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

Diamond Anniversary – The First Battle of Savo Island (Part 4 – The XRAY Transports and the Destroyers) 1

Part 4

“XRAY” TRANSPORTS

 The enemy had ceased fire on the Vincennes group about 0215, and headed out to sea, briefly engaging the Ralph Talbot about 0320-23. Within half an hour both the Quincy and the Vincennes had gone down. The Canberra remained afloat until morning, when she was sunk by our own destroyers, and the Astoria finally succumbed to her wounds about noon.

No one in our forces, however, could know that the Japanese had completely withdrawn and that their entire effort had been thrown into the half-hour between 0145 and 0215. When at about 0235, while the Quincy was going down, flares were dropped over Florida Island, evidently to silhouette our transports off Tulagi and Gavutu, it seemed likely that more action was yet to come. Consequently “alarms and excursions continued until dawn, and it was only with daylight that the enemy’s retirement and our own situation became clear.

 

Back at XRAY, as soon as the first flares appeared, unloading ceased, boats cast off and headed for the beach, and all ships were darkened and got underway promptly. Under cover of darkness and rain, they moved out Lengo Channel to the eastward at about 10 knots. Some reports indicate that this was done without orders, but the truth seems to be that some of the ships failed to receive the orders issued and merely followed the others. There was great tenseness as our ships laid to, expecting attack momentarily and knowing that it would be difficult to distinguish friend from enemy. The Betelgeuse diary records that “all ships were covered at all times with our guns in case they turned out to be enemy. It is most remarkable that none of our ships in the transport group fired on any other ship during the entire period, although all ships must have had each other covered and the slightest mis-move on anyone’s part would have caused much indiscriminate firing.”

The minesweeper Hopkins, on which was the Commander of the Minesweeper Division, offers an example of the confusion which prevailed that night. After receiving from the Task Force Commander a dispatch which could not be broken down, the Hopkins could not again contact the Commander. She then failed to find the transports near XRAY. She next stood out around the northwest corner of Guadalcanal, the Task Group Commander having “received no information as to existing situation, the intentions of TFC, the disposition of own or enemy forces. He was unable to make contact with any transports and was doubtful as to the Hopkins’ position . . .” A request for a verification of the dispatch resulted in another cypher to which the Hopkins had no key.

Admiral Crutchley on the Australia had very little more success in obtaining a picture of the situation. After his midnight conference he had decided not to return to his southern cruiser group. The Australia had just begun a patrol of her own within the destroyer circle at XRAY when the flares were dropped over the beach and gunfire was seen near Savo. Admiral Crutchley at once ordered the Australia to a position about 7 miles west of XRAY to patrol on courses 060°-240°, in order to be in a position to intercept any of the enemy who might break through our cruisers. At the same time he ordered those of our destroyers not engaged to concentrate on the Australia in this position. This order, however, was sent out in a cypher not generally understood, and most of our destroyers proceeded to concentrate at the previously assigned rendezvous 5 miles northwest of Savo.

Meanwhile Admiral Crutchley was able to obtain only the most fragmentary news of the action. The Chicago reported her damage and that the Canberra was burning near Savo, but nothing could be learned of the Vincennes group. At about 0500 Admiral Crutchley, acting upon orders from Admiral Turner, instructed the Commander of Destroyer Squadron FOUR to investigate the condition of the Canberra and Patterson (it was believed the latter might have been damaged) and to abandon and destroy them if they could not join in the withdrawal planned for 0630. At 0545 the situation remained obscure, and Admiral Crutchley sent a message to the escort forces ordering them to be prepared to give battle at dawn near the transports.

 

OUR DESTROYERS

Two of our destroyers, the Ellet and the Henley , were stationed off Tulagi. The Henley received Admiral Crutchley’s order to concentrate at 0206, deciphered it correctly, and attempted to join the Australia. She failed to find the cruiser, however, nearly collided with the Mugford, wandered about in the heavy rain and fog for several hours and finally turned to the XRAY area about dawn. On the way toward the beach she made sound contact with a submarine and dropped depth charges without positive results.

 

The Ellet had received Patterson’s warning of strange ships entering the harbor and saw the gunfire which followed. As the transports seemed safe within Tulagi inner harbor, the Ellet closed the scene of action at once. “Ceiling was low, visibility was reduced by moderate rain. Identification of own and enemy force was difficult.” The action was over before she arrived. Upon approaching a burning ship, she found it was the Astoria and began to pick up survivors who had been forced overboard, shortly moving along to rescue survivors from the Quincy. Before 0700 she had picked up nearly 500 officers and men. Of the destroyers stationed at XRAY, Dewey and Hull appear to have remained in the vicinity through the action. The Mugford, however, upon seeing gunfire to seaward, lighted off two more boilers and headed for the destroyer rendezvous at 25 knots. This was about 0210. After steaming a few minutes she encountered (and nearly collided with) the Henley. After some time near the latter and after some conversation with ComDesDiv SEVEN, Comdr. Robert Hall Smith, the Mugford moved on toward Savo. She passed men in the water before reaching the rendezvous, where she found the Selfridge.

 

That destroyer, with ComDesRon FOUR (Capt. Cornelius W. Flynn) aboard, had received Admiral Crutchley’s message shortly after 0200, misunderstood it as an order to concentrate northwest of Savo, and headed northwest at 20 knots. On the way she passed the burning Astoria and men in the water. After waiting at the rendezvous for a while, she saw the Mugford come up and fall in astern. The Helm and Wilson were also present. The Selfridge was returning to the transport area when she was ordered to stand by the Canberra. Upon arriving in the vicinity of the cruiser at 0640 she found the Patterson already removing personnel.

End of Part 4

Diamond Anniversary – The First Battle of Savo Island (Part 3 Attack on The Northern Group ) 1

THE NORTHERN GROUP

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our northern cruiser group was patrolling its square at a speed of 10 knots. The Helm was 1,500 yards on the port bow and the Wilson 2,000 yards on the starboard bow of the Vincennes. The Quincy and Astoria followed rather closely in order to enjoy the maximum antisubmarine protection from the destroyers. All three cruisers were in Condition of Readiness II. On the Vincennes all guns of the main battery had remained loaded since the noon air attack, and two guns in each turret were manned. Broadside antiaircraft and heavy machine gun batteries were fully manned, as were plot and most control stations. Steam was available for 30 knots. The Quincy was in Material Condition of Readiness YOKE, with Ammunition Condition of Readiness I in main and antiaircraft batteries. On the Astoria all guns of the main battery were loaded and two guns in each turret were manned. The antiaircraft battery was completely manned. The ship was in Material Condition ZED, with a few exceptions necessary because of the heat, which had caused several cases of prostration during the day.

At about 0120 the group turned onto course 315°.Since course was altered approximately every half hour, another change was due at 0150. But at about 0145 the Vincennes ordered by TBS that the course be held until 0200. The Quincy and Wilson had some difficulty in getting these orders and they were repeated several times. Thus the orders and their acknowledgment occupied the TBS for several minutes–at a most critical time, as it turned out.

Probably the first incident in the rapid succession of events which was to follow came about 0145, when a lookout on the Vincennes’ main deck aft saw a submarine surface and then submerge about 600 yards distant on the port quarter. This was reported to the pilot house, but it is not certain that the report was acknowledged. About the same time one of the sky lookouts called the attention of Lt. Comdr. Robert R. Craighill, assistant gunnery officer, to “a shape he thought he saw about broad on the port bow.” Lt. Comdr. Craighill searched the area with binoculars, but there was a rain squall in the vicinity of Savo and he could make out nothing.

Perhaps about 2 minutes later–about 0147 as nearly as may be deter- mined19 – the Patterson’s message came over the TBS: “Warning, warning, strange ships entering the harbor.” The report was received on the Vincennes, but it did not reach the captain asleep in his emergency cabin adjoining the pilot house, and it is not certain that it was heard by the executive officer on the bridge. The warning was also heard on the Quincy and general quarters was sounded, but the report was not passed on to the gunnery control stations. The Astoria was using her TBS to acknowledge orders regarding the change of course and did not receive the report. The Wilson heard the broadcast, but apparently the Helm did not.

By this time flares or star shells were seen. Actually the first of these seem to have appeared a minute or two before the TBS warning. There were two groups visible from the Vincennes. The first were almost astern. Very shortly afterward, flares or star shells and then gunfire were seen to port, in the direction of our southern force. Those astern were well below the overcast, white and evenly spaced across the sky from about 200° to 180° R. Those to the right appeared first, the others following in quick succession. They were apparently laid about normal to the course of our ships, although to one or two observers they seemed rather to parallel it. The estimates of their distance run from 3,000 to 10,000 yards.

It was not at once clear whether they were star shells or flares. Lt. Comdr. Truesdell, gunnery officer of the Astoria, believed they were flares: “Their interval of appearing was so short that it indicated that they could not have been fired by a single pair of guns. Also, if fired simultaneously from one battery they should appear almost simultaneously.”

It seems probable that these were the flares dropped near the transport area, which otherwise were not seen from our cruisers. The direction is about right, as is the time. If this is true, the estimates were in error and they were at a considerably greater distance than they seemed. If, on the other hand, they were really only 3,000 to 4,000 yards astern, they must have been near the southern corner of the patrol square and designed to illuminate our cruiser group.

At any rate, the flares did give the Vincennes group a very brief warning, and it was by their light that the enemy cruisers were first identified from the Astoria so that fire could be opened promptly.

 

One or the other of the two groups of flares was seen from all of our cruisers. On the Astoria, R. A. Radke, Quartermaster Second Class, sighted the flares astern and then saw a ship at a considerable distance on the port bow open fire–evidently the Japanese firing on our southern force. He thereupon promptly rang the general alarm on his own initiative. Just as he pulled the switch, he received the order from the bridge to stand by the general alarm.” At the Quincy’s control forward it was at first thought that the flares astern were star shells fired by our destroyers near Tulagi to locate the enemy plane which had been heard shortly before. But very soon afterwards the TBS warning was received; Capt. Samuel N. Moore was called, general quarters was sounded, all boilers were lighted off and Condition ZED was set throughout the ship. This was, however, probably about 2 minutes later than on the other ships.

Lt. Comdr. Craighill of the Vincennes sighted the star shells astern, but it was the flares over the Canberra and Chicago that were seen from the bridge. Comdr. William E. A. Mullan, executive officer, at once ordered general quarters sounded. He described the scene: “Almost at once there was a great display of light, and silhouettes of a group of ships southeast of Savo Island could distinctly be seen and recognized as the southern group of Allied ships. They were, I believe, on approximately the same course as the Vincennes, which was northwest.”

Capt. Frederick L. Riefkohl of the Vincennes, commanding our northern cruiser group, had been called promptly. As he stepped from his emergency cabin, to which he had retired less than 2 hours earlier, he could see three or four star shells at a distance on the port beam, and a ship firing star shells toward the southeast. Another ship to the left was firing toward the first. “I estimated,” he reports, “that Australia group had made contact with a destroyer. I received no report of the contact or orders to concentrate. I thought this contact probably a destroyer and a ruse to draw off my group while the main attack force passed through my sector to attack the transports. If enemy heavy ships had been sighted I expected Australia group would illuminate and engage them, and the situation would soon be clarified. I considered turning right to course 045° T., but felt I might be called on to support Australia group. I signaled speed 15 knots and decided to hold my course temporarily. Fired no star shell as I did not wish to disclose myself to an enemy approaching my sector from seaward.”

 

The brief warning given the Vincennes group was inadequate.

In spite of the fact that a large proportion of the men were either on watch or sleeping near their posts, it is doubtful if battle stations were completely manned on any of our cruisers by the time searchlights were turned on them and a rain of shells followed. Lt. Comdr. Chester E. Carroll of the Helm describes the opening of the action: “The Vincennes group continued on course. A few minutes later our force was under fire, the Quincy apparently being hit immediately, with large fires amidships. One cruiser immediately opened fire, followed by the other two. The point of aim of the cruisers was not clear, as some fire was to port and some to starboard.” Lt. Comdr. Walter H. Price of the Wilson remarks, “Our cruisers appeared to be enveloped in a plunging fire as soon as they were illuminated.”

 

Capt. Riefkohl’s order for an increase in speed had just gone out on the TBS when a searchlight appeared about 7,000 yards on the port quarter (250° R.). This light, which seemed to be directed at the Astoria, was followed at once by a second to the right, which picked out the Quincy, and third light still further to the right, which was turned on the Vincennes. Lt. Comdr. Truesdell suggests that the enemy used destroyers ahead and astern to illuminate and to draw our fire, for the cruiser upon which the Astoria opened fire a moment later was to the right of a searchlight and did not have a searchlight on.

Enemy fire followed the searchlights, and a salvo seems to have landed near each of our cruisers as soon as it was illuminated. Lt. Comdr. Truesdell speculates that the enemy may have concentrated upon each of our cruisers in turn, two ships initially firing upon the leader of our column and the third ship firing upon our second cruiser. A comparison of the reports, however, indicates that our ships were taken under fire almost simultaneously, the Astoria at the rear perhaps slightly before the Vincennes in the van. It seems that for the first few minutes at least, only one cruiser was firing on each of ours.

 

The Astoria was the first of our cruisers to return the enemy’s fire. This was due to the alertness and initiative of the gunnery officer. At the first appearance of the flares, Lt. Comdr. Truesdell had ordered the main battery trained out on the port quarter. At the same time he requested the bridge to sound general quarters. Very shortly afterwards he and the ship’s spotter, Lt. (jg) Carl A. Sander, saw on the port quarter the silhouette of a Japanese cruiser which Lt. Sander identified as of the Nachi class. Then the first searchlight came on. Almost simultaneously, a salvo landed 500 yards short and 200 yards ahead of the Astoria. Lt. Comdr. Truesdell asked permission to fire. A second enemy salvo landed 500 yards short, 100 yards ahead. The next would probably be on in deflection. Receiving no answer from the Bridge, Lt. Comdr. Truesdell himself gave the order to fire, and the main battery sent off a salvo toward the port quarter. All 3 turrets fired, but it is not certain whether 6 or 9 guns participated. The range was 5,500 yards, bearing 240° R. (about 195° T.).

The general alarm was still ringing and Capt. William G. Greenman, who had just been called, was astonished to hear the main battery fire as he awoke. He was just entering the pilot house when the battery fired again. Capt. Greenman’s first impression on seeing the flares and searchlights inside the bay was that our ships had sighted a submarine on the surface and that we were firing into our own ships. Lt. Comdr. Topper, who was on the bridge, reports him as asking, “Who sounded the general alarm? Who gave the order to commence firing? Topper, I think we are firing on our own ships. Let’s not get excited and act too hasty. Cease firing.”

 

Upon this order, firing ceased. Someone on the port wing of the bridge reported searchlights illuminating our ships, while word came from main battery control that the ships had been identified as Japanese cruisers. By this time, too, the Vincennes’ order to increase speed to 15 knots had been reported to the captain. Then the JA talker reported, “Mr. Truesdell said for God’s sake give the word to commence firing.” The captain then ordered, “Sound general quarters,”–it was in fact sounded this second time,–and almost immediately, “Commence firing,” with the remark, “Whether our ships or not we will have to stop them.”

“I believe this remark,” explains Lt. Comdr. Topper, “was caused by the splashes that had just landed ahead and to port of the Astoria.” This was probably the enemy’s third salvo, which was still about 500 yards short.

Our other two cruisers opened fire not long after the Astoria. On the Vincennes the general alarm must have been sounded very nearly as promptly. The 8-inch guns were already loaded, but control had not yet received word that the battery was manned when the first enemy searchlight appeared.Lt. Comdr. Robert L. Adams, the gunnery officer, immediately ordered the main battery trained out to the left to pick up the target, but before the guns could be brought to bear the second and third enemy searchlights came on and an enemy salvo landed 75 to 100 yards short. The Vincennes replied with an 8-inch salvo, using a radar range of 8,250 yards. (This was somewhat greater than the range obtained by our other cruisers.) Simultaneously the 5-inch battery fired a broadside of star shells for illumination. Before the Vincennes could fire again an enemy salvo landed on the well deck and hangar, where intense fires broke out. The bridge, too, was hit, and the communications officer and two men m the pilot house were killed. After this salvo electric power for the guns failed, but within a minute it was restored and the 8-inch battery resumed fire. By this time the ship was being hit heavily, and word came from aft that Battle II had been hit. Sky Forward and Sky Aft were hit about the same time. Only one badly wounded man survived the hit on the latter station.

 

Of our three cruisers the Quincy was hit most severely. Since it was at first thought that the star shells astern had been fired by our own destroyers, general quarters was not sounded until about 2 minutes later, when the TBS warning came through. Just before the enemy searchlights came on, the silhouettes of three cruisers rounding the southern end of Savo could be discerned from the bridge. These had three turrets forward, the middle being the highest. Apparently none of this information was passed on to the control stations, so that “the first intimation the gunnery control stations had that enemy ships were in the vicinity was when they turned searchlights on the formation, immediately followed by a salvo falling just short of the U.S. S. Vincennes.”

 

When the enemy searchlights came on, the Bridge ordered, “Fire on the searchlights.” But the batteries were not yet completely manned and plot had not yet reported ready to Control Forward when the ship was hit on the 1.1-inch gun mounts on the main deck aft. Very shortly afterwards the Quincy was able to reply with a full nine-gun salvo. A range of 6,000 yards was used, although just before the guns were fired a radar range of 5,800 yards was obtained. Target angle was estimated to be 60° and speed 15 knots. (Our other cruisers assumed a target angle of 315° and speed of at least 25 knots, which was probably more accurate.) Meanwhile the ship received many hits. A plane in the port catapult caught fire, which illuminated the ship as similar casualties illuminated our other cruisers. From our other ships the Quincy soon appeared a mass of flames.

Thus in the first 2 or 3 minutes of action our cruisers had been hit repeatedly and set ablaze before they could fire more than one or two salvos each.

While it is clear that the main enemy force was on their port quarter, crossing astern of our formation, it is just possible that other enemy ships were to starboard. Lt. Comdr. Ellis K. Wakefield, who was in sky forward on the Astoria, says that when our ships opened fire on the searchlights on their port quarter one of his talkers observed shooting in our direction from ships on the starboard quarter. Lt. Comdr. Wakefield thereupon “ordered sky forward to commence firing at flashes of light, apparently from gunfire, bearing about 150° R.,” but he received no acknowledgment of this order. Comdr. Mullan of the Vincennes, remarks, “At this time [the time of the first enemy hits] there was a great deal of illumination on the starboard hand, but I do not know from what source.”

When our cruisers opened fire, the Helm on the port bow of the Vincennes opened fire also. However, no target was visible and the situation was not clear, so that “cease fire” had to be ordered at once. Although it appeared that our cruisers were being illuminated from the southeast, smoke from the fires already blazing on them so obscured the picture that there could be no certainty.

Soon orders were received on TBS from the Vincennes for the screening destroyers to attack. Since it could not yet be ascertained in which direction the attack should be made, the Helm remained in formation for several minutes before heading south. At about 0200, after she had been moving south for a few minutes, a ship could be seen about 8,000 yards on the port bow, partially illuminated by a searchlight. It was close to the southern shore of Savo Island, apparently headed seaward. The Helm changed course to the southwest and closed at full speed, preparing to make an attack. As she approached, however, the ship was again illuminated and could be identified as one of our own destroyers. Probably it was the Patterson, which had trailed the enemy eastward and had lost contact about this time.

The Wilson, on the starboard bow of the Vincennes, had the advantage of having received the TBS warning and also enjoyed a clearer view of the situation. When the enemy searchlights came on, she immediately opened fire on the right hand light with all four 5-inch guns, using a range of 12,000 yards. After two salvos she had to turn to the left to keep guns No. 1 and 2 bearing. Evidently she did not receive the order to attack, for Lt. Comdr. Price remarks that the order to increase speed to 15 knots was the last he received from the Vincennes. After a few moments of action all three of our cruisers were seen to be on fire. As the Wilson continued firing rapidly, it is possible that it was her gun flashes that Lt. Comdr. Wakefield saw to starboard of the Astoria, although she should have been on the starboard bow, rather than the quarter.

Meanwhile the bearing of the enemy force on the port quarter was drawing rapidly astern. After the first salvo or two the forward directors and turrets of our ships could no longer bear, and gunnery officers began to request that their ships come left.

When the first enemy salvos landed, Capt. Riefkohl on the Vincennes ordered speed increased to 20 knots and started a turn to the left “with a view of closing the enemy and continuing around on a reverse course if he stood in toward the transport area.” He intended to make the turn by simultaneous ship movements, but all communications had failed after the bridge had been hit, and he could send no signal. The Quincy seems to have followed the lead of the Vincennes, while Capt. Greenman of the Astoria, seeing that the ships ahead were 10° to 15° to the left of the base course, ordered left rudder and full speed ahead. The Astoria’s speed, however, increased only slightly.

During this turn to the left our ships were taking a terrific pounding, but they continued to fire. With the Vincennes’ second salvo–she fired only two to port from the main battery–there was an explosion on the target and the enemy searchlight went out. The assistant gunnery officer, Lt. Comdr. Craighill, saw the target make a radical turn to the left as if it had gone out of control, after which it was lost from sight. Inasmuch as the Vincennes 5-inch battery, the Wilson, and perhaps the Quincy may have been firing on the same target, it cannot be determined who made the hit.

The Quincy was badly on fire and had received a hit in her No.1 fireroom. Sometime very early in the engagement the bridge was hit and many of the personnel there were killed. She was firing, but the enemy was drawing astern so rapidly that after one or two salvos from the main battery, director I and the two forward turrets could no longer bear. Control was shifted to director II with orders to fire turret III. This turret, however, had just been hit and was jammed in train, so that for a few minutes not one gun of the main battery could be used.

On board the Astoria the interval between the order to cease fire and commence fire had been only a minute or two. After the first two salvos, turret II had reached the limit of its train (218° R.), but the order to turn left was given at about the same time as the order to recommence fire, so that the turret could soon bear again. Before the Astoria could resume fire, the enemy fourth salvo arrived. It was about 200 yards short, but seems to have been good for one hit on the Astoria’s bow. The fifth Japanese salvo was on the target, making four or more hits amidships. Fires were started in the hangar and at other points. Power for turret III was temporarily interrupted, so that the Astoria’s answering salvo (her third) was fired by only the six guns of turrets I and II. The enemy at this time was about 6,200 yards distant, bearing 235° R.

Having once found the Astoria’s range, the enemy kept it.

Immediately after firing the third salvo, turret I received a direct hit. Flames sprang up, then quickly died down as the turret burned out. At the same time a hit on the barbette of turret II put the shell hoist for the right-hand gun out of commission, so that the fourth salvo was fired by only 2 guns. The range was now 6,000 yards, bearing 225° R.

The 5-inch battery seems to have opened fire about the same time as the main battery, and the 1.1-inch at the time of the captain’s order to resume fire. However, either the guns or their ready service boxes were hit before many of them could fire more than 6 or 7 rounds, while the director in sky forward was hit, forcing the 1.1-inch guns onto local control.

During this time our ships were turning left, but, as Lt. Comdr. Truesdell remarked, “all ships turned too slowly, and the increase of speed was too slow to clear the next astern.” As a result the Astoria found herself coming up into the Quincy’s line of fire and had to turn sharply to the right across her stern to clear her. This shift to the right brought the enemy bearing astern more rapidly, so that after one or two more salvos neither director I nor turret II could bear. Control was shifted to director II, which fired another three-gun salvo from turret III, bearing 170° R., range 5,000 yards. Meanwhile turret II had trained around to starboard, and director I was soon able to fire two more salvos with both turrets. That was all, for shortly both the main battery control and director I ceased to function and turret III lost power. Only turret I was able to fire a little longer on local control.

In these few minutes the ship had been raked heavily from both quarters as the enemy crossed astern. The boat deck had been hit and was flaming after the 5-inch guns had fired about eight salvos. Power for these was lost, and what remained went onto local control until the progress of the fire soon put an end to their activity. Sky Aft reported that they were getting burned and were forced to break off communication. The bridge was hit and the helmsman fell. Another man took his place. The engine rooms were being abandoned, their crews driven out by smoke and flames drawn down their ventilators and intakes. After this the ship began to lose speed.

It could not have been long after the Astoria swung right across the Quincy’s stern that the Vincennes at the head of our group turned to starboard. Her forward turrets had again reached their limit of train to the left, and the ship was being hit severely. The previous turn to the left had brought the ship’s head around to about 275° T. when Capt. Riefkohl, in an attempt to throw off the enemy’s fire and to enable the forward guns to bear, turned hard right and signaled flank speed. The engine room answered the signal, but only about 19.5 knots was reached.

While the ship was turning right two or three torpedoes crashed into the port side under the sick bay and near No.4 fireroom. The ship “shook and shuddered” under the impact of the explosion, which seems to have been remarkably heavy. Since no flash from torpedo tubes had been seen, Capt. Riefkohl thought that the torpedoes might have been fired by a submarine. At about the same time a hit on the main battery control station aft killed most of the men there, while other hits fell on the rangefinder hoods of the forward turrets and fragments penetrated the officers’ booth of turret II, seriously wounding personnel there.

After the torpedoing, power was lost for the main battery. Diesel auxiliaries were cut in for turrets I and III, but there was none available for turret II. During this turn to the right only turret III continued firing.

 

Until the Vincennes turned right, two destroyers which were thought to be the Helm and the Wilson were ahead on the starboard hand. Our cruisers’ turn to the left would probably have brought them into this relative position. “One destroyer was then observed crossing our bow from port to starboard, while the other was crossing from starboard to port. The one crossing from port to starboard may have been an enemy, but as the two vessels barely missed colliding and did not fire on one another, it is believed that they were both friendly. One DD, on our starboard hand, probably Wilson, was observed firing star shell and what appeared as heavy antiaircraft machine-gun fire.”

The Wilson’s account of the episode explains that when the Vincennes turned right, she, too, turned right, unmasking her starboard battery. She had continued on this course for several minutes when “the gun flashes disclosed a Monssen-type destroyer close aboard the starboard bow on a collision course. In order to avoid collision, speed was increased to 30 knots and the ship swung hard left. Continued this left turn until clear of the destroyer and the battery was unmasked to port. Reopened fire as soon as possible.” By this time the Wilson had lost sight of all our cruisers except the Astoria, which was under heavy fire. She continued fire on the searchlight till it went out. Then she shifted her aim to a light to the left, which was still illuminating the Astoria, and fired till it went out. By that time no more targets were visible, and the location of our own forces was unknown, so the Wilson headed toward Savo Island.

The Helm does not mention the near collision, and, if the times given in her report are correct, she was in fact making her excursion to the south at that moment. This makes it appear quite possible that the second destroyer was Japanese. If it was really the Helm, the incident must have occurred just before she went south, for when she returned and “passed through the cruisers between the Vincennes and Quincy, the latter appeared to be stopped and to have suffered heavy damage.” The Vincennes was by that time firing in an easterly direction and it could be seen that our cruisers were illuminated by a searchlight to the east. The Helm remained near the Vincennes for some time, and orders were given to fire on the searchlight, but almost immediately it went out. The Quincy had indeed suffered heavy damage. She had started swinging to starboard about the same time as the Vincennes. As soon as they could bear on the starboard quarter, turrets I and II reopened fire (turret III had been hit and jammed in train), while the starboard antiaircraft battery started firing star shells. It got off only three salvos, however, before being put out of action. After two salvos turret II exploded and burned out, and turret I was put out of action by a hit in the shell deck and a fire in upper powder. By this time the entire 5-inch battery had been knocked out by direct hits, shrapnel, explosion of ready service boxes, and by fires on board.

It was about this time that control forward received its last communication from the bridge: “We’re going down between them–give them hell!”

But there was little besides fighting spirit left on the Quincy. Not one gun of either the main or 5-inch battery could fire, and the ship must already have been losing headway. No. I fireroom had been hit soon after the beginning of the action. A hit above No.2 fireroom about the time the Quincy started to turn right forced its abandonment. It was believed that while she was turning a torpedo struck between No.3 and 4 firerooms, probably about the same time the Vincennes was torpedoed. The No. I and 2 engine rooms continued to operate as long as there was steam. Then, because of the list which was developing to port, the crew left No.2 engine room. It appears that No.1 engine room was not abandoned before the ship capsized.

Soon after the 5-inch battery had been knocked out, an enemy vessel with mushroom top stacks passed about 2,000 yards to port, blazing at the Quincy with all her guns. Perhaps it was the same ship which Marine Gunner Jack Nelson saw pass very close along the port side of the Vincennes on a parallel course, raking her with fire.

It was probably very shortly after the Quincy’s Control Forward received the last determined message from the Bridge that the latter suffered another hit which killed practically everyone in the pilot house. At about the same time a hit killed almost everyone in Battle II. By this time the boats on the boat deck were burning, the galley was in flames, the fire on the fantail was out of control, and the hangar and well deck were “a blazing inferno.” Steam was escaping from No. I stack with a deafening roar. The forward battle lookout was hit, as was the 1.1-inch clipping room. The resulting flames enveloped the forward control stations and reached up to the forward sky director.

“When the flames which engulfed the forward control station subsided, an officer went to the bridge to see what the orders were regarding firing and maneuvering. He found a quartermaster spinning the wheel, trying to turn the ship to port, who said that the captain had told him to beach the ship. He had no steering control. Just then the captain rose up about half way and collapsed dead without having uttered any sound except a moan. No others were moving in the pilot house, which was thick with bodies.”

Enemy fire had stopped when the control officer received this information and ordered the abandonment of the sky control stations. These had been inoperative for several minutes. By this time “the ship was listing rapidly to port, the forecastle was awash, water coming over the gun deck to port, and fires were blazing intermittently throughout the whole length of the ship. The party aloft found nothing but carnage about the gun decks, and dense smoke and heat coming from below decks.” The ship was almost dead in the water and was going over when the gunnery officer, as the senior officer present, ordered abandon ship. A minute after this group got clear, “the ship capsized to port, the bow went under, the stern raised and the ship slid from view into the depths.” This was about 0235 or soon after.

The Astoria, after swinging right to avoid the Quincy, moved northward for 4 or 5 minutes “under the heaviest concentration of enemy fire.” Her engine rooms were being abandoned because of the fires above them and the ship was losing speed. She next swung left and was on a southwesterly course when the Quincy was seen on the port bow “blazing fiercely from stem to stern.” The Quincy still had considerable way on and was swinging to the right. For a moment it looked as if a collision was inevitable, but the Astoria put her rudder hard left and swung clear. The Quincy could be seen coasting off astern and not long afterwards appeared to blow up.

After clearing the Quincy, the Astoria steadied out on a course of 185°. By this time only turret II was still in commission, and only No. I gun of the secondary battery could still fire. As the Astoria steadied out, an enemy searchlight appeared to the east, just abaft the port beam. Lt. Comdr. Davidson, the communications officer, climbed up to the trainer’s sight of turret II and coached its guns onto the target. The turret fired and the shells could be seen to hit.

This was probably the last salvo fired by any of our cruisers.

Enemy fire had been diminishing and ceased shortly afterwards, at about 0215. It was fortunate, for at about that time the quartermaster reported that steering control was lost, and the engineroom advised that power had failed. Since the bridge had ceased to be useful as a control station, it was abandoned. While the ship drifted on toward the southwest the work of assembling the wounded began.

After the Vincennes had been torpedoed during her turn to the right, power for the main battery failed. Diesel auxiliaries were cut in for turrets I and III, but II had to go onto hand power. About the same time the forward magazines had to be flooded because of the progress of a fire in the vicinity. Steering control in the pilot house was lost and steering had to be shifted aft. Soon it was lost there too. The captain desired to turn left and attempted to do so by stopping the port engine, but communication could not be established with the engine room. At this time the explosion of another torpedo was felt. It was believed to have hit the port side at No. I fireroom.

During the turn to the right, only turret III had been able to fire, but as soon as turret II could bear to starboard it also joined in firing two salvos at a searchlight to the east. All director circuits were dead and fire was locally controlled. A hit was definitely seen, though the searchlight did not go out.

During these few minutes the ship was raked by a heavy fire from starboard. Turret I was prevented from joining in these last salvos by a hit on the starboard side of its barbette, which jammed it in train. One shell hit on top of turret II, while an 8-inch projectile penetrated its face and set fire to exposed powder. Powder in both turrets burned without exploding. Turret III, after one or two salvos, was also put out of action. Lt. Comdr. Adams, making his way along the gun deck about this time “noted many hits in the vicinity of the 5-inch battery and that there were many dead and wounded at each gun.” Only No.1 gun was still firing. After the rest of its crew had been wiped out, Sgt. R. L. Harmon, USMC, was joined by Ens. R. Peters, and it was reported that the gun scored a hit on the conning tower of a submarine which was seen at about 400 yards distance.

About 0210, searchlights, apparently from two destroyers, illuminated the ship from bearing 120° R. Capt. Riefkohl at first felt that these might be friendly and ordered a large set of colors hoisted and illuminated. They were run up on the one remaining halyard on the starboard signal yard, “but were illuminated only by enemy searchlights.” A messenger was sent asking for fire on these lights, but the gunnery officer, Lt. Comdr. Adams, reported that he had no guns left with which to fire. The captain next asked for smoke to protect the ship, but none could be made.

The ship by this time (about 0210) was dead in the water and was listing to port. There was no means of fighting fires or of controlling damage, and she was swept so heavily by enemy fire that the captain was considering her abandonment in order to save his men. Before this was done, however, the fire diminished and then ceased at about 0215.

As the list was increasing rapidly, the captain soon afterwards gave the order to prepare to abandon ship. The few serviceable life rafts were put over and the wounded put on them. The life jackets which had escaped the fire were distributed, but too few remained, and it is probable that some men were lost by drowning. At 0230 the captain gave the order to abandon ship. Ten minutes later he left the bridge. Water was already coming over the upper deck. Lt. Comdr. Craighill, who left just before the captain, describes the end: “The ship was then listed to about 45° and was going over at an increasing rate. The top decks, particularly amidships, were brightly lighted by the numerous fires and as we kicked away I could see no signs of life about them, except one man on the well deck, who eventually made his way to the starboard bulwark, just forward of the catapult tower and climbed over the side. When we were about 200 yards off the ship she finally reached her beam ends, seemed to hesitate before the stacks went under and, with burning planes and cranes crashing to port and into the water, she turned slowly over and went down bow first.”

The last of our ships to have contact with the enemy was the Ralph Talbot , on patrol northeast of Savo. After sighting and reporting the enemy plane before the battle, this destroyer had seen no further evidence of the enemy until about 0150, when gunfire was seen in what was thought to be the direction of XRAY. She then reported by TBS that nothing was in sight north of Savo, and stood in toward the island at 25 knots. She was at about the center of her patrol course at 0215 when she was illuminated by a searchlight about 10,000 yards on her port bow. The light swung off, but 2 minutes later she was again illuminated by a searchlight, now about 7,000 yards on her port beam, and the illuminating ship started firing. She fired about six salvos, all but two too short. Lt. Comdr. Joseph W. Callahan was convinced that the other ship was a friendly destroyer from Tulagi, and so did not return the fire, but headed west at maximum speed, zigzagging to throw off the fire. One shell, however, struck a torpedo tube, killing two men and putting the tube out of commission. Meanwhile the Talbot was flashing her fighting lights and broadcasting on the TBS that she was being fired upon by a friendly ship. Apparently in response to this, fire ceased.

The Ralph Talbot was still illuminated by the destroyer’s searchlight when she saw indistinctly an enemy cruiser thought to be of the Tone class on a northwesterly course on her port quarter, crossing from port to starboard. Within a minute the cruiser had crossed to the starboard quarter, turned two searchlights on our destroyer and opened fire with its secondary battery and after turret. The Ralph Talbot opened fire on a range finder range of 9,000 yards, but after the first salvo obtained a radar range of 3,300 yards, which was used for subsequent salvos. The Talbot’s own searchlight could not be used, as a near-hit had severed the cables leading to it.

The Talbot then turned hard right to fire her starboard torpedoes, but one tube failed to fire. Immediately afterwards, a shell landed in the after part of the chart house, destroying the radars and the automatic gun train and elevator orders. The destroyer next swung left to fire her port torpedo battery, but it was discovered that fire-control circuits had been cut by the hit. Only one torpedo was fired by local control.

The enemy now had the range, and three 5-inch hits landed in rapid succession, one in the wardroom, one on the starboard torpedo battery, and one on No. 4 gun. This last killed 21 men. The Talbot had the satisfaction of seeing a shell from her No. 3 gun land directly on one of the searchlights, which flared up and went out. This ended the action, for the cruiser turned off its other light and could no longer be seen.

The Talbot was listing 20° to port and had a bad fire in the chart house and pyrotechnics locker. In an attempt to correct the list she jettisoned all removable gear from the port side as she limped slowly to the westward of Savo Island. It was not until almost noon that she was able to proceed and rejoin the transport forces.

 

Although the Talbot’s report speaks with apparent certainty of her being illuminated and fired upon by a friendly destroyer “from Tulagi” just before her contact with the cruiser, it seems very probable that this identification was a mistake and that it was no accident that the searchlight remained on her until the cruiser could pick her out. Neither the Ellet nor the Henley , our two destroyers from the Tulagi area, recounts any such incident, and neither was near the Talbot at the time.28 The only one of our destroyers in the area was the Helm. She reports observing a ship illuminated and firing at 0220. She headed for the scene of action at 30 knots, but in about 5 minutes a flash of lightning revealed the destroyer as one of our own. The firing, according to the Helm, lasted for only a few salvos. It seems clear that the Helm was merely an observer of the action and neither illuminated nor fired upon the Talbot.

How the enemy had passed the Blue without being detected is unexplained. Except for the planes seen before midnight, her first intimation of the presence of the enemy was the opening of gunfire to the southeast. She then observed one or more aircraft operating over the battle area “showing intermittent flashing red and white lights as though using them for signaling.” At about 0215, when she was some 9 miles west of Savo, she sighted to the southeast a “harmless, small, two-masted schooner with slow speed auxiliary engine, on easterly course.” It was perhaps the same schooner which the Hull sank with her main battery west of Kukum on the 9th. It was then thought that she was directing Japanese troop movements.

A little later the Blue witnessed the action of the Ralph Talbot northeast of Savo. Then about 0250, while on a southerly course, she sighted an unidentified ship rounding Cape Esperance. Comdr. Harold Williams closed until about 0325, when the ship was identified as the Jarvis. Badly damaged by a torpedo in the air raid of the 8th, she had been ordered by Admiral Turner at 1800 to sail for Fila Harbor, Efate. The Hovey was to escort her, but failed to make contact, as she was expected to leave via Lengo Channel. This was the last seen of the Jarvis.

NORTHERN CRUISER FORCE

Chronological Table

[Times are very approximate and the relation of events largely conjectural]

 

 

Vincennes

 

Quincy

 

Astoria

 

0145 SS surfaces on port quarter
Flares astern (sighted by gunnery officer). Flares thought to be star shells fired by own DD’s near Tulagi. Flares sighted. Main battery ordered to train out to port.
Star shells and firing to port-seen from bridge. Firing seen to port.General alarm sounded.
TBS warning heard by operator. Not clear that it reached any officer on bridge. Captain called. General alarm. Warning received. TBS in use–warning not received. Japanese cruiser seen by gunnery officer.
General alarm.
Speed 15 knots signaled to group. Silhouettes of 3 cruisers seen rounding Savo.
0155 Searchlights on port quarter. Main battery ordered to train out. Bridge orders fire on searchlight. Batteries not yet ready. Two enemy salvos near Astoria.
Astoria fires first salvo (all turrets).
Enemy (5-inch?) salvo lands close. Port 5-inch battery firing star shells. Astoria 2nd salvo. Capt. orders cease fire.
Quincy hit on 1.1-inch gun mounts.
Vincennes hit on bridge hangar, Battle II.
Vincennes fires first main battery salvo. Quincy fires 9-gun salvo.
Power lost for main and 5-inch batteries for 1 minute. Bearing drawing rapidly aft on port side. Turret II at limit of train.
Intership communication lost. Plane on catapult hit and afire.
Speed 20 knots ordered. Course changed left to 275°. Quincy follows in turn to left. Enemy 3rd salvo short. Capt. orders resume fire.
Astoria follows in turn to left. Enemy 4th salvo hit on Astoria’s bow.
Enemy’s 5th salvo lands amidships.
Several fires on Vincennes Turret III jammed in train by hit on barbette Boat deck and hangar on fire.
Direct hits on Sky Forward and Sky Aft. No.1 fireroom hit. Turret III temporarily loses power. Astoria’s 3rd salvo. (Turrets I and II.)
Second Vincennes salvo (9 guns). Explosion on target and searchlight goes out. Ship hit heavily. Turret I hit and burns out. Turret II fires 2 guns.
Turret II and III–6 guns.
Vincennes hit continuously. Forward turrets reach limit of train. Quincy badly on fire. Turret II at limit of train.
0200 Vincennes starts turn to right. Captain orders 25 knots. Quincy follows in turn to right. Astoria turns hard right to clear Quincy’s line of fire.
Vincennes hit on port side by 2 or 3 torpedoes. Turrets I and II trained to starboard. Turret III–3 guns.
Power for main battery lost. Main Battery Control Aft is hit. Hits on rangefinder hoods, turrets I and II. Quincy torpedoed. Starboard AA battery fires 3 salvos before being put out of action. Turret II trained to starboard.

 

 

 

Vincennes

 

Quincy

 

Astoria

 

0205 Steering control lost. Diesel auxiliaries cut in for turrets I and III. Turret II goes onto hand power. Is it at this time that enemy destroyer passed along port side on parallel course? Turrets II and III-6 guns.
Forward magazine flooded. Bridge is hit.
Turret III fires during turn to right. Battle II hit. Ship turns to port.
Destroyers nearly collide ahead.
Power lost in after engine room. Vincennes hit heavily from starboard. Captain desires to turn left but has no steering control. Communication with engine room lost. Turrets I and II fire salvo to starboard. Turrets II-3 guns to port quarter.
Another torpedo hits Vincennes. Turret II explodes and burns out.
Turret I jammed in train by hit on barbette; powder burns. Turrets II and III fire 2 salvos to starboard. A hit observed. Turret I out of action. Enemy ship rakes Quincy from 2,000 yards on port side.
Main battery control station hit–turrets go onto local control.
Turret II hit in face and burns.;
Ship illuminated by DD’s to starboard.
0210 No gun able to fire. Bridge is hit again. Forward control station in flames. Near collision with Quincy
Ship stopping and listing to port. Ship on fire throughout her entire length and listing to port. Turret II fires and hits searchlight.
Heavily raked by enemy fire. Steering control lost.
Enemy fire diminishes. Power lost.
Enemy searchlight goes off. Bridge abandoned.
0215 Enemy fire ceases.

 

End of Part Three

 

Diamond Anniversary – The First Battle of Savo Island (Part 2 Attack on The Southern Group ) 1

August 8-9 Battle of Savo Island: ATTACK ON OUR SOUTHERN GROUP

 No more than half an hour elapsed from the time enemy ships appeared without warning around the southern corner of Savo Island till they ceased fire and passed back out to sea. In that short interval they crossed ahead of our southern cruiser group, putting the Canberra completely out of action within a minute or two and damaging the Chicago, then crossed astern of our northern group, battering our cruisers so badly that all three sank–the Vincennes and Quincy within an hour.

The action opened with two almost simultaneous events: contact by our southern cruiser force with the enemy surface force and the dropping of flares by aircraft over XRAY, the transport area off Guadalcanal. At about 0145 several bright flares were dropped from above the clouds over the north coast of Guadalcanal, just southeast of our transport group. They were in a straight line, evenly spaced about a mile apart, and provided a strong and continuous illumination which silhouetted our transports clearly for an enemy coming from the northwest. On the San Juan it was remarked that these flares were exceptionally large, blue-white and intensely brilliant. They burned without flickering and lighted up the entire area. After laying one series the plane returned and repeated the process. Probably the enemy intended to maintain a continuous illumination, for when the first flares were dropped the enemy surface force was just rounding Savo Island, still some 20 minutes away from the beach.

At this time the cruisers of our southern group were on course 310° T., about 4 miles south of Savo Island.8 This was near the northern end of their patrol and they were to reverse their course in a few minutes. The Canberra was leading, with the Chicago about 600 yards astern. The Patterson was about 45° on her port bow, distant 1,500-1,800 yards, while the Bagley was in the same relative position on the starboard bow.

The Australian cruiser was in the second degree of readiness, except that turrets B and Y9 were not manned, although their crews were sleeping near their quarters. One 4-inch gun on each side of the ship was manned. All guns were empty. The Chicago’s state of readiness is not reported.

 At about 0143 the watch on the Patterson sighted a ship dead ahead. It was about 5,000 yards distant, on a southeasterly course and very close to Savo Island. The destroyer at once notified the Canberra and Chicago by blinker and broadcast by TBS to all ships:

“Warning, warning, strange ships entering harbor.”

At the same time she turned left to unmask her guns and torpedo batteries.

Within a minute and a half of sighting, the enemy changed course to the eastward, following the south shore of Savo Island closely. With the change of course 2 ships could be seen, one of which appeared to be a Mogami-type heavy cruiser, the second a Jintsu-type light cruiser. Some observers on the Patterson’s bridge reported seeing 3 cruisers and thought that the second in the column was of the Katori class. When their movement and the Patterson’s turn had brought the Japanese cruisers to relative bearing 70° and a distance of 2,000 yards Comdr. Frank R. Walker ordered “Fire torpedoes,” but at the same instant the destroyer’s guns opened fire, so that the order went unheard and no torpedoes left the tubes. Before this was realized, “something” was reported close on the port bow and the captain ran to the port wing of the bridge to investigate, but was not able to make out anything.

The Patterson’s opening salvos were two four-gun star shell spreads, after which No.3 gun continued star shell illumination until it was hit. These were used in preference to the searchlight in order to avoid the possible silhouetting of our own cruisers. Why the Patterson’s star shells did not enable our men to see the enemy more clearly than they did is puzzling. As the Patterson’s other guns opened with service projectiles, the gunnery officer saw the rear enemy cruiser fire a spread of eight torpedoes. Meanwhile both enemy ships had illuminated our destroyer with their searchlights and had opened heavy fire upon her. One shell hit the No.4 gun shelter and ignited ready service powder. The after part of the ship was for a moment enveloped in flames and No.3 and 4 guns were put out of action, the latter only temporarily. The ship zigzagged at high speed while a torpedo passed about 50 yards on her starboard quarter. She then steadied out on an easterly course, roughly parallel to that of the enemy. Her No.1 and 2 guns maintained a rapid and accurate fire, in which No.4 soon rejoined. The rear enemy cruiser was hit several times, its searchlight extinguished and a fire started amidships.

The Patterson did not cease fire till about 0200, when the Japanese cruisers turned north. Before she lost contact the enemy must have opened fire on our northern cruiser group. All told, the Patterson fired 20 rounds of illuminating and 50 rounds of service ammunition.

It was just before the enemy ships changed from a southeasterly to an easterly course, and therefore about a minute after the Patterson’s sighting them, that the Bagley saw unidentified vessels about 3,000 yards distant, slightly on her port bow.12 The ships appeared to be on a course of about 135°, moving at high speed, perhaps about 30 knots.

 

The Bagley, like the Patterson, swung hard left in order to fire torpedoes. In less than a minute the enemy was abeam, about 2,000 yards distant, but before the primers could be inserted in the starboard torpedo battery, the Bagley had turned past safe firing bearing. She therefore continued her turn to the left to bring the port tubes to bear. This required 2 or 3 minutes more, and by this time the range had increased to 3,000-4,000 yards. The enemy formation was becoming very indistinct when four torpedoes were fired. Neither the commanding officer, Lt. Comdr. George A. Sinclair, nor the officer of the deck observed any hit, but the junior officer of the deck saw an explosion in the enemy area about 2 minutes after the firing, and the sound operator, who had followed the torpedoes with the sound gear, reported two intense explosions at the same time. After firing her torpedoes the Bagley continued her circle, went westward, and scanned the passage between Savo and Guadalcanal without sighting anything.

It was evidently very soon after the Bagley sighted the enemy that the port lookout on the Canberra reported a ship dead ahead, but neither the officer of the watch nor the yeoman of the watch could see it.13 At the same time there was an explosion at some distance on the starboard bow. It does not seem likely that this could have been caused by the Bagley’s torpedoes, for they were fired at least 3 minutes after sighting the enemy and would have required 2 minutes more to reach their target. About this time the Astoria also heard a heavy, distant, underwater explosion.

Capt. F. E. Getting, R. A. N., and the navigating officer of the Canberra were called promptly, but before they could take any action two torpedoes were seen passing down either side of the Canberra on opposite course. Presumably these were the same which passed near the Chicago a moment later. The general alarm was sounded and the Evershed was trained on two ships less than a mile distant on the port bow. These appeared to be destroyers or light cruisers. According to the reports of the other ships in the formation, the Canberra was at this time swinging hard right to unmask her guns. Before they could be brought to bear, she was hit by at least 24 five-inch shells, and one or two torpedoes struck her on the starboard side between the boiler rooms. The four-inch gun deck was hit particularly badly. All the guns were put out of action and most of the crews killed. One hit on the barbette jammed turret A in train and another shell exploded between the guns of turret X. The plane and catapult were struck and burst into flames. A serious fire was started by hits in the torpedo spaces, and other fires broke out at various points. As a result of the torpedo explosion, light failed all over the ship. The engine rooms filled with smoke and had to be abandoned.

The Canberra may have been able to fire a few shots in return, for the Bagley reported that as the cruiser turned right she opened fire with her main battery, and that it was the second or third enemy salvo which landed. The Chicago too reported that the Canberra (then on her starboard bow) opened fire. According to the Canberra’s own report, the port 4-inch guns may have fired one or two salvos before being put out of action, and one gun of turret X may have fired one salvo. Possibly two of the port torpedoes were fired.

Within a minute or two the ship stopped and lay helpless. She was listing about 10° to starboard and was lighted by several intense fires. Upon receipt of word that the captain was down, the executive officer, Comdr. J. A. Walsh, R. A. N., took command.

Apparently the Chicago did not sight the Japanese ships until the Canberra swung to starboard, but 3 minutes earlier she had seen two orange colored flashes near the surface of the water close to Savo Island. Capt. Bode was apparently on deck, as the Chicago’s report does not mention his being called. The flashes were followed very shortly by the appearance of the first flare over the transport area, and the Canberra was seen to turn about 2 minutes later. As she turned, two dark objects could be seen between the Canberra and Patterson and another to the right of the Canberra. It seems probable that it was this last which fired the torpedoes into the cruiser’s starboard side. It will be remembered that 2 or 3 minutes before this, the Patterson had seen “something” on her port bow as she turned left and that not long afterward a torpedo passed on her starboard quarter.

Whatever the objects were, the Chicago’s 5-inch director was trained on the one to the right, beyond the Canberra. She was preparing to fire a star-shell spread when the starboard bridge lookout reported a torpedo wake to starboard and she started to turn with right full rudder. The ship had turned only a little to starboard when the main battery control officer sighted two torpedo wakes bearing 345° R., crossing from port to starboard. Since the first torpedo to starboard had not been seen on the bridge and that to port had been, the ship was given left full rudder. It was intended to steady out when the ship’s course paralleled the wakes, but at that point something that was thought to be a destroyer in a position to fire torpedoes was seen farther to port, and the order was given to swing farther to the left.

Before the helmsman could comply, the talker in main battery control forward saw the wake of a torpedo headed for the port bow on bearing 345° R., and at almost the same moment it struck the bow well forward. “The forward part of the ship to amidships was deluged with a column of water which was well above the level of the foretop.” The bow below the water line was largely blown off, but this did not seriously alter the trim of the ship or impair operation at the moment. The Chicago’s track chart shows that she was on course 283° T. when she was hit. Since the torpedo was seen approaching on 345° R., it must have come from 268° T.; i. e., it came not from the direction of the enemy cruiser line, but from the west. Perhaps it was fired by the destroyer, or whatever it was, seen to port shortly before the Chicago was hit.

At the same time that the Chicago was torpedoed, flashes of gunfire were observed close aboard, bearing 320° R. Since the Patterson had opened fire by this time and must have been somewhere on the Chicago’s port bow, she may have been responsible for the flashes seen.

It appears that the Chicago had not yet sized up the situation. Her port battery fired two four-gun salvos of star shells toward the flashes bearing 320° R., while the starboard battery fired the same number at 45° R., set for 5,000 yards, to illuminate what appeared to be a cruiser beyond the Canberra. This cruiser was firing on the Australian ship, which lay about 1,200 yards distant, bearing 45° R. from the Chicago. To the left of the Canberra, 2,500 to 4,000 yards distant, were two destroyers which were thought to be enemy. Probably they formed the guard astern of the enemy cruisers. Not one of the 16 star shells fired by the Chicago at this critical moment functioned, so that positive identification could not be made.

At this time a shell hit the starboard leg of the Chicago’s foremast, detonated over the forward funnel, and showered shrapnel over the ship. Shortly afterwards a ship ahead, which was thought to be the Patterson, illuminated with her searchlight two ships which appeared to be destroyers on the port bow. The Chicago’s port battery opened up on the left hand destroyer with a range of 7,200 yards. The target was hit twice, apparently not by our cruiser but by the destroyer thought to be the Patterson. A minute later the latter ship turned off her searchlight and crossed the line of fire of the Chicago’s port battery on a course opposite to that of the Chicago.

There is some possibility that the Chicago’s identification of these ships was mistaken. In the Patterson’s report it is specifically stated that she did not use her searchlight for fear of silhouetting our cruisers, but used star shells instead.

Meanwhile the poor visibility had prevented the main battery director from picking up the cruiser on the starboard bow, and the starboard 5-inch battery had expended all ready service star shells without the main battery’s being able to get a “set up” on the target. This was due largely to the fact that out of a total of 44 star shells fired by the Chicago during the action, only 6 functioned.

At about this time the port 5-inch battery also lost its target, the destroyer 7,200 yards on the port bow, but just before firing ceased the burst of a hit was seen. In an effort to relocate this target, the shutters on No.2 and 4 searchlights were opened as the ship was swinging to port, but they swept only empty sea. In the meantime the gun engagement to starboard (probably involving the main enemy cruiser force) had moved on to the northward. Director II was on a ship bearing 120° R., but soon reported it as a friendly destroyer, while another ship bearing 270° was also identified as friendly. Probably the former was the Patterson and the latter the Bagley.

In fact the enemy had completely left our southern group and was now engaging the Vincennes group. With no target in sight there was time to take stock of the situation aboard the Chicago. Damage control reported some forward compartments flooded, but shoring of bulkheads was already underway and it was thought the ship could do 25 knots. A message was decoded ordering withdrawal toward Lengo Channel, and the Chicago slowed down to 12 knots. Five or six minutes later, before she had turned back, a gun action was seen to the westward of Savo Island. The Chicago moved toward it at full speed, and a few minutes later fired a star shell spread bearing 100° R. set for 11,000 yards. The ships were out of range, however, and the Chicago ceased fire. A fire was visible in the distance but it was not certain whether it was on one of the ships or on the far side of Savo Island. A range of 18,000 yards was obtained on it, but the firing had ceased, no ships were visible, and the Chicago again slowed to 12 knots.

It is impossible to say what this engagement seen from the Chicago was. The time was about 0205, whereas the only known engagement beyond Savo was that of the Ralph Talbot about 0220.

Of the ships in our southern group, the Canberra had been put out of action before she could fire more than a few rounds. The Chicago had gone off to the west while the enemy passed to the eastward, and had been able to take no effective action. The Bagley, after firing her torpedoes, had started on a futile search of the channel to the west. Only the Patterson had correctly estimated the situation and had followed the main enemy force to the east.

The entire engagement with our southern group seems to have lasted no more than 10 minutes. Since the enemy cruisers passed to the eastward, they must have opened fire on our northern force immediately after breaking off action with the southern.

End of Part 2

Part 3: The Northern Group

 

Diamond Anniversary – The First Battle of Savo Island (Part 1) 1

The following information comes from the Official US Navy Records:

“The Battle of Savo Island and the Battle of the Eastern Solomons comprise one of a series of twenty-one published and thirteen unpublished Combat Narratives of specific naval campaigns produced by the Publications Branch of the Office of Naval Intelligence during World War II. Selected volumes in this series are being republished by the Naval Historical Center as part of the Navy’s commemoration of the 50th anniversary of World War II.

The Combat Narratives were superseded long ago by accounts such as Samuel Eliot Morison’s History of the United States Naval Operations in World War II that could be more comprehensive and accurate because of the abundance of American, Allied, and enemy source materials that became available after 1945. But the Combat Narratives continue to be of interest and value since they demonstrate the perceptions of naval operations during the war itself. Because of the contemporary, immediate view offered by these studies, they are well suited for republication in the 1990s as veterans, historians, and the American public turn their attention once again to a war that engulfed much of the world a half century ago.

The Combat Narrative program originated in a directive issued in February 1942 by Admiral Ernest J. King, Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet, that instructed the Office of Naval Intelligence to prepare and disseminate these studies. A small team composed of professionally trained writers and historians produced the narratives. The authors based their accounts on research and analysis of the available primary source material, including action reports and war diaries, augmented by interviews with individual participants. Since the narratives were classified Confidential during the war, only a few thousand copies were published at the time, and their distribution was primarily restricted to commissioned officers in the Navy.

The Guadalcanal Campaign was one of the most arduous campaigns of World War II. While it began auspiciously for American forces with little initial opposition from the Japanese, the battle quickly degenerated into a contest of wills that lasted for six months during which the tide of battle ebbed and flowed as both sides injected more and more forces into the struggle. The key to the entire campaign was the control of the sea approaches to Guadalcanal. The first of many Japanese challenges to American sea power was the Battle of Savo Island, one of the worst defeats ever suffered by the U.S. Navy. That engagement provided American naval forces with a bitter lesson in the superiority of Japanese nighttime naval tactics.

The U.S. Navy redeemed itself in another action that is described in this narrative. Two weeks after Savo Island, during the Battle of the Eastern Solomons, American planes sank an enemy light carrier and a damaged seaplane carrier; and the Japanese lost 75 planes. American losses were 25 planes and damage to the carrier Enterprise. The significance of this battle was that it turned back the first major Japanese effort to retake Guadalcanal.

The Office of Naval Intelligence first published this narrative in 1943 without attribution. Administrative records from the period indicate that Ensign Winston B. Lewis wrote the account of the Battle of Savo Island, while Lieutenant (jg) Henry A. Mustin authored the description of the Battle of the Eastern Solomons. Both were Naval Reserve officers. Lewis was a professional historian who taught at Boston’s Simmons College prior to the war; after the war, he taught history and political science at Amherst College and later joined the faculty of the U.S. Naval Academy. Before World War II, Mustin was a journalist with the Washington Evening Star. After the war, he returned to that newspaper and later was associated with the Columbia Broadcasting System, Mutual Broadcasting, and the Voice of America.

I wish to acknowledge the invaluable editorial and publication assistance offered in undertaking this project by Mrs. Sandra K. Russell, Managing Editor, Naval Aviation News magazine; Commander Roger Zeimet, USNR, Naval Historical Center Reserve Detachment 206; and Dr. William S. Dudley, Senior Historian, Naval Historical Center. We also are grateful to Rear Admiral Kendell M. Pease, Jr., Chief of Information, and Captain Jack Gallant, USNR, Executive Director, U.S. Navy and Marine Corps WW II 50th Anniversary Commemorative Committee, who generously allocated the funds from the Department of the Navy’s World War II commemoration program that made this publication possible.”

Dean C. Allard Director of Naval History

 

Introduction

THE MARINES landed in the Solomons in the early morning of 7 August 1942.1 On Guadalcanal the Japanese, apparently believing that only a naval raid was in prospect, retired to the hills, so that our landing was made almost without opposition. On the smaller islands, however, they could not withdraw. On Tulagi and Gavutu they offered the most desperate resistance, and on Tanambogo even succeeded in repulsing our first landing. Consequently on the evening of the 8th the Marines were still engaged in mopping up snipers or in securing their positions on these islands.

This stubborn resistance prevented the completion of our initial operation in one day as planned. Furthermore, the unloading of our transports and cargo vessels was considerably delayed by two air attacks on the 7th and another on the 8th. This protraction of the action had serious consequences, for late in the evening of the 8th our three aircraft carriers, the Wasp, Saratoga, and Enterprise, which had been providing air support from stations south of Guadalcanal, asked permission to retire. Not only was their fuel running low but they had lost 20 of their 99 fighters. Although they had not been sighted by the enemy, it was felt that they ought not to remain within a limited area where the enemy had shown considerable air strength.

In view of the Japanese air raids of the preceding 2 days, the prospective loss of our air protection would leave our ships in a precarious position. The danger was emphasized by information which was received from Melbourne sometime during the afternoon or evening of the 8th.2 This placed three Japanese cruisers, three destroyers and two gunboats or seaplane tenders at latitude 05°49′ S., longitude 156°07′ E., course 120° T., speed 15 knots at about 1130.3 This position is off the east coast of Bougainville, about 300 miles from Guadalcanal. Shortly before midnight Rear Admiral Richmond K. Turner, Commander of the Amphibious Force, sent a message to Rear Admiral John S. McCain, Commander Aircraft, South Pacific Force, suggesting that this enemy force might operate torpedo planes from Rekata Bay, Santa Isabel Island, and recommending that strong air detachments strike there on the morning of the 9th.

Because of these developments a conference was held about midnight on board the McCawley, Admiral Turner’s flagship. In view of the danger of air attack it was decided to withdraw our ships as early as possible the following morning. Meanwhile the transports continued to unload and land supplies throughout the night both at Guadalcanal and at Tulagi-Gavutu. Supplies were particularly needed in the latter area because it had been necessary to land the Second Marines to reinforce our depleted forces there.

DISPOSITION OF OUR FORCES, NIGHT OF 8 AUGUST

Of the 19 transports in the Task Force, 14 were anchored or underway near Guadalcanal and 5 were in the Tulagi area on the night of 8-9 August. The latter were screened by an arc of vessels composed of the transport destroyers Colhoun, Little, and McKean, reinforced by the destroyers Henley and Ellet. The Monssen had been giving fire support to our troops on Makambo Island that evening, but with the fall of darkness had taken her assigned position screening the San Juan on patrol.

The larger group of transports off Guadalcanal was screened by several ships on the arc of a circle of 6,000 yards radius with the Tenaru River as its center. On this arc were the minesweepers Trever, Hopkins, Zane, Southard and Hovey, and the destroyers Selfridge, Mugford and Dewey. The transport George F. Elliott, which had been hit during the day’s bombing attack, had drifted eastward along the shallow water. As the fire on board could not be controlled, it was decided to sink her. In the evening the Dewey expended three torpedoes without sending her down. She was still burning brightly when the destroyer Hull, having taken off her crew for transfer to the Hunter Liggett, fired four more into her an hour before midnight. Even then she did not sink, but was still afloat and burning when our ships departed on the evening of the 9th.

The disposition of our cruisers and the remaining destroyers was governed by “Special Instructions to the Screening Group,” issued by Rear Admiral V. A. C. Crutchley, R. N., commander of the escort groups and second in command of the Amphibious Forces. To protect the disembarkation area from attack from the eastward, the American San Juan and the Australian Hobart, both light cruisers, were assigned to the area east of longitude 160° 04′ E., guarding Lengo and Sealark Channels. They were screened by the destroyers Monssen and Buchanan. At 1850 these ships began their patrol at 15 knots on courses 000° and 180° between Guadalcanal and the Tulagi area.

As a precaution against surprise from the northwest, two destroyers were assigned to radar guard and antisubmarine patrol beyond Savo Island. The Ralph Talbot was north of the island, patrolling between positions 08° 59′ S., 159° 55′ E. and 09° 01′ S., 159° 49′ E. The Blue was stationed west of the island between positions 09° 05′ S., 159° 42′ E.4 and 09° 09′ S., 159° 37′ E., patrolling on courses 051° and 231° at 12 knots.

The area inside Savo Island, between Guadalcanal and Florida, was divided into two patrol districts by a line drawn 125° T. from the center of Savo. It was upon the vessels patrolling these sectors that the Japanese raid was to fall. The area to the north of this line was assigned to the heavy cruisers Vincennes, Astoria, and Quincy, screened by the Helm and Wilson. The last-named replaced the Jarvis, which had been damaged by a torpedo during the day’s air attack. This group was patrolling at a speed of 10 knots on a square, the center of which lay approximately midway between Savo and the western end of Florida Island. At midnight it turned onto course 045° T. and was to make a change of 90° to the right approximately every half hour.

The area to the south of the line was covered by the Chicago and H. M. A. S. Canberra, screened by the Patterson and Bagley. H. M. A. S. Australia was the flag and lead ship of this group, but at the time of the action she was absent, having taken Admiral Crutchley to the conference aboard the McCawley. Capt. Howard D. Bode of the Chicago was left in command of the group, although the Canberra ahead of his ship acted as guide. The group was steering various courses in a general northwest-southeast line–the base patrol course was 305°-125° T.–reversing course approximately every hour.

Admiral Crutchley’s instructions were that in case of a night attack each cruiser group was to act independently, but was to support the other as required.

In addition to the Melbourne warning, a dispatch had been received indicating that enemy submarines were in the area, and night orders placed emphasis on alertness and the necessity for keeping a sharp all-around lookout. The destroyers were to shadow unknown vessels, disseminate information and illuminate targets as needed. It was provided that if they should be ordered to form a striking force, all destroyers of Squadron FOUR except the Blue and Talbot were to concentrate 5 miles northwest of Savo Island.

This arrangement was to cause some confusion during the battle.

WARNINGS

There was no moon on the night of 8-9 August, and low-hanging clouds, moved by a 4-knot breeze from the northeast, drifted across the sky and added to the darkness. Occasional thundershowers swept the otherwise calm sea. Mist and rain hung heavily about Savo Island and visibility in that direction was particularly bad.

An hour before midnight the Astoria appears to have made a radar contact, but it is not clear whether it was on a ship or a plane.5 Most likely it was the latter, for about the same time the San Juan reported to the Vincennes by TBS6 that she had sighted an aircraft flying eastward from Savo Island, and this word was given the captain. At 2345 theRalph Talbot on patrol north of Savo sighted an unidentified, cruiser-type plane low over the island. She at once reported on both the TBO7 and TBS: “Warning, warning, plane over Savo headed east.” This was repeated for several minutes on both transmitters. Neither the Task Force Commander nor Commander Destroyer Squadron FOUR responded to his code call, and Commander Destroyer Division EIGHT undertook to get the warning through to Admiral Turner.

The Blue to the west of Savo received the Ralph Talbot’s warning and a moment later picked up the plane on her radar. Subsequently the plane could be heard as it apparently circled the island and moved off to the south. Some observers believed they saw its running lights. The Vincennes also heard the warning, but Admiral Crutchley did not hear of it until just before the battle started. The Quincy’s radar also picked up the plane, and the bridge reported it to Control Forward, but five or ten minutes later sent word to disregard the contact.

W. W. Johns, Fire Controlman, First Class, who was on watch in Spot I from 2000 to 2400, says that he turned over the following information to his relief: “A report had been received over the JS circuit that at about 2300 a radar contact on the Astoria SC radar had been made bearing north, distance 34 miles, no other data available.” Ens. William F. Cramer, who was on watch in Astoria’s radar plot during the same period, says that the radar antenna was operating through a 360° sweep, but that because of the surrounding land there was serious interference on all sides, except for a small arc varying from the west to the northwest, depending on the position of the ship. They were operating on a 30,000-yard scale and “nothing unusual was noticed on the screen.”

Planes continued to fly over at intervals during the next hour and a half. At about 0100 the Quincy (apparently then on a course of 225°) heard a plane pass to starboard going forward. At about the same time the watch in Astoria’s sky control reported to the bridge that a plane was overhead, and aircraft engines were heard and reported on the Canberra. Half an hour later the plane was heard, seemingly going in the opposite direction. Shortly after this, a plane crossed the Quincy’s port quarter. These contacts were reported to the bridge, but apparently were not passed on to the gunnery control stations, nor was any further warning broadcast to other ships, so far as can be determined.

The night was about to change

End of Part 1

Through the haze of history… the dark underside of race relations in the US Navy Reply

Memories…

I have many wonderful memories of serving in the US Navy. All of the research I do leads me to long lost information and occasionally I find things that bring back some not so good memories. This story is one of those. I should warn you. It is long. The story comes from a Congressional Subcommittee that was looking at Naval discipline during the late 1960’s and the early 1970’s. Two particular incidences are center stage: The events on board USS Kitty Hawk and USS Constellation in October and November 1972. The entire report is included here with no interpretations on my part. When you are reading a report like this and the words “marauding bands of sailors” jumps off the page at you, you can’t help but be disturbed.

I was in Machinist Mate A school and remember a good deal of tension at Great Lakes. Boot Camp was my first real exposure to living in an integrated unit. Many of the guys I bunked with in Boot Camp came from the South Side of Chicago. We had to learn to live together but I do not remember any violence. At the time, I was more worried about my upcoming assignment to submarines than anything else so did not pay attention to much of the social unrest that was taking place. Reading this report last night left me with a feeling of unease. Especially when I see the world around me now. Having moved back to an area near my hometown growing up it is stunning to see how much racial division and violence are present. Sadly, I think you can say the same about much of the country.

I will let the reader make their own interpretations.

I will only add this.

I wonder what the current Navy is like behind the scenes?

Mister Mac

Report by the Special Subcommittee on Disciplinary Problems in the US Navy

U.S. Congress. House. Committee on Armed Forces. Report by the Special Subcommittee on Disciplinary Problems in the US Navy. 92nd Cong., 2d sess., 1973, H.A.S.C. 92-81. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1973.

January 2, 1973

TABLE OF CONTENTS

I. Introduction
II. Findings, opinions, and recommendations

A. Findings
B. Opinions
C. Recommendations
III. Missions of the subcommittee

A. Appointment and mandate
B. Hearings and witnesses
IV. Background summary

A. The Kitty Hawk incident
The first confrontation
Confrontation on the hangar deck
Marauding bands
Conflicting orders
The final confrontation
B. The Constellation incident
Clandestine meeting
The “Sit in”
The beach detachment
Unauthorized absence
V. Discussion

A. Definition of terms
1. Permissiveness
2. Z-grams
3. Middle management
B. Discipline
Indicators of military discipline
Mission performance
Morale
Appearance
Responsiveness to command
Frequency of disciplinary infractions
Sabotage
Drug abuse
C. Race relations
Discrimination or perception?
The communication gap
Polarization
D. Problems of perception
E. The failure middle management
F. The recruit training
VI. Closing statement

REPORT BY THE SPECIAL SUBCOMMITTE ON DISCIPLINARY PROBLEMS IN THE U.S. NAVY

I. INTRODUCTION

During the course of the 92d Congress, there has been increasing concern in the House Armed Services Committee over the developing of more relaxed discipline in the military services. Substantial evidence of this practice reached us directly through subcommittee investigative reports and messages from concerned service members, as well as indirectly through events reported in the news media.

While generally our men have performed in the outstanding fashion during battle and other in extremis circumstances, on the occasion there has been an erosion of good order and discipline under more normal operations. More disturbing have been the reports of sabotage of naval property, assaults, and others serious lapses in discipline afloat. Further, lawful orders have been subject to “committee” or “town meeting” proceedings prior to compliance by subordinates.

Capping the various reports were the recent serious incidents aboard U.S.S. Kitty Hawk and U.S.S. Constellation — aircraft carriers of vital importance to the naval mission in the Southeast Asia.

Immediately following air operations aboard the Kitty Hawk on the evening of October 12, 1972, a series of incidents broke out wherein group of blacks, armed with chains, wrenches, bars, broomsticks and other dangerous weapons, went marauding through sections of the ship disobeying orders to cease, terrorizing the crew, and seeking out white personnel for senseless beating with fists and with weapons which resulted in extremely serious injury to three men and the medical treatment of many more, including some blacks. While engaged in this conduct some were heard to shout, “Kill the son-of-a-bitch; kill the white trash; wipe him out!” Others shouted, “They are killing our brothers.”

Aboard the U.S.S. Constellation, during the period of November 3-4, 1972, what has been charitably described as “unrest” and as “sit-in” took place while the ship was underway for training exercises. The vast majority of the dissident sailors were black and were allegedly protesting several grievances they claimed were in need of correction.

These sailors were off-loaded as part of a “beach detachment”, given liberty, refused to return to the ship, and were later processed only for this minor disciplinary infraction (6 hours of unauthorized absence) at Naval Air Station, North Island, near San Diego.

Because of inherent seriousness of these incidents, the Honorable F. Edward Hébert, chairman, House Armed Service Committee, considered it necessary to appoint this special subcommittee on November 13, 1972, to inquire at once into disciplinary problems in the U.S. Navy with particular reference to “alleged racial and disciplinary problems which occurred recently on the aircraft carriers U.S.S. Kitty Hawk and U.S.S. Constellation.”

During the course of its inquiry and hearings, which commenced on November 20, 1972, the subcommittee completed some 2,565 pages of reporter’s transcript of testimony, and assembled a large volume of reports, directives, military investigations and other papers which have been the basis for this report.

II. FINDINGS, OPINIONS, AND RECOMMENDATIONS

A. FINDINGS

1. The subcommittee finds that permissiveness, as defined on page 17679 of this report, exists in the Navy today. Although we have been able to investigate only certain specific incidents in depth, the total information made available to us indicates the condition could be servicewide.

2. The vast majority of the Navy men and women are performing their assigned duties loyally and efficiently. The subcommittee is fully aware and appreciative of their efforts. The cause of concern, however, rests with that segment of the naval force which is either unable or unwilling to function within the prescribed limitations and up to the established standards of performance or conduct.

3. The subcommittee has been unable to determine any precipitous cause for rampage aboard U.S.S. Kitty Hawk. Not only was there not one case wherein racial discrimination could be pinpointed, but there is no evidence which indicated that the blacks who participated in that incident perceived racial discrimination, either in general or any specific, of such a nature as to justify belief that violent reaction was required.

4. The subcommittee finds that the incident aboard U.S.S. Constellation was the result of a carefully orchestrated demonstration of passive resistance wherein a small number of blacks, certainly no more than 20-25,in a well-organized campaign, willfully created among other blacks the belief that white racism existed in the Navy and aboard that ship. The subcommittee, again in this instance as with the incident aboard Kitty Hawk, found no specific example of racial discrimination. In this case, however, it is obvious that the participants perceived that racial discrimination existed. Several events were made to appear as examples of racial discrimination when, in fact, such was not the case.

5. Testimony revealed that one of the triggering devices for the dissident activity aboard Constellation was a misunderstanding, particularly among the young blacks, which led them to believe that in order to reduce the number of personnel aboard the ship to the authorized level, general discharges were about to be awarded to 250 black crew members.

In fact, the ship was in process of reducing its complement by 250 personnel in order to make room for air wing personnel who would embark prior to the forthcoming combat deployment. At the same time the captain had directed that certain records be reviewed and that those he considered to be troublemakers, if they qualified for administrative discharge, be notified of the ship’s intent to commence processing of the required paperwork.

It is unfortunate that this latter discharge procedure was initiated against six crewmembers in one day without adequate explanation of the justification for such action–especially since all six were black and this promoted the feeling that racial discrimination was the cause. In addition, the lack of counselling pertaining to the poor performance marks received by those being considered for administrative discharge caused notification of pending discharge to serve as traumatic incidents to those who were to receive them.

There is strong evidence, however, that these misunderstandings were fostered and fanned by a small group of skilled agitators within the ranks of the young black seamen.

6. The subcommittee was informed that the review, conducted by Naval Personnel Research Activity, San Diego, has found no racial discrimination in the punishments awarded by the Commanding Officer, U.S.S. Constellation.

The subcommittee found no evidence that that conclusion was in error.

7. Discipline, requiring immediate response to command, is absolutely essential to any military force. Particularly in the forces afloat there is no room for the “town meeting” concept or the employment of negotiation or appeasement to obtain obedience to order. The Navy must be controlled by command, not demand.

8. The subcommittee found that insufficient emphasis has been given to formal leadership training, particularly in the ranks of petty officers and junior officers.

9. The generally smart appearance of naval personnel, both afloat and ashore, has deteriorated markedly. While the subcommittee appreciates efforts to allow maximum reasonableness in daily routines, there is absolutely no excuse for slovenly appearance of officers and men in the Navy uniform and such appearance should not be tolerated.

10. There was no formal training of the master-at-arms force. There was not effective utilization of the Marine force. Certainly there was no contingency plan for the coordination of these two forces in events such as these. Once the activities started, there was no plan which would have acted to halt them. The result was to let them wear themselves out.

11. The members of the subcommittee did not find and are unaware of any instances of any instances of institutional discrimination on the part of the Navy toward any group of persons, majority or minority.

12. Black unity, the drive toward togetherness on the part of blacks, has resulted in a tendency on the part of black sailors to polarize. This results in a grievance of one black, real or fancied, becoming the grievance of many. Polarization is an unfortunate trend and negates efforts since 1948 to integrate the military services and to stamp out separation. This divisive trend must be reversed.

13. Nonmilitary gestures such as “passing the power” or “dapping” are disruptive, serve to enhance racial polarization, and should be discouraged.

14. After the incidents on Kitty Hawk and Constellation, a meeting was called by the Secretary of the Navy of all the admirals in the Washington, D.C., area in which the CNO spoke to the failure of the Navy to meet its human relations goals. Immediately thereafter, his remarks were made available to the press and sent as a message to all hands. Because of the wording of the text, it was perceived by many to be a public admonishment by the CNO of his staff for the failure to solve racial problems within the Navy. Even though this was followed within 96 hours by Z-gram 117 which stressed the need for discipline, the speech itself, the issuance of it to the public press, and the timing of its delivery, all served to emphasize the CNO’s perception of the Navy’s problems. Again, concern over racial problems seemed paramount to the question of good order and discipline even though there had been incidents on two ships which may be characterized as “mutinies”. The subcommittee regrets that the tradition of not criticizing seniors in front of their subordinates was ignored in this case.

15. The Navy’s recruitment program for most of 1972 which resulted in the lowering of standards for enlistment, accepting a greater percentage of mental category IV and those in the lower half of category III, not requiring recruits in these categories to have completed their high school education, and accepting these people without sufficient analysis of their previous offense records, has created many of the problems the Navy is experiencing today.

16. The reduction of time in recruit training from 9 to 7 weeks, thus sending those personnel who do not qualify for advanced training in “A” schools from the street to the fleet in less than two months, appears to result in inadequate preparation for shipboard duty.

17. The investigation disclosed an alarming frequency of successful acts of sabotage and apparent sabotage on a wide variety of ships and stations within the Navy.

B. OPINIONS

1. The subcommittee is of the position that the riot on Kitty Hawk consisted of unprovoked assaults by a very few men, most of whom were below-average mental capacity, most of whom had been aboard for less than one year, and all of whom were black. This group, as a whole, acted as “thugs” which raises doubt as to whether they should ever have been accepted into military service in the first place.

2. The subcommittee expresses its strong objection to the procedures utilized by higher authority to negotiate with Constellation‘s dissidents and, eventually, to appease them by acquiescing to their demands and by meting out minor nonjudicial punishment for what was a major affront to good order and discipline. Moreover, the subcommittee stresses that the actions committed aboard that ship have the potential for crippling a combatant vessel in a war zone.

3. The subcommittee believes that advice concerning decisions which had to be made with regard to Constellation, offered by personnel in human relations billets to line officers, was uniformly poor. The decisions, made on the basis of that advice, proved unsuccessful in bringing the incident to a conclusion.

Later decisions, reflecting reversal of the policy of negotiation with the dissident sailors, resulted in the transfer of the men off the ship in a disciplinary status.

4. The statement that riots, mutinies and acts of sabotage in the Navy are a product of “the time” is not valid. If those in positions of authority who profess such arguments really believe them, they have been negligent in not taking proper precautionary action to prevent to occurrence or to deal with such once they did occur. It is incredible that the Navy was totally unprepared to cope with such incidents as occurred aboard Kitty Hawk and Constellation. In view of the disturbances in recent years in the other military services, the Navy appears to have indulged in wishful thinking, apparently believing that the similar incidents would not happen aboard ship.

5. The members of the subcommittee fully support the idea of equality of opportunity in the military and naval forces of the United States for all persons. Since there may well be individual attitudes of discrimination among some persons serving in those forces–discrimination directed toward blacks or whites, or any other ethnic or racial groups–human relation programs remain essential.

6. Where Human Relation Councils and Minority Affairs offices are manned solely by minority personnel, they become conduits for minority personnel to bypass the normal chain of command. Used properly, as another set of eyes and ears to keep the commander informed as to personnel problems, they can be worthwhile; but used as vehicle for the settlement of individual minority grievances which should be resolved within the command structure, they are divisive and disruptive of good order and discipline and encourage further polarization. The equal opportunity and human relations programs of the Navy must not, in any way, dilute the authority of the chain of command.

7. The subcommittee detects a failure in the middle management area in that there has been a reluctance to utilize the command authority inherent in those positions.

8. The Navy’s recruiting advertising appears to promise more than the Navy is able to deliver, especially to personnel who are unable to qualify for “A” school training. This can create frustration and discontent. The hopes held out by this advertising, plus statements made by some Navy recruiters, present an unrealistic picture of the Navy. Any such distortions should be corrected.

9. Once a new seaman reports to a division, there too little individual contact between him and his immediate supervisors, the petty officers and junior officers assigned to that division. Too frequently the seaman is counselled regarding his performance ratings, even if they are low. There is also a failure to effectively explain to him any opportunities he has for advancement and the steps he should take to achieve promotions. As a result, the young seaman sometimes becomes frustrated concerning his future as he performs unskilled laborer’s jobs on a continuing basis.

10. The Navy provides authority to a commanding officer to give a general discharge (under honorable conditions) to those who have a GCT test score of 41 or less, have no more than a tenth grade education, have had low performance marks (including: professional performance, military behavior, military appearance and adaptability), and who have been in the Navy at least one year. All other administrative discharges are decided at the Bureau of Naval Personnel.

The subcommittee believes that having accepted a man into the Navy knowing his low test scores and educational background, the Navy should apply the same procedures to a determination of his discharge as apply to all others.

11. The subcommittee commends the Chief of Naval Operations for those of his programs which are designed to improve Navy life and yet maintained good order and discipline through the traditional channels of authority.

C. RECOMMENDATIONS

1. While there has been no doubt as to the overall combat effectiveness of the Navy in Southeast Asia, challenges to the maintenance of good order and discipline arising during noncombat periods cause concern for the continued total effectiveness of the service. To obviate this concern, naval leadership, the chain of command and harmonious interpersonal relationships must be strengthen. Specifically, the subcommittee recommends that formal leadership training programs be expanded and emphasized for all personnel in the middle management positions.

2. The subcommittee recommends that if similar incidents arise on the other ships, the crew be called to general quarter. Such a tactic, as demonstrated by U.S.S. Saratoga, is effective in breaking up unauthorized groups and preventing shipwide rampages by placing the ship and crew in their most secure condition. Further, it provides the commanding officer with the time he needs for contemplation of his options.

3. We cannot emphasize too strongly that recruiting advertisements and literature and the promises made by recruiters should be, in all respects, absolutely accurate and objective. There is danger in overselling.

4. Policy regarding unauthorized meetings is fully covered by existing naval and ship’s regulations. These should be consistently enforced.

5. The subcommittee recommends that recruit training be lengthened, both to give the recruit more time and experience in the environment of strict discipline and to provide training command personnel a greater opportunity to evaluate new recruits and to orient them to their Navy careers, particularly to the realities of shipboard life.

6. Both at the recruiting and recruit training levels there must be a greater effort to screen out agitators, troublemakers and those who otherwise fail to meet acceptable standards of performance.

7. The subcommittee recommends that newly-received seamen aboard naval vessels be placed under the direct control and supervision of an experienced line officer and that experienced and trained leaders be assigned as their petty officer supervisors. Great care must be taken to ensure that these supervisory personnel are of the highest caliber.

8. If a serviceman performs his assigned duties adequately, he should be retained in service, if he so desires, regardless of his promotion potential, provided there is work for which he is qualified and willing to perform.

9. The subcommittee recommends the establishment of a separate rating for master-at-arms personnel with duties ashore and afloat to include those presently assigned to MAA and shore patrol personnel and those functions performed in the other services by military and security police.

10. The subcommittee received a copy of a report dated October 21, 1971, which was promulgated by the Commanding General, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific, to his subordinate commands. The report identifies commons circumstances, omissions, mistakes, over- and under-reactions, etc., as observed in several incidents of racial turbulence.

The subcommittee believes that much can be learned from a detailed study of that report and recommends that it be disseminated to all major unit commanders in the Navy.

11. The subcommittee recommends that personal counselling forms, warnings, report “chits” and commendations should be made a part of a man’s personnel record. All derogatory material should be removed from that record only upon his transfer or discharge.

12. The Navy should consider the reestablishment of a program to provide quarterly marks for personnel in pay grades E-3 and below in place of the current semiannual reporting periods.

13. Every effort should be made to utilize automated devices aboard ship and contract personnel ashore to improve the day-to-day conditions and overall habitability for the ship’s company.

14. While the subcommittee could recommend that the power to grant all administrative discharges be transferred to the Bureau of Naval Personnel, we feel a wiser course would be the transfer to unit commanders of all decisionmaking authority concerning administrative discharges which result in no loss of VA benefits. This would strengthen the commanding officer’s authority.

However, in so doing, we recognize that every person who might receive such a discharge has the right to appeal his case to the Bureau of Naval Personnel and this right must be fully explained to the individual.

15. The subcommittee recommends that further attention be given to an in-depth examination of what appear to be acts of deliberate sabotage in the Navy.

16. The subcommittee recommends that the House Armed Services Committee examine the other services to evaluate any potential for incidents similar to the ones we investigated.

III. MISSION OF THE SUBCOMMITTEE

A. APPOINTMENT AND MANDATE

By letter dated November 13, 1972, the chairman of House Armed Services Committee, the Honorable F. Edward Hébert, appointed the Special Subcommittee on Disciplinary Problems in the U.S. Navy under the chairmanship of Floyd V. Hicks and including W.C. “Dan” Daniel and Alexander Pirnie.

That appointing letter directed the subcommittee to “inquire into the apparent breakdown of discipline in the United States Navy and, in particular, into the alleged racial and disciplinary problems which occurred recently on the aircraft carriers U.S.S. Kitty Hawk and U.S.S. Constellation.”

The subcommittee was further directed “to undertake its study at the earliest practicable date, and to report its findings and recommendations to the full committee as soon as possible.”

B. HEARINGS AND WITNESSES

Formal hearings commenced one week after the subcommittee was appointed. A total of 22 hearings were held in Washington and in San Diego, the homeport of two aircraft carriers involved. Over 74 hours of testimony was heard, covering well in excess of 2500 pages of recorded transcript. A total of 56 witnesses were called, including over 30 enlisted crewmembers of Kitty Hawk and Constellation.

Although vested with the authority to subpena witnesses, the subcommittee chose to hear only from those who would voluntarily testify. At the advice of their counsel, the crewmembers of Kitty Hawk who had court-martial charges pending declined the specific invitation of subcommittee to testify. The subcommittee accepted that decision, basing its judgment on the fact that the volume and extent of information received from all other sources was sufficient for its purposes.

IV. BACKGROUND SUMMARY

A. THE “KITTY HAWK” INCIDENT

On February 17, 1972, the attack carrier U.S.S. Kitty Hawk departed San Diego for its sixth combat deployment to Southeast Asia. After several extended periods of combat activity, the ship put in to the U.S. Naval Base at Subic Bay, the Philippines, for replenishment of war materiel and a week of rest and recreation for the crew. The ship’s company had just recently become aware of the fact they would return to the combat zone after this rest period rather than return home as scheduled. This rescheduling apparently was due the incidents of sabotage aboard her sister ships, U.S.S. Ranger and U.S.S. Forrestal.

On the tenth of October, a fight occurred at the enlisted men’s club at Subic Bay. While it cannot be unequivocally established that Kitty Hawk personnel participated in the fight, circumstantial evidence tend to support the conclusion that some of the ship’s black sailors were involved since 15 young blacks returned to the ship on the run and in a very disheveled condition at about the time the fight at the club was brought under control.

The following morning the ship returned to combat, conducting air operations from 1 to 6 p.m. There were 348 officers and 4,135 enlisted men aboard. Of these, 5 officers and 297 enlisted men were black.

The first confrontation

At approximately 7 p.m., in October 12, 1972, the ship’s investigator called a black sailor to his office for questioning about his activities in the Subic Bay. He was accompanied by nine other black men. They were belligerent, loud, and used abusive language. Those accompanying him were not allowed to sit in on the investigation. The sailor was apprised of his rights, refused to make a statement and was allowed to leave. Shortly after he left a young messcook was assaulted on the after messdeck. Within a few minutes after that, another young messcook was assaulted on the forward messdeck. In each instance, this same sailor was on the scene.

The first indication of widespread trouble aboard ship occurred at about 8 p.m. A large number of blacks congregated on the after messdeck, one of two enlisted dining areas. A messcook alerted the Marine Detachment Reaction Force. During the ensuing confrontation between the Marines and black sailors, the corporal of the guard, the only person carrying a firearm, attempted, or appeared to have attempted to draw his weapon. In any event it was not drawn. This incident appears in the testimony, at least in retrospect, to have been one of the more inflammatory events of the early evening.

At this point the Executive Officer (XO), a black man, arrived on the after messdeck, ordered the Marines to withdraw closed off the hatches into the messdeck area, and, in company with the ship’s senior enlisted advisor, a white master chief petty officer, remained inside with the black sailors. As the XO attempted to calm the crowd, the Commanding Officer (CO) entered the area behind him. The XO unaware of the CO’s presence, continued to address the crowd. The XO urged all to calm down, asked the apparent leaders of the group to discuss their problem in his cabin, and assured the group that the Marines had been sent below. After an hour or so of discussion, the XO, feeling that the incident was over, released the men to continue about their business.

The CO, having noted the hostile attitude of the group being addressed by the XO, left the area and instructed the Commanding Officer of the Marines to establish additional aircraft security watches and patrols on the hangar and fight decks. The Marines were given additional instructions by their CO to break up any group of three or more sailors who might appear on the aircraft decks, and disperse them.

Confrontation on the hangar deck

As the XO released the group of blacks with whom he had been talking, the major portion of them left the after messdeck by way of the hangar deck. Upon seeing the blacks come onto the hangar deck, the Marines attempted to disperse them. The Marines at the moment were some 26 strong and, trained in riot control procedures, they formed a line and advanced on the blacks, containing them to the after end of the hanger deck. Several blacks were arrested and handcuffed while the remainder, arming themselves with aircraft tie-down chains, confronted the Marines. At this point, the ship’s CO appeared and, moving into the space between the Marines and the blacks, attempted to control the situation. The XO, upon being informed of this activity, headed there, arriving in time to see a heavy metal bar thrown from the area of the blacks land near and possibly hit the CO. At this point, the XO was informed that a sailor had been seriously injured below decks, so he departed. The CO, meanwhile, ordered the prisoners released and the Marines to return to their compartment while he attempted to restore order personally.

Marauding bands

The XO, after going below, became aware that small groups, ranging from 5 to 25 blacks, were marauding about the ship attacking whites, pulling many sleeping sailors from their berths and beating them with their fists and chains, dogging wrenches, metal pipes, fire extinguisher nozzles and broom handles. While engaged in this behavior, many were heard to shout, “Kill the son-of-a-bitch! Kill the white trash! Kill, kill, kill!” Others shouting, “They are killing our brothers.” Understandably, the ship’s dispensary was the scene of intense activity with the doctors and corpsmen working on the injured personnel. Alarmingly, another group of blacks harassed them and the men waiting to be treated.

The XO was then informed by at least two sources that the CO had been injured or killed on the hangar deck. Not sure of the facts but believing the reports could be true, the XO made an announcement over the ship’s public address system ordering all the ship’s blacks to the after messdeck and the Marines to the forecastle, thereby putting as much distance between the two groups as possible.

Conflicting orders

The CO, still on the hangar deck talking to a dwindling number of the black sailors, was surprised and distressed at the XO’s announcement. At this point he was still unaware of the various groups of black assaulting their white shipmates in several different areas of the ship, and he was, obviously, neither dead nor injured. He headed for the nearest public address system microphone, found the XO there, held a brief conference with the XO, and made an announcement of his own to the effect that the XO had been misinformed and that all hands should return to their normal duties. The announcements by the CO and XO, occurring around midnight, were the first indication to the majority of the crew that there was troubled aboard.

The final confrontation

The blacks seemed to gravitate to the forecastle. Their attitude was extremely hostile. Of the 150 or so who were present, most were armed. The XO followed one group to the forecastle, entered and, as he later stated, he believed that had he not been black he would have been killed on the spot. He addressed the group for about two hours, reluctantly ignoring his status as the XO and instead appealing to the men as one black to another. After some time he acquired control over the group, calmed them down, had them put their weapons at his feet or over the side, and then ordered them to return to their compartments. The meeting broke up about 2:30 in the morning and for all intents and purposes, the violence aboard Kitty Hawk was over.

The ship fulfilled its combat mission schedule that morning and for the remainder of her time on station. During this period Kitty Hawk established a record 177 days on the line in a single deployment. After the incident senior enlisted men and junior officers were placed in each berthing compartment and patrolled the passageways during night-time hours to ensure that similar incidents would not recur.

The 21 men who were charged with offense under the Uniform Code of Military Justice and who requested civilian counsel, were put ashore at Subic Bay to be later flown to San Diego to meet the ship on its return. The remaining 5 charged were brought to trial aboard the ship during its transit back to the United States.

A total of 47 men, all but 6 or 7 of them white, were treated for injuries on the night of October 12-13, 1972; three required medical evacuation to shore hospitals while the rest were treated aboard the ship.

B. THE “CONSTELLATION” INCIDENT

On July 1, 1972, the U.S.S. Constellation returned to San Diego after completing her sixth combat deployment to Southeast Asia. Under current policies, a returning ship is granted a 30-day stand-down period during which time the majority of the crew is given leave. On August 1st the ship was placed in nonoperational status while her crew and shipyard personnel performed relatively extensive repairs, overhaul and renovation. During this 2-month period there was a turnover of over 1300 personnel in the crew, with over 900 new men reporting aboard for duty. On October 4th the ship commenced refresher training, putting to sea to test the new equipment and to train the new personnel.

Clandestine meeting

Late at night on the seventeenth, a group of blacks held a clandestine meeting in the ship’s barbershop. The next day an open meeting was held on the portion of the after messdecks known as “sidewalk cafe”. The Executive Officer (XO) attended this meeting at the Commanding Officer’s (CO) suggestion. He entered into the discussion which at this time, were no more than general gripe sessions. No specific grievances were aired and no indications of possible trouble were noted. The CO decided that, in order to prevent these meetings from becoming covert, no action would be taken to prevent further meetings but surveillance of all future meetings would be closely maintained. Between the 20th and 30th of October, while the ship conducted air wing training at sea, a series of meetings were held in the “sidewalk cafe.” During these meetings the blacks organized, elected representatives and assigned specific functions to members of their group. One of these functions, as so-called “legal counsel,” entailed an examination of the ship’s records of Non-Judicial Punishment (NJP), also known as Captain’s Mast, to determine where racial discrimination had occurred.

On November 1st, the CO directed that the XO personally attend that day’s meeting. There the formalization of grievances occurred but, still, no specific complaints were aired which could have been resolved by command action. While dispersing from this meeting, an unidentified group of blacks assaulted a white messcook, fracturing his jaw.

The next day the CO identified approximately 15 sailors as “agitators” and directed the XO to examine their personnel records to determine if any were eligible for command-initiated administrative discharge. Six apparently qualified, although further review later eliminated one of them. The personnel concerned were notified of the pending action.

At the same time it was general knowledge that the ship’s company would have to be reduced by 250 men in order to accommodate the air wing personnel who would embark prior to the ship’s forthcoming combat deployment. Rumors circulated throughout the ship that all 250 would be administratively discharged with less than honorable discharges and all 250 men would be black. Both rumors were false.

At about 9 a.m. the next morning, November 3rd, the XO met with two representatives of the group and was asked to announce over the PA system that he would stop the administrative discharge proceedings. The XO agreed in part to that request, circulated a “flyer” announcing the halt to administrative discharges and announced over the PA system an open meeting of the Human Resources Council (HRC) for 9 p.m. that evening

The “sit-in”

At about noon the CO and XO were notified of a “sit-in” on the forward messdecks. The CO directed officers and senior petty officers to order their men to return to work since air evolutions had commenced. The “sit-in” broke up but the participants regrouped on the after messdecks.

At about 2:30 p.m. the Marine Reaction Force was called to the after messdeck to quell a “riot.” Arriving simultaneously with the Marines, and determining that the Marine force was unnecessary, the ship’s Chief Master-at-Arms ordered the Marines back to their compartment. The HCR members then met with the group to determine the nature of complaints. The situation remained relatively stable from then on until the official HCR meeting commenced about 9 p.m. The size of the group fluctuated between 50 and 150, with all but a few participants being black. From 9 p.m. until midnight the HCR officers and men and the personnel officer attempted to respond to the group’s complaints. Even at this time, however, the grievances were too broad to be answered. No specific cases of racial discrimination, which was the group’s general area of complaint, were definitely identified. The tenor of the meeting rapidly changed so that by midnight the HCR members were being subjected to considerable verbal abuse. The HCR withdrew, leaving the after messdeck to a crowd of approximately 100 sailors.

The group continued to meet, claiming that the HCR meeting had been adjourned, and soon formulated a demand for the CO’s presence. This demand became the focal point from this time on. Two representatives met with the CO on the bridge and relayed the group’s demand for his presence, warning that if he did not appear, members of the group might “tear up his ship.” The CO refused to accede to this demand on the basis that the group was disorderly and that the conduct of flight operations required his presence on the bridge. The CO then directed that the ship be “awakened” and that senior personnel patrol the berthing compartments and passageways to preclude incidents such as had occurred aboard Kitty Hawk. He also directed that season officers and petty officers encompass the group on the after messdecks. Air operations continued until 12:30 a.m. on November 4th.

The beach detachment

Shortly thereafter the CO informed his seniors by message that he was going to put in to North Island and place the dissident group ashore as a “beach detachment”. The concept of a beach detachment is normally applied to a liaison group placed ashore overseas while the ship conducts operations at sea. In this case it was to be composed of the dissident group, senior supervisory personnel and members of HCR.

At approximately 4 a.m. the CO called for an all hands muster on the flight deck in an effort to break up the sit-in. The group refused to move from the messdeck in response to that order.

At 9:00 a.m. the ship tied up at North Island and the CO directed that “all those who wish to join this group” would be put ashore. At this time personnel from the air station and staff of the Commander Naval Air Forces Pacific met with the CO. Within the hour, and at the advice of the staff personnel, the CO met with dissident sailors. Contrary to the advice of the staff, however, the CO refused to keep the men aboard his ship. At this point in time the dissident group had not yet formalized its demands.

The beach detachment was put shore and, early the next morning, the ship put back to sea. Over the next several days the beach detachment and various staff personnel met to resolve the grievances. The ship, which had returned to port to off-load a damaged aircraft and had put to sea again, was then directed by the fleet commander to return to port in order for the CO to become personally involved in the discussions. During this period a series of telephone calls were placed between the Chief of Naval Operations, the Commander-in-Chief Pacific Fleet and the Commander Naval Air Forces Pacific during which information, advice and decisions with regard to the situation were passed.

On November 8th the CO met the group and received their demands: (1) That a review of nonjudicial punishment be conducted to determine whether he had discriminated against blacks; (2) that a review of administrative discharges be conducted for the same purpose; and (3) that all personnel involved in the incident aboard Constellation be received back aboard and not prosecuted for their actions. The CO agreed to the three demands with one exception: all personnel who were involved in prior offenses or who might have committed assault during the night of 3-4 November, would not be immune to prosecution. He then ordered the men to return aboard Constellation at the conclusion of normal overnight liberty.

Unauthorized absence

The following morning the group refused to board the ship but instead mustered on the pier. They were allegedly acting on advice from an unidentified high-level source in the Pentagon that such a muster would preclude their being charged with unauthorized absence. If such advice was given, it was erroneous. The ship then advised the men of their unauthorized absentee status and, at 9 a.m., they were transported back to the barracks.

At approximately 2 p.m., the men were informed that they had been transferred to North Island in a disciplinary status and that the charge against them would be 6 hours’ unauthorized absence. A total of 122 men transferred.

V. DISCUSSION

A. DEFINITION OF TERMS

1. Permissiveness

While Webster’s Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary does not specifically define “permissiveness,” the definition of “permissive” appears sufficient. Permissive: “granted on sufferance: tolerated; granting or tending to grant permission: tolerant; allowing discretion: optional.”

Basically, as used in this report, permissiveness means an attitude by seniors down the chain of command which tolerates the use of individual discretion by juniors in areas in the services which have been strictly controlled; it means a tolerance of failure; a failure to enforce existing orders and regulations which have validity; it means a failure to require that existing standards be met, and a sufferance of the questioning of valid orders. Unhappily, close on the heels of permissiveness, we often find appeasement when trouble arises.

2. Z-grams

Z-grams are naval messages originating in the office of the Chief of Naval Operations and disseminated to the entire naval service. Messages of this sort are also known as NAVOPS (Naval Operations messages). The term “Z-gram” was introduced by the present Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt, Jr., in an attempt to personalize the message and lend to it some added importance by conveying his personal interest in the subject matter.

The first Z-gram, Z-01, was issued on July 14, 1970. The most recent was Z-117, issued on November 14, 1972. These 117 messages deal with matters of interest to all Navy personnel and their families, are essentially personnel-oriented, and are posted in prominent locations at each Navy command so that all hands may read their contents.

The Chief of Naval Operations has traditionally issued messages to the operating forces and the shore establishment through widely disseminated messages. Normally, the contents are read by unit commanders and then transmitted to their personnel via house organs such as the Plan of the Day.

3. Middle management

The term “middle management” is relatively new in its application to the military command structure. As used in private industry, the term connotes personnel in those positions of responsibility ranging from the more senior line supervisors up through the so-called junior executives.

The term can best be identified by the relative limits of authority granted in the areas of policy-making and policy interpretation. The upper limit of middle management is that point below which the power to make or interpret policy is restricted to matters of a routine nature. Thus, a middle manager may establish work schedules and may assign areas of responsibility to those below him. He may also make judgement decisions as to the potential of the worker and the quality of the work performed by those below him. Upper management personnel are granted far broader authority.

In any organization, military or civilian, the lower a person is on the organizational chart, the more clearly defined are his instructions and the more narrow are his areas of responsibility. Upper management issues policy guidance. Middle management receives guidance and issues specific instructions.

As used in this report, middle managers are senior petty officers, usually chief petty officers (E-7) and above, but often encompassing first and second petty officers in positions of responsibility. The term also applies to officers, up the grade of lieutenant commander (O-4), but not including those officers in command billets, who may be said to have attained the first level of upper management.

B. DISCIPLINE

The term “discipline” is easily used but difficult to define and measure. It means more than mere compliance with laws and regulations, more than mere performance to a given set of standards, and more than punishment for noncompliance.

Indicators of military discipline

The subcommittee established as the criteria for the evaluation of discipline: mission performance, morale appearance, responsiveness to command, the frequency of disciplinary infractions and the reaction of authority to such infractions. While none of these, taken alone, can provide an accurate measurement of discipline, a combination of these factors, some of which are admittedly subjective, can provide an adequate basis for an overall evaluation of the state of discipline in the Navy.

Mission performance

The overall performance of the Navy in its role in the Vietnam War has been commendable. The carriers Kitty Hawk and Constellation performed well in six lengthy combat deployments. Kitty Hawk‘s record-breaking last deployment has already been mentioned. Surely, when measured by combat effectiveness to date, the status of naval discipline must register on the “plus” side of ledger. However, the Kitty Hawk incident occurred while the ship was on the firing line, clearly indicating that such problems are not limited to noncombat situations alone and emphasizing the fact that such incidents must be promptly resolved if combat effectiveness is to be assured.

The question also arises as to the status of discipline as measured during periods of noncombat. There is a unifying effect of engagement with an enemy which is not present when duties are not as clearly defined and of such immediate importance.

When operations have become routine and boredom combines with the frustrations of long deployments, cramped living conditions, lack of privacy and limited recreational opportunities, discipline in a military organization is most severely tested.

The subcommittee finds that naval discipline has been generally good in combat but lacking in noncombat situations. Of all the incidents, reported and unreported, none indicate a total breakdown of discipline in times of actual engagement with the enemy.

Most of the incidents appear to have occurred when the pressures of combat have been removed, but those of deployment may remain. Since, at any given time, the major portion of the Navy is not engaged in combat, this tendency towards a breakdown in firm discipline in noncombat environments is of great concern.

Morale

Fleet Admiral Ernest J. King once agreed that morale is a “conviction of excellence.” In fact, morale too is most severely tested during periods of routine operations. In war, morale is almost self-generating. In periods of normal operations, it must be carefully nurtured.

The subcommittee observed extremes of high and low morale during its investigation. The majority of naval personnel appear to have substantial pride in the Navy, their unit and themselves. Others couldn’t care less.

The subcommittee found a confusion as to what is “excellence” and what standards of excellence naval personnel are expected to meet. Clearly, in the area of good order and discipline, there has been confusion as to the expected standards. That confusion reaches to the top levels of the service. If this had not been so, why, then, while denying that permissiveness does exist and claiming that firm discipline is the order of the day, was there a need on November 14, 1972 to issue Z-117, exhorting the Navy to strengthen and maintain its control over good order?

Instances of confusion and, as discussed later, misplaced perceptions of performance standards, destroy the “conviction” so essential to good morale and esprit de corps.

The position that high morale is indicated by rising reenlistment rates is not entirely accepted by the subcommittee. The Congress has, in the past 2 years, provided far more pay, allowances and other related benefits than even the services themselves have requested. This was done to relieve the historically adverse effect of lower pay in the military than was available in comparable civilian employment. Higher enlistment and reenlistment rates were clearly influenced by these actions.

It may well be that, given the unfortunate state of the Nation’s economy, with the lack of sufficient employment opportunities in the civil sector, military life now has a certain appeal based upon financial rewards. Certainly this aspect cannot be overlooked when considering the meaning of rising reenlistment rates.

Appearance

Traditionally indicative of high morale has been pride in the uniform and in one’s appearance in the uniform. The current relaxation of the standards of appearance for Navy men has caused a lessening in the pride that some sailors take in their appearance and, thus, in their service.

Admittedly, Z-57 and subsequent clarifying messages concerning the standards of appearance, were not designed to permit Navy personnel to become sloppy and slovenly in their appearance and grooming. Nonetheless, such has been the effect.

Considerable testimony to the effect that the uniform seems to mean less today than it did several years ago was received by the subcommittee. Through its personal observation as well as the opinions given it by active duty personnel from all grades and ranks, including retired Navy personnel, and from private citizens, the subcommittee received clear and irrefutable evidence that the men of the naval service do not present the smart appearance that once was their unique trademark.

While this has undoubtedly been as a result of individual abuse of relaxed regulations, it has, in fact, caused a service-wide problem for all Navy personnel. Until such time as there is insistence on clear-cut standards for a smart appearance while in the uniform of the United States Navy, the general morale and discipline will be adversely affected.

Responsiveness to command

“Aye, aye, sir,” traditionally means, “I understand your orders and will comply with them, sir”. It may well be that a general abandonment of this phrase has lessened the sense of immediacy that it implies.

It is often stated that young people today demand more than just an order; they demand to know the reasons behind such an order. This “fact” is often given as justification for their slower response to directives.

Whether young people today may be more inquisitive than those of past years has no relation to the maintenance of good order and discipline. Military discipline demands nothing less than immediate response to orders. The need for this immediacy is obvious in situations where lives are at stake. To demand a similar response during routine operations and on “minor” matters is essential to proper training for emergency situations and appropriate responsiveness to commands which may be given in wartime.

The subcommittee found a reluctance on the part of some petty officers, junior officers and seniors alike, to demand strict and immediate response to orders. Instead, there seems to be an attitude on the part of certain supervisory personnel that if they fail to explain in detail every order or command, the junior may not comply. Indeed, there is also the feeling that such failure to comply will be supported by various senior personnel and/or representatives of the juniors; be they councils, committees, or representatives.

The Special Subcommittee on Recruiting and Retention of Military Personnel stated: “While we have an ‘army of the democratic’, we cannot have a ‘democratic army’… Working by consensus or majority rule would not run an assembly line, nor would it be effective in a governmental agency.” This statement has clear application to the military services.

Young men and women, especially in an all-volunteer force such as the Navy, must know from the beginning of their service that immediate and unquestioning response is expected of them at all times and that failure to meet that expectation will result in disciplinary action.

This is not to say, however, that the reasons for a particular order should never be given. The subcommittee believes, however, that the option to explain an order must remain with the person issuing that order and that the response by the junior will be immediate regardless of his senior’s decision as to whether or not the directive is to be explained.

The subcommittee was particularly concerned to find that some petty officers and commissioned officers were willing to accept noncompliance until such time as they had fully explained the reasons for their orders. This attitude is not acceptable.

Frequency of disciplinary infractions

Soon after the appointment of this subcommittee, the Navy released to the press statistics which indicated that the number of court-martial cases and the numbers of cases tried by Captain’s Mast (nonjudicial punishment) had declined over the past several years. The Navy has suggested that this decrease indicates that sailors are more responsive to commands and, therefore, that discipline is being maintained at a greater level than previously experienced.

The subcommittee is concerned that the figures may indicate a tendency on the part of authority to ignore or appease rather than to prosecute offenders.

The preponderance of testimony indicates that those in authority turn too frequently to negotiation and then to appeasement rather than immediately to fair and firm enforcement of existing regulations. As an illustration, we cite the efforts on the part of senior officers to deal with the members of the so-called “beach detachment” from U.S.S. Constellation rather than to invoke basic disciplinary procedures for offenses committed aboard the ship. That the decision in this matter was made far above the commanding officer of Constellation is clear. The result has been the creation of an environment of leniency, appeasement, and permissiveness.

The maintenance of good order and discipline relies on the certain knowledge that offenses will not be tolerated and will be subject to swift and equitable action. There is nothing wrong with punishment when it is deserved. A system which hesitates to punish when it is deserved is very wrong.

The subcommittee believes that the Uniform Code of Military Justice is an equitable system of law for the military, and may even surpass civil law in the protection of an individual’s rights in court actions. Its appropriate utilization is a deterrent to unlawful conduct and is essential to the maintenance of good order and discipline.

Sabotage

The subcommittee has received a list of literally hundreds of instances of damage to naval property wherein sabotage is suspected. This list covers only the last 2 years. The magnitude of the problem, both in the frequency of “suspicious” incidents and in the total damage to Government property, is alarming.

While many of the incidents reported to date have not been fully investigated and may be determined to be accidental, there is reason to believe that some of those incidents already investigated and declared accidental or “cause unknown,” might well fall within the definition of sabotage.

There has been no evidence or even any indication that these incidents are part of any organized effort to “sink the fleet.” The subcommittee, therefore, has great difficulty pinpointing any single cause which might explain the frequency of possible, probable and proven sabotage over the past 2 years. It would appear to the subcommittee that antiwar, antimilitary, antiestablishment movements in the civilian sector have had some effect.

It is the subcommittee’s belief, however, that such activities could be better controlled if the available screening, weeding and control elements of military discipline were utilized to the fullest. This problem doesn’t breed on a “taut ship.”

Drug abuse

During the course of this inquiry, it became abundantly clear that there continues to be illicit use of a variety of drugs aboard ship and that the drug abuse problem afloat has not abated to any significant degree, especially where there is a supply of drugs available ashore. The House Armed Services Committee found, after extensive investigation in the 91st Congress, that there is a serious drug abuse problem in the military largely because there is a serious drug abuse problem in our civilian society. Extensive reports on that subject are contained in House Armed Services Committee document 92-4 and House Report 92-992. Since the drug abuse problem continues to be serious in the civilian sector, it continues to be a serious problem in the Navy. Obviously, drug abuse prevention programs must be continued and strengthened. During its investigation, the subcommittee received evidence indicating that drugs are used extensively aboard ship. If this serious problem continues, the safety of the ships and the personnel embarked are in jeopardy.

There is, however, no evidence linking drug abuse with the incidents aboard Kitty Hawk and Constellation. However, the subcommittee learned that apparently there has been an abundant supply of illicit drugs available to our ships in the Philippine Islands area. Further, during the recent declaration of martial law, that source dried up almost completely. So, too, did the supply of illegal drugs aboard naval vessels.

C. RACE RELATIONS

On December 15, 1969, the House Armed Services Committee completed a detailed investigation of racial problems at Marine Corps Base, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Again on February 25, 1970, a report was submitted on the brig disturbances at Camp Pendleton, California-disturbances which had racial overtones. In those reports, the committee commented that the Department of Defense had “long been in the vanguard of integration of the races.” We believe this still to be true today. We commend the Navy, as all the other services, for seriously pursuing this objective.

Of all the parts of our society, we believe the best opportunity exists in the military for a young man to establish a dialog between himself and his superiors, of all grades and ranks.

Discrimination or perception?

During the course of this investigation we found no substantial evidence of racial discrimination upon which we could place true responsibility for causation of these serious disturbances. Certainly there were many perceptions of discrimination by young blacks, who, because of their sensitivity to real or fancied oppression, often enlist with a “chip on their shoulder.” Those young blacks, who enter the service from the ghetto with a complete black awareness, probably for the first time find themselves immersed in a predominantly white society which, in civilian life, they had come to mistrust. These young men are subject to being easily led-as was the case in the Constellation uprising where about 15 agitators orchestrated the entire affair.

To repeat, what many of these men view as discrimination is, more often than not, a perception rather than a reality. That subject is treated in more detail in another section of this report.

The communication gap

With communications as a primary tool, and beginning with the very first exposure in the recruiting system, we are convinced that a much better mutual understanding of racial matters, the needs of the service, and the requirements of good order and discipline can be achieved in the Navy, as well as in the other services. For example, it is wrong to mislead a young recruit in a low mental group with respect to his opportunities for attending service school or “learning a trade” while in on-the-job training-particularly on a ship. His chances are limited and he must clearly understand this from the beginning, though examples abound that with superior effort he can advance to the fullest extent. While some degree of incompetence, inexperience or low intelligence can be absorbed in duties ashore, there should be no compromises aboard ship. Unquestioned discipline, instant response to orders and an acceptable standard of performance are absolutely essential to the operation of a naval vessel. This every man must understand clearly. It is not a racial consideration.

So, too, with the untrained recruit who reports to a ship only to find himself swallowed up in mess-cooking for 3 months, followed by what seems to be an endless period of compartment cleaning or chipping paint in a deck division. This experience is accompanied by serious trauma after the excitement and high sense of accomplishment in recruit training. Many blacks view this as an injustice and a breach of faith. In reality it is routine and a fact of life in duty afloat-a situation that every recruit should understand.

Similarly with questions of discipline. There is much misconception among young blacks with regard to the theory of punishment. They do not seem to understand that a poor disciplinary record or a history of poor performance is considered when meting out punishment for an offense-particularly at Captain’s Mast (nonjudicial punishment).
This “complaint” occurs if a white and a black are punished for the same transgression and the white receives a lesser punishment because of a better record of prior conduct. All personnel must receive careful explanation of the system and be advised further that the same system obtains in comparable civilian proceedings.

Polarization

The vast majority of blacks and whites are fine members of the military and go about their daily routines doing their jobs quietly and effectively. It appears that the militants and agitators comprise but a small minority of black membership of units inspected during this inquiry. But apparently there is a polarization of the races developing in many quarters which is most distressing. Some 2 years ago the committee warned of this turn of events during the Camp Lejeune investigation. Now, apparently, it has come to pass. Although this tendency manifests itself typically during off-duty hours, in the mess-hall, and in making berthing arrangements, it certainly is not stunted or discouraged by convening ad hoc councils and committees composed of all black members to provide guidance to command on racial matters. It can encourage a white sailor to view this polarization as a threat to his own security.

In that regard, there has been evidence that after the Kitty Hawk incident, certain blacks in the ship were “proud of the riot’ and bragged of a “victory”-of “winning the fight on the Hawk“-and “having it under control”. The subcommittee is anxious that any such notion will be completely and effectively dispelled. There was no victory for anybody-but there was written in the ship’s log a sad chapter in the history of the Navy.

Polarization is an unfortunate development which presents a clear challenge to the general welfare and good order and discipline. It is a priority item for correction-particularly in the forces afloat.

D. PROBLEMS OF PERCEPTION

One of the most complex problems in the Navy is dealing with what an individual believes to be a fact rather than with the fact itself. It is equally as essential to correct a perception of wrong as it is to provide equal treatment to all.

While the members of the subcommittee were unable to find institutional discrimination, many young blacks, particularly those in the 18- to 22-year-old range who have been in the Navy for less than a year, perceive that there is a racial discrimination in the Navy.

Because of the black unity movement, they find it difficult to accept punishment on an individual basis. Rather, they perceive that punishment to one is punishment to all.

This, coupled with a view that every crime there must be fixed punishment prescribed, causes them perceive they have been unfairly treated at Captain’s Mast (nonjudicial proceedings). Unlike more experienced sailors, blacks and whites, they would prefer not to have performance and prior offense records taken into consideration when punishment is given. This reflects a distrust for both the civil and military justice systems. They feel that the entire justice system in the United States has been weighted against blacks in a low-income status. Even though Captain’s Mast provides an opportunity to provide justice tempered with mercy, the young black perceives that two different punishments for the same offense means, in itself, an abuse of authority and thus prejudice, especially if one of their members receives the greater punishment.

The young black also perceives that performance ratings given to blacks are discriminatory-although little evidence was given to substantiate this allegation. The semiannual performance evaluation considers not only job performance but also the sailor’s appearance, military behavior, adaptability and potential for leadership. Obviously, these are judgmental considerations. It is apparent that senior petty officers and junior officers failed in their responsibility to counsel with their men by not pointing out the areas in which they were deficient so that when a man learned of his poor performance marks at the time an administrative discharge was given him, he perceived that it was given only because of his color. To the members of the subcommittee this perception, misplaced though it may be, indicates a failure in leadership and a failure in communication but it does not, in itself, have any connotation of racial prejudice.

There were complaints that work assignments were discriminatory. The subcommittee could find no evidence that any assignments were given to blacks that were also not given to white seamen of the same grade, mental category and time in service. Obviously, those who have had service-school training have a head start for advancement over those who do not have that training. Personnel in mental category IV and the lower half of category III are not sent to service schools. But this does not prevent any individual, utilizing his own initiative and personal efforts, from competing for higher rates. Many of the senior petty officers in the Navy today have used this route. It appears to the young black, since the majority of his petty officers and officers are white and since his initial job aboard a ship has been mess cooking or paint chipping, that his opportunities are limited. That this is racial discrimination is a false perception of the situation.

But the perception problem is not limited to black seamen alone. The Chief of Naval Operations does not admit to any severe breakdown of discipline in today’s Navy. He asserts that the Navy is operating under the most arduous conditions in its history and has proved itself to be combat effective. In his view, combat effectiveness is the proof of the Navy’s maintenance of good order and discipline.

He feels, however, that there has been less than a full measure of success in assuring equal opportunity in the Navy and in fostering a successful program of race relations. Therefore, he has placed primary emphasis on a program to resolve racial problems. Because of this emphasis on racial problems, his subordinates may have perceived his attitude and his directives in a manner that has caused a lessening of discipline, creating a situation wherein racial problems have been overemphasized.

As an example, we cite the handling of Constellation personnel who engaged in mutiny or a “sit down strike”. The primary officer from the staff of the Commander, Naval Air Forces, Pacific, assigned to work with this group was one whose field was human relations and equal opportunity programs. His attitude and approach toward the dissidents was one of negotiation rather than discipline, with his major objective being the voluntary return of the dissidents to the ship. He held meetings to let the young blacks air their grievances. He called in personnel from the Human Relations Development Center to counsel the dissidents. He held meetings with their spokesmen and so-called “representatives” who alleged they were qualified to speak for the entire group. He urged the recall of Constellation so that the captain could personally negotiate with the group. He acted as a mediator for the group with the ship’s captain, taking with him a list of three demands and urging their acceptance-which he subsequently obtained. These demands were the establishment of a board, external to the ship to (1) review all nonjudicial punishments given aboard the ship, (2) review all administrative discharges given to black personnel and, (3) amnesty for all personnel for their involvement in their “sitdown strike”. The ship’s captain made it known that he did not want certain of the group returned to his ship but the Commander, Naval Forces, Pacific and those in even higher headquarters made it perfectly clear that the men were to be offered the opportunity to return to the ship. Each dissident was given that opportunity. As events turned out, only five or six of the approximately 130 returned to the ship. Those who refused were charged only with an unauthorized absence of 6 hours and were given $25 fines.

From the incident alone, it appears obvious that the maintenance of discipline was secondary to satisfying demands of the young black personnel.

But of equal interest is the perception of the captain who yielded to the demands of the dissidents upon the persuasion of the staff of his immediate superior. He testified that it was his belief that the primary objective of the Navy in this case was to return the dissident personnel to his ship, that he perceived the higher staff personnel accepted as fact the claims and grievances of the dissidents and that the staff had the preconceived notion that these blacks had actually been mistreated. He further believed that it was desired that his efforts be oriented toward maintaining the credibility of the human relations staff personnel who were negotiating.

The record is replete with testimony that middle management, the junior officers and senior petty officers, perceived their authority to have been diluted by the Chief of Naval Operations when he addressed all naval personnel in a series of Z-grams which, being general in nature, permitted individual interpretation of his directions.

It should be clearly understood that many of these perceptions are clearly contrary to the facts and do not necessarily represent the thinking of the major portion of the Navy. Nevertheless, as long as individuals perceive these to be facts, the Navy will continue to have problems in maintaining good order and discipline.

E. THE FAILURE OF MIDDLE MANAGEMENT

One of the most alarming features of the investigation was the discovery of lack of leadership by middle management in the Navy.

It became apparent that while junior officers, chief petty officers and senior petty officers were performing their technical duties in a proficient manner, there was a lack of leadership in dealing with the seamen.

Examples of this lack of leadership are numerous: the poor personal grooming of the crew, the poor standards of cleanliness on at least one of the ships, the failure to counsel with subordinates concerning their “quarterly marks” or personal problems, the failure to take corrective action when corrective action was warranted, and the failure to demand an immediate response to lawful orders.

Undoubtedly, one of the primary factors is that as the Navy becomes more technical, grade or rank is obtained on the basis of technical skills rather than on leadership ability. There are insufficient on-going formal programs within the Navy to provide adequate training for petty officers, chief petty officers, and junior officers with respect to the basic elements of leadership.

One black chief petty officer described the change in discipline and the attitude toward discipline, as “just one gigantic cop-out by people like us. When the CNO sends a direct message to everybody in the field, the senior petty officer community and the middle management officer community have thrown up their hands and said, ‘He has taken all our power away and we can’t do anything.'”

Obviously, there has not been any removal of the tools to maintain discipline aboard a ship or anywhere else in the Navy, but the attitude toward the use of such tools has changed.

The change, in part, has been occasioned by the use of minority affairs representatives, human relations councils and human resources staffs which too frequently bypass the chain of command.

When a seamen can go to some “special interest group” outside the chain of command to discuss his specific grievance without first attempting to resolve his problem through his immediate superior, and, in turn, when someone on that council or committee attempts to mediate that problem with the seaman’s supervisor, then the authority of that supervisor is inevitably diluted. The result is that, too often, the supervisor later gives in to an unwarranted request or fails to take corrective action rather than fighting the auxiliary chain of command.

Also, because of a general feeling of permissiveness that we found prevailed among many personnel in the Navy, there is a tendency on the part of many junior officers, chief petty officers, and senior petty officers to take the attitude of “don’t make waves.” A good example of this was given the members of the subcommittee wherein a chief was preventing some men from going on liberty because of dirty shoes and unkempt appearance. A lieutenant told the chief to let them go on liberty and not rock the boat. This attitude breeds contempt by the seamen for their superiors and sows seeds for the destruction of the system.

We cannot and must not permit the middle management team to adopt a passive attitude which lets the men do anything they want to do. Superiors in the Navy are supposed to command, not give in to demands. Otherwise, there is no authority.

F. RECRUIT TRAINING

During the course of this inquiry, the subcommittee looked into the present syllabus for recruit training in the Navy and the fashion in which graduates were meeting the requirements of the fleet. Of particular note, the subcommittee found, was the lot of the average sailor in the lower mental group (group IV) who was not school-qualified and was ordered directly from recruit training to the fleet. As noted earlier, his initial shock comes with immediate full-time assignment to mess cooking (work in the galley and messdecks) for 3 months, and then, more than likely to ship’s maintenance work that seems to offer little chance for advancement, dampens his recruit-oriented enthusiasm, and puts the lie to recruiting posters and other similar advertising. There is need for more direct indoctrination on routine shipboard procedures in recruit training to blunt the impact of the early drudgery.

A priority item might be return to a 9-week cycle of training. The present 7-week program appears inadequate on all accounts and particularly in the short-circuited exposure of recruits to counseling and informal group discussion with company staff personnel. Also, the added exposure to the rigors of recruit discipline and regimentation-again with proper counseling-would aid immeasurably in accomplishing the transition from “street to fleet.”

Anyone who has thrilled to the splendor of a recruit graduation exercise, with the well-scrubbed recruits marching erect and swelling with pride, a sense of accomplishment and an anxiety to join the fleet, must realize that there is no lack of desire in these men to be a part of the real Navy. It seems, then, that in what we have been told is “today’s society,” the service has a responsibility to maintain that recruit’s momentum to the maximum possible degree and not allow it to be destroyed by such policies as spawned the Kitty Hawk and Constellation episodes.

Again, with reference to the lower mental group input, we have been told, and agree, that these men must be otherwise well-adjusted and psychiatrically fit if they are to have any chance of success in the Navy. Thus, all men in that category should be carefully screened at the recruit level, ideally to include a realistic psychiatric evaluation. As a test of the adaptability of these men, there should be instituted an organized follow-up program to score each such recruit’s performance in the fleet. Such an arrangement, we believe, would be invaluable to the future testing and screening of these individuals in the various recruit evaluation units in the Recruit Training Command.

Finally, more effort is needed to screen out the agitators and troublemakers at the recruit level. If there is doubt, that doubt should be resolved in favor of the Navy.

VI. CLOSING STATEMENT

Discipline is the keystone of the armed services of any nation. If discipline collapses, a military force becomes a leaderless, uniformed mob, capable only of accomplishing its own destruction.

The United States Navy is now confronted with pressures, both from within and without, which if not controlled, will surely destroy its enviable tradition of discipline.

Recent instances of sabotage, riot, willful disobedience of orders, and contempt for authority, instances which have occurred with increased frequency, are clear-cut symptoms of a dangerous deterioration of discipline.

The leaders of our Nation must make a critical decision-shall we tolerate a continued decline in naval discipline, or shall we adhere to traditional concepts of military discipline tempered with humanitarianism? That is the question.

The subcommittee believes that the latter option is the only response which will provide an effective fighting force.

[END]

 

Memorandum Number 68: FUTURE SUBMARINE WARFARE – 1923 (How America almost lost World War II before it even started) 2

In the final days of the Great War, Naval planners had seen first hand the devastation and destruction caused by the modern machines of war.

The submarine was an example of one of the most destructive. As plans were being made for the peace, decisions about the methods for maintaining that peace would have to be made. One of the grand ideas at the time was to limit the offensive powers of the world’s navies. In this rarely discussed report from 1923, the future of the American submarine force hung in the balance. One can only imagine how the world would look today if the planners had their way. The plucky little submarine fleet that survived the devastation at Pearl Harbor on December 7th may not have been available to punish the Japanese while the nation rebuilt.

These records are held in the Naval History and Heritage Command. I am grateful for their work in preserving these valuable lessons from the past.

Mister Mac

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NAVY DEPARTMENT OFFICE OF NAVAL INTELLIGENCE HISTORICAL SECTION

Publication Number 7

THE AMERICAN NAVAL PLANNING SECTION LONDON

Published under the direction of The Hon. EDWIN DENBY, Secretary of the Navy

WASHINGTON GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE| 1923

 

PREFACE.

____________

This monograph is virtually a reproduction of the formal records of the American Planning Section in London during the Great War, presented in numbered memoranda from 1 to 71, inclusive. Memoranda Nos. 21 and 67 have been omitted as being inappropriate for publication at this time.

Before December, 1917, all strategic planning for the American Navy was done by a section of the Office of Naval Operations in Washington. Admiral Suns urged the need of a Planning Section at his headquarters in London, where comprehensive and timely information was more available; not only of the activities of American Forces, but of the Allied Navies and of the enemy.

A visit to England during November, 1917, by Admiral Benson, Chief of Naval Operations, coincided with a reorganization of the British Admiralty, which included, as a result of war experience, magnification of the function of strategic planning by their War Staff. Decision was then reached to form an American Planning Section at the London headquarters of the Commander, U. S. Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, with the idea of cooperating more closely with the British and other Allied plan makers. Up to that time the naval strategy of the Allies often appeared to lack coordination and to be formulated primarily by men so burdened with pressing administrative details as to prevent them from giving due attention to broad plans. It was intended that the new arrangements should correct these defects.

The function of the Planning Section corresponded closely to that of similar units of organization in large businesses and in armies. Its work was removed from current administration, yet necessarily required constant information of the progress of events. It comprehended a broad survey of the course of the war as a whole, as well as a more detailed consideration of the important lesser aspects.

From an examination of these records of the American London Planning Section, together with its history contained in Memorandum No. 71, prepared soon after the conclusion of the war, it is evident that the influence of the Section upon the general naval campaign was constructive, comprehensive, and important.

  1. W. Knox, Captain (Retired), U. S. Navy, Officer in Charge, Office of Naval Records and Library; and Historical Section

 

 

Memorandum Number 68:

FUTURE SUBMARINE WARFARE.

(Undated.)

_____________

General situation: International naval situation as at present.

Required: Estimate of the situation as to future submarine warfare with relation to—

(a) National interests.

(b) World interests.

Solution.

As a result of the manner in which the Central Empires have conducted submarine operations, there exists throughout the world a public sentiment favorable to the abolition of submarine warfare and the destruction of all existing vessels of this type.

It is our purpose to examine the question of a future policy in regard to submarines, both from the point of view of world interest and national interest, and to determine the attitude which the United States should adopt toward the abolition of submarine warfare.

Theoretically the submarine is a valuable weapon of war with a large field of legitimate activity. There appears no cause for its condemnation on the ground that it has been the most powerful weapon of our adversaries, or that it has been used in violation of existing international law. The same reasons might be adduced for discarding the use of guns because they have been used to project poison-gas shells and other projectiles that cause unnecessary suffering.

It is necessary then to examine the actual methods employed by the Central Empires in submarine warfare to discover how far the successful use of submarines is dependent inherently on their employment in a manner inconsistent with the conduct of civilized warfare. If it appears that their efficiency is largely dependent on their illegitimate use in disregard of the laws of humanity, in violation of neutral rights, or in derogation of a sound policy for the world at large, it is safe to assume that in any war the temptation to employ submarines in their most efficient manner may prove too strong for a belligerent threatened with defeat, and that therefore the moral and material interests of humanity would be improved by the elimination altogether of the subsurface vessel.

CONDITIONS GOVERNING SUBMARINE ATTACK.

The weapons of the submarine are the torpedo and the gun. In order to maintain the water-tight integrity of its hull, it is essential that the submarine be protected as far as possible from gunfire. There is thus imposed upon the vessel the necessity of submerged attack against all craft possessing guns of equal or superior range. To make a successful submerged attack it is considered essential to get within ranges of 1,000 yards—preferably 300 yards. To approach within such ranges demands the utmost secrecy. Furthermore, the safety of the submarine precludes the possibility of demanding surrender at anything but a distance that would permit the most valuable prizes to escape by utilizing their superior speed. Owing to the impossibility of always determining the hostile or neutral character of a vessel by its flag or general appearance, there will frequently exist a doubt in the mind of the submarine commander, with a strong tendency to resolve the doubt in favor of aggression. Having torpedoed a vessel, there remains no means under the average conditions of providing for the surrender of the crew or its removal to a place of safety. The security of the submarine at such close quarters requires its continued submergence until the menace to its safety is removed by the sinking of the attacked vessel. Such has been the practical operation of submarine warfare.

LEGITIMATE USE OF SUBMARINES.

The legitimate use of submarines may be considered to be confined to the following:

(1) Independent attack on unsupported combatant vessels of the enemy.

Comment: The submarine has an undoubted right to attack without warning an enemy man-of-war or any vessel engaged in military operations and not entitled to immunity as a hospital ship, cartel ship, etc.

It is repugnant to the standards of civilized humanity to deliberately plan warfare with the intention of giving no quarter in battle. Hence if such an attack is made and the enemy vessel surrendered, provision should be made for the safety of the lives of the prisoners either on their own vessel or in the ship’s boats if in safe waters.

A torpedo attack usually results in the sinking of a vessel. If we imagine this vessel to be a transport loaded with troops, it would be obviously impossible for the submarine to take them on board or to insure any degree of safety to those who might be successfully embarked on the high seas in the ship’s boats.

It may be argued that a similar result might follow an action between surface ships, but it is desired to point out that the rescue of the surrendered or drowning should be the normal procedure and not the exception, as would be the case in unrestricted submarine warfare.

While submarines might be built of sufficient size and equipped in a manner that would permit their operations to conform to the rules adopted for surface craft, it is certain that such vessels would be seriously handicapped by such requirements, and it is not reasonable to suppose that they would be adopted.

(2) Independent attack on combatant enemy vessels capable of rendering mutual support.

Comment: In this case attack without warning would be justifiable. Destructions might be continued until the enemy surrendered, when humanity would require that a vessel be spared to care for the surviving crews. Unless we imagine a submarine large enough to carry prize crews to take possession of surrendered vessels, it is not reasonable to suppose that any combatant vessel would be spared.

(3) Attack, in support of surface vessels, on enemy combatant forces.

Comment: This is a purely legitimate use of the submarine which, however, has had no exemplification in the present war. Great Britain has fast submarines designed to operate with the fleet, but there is no reason to suppose that they might not be diverted to other uses not so legitimate.

(4) Capture or destruction of enemy merchant vessels.

Comment: It must be expected that the merchant vessels of belligerents will arm for defense. This is an ancient right, founded on that of self-preservation and as sound in principle as the right of a citizen to keep and bear arms. Such vessels are nevertheless noncombatants and must be regarded as such, since they are denied the right of taking the offensive.

Since, however, it would be too late for a vessel to defend herself after being torpedoed by a submarine, it is necessary for her to forestall attack as soon as the intention of the submarine can be determined. Under such conditions (which must obtain in unrestricted submarine warfare) a submarine appearing in any quarter from which an attack was possible must expect resistance from the threatened vessel.

In order to make certain that a prize shall not escape attack, the submarine, if inferior in speed and gun power, must make a submerged attack with torpedoes. He is thereby precluded from—

(a) Visit and search to determine identity as well us origin and ownership of cargo.

(b) Summoning the vessel to surrender.

(c) Taking possession of the vessel.

(d) Providing for the safety of passengers or crew.

The inhuman character of this form of warfare has led to forms of reprisals on submarines, such as the use of mystery ships, that react to make the crews of submarines still more brutal, so that no attempt is made to save life, but the submarine continues its submerged attack until the merchant vessel is sunk. Instances of submarines firing on boats filled with passengers are cited and of crews deliberately drowned after being placed on the deck of the submarine.

(5) Capture or destruction of neutral merchant vessels.

Comment: Capture of neutral merchant vessels under conditions

and restrictions imposed by international law is justifiable. Destruction after capture is contrary to international law and can not be justified in any circumstances.

The right of neutral vessels to arm for self-defense dates from the days of piracy, and it can not be denied that the same right still exists to take measures for self-preservation against a belligerent who chooses to operate in defiance of international law against friend and foe alike.

If we admit the right of neutral merchant ships to arm for self-defense, the same set of conditions arise that makes it impossible for the submarine to efficiently wage war on commerce within the bounds of international law. Nor is it apparent that any change in international law could be made that would satisfy the just claims of neutrals to the free use of the high seas for their persons or their goods that would not at the same time seriously hamper the success of the submarine. The difficulty lies in the necessity of secrecy and suddenness of attack to prevent the escape of fast merchant vessels. This is obviously inconsistent with any attempt at visit and search, which in all cases would be necessary if only to establish identity.

(6) All operations of war permitted to surface vessels.

Comment: The necessity of preserving hull integrity and the limited number of guns that can be carried by a submarine restrict sharply its employment in surface operations. Such operations, while legitimate, offer but a small field of activity; illegitimate use of submarines.

The illegitimate employment of submarines by the Central Empires in the present war consisted of—

(1) Attack without warning on enemy merchant vessels.

(2) Attack without warning on neutral merchant vessels.

(3) Attack without warning on enemy hospital ships.

(4) Sinking of enemy merchant ships without visit or search.

(5) Sinking of neutral merchant vessels without visit or search.

(6) The abandonment, without regard to safety, of passengers and crews of vessels sunk.

(7) The planting of unproclaimed mine fields outside of enemy territorial waters.

Submarine operations in the present war may be considered as typical of what may be expected in future wars, when success is dependent on the result of a war on commerce.

There is high authority for the statement that prominent naval officials of at least one of the Allies are of the opinion that the unrestricted submarine warfare conducted by Germany was justifiable, and that with the exception of its more barbarous features its adoption by this ally might be expected under similar circumstances.

It is of interest to note the several phases of submarine operations in the present war as illustrating the tendency to develop maximum efficiency regardless of legal restrictions.

The first phase consisted of submarine attacks on combatant vessels. With the abandonment of the Declaration of London and the inauguration of a general blockade, there entered a second phase, a measure of retaliation, which was distinguished by the destruction without warning of enemy merchant vessels. The protests of neutrals and the fear of drawing the United States into the war induced for a time the exception of enemy passenger vessels; but, on the other hand, destruction without warning was gradually extended to apply to enemy and neutral cargo vessels alike.

It became apparent at last that the only hope of ending the war was by a food blockade of Great Britain. In this situation the Central Empires declared for unrestricted warfare and established prescribed zones that pretended to exclude all vessels from the high seas within certain areas contiguous to the territory of the Allied Powers. Any vessel whatever entering these areas was liable to destruction without warning.

NATIONAL INTEREST AS AFFECTED BY SUBMARINES.

Considering submarine warfare from the standpoint of national interest, let us examine the advantages and disadvantages to be derived from its use by each of the Great Powers.

Great Britain is the greatest naval power as well as the greatest mercantile power in the world. Her existence depends on control of her sea communications. In a naval war conducted by surface craft alone she can by maintaining a large margin of strength above her probable adversaries hope to maintain her position indefinitely. In a naval war involving subsurface craft no amount of naval superiority in any class of vessel can prevent the destruction of her shipping, or, as in the present war, relieve her from the menace of starvation by blockade.

The submarines of Germany almost accomplished their purpose, although the German surface fleet was but a fraction of the united strength of the United States and the Allies, and this in the face of over 4,000 special craft, as well as mines, aircraft, and every device known to science, employed against them.

In spite of the fact that Great Britain has a large flotilla of submarines and has developed a special type for use in fleet action, her naval strength would be greatly increased by the abolition of submarine warfare, and it can be confidently expected that she would favor such a policy.

France is a continental nation ranking fourth in naval strength and merchant marine. She is directly dependent on neither for existence. Except in a world war she might expect to be supplied through her neighbors. In a war with Great Britain, submarine warfare would seem to be to her advantage. She would have little to lose and much to gain. The present war has shown, however, that submarines have little success against combatant vessels, so that, as considered heretofore, important results could be gained only by unrestricted operations against merchant shipping. Aside from any question of legality or morality involved, there is in the destruction of merchant shipping an economic loss to the world that affects all nations, whether belligerent or neutral. This phase of the subject will be discussed later. In a naval war against powers other than Great Britain, there is little that France could accomplish with submarines that could not be done with surface craft.

Italy, while not an insular nation, is dependent largely on sea-borne commerce. Her Navy and merchant marine occupy fifth place among the Great Powers. Her commerce would be largely at the mercy of any enemy in the Mediterranean. During the present war her commerce was driven from the Adriatic, and in spite of the assistance of the Allies she had great difficulty in maintaining herself. With naval operations confined to surface craft she would have been much better off. In addition to the objections to submarine warfare it should be remembered that it is a highly organized and specialized form of warfare requiring technical labor for construction, and for operation expert training, great skill, and considerable endurance to insure success. These requirements are to be found in but few countries. The Germans have set a standard of efficiency for the submarine weapon that we can expect to see but rarely attained. Italy’s strength would not be relatively improved by the continuation of submarine warfare.

Germany and Austria can not expect to be in a financial condition that will permit for at least a generation to come any attempt to revive their naval strength. Considering the fate of their existing submarines, it is safe to exclude the Central Empires from present consideration. They would probably gladly agree to abolish any form of warfare in the future. Should they eventually regain their military strength there is every reason why they should never again be trusted with the submarine weapon.

Japan is an insular nation that occupies in the Pacific a position similar to that of Great Britain in the Atlantic. She stands third in naval and mercantile strength. She has a growing fleet and a rapidly increasing merchant marine. Her only potential enemy is the United States, from whom she can expect no aggression. If, unfortunately, war should come, her position would be very favorable for submarine operations against our communications with the Philippines.

On the other hand, our submarines based on the Philippines and Guam would be within striking distance of her coasts and would be a grave threat to the commerce on which her existence depends. With submarine abolished, her surface craft could probably accomplish lawfully all and more than could submarines.

Japan has but few submarines, and these of but little efficiency, which would seem to indicate that she is in agreement with this view.

Like other nations with ambitions to be powerful commercially on the sea, she has much to lose and little to gain by submarine warfare.

Small nations, with relatively large merchant fleets, such as Holland, Norway, and Sweden, have neither the military strength to withstand the invasion of a great power, nor the means to conduct an aggressive war against a small power. In either case they could expect heavy uncompensated loss from submarines.

Small nations with little or no merchant shipping of their own might selfishly benefit by submarines in a war against a maritime power. If their submarine warfare was confined to legitimate operations against combatant vessels they would be of value in repelling invasion, but it cannot be expected that they would bring about victory against a powerful nation, and in addition to the danger of their submarines being used illegally there could be no equitable means provided of granting their use to one nation and not to another.

The United States is the second naval and mercantile power in the world. Our continental coasts lie across the ocean from any formidable enemy. No foreign invasion of our continental territory is possible, nor do we contemplate aggression against any power. Nevertheless the large merchant marine that we are building may be exposed to submarine attack in any part of the world. Such an aggression by any small or irresponsible power might cause us losses both in property and national prestige out of all proportion to the size of the offending power.

In a war with Great Britain submarines would serve a purpose in preventing the blockade and bombardment of our coasts, but the same results could be accomplished by surface craft and mobile coast-defense guns.

The chief reason why the United States should not build submarines is that public opinion would never permit their use in the same manner as that of our adversaries. Their chief use would be in the destruction of enemy merchant shipping. This the national conscience would not permit, certainly not after the German manner, while our probable adversaries would likely not be controlled by any such restrictions.

With a surface fleet second to none, the United States is in a position to vindicate its policies in every part of the world. With submarines in existence no strength in surface craft can ever insure a like security.

EFFECT OF ABOLITION OF SUBMARINES ON NAVAL STRENGTH.

If we reckon naval strength in terms of dreadnoughts and battle cruisers, and exclude Russia and the Central Powers, we observe that the naval strength of the Great Powers follows closely the strength of their merchant marine and is not dependent on submarines.

Naval strength. Capital ships. Merchant tonnage (approximate). Submarines.
1. Great Britain 43 15,000,000 168
2. United States 17 5,000,000 108
3. Japan 9 1,700,000 19
4. France 7 1,500,000 55
5. Italy 5 1,000,000 6

Small powers with negligible navies are—

Merchant tonnage.
Norway 1,300,000
Holland 800,000
Sweden 700,000

We conclude that the abolition of submarines would not practically alter the standing in relative remaining naval strength of any of the Great Powers.

DESTRUCTION OF MERCHANT SHIPPING AN ECONOMIC LOSS TO THE WORLD.

It is to the interest of the world at large that the evils of war be confined to the nations participating in it.

The economic interdependence of every part of the modem world makes it impossible for one country to suffer loss without in a measure affecting all. But the vital indispensable necessity to the welfare of the world is merchant shipping, the common carrier of the world that provides the sole means of interchange of products on which civilized existence has come to depend.

International law for the present has not progressed sufficiently far to forbid the destruction of belligerent merchant vessels under certain prescribed circumstances. It does forbid the sinking of neutrals.

We believe that the destruction of any merchant ships employed as common carriers is contrary to a sound world policy and should be forbidden.

As a result of the present war the world at large has been subjected to a loss of 13,000,000 tons of merchant shipping; 2,000,000 tons of this was the property of neutrals.

The loss of cargoes has impoverished the world and subjected many of the neutrals to hardships greater than those endured by some of the belligerents.

The tonnage sunk represents a direct economic loss falling upon the people of the world, whether belligerent or neutral.

EFFECT OF ABOLITION OF SUBMARINES ON REDUCTION OF ARMAMENTS.

The abolition of submarine warfare would be a great step in the reduction of armaments. In addition such a reduction would carry with it the elimination of all special types of craft that are necessary only in antisubmarine warfare.

If all distinctly antisubmarine craft were dispensed with and torpedo vessels reduced to a proportion of six destroyers for each dreadnought or battle cruiser, the following reduction could be accomplished in vessels already built:

Great Britain:
Submarines 168
Destroyers 167
Torpedo boats 96
Patrol boats 63
Sloops 12
Patrol gunboats 26
Armed whalers 19
Motor launches 540
Submarine depot ships 13
United States:
Submarines 108
Destroyers 70
Torpedo boats 17
Submarine depot ships 3
Converted yachts (?) 53
Submarine chasers 300

 

Japan:
Submarines 19
Destroyers 13
Torpedo boats 24
Submarine depot ships 4
France:
Submarines 62
Destroyers 50
Torpedo boats 121
Special gunboats (?) 10
Sloops 9
Dispatch vessels 10
Submarine chasers 50
Italy:
Submarines 56
Destroyers 22
Torpedo boats 65
Submarine depot ships 1
Motor launches 147

 

In addition to the foregoing there could be a reduction in minesweeping vessels, aircraft, repairs, and supply vessels, as well as elimination of special nets, mines, and devices used against submarines.

CONCLUSIONS.

We recommend—

1. That an international agreement be concluded to abolish submarine warfare.

2. That to insure against violations of this agreement all sub-surface vessels of every class whatsoever now built or building be destroyed, and that none hereafter be constructed.

3. That no merchant vessel shall hereafter be destroyed by belligerent action.

4. That merchant vessels which under present rules would be subject to destruction may be sent into a neutral port and interned in the same manner as combatant vessels.

 

 

 

Still serving – More resources for veterans and their families 1

Once in a while, I get emails from people who have checked out the web site and found one of the pages meaningful. I recently got this email and wanted to share it with my readers.

Our veteran population is growing day by day and the issues and concerns they will have to face do not stop when they hang up their uniforms. We think of them sometimes but the problems they face are real and exist every day. Overcoming a long term health issue can be challenging when facing it alone so any additional resources mean making the difference between success and failure.

The Leansubmariner will continue to do its best to bring connections to people still fighting the country’s battles, even the ones they sometimes have to fight in silence.

Mister Mac

 

Hi,

I’m writing to thank you for the resources here you’ve put together to help those who serve. My father-in-law is a disabled vet and lung cancer survivor, and it has meant the world to be able to find resources to help him pay for everything he needs. You’re really doing a great service for people like him – I cannot thank you enough.

I’m happy to pass on some other pages we’ve found useful, in case you or your viewers might think so too:

Aging Vets – How to Plan Wisely for Your Future
Residential Leases and the Military – Your Rights
Resources for Vets & Families Living with Cancer
Military Veterans Resource Center
Assistive Tech for Veterans and Military
Guide to Military Moves
Behavioral Health for Veterans
Mental Health Needs of Vets & Families
Justice for Vets

Thanks,

Meagan C.

The Old Submariner 13

The Old Submariner

I sometimes don’t know where I’m going, but Oh, all the places I’ve been.

Wrapped up in a hull made of steel, with a crew of fine sailors locked in.

The missions are lonely and silent, the dangers untold with no yield,

But we still climb down the steel ladders, the hatches above us are sealed.

The sunlight’s a far distant memory, fresh air just a dream from the past

The world outside comes in short little bursts, from a buoy or a wire or a mast.

Between drilling and watches and work, there’s no place to be secluded

Surrounded by lights and companions, and pressure is always included.

In sub school they taught you the stories, of boats that exceeded design,

And others that found ancient mountains, nearly ending before it was time.

Fires and flooding and things that exploded, in a hull that is closed on both ends,

Add to pressure from not really seeing, what’s ahead or around the next bend.

You can hide from the storms in deep places, using thermals and currents as masks.

But if mission requires more exposure, the crew does what the Captain asks.

Sliding silently through the dark ocean, sometimes you forget where you are,

Until you remember there’s no moon, not even a glimmering star.

They all wait above you in silence, for the boat to once more breach the waves

In a rush of wild water and motion, escaping a watery grave.

Unless you’re an old submariner, it’s hard to know what this means

As age dims my mind and my body, I’m back riding old submarines.

I sometimes forget what I’m thinking, but Oh, all the places I’ve been.

Bob MacPherson (AKA Mister Mac)

July 25, 2017

 

 

 

Everybody needs a hero 3

Everybody needs a hero.

Heroes make us believe that people are capable of doing amazing things and give us hope in a world where so many people fail either themselves or us. Heroism comes in many sizes, shapes, and colors. Mine happens to come in a variety of uniforms depending on what year you found her. All are the uniforms of her country.

A long time ago, I was a Division officer on a submarine tender named USS Hunley. The ship was already getting old by the time I got there but I was fortunate to have a good group of people to work with. One of those was a young Machinist Mate named Jeannie. She did a good job for me but made it very clear that the service was not her cup of tea. I have many wonderful memories of that time but when I retired, she also finished her tour and went off to find her future.

Jeannie Keith and her friend Fay the day they were both frocked to Petty Officer Third Class.

Future for Jeannie included going back to college and becoming a nurse. That was not a surprise since she seemed like a very caring person. What surprised me was when she told me she was joining the Army as an Army nurse. Shortly after that, she married her present husband (also an Army officer) and they proceeded to start living happily ever after. Until 911.

On 911, Jeanie was stationed at Walter Reed Hospital and Mark was working in the Pentagon. That story will have to wait for another day. I hope Jeannie will take the time to share it when she is ready.

Fast forward to 2003. I knew that both of them were deploying to an undisclosed overseas location and we prayed for them every day. Then on March 19, 2003 I got this email from Jeannie:

The Eve

“Well, everyone, the time is near. Less than 8 hours to go. Tonight we sleep in our uniforms and have all battle rattle at the ready. Tomorrow’s uniform is full battle rattle plus NBC level increased (can’t tell you what level”. High sense of alertness but a calming atmosphere. Haven’t seen real nervous people.

Loaded containers today for the front. Don’t know when we are leaving, but I am still scheduled to go forward by helicopter, may make it there before my other people and work with another unit until they get there. Had a shower today and steak and lobster for dinner. Every Weds. They do the steak/lobster deal. Pretty good.

Received everyone’s emails. Thanks for the assistance and thoughts. I will need some small bottles of hand sanitizer if anyone wants to send it. Need to go. Time went quickly tonight.

Don’t worry, I am fine.

Jeannie

Funny, the thought of that email still brings tears flowing from my eyes. Don’t worry? Really?

 For the following months, emails would come sporadically.

As I have reopened long lost files to see how I could transfer them, I have been struck with the brutal nature of what Jeannie and her fellow soldiers went through. It has been fourteen years, but the harshness has not dimmed with age. The stories of the women and men of the 28th Combat Surgical Hospital where Jeannie served are all preserved in those emails. One example comes from July 2003.

 

 

 

 

Jeanie’s email: Subject: 23July03

“Sorry for the grouped email but mail has been down for 48 hours. Yes, you guessed it, we had a VIP come to visit and all the internet was shut off d/t his majesty, plus we’ve had a busy 48-72 hours

This morning we had a 26 y/o soldier come in from another RPG/Blast injury. This time he wasn’t so lucky, as the others have been, by just losing one of his extremities, he lost both of his hands and half of his forearms. He also had shrapnel to his thighs and lacerations to his face, his eyes had corneal abrasions and his ear drums busted. People have come to him hour by hour and asked how he was doing. Finally he said “Okay if you don’t have any hands”. I was glad to hear him say this b/c he isn’t fine and he doesn’t have to be fine or okay. And I began asking people “how would you fell if you lost your two hands?” They finally quit seeing him as a sad subject to come and view, as they would in a circus or a zoo.

What his future holds for him I don’t know, but only hope with him being in one of the most technological countries in the world, that something good will happen to him as far as prosthesis.”

The letter goes on and Jeannie talks about a couple of Iraqi citizens who are in the hospital with her as patients.

“Now our unit has two Iraqi civilians in it and hopefully two of them will leave by Friday and the other one will either extubate soon or he’ll die eventually. Not harsh, the truth. With our advanced medical practice, there’s just no hope for them over here if they don’t get better while they are with us.”

From: Robert MacPherson

Date: Thursday July 24, 2003 2:51 am

Subject: Re: 23July03

Never apologize for sending me any kind of news. I love to hear from you each and every day because it means that you are still doing okay. I will have to admit that I have had a few tears for the young man you spoke about. I always used to have dreams about my submarine going down when we were facing the Russians and drowning. Sometimes when you spent three months under the water, your imagination will get a little carried away. But I could never imagine losing even one of my hands or both.

I know it’s probably not appropriate, but please tell him I have said a prayer for him. I also pray for you. When this is all over (and it will be over soon my friend) please be ready to talk to somebody about what you are going through now. If we didn’t learn anything from Vietnam, we should have learned the human soul can only see so many things without being touched in some way. I am not there so I don’t see the things you do or smell/hear/feel the things you do. But reading your emails has filled me with sadness and a sense of pride for the sacrifices the men and women have given for their fellow man. I know there is no way that we can repay them for what they have done. I promise you that for my part, I will never let the politicians forget their promises to those who have made those sacrifices.

But when I think about what our enemies have already done to the people of the United States and what they could have done to the people of the United States in the future if you and your comrades had not done what you did, it makes me even more aware of the sacrifices you all have made for us. The leaders of Iraq are more evil than people in a free society can ever imagine. The tortures and deprivations they subjected their own people to is horrible in itself, but if we had not acted, we can only imagine the devastation they could have brought to our shores. The thought of innocent women and children being subjected to poisons and gasses that were being produced is more than the mind could imagine. You only have to read the reports about the Kurds and Iranians that Saddam and his monstrous thugs used those weapons on and be repulsed.

On September 11, the terrorists showed us how vulnerable we are in a world filled with mad men. You all have shown us with your courage, bravery and sacrifice that those enemies can be defeated. I am forever in your debt. I am forever in the debt of that young man whose future is so much in question. But I believe with all my heart that God is with you all and will watch over you until you come home again.

With much love and respect,

Mr. Mac

The rest of the story will have to wait for another time. I saved every email and picture on an old Dell laptop but the technology of that time did not allow for an easy transfer of the hundreds of files. I am still working on an easy solution but I am hopeful we can save the stories for another time.

Jeannie, I hope you do write that book. I will buy the first copy.

Mister Mac