SECRET[Declassified] DESTROYER DIVISION TWELVE
U.S.S. DUNLAP, Flagship
25 August 1943
From: Commander Destroyer Division TWELVE (CTG 31.2) To: The Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet. Via: (1) Commander Task Force THIRTY ONE.
((2) The Commander Third Fleet.
Subject: Action Report for Night of August 9-10, 1943 - Sweep of Vella Gulf. Reference: (a) PacFlt Conf. Ltr., 24CL-42. Enclosures: (A) CTF 31 despatch 090048 of August 1943.
(B) CTG 31.2 despatch 090208.
(C) CTG 31.2 despatch 090215.
(D) CTG 31.2 despatch 090415.
(E) CTF 31 despatch 090154.
1. In compliance with reference, enclosures are forwarded herewith.
Advance copy to: Cominch
SECRET[Declassified] 090048 AUGUST
TASK GROUP THREE ONE POINT TWO LESS JENKINS GRIDLEY GET UNDERWAY IMMEDIATELY PROCEED SOUTH OF RUSSELLS TWENTY FIVE KNOTS X MORE ORDERS LATER X ACKNOWLEDGE ADVISING TIME DEPARTURE X STACK JOIN ENROUTE
FROM CTF 31 TO CTG 31 PT 2 STERRETT INFO TG 31 PT 2
SECRET- URGENT [Declassified]
FROM COMTASKGROUP THIRTY ONE POINT TWO X YOUR ZERO NINE ZERO ZERO FOUR EIGHT REQUEST GRIDLEY BE DIRECTED JOIN IN PLACE OF STACK X STACK WAS UNABLE TO OBTAIN TORPEDO REPLACEMENTS PRIOR TO DEPARTURE PRESENT DUTY
FROM COMTASGROUP 31.2
ACTON TO COMTASKFORCE 31
INFO GRIDLEY STACK
SECRET- URGENT [Declassified]
YOUR ZERO NINE ZERO ZERO FOUR EIGHT DEPARTING AT THIRTEEN FIFTEEN LOVE X CRAVEN AND GRIDLEY ACKNOWLEDGE
FROM COMTASKGROUP 31.2 ACTION TO COMTASFORCE 31
INFO COMTHIRD FLEET
SECRET- OPERATIONAL PRIORITY [Declassified]
TASK GROUP THREE ONE POINT TWO LESS JENKINS STACK JOINED UP NORTH OF ESPERANCE AT FIFTEEN HUNDRED LOVE AUGUST NINTH X
PROCEEDING SOUTH OF RUSSELS IN ACCORDANCE WITH COMTASKFORCE THIRTY ONE ZERO NINE ZERO ZERO FOUR EIGHT X REQUEST INFORMATION
ON BLACK CAT COVERAGE
FROM COMTASKGROUP 31.2 ACTION COMTASKFORCE 31 INFO COMSOPAC
ALL TF COMS SOPAC
COMSOPAC ADVISES INDICATIONS CRUISER DESTROYER TOKYO EXPRESS RUN TONIGHT X MERRILLS DESTROYERS WILL SEARCH FOR AND DESTROY EXPECTED BARGE TRAFFIC AUSTRIA SOUND WAGINA DASH RENGI ISLANDS AREA TONIGHT X
JAP BARGES MAY ALSO BE ENCOUNTERED IN VELLA GULF X WARFIELDS PETER TARES [PT boats] WILL REMAIN IN PORT X KELLYS WILL OPERATE IN KULA GULF X PARA X MY XERO [sic NINE DOUBLE XERO [sic FORTY EIGHT X YOUR TASK GROUP LESS JENKINS
GRIDLEY PROCEED TO VELLA GULF SOUTH OF RUSSELLS AND RENDOVA ISLAND ARRIVE GIZO STRAIT TWENTY TWO HOURS LOVE NINTH X MAKE SWEEP OF VELLA GULF X DESTROY ENEMY ENCOUNTERED X IF NONE CONTACTED BY
TWO HOURS LOVE TENTH RETURN TO PURVIS AT MAXIMUM SPEED VIA SAME RPT SAME ROUTE X COMAIRSOLS REQUESTED PROVIDE BLACK CATS TONIGHT AND AIR COVER DURING DAYLIGHT X BLACK CAT CALLS LATER X ACKNOWLEDGE X MAINYARD
ADEES GET BY TELETYPE X FROM COMTASKFOR THREE ONE
FROM RDO KOLI POINT ACTION TO CTG 31.2 INFORMATION COMSOPAC
ALL TFC SOPAC AREA
DESTROYER DIVISION TWELVE
U.S.S. DUNLAP, Flagship
I. COMMENTS AND SUMMARY OF OUTSTANDING EVENTS
During the period 2258 August 9, 1943 (zone minus eleven time) and 0241 August 10, 1943, Task Group 31.2 made sweeps of GIZO STRAIT and VELLA GULF searching for enemy shipping. Seven radar contacts were made on what were believed to be Japanese barges. Two of these contacts may have been on barges previously contacted. Five of the contacts were taken under fire. A total of four barges are believed to have been sunk. At least two barges returned our fire.
No damage or casualties were suffered by our force.
The task Group was organized as follows:
Commander Task Group 31.2 - Commander F. MOOSBRUGGER, USN DIV A-1 (Cdr. F. Moosbrugger) DIV A-2 (Cdr. R.W. SIMPSON) USS DUNLAP (Lt.Cdr. C. IVERSON) USS LANG (Cdr. J.L. WILFONG) USS CRAVEN (Lt.Cdr. F.T. WILLIAMSON) USS STERRETT (Lt.Cdr. F.G. GOULD) USS GRIDLEY (Lt.Cdr. J.H. MOTES) USS WILSON (Lt.Cdr. W.H. PRICE)
II. PRELIMINARY EVENTS
In compliance with enclosure (A) U.S.S. Dunlap, Lang, Sterrett and Wilson departed Purvis Bay at 1316 August 9, 1943, speed 25 knots. U.S.S. Craven joined shortly thereafter and U.S.S. Gridley joined up at about 1443 at which time increased speed to 27 knots. (This was maximum formation speed until about 2100 due to the condition of Lang's boilers).
The Task Group proceeded South of the RUSSELLS and RENDOVA ISLAND and arrived at GIZO STRAIT at 2258.
Enroute Enclosure (E) was received.
III. PLAN AND ASSUMPTIONS
Same as for Night August 6-7, 1943.
Wind from Southeast force 4; sea smooth, visibility 700 to 3,000 yards; sky overcast with intermittent showers; moonset at 0052.
V. CHRONOLOGICAL LOG
2258 Changed course to 050°T, slowed to 15 knots.
2313 Made radar contact on an unidentified target bearing 336°T, distant 6,250 yards. This contact was a small contact, probably a barge near the shore of LIAPARI ISLAND. Directed the Task Group not to fire on this target. The primary mission was to destroy the "TOKYO EXPRESS" (consisting of destroyers or larger ships) which was suspected of making a run to reinforce the VILA area. As no reports had been received from the Black Cats and no radar search had been made of VELLA GULF the Task Group Commander did not desire to reveal the presence of the Task Group in the area until after a radar search had established the absence of enemy destroyers.
2325 Changed course to 125°T to make a sweep of the reefs fringing GIZO ISLAND and BLACKETT STRAIT and to take an advantageous position to intercept the enemy. Division A-2 formed bearing 150°T, distant 4,000 yards from Division A-1.
2345 Changed course to 000°T to make a sweep of Western shore of KOLOMBANGARA ISLAND.
2347 Made radar contact bearing 100°T, distant 6,200 yards. This was also a small contact at low speed probably a barge. This contact was not taken under fire for the same reason as for first contact.
0003 Changed course to 030°T, speed 25 knots.
0014 Made radar contact on small target bearing 043°T, distant 6,240 yards.
0017 A second radar contact was detected close to first and a barge was sighted. By this time VELLA GULF had been sufficiently searched by radar to indicate that there were no destroyers or larger ships in the Gulf. However there was still the possibility of the "TOKYO EXPRESS" was approaching from the North or Northwest. Division A-1 was therefore directed to hold fire in order to be fully prepared to meet this threat and to concentrate on radar search. Division A-2 was directed to take the targets under fire.
Course was changed to 000°T in order to avoid colliding with barges.
0018 Division A-2 changed course to 340°T.
0020 U.S.S. Lang made visual contact with two troop barges on starboard bow range about 1,000 yards. Lang followed by Sterrett and Wilson opened fire on three enemy barges. Enemy opened fire with small caliber machine guns.
0020-0032 Division A-2 firing intermittently at barges.
During this firing two barges were possibly sunk and one damaged.
0035 Changed course to 270°T to make sweep of coast of VELLA LaVELLA.
0041 Directed division A-2 to take station astern of Division A-1.
0045 Changed course to 200°T.
0118 Gridley made radar contact on targets bearing 206°T, distant 8,800 yards. Contact verified. (This target may have been the one contacted at 2347).
0124 Changed course to 130°T and slowed to 15 knots. Directed Craven and Gridley to open fire on radar solution. Directed Division A-2 to close targets and open fire. Directed Dunlap not to open fire but to continue careful all around S.G. radar search.
00127 Division A-23 changed course to 180°T.
0131 Destroyers of Division A-1 ceased firing.
0134 Division A-2 firing on targets. Hits were observed on target.
0137 Target disappeared form screens believed sunk. Division A-2 changed course to 130°T.
0138 Changed course to 000°T. Radar contact bearing 064°T, distant 7,340 yards. (This contact may have been one of the three barges engaged at 0020).
0143 Changed course to 020°T to close target.
0145 Changed speed to 20 knots.
0151 Slowed to 15 knots.
0151-0156 Division A-1 and Lang firing on barge. Initial bearing 116°T, range 5,700 yards. This contact disappeared from screen and believed sunk.
0159 Changed course to 270°, speed 20 knots.
0200 Changed course to 225°T.
0235 Passed LIAPARI ISLAND abeam, increased speed to 30 knots.
0241 Changed course to 180°T and retired.
VI. COMMENTS ON ENEMY FORCES
(a) Number, types.
It is estimated that radar contact was made on seven Japanese barges, two of which may have been repeat contacts.
Two barges were sighted for short intervals and were reported to be between 800 and 100 feet long.
One barge was observed to have a small cabin on raised portion aft.
They were tracked at speeds up to seven knots. WHen taken under fire they appeared to circle.
(b) No communication between barges was detected.
(c) Use of smoke, camouflage, deception - none observed.
(d) Some barges opened up with small caliber machine guns. They made numerous small dents in the Lang plating but none penetrated.
(e) Estimated damage:
Of the three enemy barges engaged at 0020 two are believed to have been sunk. The third probably escaped but may have been the barge engaged later at 0151.
The barge engaged at 0124 is believed to have been sunk.
The barge engaged at 0151 is believed to have been sunk.
VII. SPECIAL COMMENTS ON OWN FORCES
There were a number of gun casualties due to crimped and dented cartridge cases and possibly to corks being too long. Some of the casualties may have been due to personnel although the gun crews were experienced and rained in night loading.
The ammunition involved had been obtained form an advanced base ammunition depot. It had been subjected to a large amount of handling having been transferred between ships and shore facilities on numerous occasions.
Ships in combat areas should be provided with the best ammunition available preferably from ammunition ships where facilities for stowage and care are adequate.
Defective ammunition can lead to serious consequences in battle where action is of short duration and the number of hits per gun per minute is vital. A jammed gun is no gun.
The importance of proper care in handling and stowage of ammunition and the necessity for inspection and supervision by responsible and capable persons should be impressed on all hands.
The S.G. radar again proved itself an invaluable and superior instrument. The need for a P.P.I. repeater in the pilot house was again demonstrated.
The performance of the F.D. radars was disappointing. Experience has shown that at times this radar's performance is excellent, at other times it is ineffective and inoperative. The latter is more often the case. Even though one radar technician spends 24 hours a day in nursing it along you can not feel sure that in the next minute it will be fully operative. It is recommended that radar experts be detailed to active combatant units to study this problem. F.D. radars installed at schools such as at Pearl Harbor give consistent excellent results under expert care. However these radars are not subject to the consistent wear and tear and shock experienced on board ships. Using their performance as a criterion is misleading.
COMMENDATIONS WHERE MERITED
No outstanding cases.
LESSONS LEARNED AND RECOMMENDATIONS
See special comments on own forces.
See individual ships track charts.
Transcribed and formatted by Patrick Clancey, HyperWar Foundation