Sinking Jap Warship Like|
'Stepping on a Cockroach'
By B. J. M'Quaid, Special Correspondence
of the Chicago Daily News Foreign Service.
The Chicago Daily News Inc.
In Pearl Harbor. Feb. 6th, 1943
Note from Sandy Eskew, Historian
This "clipping" states that "This is the second and final installment of the story of the USS
SALT LAKE CITY, a heavy cruiser, and the part she played in the battles of Savo Island in the Solomons
Our forces began maneuvering to confuse the enemy and close with him. It was 11:47 p.m. when the Americans opened fire, and by that time the leading Jap ship was within 5,000 yards.
Our ships shot, in that opening salvo, at the enemy leader, identified as a light cruiser. The cruiser burst immediately into flames and our ships checked fire while they hunted for individual targets. It was apparent even before the battle was joined that this was no ordinary "Bougainville express." The Jap force was vastly superior. Lookouts and spotters quickly identified four heavy cruisers, two or three light cruisers and "any number of destroyers." In addition, there were auxiliaries - probably troop transports. It was a big offensive force going down to bombard the American positions on Guadalcanal and probably to attempt a landing on the beachheads held by the Americans nearest to Henderson field. The first shells fired by the Japs in the engagement were loaded with bombardment and fragmentation charges, rather than armor-piercing ammunition.
For its second target the SALT LAKE CITY chose a heavy cruiser. It let the Japs close the
range from 9,000 yards to 5,000 yards before it fired.
The SALT LAKE CITY fired two 10-gun salvos of eight-inch shells. On the second the Jap ship
blew up in a reddish-yellow sheet of flame 300 feet square. It went down in a great hissing
of smoke and spray.
Now came a report that three Jap destroyers were running in fast to deliver torpedo attacks. The SALT LAKE CITY took the nearest one. It caught the Jap with a single salvo of its ten guns at only 1,500 yards. The destroyer disappeared instantly from the face of the sea. Other American ships finished off the other two and no torpedoes found a mark.
It was midnight now. There was a brief lull, while the American's hunted fresh targets.
None could be found except six or eight blazing hulks of enemy warships and auxiliaries.
When firing was resumed the SALT LAKE CITY shot in leisurely fashion at the burning wrecks,
"stirring up the fires." It took four of them in rotation. The fourth was thought to be the
same light cruiser against which she and the other Americans had directed their first fire at
the beginning of the engagement.
The SALT LAKE CITY had suffered little damage, though four of its personnel had been killed
by showers of shrapnel from an enemy spread which had fallen short and exploded as it struck
the sea. Among the mortally wounded was
Lloyd Edgar Acree, ammunition handler for one of the
five-inch AA guns. He fell to the deck and died, still clutching in his arms the shell he
had been passing.
Except for the destroyers, one of which was so badly damaged it sand the next day, none of
the American ships suffered much damage until after the lull in the firing at midnight.
Suddenly, as the SALT LAKE CITY pumped deliberate salvos into the burning light cruiser, it
became aware that the USS BOISE, dead ahead of it in the formation, was being heavily hit.
Another Jap heavy cruiser, appearing suddenly out of nowhere, had closed with the six-inch
gunned BOISE and was slugging it mercilessly, at a range of less than 5,000 yards. To make
matters worse, enemy destroyers were reported coming in again, and in turning bow onto them
to avoid torpedoes, the BOISE was forced to close still further with the "heavy" which so
patently "had her number." As it turned hard to starboard the SALT LAKE CITY, to avoid
ramming it, turned hard to port and then, as the blazing BOISE swung back again and away from
the Jap "heavy," the SALT LAKE CITY swung in to the position it have vacated, squarely in
the path of the punishing Jap fire. The Jap had the range automatically and had nothing to
do but keep on shooting.
The Jap ship got to fire one salvo. One shell penetrated one of the SALT LAKE CITY's forward
fire rooms, killed a seaman, flooded the fire room with hundreds of gallons of oil and
started a bad fire. But before the Jap could shoot again the American ship had fired its own
batteries. The Jap fell silent after this opening salvo from the SAL LAKE CITY. After four
more salvos the Jap vessel sank.
"If it's submarines you're haunting,
If an island base you're wanting,
She's the one-ship fleet;
Oh, oh, oh,
Off we're gonna shuffle,
shuffle off to Tokyo."
Talking with the ship's men, you get inklings of the sort of thing that makes a record like
this possible. A spirited bunch, these SALT LAKE lads. Good, and they know it. But none of
them praises himself. They "build up" each other and the ship. The communicators, the
engineers and the damage control men say their gunners are the best in the world. The
gunners reciprocate the feeling, with interest. They are all loudly and sincerely
aggressive. They have a new song, but, unfortunately, almost all of it is unprintable. One
line recurs again and again: "We're gonna lick the whole ____ ____Jap Navy!"
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