Battle of the Komandorski Islands

Discussion in 'WW2 General' started by comiso90, Jan 29, 2010.

  1. comiso90

    comiso90 Active Member

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    #1 comiso90, Jan 29, 2010
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2010
    I recently heard about this important engagement in the Aleutians Campaign. Another example of how boldness and tenacity can prevail.

    The USN... out gunned, out numbered but never out classed!

    From Wiki:

    The Battle of the Komandorski Islands was one of the most unusual engagements of World War II. It was a naval battle which took place on 27 March 1943 in the North Pacific area of the Pacific Ocean, near the Komandorski Islands.

    When the United States became aware of Japanese plans to send a supply convoy to garrisons on the Aleutian Islands, U.S. Navy ships commanded by Rear Admiral Charles McMorris were dispatched to intercept. The U.S. fleet consisted of the heavy cruiser Salt Lake City, the old light cruiser Richmond and the destroyers Coghlan, Bailey, Dale and Monaghan.

    Unknown to the Americans, the Japanese had chosen to escort their convoy with two heavy cruisers, two light cruisers, and four destroyers commanded by Vice Admiral Boshiro Hosogaya. On the morning of 27 March, the Japanese convoy was intercepted by the U.S. picket line and combat ensued. Because of the remote location of the battle and chance encounter on open ocean, neither fleet had air or submarine assistance, making this one of the few engagements exclusively between surface ships in the Pacific Theatre and one of the last pure gunnery duels in naval history.

    Although the Japanese cruisers outnumbered the U.S. group by two to one, the engagement was tactically inconclusive. Both sides suffered damage, with the U.S. force not being as badly hurt by the superior firepower of the Japanese as could have been the case. When the Japanese force was poised for victory, Admiral Hosogaya—not realizing the heavy damage his ships had inflicted on Salt Lake City, and fearing American air forces were en route—chose to retire without delivering a knockout blow. Withdrawal led to a strategic defeat for the Japanese because it ended their attempts to resupply their Aleutian garrisons by surface, leaving only submarines for resupply runs.

    Hosogaya was retired from service after the battle.


    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_the_Komandorski_Islands

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  2. timshatz

    timshatz Active Member

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    It's been a while since I read about that battle but it was an odd one. A long, long fight. So long that the Salt Lake City ran out of AP rounds and had to used HE. Confused the Japanese into thinking they were under air attack (or so the story goes).

    Not like the cruiser battles of the Solomons that were over in ten to twenty minutes with half a dozen ships sunk.

    The Japanese were right in firing their admiral after it. He had all the advantages.
     
  3. Clay_Allison

    Clay_Allison Active Member

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    Japanese admirals seemed to do that a lot.
     
  4. comiso90

    comiso90 Active Member

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    True the Japanese defeated themselves but it took balls to seize the initiative and bring the fight to the enemy under those conditions. Just like Texas Hold-em, aggression used to keep your opponent off balance often carries the day.


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  5. renrich

    renrich Active Member

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    Comis, as I have posted a number of times on this forum, my favorite uncle was a Chief Gunners Mate in CA25, Salt Lake City, during the battle. He was in CA25 when the war broke out and told me many interesting tales about his days during the war. Of course we discussed this battle often. If memory serves the battle lasted about 5 hours with SLC doing almost all of the work. Richmond was a CL with insufficient range because of the lack of elevation for her guns to do much of the firing. I read a book based on the memoirs of USS Dale, a DD in the battle, and the sailors on her believed the Richmond stayed in the van in order to keep out of range of the Jap CAs. At one time because of boiler troubles the SLC was dead in the water and my uncle thought it was all over. He was an expert swimmer but the water was so cold the survival rate would have been only a few minutes.
     
  6. comiso90

    comiso90 Active Member

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    Hello Ren, I dont recall those posts; sometimes i take a couple weeks off.. Sys posted info a while ago:
    http://www.ww2aircraft.net/forum/ww2-general/65th-anniversery-battle-komandorski-islands-12508.html

    Great story, shades of Taffy 3 vs The Deadliest Catch. Hats off to your uncle :salute:

    I wonder how rough the sea was.. did they have to time the shots to occur at the top of a trough?

    tough to train for a fight like that under those conditions
     
  7. renrich

    renrich Active Member

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    The seas were pretty calm. My uncle's job was in charge of the 5 inch guns. There were eight of them, four on each beam in single open mounts and they were only able to engage a Jap spotting plane. I have seen photos of SLC during that battle steaming at 28 knots and firing full broadsides, ten guns at once. Quite a sight. Much of the electronic gear on the ship quit working because of the vibration of those broadsides. She fired around 800 rounds of 8 inch stuff, equivalent to 80 full broadsides. The after magazines ran out of ammo first because sometimes the forward turrets could not bear and they had to bring up shells from the forward magazines and move them on the upper decks to the aft magazines. Those 8 inch bullets weighed around 250 pounds each. Imagine moving those by hand that distance, the SLC was 585 feet long, under way. I am not sure of this but later CAs had only one after triple turret. The SLC had two after turrets, actually not turrets but gun houses, a triple over a twin, so theoretically she could engage both Jap CAs at once if the forward guns could not bear.
     
  8. timshatz

    timshatz Active Member

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    Good posts Ren.
     
  9. vikingBerserker

    vikingBerserker Well-Known Member

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    Those are some awesome posts fellas, thanks for sharing.
     
  10. comiso90

    comiso90 Active Member

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    That kind of drama is often lost to history..

    Thanks for the insight..

    i take it the destroyers never closed to torpedo distance?


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  11. renrich

    renrich Active Member

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    Comis, when the SLC went dead in the water, ( a hit had allowed sea water into the fuel lines and the boilers went out, as I remember) the DDs laid a smoke screen and then made a torpedo attack. The SLC was only dead in the water for a few minutes. They got no torpedo hits and I can't remember if the DDs were damaged. The SLC began to fire HE shells because they had used all their AP stuff. There was a low overcast and the dye in the shells was a different color and the Japs thought they were being bombed and withdrew. What is interesting is that those two Jap CAs were crack ships, much larger than the SLC with ten 8 inchers each. They hit SLC three times, I think, but one shell was a dud. The SLC got several hits on the Jap CAs and a fire was started on one of those CAs. The battle was mostly at about 18000 yards and the outcome was much different from the Battle of the Java Sea in 1942. There was an article about the battle in the Saturday Evening Post entitled "My Speed Zero" because when the SLC engines stopped she hoisted a flag which read, MY Speed Zero!
     
  12. comiso90

    comiso90 Active Member

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    #12 comiso90, Jan 29, 2010
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2010
    I have to buy you a beer one of these days renrich... great stuff!

    >> a hit had allowed sea water into the fuel lines and the boilers went out, as I remember

    If it was that close to the fuel lines, looks like she got lucky

    DDs were worth there weight in gold... smoke screens and torpedo runs are a greta way to befuddle the bad guys.

    I wonder if Navy EOD guys were assigned to every vessel, DD and over, for the UXO contingency. It's asking a lot of a damage control guy to disarm or move a dud shell or bomb.

    I thought long in hard of going into EOD myself but at the end of the first gulf war.. it didnt want to live in the desert.

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  13. Aaron Brooks Wolters

    Aaron Brooks Wolters Well-Known Member

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    WOW!!!:salute: Fabulous information Comiso and Renrich!!My hat's off to your uncle sir.:salute:
     
  14. renrich

    renrich Active Member

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    Not to get too boring with family stuff but my Uncle Robert, aboard the SLC and my Uncle Jack who was aboard the Chicago, another CA, when December 7 took place were only a year or so apart and were two of eleven children, seven boys and four girls. My father was one of the older ones and they were born in the vicinity of San Marcos, Texas. Robert and Jack joined the Navy in the thirties after high school and both were Chief Gunners Mates during the war. Robert was in SLC escorting Enterprise and Jack was in Chicago escorting Lexington on December 7. Robert was in SLC during the Marshall Islands Raids, the Doolittle Raid, Battle of Cape Esperance and Komondorski as well as other smaller deals. I am not as familiar with Chicago except questioned Jack about Savo Island where Chicago was only allied cruiser not to be sunk although badly damaged. He said it was a surprise and a mess. He was transferred from Chicago and made a Warrant Officer before Chicago was sunk at Rennel Island and served the rest of the war in China, doing something he would not talk about. Two of the younger brothers served, one as an instructor in the AAF in P39s and P47s and one as a Marine who was at Iwo Jima/
     
  15. Njaco

    Njaco The Pop-Tart Whisperer
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    Jeez, Ren, not boring at all!!! Standing up, ramrod straight and giving a sharp :salute: to your family!!
     
  16. comiso90

    comiso90 Active Member

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    You're doing your part by keeping their story alive.

    Brilliant!
     
  17. renrich

    renrich Active Member

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    One other interesting point, to me, is that many US Navy ships had nick names during the war. They still have nick names unless I am mistaken. Some of the WW2 nicknames were: USS Enterprise- Big E, USS Yorktown- Fighting Lady(?), USS Portland- Sweet Pea, USS Honolulu-Blue Goose. The nickname of USS Salt Lake City was The Swayback Maru. Supposedly because of the big gap between funnels where there was not much equipment made her appear to be "swaybacked" and a Maru was a Japanese freighter.
     
  18. renrich

    renrich Active Member

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    Last remembrances from me. My uncle Jack told me that at Savo Island he was just going on watch. It was very dark and he was climbing a ladder when the torpedo hit the Chicago in the bow, I think, and 8 inch shellfire began to arrive. From then on it was bedlam. The Chicago was in the van of a column with Canberra, the Aussie County Class CA, I believe. The Japanese then deluged the Canberra and then continued on to sink Quincy, Vincennes and Astoria. The Chicago limped away heavily damaged and the only Allied cruiser to survive. My uncle said that when they limped into harbor in Brisbane, Australia, I think, the heretofore very friendly Aussies shunned them because they felt that Chicago had abandoned the Canberra which led to her sinking. Chicago, CA 29, was at Coral Sea, the invasion of Guadalcanal-Tulagi and Savo, while my uncle served aboard her.

    My uncle Robert told me that at Cape Esperance, because the US crossed the T of the Japanese and because it was at night and close range, his 5 inch batteries got to contribute a lot. I asked how it felt, standing in the open on a steel deck with nothing but a steel helmet for protection. He said that with your own guns firing as fast as possible, you felt invincible and kind of ignored the incoming enemy fire. Sometime before the Jap TF was encountered but that same night, SLC tried to launch a scout plane but some flares aboard the plane caught on fire and the plane was pushed overboard. I asked how he felt about that and he said the they were scared to death and expected a Japanese torpedo to arrive any minute but apparently they were not spotted.
     
  19. Messy1

    Messy1 Well-Known Member

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    Great info Renrich! Thanks for sharing!
     
  20. diddyriddick

    diddyriddick Active Member

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    Very cool thread! Thanks particularly to Comiso and Renrich!
     
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