty. President McKinley signed it, and Hawaii became American soil. In 1900, the Organic Act made it a full-fledged Territory.

 

By that act Hawaii became an integral part of the United States. (So from now on you’d better speak of the “Mainland.”)

You have only to look around to see the result – one of the finest demonstrations anywhere of practical Americanism. Democracy, to the Hawaiians, is taken sincerely. They practice it. And it works, knitting many people of different races together in a concerted effort to build a better, freer, and happier life for all.

Nowhere in the Pacific do Asiatics live so well. There are many problems to be met, as there are back home; but the people of Hawaii are tackling them as an American democracy in an atmosphere of freedom and good will. A striking example of what we’re fighting for.

Progress on the Islands since the turn of the century has been steady, but unspectacular. For example, in 1903 the biggest event, red lettered in all the books, was the opening of the Hawaiian Tourist Bureau.

In 1910 a daring young man by the name of Bud Mars made the first flight in Hawaii in an airplane.

The next 30 years saw the tourist boom. The swamps around Waikiki were filled in. Hotels and apartments were built. Hawaiian music became the rage back on the Mainland.

Life was placid and pleasant. It might have continued that way had it not been for December 7, 1941.

Subsequent history? You’ll help make it.

HULA AND HULA

You’ve heard a lot about the Hula. Hawaii and the Hula!

Maybe you’re one of those gullible guys who saw glamorous movie stars swinging their sarongs, against a gorgeous Hollywood tropical backdrop, and thought you’d find a babe just like her under every palm tree.

Well, you’re going to see the real McCoy now. So it’s a good idea if you get rid of any notions you may have had and learn the truth.

First of all, the Hula is not a dance!

“Not a dance,” you say. “Then what is it?”

The Hula is a style of dancing, or, if you wish, a “school” of dancing.

Before the white man came to the Islands, dancing was a part of the religious ritual of the natives. Each group worked out its own routines. These were complicated or simple to fit the occasion.

There were ceremonial Hulas and festival Hulas, Hulas for fun and Hulas for funerals. There was even a type of Hula for the chubby folk who preferred to go through the movements while sitting down. But all the various dance ceremonies worked out by all the groups wen known as Hulas.

Now, if you see a pretty Hawaiian girl wearing a grass skirt and dancing some form of the Hula, go easy. She may be a graduate of the University of Hawaii with a Ph.D. in – The Dance. Well, why not?

GOVERNMENT OF, BY, AND FOR

Government in Hawaii is pretty much like that back on the Mainland, with three big differences:

First, the Governor is appointed by the President, but he can’t be a malihini. A malihini is a newcomer.

Second, the people can’t ballot in the Presidential elections.

Third, Hawaii, not being a state, lacks a vote in Congress. But don’t get the idea that it doesn’t swing weight in Washington. It does – through a Delegate who sits on vital House and Senate committees, and otherwise carries the banner for the Islands.

Many of the people here favor statehood. After the war you can expect a lot of discussion pro and con. Whatever the outcome, Hawaii will continue to be a friend of the United States.

As a Territory, Hawaii has its own legislature. The Senators (15) and Representatives (30) are elected by the various counties. They meet, pass the local laws, and send them up to the Governor, to be approved or disapproved.

If someone tells you the Governor is operating at the “old stand” in Honolulu, he simply means that the Capitol used to be a palace. King Kalakaua held court there, as did his sister, Queen Liliuokalani.

You can remember the King’s name by looking at the corner signs on the avenue along Wakiki Beach. You won’t have any trouble with the Queen’s name either. Just remember that back on the Mainland they called her “Queen Lil.” You also might like to remember that Queen Liliuokalani was the composer of the haunting Hawaiian melody “Aloha Oe” which she adopted from an old American ballad entitled “The Lone Rock by the Sea.” Her song has become one of the most popular tunes in the United States.

When the United States annexed the Islands, all the treaty signing was done in an elaborate building, surrounded by beautiful grounds, which you’ll find in the civic center of Honolulu. This is the Iolani Palace. It’s a building worth seeing. You can pick up some local history by looking over the paintings in the halls and chambers. You can see how the kings of Hawaii lived in the days of the monarchy, and a glance at the woodwork will show you what good craftsmen can do with the wood of koa and kou trees.

But don’t expect to see any fancy titles on the doors in the Capitol or other government buildings. They’re the usual American: Attorney General, Treasurer, and Director of Institutions. There is even the familiar D.A.

For the local angle, you can drop in on the Territorial Circuit Courts (the President picks the judges), or the District Courts (the Territorial Supreme Court names the magistrates), and see how justice is dispensed in a Territory of the United States.

There’s taxes, too. We warn you that the Tax Collector will enter your life if you buy one of the Islands’ 78,000 cars; which leads us to advise you to pick out a light one. The tax is levied by the pound. Cars don’t grow here.

BUSINESS AND INDUSTRY! YES, INDEED!

Major industries on the Islands can be counted like twins.

Up until 100 years ago, sugarcane in these parts was simply chewing-gum-on-the-stalk. It just grew.

Then someone discovered that the word “sugar” meant money, and sugar refining began. From then on, it’s been a growing industry.

A million tons of sugar are produced each year on the Islands from a quarter-million acres, and bring in 50 million dollars.

The 40 major plantations used to average a thousand workers each, but now are down to half that number; we need guns more than sugar.

It takes about nine chunks of cane to get a chunk of sugar. Plus a year and a half to two years for growing. Plus a lot of water for irrigation.

Refining is done on the Mainland, except for one plant at Aiea. If you’re ever up that way (it’s on Oahu), a guide will be glad to show you the process.

In addition to raising a lot of cane, the Islands do a right smart business in pineapples, which is surprising when you consider that the pineapple wasn’t a Hawaiian fruit at all.

Pineapple, Model 1493: In that year it seems that, having found America, Columbus discovered the pineapple. But he discovered it on the Island of Guadaloupe in the Caribbean Sea. Apparently he left it right where he found it until an Englishman named Kidwell imported the Smooth Cayenne variety from Jamaica to Oahu.

That was in 1885 and the industry has been slicing right along ever since; 20 million cases are packed off 75 to 80 thousand acres and bring in 50 million dollars.

Eight big outfits run the show. When they can get them, they hire more than 30 thousand workers. Right now they can’t get that many.

Incidentally, don’t leave the Islands without going through a cannery. Just phone one of the larger ones and find out what day you can come. The tour takes only about 45 minutes – and you’ll be served all the juice you can drink.

After pineapples and sugar, come tourists. Pre-war they contributed 10 million dollars a year. There’s a lot of talk floating around about the trade having been killed off by the war. But that’s strictly a false rumor. Matter of fact, there are more visitors here than ever before. Granted, most of them are wearing white or khaki uniforms, but they pack a lot of purchasing power.

Before Pearl Harbor a lot of the sojourners came out on the big Pacific liners, successors to Capt. Bill Matson’s schooner the “Emma Claudine” which first said “So long, ‘Frisco; Hi, Hilo” in 1882.

After Pearl Harbor – they still came out on the big Pacific liners, temporarily under new management – U.S.N.

Right along in the “T” column with Tourists is Tuna. And there the war has hurt. In the “old days,” seven out of every ten tuna on your favorite grocer’s shelf were born right here. After the Jap attack, the lid clamped down. Now, Uncle has let a little commercial fishing resume, but not enough to excite even the tuna.

Another Hawaiian enterprise which you probably never saw in the movies is cattle-raising. It doesn’t begin to match sugar or pineapple production. But it’s still important, and sizable quantities of meat products, tallow, hides, and skins find their way to the Mainland.

THE ARMY

You’ve heard about carrying coals to Newcastle? Not that it has anything to do with the Army –

Except that, soldier, when you arrive in Hawaii, all fresh and snappy in your best GI CKC’s, you’re going to stand out just exactly like a chunk of coal in that Old English mining town.

The Army has been established on the Hawaiian Islands a long time. In fact two batteries of U.S. Artillery landed here as far back as 1848. They were on their way from Boston to Oregon by the long route around the Horn and dropped in for a friendly visit. When Hawaii became part of the United States, the Army became part of Hawaii.

When an army isn’t moving it needs posts, camps, and stations. To solve the housing situation, Major General Schofield came out to the Islands 72 years ago and made a survey. The Army has been busy building installations ever since. You’ll probably be stationed at more than one of them from time to time, so it will be well for you to know what traditions lie behind the names they bear.

Schofield Barracks is the biggest installation on the Islands. It was established in 1909 and was named in honor of that same Maj. Gen. John McAllister Schofield who made the survey. He had commanded the Army of the Ohio in the Civil War.

Fort Shafter was the first permanent post. Built in 1906, it was named in honor of Maj. Gen. William R. Shafter, who led the United States Forces which freed Cuba. Remember the Rough Riders, and San Juan Hill?

Fort Armstrong was named after Brig. Gen. Samuel C. Armstrong, who hailed from Hawaii, battled with distinction in the Civil War, and attained lasting fame as the founder of the Hampton Institute in Virginia.

Fort De Russy bears the name of Brig. Gen. Rene Edward De Russy, of the Corps of Engineers.

Maj. Gen. Thomas H. Ruger was another distinguished veteran of the boys in blue. His name was given to the coast defense Installations at Diamond Head.

Fort Kam, originally named Port Upton, after Gen. Emery Upton, was renamed in honor of as great a warrior as the Islands have ever known, their own King Kamehameha the Great.

Luke Field, on Ford Island, honors the name of Lt. Frank Luke, an ace of World War I, who was brought to earth behind the German lines after downing his 18th enemy plane and who shot it out with the ground troops rather than surrender. He was a Texan who died with his boots on.

Wheeler Field honors Maj. Sheldon Wheeler, killed in a crash on Luke Field; and Lt. Col. Horace M. Hickam, who died in a crash at Fort Crockett, Texas, is honored in the name of Hickam Field.

Today the Army is entrusted with the safeguarding of Hawaii. It is the Army’s job to make it a grim mistake for any enemy force which tries to land on any of these Islands. It is the Army’s job to make the Islands the springboard for the leap to Tokyo. Which are good points to bear in mind – because, soldier, you are the Army!

THE NAVY

In 1843, the U.S.S. Constellation visited Honolulu. In 1845, the U.S.S. Constitution came here. Salutes were fired to the Hawaiian Flag, and to King Kamehameha III, whose Kingdom had been restored to him by the British Government. About this time, the Navy discovered a harbor which would be big enough to float the fleet. This harbor, famous for its pearl oyster beds, came to be known as Pearl Harbor.

Now, when anyone says Navy in Hawaii, he means Pearl Harbor.

There are other bases, of course. Such as the one at Kanehohe, which is also on Oahu. But none of them can begin to touch Pearl Harbor.

Back about 1887, the Navy first secured the rights to set up a repair station at Pearl Harbor. Then it went to Congress – and came out with hundred thousand dollars.

The money was used to start the job.

First, a coral bar had to be amputated. It blocked the harbor entrance. And a big drydock had to be built. More funds were asked, and granted. Work moved along and the dock was about ready for business in 1913 when hydrostatic pressure wrecked the foundation.

The Navy revised its plans, got back to work, and in 1919 broke out a bottle of champagne for the dedication.

To date more than 50 million dollars have gone into making Pearl Harbor the world’s finest naval base. It is one which not only the United States but Japan long will have reason to remember.

THE MARINE CORPS

As usual, the Marines were first to land. A hundred and thirty years ago Lieutenant Gamble, U.S. Marine Corps, landed on Hawaiian soil as commander of a prize ship captured in the War of 1812. As a contact man he was a great success, winning from the Hawaiian people a lasting respect and friendship for the Marines.

Their first job on the Islands was in 1845, when Lieutenant Joseph Curtis, of the Marine Guard aboard “Old Ironsides,” made the Navy survey that showed Pearl Harbor to be the best site for a naval base in the Central Pacific.

Seven years later, Marines came ashore to help King Kamehameha III quell riots started by foreign sailors. They stayed awhile to train the King’s troops. This probably prevented an invasion of the Islands. A gang of adventurers from the California mining camps had chartered a ship for the purpose, but got cold feet when they found out what they were up against.

The Marines landed again in 1874, 1889, and 1893, to quell rioting, and each time they achieved success without bloodshed because of the respect the people had for the Leathernecks.

In 1898, the Marines took part in the ceremonies that raised the Stars and Stripes over the Hawaiian Islands. In 1904, they established a shore station and moved in to stay. Today the Marines are regarded as kamaainas (which means they are not only old-timers, but are a part of Hawaii itself).

THE COAST GUARD

Some time ago you discovered that a sailor with a small shield just over (he cuff of his right sleeve is a Coast Guardsman.

Established 1790, the Coast Guard is Uncle Sam’s oldest seagoing service, and all over the Pacific they’re going to sea. They landed Marines at Tulagi during the first Solomons attack. They helped to seize Amchitka and Kiska in the Aleutians. They landed soldiers and marines and equipment on the beachheads of the Gilberts and the Marshalls.

The Coast Guard now operates under the Navy, and its job never ceases. It provides port and water-front security patrols on shore and afloat. It operates cutters and patrol boats on war missions. It works 24 hours a day perfecting methods of rescue and life-saving under war conditions, and runs a training station here, where are learned all the tricks of the Service for duties at sea and ashore.

The Coast Guard is an important part of the combat team which is advancing us all to attack.

 

RECREATION

Girls are scarce in Hawaii. When you’ve been off the boat for as long as 23 minutes, you’ll find that telephone numbers here carry the same classification as war plans. They’re marked “Secret” and kept in money belts.

If, by hook or crook, you latch on to a few numbers besides the laundryman’s (and his isn’t as easy to get as you might think), you may wind up with a date. If this miracle occurs, the two of you can go swimming, walk, take in a movie, or dance. If you’re numberless, you can still go swimming, walk, or take in a movie.

Which is to say that a uniform here is about as novel as a light bulb in a pre-war sign on Times Square. And there simply aren’t enough wahines (gals) to go around.

Sooner or later (sometimes sooner than a week, sometimes later) you’ll get around to what philosophers call “Acceptance.”

You won’t have any trouble knowing when you’ve “accepted.” It’s the night you decide that what you really need more than anything else, in life is a double malted, chocolate flavor.

Having “accepted,” you can settle down to having a good time in your off-duty hours, because the Army knows the situation even better than you do, and is doing plenty about it. It has established a big Special Service Office which devotes its full time to seeing that you have ample opportunities for recreation.

Recreation means refreshment after toil or weariness. It means pastime, diversion, or play. The Special Services Division helps out on your recreation and athletic programs, operates your Army Library Service, and the Post Exchange. Special Services and the Signal Corps work together to bring you motion pictures. U.S.O. shows too are sent around by this outfit.

Another organization, the Information and Education Division, is designed to lend help to you in your more serious interests, especially about the issues and progress of the war. YANK, Armed Forces Radio Service, Orientation and Educational programs are a few of the things which come under this office of the War Department.

If you’re interested in swimming, dancing, seeing movies, sightseeing (on Oahu or the other islands), downing a bit of chow or drink of beer, shooting pool, playing golf, tennis or ping-pong, enjoying a concert of good jive or classical records, or doing anything else to really enjoy life – get up and go. Find out where the recreation centers are and make good use of them.

But suppose you’re one of those who know that an education is as good as money in the bank? Perhaps Pearl Harbor caught you right between your senior year and a diploma, and you want to use some of your spare time to catch up with your education. The Army can fix that, too.

Right here in Hawaii is a fully equipped branch of the U.S. Armed Forces Institute. USAFI can arrange a correspondence course that will make it possible for you to earn credits at your high school or college back home and keep abreast of the education that was temporarily halted. If it’s a business course or technical training you want, USAFI can fix you up with that, too.

Get in touch with your Information and Education officer and he will tell you how to go about it. If duty allows, you can arrange for group classes with the use of self-teaching texts that are turned out by the USAFI. They’re good stuff, and we hear that foreign language lessons can be fun in off-duty hours, the way they’re doled out through a phonograph record for the crowd to repeat in chorus.

 

“WELL AND SAFE, LOVE”

You Can Write . . . Once you’ve arrived in Hawaii, you’ll want to get off letters telling the people back home where you are and what it’s like.

Right then is where you run into one of the most misunderstood individuals who ever saved a soldier’s life or helped to win a battle. You know how it feels, now, to hope that your transport won’t be sunk by a submarine – by now you can find plenty of old-timers who can tell you how fervently you’ll pray that any attack you may be concerned in will catch the enemy with his pants far from up. Well, that’s where the CENSOR comes in. Censor is an old Roman word meaning censor. It’s his job to know just what information the Nazis or the Nips would like to have about our war plans, and to prevent that information getting out and about. To do that he’s got to look for it everywhere. So he scrutinizes all communications which leave this area. (Scrutinizes means scrutinizes. All means all. Communications means all that’s “written and transcribed.”)

At first you may not like it. You’ll say, “my folks know the score. They won’t spill anything they shouldn’t.” The answer to that is, sure they won’t – not intentionally.

But you know how we Americans like to talk. And the Axis knows it, and is listening. That’s why a word dropped over a coke in a Sheboygan drugstore, plus a name mentioned on a Charleston street corner, may add up to a grim finish for some of your friends on an island beach.

So you can see why you can’t discuss the activities of units when you write, or give the exact location of your own. Why you can’t name any ships, not even the one you came over on. Or tell when they sailed or when they docked. Why you can’t mention the number of men who are with you. Why you can’t say you’re stationed at Schofield, or Armstrong, or Ruger, or any of the other posts. Why, in short, you have to lay-off the military when you’re writing home.

You’ll have a couple of talks by your Censor on what you can write about, and you’ll find it’s plenty. You may be assigned to duties or sent to places where you’ll be under certain restrictions for an indefinite period, during which you can’t locate yourself in letters home any more specifically than as “somewhere in the Pacific.” But if you’re not under such restrictions, you can come right out and say you’re in

Hawaii. You can say you went to Honolulu on your last pass, swam at Waikiki, had a few beers at Maluhai. You can describe your dull love life, or tell of all the exciting afternoons you spend in the Public Library.

A good technique is simply to forget you’re in the Army and limit your writing to strictly non-military subjects. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll be turning out long and interesting letters and relieving the Censor of a job of editing, which he doesn’t like any better than you do.

You Can Wire . . . If you’re slow on the letter writing. It’s a good idea to keep the folks from worrying by sending them a cablegram as soon as you are allowed to let them know you’re here. Your GI post office has stock messages (Expeditionary Force Messages) that will say almost anything you want. And for only 75 cents, (Self composed wires come higher and also have to be censored.)

You Can Phone . . . If you get too lonesome for the sound of a certain voice, and your communications aren’t restricted, and you’re still in the first flush of pay-day prosperity, you can take a whirl at the trans-Pacific radiotelephone.

You just have to check in with the Base Censor, fill out a form which asks who you’re calling, why, and what the topic of your conversation will be, have it approved by your Unit Commander, and put in your call. Pick up blanks at Base Censor’s office or at the Mutual Telephone Building. At either place they will answer any questions.

The cost? A 3-minute call varies from 10 dollars (West Coast) to 16 dollars (East Coast). If it’s the wrong side of pay day you can reverse the charges.

Maybe You Can Learn . . . By visiting the libraries and museums and civil center, and gardens, countrysides and villages, by getting to know the people and listening to their tales, you can learn to know the legends, the history and personalities of the Islands, their trees and mountains and natural wonders so well that Hawaii will soon cease to be a strange place to you. It will become a part of America, full of wonders to enjoy and of friends with new and different viewpoints, brought from the four corners of the world. Once you have learned to know Hawaii, the kindly sound of ALOHA will get under your skin and stay with you wherever you may go.

What Else Can You Do?. . . Well, here are three little words, three little matters to think about, even in blue Hawaii. But their importance is Army-wide.

If you just like to sit around and shoot the breeze in your spare time, that’s good. It’s Army. It’s that old refrain, the G.I. Bull Session. But take it easy on RUMORS, and remember about MILITARY SECURITY.

In Hawaii, you are at one of the busiest wartime crossroads. You might pick up a lot of so-called hot dope. Well, why not keep it to yourself? If you don’t, Nip spies may pick it up and go to work. Don’t blab, unless you want to give “aid and comfort” to the enemy. And no right guy wants to do anything like that.

You Can Help Yourself to Good Health . . . Hawaii is a healthful place compared with many other parts of the world. The Islands have a good record in disease control, and you ought to pitch in and keep up the good work. But the most important fact is that your health means a great deal to the Army, and to the total war effort of the United States against Japan.

Of course, it means something to you too. You are not like the Jap who will slice his gut at the drop of a hat for the sake of Hirohito. Neither do you want to kill yourself the slow way, by sickening with disease.

Well, there are rules to follow. They all add up to good sense. All you have to do is to take heed. Stay clean; stay in good shape; the result is simple, but good. You are in good health.

You won’t usually get sick if you take care of yourself.

For example, if you catch venereal disease, the finger points right at you.

The best way to avoid gonorrhea and syphilis is to refrain from sexual intercourse outside of marriage. If at any time you fail to live up to this code, be sure to make full use of all the Army prophylactic materials (pro kits) and facilities (pro stations) which are provided for your use.

You Can Save Some Dough . . . Storing up good health means that you are saving up something that will be valuable to you after the war. Putting away some of your pay each month will also mean something later. Mostly it is your own business, like your health, and the lst decisions are yours for keeps.

Adding up all the things you do for yourself today and tomorrow in Hawaii, along with what you are doing for the Islands and for the Mainland, you can feel right proud to be so much in the swing of things. From these mid-Pacific beauty spots, halfway between America and Asia, you’ll be glad to write home “Well, safe, and love.”

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 6 – The Day of 9 August and Observations ) Reply

THE DAY OF 9 AUGUST

During the battle our aircraft carriers were south of San Cristobal Island, roughly 150 miles from Savo. Although they had on the evening of the 8th requested permission to retire, it was not received from COMSOPAC until 0330 on the 9th. This was, of course, more than an hour after the battle, but our carriers withdrew without having received any real information of what had taken place. At 1000 on the 9th Admiral Kinkaid on the Enterprise noted in his diary that planes returning from Tulagi saw “no evidence of surface action there or enemy ships,” and that night, “still only meager reports of surface action today, whereas prompt reports of situation might have permitted aircraft units from task group to participate and engage enemy forces present.”

It proved impractical for our Task Force to leave at 0630 as planned. The task of transferring and caring for the wounded from our cruisers necessitated some delay. Furthermore, Tanambogo did not fall completely into our possession until the afternoon of the 9th. More Marines had to be landed there and in the Tulagi area, and it was absolutely necessary to land further supplies. At 0630 orders were issued that departure be delayed until 0700, and that transports continue unloading until that time. “About 0700,” the Zeilin reports, “after several hatches had been closed up and boats hoisted in, word was received that the ship would not get underway at 0700 and to continue with the unloading.”

At 0840 there was an air raid warning, and our ships again had to cease unloading and stand out in formation to repel the attack which did not materialize. About 1120, when our ships were returning to the anchorage, they received orders to hoist all boats as quickly as possible and to prepare to leave the Guadalcanal area. Those in the Tulagi area were told to have their boats hoisted by 1830.

All these delays had seriously retarded the unloading of supplies, which was particularly urgent in the Tulagi area. The case of the Betelgeuse was probably typical: “Although the Betelgeuse was in the unloading area from 0650 August 7th until 1440 August 9th (a period of 55 hours and 50 minutes), the major part of this time was used up in awaiting orders to land after a beachhead had been secured, ceasing unloading due to orders from the beach, getting underway and coming to anchor, underway at sea to avoid the enemy, manning general quarters stations, scattering and recalling boats, diversion of ship’s boats to assist in unloading of other ships.” As a consequence, our ships departed without having unloaded all supplies.

(The Betelgeuse estimated that 50 percent remained on board.)

The transports from the XRAY area left by Lengo Channel for Noumea at 1530. Those in the YOKE area continued unloading a few hours more and did not depart till 1900, but these extra hours were not enough and the Marines in the Tulagi area were left with meager supplies. The 6,100 Marines in the Tulagi area were left with 39,000 rations, 3,000,000 rounds of .30-caliber ammunition, 30,000 rounds of .45-caliber. The 10,900 Marines in the Guadalcanal area were left 567,000 rations, 6,000,000 rounds of .30-caliber and 6,000,000 rounds of .45-caliber ammunition.

OBSERVATIONS

 

“The fact must be faced that we had an adequate force placed with the very purpose of repelling surface attack and when that surface attack was made, it destroyed our force,” said Admiral Crutchley. After full allowance for the element of surprise and for the fact that the attacker at night enjoys an immense advantage, there remain many questions about the action which cannot be answered.

It is unexplained how the enemy managed to pass the two destroyers stationed to give warning of just such an attack. Visibility of course was very low. The enemy might have escaped radar detection for a while by approaching close to the shore of the islands, but to reach Savo Island he had to cross open water, and at this point our radars should have picked him up easily. The nature of the radar search conducted by the two destroyers was not reported. It was suggested, without any evidence, that their search may have been intermittent, and not continuous. If this is true, the enemy could have crossed the open water at a time when the radar was not in actual operation. Admiral Crutchley suggested that our failure could be explained by the enemy’s having detected our patrolling destroyers from the air and having made a wide circuit to the westward, approaching close along the shore of Guadalcanal.

Of less importance but of considerable interest is the problem of the “something” seen close aboard the Patterson at the beginning of the engagement, and the “dark objects” seen between our ships by the Chicago. They may explain the fact that both the Chicago and the Canberra were struck by torpedoes which could scarcely have been fired from the enemy cruiser line.

Because the enemy cruisers came in very close to Savo Island, their destroyers may well have been on their starboard bow, perhaps at some distance. If they failed to turn eastward quickly as did the cruisers, they might have passed through our formation. It seems probable, however, that in spite of the poor visibility, enemy destroyers would have been recognized at the close range at which they passed.

Secondly, it is possible that the “seaplane tenders or gunboats” reported in the Melbourne dispatch were in fact tenders for motor torpedo boats, and that some of these were present. The restricted waters, smooth sea, and poor visibility were well suited to their operation.

The most likely conjecture is that enemy submarines were operating on the surface in coordination with the attacking cruisers. A lookout on the Vincennes saw a submarine surface just as the action began. Capt. Riefkohl believed his ship might have been torpedoed by a submarine, and, at the close of the action, the last 5-inch gun on his ship was reported to have hit the conning tower of a submarine. The following morning several of our destroyers made sound contacts, and the Mugford believed that she sank a submarine.

The attacking ships were never seen with sufficient clarity to make identification certain. Admiral Crutchley reported, “The consensus of opinion assesses the enemy force as comprising one 8-inch cruiser (which I think might have been the Chokai) and two light cruisers of the 5.5-inch type. Probably there were three destroyers. This would correspond to the force reported in the Melbourne warning.

There is some question as to whether the enemy operated in one or two groups. The latter suggestion came from some officers of the Vincennes group who believed that they had been caught in a cross fire.

This could be explained by the fact that the enemy crossed astern of this group at such speed that the leading vessels of the enemy column might have been firing on our ships from their starboard quarter while the last ships of the column were still firing from the port quarter. Admiral Crutchley remarked, “The Vincennes suggests that the other enemy force consisted of destroyers. As the enemy had two separate transport groups to attack, there seems to be good reason for dividing his force into two sections, but if this were so, the enemy destroyer force apparently destined to be the one sent against Squadron Y at Tulagi was not intercepted by any of our patrols and it becomes difficult to explain why they did not go on to attack their real objective.” The fact that the enemy planes dropped flares over Tulagi considerably later than over Guadalcanal indicates that the enemy plan was probably for a single force to attack first one and then the other.

It seems certain that our ships scored several hits on the Japanese, but there was no evidence that we inflicted any considerable damage. None of the enemy ships was seen to be seriously on fire, and apparently all cleared the area at high speed.

The redeeming feature of the battle was the splendid performance of our officers and men. They had been on the alert for days and had had about 48 hours of continuous, active operations immediately before the battle. In spite of this, their conduct under the most trying circumstances was beyond praise, and they made it, in the happy phrase of one of our officers, “a night in which heroism was commonplace.”

End of Part 6 and End of the series on the First Battle of Savo Island

Please visit the other five parts of this series for the big picture

https://theleansubmariner.com/2017/08/08/diamond-anniversary-the-first-battle-of-savo-island-part-1/

https://theleansubmariner.com/2017/08/08/diamond-anniversary-the-first-battle-of-savo-island-part-2-attack-on-the-southern-group/

https://theleansubmariner.com/2017/08/08/diamond-anniversary-the-first-battle-of-savo-island-part-3-attack-on-the-northern-group/

https://theleansubmariner.com/2017/08/08/diamond-anniversary-the-first-battle-of-savo-island-part-4-the-xray-transports-and-the-destroyers/

https://theleansubmariner.com/2017/08/08/diamond-anniversary-the-first-battle-of-savo-island-part-5-end-of-the-canberra-and-astoria/

 

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