Refer to No.
Serial ( 5)
January 25, 1942.
From: The Commanding Officer. To: The Commander in Chief, U.S. ASIATIC FLEET. Via: (1) The Commander Destroyer Division FIFTY-NINE. (2) The Commander Task Force FIVE. Subject: Night Destroyer Attack off Balikpapan, January 24, 1942. Reference: (A) Article 712, U.S. Navy Regulations, 1920. Enclosure: (A) Report of Executive Officer, Lieutenant R. N. ANTRIM, U.S. Navy.
- In accordance with reference (a), a report of subject destroyer attack is submitted. Details of the attack are listed in chronological order. These details were taken from the ship's log as supplemented by observations from memory. General comment and a statement as to the conduct of subordinates are included in this report. The report of the Executive Officer of this vessel is appended as enclosure (A).
- Chronological order of events:
- 1027 (Java time) northerly courses were set to round Postillon Islands at 22 knots against heavy northerly swells. Ships in company were J.D. Ford (CDD-59), Pope, Parrott and Paul Jones, in column in order given.
- 1608 course was changed to 005 T., speed 25 knots and thereafter this vessel took over numerous heavy swells which broke two bridge windows and buckled spray shields.
- 2035 speed was increased to 27 knots, ships entering Macassar Strait, sea moderating, sky partly overcast, and with surface visibility good. Considerable anxiety was felt at this time as to the ability of the Pope to maintain a speed of 27 knots (full power for our time out of dock) because much of our machinery was overdue for overhaul and numerous leaks had developed.
- During the early evening information was received by radio of the enemy's strength, course and probable destination. A plane was sighted at sunset which proved to be friendly since it later reported our own formation, giving our position and course. Instructions were received by blinker gun from CDD-59 during the early evening as regards the planned conduct of the attack.
- 2315 distant lights were sighted ahead. General Quarters was ordered.
- 2325 course 320°T., was set.
- 0215 a huge glow was sighted on the starboard bow probably from a ship damaged by a reported plane attack on the enemy convoy during the afternoon.
- 0240 on course 333°T., as two glows were observed ahead. Visibility soon thereafter decreased because of a light haze probably due to fires.
- 0255 changed course to 313°T., as enemy ships were sighted on the port bow.
- 0302 changed course to 170°T., instructions were received by voice radio to open fire with torpedoes as targets became available.
- 0303 fired one torpedo at enemy destroyer which we passed abeam to starboard.
- 0305 a ship on our starboard quarter blew up, flames reaching about five hundred feet in height. Parrott reported that she had torpedoed this ship. Column began maneuvering on various courses from this time during the remainder of the action. Speed 27 knots.
- 0306 several heavy ships began blinking lights about 4,000 yards on our stbd beam probably as a result of the large explosion. Since these ships appeared to be well bunched, Pope fired the remaining five torpedoes of starboard broadside at this concentration. About four minutes later two good sized explosions were seen in this area about thirty seconds apart. The types of ships hit could not be determined.
- 0309 fired one torpedo at a destroyer that was passed abeam to port. No explosion was seen.
- 0310 Parrott reported that she hit the destroyer we had fired at and an explosion was seen.
- 0314 changed course to the right to 340°T.
- 0319 fired remaining torpedoes at a destroyer which we passed port beam. Two exploosions were soon seen on this destroyer.
- 0322 Parrott and Pope reported expenditure of all torpedoes by voice radio and we were directed to fire guns at the enemy ships next encountered.
- 0325 opened fire in succession on two enemy destroyers, one transport, and another destroyer in order given. Three direct hits were observed on transport. Due to maneuvers in column at high speed it was difficult for guns to remain directed very long upon any one target.
- 0338 column passed around a smoking partly sunken hulk of a large ship. Men, life rafts and small boats were observed in the water. Ship is believed to be one of the two hit by our 0306 salvo.
- 0340 Ford slowed and stopped, reporting by voice radio that she believed that she was about to enter the mine field. Pope turned sharply to port to avoid hitting Ford. The column then broke up and gunfire was temporarily checked for fear of hitting own ships. Some transports were sighted in this vicinity.
- 0345 opened fire on an enemy destroyer.
- 0350 established contact with Parrott and joined in column astern of her.
- 0400 Paul Jones joined in column astern of us. Voice contact was established with Ford and retirement courses were ordered. Ford joined column at daylight.
- Rendezvous was made during the morning with the Marblehead.
- The attack was carried out according to plan at high speed, ships in column weaving continuously in and out of enemy ships which were anchored, lying to, or patrolling at low speeds. Enemy ships were dispersed over a considerable area probably in anticipation of air attacks during the morning.
It was surprising that destroyer pickets made no apparent attempt to give an alarm to other ships of our presence during the initial stages of the attack. It was only near the end of the action that the Japanese began firing in return. On several occasions we believed that Japanese ships fired torpedoes at us as we passed but this was not established. After the first ship blew up many ships began challenging or signalling thus giving away their locations. They appeared to use all around lantern shaped lights in signalling which produced a shielded rather than a sharp beam of light.
After a careful survey of reports of observations by officers and responsible personnel on this vessel it has been determined that six enemy ships were hit by one or more torpedoes, and that it is probable that several more were hit which we did not observe. It is believed that all vessels hit by torpedoes were seriously damaged and will probably sink.
Due to the speed at which the attack was conducted, the area covered and visibility conditions prevailing, ships hit by underwater explosions could only be observed for a moment unless they blew up.
All torpedoes appeared to run straight and hot. In gunfire there was an appreciable number of tracer failures. No other deficiencies were noted. During the action the sea was calm. The wind was force 2 from bearing of 300° T. The action was fired in a location estimated to be several miles to the eastward of Balikpapan and about five miles from the shoreline. Exact movements of the ship cannot be accurately plotted. However, three separate loops were made into enemy ship concentrations. A correlated plot of ships movements is attached.
It is believed that three enemy vessels were torpedoed by the Pope, one being a destroyer close aboard. The two others were unknown vessels probably heavy ships since a number of these had been observed in the concentration into which five torpedoes were directed. The explosions were seen at a range of about 4,000 yards and were of considerable size. One large hulk was later found in this area.
Several ships were also hit by gunfire, this vessel making three direct hits on a medium sized transport vessel and probably hits on destroyers at short range. Due to flash of guns it was difficult to observe results of gunfire at short range targets.
The Pope fired nineteen rounds of 4"/50 cal. common, one round of 4"/50 cal. illuminating, two rounds of 3"/23 cal. illuminating and twelve torpedoes during the action. Torpedoes were set for 4 and 8 ft. depth settings and were fired by broadside straight fire.
- Conduct of Subordinates
PRAISE and PRIDE are the best words that I can muster to express the conduct of the officers and men during the night attack. All had for some time been itching for a chance to fight back at the enemy. We had seen results of enemy bombings but had had no opportunity to retaliate. The gun crews could hardly wait for the last torpedo to be fired in order that they might have their turn.
It is almost impossible to single out any officer or man and say he deserves most special credit. Each officer and man did his job cooly, efficiently, and effectively.
Under the guidance of the Executive Officer, Lieutenant Richard N. Antrim, arrangements had been carefully made for every eventuality of damage control and ship control. During the attack Lieutenant Antrim was a most ready assistant in problems of ship and fire control which developed. That fire discipline and ship discipline were faultless is a special commendation for his untiring efforts in preparation for this attack and his work in action.
All heads of departments are deserving of special credit. The Engineering, Torpedo and Gunnery departments functioned smoothly. Lieutenant W.V.B. Bassett, jr., acted as O.O.D., and did a splendid job of station keeping during the weaving high speed attack. Lieutenant (jg) W.O. Spears, jr., fired all torpedoes and Lieutenant V. R. Wilson acted as gunnery officer. Fire discipline was noteworthy in these departments.
The least spectacular group of men, yet probably most deserving of praise, was the engineer force. With hatches which are normally kept open, closed because of the requirements for darkened ship, a tired engineer force kept the ship running at full power throughout the night, overcoming casualties as they occurred being at times almost suffocated in a stifling, heated, steam filled atmosphere that caused several cases of heat prostration before morning. The engineers could not see the show. They could only hope that all was well.
It was a tired and weary-eyed crew that was observed the morning after the attack but it was a crew of officers and men full of pride in a job well done.
Refer to No.
January 25, 1942.
From: The Executive Officer. To: The Commanding Officer. Subject: Post Battle Statement. Reference: (A) Article 948, U.S. Navy Regulations, 1920.
- It is reported that the Night Destroyer Raid on Japanese naval forces off Balikpapan, Borneo, N.E.I.,in the early morning of January 24, 1942, allowed no occurences, in this ship, calling for individual praise, but the conduct and performance of duty officers and men of the crew of U.S.S. Pope (DD225) was, without exception, deserving of high commendation. The guiding principles of the Navy were maintained. Throught the action, duties were performed with alacrity and efficiency that left little to be desired. Courage, elan, and magnificent comraderie were displayed by all hands.
Transcribed and formatted by Jerry Holden for the HyperWar Foundation