My name is Giles J. Roethle and I reported aboard the Atlanta immediately after she arrived from the canal. Probably in March of forty-two. I was a fireman and was assigned to the forward engine room. My CQ station was the after 1.1 mount. After a short time I did my stint as mess cook and for awhile I was in the A division, which is ship's repair. In the A division I stood aloft lookout (crows nest) two hours on and two off during daylight hours. Some fun.
On Friday the 13th of November 1942 I was on my last assignment which was the after engine room, lower level, operating the lube oil system, both pumps, and filtration. During the action it was hard to tell what was happening. We knew our guns were firing but could not tell if we were being hit. I felt the torpedo and there was no mistaking that! I was standing right next to the starboard shaft and a second later I was on my butt on the other side of the shaft, which was about 3 feet above the deck. It was only a minute or so before lights went out and the shafts stop turning. After some time the emergency lights came on and between them and out battle lanterns we could seeby the gauges, that we no longer had steam. Everything was dead including the ship"s telephone system. We could not talk tp anyone, and had no way of receiving orders. We talked the situation over and decided not to open the hatch to the mess hall directly above us without orders.
We had a very young but capable leader with us. His name was G.F. Colleran,Ens., a late comer to the ship, but well liked and very knowledgible. After some time we sent one person up the escape hatch to ascertain the condition topside, and get orders if he could. He brought back word that we could open the main hatch but we should stay at our station until further notice. We were finally told to come topside and help. I was put on a twenty MM machine gun and to repell anyone who may try to aboard us. We had very few guns left . Topside looked like a junk yard. We were dead in the water and as light slowly got better we could see many heads bobbing in the water but none of them approached the ship. Only two main battery turrets were left operational and that by hand. When it was full daylight and the fog moved off we could see Japanese ships in the distance and they began firing at us. We thought our goose was cooked until the bow of Portland came out of the fog. She made short work of our problems. The Bobolink, a sea going tug took us in tow, the plan being to try and save the ship. They towed us across towards Guadelcanal but gave up after awhile and we were disembarked onto a landing craft from the Canal where we enjoyed a dubious vacation for a week or so.
I was again assigned to a twenty MM twin mount at the edge of Henderson field, right next to the radar antenna which was a frequent target for a Japanese artillary piece. After some time a group of us were told there was a ship out there that would take us to New Caledonia. There was a catch however. It was an ammunition ship and we had to unload it. Air attacks were common and we would pull up anchor and proceed to open water until it was safe to return. We did this four times and the last time we came in, the anchor was let go while we still had weigh on the ship. The water was not very deep and the ship rode up on the anchor and punched a hole in the bottom. As the tide was ebbing, we were stuck on our own anchor until we could lighten the ship or wait for the tide to come back in and lift us off. Crap happens!
Got to New Caldonia all right and was sent to a survivors camp on the Dumbia River. I was there a week or two, which is enough time to get caught in a disentary epidemic. More crap! Next came the receiving station at Noumia and hope for a survivors leave. No such luck! I don't know if I was the only one to get shorted leave there that many of the crew enjoyed or not, but I was told my talents were needed on the USS Lardner DD487. I saw plenty of air attacks on Lardner but no surface engagements. Thank God for that!