Monthly Archives: August 2014

Battle of the Eastern Sololmons

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AUGUST 24, 1942: Baptism of Fire – the Battleship’s first battle engagement

The Battleship’s first crew member killed in action was George E. Conlon on August 24, 1942. Seaman Mike Marko detailed in his diary, “Time is now 1740. I am now looking at wounded man to see if I know him. Boy that hole is through his life jacket and through him and out his life jacket. It’s horrible! Now giving him morphine. They’ve rigged up a bottle of blood plasma and are giving him a transfusion. The man is very white from the lack of blood. It puts the fear of God into a man to see things like this. Good looking boy just married to a beautiful gal just before we left Fresno. Stand by for another air attack at 1555. False alarm. The man has just now died.”

Mike Marko

Conlon burial at sea
Photo taken during the burial at sea of George Conlon, AMM3/c, who was killed in action during the Battle of Eastern Solomons. He was a gunner on a 20mm starboard side gun when he was hit.

At the end of September Conlon’s widow, Georgina, wrote Captain Fort “thank you for your letter of sympathy. It was a great shock to me. He was a grand boy and I know everyone loved him that knew him. God bless you and all your boys. There is nothing that can beat Our Navy, and I’m mighty proud of my husband.”

Plane drawing
Crewmember Art Hahn drew this drawing of a Japanese plane during the battle. A piece of the plane’s fabric is part of the drawing’s fuselage.

“All of a sudden all hell broke loose…you could see these dive-bombers coming down on the ENTERPRISE. It was hit. All of a sudden, the planes were coming our way and attack us. I think that it was just a matter of minutes…a total of about eight minutes of action. It’s the old story about it being like an eternity. A couple of things stand out to me very clearly. One Japanese plane went down the side of the ship. Again this was the first new battleship they had seen out there. He was just staring at it. I could see his eyes, and I could see his face; and he was just trying to get a fix. I think what he wanted to do was hope he would get away and report exactly what the ship looked like. He was very close, close enough to see his face; and all of a sudden, he got hit. I think one of the 20mm got him.”

Larry Resen, Firecontrolman 1/c

“1713. Enterprise and [we] have finally opened fire. What a thrilling sound. We’re firing to beat the band. There’s a reported close bomb hit by the Enterprise at this moment. Our men topside shooting machine guns can be heard over the phones yelling like mad…. They’ve waited long for this. Torpedo plane off our port bow at 1717. Dive bombers directly overhead.”

Mike Marko

“The engagement only lasted seven minutes. It seemed like hours at the time. I remember talking to the men in my division in the starboard battery. The seamen were manning these machine guns — 50 calibers and 20mm, and they were the most excited and proud people. They fought like they had knocked down every single plane in the ocean. We were all claiming having shot down about 350 aircraft, and really there were only about 75. The Japanese did suffer a terrible loss that afternoon. But we became men. The maturity of our seamen and our officers after that, the change in maturity and attitude and way we approached problems, was entirely different. We had grown up in seven minutes.”

Rear Admiral Julian T. Burke, USN (Ret)

Empty shells litter the deck
Empty 5-inch shell cases littered the ship’s decks following the Battle of the Eastern Solomons on August 24, 1942.

“The really funny thing happened right after the shoot. There were brass cartridges everywhere, which had to be picked up, and new ammo brought up to ‘get ready for the next attack’ which thankfully didn’t materialize. Apparently our air strike had caused sufficient damage so that the enemy couldn’t launch a second strike either. Peace and quiet returned as bedlam left.”

Captain Edward F. Gallagher, USN (Ret)



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USS Indiana and BB55 Smoker program

“Smokers” were recreation nights. Wrestling, boxing, music and talent shows were held on the fantail. Sometimes other ships were invited to participate. The evening ended with a movie and ice cream.

Entertainment program

“I do remember we fought smokers on our ships which included fighters from other ships, the USS WASHINGTON, and one aircraft carrier. When we had smokers on the fantail they would erect a ring that had a canvas stretched over the deck with some kind of padding under it.”

-Ron Joseph Frascona, Seaman 1/c

Boxing program

“After the smoker in February 1945, a steward mate by the name of Fountano came to Sick Bay with a terrible pain in his mid-section. Upon examination an emergency operation had to be performed to remove a ruptured appendix. The steward mate was sure he was going to die. He kept wanting to call every relative he had to tell them he was dying.”

-William L. Deaton, Hospital Apprentice 1/c

Fantail Smoker January 1945


“In the ship’s mess hall they had a placed rigged up for us so we could punch the bags and box each other. I didn’t do any boxing in the ship boxing team but I used to box on the ship with different guys. I had boxed in the golden gloves before I went in. They wanted to know “You used to box?” I had just come aboard when they asked me this. I said, “Yes, I boxed a little.” They said, “Good. We have a marine on here who we want you to box.” Well, if you ever heard of them talk about Pavlich the marine that was on the battleship, six-foot-four, 290 pounds. Me only about five foot four, wanting to put me up against that guy. I wasn’t that dumb and said “I will think it over.” After I saw the guy I knew I didn’t want to box him. He would have pulverized me.

-Daniel Schroll, Gunner’s Mate 2/c

Smoker Ulithi 1945

“One evening walking through the mess hall I observed the fellows working out and so I stood and watched for a while. Soon someone spoke up and said that a heavyweight in the group did not have anyone to spar with. I offered to put the gloves on with him and Petrone [coach] came over and asked I knew anything about boxing. Well, I assured him that I knew how to hold up my hands. We introduced ourselves and with that handshake we became friends. I married Petrone’s sister in December of 1945.”

-Charles Pavlich, Corporal, USMC

Ron Johnson and Cornelius Fountano

“We ran up and down ladders from deck to deck and then circled the ship from bow to stern numerous times. We skipped rope, punched the heavy and light bags, spared against each other without a real ring. There were only chalk marks on the steel deck of the mess hall. There were be two tenders in the make believe ring to catch anyone who might get hit hard enough to go down but we always pulled our punches.

I spared with SanFillippo for speed, Pavlich and Jenkins who both hit like mules, DeSantis for a fighter had fast hands. I remember Cullen would place a small ball in front of each fighter and as the ship rolled we had to catch the ball by shuffling our feet. He would tie either your left or right hand behind our back and we would spar with just one hand. When I boxed my left hook was my best punch.”

-Ron Joseph Frascona, Seaman 1/c