Commander Destroyer Division Ten
(Commanding Officer, USS CUSHING)
Serial SD/TS133 15 November 1942
Battle of Guadalcanal; 12-15 November 1942,
Narrative report of engagement with
Japanese surface units off Savo Island
about 0200 13 November 1942. USS CUSHING
hit by enemy fire and sank as a result
of this damage.
From: Commander Destroyer Division Ten
To : Commander in Chief Pacific Fleet.
Via : (1) Commanding Officer Naval Activities,
Cactus Ringbolt Area.
(2) Commander Task Group 67.4.
(3) Commander South Pacific Force.
Subject: Engagement with Japanese surface units off
Savo Island, about 0200, November 13, 1942.
1. Task Group 67.4 (Rear Admiral Callaghan) in Battle Formation
B-1", (Column of ships as follows, Van unit CUSHING (CDD-10),
LAFFEY, STERRETT, O'BANNON; Base unit ATLANTA, SAN FRANCISCO,
PORTLAND, HELENA, JUNEAU; Rear unit AARON WARD, BARTON,
MONSSEN, FLETCHER), departed Lunga Bay area about 1830 LOVE,
November 12 and proceeded on easterly courses through Sea Lark
Channel acting as covering Unit for Task Group 67.1 which
consisted of 4 AP's, 2 AK's and 3 DD's. Task Group 67.1 left
Lunga Area shortly after Task Group 67.4 and passed through
Lengo Channel to south of 67.4.
2. At about 2300 when Task Group 67.1 had cleared and was
proceeding southward, Task Group 67.4 reversed course and
proceeded on westerly courses through Lengo Channel to strike
any enemy forces found in the Cactus Area. Task Group 67.4
remained in Battle Formation on return westward. The ship was
at Battle Stations, Material Condition "A".
3. At about 0150, LOVE, November 13, when the CUSHING, the leading
ship of Task Group 67.4 was about 31/2 miles off Kokumbona, on
course 280° true, the U.S.S. HELENA reported two (2) radar
contacts bearing 310° T, 26000 yards, course 105° T.
Immediately thereafter out course was changed to 310° T, which
headed us to westward of Savo Island, and another change
shortly thereafter to 000° T, which course lead to eastward of
Savo Island, Speed at this time was 18 knots. Very Shortly
after changing course to the North (estimated to be 4-5
minutes) radar contacts indicated increasing number of enemy
ships, increasing from 3 to 10, then to 12. Bearing of these
additional contacts were not received in the CUSHING. About
this time (0200/L/13th) three vessels indentified as enemy
destroyers crossed ahead of the CUSHING port to starboard on a
course estimated to be about 20° - 30° true, distance 3000
yards. These were reported to Commander Task Group 67.4 by
voice with word that CUSHING was changing to left. This change
to left was made to bring torpedoes to bear, but torpedoes were
not fired because the destroyers were turning away and
immediately thereafter CUSHING was ordered to return to 000° T.
Simultaneously with this order a report was received that two
(2) large ships were on the port bow, (CUSHING was then on 330°
T, beginning the change to north). These two heavy ships were
not sighted by me at this time, but it was assumed as an
accurate report since initial radar contacts had placed them on
that side and on a course (105° T) that would have kept them on
that side. Shortly after CUSHING was on course 000° T. Fire
was opened by our units, odd ships having been ordered to fire
to starboard, even numbered to port. Heavy ships previously
reported were later sighted to port. Voice radio reception
from the time of opening fire was unreliable in the CUSHING.
The CUSHING increased speed to 25 knots after opening fire. A
speed change had been ordered but not understood in the CUSHING
due to difficulty in receiving T.B.S. transmissions.
4. About two (2) minutes after opening fire the CUSHING received
one or two shell hits amidships resulting in gradual loss of
power. The helmsman was assisted by shaded light to maintain
course by magnetic compass and continued on a generally
northward course as long as he had steering control. While
still making 10-12 knots ahead an enemy battleship was sighted
on the starboard hand heading on a westerly course which at the
time looked to be on a collision course. Bridge steering had
failed by this time but hand steering was ordered, and the
CUSHING came right to fire torpedoes at this battleship. Six
torpedoes were fired by local control at an estimated range of
1000 yards and shortly after firing, three heavy detonations
were heard near by and it is believed that these were hits on
the battleship from CUSHING's torpedoes. This enemy battleship
was believed to be of the FUSO class, and was being heavily hit
on superstructure by our cruiser gun fire. After CUSHING fired
torpedoes at her, the battleship continued slowly to westward
and disappeared and was not again sighted. (Details of other
gun and torpedo targets will be contained in Commanding Officer
CUSHING report of action and not included herein). Shortly
after firing torpedoes at the battleship, CUSHING was dead in
the water and apparently not too badly damaged, but before any
estimate of damage could be made, we were illuminated and fired
on from both sides being hit heavily. All guns were hit, Ward
Room, Chart House, #1 stack, Galley, Machine Shop, #1 Fire
Room, Director, After Living Compartment, a total of 13
definite hits and probably nearer 20, believed to be from
Cruisers and Destroyers. Emergency identification signals were
made with flashlights but firing continued.
5. After losing power and being dead in the water the CUSHING
continued fire on enemy targets using illumination of other
ships. When enemy character could not be established fire was
checked since we had been leading, and our own ships now were
passing us. After being hit by the two ships from opposite
sides, above mentioned, no guns were able to fire and ready
ammunition in #2 Gun Shelter caught fire, and no means
available to combat it, steam and diesel power had failed, and
the remaining undamaged handy billy inadequate. The Repair
parties had been practically wiped out by hits in the Machine
Shop and near the Galley. The Commanding Officer ordered boats
and rafts in the water. One boat had been shot away and the
other holed. All life rafts except 2 (1 of these picked up
after air attack on afternoon of November 12) were broken up by
shell fire. Fires broke out aft in the living Compartments; in
after Machine Gun Ammunition; and the fires in #2 Gun Shelter
was beyond control. Orders to abandon ship were given about
0230-0245. Wounded able to get off were helped to rafts and
rafts cleared the side. The Commanding Officer and a small
salvage party remained on the ship to attempt saving her and to
insure depth charges were all set on safe. As rafts cleared
the side the ammunition in forward Gun Shelter began exploding
and soon there was a combined oil and ammunition fire forward
with the repeated explosion of both 5" and 20mm ammunition
which could still be observed until survivors were picked up.
The last violent explosion being seen about 0830 while enroute
to Cactus in rescue boats. The fire forward gutted the ship
from Gun #1 to abaft the Engine Room, but the fires aft did not
appear to cause any explosions up to time survivors were picked
up. A large oil fire forward on the water started at 0300 and
all bridge structure was in intense flames for about 4-6 hours,
and flames continued there and spread aft to Engineering
spaces, apparently due to oil and burned throughout the day.
6. Survivors, list of which is submitted by the ship separately,
were picked up by boats from Naval Activities, Cactus,
beginning at daylight. On the way to the beach a terrific
explosion in the CUSHING was noted (0830) and thereafter heavy
black smoke was seen rising from the spot. As late as 1600/L
smoke was still seen at the point where CUSHING was abandoned,
but definite information as to her sinking was not available.
7. All "Confidential" publications in custody of Commander
Destroyer Division Ten were locked in a desk safe.
Confidential files were double locked in cabinet in my cabin,
except for three folders containing letters and data for
current operations. These folders were in a weighted canvas
bag on the Bridge. While definite statement as to final
destruction, based on sighting cannot be made it is believed
that no material in the vicinity of the Bridge and Ward Room
could have survived the intense fire that burned severely in
this area for at least 6-8 hours.
8. The Officers and crew of the CUSHING conducted themselves in a
most courageous and determined manner, fighting the ship so
long as means were available. No panic was evident at any
time. The order to abandon ship was carried out cooly and with
little or no confusion in spite of the severe damage to the
ship and to the life rafts which had been previously ordered in
preparation for lowering.
9. The CUSHING was seen by the Commanding Officer and by me to be
still burning at 1600, November 13th. Requests had been made to
have her sunk. Air search on the morning of November 14th
revealed no trace of the CUSHING. On the morning of November
15th, Lieutenant Colonel Wm. J. Fox, U.S.M.C., On the staff of
Major General Geiger, Air Wing One, stated to me that he had
seen the destroyer, in line with Savo Island as viewed from
Signal Tower, which had been burning all day, disappear at 1700
on November 13th. He stated he was observing her with a large
glass from the Signal Tower and saw the smoke cease, clear
atmosphere come between the column of smoke and the water, with
no further trace of ship or smoke. The CUSHING was the only
ship on this bearing, and also since she was still burning and
seen by the Commanding Officer and by me in the same relative
position as when we arrived at Guadalcanal in the morning of
November 13th, it is considered the CUSHING sank at 1700,
November 13th, 3,500 yards Southeast of Savo Island.
10. It is estimated that at least 16 enemy ships were present in
this engagement. Following were definitely sighted: One (1)
possibly two (2) battleships, (One (1) battleship being sighted
on each side at different times), one (1) heavy Cruiser, one
(1) light cruise, (3) destroyers. The further estimate is
based on Units not in our column that were firing.
11. The times and positions mentioned herein are approximate since
they are from memory, all records having been destroyed.
T. M. STOKES.
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