“The ship had barely commenced to swing when the torpedo struck with a deafening roar and caused us to lurch to starboard. It felt as though a giant had put his hand against the port side and shoved us with all his might sideways through the water.”
September 15, 1942
“At eight minutes of three this date we were hit between frames 38-52 (port side of #1 turret) by a torpedo. The WASP was hit about two minutes before us. The last time I saw her she was a floating hull. Reports said three torpedoes went into her port side starting huge fires. It is a miracle she is still afloat. The Salt Lake City also took one, but is under control. The destroyer O’Brien caught one in the bow practically blowing it off. It was still afloat and proceeded to Guadalcanal and was beached.
We had all hands at 3 A.M. and had breakfast before dawn G.Q. expecting to catch up with those [Japanese] battleships. I came from G.Q. at 7 AM and proceeded with regular ship’s work. At about 12:30 P.M. G.Q. sounded but the planes that were picked up turned out to be friendly. After G.Q. I turned in my rack and that’s where I was when it hit.
My battle station (clipping room 101-1/2) being right in between number one and two turrets was filled with smoke and fumes. It was so bad that an officer ordered us out and to remove the ammunition which I refused to do not knowing it may [ ]. At this time we must have been listing ten degrees to port. All hands were ordered to starboard side. We leveled off almost immediately. The fire was put out and we proceeded at 29 knots. We lost about 100,000 gallons of fuel oil. The extent of damage or casualties is not complete as yet. A sad day for the U.S. Navy.”
Log book of Bernard James Wagenhauser, Seaman 2/c
“Last night at this time the NC was the proud king of the seas, fearing nothing, challenging all. Tonight she is a crippled vessel limping to a friendly port for repairs.
This morning found our combine task forces (the WASPs and the HORNETs) on the general heading of NW. We had at that time a definite duty to perform…to protect the landing of more marines at Tulagi and Guadalcanal. This noon while we were proceeding on our course through the waters that we jokingly named “torpedo junction,” enemy aircraft contact was made which sent us all to G.Q. We remained at our battle stations only for a short while but afterwards learned that the contact had been a Japanese four-engine patrol bomber and was shot down by our planes.
I was on watch (12-16) in steering aft receiving instruction as to how the port rudder could be centralized in case of a casualty on the port after steering station, when word was received over the phones that a fire had broken out on the forward hangar deck of the WASP. Simultaneously a torpedo was sighted headed for this ship only 400 yards away. Immediately full rudder was applied and the engine room was notified to make 25 knots. However it was all too late. The ship had barely commenced to swing when the torpedo struck with a deafening roar and caused us to lurch to starboard. It felt as though a giant had put his hand against the port side and shoved us with all his might sideways through the water.
The instant the torpedo hit us G.Q. was sounded. It will never forget the sensation I experienced in running through slippery passageways choked with smoke. The ship was listing quite badly to port and on reaching the third deck, the smoke was so dense that I had to grope my way down into Central. Confusion was reduced to minimum and condition ZED was set in the record time of six minutes.
Fortunately, personnel casualties were few. Latest reports are that five men were sealed in those flooded port wing compartments. Another who was standing his watch on the 20mm group just aft of where the torpedo hit is missing. He may have been blown over the side by the concussion. Otherwise there were a few cuts and bruises plus one compound fractured leg.”
Log book of George Guild Strott, Seaman 2/c
“Immediately following the torpedoing I headed for the Sick Bay and noticed smoke coming from a blower as I entered. There was quite a bit of confusion. The senior medical officer Captain Wendell Blake was there and the first casualty was brought in and appeared to have a broken leg. Captain Blake kneeled beside him, looked up and said “someone get a doctor.” He meant one of the junior officers. Perhaps he forgot he was a doctor in all the excitement. It was decided to x-ray the sailor’s leg but our x-ray equipment located below in the medical storeroom had been knocked out so an attempt was made successfully using the dental x-ray equipment.”
Letter from William T. Potts, Chief Warrant Officer, MSC, USN (Ret.)
On September 15, 1942, Japanese submarine I-19 quickly fired six long-range torpedoes at the U.S. carrier WASP. Three torpedoes struck their target causing such damage that the task force commander ordered WASP to be sunk that night. The remaining three torpedoes raced on across several miles into a second carrier force. One torpedo slammed into the U.S. destroyer O’BRIEN that would break up several weeks later due to severe hull damage.
Another torpedo blasted NORTH CAROLINA on her port (left) side just forward of the thick armor belt designed to protect her from torpedoes. The enormous blast shook the Ship and crew and sent tons of oil and water skyward. Tons more water quickly flooded into the resulting 32 by 18 foot hole causing the Ship to lean, a situation the crew quickly corrected by purposefully flooding compartments on the opposite side. Five men were killed and 23 were wounded.
Killed in Action
Roosevelt Flenard, Mess Attendant First Class
“We’re hit! We’re hit!”