USS SLC CA25 Memorabilia Articles

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The Bravest Deed I know
Fletcher Pratt

This is the story of ball-red-02 Deceased Captain Ernest G. "Shorty" Small and his ship, the USS SALT LAKE CITY. Fletcher Pratt, noted expert on naval history and strategy, offers it as the finest moment he recalls from his years of study of men and battles.

October, 1942, was a black month in the Pacific war. Although the Marines had landed on Guadalcanal, Jap re-enforcements threatened to push them back into the sea. The Navy had only a few cruisers and destroyers, but on the night of October 11, they moved up to deal with the Jap counterattack. Captain Small’s Salt Lake City, one of the oldest cruisers in the fleet, followed astern of the sleek new BOISE.

The cruisers patrolled a line the Japs had to cross to reach Guadalcanal. Ten o’clock….even o’clock….all quiet. Then at 11:40, the HELEN reported unidentified ships on her radar. Searchlights probed the dark. Suddenly light splashed against enemy craft---slim cruisers darting between bulky troop transports. Shorty Small barked his command: “Commence firing!”

Star shells bloomed in the night, and 8-inch shells lashed a Jap cruiser until she exploded in flame. The gunners shifted fire, and another enemy ship split under the attack. Suddenly the BOISE got it. Shorty Small, from his own bridge, could see her turrets hurtling toward the sky as the Jap cruiser FURUTAKA caught the BOISE broadside. Small watched the American vessel stagger out of column, flaming. She seemed doomed. Instantly Small threw the SALT LAKE between the Jap and his crippled sister ship. Silhouetted by the BOISE’S flames, the SALT LAKE was a perfect target. At less than 5,000 yards the FURUTAKA turned her guns on her new victim, raking the SALT LAKE. A second Jap salvo cracked into her armor belt.

Then the SALT LAKE gunners talked back, Yankee style. It took less than a minute---the crack crews were firing a salvo every 12 seconds and the fourth blast split the FURUTAKA wide open.

The SALT LAKE and the BOISE limped home. The Japs were stopped --- but for the SALT LAKE men, the battle had a pay-off. The first SALT LAKERS to visit the BOISE came aboard at chow time. Instead of the usual wait in line, a grateful crew virtually forced them into the No. 1 spots. And below decks in the Navy, that’s a real decoration.

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Cruiser Salt Lake City Merits Niche in History
Associated Press Release - Spokane, Wash., Aug. 27, 1943

Crewman Praises Courage of Mates Under Fire in
Major Pacific Battles when men and ship out slugged Japs.

The men of the heavy cruiser Salt Lake City will be disappointed bitterly if their ship isn't accorded a special niche in naval history, one of its crewmen averred Friday.

He is Electrician's Mate Third Class William A. Hanks, Spokane, who in the interview expressed fierce pride in the ship which, he said, lost no more men than could be counted on the fingers of two hands and accounted for two enemy ships sunk for each man killed in battle.

Never to be forgotten by the crew, Hanks said, was the night during the Second Battle of the Savo sea off Guadalcanal last fall...when the Salt lake City deliberately dashed into the line of fire between the cruiser Boise and a Japanese warship to save the Boise from continued damage.

"We turned our spotlights on to draw fire," he said. "The Boise was taking a lot of punishment and we pulled in to protect her from further damage." The Salt Lake City, Hanks explained, sank the Japanese warship. It bagged the first enemy ship of the action, a cruiser, with just 13 shells, and went on to sink four more and assist on three others.

"Our dead were only five - one for each ship sunk," said Hanks. He told of the gunner's mate who was pointing a gun in the battle. "Shrapnel took away half of his hand and ripped his stomach open. He held what was left of his hand over his stomach to keep his entrails in and remained at his station until he collapsed."

See List of Those Who Died
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Captain's Night Orders of March 26th, 1943
Time Zone +10

At sea in company with ComTaskGroup 16.6 as unit 16.6.2 enroute to Adak after a gallant 3 1/2 hour battle against 2 Jap CA's, 2 CL's, 4 or 5 DD's south of the Komandorski Islands.

All hands are dead tired, but cheered by the knowledge we have accomplished our mission of turning away the Jap convoy enroute to Attu or Kiska. We are licking our wounds with some glee, but much gratitude.

Formation as last night, but COGHLAN and DALE are trailing, the latter only able to make 25 knots.

Course at 10:22 p.m. [2222] is 078 t [pgc], speed 17 knots not z-z.

Keep ship darkened in condition: Readiness II [complete]
Material Condition: 'ZED' [after ammunition is in turret 3 and water bucket brigade secures in after mess hall].

Speed: Boiler Condition II except all 8 boilers are on the line.
SG Radar 360 SC Radar silent during darkness.

ComTaskGroup 16.6 (Admiral McMorris) warns that enemy combatant ships may be chasing us or overtaking around us for action later. Their convoy, however, is known to have fled westward ("We Hope").

Sunrise is 0758 - Got to GQ at 0658. Call me if I am not up and you can wake me.

With the utmost respect for my gallant, courageous crew.

ball-red-02 Deceased Bertram J. Rodgers, Commander

A US submarine is in the vicinity of Attu, headed eastward.

Return to Battle of the Komandorski Island Index

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Pray---But Pass the Ammunition
USS Salt Lake City's
"The "Salt" Shaker"

Comments from Sandy Eskew
When I found this article and read it, I couldn't believe it. It's as if it was written today.

"Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition"...there's as great a song as has come out of any war. It holds the essence within it of all great war songs. There is faith...but there also is the fighting flame that fuses a man with his God in moments of tremendous sacrifice. It's all very well to praise the Lord. But if you aren't also willing to "pass the ammunition," as He did, you're a fadeout in the ranks of righteousness.

That's what's wrong with so many worthy citizens. They praise the Lord in their various admirable ways. They keep out of jail. They pay their taxes and contribute to the proper charities and invite the better people to their pleasant parties. But do they ever leap out of their padded chairs and take a positive stand about the cruelty and indecency which beset this world? Do they ever take a chance on some down-and-outer and give him a break---even if he rewards them with a load of grief, as he probably will? Yet they think that God will reward them, simply because no one has ever found a body buried in their cellars!

As a matter of fact, such stuffed birds are a greater handicap to progress than the average sinner. The sinner at least has a definite aim---he's a positive character and might make good if given a fighting chance. But the negative saint is a bowl of mush---who expects a heavenly handout for nothing.

"Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition!" That slogan is an old and as glorious as the American spirit. It lies at the basis of every noble battle, every honest prayer. It swings its proud, wild music to the chant of a marching God! And, believe me, it will land its wallop every time!

Author Not named.

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March 27th, 1943
Casualties and Injured during
The Battle of the Komandorski Islands

On Sat., March 27th, 1943, the Chaplain held Memorial Services for the repose of souls of our gallant

Killed in Action

ball-red-02 Deceased Lt. Commander Winsor Colvig Gale, US Navy and ball-red-02 Deceased James Frederick David, F2c, US Navy

List of Injured:

J. Bagdricwicz, MM1c
M. S. Bordick, S2c
Leroy J. Brooks, Matt2c
J. B. Davis, S2c
C. L. De Shazer, S1c
F. S. Howard, S2c
E. W. Kline, S1c
F. W. Lauriskos, S1c
H. H.[K] Relham, S1c
Donald A. Rholl, ARM2c ball-red-02 Deceased
I. L. Roberts, S2c
Norman E. Seekins, S2c ball-red-02
F. H. Thomas, S2c
F. H. Trippe, S2c ball-red-02 Deceased
C. A. Wright, S2c

Return to Battle of the Komandorski Island Index
Related Story from Navy Dept. Ship's History

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