Reorganization of the group began early in the month, when the destroyer Bailey, which had just been overhauled, joined the Richmond and the Coghlan at Dutch Harbor, where the latter two vessels had also undergone extensive overhaul. On 14 March these three sips held day night target practice, after which they proceeded to patrol areas southwestward
of Kiska, stopping en route at Adak on 16 March to refuel. Antiaircraft and torpedo drill swere held during the patrol.
The enemy became aware of our presence in these waters on 21 March when a Japanese float plane tracked the three ships in the vicinity of latitude 51º N., longitude 176º E.
The Salt Lake City, Dale, and Monaghan joined on the 22d to complete the makeup of Task Group Mike, which was now organized as follows:
Half the Salt Lake City's crew, incluidng seventy per cent of her fire control personnel, ws at sea for the first time. The new men had come aboard at Pearl Harbor, where the cruiser had had a four-month period of repair and overhaul necessitated by damage sustained in e Battle of Cape Esperance. After putting to sea on 11 March, the Salt Lake City spent one week at intensive target practice in the Hawaiian area and then proceeded without escort to Dutch Harbor.
From analysis of the meager information available regarding the previous routes and methods used by the Japansee, and from personal observations made on previous patrols in that area, the task group commander chose the northwesterly approaches to Kiska and Attu. The patrol was to extend at least as far west as 168º E. Condiseration of radar capabilities, navigational difficulties, and the possible necessity for rapid concentration, led to the choice of six miles as the distance between ships on the scouting line.
On the 25th the Salt Lake City refuled the Bailey and Coghlan. this
|LETTERS REFER TO CIRCLED LETTERS ON CHART|
|A||Task Group Mike turned to base course 000º T. Half-hour to sunrise.|
|B||Richmond had 9 vessels (unidentified as to type) in sight.|
|C||At approximately this time two heavy cruisers were discerned in the enemy force.|
|D||Task Group Mike changed course to 330º T., to intercept Japanese AP/AK's.|
|E||Enemy CA's opened fire on Richmond, range approximately 20,000 yards. Flagship replied immediately.|
|F||Japanese CA's shifted fire to the Salt Lake City. Our heavy replied and hit an enemy CA with at least two 8-inch shells on the third or fourth salvo.|
|G||40º left turn to 290º T. begun. Speed raised to 25 knots.|
|H||Course changed to 250º T. Speed upped to 28 knots.|
|I||Two planes launched from Japanese cruisers.|
|J||Richmond ceased fire as range to nearest enemy ship had opened to 22,800 yards.|
|K||Salt Lake City straddled enemy CA repreatedly. Japanese ship began smoking badly.|
|L||Salt Lake City hit at frame 102 on the port side.|
|M||Course changed to 280º T. Many straddles on the Salt Lake City.|
|N||Course changed to 300º T. Speed had increased to 33 knots.|
|O||Spotting plane about 12,000 yards to starboard was hit by AA fired by Salt Lake City, Bailey, and Coghlan. The scout disappeared smoking.|
|P||Course changed to 320º T. to close exposed Japanese light cruiser.|
|Q||Course changed to 020º T. Speed now 28 knots.|
|R||Salt Lake City suffers a steering casualty. Ship headed hard right.|
|S||Salt Lake City hit by shell which penetrated her main deck forward.|
|T||ComDesRon 14, assumed tactical command of the Bailey and Coghlan and those two ships stood by to lay smoke screen for the Salt Lake City.|
|U||Salt Lake City, Bailey, and Coghlan commenced making smoke. Our heavy cruiser entered it at 1020.|
|V||Course changed to 240º T. so that the Salt Lake City could take advantage of the smoke as it then lay.|
|W||ComDesRon 14 assumed tactical command of all four destroyers. Monoghan and Dale were immediately ordered to lay smoke, which they began to do shortly.|
|X||Bailey, Richmond, Coghlan, and Dale, in that order, became engaged with an enemy light cruiser.|
|Y||Salt Lake City hit by another 8-inch shell, this time on the starboard catapult. Aircraft and catapult damaged. Plane caught fire and was jettisoned.|
|Z||Course changed to 210º T. as task group commander decided to head south. Speed changed to 30 knots.|
|a||Salt Lake City hit at port frame 102 again, but this shell did not penetrate the hull. Indirect damage extensive.|
|b||Course changed to 180º T.|
|c||Salt Lake City's after engine room out of operation because of battle damage. her speed dropped to 20 knots.|
|d||Coghlan and Bailey started in for a torpedo attack on the enemy heavies.|
|e||Ememy CAs turned right to avoid the threatened attack.|
|f||Torpedo attack belayed as the Salt Lake City picked up speed. Our destroyers again joined formation astern.|
|g||At approximately this time, the Salt Lake City's engines stopped.|
|h||Salt Lake City swung left for a last-ditch defense just before she came to a dead stop in the water. HC projectiles fired by the after batteries because of a shortage of AP shells caused the enemy to fire AA, as he apparently thought he was being bombed by planes. Task group commander ordered ComDesRon 14 to carry out a torpedo attack on the enemy. The Bailey, Coghlan, and Monaghan, in that order, started in for the assault. The Dale was left to screen the Salt Lake City.|
|i||The Bailey, hit badly, fired five torpedoes and turned back toward our cruisers. The Coghlan and Monaghan did not expend torpedoes because of the unfaborable circumstances but also came left for retirement. The Bailey was hit by more shell fragments as she turned. The Coghlan also was damaged topside.|
|j||Salt Lake City, now making 15 knots, fired her last salvo of the battle. Richmond standing by to screen her and the retiring destroyers, if necessary.|
|k||Action ended. Task Group Mike retires eastward on base course 090º T.|
operation had been in prospect for several days, but rough weather had intervened. In the midst of fueling, the task group commander received orders from Commander Task Force King, directing Task Group Mike to return to port.
Admiral McMorris acknowledged, but decided to delay execution of the order until fueling was completed. This proved to be an important decision, since Admiral Kinkaid, before the destroyers had been topped off, sent another message authorizing continuation of the patrol. In vew of subsequent events, the fueling operation and the determination to continue the patrol were most fortunate.
Task Group Mike assumed a scouting line with the intention of searching the area as thoroughly as the number of ships and amount of fuel available would permit. A tentative schedule for the group called for refueling of the Monaghan and Dale by the Salt Lake City on the 28th. It was also anticipated that the Richmond would have to withdraw from the patrol and return to Adak for fuel late on the 29th. Two destroyers were to escort her. In this case, the Salt Lake City and the two remaining destroyers would continue the patrol several days longer, until the other three ships returned to station, if possible.
At 0730, exactly one hour before sunrise, the Coghlan, northernmost ships in line, established SC radar contact with two ships, bearing 010º T., range 14,500 yards. She immediately sent word via TBS to Admiral McMorris in the Richmond. The flagship, still the second ship in line from the north
and the guide of the group, was in position 53º16' N., 168º32' E. at that time.15
A few seconds after her radar contact, the Coghlan picked up the vessels visually. And beyond these ships, two or three others could be seen, hull down on the horizon. None could be identified as to type. The Richmond, meanwhile, had also established contact by means of her SG radar. Three pips were on the screen, bearing 359º T., distant 24,000 yards.
One minute after the initial contact, at 0731, Admiral McMorris ordered all ships to go to Boiler Condition One and concentrate on the Richmond. Lookouts on the flagship discerned the dim outlines of five ships at 0732, but darkness prevented identification.
Most of our ships were already at General Quarters. Regular morning routine had sent the crew of the Dale to their posts at 0720, while the Richmond, Monaghan, and Bailey were in process of manning their dawn battle stations at 0730. By 0733 the remaining two ships, the Salt Lake City and Coghlan, had also gone to General Quarters.
For a short time after this first flurry of activity, all the other ships in the group were busy with course changes to close the flagship. The Monaghan, the last in line, was 24 miles south of the Richmond. All ships in the group were striving to build up their speed.
After 10 minutes of tracking by the Richmond's radar, contact course was estimated to be 080º T., speed 13 knots. During this period, the flagship had closed to 21,000 yards. There were five pips on her screen at that time. Upon receipt of this information, Admiral McMorris ordered Task Group Mike's course changed to parallel that of the unidentified ships. At 0745, when the Bailey and Coghlan were within a few thousand yards of the Richmond, the Admiral urged the Monaghan, Dale, and Salt Lake City to expedite concentration as much as possible. To comply, these ships increased speed and adopted more sharply converging courses.
About 0750, shortly after our course change to 080º T., the enemy force turned left and headed north. It was difficult at this time to get a clear
conception of the enemy's composition, as maneuvers within his group hampered our lookouts and resulted in confusion on our radar screens. His change in course and the reshuffling of his forces made it clear, however, that he had sighted our vessels.
This alteration of course by the enemy resulted in the range opening rapidly, until by 0800 our flagship and the nearest Japanese ship were 27,000 yards apart. To counteract this, Admiral McMorris ordered a base course of 000º T. Although this change further delayed concentration, it was necessary if contact was to be maintained. The Richmond's speed was held to 15 knots to allow the lagging ships to close formation astern. While these variations in course were taking place, the Salt Lake City, Monaghan, and Dale had built their speeds up to 29, 27, and 22 knots respectively. The Coghlan and Bailey were maneuvering to take station on the flagship, the estimated position of which was 53º20' N., 168º36' E.
At 0803 Admiral McMorris radioed Admiral Kinkaid, stating merely that Task Group Mike had made contact with an enemy force and was concentrating to attack it. Nothing at the time indicated that the opposition was formidable. Although the haze of morning twilight was fading fast, the mist which had not as yet been dissipated and smudges of smoke among the enemy vessels, evidently from cold boilers being forced, combined to handicap vision. Observers on the Richmond had agreed on one point only--that auxiliaries were present in the Japanese group. Their reports on the enemy's over-all composition, however, were conflicting. None mentioned any warship larger than a light cruiser.
By 0805 the Bailey was in the van 3,000 yards ahead of the flagship and 500 yards ahead of the Coghlan. One minute later, her lookouts sighted two vessels, either APs or AKs, on course 355º T., distant 26,000 yards. The Bailey went to 20 knots.
In the meantime, our ships astern were making steady progress in closing formation. The Salt Lake City had gone to 30.5 knots at 0805; the Monaghan was making 29 knots at the same time and rapidly building up speed. The Dale, some distance behind the Richmond but still ahead of our heavy cruiser, was steaming at approximately 22 knots.
As our leading ships shortened the gap between them and the enemy, the Richmond's SG radar began to show additional pips. Men on the flagship's signal watch reported at 0811 that the opposing force was composed
of one single stack destroyer and four merchantmen. One of the supposed APs or AKs was large and the other three were small. Five minutes later, after slowing to 15 knots, the Bailey made visual contact with five ships. Nine Japanese vessels were in sight from the Richmond by 0820.16
Concern was now felt lest an enemy ship escape, and the Japanese auxiliaries were designated as primary objectives. As Admiral McMorris put it, "The task group commander still felt that a Roman holiday was in prospect."
Wishing to strike quickly, Admiral McMorris acted to facilitate the concentration of his group. Accordingly, the Dale and Monaghan were directed to remain astern of the fast-closing Salt Lake City, which was still several miles behind the flagship. In executing this order, the Dale slowed to 15 knots and circled left to drop astern of the Salt Lake City. The Monaghan was already steaming several miles behind the heavy cruiser.
The first indication of the actual strength of the enemy came a few minutes after 0820, when lookouts on the Richmond identified first one, then two, of the opposing ships as heavy cruisers.17 Other still unidentified fighting ships could be seen around the two cruisers. "The situation had now clarified, but had also radically and unpleasantly changed," commented Admiral McMorris.
The Japanese force now held the advantages of better tactical position, greater numerical strength, and overwhelmingly superior firepower. Directly ahead of our group were the enemy combatant ships on a southeasterly course which was closing the range rapidly. Meanwhile, the merchantmen
were steaming north-northwest, about 25,000-30,000 yards distant from the Richmond. Two destroyers, which had previously been screening the merchant vessels, doubled back and joined the foe's combatant group, leaving the merchant vessels unescorted. This move by the Japanese light units caused some confusion among our ships when they reported the strength of the enemy.18
At 0825, about the time that the task group commander was discovering the presence of heavy ships among the enemy, the Richmond had a torpedo alert. lookouts reported a periscope off the port quarter, and Capt. Waldschmidt immediately rang up 20 knots. One minute later, however, the flagship's speed was again set at 15 knots when the report proved false.
As the ships in the rear of our column closed, they began to catch glimpses of the foe. The Monaghan and Dale sighted the enemy's smoke and masts simultaneously at 0826. By 0830 the Bailey had six ships besides the auxiliaries in sight. One of the six challenged our group with a searchlight. This overture was ignored, as were subsequent signals of the same type. The Coghlan, following in the Bailey's wake, was in contact with eight ships at this time. Radar range to the nearest of the eight was 23,900 yards. To the Salt Lake City, now fairly close astern of the Richmond, the Japanese appeared to be two or three AKs and one destroyer. She began making out various other enemy warships within the space of two or three minutes, however.
In the short space of time since first sighting the enemy heavy cruisers, three courses of action had suggested themselves to Admiral McMorris. Task Group Mike could fight, withdraw, or attempt to maintain long-range contact. In making a decision, he had to consider another discouraging aspect of the situation: at best it would be at least two or three hours before our aircraft based on Adak could be expected to arrive.
Despite the unfavorable factors, Admiral McMorris decided to make an attempt to attack the enemy auxiliaries. There were numerous reasons for this course. It was possible that judicious maneuvers by our group might bring the merchantmen within gun range before the Japanese combatant ships could intervene. Forcing the enemy's hand, moreover, might lead him to dispatch some of his fighting ships to convoy the auxiliaries in their retirement. Such a move on his part would provide Task Group Mike an opportunity to fight the remainder on more nearly even terms. Furthermore, a feint by our ships to the west might cause the Japanese to send their auxiliaries on to Holtz Bay, where they would have been subject to submarines and air attacks.
To close the objectives, a change of course to 330º T. was signalled at 0833. However, the fact that the Salt Lake City was still some distance astern precluded an increase in speed, which would have been desirable. By 0839 Task Group Mike was squared away on its new course, concentration virtually complete. our ships were now disposed with the two cruisers in column approximately 1,000 yards apart, the Richmond leading. The van destroyers, the Bailey and Coghlan, were on station off the port bow of the flagship, while the two rear destroyers steamed off the starboard quarter of the Salt Lake City.
To some of our ships the enemy's composition and disposition were still obscure. his combatant vessels were headed southeastward, a course opposite to that of our group, and steaming in a loose formation at about 15 knots. His heavy cruisers, which were in the lead, were followed closely by one light cruiser. The other light cruiser and the destroyers brought up the rear and were on the disengaged side of the heavy cruisers. It appeared that the Japanese light forces were trying to concentrate on the heavy cruisers in order to take up battle formation.
Our light cruiser replied immediately with her forward and after twins and the starboard singles, a total of seven 6-inch guns. She chose the leading
heavy cruiser as her target. It was on bearing 045º R., distance 19,700 yards (by SG radar).
One minute after action started, at 0841, Commander Task Group ordered both the Richmond and the Salt Lake City to launch their aircraft. But Admiral McMorris countermanded this order to the Richmond before her planes took off, in the belief that the flagship's two scouts would be needed more urgently later in the battle. Circumstances prevented the Salt Lake City from launching any aircraft. Heavy weather encountered a few days before had damaged on e of her catapults and one of her planes, putting both out of operation. Her second scout could not take off because it had been degassed.
After obtaining the correct range on the Richmond, the enemy proceeded to lay several straddles across her in quick succession. Some of the shells landed close aboard and shook the ship considerably. On the bridge it was thought that she had taken hits on the bow and amidships. Capt. Waldschmidt. zigzagged his vessel to throw off the enemy's fire control, while damage control parties check on the ship's injuries. A cut smokestack guy, probably severed by a shell which went between stacks Nos. 3 and 4, was the only casualty found.
Shortly after making these straddles on the flagship, the Japanese heavy cruisers shifted their fire to the Salt Lake City, the initial salvos falling short by 1,000-1,500 yards. At 0842 the forward turrets of our heavy cruiser took the leading Japanese heavy cruiser under fire on an SG radar range of 21,000 yards. A few moments later, the after turrets were also brought to bear. Results came quickly. On the third or fourth salvo at least two 8-inch shells struck the target. Fire broke out in the vicinity of the enemy cruiser's bridge, but the flames proved disappointingly short-lived.
In spite of this quick success, the general situation was unfavorable, and retirement seemed expedient. The superior firepower of the Japanese force and the decreasing ranges between the two opposing groups made it merely a question of time until our ships suffered serious damage. Pre-battle maneuvers which, on our part, had been designed to bring the supposedly lightly-guarded auxiliaries within gun range, had interposed the enemy combatant ships between our group and its bases to the east. Obviously withdrawal in that direction was impossible. Accordingly, at 0843, Commander Task Group ordered a speed of 25 knots and a left turn of
40 degrees. This move also served the immediate purpose of complicating Japanese fire control.
As our group swung to its new course of 290º T., the van destroyers entered the battle. Both the Bailey and Coghlan opened fire on enemy heavy cruisers, at ranges of 15,000 and 18,000 yards respectively. After some five minutes, the Bailey directed her fire at a light cruiser in line behind the two heavy cruisers. These two destroyers kept firing until about 0841, when all targets were out of their range.
Meantime, a signal had been given at 0848 to change course to 250º T. and speed to 28 knots. Our ships realigned while carrying out this order. The Dale and Monaghan took station off the port quarter of the Salt Lake City, while the Coghlan and Bailey dropped back and took up positions off the starboard quarter of the heavy cruiser. The Richmond was now our leading ship, approximately 1,000 yards ahead of the Salt Lake City. Subsequently, the Japanese ships also turned, first southwestward, then in a northwesterly direction, and followed our group.
Concurrently with our van destroyers' action and the group's course changes, The Salt Lake City had obtained eight straddles on the leading Japanese heavy cruiser. These were from the first 18 salvos, controlled by Director I. Control was shifted to Director II as the ships sheered left. Additional straddles were observed on the same target. Smoke billowed from near her forward stack. The Richmond also switched control to Director II as she turned. Both our cruisers were under heavy fire at this time.
At 0856, while the Salt Lake City was bearing the brunt of the enemy's fire and the Dale and Monaghan were avoiding the salvos aimed at our heavy cruiser, two enemy observation planes were launched from separate Japanese cruisers.
About 0858 observers on our flagship reported torpedoes passing under her bow. Capt. Waldschmidt. saw these purported "torpedoes" and declared that they actually consisted of "the splash of a school of small fish swimming in a comparatively straight and narrow path."19
Our ships had gradually increased their speed until by 0858 Task Group
Mike was making 30 knots, on base course 240º T. Individual ships were "chasing the splashes" so effectively that none of them had taken a hit as yet. The radical course changes which the Salt Lake City employed so successfully had a disadvantage, however, for she tended to lag behind the Richmond.
Many salvos were now landing within a radius of 200-300 yards of the Salt Lake City's bow, so Capt. Rodgers ordered the gasoline stowage blanketed with CO2. Two Japanese heavy cruisers were focusing their fire on our heavy cruiser, walking their salvos up and down in 200-300 yard steps. Occasionally a light cruiser would also edge in close enough to lob shells at her. Personnel below decks could feel the concussion through the hull as shells detonated in the water nearby. Capt. Rodgers rang up flank speed.
The Salt Lake City was engaged ceaselessly as our group moved westward ahead of the enemy. The foe was in the following formation, from north to south: one light cruiser, two heavy cruisers, and another light cruiser. The four destroyers were stationed to port of the southernmost cruiser, well out of gun range.
At 0903 the Richmond ceased fire. She had drawn ahead until the range to the nearest enemy ship was 22,800 yards. Enemy fire directed at the flagship had become spasmodic as she left the pursuers farther astern. Soon the Japanese cruiser shifted fire from the Richmond to the Salt Lake City.
Enemy float planes now became bothersome. After being catapulted from the cruisers, they had circled to port and climbed into spotting position. One of these aircraft took station at extreme range abeam of the Monaghan, and in a short time the enemy salvos began moving closer to the Salt Lake City. Many of the overs and shorts landed uncomfortably close to our screening destroyers. At 0905 the Monaghan opened fire on this spotter with her 5-inch 38's. The enemy pilot put his plan through violent evasive maneuvers and withdrew temporarily. The aircraft was apparently undamaged. The Salt Lake City sighted two observation planes at this time, while the Dale saw one. Both ships held their fire, however, because the spotters hovered just out of range.
One of the enemy heavy cruisers was straddled repeatedly at 0907 by 5-gun salvos from the Salt Lake City's after turrets, her only 8-inch guns which would bear. After the range was established, several shells from
our ship struck this target amidships. Shortly thereafter, black smoke began issuing from the enemy cruiser.
Meanwhile one of the Japanese planes had worked itself around to the starboard side of the Richmond. The flagship took it under fire at 0908 with her 3-inch guns at an SC radar range of 11,000 yards. These guns ceased firing two minutes later, when the plane banked steeply away.
Skillful conning, plus a modicum of luck, had saved the Salt Lake City from damage thus far in the battle. But, at 0910, personnel on the bridge felt the impact of hits both fore and aft. In a few minutes repair parties reported that the ships had been holed below the water line on the port side at frame 102. The shell had penetrated inward, ruptured oil tanks and bulkheads, nicked the port shaft, and exploded about three feet abaft the athwartship engine room bulkhead. Fragments flew in every direction, piercing nearby bulkheads. Shaft alleys Nos., 3 and 4 began flooding. Oil from punctured fuel tanks abaft the after bulkhead sprayed into the after engine room. Water leaking from pipes which had been carried away added to the difficulty, and, with the oil, formed a slimy coating on the deck. No damage was found forward at this time, however. Apparently the shocks felt there had come from near hits.
Three minutes later, as Task Group Mike was executing a change in course to 260º T., the starboard 5-inch guns on our heavy cruiser opened on a plane at a range of 12,000 yards. Ten rounds were sufficient to drive the intruder out of range.
At 0920 our ships altered course to 280º T., as the task group commander again sought to open the range. The enemy heavy cruiser which had bee hit heavily at 0908 was still smoking badly. It began to lose speed, and the other heavy cruiser slowed to remain in company.
The Salt Lake City, meanwhile, was receiving the undivided attention of the enemy heavy cruisers. Two of the tight-patterned enemy salvos straddled her at 0921, shaking the ship considerably. Again the after engine room reported being hit. However, it was later ascertained that this had been a near hit.
The Dale, closest flanking destroyer to port, had quite a few shells land close aboard as the enemy cruisers walked their ladders up and down methodically on the zigzagging Salt Lake City. Lt. Comdr. Horn, commanding the Dale, described the enemy shooting as "beautiful," and said
that it was a "miracle" that our heavy cruiser was able to avoid the salvos so effectively. At 0922 at venturesome enemy pilot flew in to about 9,500 yards from the Dale, and that destroyer and the Monaghan opened fire. The plane retired forthwith to a more discreet distance.
The Salt Lake City was swinging to 300º T., the new base course of the group, when the damage in her after engine room was declared to be under control. This was at 0927. Wads of clothing thrust into the breach in the after bulkhead had reduced the flow of oil into the engine room to mere seepage. Our heavy cruiser was making maximum speed, while the remainder of the task group was also steaming at about 33 knots.
The enemy was still disposed in three ragged columns. Viewed from the Dale, one light cruiser bore 050º T., range 28,000 yards; the two heavy cruisers bore 060º T., range 24,000 yards; and the other light cruiser and the destroyers bore 067º T., range 30,000 yards.
Another brush with an aircraft developed at 031, when the Salt Lake City's 5-inch guns opened to starboard on a float-type plane at a range of 9,500 to 12,000 yards. Our two screening destroyers to starboard, the Bailey and Coghlan, also took this target under fire. These three ships fired for only approximately a minute and a half. Their small expenditure of ammunition left its mark, however, for the plane swerved away into the clouds, trailing a plume of smoke behind it. A few minutes later, observers on our heavy cruiser saw a large splash and a tell-tale column of black smoke on the horizon.20 Thereafter, the other spotter remained at a range of about 18,000 yards.
About this time the southernmost enemy light cruiser and the four trailing destroyers began closing the Salt Lake City. As these five ships drew nearer off the starboard quarter, the other Japanese units also began to close slowly. This situation did not obtain for long, however, since by 0941 the range had again opened to 20,500 yards. The enemy temporarily checked fire.
Meanwhile, Commander Task Group Mike had radioed a dispatch to Commander Task Force King at 0937, giving the group's course and position, and advising that it was engaged in a long-range battle. An encouraging answer stated that supporting bombers could be expected about 1430,
while Catalinas might arrive before that time. Admiral Kinkaid's communication also recommended that retiring action be considered. This suggestion "brought a smile" to Admiral McMorris' face.
Our ships were now steaming with the Coghlan and Bailey 1,000 and 1,500 yards respectively off the Salt Lake City's starboard bow, while the Dale and Monaghan occupied the same relative positions off the starboard quarter. The Richmond steamed 1,000 yards ahead and slightly to port of the Salt Lake City. Speed was still better than 30 knots.
At 0943 Commander Task Group signaled an alteration in course to 320º T. This was done in an effort to close an exposed enemy light cruiser on the northern flank of the Japanese formation. That ship was in a position to give range spots. The Salt Lake City was still firing with her after guns as she went into this turn to the right.
The new heading finally unmasked the Salt Lake City's forward guns, and at 0946 she opened on the light cruiser with both forward and after 8-inch turrets. Eight 10-gun broadsides were fired at an approximate range of 18,000 yards. Some of these salvos straddled the target, and at about 0950, our heavy cruiser reported to the task group commander that she had hit one of the Japanese heavy cruisers and that she was pulling away from that ship.21 Seizing the opportunity this opening of the range afforded, Admiral McMorris decided to try to turn the enemy's right flank by heading northward.
Accordingly, a base course of 340º T. was ordered at 0950. The Salt Lake City, the forward turrets of which had again gone into the blind, requested permission to make a further change of course so that she might bring all her guns to bear on the light cruiser. After the exchange of several messages, Admiral McMorris advised our heavy cruiser to make such maneuvers as were necessary in order to use her firepower to the best advantage. Successive swings to the right were made in the following few minutes until, by 0956, the base course became 020º T. Both the flagship and the Salt Lake City were making 28 knots at the that time.
A few moments after 1000, the light cruiser on which the Salt Lake City
was firing veered sharply right, away from our ship's shells, and went into a tight circle. However, our potentially favorable position quickly deteriorated. The enemy heavy cruiser, which had been emitting clouds of smoke, recovered speed despite her fires and, with the other heavy cruiser, began moving closer. The Japanese force was now aligned with the light cruiser which had described the 360-degree turn in the van. Approximately a thousand yards astern of that ship were the two heavy cruisers. To the rear of the heavy cruisers, the other light cruiser and the four destroyers closed warily, remaining out of gun range.
By 1000 both Japanese heavy cruisers were repeatedly straddling the Salt Lake City. At 1002, while the enemy was forging steadily nearer and the pattern of his shellfire was moving closer, the Salt Lake City suffered a steering casualty. Her own gun blasts had carried away the rudder stops, and the rudder no longer responded to the wheel. The ship commenced heading sharply right, away from the base course. Less than 20,000 yards separated her from the enemy heavy cruisers, when at 1003, rudder control was shifted to Steering Aft.
Admiral McMorris viewed the erratic movements of the Salt Lake City and the rapidly closing range with apprehension. At this time also, a few salvos landed close aboard the Richmond, one of them jarring the ship. A prompt opening of the range was imperative, so course was changed to 330º T. without delay.
Meanwhile, the Salt Lake City had regained partial control of her steering gear. Use of the rudder was limited to 10 degrees to either side, however, lest it jam hard over. As she came slowly left to the new course, our heavy cruiser was under the concentrated fire of both the enemy heavies. While in the turn, she managed to fire one 10-gun broadside before the target bearing became such that only her after guns could bear. This fact made the battle even more uneven, for the Japanese ships possessed superior speed and were able to fire full salvos in conformance with their zigzag course. The Salt Lake City and the destroyers grouped about her sustained many near hits. Capt. Rodgers conned his ship cannily, alternately "chasing the salvos" and zigzagging. This procedure was so effective that his ship took no hits at that time, even though "shells could be seen falling like rain" around her.
The Salt Lake City was returning to base course by 1006. One minute
later, Admiral McMorris ordered her to fire on the leading Japanese light cruiser, the nearest enemy ship to our group. A further 30-degree course change to the left was signaled at 1009. All our ships swung to the new heading, although the Salt Lake City was still experiencing difficulty with her rudder.
At 1010 the Salt Lake City reported her steering troubles to Commander Task Group Mike. Immediately after this message was sent, a shell penetrated our heavy cruiser's main deck forward. The projectile, which struck at starboard frame 7, had fallen at a high angle. It glanced off the starboard anchor windlass and was deflected forward and downward, passing outward through the hull at frame 4. The hole was two or three feet below the water line, and resulted in the flooding of several compartments. Bulkheads nearby were shored up promptly. There was no fire.
After cutting the speed of the task group to 25 knots to keep our ships concentrated, the task group commander directed that smoke be laid. This was at 1015. Within three minutes, the Bailey and Coghlan began execution of the order. The Salt Lake City had begun generating chemical smoke a few moments earlier. Thereafter, the two destroyers shuttled around the heavy cruiser, usually at high speeds, laying an effective cover with a combination of stack smoke and chemical smoke from the FS generators. At 1020, the Salt Lake City, still using emergency steering with a maximum rudder of 10 degrees to either side, nosed into the screen. Range from the Richmond to the enemy at this time was 22,800 yards.
When the Salt Lake City entered the smoke screen, the Japanese fire diminished, but did not cease. As the battle moved westward, the enemy heavy cruisers fired sporadically, whenever gaps in the smoke afforded them glimpses of the Salt Lake City. Supplementing these visual contacts were spots given by the enemy's remaining plane and his light cruisers. These last mentioned ships maneuvered constantly in an attempt to outflank
the smoke screen and thus give fire control data. From the expeditious and accurate manner in which the Japanese heavies shifted their fire during this phase, many observers in our group deduced that at least on of those ships possessed fire control radar.
While the enemy was engaged in this manner, the Salt Lake City was being conned to take every advantage of the destroyers' smoke. The screen was being laid in parallel banks, one to port by the Coghlan, and the other to starboard by the Bailey. Capt. Rodgers maneuvered his ship as adroitly as possible, within the limits of the smoke, in an endeavor to throw off the enemy's aim. Shells continued to land on all sides of the ships, however. Our cruiser's after batteries answered persistently through the smoke. At 1028 base course was changed to 240º T., in order to bring the Salt Lake City more completely within the screen as it then lay.
About this time the enemy light cruiser, followed by the four destroyers, swung off to the south at a tangent from the main Japanese group. To some of our ships this portended an outflanking attempt or, possibly, a torpedo attack. At 1034, the Salt Lake City requested that two destroyers be kept between her and the enemy. These ships were to act as a buffer for her and, if feasible, fend off the foe with a torpedo attack.
At 1035, to assure our heavy cruiser the best possible defense, the task group commander directed ComDesRon 14 to assume tactical command of all four destroyers. Capt. Riggs immediately ordered the Monaghan and Dale to join the Bailey and Coghlan and assist in laying smoke. Accordingly, the Dale and Monaghan slowed and commenced dropping back along the port side of the formation. Meanwhile, the Bailey had swung left at 36 knots across the stern of the Salt Lake City. Shortly thereafter she took station to port, on the heavy cruiser's engaged side. This move brought the enemy observation plane within range to port, and a few moments' fire sufficed to drive it off.
At 1037, as the Bailey was changing her position, course was again altered to 300º T. A minute later, the group increased its speed to 28 knots. It was hoped that these two measures would put more water between Task Group Mike and the enemy, whose course was estimated as 330º T. Soon, however, a hostile light cruiser was seen to round the end of the smoke screen and close range.
The Bailey engaged this vessel at 1040. The target was on bearing 0786º
T., range about 14,000 yards. Admiral McMorris at once ordered the Salt Lake City to shift her fire to this light cruiser. This TBS message was never received, although our heavy cruiser's equipment had functioned properly just a few moments before, when she reported her battle damage to Commander Task Group. However, the Richmond's after guns opened on the enemy ship at 1044, range 16,000 yards, bearing 080º T. A minute later the Coghlan joined in with her No. 3 and No. 4 guns.
Meanwhile, at 1043, ComDesRon 14 had directed the Dale and Monaghan to take station off the port quarter of the Salt Lake City in order to improve the smoke screen. To avoid delay, the Monaghan went hard right, while the Dale circled in the opposite direction. As the Monaghan started her turn, a grinding sound was heard in her starboard reduction gear. The engineer officer slowed the starboard engine to investigate. When advised of this action, however, the Bridge ordered maximum speed resumed on the engine. The cause of the trouble was not discovered at that time, and the engine operated noisily for the rest of the battle.
By 1046 the heavily-engaged enemy light cruiser was straddling the Bailey. Our destroyer was not hit, but her gyro went out a few minutes later, probably from the shock of near hits. The Bailey zigzagged to evade the salvos. The Dale, which was now astern of the Salt Lake City, joined battle with the same light cruiser at 1050. Her after guns opened at 16,000 yards, but smoke obscured the results.
The Monaghan, also dropping astern as ordered, began laying smoke at 1051. Since she had not reached her designated position, however, this operation was suspended a minute later. At this time, 1952, the Dale adjudged herself to be situated correctly, and started to make smoke. The Monaghan, after more maneuvering, took station at 1055, approximately 800 yards off the port quarter of the Salt Lake City. She resumed laying smoke. The enemy had dropped back by this time, until the range from the Dale increased to 20,000 yards. The destroyer then ceased fire.
While the Monaghan and Dale were reforming, Task Group Mike had been swinging to a new heading of 240º T. Speed was maintained at 28 knots.
The enemy heavies continued their systematic fire. At 1059 an 8-inch shell hit and exploded on the Salt Lake City's starboard catapult. The plane on the catapult burst into flames. Fragments of the projectile were
flung in every direction, penetrating the well deck, and tearing jagged holes in the port catapult. Some particles embedded themselves in the forward stack and superstructure. Damage control parties acted with dispatch, however, and extinguished the fire in less than 10 minutes. The shattered plane was jettisoned at 1101. One officer and one enlisted man were killed, and four enlisted men were wounded.
At the time of this incident, our ships were steaming with the Richmond in the van, the Salt Lake City several thousand yards astern of the flagship, and the four destroyers off the port beam and quarter of the heavy cruiser. As seen through the smoke, the Japanese force appeared to be continuing on a northwesterly course, at an approximate speed of 30 knots. The enemy's rear heavy cruiser bore 085º T. from our flagship.
Admiral McMorris perceived that the general northwesterly trend in the direction of battle held a growing threat to Task Group Mike. According to his estimate, the scene of action at that time (latitude 53º42' N., longitude 167º40' E.) was approximately 125 miles close to Paramushiru than to Adak. It seemed reasonable to assume that the Japanese had also radioed for air support. If so, their bombers would in all likelihood arrive before ours. It was decided, therefore, to break away by turning southward and later, as circumstances permitted, eastward.
Accordingly, a 30-degree left turn to 210º T. was signalled at 1102. Speed was increased to 30 knots. These moves provided an additional if transitory advantage. Because our change of course was hidden by the smoke, the enemy continued on his northwesterly heading for a few minutes after our ships turned south. This circumstance opened the range somewhat, and the Richmond ceased sustained fire. Between 1044 and 1102, fire control aboard the flagship had been shifted back and forth between Director I and Director II as necessity dictated. During that period the vessel expended approximately 80 rounds of 6-inch ammunition on the Japanese light cruiser which had rounded the smoke screen, obtaining at least three straddles. From 1102 on, the Richmond's after guns fired intermittently on both heavy and light cruisers, whenever suitable targets presented themselves. Smoke obscured the results.
As the Salt Lake City swung to the new heading at 1103, another shell struck her on the port side aft. The projectile did not rupture the hell, but glanced off and exploded alongside the ships. Plates at frame 98 were
dented to a depth of nine inches. Indirect damage caused by this hit was extensive. The impact of the shell on the hull lent impetus to the flooding which had resulted from the previous hit at frame 102. Shortly after the second projectile struck, oil began spurting into the after gyro room. All electrical circuits to the after gyros and antiaircraft switchboard were opened as a precautionary measure.
At 1106 the antiaircraft switchboard compartment was abandoned. Attempts were made to shore up the after bulkhead of the engine room, but these proved awkward and inadequate because of the many pipe lines and manifolds in the vicinity. Engine room pumps could not cope with the situation, so a submersible pump was hurriedly brought from a repair station. The rapid rise of the oil and water inundated the antiaircraft switchboard room, the after 5-inch handling room, the after 5-inch ammunition stowage, and shaft alleys No. 3 and No. 4. The ship took a four or five degree list to port.
At the time, this trouble aft did not adversely affect the Salt Lake City's speed or further impair her already limited maneuverability. By 1107 she was squared away on course 210º T., making the required 30 knots. A minute later, at 1108, the task group commander ordered another left turn made, this one of 30 degrees. As this flag hoist was being run up, the Bailey ceased fire on the light cruiser with which she had been engaged. Her gyro, which had been inoperative since 1050, began functioning again.
At 1110 an enemy light cruiser opened on the Dale, which, with the other three destroyers, was still making smoke off the port quarter of the Salt Lake City. The enemy's initial salvo, loaded with yellow dye, fell about 100 yards short off the port quarter. Our destroyer answered immediately at a range of 17,400 yards, on bearing 010º T. Guns No. 3 and No. 4 did most of the work, firing in unison, at six-second intervals. After the first enemy salvo, the Japanese cruiser walked her fire pattern up and down in steps of approximately 200 yards. Some of the enemy's shells landed over, about 100 yards off the starboard beam of the Dale. The destroyer employed abrupt turns and chased the salvos so well that no projectile struck her. The Dale and her adversary were engaged until 1121, when smoke hid them from each other.
In the meantime, the Salt Lake City, which had had a brief respite, swerved off course at 1116, when several salvos from an enemy heavy cruiser
landed close aboard. Two minutes later, however, when the Salt Lake City's guns were replying, her heading was again 180º T.
At 1121, shortly after hour heavy cruiser got back on course, signal was made for Task Group Mike to turn 20 degrees left to 160º T. Admiral McMorris dispatched another of a series of messages to the task force commander at this time, informing him as to position, course, and pertinent particulars of the battle.
The enemy was now headed in a general southeasterly direction, again closing range. In the ensuing few minutes, it appeared that one of the Japanese light cruisers and three destroyers attempted to get into position to launch torpedoes. Observers in our group kept a vigilant watch on these ships, but the attack did not materialize.
No sooner had this danger abated, however, than a greater cause for alarm arose within the group itself. At 1125 the Salt Lake City's after engine room went out of operation. Water, and cold, glutinous oil had flooded the compartment to a depth of five feet--just below the level of the main engines. It was necessary to stop the after engines in an effort to remedy this condition. Speed dropped to 20 knots. At the same time, oil was shifted from port to starboard tanks, correcting the list of the ships for the time being.
Shells began to bracket the Salt Lake City as she slowed. Capt. Rodgers swung his ships sharply right, to 200º T., to avoid these salvos. Despite this momentary deviation from course, the ship continued to be subjected to the accurate fire of a heavy cruiser which bore 200º R. from her. By 1129, the oil and water in her after engine room were being pumped out and her after engines were being eased back into operation, but she was again listing to port.
Meantime, the screening destroyers had slowed, as they tried to keep position between the injured cruiser and the enemy. At 1129, in an attempt to open the range and throw off the enemy's fire control, Admiral McMorris set the group's course at 180º T. Our ships were now in formation with the Richmond in the van 6,000 yards ahead of the Salt Lake City, while the four destroyers were stationed off the stern of the heavy cruiser. The Bailey was about 1,500 yards off her starboard quarter, the Coghlan was approximately 3,000 yards dead astern, and the Dale and Monaghan were about 1,000 yards off the port quarter. From the Dale, the range to the nearest
Japanese heavy cruiser was 18,000 yards. This ship, apparently of the Nachi class, bore 330º T. from our destroyer.
As the distance between Task Group Mike and the enemy grew smaller, Commander Task Group directed ComDesRon 14 to prepare to make a torpedo attack with the destroyers. This contemplated action was to provide cover for the retirement of the zigzagging Salt Lake City which, at 1132, was picking up additional speed on three engines.
At this time, our heavy cruiser was exchanging shots with a Nachi class heavy cruiser. That enemy ship, still on bearing 330º T., was also engaged by the Dale at a distance of 16,900 yards. The Dale ceased firing, however, when our destroyers began forming for their proposed attack.
The four destroyers increased their speed to 30 knots and formed up on heading 150º T. At 1134, however, the Salt Lake City requested Commander Task Group to designate one destroyer to stand by her for screening purposes; Admiral McMorris ordered ComDesRon 14 to detail a destroyer for this duty. Capt. Riggs received Admiral McMorris' message just after the destroyers made a left turn to an attack course of 060º T. The Dale promptly returned to base course, and continued laying smoke about the Salt Lake City.
The Monaghan had been listening to this exchange of orders and counterorders, and had failed to hear an acknowledgment of the screening assignment from the Dale. Fearing that the Salt Lake City would be left unguarded, the Monaghan informed ComDesRon 14 that she was still in position to lay smoke close by the heavy cruiser. Since no acknowledgment had been received from the Dale, Capt. Riggs countermanded his last order, and directed her to carry out the torpedo attack as originally scheduled.22 At the same time, he instructed the Monaghan to remain on station by the Salt Lake City.
Both the Dale and the Monaghan were now engaged in making smoke astern of the Salt Lake City. In the midst of the turmoil created by the billowing smoke and falling shells, each ship supposed that the other was standing in for the attack. Actually, only the Bailey and Coghlan were steaming forward on course 060º T. As they did so, Capt. Riggs, who thought he was leading three ships, announced: "The targets are the
heavies." The enemy shifted his fire to the Bailey and Coghlan, scoring many near hits, as the range shortened.
Meanwhile, the Salt Lake City had been building up speed on three engines. At 1138, when she was making 26 knots, the destroyers' attack was no longer deemed necessary. Admiral McMorris ordered ComDesRon 14 to "belay the attack." Capt. Riggs immediately directed the destroyers to reform on our cruisers. Despite the cancellation, however, the feint toward the enemy had forced him to make a sharp turn to the right, thereby opening the range somewhat.
Task Group Mike continued southward on base course 180º T., with the Japanese force now headed generally southwestward. Firing was spasmodic, with all ships in our group loosing an occasional salvo at both heavy and light cruiser targets. Mean range was 18,000 yards, and the after guns were engaged almost exclusively. After reforming astern, our four destroyers again blanketed the Salt Lake City with smoke, but shells from the Japanese heavy cruisers landed close as the vessels steamed southward. Projectiles from one enemy salvo hit the water both over and short of the Dale, but she emerged unscathed.
Soon after 1140, word was passed aboard the Salt Lake City that ammunition for her after turrets was running low. Safety measures were abandoned in the face of necessity. Hatches were broken open, and shells from the forward ammunition stowage were trundled aft on dollies. Below deck, chains of men passed powder bags from the forward magazines to the after guns. Turret III ran out of AP ammunition before this powder-and-shell brigade could supply its guns, and some HC projectiles were fired. The shells burst with "terrific" detonations near the enemy ships, but it was impossible to judge the damage inflicted. The use of bombardment shells evidently led the enemy to think that an air attack was underway, for his heavy cruisers immediately opened a furious antiaircraft barrage into the overcast.
No sooner had the ammunition crisis been met, however, than a worse one developed. Sea water had been seeping into the fuel tanks aft as a result of hits taken there. This water contaminated the oil flowing to the burners, and the fires under the boilers went out, one by one. The Salt Lake City commenced dropping back, and the destroyers slowed to stay with her.
It was at approximately 1147, when the group had swung left to 170º T., that our heavy cruiser's engines stopped. About this time she sent Admiral a message: "Have just received two hits broadside below the water line."23 Our ships made another ten degree left turn to 160º T. at 1149, when the Salt Lake City's momentum was carrying her along at about 13 knots. Many near hits struck the water close by our heavy cruiser and the screening destroyers, but there were not direct hits. At 1153 the speed of the Salt Lake City was eight knots. At 1155 it was zero.
The situation was dangerous. About 19,000 yards off the port quarter of the Salt Lake City were the two Japanese heavy cruisers. A light cruiser was approximately the same distance off her starboard quarter. These ships seemed to be closing.24 Because of the well-laid smoke screen, the enemy was unaware that our heavy cruiser had lost headway. however, this fact would soon become obvious. The Salt Lake City turned just before stopping, so that all her guns could bear for a last defense. She fired several full salvos while in this position, and at sometime during this period, "the enemy was kind enough to shoot an 8-inch shell through the zero flag" of the signal "My speed zero."
ComDesRon 14 told the three attacking destroyers to prepare their torpedoes, and designated "the two big boys" as the targets. The enemy was on an estimated course of 230º T., steaming at about 31 knots. The Monaghan
ceased making smoke, and swerved right to cut across the bow of the Salt Lake City. To starboard of our heavy cruiser, the destroyer fell into column about 2,000 yards astern of the Coghlan, which was, in turn, some 600 yards behind the Bailey.
The three destroyers came right until they were on a torpedo firing course of 300º T. As they swung to this heading, the Japanese ships checked fire
on the Salt Lake City and turned their guns on the smaller vessels. These ships answered with rapid fire from their forward guns. The Bailey chose the leading heavy cruiser as her target and commenced firing at three-second intervals. This ship was on bearing about 010º T. The Coghlan opened on the second heavy cruiser, which was in line behind the other heavy. The Monaghan, which was trying to close the Coghlan, first engaged the van heavy cruiser. As the range shortened, she shifted fire successively to the second heavy, and then to a light cruiser.
Approximately 17,000 yards had separated the Bailey and the targets at the beginning of the run. This distance diminished rapidly as our ships zigzagged in to the attack. Spouts of water, some of which were tinted green or blue from dye-loaded shells, erupted on every side. All three destroyers were making smoke, the Monaghan having resumed at 1202. The Coghlan benefited by the smoke laid by the Bailey, while the Monaghan, last in line, was the most effectively covered of the three. To Admiral McMorris, the three ships appeared to be "smothered with splashes," as they steamed forward at maximum speed. "It was incredible that they should survive," he added, "but they continued in."
Accuracy of gunnery increased in direct ratio to the lessening range. Observers saw our destroyers score several hits on each heavy cruiser. A light cruiser also took at least one shell. The enemy's counterfire also grew more effective. Major and minor caliber shells straddled our ships continuously. None struck home, however, until 1203, when the Bailey took several hits in quick succession. one 8-inch shell penetrated inboard and exploded in the galley passageway. Fragments from this projectile completely wrecked the provision issuing room, while the concussion blew out bulkheads and tore doors off their hinges. One officer and three enlisted men were killed instantly, and four enlisted men were seriously wounded, one of them later dying. One officer and two enlisted men were slightly injured. The victims were members of repair parties who had gathered outside the galley to carry sandwiches to the gun crews.
Another 8-inch shell which hit at this time did not explode. It caromed off the after deck at about frame 172, digging a 6-inch gash in the deck before glancing off No. 4 mount and continuing on its way.
In addition the ship suffered damage from numerous near hits. Fragments struck the radio antenna, punctured the gig, and perforated the
uptakes. On the starboard side, the skin of the ship was twisted and buckled at the waterline between frames 63 and 70.
When the Bailey sustained these hits, Capt. Riggs directed Lt. Comdr. Atkeson to fire his ship's torpedoes. ComDesRon 14 took this action with the realistic assumption that other shells would strike the van destroyer at any moment and render her unable to launch her torpedoes at all. Accordingly, at 1204, five torpedoes were expended. The target was the second heavy cruiser in line, range about 9,500 yards. All the torpedoes seemed to run hot, straight, and normal.25 A few minutes later, several observers on board the Bailey reported seeing "a large black column of what appeared to be oil and debris" rise abreast the mainmast of the target.26
Unfortunately, Capt. Riggs' expectation was fulfilled a few seconds after the torpedoes were fired. The Bailey was hit by two 8-inch shell fragments at the same moment. one chunk of metal made a six-by-three-inch hole in the starboard side of the hull at frame 72 and entered the forward fireroom. This waterline perforation was plugged with mattresses and shored. Some flooding resulted from the hit, but pumps in the compartment controlled it. The other shell splinter ripped a jagged hole, six inches by twenty inches, in the hull at frame 101 starboard, entering the forward engine room. Repair parties were hampered in their efforts to close this hole, because it was in an almost inaccessible spot just outboard of the fuel oil purifier pump. Water began to pour in.
Immediately after launching the torpedoes, Lt. Comdr. Atkeson swung the Bailey hard left for retirement. Her gyro, radar, and sound gear were out of operation.
As the Bailey came about, the Coghlan and Monaghan, which had been following in her wake, also turned sharply left. Neither ship launched torpedoes because the range was extreme and the Japanese cruisers were heading northwestward, away from the direction of the attack.
As the Coghlan heeled over in her turn, several explosions close aboard "sprayed shrapnel on topside." Flying pieces of steel holed the stack in several places, pierced the bridge, put both the SC and FD radars out of
action, and caused other relatively minor damage. Fragments seriously injured the executive officer, and inflicted minor wounds on two enlisted men. The Monaghan, farthest from the enemy and somewhat better covered by smoke, was not damaged.
While the destroyers were carrying out their attack, the Salt Lake City had got underway. Her forward engines began turning over slowly at 1158, after she had lain dead in the water for three minutes. At the same time, Capt. Rodgers ordered fire checked, in order to conserve ammunition "for a final attack on the closing Japanese force." Once the ship's inertia was overcome, however, speed was built up quickly. By 1200 she was making 15 knots. At 1202, when it became clear that a reserve of ammunition for a last defense was unnecessary, her after guns again opened on the enemy. The Salt Lake City's last salvo of the battle was fired by turret III at 1204. The Dale, which had been laying smoke and shooting at the enemy at the same time, ceased fire at 1205.
Meanwhile the Richmond had drawn ahead some distance to the south. About 1200, she turned left and steamed back to cover the Salt Lake City and the retiring destroyers. She began making smoke at 1207, but desisted at 1211 when the enemy force was seen definitely to be on a westward course.
Although the lubricating oil by-pass to the main circulating pump was ruptured, it was decided to use that pump as long as possible to prevent the flooding of the engine room. This action succeeded in holding the water level down, while further endeavors were made to plug the breach in the hull. After the pump had operated for a few minutes, however, the oil pressure gauge began to drop. Attempts were made to shift to the electric standby pump, but spray had short-circuited the power panel and this pump could not be started. Sparks began to fly from the overheated main engine bearings, and the entire ship began to shake. Steam line
vibrated as much as six inches, but held up under the strain. The water level rose steadily. It was decided to abandon the forward engine room. Boilers No. 1 and No. 2 and pumps in the compartment were secured, and the room was vacated. Although the Bailey began to slow gradually after the starboard engine ceased operating at 1207, she was still making 25 knots at 1209.
By this time, The Salt Lake City had succeeded in lighting off all her boilers. She was making approximately 17 knots on course 140º T., despite an eight or nine degree list to port. All firing had ceased by 1212, when Admiral McMorris changed the group's course to 090º T. Speed was set at 18 knots. The gradually accelerating Salt Lake City was capable of exceeding that speed by then, however, and she went to 24 knots in order to close the flagship. At 1215 our heavy cruiser's speed dropped to 22 knots when the electric submersible pumps in the after engine room broke down. Repair parties began overhauling the equipment immediately, in a race against the rising water in the compartment.
At 1224, shortly after ComDesRon 14 had reported that the Bailey could make 24 knots on her one operative engine, the Salt Lake City informed Commander Task Group that her speed had been reduced to 20 knots, a figure she hoped to maintain.
The Monaghan, whose starboard reduction gear was still making grating noises, also encountered further engineering difficulties at this time. Steam lines on her No. 1 and No. 2 fuel oil service pumps carried away, and her maximum speed was temporarily reduced to 24 knots. Admiral McMorris had set 20 knots as the speed for the task group immediately after receiving the Salt Lake City's message. he did not learn of the Monaghan's troubles until some time later.
By 1226, the Salt Lake City was squared away on base course, making 23 knots to close the Richmond. The enemy was moving off to the west, and the personnel aboard our heavy cruiser expressed themselves also as being in favor of "getting the hell out of here."
About this time, complications developed in the after engine room of the Bailey. Steam and water vapor filled the compartment, and safety valves began popping in the after fireroom. it was hard to determine the exact cause of the difficulty in the foggy compartment, but since the main feed water pumps seemed to be at fault, they were secured. The ship came to
a complete standstill at 1230, while a changeover to emergency feed was effected. After a four-minute interval, the Bailey again picked up way. A broken feed water pressure line, the cause of the trouble, was quickly located and shut off. Main feed pressure was then restored, and by 1235 the ship was making 15 knots on the port engine.
No sooner was the ship under way, however, than further difficulties beset her. The after main switchboard, which had been drenched with water, short-circuited. All electric power on the ship was lost. Steering was shifted to hand power, and guns and directors switched to local control.
At 1235, the Coghlan, which had been ordered to stand by, ceased making smoke, slowed to 20 knots, and circled back to the Bailey. The Monaghan, which had stopped laying smoke a few minutes earlier, was directed to rejoin the cruisers.
Task Group Mike's speed was reduced to 15 knots at 1239, so that the Bailey would not be left too far astern. The group's other cripple, the Salt Lake City, now had the flooding in her after engine room under control, and had closed to within a few thousand yards of the Richmond, which was in latitude 53º10' N., longitude 167º30' E. Since none of her gyros was functioning, our heavy cruiser stayed on course by following the flagship's movements.
At 1240, in response to a request from the task group commander, ComDesRon 14 reported that the enemy was about 42,000 yards from the Bailey, bearing 275º T.27 A suggestion by Capt. Riggs that he take two destroyers and trail the Japanese force was vetoed by Admiral McMorris. At 1244, a few moments after the Dale and Bailey had ceased making smoke, Admiral McMorris asked Capt. Riggs to keep him advised of the enemy's movements. ComDesRon 14 informed him that the Japanese force had disappeared over the horizon to the west.
When the Coghlan maneuvered into position close by the Bailey at 1245, she stopped all her engines and prepared to take the damaged destroyer in tow. By that time, however, the Bailey was forging ahead on
base course 090º T. She had recovered use of her gyro and, although her speed fluctuated, it was decided that towing was unnecessary. The Coghlan followed her closely, however, and relayed messages back and forth between the Bailey and the task group commander. This arrangement was necessary because all power was still out on the destroyer flagship.
At 1251, the Salt Lake City's SC radar picked up a surface contact bearing 126º R., distant 20,000 yards. This pip faded away after remaining on the screen for five minutes.28
Our ships began to assume a cruising disposition as they continued eastward. Both the Richmond and Salt Lake City started zigzagging according to plan. The heavy cruiser, the forward gyros of which were back in operation, was about 1,500 yards astern of the flagship. The Dale moved up and took station as antisubmarine screen 2,000 yards off the starboard bow of the Richmond. Shortly thereafter, the Monaghan assumed a similar position off the port bow of the light cruiser.
The Coghlan and Bailey closed the other ships slowly. At 1303 fire broke out in the uptake vent of the Coghlan's No. 2 stack. At 1311, while repair parties were battling the blaze, an enemy float plane was sighted to starboard. The Coghlan's 40-mm. guns opened at a range of about 9.000 yards, and the scout banked away undamaged. This aircraft continued to shadow the formation for some time, with the Salt Lake City making numerous contacts on it, both visual and radar.
The fire aboard the Coghlan was extinguished at 1316. Eight minutes later the Bailey's gyro again became inoperative. no further casualties occurred, however, and at 1335 an attempt was made to correct the destroyer flagship's starboard list. Fresh water was shifted from starboard to port tanks, and the starboard depth charges were jettisoned. All were carefully set on safe before being tossed overboard; nevertheless one exploded. These measures rectified the ship's list somewhat, although she still had a slow rolling motion in the water.
While the Bailey and Coghlan were thus occupied, the Salt Lake City again picked up what was though to be a surface contact. The pip on her SG radar screen bore 110º R., distant 20,000 yards. Before the heavy cruiser could get the information through to the task group commander
via TBS, the contact faded. At 1340, Admiral McMorris, having seen the heavy cruiser's flag hoist, inquired as to whether the contact had been on a surface craft or a plane. When told that it was on a ship, he asked whether or not anything was in sight and, if so, on what bearing. The pertinent data was given, and it was explained that visual contact had not been established. Thereafter, the Salt Lake City made other radar contacts until, at 1350, it was decided that the pip on her screen represented an aircraft instead of a vessel. At 1405 the troublesome contact was finally sighted. It proved to be a PBY. By 1418, three of our patrol planes were over the area.
As time passed, the Bailey and Coghlan rejoined the group and our ships continued their retirement to the eastward. It became apparent that further contact with the enemy during the remaining hours of daylight was unlikely. Guns were unloaded through the muzzle, and temporary repairs were effected. The Salt Lake City jettisoned several hundred rounds of 40-mm. ammunition. Blast from the 8-inch guns in turrets III and IV had damaged these shells, and also had done considerable injury to the 40-mm. mounts, directors, and shields. More than a thousand rounds of 5-inch common and illuminating shells were also lost because of the flooding in the after 5-inch magazine and handling room.
Admiral McMorris, early in the afternoon, had sent a summary of the battle to Admiral Kinkaid. The task group commander informed the task force commander that it was his tentative plan to have the Salt Lake City and Bailey proceed to Adak, while the other ships headed for the approaches to Holtz Bay to intercept the enemy if he should make another attempt to reach his base at Attu. However, Admiral Kinkaid's return message assured Admiral McMorris that if the Japanese force had not withdrawn, submarines and aircraft would take up the battle against it. The task force commander detailed two additional destroyers to join the task group on the morning of the 27th, and said that he would arrange for air cover for the group. He directed all ships to put in at Adak.
At 1604, U.S. Army planes, three B-25 bombers and eight P-38 fighters, were sighted in latitude 53º N., longitude 186º40' E. These aircraft, which had left Amchitka at 1330, had been delayed because it had bee necessary to install an extra fuel tank in each of them. While they were en route to the battle area, PBYs made contact with the two enemy merchant vessels
some distance to the northwest of our force. These patrol planes carried no bombs, but they maintained contact until 1630, transmitting directions for the Army bombers. Lack of fuel made it impossible for the Army aircraft to act on the information, and they returned to their base.
At 1702, while Task Group Mike was in latitude 52º53' N., longitude 169º53' E., 13 B-24s and 8 B-25s were sighted. These planes had left Adak at 1336 to attack the enemy force. However, shortly after they passed over our ships, a Catalina reported that the Japanese group was more than 100 miles farther east. Again a shortage of gasoline prevented our Army aircraft from striking. The planes flew back to Adak.
Admiral Kinkaid modified his orders to Task Group Mike later in the day, and the Salt Lake City, Coghlan, and Monaghan went directly to Dutch Harbor, where they arrived on the 29th. The Richmond, Bailey, and Dale, accompanied by the destroyers Dewey and Caldwell (Lt. Comdr. Horatio A. Lincoln) which joined early on the 27th, put in at Kuluk Bay, Adak, about 0200 on the 28th.
The singular reluctance of the Japanese to employ their destroyers during
the action aroused much speculation among the officers of our group. Experience with the enemy in the South Pacific has shown that he is skillful in the use of his light forces. Perhaps his wariness was dicated by reason of the load the destroyers may have carried--troops, ammunition, or vital supplies. Because the Japanese customarily used destroyers for these purposes in the Solomon Island,s it is easy to believe that they were on a similar mission on this occasion.
Since the Salt Lake City was the recipient of most of the enemy's attentions, that ship probably is the best authority on details of Japanese gunnery. The following quotation is from our heavy cruiser's report:
Two CA's maintained a heavy, deliberate and concentrated fire on the Salt Lake City throughout . . . One cruiser, using a bilious grteen dye, was relatively ineffective. The other cruiser, using blue dye exactly like our own, became bery effective. It is estimated that this CA contributed most of the 200 rounds which fell within 50 yards of this ship. Patterns of both ships were excellent, with a maximum dispersion of 200 yards by 30 yards. Also, they checked fire when we were hidden by smoke and very methodically opened with extremely close salvos when we came into view. This indicates very deliberate firing. Shells fell with a high angle of fall, causing noticeably small splashes, with the shell sdetonating well below the surface of the water.
Because of the heavy smoke screen adn the long ranges at which the battle was fought, detailed results of our gunnery could not be ascertained. the fact that both Japanese heavy cruisers were firing at a reduced rate during the later part of the engagement suggests that our gunfire may have caused heavier damage than was apparent. A depleted ammunition supply probably was another contributory factor in this slackening of fire.
The remarkably few hits sustained by our ships bring out the relative ineffectiveness of the enemy's plane spotting. however, it was the unanimous opinion of those who commented on the battle that range spots furnished by cruiser aircraft would have been helpful to our ships. Admiral McMorris, in his report says: "Looking backwards, it is now felt that the advantages of employing them would have outweighted the disadvantages involved."
All personnel conducted themselves in a highly creditable manner. The officers and men who participated in the torpedo attack were singled out for special praise by Admiral McMorris. He termed our destroyers' exploit "a magnificent and inspiring spectacle." Repair parties aboard our damaged
ships acted coolly and efficiently, and made a real contribution to the successful outcome of the battle by keeping the effects of the hits to a minimujm. Gun crews also turned in an outstanding piece of work. The Salt Lake City was able to hold her own in an 8-inch gun duel with the two Japanese heavy cruisers because of the tireless owrk of the personnel assigned to her after turrets. For the greater part of the engagement, the officers and men at the No. 3 and No. 4 guns aboard our destroyers labored unfailingly in the acrid fumes of the smoke wich steamed from the stacks of those ships. During the heat of battle, at least one convert to frequent gun drill was made. One of the Dale's men was heard to remark fervently that he "wouldn't mind all the loading drill any more."
|Caliber||Salt Lake City||Richmond||Bailey||Coghlan||Monaghan||Dale||Totals|
|6"/47 Common & Dye loaded||271||271|
|5"/38 Dye loaded||2||80||82|
|5"/38 AA Common||32||284||316|
|5"/25 AA Common||95||95|
15 In the ensuing battle, movements of our own and enemy ships were in the area 40 to 80 miles southward of the island of Medni, easternmost of the Russian Komandorski Islands, and about midway between Attu and Kamchatka Peninsula. Paramushiru, Japanese base in the northern Kuriles, was approximatley 500 miles from the center of the fighting area, while our own base at Adak was about 600 miles away. Attua and Kiska Islands, both in enemy hands, were between our group and its base at Adak. Fortunately, the Japanese had few aircraft and no known surface units at these Aleutian bases.
16 The total of nine ships is taken from the report of the Richmond. Admiral mcMorris gives the number as ten in his report. He said that the flagship was "in contact" with that number, but it is not clear whether by radar or visual contact.
17 ComDesRon 14, whose flag was in the van destroyers, said in his report that by 0815 he had sighted 2 CAs, 2 CLs and 2 DDs, in a group changing course to he southeast. He had previously (0808) seen two other destroyers escorting the merchantmen northward.
The apparent discrepancy in time can perhaps be accounted for by the fact that the Bailey was at least 3,000 yards ahead of the guide and was therefore in a more advantageous position to observe the enemy formation.
It would seem, however, the ComDesRon 14's statement of time was in error, for the Bailey's own report gives no inkling that the enemy's composition had been discerned as early as 0815. In the destroyer's report only 3 Japanese ships are mentioned as being in sight at 1813, while an entry at 0818 five the number as five.
At any rate, if the enemy ships had been identified earlier than 0820, Admiral McMorris was not cognizant of this.
18 Three of our ships reported sighting more than ten of the enemy. The Salt Lake City believed that there were at least 12, possibly 15, Japanese vessels present. Her tally showed 2 CAs; 2, possibly 3, CLs; 6, possibly 8, DDs; and 2 AP/AKs. Similarly, the Richmond first reported sighting 6 destroyers, then changed the number to 4. The Bailey claimed to have sighted 5 Japanese destroyers, including one of the new Terutsuki class. The consensus in our task group credited the enemy with 2 CAs, probably 1 Nachi and 1 Atago class; 2 CLs, probably both Kuma class, although one might have been of the Natori or Jintsu class; 4 DDs, of the Fubuki or Shigure class; and 2 AP/AKs of approximately 8,000 tons each. Actually the CAs Nachi and Maya, the CLs Kiso and Tama, and 4 DDs were present, in addition to the transports and possible screening vessels. The combatant group was the same which had been charged with most of the enemy's convoy operations in the Aleutians.
19 About 0900 the Bailey reported seeing a torpedo breach two miles off her starboard quarter. This incident was not noticed by any other unit of our task group, but it is interesting to note that this sighting occurred a few minutes after torpedoes had allegedly passed under the bow of the Richmond. As our ships were all traveling at high speeds on erratic courses and the range to the enemy ships was extreme, it is improbable that the Japanese actually expended torpedoes. Perhaps the same school of sportive fish which "attacked" the Richmond was still carrying out maneuvers in the area.
20 Later in the day, one of our aircraft from Adak reported sighting a crashed enemy observation plane floating bottom up in th ebattle area. This would seem to confirm a kill for our ships.
21 Since the Salt Lake City was engaging a light cruiser at the time of the message, this was apparently a reference to the hits scored at 0907 on a heavy cruiser. Commander Task Group had seen the resultant smoke sometime after 0907, and was aware that this ship had been damaged. Whether he realized that the Salt Lake City was probably referring to the hits made earlier, or believed that additional injury had been inflicted on the enemy, is not clear.
22 The Dale did not receive this message. Evidently a faulty TBS circuit was jumbling communications at this juncture.
23 There is no other indication in the cruiser's report that she was hit at this time. Possibly the damage referred to was that suffered earlier in the vicinity of the after engine room.
24 Later study of the Salt Lake City's radar plot of the enemy's movements during the battle disclosed that he was on a southwesterly course for two or three minutes before the inception of the torpedo attack. This disclosure led some to draw the conclusion that the Japanese force had commenced its retirement previous to our destroyers' assault. This is a debatable point, however, for at several times during the battle the enemy had held courses diagonally away from our group's heading so as to bring all his firepower to bear. While the Japanese might have been breaking off the action at the time indicated because of a combination of cuases, such as a lack of ammunition, battle damage suffered, or fear of air attack, the destroyer attack certailnly helped them make up their minds conclusively.
25 The Monaghan, however, reported that one of the torpedoes detonated after running about 1,000 yards.
26 The Dale also reports seeing a "huge explosion" astern of the enemy formation at about 1212. The Dale believed this to be a tropedo exploding, but observers saw no target in the vicinity of the detonation.
27 Evidently TBS messages became garbled at this point, for three different distances are given by the Dale, Salt Lake City, and Richmond. The figure given above is from the Dale's report. The Richmond understood the distance as 26,000 yards, while the Salt Lake City mentions at as 36,000 yards. Everything considered, the largest figure seems to be the closest approximation. The two forces had been 9.500 yards apart at the nearest point of the torpedo attack, and were steaming on nearly opposite courses for more than half an hour. If each of the opposing groups made an average speed of 15 knots during the period, they would have opened the range another 30,000 yards at least.
28 This contact was in all likelihood a shadowing plane. If it had been a ship, lookouts would almost certainly have sighted it, since visibility was excellent.
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