CL-51 U.S.S. ATLANTA
War Diary and Action Reports November 1942,
File No. U.S.S. ATLANTA
Advanced Naval Activities,
Cactus - Ringbolt Area,
November 20, 1942.
From: The Commanding Officer.
To : Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet.
Via : Commander Task Force 67.
Subject: Engagement with Japanese Surface Force off
Guadalcanal night of 12-13 November 1942, and
Loss of U.S.S. ATLANTA.
Reference: (a) U.S. Navy Regulations, Article 712.
Enclosure: (A) Report of Executive Officer (Article 948, U.S.
(B) List of hits received.
(C) Notes on Damage Control.
(D) Gunnery Notes.
(E) Notes on First Aid.
1. On evening of November 12, 1942, Task Group 67.4
(Rear Admiral Callaghan in SAN FRANCISCO) was formed composed
of the following units: CUSHING (CDD10), LAFFEY, STERRETT,
O'BANNON, ATLANTA (Rear Admiral Scott), SAN FRANCISCO, PORTLAND,
HELENA, JUNEAU, ARRON WARD (CDS12), BARTON, MONSSENM FLETCHER.
This group was divided into three tactical units: van destroyers,
base unit, and rear destroyers. Battle formation was column,
order of ships as listed above.
2. At about 1800/L12th, TG 67.4 departed vicinity of
Lunga Point, proceeding eastward through Sealark Channel, to
cover withdrawal of TG 67.1. At about 2300, TG 67.4 reversed
course to the westward and returned to the Cactus area via
Lengo Channel. Ship was at General Quarters.
3. Times of course changes and other evolutions listed
hereafter are approximate as all records have been lost.
4. The Task Group proceeded westward along the north-
east coast of Guadalcanal at 18 knots until about opposite
Kokumbona, at which time the HELENA reported radar contacts
bearing 310°T, 26000 yards. Course was then changed by head of
column movement to 310° and shortly thereafter to 355°. Radar
contacts reported by the HELENA indicated a rapidly closing
range, and shortly after reaching course 355° the number of
contacts reported increased to 10 or 12, at least some of which
were ahead on the port bow and separated from the original group.
ATLANTA's SC radar made contact bearing about 340°, course of
contact about 110°speed 20. Gunnery radars picked up and
tracked this contact. Almost immediately after the contacts on
the port bow developed, a change of course 45° left, by head of
column movement, was ordered by TBS.
5. ATLANTA was forced to turn left almost immediately
after execution of the above signal, in order to avoid collision
with a destroyer of the van group. It appeared that these
destroyers might have executed a ships left maneuver, rather
than a column movement, and the nearest one was close underfoot.
An unidentified ship reported "Torpedo passing from port to
starboard", and another reported "Fishing" (interpreted to mean
firing torpedoes") by TBS. At this time the Task Group
Commander interrogated the ATLANTA's maneuver by TBS; ATLANTA
began maneuvers to come right and resume station ahead of SAN
6. While in the above situation, the radar contact
ahead, which had continued to be tracked, become visible bearing
about North, distance 3000 yards, crossing from port to starboard
on course about 110°. Several of the destroyers were between
ATLANTA and this vessel, which was identified as a CL similar
To the ATORI class.
7. At that instant the ATLANTA was illuminated by a
battery of two or four searchlights from a ship bearing about
270°T. The battery was immediately shifted to this target; in
the instant before opening fire the TBS order was received
"Open fire, odd ships to starboard, even ships top port". ATLANTA
opened fire at estimated range 1600 yards on the illuminating
ship, ATLANTA firing before being fired upon.
8. During the first instants of firing upon this
vessel, two enemy destroyers were sighted crossing the line of
fire from left to right, on course about North. They were
clearly identified in the searchlight beam as Japanese destroyers
similar to the ASASHIO class, firing upon ATLANTA. Fire of the
forward group (the battery having been divided throughout) was
shifted from the illuminating vessel to the rear DD, which was
seen to receive about twenty hits in the hull from 1200 yards
range, erupt in flame, and later disappeared.
9. Meanwhile the after group continued firing on the
illuminating ship, which was seen to be hit. An additional
unidentified ship opened fire upon ATLANTA from about 10° left
of the illuminating ship. At that time two heavy jolts were
felt, the first possibly a torpedo hit forward, and the second
definitely a torpedo hit in the forward engine room. Both of
these were distinctly heavier and different in character from
our gunfire hits. All power except auxiliary diesel was lost,
our fire was interrupted, and steering control had to be
shifted to the steering engine room. At about the same time
all of the above described gunfire against ATLANTA ceased, and
illumination went out. The illuminating ship, which had been
under fire also by another ship of our force, was seen to sink.
10. Because of the subsequent loss of the conning
officer and many other bridge personnel, each maneuver of the
ship during the foregoing cannot definitely be recorded here.
By the time all action had broken off, the ship had swung slowly
left to a heading of about South.
11. Within a minute or so after the termination of the
above action, and the ship dead in the water, without power, and
on fire from hits forward, she was taken under fire by a heavy
cruiser which is very strongly believed to have been of our own
force. The cruiser in question opened fire from about 240°
relative, range about 3500 yards without illuminating, and put
several salvos into the ship, totaling about 19 hits, detailed
later. The firing ship was on a slightly converging course, and
as illuminated by her own gun flashes could be seen to have the
distinctly non-Japanese hull profile. Efforts to take her under
fire were suspended on the above recognition; she also ceased
fire after three or four salvos. One officer is positive that
the ship firing at us was the SAN FRANCISCO, however, this cannot
be substantiated from any other source. A few minutes later in
a flash of light from elsewhere the ship was seen passing close
aboard to port.
12. Upon conclusion of the above it was discovered
that all telephones on the bridge were out. The Commanding
Officer the proceeded to Battle Two to find out what power was
available and obtain more information as to the condition of the
ship. About six unidentified vessels were observed scattered
to the North dead in the water, burning and exploding. Fire
was exchanged between various of these ships from time to time.
Perhaps two were Japanese; these were observed to discharge what
appeared to be a pyrotechnic identification signal when fired
upon. The nature of the signal was a luminous cloud of snow-
flakes, projected vertically to about masthead height, where it
floated or some 10 seconds before burning out. One ship which
emitted this signal blew up and sunk within a short time after
the foregoing. Of the remainder, ire was exchanged on several
occasions between ships both of which were very strongly
believed to be of our force. Their fire was characteristic of
the 5"/38 gun, with nitrocellulose powder, and of the 20mm auto-
matic gun. Some of the above was also directed against this
vessel, without results, and without return
13. After some time one ship of the above group got
way on and stood off to the East, crossing under the ATLANTA's
stern and firing several salvos which passed overhead, producing
one hit in the crow's nest. This ship is believed to have been
a one-stack destroyer.
14. After the 8" fire ceased, opportunity was available
for taking stock of the situation. First efforts were directed
toward getting under control the various fires burning about the
ship; this had been accomplished within one hour. Before the fire
in the bridge structure was extinguished the foremast fell to
port. The ship was listed slightly to port and down by the head,
making water steadily, which it continued to do despite all
efforts. No power other than emergency diesel was available,
but steps were inaugurated to clear one fireroom, which later
proved futile. The many wounded had first aid administered,
and evacuation boats for them were requested by auxiliary radio
from Cactus. Every efforts was devoted to the one end of clearing
the ship of debris, jettisoning useless weights, and getting her
ready to steam out. Details of damage and the damage control
situation are included later.
15. With the coming of daylight, the CUSHING and two
additional U.S. destroyers (all burning), the PORTLAND, and one
Japanese destroyer of the ASASHIO class were sighted. The Jap
DD was shortly sunk by three salvos from the PORTLAND's main
battery. Several Japanese dead, in life jackets, were seen
floating close aboard, and other swimming Japs were seen around
the area of the engagement. Many were seen to be captured by
Cactus boats which appeared shortly after daylight. As the ship
appeared to be drifting ashore on Jap held coastline a few miles
East of Cape Esperance, the starboard anchor was dropped with
90 fathoms of chain. Port anchor and chain were jettisoned to
help correct list. About this time the following was sent to
the PORTLAND, quote "Damage as result night action X Six turrets
out of commission, both firerooms and forward engine room flooded,
after engine room gradually flooding, have only diesel auxiliary
power, steering gear operative, foremast gone X ship received
many eight inch hits and one or more torpedo hits, latter in
vicinity number one engine room port, bridge structure completely
gutted X have requested assistance from Cactus intend to send
wounded and others there retaining nucleus crew aboard in case
facilities available for towing X if not available condition of
ship warrants sinking X request instruction regarding" unquote.
Cactus boats began evacuating our wounded, the most serious cases
first; all the wounded were cleared by mid-morning. The unwounded
and those slightly wounded remained on board.
16. At about 0930, USS BONOLINK arrived in the area
and was ordered by PORTLAND to tow ATLANTA to an anchorage off
Kukum. Then anchor and 90 fathoms starboard chain being still
down, the ship came to anchor about 1400 and the tow was dropped
where the anchor grounded off Kukum. Chan was then veere to
105 fathoms. During passage to this area, one Japanese type 1
Navy twin engine bomber appeared, low, and was taken under fire
By turret 8 (only turret with power). This plane withdrew.
17. It was by now apparent that efforts to save the
ship were useless, and that the water was gaining steadily. The
ship has about a 10° list to port and was gradually settling at
that angle. Had efficient salvage facilities been available to
save the ship, such assistance would have been of doubtful value
due to the great extent of damage. Commander South Pacific Forces
had authorized the Commanding Officer to act at discretion regard-
ing destruction of ATLANTA. It was therefore decided to abandon
ship and sink her with a demolition charge. All personnel except
the Commanding Officer and a demolition party was removed by
Cactus boats, and the charge set and exploded. The ship was
then completely abandoned. The area around was patrolled by
boats to prevent boarding by unauthorized persons until the ship
sank. At 2015, November 13, 1942, the ship sank, approximately
3 miles West of Lunga Point, in about 80 fathoms of water.
18. It is considered that all classified matter in the
ship was effectively destroyed, the majority by the fire which
gutted the bridge, radio, and coding room areas; he remainder
with the sinking of the ship. The bridge structure was inspected
by several officers who reported that the intense heat still
exiting prevented complete inspection and that all burnable
and easily fusable material was completely destroyed.
19. The conduct of the officers and men was exemplary.
They remained at their stations until no longer tenable. There
was no panic and after the action all hands energetically turned
to at various duties fighting fire, tending wounded, etc., all
of which was handled in a most efficient manner. Their actions
during the battle and afterwards were in the best traditions of
the Naval Service.
20. Recommendations for awards and commendations will
be made in a separate letter.
21. The Commanding Officer, officers, and men of
ATLANTA cannot express satisfactorily their appreciation to the
Commanding General Cactus, the Commanding Officer of Naval
Activities, Cactus Ringbolt area, and all officers and men on the
island for their efficient care of our wounded shipmates and the
and the assistance given ATLANTA survivors before and after
arrival at Guadalcanal.
S. P. JENKINS.
Copy to: ComSoPac
File No. U.S.S. ATLANTA
Advanced Naval Activities,
Cactus - Ringbolt Area,
November 18, 1942.
S E C R E T
From: Commander C. D. EMORY, U.S. Navy (Executive Officer
To : The Commanding Officer, U.S.S. ATLANTA.
Subject: U.S.S. ATLANTA - Action with enemy at about 0200,
13 November 1942, and loss of ATLANTA at 2015 on
Reference: (a) Article 943, U.S. Navy Regulations, 1920.
1. This report is submitted in accordance with
2. Inasmuch as the report of the Commanding Officer
contains full details of the tactical situation, a general
narrative, damage sustained, etc., and that the Commanding
Officer's report in its entirety is concurred in by the
Executive Officer, this report will be brief and arranged
under the following subheads:
(A) Brief narrative.
(B) Conduct of subordinates.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Shortly after the action started the ship was
Struck by a torpedo (possibly two) on the port side. This
Was the major damage sustained and had the ALANTA not received
this torpedo damage, it is believed the ship could have been
saved. The torpedo hit caused loss of all power except by
emergency diesel generator. Very shortly after this the ship
received severe damage by gun fire (mostly from port) which
demolished the bridge superstructure, all 5" turrets except
7 & 8, all 20mm guns except 7 & 8, Nos. 1,2,3 1.1 guns, Nos.
1 & 3 1.1 directors and torpedo directors and #2 torpedo tube.
Within about ten minutes after the opening of the action, both
firerooms and the forward engine room were flooded and the
bridge structure entirely demolished.
At Battle II all communication was lost except with
The steering gear room. The Captain arrived in Battle II about
15 minutes after the action started. His escape uninjured from
the bridge was a miracle.
From then on efforts were directed toward getting
the ship underway by pumping out #2 fireroom if possible,
fighting fires, and caring for the dead and wounded. An idea
of personnel casualties may be obtained from the following table:
CLASSIFICATION OFFICERS CREW
Wounded in action 7 70
Killed in action 18 135
Died of wounds received in action 1 3
Missing in action 0 14
Survivors 10 461
TOTAL 45 690
Many wounded were put in life floats before
daylight. At about 0000 boats from cactus arrived and commenced
evacuating wounded which was completed by about 0030. BOBOLINK
took ATLANTA in tow at about 0900 and headed towards Lungs
Point. Towing was difficult due to 90 fathoms of chain having
been veered on starboard anchor to keep ship off Japanese shore
of Guadalcanal the previous night. The port anchor and chain
had been jettisoned to remove port list. BOBOLINK arrived at
a position several miles NW of Lunga Point at about 1400 when
the starboard anchor took hold.
At this time the Captain called his officers
together to discuss what should be done with the ship. Water
was entering the hull faster than it could be pumped out and it
was apparent the ship was lost. At this conference at about 1430
it was decided to abandon and destroy ATLANTA with demolition
charges. Cactus was requested to send boats at 1500 to evacuate
about 470 unwounded survivors. This was accomplished in orderly
manner. Service records and pay accounts were recovered.
Confidential documents, codes and ciphers had been destroyed
After all hands had abandoned the Captain and a
demolition party took station on the forecastle and set off a
demolition charge that had been placed in the Diesel Generator
Room. After setting off the charge at about 1630 the party left
the ship followed by the Captain. The Captain and his party
patrolled around the ATLANTA a few hundred yards off in two
Higgins boats. Several explosions aft occurred - undoubtedly
magazines. At 2015 ATLANTA sank.
(B) CONDUCT OF SUBORDINATES:
The conduct of all personnel in action, and during
the heart breaking twelve hours following action during which
all hands were engaged in attempting to save their ship and care
for their wounded shipmates was of the highest exemplary order
and in accordance with the best tradition of the Naval Service.
It is with difficulty that individuals can be selected for
individual praise. Recommendations for awards, advancement and
commendation will be forwarded in a separate letter.
C. D. EMORY.
ENCLOSURE (B) - LIST OF HITS RECEIVED.
1. Four types of projectile hits were distinguished,
as follows: (Enclosure "D" defines ships "A", "B", "C" and "D")
(a) A medium projectile of high capacity, instantaneous fuze,
which exploded on contact with light structural plate, blowing
a 2-3 foot hole in ¼" plate and showing fragment scars on
outside as well as behind the detonating plate. Fragments
from such shells riddled light structural work, but were
stopped easily by 1.25 STS, and in several instances by 30 lb.
STS; the flash ignited anything inflammable in the vicinity.
It is believed that these hits were received from ship "A",
the ship that illuminated ATLANTA, considered a CL, possibly
one with special ammunition for shore bombardment of Guadal-
canal; they are therefore tentatively identified as 5.5 H.C
(b) A 3" common (or solid), believed to be from the AA guns
of the CL. One such which penetrated the lower, vertical
portion of the 1.25 face turret 6 was definitely a 3"
shell; other hits elsewhere appeared similar.
(c) A 5" common. This gave moderate penetration, exploding
inside with a few large, relatively low-velocity, fragments,
and moderate blast. It is believed that these hits came from
ship "B" (the destroyer sunk by ATLANTA), her accompanying
probably also a destroyer.
(d) An 8" AP. These were all from bearing about 250° relative,
from ship "D", the heavy cruiser. Of these hits, many passed
through superstructure and light splinter plate without
detonating, scattering green dye-load throughout the areas
of their passage. A few fragments were recovered; one, a
very heavy nose fragment, showed a short-radius ogive with
the cuts for attaching the cap; another showed a band score
of width similar to our 8" projectiles; a third, a small base
fragment, bore the lettering "No.51".
2. Thirteen 5.5 H.C. hits were counted, as follows:
(a) Base of director 1; killed lookouts, started fire in
wiring, life jackets, gas mask, personnel's clothing; frag-
ments cut wiring in director wiring tube. This fire spread
upward into Director 1.
(b) After port corner of forward control; wrecked Target
Designator system and killed all control personnel except
Three (two badly wounded).
(c) Superstructure forward, immediately below bridge; set
fire in 'Sr. Staff Officer's Cabin'; fragments ignited 20mm
ammunition at gun2 and in forward 20mm loading room. This
fire spread, from explosion of ammunition penetrating decks,
to two decks below in the Wardroom.
(d) Bridge splinter shield at port torpedo director; damaged
director, killed torpedo control personnel and many signalmen;
blew up port flag bags and fired debris.
(e) Deck gear locker A-0102A, outboard of turret 3 upper
handling room; blew down the after bulkhead (to admiral's
cabin); did minor splinter damage, but no damage to handling
room 1.25 STS; fired deck gear inflammables.
(f) Admiral's bath A-0104L; six feet abaft hit (e) above;
blew down the after joiner bulkhead (to Admiral's cabin);
fired clothing and bedding.
(g) Director 4 (2# - 1.1 director); wiped out director and
crew; blew off weather deck door inboard; started fire in
life jackets and clothing in #2 - 1.1 clipping room, which
soon became an ammunition fire.
(h) No. 2 - 1.1 trainer and sight, passing on to radio central
B-0202C where it burst on bulkhead; started fire in radio
(i) At boundary between Gunnery Officer's and Engineer Officer's
staterooms (SR'S 0102 and 0104); blew down joiner bulkheads
of these rooms and First Lieutenant's stateroom (SR0101)
across the passage; started fire in clothing and bedding of
these three rooms.
(j) In Supply Officer's stateroom (SR 106), at overhead level;
wrecked furniture and started fire in bedding.
(k) in wardroom pantry A-106L, at overhead level; wrecked
furniture and set small fire in stores, etc.
(l) In Navigator's stores A-105L; blew down joiner bulkheads
and fired debris.
(m) In port whaleboat; wrecked boat and bent after davit (no
In addition to the listed damage, extensive fragment
spray from the above hits wrecked the searchlights, riddled both
motor launches, the stacks, and decks and bulkheads of the
forward superstructure area.
3. Probably five 3" hits were counted, as follows:
(a) In turret 6 face plate (1.25 STS), in vertical portion,
normal impact; penetrated; small fragment effect inside
(possibly broke up).
(b) Similar projectile deflected by the 30° inclined 1.25
STS face of turret 6.
(c) Possibly a similar projectile blew off pointer's sight
hood and projecting part of telescope, turret 6.
(d) One deflected by 75° inclined roof of turret 3.
(e) One through side of ship into compartment A-304L, added
to damage of 5" hit in this area.
4. Twelve 5" common hits were counted as follows:
(a) Water line, frame 8, port; exploded in A-302A. Ruptured
decks above and below; pierced after bulkhead; allowed
flooding of opened areas when ship settled, and started
fire in A-203A (the compartment above.
(b) Mess attendant's compartment A-205-1L, port, high;
caused miscellaneous damage to bunks and lockers but no fire.
(c) Living compartment A-304L, port; same effect as above;
allowed flooding when ship settled from torpedo hit.
(d) About frame 23, port, exploding in registered publication
storeroom A-207AL. Blew down inboard bulkhead, blocking
the only fore and aft passage on this deck, inboard of it;
also blew off W.T. door to A-205-2L. Set fire to debris.
(e) About frame 24, port, exploding in W.R. linen locker;
blew down joiner bulkheads of locker and SR 202; killed
repair party personnel in passage inboard; set fire in
(f) On 30° inclined portion of face plate of turret 1 from
directly in front of turret; penetrated on trainer's side
but broke up (unburned explosive seen); damaged training
gear and killed 4 men.
(g) On forward bulkhead of turret 2 upper handling room,
at top, about 45° obliquity; broke up but partially pene-
trated, fragments going both inside and out, killing 3 men;
fragments dented water seal and barbette sufficiently to
jam turret against manual train.
(h) On Senior Staff Officer's Cabin, A-105L; miscellaneous
damage added to destruction in this area.
(i) Through blast shield of torpedo tube #2; killed trainer,
wounded tube captain; detonated in crew's washroom.
(j) In #3 - 1.1 foundation. Pieces of the gun platform
were blown upward, jamming the mount in train; killed two
men and wounded several.
(k) Through foremast; possibly cut TBS and SC leads.
(l) Through mainmast; no damage.
5. Probably nineteen 8" hits were counted, as follows:
(a) Two through forward sky lookout splinter shield; passed
on without exploding; missiles killed several men.
(b) Three through Flag Plot, B-0301C, and athwart ships
passage A-105L, just above deck level. One passed through
after starboard corner of pilot house. All passed on with-
out exploding, but missles killed many bridge personnel.
(c) Two through radio room and coding room; passed on with-
out detonating, but missles killed many communication
The above seven hits were of one salvo grouped
within an area 6 yards high by 8 yards wide.
(d) Two into turret 4, detonated; blew off top and back of
turret, killed all but one man of crew, started fire in gas
masks and clothing. Fragments and missles wrecked super-
structure area inboard, caused many punctures in main deck
and in second deck into C-306L. Fire did not reach upper
(e) Two passed through superstructure and wrecked turret
5, blowing off its outboard side, killing all but one man,
and setting a bad fire in powder, clothing, and gas mask.
Fire did not reach upper handling room.
(f) Two passed through superstructure and passed out through
#5 - 20mm gun foundation and splinter shield, killing and
The above six hits were of one salvo, grouped
within an area 7 yards high by 20 yards wide.
(g) One cut off muzzle of right gun of turret 3.
(h) One passed through chase of left gun of turret 3,
cutting out a segment 6" deep from the underside; fragments
and missles from this and the preceding hit punctured
decks and did miscellaneous destruction in this area.
(i) One (or more) entered compartment A-210AL or B-202L,
killing or wounding most of repair II personnel and many
of plot crew who were escaping, tearing up the deck and
destroying the water-tight integrity of these spaces.
(j) One through chase of left gun of turret 6; cut segment
out of gun.
(k) One across back of turret 6, just tangent to shield;
(l) One into back of turret 6; blew off both rear access
plates and pieces of rear shield plate.
6. In addition to the damage listed for the above
hits, there was considerable additional damage of an important
nature, the result of the extensive destruction of water-tight
integrity by fragment punctures in the general areas of bursts.
7. One certain torpedo hit was received in the forward
engine room, port side. In addition to flooding that space, the
explosion of this torpedo:
(a) Buckled the armored deck above it upward, shearing
rivets and opening seems into compartment B-204L. These
buckled plates were well inboard, almost to the center-line,
with an undisturbed area outboard. The ship's side above
water, showed no torpedo damage.
(b) Split and punctured the bulkheads to both firerooms,
causing a very rapid flooding of the forward fireroom and
somewhat slower flooding of the after one.
8. An additional heavy shock, perhaps less intense
than the above, was felt, which may have been a torpedo. The
location of this hit is uncertain, but it may have been in the
engineering spaces flooded by the above.
9. The definite concentration of our CL adversary's
fire in the upper levels of the bridge structure is noted. The
5" fire from at least two, and possibly three or four, destroyers,
was considerably scattered. There was no indication of the use
of any incendiary ammunition.
10. The immediate crippling of the ship as the
result of a torpedo hit which vented fore and aft into the
firerooms is also noted. Such venting represents the path of
least resistance for an explosion otherwise completely contained,
above the water-line, by armor. It is strongly believed that
this torpedo gave an under-bottom explosion.
ENCLOSURE (C) - NOTES ON DAMAGE CONTROL
1. The situations requiring immediate attention
after firing ceased were: (a) fire in the bridge structure;
(b) fire in turret 5; (c) fire in wardroom linen locker, located
next to upper handling room for turret 1; (d) flooding; (e)
miscellaneous small fires about the ship.
2. The following equipment was available for fighting
fires: two gasoline handy-billy pumps. The hose for one pump
had been damages and only a partial stream could be obtained.
A bucket line was formed and proved effective against the bridge
fire, fire in turret 5, and other small fires throughout the ship.
3. Five submersible pumps were available foe pumping
after the electrical grounds on the emergency diesel board were
corrected and a line run forward for distributing power. The
two gasoline handy-billy pumps were also used for pumping after
the fires were extinguished.
4. The fire in the bridge structure was brought under
control by the use of the two gasoline handy-billy pumps and by
forming a bucket brigade on the starboard side. The fires were
extinguished at considerable risk to personnel involved as the
cartridges in the #1 and #2 - 1.1 and 20mm clipping rooms were
still exploding. It required several hours to bring this fire
under control. The following compartments in the bridge structure
were found to be gutted and destroyed by shell damage and the
resultant fire: Director 1, lookout stations, control forward,
bridge, pilot house, flotilla plot, chart house, senior staff
officer's cabin, Captain's emergency cabin, radio room, code
room, communication office, navigator's stateroom, navigator's
stores, pyrotechnic locker, officer's W.C. staterooms B-0104L,
B-0102L, B-0101L, Captain's stateroom and pantry, flotilla
commander's stateroom and pantry, 1.1 ammunition clipping rooms
B-0104M, B0105M, and 20mm clipping room. The wardroom, wardroom
pantry, and Supply Officer's stateroom, A-106L, were also damaged
and gutted by fire.
5. The fire in the linen locker adjacent to turret 1
was extinguished about 0900 by the use of the handy-billy pump.
6. The fire in the gun chamber of turret 5 was ex-
tinguished by a bucket brigade. Miscellaneous fires throughout
the ship were extinguished by bucket brigades.
7. The electrician's had been trying to get power to
the submersible pump outlets. The diesel generator was operating.
Due to the grounds on the board it was about an hour before the
proper connection could be effected. The first pump was used
to pump down compartment C-201-2L. When this was accomplished
it was moved to the after engine room and it was found that the
water in that compartment could be controlled.
8. Two additional pumps were put into operation and
used to remove seepage within hatch combing of No. 2 fireroom
adjacent compartment. About 10,000 gallons of water was pumped
out of compartment A-409L which had been placed in there to cool
magazines directly below.
9. Later available pumps were placed in No. 2
engine room and the forward mess hall. The pumps controlled
the water in these compartments but flooding of the ship contin-
ued as evidenced by gradual increase of draft.
10. The water in crew's compartment A-304L was
removed by a handy-billy pump after holes were plugged to
prevent additional flooding.
11. As pumps were not available, no attempts were
made to control flooding in A-305-1L. Compartment was closed
off to prevent spread of water.
12. Following items were jettisoned to reduce topside
weight and increase stability:
(a) Slipped port anchor and chain.
(b) Cut away port whaleboat and davits.
(c) Jettisoned all 5" ammunition in turrets 4 and 5 upper
(d) Fired four torpedoes on port side (No. 2 tube).
(e) Jettisoned all depth charges except three 300 lb.
(f) Jettisoned smoke screen generators.
(g) Jettisoned all miscellaneous gear on port side.
(h) Jettisoned pavane gear, gangways, and loose gear.
13. Following items could not be jettisoned:
(a) Foremost (had fallen over port side).
(b) Port torpedo tube.
(c) #2 motor launch.
14. Damage Control Recommendations:
(a) Provide emergency diesel power both forward and aft.
(b) There should be a secondary pumping system located
both forward and aft, power being supplied by diesel.
(c) These pumps, mentioned in paragraph (b) above, should
be so arranged that they could supply water to the fire
main for fire fighting.
(d) There should be a number of gasoline handy-billy pumps
(e) A supply of gasoline for handy-billy pumps should be
stowed forward and aft.
(f) There should be a more rugged construction used in
design of RBA equipment; many were damaged during the
engagement and become unserviceable.
(g) Casualty power systems should be installed to get
vital equipment in operation.
(h) Magazines should be capable of being flooded from
(i) There should be more means of access to elevated
stations such as bridge and other elevated structure.
15. All linoleum had been removed from the ship and
a considerable amount of paint had been removed from lower deck
spaces in accordance with CinCPac instructions. It is believed
that these measures prevented fires of a more serious nature
than those which occurred.
ENCLOSURE (D) - NOTES ON GUNNERY ENGAGEMENT.
1. During the approach the 5" and machine gun
batteries were in divided fire . Control had Director 1 and
5" mounts 1, 2, 3 and 4, with Machine Gun Control having the
port (or even numbered) machine guns (1.1" and 20mm); Control
Aft had Director 2 and 5" mounts 5, 6, 7 and 8, with Machine
Gun Control Aft having the starboard (or odd numbered) machine
guns. The torpedo battery was also split, the Torpedo Officer
on the port director having tube 2, and the Asst. First Lieuten-
ant on the starboard director having tube 1. Ship's doctrine
called for this setup in order best to handle the expected short
range melee, with numerous targets on either hand; if an
engagement developed in which only one target was to be fired
upon, collective fire was to be set up immediately.
2. Radio speakers at Control and Control aft were
cut in on TBS, keeping the control officers informed of the
situation to some degree. These speakers, connected thus or
to aircraft fighter-director circuits, had in the past proved
of immense value; on this occasion this value was drastically
reduced by the use of voice-code on the circuit. Our SC contacts,
such as they were, were promptly analyzed and delivered, but
could in no way approach the scope of what should have been
available from the SG's of the force.
3. Prior to opening fire, and after HELENA's reports
of contacts to NW, our SC reported contact bearing 340°, course
110, speed 20. Both groups got on contacts on approximately
this bearing, reported by Plot (from tracking table) to be
different contacts, and reached tracking solutions by FD radar
just prior to execution of tactical signal "column left 45°".
Solutions held through the sudden maneuver by the ATLANTA which
then resulted, to avoid a destroyer, and because of the now
extremely short ranges (3,000 yards), fire was about to be
opened without signal from OTC on these targets, bearing about
60° relative (about North) after the maneuver. After group's
target was now dimly in sight, a Japanese CL similar to NATORI
class, target angle 80, speed 20, range 3,000; forward group
did not actually sight their target. These targets were behind
several of our own DD's of the van force which had turned left,
but the targets were rapidly drawing to the right.
4. At that instant, ATLANTA was illuminated by a
large searchlight battery (2 to 4 lights) close aboard to port,
bearing 300 relative (about 250°T.). b The illuminating ship
appeared to be a light cruiser. Both directors slewed on to
the lights and commenced firing immediately, on control officers
estimated ranges. After group opened fire with estimated range
1600 yards, spotted out 400 and got on; the range was so short
that target maneuver could have no effect during the short time
of flight, so that no solution was waited for, which agreed with
our close range surprise doctrine. Target course and speed set
up were never the less probably approximately correct, as
remaining from the proceeding tracking of targets of the same
disposition; the first shots were on in deflection and the
plashes rose directly in the searchlight beams. The forward
group's opening range is not known (their computer operator has
been lost), but procedure was identical. It is thought that,
in spite of this particular target's advantage of surprise, the
above procedure, coupled with the exceptional speed and flexi-
bility of the 5" installation, allowed this ship to fire before
being fired upon. The 1.1" battery also opened fire on this
target, apparently shooting over; it was silenced before doing
much effective shooting. The illuminating ship will be referred
to as ship "A'; she opened fire on ATLANTA.
5. Almost at the instant of opening fire, several
(about three) Jap DD's crossed the line of the searchlight beams,
headed in a northerly direction; they were of the ASASHIO type,
target angle about 45°. They were particularly distinguished
from our own DD's by their light tripod masts. Forward group
immediately shifted to one of these, simply by training director
on, firing at point blank range, 1200 yards, and shifting the
shots by elevation and deflection spots. These ships fired back.
At least 20 - 5' hits were observed to enter the target's hull,
of the some 40 rounds fired at her, as she crossed dead ahead.
She broke into flames, settled, and sank; she will be referred
to as ship "B".
6. After group had continued to engage ship "A",
which was being hit. Another vessel of our force was seen to open
fire on "A". A third vessel, "C", to left of "A" about 10°,
and at somewhat longer range, opened fire upon ATLANTA. Almost
simultaneously: "A"'s lights went out (she was observed to sink
in a few seconds); "C" ceased fire; ATLANTA was hit by one
(certain) or two (strongly believed) torpedoes; all power was
lost and our fire was interrupted; target "B" was out of commis-
sion and the DD's in formation with her ceased fire on ATLANTA;
director 1 received a hit on its foundation which put it out
of commission; Control was hit and destroyed. Plot reported
battery collective fire, Control aft and Director 2 controlling.
Extent of damage to battery was not known at this time, but was
Realized to be heavy.
7. Torpedoes were not fired. The port director and
crew were wiped out by a hit in the above gun action, and the
port tube crew disabled by a hit through the blast shield. It
is not known how soon the above occurred, but apparently it was
early in the gun fight, which lasted probably not more than one
to two minutes. The mark 26 torpedo director is able to use radar
information as to enemy course only indirectly, and in far too
cumbersome a manner to have realized any advantage from what was
known of the enemy before sighting him; an effective advance set-
up such as could have been made on a Mk 27 torpedo director could
not have been in effect here. Furthermore, the quadruple Mk 13
tubes, carrying four Mk 15 torpedoes, are far too heavy to be swung,
by the hand train provided, on to the target in the very few
seconds that are available in an encounter such as this. Tor-
pedoes could have been used effectively only if fired with fair
accuracy and lighting speed, which the installation did not
8. Within about a minute of the cessation of the
above gun fight, the ATLANTA was taken under fire by a CA. The
CA fired about four 8" salvos from about 3500 yards, either by
radar or using our bridge fire as a point of aim, without
illuminating. Her relative bearing from us was about 240,
target angle about 75; the true bearings and courses are not
known, but it is believed that ATLANTA was swinging slowly from
West to South. Her salvos hit and did damage as detailed earlier.
Efforts were made to return her fire with turret 7 in pointer
fire, manual operation, this being the only turret remaining
on the JP circuit, but were discontinued before firing commenced,
after recognizing the firing ship, by the light of her own gun
flashes, as friendly. Turret 8, with emergency diesel power, was
intact, but not in communication; turret 7, with manual only,
was too slow to answer what might have been an urgent need.
9. It was now found that the starboard torpedo
director had been destroyed by the bridge fire. Port torpedoes
were jettisoned because of the ship's list to port, but the
starboard were held in readiness to fire by pointer fire, using
voice-transmitted sight angle from Control Aft, if any of the
numerous immobilized ships, both afire and not, which were
visible to the northward should prove to be enemy. Plot was
slowly flooding from below, from the 1.1" ammunition handling
space, which is not separated by a water-tight hatch, and
rising water soon killed the sound powered phone board. The
JY phone circuits from Control Aft had been cut. A portable
lead, previously made up complete with jack boxes, was lead out
and connected to turrets 7 and 8 and the after machine guns.
With the wreckage, debris, wounded and dead in the way, this
was an hour's task. Clearing away debris and bodies, re-station-
ing personnel, and establishing communications, put armament in
readiness for action as follows: Range 3 (in Director 2, manual
operation), turret 7 (manual) and turret 8 (diesel generator
power); 1.1" mount 1 (with ammunition transferred from aft to
replace that destroyed by fire), and 1.1" mount 4; 20mm guns
4-8 inclusive; 3 cal. 30 BAR's in bulwark AA mountings; and
about 60 rifles.
10. During the tow to Lunga Point during the following
daylight, a Jap type 1 twin engine Navy bomber, of the type which
had attacked the force with torpedoes on 12 November, approached
low. It was taken under fire by turret 8 in pointer fire,
telephone control, and withdrew. Turret 7, in manual, never got
on this target.
11. Projectiles used during the night action were
5"/38 common (not AA common). It is believed that ship "A" was
a light cruiser. Some 100 rounds of the above projectiles were
fired at the enemy ship at extremely short range; it is believed
that they are capable of penetrating the armor of any of the Jap
CL's at this range; and many were observed to hit; it is there-
fore considered that the ATLANTA either caused or materially
assisted in the destruction of this CL. The many hits into the
hull of ship "B", a modern type Japanese destroyer, were seen
to deliver a staggering blow, with fires and subsequent sinking;
whether other vessels of our force fired into this ship or not
is not known. It is considered that the ATLANTA caused the
destruction of this DD.
12. It was noted that Jap ships were using a flashless
or near-flashless powder. This was most effective, providing
almost no point of aim and no information on the firing ship;
it was in marked contrast to the results of our own ship's firing,
which lighted the firing ship brilliantly, and in such ships as
ATLANTA or HELENA, almost continuously.
13. GUNNERY RECOMMENDATIONS:
(a) Torpedo Battery: For the night actions which have played
such a heavy part in the Pacific surface naval war, this
battery must be able to take available radar, or other,
enemy information, use it with facility, and get on the
target and fire with utmost rapidity. To this end, it is
recommended that the Mk 26 directors be removed from this
class and replaced by the Mk27, and that power train be
provided for the tubes.
(b) Torpedo warheads: Our Mk 15 warheads, with some 485
lbs. of TNT burster, have consistently failed to do approp-
riate damage to even Jap cruisers. This is in marked
contrast to the devastating effect of the Japanese torpedoes,
carrying in some types nearly 900 lbs. (and perhaps more)
"hexa" (TNT/HND/A1), as illustrated by the paralyzing of
the ATLANTA in the above engagement. It is recommended that
urgent priority be given (1) to the replacing of all Mk 15
heads immediately with Mk 17, or heads similar in charge,
and (2), to the development and delivery of a still heavier
(1000-1200 lb. charge) head which will ensure major damage
to any target.
(c) Auxiliary Battle Phones: It is recommended that an XJP
circuit be installed, leads well separated from the primary
circuits, which does not pass through any lower-deck switch-
board. This circuit should be controlled by switch boxes
at the control stations, similar to the arrangement provided
in this class for the JY circuits, and should connect all
(d) Emergency Power for Gun Battery: Certain turrets, to
the limit of the Diesel Generator's capacity, were provided
with emergency power connections. When the need arose, of
the two operable turrets, only one was thus connected. It
is recommended (1) that all turrets be provided with emer-
gency power connections (without automatic switching, for the
overload turrets), with provision for selectively cutting
in such turrets as are operable, and (2) that immediate
steps be taken to increase the emergency power to an amount
sufficient to handle the full gun battery, in addition to
essential ship control and lighting requirements. This
increased power will be available, by cutting out or shutting
down some of the battery, for pumping and other needs during
repair operations after action is broken off. It is further
recommended that the emergency power be supplied from units
divided between the forward and after parts of the ship,
possibly two separated units at each end.
(e) Pyrotechnic Materials: It is recommended that all pyro-
technical material, except very's stars of various colors,
be removed from ships. It is believed that very's stars
would furnish suitable emergency recognition signal without
undue fire hazard. The supply of pyrotechnical materials
increased the intensity of the fire in the bridge area and
is believed to have been responsible for melting down the
base of the foremast. The supply of pyrotechnics in ATLANTA
had been reduced in accordance with the approved memorandum
further recommended that stowage of limited amounts of
identification signals be well separated and adjacent to
(f) Magazine-area Boundaries; The fire in #2 - 1.1' clipping
room was started by fragments which entered its door,
necessarily open for the ingress of boxed reload ammunition.
This space was also open to the mount, for passage out of
filled clips. Fire from the bridge area eventually reached
#1 - 1.1" clipping room by its corresponding openings, with-
out which these gravely serious fires might have been
avoided. The same situation obtained at #1 - 20mm loading
room, where a fire was started by fragments from a hit
outside. This fire was spread two decks below to the
wardroom, by the light decking and dropping through. It is
strongly recommended that all ammunition stowage spaces be
given boundaries of adequate plate, with complete flame-
proof automatic closure of any opening required for ammuni-
(g) Voice-Radio Speakers at Gun Control Stations: These in
ATLANTA were a ship's force installation. It is recommended
that they be provided for all ships, arranged for selective
connection (by Radio-Room plug board) to the circuit carrying
information pertinent to the operation at hand.
(h) Flashless Powder: It is recommended that this highly
valuable tool for the special task of night fighting be re-
investigated for use by our own forces.
ENCLOSURE (E) - NOTES ON FIRST AID.
1. Immediately following the beginning of the battle
at about 0200, the Sick Bay and a secondary battle dressing
station, located in the Admiral's cabin, were rendered unfit
for use by direct and near hits and had to be immediately
abandoned. Medical personnel from these stations were uninjured
and made their way to the forecastle where a dressing station
was established and wounded were rendered first aid using
supplies from first aid boxes in the vicinity. Communication
with the after part of the ship was impossible for some time
due to fire and continuous explosions of ammunition in the
forward 1.1" and 20mm clipping rooms. Presently it became
possible to go aft on the starboard side and reach the after
battle dressing station. The after battle dressing station,
although suffering fragment hits, some flooding, and lack of
electric current, was kept in use as a main battle dressing
station. This was made possible through adequate dispersion
of medical supplies and distribution of portable battle lights.
The medical supplies in this part of the ship were undamaged.
2. Treatment rendered consisted of administration
of morphine to all seriously wounded, application of tourniquets,
splints, dressings, and the giving of plasma infusions. Burns
were covered with tannic acid jelly and given plasma and
3. Due to the large number of wounded, various
methods of transportations were used, the number of available
stretchers being inadequate. The Stokes Stretcher proved its
worth over all others, giving the patient greater comfort, and
being adaptable for the moving of wounded through various parts
of the ship to the battle dressing station.
4. Early administration of morphine and plasma un-
doubtedly saved the lives of many of those suffering from
massive injury and from shock. There were many small multiple
multiple shrapnel wounds, not disabling, which were dressed and
and the patients allowed to continue their work of first aid,
salvage, damage control, and the manning of remaining guns.
5. Material damage was of such an extent that at no
time could more than first aid be given to the wounded personnel,
although in most cases the injuries were multiple and extreme.
There were 84 injured personnel removed from the ship to
evacuation hospitals ashore.
6. The situation was unusual in that the ship was
disabled about 4 miles from American controlled shores and at
daybreak shore boats were requested for the removal of the
wounded. Evacuation was begun at 0830 and was completed about
1000. Due to early removal of the wounded from the ship and the
existing conditions, there was little opportunity for the making
of complete records.
7. The following points are particularly stressed
(a) Wide distribution of medical supplies in large medical
chest and many well filled first aid boxes.
(b) Morphine syrettes abundantly distributed.
(c) Small and large battle dressings serve well as
dressings and are easily and effectively applied.
(d) The standard plasma unit cannot be too highly praised
both as to its medicinal value and its ease of administration.
(e) The Stokes Stretcher was found adequate for all condi-
tions and was the best available means for the transportation
8. Detailed first aid instruction had been given
to key men at all stations. All officers carried morphine.
The effective rendering of first aid undoubtedly saved many
NARRATIVE by Captain Samuel P. Jenkins, U. S. N.
Solomons - Guadalcanal.
Sinking of U.S.S. ATLANTA near Solomon Island -
Revised by Captain S. P. Jenkins
S E C R E T FILM No. 133
NARRATIVE by Captain Samuel P. Jenkins, U.S.N.
Solomons - Guadalcanal
Sinking of U.S.S. ATLANTA near Solomon Island - Guadalcanal.
This is Captain Jenkins of the U.S.S. ATLANTA giving an account of
the ATLANTA'S last action, which took place on the early morning of
November 13, 1942.
The ATLANTA was part of Task Force 67 and of Task Group 67.4 which
consisted of the following ships: CUSHING, LAFFEY, STERRETT, O'BANNON,
ATLANTA, SAN FRANCISCO, PORTLAND, HELENA, JUNEAU, ARRON WARD, BARTON,
MONSSEN, and FLETCHER. Task Group 67.1 was composed of a number of
transports and supply ships. Task Group 67.4 had been detailed to, or
their duties consisted of, protecting this force while the transports
and supply ships were unloading in the Guadalcanal area.
On the afternoon of November 12 dispatches were received which
indicated that a Japanese force of considerable size was in position
to strike Guadalcanal during the night of November 12-13. In the
evening of November 12 the transports and supply ships left the
Guadalcanal area shortly after the combatant ships had left that area.
The combatant ships stayed in Indispensable Strait, which is to the
eastward of Savo Sound area, and to the northward, until the supply
ships and transports had cleared the Guadalcanal area and had headed
to the south. When they were clear, and at about 2300 on the evening
of November 12, Task Group 67.4 reversed course and headed back toward
the Savo Sound area. In coming into this area they proceeded through
Lengo channel and along the northeast shore of Guadalcanal. At about
0130, of the 13th the HELENA, which ship had an SG Radar, reported an
enemy contact bearing 310 True, distance about 26,000 yards. The
ships were in column in the order listed at the start of this talk and
the column course was changed at about that time to head directly for
the contact bearing 310 True. Shortly afterwards the course was
changed to 355, I believe, and then the contacts reported by the
HELENA seemed to increase in number. At about this time the ATLANTA
was illuminated by an enemy light cruiser which was on our port bow.
We immediately opened fire on this cruiser and I believe the range was
about 2,000 yards. Shortly after we had opened fire, a division of
Jap destroyers crossed ahead of us at about 600 yards and we shifted
part of our battery and succeeded in sinking one of those destroyers,
I believe it was the last one. Then we were hit by two torpedoes,
which struck us on the port side. I cannot state definitely that this
was two, but I know that we received two very distinct shocks and I
believe we were struck by two torpedoes. We lost power immediately
and only had the auxiliary diesel left. At the time we were struck by
the torpedoes we were on a northerly course. I believe the rudder was
"left" at the time, and it must have jammed in that position, because
we swung around and headed south. Shortly after this, a cruiser came
along on our port side at a range of about 3000 yards and opened fire
with her 8" battery. We were hit with about nineteen 8" shots which
went through our bridge structure and a few through our hull. This
caused considerable damage to the upper works, to our turrets, and
killed a great number of men on the topside and also men in the
turrets. Admiral Scott was killed at this time, I believe. As I
remember, I was close to him on the starboard side, and when the 8"
shots came through from port, I rushed around to the port side in an
effort to get off our torpedoes. When I returned almost everyone on
the starboard side of the bridge had been killed including Admiral
Scott and three officers of his staff and most of his staff personnel
who were with him.
The 8" shells that struck us as I said did considerable damage to
the ship and personnel. Only one turret remained serviceable after
this phase of the action, and that turret could be served with the
diesel auxiliary power and operated to a certain extent. Then the
battle moved away from us, and we were dead in the water and we had a
little time to make an attempt to put out our fires and take care of
the wounded. A bucket and our handy-billies were started in an effort
to extinguish the fire in the bridge structure which was the most
serious one on board at that time. A number of minor fires existed in
the turrets and they were put out without a great deal of trouble.
I believe the fire in the bridge structure caused the foremast to
collapse. The foremast had evidently been weakened by a shot, one of
the 8" probably, and the intense heat in the bridge structure, I
believe, caused the foremast, which was made of aluminum, to collapse
and drop over the side. The battle moved on away about this time and
we could see firing to the northward of us.
I noticed particularly that the Japanese used a star or a shower
identification signal of some kind which I mentioned in the report of
the action. This shower seemed to rise about masthead height and it
could be seen for about ten seconds and then disappeared. At one time
I saw two ships that had exhibited this shower firing at each other.
The next morning when it was daylight there were a number of
ships disabled in the area. There were three of our destroyers. The
PORTLAND, was there. She had received a torpedo on her starboard side
which had jammed her rudder and she was turning in circles in order to
decrease the danger of a submarine getting in an attack on her, and
she sent a signal to us asking if the ship over close to Savo Island
was a Japanese ship. We had observed this ship before and our answer
was that we believed it was a Japanese ship. The PORTLAND opened fire
on her third salvo, which hit the ship, the Japanese ship blew up and
A Japanese battleship was in the vicinity of Savo Island and it
apparently was seriously disabled because it made no attempt to fire
at the PORTLAND or at the ATLANTA. We saw planes come out from
Henderson Field very early that morning and attack this Jap
battleship. I understand that later in the day the ship was either
destroyed or sank as a result of the air attack.
The other ships of our formation had left, and we did not know
where they were. With our auxiliary radio we sent a dispatch to
Guadalcanal and asked that they send out and get our wounded. I
believe all of the boats from Guadalcanal were in the area looking in
the water for our survivors and later on that morning they came to us
and removed our wounded.
The PORTLAND sent us a signal wanting to know our general
condition, which I sent to them, and told them that the water was
coming up in the ATLANAT and we had no way of controlling it. At that
time we had five electric pumps working using the auxiliary diesel as
power, but this was not sufficient to control the water. Our forward
engine room was completely flooded, both our fire rooms completely
flooded, and water was rapidly entering our after engine room. A
number of our other compartments forward and aft were flooded, and we
made several inspections and made several shifts in our pumping
arrangements to try to pump out and keep the ship afloat.
The PORTLAND informed me that a tug was coming out from Tulagi
and would tow ATLANTA to an anchorage off Lunga point. A t about nine
or ten o'clock this tug appeared and took us in tow and after
considerable difficulty we finally reached an anchorage at about 1400
in about 80 to 90 fathoms of water about three miles west of Lunga
point. The tug then left and went to the PORTLAND to assist her
getting in to Tulagi.
During the towing operation we had made considerable efforts to
jettison heavy weights on our port side. We were unable to get our
port torpedo tubes over. We succeeded in cutting away the boat davits
to port. We let go the port anchor chain, and made an effort to cut
away our foremast which was hanging over the port side, but our
cutting equipment was not effective against aluminum and this,
therefore, could not be done. In spite of these efforts we continued
to list to port and seemed to go lower and lower in the water.
At about two o'clock in the afternoon after reaching the
anchorage I called all the officers together and we held a conference
as to the advisability of further efforts. A short time after this, a
dispatch was received from Comsopac relayed by the PORTLAND
authorizing me to dispose of the ship if I thought it was necessary.
The ship at this time was getting very touchy. We still had a number
of men on board and I was concerned as to the possibility of the ship
going down with the men there and further loss of life. With complete
agreement form all officers that further efforts to save the ship were
useless, we decided to put demolition charge in the diesel engine room
after removing all the men from the ship and sending them ashore. I
sent a dispatch to Guadalcanal and they sent out boats and all of our
men were sent ashore. A small party of officers and men remained
aboard with me and we placed the demolition charge in the diesel
engine room and led the control for this charge up to the forecastle.
Most of our part got in the boat, that was at the ship at the time,
and we set off the charge which caused a little explosion which did
not seem to be serious at that time. We then got in the boat and
patrolled around the ship, there were two boats at this time in the
water, as I did not want to leave the ship alone without any
precautions taken against unauthorized persons getting aboard. This
patrol continued for about two or three hours when the ship finally
turned over and sank. We then went in to Guadalcanal and were ashore
five days before all the personnel from the ship could be removed from
Two-thirds of the officers were either killed or wounded, fifty
percent, I believe, were killed. About one hundred and sixty men were
killed and eighty wounded out of a complement of seven hundred.
The demolition charge was placed in the diesel engine room
instead of in a magazine because I felt that a magazine explosion
would be of such size that it might endanger the personnel that were
left on board ship. I considered that by placing it in the diesel
engine room that it would be sufficient to cause the ship to go down.
Those that were killed on board were left on board and went down
with the ship.
Think that 9the decision to sink the ship) is one of the hardest
decisions that a commanding officer has to make. I gave it
considerable thought and I not only considered my own feelings in the
matter, but also the feelings and the judgment of all my officers on
board, particularly the heads of departments. My First Lieutenant had
been wounded and had been sent ashore, and his assistant had also been
sent ashore. The Gunnery Officer, Lieutenant Commander Nicholson, had
been appointed First Lieutenant, and he had made a very thorough
inspection of the ship along with Lieutenant Commander Wulff, the
Assistant Engineer Officer. I considered their recommendations very
carefully and I would not have come to the decision to sink the ship
if I had thought in my own mind that there was any possible chance of
saving her. This was in spite of any recommendations that were made
by the heads of departments. Their recommendations were that it was
absolutely useless to try to save the ship and I concurred in that.
I could identify the Japanese destroyer, I believe that have a
distinct, different appearance from ours and in my action report the
were identified, I believe, as of the ASASHIO class.
No, the JUNEAU was not sighted at all in the morning. They had
gotten out of that area. I has heard that the JUNEAU went to the
eastward in Indispensable Strait and layed there to repair her battle
damage and was picked up at that point by the SAN FRANCISCO and
There is one other thing in connection with my action. During,
or just after the action, I found out that we had no telephone
communication on the bridge, no steering control and no control of any
kind at all, so I decided to proceed to Battle "2" and find out what
was left of the communication system from there. When I left the
bridge Lieutenant MacEntee was there, hehad come down from the forward
control, and he wanted to know if I was all right. I told him, yes,
that I was, and I told him that I was then going to leave the bridge
and go to Battle "2" to see what we had left.
In order to get off the bridge it was necessary to crawl down
through a shell hole close to the starboard pelorus and drop into the
1.1" machine gun mount on the starboard side and from there go on down
to the main deck and up to Battle "2". It was impossible to use the
vertical ladders or the regular passageways down from the bridge due
to the fire and flames that were in these compartments. A very
intense fire was in the flag plot and also in the radio room, and I
assumed that all personnel had been killed in those compartments,
which I found out later was correct. When I reached the 1.1 platform
Lieutenant Murdock was there, he was the only member of Admiral
Scott's staff that survived. His right arm was shattered and he had a
shirt, I believe, wrapped around it, and he asked me if I would loosen
this bandage on his arm. This, I did, and I turned around and saw JR.
Lieutenant Graff sitting on one of the motors of the 1.1 mount and I
asked him if he was all right, and he said, yes, that he was. He had
quite a lot of blood on his face and I think he had received several
I then went down to the main deck and up to Battle "2" and talked
to the Executive Officer and the Assistant Gunnery Officer. Only one
man in Battle "2" had been killed and I think he was the first class
signalman. All the others were all right there. I found out that we
had no communications left even from Battle "2" and that all our power
was gone with the exception of the diesel auxiliary which was used in
the operation of the electric pumps.
From accounts that I have heard I think that is true (that the
Japs use bombardment shells instead of armor piercing shells),
however, the eight inch hits that we received went completely through
the ship before they detonated. That indicates armor-piercing in our
I received very slight wounds, both wounds healed except the one
in my left ankle which was rather stubborn and continued to drain for
about three weeks, and when I arrived at Noumea an X ray was taken and
it was found that the bone was infected and would have to be operated
on. This was done and the bone scraped and my leg was put in a cast
which I wore for about a month or six weeks until I got back to the
States. I was sent back to the Oakknoll Hospital in Oakland and
everything healed up nicely there.
There are several different kinds of Radar, and for a night
action I strongly feel that the only type that will give you the
necessary information is the SG Radar used in connection with a fire
control Radar. The only ship so equipped with the exception of two
destroyers was the HELENA and she relayed information to the other
ships of the formation. The ATLANTA had an SC type of Radar and also
the fire control Radar. The SC does not give sufficient information
of surface ships in the vicinity. It is excellent for use against
aircraft but is not accurate enough for use against surface ships. We
did, however, pick up the Japanese ships to starboard with the SC and
this contact was given to the fire control Radars. They were actually
tracking the ship to starboard and had a solution before we opened
fire. However, it was necessary to shift from the target that we had
been tracking by Radar to the Japanese ship that illuminated us to
port before we opened fire. We could not open fire to starboard
because our destroyers were in the way.
I would say the visibility with binoculars, with good night
glasses, would be about a mile, for a good sized ship, a destroyer,
about that distance. The visibility was not good. It was overcast,
there was no moon, and it was quite dark.
I will definitely say that I know of no case when anybody did not
do what they were supposed to do and do it well. I think all of the
men and the officers stuck to their post and did exactly what they
were supposed to do and there was no case of panic of any kind.
This was the first action with surface ships that the ATLANTA had
had. We had had a number of actions with air, against Japanese
aircraft. The most spectacular we had had was the day proceeding
this night action, that was on the 12th of November, when the Japanese
torpedo planes came in and made an attack on the ships that were then
at Guadalcanal. The supply ships and transports had gotten underway
with the combatant ships as escorts completely around the formation
and we were ready for this torpedo attack when it came in. I believe
there were fifteen or twenty planes that came in in attack and only
one of them got away. The pothers were shot down, and they always
seem to come down in flames. One dove into the stern of the SAN
FRANCISCO, just hit it with a glancing blow and then dropped into the
water. That was the most spectacular scene I have ever seen. They
made no torpedo hits, and I don't think any of the Jap torpedoes got
inside the formation. It was an enormous formation, there must have
been twenty of our ships in there, and it covered quite a large area,
but even so, none of the torpedoes got inside of that formation. This
was the action on the afternoon of the12th of November. The general
disposition of ships was a circular formation of which the supply
ships and transports were in the center and all of the ships that I
listed at the start of this talk were around the outer edge of the
circle with the cruisers so spaced so that they were equally around
the circumference of the circle with the destroyers in between, and
the concentration of AA fire as the planes came in was considerable
and it was a little bit too much for the Japs to push through. The
aircraft from Henderson Field had gone up ahead of time and had shot
down some of these torpedo planes, but the ones that they were not
able to get came on in and those planes were not followed in by the
Henderson Field fighters. Naturally they drop off before they get
within gun range and let the ships take up where they leave off.
I feel that the ATLANTA type cruiser has its use, definitely, in
the protection of carriers. I don't think she is a good surface ship
at all due to her very light battery of five inch. But with the
increased number of carriers coming out I think that the ATLANTA type
cruiser will have its place, provided it is used in its place, which I
think is for the protection of carriers.
We had one difficulty with the battery. It could be used very
well against a torpedo attack and against a high-level bombing attack
but against a dive bombing attack it was difficult to operate the
mechanism sufficiently fast in order to keep a solution on our guns.
The Command set up of Task Force 67 was Admiral Turner in command
of that Task Force, and he was in one of the transports. The escort
force, which consisted of the ships that I named, was under the
command of Admiral Callahan with Admiral Scott second in command of
that Task Group. Admiral Callahan was in tactical command of the
combatant ships, and he was in the SAN FRANCISCO. It was hard to say
who had command of the ships after the action started. It was kind of
a barroom brawl after the thing once got underway and, of course, no
one knew who had been killed and who hadn't been. It probably wasn't
until daylight set in that that situation was straightened out. After
Admiral Callahan and Admiral Scott were killed that naturally left the
Commanding Officer of the PORTLAND, Captain Dubois, in command, but
his ship was disabled, and I was next I think, and my ship was
disabled. The HELENA was next, and I think he was in command the next
day when the SAN FRANCISCO, HELENA, and JUNEAU were standing out.
The ATLANTA and the JUNEAU were the cruisers (lost), but there
were four destroyers lost, and I do not remember exactly which ones
they were. I believe the LAFFEY and the BARTON blew up, they were hit
by gunfire and also by torpedoes, and there were very few saved from
either one of those ships.
The general procedure that the Japs had been using in regard to
the landings on Guadalcanal was to have a bombardment of the air field
take place the day proceeding the landing. By doing this, and this is
direct from General Vandegrift, which he told me, the Japs succeeded
in damaging a large percentage of planes that were grouped around the
air field, and in a previous landing had left only seven planes
available which were more or less ineffective the following day when
the landing took place. This is the experience of the landing on
Guadalcanal which preceeded this attempt in which this night action
took place. But the procedure had been for the night attack to come
in and bombard the air field with battleships, fourteen inch guns, and
then bring the transports in the following day against practically no
air opposition from Guadalcanal. This is what the Marines were afraid
happen again. They knew that a large force was being assembled to
proceed to Guadalcanal and attempt a landing, and in this case, the
battleships with accompanying cruisers and destroyers were coming down
to conduct a bombardment against the air fields on Guadalcanal. By
pushing off this attack all of the planes on Guadalcanal were
available the following day. These planes succeeded in sinking about
eight of the twelve transports and supply ships that were headed for
Guadalcanal, and later on, after three supply ships and one transport
had succeeded in getting to Guadalcanal, the planes prevented them
from landing any men or material. So I think the threat to
Guadalcanal was removed entirely by the actions which took place the
13th, 14th and 15th in the Solomon area.
There were quite a few Japanese prisoners picked up by the boats
from Guadalcanal. The exact number I do not know. There was one Jap
that was floating in the water close to the ATLANTA the morning after
the night action and I noticed that when a boat tried to rescue him,
one of the boats from Guadalcanal, he tried to prevent rescue by
diving under the water and I believe this boat had to actually run the
man down and kill him as he would not permit himself to be pulled into
There might have been (naval officers picked up), I don't know.
File No. U.S.S. ATLANTA
November 26, 1942.
C O N F I D E NT I A L
From: The Commanding Officer.
To : Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet.
Via : (1) Commander Task Force 62.
(2) Commander South Pacific Force.
Subject: Dive bombing Attack, November 11, 1942, off
Guadalcanal - Report of.
1. Task Force 62.4 consisting of the U.S.S. ATLANTA
(Rear Admiral Scott), ZEILIN, BETELGEUSE, LIBRA, AARON WARD
(ComDesRon12), FLETCHER, McCALLA and LARDNER, were unloading
troops and supplies off Lunga Point, Guadalcanal. ATLANTA and
destroyers screening the transport and supply ships.
2. Weather was clear with unlimited surface visibility;
cloud ceiling about 10,000 feet; cloud formation low over the
mountains on Guadalcanal; sea calm, with winds about force 2.
3. Ship at General Quarters with battery divided,
which was the normal set-up for the battery when in condition
of readiness one.
4. Sequence of events during attack:
(a) At about 0905 received report that nine bombers and
twelve fighters were approaching from the Northeast and
due to arrive at Guadalcanal about 0930. A 0910 planes
reported 300(T), distance 80 miles. At 0917 bogies 280(T),
distance 43 miles. At about 0920 Task Force underway
and formed anti-aircraft disposition as follows: ATLANTA,
ZEILIN, BETELGEUSE, and LIBRA in column, destroyers spaced
evenly on about the 1500 yard circle. Formation on course
about North, speed 15, maneuvering on signal.
(b) At about 0930 bandits reported approaching from 230(T),
distance about twenty miles, coming in fast.
(c) At about 0935 sighted nine dive bombers, of the Aichi
99 type, coming out of the clouds from over the airfield
at an altitude of about 10,000 feet. Planes were in rough
echelon grouping and peeled off from the right side of
their own formation.
(d) At about 0938 planes taken under fire shortly before
starting their dive. The after group opened fire after
obtaining a quick solution at a range of about 6000-7000
yards. Close bursts were observed near leading plane which
swerved out of formation and jettisoned bombs. The after
group shifted to barrage fire after planes started diving.
Forward group had good approach solution but battery was
masked by maneuvers. Barrage fire was opened at 0940.
(e) Several planes were seen to fall into the water on fire;
one direct it was observed. Several near misses were
observed on the transports. The transports were the targets
for the attack, none of the ship received direct hits.
However, the transports received minor damage from near
5. All bombers are believed to have been destroyed
either by AA fire or by shore based fighters from Guadalcanal.
6. Upon completion of attack, the Task Force returned
to positions off Lunga Point and resumed unloading operations.
7. The facts of this report are not necessarily
accurate in all details due to the loss of all records of the
Information on the U.S.S. ATLANTA CL-51
DICTIONARY OF FIGHTING SHIPS
History of the ATLANTA CL-51
CL-53 SAN DEIGO
CL-54 SAN JUAN
8,200 (Mean war service)
Armament (max auth):
3 40 mm twins (SAN JUAN 5)
1 40 mm quads
15 20 mm (SAN JUAN 9)
2 DC tracks
2 21" quad TT
32 knots (max)
Max. Cruising radius:
4,000 miles @ 25 knots
7,700 MILES @ 15 knots
1,528 tons oil (max)
War Time Losses:
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