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USS Portland (CA-33), Mare Island, 30 July 1944
This side view shows the layout of the New Orleans class heavy cruiser USS Portland as she was on 30 July 1944. The aircraft handling gap between the two funnels is very clear from this angle.
USS PORTLAND CA-33
After returning to Guam from Truk, we swung around the mooring buoy for a couple of days, doing nothing. Other ships were getting their orders for occupation duty, but we got silence. We were still the flagship for Commander, Marianas.
About 1:30 A M I received a call from the CWO that we had received a visual message from the Port Director to send an officer messenger for "coded dispatch."
The captain sent me in his new skimmer. Upon return I found the code room loaded with nosey "C" Division officers. I got rid of them and locked the door. The first thing I found was that the message was in a "strip" cipher, a very low security code. On decoding, I found it was directed to a CTU 58.3.5 (or something like that.) I called out to Lt. Herzberg to start digging out all traffic addressed to that CTU as neither of us had ever heard of it and I was afraid we had missed something, a definite No No for a Communications Officer. The message directed us to send two destroyers to some island to pick up something and return to Tinian. This made no sense to me.
By now it was about 5:00 AM and I broke out the Captain, asking if he knew anything about these orders. He also had no idea, and called the signal bridge to tell the Port Director to have a car at the dock at 0700 for "personal representative of the Commanding Officer, Portland." That was to be me.
A quick shower and clean uniform was about all I had time for before leaving. Sure enough, there was a big white Chrysler waiting docked, and away we went. Going into Island Command Headquarters, I passed through Operations. The first officer I saw was Captain Naquin, acting Chief of Staff for the Truk surrender. He looked up in surprise at my puzzled and frazzled look, and I showed him the message we had been working on all night. He laughed and with some snide comment about JCC (Joint Communications Center) he pulled out his file and handed me his copy of the message we should have received It said:
"USS Portland, hereby detached, proceed via points xray and zulu to Pearl to join TF 11 for further transfer to CincLant for Navy Day operations."
Needless to say, my expression changed. All the way back to the ship, that copy burned a hole in my shirt pocket. The next day we flew the 997 foot "Homeward Bound" pennant and headed for home. Without getting that message cleared up, who knows, we might still be wearing out swivel hooks in Apra harbor!!
NIGHT LIGHTS - A LETTER HOME
"Scuttlebutt" is flying thick and fast. The best seems to point to return to the States sometime soon. It seems incredible that I may get back home, meaning "the States." I can tell you that when I left Frisco, I had a very strong premonition that I'd never return. When I got out in these waters and left the liberty ship for the Fighting "P," my premonition was confirmed into what was a certainty.
Many others shared it, for this ship has had so many close shaves, her hick was up. She was lightly armored (in comparison to the newer Heavies and Light cruisers) and lightly armed against enemy aircraft. You can see what a "tin fish" or two did to the Indianapolis. tore her bottom out and down in less than 15 minutes.
Even now, I can't believe it. Out here, half a world away, up at all hours of the night, with the noises and strains of war, it did not occur to me that it would end and we would be back.
Well now with the noise, the concussions, the horrible flames and death dealing explosions, the midnight "General Alarms", the diving planes, etc. fading away and the night actually punctuated with lights, Tm beginning to realize I will have a life to live with my family.
It is so startling to come up here on night watches and see lights over the harbor. We even broke out clearance lights and anchor buoy lights for the safety of other ships. You have no idea how wonderful it is to see lights.
I was covered with what we call "ladder Shankers"
bruises and cuts from steel ladders and "knife edges" (raised curbs between each water-tight compartment) from miming to G.Q. station half-dressed and half asleep in the blackness. My room was "Torpedo Junction". on the waterline, far forward in the bow between the aviation gas, bombs, the paint locker and forward of the 8" magazine.
One night we heard a thud and an explosion. A torpedo had hit us at an angle, smashed a frame and bent the hull in the Marine compartment, but had glanced off and exploded at the end of its run. It must have been fired at too close a range. And then the guns started firing. air raid to boot.
I got to my battle station all right, only to find planes coming in. One snooper had dropped flares silhouetting us and blinding us - making us sitting ducks for the sub. Thank God for Capt. Settle - he had us full speed and in tight circles. A bomb missed as and I saw a plane dive, full of holes, falling into the sea about 100 yards on our starboard bow. By the time I told another fellow to put on his helmet and flash gear and see it burn on the water, it was on our port quarter - the ship had turned that quickly.
Many other ships - too many - were not that lucky. On the 12th of April it was terrible and I saw in 10 minutes (probably only 4) all of the war I needed for a lifetime.
Well - enough of that - too much, in fact. But that is hard to get out of your mind and I cannot yet realize that it is finally over.
FANS AND SALT WATER SPRAY
As I recall, one of the tasks that kept the Electrician's Mates busy was repairing fans. When these fans were ostensibly beyond repair, we would order replacements fi-om the local supply depot. It seemed to me, however, that our EMs seldom junked the old fans. Instead, they rewound the armatures, dressed the commutators, and made any other repairs to render the fans reusable.
In time, we had such a glut of fans that almost every self-respecting "E"Div. sailor had a personally repaired fan by his bunk. No one seemed to object - witness the lack of extreme criticism during those lower deck inspections.
Hank Dieterich and I shared a cabin on the Main Deck, Port side. After the war and we were headed back to the States, there was no further "darken ship requirement" when cruising at night. It was a pretty and welcome sight to see all of the ships displaying running lights after years of "darken ship."
As we steamed southeast towards Panama, the weather got warmer and warmer. Hank and I scrounged around a found a wind scoop that fit through the cabin porthole to draw fresh air into the cabin. This arrangement worked great until the ship entered the Japanese Current, with swells now crossing the bow from port to starboard.
One night while Hank was sleep in the upper bunk and I was reading in the lower one, a huge wave slapped the port side just forward of our cabin. The plume of spray that erupted was quickly grabbed by our wonderful air scoop and in a flash we both were soaked to the skin. To this day, I don&rsquot remember how we got the bedding dry. Perhaps the Steward's Mate obtained permission to air bedding the next day.
NAVIGATING TO EUROPE
H. F. "Buddy" Fountain
I can easily recall when the new skipper and the navigator, Cdr. Jackson, called me into the wardroom and asked me if we could take the ship to Europe. In the then recent times, before the war was over, Chief QM Sands, QM2c Wilcox and I had been assisting the navigator. Sands and Wilcox were no longer aboard and no one else had ever been to Europe. I felt confident that we could navigate to Europe and I told them both so. What I did not know was that the North Atlantic is a different ball game than the Pacific.
The first day we got a "sun line" and that night a couple of "star shots." They were the last sights we got. As some of you know, it's always rough in the North Atlantic and at this time of year it was totally overcast. After three or four days advancing the "lines" we had the first day, we were concerned. We knew "about" where we were but that is not good enough for traveling alone to Europe.
Now, this is an unbelievable story. Sometime in 1944 when we were in Pearl Harbor, we went to LORAN school for a three day "crash course." The ship sent Cdr. Jackson, Chief Sands, Chief Radioman Donato and myself. LORAN was new at the time and they only gave us three days to learn Theory, Calibration and the Sets and Charts for navigation. (This form of navigation is completely different from Celestial navigation which we had been using.)
After the course, we forgot all about it since there were no stations for us to use. (Our only station was at Pearl.) Our course sets just laid in the chart house collecting dust. With no sun, moon or stars available due to the weather, we had no choice but to dig out those old manuals, read and refresh our three day course and start to navigate by LORAN.
Chief Donato came up and calibrated our set. Of course, the east coast had stations all over the place, as did Newfoundland, the Azores, England, etc.
Our goal was a 17 mile light at Plymouth, England. Believe it or not, we missed the light by fifteen minutes. We were "set" to the south, (tides) and after we turned left for 15 minutes the light appeared. The new Skipper could not believe it and I was a little surprised myself.
From Plymouth, England, where we refueled and picked up mail, we went through the English Channel to Le Havre, France, for the troops. At that time the mine sweepers were cutting mines loose, and it was quite an experience, with live mines floating all over the place.
Those two trips to France will long be remembered by the Portland crew members who were aboard during this time.
TO EUROPE ON A THREE DAY COURSE
H. F. "Buddy" Fountain Vol. II, pp. 121-122
During the war, on one of our rare trips back to Pearl Harbor, the Portland sent four of us to a three day school for LORAN which was, at that time, a new method for navigation. Commander Jackson, the navigator. Chief Quartermaster Sands, Chief Electrician's Mate Donato and myself were the four.
The course was a three day "crash" course that included the theory, calibration of the sets and navigation with new type of charts. Of course, this method of navigation is totally different from celestial navigation that the navigator and quartermasters were familiar with. While in Pearl we had the new Loran sets installed.
After our short stay in Pearl, we were off again to the battleground of the Pacific. Since the Japs held all the territory in the South Pacific, there were no Loran stations sending signals, which meant that we never used this new fangled method of navigation. In fact we never gave it a thought on the bridge. The set stood in the corner of the chart house and was never turned on.
After the war we came around to the east coast and were given orders to go to Europe and pick up troops and return. By this time Chief Sands had mustered out with points and we had a new skipper. (We had cut down to a "skeleton" crew.)
One day I had a call to report to the Captain's cabin. Commander Jackson and the new skipper (I believe he was Lyman Thackery) asked me if I thought we could get the ship to Europe. (I understood that not a single line officer on the ship had ever been on a ship across the Atlantic.) Having a good background from Quartermasters school and two years on the bridge with three different navigators, I felt confident and said "Sure." What I did not know was that the North Atlantic is always rough and most of the time overcast.
The first day out we got a "sun line" and that night two or three star shots. After that we could not see anything but clouds. Of course, we were traveling alone and using our tracking system chart which ran off the Gyro compass and pit log that was giving us an approximate position. We were steering the correct course for our destination, but had no idea how much we were being "set" to the north or south.
After about three days of such travel, all in the chart house were becoming quite concerned about our predicament. Still no sights from the sun, moon or stars. We knew "about" where we were, but that was about it. I told the navigator that we had better dig out our instructional manual on Loran and call Chief Donato to come up and calibrate the equipment, since that was all we had.
There were Loran stations all over the Atlantic coast, Newfoundland, the Azores, England and Europe. We began navigating with Loran.
Our point of landfall was at Seventeen Mile Light at Land's End, England. We were supposed to see that light just before dark on the seventh day, about fifteen minutes before dark Of course, a good half hour before dark all eyes were on the bridge and all lookouts were peeling their eyes forward looking for that light.
The skipper was asking everyone on the bridge what they thought. I had been studying the tide charts the past couple of days and told the skipper and navigator that I thought we were set to the south.
We changed course about fifteen degrees to the left and in about fifteen minutes the beautiful Land's End Light started beaming our way. WOW! was I elated. So was everyone else on the bridge. Then I silently laughed to myself, thinking "Isn't that something. To get a ship to Europe on a three-day crash course?"
"THIS ONE'S ON ME"
Barney Kliks Vol. II, pp. 122-123
After our first trip to Le Havre we had a few days in NYC before starting on the ill-fated last cruise.
A member of the Navy League posted a notice of activities for all members of the ship's crew. One of them struck my fancy the great Guy Lombardo with his entire orchestra was going to be at the finest hotel in Philadelphia for a dinner dance.
I got Lieutenant Bill Collinson to join me and reserve two places for dinner that night. We had a long walk through the Navy Yard area, a very bad section of town, and we packed our 45s. At the edge of town the Navy had a Shore Patrol station where we checked our guns, then got on a streetcar into town.
We were seated at a nice table and Guy Lombardo had already started playing The Navy League hostess asked us if we had dates or were we alone? When we told her we were alone, she said "Would you mind if I had a couple of our ladies join you at the table for conversation?" etc. Collinson said "Sure." (With his great southern hospitality.)
(He, too was a lawyer and after the war became a well known Senior Judge in the Federal Court of Appeals.)
Presently a couple of nicely dressed ladies, in their 30's I suppose, came over and sat down with us and started a conversation. Of course, we bought them drinks, and then we had to order dinner, which was at some phenomenal price, even in those days!
The music was marvelous and relaxing. I had just come off a long watch and was very tired. I kept dozing off". Finally, I fell fast asleep. I woke up probably an hour or two later. The two ladies were giggling and told me that Lt. Collinson excused himself earlier saying he had to go on watch and had to be at the ship on duty in an hour (which was BS.)
We had had a fine dinner and drinks. That combination put me to sleep easily.
Having to be an "officer and a gentleman," I knew it was up to me to see that they got home. I found out that neither resided close by. In fact one was way north, and the other clear south of the city. They told me the buses did not run this late, and it would be dangerous to take public transportation anyway! I therefore had to order two cabs to get the ladies home. I then proceeded to walk a long distance back to retrieve my gun, through the Navy Yard and back to the ship.
It was no wonder that Buddy Fountain, QM2c, almost had us headed for South America instead of Le Havre, France, because there was always a rumor on the signal bridge that he and Jack Utz, QM2c and Lloyd Wilcox, QM2c, were somehow draining the "juice" out of the gyro compass. Of course they had to get in line behind CQM Sands. We were probably lucky to find the 17 mile light at Plymouth, England, and not end up in Rio De Janeiro.
When we picked up the troops at Le Havre and got underway, it did not take long for the 250 of us crew members to see that we had a bunch of soldiers aboard with more money than most of us had ever seen. In less than 24 hours there were crap games going on all over the ship. The soldiers wanted the sailors to run the games and cut "acey-deucy."
From a deck of cards they wanted the 4-5-6-8-9 & 10 pulled and when one of them rolled for his point, they wanted that numbered card on the deck so there would be no arguments. If the shooter rolled snake eyes or ace-deuce, the sailor got to cut the shooter's bet, not the one or more who faded him.
It so happened that a large number of these troops were from a quartermaster outfit. Unlike our quartermasters, they handled Army supplies. Most of this bunch said they had made thousands of dollars from black-marketing everything from smokes to Jeeps. All of the money was "gold-seal" currency but it spent just as good as green shield.
On the second day out of Le Havre, Al Clark, BM2c, 5th Div., who manned the starboard whaleboat and sometimes wore a Colt 45 as assistant Master at Arms with the job of holding down cheating in the chow lines, and I, got our heads together and decided to form a partnership to run the crap game.
There was only one problem - dice were as scarce as a scratch on the keel. We finally located a pair of twenty-five cent white dice and paid $35 for them. That evening Al got a piece of 2" x 4" from the carpenter shop and we spread a blanket out on the deck in #2 mess hall, placed the 2x4 against the bulkhead and we were in business.
Never in our lives had we seen such wild gambling. Sometimes Al would handle the dice and I would take care of the card indicating the point, and vice versa. The soldiers insisted that the dice hit the bulkhead so as to eliminate any sharpie who could "slide" the dice. After 4 or 5 hours one of the officers or the MA broke up the game. Al and I went to his compartment and counted our money. We split over $600 that we had cut from the game and felt rich.
Some of you may recall the soldier that had so much money and the crew member from the "C" division who sold his bunk for $500.00.
The rest of that trip is history. When that 100 foot wave hit us that dark night, I was on the port side of the signal bridge holding on to the shield. I do remember looking straight down into the phosphorous water and saying "Please, God, let us roll back."
THE THINGS YOU DO FOR MONEY
Yes, I sold my bunk. I&rsquom probably not the only one, but on our trip back from France I sold it to a G.I. I don&rsquot remember what I got for it, but I&rsquom sure it was not cheap because he was loaded with money. And that was only part of the story.
He must have had his duffle bag full of cash. It had two combination locks on it and he kept a German Luger tucked in his waist. Not only did I sell him my bunk, but he also had more problems which did not take me long to offer solutions for. He would not leave his duffle bag even though he had to go chow and to the head. I made a deal to bring him his chow at $20 a meal. I also took his Luger and guarded his duffle bag when he went to the head.
After several days out and we got into the big storm, he got suspicious as too many sailors were hanging around his (my) bunk. We solved that by my getting a scrub bucket (for which he paid plenty.) I would take it to the head, empty it and wash it out so he never had to leave the bunk area. This was a little more of a dirty job than just getting his chow, so this cost him $25 per trip.
After we left the Azores and got closer to New York, he looked awful as he had not showered or shaved in 12-14 days. We had become pretty good friends during the trip and upon leaving the ship with his duffle bag over his shoulder, his Luger tucked in his waist, we shook hands, he thanked me, handed me several hundred dollars and down the gang plank he went.
The next day, I went ashore and sent home a money order for about $4,000. This was more money than I had made during my 4 years in the Navy. I bought a new car with part of the money when I was discharged and enjoyed every mile of it.
Incidentally, the G.I. had been in the division known as the "Red Ball Express" carrying supplies to the front lines.
"CAN YOU HEAR ME OUT THERE?"
Albert "Abe" Boman Vol. II, pp. 123-124
I have a couple of pictures taken during the Atlantic hurricane in December of 1945. One shows the starboard whaleboat which had been torn loose and was swinging wildly. The deck crew managed to get it under control and lashed down on the deck. One of the davits appears to be gone and the other is severely twisted. (Next morning the boat was completely gone.) In the other picture you can see the starboard hangar door that was smashed, the Stokes baskets on the hangar bulkhead and fire hoses can be seen and the ladder to the hangar deck is hanging at a 45 degree angle. On the right side is the 500 kilocycle emergency flat-top antenna from Radio III which we never got fired up.
We tried desperately to contact NSS in Washington on the TBK-9. I spent the night running from the transmitter to it's whip antenna on the after stack wiping off and drying it's insulator, then back to the transmitter to load the antenna. I'd just get it loaded and it would be shorted out again. The plate of the final amplifier's normal temperature was cherry red. I had it cranked up to white hot and kept blowing the overload. Burned out one 860 tube that night. We did manage to reach NSS after about five hours of this merry-go-round. Quite exciting up on the after stack when you're rolling 45 degrees.
I recall going into Le Havre and the harbor master kept calling. I had us set up on the TDQ and he obviously wasn't receiving us. Warrant Officer Nicholas came stomping back to Radio II, looked at the nameplate reading of the transmitter and offered "No wonder - this oversized popcorn popper can't get beyond the forecastle." We set up the TBM-7 and probably blew the 1st stage of the harbor master's receiver.
On our way to the Azores, after things calmed down, Nicholas and I dug out an old speed key from one of our storage rooms. He had made up a message and all who wanted to let the folks at home know we were safe, could send a telegram. I don't know how many hours that man sat at that key tapping out names and addresses.
At one point I made my way up to Radio I while we were pitching and rolling. Those poor guys trying to copy signals. One time they'd be glued to their chairs and the next moment, on the down pitch, they'd be weightless and lifted off their chairs. The sea cabin being one deck above Radio I - I can just imagine what they were going through. And the poor troops - I've seen pay lines and chow lines, but never lines to the head to up-chuck. Once a guy got to the head of the line he was very reluctant to give it up.
Here is a poem written by one of the passengers on that miserable trip:
We told you seven but it took fifteen.
The weather was rough and mostly mean.
All through the night the great ship did pitch,
you in your sack did nothing but bitch.
You cussed her in and you cussed her out,
but she sailed on with a heart so stout.
Call her the Portland or even Sweet Pea,
she's doing her job and asks no fee.
To all GI's with happiness in hearts,
remember, t'was the Portland who gave to it's start.
Bob Touhey Vol. II, p. 122
During the Atlantic hurricane in December, 1945, I remember waking up after a deep sleep filled with dreams about submerging to avoid the storm because the rumor going around the previous evening was "The skipper was formerly assigned to submarines."
On arriving at the entrance to my duty station (one of the firerooms) I noticed a large hose stuck down the hatch and a seaman who had a re-breather mask on his face and the attaching chemical container fastened to his chest. I thought a fire had occurred at my workplace, but the man with the mask, upon removing it, told me I couldn't report to duty due to the flooded condition of the compartment. So - I spent the remainder of the week, until we docked in New York City, walking topside and watching the activities of the repair details and the beauty of the Azores islands.
Herman Ferguson Vol. II, pp. 127-128
After Navy Day in Portland, Maine in 1945, we went to the Boston Navy Yard for repairs and modification. The planes were taken off, the two hangars cleaned out and 500 bunks were placed in each. We found out that we were to go to Le Havre, France to bring back soldiers. With about half the crew on leave or discharged, we were able to carry about 1,500 soldiers, and were to make the trip in 15 days.
While in Boston, I put in for driver, to take officers to town. It was on Thanksgiving Day that I took some officers over to the hotel and was to bring back the Captain's wife for dinner. Well, I had never been in Boston in my life. I got lost in the big city and was over an hour late getting back to the ship. Needless to say, that was my first and last driving duty.
On the way back from Le Havre, the ship was rocking and rolling. The waves were up to 100 feet high. We knew we were in a big storm. Some buddies and I were in the metal shop. We had a record player going and were drinking coffee when all of a sudden the water came in a port-hole seven feet off the deck. We had listed so the water ran down the passageway behind the hangar and on top of the record player.
Our shop had a metal half-door and we had it jammed shut. The water was running down the passageway about 6 inches deep. I saw souvenirs, cameras, blankets, clothes - going aft. I jumped over the half-door and went to check on the damage. I went forward and saw that the hangar door had caved in from the water pressure. Bunks were collapsed and damage was widespread.
I knew the area well, since my battle station was topside aft repair. I went back between the hangars where there was an up-take from the engine room. Other sailors and I saw a big hole in the screen. We looked in and saw a leg sticking out from under some blankets. John Siri and I jumped down there and got the body of a soldier out. Two had washed overboard from the quarterdeck.
We had a lot of repairs to do to the hangar doors and up forward in the port chain locker a seam had ruptured and the space was filling up. We had to pump out the locker. My helper, a ship fitter named McGill, and I took 4 x 4s and jacks to shore up the seam. I finally got a weld on it to hold. We were standing in water up to our knees and took some hard jolts from the electric welder.
The whole bow had lifted and twisted to the port about 2 feet. The deck in the officer's compartments was buckled very badly. Not many aboard knew all the damage that was done.
The Captain turned the ship south, toward the Azores Islands. When we got to the Azores we took off the dead and wounded. We were supposed to be back to New York Christmas Eve, but, because of the storm and detour, we didn't arrive until the 28th of December.
I was discharged from the ship in the first part of 1946 and thanks to the efforts of Lt., Barney Kliks, I received a commendation from Capt. Bibby for the work I had done during the storm.
"STICK EM UP"
After the war, we had discharged many, many men, took the planes and the V division off and all the marine detachment. Those of us who were left (I was on a 6-year cruise beginning in June, 1940) had to stand some strange watches.
On our second trip across the Atlantic in December, 1945,1 had the Brig Watch, normally a Marine duty. The brig consisted of two cells with a short passageway between them, in the very stern of the, ship in F division quarters at the waterline. I relieved the watch, took the .45 and ejected the clip, pulled the slide back and looked through the barrel, let the slide go back, pulled the trigger and then reinserted the clip. I then settled back on a canvas stool and started reading "Our Navy."
The only prisoner was an AOL whom I had seen around the ship quite often. As I became engrossed in "Our Navy" I was jarred to hear a voice coming from the cell, within a few feet of my ear (my port ear.)
"Stick 'em up" the voice said. I turned and here was this prisoner pointing a Luger (one he had bought from a soldier on our first crossing) at me. I realized he was joking and told him "Put that thing away, or I'll take it from you."
You have probably wondered why we had Marines on the ship. Now you know.
"I DON'T LIKE WATER"
Bob Ninberg Vol. II, pp. 124-125
On the last trip from Le Havre, France, some of the soldiers were from an all Black company of "big gun" men. They were the troops that stopped Rommel at the approach to Cairo. One was a sergeant with more stripes and hash marks than I had ever seen. He had taken up residence in #2 mess hall and every day when I walked past, he would yell "Hey, sonny, wake me when we hit rough weather."
After about the second day of the storm, I walked past him and said "I hope you're awake as it doesn't get much rougher than this." (Note - I think he was at least 3 shades paler.)
His reply blew me away: "Man, I've been in the army for six years, I have not seen my wife and kids, but if I make it back to land and get discharged, the very first thing I'm gonna do is head for a small lake about a mile from home. I left a row boat there and if it's still floating, I'm gonna take an axe and sink it. I don't ever want to go on water again and I might not even want to drink it."
(A letter home)
Barney Kliks Vol. II, pp. 125, 127
200 miles N.W. of
19 Dec. 1945
I'm sending a copy of this to Peg, so you will both get the dope at the same time.
We are limping back to the Azores, as it is the closest land and Naval base.
First, I will not get home for Christmas, but am lucky as hell to be able to get home or back to the USA at all, and in one piece, so don't worry. I may not get to send you a telegram, as I suppose they do not want to make the news public until the official announcement by the Navy Dept and the next of kin are notified. I'll try to mail this from the Azores, hoping it reaches you before you have a chance to worry.
We rode out the worst storm the skipper and the old-time Navy men aboard this ship had ever been thru. For about 48 hours. maybe 50 or 60 we went through hell. You couldn't stand up, gear went flying around, chairs and tables piled up, our rooms were a mess, and water came in everywhere. We had been having terribly rough weather for several days as I wrote before to Peg, but then it got worse and worse, 'till we had 75 mile an hour winds, storm, huge waves higher than the ship. We had sprung a leak coming over and had temporarily caulked and welded it in Le Havre, but this time we had even greater troubles, and more dangerous ones. I will tell you all about it when I see you and after the Navy releases the details of the damage.
The night of the 17th and 18th was the worst, and I spent the entire night down below the water-tight doors and hatches helping the injured in sick bay and all the bunks around that vicinity where we stowed away the injured Peg will remember where that was. If we had gone down you wouldn't have had a prayer of getting out, so early in the game I took off my coat and life jacket and gave it to a wounded soldier who was worried, and suffered shock as well as other injuries and to whom it gave a lot of comfort. Besides, if I had worn a life belt, being healthy, and they being wounded wore none, it wouldn't have helped their morale any. My Boy Scout First Aid came in handy, and I directed stretcher bearers, got mattresses and bunks ready, rounded up 100 blankets which sailors freely gave up, took men into the operating room for treatment, led and helped carry them to bunks cut off or tore off soaked clothing, dried them with clean towels, tucked them in to keep them warm and help with shock. I even learned how to give morphine serates (shots) and mark the patient with the amt. and hour. We had only 2 Navy and 2 Army (passenger) doctors (both sick) aboard and they more than had their hands full. I'll never forget that night as long as I live, and am sure glad I had something to keep me busy and was able to do some good. It would have been no time to be idle.
Well, I've had enuf of the N. Atlantic and enuf of storms at sea. almost worse that battle, for you can't fight back can do nothing but hang on. I believe the Portland has made it's last trip, so might not have to go again. Hope so, anyway.
LOST AT SEA
It was during the first week of December, 1945 and the Portland was tied up at one of the piers in New York City. We had received notice that the ship was scheduled to make one or two trips to Le Havre, France, to pick up troops and bring them home. Half the crew was to be given 21 days leave and the remainder would make the trip to France.
George Pritchard, gunner's Mate 1/c in the 5th Division, and I were making a lot of our liberties together and, as luck would have it, we were in the group picked to stay in the States. As neither of us had ever been on an airplane before, we decided that it would be fun to fly to Chicago where I could visit my mother and George could run up to Michigan to see his family. I don't remember the name of the airline, but I will never forget that first flight on a DC-3 in midwinter.
When we returned to New York and reported in to the barracks on the pier where our crew was being housed, we were advised that the ship would be a few days late so we could have liberty any time we wanted to go ashore. A couple of hours later, George and I were in our favorite spot, the 32nd Street Bar and Grill, having a dinner and probably a few drinks. After a few more drinks, and not feeling the cold, we decided to take a walk up to Times Square and see the sights.
As you know, the New York Times building had a feature where late news flashes were displayed on a lighted sign that constantly changed. As we were walking up Broadway and looking at all of the lights and sights we noticed the news sign flash "USS PORTLAND LOST AT SEA!" We did not believe it at first so we stood there for about ten minutes until the message came around the next time. Needless to say this had a sobering effect in more ways than one. After reading this the second time, we rushed back to the pier where we were being housed and the message was confirmed by the Officer of the Deck.
It was not until the next morning that word was passed on the P. A. system that the Portland was not lost, but was severely damaged and had pulled in to the Azores for repairs. It was a great reunion when the Portland once again docked in New York City. After hearing some of the stories, we were glad to have missed this Portland cruise.
From the New York Daily News - Dec. 1945
"The heavy cruiser Portland - her forecastle buckled, her radar antenna smashed and her starboard hangar door ripped off - arrived in port yesterday after a week's delay which took a toll of two soldiers dead, one missing and fifty two injured.
"The battered vessel brought in 1,159 troops from Le Havre after being tossed about by two storms which the skipper. Captain L. H. Bibby, described as the worst in his 28 years at sea.
"The ship's navigator, Cdr. A. Jackson, said the wind indicator was broken at forty knots, but he felt sure the gales reached ninety miles an hour. Estimates on the mountainous waves reached as high as a hundred feet. Cdr. Jackson said he stood on the bridge, forty feet above the water line, and had to look up to see the crest of the waves.
"The two deaths and numerous injuries occurred Dec. 17 when one of the giant waves smashed the door to the starboard hangar, where 189 soldiers were bunked, and instantly created a scene of horror and confusion. Water rushed through the hangar "like a ten ton truck" said Cdr. Jackson, collapsing bunks and pinning many soldiers under the wreckage.
"Sgt. T. Lancian, of Everett, Mass., who was wounded at Bastogne, said the accident was more terrifying than his war experiences and "most of us thought the boat was sinking."
"A hero of the disaster was John Siri, 24 year old ship's cook first class, who broke three ribs while extricating two soldiers from the wreckage.
"Soldiers praised the quick action taken by the ship's crew in their rescue work and a speech made over the ship's loudspeaker by Capt. Bibby shortly after the tragedy occurred. At that time both soldiers and sailors were badly frightened and many believed that the ship 'was done for' said Cdr. Jackson, but the skipper's talk, "delivered in a calm, confident voice" explained to them what had happened and quieted their fears.
"The first storm occurred on the night of Dec. 16 when the winds were higher but the waves were not so large as on the following night when the second storm struck.
"On Dec. 18 the ship headed to the Azores because the boiler feed lines were clogged with salt water. At Ponte Delgada the Portland picked up boiler water and removed the 22 more seriously injured men, who were flown home in an Army C-54 plane.
"The ship remained in the Azores for four days and on the remainder of its voyage zigzagged to avoid the brunt of mountainous waves on her battered forecastle, the cruiser traveled about 1,000 extra miles on the ordinarily 3,000 mile trip and experienced only two calm days during the two weeks, one of them as she sailed up New York Harbor."
ATLANTIC HURRICANE - 1945
On our second trip to Europe as a part of operation "Magic Carpet" bringing home troops from the European Theater of Operations, we encountered a terrific storm. At least two tremendous waves hit us resulting in serious damage and costing the lives of several soldiers. Part of the damage was to one of the hangars where some troops were bunked. The door was caved in, bunks smashed and many soldiers injured severely.
If you remember, the fireroom uptakes were located just inside the hangar doors on the inboard side between the two hangars. This was a big opening about 8' square which helped vent the firerooms. When the waves knocked down the hangar doors, the water kept coming in and went into the fireroom uptakes and flooded the firerooms.
Shipfitters were called to put a cover over the openings to keep the water out and electricians to lower submersible pumps down the opening to pump the water out. I was one of the electricians.
The pumps were big heavy steel, about 3' long and 10" in diameter. A heavy line was used to lower the pump down. It also had a heavy duty power cord to furnish current and a long hose for the water discharge. One man was guiding the hose down, one man was guiding the power line and a couple of men handled the pump.
About halfway down the men on the pump lines lowered away some but the man on the power line held fast, pulling the power lie clean out of the pump. The whole unit had to be pulled back up and taken down for service. It was fill of water where the line had pulled out so another pump had to be put in operation.
(ed. note.) Managing such an operation would have been difficult in calm weather. In the middle of a raging hurricane it took almost superhuman effort when just staying on your feet was almost impossible.
On December 17, 1945 we were returning from Le Havre, France when we were hit by a storm carrying 90 knot winds and 100 foot waves. I was told that the huge safe in the communications shack had broken it s weld to the bulkhead and deck. It was pitching back and forth, threatening to ruin all of the equipment. I was ordered to take a sailor, don life jackets, carry a life line and hawser and secure the safe.
I got one of the radio men to help and the only access we had to the communications shack was up a couple of decks by a steel ladder out in the weather. It took us about an hour to get there as we could only make a step at a time whenever the ship made it to the center of its roll. We were badly beaten by the waves.
After securing the safe and sitting there resting, over the sound system came the order "All hands having experience in first aid, get down to sick bay on the double." We found our way back down to sick bay and were immediately put to work giving morphine to injured sailors and soldiers waiting to be treated by the doctors. A badly injured soldier tugged at my sleeve and said "Tell me lieutenant, are we going to sink?" I told him "Hell no &ndash the Japs could not put us down and this storm is not going to, either." He then asked me why I was wearing a life jacket. After trying to explain why I was wearing it, I asked him if he would feel better if he had it. He assured me that he would.
Shortly after we got the soldiers quieted down in their wire litters, crammed down in that narrow passageway, we had another scare. The Damage Control boys started coming forward to shore up our damaged bow. They were carrying lumber, welding torches and wearing lanterns on their heads. That sight did little to make the injured soldiers happy.
One hero was a tough sergeant, with both legs crushed, a battered arm and strapped in his wire basket. He yelled at the complaining men - "Shut up. The Navy is doing all they can. Keep out of their way and hang on."
We had many unsung heroes from our crew - John Siri, ship's cook, who had three ribs broken while he rescued two soldiers trapped in the wreckage and Herman Ferguson, a Metalsmith in Damage Control. He did electric welding while standing knee deep in water, securing plates on the bow that had ruptured and was letting water in. He did it again by helping cut down the damaged and swinging hangar door. I helped write up a commendation for him.
I cannot remember what or how we ate during that week. The stoves were out and the labels had soaked off most of the canned goods.
When we finally made it to the Azores, we were all permitted to give the name and address of someone to notify. A one line telegram was sent to all those people. It only said that we had survived but this was important as the folks at home only knew that the Portland had not been heard from for several days and was &ldquoLost at Sea.&rdquo
THE CHAPLAIN REMEMBERS
Rev. Charles Iley
You bet I was aboard and remember the Le Havre trip. That was worse than we experienced in the South Pacific. We could duck the Kamikazes and the skipper surely knew how to do that, but Mother Nature is something different.
December, 1945 - Christmas at sea with two dead bodies in the ice box. That storm lasted two days and two nights. One sailor with bridge duty said "Padre, last night we looked those waves right in the eye as they were at least 60 feet high." Next day, I saw the same guy and he remarked "We were looking at their belly button's last night."
I was helping another officer administer morphine to the wounded (was it Barney?) and noticed that neither of us had a life jacket. I moved to get a pair but the officer said not to bother as they wouldn't be "a damn bit of use out there tonight."
"MUSTER" AFTER THE STORM
H. F. "Buddy" Fountain
I was on both the trips to Europe to pick up troops after the war and have a couple of tales to tell.
Immediately after the storm, the next day, we mustered all hands. It was quite easy to account for the crew (skeleton crew of about 250) but we had a real bad time counting the troops. As you know, those troops came out of a Receiving Station in Europe. An officer had a list he was in charge of, but in most cases none of these men were from his outfit, so he could not put a face and a name together.
We passed the word that we were counting all hands to try to see how many were missing. Unfortunately, those troops that were not scared to death were either sea-sick, drunk or both. (Many of the troops had brought cognac in their sacks.) Have you ever tried to get someone to stand still for a count when he has already been mustered out of service and nobody knows him?
First of all, he does not have to take orders and secondly he could care less. The war was over and he is going home and he almost did not make it after all that combat. (We had some of the 82nd Airborne and some of Patton's Third Army and some of the First Army.)
Even after putting in to the Azores we could not get an accurate count. One time we would count and have 20 or 30 more than we left Europe with, and the next time we counted we would have 15 or 20 missing. The only "real count" we got was when we got back to the States. We checked every dog-tag against the roster and then we knew how many were actually lost at sea.
NEW YEARS "BRONX CHEER"
Malcolm Marks Vol. II, pp. 128-130
I entered the navy while very young and being from a small Texas town my exposure to worldly experience was limited. Maybe a midnight movie on Saturday night - that was about the extent of it. My first three years (a little less) in the navy gave me little opportunity for social activities. After boot camp at San Diego and a couple of weeks of school, like a lot of other guys, I was called on a sea draft that ended my opportunity to explore the night life of San Diego.
In a short time I was on my way to Mare Island to board the Sweet Pea. I think that was late March of '43. You guys know what the next two and a half years were all about. Except for our repair trip back to Mare Island, a quick trip home, a few good liberties in Sacramento, our life was pretty well taken up on the high seas, hoping for a brief stop, a couple of cans of hot beer and maybe a movie that we had seen only 4 or 5 times.
Don't misunderstand me. My three-plus years in the navy was the greatest experience of my life. The opportunity to serve our country and to be with some of the greatest guys I've ever known, are memories that will stay with me forever. I have often wished that my four sons could have the opportunity in their lifetime to experience something as rewarding.
Things really picked up my last few months in the navy. Our trip through the Panama Canal was very interesting. Our liberty in Cologne was somewhat of a let-down. After the lecture from the ship's doctors on the social dangers and reminding us that we were all on our way home, I hesitated on going on liberty at all. It turned out O. K. though. At least it gave me the chance to get gifts for the ladies back home.
On up the east coast with Navy Day in New York and our visit to Portland - boy that was great. How could anyone forget? Definitely a big improvement over a couple cans of hot beer on an island in the Pacific 10,000 miles from home.
Unfortunately, a real tragedy was just ahead for us. For a lot of guys I think that second trip to France was the worst memory we came home with. It certainly has stayed with me for a long time.
The First Division quarters were next to sick bay and some of us were asked to help with the wounded. I'll never forget holding a guy down on the operating table to keep him from rolling off. That was tough duty but the real tragedy was knowing what some of those guys had already gone through.
Enough of this. Now let me get to the real purpose of writing this. I want to share with you what was probably one of the greatest liberties of WW II.
Time: New Years Eve, 1945. Place: New York City I had been under the weather for several days and was not sure I would be up to going on liberty, but with a little help from sick bay, I braved the cold weather and took off. Since I was late leaving the ship, the guys I usually went on liberty with had already left, so I ended up going with another guy, I think his name was Thorpe. Turns out that Thorpe was a great guy to be on liberty with.
Like everyone else, we headed for Times Square and a big New Years Celebration. Our stay on 42nd St. was brief I didn't know there were that many people. The only way you could move was with the flow of the crowd and they never seemed to be going in the right direction. Our New Years celebration plans seemed a little bleak. We finally made our way to an area where we could stop and survey our situation.
After considering where we would go from there (one option was going back to the ship) we came up with a master-plan. We would make our way to a subway station, get on the first train that came by, ride for 15 minutes, get off and find the nearest bar and that's where we would spend New Year's Eve.
After pushing our way through half the population of New York City we made our way to a subway station. As planned we boarded the first train and rode for 15 minutes I remember coming up out of that train station (somewhere in the Bronx) into a canyon of tall, dark buildings. We began to wonder if we should have just gone back to the ship.
Fortunately we had only walked a couple of blocks before spotting the bright lights of a neighborhood bar.
(Before proceeding, a brief comment. If I could have chosen anyplace, anywhere, including Texas, to celebrate New Years, it would have been that little bar in the Bronx.)
In a short time we made our way into the bar and quickly came to the conclusion that we were about to make up for a lot of those lonely nights on the high seas.
After surveying the situation we determined that the only people in the bar were the two of us, the bartender, and off in a corner having one big party, about 15 navy WAVES. They were as happy to see us as we were to see them. Sometime around 3 A M the bartender hung a "closed" sign on the door and our party really got cranked up.
I'm sure it's hard for you to understand, but Thorpe and I really had trouble that night keeping all those ladies entertained, but somehow we managed to do it.
The WAVES were stationed in a barracks in the area. I had only a couple of liberties after that night to visit those lonely ladies and then I was off to Camp Wallace, Texas, for discharge.
World War II Database
ww2dbase USS Portland was the lead ship of the third class of "treaty cruisers" to be built by the United States Navy following the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922. There was only one other ship in the class, the USS Indianapolis, and both were originally designated as light cruisers because of their thin armor. However, because of their nine 8-inch guns, they were both reclassified as heavy cruisers in accordance with the London Naval Treaty of 1930. Under the London Naval Treaty, Portland-class ships were also allowed more armor so the thickness of each ships' armor belt was increased prior to launching. Because of the look created by the deep well deck between the two funnels, both Portland and Indianapolis were known as "Swayback" cruisers.
ww2dbase Portland was the first Navy ship named for the city of Portland, Maine. Launched in 1932 and commissioned the following year, Portland exceeded her rated top speed during trials. Six weeks after commissioning, Portland received her first assignment of importance when the Navy airship USS Akron crashed at sea off New Jersey. Underway thirty-six minutes after receiving her orders, Portland was the first Navy ship to reach Akron's crash site but no further rescue efforts were possible. 73 of the 76 aboard Akron were lost.
ww2dbase Portland then served as an escort for cruiser USS Houston as Houston carried President Franklin D. Roosevelt from San Diego, California through the Panama Canal to Charleston, South Carolina. Portland spent the remainder of the interwar era with the Scouting Force and then with the United States Pacific Fleet. She crossed the equator for the first time on 20 May 1936 during fleet maneuvers.
ww2dbase When war broke out with the Pearl Harbor Attack of 7 Dec 1941, Portland was two days out of Pearl Harbor on her way to Midway Atoll as part of the USS Lexington group. From Dec 1941 through Apr 1942, she operated on patrols between the west coast of the United States, the Hawaiian Islands, and Fiji. On 23 Apr 1942 while at Tongatabu in the Kingdom of Tonga, Portland's commanding officer, Captain Robert R Thompson, was transferred to the hospital ship USS Solace with a broken back after a fall down a ladder. The best choice for a replacement captain under the circumstances was the captain of the Solace, Captain Benjamin Perlman, who took temporary command of Portland.
ww2dbase Portland then became a part of a task force built around the carrier USS Yorktown (Yorktown-class) and sailed to the Coral Sea along with the group built around USS Lexington (Lexington-class). Following the battle, Portland was to escort the stricken Lexington but the carrier was so badly damaged that she had to be abandoned and sunk. Portland took aboard 929 of Lexington's survivors while suffering no casualties herself. Back at Tongatabu for brief repairs, Portland received a new commanding officer with Captain Lawrence DuBose relieving Captain Perlman who returned to the Solace. Portland then steamed for Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii escorting the damaged Yorktown.
ww2dbase After only three days at Pearl Harbor, Portland sailed again with the still damaged Yorktown bound for Midway, along with the Enterprise and Hornet (Yorktown-class). On 4 Jun 1942, Portland screened the carriers while the carrier aircraft sought out the attacking Japanese carriers and sunk all four of them. The Japanese carrier aircraft were trying to do the same thing and they were able to score several torpedo hits on the Yorktown. The carrier had to be abandoned with 2,046 of her survivors transferred to Portland. While steaming toward Pearl Harbor, she met the submarine tender USS Fulton and transferred the Yorktown survivors.
ww2dbase Portland then joined a group built around the carrier Saratoga and steamed for the Aleutian Islands to counter a Japanese force thought to be there, but the group was recalled to Pearl Harbor two days later.
ww2dbase Portland was then assigned as one of the escorts for USS Enterprise bound for the Solomon Islands in support of the Guadalcanal operations. These actions included the Battle of the Eastern Solomons where allied forces stopped a large Japanese armada from reinforcing their forces on Guadalcanal. Portland and Enterprise then steamed for Pearl Harbor. From there, Portland was ordered on a secret mission to the Gilbert Islands to conduct a raid on Tarawa along with the light cruiser USS San Juan. On 15 Oct 1942 Portland attacked Japanese ships near Tarawa before withdrawing to rejoin the Enterprise task group on their way to the Solomons. They steamed south in time to participate in the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands. About midday on 24 Oct 1942, Portland came under attack from a Japanese submarine and Portland was struck with three torpedoes, but all three failed to detonate.
ww2dbase Two weeks later on 12 & 13 Nov 1942, Portland participated in the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal. During the night action, Portland was struck with a torpedo fired from the Japanese destroyer Yudachi that caused heavy damage to Portland's stern. Portland lost both inboard propellers, had her rudder jammed at five degrees to starboard, and froze her Number Three turret in train and elevation. A four-degree list was quickly corrected by shifting ballast, but the steering problem was harder to overcome and the ship could only steam in circles. At the end of her first circle, she fired on the battleship Hiei with her forward turrets. In four six-gun salvos fired by Portland, she succeeded in starting fires on the Japanese battleship. At dawn, still circling, Portland opened fire on the abandoned hulk of Yudachi at a range of 6 miles (9.7 km). After the sixth salvo, Yudachi exploded, rolled over, and sank within five minutes. Portland was eventually able to partially correct the steering problem and withdraw under her own power. With the assistance of a tug and other small craft, Portland made her way to Tulagi harbor on 14 Nov 1942. The battle resulted in heavy damage to both forces but broke up the determined Japanese effort to disrupt the landing of 6,000 American troops on Guadalcanal, to bombard Henderson Field, and to land 7,000 reinforcements of their own. Portland later received a Meritorious Unit Commendation for her actions in the battle, suffering 18 killed and 17 wounded.
ww2dbase From Tulagi, Portland was towed to Sydney, Australia for preliminary repairs before being overhauled in the United States. She arrived at Mare Island Navy Yard, California, United States on 3 Mar 1943.
ww2dbase After training cruises in southern Californian waters, Portland steamed for the Aleutians late in May 1943 and bombarded Kiska on 26 Jul 1943. Portland next participated in the Gilbert and Marshall Islands campaigns. She bombarded Tarawa on 20 Nov 1943 in support of the landings there. She was lightly damaged by friendly depth charges when the destroyer Anderson attacked what was believed to be a Japanese submarine. In Dec 1943, she moved to the Marshall Islands escorting the new Essex-class carrier Lexington. Portland then returned to Pearl Harbor and went into drydock for more repairs to her rudder and propellers.
ww2dbase After those repairs, she steamed for Majuro Atoll arriving 30 Jan 1944. After her bombardment group shelled the island for 30 minutes, it was discovered there were no Japanese ashore. She then moved to support operations on Eniwetok Atoll on 8 Feb 1944 providing shore bombardment ahead of landings which took place on 19 Feb 1944. Between 30 Mar and 1 Apr 1944, she screened carriers conducting airstrikes at Palau, Yap, Ulithi, and Woleai. Later that month, she joined a carrier force covering the landings around Hollandia and Tanahmerah on New Guinea. She then steamed northward with the carrier force and struck Truk with five other cruisers and destroyers. Portland then shelled Satawan in the Caroline Islands.
ww2dbase Following this series of operations, Portland returned to Mare Island for a more extensive overhaul, which was completed in Aug 1944. She returned to the western Pacific for shore bombardments of Peleliu from 12–14 Sep 1944 with the Peleliu landings on 15 Sep 1944. She remained at Peleliu through 29 Sep 1944, and then steamed for Seeadler Harbor, Manus Island in the Admiralty Islands.
ww2dbase Portland arrived off Leyte on 17 Oct 1944 and began two days of shore bombardments to prepare for the troop landings there. On the night of 24 Oct 1944, a strong Japanese force consisting of two battleships, one heavy cruiser, and four destroyers headed for Surigao Strait with the apparent intent of raiding shipping in Leyte Gulf. The Japanese force advanced in rough column up the narrow strait during darkness but was met with a large U.S. force of battleships, cruisers, and destroyers, including Portland. She and her sisters steamed across the top of the strait, crossing the 'T' of the Japanese force. The Japanese were first met by PT boats, then in succession by three coordinated destroyer torpedo attacks, and finally by devastating gunfire from American battleships and cruisers disposed across the northern end of the strait. Portland took the Japanese heavy cruiser Mogami under fire, scoring several hits, and continued firing on the stranded Mogami throughout the night, striking her several more times. The Battle of Surigao Strait was a decisive defeat for the Japanese force, with most of its ships being destroyed.
ww2dbase From 3 Jan to 1 Mar 1945, Portland covered the landings at Lingayen Gulf in the Philippines. Portland entered Manila Bay on 15 Feb 1945 and bombarded the south shore of Corregidor in preparation for landings there. She returned to Leyte Gulf on 1 Mar 1945 for repairs and replenishment, having seen five months of continuous action.
ww2dbase From 26 Mar to 20 Apr 1945, Portland conducted shore bombardments of Okinawa in support of the Allied landings. At Okinawa, Portland endured twenty-four air raids, shot down four Japanese aircraft, and assisted in downing two others. From 8 May, she provided artillery support for ground forces on Okinawa, departing on 17 Jun 1945 for maintenance at Leyte. She returning to Buckner Bay, Okinawa on 6 Aug 1945 and where she remained conducting shore bombardments for the next nine days until the war ended.
ww2dbase With the termination of hostilities, Portland was designated flagship of Vice Admiral George D. Murray, Commander Mariana Islands, who was to accept the surrender of the Caroline Islands on behalf of Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz. The ship steamed to Truk Atoll and where Murray accepted the formal capitulation from senior Japanese Army, Navy, and civilian officials in ceremonies on Portland's quarter deck.
ww2dbase Portland was then selected for Operation Magic Carpet duty and returned to Pearl Harbor from 21–24 Sep 1945 embarking 600 troops for transportation to the United States. She transited the Panama Canal on 8 Oct 1945 and arrived at Portland, Maine, United States, for Navy Day celebrations on 27 Oct 1945. She conducted two trans-Atlantic crossings in Nov and Dec 1945, bringing troops home from the European Theater. Portland was decommissioned at Philadelphia Navy Yard on 12 Jul 1946 and placed in the US Reserve Fleet. Despite being identified as one of the few ships that fought throughout the entire war without missing any major battles, no attempt was made to save her as a museum ship at either Portland, Maine, or Portland, Oregon. She was struck from the Navy List on 1 Mar 1959 and was scrapped in Panama City, Florida during 1961 and 1962.
ww2dbase Portland's tripod aftermast is preserved at Fort Allen Park in Portland, Maine, United States. She received 16 battle stars for service in World War II, making her among the most decorated US ships of the war.
Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships
US Navy War Diaries USS Portland, USS Solace, USS Bobolink, USS Anderson, others
CombinedFleet.com Tabular Records of Movement Mogami, Yudachi, others
William Generous, Sweet Pea at War: A History of the USS Portland
Last Major Revision: Jul 2018
Heavy Cruiser Portland (CA-33) Interactive Map
Portland Operational Timeline
|17 Feb 1930||The keel of Portland was laid down by Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation at the Fore River Shipyard, Quincy, Massachusetts, United States.|
|21 May 1932||Portland was launched at Fore River Shipyard, Quincy, Massachusetts, United States.|
|23 Feb 1933||USS Portland was commissioned into service.|
|4 Apr 1933||Portland was first Navy ship to arrive at the crash site of the Navy airship USS Akron|
|20 May 1936||USS Portland crossed the equator while on maneuvers with the rest of the Pacific Fleet, prompting Crossing the Line ceremonies on at least 102 ships.|
|8 May 1942||Portland took aboard 929 survivors of the stricken carrier USS Lexington (Lexington-class) in the Battle of the Coral Sea|
|5 Jun 1942||Portland took aboard 2,046 survivors of the stricken carrier USS Yorktown (Yorktown-class) in the Battle of Midway|
|8 Jun 1942||Portland joined with Saratoga for sortie to the Aleutian Islands. Task Force recalled two days later without reaching the Aleutians|
|24 Aug 1942||Portland screened carrier USS Enterprise during the Battle of the Eastern Solomons|
|15 Oct 1942||Portland shelled Tarawa Atoll in the Gilberts. The Japanese on Tarawa then execute 22 captured Australian coast-watchers.|
|24 Oct 1942||Portland was struck with three Japanese torpedoes that did not detonate during the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands|
|13 Nov 1942||Portland was struck with a torpedo in her starboard quarter during the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal (Third Battle of Savo Island). The torpedo explosion took off Portland's two inboard propellers, jammed the rudder at five degrees to starboard, and froze the No 3 main turret. Portland could only steam in circles but still managed to fire her forward main batteries effectively, starting fires on the Japanese battleship Hiei and sinking the abandoned destroyer Yudachi.|
|3 Mar 1943||Portland arrived at the Mare Island Navy Yard in California, United States for repairs and an overhaul.|
|26 Jul 1943||USS Portland fired on radar contacts south of Kiska Island in the Aleutians that were later determined to be false radar echoes and would become known as the Battle of the Pips.|
|20 Nov 1943||USS Portland shelled shore positions on Betio Island at Tarawa Atoll in support of the US Marine landings.|
|4 Dec 1943||USS Portland and USS New Orleans (New Orleans-class), among other ships, screened carrier Lexington (Essex-class) in strikes against Kwajalein Atoll, Marshall Islands. Lexington received a torpedo hit that crippled her steering. New Orleans escorted Lexington to Pearl Harbor.|
|9 Dec 1943||USS Portland entered Pearl Harbor, Hawaii for drydocking and repairs to her rudder and propellers.|
|31 Jan 1944||USS Portland bombarded Djarrit Island, Majuro Atoll, Marshall Islands for 30 minutes before receiving word that there were no Japanese on the island.|
|17 Feb 1944||Portland bombarded Parry Island, Eniwetok Atoll, Marshall Islands as part of the Battle of Eniwetok|
|30 Mar 1944||USS Portland screened fleet carriers as their aircraft struck enemy installations located in the Palau Islands, Caroline Islands.|
|31 Mar 1944||USS Portland screened fleet carriers as their aircraft struck enemy installations located in the Palau Islands, Caroline Islands.|
|1 Apr 1944||USS Portland screened fleet carriers as their aircraft struck enemy installations located in the Woleai, Caroline Islands.|
|21 Apr 1944||As part of US Navy Carrier Task Force 58, USS Portland screened carriers launching the initial strikes in support of the landings at Hollandia on New Guinea.|
|29 Apr 1944||As part of US Navy Carrier Task Force 58, USS Portland screened carriers launching strikes against Truk in the Caroline Islands.|
|30 Apr 1944||As part of a cruiser task group under Rear Admiral Jesse Oldendorf, Portland participated in the bombardment of Salawan Island in the Carolines.|
|25 May 1944||USS Portland arrived at Mare Island Naval Shipyard for repairs and an overhaul.|
|7 Aug 1944||USS Portland departed Mare Island Naval Shipyard after overhaul bound for Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.|
|30 Aug 1944||USS Portland rejoins Cruiser Division 4 under Rear Admiral Jesse Oldendorf at Purvis Bay, Florida Island, Solomon Islands.|
|12 Sep 1944||USS Portland and Cruiser Division 4 begin pre-invasion bombardment of Peleliu in the Palau Islands. Bombardments continued for 3 days until the US 1st Marine Division landed on the island.|
|1 Oct 1944||USS Portland arrived at Seeadler Harbor, Manus Island, Admiralty Islands for 10 days of recreation, upkeep, and replenishment of fuel and stores.|
|18 Oct 1944||USS Portland entered Leyte Gulf, Philippine Islands in preparation for pre-invasion bombardments.|
|19 Oct 1944||USS Portland shells the east side of Leyte Island, Philippines in advance of the landings to take place the following day.|
|25 Oct 1944||After six days of shore bombardments of the island of Leyte in the Philippines, USS Portland withdrew to join the battleship and cruiser force tasked with intercepting Japan's Southern Force in the Surigao Strait. Portland was part of the force that crossed the "T" of the Japanese force and directed most of her fire against the cruiser Mogami. After the decisive victory in the Surigao Strait, Portland returned to Leyte Gulf and prepared to fend off Japan's Center Force, then engaged with Task Force 77.4.3 in the Battle off Samar.|
|1 Nov 1944||USS Portland entered Ulithi Lagoon and became one of the screening vessels in the Fast Carrier Task Force.|
|22 Nov 1944||USS Portland was detached from the Carrier Task Force and assigned to the Mindoro invasion force then gathering at Kossol Roads, Palau Islands.|
|15 Dec 1944||USS Portland covered the landings on Mindoro, Philippines.|
|6 Jan 1945||USS Portland entered Lingayen Gulf, Luzon, Philippines for the first time in support of the landings there 3 days later.|
|15 Feb 1945||USS Portland entered Manila Bay, Luzon, Philippines, to support the landings to take place on Corregidor the following day.|
|26 Mar 1945||USS Portland commenced destructive bombardment of Okinawa from the west, all in advance of the landings to take place one week later. Portland would continue this assignment for nearly a month.|
|24 Apr 1945||USS Portland entered Ulithi Lagoon for ten days of repairs and replenishment.|
|8 May 1945||USS Portland returned to her station off Okinawa for shore bombardments.|
|17 Jun 1945||USS Portland departed the Okinawa area en route San Pedro Bay, Leyte, Philippines.|
|3 Aug 1945||USS Portland departed Leyte, Philippines en route Okinawa, Japan.|
|6 Aug 1945||USS Portland arrived in Buckner Bay (Nakagusuku Wan), Okinawa, Japan where she remained for the rest of the war without firing another shot in anger.|
|25 Aug 1945||USS Portland departed Okinawa for Guam.|
|31 Aug 1945||Vice Admiral George D. Murray, Commander Marianas Area, came aboard USS Portland at Apra Harbor, Guam, Marianas and made Portland his flagship for the coming operation.|
|1 Sep 1945||USS Portland departed Guam en route Truk Atoll, Caroline Islands, to accept the surrender of Japanese forces there.|
|2 Sep 1945||At Truk Atoll, Caroline Islands, USS Portland received aboard Lieutenant General Shunzaburo Magikura of the Japanese Imperial Army, Vice Admiral Chuichi Hara of the Japanese Imperial Navy, Rear Admiral Aritaka Aihara of the Japanese Imperial Navy and head of the Eastern Branch of the Japanese South Seas Government and their aides. Together, they surrendered all islands and territories under their commands to Vice Admiral George Murray, acting on behalf of Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz. Immediately following the signing of the surrender documents, Portland departed Truk bound for Guam.|
|3 Sep 1945||USS Portland arrived at Apra Harbor, Guam, Marianas where Vice Admiral George D. Murray left the ship.|
|12 Sep 1945||USS Portland departed Guam en route Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.|
|20 Sep 1945||USS Portland arrived at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.|
|25 Sep 1945||USS Portland departed Pearl Harbor, Hawaii bound for the Panama Canal.|
|8 Oct 1945||USS Portland transited the Panama Canal eastbound.|
|25 Oct 1945||USS Portland arrived at Portland, Maine, United States for Navy Day celebrations two days later.|
|15 Nov 1945||USS Portland departed Boston, Massachusetts, United States bound for Le Havre, France as part of Operation Magic Carpet to bring US troops home.|
|22 Nov 1945||USS Portland arrived at Le Havre, France for the embarkation of US troops for transportation to the United States as part of Operation Magic Carpet.|
|23 Nov 1945||USS Portland departed Le Havre, France bound for New York, New York, United States with 1,242 US Army personnel for transportation to the United States as part of Operation Magic Carpet.|
|29 Nov 1945||USS Portland arrived at New York, New York, United States and disembarked 1,242 US Army personnel returned from France as part of Operation Magic Carpet.|
|12 Jul 1946||USS Portland was decommissioned from service at Philadelphia Navy Yard in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States.|
|6 Oct 1959||Portland was sold for scrap to Union Mineral and Alloys Corporation of New York, New York, United States for scrap.|
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The Portland class was the third class of heavy cruiser to be constructed by the United States Navy following the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922. The first "treaty cruisers" were the two of the Pensacola class ordered in 1926, which emphasized armament and speed at the expense of protection. These ships were followed by the six vessels of the Northampton class ordered in 1927 with slightly better armor, and introduced the configuration of three triple turrets which would become standard on U.S. Navy heavy cruisers. The Portland class was a modification of both the Pensacola and Northampton designs. 
Ordered for the U.S. Navy in fiscal year 1930, the Portland class was originally designated as a light cruiser, and given the hull classification symbol CL, being re-designated a heavy cruiser with the symbol CA on 1 July 1931,  due to their armament, in accordance with the London Naval Treaty. Originally, eight cruisers were envisioned as modified Northampton-class vessels, but eventually two of these became the Portland class, with the remaining six eventually being further modified into the succeeding New Orleans class.  The first three New Orleans-class cruisers, New Orleans, Astoria, and Minneapolis, were initially ordered as Portland-class vessels, but were reordered to the design of USS Tuscaloosa (CA-37) .
As built, the Portland-class cruisers were to be 610 feet 3 inches (186.00 m) in length overall, 592 feet 0 inches (180.44 m) long at the waterline,  64 feet 6 inches (19.66 m) abeam,  and with a draft of 21 feet 0 inches (6.40 m), and 24 feet 0 inches (7.32 m) maximum. They were designed for a standard displacement of 10,096 long tons (10,258 t), and a full-load displacement of 12,554 long tons (12,755 t).  However, neither completed ship reached this weight, displacing 9,800 long tons (10,000 t) and 9,950 long tons (10,110 t), respectively.  The ships featured two distinctive raked funnels, a tripod foremast, and a small tower and pole mast aft. In 1943, light tripods were added forward of the second funnel on each ship, and a prominent Naval director was installed aft. 
The ships were equipped with four propeller shafts and four Parsons GT geared turbines and eight Yarrow boilers. The power plant of the ships generated 107,000 shaft horsepower (80,000 kW) and the ships had a design speed of 32 knots (59 km/h) The ships were designed for a range of 10,000 nautical miles (19,000 km 12,000 mi) at 15 knots (28 km/h).  Both completed ships rolled badly until fitted with bilge keels. 
The cruisers were armed with a main battery of nine Mark 9 8"/55 caliber guns arrayed in three triple mounts, a superfiring pair fore and one aft. For anti-aircraft defense, they were armed with eight 5"/25 caliber guns as well as two QF 3 pounder Hotchkiss guns. By 1945, the anti-aircraft defenses of both ships had repeatedly been upgraded, with each eventually receiving twenty four Bofors 40 mm guns. On Portland these were arranged in four quad mounts and four twin mounts, and on Indianapolis they were arrayed in six quad mounts. Both ships were also upgraded with twelve Oerlikon 20 mm cannons.  No torpedo tubes were fitted on either ship of the class.  The ships were outfitted with Mk. 8 rangekeepers and Mk. 27 directors which also housed auxiliary Mk. VII rangekeepers. 
The Portland class was originally designed with 1 inch (25 mm) of deck protection and 1 inch (25 mm) of side protection, but during construction they were substantially up-armored.  The ships were completed with belt armor 5 inches (130 mm) thick over the magazines and 3.25 inches (83 mm) elsewhere.  Armored bulkheads were between 2 inches (51 mm) and 5.75 inches (146 mm), deck armor was 2.5 inches (64 mm), the barbettes were 1.5 inches (38 mm), the gunhouses were 2.5 inches (64 mm), and the conning tower was 1.25 inches (32 mm). 
Additionally, the Portland-class cruisers were designed with space to be outfitted as fleet flagships, with space for a flag officer and his staff to operate. The class also featured an aircraft catapult amidships.  They could carry four aircraft. The total crew complement varied, with a regular designed crew complement of 807,  a wartime complement of 952, which could increase to 1,229 when the cruiser was operating as a fleet flagship. 
Comparison with previous cruiser designs Edit
The Portland class was generally longer than the Northampton class by about 10 feet (3.0 m) and featured a revised bow shape. They were otherwise generally similar to the Northampton class, with an extended forecastle to improve sea-keeping abilities.  Their masts were reduced as compared to the Northampton class in order to reduce top weight. 
When completed, the Pensacola class displaced less than expected, at 9,000 long tons (9,100 t),  which was 980 long tons (1,000 t) less than expected, and were found to be greatly deficient in their protection.  For the following Northampton class, the armor protection was increased to 1,040 long tons (1,057 t) with 3 inches (76 mm) of armor along the main belt.  Still, these ships only displaced between 8,910 long tons (9,050 t) and 9,200 long tons (9,300 t)  While the Portland-class cruisers were more heavily armored than the preceding classes, this problem was found to be so significant that in fiscal year 1929, an entirely different design was formulated for a new class of cruisers, the New Orleans class. Several of the Portland hulls were then converted to New Orleans hulls during construction. 
The Portland class were also designed with more advanced armament in mind. Their main guns were the first to be specially designed to fire long-point projectiles with a streamlined shape, which increased the guns' range when compared with older cruiser guns. Such projectiles were in use by ships of the Imperial Japanese Navy, which until that point out-ranged U.S. cruisers with their firepower.  The New Orleans class was designed with these lessons in mind, intended to create a better balance between protection, armament and speed. 
Five ships were ordered in fiscal year 1930, to be constructed by three builders. In 1931, CA-32, CA-34, and CA-36, all ordered with Westinghouse machinery, were converted to the New Orleans class.   Portland was laid down by Bethlehem Steel at Quincy Shipyard on 17 February 1930, and Indianapolis was laid down by New York Shipbuilding Corporation on 31 March 1930.   The hull and machinery of both ships was provided by their respective builders.  Indianapolis was launched first, on 7 November 1931 and commissioned on 15 November 1932. Portland was launched on 21 May 1932 and commissioned on 23 February 1933. 
|Ship name||Hull no.||Builder||Laid down||Launched||Commissioned||Decommissioned||Fate|
|Portland||CA-33||Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation, Fore River Shipyard, Quincy, Massachusetts||17 February 1930||21 May 1932||23 February 1933||12 July 1946||Struck 1 March 1959 Sold for scrap 6 October 1959|
|Indianapolis||CA-35||New York Shipbuilding Corporation, Camden, New Jersey||31 March 1930||7 November 1931||15 November 1932||N/A||Torpedoed and sunk on 30 July 1945 by Japanese submarine I-58.|
USS Portland (CA-33) Edit
Portland was the first ship on the scene when the airship Akron went down in 1933, and coordinated efforts to retrieve survivors. She conducted a number of fleet maneuvers and goodwill missions throughout the Pacific Ocean. After the start of World War II, Portland took part in the Battle of Coral Sea, there rescuing 722 survivors from the sunk aircraft carrier Lexington. She then fought at the Battle of Midway, the Battle of the Eastern Solomons,  and in the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands, where she was hit by three dud air-launched torpedoes.  She then supported U.S. Marine landings during the Battle of Guadalcanal.  During the naval battle there in late 1942, she was struck and severely damaged by a torpedo from a Japanese destroyer,  a hit which required interim repairs in Australia followed by extensive repairs at Mare Island Navy Yard.  In spite of this damage, she was still able to inflict damage on the Japanese battleship Hiei. 
Returning to the war, she bombarded Kiska as part of the Aleutian Islands campaign, played a supporting role in the Gilbert and Marshall Islands campaign, covered landings during the New Guinea campaign, and Pelelieu. She then participated in the Battle of Leyte Gulf, covered landings in the Philippines, and supported the Battle of Okinawa.  At the end of the war she was decommissioned and remained in the United States Reserve Fleet until 1959, when she was broken up for scrap. 
USS Indianapolis (CA-35) Edit
Indianapolis served as flagship of Scouting Force 1 during World War II, and saw action in a number of campaigns in the Pacific theater. She supported the Gilbert and Marshall island campaigns as well as operations off the Caroline Islands. Later in the war she fought in the Battle of Philippine Sea and later the Battle of Iwo Jima and participating in the Battle of Okinawa. 
In mid-1945, she sailed from the United States to Tinian Island carrying components of Little Boy and Fat Man, the two nuclear weapons which would later be used to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Sailing for Leyte unescorted under Captain Charles B. McVay III, she was sunk by Japanese submarine I-58 on 30 July 1945, sinking in just 12 minutes. Many sailors were killed by sharks after the wreck. An estimated 900 of her 1,197 crew survived the initial sinking, but her SOS signal was not heard, and due to a series of errors and misunderstandings, her loss was not discovered until 2 August when her crew was spotted by reconnaissance plane. Only 320 men were recovered following the sinking, of whom 316 survived. McVay survived and faced a court martial and reprimand but retired in 1949 as rear-admiral, committing suicide in 1968.   Following years of efforts by some survivors and others to clear his name, McVay was posthumously exonerated by the 106th United States Congress and President Bill Clinton on October 30, 2000. 
World War II Fact: Japan Sunk the Ship That Carried the Atomic Bomb
Key Point: The Indianapolis's sinking showed how vulnerable the ship really was.
More From The National Interest:
There was tight security and feverish activity on the dock at the Hunters Point Navy Shipyard in San Francisco Bay around 3 am on Monday, July 16, 1945.
Two U.S. Army trucks unloaded a precious cargo—a large crate and a two-foot-long metal cylinder containing a uranium projectile and components for the “Little Boy” bomb, destined to be dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima and usher in the atomic age.
Moored at the dock and making ready to get underway was the fast, heavy cruiser USS Indianapolis (CA-35), commanded by 46-year-old Captain Charles B. McVay. As soon as a big gantry crane quickly lowered the cargo aboard the ship, the crate was secured to the deck and surrounded by a U.S. Marine guard, and the cylinder was placed in the flag lieutenant’s cabin.
Rear Admiral William R. Purnell, the naval member of the Manhattan Project’s Military Policy Committee, told McVay that if the ship ran into trouble the cylinder was to be saved at all costs. The ship would be carefully tracked during its voyage, and if anything happened to her, it would be known within hours.
It was a unique, top-secret assignment for the 13-year-old Indianapolis. Rushed to completion and commissioned on November 15, 1932, she and her sister ship, the USS Portland, were modifications of the Northampton-class cruisers. They were critically top heavy with new electronics, light antiaircraft weaponry, and fire control gear.
With a complement of 1,196 officers and sailors, the Indianapolis displaced 9,800 tons, was 610 feet long, and had a top speed of 32.5 knots. Her armament included nine 8-inch guns, eight 5-inch dual-purpose guns, and two 3-pounder guns. Though a “treaty cruiser” with some design deficiencies like others of the Northampton class, the Indianapolis was a proud member of the U.S. Fleet. She boasted a handsome teak quarterdeck before being stripped for war and had an enviable reputation for sharp ceremonies and honors performed by her Marine Corps detachment.
As a lifelong private sailor, former Assistant Secretary of the Navy, and fervent advocate of sea power, President Franklin D. Roosevelt held a special affinity for the Indianapolis. He watched seagoing maneuvers from her deck in May 1934 and sailed aboard her when he undertook his unprecedented “Good Neighbor Policy” cruise to Latin America in late November 1936.
At 8 on the morning of July 16, 1945, the Indianapolis cast off, bound for the island of Tinian in the distant Marianas group. She steamed under the Golden Gate Bridge half an hour later and headed westward across the Pacific Ocean. Recently patched up at Mare Island, California, after being severely damaged by a Japanese kamikaze plane on March 31, 1945, during the Okinawa invasion, the cruiser was a veteran of more than three years of fleet duty. She had been with the Pacific Fleet from the time of the Pearl Harbor raid on December 7, 1941.
When the cruiser USS Indianapolis was sunk in 1945, the warship was one of the best known in the U.S. Navy and a favorite of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who visited on several occasions and used the cruiser for some diplomatic travel.
After taking part in early 1942 raids, she saw action in almost every major amphibious invasion in the Central Pacific and lent fire support in the Aleutians, Gilberts, Marshalls, Kwajalein, Eniwetok, Saipan, Guam, Palau, and Iwo Jima operations. The Indianapolis also served as the principal flagship of Vice Admiral Raymond A. Spruance when he commanded the Fifth Fleet.
Captain McVay, who ran a tight ship and was generally regarded as heading for higher flag rank, pushed his engine room crew to maintain top speed during the long voyage to the destination—the Twentieth Air Force’s Boeing B-29 Superfortress heavy bomber base on Tinian, three miles south of Saipan.
The cruiser reached the volcanic, 50-square-mile island shortly after daybreak on Thursday, July 26. Because Tinian did not have an adequate harbor, the Indianapolis dropped anchor 1,000 yards offshore. As small craft swarmed around the cruiser, high-ranking officers of all services climbed aboard to watch the unloading of the top secret cargo, the heart of the world’s first practical atomic bomb. A crane lifted the crate and cylinder into a waiting LCT (landing craft, tank), which promptly headed for shore. The cruiser had completed her unique mission, and McVay’s grave responsibility was over.
The cruiser then weighed anchor and steamed to Guam, the southernmost island in the Marianas, where McVay was briefed and given new orders. The Indianapolis was to head for Leyte Gulf in the Philippines for two weeks of training exercises before rejoining the fleet and preparing for the Allied invasion of the Japanese home islands. Unescorted, the cruiser departed from Guam on July 28 and proceeded westward.
McVay and his crew were unaware of the dire perils that lay ahead. “There was no mention made of any untoward incident in the area through which I was to pass,” he reported later. “I definitely got the idea … that it was a routine voyage.” A lieutenant and an ensign aboard the cruiser charted a direct, straight-line route at 15.7 knots estimated to get the ship into Leyte on July 31.
Surface and air units of the Imperial Japanese Navy had been rendered virtually impotent by late that month. In strikes against airfields, the naval base at Kure, and shipping in the Inland Sea, the powerful Task Force 38 of Admiral William F. “Bull” Halsey’s U.S. Third Fleet sank or badly damaged numerous enemy vessels, including the battleships Haruna, Ise, and Hyuga the carriers Amagi, Katsuragi, and Ryuho the heavy cruiser Tone and the cruisers Aoba and Oyoda.
The Americans had written off the Japanese fleet as a threat in rear areas, but it was not quite finished because a few of its submarines were still at large. A final offensive by six diesel-powered I-boats, each carrying six kaiten one-man midget submarines (human torpedoes) as well as conventional Long Lance torpedoes, was underway in the Western Pacific.
Early that month, U.S. intelligence experts had decoded Japanese messages and confirmed the presence of four enemy submarines in the main shipping lane to Leyte. On July 24, while shepherding a convoy from Okinawa to Leyte, the destroyer escort USS Underhill was crippled off Luzon by a kaiten from I-53 and then scuttled by submarine chasers. The death toll was 112 officers and men. But an Ultra intelligence intercept of a message from Lt. Cmdr. Mochitsura Hashimoto claiming that his I-58 had sunk an American battleship was dismissed as the usual Japanese exaggeration.
The Indianapolis sailed on across the Philippine Sea, but a series of errors and oversights was sealing her fate. She had no underwater detection equipment and was dependent on radar and eyesight to detect a submarine. Routing officers, meanwhile, had told McVay that he would not need an escort. The cruiser was on her own, and her whereabouts would be unknown for several critical days.
A headquarters radio message to the battleship USS Idaho in the Gulf of Leyte, reporting that the Indianapolis was on her way there, was incorrectly decoded and discarded. Next, a Navy radio relay station on Okinawa somehow lost a routing message to Leyte saying that the cruiser had left Guam. Leyte was unaware that the ship was coming.
Seven hours after the cruiser left Guam, the merchant ship SS Wild Hunter dispatched an urgent message from farther along the cruiser’s planned course, reporting that an enemy periscope had been sighted. The destroyer escort USS Albert Harris and reconnaissance planes investigated but reported losing contact with the submarine.
Steaming to an area northeast of Leyte, the Indianapolis zigzagged to make tracking by enemy forces more difficult, although the maneuver was not required in presumably safe waters. Standard fleet instructions required ships to zigzag only when the visibility was good. Captain McVay’s routing orders directed him to zigzag “at discretion,” which he did by day. The cruiser had no lifeboats and only a few life rafts, but the end of the Pacific War was in sight. The Japanese Navy was no longer seen as a threat, and there was no reason to believe that the voyage to Leyte was anything but a routine assignment.
At twilight on Sunday, July 29, the visibility worsened under cloudy skies and the sea became choppy, so Captain McVay ordered a halt to the zigzagging. The ship resumed a straight, steady course. At 11 pm, after going to the bridge to check on the night watch, he went down to his cabin to sleep.
The Indianapolis was not “buttoned up” above the second deck. Like the Navy’s other aging heavy cruisers, she had no air conditioning to make sleep possible for the crew in tropical waters, so the skipper allowed all ventilation ducts and most bulkheads to remain open. The entire main deck, the doors on the second deck, and the hatches to living spaces below were all open.
15 thoughts on &ldquoUSS Louisville’s second Kamikaze attack in two days&rdquo
My mother, Jane Brown Kennedy, christened the Luck Lady Lou and while she had little to do with it after that, as a Louisville resident, I remain very proud of the Louisville’s service. I was fortunate to meet many former crew members as a child at the 1962 reunion. Strangely enough, we lived in N. Las Vegas in the early 50’s near the NTS and the Louisville’s turret.
My uncle Freddie C Messer is listed as KIA or missing in action as result of Jan . 6, 1945 Kamikaze attack. I find myself more and more wanting to understand just how he died. It is my belief that he may have been in the gun turret that was directly hit by the enemy plane. I fear that he may have been vaporized or that there was little recognizable if anything of his body.
Richard Prima, my dad was also a Pharmicist Mate on the Louisville. He was 20 yrs a old in 44. A story he used to tell was of witnessing the approach of a suicide plane and along with a buddy, running through and athwart the ship only to trip and fall while his friend made it all the way to the opposite rail. He said his frind was killed and he always thought tripping and falling is what saved his life. Dad always viewed his time in the Navy and on the Louisville as a singualr honor. He passed in 2014 at age 90.
USS Dyke with a loss of all hands? What is your reference for this ship? I cannot find any reference to it anywhere.
My dad had a very good friend (Lt. Edward “Deb” O’Connor from San Francisco) who was killed on Jan. 6, 1945. They corresponded throughout the war and we have a number of letters from Lt. O’Connor to my dad that if any of his family are interested I could get them copies.
my Dad was on the uss Louisville during the attack he was in the engine room
I would like to know how to find his medals .
I have his log book.
his name was Jesse Courtney
To all who are interested in the history of the USS Louisville:
Greetings. I have been researching this ship for two years and have published an account of the attack on Jan 5, 9145 that you may find helpful. In it I highlight James (Pappy) Blaylock who at 45 years of age was the oldest enlisted man aboard. You can read an article on this in the August 2017 issue of Sea Classics, or you can download a technical report I developed from the library of Lawrence Livermore National Lab (100MB in size):
Finally, a short news video was made by the Las Vegas TV Channel 8 I-Team that you can watch on Youtube
My account of the Jan 5 attack was developed with the aid of two veterans who were there, one who saw it happen from the USS Portland (just off the Lou’s port quarter), the other a Louisville crewman named Enrico Trotta who was a good friend of Pappy Blaylock.
Most importantly, I am happy to report that a large piece of the Louisville survives to this day at the Nevada Test site and because of this research it is now part of the public tours that you can sign up for.
My father, Richard Prima, was a Pharmacist’s Mate on the Louisville from mid 1943 until they went to Mare Island for repairs in early 1945. He helped care for the many wounded during the Kamikaze attacks. While he always said his time on the Lady Lou were great, he always teared up when recalling the bad days like this one. He was particularly saddened by Adm. Chandler’s death from burn injuries and his heroic efforts to fight the fires along with the rest of the crew. As for questions about sailor’s whereabouts, the Navy records may have those details. Lt. John Stenzel was, unfortunately, listed as killed in the 1944/early 45 cruise book. I have a scanned copy of an article written by newsman Frank Kluckhohn that I’d be glad to email contact me at [email protected]
Lisa Benton – I don’t have any thing to tell you about Jan. 6th. My father, Allen Wages, was your grandfather’s 20mm gunnery mate on the Lady Lou until Jan. 4th. On that day he left the Louisville for electric hydraulics school in Washington, DC. Otherwise I probably not be here to write this. In 1951 my dad named me after your grandfather. :-)
Thomas Fuller, Jack Stenzel was my great uncle. He was killed by the Japanese pilot who crashed into the ship. The imagine captured on film was the moment he was killed. He was buried at sea. His brother, my grandfather had his name put on the family plot.
Hi: I am researching to see if I can find any information on my Uncle Randall B Brindle whom was on the USS Columbia C-56 light cruiser during WWII. S2C Navy Reserve. I am trying to figure out if his body was ever found when the USS Columbia was hit during the invasion of the Luzon. There is a memorial headstone in the Punch Bowl in Hawaii. Not sure if his body is buried there though because it states that he was missing in action. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
My great grandfather, James Blaylock, was killed on Jan. 6th. He was Navy and I believe he was a gunner. I was told that he saved a bunch of his mates by making them go below while he stayed on his gun. I would just like to know anything at all about this event, the day he died. Thanks so much!
While making a personal visit at the cemetery today I came across a grave for a Lt.(JG)named named John L Stenzel marked USS Louisville. He probably was a Chicagoan but I couldn’t find anything about him as a KIA wounded during the kamikaze attack. Perhaps you would point me in the right direction. On the other hand it may be possible that he was lucky enough to have survived but the date of death on the marker is 1945. Thank you from Thomas Fuller in Mokena, Il. US Army veteran
I am a researcher looking into the Louisville. I do not have any personal insight to your uncle but am in touch with two veterans from the Louisville who might remember him.
One is Ralph Hopkins who lives in LO, he was the president of the Louisville alumni association while it was active.
Although I can’t say for sure I believe that it is doubtful your uncle was aboard when these attacks were visited upon the Louisville. The dates were Jan 5 & 6 1945. If he was assigned to the ship in 1945 it was very likely immediately after she returned to Mare Island Navy Yard to repair the battle damage sustained off of Luzon. Ralph Hopkins was assigned to the ship when she arrived at Mare Island, as were a host of others because of the many casualties the Lady Lou suffered on those two fateful days.
I’ll try to respond here again if I find out anything from my contact.
My uncle (James Robert Walls) was assigned to the USS Louisville in 1945. I would like to know if he was a crew member at the time of the attack on Jan. 6, 1945. Please help if possible.
Design [ edit | edit source ]
As built, the Portland class cruisers were to be 610 feet 3 inches (186.00 m) in length overall, and 592 feet (180 m) long at the waterline. Β] 64 feet 6 inches (19.66 m) abeam, Ώ] and with a draft of 21 feet (6.4 m), and 24 feet (7.3 m) maximum. They were designed for a standard displacement of 10,258 tonnes (10,096 long tons 11,308 short tons), and a full-load displacement of 12,755 tonnes (12,554 long tons 14,060 short tons). Γ] However, neither completed ship reached this weight, displacing 9,800 tonnes (9,600 long tons 10,800 short tons) and 9,950 tonnes (9,790 long tons 10,970 short tons), respectively. Β] The ships featured two distinctive raked funnels, a tripod foremast, and a small tower and pole mast aft. In 1943, light tripods were added forward of the second funnel on each ship, and a prominent Naval director was installed aft. Β]
Portland in drydock in Sydney, Australia in 1942
The ships were equipped with four propeller shafts and four Parsons GT geared turbines and eight Yarrow boilers. The power plant of the ships generated 107,000 shaft horsepower (80,000 kW) and the ships had a design speed of 32 knots (59 km/h) The ships were designed for a range of 10,000 nautical miles (19,000 km 12,000 mi) at 15 knots (28 km/h). Β] Both completed ships rolled badly until fitted with bilge keels. ΐ]
The cruisers were armed with a main battery of nine Mark 9 8"/55 caliber guns arrayed in three triple mounts, a superfiring pair fore and one aft. For anti-aircraft defense, they were armed with eight 5"/25 caliber guns as well as two QF 3 pounder Hotchkiss guns. In 1945, the anti-aircraft defenses of both ships were upgraded, with each receiving twenty four Bofors 40 mm guns. On Portland these were arranged in four quad mounts and four twin mounts, and on Indianapolis they were arrayed in six quad mounts. Both ships were also upgraded with twelve Oerlikon 20 mm cannons. Β] No torpedo tubes were fitted on either ship of the class. Δ] The ships were outfitted with Mk. 8 rangekeepers and Mk. 27 directors which also housed auxiliary Mk. VII rangekeepers. Ε]
The Portland class was originally designed with 1 inch (25 mm) of deck protection and 1 inch (25 mm) of side protection, but during construction they were substantially up-armored. ΐ] The ships were completed with belt armor 5 inches (130 mm) thick over the magazines and 3.25 inches (83 mm) elsewhere. Δ] Armored bulkheads were between 2 inches (51 mm) and 5.75 inches (146 mm), deck armor was 2.5 inches (64 mm), the barbettes were 1.5 inches (38 mm), the gunhouses were 2.5 inches (64 mm), and the conning tower was 1.25 inches (32 mm). Β]
Additionally, the Portland class cruisers were designed with space to be outfitted as fleet flagships, with space for an Admiral and his staff to operate. The class also featured an aircraft catapult amidships. Β] They could carry four aircraft. The total crew complement varied, with a regular designed crew complement of 807, Γ] a wartime complement of 952, which could increase to 1,229 when the cruiser was operating as a fleet flagship. Β]
Comparison with previous cruiser designs [ edit | edit source ]
The Portland class was generally longer than the Northampton class by about 10 feet (3.0 m) and featured a revised bow shape. They were otherwise generally similar to the Northampton class, with an extended forecastle to improve sea-keeping abilities. Γ] Their masts were reduced as compared to the Northampton class in order to reduce top weight. Ζ]
When completed, the Pensacola class displaced less than expected, at 9,100 tonnes (9,000 long tons 10,000 short tons), Ώ] which was 1,000 tonnes (980 long tons 1,100 short tons) less than expected, and were found to be greatly deficient in their protection. ΐ] For the following Northampton class, the armor protection was increased to 1,057 tonnes (1,040 long tons 1,165 short tons) with 3 inches (76 mm) of armor along the main belt. Η] Still, these ships only displaced between 9,050 tonnes (8,910 long tons 9,980 short tons) and 9,300 tonnes (9,200 long tons 10,300 short tons) Ώ] While the Portland class cruisers were more heavily armored than the preceding classes, this problem was found to be so significant that in fiscal year 1929, an entirely different design was formulated for a new class of cruisers, the New Orleans class. Several of the Portland hulls were then converted to New Orleans hulls during construction. ΐ]
The Portland class were also designed with more advanced armament in mind. Their main guns were the first to be specially designed to fire long-point projectiles with a streamlined shape, which increased the guns' range when compared with older cruiser guns. Such projectiles were in use by ships of the Imperial Japanese Navy, which until that point out-ranged U.S. cruisers with their firepower. ⎖] The New Orleans class was designed with these lessons in mind, intended to create a better balance between protection, armament and speed. ⎗]
Career of the Portlands
In May 1943, these two ships were taken over for a complete rebuilding, among other things to clear the bow for the AA, more than doubled. The superstructure was rebuilt, lightened and lowered, with an open deck, and the tripod mast was removed in favor of a lattice structure in front of the rear funnel. The AA went up to 4 quadruple and 4 doubles 40 mm Bofors and 12 singles 20 mm Oerlikon guns. The two ships were heavily engaged in the Pacific. These modifications were the prototypes of the subsequent Northampton redesigns.
USS Portland at Mare Island Naval Shipyard 30 July 1944
The Portland (CA33), was very active and deployed during most major naval operations of the Pacific, and several times damaged. She survived the war and was broken up in December 1959. In 1945, USS Indianapolis became (in)famous. First for delivering the Bomb A (“Little Boy”) at Tinian base, where a B29 named Enola Gay sewn apocalypse over Hiroshima. As a kind of stroke of fate (and vengeance for the people of Hiroshima), the cruiser on her return on July 29 was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine. She sank quickly, taking a large part of her crew, while survivors were left stranded in the burning oil, dyring of exhaustion and fatigue, and famously unrelentless shark attacks for several days before being saved. This was the last ship of the US Navy and last of the allies to be sunk during the Second World War.
2 views of the USS Portland (top) and Indianapolis in 1944, colorized y Hirootoko Jr.
Displacement: 10 258 t. standard -12 755 t. Fuly loaded
Dimensions: 185,9 m long, 20,12 m wide, 6,40 m draft
Machines: 4 shafts turbines Parsons, 8 Yarrow boilers, 107 000 hp.
Top speed: 32,5 knots
Armor: belt 57, turrets 65, decks 160-50
Armament: 9 x 8 in (203mm) (3×3), 8 x 5in (127mm), 8 x .5 cal. (12,7 mm) M2HB AA, 4 seaplanes
USS Portland in 1945, the horizontal livery in effect since the end of 1944: Light gray/medium gray/dark blue – Illustration by the author
Five ships were ordered in fiscal year 1930, to be constructed by three builders. In 1931, CA-32, CA-34, and CA-36, all ordered with Westinghouse machinery, were converted to the New Orleans-class.   Portland was laid down by Bethlehem Steel at Quincy Shipyard on 17 February 1930, and Indianapolis was laid down by New York Shipbuilding Corporation on 31 March 1930.   The hull and machinery of both ships was provided by their respective builders.  Indianapolis was launched first, on 7 November 1931 and commissioned on 15 November 1932. Portland was launched on 21 May 1932 and commissioned on 23 February 1933. 
USS Portland (CA-33), Mare Island, 30 July 1944 - History
From the TenderTale Webmaster-
A point that must be made: Auxillaries (which is what a Submarine Tender is) are by nature, armament, training, etc. not combatants. Their job is to provide forward support and supply for combatants (specifically Submarines in this case) which do take the "war" to the enemy. Auxillaries aren't supposed to wind up in battle areas - in harm's way - yet - when needed - inspite of knowing the risks - certain auxillaries have not only been "caught up in a battle" - but intentionally ordered in - as they were best available to do the job at hand. This is a story of such an instance - in probably the single most important Pacific battle in World War II.
This story is yet another TenderTale told in the "first person". We feel it very important that the story be told by the person themselves in their own words - so that you - the reader are exposed to not only the "facts" of the story - but the emotions of what it was like to be a Tender Sailor at the time and place this story happened. There is nothing fiction here - while the writer notes very strongly that some is from his memories - memories somewhat faded by the passage of time - every effort has been made to ensure that the essence of the story is as accurate to history as possible.
Mr. Meyer tells the Fulton's (and his) story through a commentary that relates his personal experience and memories- combined with a chronological time table of the details of the battle as it developed - and the ship and her crew's eventual involvement in front-line action.
Here then is TenderTale Five:
The USS Fulton (AS 11) at the Battle for Midway
as told by crew member Charles J. Meyer HTCM, USN, Retired.
Some that read this account will find it difficult to understand the events and situations that existed during the earliest and darkest days of World War II. Secrecy was on the minds of every one. Slogans such as "Loose lips sink ships" were the key phrases of the day. Even our troops going into battle and ships on missions to engage an enemy fleet were told little or nothing about the operation. The reasoning seemed logical, should you be captured you would have little to no information that would aid the enemy. Very different from today's coverage of events, where T V cameras are located on the beach to televise an invasion and news reporters accompany the troops and radio in uncensored reports of action and casualties as they happen.
I thank God, for that policy of secrecy that existed in the early part of the Pacific conflict, our losses at Pearl Harbor were only partially reported, and our ship losses were seldom reported until months after the fact. For example in this story, the sinking of the USS Yorktown (CV 5) that occurred on 7 June 1942, was not reported to the general public until September of 1942. The Japanese knew they had sunk an aircraft carrier but never were certain (or so we were told) which one. It was also recorded in several of the books I've used to research this report, that the Japanese had rescued American pilots during the battle. They were grilled and tortured for information about the size and location of our forces on Midway and number of ships and planes in the Midway area. After getting the maximum amount of information from them, they were killed or just tossed overboard.
Secrecy about everything and anything was the way we lived, and we aboard Fulton at no time knew of a pending action to protect or defend Midway. We knew about increased vigilance against possible enemy air attacks on Pearl Harbor, and we saw the major U. S. Fleet units come in and leave port, but these were every day occurrences, and normal to expected events. When the Fulton received orders to get underway that evening of 4 June 1942, we never had a clue to why we were leaving port or where we were going. Many initially thought another attack on Pearl Harbor was pending. It wasn't until the next day when we started making preliminary preparations to take aboard battle survivors that the rumors started flying and even then we received only enough information to help us prepare for our mission.
In retrospect also, the reader must understand that the 1940s war technology was never so advanced, as it was in future wars. Radar had just been invented and was in it's infancy, few of our ships had any, the Fulton a new ship had one unit, and keeping it operating was a constant job. Radio communications between ships and planes was often a problem because of secrecy. At one time during the transfer of wounded survivors from the heavy cruiser USS Portland to the USS Fulton -- Portland's float scout plane flew over us and dropped a bean bag message onto the bridge of the Portland, saying there were Japanese submarines in our area. It was a crude way to pass a message but effective.
The speed of planes in those days was painfully slow when compared to plane speeds of today. Patrol planes such as the PBY Catalina's air speed was around 100 miles per hour, and even our fighter aircraft were very slow as compared to planes of the 1950's to the present era. The duration of their flights were limited, and as often happened during the Midway operations, the pilot's often ran out of fuel and crash landed in the ocean, because they tried to stretch their fuel and get a few licks at the Japanese fleet.
The service men of those days, the old hands or the new recruit had only one thing in mind, that was to avenge the loss of ships and shipmates lost during the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor. Many a man spent two or three years over seas during the war, I personally spent 44 months in the Pacific war zones, having been in the continental United States only one month from the time I left for Pearl Harbor until my ship's return in October of 1945. I had just turned 17 the day they signed me into the Navy, I was not yet 21 when I was first discharged. All of us were dedicated to do whatever our country asked of us regardless of the consequences. Many of us expected to die,, but the Lord was with us. It was a different time and attitude of the U. S. People, they were united behind and for the troops. Our nation had just come out of a depression, money was scarce, my father and mother worked in an automobile factory for 60 - 70 cents an hour. I received $21.00 a month for my first 4 months in the Navy, at the time of the Battle for Midway I was making $36.00 a month. Admirals (so I've been told) in command of Battle forces had massive? paydays of $600.00 a month. Compare those amounts with service members pay of today. A recruit entering the service to day earns in excess of $700.00 a month.
Weather forecasting was more of an educated guess rather than today's 5 to 7 day forecast that are extremely accurate. The weather played a major part in the Battle for Midway, allowing the Japanese forces to advance towards Midway under cloud cover, our patrol and scout planes could fly above the clouds but could not spot the ships below them. Ships still relied on lookouts up in the mast to spot other ships and land falls. Signal flags, and blinker lights using Morse code was a prime means of close support communications. Radio was of course used but was able to be picked up and used by the enemy, codes were used but with difficulty. No satellites or TV, and no instant replay.
Medicine was much improved from our earlier wars but pale in comparison to the technology that exists today. Penicillin had just been invented, cuts and wounds were often treated with sulfa drugs, and a black salve. Aspirin or a similar service drug was the normal prescribed drug for what ever ailed you. During times of enemy action, little attention was given to a seriously wounded shipmate, he may die anyway, so help the guy with minor wounds who could get back on his gun and continue to engage the enemy. After the intensity of the battle, then help those more seriously wounded. War was and is hell, the survival of the ship and many men had preference over a single or a few souls.
So in retrospect, remember those early days of the war in the Pacific, had little resemblance to the actions of today. I personally feel the men of W.W.II were more dedicated to their shipmate and their country than today's service personnel. They adapted and fought with valor and dedication much like the men who fought in W.W.I.
|The Midway Atoll - Eastern Island in the foreground with Midway's Airfield and Sand Island in the background - on which was built the "rest" of the base - including fuel tanks, etc. Hard to believe that the outcome of a war that raged over thousands of miles of the Pacific Ocean - would turn on the battle for this tiny piece of land.|
The BATTLE of MIDWAY in June of 1942 has come to be recognized as the most decisive and significant naval action since Trafalgar. As Winston Churchill wrote, "This memorable American victory was of cardinal importance, not only to the United States, but to the whole allied cause . At one stroke, the dominant position of Japan in the Pacific was reversed. The annals of war at sea presents no more intense, heart-shaking shock. the qualities of the United States Navy and Air Force and the American race shone forth in splendor." These quotes are from WALTER Lord's book "INCREDIBLE VICTORY".
The USS Fulton (AS-1 1), a Submarine Tender had a small yet vital roll in the final tally of events and conclusion of the Battle For The Midway Islands. An action the ship or her officers and crew had never envisioned but an operation that was performed in the highest traditions of the U S Navy's standards of courage, skill, and devotion to duty. Only Admiral Nimitz knew the reasoning for his ordering the Fulton out to the battle zone on June 4th 1942. Some say it was his only option there being no other ship in Pearl Harbor that had the speed to reach the area near the sinking aircraft carrier Yorktown (CV-5) and able to take aboard the thousands of survivors. Only Admiral Nimitz knew the situation and what resources he had available on the scene and left in port, but he wanted to leave his battle task groups unencumbered with survivors and able to continue the fight.
This chronological information contained here in has been compiled from several books and my personal memory that has faded since the events happened some 56 years ago. It encompasses a time frame, of when the Fulton was commissioned, and the Japanese were planing their attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and later their planed attack and occupation of Midway Island.
Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto commanded the Japanese Combined Fleet. The primary battle forces were aircraft carriers and their supporting ships consisting of cruisers, destroyers, and oilers. An advance Submarine Force of 15 boats were disbursed in and around the Midway area to cordon it off. The Japanese also had a Midway Invasion Force comprised of battleships, cruisers, destroyers, air craft carriers, 12 transports carrying troops, oilers, supply ships, repair ship, sea plane tender, minesweepers, and cargo ships, over 200 ships in all for the combined operation. The Japanese also had a diversion (Northern Aleutians) Fleet of considerable strength that was designed to confuse and split U. S. Forces.
Admiral Chester W. Nimitz commanded the United States Pacific Fleet and Pacific Ocean Areas Commanding Carrier Striking Force (Task force 17) was RADM Frank Jack Fletcher aboard the USS Yorktown CV-5, with 2 heavy cruisers and 6 destroyers. Commanding (Task Force 16) was RADM Raymond A. Spruance, and the carriers Enterprise CV-6, and Hornet CV-8, with 6 cruisers and 9 destroyers. Two oilers with 2 destroyers accompanying, were attached to this group. Twelve (12) submarines were in the Midway Patrol group. Midway Shore-Based Air Detachments consisted of 32 PBY Catalinas, 6 TBF's: The Marine Aircraft Group consisted of 20 F2A's, 7 F4F's, 11 SB2U's and 16 SBD's.: The Army Air Force detachment consisted of 4 B-26s and 19 B-17's. The Midway Local Defenses consisted primarily of the 6th Marine Defense Battalion. On Midway also were 8 PT boats, small patrol craft, and an oiler group with supporting destroyers. The U. S. Forces in the Aleutian Campaign were considerable, but not involved in the Midway Action so is not mentioned further in this text.
Exerts from USS Fulton (AS 1 1) War Diary (1-30 June 1942)
Report of the USS Fulton
Operating as tender for Submarine Squadron EIGHT, under Commander Submarines, Pacific Fleet, in accordance with Commander-in-Chief U. S. Pacific Fleet (CINCPAC) dispatch of February 1942.
G7.12 Submarine Squadron EIGHT USS Fulton, (AS 1 1) a submarine tender, Commander A. D. Douglas, U. S. Navy, Commanding.
Location and General Activities. (June 1, 1942) The USS Fulton (AS 11) was moored at Pier S-1, Submarine Base, Pearl Harbor, T. H. (Territory of Hawaii). Engaged in training, and providing tender services for Submarines of Submarine Squadron EIGHT and such other submarines as are assigned to Fulton, for voyage and refit repairs, by commander Submarines, Pacific Fleet. Anti-aircraft batteries manned for Base Defense Conditions as prescribed by the Commandant, Fourteenth Naval District, the CINCPAC, and the Commander Submarines, Pacific Fleet. USS Growler (SS-215) moored alongside to port.
|19 July 1939||Keel for the USS Fulton (AS 11) was laid, at the Mare Island Navy Yard in Vallejo, California. The fourth U. S. Ship to be named in honor of inventor and ship designer ROBERT Fulton.|
|27 December 1940||Fulton was launched under the sponsorship of Mrs. Arthur T. Sutcliffe, great-granddaughter of Robert Fulton.|
|12 September 1941||Fulton Commissioned at Mare Island Navy Yard, California.|
|16 October 1941||Fulton passes under the Golden Gate Bridge at 1304 hours and noses out into the Pacific for builders' trials on her virgin voyage.|
|22 November 1941||Fulton puts to sea, heading South, stops at San Diego on 25 November 1941|
|1 December 1941||Fulton gets underway from San Diego in a dense fog. The fog lifts, a destroyer is aground but the Fulton is well clear. She noses out to sea and turns her bow Southward for Balboa, Panama Canal Zone on her Shakedown Cruise|
|7 December 1941||Japanese Attack Pearl Harbor, Hawaii: Fulton goes to General Quarters after receiving the word at 1345 hours that there was an air raid on Pearl Harbor, Fulton strips for action and starts zig-zagging. "This is no drill", extra lookouts posted, every merchant ship a potential "Jap!" The silence that followed the announcement was deafening, all the crew exclaimed "Just show us the Japs"|
|10 December 1941||Japanese captures Guam|
|23 December 1941||Wake Island falls to Japanese forces|
|12 December through 27 January 1942||Fulton is assigned various missions of building advanced sea plane bases in Central America and on a Pacific Island near the Equator: Davey Jones come back aboard after giving us a reprieve from when we first passed over the line on January 21st and with proper ceremony, Pollywogs became Shellbacks on 27 January 1942|
|31 December 1941 at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii||At 1000 hours Admiral Chester W. Nimitz assumes command of the U. S. Pacific Fleet, Aboard the Submarine USS Grayling an appropriate setting in view of his long background as a submariner.|
|Late December 1941||Isoroku Yamamoto, Commander-in-Chief of Japan's Combined Fleet, stated "We should occupy Midway"|
|11 January 1942||USS Saratoga torpedoed and goes to Bremerton for repairs.|
|1 - 14th January 1942||Japanese Admirals complete plans and sketch, including the attack and occupation of Midway Island. As the plan developed, the operation had a two fold aim: First to occupy the atoll and convert it into a Japanese Air Base and jumping off place for an invasion of Hawaii second to lure the U. S. Pacific Fleet into the Midway area for a knock-down, drag- out fight which would finish it off|
|31 January 1942||Fulton leaves Central America and heads for the States.|
|9 February 1942||Fulton arrives in San Diego, CA. And ties up at the Broadway Piers, Commander of Submarine Squadron EIGHT moves his flag aboard.|
|13 February 1942||Fulton receives a draft of 300 new recruits straight out of Boot Camp. I was a member of that group, I had enlisted only 43 days ago, on 1 January 1942. I was slated for submarine duty, but was sent to the pipe and copper shop until I received some training.|
|15 February 1942||Singapore surrenders to the Japanese.|
|1-28 February 1942||Japanese victories continue to mount with the landings at Rabaul, Java Sea battle victories, sinking of the old carrier USS Langley, and the cruiser USS Houston, the loss of the British battleship HMS Prince of Wales and battle cruiser HMS Repulse, and air raids on Darwin in northern Australia. U. S. carrier forces and submarines continued to fight with limited success.|
|8 March 1942||Fulton joins a convoy and heads for Pearl Harbor Hawaii|
|13 March 1942||Fulton enters Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and we view the results of the blitz sunken ships, some capsized and others still smoldering, the whole harbor was covered with oil, it was a sight and smell none of us will ever forget.|
|16 March 1942||Fulton receives it's first submarine alongside, The USS Drum (SS-228): I had never seen a submarine before, she looked sleek and deadly, I could hardly wait to go aboard her.|
|All of March 1942||Japanese plans on Midway attack are firmed up.|
|2-5 April 1942||Japan's High Command (Premier Hideki Tojo) approve of Midway attack|
|5 April 1942||Japanese sink two British Cruisers in Colombo|
|9 April 1942||Japanese sink British carrier HMS Hermes and destroyer HMS Vampire at Trincomalee, Ceylon|
|18 April 1942||Lieutenant Colonel James (Jimmy) Doolittle, and 16 B-25 bombers flew off the aircraft carrier USS Hornet and bombed Tokyo, Yokohama, and other Japanese cities|
|All of April 1942||Fulton continues to support and refit submarines for their mission against Japanese merchant and war ships. Fulton furnishes working parties to assist on unloading ammunition etc., from sunken battleships, and relieving navy base shop workers by taking over several repair shops on nights and weekends.|
|28-29 April 1942||Admiral Yamamoto, holds Midway attack strategy meeting aboard his flagship Yamato|
|29 April 1942||Nimitz advises CINCPAC, Admiral Ernest J. King, of Midway situation as follows: "Defenses Midway [break] Consider island at present able to withstand moderate attack but would require fleet assistance forward against major attck[break] will give full consideration to such strengthening and development as may be practicable"|
|March & April 1942||Nimitz and his Combined Fleet Staff were diligent in attempting to predict the Japanese next targets and thus circumvent them. Commander Joseph Rocheford, chief of the Combat Intelligence Office familiarly know as "Hypo" headed the Pearl Harbor based cryptanalysis section of Navy intelligence, they worked to break the Japanese code "JN25". Their team could read parts of each Japanese message.|
|1- 4 May 1942||Japanese forces conduct preliminary war games for Midway attack.|
|2 May 1942||Nimitz inspects Midway defenses.|
|5 May 1942||Japanese Admiral Nagano orders Midway and Aleutians operations.|
|All of May 1942||Fulton continues to service submarines, as ship's force carrying out routine upkeep and training. As a potential submarine crewmember I was sent to the Diving Tower and qualified for escaping from a sunken sub. Daily we had frequent dispatches to take condition of "Readiness One for Action", so we go to General Quarters and man all the guns. During this time Fulton is also modified and recieves upgraded armament, replacing 50-caliber machine-guns with 20-MM guns. Work ashore on sunken battle ships continue, 16 & 18 hour days are the normal, we sleep in the shops aboard Fulton, as the work goes on.|
|6 May 1942||Corregidor surrenders to the Japanese.|
|7 - 11 May 1942||Battle of the Coral Sea USS Lexington sunk, USS Yorktown (CV-5) damaged. Two Japanese carriers hit, (Shoho sunk and Shokaku damaged.) [Lexington actually sunk on 8 May]|
|10 May 1942||Midway Island sent a fake message that they were short of water. (This was a trap message to confirm the Japanese main target was Midway Island)|
|12 May 1942||Navy Intelligence [Hypo] intercepts a Japanese message that "AF" (Japanese code name for Midway) is short of water, and through this "innocent" message - falll into the trap that confirms that Miday is in fact "AF" and is the target of their planned invasion.|
|15 May 1942||Nimitz orders Halsey's task force to Pearl Harbor|
|17 May 1942||The submarine USS Triton (SS 201) torpedoed and sank the Japanese submarine I-164 while it was on the surface off Kyushu.|
|17 May 1942||Nimitz orders North Pacific Task force to the Aleutians consisting of heavy and light cruisers and destroyers with support vessels|
|18 May 1942||7th Army Air Force placed on special "Alert" new B-17s begin to arrive in Hawaii from mainland.|
|18 May 1942||At 1347 hours Fulton again goes to G. Q. - ready for action, all guns manned and preparations for getting underway made.|
|20th-21st May 1942||Japanese's Midway attack and occupying forces sortie from Japan and rendezvous for exercises at sea and also some forces meet at Saipan. American forces on Midway Islands are on full alert . General George Marshall flew to the West Coast, fearing the Japanese would very soon strike the southern areas in reprisal for the Doolittle raid on Tokyo|
|22 May 1942||Demolition charges tripped and blow up Midways gasoline dump.|
|22-26 May 1942||Reinforcements poor into Midway. U. S. intelligence intercepts Japanese message indicating "D" Day for attack was 3 June 1942.|
|26 May 1942||U S Aircraft Carriers Enterprise and Hornet arrive in Pearl Harbor. Admiral Halsey too ill to command the operation and he recommends Spruance to take over command.|
|27 May 1942||Japanese forces sortie toward Midway. The U. S. carriers Enterprise and Hornet are refurbished and remanned. At 1352 , The damaged aircraft carrier Yorktown enters Pearl Harbor for repairs. Fulton crew observes the Yorktown and her damage as they nudge her into berth 16. It was estimated that it would take 3 months to put Yorktown back in prime fighting condition, but the circumstances directed it would take a minimum of about two to three weeks.|
|28 May 1942||Task Force 16 (Enterprise and Hornet, with support ships leave Pearl Harbor) head to sea with Admiral Spruance in command to await Japanese attack forces off Midway.|
|28 May 1942||Admiral Fletcher named commander of U. S. Task Forces for Midway operations (His flag is aboard USS Yorktown). Yorktown moved from Berth 16 to Dry Dock #1 at 0645|
|29 May 1942||Midway receives additional Army Air Force bombers and crews (B-17 and B-26s) Commander Logan C. Ramsey was sent to Midway to co-ordinate all air operations.|
|30 May 1942||Japanese submarine I-123 find U. S. Ships at French Frigate Shoals, which they had planned to use as a base for their seaplanes. Operation "K" postponed. NOTE: This was a flying boat mission intended to furnish the Japanese with intelligence on the U S Pacific Fleet positions. The submarine was to refuel the flying boats at French Frigate Shoals.|
|30 May 1942||Task Force 17 sorties from Pearl Harbor, Yorktown, (hastily repaired in less than 48 hours) supported by the heavy cruisers Astoria and Portland and destroyers Hammann, Hughes, Morris, Anderson and Russell.|
|31 May 1942||The Stage was set: Towards Midway ----- two tiny specks almost invisible on a map of the Pacific ---- raced the sea power of the United States of America and Empire of Japan. With the ships rode the intangibles. Would the Japanese with their superior tonnage and firepower and habit of victory succeed in another convincing victory? . Or would the U. S. Navy, out manned and out gunned, but with surprise, flexibility, naval intelligence and a grit determination to stop the Japanese victory parade be enough for a convincing United States Victory.|
|Movements of the various fleets. The Japanese deployed a total of ten task forces -- any one of which was a serious threat to both of the task forces sent by the Americans (the tenth "force" from the Japanese side was the submarine cordon line stretched between Hawaii and Midway. Had that line intercepted either task force leaving Hawaii - the results would have undoubtedly been much different.|
|31 May 1942||Fulton crew senses emergency, all liberty is cancelled until further notice|
|1 June 1942||Japanese midget submarine penetrates Sydney Australia harbor and fires torpedo at U. S. Cruiser Chicago, missing it but hitting ferry boat being used as barrack-ship for sailors killing a number of them. All three Japanese Midget Submarines involved were sunk.|
|1 June 1942||Fulton continues her daily routine, voyage repairs to submarines, and training. The crew observed the departing of fleet units, and a sense of caution that existed in the port area, what we didn't know was that a major battle was shaping up for the control of the Midway Islands.|
|2 June 1942||1023||Fulton shifts berths, to pier S-13, Submarine Base, Pearl Harbor, T. H. Moored Port side to.|
|2 June 1942||1600||U. S. Task Forces 16 (Enterprise & Hornet) and 17 (Yorktown) rendezvoused at designated spot named "Point Luck" (32° North Latitude, 173° West longitude, about 325 miles northwest of Midway)|
|2 June 1942||Japanese positioned two cordons of submarines between Midway and Pearl Harbor for surveillance and to attack any fleet vessels that may attempt to join the battle for Midway Island.|
|3 June 1942||0700||Japanese 2nd Carrier Striking Force attack Dutch Harbor: "AO" (Japanese code name for Aleutians) is the main target of Japan's diversionary thrust against the lonely Aleutians.|
|3 June 1942||0900||Japanese escort forces spot U. S. planes flying search missions from Midway. Jack Reed in a PBY had spotted elements of the Japanese Invasion force, 700 miles from Midway.|
|3 June 1942||1228||Midway B-17s take off to strike Japanese force.|
|3 June 1942||1640||B-17s attack Japanese Transport group no hits.|
|3 June 1942||2115||4 PBYs with torpedoes attached to their wings take off from Midway to make a night attack on Japanese forces.|
|4 June 1942||0245||PBYs (Catalinas) report attack completed on Japanese Transport group, one hit reported no sinkings.|
|0400||Midway sends out search planes, and B-17s to attack the Japanese Transport group, also protective cover aircraft for the island|
|0430||Japanese begin launching attack aircraft towards Midway. From the carriers Akagi, Kaga, Soryu, and Hiryu respectively, they launched 108 planes consisting of Zero fighters, dive bombers and straight bombers.|
|0530||Air crews alerted on Midway, they waited and they watched.|
|0530||Reveille aboard Fulton, another routine day, we continue voyage repairs to submarines alongside, ships force carrying out routine upkeep and training. No hint of the major battle that is just starting for the Midway Islands.|
|4 June 1942 |
|0534-0645||Enterprise receives a report on a Japanese carrier Midway aircraft scramble aloft to meet the Japanese, out numbered and unable to match the attack capabilities of the Zero fighters, the Navy and Marine pilots shoot down and damage several of the bombers,. The Japanese continued on their mission to knock out the air defense on Midway, Sand and Eastern Island. The air battle was fierce and our losses heavy.|
|4 June 1942 |
|0630-0643||Midway defenders ordered to open fire when Japanese planes are within range. The PT boats were underway in the lagoon, their machine guns and even rifles and pistols at the alert. The level bombers reached Midway first and concentrated on Sand Island.. Anti-Aircraft (AA) fire brought down two of the attacking bombers. Fuel tanks on the Northeast end of the island suffered a direct hit. AA guns were knocked out. On Eastern Island, the hanger was hit, the power house was demolished knocking off all electricity and the water distillation plant. Fuel lines between the dock area and the main gas storage areas were destroyed, now all planes had to be fueled from drums of gas via hand pumps. The marine mess hall and post exchange were hit and knocked out. The Navy Dispensary, clearly marked with a big red cross on the roof was completely demolished along with the laundry. After the bombers had left the zeros came in strafing the area.|
|0643-0700||Japanese end the 1st attacks on Midway Islands and start their return to their carriers. They lost 8 bombers and 3 Zeros, with a number of bombers and Zeros damaged. American losses were worse, fourteen pilots lost out of 26, and only two of the fighter aircraft were fit to fly again. 20 men were killed on the ground. A Japanese pilot reports "There is need for second attack". Midway defenders had done their gallant if not very effective best.|
|0700-0707||USS Hornet and USS Enterprise launch a total of 116 aircraft for a coordinated strike of torpedo and dive bombers with fighter escort towards the Japanese carriers some 200 miles away.|
|0710-0755||Midway Navy, Marine and Army planes attack Japanese carriers, the garrison had launched a determined, gallant but futile attack with no tangible results, and many planes lost.|
|(4 June 1942)||0800||USS Nautilus attacks Mobile Force, no hits. Depth-charged repeatedly|
|0820-0918||Japanese Admiral receives report of American task force that includes carriers his carriers Hiryu and Soryu had total of 36 dive bombers on deck, and the Akagi and Kaga had torpedo bombers with land bombs, all ready for a second attack on Midway. His Zeros were in the air and needed to be landed, rearmed and refueled. A decision was made to change from bombs to torpedoes for attacking the American carrier forces. The USS Yorktown (CV-5) at this time began launching her aircraft: All returning Japanese aircraft land aboard the carriers. All planes will be refueled and rearmed and ready to attack U. S. Forces around 1100. Reports received from his scout plane "10 enemy (U.S.) torpedo planes are heading towards you".|
|0955-1022||USS Enterprise's SBDs (32 Dauntles Dive Bombers) spot the Japanese Mobile Force. Initial contact for attack was the carriers Akagi and Kaga. Kaga was hit by bombs, squarely amidst the planes massed for take off, instantly the flight deck was a holocaust. Additional bomb hits in the vicinity of the forward elevator exploded in the hanger deck causing the fully armed and fueled planes that were ready for the next attack on Midway Island to explode, the ship was doomed and abandon ship was sounded.|
|1022-1042||Lt. Richard H. Best led his 5 SBDs against the Japanese carrier Akagi, dropping bombs on the flight deck as the carrier was attempting to launch fighter (Zeros) aircraft. The bombs were fused to penetrate the flight deck and explode in the hanger deck.. The Enterprise dive bombers had caught the Akagi with her flight deck full of armed and fueled aircraft plus, bombs destined for Midway that had been removed so torpedoes could be installed for the attack on the U S Task forces, had not been returned to storage. The induced explosions of planes, fuel and armament doomed the Akagi, and turned her into "a burning hell".|
|1025||USS Yorktown planes start bombing runs against Soryu, she was hit several times and bombs exploded in her hanger deck fires enveloped the whole ship in no time. Exactly half an hour had passed from the first hit on Soryu until "Abandon Ship" was sounded. Thirty short minutes had transformed Soryu from a smart, proud carrier -- to a burned-out crematorium. The dive bombers had accomplished in a matter of minutes what the preceding attack waves had failed to do in 3 hours. The torpedo bombers had failed to dent a single Japanese ship.|
|1150||The U. S. dive-bombers did not escape unscathed. The Yorktown group was the most fortunate- no one was lost in this action. Enterprise was not so lucky, she had lost fourteen dive bombers, of which a number had to ditch at sea for lack of gas.|
|(4 June 1942)||1200||As the Yorktown planes returned to their ship they received a wave-off, Yorktown was under attack. Support vessels were ordered to assume Victor formation against the air attack, the heavy cruisers Astoria and Portland on Yorktown's port and starboard bow with the destroyers setting up an outer screen.. Damage control parties were on station, all guns manned, and 12 Wildcat fighters were sent aloft to meet the incoming Japanese bombers and fighters. At about 15 miles out the USS Yorktown planes, assisted by 6 planes from the USS Enterprise tangle with the Japanese Zero fighters and bombers. Before the enemy planes could reach Yorktown 10 of their planes had been shot down.|
|1201||Yorktown's gunners took up their ships defense, shooting down several dive bombers as they dove on the ship, but their bombs fell on the Yorktown's deck, killing or wounding over 36 men. A hole ten feet square was blown in the center of the flight deck, fires were started in planes on the hanger deck. Fires from a bomb with a delayed action fuse exploded in the Yorktown's stack, snuffing out fires in her boilers, and causing her speed to drop to about 6 knots.|
|1220||Yorktown at a dead standstill, her damage control crews continue fighting fires and repairing the damage from the 3 bomb hits. Carpenters rushed to the flight deck and with their know-how and determination had the flight deck usable within 25 minutes. The boiler room crew ignoring the searing heat and choking fumes and constant danger of being blown to bits, soon (1 hour and 20 minutes after the breakdown flag was hoisted) worked up sufficient steam to get her underway again.|
|1313||Admiral Fletcher realizing the damaged Yorktown was no longer practical to serve as his flagship decided to remove his flag to the heavy cruiser Astoria. The staff sliding down manila lines into the Astoria's #2 whale boat, and Admiral Fletcher lowered by two seamen into the boat. Immediately upon arriving aboard the Astoria, Fletcher informed Admiral Nimitz of the situation CINCPAC dispatched to the scene the minesweeper Vireo from Hermes Reef and the fleet tug Navajo from French Frigate Shoals. He also diverted the destroyer Gwin, already a day out of Pearl Harbor en route to join Spruance, to augment Yorktown's guard.|
|1437||Yorktown built up enough speed to make a respectable 19 knots. A spontaneous cheer rang out from every ship in the carriers screening forces. Yorktown was still alive.|
|1443-1454||Planes from the Japanese carrier Hiryu, attack the Yorktown for a second time, and score two torpedo hits on her port side piercing the port fuel tanks, flooded three fire rooms and the forward generator room - cutting off all electrical power. A short in the control board blocked off the emergency generators. Her rudder jammed for the second time that afternoon. Yorktown stopped in her tracks and tilted to a 17° list to port. Within about ten minutes after the torpedoes struck she was leaning 26°.|
|4 June 1942 |
|Hornet had experienced a tragic and frustrating day. She had lost all her torpedo bombers her dive-bombers had missed the action entirely and her fighters ditched for lack of fuel. And while playing good Samaritan to refugee planes from the Yorktown a wounded pilot crashed his Wildcat without cutting off his machine guns, the impact sprayed slugs into the carriers island killing five men and wounding twenty. The killed included the son of the Commander in Chief of the Atlantic Fleet, Admiral Ingersoll.|
|4 June 1942 |
|1455||With all power and communications lost, the ship healing over to where her flight deck almost touched the water. Her ruptured fuel tanks spreading a deadly oil film around the ship that even a small spark would ignite and turn it into a sheet of flame, Captain Buckmaster, orders the 3000 men aboard to abandon ship. Yorktown was a dead loss as an aircraft carrier. Her only remaining assets were the men aboard her. The blue and white signal flag was hoisted "Abandoning Ship": The USS Balch (DD- 363), Benham, Russell, and Anderson (Destroyers) closed in to pick up the evacuees, while others established an anti submarine screen. The removal of Yorktown's wounded was very difficult because of the ships list and slippery decks. By various means the wounded were lowered gently or carried bodily to the rescue ships. Sailors from the other ships dived in the water to assist those unable to swim. Cargo nets, life rafts, and motor boats all played their part. Captain Buckmaster made an inspection of the ship before he also abandoned her, he went aboard a life raft and was later picked up by the destroyer Hammann and thence to the cruiser Astoria.|
|1445-1550||The Japanese carrier Hiryu was located by U S scout planes, Admiral Spruance immediately ordered aloft all airworthy attack aircraft, some armed with 1000# bombs others with 500# bombs.|
|1645||U S Planes from Enterprise and Yorktown (flying from Enterprise) sight the Japanese carrier Hiryu.|
|1701-1705||U. S. Planes attack Hiryu, she is hit by four bombs in rapid succession, fires spread throughout the ship. Burning from bow to stern she was still running at high speed like a mad bull.|
|1707||Planes from the Hornet join the attack on other ships, No hits.|
|1745||B-17s from Midway Island attack other Japanese ships, same results as earlier in the day. No hits.|
|1750-2000||Japanese carriers Kaga and Soryu are sunk, while all hands abandon the sinking Akagi.|
|2015||The USS Fulton received verbal instructions from the Commander Submarines Pacific Fleet to prepare to get underway as soon as possible. As I recall, we were totaly unaware that a major battle had been taking place just off Midway Island. The crew was watching the movie "Sergeant York", on the boat deck when the word was passed, and the movie stopped. All hands prepared the ship for sea.|
|2204||The USS Fulton was underway, in compliance with CINCPAC dispatch of 4 June, and stood out of Pearl Harbor. The USS Breese (DM- 18) and USS Allen (DD-66) joined as escorts. Proceeded to northwestward, zigzagging at seventeen knots speed, towards prescribed rendezvous with undesignated vessels of Task Force 16 and Task Force 17 who are to transfer excess personnel on board (survivors of Midway battle) to Fulton for transportation to Pearl Harbor. Expect to make rendezvous in forenoon six June.|
|5 June 1942||0130||The Japanese submarine I-168 fires on Midway Island, no damage. Shortly thereafter the I-168 is ordered to sink a U. S. carrier 150 miles away.|
|0200||The USS Fulton, continues on her mission of mercy, transversing through the cordon of 16 Japanese submarines stationed northwest of Hawaii to intercept any fleet units that would be sent to support the defense of Midway.|
|0230||Abandon Ship is ordered aboard the Japanese aircraft carrier Hiryu.|
|0255||Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, Commander in Chief of the Combined Fleet, calls off the operation against Midway. It was necessary to completely reorient themselves from an attitude of "How far reaching will our victory be" to "How much can we salvage".|
|0430||Evacuation of Hiryu completed.|
|0500||Japanese carrier Akagi scuttled.|
|0510||Japanese destroyer torpedoes Hiryu.|
|0600-0850||U. S. patrol planes spot 2 battleships 1 heavy cruiser and 3 light cruisers, U. S. bombers (B-17s) attack a cruiser. As daylight had just begun, destroyers screening the damaged and abandoned Yorktown were startled to hear a rattle of machine gun fire from her. The destroyer Hughes sent a detachment to the carrier to investigate. Much to their surprise, they found a S2/c badly wounded, who had fired the machine gun, and he informed them that another sailor, left for dead was alive in sickbay. Both men were returned to the destroyer.|
|5 June 1942 |
|0800||The Fulton's position: Latitude 22° 43' N. Longitude 159° 33'W. The crew prepares equipment and resources to take aboard battle survivors, many of them wounded.|
|0900||Japanese carrier Hiryu sinks.|
|1200||Fulton position: Latitude 23° 12' N. Longitude 160° 30' W.|
|5 June 1942 |
|1430||While Captain Buckmaster was assembling a salvage party aboard the cruiser Astoria, his hand picked group of 24 officers and 145 men would board the destroyer Hammann that later would return to the Yorktown.|
|5 June 1942 |
|1435||B-17 bombers from Midway Island, sent out to bomb elements of the Japanese fleet, found no carriers but reported attacking other ships.|
|5 June 1942 |
|1436||U. S. Navy minesweeper Vireo began to pull Yorktown at a barely perceptible two knots. The destroyer Gwin appeared and assumed command of salvage operations. The destroyer Hughes and Gwin sent boarding parties aboard the Yorktown and worked rapidly to throw overboard everything they could from the listing side of the ship. Little could be done as darkness approached and the Yorktown had neither power nor light.|
|Enterprise and Hornet begin launching 58 bombers to finish of the Japanese carrier, but found nothing but a lone Japanese destroyer Tanikaze. No hits, lots of near misses. planes return to carriers, and Admiral Spruance orders search lights turned on as beacons to assist returning planes find the ship. 1 plane was lost to AA fire and one plane was lost, running out of gas trying to land.|
|2000||Fulton continues on her mercy mission, position: Latitude 24° 13' N. Longitude 162° 41'W.|
|2320||The Japanese transfer wounded survivors to Battle ships.|
|6 June 1942||0200||Over twenty-four hours after she had been abandoned, with the minesweeper Vireo towing her, before daybreak Hammann secures to Yorktown's starboard side, transferred the salvage party and provided power, pumps and water for their work. Captain Buckmaster and his men worked like beavers. They quenched the one remaining fire, corrected the list by counter flooding with the aid of Hammann electrical power and pumps, jettisoned planes and removed weights from the port side and had made considerable progress by mid afternoon.|
|6 June 1942||0410||The Japanese submarine I-168, that had shelled Midway earlier, and been ordered to go get the Yorktown, spots her in the distance at 20,000 meters (approximately twelve miles).|
|0502||Enterprise launches aircraft in search of Japanese battleships, cruisers and destroyers.|
|0645||Enterprise planes spot what were thought to be battleships and cruisers, actually it turned out to be two crippled cruisers and two destroyer escorting them.|
|0759||Hornet launches 26 dive-bombers and 8 fighters to attack the Japanese cruisers and destroyers.|
|0800||Fulton closes in on Yorktown Task Force, position: Latitude 25° 44'N. Longitude 165° 52' W.|
|0945||Hornet planes attack and make hits on 3 Japanese ships.|
|1045||Enterprise launches 31 dive-bombers and 12 fighters, Midway sends out 26 B-17s after the cruisers. The B-17s fail to find cruisers but spot the U. S. Submarine Grayling (thinking she was a Japanese cruiser) and bomb her with over 20, 1000 pound bombs and reported her sinking in 15 seconds. The sub skipper surfaced later and reported the incident to headquarters, and wanted to know why an American Submarine had to crash dive to avoid being bombed by the Army Air Force.|
|1200||Fulton's position: Latitude 26° 18'N., Longitude 166° 57' W. Course and distance made good since 1200 June 5, course 298° true distance 393 miles (remember we were zig-zagging) average speed 16.3 knots.|
|1230||Enterprise planes score hits on both cruisers.|
|1237||Sighting of the Yorktown group rewarded the Japanese skipper's of the submarine I-168s pertinacity. He skillfully penetrated the U. S. destroyer and cruiser anti-submarine screen undetected. He was within 500 meters, and inside the destroyer's screen. As he raised his periscope the Yorktown loomed over him like a mountain, he could clearly see the faces of men aboard her. He was too close for comfort and too close for a torpedo attack. He was forced to move back for a more favorable point to attack from. As he moved into his turn he discovered all sounds of enemy detection activities had disappeared. (The captain and his navigator assumed the U. S. Destroyer sonar men had gone off to lunch <[ED. CJM] I wonder if that could have been so. >) allowing the I-168 to move back under the screen for a distance of 1200 meters.|
|6 June 1942||1300||USS Fulton meets the USS Portland, USS Morris and USS Russell at Latitude 26° 26' N., Longitude 167° 13'W. Steamed on various courses and speeds preparatory to towing alongside Portland to transfer survivors of the Yorktown to Fulton. The destroyer Allen received survivors from the USS Russell.|
|1331||The Japanese submarine fires 4 torpedoes at the crippled Yorktown. The first one hit the destroyer Hammann amidships (she was tied up to the carriers starboard side.) blasting the destroyer almost in half, she sank in about 3 minutes, with the loss of many of her crew. As she plunged down her depth charges exploded at three different levels. Nine of the Hammann 13 officers were killed and seventy-two of her crew of 228.|
|The I168 - pictured here in March 1934- probably on Sea Trials. At this time she was known as the I68 - but was renamed the I168 in May 1942. Photo donated by Kazutashi Hando in 1970 to the U. S. Naval Archives.|
|1332||The next two torpedoes struck the Yorktown at frame 85 starboard at the turn of the bridge, knocking a huge hole in the hull. The forth torpedo was off target, passing the carrier just astern.. Yorktown's No. 3 Auxiliary elevator pulled loose, various fixtures crashed to the hanger deck. All rivets in the starboard leg of the foremast sheared. Men were thrown every which way, some overboard entirely, others incurring broken bones, cuts and bruises.|
|1336-1640||Within 5 minutes of torpedoing the Yorktown, I-168 undergoes severe depth charge attack, he goes towards the carrier, thinking the U. S. destroyers would not drop depth charges in an area that would kill any survivors in the water. Over 60 depth charges were dropped around them.. A destroyer passed directly over them and dropped two depth charges that severely damaged the I-168. The sub's lights went out, emergency lights came on, flooding in the forward torpedo compartment, and after steering rudder engine room. Quick work of the crew patched the flooding. As sulfuric acid leaked from damaged batteries and mixed with the salt water in the bilges to form chlorine gas, breathing became more and more difficult. Both horizontal and vertical rudders were out of commission. Sunset was in two hours, the captain rallied his men to stick it out till then. Finally the ship had to rise, the crew prepared for battle surface, determined to go down fighting. When they surfaced, to their amazement nothing was in sight nearby, 3 enemy destroyers were about 10,000 meters away, but no carrier in sight, they assumed she (Yorktown) had been sunk.. The I-168 had survived.|
|6 June 1942 |
|1411||Received lines from Portland and towed alongside her port side lines rigged as for fueling at sea course 130° true, speed 8 knots, wind East by North, sea calm. Rigged five trolleys and whips and commenced transfer of survivors.|
|Wounded and other survivors being hauled across open sea in coal bags suspended by nothing more than ropes. The Fulton (AS 11) on the left the Portland (CA 33) on the right.|
|1445||The USS Hornet bomber group hit the Japanese heavy cruiser Mikuma.|
|1500||Japanese Admiral Yamamoto orders all out battle, risking Main Body of his attack force, but air searches fail to find U. S. fleet so plan is abandoned.|
|After Sunset||The Japanese heavy cruiser Mikuma sinks after heavy bombing from Enterprise and Hornet planes. The captain of the Mikuma refuses to leave and committed "hara-kiri". This particular action was probably the closest American and Japanese ships came to each other in this battle for Midway Islands. The Hornet pilots could see simultaneously Task Force 16 behind them and the enemy ahead.|
|1845||Fulton passed lines to Russell and towed her alongside to port. Rigged trolleys and whips preparatory to transfer of survivors.|
|1900||Admiral Spruance (Task Force 16) completes air operations, turns east to rendezvous with oilers.|
|1930||Fulton's escort ship Allen reported sound contact, suspected submarine. At that time no survivors had been received from the Russell, and 15 stretcher cases remained to be transferred from the Portland. Russell, on our port side, cast off all lines. Fulton cast off (lines were cut by Portland, with fire axes) from the Portland on our Starboard side. All ships proceeded to the northeast at best speeds on evasive courses, and conforming to Portland's movements.|
|2000||Fulton's position: Latitude 25° 57'N., Longitude 166° 29'W.|
|2008||Fulton stopped. Several of our boats were lowered. Commenced recovery and transfer of Yorktown survivors from Portland, Russell, Morris, and Allen by boat during darkness. Fulton crewmembers (myself included) manned the open cargo hatches on the second deck amidships and as the boats came alongside we assisted the survivors scramble up cargo nets that were hung from both hatches. Many of the men we assisted had little or no clothes on, having lost or shed them while in the water.|
|2200||Completed transfer of survivors. Total number of survivors received on board Fulton, 101 officers and 1790 enlisted. This included 59 stretcher cases. Portland and destroyers screen Fulton during these operations. It was reported Fulton received 500 men from the USS Morris, 492 from the USS Russell, and 899 from the Portland.|
|Yorktown survivors being checked aboard Fulton after their transfer from the USS Portland (CA 33). Note what appears to be oil stains on their life jackets.|
|2245||Transfer of survivors completed, Fulton hoisted all her boats aboard. Portland, Morris and Russell proceed on duty assigned. Fulton gets underway for Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. at 17 knots. The USS Allen and Breese acting as escorts. The destroyer USS Benham, had many of the sunken destroyer Hammann personnel aboard her and previously had headed for Pearl Harbor.|
|6 June 1942 |
|Earlier in the evening, Yorktown salvage continued||After the Japanese torpedo attack on the crippled carrier, they thought it had sunk, curiously enough the torpedoes had corrected Yorktown's list to seven degrees, and Captain Buckmaster hoped to resume salvage operations in the morning. Much of his days work had been undone, including that of identifying the dead, for their effects and the records, including fingerprints, had slid into the sea. With the destroyers fully occupied in rescuing survivors, pulling bodies out of the water, or hunting for the I-168, Captain Buckmaster decided to suspend salvage operations until daylight, when he expected the fleet tug Navajo. He and his salvage team therefore left the carrier and boarded the destroyer Balch.|
|7 June 1942||0400||Incredibly the Yorktown remained afloat throughout the night. Not until nearly dawn did her crew and escort really give up. When the destroyer squadron commander saw the great carrier was doomed, he arranged his destroyers around her for a final ceremony. It was particularly heart-breaking to see this ship in her death throes, for having made it through so much, it seemed the grand old girl deserved to live.|
|0458-0600||In the full glow of a splendid dawn, all the attending destroyers moved in position to see Yorktown go down. It was a sober and sickening sight to see such a great ship go to her death. All the destroyers were at half-mast, the crews, their heads uncovered, stood at attention while Yorktown went under. The old flattop, nick-named by her crew "Waltzing Matilda", would waltz no more. She sank in Pacific ocean waters two thousand fathoms deep.|
|0800||Fulton was underway as before, enroute to Pearl Harbor. Position: Latitude 25° 01'N., Longitude 164° 5'W. course and distance made good since 1200 June 6: course 120° true, distance 240 miles speed 10 knots (Zig-zagging).|
|7 June 1942||Since the survivors were received aboard Fulton||Since receiving the first survivors aboard Fulton, every crew member made sure the survivors were well cared for. Many of them were given blankets, clothing and shoes from our personal lockers, they were treated to hot shower's with toiletries supplied by Fulton crew members. Every thing was donated, no one was concerned about getting the items back, our main thoughts were the comfort of these gallant men. For the wounded and sick survivors the doctors worked around the clock operating on some and treating all of them with the best possible medical service. The survivors were offered crew members bunks, many of them could not sleep, being emotionally drained over the loss of their ship, they gathered in groups and spoke of lost shipmates and wishing to get another ship so they could pay the Japanese back. The exhausted survivors showed no fear and little shock, revenge was on their minds as they huddled in the various shops and mess halls consuming coffee as fast as it could be made. Fulton sailors listened diligently to the survivors tell where they were and what they did as the bombs hit their ship, there were heroic actions but no heroes, each man did his duty.|
|7 June 1942||2000||Fulton's position: Latitude 24° 1'N., Longitude 161° 19'W. Crew members remember survivors, prior to bedding down for the night, wrapped in blankets with many laying on steel decks singing "God Bless America", and other patriotic songs. Those who witnessed this impromptu emotional expression of love for their country, choked up with love for these shipmates who had given so much, it gave all of us a desire to do our part in this war and get even with the Japanese for attacking the USA.|
|8 June 1942||0800||Fulton's position: Latitude 21° 52' N., Longitude 158° 50' W.|
|1200||Underway as before, Latitude 21° 20'N., Longitude 158° 14'W.|
|1532||Fulton arrives at Pearl Harbor and moored at pier S-13, Submarine Base. Admiral C. W. Nimitz, USN (CINCPAC) and Vice Admiral W. L. Calhoun USN, Commander Service Force, Pacific Fleet came aboard to welcome the survivors. All survivors put ashore, Wounded survivors were placed in litters and lowered by crane to the dock where waiting ambulances took them to hospitals. The Fulton received her first battle star for participating in the Battle for Midway Island.|
|The Fulton arriving at Pearl Harbor 8 June, 1942|
|Admiral Nimitz (second from left) waits at the pier for the Fulton to dock.|
|The Fulton being "nudged" to the pier - along with the Fulton's crew are 1891 survivors of the Battle for Midway.|
|Truck load (and a Navy Bus) of Yorktown survivors on their way to Camp Catlin soon after their arrival at Pearl Harbor aboard Fulton June 8, 1942.|
On the 5h of July Fulton received from the CINCPAC, mailgram 050549, July, establishing TASK GROUP 7.1, Captain Roper, (Commander Submarine Squadron Eight). USS Fulton, USS Anderson, USS Russell, ordered to depart Pearl Harbor at 1700 GCT July 8th, 1942, proceed to Midway Island. Anderson and Russell as escorts and to return to Pearl upon completion of escort duty, Fulton to remain at Midway to tend submarines and assist in establishing shore based submarine facilities.
The next couple of days activities consisted of preparations for getting underway, and we received on board numerous passengers, officers and enlisted, including 26 officers and 302 enlisted men of Submarine Repair Unit, Pearl Harbor, Commander W. V. O'Regan, USN commanding officer. Received a CINCPAC dispatch 071929 deleting the USS Russell from task group 7.1.
At 0720 Fulton is underway for Midway with the USS Anderson as escort, first proceeding to operating areas for target practice for all gun crews. At 1347 completed targets practice and set base course for Midway 280° true. Zig-zagging, standard speed 17 knots, followed along route 60 miles south of island chain.
On the l2th of July at 0620, 1942, sighted the water tower on Midway, at 0750 received harbor pilot and at 0755 entered Midway harbor and moored to the dock, starboard side to. Immediately commenced discharging passengers and cargo to the dock. On the 18th of July Fulton shifted berths and moored to a buoy in the lagoon. From this location we tended ships and submarines needing voyage repairs and upkeep until we departed on 17 October, for Pearl Harbor.
|Men and ships lost:||United States||Japan|
At Midway the Japanese lost or left behind a naval air force that had been the terror of the Pacific -- an elite force, an overwhelming force that would never again come back and spread destruction and fear as it had over the first six months of the war. "This was the great meaning of the Incredible Victory at Midway".
It had a stimulating effect on the morale of the American fighting forces . it stopped the Japanese expansion to the east it put an end to Japanese offensive action which had been all conquering for the first six months of the war it restored the balance of naval power in the Pacific which thereafter steadily shifted to favor the American side and it removed the threat to Hawaii and to the west coast of the United States. Thus it was that the Japanese were forced to a defensive role.
This was the ultimate meaning. At Midway the United States laid aside the shield and picked up the sword, and through all the engagements to follow, never again yielded the strategic offensive.
Sources used for this document:
1) Miracle At Midway (Book) Author Gordon W. Prange
2) Incredible Victory (Book) Author Walter Lord
3) Yamamoto (Book) Author Edwin P. Hoyt
4) USS Fulton 50th Anniversary (Book) Publisher Turner
5) USS Fulton, War Diary (June 1942) Office of Naval Records and Library
6) Personal notes & recollections Charles J. Meyer Jr. HTCM, USN, Retired
7) Fulton Bow Plane (Cruise books) For 1942, 1943, and 1944
8) The Battle of Midway 50th Anniversary Commemorative Yearbook
All pictures are official US Navy photographs (except the I68 as noted) - and all are from the United States National Archives.