ENCLOSURE (D) - NOTES ON GUNNERY ENGAGEMENT
1. During the approach the 5 inch and machine gun batteries were in divided fire. Control had Director 1 and 5 inch mounts 1, 2, 3, and 4, with Machine Gun Control having the port (or even numbered) machine guns (1.1 inch and 20mm); Control Aft had Director 2 and 5 inch mounts 5, 6, 7, and 8, with Machine Gun Control Aft having the starboard (or odd numbered) machine guns. The torpedo battery was also split, the Torpedo Officer on the port director having tube 2, and the Asst. First Lieutenant on the starboard director having tube 1. Ship’s doctrine called for this setup in order best to handle the expected short range melee, with numerous targets on either hand; if an engagement developed in which only one target was to be fired upon, collective fire was to be set up immediately.
2. Radio speakers at Control aft were cut in on TBS, keeping the control officers informed of the situation to some degree. These speakers, connected thus or to aircraft fighter director circuits, had in the past proved of immense value; on this occasion this value was drastically reduced by the use of voice-code on the circuit. Our SC radar contacts, such as they were, were promptly analyzed and delivered, could in no way approach the scope of what should have been available from the SG radars of the force.
3. Prior to opening fire, and after HELENA’s reports of contacts to the NW, our SC reported contact bearing 340 degrees, course 110 degrees, speed 20. Both groups got on contacts on approximately this bearing, reported by Plot (from tracking table) to be different contacts, and reached tactical solutions by FD radar just prior to execution of tactical signal “column left 45 degrees”. Solutions held through the sudden maneuver by the ATLANTA which then resulted, to avoid a destroyer, and because of the now extremely short ranges (3,000 yards), fire was about to be opened without signal from OTC on these targets, bearing about 60 degrees relative (about North) after the maneuver. After group’s target was now dimly in sight, a Japanese CL similar to the NATORI class, target angle 80 degrees, speed 20, range 3,000; forward group did not actually sight their target. These targets were behind several of our own DD’s in the van force which had turned left, but the targets were rapidly drawing to the right.
4. At that instant, ATLANTA was illuminated by a large searchlight battery (2 to 4 lights) close aboard to port, bearing 300 degrees relative (about 250 degrees true). The illuminating ship appeared to be a light cruiser. Both directors slewed onto the lights and commenced firing immediately, on control officers’ estimated ranges. After group opened fire with estimated range of 1600 yards, spotted out 400 and got on; the range was so short that target maneuver could have no effect during the short time of flight, so that no solution was waited for, which agreed with our close range surprise doctrine. Target course and speed set up were never the less probably approximately correct, as remaining from the preceding tracking of targets of the same disposition; the first shots were on in deflection and the splashes rose directly in the searchlight beams. The forward group’s opening range is not known (their computer operator has been lost) but procedure was identical. It is thought that in spite of this particular target’s advantage of surprise, the above procedure, coupled with the exceptional speed and flexibility of the 5 inch installation, allowed this ship to fire before being fired upon. The 1.1 inch battery also opened fire on this target, apparently shooting over; it was silenced before doing much effective shooting. The illuminating ship will be referred to as ship “A”; she opened fire on ATLANTA.
5. Almost at the instant of opening fire, several (about three) Jap DD’s crossed the line of the searchlight beams, headed in a northerly direction; they were of the ASASHIO type, target angle about 45 degrees. They were particularly distinguished from our own DD’s by their light tripod masts. Forward group immediately shifted to one of these, simply by training director on, firing at point blank range, 1200 yards, and shifting the shots by elevation and deflection spots. These ships fired back. At least 20 of our 5 inch hits were observed to enter the target’s hull of the some 40 rounds fired at her, as she crossed dead ahead. She broke into flames, settled, and dank. She will be referred to as ship “B”.
6. After group had continued to engage ship “A”, which was being hit. Another vessel of our force was seen to open fire on “A”. A third vessel, “C”, to left of “A: about ten degrees, opened fire upon ATLANTA. Almost simultaneously, “A”’s lights went out (she was observed to sink in a few seconds); “C” ceased fire; ATLANTA was hit by one (certain) or two (strongly believed) torpedoes; all power was lost and our fire was interrupted; target “B” was out of commission and the DD’s with her ceased fire on ATLANTA; Director 1 received a hit on its foundation which put it out of commission; Control was hit and destroyed. Plot reported battery collective fire, Control Aft and Director 2 controlling. Extent of damage to battery was not known at this time, but was realized to be heavy.
7. Torpedoes were not fired. The port director and crew were wiped out by a hit in the above gun action, and the port tube crew disabled by a hit through the blast shield. It is not known how soon the above occurred, but apparently it was early in the gun fight, which lasted not more than one or two minutes. The MK 26 torpedo director is able to use radar information as to enemy course only indirectly, and in far too cumbersome a manner to have realized any advantage from what was known of the enemy before sighting him; an effective advance setup such as could have been made on a MK 27 torpedo director could not have been in effect here. Furthermore, the quadruple MK 13 tubes, carrying four MK 15 torpedoes, are far too heavy to be swung by the hand train provided, on to the target in the very few seconds that are available in an encounter such as this. Torpedoes could have been used effectively only if fired with fair accuracy and lightning speed, which the installation did not provide for.
8. Within about a minute of the cessation of the gun fight, the ATLANTA was taken under fire by a CA. The CA fired about four 8 inch salvoes from about 3500 yards, either by radar or using our bridge fire as a point of aim, without illuminating. Her relative bearing from us was about 240 degrees, target angle about 75 degrees; the true bearings and courses are not known, but it is believed that ATLANTA was swinging slowly from West to South. Her salvoes hit and did damage as detailed earlier. Efforts were made to return her fire with turret 7 in pointer fire, manual operation, this being the only turret remaining on the JP circuit, but were discontinued before firing commenced, after recognizing the firing ship, by the light of her own gun flashes, as friendly. Turret 8, with emergency diesel power, was intact, but not in communication; turret 7, with manual only, was too slow to answer what might have been an urgent need.
9. It was now found that the starboard torpedo director had been destroyed by the bridge fire. Port torpedoes were jettisoned because of the ship’s list to port, but the starboard were held in readiness to fire by pointer fire, using voice transmitted sight angle from Control Aft, if any of the numerous immobilized ships, both afire and not, which were visible to the northward should prove to be enemy. Plot was slowly flooding from below, from the 1.1 inch ammunition handling space, which was not separated by a water tight hatch, and rising water soon killed the sound powered phone board. The JY phone circuits from Control Aft had been cut. A portable lead, previously made up complete with jack boxes, was lead out and connected to turrets 7 and 8 and the after machine guns. With the wreckage, debris, wounded, and dead in the way, this was an hour’s task. Clearing away debris and bodies, re-stationing personnel, and establishing communication, put armament in readiness for action as follows: Range 2 (in Director 2, manual operation), turret 7 (manual), turret 8 (diesel generator power); 1.1 inch mount 1 (with ammunition transferred from aft to replace that destroyed in fire), and 1.1 inch mount 4; 20mm guns 4 to 8 inclusive, 3 caliber .30 Browning Automatic Rifles in bulwark AA mountings; and about 60 rifles.
10. During the tow to Lunga Point during the following daylight, a Jap type 1 twin engine Navy bomber, of the type which had attacked the force with torpedoes on November 12, approached low. It was taken under fire by turret 8 in pointer fire, telephone control, and withdrew. Turret 7, in manual, never got on this target.
11. Projectiles used during the night action were 5 inch/38 common (not AA common). It is believed that ship “A” was a light cruiser. Some 100 rounds of the above projectiles were fired at the enemy ship at extremely short range; it is believed that they are capable of penetrating the armor of any Jap CL’s at this range; and many were observed to hit; it is therefore considered that the ATLANTA either caused or materially assisted in the destruction of this CL. The many hits into the hull of ship “B”, a modern type Japanese destroyer, were seen to deliver a staggering blow, with fires and subsequent sinking; whether other vessels of our force fired into this ship or not is not known.. It is considered that the ATLANTA caused the destruction of this DD.
12. It was noted that the Jap ships were using flashless or near-flashless powder. This was most effective, providing almost no point of aim and no information on the firing ship; it was in marked contrast to the results of our own ships firings, which lighted the firing ship brilliantly, and in such ships as ATLANTA and HELENA, almost continuously.
13. GUNNERY RECOMMENDATIONS
(a.) Torpedo Battery - For the night actions which have played such a heavy part in the Pacific surface naval war, this battery must be able to take available radar, or other, enemy information, use it with facility, and get on the target and fire with utmost rapidity. To this end, it is recommended that the MK 26 directors be removed from this class and replaced by the MK 27, and that power train be provided for the tubes.
(b.) Torpedo Warheads - Our MK 15 warheads, with some 485 lbs. of TNT burster, have consistently failed to do appropriate damage to even Jap cruisers. This is in marked contrast to the devastating effect of the Japanese torpedoes, carrying in some types nearly 900 lbs. (and perhaps more) “hexa” (TNT/HND/A1), as illustrated by the paralyzing of the ATLANTA in the above engagement. it is recommended that urgent priority be given (1) to the replacing of all MK 15 heads immediately with MK17, or heads similar in charge, and (2) to the development and delivery of a still heavier (1000 to 2000 lb. charge) head which will ensure major damage to any target.
(c.) Auxiliary Battle Phones - it is recommended that an XJP circuit be installed, leads well separated from the primary circuits, which does not pass through any lower deck switchboard. This circuit should be controlled by switch boxes at the control stations, similar to the arrangement provided in this class for the JY circuits, and should connect all 5 inch stations.
(d.) Emergency Power For Gun Battery - Certain turrets, to the limit of the diesel generator’s capacity, were provided with emergency power connections. When the need arose, of the two operable turrets, only one was thus connected. It is recommended (1) that all turrets be provided with emergency power connections (without automatic switching, for the overload turrets), with provision for selectively cutting in such turrets as are operable, and (2) that immediate steps be taken to increase the emergency power to an amount sufficient to handle the full gun battery, in addition to essential ship control, and lighting requirements. This increased power will be available, by cutting out or shutting down some of the battery, for pumping and other needs during repair operations after action is broken off. It is further recommended that the emergency power be supplied from units divided between forward and after parts of the ship, possibly two separated units at each end.
(e.) Pyrotechnic Materials - It is recommended that all pyrotechnical material, except very’s stars of various colors, be removed from ships. It is believed that very’s stars would furnish suitable emergency recognition signal without undue fire hazard. The supply of pyrotechnic materials increased the intensity of fire in the bridge area and is believed to have been responsible for melting down the base of the foremast. The supply of pyrotechnics in ATLANTA had been reduced in accordance with the approved memorandum of the USS CHESTER, to one-half the full allowance. It is further recommended that stowage of limited amounts of identification signals be well separated and adjacent to control stations.
(f.) Magazine-Area Boundaries - The fire in #2 1.1 inch clipping room was started by fragments which entered its door, necessarily open for the ingress of boxed reload ammunition. This space was also open to the mount, for passage out of filled clips. Fire from the bridge area eventually reached #1 1.1 inch clipping room by its corresponding openings, without which these gravely serious fires might have been avoided. The same situation obtained at #1 20mm loading room, where the fire was started by fragments of a hit outside. This fire spread two decks below to the wardroom, by the exploding ammunition piercing many small holes in the light decking and dropping through. It is strongly recommended that all ammunition stowage spaces be given boundaries of adequate plate, with complete flameproof automatic closure of any opening required for ammunition service.
(g.) Voice-Radio Speakers at Gun Control Stations - These in ATLANTA were a ships force installation. it is recommended that they be provided for all ships, arranged for selective connections (by Radio Room plug board) to the circuit carrying information pertinent to the operation at hand.
(h.) Flashless Powder - It is recommended that this highly valuable tool for the special task of night fighting be re-investigated for use by our own forces.