The one thing you can’t stop 2

Today marks the end of yet another year.

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

Time has a way of creeping up on you.

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

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

We have some remarkable nautical memorials

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


The ones we didn’t save

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

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

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

A Remarkable Record

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

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

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

Patriots Point, Mount Pleasant SC

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

Time takes its toll on everything.

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

How a Docking Officer views the world

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

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

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

Can’t we save them all?

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

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

A proper remembrance

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

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

The future

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

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

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

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

Some of us are more interested than others.

Mister Mac

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



  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.


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.



Washington, D. C., December 5, 1942

New York Times, December 6, 1942.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Mister Mac

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


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.



“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


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

Part 5


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

End of Part 5

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

Part 4


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

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


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

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

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

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



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


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


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

End of Part 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Warning, warning, strange ships entering harbor.”

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

End of Part 2

Part 3: The Northern Group


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

The following information comes from the Official US Navy Records:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dean C. Allard Director of Naval History



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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This arrangement was to cause some confusion during the battle.


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

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

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

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

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

The night was about to change

End of Part 1

CINCPOA PRESS RELEASE NO. 34, MARCH 15, 1945 Taking Possession Of Iwo Jima Reply

Iwo Jima CemetaryThe capture of Iwo Jima was supposed to take ten days. It would take 36. It was the bloodiest assault the Marines had ever been involved with.


Iwo Jima, Volcano Islands, Mar. 14.‑(Delayed)‑With the rattle of mus­ketry to the north, where the remnants of the Japanese garrison force were being exterminated by Marines, faintly audible, the United States government today officially took possession of this desolate but strategic island on the road to Tokyo.

It did so in a proclamation issued by Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet and Pacific Ocean Areas and military governor of the Volcano Islands. After the proclamation had been read, the American flag was officially raised over the island.

The ceremony, held in the shadow of Suribachi, extinct volcano at the southern tip of Iwo, and attended by high ranking officers of the Marine Corps, Navy and Army, was marked by simplicity.

Deep‑throated roars of nearby Marine field pieces drowned the voice of Marine Colonel D. A. Stafford, of Spokane, Wash., Fifth Amphibious Corps personnel officer, as he read the words suspending all powers of government of the Japanese Empire on the island.

The Stars and Stripes were run up on a staff atop a strongly reinforced Japanese bunker with an anti‑aircraft gun emplacement above it. The military notables formed in rank on one side of the staff. On the other, an honor guard composed of eight military policemen from each of the three divisions that participated in the seizure of the island, was drawn up.

Among the military and naval leaders who planned and executed the in­vasion were: Vice Admiral Richmond Kelly Turner, USN, Commander, Am­phibious Forces, Pacific; Rear Admiral Harry Hill, USN, of Oakland, Cal., deputy commander of the attack force; Lieutenant General Holland M. Smith, Commanding General of the Fleet Marine Force of the Pacific; Major General Harry F. Schmidt, Fifth Amphibious Corps Commander; Major General Graves B. Erskine, of La Jolla, Cal., Third Marine Division commander, and his chief of staff, Colonel Robert E. Hogaboom, of Vicksburg, Miss.; Major General Clifton B. Cates, Fourth Marine Division Commander, and his chief of stag, Colonel M. J. Batchelder; and Major General Keller Rockey, Fifth Marine Division Commander, and his chief of staff, Colonel Ray A. Robinson. The Army was represented at the ceremony by Major General James E. Chaney.

While Marine Private First Class John E. Glynn (309599), 21, of 2319 Humanity Street, New Orleans, La., veteran of Guadalcanal, sounded “Colors”,

Old Glory was sent fluttering in the breeze to the top of the flagstaff by Marine Privates First Class Thomas J. Casale (411750), 20, of (no street address) Herkimer, N. Y., and Albert B. Bush (437298), 24, of 16712 Wood­bury Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio. Marine Sergeant Anthony C. Yusi (285607), 25, of 68 Grove Street, Port Chester, N. Y., was in charge of the color detail.

The bugler and the color detail were chosen from the Fifth Amphibious Corps Military Police Company. Their commanding officer, First Lieutenant Nathan R. Smith, of Whitehaven, Pa., said the men had been selected for general efficiency and military bearing. Both Yusi and Bush took part in the seizure of Saipan and Tinian in the Marianas. Moreover, Yusi was serving aboard the USS Wasp when she was sunk by the Japs September 15, 1943.

The proclamation was the first issued by Fleet Admiral Nimitz as military governor of the Volcano Islands. It was addressed, in Japanese as well as English, to the people of the islands. It read:


“I, Chester William Nimitz, Fleet Admiral, United States Navy, Com­mander in Chief of the United States Pacific Fleet and Pacific Ocean Areas, do hereby proclaim as follows:

“United States Forces under my command have occupied this and other of the Volcano Islands.

“All powers of government of the Japanese Empire in the islands so oc­cupied are hereby suspended.

“All powers of government are vested in me as Military Governor and will be exercised by subordinate commanders under my direction.

“All persons will obey promptly all orders given under my authority. Of­fenses against the Forces of Occupation will be severely punished.

“Given under my hand at Iwo Jima this fourteenth day of March, 1945.”


The ceremony took place as the battle for Iwo Jima entered its 24th day. The stubborn Japanese defenders had been driven northward to the end of the island.

The enemy was still defending his caves and bunkers to the death.

As the official flag was raised, the one that had flown over Suribachi since the fifth day of the battle was lowered. The Stars and Strips had been planted on the volcano by the Marines who wrested it from the Japs.

The place selected for the official flag is just off the beach in the south­western section of the island. Selection of the site was prompted by con­venience and the height of the ground.

Several hundred dirty, bearded and weary Marines working and biv­ouacked in the vicinity gathered to witness the brief ceremony, which required less than 10 minutes. They, as well as the participants, came smartly to at­tention and saluted while the bugler was sounding colors.

Another step on the pathway to Tokyo. But what a horrendous cost in men. This video (in color) captures much of the battle in horrific detail.

Mister Mac

May 1945 Iwo Jima

Love, Your Son Butch, Chapter One Reply

Twenty years ago this month, my Dad finally lost his battle with heart disease and went to be with his Lord. The week after his death, I found a box in the basement of our old house that had all of his letters home from World War 2. Over the next ten years, I plugged away and tried to craft them into a story format. That work resulted in the project I called “Love Your Son Butch” named after the way he signed many of those letters to his Mom and Dad.

He was born on April 19, 1927 and died on April 27 1993.

This is his story…

Chapter 1 Boot Camp – Life 1945

August 1 2005

Dear Theo,

I got the address from your Mom today so I decided to drop you a short note. How are things in Great Lakes? Is it what you had imagined (harder or easier)? I remember my first week in boot camp. I was with a rifle company when I first arrived, but they asked for volunteers that could play musical instruments and I volunteered. What I did not realize at the time is that it would add a few weeks to my boot camp time since the band required extra time to get you through the musical portion of your training. But I had a lot of fun with it and it gave me another experience to put in my life folder.

One thing I wish I had access to was some of my letters home during boot camp. I don’t know if I told you or not, but I have all of grandpa Mac’s letters to his parents from the whole time he was in the Navy. There are some really interesting insights into who he was as a person in those letters. I have been working on a project for a number of years to try and get the letters into a format that would be readable for your generation. I am going to send you some of the work over the next six weeks. He had an interesting time in Boot Camp and the letters show some of the struggles he went through.

John C. MacPherson JR. High School Picture


John C. MacPherson, Jr.

John Charles MacPherson, Jr. was inducted into the Navy on March 8, 1945 (more than a month before he turned 18). He did not have a great time in school and was not known as a strong student. But I think from reading his notes, he did not want to miss out on the chance to be in World War 2. The news in the winter of 1945 was heavily filled with stories of advances in Europe and the Pacific. Our forces had survived the Battle of the Bulge and were rapidly advancing into Germany. The famous battle at the Bridge at Remagen occurred on March 7th and the American armor forces were racing into Germany over the undestroyed bridge. The McKeesport Daily news carried stories of many home town boys who were serving America in places as far away as the South Pacific and young John (as well as many boys his age) probably thought the whole thing would be over before he could get his turn.

So on the afternoon of March 8, he departed on a very long train ride from Pittsburgh to the US Naval Training Center at Sampson New York. The camp had been built specifically for the purpose of training large quantities of men for the massive build up that was required to fight a truly world war. The camp was constructed on the shores of Lake Seneca and could train up to 20,000 men at a time in its 300 acre facility. John and many other weary travelers arrived on March 11 1945 to start his journey. There are two postcards and a short note that he somehow managed to get off the train on his way there postmarked March 9.

March 9 Letter to mother Helen:

What say Mom and Pop

Well we are laying over and nobody knows where but some place. Its 5:30 and I didn’t sleep all night. There were three cars of sailors and OH BOY whats left of those cars wouldn’t make a good cattle car. Everybodys been seasick on the train. I certainly had a good time last night. We’re in for a big day and I can’t think of much more to say

As ever,


(John’s nicknames during high school were Butch, Foo, Goofer and Sonny)

Of course in WW2, there was no airline that was capable of moving large quantities of men around the country so the train systems were tasked with delivering new recruits to the training facilities and graduates to the various ports of embarkation to join the war effort. In addition, the factories were building tanks and trucks and airplanes at a tremendous rate to help our troops already in the fight. Between the raw materials and the finished goods requiring shipment to the seaports, troops trains often slipped to the lower end of the priority scale. That explains why a train leaving Pittsburgh would take three days to travel 250 miles (a trip that would only take 3-4 hours in today’s travel environment.)

On March 11th, an official Navy Department post card was sent to Boston PA informing the MacPherson family that their son, AS John C. MacPherson had arrived safely and a letter would follow. That letter was from Commodore H.A. Badt, the Center’s Commander. Here is what he had to say to my grandparents:

US Naval Training Center

Sampson New York

My dear Madam or Sir:

We are happy to inform you that a member of your family has reported to this center to begin training for the United States Navy. The Navy has gladly accepted the responsibility for his welfare and security.

When a man enlists in the Navy, he is assigned to a Naval Training center for fundamental recruit training. During this period, the Navy endeavors to produce a future leader of men, a man of whom his family, his community and the Service will be proud. The Navy guarantees you that the recruit will receive the best medical and dental care possible, and his metal and moral welfare is assured. Religious counsel and opportunities for worship are ever present. Men of all faiths are under the constant supervision of the Chaplain Corps, and services are conducted on the Center on a weekly basis.

The first twenty-one days at the Training Center are spent in detention, which is necessary as a health measure. Good health, a Navy tradition, is furthered by prohibiting visitors during the detention period. Entertainment, recreation, library and store facilities are all available to the recruit through his training to help overcome homesickness.

While visiting is not prohibited after this detention period, it is restricted. Your attention is particularly invited to the total lack of hotel and restaurant accommodations, as well as transportation facilities in this vicinity. Recruits are here for a comparatively short period, and will ordinarily be granted leave at the end of their recruit training. You can save rubber, oil and gasoline, or space on a train vitally needed for troop movements, thereby contributing your part to the war effort, by remaining at home with positive assurance that he is busy, healthy and happy.

If you desire to visit a member of your family at this Center, it will be necessary to have him request a pass, which he will mail to you. Each pass is good for the date specified only. Passes are available during his sixth, seventh and eighth weeks of training. Since visiting is restricted to immediate members of the family, this pass is necessary to identify you as an authorized visitor. Visiting under these conditions is limited to Sundays from 1:00 P.M. until 4:30 P.M. Patients at the Naval Hospital may receive visitors on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday between 2:00 P.M. and 4:00 P.M.

Cheerful letters from home are of real benefit to the recruit, and are the best means of encouraging him to correspond frequently. Although the recruit is instructed to write home often, he sometimes fails to do so. This should not be cause for alarm, however, for you will be notified immediately in case of serious illness. Letters addressed to him at “U.S. Naval Training Center, Sampson, N.Y. Company 510 will be delivered promptly to him while he is in training. You should instruct him to keep you informed of any change in his address, so that his incoming mail will not be delayed.

In the event of serious emergencies arising at home, the recruit should be notified by telegraph as incoming telephone lines are required for official use. If a return call is requested, public telephones are available.

Inquiries regarding recruits should e addressed to:

Commanding Officer

Recruit Training Command

U.S. Naval Training Center

Sampson, N.Y.

Sincerely Yours,


Commodore, U.S.N.

Center Commander.

“Stay in Line and March inside”

From Frederick W. Box, Company 115, Sampson Naval Training Center:

“That was the first of many orders we received upon arrival at the Sampson Naval training Station receiving center on a cold winter afternoon… Several hundred recruits from New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey followed their first order that day and formed lines against the wall on the main deck of the large building. A number of Petty Officers and seamen were in charge of the detail.

A chief petty officer bawled out our names and assigned each man a number. With that number in ink on our wrist, we lost our civilian identity. In a short time we had changed from civilians to “Bluejackets” at least in appearance.

Most of the men traveled long distances and had been without food since breakfast. So the receiving routine was momentarily halted while the recruits were given their first Navy meal. The meal consisted of ham loaf sandwiches, with no butter on the bread, a hot cup of coffee and an apple.

Fifteen minutes later we started filling out clothing, express and dental examination “chits” the Navy term for slips (of paper). Then the Yeoman’s section filled out our medical examination forms. A seaman guide took our medical and clothing forms and ordered us topside (second floor).

After we climbed the “ladder” to the top deck, the men with singing or instrumental experience were interviewed by two chaplains. Later, we learned that men with choral experience were assigned to a “choir company,” the second to be established on the station.

Examinations and Inspections:

After the dental examination, the men disrobed preparatory to moving through the line of medical experts. Clothes were packed in boxes for shipment home, and only watches, rings, toilet articles, pocketbooks and money belts were retained. These few items were placed in a pillow cover and carried during the physical examination.

A station system is used for the physical. Specialist examine the eyes, ears, throat, chest, heart, legs and arms, and every other part of the body. The doubtful cases received an ink questions mark or cross mark on their chest and are given a re-examination before being fully accepted for Naval duty. Few if any men “flunked’ that day.

Every man will remember the first day in the Navy for many reasons. One is the typhoid and tetanus injections, the cowpox inoculations, and the blood test. Several of the less hearty, who let their imaginations run away from them keeled over after receiving their shots. For the most part, however, the men took it in stride. Full effect of the shots were to come later in the day, we were to learn.”

Letter from John, March 12th 1945

Dear Mom Pop

Jack and Ixxy

I’m sorry I can’t write more but we are awfully busy. I got my shots and my arms pretty sore. I got my haircut and head shaved. This isn’t what I call a good life but it will only be for a little while. Tell everyone hello and I’m feeling fine. I’m a little tired from that train ride but we slept well last night. Ben and I got separated. I don’t know any kids except Moser whose bunk is right next to mine. Well, I’ll write later.

Your son and brother


Mose says hello Mom and Pop

Say Hello to Nancy

After the shots and medical examinations, the recruits were issued their clothing. The cost of a full sea bag at that time was $113.95. If you put it into comparison with today’s dollars, that was an enormous amount of money. The men walked down long lines and had their clothing thrown at them by the issuing storekeepers. Then the items were placed in their mattress covers. Included in the issue were: undress blues, dungarees and complete accessories, winter and summer underwear, a “pea” coat, gloves, wool blankets, pillow and mattress covers, swimming trunks and a ditty bag. Everything was provided with the exception of a razor, shaving soap or cream and needles. (Uncle Bob Note: in the summer of 1972, recruits were given a chit book that allowed them to purchase the toilet items they would need. Of course that amount was deducted from the pay we would later receive. I still have that chit book since I was never able to spend all of the money in it).

Second Letter from John to his Dad dated Monday March 12, 1945

Dear Pop,

I’m sorry about that letter. I didn’t have a chance to open it but I hope you will send it right away. We weren’t allowed to keep anything but our shoes and they give you about two minutes to have that box packed so I hope you understand. The Navy’s swell Pop. I feel like a million bucks. Don’t let Mom worry because this is really good for me. I would like some pictures of the tornado some of my mates don’t believe me about anything. So be good and take care of Mom.

Lots of love Pops, God will be with us always


After outfitting, the men were photographed and loaded into a truck for delivery to their new home. The first real Navy meal would happen that evening. The dining hall had room for 5,000 men in one hour (1700 at a time) so you can imagine the size of the place. A typical menu would include some kind of soup meat, potatoes or rice, one other vegetable, a green salad, plenty of bread with butter and jam, beverage and desert. The old saying was, “Take all you want, but eat all you take.” Lord help the recruit that wasted anything. After chow, it was back to the barracks for instruction on how to make a Navy “rack” (bunk). Lights out were at 2130 (9:30 P.M. to all you civilians) but most of the guys went to bed as soon as they were able.

From Frederick W. Box Company 115:

“We were all exhausted. Our arms were beginning to ache from the injections and the inoculations. With our arms somewhat sore from all of the shots the men had difficulty finding a comfortable sleeping position. Those who slept 4 or 5 hours were lucky it was restful sleep at best… After what seemed to be an eternity, the dormitory guard shouted “Hit the Deck” which meant it was 5:30 A.M. and time to climb out of the sack, beginning our second day in the Navy.”

Day 2, Letter to Mom and Pop Tuesday March 13 1945

Dear Mom and Pop

Well, we just returned from chow. It was bad today, It never really is bad. We’re going swimming today and we drilled this morning. Its pretty tough marching at first. I guess we will get used to it though. I haven’t received any letters as yet and its pretty hard writing without anything to answer. We had classes this morning too about swimming and physical training calisthenics you know. Our C.O. is a really square guy. Lots of patience and everything. If somebody gets out of step he just talks not yells like some of the C.O.s I only had detail once. I must live right. Well, be good. God will be with us all

Love your son


Each barracks held about 224 sailors. From this group, lifetime friendships would be formed. The wooden structures were not insulated well and were probably drafty in the winters of New York. Every morning at 0600, all of the sailors would come streaming out of their barracks onto the broad parade ground for inspection and calisthenics. The parade grounds were 1200 by 600 feet and were the predominant landscaping feature of each unit.

In the huge gymnasium and drill hall, 600 feet long and 120 feet across, with high wooden arched roof, the men would have formations in bad weather and learn lessons about becoming a sailor. Climbing ropes, working in rigging, or learning close order drill were the order of the day. Each drill hall also had a large concrete pool (60 by 70 feet) where instructions were given to every sailor. No sailor would leave Sampson without at least a basic understanding of how to swim. During what leisure hours they would get, the large hall also provided a place for recreation such as basketball and other indoor games.

In the Pacific, Marines from the Fifth Amphibious Corps on Iwo Jima have confined the remaining Japanese defenders to a small area on the northwest part of the island. More than 800 Naval vessels manned by 220,000 personnel and carrying 60,000 marines had participated in the invasion of Iwo on February 19. Bloody fighting raged on until March 16 when organized fighting came to an end. The Marines had lost 4,189 officers and men killed, 441 missing and 15,308 wounded. Many Navy men were killed and wounded by the Japanese air attacks on the fleet as it supported the Marines. Despite the fact that the war was coming to its inevitable conclusions in both Europe and the South Pacific, the sailors in boot camp had nothing to worry about… their turn to fight was still secured.

Letter to Mom and Pop March 15 1945 (postmarked 11:00 AM)

Dear Mom and Pop

I just thought I would write. We just got up and that time is 5 o’clock. I like it a lot but its getting more busyier now. Boy, do you haft to do what they tell you. Like for example, if you go through a door and step on a door jam you just might have to stand watch 12-4 in the morning. When you stand watch you lose sleep on your own time. We got all of our names stenciled on our clothes and stored away in our lockers. Or if you are marching and whisper to someone you get guard duty. Nobody knows whats on the schedule for today but we’ll find out very soon. Well, tell hello to everybody. Mom don’t worry about me because I am really learning discipline up here And I hope Daddys cold gets better fast and please don’t forget my birthday present. I won’t be home for ten weeks at the least. A few kids around camp have scarlet fever and if everyone gets it its gonna be bad. We will be quarantined and I won’t get home for maybe 15 weeks more. Well, I hope I get home in 9 more weeks. Well, so long Mom and Pop. I’ll write again tomorrow,

Love your son


From the Official History of Sampson:

Besides medical and dental care to insure physical condition, the Navy took special pains in another department to make sure its “boots” were strong, healthy and happy – and that was the food. At Sampson, the job of feeding 30,000 trainees had been dropped into the lap of Commander James Fellis, Supply Corps USN who was recalled from retirement just before the war.
Cooking would be accomplished in a state of the art electric galley with labor saving devises on all sides to speed the work of 289 cooks and 80 bakers who will dish up chow for the station.

Letter to Mom and Pop March 16, 1945

Dear Mom and Pop

Its about 7:00 and we finished supper. The food up here is lousy. I hate to think of going to the mess hall. We had eggs this morning and was it super lousy. It must have been synthetic or something. We stored our gear in our lockers this afternoon and is that a job. My are they particular. You get to smoke about three times a day and then only in a real small room. You really can’t breathe. My baggage will be home in a couple of days. How about sending me something to eat. All the kids up here are pretty nice. They come from everywhere. Mass, R.I. Conn. For example. They call us skin heads, moth balls, needle bait. I just came back from the drill hall and Joe Louis was there. He was about two feet away from me. Can he hit that bag! Well, I’ll write again. Its time to clean the barracks

So be good, Your son

Apprentice Seaman Foo

Letter to the Family March 17th 1945

Dear Family,

Well, I got another 5 minutes to write. We drilled all day long – I mean drilled well. We got another shot today and my arm is starting to feel it now. I’m really sorry I didn’t have time to write but there’s a war on. Boy was I disappointed today. I got no mail from no one tell somebody to please write. Letters mean more than anything up here. It almost makes you cry when the mail call is sounded and you have no mail. Tell some of the kids to write that I don’t have time to write. I write a nice letter on Sunday to all of you but at the present I can’t. I washed last night and again tonight as we have a Commanders Inspection tomorrow morning and everything has to be just write. I get a lot of letters from your family but I would like more people to write. We all got our uniforms the first day and haircuts the first day. I’ve been so tired I sometimes don’t know what I write. I didn’t sleep last night at all. That standing watch is some job – not for me. I really like it though, its swell. Our Chief is the best in the unit. That ”G” in my address stands for Gilmore. The food I’m getting used to. Ben, that kid from Pittsburgh got separated He’s over in “F” unit right across the creek about 20 feet away but we are not allowed over there for about 8 more weeks. Things are going real smooth and good. I got the dumbest bunkmate a sailor can have. I had my locker stored up and that censored took out my blues and messed them up. Well its about 5 o’clock and time for chow. Be Good.

As always


August 9, 2005

Dear Theo,

Well, you are well into your second week of boot camp and I am sure you are starting to feel like a real old-timer now. The fun part will be as you watch all of the other “newer” boots coming in behind you. Of course your boot camp is pretty different than the ones just twenty years ago. Correct me if I am wrong, but I understand that many of the activities you do are co-ed. I can’t even imagine what that would be like. Boot camp was difficult enough without the presence of women, but I am sure that all of you look at things much differently now.


For twenty‑six days on Iwo Island, the United States Marines fought under conditions which have had no parallel in the war against Japan. Our troops have now defeated the enemy despite every natural advantage of his defenses.

This accomplishment was made against concentrated fortifications which approached, as closely as it is possible to do so, impregnability against attack by mobile forces employing every useful weapon available in modern warfare.

From the opening day, when at H‑hour the pre‑invasion bombardment successfully beat down the island defenses long enough for the troops to gain a foothold which they were never to lose, our forces met and solved problems which could have been insuperable for men less resolute in mind, heart and purpose.

Volcanic ash which immobilized even tracked vehicles and made them motionless targets; artillery long since registered on every possible landing place; interlocking and mutually supporting pillboxes and strong points; underground labyrinths extending a total of many miles and the result of many years of military planning and construction; defenses whose depth was limited only by the coastlines of the island; a garrison which was made up of units of the enemy forces especially trained to utilize the defensive ad­vantages of this island; a terrain that was characterized by a high volcanic cone, cliffs, deep gulleys, several commanding hills and a series of terraces rising from the beach to the prominences and plateaus which had to be taken these were the problems of Iwo Island.

That it was taken was the direct result of the fortitude of our officers and men who, by 14 March, had killed more than 21,000 of the enemy.

In achieving this victory, the forces involved lost 4,189 officers and men killed, according to reports from the front line units at 1700 on 16 March.

The wounded, a very considerable number of whom suffered slight wounds or combat fatigue and have already been returned to action in the Iwo opera­tion, numbered 15,308. Missing in action are 441 officers and men.

The majority of our seriously wounded have been evacuated from the island by hospital ship and by evacuation aircraft. Complete medical facili­ties are operating to provide the best possible care for those wounded on Iwo Island.

Letter from John to his parents, Sunday, March 18, 1945

Sunday 1945

Dear Mom and Pop

Well, I thought I was going to have an easy day but it turned out different. I went to church this morning and that bulletin enclosed is our church bulletin. We have church in the drill hall and to tell you how big the drill hall is, well, I can’t really explain it if. You can play about 25 or so games of basketball on the basketball floor. I washed clothes all day and had detail this afternoon to clean up the wash room. We saw a movie last night “Lost in a Harem” with Abbott and Costello.

We get our blue uniforms tomorrow and we will be allowed around our unit at night. The weather up here is really great. It is sure hard to write. There are guys yelling around here and you get all mixed up. I was lucky with those shots. Boy about ten guys passed out and was terribly sick Friday night but I got over it fast. The shots are a double typhoid shots and everybody gets a light case of typhoid.

Its 5 o’clock and we eat at 5:30 and I’m ready to eat. We had steak for diner. Boy the food is improving here. I guess I’m getting used to it.

We mopped the barracks up and down Friday night and then we didn’t have inspection. Boy just think, I’ll be starting my third week on Friday> We get to go to Geneva NY on our 6th or 7th week for one night. We don’t expect to break camp for 8, 9 or 10 weeks – we’re not sure. You have to watch your step up here or you’ll get set back a week for the least little things.

Tell everybody to write. I love to read letters. Well, I better get washed for chow now. I might write another letter later tonight. Be good Mom and Pop and quit getting colds. Don’t forget about my birthday present Mom, please.

God keep you both in good health and happiness.

Your loving son always, apprentice Seaman


N. D. COMMUNIQUÉ NO. 585, MARCH 19, 1945

Pacific Area.

1. U. S. submarines operating in Far Eastern waters have sunk 15 enemy vessels, including two escort vessels and three destroyers. The vessels sunk were:

3 destroyers

2 escort vessels 1 large tanker

1 large cargo transport

6 medium cargo vessels

1 medium transport

1 small cargo vessel

2. These actions have not been announced in any previous Navy Depart­ment communiqué.


Carrier aircraft of the Pacific Fleet continued their attacks on Japan on March 19 (East Longitude Date). They attacked Kobe Kure and other ob­jectives in and around the Inland Sea.

The Marines on Iwo Island continued to search out snipers and isolated remnants of the enemy garrison on March 19.

On the same date Army fighters from Iwo bombed and strafed the airfield and radio stations on Chichi Jima in the Bonins.

Letter from John to his parents on Monday March 19, 1945

Dear Mom and Pop,

Well we just got our blues on today. Me and Ed went to ship’s service tonight and heard some real hot jazz, boy was that hot stuff. We had classes today and I filled out an allotment for you. 15 bucks a month and took war bonds later. We have recognition practice every day – today we had ships of all different kinds. I’m really beginning to like the Navy a lot now. They can’t call us skin heads anymore or needlebait or bloomer girls. We had a General Order test and inspection today and I passed them both and tonight I have no detail for once. Did Auntie get her letter yet? Its funny I haven’t heard from her. How about finding Murt’s and Kredo’s address and I’ll try and look them up if there in our unit. And call Sue Wood up Ixxy and ask her if she got any letter from me and if she didn’t tell her to write. Tell Jack to get rid of that old car and take a good car in hand. Tell Nancy I’ll remember her everyday like the rest of you. Mom, get rid of that cold or I’ll come over the hill. Tell everybody to write. I don’t have much time yet, but maybe later.

As always, your son and brother


Second Letter from John to his parents on Monday March 19, 1945

Dear Mom and Pop,

Well yesterday was supposed to be our day off but we worked harder than we have since we got here. I went to church yesterday and we had communion and it was real nice to see all the fellas taking communion. You go to the alter and kneel and they give you a disk or cake of bread and dip it in the wine. Then he gives it to you. Our C.O. and assistant C.O. had the weekend off and are they going to be surprised when they see the barracks. I went to a show last night only because I had to. It’s a muster in the Navy. It was a radio broadcast in Sullivan Auditorium. Sampson has an orchestra and they put on a show every Sunday afternoon at 2:30. So if you can get Sampson on Sunday afternoon you’ll hear my yelling because it’s a muster to go every Sunday. We have a radio in the barracks now and it plays morning til night. I don’t know how long its going to last. I can’t eat the eggs they give us because they are powdered and they taste awful. I am getting to like it much better even though it is getting tougher every day. You say you can’t figure out the clue, well I can’t tell you – it’s a military secret. Even if you guess what it is I can’t tell you if you’re right. Well, God Bless you both Mom and Pop.

So long, lots of love, your son,



After a day of destructive attacks on the enemy air force in Kyushu the Fast Carrier Task Force commanded by Vice Admiral Marc A. Mitscher, moved northeast and on March 19 (East Longitude Date) attacked the prin­cipal units of the Japanese Fleet in its home bases in the Inland Sea. During these attacks crippling damage was inflicted on the Japanese Fleet and many Japanese aircraft were destroyed.

A preliminary report from Admiral R. A. Spruance, Commander Fifth Fleet, who was present in tactical command of the Fleet forces engaged shows that the following damage was inflicted on the enemy during the two days fighting


200 shot out of the air

275 destroyed on the ground

More than 100 damaged in the first day’s attacks, and a large number

damaged in the second day’s attacks.

Ships sunk:

Six small freighters

Ships damaged

One or two battleships

Two or three aircraft carriers

Two light aircraft carriers or escort carriers

Two escort carriers

One heavy cruiser

One light cruiser

Four destroyers

One submarine

One destroyer escort

Seven freighters

Ground installations:

A large number of installations including hangars, shops, arsenals and oil storage facilities were destroyed.

Our aircraft losses in combat were extremely light.

The enemy made many air attacks on our forces. None of our ships was lost. One of our ships was seriously damaged and is returning to port under her own power. A few others received minor damage but are fully operational.

Mopping up operations were continued by the Marines in Iwo on March 20.

N. D. COMMUNIQUÉ NO. 586, MARCH 21, 1945

The submarine USS Barbell is overdue from patrol and is presumed lost. Next of kin of officers and crew have been notified.


On March 20 (East Longitude Date) Army Liberators of the Strategic Air Force bombed the airfield on Chichi Jima in the Bonins. Army Mustang Fighters based on Iwo dive bombed barracks, a radio station and other in­stallations on Chichi on the following day.

FM2 wildcat

Letter to Mom and Pop on Thursday March 22nd 1945

Dear Mom and Pop

Well, I just returned from chow which wasn’t so bad for a change. I saw a movie last night “Laura”. It was pretty good. We have movies on Saturday and Wednesday night if you have all your washing done. I might call home on Sunday at 5 o’clock so please be home. I might not get a chance but I will sometime. Those cookies were really swell. I didn’t have any time hardly at all yesterday so I couldn’t write. I can read letters on the double but I can’t write them that way even though I try. I got a letter from Auntie the other day. Mom please get that birthday present for me. That’s all I ask. Take the money from Goffer or hock something of mine. Daddy tell Curt to write a letter, tell him he isn’t that busy. Tell Sue Wood I would like to hear from her. I don’t know if I have the right address for her or not. Tell Tom Mansfield not to enlist – he’s crazy if he does because this is no place for a kid like him. The time flies fast here. Tomorrow we start out third week Navy time. Well, be good Mom and Pops, God keep you both safe and healthy.

Your son Butch


Well Theo, that is the end of week two in 1945. It was a different time but it did have a lot of similarities. There was a war on and after four very hard years, many Americans were ready for it to be over. But the major difference is that in those days, the enemy was easier to identify and everyone knew that we could not quit. I hope our fellow Americans will wake up to the fact that honorable men and women will always have to step up to defend their fellow mankind from evil. It has always been that way and it probably always will be.

We both hope you are doing well and look forward to hearing about your adventures someday.

Take care, Uncle Bob

August 15, 2005

Dear Theo,

If my estimates are correct, you should be in your third week now. Each day means another day behind you and a day closer to becoming a full-fledged sailor. There have been a lot of stories on the news the past few days about the ending of WW2. This is the 60th anniversary of the end of that great victory. The next section covers the time frame from March 23rd to March 31.

From Sampson Naval Training Center History:

With war priorities creating shortages in almost every kind of construction materials, the task of seeing that the Sampson Station was rushed to completion on schedule was formidable. With combat needs monopolizing steel for example, it was necessary to use only the absolute minimum of this material. The Sampson Station, when completed, would have less steel in its 392 buildings than any other project of its magnitude built since the beginning of reinforced steel construction. A total of 41,000,000 board feet of lumber went into the frame structures that made up the station.

In his leisure time, the trainees may head for the ship’s service building. Here are a barber shop, short order cooking restaurant, soda fountain, shoe repair, laundry and tailoring facilities, post office, bowling alleys, card tables, and upstairs the study rooms and library, along with a porch looking out over the hill-crowned surface of Lake Seneca. With movies in the evening at the drill hall, taps by 11:00 PM and a full days schedule facing him beginning before 6:00 AM the next morning, is it any wonder that the average young Bluejacket is counted on to spend most of his time in the barracks?

Letter from John to his parents Friday March 23rd 1945

Dear Mom and Pop

Boy, yesterday was a busy day. Last night we went to Sullivan auditorium and saw a 15 “girl” band. They were very good. We were picked to go as “Navy Volunteers” (in other words, drafted). The weather up here is anything but spring. It rains every day and then gets cold at night. The last day it didn’t rain was Sunday. I got a letter from Ed’s parents thanking me for that letter. I can’t find Kreta or Murtha. They must not be in G unit. The auditorium we were in last night seats between 5-8 thousand. It’s really a big place. There are about 80,000 in this camp and its all barracks every place you look is barracks. I’m on the 12-4 watch again tonight and I’m going to try and get a little rest tonight. Well today starts our third week Navy time here. It will possibly be only 7 more weeks. I hope the next 3 go as fast as the last two. I have to shave every morning. We have inspection tomorrow morning and nobody has any clean clothes because the clothes room won’t dry in the rain. I’m gonna try and write a letter to Aunt Ruth now so I’ll sign off for today. Be good and get rid of that cold Mom. And Pop don’t worry about that car, I’ll fix it good when I get home.

God keep you both in good health, your son,



Further reports by the Fifth Fleet of attacks by carrier aircraft on Japan during the period of March 18 to 21 (East Longitude Dates) reveal damage inflicted on the enemy air force in addition to that reported in communiqué No. 305 making the total:

281 aircraft shot out of the air.

275 aircraft destroyed on the ground.

175 aircraft probably destroyed or damaged on the ground.


Following the destructive attacks on objectives in the Inland Sea on March 19 (East Longitude Date), fighting between the carrier‑based aircraft of the Fifth Fleet operating in Japanese home waters and the enemy air force based on Kyushu, Shikoku and Honshu continued on March 20 and 21. Although complete details are not yet available reports show that large numbers of Japanese aircraft were shot down both by the fire of the Hellcat and Corsair fighters of the Fleet and by its antiaircraft guns. On the afternoon of March 21 approximately fifty enemy aircraft were shot down in one encounter with a loss of three of our fighters. During this fighting one of our destroyers was seriously damaged and one larger unit received minor damage.

On March 23 and 24, in bad weather, units of the U. S. Pacific Fleet struck objectives in the Ryukyus including aircraft, shipping, airdromes and installations in the Kerama‑Retto at Okinawa, at le Shima and at Minami Daito Shima. Carrier aircraft destroyed some enemy shipping and damaged numerous small craft. Fast battleships attacked coastal objectives with their heavy guns.


Letter from John to his Parents Saturday March 24, 1945

Dear Mom and Pop,

I got bad news for me. We had commodore’s inspection today and our barracks failed. I was okay and my locker was okay. The floor wasn’t clean enough and some crazy half-wits didn’t square their lockers away. It’s the first nice day we have had in about a week and now we are restricted or not allowed out. Gee, I wanted to call you up tomorrow but we’re not allowed out of the barracks at all. I stood watch last night from 2 to 4 and the barracks got up at 4:15 to start work for the inspection. So you can realize how tired I am from not having any sleep. We saw a stage show last night, an all girl band, the same show I saw on Thursday. When they need men to fill up an auditorium or something they call on us. I got a letter from Sue, Jo Pleasant and Helen Kasbury. It makes me feel good they didn’t forget me. And I certainly enjoyed that box Mom, it was real good. Well, I will have more time to write now that I am not allowed out. Keep writing, I like your letters very much.

God be with you both Mom and Pop,

your son Butch.


Carrier aircraft of the U. S. Pacific Fleet attacked airfield and other installations on Okinawa in the Ryukyus on March 26, (East Longitude Date).

Shore installations on the island were brought under fire by fast battle­ships.

During these operations our forces were attacked by a small group of enemy aircraft of which six were destroyed. One of our light units suffered some damage.

An enemy air attack was broken up and a number of enemy bombers were destroyed off Iwo Island by Army Black Widow night fighters during the night of March 25-26. No hostile planes reached the island.

N. D. COMMUNIQUÉ NO. 587, MARCH 27, 1945

The submarine USS Albacore is overdue from patrol and is presumed lost. The next of kin of officers and crew have been informed.

The activities of Pacific Fleet and Seventh Fleet submarines grew more extensive and varied after 1 March 1944. As previously, they operated aggressively against enemy combat ships and commerce. No waters of the Pacific were too remote for their operations and their patrols carried them to the interior lines of Japanese sea communication, where they have littered the bottom of the ocean with the sunken wrecks of a large part of Japan’s once great merchant fleet, as well as many naval vessels. Their contribution to the success of our advance in the Pacific is noteworthy. Besides their combat patrols, the submarines have rendered invaluable service on reconnaissance missions and have rescued many aviators shot down during strikes against various Japanese bases.


Letter from John to his parents, Tuesday March 27th, 1945

Dear Mom and Pop

Gee I feel great. I feel better now than I have ever been. We cleaned the barracks this morning, and I cleaned the heating pipes and I look like that little dark boy himself. There is not much news this morning. Do we have fun!. When you eat chow, if you turn your head, somebody steal half your food… no kidding. When you take a shower somebody drops the soap look out, that means you get whacked where it hurts the most. It looks as though Nancy is getting badder every day. I hope she recognizes me when I get home. If you haven’t figured the clue, well, I’ll write it again: 1M7. More than I want of anything is the radio in the car for my birthday. It will mean so much to me. I know where you can get one real cheap. See Legs and buy the one he bought for his father. The kid who was buying my car is here someplace at Sampson so Pop, find another buyer and get what you can for it. Kreta is in G10 so he is only five barracks from me. That’s swell. I have only seen him once but I might get permission to go see him tonight. Well, be good and God Bless you both Mom and Pop. Say hello to everybody

Your son Butch

Nancy Patrick as a baby (circa 1945)

Nancy Patrick Spring 1945




During the period of March 25 to March 27 inclusive (East Longitude Dates) carrier aircraft of the U. S. Pacific Fleet ranged over the Ryukyu Islands from the Niyako group to Tanega Island, attacking aircraft, shipping and installations. Preliminary reports of damage inflicted on the enemy, in addition to that previously reported, include


Three destroyers or destroyer escorts damaged

One large cargo ship damaged

Two medium cargo ships damaged

Two small cargo ships damaged

Many small craft wrecked

Eight to ten luggers burned

One whaler beached and burned


Twenty‑five aircraft shot out of the air

Thirteen aircraft burned on the ground

Ground installations:

Submarine pens at Unten Bay on the west coast of Okinawa heavily hit

Gun positions, landing craft, airfields, warehouses, barracks, trucks, and other targets heavily hit at Amami, Tokuno, Okinawa and Kikai Islands.

Some of our units suffered damage under enemy air attacks.

Hellcat and Corsair fighters, Avenger torpedo planes, and Helldiver bombers, continued their attacks on enemy positions in the Ryukyus and battleships continued to shell shore installations on March 28.

Letter from John to his parents dated Wednesday March 28th 1945

Dear Mom and Pop

Well, I’m taking life easy today. Our C.O. said we could have a rest as I told Izzy. I go on guard at dinner tonight so I can’t say too much. That box was swell Mom. Thanks a lot. Daddy, I got that letter and thanks a lot and I promise I’ll do what it says for my own good. You shouldn’t have put that 5 bucks in it. I don’t need much money. We took storm windows off the barracks around here yesterday from regimental headquarters to G-6. That doesn’t mean much to you, but it really doesn’t matter. We have only one radio and I am lucky, I’m only two bunks away from it. I went to ships service last night and I ate 8 candy bars one after another. I almost looked like a candy bar. I don’t have to worry tomorrow about my teeth because I’m only having one pulled. Boy, remember how I waited for a haircut? Well, here you stand up and wait. There is a great change in me though. I don’t delay anything anymore. I do things on the double. We start our work week Thursday and there are rumors that we will have boiler watch. Off 2 hours and work 4 hours, that’s not so bad. In a mess hall you start at about 3 in the morning and quit sometimes about 10 or 10:30 at night. That’s not much time to clean barracks and sleep. Boy, those poor kids.

Well, God Bless you both Mom and Pop. Your son,


From Sampson Naval Base History:

Starting in the third week of training, each boot receives six tests which help the Navy to determine his aptitudes. The tests are in mathematics, English, spelling, radio ability, mechanical ability and general intelligence. Occasionally when a recruit does particularly well, he is allowed to enter a service school at once. After the tests, a squad of forty interviews… deliver work lectures in the units and conducts private fifteen minute talks with each Blue Jacket. By and large, the Navy considers, first, what it needs of the moment are and secondly a man’s preference.

After a sixteen week course in service school, the men can qualify as third class petty officers at $78.00 per month. Second class seamen earn $54 per month and have to earn their crow after they reach the fleet.

Letter from John to his parents on Friday March 30th 1945

Dear Mom and Pop,

I’m sorry I didn’t write yesterday but I know you understand. We didn’t have much spare time. It’s a little cold this morning. Yesterday it was really hot. We had our interviews yesterday. My first choice is basic engineering and second choice is Motor Machinist Mate. They wanted me to go to gunnery school or Armed Guard. Armed Guard is on Merchant vessels and I didn’t want either one. They wanted me to go to the Sea-Bees but I said no. My chance of going to school are pretty slim but that is better than the sea bees. I’ll probably get stationed on a ship. My ship will be a destroyer. Well, we are ready to go on drilling and gun practice this morning. We had anti-aircraft practice yesterday with a 50 caliber machine gun. You get so many live shots and about twice as many tracer bullets. I did very good. I got about 25 hits out of 50 live shots and 100 tracers. Well, I’m beginning to be a real sailor now. Moser went to sick bay yesterday and isn’t back yet. He has a very sore foot. I’m afraid he’s going to get set back. You are allowed to miss only so many days and you get set back from your company. I saw Kreta twice. He is still restricted to his barracks because he is a skinhead. Well, I’ll try and write this afternoon.

God keep you both safe and happy Mom and Pop.

Your son Butch

Uncle Bob Note:

Dad ended up as a seaman apprentice and eventually became a Storekeeper striker while he was in the Philippines. I never knew until after he passed away that he was almost a Machinist Mate – a rate that both of his sons served as during their careers as Navy men.

Saturday March 31st 1945

Dear Mom and Pop

Happy Easter. I hope you enjoyed your present Mom. Well, I got some real good news. Our barracks passed inspection today. Boy we cleaned this place last night. I opened Izzy’s box and it was swell. I haven’t opened yours yet, but I know it will be swell. I’m saving it for tomorrow afternoon because we have tomorrow off. It’s the first day that we’ve had off since we got here. So you are all guessing about 1M7? Well I didn’t want to tell you. It means 17th of May – that’s the day we break camp. Stoken just told me I go on guard at 4 o’clock to 8 so that’s not good. I’ll miss the movie tonight. Well I think its about time to fall out for chow so I’ll write later.

God be with you both Mom and Pop,

Your son,


Please forgive the writing because I am laying down and I am very tired. Long days, you know. Hey Pop, I’ll teach you manual of arms when I get home. Don’t forget.

John C. MacPherson (my grandfather/your great grand-father) was a Navy man during the First World War. He was a Coxswain and served from 1917 – 1921. The only thing I know for sure about his service was that he went to Boot Camp in Cape May New Jersey (at a place that now serves as the Boot Camp for the Coast Guard) and that he served on the collier Anthracite. Here is a picture of him after he came home from Boot Camp:


Charles after Boot Camp 1918  Grandpa Mac Boston PA Navy Picture

Well, that’s all for now Theo, hope this is at least somewhat interesting to you.
Uncle Bob

August 22, 2005

Dear Theo,

Greetings from the other side of Lake Michigan. I am watching the History channel right now (big surprise) and they are showing the Navy’s LCACs in action. (Landing Craft Air Cushioned) They are pretty cool and are the air cushioned vehicles that the Navy uses to ferry the Marines to shore. Your Mom recently told me about your grandfather on her side. He was a Navy man also and participated in many of the invasions we have been discussing over the past four weeks. Apparently, he was a Coxswain on a landing craft and saw a lot of action. You will have to get your Mom to tell you some of the stories before she gets to “mature” to remember them. We never say the O word when it comes to Mom’s and Sister in Laws – or for that matter wives and girlfriends. If for some reason you already know those stories, please write them down. Better yet, wait until you have access to a computer. I have lost my secret decoder ring and can’t always understand the secret code you write in. You are writing in code, right >: ?

April 1, 1945 was Easter and all around the world, people were celebrating Christ’s resurrection. All around the world except where dictators and tyrants still reigned. At Camp Sampson, men were gathered in their respective unit’s Chapels to worship the Risen Lord. Word of the new Japanese weapon called Kamikaze or Divine Wind had already entered the Navy’s language. The Navy men who were training were reminded over and over again that the Japs still had a lot of fight left in them.

The American armada was waiting off the coast at the end of March and on April first, started one of the bloodiest campaigns in American history. The night before, Tokyo Rose (an American educated Japanese woman who regularly broadcast propaganda to the US troops) sent this chilling warning to the waiting soldiers, sailors and marines.

“This is Zero hour, boys. It is broadcast for all of you American fighting men in the Pacific, particularly those of you waiting off the shores of Okinawa… because many of you will never hear another program… here’s a good number ‘Going Home’ … it’s nice work if you can get it… You boys off Okinawa listen while you can, because when you are dead, you’re a long time dead… Let’s have a little juke box music for the boys and make it hot… The boys are going to catch hell pretty soon, and they might as well get used to the heat.” She lost her audience as April first opened to the invasion of thousands of America’s best.

Letter from John to his Parents Easter Sunday April 1, 1945

Dear Mom and Pop,

Well, I’ve just returned from church services and our chaplain had a very good sermon this morning. It was about “Christ has risen” Our Chaplain is a very nice man. I am enclosing our bulleting for today. It is real nice weather out today and I ‘m going down to Kreta’s this afternoon. I got a letter from Aunt Ruth, Gale, a card from Aunt Letty, Jean and Dick, Helen Kasburg, a letter from Sue, Eleanor Hector, Jo Desaunt and May Lou McCrackin and Auntie. Tell Auntie that I don’t have much time to write but thanks for that candy although it got me into some trouble. You see, a sailor is never supposed to chew anything and we fell out on the double and I had a piece of that taffy. You dare not throw anything on the ground in Gilmore Unit, that is as much as dereliction. Well, I put it in my pocket and you know what happened. Boy what a mess. Daddy, we have boat practice every once in a while, you know what I mean. Standby and give way, etc. Last night I had that watch outside and Sampson had one of its daily windstorms. Only yesterday it was one of the worst ones since we’ve been here. It blew wires down, shingles off the huts, and everybody’s clothes all over the campus. And lucky me had to stand in that stuff for four hours. We aren’t getting very many cigarettes either Pop so don’t think you are the only ones not getting them. Stokens, Dietz and I are going to get our picture taken together sometime, maybe today but Stokens Mother and Dad are going to be here this afternoon.

Boy it would be swell if you could come up. You would be proud of G-unit. Its noted as Gestapo Unit because it is so strict. When kids sneak into G from F they think they are in a bad nightmare. But all the visitors think G is wonderful. Everything shines like glass, even the sidewalks. I’m getting pretty good at manual of arms. Mr. Pope, our C.O. thinks he’s got a pretty swell company. Everybody snaps when Mr. Pope says anything because nobody would ever want to hurt his feelings. He’s just like a Dad to every one of us kids. Pop, that’s the Captain of the Head is everybody’s second Dad at our barracks. You ought to see the shower room and the sinks shine at night. Everybody works hard just to please ole Pop. He’s an older man from Boston Mass. And he’s everybody’s friend. He has a PX or ships service but it is nothing to talk about. Mr. Pope told us he would get us what we needed most because he said those jews robbers were out for money, nothing else. Well, you all be good and I’ll write again tomorrow. God Bless you both Mom and Pop.

Your Son,


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Bulletin from Camp Gilmore Unit Chapel

The men who came ashore on the first day at Okinawa were amazed at the ease of their landing. As the soldiers started moving inland, 50,000 men were ultimately landed to begin the real battle to take the island. Okinawa was important for its airfields but also because it was a real psychological target for the Japanese and Americans. Whoever could ultimately claim victory would be able to see true victory in the final push to the Japanese mainland.


The United States Tenth Army, whose principal ground elements include the Twenty‑Fourth Army Corps and the Marine Third Amphibious Corps, invaded the west coast of the island of Okinawa in the Ryukyus in great force on the morning of April 1 (East Longitude Date). This landing is the largest amphibious operation of the war in the Pacific to date.

Admiral R. A. Spruance, USN, Commander Fifth Fleet, is in overall tactical command of the operation. The amphibious phase of the operation is under command of Vice Admiral Richmond Kelly Turner, USN, Com­mander Amphibious Forces, Pacific Fleet. The Tenth Army is under com­mand of Lieutenant General Simon Bolivar Buckner, Jr., U.S.A.

The landings were made by ships and landing craft of the United States Fifth Fleet supported by the guns and aircraft of that fleet.

The attack on Okinawa has also been covered and supported by attacks of a strong British carrier task force under Vice Admiral Sir Bernard Rawlings against enemy positions in the Sakishima group.

Troops of the Twenty‑Fourth Army Corps are commanded by Major General John R. Hodge, U.S.A., and the Marines of the Third Amphibious Corps are commanded by Major General Roy S. Geiger, USMC

The attack on Okinawa was preceded by the capture of the islands of the Kerama group west of the southern tip of Okinawa which commenced on March 26. The amphibious phases of this preliminary operation were com­manded by Rear Admiral I. N. Kiland, USN The troops consisted of the Seventy‑Seventh Army Division under command of Major General Andrew D. Bruce, U.S.A. The capture of these outposts was completed prior to the main landings on Okinawa and heavy artillery is now emplaced there and in sup­port of the Okinawa attack.

The amphibious support force is under command of Rear Admiral W. H. P. Blandy, USN, who was also present at the capture of the Kerama group of islands and in general charge of those operations. The battleships which form the principal gunfire support element are commanded by Rear Admiral M. L. Deyo, USN.

Fast Carrier Task Forces of the U. S. Pacific Fleet which are participating in the attack are under command of Vice Admiral Marc A. Mitscher, USN The escort carriers which are supporting the attack are under command of Rear Admiral C. T. Durgin, USN.

More than 1,400 ships are involved in the operation. The landings were preceded by and are being covered by heavy gunfire from battleships, cruisers and light units of the U. S. Pacific Fleet. U. S. carrier aircraft are providing close support for the ground troops. Strategic support is being given by the shore‑based air forces of the Southwest Pacific Area, the Pacific Ocean Areas, and by the Twentieth Air Force.

The operation is proceeding according to plan. The troops who went ashore at (1830, Tokyo time, advanced inland rapidly and by 1100 had cap­tured the Yontan and Kadena airports with light losses.

The capture of Iwo Island gave us an air base only 660 miles from Tokyo and greatly intensified our air attacks on Japan. The capture of Okinawa will give us bases only 325 miles from Japan which will greatly intensify the attacks by our fleet and air forces against Japanese communications and against Japan Itself. As our sea and air blockade cuts the enemy off from the world and as our bombing increases in strength and proficiency our final decisive victory is assured.


April 2nd Letter from John to his parents

Dear Mom and Pop,

Well yesterday was a very busy day. It rained nearly all day. We ran the grinder twice. Its about a mile long. They darned near worked us to death yesterday in the gym. We had manual of arms for about 2 hours. I’m getting plane recognition very well. This morning at 5 o’clock we ran the grinder twice. We got out in the lake for boat drill this morning. I don’t remember whether I told you we had an abandon ship drill or not. You wear your white uniform and swim across the pool, climb up the cargo net on a fake ship and jump off it about 15 feet or more. A lot of the kids were scared to jump. It’s getting tougher every day. That is because we start our work week Thursday then get a liberty to go to Geneva. I was down to see Joe Kreta last night. He hasn’t got his double typhoid needle yet, that poor boy. That is a bugger I know. Well, Bill Mose is in the hospital with pneumonia and I can’t see him because it is out of our unit. I can’t locate Murt. Chow was pretty lousy this morning. I haven’t received a box yet that wasn’t too smashed. That’s too bad. Tell Bess and Jer thanks and I don’t have time to write. I am getting you (Mom) and Isabel a present.

God Bless you both Mom and Pop



Target practice became an important part of the regimen of every sailor. In the Pacific, the Japanese kamikaze units were taking a horrendous toll on men and ships involved with the invasions. Ships were refitted with everything from 30 caliber machine guns on welded posts to state of the art 20 and 40 mm cannons. 5 inch gun mounts which were radar directed and equipped with the secret proximity fused shells designed to explode near incoming aircraft were still unable to stop the dedicated suicide planes from reaching the slow moving ships. The training received at places like Sampson was deadly serious.



By late afternoon on April 6 (East Longitude Date), Hellcat and Corsair fighters from two fast carrier task groups of the U. S. Pacific Fleet com­manded by Rear Admirals Frederick C. Sherman and J. J. Clark, USN, had shot down about 150 enemy aircraft which were attempting to attack fleet surface units in the area of the Ryukyus. This tally of damage is preliminary and incomplete. Some ships of our forces received minor damage but all remain fully operational.

United States troops on Okinawa continued to attack in both the northern and southern sectors. At midday the Marine Third Amphibious Corps had advanced 3,000 to 5,000 yards against small scattered groups of the enemy on Ishikawa Isthmus. In the south, the Twenty Fourth Army Corps was encountering stiffened enemy resistance in areas organized by the enemy for defense and supported by enemy artillery. Our forces were being supported continuously by ships’ gunfire and by carrier aircraft. During the night of April 5‑6, nine enemy planes were shot down near our forces around Okinawa.

In capturing the Kerama group of islands preliminary to the attack on Okinawa, U. S. forces killed 539 of the enemy and captured 166 prisoners of war.

Search aircraft of Fleet Wing One shot down two enemy aircraft in the Ryukyus area on April 6.


On April 6 and 7 (East Longitude Dates) the enemy attempted strong counterattacks against our forces operating in the vicinity of Okinawa.

During the late afternoon and evening of April 6, a large force of enemy aircraft attacked our ships and shore installations in the vicinity of Okinawa. One hundred sixteen of these enemy aircraft were destroyed‑55 by our fighters and the remainder by our antiaircraft fire. The attacking enemy aircraft pressed their attacks in with desperation and succeeded in sinking three of our destroyers and damaging several destroyers and smaller craft. No larger fleet units were hit.

Early on April 7, Navy Search Aircraft of Fleet Air Wing One sighted an enemy surface force which had left the Inland Sea and passing south of Kyushu had headed into the East China Sea. The force included the large battleship Yamato, the most powerful ship left in the Japanese Navy, an Agano class light cruiser, one other small light cruiser or large destroyer, and a number of destroyers. A fast carrier task force commanded by Vice Admiral Marc A. Mitscher steamed toward the enemy at high speed and dur­ing the middle of the day brought the Japanese Force under air attack.

Our carrier aircraft which had destroyed 245 enemy aircraft on April 6, met no opposition over the Japanese ships but did meet heavy antiaircraft fire. At a point about 50 miles southwest of Kyushu they sank the Yamato, the light Agano class cruiser, the small cruiser and three destroyers. Three other destroyers were left burning. About three destroyers escaped from this attack.

The Yamato was hit by at least eight torpedoes and eight heavy bombs. All the enemy ships were heavily strafed with rockets and machine guns.

Our carriers lost seven aircraft in this action. During minor contacts on April 7, they and their aircraft shot down 30 enemy aircraft. The task groups participating were commanded by Rear Admirals F. C. Sherman, U. S. Navy, A. W. Radford, U. S. Navy, G. F. Bogan, U. S. Navy, and J. J. Clark, U. S. Navy.

The Marine Third Amphibious Corps on Okinawa moved forward steadily in the northern sector throughout the afternoon of April 6. By 1800, it had made advances which placed its front lines across Ishikawa Isthmus from Chuda on the west coast to the mouth of the Kinbaru River on the east coast. In the south, strong enemy resistance developed during the day. From its’ strong defensive positions the enemy employed machine gun, small arms, mortar and artillery fire against the Twenty‑Fourth Army Corps throughout April 6, and the following night. Army troops along the East Coast in the southern sector advanced about 2,000 yards during the afternoon of April 6, and occupied the town of Tsuwa. The enemy in the south was brought under heavy fire by our artillery throughout the day.

The Americans were about to find out that there was a lot of fight left in the Japanese. Before it was all over, the largest amount of American fighting men in any single engagement would pay the ultimate price for freedom.




Letter to John C MacPherson a/s Co. 510 Barracks G5L form his sister Isabel Patrick from Boston PA (Postmarked April 6 1945, 6 PM)

Friday Afternoon

Dear Brother,

Well, it’s a busy week and I haven’t had much time but I have thought about you often.

The Cleveland folks left this morning and that gives us a chance to rest up before the Sharon folks come.

I had a letter from Harriet saying that Chuck is 1A and had his pre-induction physical. They are waiting further developments. I guess the war will be over and the next one started before they start taking men.

Nancy is in her crib singing at this moment. I can’t tell what song but it sounds like Bob Rhodes Theme song. It sure was good to hear your voice. Of course I didn’t say much and don’t remember what you said, but we sure had some excitement. Jack and I took the steps four at a time and sat with our ears practically glued to the phone.

Walter looks thin but looks alright other than that. Ralph isn’t sure what he wants to do. I think he’d like to go to the Merchant Marine, but Uncle Alex won’t sign.

There was quite an Army Navy discussion last night and I sure hate to think what its going to be like when you all get home. With 2 in the army and 2 in the Navy and Ralph will be the deciding vote.

Well, I’ve lots to do so bye for now

Love Sis


Well, that’s all for the Fourth week in the life of a sailor back in 1945. I hope your experiences are going well and you are doing okay. Aunt Debbie says hello and we are both looking forward to seeing you in your uniform.

Uncle Bob

Theo 2005