Enjoyed reading your account of the Battle of Cape Esperance and offer the following comments. I was Gunnery Officer on the SALT LAKE CITY during the battle.
Respectfully, J. T. Brewer, Capt. USN
Transition from U. S. Admiral on page 171 to Jap Admiral on page 172 is rather sudden.
Page 175: No bugles blew on the SALT LAKE CITY - but it makes good reading. (We had a policy throughout the war to reduce all unnecessary noise while in combat areas. A bugle can get on people's nerves. We had only one-man sent home for psychiatric reasons during the 50 months I was on the ship).
Page 175: Note on SALT LAKE CITY plane crew - Although plane caught fire, both pilot and observer got out of it safely, inflated rubber raft and paddled for two days and nights until they reached a beach near friendly marines and later were returned to the ship.[INSERT- Read Two men on a Raft]
Page 182: The Japs were not caught quite as flatfooted as indicated in the early moments of the battle. Almost immediately, after SALT LAKE CITY opened fire we were hit and sprayed with fragments from Japanese gunfire. The Marine talker next to me came closer and said, "Tonight, this is the business!" The fragments wounded several men topside and in the foretop, killed the trainer on #3 five-inch gun and penetrated ski-forward adjacent to my battle station, killing the chief firecontrollman therein. [INSERT- Read Those who Died]
Capt. Moran's remark that they didn't lay a glove on us for the first ten minutes does not apply to the SALT LAKE CITY. We figured at the time that the Jap guns had been loaded with bombardment type ammunition and that they unloaded them through the muzzle preparatory to continuing the battle with armor piercing shells. This exchange of fire occurred before Adm. Scott's order, "Cease Firing" which we complied with but could not understand it because we had been fired upon and also because we could visually identify enemy ships by the light of our own star shells. No Japanese fire was received during the "Cease Fire" interlude. Evidently, the Japanese command had issued similar orders.
Page 185: "So far the battle had been an uninterrupted American target practice". Not entirely true in view of return fire described above and in view of Adm. Scott's orders to "Cease Fire".
Page 187: "American cruiser column was struck for the first time". Same remarks as above. Statement not factual. True, it was struck seriously for the first time.
Page 189: "Captain Moran turned his ships hard left and pulled out of the formation at 0012".
It is here I believe that the yarn should go on to tell that the SALT LAKE CITY, next ship astern of the BOISE, altered course to the right and interposed herself between the brightly burning BOISE and the enemy. At this time the SALT LAKE CITY shifted fire from a target on the starboard quarter (far enough away to have been the KINUGASA) to the one on the starboard bow which had the BOISE's range and was hitting her damagingly. Silhouetted against the burning BOISE, the SALT LAKE CITY was a perfect target for the enemy ship, which already had the range, and it was this circumstance and not the searchlights, which caused the SALT LAKE CITY to be hit. The searchlights were only opened briefly, on the first salvo to provide illumination prior to the bursting of SALT LAKE CITY star shells which were fired simultaneously with the main battery but which have a longer time of flight. (Searchlights had to be used in such a case, prior to the days of spotting radars, if it was desired to see where the first salvo landed). The number of hits made by the SALT LAKE CITY against this enemy is, of course, unknown but she did cease fire permanently while under SALT LAKE CITY main battery gunfire. The concentration of fire against this enemy, in which the SALT LAKE CITY participated, and the deliberate interpositioning (SALT LAKE CITY could have turned away, also to port) of the SALT LAKE CITY between the BOISE and her aggressor definitely contributed in saving the BOISE from further damage and probably loss. I believe this phase of the battle should be clarified and woven into the yarn. It represents not only the picture as those of us on the bridge and in the gunnery department of the SALT LAKE CITY saw it but also the expressed appreciation of members of the crew of the BOISE whom we saw in Noumea while helping the BOISE get ready for the return trip to Philadelphia. One seaman went so far as to write his feelings along a similar line while in a Philadelphia hospital and mailed his letter to the SALT LAKE CITY, then undergoing overhaul in Pearl Harbor.
Page 190: "men less than six feet from the detonation were not harmed".
Shell was not up to standard and explosion was of low order but it killed one man in the fireroom, wounded others, and started a 5-hour oil fire that was kept under control but did extensive damage requiring over two months of electrical work in Pearl to restore.
Are you sure KINUGASA was the ship which damaged BOISE? The reasons I ask are:
(a) She was damaged so lightly according to captured Japanese reports but was definitely the target of considerable concentrated fire by the SALT LAKE CITY, the BOISE, and other ships --- whichever ship it was.
(b) Our range to the ship in question was only 5000 yards and below at the time she set the BOISE on fire.