“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.
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
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