USS SLC... Enlisted Navy...John L. Murphy, CTC
#8 in picture of the 1938 SLC Baseball Team
SLC Deck Logs
Source: Fresno, CA. Newspaper, April 27, 1943
Nine Vessels Fall to Guns of Fresnan's Ship in 45 Minutes
Four Japanese warships and five auxiliary vessels destroyed in 45 minutes of night fighting off Guadalcanal. This is the score chalked up by the USS Salt Lake City, heavy cruiser, on the night of October 11-12, 1942, in the Savo Island battle.
Moved Men on Destroyers
John L. Murphy of Fresno, Turret Captain 1c, had an important role in the battle in which his ship played such an heroic role. Murphy, 24, a veteran of five years in the navy, came home on leave recently to visit his parents, Mr. & Mrs. Thomas B. Murphy, and he described the engagement which ended in a terrific beating for the surprised Japanese force. He was in charge of a gun turret.
"The Japanese had been running troops down to Guadalcanal on destroyers nearly every night, using cruisers for protection," Murphy said. "Our task force, consisting of two heavy cruisers, two light cruisers and four destroyers, set out to intercept them one night."
Night was Pitch Black
"We couldn't find them at first and feared we had missed them that night. then we came upon them near Savo Island and were surprised to find a bigger force than we had expected. They had transports and auxiliary vessels preparing to land troops on Guadalcanal, and between us and these transports was the screening force of destroyers and cruisers. I think there were four heavy cruisers, a couple of light cruisers, six destroyers, and at least one transport."
"It was a pitch black Sunday night, overcast and no stars, and just 13 minutes before midnight when we made first contact with the enemy."
All in 10 Minutes
"We were third in line, right behind the Boise, a light cruiser. Flares were sent up to silhouette the enemy, and our first target was a light cruiser. We opened fire at close range, and got direct hits. The cruiser began burning fiercely and we began looking for another target---the idea was to get everything they had under fire as soon as possible and add to their confusion."
"Just then a heavy Japanese cruiser loomed up and we waited for it to come into good range and shot some flares up to get a silhouette. when she was not over 5,000 or 6,000 yards away we fired two salvos from the main battery of guns and got two direct hits on her. She started burning and going down, and we fired four more salvos and she sank."
"I doubt if all this had taken 10 minutes, and we had set one cruiser afire and sunk another, and our ship had not been damaged."
Finish Light Cruiser
"The other ships in our force were busy too, all firing on their targets, but we were too occupied to watch them."
"Our third victim was an auxiliary, going about 15 knots. We and other ships in our force fired and this auxiliary went down with her propellers still spinning."
"the Japanese still were in a state of confusion and launched a torpedo attack with three destroyers. One destroyer came directly toward us. When it was perhaps 2,000 yards away we let go a salvo and caught her with direct hits. There was a terrific explosion which hid the entire ship from us, but when the water and smoke settled down there was nothing left in sight of the destroyer. That was our third victim inside of probably 20 minutes of action."
"Then we turned back to finish up the light cruiser we had left burning. We finished it with eight salvos and turned our guns on some auxiliaries."
Nine Ships Down
"Meanwhile, the Boise was ahead of us, and in trouble. She had taken some bad hits from a heavy cruiser and was at the enemy's mercy."
"There was only one thing for the Salt Lake City to do---we got in between the Boise and the Japanese---a hot place to be. We were silhouetted by the flames on the Boise, and we got into three straddles of shells from the Japanese. But our first salvo silenced the Japanese cruiser and four more sunk her."
"By the time, about 12:15 a.m., most of our force was pursuing what was left of the Japanese force and we stayed back to fire on the remaining auxiliaries, most of which were already burning."
The Salt Lake City's score for the 40 minutes or so of fighting added up to two heavy cruisers, one light cruiser, one destroyer, one transport, one submarine tender and three other auxiliaries.'
Served as Escort
The cruiser is credited with having saved the Boise from almost certain destruction too, by shielding her and destroying the enemy vessel which was moving in for the kill.
Despite all the high explosive shells which screamed over and around the valiant cruiser, she suffered only minor damage and loss in personnel. She since has undergone repairs and has returned to active service.
Before Savo Island battle, the Salt Lake City, with Murphy aboard, participated in the following task force operations: Marshall and Gilbert Islands raid, Wake Island bombardment, Marcus Island raid and the Solomon Islands campaign in August.
In these actions she served as an escort vessel for carriers, bombarded shore installations, sank enemy merchant vessels and fought off bombers with her anti-aircraft guns. Her first contact with Japanese warships came in the Savo Island battle.
Murphy said the men in his turret remained calm and cool throughout the battle and carried on exactly as they had done countless times before in target practice.
"One man, a powder passer, brought out a deck of cards during a lull in the firing and started playing solitaire." Murphy related. "When we were ready to go again he put his cards away and went to work".
Murphy has a brother, Clarence Murphy, who is a corporal at Camp Roberts. His father is a veteran of the Spanish American War.
John L. Murphy & Marvin were home town friends in Fresno, CA.