HyperWar: USS Benham (DD-397) Action Report--Battle of E. Solomons

U.S.S. Benham (397)

Serial (148)

August 25, 1942

From: The Commanding Officer.
To: The Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet.
Via: (1) Commander Task Force SIXTEEN.
Commander Task Force SIXTY ONE.
Commander South Pacific Force.
Subject: Action Report -- Battle of Solomons (Stewart Island) August 24, 1942.
References: (a) U.S. Navy Regulations, Articles 712(1) and 874(6).
Enclosures: (a) Report of Executive Officer.
(b) Diagram of Movements of Ship

  1. Narrative

    August 24, 1942.

    1325 - screening starboard bow of Portland in Cruising Disposition 1. Officer in Tactical command, Commander Task Force SIXTEEN in Enterprise, course 000° (T), speed 15 knots.

    Enemy planes reported approaching this Task Force.

    1327 -- Enemy plane shot down bearing 210° (T), distant 8 miles.

    1419 -- Changed speed to 25 knots.

    1427 -- Our fighter planes engaging enemy planes, bearing 280° (T).

    1428 -- Signal from officer in Tactical Command, žFollow movements of this ship".

    1501 -- Enemy force consisting of 1 carrier, 2 cruisers and 1 destroyer, reported bearing 330° (T), distant 300 miles.

    1605 -- Sighted friendly patrol plane bearing 270° (T), which reported 1 enemy carrier sighted bearing 210° (T), distant 180 miles from this force.

    1640 -- Changed course to 320° (T) and speed to 27 knots.

    1647 -- Signal from Officer in Tactical Command, žFollow movements of this ship".

    1655 -- many enemy planes reported bearing 300° (T), distant 40 miles, altitude 12,000 feet.

    1700 -- Enterprise launched aircraft, course 135° (T).

    Wind force 2, direction South East.

    Sea Smooth

    STEWART ISLAND bearing 300° (T), distant 55 miles.

    Ships position: Latitude 09° - 00' Longitude 163 -- 32'.

    1704 -- Enemy planes attempting simultaneous dive bombing and torpedo attack.

    1705 -- Enemy plane bearing 318° (T), distant 27 miles.

    1711 -- Enemy torpedo planes bearing 320° (T), distant 10 miles.

    1712 -- Approximately twenty (20) enemy dive bombers commenced diving attack on Enterprise, Enterprise commenced maneuvering radically.

    Benham used varying rudder up to full, varying speed up to full power, maintaining station bearing 000 Enemy plane bearing 318° (T), distant 27 miles. (T), distant 2000 yards from Enterprise.

    Benham opened fire with 5" anti-aircraft žbarrage"; initial range 5,000 yards (altitude 12,750 feet), and 20 m.m. fire.

    1714 -- Enterprise observed to be hit by bombs.

    1720 -- Ceased firing.

    Of the approximate twenty (20) planes making the attack, which came within range of anti-aircraft batteries, nearly all were shot down in the vicinity of the Enterprise. Several of these planes were fired upon by this ship and adjacent ships in formation. About four (4) were seen to attempt to escape and were pursued by our fighters. The Enterprise appeared to be the sole target of the attack except for four (4) dive bombers, who, attempted to bomb the North Carolina, and were promptly shot down.

    There were no casualties to either personnel or equipment of this vessel.

    Ammunition expended:

    5"/38 - 109 rounds
    20 m.m. - 510 rounds

  2. In the opinion of the commanding officer the performance of duty of all officers and men during the brief action with enemy planes was uniformly excellent. It is therefore difficult to single out individuals for especial honors.

    The following performances are especially praiseworthy:

    1. Lieutenant R.B. Crowell, U.S. Navy, Gunnery Officer, controlled the fire of the 5 inch battery in an extremely able manner.

    2. Lieutenant A.P. Colvin, U.S. Navy, Engineer Officer, after six weeks of strenuous cruising, operated his engineering plant at full power when required, enabling the ship to maneuver readily to conform to the movements of guide, overcoming both feed pump and overheating generator difficulties.

    Comment on material:

    1. There were no material failures.

    2. The main feed pumps are in such a condition, that their reliability is uncertain. Early installation of new main feed pumps, already ordered by Bureau of Ships, is necessary for battle efficiency.

    3. The main generators overheat excessively in tropical waters, when the load of battle requirements is placed on them. An improved cooling system is urgently required.

    4. The open-sight for director pointer is inefficient. An improved design is needed to aid in getting director and guns on rapidly moving air targets.

    5. The temporary installation of number two 20 m.m. gun on the midship deck house, frame 99, enabled that gun to fire effectively, twice as many rounds as guns 1, 3 & 4.

  3. During the greater part of the first eight months of war operations this ship has been one of a carrier screen. This ship has only four (4) 5 inch and four (4) 20 m.m. guns. In both the MIDWAY and SOLOMON (STEWART) battles the need for additional anti-aircraft guns was readily apparent. It is again recommended that additional 20 m.m. guns, or, 40 m.m. guns, be installed; and if necessary for weight compensation, eight (8) of the sixteen (16) torpedo tubes now carried, be removed.

J.M. Worthington.

Copies to:

U.S.S. Benham (397)


August 25, 1942


From: The Executive Officer
To: The Commanding Officer
Subject: After Action Report.
References: (a) Article 948, U.S. Navy Regulations.

  1. At about 1712 to 1720 (11.5 2T) on August 24, 1942 while in company with task Force SIXTEEN, n Latitude 09°-00Ū South, Longitude 163°-32' East, this vessel was engaged with a force of enemy planes attacking the Task Force. This attack is believed to have been a well coordinated attack of high altitude bombers, torpedo planes, and dive bombers, of which the dive bombers alone succeeded in penetrating our fighter defense. The resulting dive bomber attack was centered on the U.S.S. Enterprise; the U.S.S. North Carolina was also attacked.

  2. The attack initiated from a direction ahead of this vessel with the enemy planes diving across from port to starboard. The 5"/38 caliber and 20 m.m. machine gun batteries promptly opened fire; expended 109 rounds of 5"/38 caliber and 510 rounds of 20 m.m. ammunition. The result of this firing was indeterminate.

  3. The conduct of all personnel coming under my observation was laudable to the highest degree. There were no individuals deserving special commendation or censure.

F.T. Sloat

ENSLOSURE žA" to CO Benham ltr
DD397/A16 (148) of 8/25/42

Transcribed and formatted by Terri Grimes