Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships
USS McCAWLEY AP-10
The second McCAWLEY (AP-10), formerly SS SANTA BARBARA, was completed in 1928
by the Furness Shipbuilding Co., Haverton Hill-on-the-Tees, England; acquired
by the Navy from Grace Lines 26 July 1940; renamed McCAWLEY 29 July 1940; and
commissioned 11 September 1940, Capt. H. D. McHenry in command.
On 19 February 1942, McCAWLEY got underway for Iceland with troops embarked.
She returned to New York 25 March and then steamed to Norfolk en route a new
assignment with the Pacific Fleet. Transiting the Panama Canal 18 April, she
discharged marine aviators at Pago Pago 8 May and continued on to Wellington,
Joining Amphibious Force, South Pacific, she became the flagship for Rear
Adm. R. K. Turner shortly before the first Allied counter invasion of the
war, Guadalcanal. On 7 August, the campaign started; at 0800 landings were
made at Tulagi, at 0919 on Lunga Point, Guadalcanal. Air raids commenced on
the 8th; McCAWLEY's guns scored their first kills, destroying three, possibly
four planes. On the 9th, she witnessed the flares of the Battle of Savo
Island, in which American heavy cruisers ASTORIA (CA-34), QUINCY (CA-39),
VINCENNES (CA-44) and Australian heavy cruiser CANBERRA were lost and
American heavy cruiser CHICAGO (CA-29) was severely damaged. The transports
continued to unload cargo until sailing for Noumea that afternoon.
McCAWLEY returned to Guadalcanal 18 September with supplies and
reinforcements, departing again the same day with wounded and POWs.
Unfortunately, aircraft carrier WASP (CV-7) was lost and battleship NORTH
CAROLINA (BB-55) and destroyer O'BRIEN (DD-415) were damaged by torpedoes
while protecting this troopship convoy.
On 9 October, the transport again got underway for Guadalcanal in a convoy
carrying over 2,800 reinforcements. One of the support groups for the convoy
was Rear Adm. Norman Scott's cruiser force, which, on the night of 11 and
12 October, defeated an enemy force off Cape Esperance, insuring successful
completion of the troop movement. McCAWLEY landed her troops and cargo,
returning once more to Noumea with wounded and POWs.
On 8 November, McCAWLEY departed Noumea with other units of TF 67 for
Guadalcanal. Two cruisers and three destroyers under Rear Adm. Daniel J.
Callaghan supported them. At the same time, another convoy, covered by a
cruiser and four destroyers under Rear Admiral Scott, set out from Espiritu
Santo. Further direct support for the operations was to be supplied by
battleships and destroyers of TF 64.
Transports from Espiritu Santo arrived at Lunga Point on the 11th, McCAWLEY's
group from Noumea on the 12th. By dusk on the 12th, as reports of Japanese
ship movements from Truk increased, 90 percent of the transports' lading had
been discharged, despite torpedo plane attacks. The transports were pulled
out and sent back to Espiritu Santo, while Admiral Callaghan's and Admiral
Scott's combined force gallantly engaged the enemy fleet in the initial
action of what would later be called the Naval Battle for Guadalcanal.
The battle, lasting 12 to 15 November, cost the Japanese two battleships, one
cruiser, three destroyers, and 11 transports. The United States lost two
cruisers and seven destroyers, and Admirals Callaghan and Scott were both
On 24 November, McCAWLEY departed Noumea for overhaul at Wellington. She
returned to New Caledonia 10 January 1943 with 1st Marine Raiders and the 3d
Parachute Battalion. After discharging those units, she loaded Army troops
and construction equipment and resumed supply runs to Guadalcanal.
McCAWLEY, redesignated attack transport APA-4 on 1 February 1943, continued
to supply Guadalcanal until mid-June. At that time, she began preparations
for the New Georgia and central Solomons campaign. At 0643 on 30 June,
she began off-loading for the landing at Rendova Island, near New Georgia.
Twice, before completion at 1350, operations were halted to prepare for air
attacks which did not materialize. Then, as the withdrawing column entered
Blanche Channel, torpedo planes attacked. McCAWLEY's gunfire brought down
four; but a torpedo hit in McCAWLEY's engine room, killed 15 of her crew, and
knocked out all power.
Following the attack, Admiral Turner and his staff transferred to destroyer
FARENHOLT (DD-491). Rear Admiral Wilkinson remained in McCAWLEY to command
salvage operations, while attack cargo ship LIBRA (AKA-12) took the
transport in tow and destroyers RALPH TALBOT (DD-390) and McCALLA (DD-488)
stood by to assist.
At 1640 all the crew, except the salvage party, were taken off by RALPH
TALBOT. Soon afterward, the group was attacked by dive bombers, and McCAWLEY
was strafed, but no further damage was inflicted as the salvage party manned
her guns to splash one of the three planes destroyed. By 1850, the draft aft
had increased to 38 feet, and Admiral Wilkinson ordered McCALLA alongside to
take off the salvage party. Within the hour all hands were aboard McCALLA
and pulling clear of the stricken transport.
At 2023 the final blow came. The doomed ship was again torpedoed and in 30
seconds she sank in 340 fathoms. The following day, it was learned that six
motor torpedo boats had torpedoed an "enemy" transport in Blanche Channel,
after having been informed there were no friendly forces in the area. PTs
were then placed directly under Admiral Turner and given a liaison officer to
keep them informed.
McCAWLEY received five battle stars for World War II service.
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