1941

LT. CMDR. Malcolm Winfield Cagle '41
Christmas Cooperation
Pre-Pearl Harbor Radar
USS San Juan - The Panther
Which One's The Nut
Radar Echos
Indians and Chiefs
Officers of the Deck
Don't Kick The Captain
A Clear Majority
Admiral's Quarters USS San Juan
Paper Protection During the Battle of Santa Cruz Island
Painful Honor

 

LT. CMDR. Malcolm Winfield Cagle '41

By Navy Times

Cagle was awarded the Navy Cross for actions when he was serving as a pilot of a carrier-based fighter plane and acting commanding officer of Fighting Squadron 88 attached to the aircraft carrier Yorktown during World War II.

Then-Lt. Cagle, who graduated from the Naval Academy in 1941, was in Kure Harbor, Honshu, Japan, on July 24, 1945.

Disregarding anti-aircraft fire from surrounding warships and shore batteries, Cagle "pressed home his attack to score a direct hit on a heavy enemy cruiser which was left burning furiously," according to his citation.

While he was returning to base, he saw two friendly aircraft under attack. Accompanied by his wingman, he shot at the Japanese planes, destroying two of them.

Cagle went on to earn two Navy Distinguished Service Medals - one of which was for actions during the Vietnam War from January to August 1969.

By then, Cagle was a rear admiral and commander of Carrier Division 1, Task Group 77.5 and Task Force 71.

He was responsible for planning, coordinating and executing sustained combat airstrike operations in Vietnam.

Cagle was awarded a gold star in lieu of a second Distinguished Service Medal as a rear admiral (upper half) as the first chief of Naval Education and Training from August 1971 through August 1974.

Cagle retired as a vice admiral on Aug. 31, 1974. He died July 13, 2003.

LOAD-DATE: April 5, 2010
LANGUAGE: ENGLISH
PUBLICATION-TYPE: Newspaper
JOURNAL-CODE: nav
SECTION: FOR THE RECORD; Pg. 28
LENGTH: 223 words
Copyright 2010 Navy Times
All Rights Reserved
Navy Times
March 22, 2010 Monday

 

Christmas Cooperation

by CAPT Victor Delano '41, USN (Ret.)

During the Korean affair, USS Wedderburn (DD684) had picked up a Christmas tree just before leaving port. During routine patrol operations, however, the ship encountered heavy seas the Yuletide tree was washed over the side. There was little hope of getting another one.

On 22 December a PBM "Mariner" of Patrol Squadron 40 operating out of Sangley Point, P.I., flew within radio range of the destroyer and made its routine radio contact with the ship. On this particular night the ship had an additional message for the seabird.

"Watchdog to Charlie Able Four. Watchdog to Charlie Able Four, Over."
"This is Charlie Able Four. Go ahead Watchdog."
"This is Watchdog, How are you fixed for Christmas trees? Over."
"Say again your last transmission."
"This is no joke. We want a Christmas tree. Can you get us one?"

The aircraft pilot didn't offer a definite yes or no but said he'd try. Whether the ship's crew took this message with some skepticism or not, it’s hard to say; but it's safe to assume that there was at least a wild hope. The seaplane returned to Sangley Point and reported the request. VP-40, it seemed, did have a mission schedule for Christmas Eve and it would pass in the immediate area of Wedderburn. So a tree was wrapped in burlap cloth and small, pocketsize, waterproof flashlights were pinned all over it. At one end a float was attached. Back on board the destroyer it was dark. The messenger was making his rounds waking the men who would soon be standing mid-watch.

Breaking the quiet of the chilly Christmas Eve was the sound of an airplane engine and an officer on the bridge hear it. Radio contact was made and ship and plane identified themselves. Then the aircraft came through with:

"We have a bundle for you. Where do you want us to drop it?"
"Just forward of the bow."

The patrol plane circled. On the second approach an airman opened its port hatch and shoved the brightly-lit bundle out into the night.

"Merry Christmas," said the pilot, "Here's your tree."

 

Pre-Pearl Harbor Radar

by Capt. Victor Delano '41, USN (Ret.)

In mid-1941, an unusual bed-spring looking apparatus was installed on USS WEST VIRGINIA in Pearl Harbor and, because I was the ship's Rangefinder Officer, I was assigned as the Assistant Radar Officer under LT King. I had no idea what the word "Radar" meant but I became indoctrinated with emphasis on its secrecy. I could only discuss it with LT King or the ship's captain. We learned to operate it at sea because the land configuration at our quays in Pearl Harbor made it useless in port.

As our ability with it progressed, our embarked Admiral thought it would be nice to have someone familiar with radar visit the Army who had just received and installed a radar. Being an ensign I was selected so I reported to the commanding general (not Gen. Short). He thanked me for our interest and referred me to another general who also thanked me and referred me to a colonel.

The colonel expressed appreciation for the Navy's interest and let me know that I could go home which I did. Somehow I have always felt that some talk with the Army radar operators might have made a possible difference in their actions on 7 December when they detected the Japanese and did not know it.

 

USS SAN JUAN - The Panther

by CAPT Victor Delano '41, USN (Ret.)

Ships, like people, have different characters. The antiaircraft cruiser SAN JUAN which went into commission in February 1942 and was decommissioned and scrapped shortly after WW II had more character than any other ship on which I served. This I attribute largely to her first Commanding Officer, James E. Maher who was a fairly new four striper when he put SAN JUAN into commission. Perhaps even the shipyard workers contributed, too, because when I reported to SAN JUAN before she was commissioned the workers seemed much more dedicated than was the case with a destroyer that I commissioned in San Francisco later in the war.
 
The ship’s company was devoted to Capt. Maher. Some of this was sympathy because many of us were aware that Maher’s brother was the Gunnery Officer of the cruiser HOUSTON which had been sunk by the Japanese not long after the war started and his fate was unknown. Maher was determined to get to the Pacific to get revenge on the Japs. He was a compelling teacher. His Officers of the Deck were well and thoroughly trained. They had to be good because the Captain could not spend his day on the bridge. Later, we learned that other cruisers kept a head of department like the Gunnery Officer or the Chief Engineer on the bridge to assist the OOD if needed.  This was not done under Maher who made it very clear that if you were an OOD under him he depended on you completely. His philosophy was “don’t call me unless you need help.” Without doubt this made us better OOD’s. When Maher was relieved by a much different captain, the philosophy changed and OODs learned to “tolerate” an often nervous head of department during night watches plus the Captain on the bridge during daylight.
 
Shortly before we reported to the Pacific Fleet in April 1942, an officer who was the Ship’s Secretary was detached and the Executive Officer informed me that the Captain has named me as the new Ship’s Secretary. I did not know what a Ship’s Secretary was supposed to do and I preferred my job as a Division Offer. I was told that I would do both and that the Captain would let me know what he wanted from the Ship’s Secretary. That started quickly when I was told to clean up the Captain’s Office. We were full of correspondence and instructions pertaining to the Atlantic Fleet and, since we were headed west, we also had a pile of Pacific Fleet instructions and orders. We did not have enough file cabinets for both so I ordered the Chief Yeoman to burn all the Atlantic Fleet stuff and file the new Pacific material. The CYO nearly expired and said that this was illegal and he might get court-martialed. I insisted and it was done. The next day, when I had to deliver a paper to the Captain, I thought I had better tell him what I had done. His response was that I was off to a good start. I made a point of keeping the XO informed of what the Captain was working on except in those rare instances when he let me know to keep something between us.
 
One early project, while we were en route to what was going to be Guadalcanal, was to determine the optimum range and orientation for fighting every battleship and cruiser in the Japanese Fleet. The Naval War College had tables for these determinations for all our ships. The ATLANTA Class of 4 ships to which SAN JUAN belonged was not included in the War College tables so I had to do some interpolating between our old 4 piper, “bow and arrow” cruisers and our large destroyers. This was the hard part. Then, when I threw the Japanese ships into the equation, the results were not too favorable since our only anti-surface ship armament was 5” guns and 2 quintuple torpedo tubes against Japanese 14”, 12”, 8” and 6” guns on battleships and cruisers.  We had not yet heard about the YAMATO class battleship with 18” guns.  When I gave the XO a rather dismal progress report, he just rolled his eyes. When I presented my results to the Captain which showed that there were only a couple of Japanese ships that we might take on successfully, he hoped we could find them. The Captain kept at hand the approach angles and speeds and optimum ranges at which to do our best. These results were not publicized so I suspect not many officers were aware besides the XO. 
 
The landing at Guadalcanal was SAN JUAN’s entry into the shooting war. We were in San Diego during the Battle of Midway. On 7 August 1942, our initial job at Guadalcanal was gunfire support for the Marines who were landing on Tulagi. Our first Japanese air attack was by twin engine medium bombers, Betty’s, who did most of their damage across the sound on the Guadalcanal ships and little at Tulagi. The only damage we sustained was from a loaded 5” shell that cooked off in a gun that had done a lot of firing at shore targets.  It exploded because we were not allowed to shoot the gun even in a harmless direction. The entire mount crew was killed and about a month later we were sent back to Pearl Harbor to replace the mount. That sad incident brought about a fleet wide change in the safety instructions regarding unloading loaded hot guns.
 
The second night at Guadalcanal was another occasion where Capt. Maher stood out. During the day, we had been privy to messages from coast watchers reporting that Japanese warships were headed down what later was called the “Slot” toward Guadalcanal. During the afternoon, SAN JUAN had gone into a somewhat relaxed state where some of the guns were manned and the crews of other guns could get some sleep. Capt. Maher determined that the Japanese ships would arrive after midnight so he ordered that SAN JUAN would go to full battle stations at midnight and be ready. As twilight came, RADM Scott positioned his force of SAN JUAN, HMAS HOBART and two destroyers to go back and forth in column between Tulagi and Guadalcanal, supposedly guarding two channels which could provide access to the transport area. This small force would then protect the transports in case any Japanese ships got past the five or six cruisers that were stationed off Savo Island. At about 0145, we could see gunfire that became steadily more intense and searchlights.  We could observe the ship movements on our surface radar Planned Position Indicator (PPI). Capt Maher wanted to go out and help but RADM Scott was determined to keep his ships where they were in order to carry out his orders to protect the transports. SAN JUAN was the only ship in the area with a surface search radar. A different placement of the SAN JUAN before the battle might have given our Savo Island ships a much earlier warning of the Japanese approach and a clearer picture of the Japanese disposition.  This was a painful example of how the lack of senior understanding of radar capability punished us. On the other hand, based on the earlier calculations I had made, this particular force of Japanese cruisers could have treated us rather badly. It would have been our only opportunity to fire our ten torpedoes.
 
Two of the most important lessons from this First Battle of Savo Island had to do with radars and preparedness. At that stage of the Pacific War, senior officers had not learned what the capabilities (and problems) of radars were nor how to make good use of them nor which ships had what radars installed. Only one US ship at the Guadalcanal landing had a surface search radar and a PPI. Most others had air search radars which were severely hampered in locating surface targets especially if they were shielded by land as were the Japanese ships in their approach. The value of the new, surface search radar was clearly demonstrated the following night when SAN JUAN used its SG radar in helping to escort the retiring transports through a narrow passage out of the area.
 
The lesson on preparedness is clear. Despite the warning that SAN JUAN had and that was or should have been available to the other ships, they, like SAN JUAN should not have been surprised by the Japanese. It was a dismal night for the US Navy.
 
On one occasion in Noumea harbor shortly after our sister ship JUNEAU blew up when hit by a submarine torpedo, we were moored alongside another cruiser that had been with the JUNEAU. It was usual in those days for ships to freely exchange visitors to swap sea stories and see old friends. It was obvious that the men of the ship alongside did not visit us.  We learned that the sight of a ship like ours blowing up and disappearing discouraged visiting one of her sister ships.

In more ways than one, SAN JUAN had an unusual Wardroom. The First Battle of Savo Island taught the Pacific fleet about the fire hazard of thick oil-based paint which characterized many of the older ships. A surviving captain of one of the Savo Island cruisers visited us as a safety officer for the Pacific Fleet and, without appreciating how new and freshly painted we were, ordered that we remove oil-based paint from all living spaces. In order to set a good example, it was decided that the Wardroom officers would do the Wardroom. When we finished, it looked terrible in bare metal so the Executive Officer sent the Supply Officer looking for water-based paint for the Wardroom. Eater-based white and grey had been found for the crew’s spaces but not enough for the Wardroom. After a few days, the Supply Officer returned with enough different cans of red, yellow, blue and green paint to handle the Wardroom so it was applied as artistically as we could. When finished, the space looked more like the Stork Club than a Navy Wardroom. Visitors were struck by this unusual appearance and Capt. Maher thought it was great fun to show his Classmates and other visitors this unusual sight. Members of the crew who had to pass through the Wardroom thought we had lost our minds.  Since water-based paint was hard to come by and our Wardroom colors were indeed rather peppy, the Wardroom stayed this colorful way for quite a long time.

Capt. Maher was humorous and had a good time ashore. Unlike some COs he was a welcome guest in the Wardroom. Discipline with the Captain was indeed a serious matter. It did not take long for the crew to learn that misbehavior was not worthwhile. Consequently there was seldom need for Captain’s mast. Whenever a Captain’s mast did occur, it was a very dramatic affair and when he passed out punishment it was stern but fair. Once a “culprit” had paid the price of his transgression, the Captain forgot the past but heaven help the wrong doer he repeated.
 
Many Plank Owners who put the ship in commission moved ahead in the Navy and in civilian life after the war. For example LT Horacio Rivero finished his Navy career as the Vice Chief of Naval Operations and, after retirement, became U.S. Ambassador to Spain and LCDR Harold Deuterman retired as a Vice Admiral.  Too many to list wound up as captains; one became president of a newspaper publishing company and a Torpedoman who looked after the two quintuple torpedo mounts that were never used started his own highly successful company and flew his own company aircraft.  The ship’s reunions are well attended and memories of the good days aboard SAN JUAN can still moisten eyes.

 

Which One's the Nut?

by CAPT Victor Delano '41, USN (Ret.) 

Toward the end of WWII off the coast of Japan, USS WEDDERBURN, a 2100 ton destroyer, was assigned a picket station about 30 miles ahead of the fast carrier Task Force. While there, a seaman had a severe nervous breakdown. Since we had no sick bay facility to handle him, our force commander was notified immediately and we were told to proceed at top speed and transfer the patient to USS MASSACHUSETTS.

At the same time we were told to transfer any others who had orders to the states and we had two. After the transfer was completed and WEDDERBURN had cleared the side of the MASSACHUSETTS on the way back to the picket station, the ship's yeoman appeared on the bridge and told the XO that he had made a terrible mistake - he forgot to send the records of the three transferees with them.

Just as the XO was warming up to let the yeoman know how he felt - the yeoman had made mistakes before - a signalman handed the XO a message that had just come in from the MASSACHUSETTS. The message read, "Which one is the nut?" 



Radar Echos

by CAPT Victor Delano '41, USN (Ret.)

After Pearl Harbor I was ordered to USS SAN JUAN, a 6,000 ton antiaircraft cruiser with 16 5” guns. When I reported, she was still being built in Quincy, MA and a huge sign hung between her two stacks that read “Get me out of here, I want to fight”  which made this Pearl Harbor survivor feel pretty good.  The Commanding Officer was Capt. James E. Maher who had been a Seamanship instructor of mine at USNA and many years before had served under my father aboard USS VESTAL.

At the first officers’ meeting that I attended, Capt. Maher asked “How many of you know what a radar is?”  Since I had been the Assistant Radar Officer aboard

USS WEST VIRGINIA when the first CXAM-1 was installed, I held up my hand.  It was the only hand that went up (Horacio Rivero had not yet reported aboard). The Captain then announced that I was the ship’s Radar Officer and that I would go to school in Washington the next day.  Shortly after we were commissioned, a young electronic wizard reported aboard and was made my assistant.  From then on he maintained them and I used them.  Among our radars was SG serial #2 complete with a wonderful new thing called a PPI (Planned Position Indicator). We originally had serial #1 installed but the next day it was removed because Admiral King wanted #1 installed on his flagship.

When Capt. Maher received orders to command one of the new battleships, he was replaced by the commanding officer of a large transport who had command before that of one of our large destroyers but had no experience with radars.  His lack of experience caused me a problem.

My first exposure to his radar inexperience came one night about 0200 between Noumea and Guadalcanal. I was awakened and told to report to the Captain on the bridge.  Upon arrival, I was welcomed by a very unhappy Captain who wanted me to get the SG radar fixed immediately.  He rather angrily informed me that it wasn’t working.

The air and surface search radars were installed in a space immediately behind the Pilot House which we took over from the Navigator and the Captain’s sea cabin.  After trying various names for the space, we finally settled on Combat Information Center (CIC), perhaps the first one so named in the Navy,

Naturally, I went into CIC and checked out the SC and the SG and found them working perfectly.  The watchstanders confirmed to me that they had been working perfectly all along and that the captain had not come into CIC. 

Confidently, I returned to the Pilot House and told the Captain that both radars were working perfectly.  He immediately took me by the arm to the outboard wing of the bridge and told me to stand there and listen.  As I stood there, he asked if I heard anything from the masthead where the radars were located.  I said “No, sir” and  he said, “I told you the radars weren’t working and you cannot hear them either” and sent for the XO.  He made it clear that he expected to be hearing the radar echos! When the XO arrived, I was accused of all sorts of misdemeanors and especially telling the captain that the radars were working when they were not. 

While the captain left us, I explained to the XO what had happened and he sent for then LT Horacio (Rivets) Rivero, who stood at the top of his USNA Class and was considered the smartest officer on the ship, as well as being the Asst.Gunnery Officer.  It was arranged for Rivets to give the Captain a briefing on radars particularly the search and gunnery radars that we carried.  Following that briefing, I had no further radar problems with the Captain and from then on the Captain would describe to others what a splendid and reliable radar installation he had aboard SAN JUAN.

 

Indians and Chiefs

by CAPT Victor Delano '41, USN (Ret.)

Aboard USS SAN JUAN (CLAA-54), I was the 2nd Division Officer.  In addition to two twin 5” mounts for which the division was responsible, all personnel involved in detection (and their stations) were assigned to me.  This meant that I had sonar men, radar men and lookouts. I also had a Crow's Nest on the foremast to look after. After one inspection, I gave that job to new ensigns.

In June 1942, just before we left San Diego to head to Guadalcanal, a draft of seamen arrived on board.  When the Captain saw the list and noticed that one of the arrivals was an American Indian from Oklahoma, he told the XO to be sure to assign the Indian, Ray Henneha, to Victor so he can be put to good use as a lookout.

It soon developed that Ray, like many Indians, did not have good eyes so I naturally did not use him as a lookout. This upset the Captain and peace was restored by having Ray stand watch with the lookouts but not do any lookouting.
As time went on, Ray proved to be a hardworking, excellent shipmate who was well liked throughout the ship.

In addition to bad eyes, Ray had a very limited education. At that time in the Pacific Fleet, promotion from Seaman 2/c to 1/c required passing a written exam.

The first time Ray took it, he failed miserably.  The Captain and XO were disappointed and told me so.  Therefore, I went to work on Ray and I thought I had him ready for the next month’s exam.  Unfortunately, he forgot and it was made perfectly clear by higher authority that it was all  my fault.  The following month I had possible answers written on his arm but Ray, unbeknownst to me, took a shower and there went the answers.  This time the Captain and XO really let me have it.  If Ray did not pass, my Navy career was hazarded.  I put myself on the Examining Board, helped write the exam and gave it to Ray. He passed, but a few days later one of his division mates heard him grumbling about something and asked what the problem was.  Ray replied, “Should have stayed on reservation, would have made chief much quicker.”

Many years after the war, Ray died.  His shipmates were distressed and one wrote to the head of the Indian organization in Oklahoma to inquire about at sea burial instructions for Oklahoma Indians.  The organization promptly offered to conduct the ocean service themselves.  The shipmate who had brought the matter up said he would go with them.  I understand that they left San Diego harbor and went to sea in a small craft not quite as large as a motor whaleboat.  The ceremony took four (4) hours and Ray’s shipmate is glad that there was only one Indian in the crew. 

 

Officers of the Deck

by CAPT Victor Delano '41, USN (Ret.)

When I helped put USS SAN JUAN (CLAA-54) in commission at South Boston Navy Yard Annex, I came from USS WEST VIRGINIA (BB-48) where I had finally qualified as a Junior Officer of the Watch (JOOW) on the bridge after ten months as a JOOW (under instruction). There were two more levels that  I and others would have to go through ever to qualify as an Officer of the Deck (OOD) of the WEST VIRGINIA.

The first time SAN JUAN went to sea after commissioning in February was in April.  As we cleared Boston Harbor, we went to General Quarters which put me at my Battle Station in charge of the after, quadruple 1.1 mount during miserably cold April weather.  After all guns and depth charges were tested, we secured from General Quarters but I happened to stay at my mount while we tried to figure out why we had had some minor trouble.  Suddenly, the 1 mc ordered Ensign Delano to report to the Bridge which I did. Upon arrival Capt. Maher asked me what took me so long.  When I did not have an immediate answer, he told me rather firmly to relieve the Navigator who was the General Quarters OOD.  I recall saying, “But sir, I am not a qualified OOD.”  His response was, “You are now. Get to work and relieve Mr. Weeks.”  I did.  I felt fairly confident that the Captain knew what he was doing and that he would be around the bridge to look after me.  To my amazement, as soon as I relieved LCDR Weeks, who told me the course and speed and that was about all, the Captain and the Navigator disappeared to the Captain’s cabin for some coffee and talk.  Luckily nothing took place during my short dog watch until my relief appeared – LT Horacio Rivero (Rivets), who later became VCNO and, after retirement, Ambassador to Spain.  As my relief, he appeared 15-30 minutes early and quizzed me on more details than I knew existed.  He expected me to know, for example, where not just the Captain but every Head of Department was located at that moment and some engineering details that I had never heard of.  Being relieved by Rivets was an exhausting experience and took about half an hour.  Needless to say, Rivets relief was swamped by the information that Rivets turned over to him.  We were both rather glad when it was decided that Rivets, who was the Assistant Gunnery Officer, had better and more important things to do than stand watch.

When we finally left Boston and headed to the Pacific Fleet via Norfolk, the Captain settled on having four OODs that he selected and instructed.  He tried to qualify a couple of more but they did not last long.  Since the Captain’s Sea Cabin abaft the Pilot House had been taken over by what became CIC, the Captain slept and worked in his main cabin below the Bridge.  Having been a prof in Seamanship and Navigation at USNA, he taught us OODs well.  By the time he finished with us we could work out Maneuvering Board solutions for station changing in our heads.  This was important because SAN JUAN was treated like a screening destroyer, since we had sonar, and we had better not be late getting to any new station to which we might be assigned.  When it was finally decided to have Assistant OODs who could do things like work Maneuvering Boards, it would take them longer than we could do it in our heads. Atb least it kept them from interfering with station changing.  On top of all this, Capt. Maher made clear in his Night Order Book and on other instructional occasions that he placed complete dependence on his OODs.  His expressed philosophy was, “Don’t call me unless you need help.”  I think this made all of us better OODs.  Capt. Maher’s relief had a directly opposite attitude.  Initially, as was rather customary in normal changes of command, he said that all of Capt. Maher’s orders remained in effect.  That was changed when he happened to step out of his cabin during a screen reorientation shortly after midnight and saw USS SARATOGA passing us on the port side.  He had not been told of the course change.  From then on, he was kept well informed, believe me.

 

Don't Kick the Captain

by CAPT Victor Delano '41, USN (Ret.)

The antiaircraft cruiser SAN JUAN had a bridge much like that of a 2100 ton destroyer, i.e., an enclosed Pilot House and an exposed but rather small wing on each side. During the Guadalcanal era, our new Captain was always looking for ways to improve our performance. From the British accounts he read that command could be better exercised from a completely exposed position. To him that meant moving the Officer of the Deck and the CO's battle station to the top of the Pilot House which was completely exposed. Furthermore, since SAN JUAN's Captain's Sea Cabin had been taken over by radar, the Captain decided to have a pipe rail bunk erected on top of the Pilot House at deck level with side curtains. This arrangement cut off some of the running space available to the OOD who had to go from one side to the other during maneuvering. None of the OODs, and there were just four of us, liked this arrangement and tried to discourage it with no success.

On the first night that the Captain tried his new bunk and it was a very dark, moonless night. I was the Officer of the Deck and an emergency turn single was executed which meant turning immediately. I forgot that the Captain was so nearby and yelled out to notify the Captain. The Captain overheard me and stuck his head out of his bunk just as I ran to the starboard side to be sure that we would not be turning into any other ship that might have missed the signal.

Enroute I kicked something and nearly fell down. I did not realize it was the Captain's head. After checking the starboard side, I then back to the port side to be sure that no on one was going to hit us. En route, I hit the Captain's head again. His next emergence was successful and he was unharmed but quite angry.

As he did in other matters where I was involved, he sent for the XO and complained that I had kicked him in the head twice. Things finally settle down and I cannot remember the order of what followed. Either the pipe rail bunk was removed or it was decided that I had become too senior to be an OOD (I was just a LT). Either way was a winner for all involved.

 

A Clear Majority

by CAPT Victor Delano '41, USN (Ret.)

The Naval Historical Foundation (NHF) is guided by a Board of Directors under a Chairman.

Some years ago, ADM Arleigh Burke was the Chairman and ADM Mick Carney was a member of the Board. The day before a scheduled Board meeting, ADM Burke had to make an unexpected trip to the Navy Hospital in Bethesda and could not attend the meeting.

In his absence, ADM Carney presided. After we were assembled, ADM Carney told us about ADM Burke's unexpected hospitalization and announced that he had taken the liberty of sending a message to ADM Burke in the name of the Board. He said that the message read "NHF Board sorry to hear of your hospitalization and looks forward to your early return.

The vote was 6 to 5." Needless to say that brought down the house as did ADM Burke when he returned.

 

Admiral's Quarters USS San Juan

by CAPT Victor Delano '41, USN (Ret.)

Along with the other three ATLANTA class 6000 ton cruisers, was originally designed and built as a Destroyer Flotilla Flagship complete with quarters and offices so labeled. While the ship was fitting out at the South Boston Navy Yard Annex during WWII, RADM Shafroth was told that he would command U.S. escort forces in the Norwegian Sea on the Murmansk Run. He was ordered to inspect the SAN JUAN for use as his flagship. Capt. Maher was most unhappy about this because his brother was the Gunnery Officer of USS HOUSTON which had been sunk and Jim Maher wanted to get to the Pacific as soon as possible to take on the Japs.

As some may recall, Admiral Shafroth was QUITE large, perhaps the largest officer in the Navy! When he arrived to inspect the ship, Maher did a magnificent job of taking Shafroth through the narrowest of passageways, doors and ladders that he could find. Somehow, he even made it extremely difficult for Shafroth to negotiate any of the doors leading in or out of the Flotilla Commander's suite.

The day after the inspection all hands were delighted to learn via a message from Shafroth to COMINCH that SAN JUAN was utterly unsuitable for use as his flagship and he would look elsewhere. In a meeting with Capt. Maher that morning on another subject, I had not seen him so happy as he was with that news. At Guadalcanal, we finally were forced to have an Admiral aboard, Norman Scott, while we observed but did not participate in the First Battle of Savo Island.

 

Paper Protection During the Battle of Santa Cruz Island

by Captain Victor Delano '41, USN (Ret.)

USS SAN JUAN was part of a task group that included the carrier ENTERPRISE and battleship SOUTH DAKOTA. It was a rare battle that we both won and lost. We won in the sense that we prevented the Japanese force from providing support to their forces on Guadalcanal but we lost in the sense of losing more ships, especially the carrier HORNET and destroyer PORTER, than did the Japanese. Also, both the ENTERPRISE and SOUTH DAKOTA were damaged as was the SAN JUAN slightly. SAN JUAN suffered only one hit as well as some near misses.

The hit was likely done by a heavy armor piercing bomb from the leading Val dive bomber of a group attacking the ship. The bomb went through the fantail and came out of the bottom of the ship where it exploded not far from the rudder. The effect of the explosion went back through the holes in the hull and passed through a storage compartment where, among other things most of the ship's toilet paper supply was stored. As a result, the air was filled with white scraps of toilet paper and many believed that the rest of that group of dive bombers suspected that this was some secret weapon so they went to other targets.

A seaman talker on the fantail saw the bomb coming and without taking off his phones left the fantail hurriedly. He went so fast that when he came to the end of his phone cord his jaw was broken. He was easily repaired but it took a long time for authorities to decide whether his injury warranted a Purple Heart. It is my recollection that he got the award after a month or two. Despite losing use of the rudder, Capt. Maher skillfully maneuvered the ship to continue to provide antiaircraft protection to the ENTERPRISE.

For this he was awarded a Navy Cross and given command of one of the new battleships. The loss of our toilet paper supply produced a warning in a later Plan of the Day that we might be restricted to a ration of three squares per man per day. A Wardroom wag brought down the house by suggesting that they could be used as follows: one for the upstroke, one for the down stroke and one to burnish.

A mural at the entrance of Bancroft Hall depicts the Battle of Santa Cruz. The mural was done by a Navy Combat Artist assigned to the SAN JUAN, Lt. Dwight Shepler. He was assigned to my division. When he was not sketching, he stood watches and performed division duties. During the Battle of Santa Cruz, he sat on top of the forward 5" gun director which was the highest manned station on the ship. Shepler also helped design the SAN JUAN's battle flag which still exists - a red flag with a a black, leaping panther with yellow flames coming out of his mouth. Capt.Maher was very proud of this flag which we flew on any possible occasion. One new Sailor was nearly thrown overboard when he was overheard telling a shipmate, who had asked what he thought of the flag, "It looks like a cat eating bananas to me." Shepler was a fine officer and well-liked.

After the Battle of Santa Cruz, I was firmly advised that he was not to be sitting on top of either the forward or after director, both high points, during air attacks. 

 

Painful Honor

by CAPT Jack Bennett, USN (Ret.), '41

When Admiral Halsey, then ComSoPac, came aboard my ship USS SAN FRANCISCO (CA 38) in Noumea, New Caledonia after we arrived from engaging in what FADM Ernie King called "the most furious sea battle fought in history", when we fought 2 Jap battleships at point bank range off Guadalcanal the night of 12-13 Nov 42, his purpose was to award medals.

To my surprise he pinned a Navy Cross on my chest - or rather INTO my chest. He had already demonstrated that the PA system was set at max volume by telling me in a booming voice to "step closer, son" with his face about 8" from the standing mike. Therefore when he tried futilely to close the clasp of my medal which had pierced my skin and hurt like blazes I knew that any sound of pain I uttered would also boom out over the speakers.

As a LTJG, I was already scared and now I had to grit my teeth and remain silent as the admiral continued trying to close the clasp, finally giving up when he saw the blood seeping through my shirt. Many years later I related this incident to him at Madison Square Garden when he came to watch Navy beat Jerry West and West Virginia in the NCAA basketball tournament (before losing to Duke in the quarter finals). Admiral Halsey's tired eyes lit up brightly as he was transported back to his finest hours leading a fast carrier task force in the South Pacific in WWII. He passed away within a year and I've always been grateful to have been able to freshen some wonderful memories for him before he died.

Bull Halsey will always be my hero.

 

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