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
                   (U.S.S. CUSHING)
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), 
        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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