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Torpedo Strike

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Torpedo damage view

Torpedo damage view

“September 14, 1942: They passed the word last night that we would have early G.Q. than ordinary. So this morning all hands up ravin for action, but so far nothing has happened.

September 15, 1942: If I ever put in another day quite like today I shall put in a chit for the Recruiting Station in Des Moines, Iowa. In the first place I had the mid-watch last night. I couldn’t get any sleep to make up for [it]. I was woke up three times this afternoon then I went below to my bunk determined to get a little sleep somehow.

WASP under attack

WASP under attack

I had just dropped off when Wagner shook me and said the WASP had been bombed or torpedoed. Naturally I got topside in nothing flat just in time to see the WASP at about 290 or 300 degrees relative. I’ll never be able to completely express what I saw.

The WASP was making a port turn as we swung to starboard. A huge billowing black cloud hung above her superstructure punctuated amidships with a flame – a flame that something told me came from a burning airplane. The flame flickered and died as if in prelude to the great tongue of fire that leaped more than 100 feet into the air with the advent of a second cloud of black oily smoke.

By this time I had reached my gun but was totally captivated by the sight of what was evidently the third torpedo striking on her port beam. The water, black with oil, geysered [stet] up high above her flight deck. The flame that gutted her midship third was sickening. My stomach knotted up and I actually felt ill.

Bull Williams stood alongside of me as all of this happened and shouted, ‘Aerial Attack.’ I looked at him and past him as the USS O’BRIEN took a torpedo. I saw the black water spout up. I looked forward and saw another geyser on our port bow. I thought sure he was right after that for they looked like thousand pound bomb explosions.

Then I felt rather than heard a dull, whispered thud as I fell to the deck. I began picking myself up and as I rolled over the blue of the sky was blotted out by brown billowing gas. It was the familiar smell of fuel oil but it terrified me so much that I placed my arm over my eyes and stumbled to the ready box.”

-Diary of Arthur G. Hahn, Storekeeper 1/c

“On a quiet day, I was on a gun deck looking out at the [carrier] WASP which was quite a ways from us when I saw an explosion. Instinct told me to head to my battle station even before the alarm sounded. In a matter of seconds, there was a major explosion on the port side. The explosion was so big, I didn’t realize it was the destroyer O’BRIEN which had been hit by a torpedo. I just knew I had to get to my battle station.

The procedure when General Quarters sounded was to go forward and up on the starboard side, down and aft on the port side. I was on the port side and cheated a little. No one was around and I’d save time. All of a sudden we took our torpedo hit. I didn’t know if we had been bombed or what. There was smoke and cordite all around. I was tempted to go aft because the hit was ahead of me. I shrugged off the thought, but felt my way gingerly forward because the smoke still obscured my path. I subsequently went up the many ladders to my battle station. I could see our oil slick from there. Worse, I could see the WASP ablaze with towering clouds of black smoke. Through my binoculars I could see their crew pushing planes overboard so they wouldn’t explode and make matters worse. She was subsequently sunk during the night.

In a matter of a few weeks, we lost four cruisers off Guadalcanal. Lost one carrier with us, had two carriers damaged, and limped back to Pearl for repairs after burying our dead on an island. I was 19 at the time, and sort of matured.”

- Larry Resen, Fire Controlman 1/c and Asst. to the Air Defense Officer

“We were now operating with the WASP. We were getting very leery of Mondays. When Monday, September 14th came and went, we all had a sigh of relief. On September 15th, I was on my way to my battle station in Sky 2 when I heard an explosion. Off our port side the WASP was hit with one torpedo. When I got to the top of [5-inch] director two more torpedoes had hit the WASP which was fueling planes for their next strike. The gas lines were ruptured and flaming gasoline we flowing over the sides like a waterfall. It was then we got hit….”

- Harold Smith, Fire Controlman 1/c

Torpedo damage

Torpedo damage


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:
Albert Geary, Seaman 1/c
Ingwald Nelson, Ship Fitter 2/c
Leonard Pone, Gunner’s Mate 3/c
William Skelton, Seaman 2/c
Oscar Stone, Ship Fitter 3/c

Mail Call

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post office 1946

Good news!

“First class letter mail sent by members of the U.S. Military or Naval forces on active duty shall be transmitted free of postage anywhere in the U.S. mail service. This includes ordinary letters and post cards, but excludes air mail and packages or parcels. Inscribe letters thus: upper left corner – “John Doe, Seaman second class, U.S. Navy”; upper right corner – “Free.” This privilege does not apply to any matter sent to members of forces by persons not members thereof. Free franking privileges have been granted service men. Now our only excuse for not writing will be consideration for the censors and our inability to spell.”

Tarheel, April 4, 1942

“We received the U.S. Mail aboard today. A total of 52 regulation mail sacks full of 1st class postage. I don’t think, of all the possible reaction a man can go through, that there are many that can compare with the disillusionment and chagrin that comes from not receiving a letter. Especially a letter that has been patiently await for more than two and half months. Yes, it has been that long since we received our last mail, July 4th. I did get one letter from Mother and also one from Rosemary. Both were dated August 7th.”

-Arthur Hahn, Storekeeper 3/c, September 12, 1942

“Nothing could boost the morale as much as mail call. It kept homesickness to a minimum. During the early days of the Pacific war mail was less frequent because of the distance and secret location of a given ship or base. During the second year of the war it was not uncommon to receive ship’s mail two or three or more times each week.”

-Leo Drake, Fire Controlman 1/c

Mail Call

“Early in the war mail was very, very slow. Always sporadic. Usually a whole bunch would arrive at once. The bugler would sound the call and everyone got excited. Since there was usually an awful lot at once mail call would be sounded more than once until all had been distributed. One division member had the duty to fetch the mail and pass it out.”

-Larry Resen, Fire Controlman 1/c

“I had been assigned the mail sentry detail. In other words in the wardroom the officers would open the mail when you’d write a letter home. You would just put it in an envelope and drop it into a box where the officers would glance over it and cut out anything there that may hurt the security of the ship. [He] could mark it out where it could not be readable…then he could put it back into the envelope and mail it to the party. This would be signed over to the seamen who would sign for it and pass it through the machine and seal it up. They’d drop it in a bag and carry it down to the post office. One nice thing about the tankers coming alongside you’d usually know that you were going to have a mail call. Even though at that time I didn’t get much mail I was always glad to get a letter from my grandma or aunt.”

-Ollie Claude Goad, Seaman 1/c

Mail bag delivery

“Lack of consideration by many men in failure to write to parents and close relatives for long periods of time is causing needless work for the Navy Department in handling correspondence from the inquiring parents or relatives. The government and the Navy have both made if as easy as possible to carry on normal correspondence. Parents and other close relatives have the right to occasionally hear from men on board this ship when we are in forward areas. Disciplinary action will be taken in all cases where inquiries are received on board as to the reasons letters have not been received by parents and close relatives and where a good reason is not given for such action.”

-Commander J.W. Stryker, Executive Officer, May 1944

Christmas 1941

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Christmas 1941      1941 Menu and Card

To start the day off right, reveille sounded and before we managed to get the sleep out of our eyes, Christmas carol music came over the loud speaker system, and it certainly made us all feel good deep inside. Then a pleasant voice announced that there would be no working parties that day, and that he wished us a Merry Christmas. Breakfast was enjoyed by all hands, and then we all turned to, getting some of the messing spaces decorated with the stuff our committees had obtained ashore. It was a lot of fun and by the time our big dinner was ready, it really looked swell. We knocked off decorating long enough to hold mass and a divine service. The afternoon was spent opening and sampling the goodies received in the many Christmas packages that just arrived on time: sure, we helped each other. In the evening we had a swell movie below decks, and then to bed.

Christmas 1941, Tarheel newsletter

Christmas Program

Everyone is having a field day and fiesta on the fantail this afternoon because a little show was put on for the crew by the crew for all to enjoy and have a swell time. They had music, jokes, funny costumes, and very good acting. We all had a ball.

Louis Favereaux, December 15, 1942

1941 Christmas menu

Like when Christmas would come, we would have our Christmas services for church. We would have a nice big meal and then, of course, we would try to get mail.

Leo Neumann

Christmas 1942 menu