Pearl Harbor - Nov. 2nd, 1942
A 40-minute battle the night of Oct. 11-12, off Savo Island, in which possibly nine
Japanese warships were sunk, was described vividly today by Capt. Ernest G. Small of
New Haven, CT.
"It was a hell of a melee, completely surprising the enemy," said Capt. Small. "We
sank one heavy cruiser and believe we got two others and one light cruiser, and we
know we sank one destroyer and probably four others.
[Insert: The Navy communiqué issued two days after the battle listed a heavy Jap cruiser, four destroyers and a transport sunk at the cost of one American destroyer.]
"Within the first four minutes, I saw our salvos going in like red box cars on a Jap
heavy cruiser, plunging right into her and she sank. It was like seeing a prize
fighter getting socked on the chin, then shake and just drop cold.
"We caught them at five-mile range and hit some ships before they could open fire.
One had its guns trained fore and aft.
"It was one of those things naval officers wait for 20 years to see."
"We capped their 'T'. They were coming at high peed toward Guadalcanal at a right
angle to our course. The Jap ships turned in utter confusion, each ship taking its
own course and trying to bring the action parallel and uncross the disastrous 'T'.
[Insert: "Capping the 'T' is a naval maneuver whereby a line of ships swings in front of an opposing line of vessels, thus enabling them to concentrate their broadside fire upon the leading ship of the enemy line, which can bring to bear only its forward guns. By this maneuver the ships able to cross the T achieve superior fire power.]
"One destroyer came at us at high speed for a torpedo attack and was within 1,500
yard when our salvos obliterated it.
"The action was in spurts of from three to 10 minutes with both forces moving at top
"I was especially gratified with my ship crew in action and their showing of courage
and perfect reaction to training. One of the men was at a five-inch gun when hit by
a shell fragment which cut open his stomach and cut part of his hand off. But he
kept his gun pointers matched and fired four telling salvos -- then just died.
Another, a shell loader, was hit by a fragment, but kept the shells coming for the
guns until he dropped dead.
"It was dark night with no moon, clear, no wind, and sensitive to a peculiar musty
odor from decaying vegetation. We were on a mission to intercept an enemy movement
"In the early evening, there was an interesting incident that we felt was a bad omen.
In catapulting one of our planes for a search, Lt. William J. Tate, 26 years old,
from Baltimore, MD., and Radioman C. W. Morgan were aboard. As the plane left the
catapult, we saw flames in its tail and it landed afire. Tate dived eight times for
the rubber boat and both he and Morgan were burned. We felt he was lost, but he was
rescued 3 days later."
Read "Two Men on a Raft"
The night battle was near Savo Island, just two months after the first Savo Island
battle in which the Japs sank the cruisers QUINCY, ASTORIA and VINCENNES. The Japs
had the advantage of surprise in the first battle, but the tables were turned on them
this time with a much heavier loss than they inflicted on the American cruisers last