I'd like to take all of you to the fighting front through my eyes. I'd like to show you all what your sons, brothers, sweethearts and husbands are doing.
I remember one morning, Oct. 9th, 1942, right after we had landed on Guadalcanal, that we had received word the enemy was sending reinforcements down from Truk. It was the job of our small task force, two heavy cruisers, two light cruisers and escorting destroyers, to destroy this force. I was serving on one of the heavy cruisers.
At 10 a.m. we steamed at full speed to arrive off Savo Island about midnight. We arrived at our destination in time to find the enemy had been dispersed earlier in the evening by patrol planes. We withdrew. The next night, Oct. 10th, we went back into Savo Island, but again the enemy had fled. The third night, Oct. 11th, we were getting ready to launch one of our scout planes to assist us in locating the enemy ships. This plane had large parachute flares on each wing and two spares in the tail. We catapulted him off the starboard catapult and my gun station was just aft of this on gun number 7, so I had a ring side seat. As the plane left the can the jolt ignited the spare flares and the plane was a ball of fire. It immediately crashed about 200 years from the ship. That just about unnerved everyone, as word of the crash was passed all over the ship. We knew the Japs had seen the fire and would investigate, and we would loose the element of surprise.
See Story---Two Men on a Raft
I took the lookout watch, as I was trained as a night lookout. I cried like a baby, then I began to pray, as the Lt., the pilot and the radioman of that plane were not only my shipmates, but my personal friends. Two hours later [about 11:50 p.m.] we contacted a small force of ships on our starboard. As we were just about to open fire we found a large group of ships on our port side. We were in between two groups. The Admiral called for a left turn, and it was the one thing every Admiral dreams and prays for... we crossed the enemy. At 11:53 p.m. the order was given to open fire. My gun was firing star shells. As our star shells broke, our main battery fired over one of our own destroyers and the full salvo hit a Jap light cruisers. He capsized, but not before he had raked our destroyer with machine gun fire. He sank in 45 seconds. Then all hell broke loose. You see, at night every shot fired is like a tracer, and you can see your shells leaving the gun muzzles and the enemy's coming at you. It puts the fear of God in you seeing all that.
Four enemy destroyers started to make a torpedo run on us. We sank two and the cruiser astern of us sank the others, so I heard later. At this time one Jap heavy cruiser had been lurking off the starboard bow, and no one had seen him. He hit the light cruiser Boise and set it aflame from the bow to the bridge. She was just ahead of us. At this time a man on one of the directors spotted this Jap and we moved up to take the Boises' place, as she couldn't stand another hit. She had turned in back of us and being a fire silhouetted us for the enemy. We fired as we got hit and we also hit him. He stopped us dead in the water and we put him out of commission. We put five main battery salvos in him and one of our escorting destroyers put five torpedoes in him. Meanwhile, we had saved the Boise and were fighting fire like mad. We had several causalities.
The man who first reported that enemy cruisers was killed, and the topside was sprinkled with shrapnel. One kid, 18 year old, Bivin by name, who we called "Baby Bivin", had been hit bad. A piece of his training wheel and part of this hand had been blown into his stomach. He was hurt bad yet he still trained his gun for several more salvos until he fell dead. One fuse pot loader had been hit bad, but rather than drop his shell which would have exploded, he cried for his gun captain to load it for him as he was hit. He died shortly after that.
Meanwhile, the Japs were still shooting at us and we were returning the fire. The rest of our force surrounded us to protect us and our destroyers threw torpedoes at the remaining enemy ships, scoring several hits. I counted 11 fires and I knew of one cruiser and two destroyers definitely sunk.
The fire in our number 1 and 2 firerooms was bad. The steam was putting out the fire but 14 men were trapped. One chief watertender in the control party got to them and saved 13, then passed out after breathing live steam. Fortunately he was rescued and survived the ordeal.
We got up steam about 2 a.m. and tried to run for it. The rest of our force were still protecting us. The Boise had her fire out. We flooded and counter flooded to keep the shop on an even keel. At daybreak every plane of ours in that area was sent out to protect us. At 9 a.m. we started to bury our dead. In the middle of the services we were attacked by subs. Our destroyers made short work of them. Two and a half days later we arrived in Espiritu Santos badly damaged but knowing we had taken everything the enemy had thrown at us, and came out ahead. Our causalities - one destroyer sunk and one damaged, two cruisers damaged. The enemy lost three cruisers, four destroyers, one transport fully loaded and numerous ships damaged.
After we arrived in port we received word that our two aviators whose plane had burned were safe in Guadalcanal. They had time to get their life raft out before the plane sank and had paddled 55 miles around ___ Island to Henderson field. They had been shot at from the beach, and strafed from the air, but they made it safely. I again thanked God for such a miracle, as the radioman of that plane had just received word that he was the father of twins.
One other thing.... The morning after our battle, a fast destroyer had been sent out to us loaded with mail. Every ship in our task force received mail. That was the happiest moment of my life. So, in closing, let me remind you that the fighting men have not lost faith in you, have you lost faith in them? Their every prayer is to help them to be the kind of fighting man you folks want them to be. So remember when you get home, sit down and write that letter to your service man.
Author Unknown at this time.
Return to Battle of Cape Esperance Index
Those that died during the Battle of Cape Esperance...Oct. 11-12, 1942
Lloyd E. Acree, Aviation Ordinanceman, Third Class, USN
Vernard E. Bivin, Seaman, First Class, USN
Vernon A. Grave, Seaman Second Class, USN
Harold E. "Gus" Kronquist, Chief Fire Controlman, USN
Michael A. McLeary, Fireman Second Class, USN