20. MISSION NUMBER XIII
7 October 1942 to 13 October 1942
Scene of Operation:
From Espirito Santos 7 October 1942, to Savo Island, to Espirito Santos 13 October 1942. - Night engagement, Cape Esperance - 11-12 October 1942.
Task Force 64 - USS SAN FRANCISCO, (Admiral Scott), USS SALT LAKE CITY, BOISE, HELENA, FARENHOLT, BUCHANAN, LAFFEY, MCCALLA, and DUNCAN.
Stop the "Tokyo Express", which had been operating at will for over a month, bringing in men and supplies to Guadalcanal.
Mission highly successful - Intercepted a stronger force than expected, evidently planning on surface bombardment of Guadalcanal, accompanied by a landing in force.
The following damage was inflicted on the enemy:
(a) Sunk: Two (2) CA - one of which was the FURUTAKA. One (1) CL. One (1) auxiliary, possibly an AV. Five (5) DD's, one of which was the SHIRAKUMO.
(b) Damaged: One (1) CA - the AOBA, was badly damaged. Other DD's.
In addition, on the following day, planes from Guadalcanal attacked two (2) CA, one already damaged, and several DD's possibly sinking one (1) CA and one (1) DD.
It is possible that the enemy losses amounted to four (4) CA, one (1) or two (2) CL, one (1) auxiliary and seven (7) DD.
This was the first attempt made by our surface craft to stop the Japanese reinforcements to Guadalcanal.
It was the first successful night engagement with the enemy.
It definitely removed the apprehension spread throughout the fleet which resulted from the sinking of the USS VINCENNES, ASTORIA, QUINCY and CANBERRA, at night two months previous, in almost the same water.
This victory delayed the Japanese a full month at a time when it was most needed.
The Battle of Cape Esperance turned the tide in our favor.
The Task Force did a splendid job.
The USS SALT LAKE CITY definitely contributed to the effectiveness of the Task Force and in three categories she performed in an outstanding manner:-
(a) It was decided on this ship before the battle that searchlights provide a good point of aim for the enemy. Hence, they were used sparingly - only on initial salvos, before star shells burst, and on a destroyer which was sunk inside the bursting range of star shells.
(b) It was decided on this ship before the battle that starshells would be used (only one (1) FC and one (1) SC radar were then installed). This was the only ship to use starshells and, in doing so, continuous effective illumination was provided for the whole Task Force.
(c) Toward the end of the battle, the BOISE was observed to be under heavy fire from an enemy CA. The SALT LAKE CITY was then firing on a retiring CA (believed to be the AOBA) on the starboard quarter. In the heat of action, fire and illumination were checked against this CA and both were resumed against the CA which had the BOISE under fire. The BOISE had to fall out, badly hit. Captain E. G. Small took the SALT LAKE CITY between the burning BOISE and the enemy so that all guns continued to bear. It was then while silhouetted against the burning BOISE that the SALT LAKE CITY received its most damaging hit, but it was also then, when her guns shifted to this effective enemy, that the enemy fell silent and is believed to have sunk.
The battle damage received by the SALT LAKE CITY was not spectacular, and fortunately, personnel casualties were few.
It cannot be overlooked, however, that the 8" hit in the forward fireroom caused a five hour oil fire which was kept under control. This caused extensive damage to electrical circuits, sever damage to piping, heat damage to structural members and all low pressure air compressors were placed out of commission.
21. The USS SALT LAKE CITY proceeded via Espirito Santos, Noumea and Samoa to Pearl Harbor and arrived 1 November 1942, for repairs to battle damage and a long delayed overhaul.
22. NAVY YARD PERIOD AT PEARL HARBOR
Coverage of this ship's participation in the war would not be complete without some mention being made of the Navy Yard period at Pearl Harbor, 1 November 1942 to 11 March 1943.
Again, the USS SALT LAKE CITY was first: - The first capital ship to receive a combined battle damage and routine overhaul in Pearl, rather than in the mainland. This was a blow to morale. Leave policies had to be worked out with no precedence to go by. As a result, only twenty percent of the officers and crew received sixteen days in the States and fifteen percent received ten days in the States after a year of strenuous operating and the memory of cancelled leaves in October, 1941, at Long Beach, when the ship stayed on 12 hours notice.
Nevertheless, the Captain, officers and crew of this ship succeeded in having the following vital improvements in fighting efficiency accomplished, although no plans or directives were then contemplated to effect them either under routine overhaul or battle damage.
(a) Design and installation of a stable element (salvaged from the USS CASSIN, placed on a 1.1 director base) to permit the main battery to fire with no horizon, target not visible.
(b) Installation of a Combat Information Center. This important room was in the laboratory stage in November 1942. No provision was made for one aboard the SALT LAKE CITY. Space was found, layout made, and the job accomplished.
(c) Training motor for Main Batter Director, forward. (Supplementing hand powered training system).
(d) Policy was fought through to eliminate two planes, carrying two instead of four. In their place, were installed two 40mm quads, giving the ship six such mounts instead of four.
(e) Small Auxiliary Diesel Air Compressors, one located forward and one aft, for emergency air supply to turrets, were installed.
(f) Design and construction of auxiliary diesel steering engine (saved ship at Komandorskis).
(g) Auxiliary fire main of feed hoses, supplied direct from pump and fitted with manifolds, for use in fighting fires on other ships or on own ship, in case of damage to fire main.
(h) Design and procurement of emergency steam supply to be used to supply after engines with steam from forward boilers in case of torpedo hit and loss of after boilers and forward engine room.
It is emphasized the improvements listed above were not of a routine nature. Each was aggressively pursued above and beyond the scheduled work incident to overhaul. Many of these improvements have now been applied to our sister ship the USS PENSACOLA, which arrived in Pearl approximately the time of our departure.
23. MISSION NUMBER XIV
11 March 1943 to 29 March 1943. NOTE: Just fifteen (15) days after completion of Navy Yard work.
Scene of Operation
From Pearl Harbor to Dutch Harbor to Adak to patrol west of Attu to Dutch Harbor.
Task Group 16.6 - USS RICHMOND (Admiral McMorris), USS SALT LAKE CITY, MONAHAN, DALE, BAILEY and COUGHLAN.
Prevent reinforcements and supplies transported by surface units from reaching Japanese occupied Attu and Fiska.
Highly successful - On 26 March intercepted a convoy of two large merchant ships accompanied by enemy combatant ships twice our own strength and turned them away, permanently, inflicting heavy damage after a three and one half hour retiring action.
It is believed that this interception off the Komandorski Islands was the turning point in the Aleutian Campaign and that its importance is not yet full realized.
The Japanese knew the composition of our forces exactly and sent up a strong force to protect two important supply ships. Presumably, they knew the USS INDIANAPOLIS had left the area. They knew our force exactly, but for one important exception - the SALT LAKE CITY had joined unobserved.
They were determined to get the supply ships into port and wipe out any surface resistance offered.
Admiral McMorris succeeded in making the interception with his small force. The enemy's surprise in finding himself taking early hits from a heavy cruiser, after the force had formed up and fire was opened, completely upset his plans.
We know from "Intelligence" that no Japanese surface craft, either combatant or auxiliary reached their Aleutian holdings after the 26th of March.
We know that the rice ration was reduced on Attu the following day.
We know promises made to the troops on Attu concerning reinforcements, assisted by their fleet, did not materialize.
We know that needed equipment did not arrive.
Manifestly, the Japanese decided then and there to abandon the Aleutian venture or else their Fifth Fleet had been damaged sufficiently to immobilize it as a fighting unit.
Once the two opposing forces were brought together off the Komandorskis, it was the 8" guns of the USS SALT LAKE CITY which held the enemy at bay for three and one half hours, and ultimately caused his retirement.
It was good fortune that caused us to join the patrol force at just the right time and equally good fortune that we were afloat when action was broken off, for the war college left the SALT LAKE CITY 94% damaged and in a sinking condition as a result of working the problem out on the game board. Captain B. J. Rodgers handled the ship in such a manner that enemy salvos always fell where we were supposed to be, but weren't.
Surely, the results obtained by this Task Force, the contribution made to that result by the only heavy cruiser present, and the fact that she was afloat and able to steam almost normally, despite several telling hits, marks the performance of the SALT LAKE CITY that day as outstanding.
Particularly significant is the fact that the SALT LAKE CITY was out of the navy yard only fifteen (15) days and had on board a very large percentage of recruits.
24. On 8 April 1943 the ship arrived at Navy Yard, Mare Island and departed 14 May 1943.
25. Again, the battle damage received was non-spectacular but nonetheless was serious as summarized below:-
26. The ship left Mare Island 14 May 1943 and arrived at Adak 23 May 1943.
(a) 8" hit aft. - Damaged after section of fuel oil system flooded A. A. switchboard and after gyro room, flooded two (2) shaft alleys, damaged two (2) main shafts, ruptured Engine Room bulkhead, flooded laundry and 5" magazines. Damaged fuel oil system was isolated. After Engine Room was flooded with five (5) feet of oil and water. Magazines, laundry and shaft alleys were pumped out. Engine Room flooding was controlled. One (1) damaged shaft restored to use. One (1) damaged shaft locked for return to navy yard.
(b) 8" hit outboard in After Engine Room on armor belt, ruptured oil tank, decommissioned one (1) air compressor, damaged one (1) main condenser.
(c) 8" hit in bow damaged anchor windless, flooded forward hold.
(d) 8" hit on catapult destroyed plane, ruptured main deck, caused shrapnel damage topside.
27. MISSION NUMBER XV
24 May 1943 to Present
Scene of Operation:
Aleutian Area - North Pacific
Various assignments in Task Force 16 under various Task Groups and Group Commanders.
(a) Covering Attu occupation
(b) Convoy of troops and supply ships
(c) Bombardment of Kiska, 2 August 1943
(d) Bombardment of Kiska, 12 August 1943
(e) Covering Kiska occupation
(f) Aleutian patrol duties
Mission successfully completed - The Aleutians are now completely in the hands of US Forces
This operation has been marked by long periods at sea with very few days for upkeep in Adak, the only port of call. Recreation is practically non-existent, particularly for the enlisted men, chiefly because of the weather and the terrain. it is estimated that 80% of the crew has not left the ship since departure from Mare island 14 May, a period of 114 days.
The SALT LAKE CITY has operated with each of the Task Groups in the area and has served directly under seven different Task Group Commanders, at various times.
The two (2) bombardments of Kiska were well executed according to scheduled plans.
28. The following highlights are added or summarized to indicate the consistently effective part the USS SALT LAKE CITY has played in the war to date:-
The ship has had three wartime Captains:
Captain E. M. Zacharias, USN
Captain E. G. Small, USN
Captain B. J. Rodgers, USN
The activity and performance of the ship has been such that each of the three was recommended for the Navy Cross; that of Captain Zacharias was later changed to a letter of commendation by C-in-C PacFleet, because of crystallization of policy. Captain (now Rear Admiral) Small and Captain (now Rear Admiral) Rodgers were awarded the Navy Cross.
(c) BATTLE DAMAGE
(1) A member of the first task force to cruise on a wartime basis with a definite mission: - Wake Island plane delivery.
(2) A member of the first task force to enter Pearl Harbor, ready for duty assigned, immediately after December 7, 1941.
(3) A member of the first task force in the Pacific to engage in activity against the enemy: - Submarine hunt North of Oahu.
(4) A member of the first task force to cover large scale movements in Pacific: - Samoa reinforcements.
(5) A member of the first task force to strike the enemy offensively and in their own waters: -The Wotje Raid.
(6) A member of the first task force to strike back at own territory captured by enemy: - Wake.
(7) A member of the first task force to enter Japanese home waters:- Marcus.
(8) A member of the first and only task force to launch an attack, in Japanese waters, against the mainland of the Empire: - Tokyo Raid.
(9) A member of the first task force to engage in an amphibious landing operation: - Tulagi - Guadalcanal.
(10) A member of the first task force to successfully engage the enemy at night. First to stop the "Tokyo Express" and first to deliberately enter close waters on the offensive with view to sinking enemy ships at close range: - Cape Esperance.
(11) A member of the first task group to successfully engage the enemy in a daylight surface action: - Komandorskis.
(12) A member of the first task group to engage enemy combatant ships in the Aleutian Area.
(13) A member of the first task group to engage the enemy continuously for three and one half hours in a surface action.
(d) TYPE OF OPERATION
Twice battle damaged; not dramatically but each time vitally, in machinery spaces deep inside the ship.
(e) VALUE TO OTHER SHIPS
A digest of the ships with which the USS SALT LAKE CITY has been associated in its many assignments and a survey of those names against the record of ships sunk and badly damaged is indicative of the fast company she has kept and the waters in which she has cruised continually.
(1) At Esperance the USS SALT LAKE CITY deliberately interposed herself between the BOISE and the enemy, taking the enemy under fire, thus contributing to the enemy's destruction and the BOISE's salvation.
(2) At Komandorskie, as the only heavy cruiser present, the USS SALT LAKE CITY contributed chiefly to damaging badly and turning away a superior enemy force which could have sunk the balance of our forces, had they been alone.
29. No one in my position can say what the future holds but, it is very conceivable, henceforth, that operations will be conducted in large fleets as our Navy continues to grow stronger. Consequently, the opportunity for individual ship distinction will diminish. This will be particularly applicable in the case of the SALT LAKE CITY as her newer, fresher sisters arrive on the firing line replete with all the advance fire control, radar and engineering installations.
30. It is timely, therefore, that I submit this chronology to you as I sincerely believe that the record of the USS SALT LAKE CITY, to date, will stand-up under the closest and most objective scrutiny. The ship was ready and able and consistently met with success in the early days of the war when ships were few and spirits were low.
James T. Brewer