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ACTION REPORT
Commander Destroyer Division Ten (Commanding Officer, USS CUSHING)
Serial SD/TS133 15 November 1942
Battle of Guadalcanal; 12-15 November 1942,
Narrative report of engagement with Japanese surface units off Savo Island about 0200 13 November 1942. USS CUSHING hit by enemy fire and sank as a result of this damage. From: Commander Destroyer Division Ten (U.S.S. CUSHING) To : Commander in Chief Pacific Fleet. Via : (1) Commanding Officer Naval Activities, Cactus Ringbolt Area. (2) Commander Task Group 67.4. (3) Commander South Pacific Force. Subject: Engagement with Japanese surface units off Savo Island, about 0200, November 13, 1942. 1. Task Group 67.4 (Rear Admiral Callaghan) in Battle Formation B-1", (Column of ships as follows, Van unit CUSHING (CDD-10), LAFFEY, STERRETT, O'BANNON; Base unit ATLANTA, SAN FRANCISCO, PORTLAND, HELENA, JUNEAU; Rear unit AARON WARD, BARTON, MONSSEN, FLETCHER), departed Lunga Bay area about 1830 LOVE, November 12 and proceeded on easterly courses through Sea Lark Channel acting as covering Unit for Task Group 67.1 which consisted of 4 AP's, 2 AK's and 3 DD's. Task Group 67.1 left Lunga Area shortly after Task Group 67.4 and passed through Lengo Channel to south of 67.4. 2. At about 2300 when Task Group 67.1 had cleared and was proceeding southward, Task Group 67.4 reversed course and proceeded on westerly courses through Lengo Channel to strike any enemy forces found in the Cactus Area. Task Group 67.4 remained in Battle Formation on return westward. The ship was at Battle Stations, Material Condition "A". 3. At about 0150, LOVE, November 13, when the CUSHING, the leading ship of Task Group 67.4 was about 31/2 miles off Kokumbona, on course 280° true, the U.S.S. HELENA reported two (2) radar contacts bearing 310° T, 26000 yards, course 105° T. Immediately thereafter out course was changed to 310° T, which headed us to westward of Savo Island, and another change shortly thereafter to 000° T, which course lead to eastward of Savo Island, Speed at this time was 18 knots. Very Shortly after changing course to the North (estimated to be 4-5 minutes) radar contacts indicated increasing number of enemy ships, increasing from 3 to 10, then to 12. Bearing of these additional contacts were not received in the CUSHING. About this time (0200/L/13th) three vessels indentified as enemy destroyers crossed ahead of the CUSHING port to starboard on a course estimated to be about 20° - 30° true, distance 3000 yards. These were reported to Commander Task Group 67.4 by voice with word that CUSHING was changing to left. This change to left was made to bring torpedoes to bear, but torpedoes were not fired because the destroyers were turning away and immediately thereafter CUSHING was ordered to return to 000° T. Simultaneously with this order a report was received that two (2) large ships were on the port bow, (CUSHING was then on 330° T, beginning the change to north). These two heavy ships were not sighted by me at this time, but it was assumed as an accurate report since initial radar contacts had placed them on that side and on a course (105° T) that would have kept them on that side. Shortly after CUSHING was on course 000° T. Fire was opened by our units, odd ships having been ordered to fire to starboard, even numbered to port. Heavy ships previously reported were later sighted to port. Voice radio reception from the time of opening fire was unreliable in the CUSHING. The CUSHING increased speed to 25 knots after opening fire. A speed change had been ordered but not understood in the CUSHING due to difficulty in receiving T.B.S. transmissions. 4. About two (2) minutes after opening fire the CUSHING received one or two shell hits amidships resulting in gradual loss of power. The helmsman was assisted by shaded light to maintain course by magnetic compass and continued on a generally northward course as long as he had steering control. While still making 10-12 knots ahead an enemy battleship was sighted on the starboard hand heading on a westerly course which at the time looked to be on a collision course. Bridge steering had failed by this time but hand steering was ordered, and the CUSHING came right to fire torpedoes at this battleship. Six torpedoes were fired by local control at an estimated range of 1000 yards and shortly after firing, three heavy detonations were heard near by and it is believed that these were hits on the battleship from CUSHING's torpedoes. This enemy battleship was believed to be of the FUSO class, and was being heavily hit on superstructure by our cruiser gun fire. After CUSHING fired torpedoes at her, the battleship continued slowly to westward and disappeared and was not again sighted. (Details of other gun and torpedo targets will be contained in Commanding Officer CUSHING report of action and not included herein). Shortly after firing torpedoes at the battleship, CUSHING was dead in the water and apparently not too badly damaged, but before any estimate of damage could be made, we were illuminated and fired on from both sides being hit heavily. All guns were hit, Ward Room, Chart House, #1 stack, Galley, Machine Shop, #1 Fire Room, Director, After Living Compartment, a total of 13 definite hits and probably nearer 20, believed to be from Cruisers and Destroyers. Emergency identification signals were made with flashlights but firing continued. 5. After losing power and being dead in the water the CUSHING continued fire on enemy targets using illumination of other ships. When enemy character could not be established fire was checked since we had been leading, and our own ships now were passing us. After being hit by the two ships from opposite sides, above mentioned, no guns were able to fire and ready ammunition in #2 Gun Shelter caught fire, and no means available to combat it, steam and diesel power had failed, and the remaining undamaged handy billy inadequate. The Repair parties had been practically wiped out by hits in the Machine Shop and near the Galley. The Commanding Officer ordered boats and rafts in the water. One boat had been shot away and the other holed. All life rafts except 2 (1 of these picked up after air attack on afternoon of November 12) were broken up by shell fire. Fires broke out aft in the living Compartments; in after Machine Gun Ammunition; and the fires in #2 Gun Shelter was beyond control. Orders to abandon ship were given about 0230-0245. Wounded able to get off were helped to rafts and rafts cleared the side. The Commanding Officer and a small salvage party remained on the ship to attempt saving her and to insure depth charges were all set on safe. As rafts cleared the side the ammunition in forward Gun Shelter began exploding and soon there was a combined oil and ammunition fire forward with the repeated explosion of both 5" and 20mm ammunition which could still be observed until survivors were picked up. The last violent explosion being seen about 0830 while enroute to Cactus in rescue boats. The fire forward gutted the ship from Gun #1 to abaft the Engine Room, but the fires aft did not appear to cause any explosions up to time survivors were picked up. A large oil fire forward on the water started at 0300 and all bridge structure was in intense flames for about 4-6 hours, and flames continued there and spread aft to Engineering spaces, apparently due to oil and burned throughout the day. 6. Survivors, list of which is submitted by the ship separately, were picked up by boats from Naval Activities, Cactus, beginning at daylight. On the way to the beach a terrific explosion in the CUSHING was noted (0830) and thereafter heavy black smoke was seen rising from the spot. As late as 1600/L smoke was still seen at the point where CUSHING was abandoned, but definite information as to her sinking was not available. 7. All "Confidential" publications in custody of Commander Destroyer Division Ten were locked in a desk safe. Confidential files were double locked in cabinet in my cabin, except for three folders containing letters and data for current operations. These folders were in a weighted canvas bag on the Bridge. While definite statement as to final destruction, based on sighting cannot be made it is believed that no material in the vicinity of the Bridge and Ward Room could have survived the intense fire that burned severely in this area for at least 6-8 hours. 8. The Officers and crew of the CUSHING conducted themselves in a most courageous and determined manner, fighting the ship so long as means were available. No panic was evident at any time. The order to abandon ship was carried out cooly and with little or no confusion in spite of the severe damage to the ship and to the life rafts which had been previously ordered in preparation for lowering. 9. The CUSHING was seen by the Commanding Officer and by me to be still burning at 1600, November 13th. Requests had been made to have her sunk. Air search on the morning of November 14th revealed no trace of the CUSHING. On the morning of November 15th, Lieutenant Colonel Wm. J. Fox, U.S.M.C., On the staff of Major General Geiger, Air Wing One, stated to me that he had seen the destroyer, in line with Savo Island as viewed from Signal Tower, which had been burning all day, disappear at 1700 on November 13th. He stated he was observing her with a large glass from the Signal Tower and saw the smoke cease, clear atmosphere come between the column of smoke and the water, with no further trace of ship or smoke. The CUSHING was the only ship on this bearing, and also since she was still burning and seen by the Commanding Officer and by me in the same relative position as when we arrived at Guadalcanal in the morning of November 13th, it is considered the CUSHING sank at 1700, November 13th, 3,500 yards Southeast of Savo Island. 10. It is estimated that at least 16 enemy ships were present in this engagement. Following were definitely sighted: One (1) possibly two (2) battleships, (One (1) battleship being sighted on each side at different times), one (1) heavy Cruiser, one (1) light cruise, (3) destroyers. The further estimate is based on Units not in our column that were firing. 11. The times and positions mentioned herein are approximate since they are from memory, all records having been destroyed.
T. M. STOKES.




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