According to information contained in the book United States Destroyer Operations in World War II, it describes the Aleutian campaign of 1943 and states the following about the USS Abner Read (DD-526):
The Japanese evacuation of Kiska, accomplished by means of submarines in June  and surface forces in July, must remain one of the more remarkable exploits of World War II. Where undersea blockade running had proved over costly, Japanese surface forces, operating under cover of night and fog, had succeeded in getting in and out of through the blockade undetected. This in spite of watchful American patrols and search radar!
It might be added that in all probability such a fade away by the enemy could only have happened in the weird Aleutians. And, after all, there was a sufficiency of danger in the island's investment -- enough, perhaps, to satisfy hindsight critics who did not risk their lives in the operation. The price that the occupation forces might have paid had the enemy resisted is suggested by the token payment made by the destroyer Abner Read. The Japs collected this gratuitous toll on August 18 , long after their abandonment of Kiska.
Early in the morning of the 18th, Abner Read was steaming along on A/S [anti-submarine] patrol off Kiska's dark coast. At 0150 [1:50 a.m.] the destroyer was executing a turn when a stupendous explosion jolted the ship with a gigantic leverage that drove her bows [front of the ship] deep in the tide. A deafening blast. A fountain of flame and water. With that fiery thunderclap the destroyer's fantail [rear of the ship] heaved, and she fell back with a tremendous shudder, disabled. A floating mine had blown up her stern.
Flung from their bunks, men who had been sleeping in the aftermost compartment found themselves struggling in a jagged jungle of interior wreckage. Belowdecks was in utter darkness. Caught in a trap of buckled bulkheads [walls] and twisted steel, injured men cried out and the unconscious lay in grotesque postures. Groping through the pitch dark, the men made their way to ladders [stairs] and hatches [doorways]; their knowledge of the ship's layout and compartments [rooms on a ship] served them well. Water rose steadily in the dark compartments, and asphyxiating fumes began to surge through the passageways [hallways on a ship]. In orderly fashion -- the calmness in which old hands meet emergency -- the men made their way topside. But the thickening fumes tried every man's nerves.
. . .
On the ship's bridge, the Commander Thomas Burrowes, sent out a distress call. The disabled destroyer, powerless and listing [tilting to one side], was caught by the muscular tide that was carrying her toward the rocks of a Kiska beach.
Plates, decks, and framework ruptured and broke as the ship's stern [rear] section settled. Many survivors on the ship's fantail found the deck almost too hot to stand on barefooted. Worse was the smudge that enveloped the stern. Choking officers reported to the bridge that the fumes were becoming unbearable. Men staggered blindly through this suffocating vapor, stumbling, gagging, with hands to throat.
Veterans shouted to tell the rookies that the fog was not enemy gas, but chemical smoke -- the destroyers smoke generators were damaged and the FS tanks were fuming. FS liquid, a compound of sulfur trioxide and chlorsulphonic acid, combines immediately and violently with water or moisture in the air. If consistently inhaled, the fumes can prove toxic and painful. Spraying from the Abner Read's damaged smoke generators, these fumes enveloped the ship with a toxic vapor that was almost as anguishing as phosgene [poisonous gas]. Commander Burrowes described the ordeal in his report:
The FS smoke was the most depressing single defect of the disaster that the men had to cope with. It blinded them, but worse yet it strangled them. It appeared to immobilize their respiratory muscles, so that they could neither breathe in or out. After a few whiffs of smoke, their mental outlook became one of forlorn abandon. They lay down and waited for the ship to sink. Some leaned fruitlessly over the lifelines desperately gasping for air. About four climbed up on top on No. 5 gun mount, where they caught not over one or two whiffs of fresh air before the stern sank. Sinking of the stern brought great relief to all men on it by way of escape from FS smoke. Water was cold and covered with fuel, but was such a minor consideration compared to the terrifying effects of the smoke.
Fortunately the fantail did not sink with a plunge. The stern section broke away gradually and went down slowly, and a number of survivors had a chance to grab for a floater net [a type of lifesaving device] that drifted clear of the wreckage. The water was thickly carpeted with oil, but that was preferable to the FS fumes.
With her stern under the sea, Abner Read drifted closer to the snarling rocks. Her distress had become dire emergency when the destroyer Bancroft (Lieutenant Commander R.M. Pits) came to the rescue. Shortly before 0300 [3:00 a.m.], Bancroft took the disabled Abner Read in tow and jockeyed her away from the Kiska reef.
. . .
Around 4:00 a.m., the Bancroft was relieved by the salvage tug Ute and by daylight of the 18th, the Abner Read was on her way to Adak for preliminary repairs. According to Commander Burrowes, "the actions of the Bancroft and Ute kept us off the beach"
The Abner Read was the only warship casualty in the Kiska operation.
The Action report of the USS Abner Read (DD-526), serial number 006, from the Commander of Task Group 16.3 to the Commander in chief, US Pacific Fleet, dated August 26, 1943.
On December 11, 1963, the US Navy de-classified the action report of August 18, 1943 which detailed the resulting severe damage to the stern section of the USS Abner Read. The report concluded that the ship contacted a floating mine while on anti-submarine patrol off Kiska [Island, Alaska] August 17-18, 1943. I have a copy of this report and will summarize below the lengthy report for the reader.
This report was submitted to the commander in chief of the US Pacific Fleet from the commander of Task Group 16.3, F.W. Rockwell and is dated August 26, 1943; it was originally classified as "SECRET".
The report is quite detailed and offers suggestions to make the Fletcher class ships less vulnerable to such blasts in the particular area of which the Abner Read was severely damaged. In essence, the description of the actual damage to the ship is described thus:
The ship struck a floating mine and the explosion on the left rear side of the ship, and the settling of the ship's stern in this area, between the twin 40mm gunmount and the number four gun turret, caused the stern to break away and sink. The damage caused the left propeller shaft [the ship had 2 propeller shafts] to break off around the area of the explosion. The further dropping of the stern due to the taking on of water, caused the bending of the right side propeller shaft. The propeller nut, which holds the propeller to the propeller shaft, appears to have split apart and the lack of support allowed the broken stern to separate from the remainder of the ship and sink.
On August 15 and 16, 1943, the USS Abner Read was assigned to fire support missions in relation to the US landings on Kiska to re-take the island from the Japanese forces. Upon landing and fanning out on the beach head, the troops found that the Japanese had abandoned the island prior to their arrival. The Abner Read was re-assigned to anti-submarine patrol off Kiska, near Blue Jay Rock off Conquer Point, Sparrow Rocks, and an area off Bluff Cove, labeled on US Navy charts "POSSIBLE MINE FIELDS". The ship's course [called "K-7" on the USN charts] was about 6400 yards in length and about 2000 yards from the points described above. The ship's course of K-7, ran in a diagonal compass direction of 320 degrees to 140 degrees.
On August 17, 1943, sunset was at 9:32 p.m; evening twilight ended at 10:46 p.m.; and moonrise was at 10:51 p.m. After dark navigation was, by necessity, entirely by radar. The commander of the Abner Read was greatly concerned about the safety of the ship. However, it was definitely proven by previous destroyers who had patrolled the same course on earlier days, that accurate fixes or navigational mileposts could be determined from radar echoes on Blue Jay Rock and Sparrow Rocks. Explicit instructions were written in the ship's Night Order Book to ensure the safety of the ship.
The ship's speed was reduced to five knots [between 5 and 6 miles per hour] to permit more accurate fixes to be taken between the ends of the shoreline. The average depth of the sea floor was about 50 fathoms or about 300 feet. The sea was calm and there was a wind from the south at 2 miles per hour; the moon could be seen at intervals through a broken sky and there was intermittent fog and mists. In essence, it was a quiet, calm, beautiful night.
The chronological events of the early morning hours of August 18, 1943 as described in the report are detailed below in their entirety to give the reader the most accurate rendition of the events of this moment. All times in this chronological listing are in "military" or 24 hour time: 0000 is midnight; 0100 is 1:00 a.m.; 2000 is 8:00 p.m.; and so forth.
|0143||Obtained fix, course 140 degrees [Degrees are an expression of compass headings. A circle of the compass is equally divided into 360 degrees; North being 0 degrees; 90 degrees being East; 180 degrees being South; and 270 degrees being West]|
|0144||Right maximum rudder, 32 degrees [The ship is making a right turn from it's course]|
|0150||Explosion aft [to the rear of the ship]; gyro [compass] stopped on 270 degrees [the direction that the ship's bow or front is intend]; ship is still swinging slowly to the right [due to the momentum of the turn, which causes the ship to continue moving]; pulled electric circuits aft [disabled ship's electricity in the rear of the ship to help reduce the chance of accidental sparks which could ignite flammable materials]; pulled degaussing [degaussing is the term applied to an electro-magnetic field generated by the ship in an effort to avoid magnetically attracted mines]|
|0151||Sounded general alarm and called all hands to battle stations; men were reported to be in the water; passed word "Do Not Abandon Ship"; broadcasted TBS [Talk Between Ships -- the "blinker" lights used for signaling between ships, avoiding use of radio] that an underwater explosion had blown our stern off|
|0152||Lowered #2 M.W.B. [lifeboat]; one life net already near survivors|
|0200||Ready to anchor if necessary; two survivors taken aboard amidships [middle part of the ship]|
|0215||Bancroft approaching; two additional boats from adjacent ships searching|
|0224||Commenced taking twenty survivors out of our boat and life net; other boats unable to find any survivors but still searching|
|0235||Ready to be towed; depth [to sea floor] now 51 fathoms [306 feet]|
|0249||Reported by TBS that watertight integrity and stability satisfactory for towing|
|0256||Tow line secured to Bancroft|
|0300||In tow of Bancroft away from beach; depth of water now 31 fathoms [186 feet]|
|0320||Ute approaching; Bancroft requested to maintain tow away from beach until Ute ready|
|0335||Depth of water at 48 fathoms [288 feet]|
|0340||Bancroft reports grid position [location on map] L-4188|
|0355||Ute alongside to starboard [right]; Bancroft cast off; hoisted boat; bending Ute's tow wire to our starboard anchor chain|
|0420||After additional careful inspection, watertight integrity intact forward of frame 157 [reference point on ship's frame]. At frame 134-135 under main condenser after engine room buckling is apparent in vertical keel and one main strength longitudinal on either side thereof.|
|0440||Proceeding in tow of Ute; Ute using 2" main tow wire, Abner Read using 75 fathoms [450 feet] of chain; Sicard [another ship] escort|
|0538||Pumped fuel from aft [tanks] to improve trim [left/right angle of upright ship in water]|
|0600||Course 004 degrees; speed about 8 knots [about 9 miles per hour]; temperature (dry) 52 degrees; barometer 29.99; wind south, force 2-3 [miles per hour]; sea from southeast with sight swells [direction from which the sea waves are coming]; sky overcast; visibility 15,000 yards|
|0644||Secured from general quarters|
|0650||Passed through Point CROW"; changed course to 090 degrees, enroute to ADAK|
|0715||Completed shoring bulkhead [wall] 157 in compartments C201L (Crew's Quarters) and C-202E (Workshop)|
|0800||Mustered crew with results listed as Enclosure (E) [This was a roll call of all of the ship's crew for the purpose of determining headcount or who was missing. It was at this time that the ship's Commander found that he had lost 70 men missing in action and presumed dead; 1 confirmed dead; and 47 wounded]|
This portion of the action report was generated by the commanding officer of the USS Abner Read (DD-526),
Commander T. Burrowes, USN,
The following paragraphs are reproduced exactly as they were written in 1943 from the action report:
|Subject:||Action Report, USS Abner Read, 18 August 1943, which resulted in severe damage to stern section.|
20 August 1943
Drydocked in floating drydock, YFD-22.
C. THE EXPLOSION AND IT'S IMMEDIATE EFFECT.
I. General Facts established from interviewing survivors.
II. Engineering Department (in full split-plant operation).
[This section consists of witnesses accounts of the explosion and it's after effects as experienced by men in the engineering spaces, i.e., the engine rooms, fire rooms, and electrical rooms. This section will not be reproduced here. Consult the full report for this section.]
III. Gunnery Department.
IV. Radio and Radar.
D. RESCUE AND CARE OF THE WOUNDED.
I. Rescue Boat.
II. Report of Medical Department.
It is the opinion of the Commanding Officer that:
(2) The underwater structure was destroyed abaft frame 170.
(3) The above-water structure was blown upwards; within about four minutes it broke clear by its own weight at frame 170 and sank, leaving the ship watertight forward of bulkhead 157.
(4) The loss of life resulted from the choking and blinding effects of the concentration of FS smoke (from the ruptured smoke generator tanks), and from the men being trapped in the stern section when it sank.
(5) The absence of fire in the midst of the shattered fuel oil tanks and magazines is considered providential.
The deck log of the Abner Read beginning at midnight August 17, 1943 are unremarkable. The only event logged on the 17th was during the 0800-1200 watch when Lt. William Dyer, Jr., recorded "As before. [Meaning nothing significant occurred during the watch, other than routine duties] 0800 mustered crew on stations. No absentees. Made daily inspection of magazines and smokeless powder samples, conditions normal."
On the deck log dated Wednesday, August 18, 1943 during the 0000-0400 watch, curiously, Lt. (jg) CR Proctor noted "No remarks. [But the ship had struck a floating mine at 0150.] 0300 Deane Layton Warren, 265-59-69, RM2c, U.S.N. declared dead (killed in action) as results of drowning, by Lieut. J. Rogers (MC) [Medical Corps] U.S.N. Time of death set at 0152 this date."
The deck log entry for the watch 0400-0800 made by Lt. (jg) WT Doyel, states: "As before. [Meaning 'No Remarks' as stated during the previous watch. But then the officer of the deck begins listing the seventy wounded men alphabetically by name, service number, rank and nature of injury.]
The deck log entry for the watch 0800-1200 made by Lt. L. Hoffman states: "As before. 0800 held quarters for muster. Following men listed missing in action. . ." and the list of the 70 men lost are listed alphabetically by name, service umber and rank. At the end of the entry, it notes "Made daily inspection of magazines and smokeless powder samples. Conditions normal."