Subject: Engagement with Japanese surface forces off Guadalcanal night of 12-13 November 1942,
and Loss of U.S.S. ATLANTA
1. On the evening of November 12, 1942, Task Group 67.4 (Rear Admiral Callaghan in SAN FRANCISCO) was formed composed of the following
units: CUSHING (CDD10), LAFFEY, STERRETT, O’BANNON, ATLANTA (Rear Admiral Scott), SAN FRANCISCO, PORTLAND, HELENA, JUNEAU, AARON WARD
(CDS12), BARTON, MONSSEN, FLETCHER. This group was divided into three tactical units: van destroyers, base unit, and rear destroyers.
Battle formation was column, order of ships as listed above.
2. At about 1800/L12th, TG 67.4 departed viscinity of Lunga Point, proceeding eastward through Sealark Channel, to cover withdrawal of
TG 67.1. At about 2300, TG 67.4 reversed course to the westward and returned to the Cactus area via Lengo Channel. Ship was at general
3. Times of course changes and other evolutions listed hereafter are approximate as all records have been lost.
4. The task group proceeded westward along the north-east coast of Guadalcanal at 18 knots until about opposite Kokumbona, at which time
the HELENA reported radar contacts bearing 310 degrees true, 26000 yards. Course was then changed by head of column movement to 310 degrees
and shortly thereafter to 355 degrees. Radar contacts reported by the HELENA indicated a rapidly closing range, and shortly after reaching
course 355 degrees the number of contacts reported increased to 10 or 12, at least some of which were shown on the port bow and separated
from the original group. ATLANTA’s SC radar made contact bearing about 340 degrees, course of contact about 110 degrees, speed 20. Gunnery
] radars picked up and tracked this contact. Almost immediately after the contacts on the port bow developed, a change of course 45 degrees
left, by head of column movement, was ordered by TBS.
5. ATLANTA was forced to turn left almost immediately after execution of the above signal, in order to avoid collision with a destroyer of
the van group. It appeared that these destroyers might have executed a ships left maneuver, rather than a column movement, and the neares
one was close underfoot. An unidentified ship reported "Torpedo passing from port to starboard", and another reported "Fishing"
(interpreted to mean "firing torpedoes") by TBS. At this time the Task Group Commander interrogated ATLANTA's maneuver by TBS; ATLANTA
began maneuvers to come right and resume station ahead of SAN FRANCISCO.
6. While in the above situation, the radar contact ahead, which had continued to be tracked, became visible bearing about North, distance
3000 yards, crossing from port to starboard on course about 110 degrees. Several of the destroyers were between ATLANTA and this vessel,
which was identified as a CL similar to the NATORI class.
7. At that instant the ATLANTA was illuminated by a battery of two or four searchlights from a ship bearing about 270 degrees true. The
battery was immediately shifted to this target; in the instant before opening fire the TBS order was received "Open fire, odd ships to
starboard, even ships to port." ATLANTA opened fire at estimated range 1600 yards on the illuminating ship, ATLANTA firing before being
8. During the first instants of firing upon this vessel, two enemy destroyers were sighted crossing the line of fire from left to right,
on course about North. They were clearly identified in the searchlight beam as Japanese destroyers similar to the ASASHIO class, firing
upon ATLANTA. Fire of the forward group (the battery having been divided throughout) was shifted from the illuminating vessel to the rear
DD, which was seen to receive about twenty hits in the hull from 1200 yards range, erupt in flames, and later disappear.
9. Meanwhile the after group continued firing on the illuminating ship, which was seen to be hit. An additional unidentified ship opened
fire on the ATLANTA from about 10 degrees left of the illuminating ship. At that time two heavy jolts were felt, the first possibly a
torpedo hit forward, and the second definitely a torpedo hit in the forward engine room. Both of these were distinctly heavier and
different in character from our gunfire hits. All power except auxiliary diesel was lost, our fire was interrupted, and steering control
had to be shifted to the steering engine room. At about the same time all of the above described gunfire against the ATLANTA ceased, and
illumination went out. The illuminating ship, which had been under fire also by another ship in our force, was seen to sink.
10. Because of the subsequent loss of the conning officer and many other bridge personnel, each maneuver of the ship during the foregoing
cannot definitely be recorded here. By the time all action had broken off, the ship has swung slowly left to a heading of about South.
11. Within a minute or so after the termination of the above action, and the ship dead in the water, without power, and on fire from hits
forward, she was taken under fire by a heavy cruiser which is very strongly believed to have been of our own force. The cruiser in questio
opened fire from about 240 degrees relative, range about 3500 yards, without illuminating, and put several salvoes into the ship, totaling
about 19 hits, detailed later. The firing ship was on a slightly converging course, and as illuminated by her own gun flashes could be seen
to have a distinctly non-Japanese hull profile. Efforts to take her under fire were suspended on the above recognition; she also ceased
fire after three or four salvoes. One officer is positive that the ship firing at us was the SAN FRANCISCO, however, this cannot be
substantiated from any other source. A few minutes later in a flash of light from elsewhere the ship was seen passing close aboard to port.
12. Upon conclusion of the above it was discovered that all telephones on the bridge were out. The Commanding Officer then proceeded to
Battle Two to find out what power was available obtain more information as to the condition of the ship. About six unidentified vessels
were observed scattered to the North, dead in the water, burning and exploding. Fire was exchanged between various of these ships from
time to time. Perhaps two were Japanese; these were observed to discharge what appeared to be a pyrotechnic identifications signal when
fired upon. The nature of the signal was a luminous cloud of snowflakes, projected vertically to about masthead height, where it floated
for some ten seconds before burning out. One ship which emitted this signal blew up and sank within a short time of the foregoing. Of the
remainder, fire was exchanged on several occasions between ships both of which were very strongly believed to be of our force. Their fire
was characteristic of the 5"/38 gun, with nitrocellulose powder, and of the 20mm automatic gun. Some of the above were also directed
against this vessel, without results, and without return.
13. After some time one ship of the above group got way on and stood off to the East, crossing under the ATLANTA’s stern, and firing several
salvos which passed overhead, producing one hit in the crow’s nest. This ship is believed to have been a one-stack destroyer.
14. After the 8" fire ceased, opportunity was available for taking stock of the situation. First efforts were directed toward getting under
control the various fires burning about the ship; this had been accomplished within one hour. Before the fire in the bridge structure was
extinguished the foremast fell to port. The ship was listing slightly to port and down by the head, taking water steadily, which it
continued to do despite all efforts. No power other than the emergency diesel was available, but steps were inaugurated to clear one
fireroom, which later proved futile. The many wounded had first aid administered, and evacuation boats for them were requested by auxiliary
radio from Cactus. Every effort was devoted to the one end of clearing the ship of debris, jettisoning useless weights, and getting her
ready to steam out. Details of damage and the damage control situation are included later.
15. With the coming of daylight, the CUSHING and two additional U.S. destroyers (all burning), the PORTLAND, and one Japanese destroyer of
the ASASHIO class were sighted. The Jap DD was shortly sunk by three salvoes from the PORTLAND’s main battery. Several Japanese dead, in
life jackets, were seen floating close aboard, and other swimming Japs were seen around the area of the engagement. Many were seen to be
captured by Cactus boats which appeared shortly after daylight. As the ship appeared to be drifting ashore on Jap held coastline, a few
miles East of Cape Esperance, the starboard anchor was dropped with 90 fathoms of chain. Port anchor and chain were jettisoned to help
correct list. About this time the following was sent to the PORTLAND, quote "damage as result night action X six turrets out of commission,
both firerooms and forward engine room flooded, after engineroom gradually flooding, have only diesel auxiliary power, steering gear
inoperative, foremast gone X ship received many 8 inch hits and one or more torpedo hits, latter in viscinity of number one engine room
port, bridge structure completely gutted X have requested assistance from Cactus intend to send wounded and others there retaining nucleus
crew aboard in case facilities available for towing X if not available condition of ship warrants sinking X request instructions regarding"
unquote. Cactus boats began evacuating out wounded, the most serious cases first: All the wounded were cleared by mid-morning. The
unwounded and those slightly wounded remained on board.
16. At about 0930, USS BOBOLINK arrived in the area and was ordered by PORTLAND to tow ATLANTA to an anchorage off Kukum. Chain was then
veered to 105 fathoms. During passage to this area, one Japanese type 1 Navy twin engined bomber appeared, low, and was taken under fire
by turret number 8 (the only turret with power). This plane withdrew.
17. It was by now apparent that efforts to save the ship were useless, and that the water was gaining steadily. The ship had about a 10
degree list to port and was gradually settling at that angle. Had efficient salvage facilities been available to save the ship, such
assistance would have been of doubtful value due to the great extent of damage. Commander South pacific Forces had authorized the
Commanding Officer to act at discretion regarding the destruction of ATLANTA. It was therefore decided to abandon the ship and sink her
with a demolition charge. All personnel except the commanding Officer and a demolition party were removed by Cactus boats, and the charge
set and exploded. The ship was then completely abandoned. The area around was patrolled by boats to prevent boarding by unauthorized
persons, until the ship sank. At 2015, November 13, 1942, the ship sank, approximately 3 miles West of Lunga Point, in about 80 fathoms
18. It is considered that all classified matter in the ship was effectively destroyed, the majority by the fire which gutted the bridge,
radio, and coding room areas; the remainder with the sinking of the ship. The bridge structure was inspected by several officers who
reported that the intense heat still existing prevented complete inspection and that all burnable and easily fusable material was
19. The conduct of the officers and men was exemplary. They remained at their stations until no longer tenable. There was no panic and
after the action all hands energetically turned to the various duties fighting fire, tending wounded, etc., all of which was handled in
a most efficient manner. Their actions during the battle and afterwards were in the best traditions of the Naval Service.
20. Recommendations for awards and commendations will be made in a separate letter.
21. The Commanding Officer, officers, and men of ATLANTA cannot express satisfactorily their appreciation to the Commanding General Cactus,
the Commanding Officer of Naval Activities, Cactus Ringbolt area, and all officers and men on the island for their efficient care of our
wounded shipmates and the assistance given ATLANTA survivors before and after their arrival atGuadalcanal.
S. P. Jenkins
Copy to: ComSoPac
ENCLOSURE (B) - LIST OF HITS RECEIVED
1. Four types of projectile hits were distinguished as follows: (Enclosure "D" defines ships "A", "B", "C", and "D".
(a.) A medium projectile of high capacity, instantaneous fuse, which exploded on contact with light structural plate, blowing a 2-3 foot
hole in 1/4 inch plate and showing fragment scars on outside as well as behind the detonating plate. Fragments from such shells riddled
light structural work, but were easily stopped by 1.25 inch STS, and in several instances by 30 lb. STS; the flash ignited anything
inflammable in the viscinity. It is believed that these hits were received from ship "A", the ship that illuminated ATLANTA, considered
a CL, possibly one with special ammunition for shore bombardment of Guadalcanal; they are therefore tentatively identified as 5.5 inch H.
(b.) A 3 inch common (or solid) believed to be from the AA guns of the CL. One such which penetrated the lower vertical portion of the 1.25
inch face of turret 6 was definitely a 3 inch shell; other hits elsewhere appeared similar.
(c.) A 5 inch common. This gave moderate penetration, exploding inside with a few large, relatively low-velocity fragments, and moderate
blast. It is believed that these hits came from ship "B" (the destroyer sunk by ATLANTA), her accompanying destroyers, and ship "C", to
left of the illuminating CL, probably also a destroyer.
(d.) An 8 inch armor piercing. These were all from bearing about 250 degrees relative, from ship "D", the heavy cruiser. Of these hits,
many passed through superstructure and light splinter plate without detonating, scattering green dye load throughout the areas of their
passage. A few fragments were recovered; one, a very heavy nose fragment, showing a short radius ogive with the cuts for attaching the
cap; another showed a band score of width similar to our 8 inch projectiles; a third, a small base fragment, bore the lettering "No. 51".
2. Thirteen 5.5 inch H.C. hits were counted, as follows:
(a.) Base of director 1; killed lookouts, started fire in wiring, life jackets, gas masks, personnel's clothing; fragments cut wiring in
director wiring tube. This fire spread upward into director 1.
(b.) After port corner of forward control; wrecked target designator system and killed all control personnel except three (two badly
(c.) Superstructure forward, immediately below bridge; set fire in "Senior Staff Officer's Cabin"; fragments ignited 20mm ammunition at
gun 2 and in forward 20mm loading room. This fire spread, from explosion of ammunition penetrating decks, to two decks below in the
(d.) Bridge splinter shield at port torpedo director; damaged director, killed torpedo control personnel and many signalmen, blew up port
flag bags and fired debris.
(e.) Deck gear locker A-0102A, outboard of turret 3 upper handling room; blew down the after bulkhead (to admiral's cabin); did minor
splinter damage, but no damage to handling room 1.25 inch STS; fired deck gear inflammables.
(f.) Admiral's bath A-0104L; six feet abaft hit (e) above; blew down the after joiner bulkhead (to Admiral's cabin); fired clothing and
(g.) Director 4 (#2 - 1.1 inch director); wiped out director and crew; blew off weather deck door inboard; started fire in life jackets and
clothing in #2 - 1.1 inch clipping room, which soon became an ammunition fire.
(h.) No. 2 - 1.1 inch trainer and sight, passing on to radio central B-0202C where it burst on bulkhead; started fire in radio room.
(i.) At boundary between Gunnery Officer's and Engineering Officer's staterooms (staterooms 0102 and 0104); blew down joiner bulkheads of
these rooms and First Lieutenant's stateroom (SR0101) across the passage; started fire in clothing and bedding of these three rooms.
(j.) In Supply Officer's stateroom (SR 106), at overhead level, wrecked furniture and started fire in bedding.
(k.) In wardroom pantry A-106E, at overhead level; wrecked furniture and started fire in bedding.
(l.) In navigator's stores A-105L; blew down joiner bulkheads and fired debris.
(m.) In port whaleboat; wrecked boat and bent after davit (no fire).
In addition to the listed damage, extensive fragment spray from the above hits wrecked the searchlights, riddled both motor launches, the
stacks, the decks and bulkheads of the forward superstructure area.
3. Probably five 3 inch hits were counted, as follows:
(a.) In turret 6 face (1.25 inch STS), in vertical portion, normal impact; penetrated; small fragment effect inside (possibly broke up).
(b.) Similar projectile deflected by the 30 degree inclined 1.25 inch STS face of turret #6.
(c.) Possibly a similar projectile blew off the pointer's sight hood and projecting part of telescope, turret 6.
(d.) One deflected by 75 degree inclined roof of turret 3.
(e.) One through the side of the ship into compartment A-304L, added to damage of 5 inch hit in this area.
4. Twelve 5 inch common hits were counted as follows:
(a.) Water line, frame 8, port; exploded in A-302A. Ruptured decks above and below; pierced after bulkhead; allowed flooding of opened
areas when ship settled, and started fire in A-203A (the compartment above).
(b.) Mess Attendant's compartment A-205-1L, port, high; caused miscellaneous damage to bunks and lockers but no fire.
(c.) Living compartment A-304L, port; same effect as above; allowed flooding when ship settled from torpedo hit.
(d.) About frame 23, port, exploding in registered publication storeroom A-207AL. Blew down the inboard bulkhead, blocking the only fore
and aft passage on this deck, inboard of it; also blew off WT door to A-205-2L. Set fire to debris.
(e.) About frame 24, port, exploding in the W.R. linen locker, blew down joiner bulkheads of locker and SR 202; killed repair party
personnel in passage inboard; set fire in linen locker.
(f.) On 30 degree inclined portion of the face plate of turret 1 from directly in front of turret; penetrated on trainer's side but broke
up (unburned explosive seen); damaged training gear and killed four men.
(g.) On forward bulkhead of turret 2 upper handling room, at top, about 45 degree obliquity; broke up but partially penetrated, fragments
going both inside and out, killing three men; fragments dented water seal and barbette sufficiently to jam turret against manual train.
(h.) On Senior Staff Officer's Cabin, A-105L; miscellaneous damage added to destruction in this area.
(i.) Through blast shield of torpedo tube #2; killed trainer, wounded tube captain, detonated in crew's washroom.
(j.) In #3 1.1 inch gun foundation. Pieces of the gun platform were blown upward, jamming the mount in train; killed two men and wounded
(k.) Through foremast; possible cut TBS and SC leads.
(l.) Through mainmast, no damage.
5. Probably nineteen 8 inch hits were counted, as follows:
(a.) Two through forward sky lookout splinter shield; passed on without exploding; missiles killed several men.
(b.) Three through flag plot, B-0301C, and athwartships passage A-105L, just above deck level. One passed through the after starboard
corner of the pilothouse. All passed on without exploding, but missiles killed many bridge personnel.
(c.) Two through radio room and coding room; passed on without detonating, but missiles killed many communication personnel.
The above seven hits were of one salvo grouped within an area 6 yards high by 8 yards wide.
(d.) Two into turret 4, detonated; blew off top and back of turret, killed all but one man of crew, started fire in gas masks and clothing.
Fragments and missiles wrecked superstructure area inboard, caused many punctures in main deck and in second deck into C-306L. Fire did not
reach upper handling room.
(e.) Two passed through superstructure and wrecked turret 5, blowing off its outboard side, killing all but one man, and setting a bad fire
in powder, clothing, and gas masks. Fire did not reach upper handling room.
(f.) Two passed through superstructure and passed out through #5 - 20mm gun foundation and splinter shield, killing and wounding several.
The above six hits were of one salvo, grouped within an area 7 yards high by 20 yards wide.
(g.) One cut off muzzle of right gun in turret 3.
(h.) One passed through chase of left gun in turret 3, cutting out a segment 6 inches deep from the underside; fragments and missiles from
this and the preceding hit punctured decks and did miscellaneous destruction in this area.
(i.) One (or more) entered compartment A-210AL or B-202L; killing or wounding most of repair II personnel and many of plot crew who were
escaping, tearing up the deck and destroying the water-tight integrity of these spaces.
(j.) One through chase of left gun in turret 6; cut segment out of gun.
(k.) One across back of turret 6, just tangent to shield, deflected.
(l.) One into back of turret 6, blew off both rear access plates and pieces of rear shield plate.
6. In addition to the damage listed for the above hits, there was considerable additional damage of an important nature, the result of the
extensive destruction of water-tight integrity by fragment punctures in the general areas of the bursts.
7. One certain torpedo hit was received in the forward engine room, port side. In addition to flooding that space, the explosion of this
(a.) Buckled the armored deck above it upward, shearing rivets and opening
seams into compartment B-204L. These buckled plates were well inboard, almost to the center line, with an undisturbed area outboard. The
ship's side, above water, showed no torpedo damage.
(b.) Split and ruptured bulkheads to both firerooms, causing a very rapid flooding of the forward fireroom and somewhat slower flooding of
the after one.
8. An additional heavy shock, perhaps less intense than the above, was felt, which may have been a torpedo. The location of this hit is
uncertain, but may have been in the engineering spaces flooded by the above.
9. The definite concentration of our CL adversary's fire in the upperworks of the bridge structure is noted. The 5 inch fire from at least
two, and possibly three of four, destroyers, was considerably scattered. There was no indication of the use of any incendiary ammunition.
10. The immediate crippling of the ship as a result of the torpedo hit which vented fore and aft into the firerooms is also noted. Such
venting represents the path of least resistance for an explosion otherwise completely contained, above the water line, by armor. It is
strongly believed that this torpedo gave an under-bottom explosion.
ENCLOSURE (C) - NOTES ON DAMAGE CONTROL
1. The situations requiring immediate attention after firing ceased were: (a.) fire in the bridge structure; (b.) fire in turret 5; (c.)
fire in wardroom linen locker, located next to the upper handling room for turret 1; (d.) flooding; (e.) miscellaneous small fires about
2. The following equipment was available for fighting fires: two gasoline handy-billy pumps. The hose for one pump has been damaged and
only a partial stream could be obtained. A bucket line was formed and proved effective against the bridge fire, fire in turret 5, and
other small fires throughout the ship.
3. Five submersible pumps were available for pumping after the electrical grounds in the emergency diesel board were corrected and a line
run forward for distributing power. The two gasoline handy-billy pumps were also used for pumping after the fires had been extinguished.
4. The fire in the bridge structure was brought under control by the use of the two gasoline handy-billy pumps and by forming a bucket
brigade on the starboard side. The fires were extinguished at considerable risk to the personnel involved as the cartridges in the #1
and #2 - 1.1 inch and 20mm clipping rooms were still exploding. It required several hours to bring this fire under control. The following
compartments in the bridge structure were found to be gutted and destroyed by shell damage and the resultant fire: Director 1, lookout
stations, control forward, bridge, pilot house, flotilla plot, chart house, senior staff officer's cabin, Captain's emergency cabin, radio
room, code room, communication office, navigator's stateroom, navigator's stores, pyrotechnic locker, officer's W.C., staterooms B-0104L,
B-0102L, B-0101L, Captain's stateroom and pantry, flotilla commander's stateroom and pantry, 1.1 inch ammunition clipping rooms
B-0104M, B-0105M, and 20mm clipping room. The wardroom, wardroom pantry, and Supply Officer's stateroom, A-106L, were also damaged and
gutted by fire.
5. The fire in the linen locker adjacent to turret 1 was extinguished about 0900 by use of the handy-billy pump.
6. The fire in the gun chamber of turret 5 was extinguished by a bucket brigade. Miscellaneous fires throughout the ship were extinguished
by bucket brigades.
7. The electricians had been trying to get power to the submersible pump outlets. The diesel generator was operating. Due to grounds on the
board it was about an hour before the proper connection could be effected. The first pump was used to pump down compartment C-201-2L. When
this was accomplished it was moved to the after engine room and it was found that the water in that compartment could be controlled.
8. The additional pumps were put into operation and used to remove seepage within hatch combing of the No. 2 fireroom and to prevent a free
surface of water from accumulating in the adjacent compartment. About 10,000 gallons of water was pumped out of compartment A-409L which
had been placed in there to cool magazines directly below.
9. Later the available pumps were placed in No. 2 engine room and the forward mess hall. The pumps controlled the water in these
compartments but flooding of the ship continued as evidenced by gradual increase of draft.
10. The water in crew's compartment A-304L was removed by a handy-billy
pump after holes were plugged to prevent additional flooding.
11. As pumps were not available, no attempts were made to control flooding in compartment A-305-1L. Compartment was closed
off to prevent spread of water.
12. Following items were jettisoned to reduce topside weight and improve stability:
(a.) Slipped port anchor and chain (b.) Cut away port whaleboat and davits (c.) Jettisoned 5 inch ammunition in turrets 4 and 5 upper
handling rooms. (d.) Fired four torpedoes on port side (No. 2 tube) (e.) Jettisoned all depth charges except three 300 lb. (f.) Jettisoned
smoke screen generators (g.) Jettisoned all miscellaneous gear on port side (h.) Jettisoned paravane gear, gangways, and loose gear.
13. Following items could not be jettisoned:
(a.) Foremast (had fallen over port side) (b.) Port torpedo tube (c.) #2 motor launch.
14. Damage Control Recommendations
(a.) Provide emergency diesel power both forward and aft (b.) There should be a secondary pumping system located both and aft, power being
supplied by diesel. (c.) These pumps, mentioned in paragraph (b.) above, should be arranged so that they could supply water to the fire
main for fire fighting. (d.) There should be a number of gasoline handy-billy pumps provided (e.) A supply of gasoline for handy-billy
pumps should be stowed forward and aft. (f.) There should be more rugged construction used in the design of RBA equipment; many were
damaged during the engagement and became unserviceable. (g.) Casualty power systems should be installed to get vital equipment in
operation. (h.) Magazines should be capable of being flooded from the sea (i.) There should be more means of access to elevated stations
such as bridge and other elevated structures.
15. All linoleum had been removed from the ship and a considerable amount of paint had been removed from the lower deck spaces in
accordance with CinCPac instructions. It is believed that these measures prevented fires of a more serious nature than those which
ENCLOSURE (D) - NOTES ON GUNNERY ENGAGEMENT
1. During the approach the 5 inch and machine gun batteries were in divided fire. Control had Director 1 and 5 inch mounts 1, 2, 3, and 4,
with Machine Gun Control having the port (or even numbered) machine guns (1.1 inch and 20mm); Control Aft had Director 2 and 5 inch mounts
5, 6, 7, and 8, with Machine Gun Control Aft having the starboard (or odd numbered) machine guns. The torpedo battery was also split, the
Torpedo Officer on the port director having tube 2, and the Asst. First Lieutenant on the starboard director having tube 1. Ship's
doctrine called for this setup in order best to handle the expected short range melee, with numerous targets on either hand; if an
engagement developed in which only one target was to be fired upon, collective fire was to be set up immediately.
2. Radio speakers at Control aft were cut in on TBS, keeping the control officers informed of the situation to some degree. These speakers,
connected thus or to aircraft fighter director circuits, had in the past proved of immense value; on this occasion this value was
drastically reduced by the use of voice-code on the circuit. Our SC radar contacts, such as they were, were promptly analyzed and
delivered, could in no way approach the scope of what should have been available from the SG radars of the force.
3. Prior to opening fire, and after HELENA's reports of contacts to the NW, our SC reported contact bearing 340 degrees, course 110 degrees,
speed 20. Both groups got on contacts on approximately this bearing, reported by Plot (from tracking table) to be different contacts, and
reached tactical solutions by FD radar just prior to execution of tactical signal "column left 45 degrees". Solutions held through the
sudden maneuver by the ATLANTA which then resulted, to avoid a destroyer, and because of the now extremely short ranges (3,000 yards),
fire was about to be opened without signal from OTC on these targets, bearing about 60 degrees relative (about North) after the maneuver.
After group's target was now dimly in sight, a Japanese CL similar to the NATORI class, target angle 80 degrees, speed 20, range 3,000;
forward group did not actually sight their target. These targets were behind several of our own DD's in the van force which had turned
left, but the targets were rapidly drawing to the right.
4. At that instant, ATLANTA was illuminated by a large searchlight battery (2 to 4 lights) close aboard to port, bearing 300 degrees
relative (about 250 degrees true). The illuminating ship appeared to be a light cruiser. Both directors slewed onto the lights and
commenced firing immediately, on control officers' estimated ranges. After group opened fire with estimated range of 1600 yards, spotted
out 400 and got on; the range was so short that target maneuver could have no effect during the short time of flight, so that no solution
was waited for, which agreed with our close range surprise doctrine. Target course and speed set up were never the less probably
approximately correct, as remaining from the preceding tracking of targets of the same disposition; the first shots were on in deflection
and the splashes rose directly in the searchlight beams. The forward group's opening range is not known (their computer operator has been
lost) but procedure was identical. It is thought that in spite of this particular target's advantage of surprise, the above procedure,
coupled with the exceptional speed and flexibility of the 5 inch installation, allowed this ship to fire before being fired upon.
The 1.1 inch battery also opened fire on this target, apparently shooting over; it was silenced before doing much effective shooting.
The illuminating ship will be referred to as ship "A"; she opened fire on ATLANTA.
5. Almost at the instant of opening fire, several (about three) Jap DD's crossed the line of the searchlight beams, headed in a northerly
direction; they were of the ASASHIO type, target angle about 45 degrees. They were particularly distinguished from our own DD's by their
light tripod masts. Forward group immediately shifted to one of these, simply by training director on, firing at point blank range, 1200
yards, and shifting the shots by elevation and deflection spots. These ships fired back. At least 20 of our 5 inch hits were observed to
enter the target's hull of the some 40 rounds fired at her, as she crossed dead ahead. She broke into flames, settled, and dank. She will
be referred to as ship "B".
6. After group had continued to engage ship "A", which was being hit. Another vessel of our force was seen to open fire on "A". A third
vessel, "C", to left of "A: about ten degrees, opened fire upon ATLANTA. Almost simultaneously, "A"'s lights went out (she was observed
to sink in a few seconds); "C" ceased fire; ATLANTA was hit by one (certain) or two (strongly believed) torpedoes; all power was lost and
our fire was interrupted; target "B" was out of commission and the DD's with her ceased fire on ATLANTA; Director 1 received a hit on its
foundation which put it out of commission; Control was hit and destroyed. Plot reported battery collective fire, Control Aft and Director
2 controlling. Extent of damage to battery was not known at this time, but was realized to be heavy.
7. Torpedoes were not fired. The port director and crew were wiped out by a hit in the above gun action, and the port tube crew disabled by
a hit through the blast shield. It is not known how soon the above occurred but apparently it was early in the gun fight, which lasted not
more than one or two minutes. The MK 26 torpedo director is able to use radar information as to enemy course only indirectly, and in far
too cumbersome a manner to have realized any advantage from what was known of the enemy before sighting him; an effective advance setup
such as could have been made on a MK 27 torpedo director could not have been in effect here. Furthermore, the quadruple MK 13 tubes,
carrying four MK 15 torpedoes, are far too heavy to be swung by the hand train provided, on to the target in the very few seconds that are
available in an encounter such as this. Torpedoes could have been used effectively only if fired with fair accuracy and lightning speed,
which the installation did not provide for.
8. Within about a minute of the cessation of the gun fight, the ATLANTA was taken under fire by a CA. The CA fired about four 8 inch
salvoes from about 3500 yards, either by radar or using our bridge fire as a point of aim, without illuminating. Her relative bearing from
us was about 240 degrees, target angle about 75 degrees; the true bearings and courses are not known, but it is believed that ATLANTA was
swinging slowly from West to South. Her salvoes hit and did damage as detailed earlier. Efforts were made to return her fire with turret 7
in pointer fire, manual operation, this being the only turret remaining on the JP circuit, but were discontinued before firing commenced,
after recognizing the firing ship, by the light of her own gun flashes, as friendly. Turret 8, with emergency diesel power, was intact,
but not in communication; turret 7, with manual only, was too slow to answer what might have been an urgent need.
9. It was now found that the starboard torpedo director had been destroyed by the bridge fire. Port torpedoes were jettisoned because of
the ship's list to port, but the starboard were held in readiness to fire by pointer fire, using voice transmitted sight angle from
Control Aft, if any of the numerous immobilized ships, both afire and not, which were visible to the northward should prove to be enemy.
Plot was slowly flooding from below, from the 1.1 inch ammunition handling space, which was not separated by a water tight hatch, and
rising water soon killed the sound powered phone board. The JY phone circuits from Control Aft had been cut. A portable lead, previously
made up complete with jack boxes, was lead out and connected to turrets 7 and 8 and the after machine guns. With the wreckage, debris,
wounded and dead in the way, this was an hour's task. Clearing away debris and bodies, re-stationing personnel, and establishing
communication, put armament in readiness for action as follows: Range 2 (in Director 2, manual operation), turret 7 (manual), turret 8
(diesel generator power); 1.1 inch mount 1 (with ammunition transferred from aft to replace that destroyed in fire), and 1.1 inch mount 4;
20mm guns 4 to 8 inclusive, 3 caliber .30 Browning Automatic Rifles in bulwark AA mountings; and about 60 rifles.
10. During the tow to Lunga Point during the following daylight, a Jap type 1 twin engine Navy bomber, of the type which had attacked the
force with torpedoes on November 12, approached low. It was taken under fire by turret 8 in pointer fire, telephone control, and withdrew.
Turret 7, in manual, never got on this target.
11. Projectiles used during the night action were 5 inch/38 common (not AA common). It is believed that ship "A" was a light cruiser. Some
100 rounds of the above projectiles were fired at the enemy ship at extremely short range; it is believed that they are capable of
penetrating the armor of any Jap CL's at this range; and many were observed to hit; it is therefore considered that the ATLANTA either
caused or materially assisted in the destruction of this CL. The many hits into the hull of ship "B", a modern type Japanese destroyer,
were seen to deliver a staggering blow, with fires and subsequent sinking; whether other vessels of our force fired into this ship or not
is not known.. It is considered that the ATLANTA caused the destruction of this DD.
12. It was noted that the Jap ships were using flashless or near-flashless powder. This was most effective, providing almost no point of aim
and no information on the firing ship; it was in marked contrast to the results of our own ships firings, which lighted the firing ship
brilliantly, and in such ships as ATLANTA and HELENA, almost continuously.
13. GUNNERY RECOMMENDATIONS
(a.) Torpedo Battery - For the night actions which have played such a heavy part in the Pacific surface naval war, this battery must be able
to take available radar, or other, enemy information, use it with facility, and get on the target and fire with utmost rapidity. To this
end, it is recommended that the MK 26 directors be removed from this class and replaced by the MK 27, and that power train be provided for
(b.) Torpedo Warheads - Our MK 15 warheads, with some 485 lbs. of TNT burster, have consistently failed to do appropriate damage to even Jap
cruisers. This is in marked contrast to the devastating effect of the Japanese torpedoes, carrying in some types nearly 900 lbs. (and
perhaps more) "hexa" TNT/HND/A1), as illustrated by the paralyzing of the ATLANTA in the above engagement. it is recommended that
urgent priority be given (1) to the replacing of all MK 15 heads immediately with MK17, or heads similar in charge, and (2) to
the development and delivery of a still heavier (1000 to 2000 lb. charge) head which will ensure major damage to any target.
(c.) Auxiliary Battle Phones - it is recommended that an XJP circuit be installed, leads well separated from the primary circuits, which
does not pass through any lower deck switchboard. This circuit should be controlled by switch boxes at the control stations, similar to
the arrangement provided in this class for the JY circuits, and should connect all 5 inch stations.
(d.) Emergency Power For Gun Battery - Certain turrets, to the limit of the diesel generator's capacity, were provided with emergency power
connections. When the need arose, of the two operable turrets, only one was thus connected. It is recommended (1) that all turrets be
provided with emergency power connections (without automatic switching, for the overload turrets), with provision for selectively cutting
in such turrets as are operable, and (2) that immediate steps be taken to increase the emergency power to an amount sufficient to handle
the full gun battery, in addition to essential ship control, and lighting requirements. This increased power will be available, by cutting
out or shutting down some of the battery, for pumping and other needs during repair operations after action is broken off. It is further
recommended that the emergency power be supplied from units divided between forward and after parts of the ship, possibly two separated
units at each end.
(e.) Pyrotechnic Materials - It is recommended that all pyrotechnical material, except very's stars of various colors, be removed from
ships. It is believed that very's stars would furnish suitable emergency recognition signal without undue fire hazard. The supply of
pyrotechnic materials increased the intensity of fire in the bridge area and is believed to have been responsible for melting down the
base of the foremast. The supply of pyrotechnics in ATLANTA had been reduced in accordance with the approved memorandum of the USS CHESTER,
to one-half the full allowance. It is further recommended that stowage of limited amounts of identification signals be well separated and
adjacent to control stations.
(f.) Magazine-Area Boundaries - The fire in #2 1.1 inch clipping room was started by fragments which entered its door, necessarily open for
the ingress of boxed reload ammunition. This space was also open to the mount, for passage out of filled clips. Fire from the bridge area
eventually reached #1 1.1 inch clipping room by its corresponding openings, without which these gravely serious fires might have been
avoided. The same situation obtained at #1 20mm loading room, where the fire was started by fragments of a hit outside. This fire spread
two decks below to the wardroom, by the exploding ammunition piercing many small holes in the light decking and dropping through. It is
strongly recommended that all ammunition stowage spaces be given boundaries of adequate plate, with complete flameproof automatic closure
of any opening required for ammunition service.
(g.) Voice-Radio Speakers at Gun Control Stations - These in ATLANTA were a ships force installation. it is recommended that they be
provided for all ships, arranged for selective connections (by Radio Room plug board) to the circuit carrying information pertinent to
the operation at hand.
(h.) Flashless Powder - It is recommended that this highly valuable tool for the special task of night fighting be re-investigated for
use by our own forces.
This web page was created by and
is maintained by Paul D.
Last updated 3 June 2014