|Length Overall||376' 5"|
|Extreme Beam:||39' 7"|
|Standard Displacement tons:||2,050|
|Designed Complement:||Off.: 20; Enl.: 309|
|Armament:||Primary: 5"/38 caliber|
|Armament:||Secondary: 5 40mm twin
4 20mm; 4 1.1"
|Torpedo Tubes:||2x5 21"|
|Designed Speed:||35.2 knots|
|Designed Shaft Horse Power:||60,000|
|Engine Manufacturer:||Four Babcock & Wilcox boilers|
|Fuel (oil) tons||492|
U.S.S. O'BANNON (DD-450) From 1 November to 30 November 1942 Original to Chief of Naval Operations (Office of Naval Records and Library) Copy to Commander in Chief, U. S. Pacific Fleet. November 1, 1942 - Sunday Steaming in company with Task Unit 62.4.5 composed of O'BANNON as escort and BELLATRIX (towing PAB Barge #6) and BOBOLINK enroute Ringbolt from Button speed of advance 9.5 knots, in accordance with Commander Task Unit 62.4.4's Movement Order No. 5-42 of October 30, 1942 (Copy attached). Course set passing east and north of San Cristobal. No unusual incidents. D. J. MacDonald, Lieut-Comdr., U.S. Navy November 2, 1942 - Monday Numerous contacts reported, all plane contacts were observed as friendly, unable to develop one fair sound contact. At 1200 stood into Sealark Channel. At 1350 BELLATRIX was relieved of her tow and stood into Tulagi harbor. At 1730 BELLATRIX stood out of harbor and we retired to Eastward upon receiving information that numerous enemy ships were enroute. Upon receipt of despatch from C.T.F. 62 set course to south to pass Sea Cristobal to west and south, Task Unit ordered to return to Button at best speed. Nothing developed. D. J. MacDonald, Lieut-Comdr., U.S. Navy November 3, 1942 - Tuesday Reversed course and proceeded to return to Ringbolt. At 0930 joined ALCHIBA, HOPKINS and WOODWORTH and stood into Sealark Channel at 1230. At 1330 task units parted company; BELLATRIX stood into Tulagi Harbor and anchored. Patrolled entrance until 1800 then stood into Tulagi Harbor and anchored. Standing by in all respects. D. J. MacDonald, Lieut-Comdr., U.S. Navy November 4, 1942 - Wednesday At 0533 underway, stood out of Tulagi Harbor and commenced patrolling off entrance. At 1150 air raid warning received from Cactus, all hands called to general quarters. At 1340 secured from general quarters. At 1530 BELLATRIX stood out of harbor enroute White Poppy via Sealark Channel, took station as escort, patrolling ahead. D. J. MacDonald, Lieut-Comdr., U.S. Navy< November 5, 1942 - Thursday Steaming on course 180° T at standard speed of 15 knots, zig-zagging. No unusual incidents. At 1900 changed base course to 193° T. D. J. MacDonald, Lieut-Comdr., U.S. Navy November 6, 1942 - Friday Steaming as before on course193° T at 15 knots, zig-zagging. At 2043 changed base course to 145° T. No unusual incidents. D. J. MacDonald, Lieut-Comdr., U.S. Navy November 7, 1942 - Saturday At 0405 changed base course to 133° T. Radar contacts made on land and friendly planes. At 1014 all hands called to general quarters and tested main armament. At 1640 stood in to Bulari Passage. At 1827 moored alongside SS J. C. DONNELL, oil tanker. Received fuel. D. J. MacDonald, Lieut-Comdr., U.S. Navy November 8, 1942 - Sunday At 0754 underway, stood in to Great Roads and anchored. At 1536 underway proceeding to clear harbor with Task Force 67, composed of transports, McCAWLEY, PRESIDENT JACKSON, PRESIDENT ADAMS, and CRESCENT CITY; escorts, O'BANNON, MONSSEN, BARTON, JUNEAU; support group, PORTLAND AND JUNEAU, enroute White Poppy to Cactus, via west of New Caledonia. No unusual incidents. Base course 300° T, speed 13.5 knots. D. J. MacDonald, Lieut-Comdr., U.S. Navy November 9, 1942 - Monday At 0650 changed base course to 328° T and changed standard speed to 13 knots. During forenoon tested armament. During afternoon PORTLAND's planes made runs for A.A. drill. At 1325 changed base course to 340° T. At 2300 changed base course to 005° T. D. J. MacDonald, Lieut-Comdr., U.S. Navy November 10, 1942 - Tuesday At 1250 changed base course to 010° T. At 1520 U.S.S. SHAW joined formation. At 1812 received guard mail from SHAW. No unusual incidents. D. J. MacDonald, Lieut-Comdr., U.S. Navy November 11, 1942 - Wednesday At 0500 all hands called to general quarters. At 0514 sighted Task Group 67.4. PORTLAND and JUNEAU left formation to join T.G. 67.4. At 0543 changed base course to 330° T. At 0550 secured from general quarters. At 0947 changed base course to 285° T. At 1147 made radar contact on plane to west distance 16 miles. Plane closed and was sighted at 8 miles and indefinitely identified as enemy float plane. Enemy plane opened range to west and disappeared. At about 1230 a large twin tail flying boat, believe enemy, was sighted low on horizon to west about 9 miles. At 1358 SHAW had sound contact and left formation to develop. Task group 67.4 parted company. At 1430 changed base course to 350° T. At 1830 changed course to 358° T standing into Indepensible Strait from west of San Cristobal. At 2300 changed base course to 333° T. D. J. MacDonald, Lieut-Comdr., U.S. Navy November 12, 1942 - Thursday At 0113 O.O.D. reported sighting submarine on surface distance 800 yds, see action report. Fired two shots from 5" guns and stood over to estimated position and dropped ten depth charges. All hands called to general quarters. At 0130 secured from general quarters. Stood into Lango Channel to landing beaches off Kukum point. Task Group 67.4 joined and formed screen around transports. At 1320 received air raid warning, all hands called to general quarters; transports got underway; combatant ships formed tight circular screen around transports at 1500yds. See official action report. At 1407 enemy torpedo planes attacked. At 1450 all clear sounded. Enemy's attack was complete failure, all planes except one out of at least 15 were shot down by ships A.A. fire. No casualties in thins vessel. One plane struck SAN FRANCISCO's aftermast. At 1835 transports underway to retire to eastward, this vessel joined Task Group 67.4 which formed column for battle disposition order as follows: CUSHING, LAFFEY, STERRETT, O'BANNON, ATLANTA, SAN FRANCISCO, HELENAL, PORTLAND, JUNEAU, AARON WARD, BARTON, MONSSEN, FLETCHER. Proceeded to clear through Sealark Channel covering retirement of transports. At 2000 all hands called to general quarters. See action report for account of what followed during later evening of 12th and early morning of 13th. D. J. MacDonald, Lieut-Comdr., U.S. Navy November 13, 1942 - Friday See action report for details of what happen during early morning of 13th. At 0408 joined SAN FRANCISCO, HELENA and FLETCHER. Some what later STERRETT and JUNEAU joined. Standing southeast in Indepensible Strait. At 0700 transferred Medical Officer and Hospital Corpsmen to SAN FRANCISCO. At 0800 left the Task Group and set course to eastward to transmit message for C.T.G. 67.4. At 1017 changed course to rejoin formation. At 1526 rejoined formation. It was noted that JUNEAU was missing from formation. Proceeding to Button on base course 135° T at a speed of 18 knots, zig-zagging. At 2000 changed base course to 110° T. D. J. MacDonald, Lieut-Comdr., U.S. Navy November 14, 1942 - Saturday At 0400 changed base course to 125° T. At 0834 sighted transport group of T.F. 67. Commenced steering various courses proceeding to Button along eastern coast of Espiritu Santo Island. At 1615 entered harbor and went alongside TOPPAHANOCK to fuel. Fueled ship remained alongside all night. D. J. MacDonald, Lieut-Comdr., U.S. Navy November 15, 1942 - Sunday At 0200 the Commanding Officer was called to a conference with Comairsopac. At 0603 U.S.S. DALE came alongside and fueled and cleared at 0730. At 0805 underway and proceeded to anchorage. D. J. MacDonald, Lieut-Comdr., U.S. Navy November 16, 1942 - Monday At 1000 underway went alongside NICHOLAS and moored. Filled allowance of ammunition and depth charges but not torpedoes. At 1423 NICHOLAS underway and stood out. D. J. MacDonald, Lieut-Comdr., U.S. Navy November 17, 1942 - Tuesday At 0550 underway proceeding out of harbor in company with SOUTHHARD acting as escort for transports enroute Button to White Poppy. Commander Task Force 62 in McCAWLEY O.T.C. Transports present: PRESIDENT JACKSON, PRESIDENT ADAMS, CRESCENT CITY and McCAWLEY. Set course through New Hebrides Island and then to eastward and southward of New Caledonia, at speed of 13 knots. At 1327 went ahead full speed to investigate strange ship observed hull down on port hand. Investigated small island schooner, Free French colors. Nothing suspicious observed rejoined formation. No other incidents. D. J. MacDonald, Lieut-Comdr., U.S. Navy November 18, 1942 - Wednesday Exercised all batteries and tested main and automatic armament. At 2305 changed base course to 247° T. Sighted two friendly ships, MEADE and GAUDALUPE. D. J. MacDonald, Lieut-Comdr., U.S. Navy November 19, 1942 - Thursday At 1052 anchored in Dumbea Bay, Noumea, New Caledonia. No unusual incidents. D. J. MacDonald, Lieut-Comdr., U.S. Navy November 20, 1942 - Friday At 0540 underway and stood into Drydock ARD-2 to check repair if possible hull damage received during engagement of 13th. (See War Damage Report) original submitted to Bureau of Ships. Wire brushed and painted bottom. D. J. MacDonald, Lieut-Comdr., U.S. Navy November 21, 1942 - Saturday At 1030 underway from Drydock; made test runs in Dumbea Bay, results satisfactory. At 1135 moored alongside GWIN in nest alongside WHITNEY. At 1405 Admiral Halsey was received aboard. The tender commenced making minor war damage repairs to right barrel No.1 torpedo mount, rangefinder elevation gear, and gun captains hatch on gun No.1. No unusual incidents. D. J. MacDonald, Lieut-Comdr., U.S. Navy November 22, 1942 - Sunday Nested outboard of GWIN alongside WHITNEY, effecting minor repairs. D. J. MacDonald, Lieut-Comdr., U.S. Navy November 23, 1942 - Monday Undergoing tender repairs. Transferred 1000 gals potable water to Y.M.S. 99. D. J. MacDonald, Lieut-Comdr., U.S. Navy November 24, 1942 - Tuesday Fueled from WHITNEY. D. J. MacDonald, Lieut-Comdr., U.S. Navy November 25, 1942 - Wednesday Availability completed. At 0732 underway, proceeding to anchorage in Great Roads. D. J. MacDonald, Lieut-Comdr., U.S. Navy November 26 and 27, 1942 - Thursday and Friday At anchor in Great Roads, Noumea, New Caledonia. Ship's personnel taking opportunity of some recreation. S. E. Davis, Lieut-Comdr., U.S. Navy November 28, 1942 - Saturday At 1522 underway proceeding out of harbor as an escort in company with SOUTHARD, HOVEY, and STACK, patrolling ahead of sortie of HUNTER LIGGETT, KENMORE and JOSEPH TEAL. Task Unit 62.4.7 enroute White Poppy to Cactus-Ringbolt area, via west of New Caledonia. Set base course 230° T, ahead at standard speed 11.5 knots, zig-zagging. At 1822 changed base course to 280° T. At 2020 changed base course to 300° T. D. J. MacDonald, Lieut-Comdr., U.S. Navy November 29, 1942- Sunday All hands called to general quarters, tested armament. At 0931 changed base course to 327° T. At 1923 changed base course to 315° T, at speed of 11.5 knots, zig-zagging, making good 90%. D. J. MacDonald, Lieut-Comdr., U.S. Navy November 30, 1942 - Monday At 0812 changed base course to 017° T. At 1800 changed base course to 350° T. After dark called all hands to general quarters and conducted tracking exercises. At 2020 changed base course to 022° T. SOUTHARD reported sound contact but was unable to develop. D. J. MacDonald, Lieut-Comdr., U.S. Navy Approved: E. R. WILKINSON, Commander, U.S. Navy, Commanding.
DD450/A16 U.S.S. O'BANNON (DD450)
From: The Commanding Officer. to : The Commander in Chief, United States Fleet. Via : The Commanding Officer, U.S.S. HELENA (Senior Officer, Task Force 67.4) The Commander South Pacific Force. Subject: Report of engagement with Japanese units on morning of November 13, 1942. Enclosures: (A) Track Chart. (B) Radar PPI Diagrams (1), (2) and (3). (C) Report of Executive Officer. 1. The following is a report of the engagement with units of the Japanese fleet in the waters surrounded by Guadalcanal, Savo, Florida, and Tulagi Island in the early morning of November 13, 1942. PRELIMINARY PHASE Our force steaming in column order as follows: CUSHING, LAFFEY, STERETT, O'BANNON, ATLANTA, SAN FRANCISCO, HELENA, PORTLAND, JUNEAU, AARON WARD, BARTON, MONSSEN, FLETCHER, entered the east end of Lengo Channel at about 0000 November 13, 1942, steaming on course 270°, speed 18 knots. At 0030 the report was received from the director control that a torpedo wake was sighted ahead passing from starboard to port. This wake could not be seen by Conn. No offensive action could be taken by any ship at this time, therefore, no report was made of this probable torpedo. At this time the sky was quite dark, moon had become hidden behind dark clouds, a limited number of stars were visible, and there was a slight breeze from north northeast. The sea was smooth. The ship was in Condition of Readiness I and Material Condition ZED. At 0100 course was changed to 280° True. ENGAGEMENT PHASE At 0130 radar contact was made with enemy units being reported directly ahead and on starboard bow. The formation course was immediately changed to 310° True. At 0137 course was changed to 000° True. At about this time this vessel's radar screen showed contacts as noted on Enclosure (B-1). Targets were reported by TBS to be on port bow also. At 0143 course was changed back to 310° True. At 0144 torpedo battery and gun battery were ordered to stand by for action starboard. At 0145 three to five ships were visible on starboard beam, distance about 4000 yards. Three units were heading on an opposite and parallel course at slow speed. See enclosure (B-2). At 0148 order was received over TBS from O.T.C., "Odd ships fire to starboard, even ships to port". At this time the column was jamming up due to the turn to 310° True. This vessel was making many rudder and engine changes to avoid collision with ship ahead. The gun battery was given "Action Port". The enemy unit which had been visible on the starboard bow could not now be seen and the torpedo battery was ordered to stand by for action port. At 0149 enemy vessel on port bow opened searchlight on CUSHING and commenced fire. Fire from our units was commenced immediately thereafter. Guns were ordered to shoot at the searchlight on port bow. It is believed that this searchlight was shot away by our fire for shortly thereafter several blazes were noted on enemy vessel under fire and the searchlight went out. Our tracers were definitely seen hitting the forward superstructure. The target's gunfire became sporadic. This target was thought to be a heavy cruiser. At 0153 turned hard right and hard left to avoid collision with ship ahead (STERETT), then resumed course approximately 270° True to rejoin column astern of LAFFEY. At this time it was observed that CUSHING and LAFFEY were receiving many hits from cross-fire on port and starboard bows. Rejoined column shortly thereafter and continued fire on a target which now had been identified as a Kongo type battleship. The identification is considered certain because at this time there was a flaming enemy unit on the opposite side along our line of fire which silhouetted this battleship sharply. My impression at this time is that there were light enemy units drawing ahead to starboard. At 0154 order was received over TBS to cease fire. This order was not authenticated. Check fire was given and the order given "pick up target on starboard bow". At about this time the two ships ahead, CUSHING and LAFFEY, were lost to sight to starboard, the LAFFEY apparently sinking. This vessel was then about 1800 yards from the battleship and in the lead of our column. At 0155 there was heavy gun fire to starboard. No targets were visible to Conn but control said there were several vessels to starboard on westerly course, one of which could be identified as a three-funnel Tenryu class cruiser. Gun fire was opened on this cruiser. See Enclosure (B-3). At 0156 the range to the Kongo type battleship on the port bow had closed to 1200 yards. There were numerous fires on this battleship and its gunfire had slackened. Its fire was all passing over this vessel. Two aimed torpedoes were fired deliberately at this battleship on the port bow. Each of these torpedoes were fired to hit, no spread. Before firing the remainder of torpedo salvo it was intended to await the results of shots 1 and 2. It was then decided to fire the remainder of a torpedo salvo. Just as the third torpedo was fired, a tremendous explosion was noted and the battleship was enveloped from bow to stern in a great sheet of flame. Burning particles fell on this vessel's forecastle. It was decided not to fire more torpedoes at this time, it being considered killed by these three torpedo hits. Torpedo five was checked. At 0159 gun targets were lost to starboard. Fire was ceased and ship was swung right to reverse course to about 090° True. At this time there were five burning and exploding vessels on the starboard quarter and one explosion was noted at a long range off forward of the port quarter. Control reported that no definite targets could be picked up, Conn could see nothing. At 0201 the ship was swung hard left to avoid the sinking bow of what is now believed to be the LAFFEY. Many personnel were sighted in the water and about 50 life jackets were thrown over from this ship. Shortly thereafter, torpedo wakes, at least two, were seen to pass ahead. This vessel swung hard left. At 0203 experienced a heavy underwater explosion which seemed to be close aboard on the port beam. This may have been depth charges from LAFFEY but since it was a single sharp explosion it is believed that, rather then depth charges, it may have a torpedo detonating at end of run. All light and power was lost. Light and power was regained very quickly but many electrical circuits had been ruptured. The gun and torpedo controls were reported available in local control. LAST PHASE This ship then broke off action at approximately 0204 and headed southeast attempting to locate either definite targets or definite friends. At about 0215 a smoking vessel was sighted on the port bow. This vessel could not be identified. Torpedo battery was ordered to stand by for action. This vessel apparently was drawing away to northeast. Although this vessel could not be identified, torpedo fire was withheld. (From subsequent tracking by radar this smoking vessel was later identified as SAN FRANCISCO with HELENA close by). From its size and indistinct outline the vessel was believed to be a transport. Thinking that transports may have gotten in, this vessel turned to the south and investigated the coast line about two miles west of Lungi Point where a light was visible on the beach. No transports were seen. At about this time the HELENA was heard on the TBS and information received that HELENA and SAN FRANCISCO were standing out Sea Lark Channel. This vessel then stood out Lengo Channel and joined as escort with HELENA and SAN FRANCISCO at 0415. 2. There were no personnel casualties: Damage sustained: (a) Large fragment of 8" shell hit right barrel of forward torpedo mount. (b) Vibration of port engine believed misalignment or propeller damage due to underwater explosion or to passing through wreckage. Damage observed: (a) Own forces: (1) Sinking of LAFFEY (0154-0201) (Lat. 09° -15.6' S., Long. 159°-54' E.) (2) Many hits on CUSHING, practically cutting her down to the waterline. (b) To enemy forces: (1) Fire throughout and heavy explosions in one Kongo type battleship. Location of this burning ship was approximately Lat. 09°-16.3' S., Long. 159° -54' E. It is believed that this battleship sunk. Several witnesses state that it was "sagged in the middle and going down". No witnesses can say it disappeared below the water surface. (2) Small fie aft in Tenryu type cruiser fired upon by this vessel. (3) At least five other burning vessels, one to the west and four to the southwest of above location. (4) Two burning vessels, one to the north and one to the north northeast of above location. 3. Impressions of Commanding Officer and various personnel: (a) There were heavy guns firing from long range, 10-16000 yards, from between Savo and Florida Islands, all during the engagement. This firing appeared slow and deliberately controlled. The Air Defense Officer and the Gunnery Officer both reported observing this fire and watching the tracers pass overhead. (b) Aircraft flares were believed used by the enemy. Many flares were observed between 0205 and 0215 for which there was no corresponding gunfire. Some of these flares were dropped directly over this vessel and the gunfire noted above was believed at this time to be directed at this vessel as a hail of shorts and overs were noted. (c) That the enemy units were not surprised in the main, although the enemy units that passed astern to starboard and then returned passing ahead to starboard, at high speed, were firing very few guns. (d) That the enemy illuminated and opened fire first. (e) That the enemy fire was extremely accurate and rapid in the very early stages of the action but that accuracy and volume decreased materially within a matter of 2-3 minutes from open fire. (f) That in the latter stages of the action the enemy's center and left groups were firing at each other. (g) That the use of searchlights for illumination and gun control is an invitation for accurate fire concentration and that tracer control is sufficiently accurate not to warrant use of searchlights. (h) That SG radar is invaluable to the OTC and each individual ship for early and continued information of disposition of own and opposing forces. 4. The officer and men of this vessel handled the ship and themselves excellently. No praise can be too high for the expected manner in which they remained unflinching and steadfast at their posts with shells from all sides falling short and over. It is believed a tribute to the spirit and indoctrination of the Naval Service that a group of American men and boys, many of them never having seen a ship, could be welded into an organization that would stand up so calmly under fire in the short period of this vessel's official life, June 26 to November 13. The officers and men of this crew, each and everyone, handled themselves like veterans and are greatly deserving of all meritorious considerations.
Copy to: CincPacFlt Comdespacflt Comtaskfor 62 (CTF-67)
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November 16, 1942 From: Executive Officer. To: The Commanding Officer. Subject: Report of personal impressions and recollections of the night Action with Japanese units in Guadalcanal - Florida Island Area, November 13, 1942. Reference: (a) Article 712, U.S. Navy Regulations, 1920. 1. In accordance with reference (a) the following report and resume of my own personal impressions, recollections and recommendations of the subject battle are submitted. FIRST PHASE (A) All hands were called to general quarters at 2003, November 12, 1942. At general quarters, I believed the officer-of-the-deck and remained on the bridge assisting at Conn in order to free the Captain of the responsibility of keeping station. The ship took station fourth in column order as follows: CUSHING, LAFFEY, STERRET, O'BANNON, ATLANTA, SAN FRANCISCO, PORTLAND, HELENA, JUNEAU, AARON WARD, BARTON, MONSSEN, and FLETCHER. This group of 13 vessels formed what was called Battle Disposition I, simply a column with 4 destroyers, 5 cruisers and 4 destroyers. (B) This task group was covering the retirement of another task group composed of 4 transports, 2 auxiliary vessels, and their destroyer escort which were clearing Guadalcanal Area via Lengo Channel. Our task group cleared Sea Lark Channel, stood east into Indispensible Strait, then southeast and reversed course to due west proceeding to entrance of Lengo Channel. The sea was clam, there was no moon, the ceiling being completely overcast. SECOND PHASE (A) At 2400 November 12, 1942, our task group was off Taivui Point proceeding through Lengo Channel, at a speed of 15 knots. My task at this time was to keep the ship in position in column. At 0103, November 13, 1942, we cleared Lengo Channel and changed course to 280°, going ahead at 18 knots. While steaming on this course a bright light was observed sharp on the port bow; this light appeared to be located on the beach; at approximately this same time word was received over the loud speaker that there was a air raid warning on at Cactus; also word was received from our lookouts that unidentified planes showing running lights were overhead. At 0130 Commander Task Group 67.4 ordered course changed to 310° true by a column movement. It was while on this courses that information began to be received regarding radar contacts on our starboard hand. The JUNEAU reported radar contacts on the TBS. At 0137 Commander Task Group 67.4 ordered the course changed to north by another column movement. While steaming on this course Commander Destroyer Division 10 in the CUSHING reported over TBS, ships on his starboard bow and also ships on his port hand. Commander Task Group 67.4 then ordered course changed by column movement to 310°. There was considerable congestion at this turn, the leading ships were falling back, we became bunched. The O'BANNON turned inside to avoid a collision with the STERRET, later easing out into column. The ATLANTA closed in close on our port quarter. THIRD PHASE (A) The leading ships had just gotten on course 310° when word was received over TBS to attack with torpedoes. At practically the same instant searchlight from enemy units were seen on port bow and on the starboard bow, illuminating our leading ships. Initially our guns were trained to starboard and were prepared to fire on this side when an order was received over TBS for even ships to fire to port and odd ships to starboard. There was a delay of possibly 30 seconds in getting our guns trained out on the target to port. Firing was commenced by both our own forces and the enemy at practically the same instant. Our forward guns were trained on the searchlight on our port hand. Shortly after we had commenced fire something behind a Kongo class battleship was hit causing the battleship to be beautifully silhouetted at a range of not more than four thousand yards, this ship appeared to be on course approximately north. At the same time I observed on our starboard bow an enemy three-stack cruiser (Tenyru Class) on course about 270°, distance approximately 3000 yards. This cruiser appeared to be firing at the CUSHING and LAFFEY. Aircraft overhead dropped flares when the firing first started which lit up the whole area so that our leading ships must have been clearly visible to the enemy. (B) During this period, I was conning the ship, from an amidships position at the forward bridge port; gun fire was evident coming from ships on our starboard bow, distant 10 to 12 thousand yards, as the flashes appeared as coming from low down in the water. While we were firing at the Kongo class battleship, I could distinctly see our bullets hitting her superstructure, flashes, and sparks were coming out of her pagoda tower. Enormous flames began to appear in and around this ship, her fire ceased and the ship appeared to be dead in the water. About this time I noticed two flashes on the STERRET's stern as if her after guns were hit. It was shortly after this, that the STERRET stopped in front of us and turned left. We closed up vary rapidly, orders were given as follows: hard right and emergency full astern. We just cleared the STERRET's stern by about 30 feet. After passing the STERRET we again came back to course 310° and went ahead full. At this time I could only see the Kongo class battleship on our port bow. There was firing on our starboard bow but I could not make out what it was; the Japanese cruiser was not visible nor was the LAFFEY or the CUSHING. My first thought then was to remain at full speed and cross ahead of the battleship which seemed to be drawing ever closer. It was time the word was received over the TBS to cease fire. It was carried out in this ship. The Commanding Officer ordered torpedoes fire at the battleship on our port bow. At about 0157 our course was changed to the right, while making this turn I was concerned at the proximity of the battleship and thought that we would not be able to turn clear of her, so gave the following orders: hard right and emergency full astern; when it was evident that we would clear safely, all engines were ordered ahead full, and course changed to 090°. The battleship at this time was not firing and was enveloped in tremendous flames. While in course 090° we were illuminated by searchlights and heavy fire was going overhead, coming from the north. Directly ahead I saw the bow of a ship, I can distinctly remember seeing white numbers on the bow, rudder was ordered to avoid this wreck and we unintentionally passed through a number of survivors who were swimming on the surface. They were screaming something. I now think it was "LAFFEY"; a number of our personnel threw life jackets, to them. The firing still seemed to be heavy from the north so that course was changed to southeast, the general direction of the channel. At about 0205 the ship was shaken violently by an underwater explosion which virtually lifted the stern out of the water. I was looking out the front port at the time and the airport came down hitting me on the head. I thought the ship had been hit somewhere about midships. Word was sent down to the repair parties and enginerooms to inspect immediately and report what damage had been done. Reports were promptly received that there was no apparent damage but the after engine room reported a rumbling in the port reduction gear and requested that we slow down. The engines were slowed to two thirds speed. Considerable firing was still going on and it appeared as though Japanese after we had ceased fire were firing at themselves. Two black objects were observed on the port bow at approximately 3000 yards, from one great clouds of black smoke were pouring. These black objects later turned out to be the HELENA, and SAN FRANCISCO. Course was then changed toward the beach and we made a sweep in the bight just west of Kukaum. Upon completion of this circle an approach was made to clear through Lengo channel. FOURTH PHASE (A) With the use of the fathometer and by staying close to the shore line our position as finally established. We then proceeded through Lengo Channel at approximately 18 knots. (B) During the passage through Lengo Channel information was received from the radar personnel that there was a vessel hugging the shore line her approximate bearing was on our starboard beam; three or four vessels could be seen in Sea Lark Channel. During our passage through Lengo Channel, the Commanding Officer definitely established the identity of HELENA, SAN FRANCISCO and FLETCHER over the TBS as being the ships observed in Sea Lark Channel. The ship on our starboard beam apparently came visible well up on our starboard bow after she had passed Taivui Point, this vessel after daylight was identified as the JUNEAU. At 0358 after clearing Lengo Channel we proceeded northeast to join Task Group 67.4. 2. COMMENTS: (A) It was quite evident that the enemy were not surprised at our appearance. No doubt one Task Group of theirs was preparing to bombard Cactus; they had aircraft overhead to provide the necessary illumination. The fragment which hit our ship was from an 8" bombardment projectile. The Kongo class battleship with which we engaged appeared to be screening a contemplated landing operation in or near Tassafaronga. I believe that the light cruiser which was observed on our starboard bow was the outer screen of the bombardment force coming down the northeast, the main force of which was 12000to 14000 yards away when the firing commenced. It is further believe that the Japanese operations for this night had been well and strategically planned in their entirety, and that we completely upset their plans. A submarine had been sighted off Koli Point according to a report which we had received aboard (prior) to midnight of the 12th. It is quite possible that this submarine was covering the channel and inflicted some damage to the ships at the rear of our column. (B) During our approach to the battle area and while still in Lengo Channel a report was received on the bridge from the gunnery officer that we had just passed over the track of a torpedo wake. This was not observed by me although I was watching the water very carefully. 3. DAMAGE: Friendly: I saw two large flashes appear around the after guns in the STERRET. The CUSHING and LAFFEY were observed to be under a cross fire from the battleship on the port bow and the cruiser on the starboard bow. Both of whom were hitting our ships and tearing them down gradually. Heavy explosions were felt and heard throughout the engagement. Enemy: I did not see any enemy ships blow up and sink but I did observe great fires coming from something in behind the battleship on our port bow and the later huge flames envelope the battleship. Several ships on our starboard hand were on fire but it was impossible to observe who they were. 4. The following recommendations are submitted: (A) That less use of the TBS be made during the approach to an engagement. Further more it is not completely reliable with all the noise that is created during an action. (B) That the PPI on the SG radar have a duplicate repeater on the bridge. 5. COMMENDATIONS. I recommend that the following officers and men be commened for their performance of duty far and beyond that expected of them in the normal line of duty: Lieutenant George Philip, Jr., USN, for his maintaining strict And controlled discipline over his battery and personnel during the entire engagement; for being able to take the enemy under rapid and continuous fire; and for his assistance in the destruction of one enemy battleship and possibly one enemy cruiser. Lieutenant Carl Ferdinand Pfeifer, USN, for the efficient operation of the entire engineering plant during the emergencies which required at two different times, emergency full speed astern, immediately followed by full speed ahead; and after receiving an underwater explosion which caused the vessel to lose light and power was able to make 24 knots. Richard Nelson Lanham, QM3c, USN, who was the helmsman during entire action and who obeyed accurately every order which was given to the wheel, through all the noise which was caused by gun fire and explosions, telephone talkers and wind blowing through the ports. His work was so well done that in my mind if he had not acted correctly and quickly we would have two collisions, one with the STERRET and one with the wreck of the LAFFEY. James Homer Joiner, EM2c, USN, who had the intelligence and presence of mind when this vessel was shaken violently by a heavy underwater explosion causing the ship to lose light and power, to quickly go behind the distribution board and throw in the switches which had tripped, when everyone else in the engineroom thought that the engineroom had been hit. That all hands are to be commended for their excellent performance of duty while under the severe strain of continuous enemy fire and the close fire of our own vessels for a period of about 40 minutes.
FIRST ENDORSEMENT U.S.S. HELENA 10-S CL50/A16-3(SD-TS133) November 21, 1942. From: The Commanding Officer, U.S.S. HELENA (Senior Officer Task Force 67.4). To: The Commander South Pacific Force. 1. Forwarded.
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A16-3 Serial 0270a CONFIDENTIAL SECOND ENDORSEMENT to CO USS O'BANNON Conf.Ltr. DD450/A16 Serial 0134 of November 17, 1942 From: The Commander South Pacific Area and South Pacific Force. To: The Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet. Subject: Report of engagement with Japanese units on morning of November 13, 1942. 1. Forwarded. 2. The O'BANNON gave excellent account of herself. The ship was exceptionally well handled under the most trying conditions. The employment of both the five-inch and torpedo batteries left little to be desired. 3. Concur in Executive Officer's recommendation that PPI repeaters be installed on navigating bridge of destroyers.
Copy to: Comtaskfor 62 (CTF-67) Comdespacflt CO USS O'BANNON
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