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

 

A16-3/(0923)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[signed]
W.S. ANDERSON.

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

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

 

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

Washington, D. C., December 5, 1942

New York Times, December 6, 1942.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Mister Mac

Happy Birthday to my Navy Family – 242 Years Strong 5

This speech was delivered to the Pittsburgh Area Navy Ball on October 20, 2017. The Ball was sponsored by the Pittsburgh Council of the Navy League of the United States and the McKeesport Pittsburgh Chief Petty Officer’s Association

Happy Birthday to my Family

Life is full of celebrations. Births, graduations, achievements, weddings, anniversaries. October is a month of celebrations for the Navy family and Navy League members as we celebrate the Navy’s 242nd birthday, Oct.13, Navy Day and Theodore Roosevelt’s birthday, Oct. 27.

For the Navy League, We use these occasions to remember and rededicate ourselves to our missions in support of our sea service personnel and their families and to educate the public and Congress on the importance of our sea services in defending our nation and its prosperity.

Some of us were also blessed to be part of something which helped to define us as individuals while serving the greatest nation the world has ever known. Some of us have had the honor and privilege of wearing a uniform of the United States Navy.

I had a pretty good life growing up in the Mon Valley. From my earliest memories, I had been surrounded by the call of the sea and service in the Navy. A faded black and white picture of my Grandfather in his Dress Blues from World War 1 hung on the wall. I inherited the picture and that uniform along with my Dad’s and it is striking how similar they are to my first uniform. The sturdy wool has endured for over a hundred years and the infamous thirteen buttons are still standing guard. The piping of white is a bit faded now but the stars still stand out on that collar. Stars that represent a country and a family,

From the minute I entered Boot Camp, I knew that I was a part of a much larger family. We learned skills and traditions and came to understand that this new family had a purpose. We were there to protect America and her allies from those who want to harm us. President Theodore Roosevelt, who we honor tonight for his support of a strong Navy stated in his second annual message to Congress on 2 December 1902:

“A good Navy is not a provocation to war. It is the surest guaranty of peace.”

In the one hundred and fifteen years since he declared those words, we have seen that come true time and time again. When America has been best prepared to defend ourselves, we have enjoyed the fruits of that peace. But when America has lost its way and allowed its Navy family to shrink and not have the resources needed to be at the ready we have suffered setbacks.

One only has to look at Pearl Harbor to see the cost of underestimating the enemy. The loss of life and the ships that were sunk is a constant reminder to all Americans. As a member of the Navy family, I have openly cried when I heard taps played at the Arizona Memorial. The names on that wall are more than just etchings of a stone cutter. They are members of my Navy Family who gave their all.

75 Years ago, in a far off place called Guadalcanal, Marines, Army soldiers, Coast Guardsmen and Navy Men did the unexpected and pushed the Japanese back after a horrendous struggle. The Naval Battle of Guadalcanal will be remembered on November 12-13 as one of the greatest displays of heroism in our proud family history. An out gunned and out matched American fleet took enormous punishment and endured horrific losses, but in the end emerged victorious. From that night on, the Japanese forces were slowly but surely pushed all the way back to their homeland resulting in ultimate defeat.

Our Navy family played a critical role in that victory.

Yet even in the afterglow of victory, danger still existed. Admiral Chester Nimitz wrote in 1948

“Sir Walter Raleigh declared in the early 17th century that “whoever commands the sea, commands the trade; whosoever commands the trade of the world commands the riches of the world, and consequently the world itself.” This principle is as true today as when uttered, and its effect will continue as long as ships traverse the seas.

The United States possesses today control of the sea more absolute than was possessed by the British. Our interest in this control is not riches and power as such. It is first the assurance of our national security, and, second, the creation and perpetuation of that balance and stability among nations which will insure to each the right of self-determination under the framework of the United Nations Organization.”

All of this was tested in the Cold War. Korea, Vietnam, and a growing Soviet Fleet challenged our family to be able to respond. But respond they did, bringing the Soviet Union to its knees. That recognition for a strong Navy has never ended. Admiral Carlisle A. H. Trost wrote

“When a crisis confronts the nation, the first question often asked by policymakers is: ‘What naval forces are available and how fast can they be on station?’

In the most recent conflicts, it has been a combination of all of the Armed Services that have served so well in defending this country against new enemies. But the Navy has been there. You only need to look at the ribbons of many in this room tonight to see the ongoing sacrifice that many have made to ensure our freedom.

Yes, these are the members of my family. These are the men and women whom I have been proud to stand together with in both good times and bad. We are forever united in our shared sacrifices. We celebrate not just an organization, we celebrate the people who have been bonded together for a greater purpose. I can never forget that our family includes the wives and husbands and children who wait for them to return from their missions. Their sacrifices are a large part of why we are able to serve the nation so well.

My uniform long ago joined my Grandfathers and my Dad’s in that old trunk. The sword my men presented on the day of my commissioning hangs on the wall near a case of emblems that reflect my passage through the ordeals that made me a Navy family member. But when I look out and see the young faces of those who are about to enter their own journey and become part of my Navy family, I can almost feel the years slipping away. I can feel the deck shifting below my feet and smell the salt in the wind swept air. The chance for one last adventure makes my heart beat a little stronger.

The reality comes back when I remember that my ship has sailed. I know my time now will be spent doing what I can to support my family that will man the watch. For those of us who are now standing on the shore watching you sail into your own history, we rededicate ourselves to making sure you have the support you need. The right ships, the right equipment, the right training, and all that you need to make sure America stays strong in the face of relentless enemies around the globe. Doing less ensures our own failure. That is not acceptable. That is not America.

We must also remember those who have suffered in body, mind and spirit in the fight. As a family we must still offer them comfort, hope and support. That is a sacred trust. That is what real families do.

The world has turned over 88,330 times since Congress realized the need for a naval service. From a small band of patched together frigates to the mightiest force the world has ever seen, the United States Navy has one continuous thread: Brave men and women who were willing to face any challenge and challenge any foe.

This is the United States Navy.

I hope you will share with me today and every day the importance of our outstanding naval family, and remember always what the United States Navy stands for through its resonant motto:

“Not for Self but for Country”

Thank you for the honor of being allowed to share my family story.

Bob MacPherson

President, US Navy League Pittsburgh Council (AKA Mister Mac)

Dedication Ceremony for the Submarine Service Memorial at the Cemetery of the Alleghenies 4

It was an honor today to be present as a Memorial Stone was Dedicated by the USSVI Requin Base Pittsburgh PA at the National Cemetery of the Alleghenies near Pittsburgh.

The pictures tell the story.

Hand Salute!

“The sea – like life itself – is a stern taskmaster” The Story of Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz 2

The sea – like life itself – is a stern taskmaster.

This was the early childhood lesson taught to the boy who would later become one of the most influential leaders in the United States Navy. He was significantly influenced by his German-born paternal grandfather, Charles Henry Nimitz, a former seaman in the German Merchant Marine, who taught him, “the sea – like life itself – is a stern taskmaster. The best way to get along with either is to learn all you can, then do your best and don’t worry – especially about things over which you have no control.”

Few men in modern American Naval history have had as much influence on its success as Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz. This article comes from the official Navy Records and shows his progression from a Texas boy to one of the most brilliant minds in Naval Warfare in the Twentieth Century.

Nimitz’s work in submarines not only ensured that the Navy had a powerful answer to the attack the left a smoking mess in the Pearl Harbor but helped to deliver a crushing blow to the Japanese.

At the end of his biography, there is a short section about what he predicted in March of 1948 about the future of warfare. There are some critical lessons from the previous war and some stern warnings about what we whould do do be prepared for in the future.

The future is now.

Mister Mac

The boy from Texas

Chester William Nimitz was born on 24 February 1885, near a quaint hotel in Fredericksburg, Texas built by his grandfather, Charles Nimitz, a retired sea captain. Young Chester, however, had his sights set on an Army career and while a student at Tivy High School, Kerrville, Texas, he tried for an appointment to West Point. When none was available, he took a competitive examination for Annapolis and was selected and appointed from the Twelfth Congressional District of Texas in 1901.

He left high school to enter the Naval Academy Class of 1905. It was many years later, after he had become a Fleet Admiral that he actually was awarded his high school diploma. At the Academy Nimitz was an excellent student, especially in mathematics and graduated with distinction — seventh in a class of 114. He was an athlete and stroked the crew in his first class year. The Naval Academy’s yearbook, “Lucky Bag”, described him as a man “of cheerful yesterdays and confident tomorrows.”

After graduation he joined USS Ohio in San Francisco and cruised in her to the Far East.

On 31 January 1907, after the two years’ sea duty then required by law, he was commissioned Ensign, and took command of the gunboat USS Panay. He then commanded USS Decatur and was court martialed for grounding her, an obstacle in his career which he overcame.

He returned to the U. S. in 1907 and was ordered to duty under instruction in submarines, the branch of the service in which he spent a large part of his sea duty. His first submarine was USS Plunger (A- 1). He successively commanded USS Snapper, USS Narwal and USS Skipjack until 1912. On 20 March of that year, Nimitz, then a Lieutenant, and commanding officer of the submarine E-1 (formerly Skipjack), was awarded the Silver Lifesaving Medal by the Treasury Department for his heroic action in saving W.J. Walsh, Fireman second class, USN, from drowning. A strong tide was running and Walsh, who could not swim, was rapidly being swept away from his ship. Lieutenant Nimitz dove in the water and kept Walsh afloat until both were picked up by a small boat.

He had one year in command of the Atlantic Submarine Flotilla before coming ashore in 1913 for duty in connection with building the diesel engines for the tanker USS Maumee at Groton, Conn. In that same year, he was sent to Germany and Belgium to study engines at their Diesel Plants. With that experience he subsequently served as Executive Officer and Engineering Officer of the Maumee until 1917 when he was assigned as Aide and Chief of Staff to COMSUBLANT. He served in that billet during World War I.

In September 1918 he came ashore to duty in the office of the Chief of Naval Operations and was a member of the Board of Submarine Design. His first sea duty in big ships came in 1919 when he had one year’s duty as Executive Officer of the battleship USS South Carolina. In 1920 he went to Pearl Harbor to build the submarine base there. Next assigned to the Naval War College, his studies of a possible Pacific Ocean war’s logistics would become extremely relevant two decades later.

In 1922 he was assigned as a student at the Naval War College, and upon graduation went as Chief of Staff to Commander Battle Forces and later Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet (Admiral S. S. Robinson) .

In 1923, Commander Nimitz became aide to Commander Battle Force and later to Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet. Later in the decade, he established the NROTC unit at the University of California at Berkeley. In 1929, now holding the rank of Captain, he began two years as Commander, Submarine Division 20, followed by two more years in charge of reserve destroyers at San Diego, California. He then took the heavy cruiser Augusta (CA-31) to the Orient, where, under his command, she was flagship of the Asiatic Fleet in 1933-35. Three years’ duty at the Bureau of Navigation in Washington, D.C., ended in 1938 with his promotion to Rear Admiral.

His next sea command was in flag rank as Commander Cruiser Division Two and then as Commander Battle Division One until 1939, when he was appointed as Chief of the Bureau of Navigation for four years. In December 1941, however, he was designated as Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet and Pacific Ocean Areas, where he served throughout the war.

Ten days after the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, he was promoted by Roosevelt to commander-in-chief, United States Pacific Fleet (CINCPACFLT), with the rank of admiral, effective December 31. He immediately departed Washington for Hawaii and took command in a ceremony on the top deck of the submarine Grayling. The change of command ceremony would normally have taken place aboard a battleship, but every battleship in Pearl Harbor had been either sunk or damaged during the attack.

Assuming command at the most critical period of the war in the Pacific, Admiral Nimitz successfully organized his forces to halt the Japanese advance despite the losses from the attack on Pearl Harbor and the shortage of ships, planes, and supplies.

On 19 December 1944, he was advanced to the newly created rank of Fleet Admiral, and on 2 September 1945, was the United States signatory to the surrender terms aboard the battleship USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay.

He hauled down his flag at Pearl Harbor on 26 Nov. 1945, and on 15 December relieved Fleet Admiral E.J. King as Chief of Naval Operations for a term of two years. On 01 January 1948, he reported as special Assistant to the Secretary of the Navy in the Western Sea Frontier. In March of 1949, he was nominated as Plebiscite Administrator for Kashmir under the United Nations. When that did not materialize he asked to be relieved and accepted an assignment as a roving goodwill ambassador of the United nations, to explain to the public the major issues confronting the U.N. In 1951, President Truman appointed him as Chairman of the nine-man commission on International Security and Industrial Rights. This commission never got underway because Congress never passed appropriate legislation.

Thereafter, he took an active interest in San Francisco community affairs, in addition to his continued active participation in affairs of concern to the Navy and the country. he was an honorary vice president and later honorary president of the Naval Historical Foundation. He served for eight years as a regent of the University of California and did much to restore goodwill with Japan by raising funds to restore the battleship Mikasa, Admiral Togo’s flagship at Tsushima in 1905.

He died on 20 February 1966.

 

PROMOTIONS

Graduated from the Naval Academy – Class of 1905

Ensign – 07 Jan. 1907

Lieutenant (junior grade) – 31 Jan. 1910

Lieutenant – 31 Jan. 1910

Lieutenant Commander – 29 Aug. 1916

Commander – 8 March 1918

Captain – 02 June 1927

Rear Admiral – 23 June 1938

Vice Admiral – Not held – promoted directly to Admiral

Admiral – 31 Dec. 1941

Fleet Admiral – 19 Dec. 1944

 

DECORATIONS and AWARDS

Distinguished Service Medal with two gold stars

Army Distinguished Service Medal

Silver Lifesaving Medal

Victory Medal with Escort Clasp

American Defense Service Medal

Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal

World War II Victory Medal

National Defense Service Medal

 

Excerpt from Nimitz’s Essay on employment of naval forces,” Who Commands Sea – Commands Trade”

 

Employment of Naval Forces

By Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, USN

“Who Commands Sea – Commands Trade”

 

Former CNO Discusses Use of Navy in Maintaining Security of United States on day of departure from Navy Department as CNO

 

From the Monthly NEWSLETTER – March 1948

 

EMPLOYMENT OF NAVAL FORCES IN THE FUTURE

 

In addition to the weapons of World War II the Navy of the future will be capable of launching missiles from surface vessels and submarines, and of delivering atomic bombs from carrier-based planes. Vigilant naval administration and research is constantly developing and adding to these means. In the event of war within the foreseeable future it is probable that there will be little need to destroy combatant ships other than submarines. Consequently, in the fulfillment of long accepted naval functions and in conformity with the well known principles of warfare, the Navy should be used in the initial stages of such a war to project its weapons against vital enemy targets on land, the reduction of which is the basic objective of warfare.

For any future war to be a sufficient magnitude to affect us seriously, it must be compounded of two primary ingredients: vast manpower and tremendous industrial capacity. These conditions exist today in the great land mass of Central Asia, in East Asia, and in Western Europe. The two latter areas will not be in a position to endanger us for decades to come unless they pass under unified totalitarian control. In the event of war with any of the three we would be relatively deficient in manpower. We should, therefore, direct our thinking toward realistic and highly specialized operations. We should plan to inflict unacceptable damage through maximum use of our technological weapons and our ability to produce them in great quantities.

 

WHAT ABOUT FUTURE AIR ATTACKS?

Initial devastating air attack in the future may come across our bordering oceans from points on the continents of Europe and Asia as well as from across the polar region. Consequently our plans must include the development of specialized forces of fighter and interceptor planes for pure defense, as well as the continued development of long range bombers.

Offensively our initial plans should provide for the coordinated employment of military and naval air power launched from land and carrier bases, and of guided missiles against important enemy targets. For the present, until long range bombers are developed capable of spanning our bordering oceans and returning to our North American bases, naval air power launched from carriers may be the only practicable means of bombing vital enemy centers in the early stages of a war.

In summary it is visualized that our early combat operations in the event of war within the next decade would consist of:

DEFENSIVELY

  • Protection of our vital centers from devastating attacks by air and from missile-launching submarines.
  • Protection of areas of vital strategic importance, such as sources of raw materials, our advanced bases, etc.
  • Protection of our essential lines of communications and those of our allies.
  • Protection of our occupation forces during re-enforcement or evacuation.

OFFENSIVELY

  • Devastating bombing attacks from land and carrier bases on vital enemy installations.
  • Destruction of enemy lines of communication accessible to our naval and air forces.
  • Occupation of selected advanced bases on enemy territory and the denial of advance bases to the enemy through the coordinated employment of naval, air and amphibious forces.

Of the above activities or functions there are certain ones which can be performed best by the Air Force, and certain others which can be performed best by the Navy – it is these two services which will play major roles in the initial stages of a future war. The 80th Congress took cognizance of this fact when, in the National Security Act of 1947, it specifically prescribed certain functions to the Navy, its naval aviation and its Marine Corps. In so doing the Congress gave emphasis to the fact that the organizational framework of the military services should be built around the functions assigned to each service. This is a principle which the Navy has consistently followed and is now organized and trained to implement.

Defensively, the Navy is still the first line the enemy must hurdle either in the air or on the sea in approaching our coasts across any ocean. The earliest warning of enemy air attack against our vital centers should be provided by naval air, surface and submarine radar pickets deployed in the vast ocean spaces which surround the continent. This is part of the radar screen which should surround the continental United States and its possessions. The first attrition enemy air power might be by short range naval fighter planes carried by task forces. Protection of our cities against missile launching submarines can best be effected by naval hunter-killer groups composed of small aircraft carriers and modern destroyers operating as a team with naval land-based aircraft.

The safety of our essential trade routes and ocean lines of communication and those of our allies, the protection of areas of vital strategic importance such as the sources of raw material, advanced base locations, etc., are but matters of course if we control the seas. Only naval air-sea power can ensure this.

Offensively, it is the function of the Navy to carry the war to the enemy so that it will not be fought on United States soil. The Navy can at present best fulfill the vital functions of devastating enemy vital areas by the projection of bombs and missiles. It is improbable that bomber fleets will be capable, for several years to come of making two-way trips between continents, even over the polar routes, with heavy loads of bombs.

It is apparent then that in the event of war within this period, if we are to project our power against the vital areas of any enemy across the ocean before beachheads on enemy territory are captured, it must be by air-sea power; by aircraft launched from carriers; and by heavy surface ships and submarines projecting guided missiles and rockets. If present promise is developed by research, test and production, these three types of air-sea power operating in concert will be able within the next ten years critically to damage enemy vital areas many hundreds of miles inland.

Naval task forces including these types are capable of remaining at sea for months. This capability has raised to a high point the art of concentrating air power within effective range of enemy objectives. It is achieved by refueling and rearming task forces at sea. Not only may the necessary supplies, ammunition and fuel be replenished in this way but the air groups themselves may be changed.

The net result is that naval forces are able, without resorting to diplomatic channels, to establish offshore anywhere in the world, air fields completely equipped with machine shops, ammunition dumps, tank farms, warehouses, together with quarters and all types of accommodations for personnel. Such task forces are virtually as complete as any air base ever established. They constitute the only air bases that can be made available near enemy territory without assault and conquest; and furthermore, they are mobile offensive bases, that can be employed with the unique attributes of secrecy and surprise — which attributes contribute equally to their defensive as well as offensive effectiveness.

Regarding the pure defense of these mobile air bases the same power projected destructively from them against the enemy is being applied to their defense in the form of propulsion, armament, and new aircraft weapons whose development is well abreast the supersonic weapons reputed to threaten their existence.

It is clear, therefore, that the Navy and the Air Force will play the leading roles in the initial stages of a future war. Eventually, reduction and occupation of certain strategic areas will require the utmost from our Army, Navy and Air Force. Each should be assigned broad functions compatible with its capabilities and limitations and should develop the weapons it needs to fulfill these functions, and no potentiality of any of the three services of the Military Establishment should be neglected in our scheme of National Defense. At the same time each service must vigorously develop, in that area where their functions meet, that flexibility and teamwork essential to operational success. It should also be clear that the Navy’s ability to exert from its floating bases its unique pressure against the enemy wherever he can be reached in the air, on sea or land is now, as it has been, compatible with the fundamental principles of warfare. That our naval forces can be equipped defensively as well as offensively to project pressure against enemy objectives in the future is as incontrovertible as the principle that every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

In measuring capabilities against a potential enemy, due appreciation must be taken of the factors of relative strength and weakness. We may find ourselves comparatively weak in manpower and in certain elements of aircraft strength. On the other hand we are superior in our naval air-sea strength. It is an axiom that in preparing for any contest, it is wisest to exploit – not neglect – the element of strength. Hence a policy which provides for balanced development and coordinated use of strong naval forces should be vigorously prosecuted in order to meet and successfully counter a sudden war in the foreseeable future.

[END]

In the Waters of Pearl – Building the Pearl Harbor Submarine Base 1918-1945 3

 

I spent a number of years in my youth living and sailing out of Pearl Harbor. The last time we were there was in 2003 and the changes even then were astonishing. Many of the old buildings were still there but a modern bridge attached Ford Island to the mainland. The Chapel at Sub base was closed at that time and the Enlisted Men’s club was on limited hours as well.

But no matter how long you are away, some memories come back and overwhelm you. The smell of the many flowers as you arrive at the airport. The breeze of the trade winds that mask the heat of the bright sun. And the feeling of an unstated collection of long ago spirits that traveled through these islands on their war to long ago wars. As you stand by the finger piers looking across at the shipyards, you can hear the hammering and welding of broken warships being readied for another battle. The sound of the liberty boat fills your imagination of so many trips across the harbor, stopping only for the raising of the flag each morning and the lowering each night.

 

The day you get orders to Pearl Harbor for the first time, your life is changed forever. You are about to become part of a legend. No matter where you travel in life, you will always carry that memory inside of you.

Pearl Harbor was originally an extensive shallow embayment called Wai Momi (meaning, “Waters of Pearl”) or Puʻuloa (meaning, “long hill”) by the Hawaiians. Puʻuloa was regarded as the home of the shark goddess, Kaʻahupahau, and her brother (or son), Kahiʻuka, in Hawaiian legends. According to tradition, Keaunui, the head of the powerful Ewa chiefs, is credited with cutting a navigable channel near the present Puʻuloa saltworks, by which he made the estuary, known as “Pearl River,” accessible to navigation. Making due allowance for legendary amplification, the estuary already had an outlet for its waters where the present gap is; but Keaunui is typically given the credit for widening and deepening it.

Naval Station, Honolulu” was established on 17 November 1899. On 2 February 1900, this title was changed to “Naval Station, Hawaii”. In the years that followed, dredging and building continued and eventually the idea of stationing submarines in Pearl Harbor was broached.

This is the story of the submarine base up until 1945.

 

Pearl Harbor Submarine Base: 1918-1945

From the Official US Navy Records:

 

Shortly after the Armistice of World War I in 1918, the submarines R-15 to R-20 were ordered to the Hawaiian Area, arriving early in 1919 to establish the Submarine Base at Pearl Harbor. Previous to this, there had been other submarines operating in the Hawaiian Area, for in 1912 four “F” class submarines operated from the site of the old Naval Station, Pier 5, Honolulu.

Their activities, however, were concluded when the F-4 sank off Honolulu. After this tragedy in 1915, the remaining “F” boats were towed back to the mainland. Shortly after these submarines left, four “K” type submarines and the Alert arrived, staying until after World War I started.

The R-11 to R-20 were ordered to Pearl Harbor in 1920 and the R-1 to R-10 followed in 1923. When the “R” boats, under the Divisional Command of Lieutenant Commander F.X. Gygax, arrived at Pearl Harbor, he found only one finger pier at the present site of the Pearl Harbor Submarine Base, and to this the R-18 was secured. This was the first submarine to moor at todays most modern and most complete Pacific submarine home activity.

 

The area chosen in 1919 for a submarine base was covered with cactus plants and algaroba trees, which had to be cut down before any buildings could be erected. When the land along the waterfront had been cleared, concrete slabs were poured into the region to support portable structures which had been obtained by Commander Chester W. Nimitz (now Fleet Admiral Nimitz), who was the first Commanding Officer of the Pearl Harbor Submarine Base. These structures consisted of old aviation cantonment buildings that had seen service in France. Meanwhile, tents had been pitched, and the base personnel used these meager furnishings for their living and messing needs. Two months after the arrival of the first submarine division, the base had a temporary mess hall; administration building; machine, carpenter, electric, gyro-compass, optical and battery overhaul shops. For general stores, a floating barge was procured from the Navy Yard, housed over and pressed into service.

In 1923, the first permanent building, still in use as a battery overhaul shop, was constructed with approximately 85% of the work being done by submarine base personnel. Living quarters for submarine personnel were improvised by utilizing the cruiser Chicago, later renamed the Alton, which was brought in and moored where the present day base’s largest pier, S1, now stands. A causeway was built out to her, and the cruiser’s topside was housed over to provide bunk rooms for submarine officers, while the lower deck was given to the officers and men attached to the base. Also, in 1920, another finger pier was constructed.

In the years that followed, peace time years, the temporary buildings were gradually torn down and replaced by larger and more commodious structures, some of which provided excellent usage during World War II. In 1925, the base had approximately 25 buildings erected and the Navy had already begun to reclaim marsh and swamp land in order that further expansion could be possible. During the same period, two more finger piers were built. In 1928, the largest building on the present day site, the main “U” shaped barracks building, was spacious enough to accommodate all submarine and base personnel and, as late as 1940, was still utilized for this purpose, other barracks not being necessary until shortly before hostilities began in 1941. By 1933, berths 10 to 14 on a long quay wall had been completed and a thirty ton crane had been constructed on the outboard end of finger pier number four. Also by this year, the submarine rescue and training tank, the enlisted men’s pool, the theater (built entirely by submarine base personnel), and the main repair buildings had been completed.

The Administration Building, housing the base torpedo shop in the main deck of one wing and the Supply Department on both decks of the other wing had been completed. Above the torpedo shop, was located the Base Commanding Officer’s and Executive officer’s offices. Shortly after the completion of this building, an officer’s quarters was built close to the Administration Building. Since there was now housing and messing facilities for both officers and enlisted men, the Alton was no longer needed.

From 1935 until the outbreak of hostilities, many other buildings were added to the base proper, the majority of them small in size and nature. In addition, with the planting of coconut trees, palms and other shrubberies, the Submarine Base became not only a place military in nature, but also pleasant in appearance.

December 7th, 1941

Fortunately for America, and conversely, unfortunately for Japan, the enemy neglected to strike at Pearl Harbor Submarine Base on 7 December 1941. Quite possibly this could have been by design since the Japs conceivably paid little attention to the comparatively small submarine force the United States had operating in the Pacific, the majority of which, incidentally, was operating in the Far East.

For whatever reason, no damage was done to the base and for this oversight the Japs were to pay dearly since it was the submarine force in the Pacific that, almost alone, carried the war into the enemy’s waters in the first two years of the war, a feat that would have been improbable, if not impossible, had it not been for the excellent repair and supply facilities afforded by the Pearl harbor Submarine Base before other advanced bases could be established.

On 30 June 1940, there were 359 enlisted men stationed at the Submarine Base with this number slowly increasing to 700 on 15 August 1941 and to 1,081 in July 1942. Rapid expansion of the base reached its peak in July 1944, when there were 6,633 enlisted men serving on the Submarine Base proper. These were the men for whom there was no glory but who, nevertheless, worked excessive hours no matter what their job in order that our submersibles might roam the Pacific in excellent fighting condition.

As an indication of the tremendous amount of work accomplished by the Pearl Harbor base, four hundred submarines were overhauled, refitted, or repaired during the period from May 1944 until July 1945. (This should not be construed as 400 individual submarines, but rather as a certain number of subs overhauled numerous times). This meant four hundred submarines prowling the seas, destroying Japanese shipping relentlessly through the sole medium of repair and supply furnished by one base. Truly, the enemy missed a military objective by blindly overlooking the Submarine Base on the day of the “blitz”.

It is not a debatable question as to which departmental function was the most important at the Submarine Base, since without one the other would have been negligible. To all go the credit for the tremendous successes achieved as the result of basing submarines at Pearl.

Under the Supply Department during a three month period ending 1 September 1944, the Commissary Department furnished $410,000 worth of provisions aboard roving submarines; and for the entire war, the value of provision stowed aboard operating subs totaled the tremendous sum of $3,680,296, a good reason as to why submarine personnel are the best fed men in the world. The Disbursing officer paid $33,363,305.23 in salaries to submarine personnel in the last two and a half years of the war in 1,144 individual pay days to submarine crews. Clothing and Small Stores, another function of the Supply Department, issued $916,519 worth of clothing to submarine personnel in the last year and a half of the war. Supply was, without a doubt, a major issue of the war.

The Ordnance Department, from the outbreak of war until the cessation of hostilities, overhauled 15,644 torpedoes of which 5,185 were fired by combat submarines with 1,860 torpedoes resulting in successful hits. A remarkable record and one which can well be shared by the shore based personnel of the Pearl Harbor Submarine Base.

The Engineering and Repair Department consisting of technicians and specialists of every description commenced their work on submarines days before the boat ever berthed at the Base. For as much as a week prior to each submarine’s arrival, plans were drawn up for the work to be accomplished on the boat. On the day of arrival, the submarine furnished the E&R department a complete list of “ailments” and on the following day an arrival conference between Base officers and Ships’ officers was held. At this time, a detailed plan of repair action was made while, even at that moment, work crews from the various shops were ripping apart faulty equipment for overhaul and repair. In the short two week period that the submarine remained at the Base, every department observed every derangement, large or small, and made corrections and repairs as necessary or else replaced faulty equipment. Engineering was a factor of no small importance in the winning of the war because submarines, returning from patrol, ofttimes had almost unrepairable damage. In the month of September 1944 alone, the Engineering and Repair Department refitted twelve submarines and made voyage repairs to twenty-five others, a feat not only never before performed but not even dreamed of in the past.

The Medical Department achieved miracles in the treatment and prevention of ills and diseases. Upon the completion of a war patrol, each submarine crew was thoroughly examined by especially trained and unusually competent Medical, Dental and Psychiatric Officers. Should it develop that a man had an ailment, no matter how trivial, he was replaced, treated and, in most cases, restored to duty on board operating submarines. Many a story has been told of medical corpsmen on submarines who have performed such feats as appendectomies and the diagnosis of diseases like spinal meningitis while on a combat war patrol. Many of these men were trained and gathered experience at a well-equipped and efficient Dispensary of the Submarine Base at Pearl Harbor. In addition, it was the Base Medical Department’s responsibility that all medicinal supplies and drugs were furnished each submarine prior to its departure on war patrol.

And there were other departments, the First Lieutenant’s men worked day and night loading or unloading submarines, maintaining buildings and equipment, patrolling the base during the war’s most security conscious moments, and furnishing transportation for men and equipment.

There was the Rest and Recuperation Annex to the Submarine Base, the Royal Hawaiian Hotel with its 425 rooms and housing capacity of 935 guests. When this entire space was not required by the Submarine Force, it was made available to aviation activities, small craft returning from advance bases, forward advance Marine units, and in some isolated cases, to battleships and cruisers.

Then there was the Chaplain and his assistants who offered counsel and guidance to war-weary and nerve-torn veterans of the war patrols. There was the Ship’s Service Department which offered everything necessary to life and comfort from phonograph records to the latest books and novelties.

 

The Pearl Harbor Submarine Base was not a base erected during the heat of battle. Its permanent foundations were laid down in 1919 and through the years of peace it became stronger and healthier. At the outbreak of hostilities, it was incapable of accommodating the ultimate number of submarines that were to operate in the Pacific, but never once did this Base lag in its accomplishments of sundry duties. At times, the output of work far exceeded that expected or thought of, but always the submarines based temporarily at Pearl Harbor between moments of combat had their slightest needs fulfilled.

Upon the establishment of the Submarine Base at Pearl Harbor, Commander C.W. Nimitz was the Commanding Officer, a duty he held until 1922. He was succeeded in command by the following officers:

 

Commander L.F. Welch 1922-1925

Commander F.C. Martin 1925-1928

Captain A. Bronson 1928-1929

Captain W.K. Wortman 1929-1930

 

In 1930, Submarine Squadron FOUR commenced operating in the Hawaiian Area, and the two commands were united with the following officers pursuing duties as Commander, Submarine Squadron FOUR and Commanding Officer, U.S. Submarine Base, Pearl Harbor, T.H.:

 

Captain W.K. Wortman 1930-1932

Captain H.W. Osterhas 1932-1934

Captain R.A. Kock 1934-1936

Captain R.S. Culp 1936-1938

Captain F.W. Scanland 1938-1940

Captain W.R. Carter 1940-1941

Captain F.A. Daubin 1941-1942

Captain R.H. English March 1942-May 1942

Captain J.H. Brown, Jr. May 1942-January 1943

On 13 January 1943, the two commands were separated, due to the tremendous work load required of each command by war time operations. As a result, Captain C.D. Edmunds relieved Captain J.H. Brown, Jr., as Commanding Officer of the Submarine Base, with Captain Brown retaining the command of SubRon FOUR. In turn, Captain Edmunds was relieved by Captain C.E. Aldrich, who served in that capacity from September 1943 until October 1944, when he was relieved by Captain E.R. Swinburne, who remained in command of the base until after the cessation of hostilities. However, the Commanding Officer of the Submarine Base continued to come under the Squadron Commander until, in October 1945, with the reorganization of the submarine force, he was placed directly under ComSubPac.

 

The story of Submarine Base Pearl Harbor will continue in the near future…

Mister Mac

New London – The Cradle of Submarine Life in America (Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow) 4

The Cradle of Submarine Life in America

I was reading through a Naval History record of Building the Navy’s Bases in World War II (Volume I (Part II))

Part of the massive construction done to support the war was the story about the expansion of the Naval Submarine base at New London Connecticut. In my generation, nearly everyone destined to serve on submarines spent some time at the school and many went on to serve on boats stationed there. While the boats themselves demand a lot of attention for their missions, we can never forget the significance of having a powerful infrastructure.

Bases as a vital factor of sea power were defined by Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz.

‘Sea power,’ he declared, ‘is not a limited term. It includes many weapons and many techniques. Sea power means more than the combatant ships and aircraft, the amphibious forces and the merchant marine. It includes also the port facilities of New York and California; the bases in Guam and in Kansas; the factories which are the capital plant of war; and the farms which are the producers of supplies. All these are elements of sea power. Furthermore, sea power is not limited to materials and equipment. It includes the functioning organization which has directed its use in the war. In the Pacific we have been able to use our naval power effectively because we have been organized along sound lines. The present organization of our Navy Department has permitted decisions to be made effectively. It has allowed great flexibility. In each operation we were able to apply our force at the time and place where it would be most damaging to the enemy.’

 

New London Submarine Base is the United States Navy’s primary East Coast submarine base, also known as the “Home of the Submarine Force”. It is located in Groton, Connecticut

In 1868, the State of Connecticut gave the Navy 112 acres (0.5 km²) of land along the Thames River in Groton to build a Naval Station. Due to a lack of federal funding, it was not until 1872 that two brick buildings and a “T” shaped pier were constructed and officially declared a Navy Yard. In 1898, Congress approved a coaling station be built at the Yard for refueling small naval ships traveling through the waters of New England. The Navy Yard was first used for laying up inactive ships. The Congressional appropriations were small and the Navy had little need for the Yard, which was actually closed from 1898 to 1900 and its personnel reassigned. This new yard was primarily used as a coaling station by Atlantic Fleet small craft. It is located in the towns of Groton and Ledyard. By 1912, oil replaced coal in warships and again the Yard was scheduled for closure and the land relinquished by the Navy.

The Navy Yard was spared permanent closure in 1912 by an impassioned plea from local Congressman Edwin W. Higgins of Norwich, who was worried about the loss of Federal spending in the region. Within six years, the Federal government would spend over a million dollars at the Yard. On 13 October 1915, the monitor Ozark, a submarine tender, and 4 submarines arrived in Groton. With the war effort in Europe and the Atlantic in full swing, additional submarines and support craft arrived the following year and the facility was named as the Navy’s first Submarine Base. The first Commander of the Yard was retired Commodore Timothy A. Hunt, who was recalled up to service. Living in New Haven, Commodore Hunt used the Central Hotel on State Street, New London when in town to attend to Yard duties on an “as needed” basis. Despite being physically located in the Town of Groton, the name New London became associated with the Navy Yard because the base had its main offices and housing in New London. Following World War I, the Navy established schools and training facilities at the base.

The first diesel-powered US submarine, USS E-1 (SS-24), was commissioned in Groton on February 14, 1912, Lieutenant Chester W. Nimitz in command.

Previous to the outbreak of World War I, very little consideration had been given to the care and upkeep of submarines, except at the primary navy yards and stations. New London (Conn.), commissioned in December 1915, was the first continental submarine base.

On June 21, 1916, the Navy Yard changed forever as Commander Yates Stirling, Jr. assumed the command of the newly designated Submarine Base, the New London Submarine Flotilla, and the Submarine School.

 

The Base property expanded during the latter part of World War I. Congress approved over a million dollars for Base real estate and facilities expansion. By the end of the war, 81 buildings had been built to support 1400 men and 20 submarines. With victory in hand, the land expansion of the Base was slowed through much of the 1920s. However, the Great Depression of the 1930s saw an expansion and enhancement of the physical plant of the Base. President Franklin Roosevelt created a series of Federal Government employment programs that contributed significantly to the Submarine Base. Over 26 high quality warehouses, barracks and workshops were built at the base under these Federal job-spending programs.

New London, as the only station especially equipped for the training of submarine personnel, received special consideration by the Hepburn Board, and early in January 1939 a survey was made by the public works officer at the base to determine the necessary facilities required to provide for 21 submarines in commission and reserve. Rehabilitation of service lines to existing piers was listed as a first priority, and that work, begun in October of that same year, was completed by July 1940.

On the 12th of July 1940, a CPFF contract in the amount of $2,021,175 for facilities for commissioning reserve submarines, including improvement of buildings and accessories and waterfront development, was awarded. Field work was begun July 29, 1940. Additions to the contract included a marine railway. A second CPFF contract called for additional facilities for servicing the submarines, including connection with outside power. A third CPFF contract provided for housing units for married enlisted naval personnel.

In July 1941 the Fuel Storage Board recommended that additional fuel-oil and diesel-oil storage facilities be provided in prestressed concrete tanks. In March of 1942, work was started on the construction of 50 “keyport” magazines for the storage of torpedo warheads, two fixed ammunition magazines, one small-arms magazine, one pyrotechnic magazine, and one fuse magazine. The second largest expansion of Submarine Base New London occurred during World War II, when it grew from 112 acres to 497 acres. The Submarine Force leaped in size, and the Base accommodated thousands of men to service the growing combat fleet.

Expansion of the Submarine School facilities, calling for the construction of additional barracks, subsistence building, and school buildings, and concomitant services, was approved July 28, 1942. Unforeseen increases in the training program made it necessary to increase these facilities, under an appropriation approval in January 1943. By May of 1943, approximately $12,000,000 had been spent on the rehabilitation program, and plans were immediately begun for further development.

By March 1946 the record stood at 263 buildings, including 87 magazines and 15 Quonset huts, providing floor space of 1,815,362 square feet. Berthing space had been increased to 10,000 linear feet. There were 15 submarine piers, a floating drydock with a capacity of 3500 tons, and a marine railway with a 3000-ton capacity, together with 300 square yards of outdoor assembly, repair or working space. The barracks could accommodate 448 officers and 7286 enlisted men, and, in addition, there were 106 family housing units. Messing facilities to care for 142 officers, 2774 enlisted personnel, and 264 civilians had been provided, together with dispensary facilities of 354 beds.

Immediately after WWII the Submarine Force was significantly reduced and many famous submarines were sent into storage. Most of the World War II fleet was sold for scrap metal during the early 1960s.

 

The Escape Training Tank

From 1930 to 1994 the most recognizable structure on the base was the 100-foot-tall Escape Training Tank. Generations of submariners learned to escape in up to 80 feet of water using buoyant ascent, and were trained in the use of the Momsen lung or Steinke hood. In 2007 the Escape Training Tank was replaced by the Submarine Escape Trainer, which has two types of escape trunks in up to 40 feet of water. The Steinke hood was replaced by the Submarine Escape Immersion Equipment in the 2000s

 

The First School

Within a few years of the first submarine being accepted by the United States Navy, it became apparent that the new technology and tactics would require special training.

When the first class of twenty four officers began studies for submarine duty a century ago in the summer of 1916, the submarine base in Groton, Connecticut, was little more than a handful of buildings scattered across the area now known as Lower Base.

First Submarine Officer Graduation Class, 1 July 1916

By Christmas 1916, the twenty two graduates of that first submarine officers’ course were heading out for assignments after spending six months in training on submarines, torpedoes, engineering and electricity.’ Records are sketchy on the nature of much of that training-especially since the bulk of the early trainers were salvage material from decommissioned submarines.Within a year the graduates of that first officers course, and those who were to follow them through Naval Submarine School, were serving around the globe as the United States entered World War I.

One hundred years after that first graduation, Naval Submarine School, Submarine Base, the U.S. Navy and the world have all undergone radical and profound change but the tradition as the center for submarine training excellence continues.

 

First enlisted muster at Naval Submarine School, Winter 1917

From one building on Lower Base in 1916, Naval Submarine School has grown to the largest single tenant unit on Submarine Base, with over thirty thousand Sailors graduating annually from nearly two hundred different courses.

From an era when training aids were Mark I Attack trainers and a German-built trainer of unspecified history, Naval Submarine School maintains and operates state-of-the-art trainers costing millions to design and develop. These trainers are vital tools in providing realistic individual and team training for a submarine fleet striving for total inclusion in Joint Vision 2020.

Basic Enlisted Submarine School (BESS) is the U.S. Navy’s submarine training school for enlisted sailors. Located on Naval Submarine Base New London (NAVSUBASE NLON) in Groton, New London County, Connecticut, the school is an eight-week introduction to the basic theory, construction and operation of nuclear-powered submarines. The course includes instruction on shipboard organization, submarine safety and escape procedures. This program requires passing a physical and mental screening. As of 2015, BESS is open to female sailors, including current sailors who wish to join the submarine force by completing the two-month program.

Yesterday and today: Still the Center of Submarine Force Training Excellence

Naval Submarine School course offerings include introduction, apprentice and basic skill level training; encompass initial technical proficiency training and advanced team operator and team training in electronic and combat systems employment, navigation and damage control; and provide mid-career professional growth courses for both officers and enlisted Sailors.

The Naval Submarine School also conducts refresher training of all Atlantic Fleet submarines completing construction or overhaul, pre-deployment and training ashore for all submarines of the Atlantic Fleet.

I supposed I am prejudiced, but I would say that the US Submarine Force is the best equipped and trained submarine force in the world. In a dangerous world, that makes me very happy.

Mister Mac

Some traditions are worth forgetting – Real Submariners 5

The Old Navy. The ship in the background was my Grandfather MacPherson’s ship during World War 1, USS Amphritite. Grandfather Mac was old Navy. His ship however was considered New Navy by the men who sailed on wooden ships with real sails.

Each submariner’s journey begins when they finish all of their training and the hatch closes when the last man is down. For a hundred and seventeen years, submariners have steered a course unique to their own generation and their own type of boat. From the wildly dangerous gasoline powered boats to the sleek new nuclear powered leviathans, submariners have all pioneered their own form of warfare facing unique challenges. In my lifetime, I have watched the demise of the diesel boats and an entire generation of nuclear boats that had vastly different missions and capabilities.

The lessons learned on the early boats have been passed along in design and operations. Learning the characteristics of the sea is a never ending process as boats operate in depth greater than the early designers could have imagined at speeds that dwarf the Pig Boats. New technology and weapons have made the modern submarines the most fearsome warriors the world has ever known.

With all of these improvements in design and technology comes a much stronger need for training and skills. Even though I sailed on some of the most updated submarines for their time (688 Class and Ohio Class) the new boats have capabilities that make what we did seem like it was primitive.

Two things have remained constant throughout the entire history of U.S. Submarines. First, the older generation always had a rougher time than these newbies and were somehow the “real” submariners. Second, the older generation passes away and is replaced by the “newbies” that are now the older generation and had a rougher time than the current generation of newbies. They become the “real” submariners.

If you ever want to have some fun at a USSVI meeting, just whisper out loud to someone that the definition of a real submarine is one that can stay underwater for months at a time. Man Battle Stations Torpedo will soon be heard throughout the room. Shouts of DBF will fill the air.

News flash: your dolphins make you unique among the many classes of sailors who have ever challenged the sea. But they do not make you any better than anyone else wearing them because of the type of boat they earned them on. The mixture of bravery, comradery, sacrifice and tireless work binds us all together. I would even challenge that those men and women who are currently serving on the newest boats are more technically qualified than people of my generation. Their sacrifices are just as real however. In some cases more. Instead of weeks of sea time, they routinely do months. Instead of slowly cruising near the ocean’s surface, they bravely sail at great depths with astounding sustained speeds.

I love my many memories from serving on my five nuclear submarines. We did and saw things that will remain secretly in my heart forever. I also love belonging to a unique fraternity that stands alone in all of the fraternities of the world. I feel disappointed when any member of this fraternity tries to diminish the service of anyone else who has earned the position just to make themselves feel better or more important. You aren’t. And God willing, maybe the next generation will not be so inclined to be so self-focused.

Mister Mac

 

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

Disaster at Savo Island, 1942

 by

Lieutenant Colonel David E. Quantock
United States Army

USAWC Class of 2002

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Torpedoes

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

End of part 8

 

Diamond Anniversary – The First Battle of Savo Island (Part 6 – The Day of 9 August and Observations ) Reply

THE DAY OF 9 AUGUST

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

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

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

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

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

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

OBSERVATIONS

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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