Courtesy of Bob Wampler
Dedicated to those who served in Battle… and those that Preserve in Peace
Another year has come and gone. This one has had a lot of adversity for many of us. We have had illnesses, deaths and recently some leaks in the ship. The ship’s leaks were professionally handled by the competent people at Patriots Point.
We’ve also had some good things happen, too. Our model raffle was again a great success. The reunion was also a great success. The work parties, you guessed it, were a great success too. We also had donations from our members to keep our work parties going.
On a sad note, Joe Folino is retiring as our Treasurer after many years. He will be greatly missed by our association, our board of directors and especially me.
When I joined the association I had heard tales of this strange Italian gentleman from California. When I first met him I found out that the stories were true!
When he served on the LAFFEY just after WWII he worked as a cook, the ship’s barber, in the laundry and I think he told me that he was the Executive Officer too but I didn’t believe that! Anyway, he put the ship out of commission and went home to enjoy civilian life.
Along comes the Korean War and he is called back with orders to the USS LAFFEY to put her back in
commission. He reported aboard and cleaned her up and went with her to Korea. There is no telling what his duties were then either!
He told me that he was used wherever needed. This carried over when he became a member of the association too. He has been Newsletter Editor, Treasurer, Board Member and anything else he needed to be. I must admit that he did all of this willingly and well. Of course, none of this would have been possible without the help of his lovely wife Dinah.
Dinah worked at a bank and probably did most of the book work while Joey took the credit! I am going to miss Joe very much. He made my job much easier by knowing the ropes and helping me many times.
Joey, we really appreciate all that you have done. Now sit back, relax and stand by until we need something else done! I love you man.
On a happy note, George Kessler has agreed to take over as Treasurer. Let me give you a few notes about George. He reported aboard the Laffey in 1962 and had the good fortune to have a supervisor by the name of Ed Walker RM3. I taught him everything he needed to know…..Well, almost everything. He became an excellent Radioman and ended up working for the IRS after he was discharged.
When we asked George to take over as Treasurer he cheerfully agreed to help out. As of this writing.
he is setting up the new bank account and will take over as soon as the reunion accounts are settled.
Good Luck George, and Thanks a lot!
Ari Phoutrides has acquired newly found copies of the Laffey’s Story. They are loaded with photos, newspaper clippings and letters. They will be for sale as soon as Ari gets ready.
The books were part of the estate of Slavomir Vodenhal RM1. He was aboard on April 16, 1945 during the attack. He gathered all of the material and had the books printed. We have hard bound copies and soft bound copies also. Slavy passed away a few months ago and the family wanted to get the books out of the house. Get in touch with Ari as soon as possible if you want a book.
We have a new Executive Director at Patriots Point by the name of Brig. General Hugh Tant, III US Army (retired). Hugh is doing a great job and has a lot of ideas to make Patriots Point even better than it already is.
Hugh came to our reunion banquet and gave a powerful talk. He was accompanied by the new PR Director, Charlie Hall, Jr. who ran the slide show while Hugh spoke. He really made us feel wanted at the ship. He also praised each and every crew member for their service in the wars and the peace. We wish him all the best in his new endeavor.
The new guy, Charlie Hall, has done a bang-up job so far as the public relations guy. He knows just about everyone in Charleston and Mount Pleasant. He had two local TV stations and one newspaper covering the work party. We were on the news and in the paper telling everyone about the ship and our jobs restoring her.
Charlie also works miracles on short notice. We needed a trumpet for Cal Bowen to play at the memorial service: Voila, he came up with one in about an hour. We also wish him well and we really enjoy working with him.
Our next work party will be April 18-25, 2009. We hope to get a lot of work done in the after fire room and some other jobs too.
The 2009 reunion will be held in Branson, MO. The dates are yet to be determined by our newly formed “REUNION COMMITTEE”. It is headed up by Fred
Nardei. His assistants are Jill Michel and Gemma McLuckie. Thanks guys for volunteering. I thank you and Cherie thanks you for taking a load off of me. Don’t worry, I’ll still be doing the memorial service and speaking at the banquet. Or maybe y’all should worry??????
We are going to need some new members. If you know of someone that you served with, tell them about our association. They, and you, will be happy they joined. More on this in the next newsletter!
Let’s look forward to another good year in 2009.
Sonny Walker, President
2008 REUNION RECAP
As I sit here in my hotel room writing this, I think about the last few days with my old shipmates and our friends of the association that have filled this hotel with laughter and love. As we walked past the empty hospitality room I thought of the fun we had. When we went through the quiet lobby and the almost empty parking lot; our thoughts were of our friends that have already left for home.
This morning, Thursday October 9, 2008, we received an e-mail that Mary Ann Nardei had passed away and is now free of pain. It was sad and also happy news. She had asked everyone to pray for her to have a swift passing and she had told us not to grieve for her but to celebrate her life. At breakfast our friends sat around the table and shed some tears and then had some laughs at the good times we all had with Mary Ann and Fred. We’ll miss her very much.
The reunion was a great success. We had 135 attendees. Dan Essig brought half of Flushing, New York with him. Funny thing was, they were all his kids and grandkids. Speaking of Danny, he now is riding one of those scooters and almost killed half of the people attending the reunion. It was his son Danny, Jr. who had to adjust the speed control on the scooter. (Dan Jr. is a NY cop and is used to dealing with speeders.) Of course, as soon as Jr. was out of sight, Danny would turn it up to 6 or higher!!!!
We had a wonderful tour of Magnolia Plantation on Monday and a fun lunch at Bubba Gump’s Seafood restaurant in downtown Charleston on Tuesday. The weather was perfect for the entire reunion
Our memorial service aboard the Laffey was another moving experience. We had a very humorous start to our service. As we were singing the National Anthem, a big gust of wind blew my papers off of the podium. As I scrambled around the deck, trying to salute and remain respectful I noticed one page floating in the river. I ended up saluting with my left hand and holding the papers down with my right. Luckily, Charlie Hall had a copy of my service and gave me the missing page.
Glen Radder read the names of the WWII heroes that were killed at Okinawa. Cal Bowen from the 1946-47 ship’s crew, played Taps on a trumpet that Charlie Hall acquired for him to use. LaReine Kurtz sang a very moving version of “Let there be peace on earth”.
The banquet was held on Wednesday evening with its usual Pomp and Whatever. General Hugh Tant, the new executive director of Patriots Point, gave a wonderful talk accompanied by a slide show. He gave the Laffey crew his highest respect for their bravery and to the work party crews for their hard work. We wish Hugh good luck in his new position.
This year we honored the Ed Fitzsimmons family for the work they do at the work parties. Ed and Helen were very grateful for the plaque. After we honored them and they took their seats we drew the winner of the USS Laffey model. Yep, you guessed it; Ed Fitzsimmons was this year’s winner. It made us feel good to give him a ship that he wouldn’t have to paint!
It was announced that next year’s reunion will be held in Branson, MO. Fred Nardei agreed to head up the newly created “Reunion Committee” with Jill Michel and Gemma McLuckie helping out. We’ll get more info to you as soon as the committee has time to check things out. Check the website and the next newsletter for any updates.
A big thank you goes out to Pete and especially Mary Lou Lacore. They have come up with another great idea for raising money to keep the work parties and our association going strong. Mary Lou brought some jewelry and other items from the jewelry store where she works and we had a raffle. The idea turned out to be a great fund raiser. In case you didn’t know, Pete Lacore was the guy with the idea for the model raffle. That idea has raised thousands of dollars for the work party fund over the past several years
I have one more thank you and it has to go to my wife, Cherie. This has been a difficult reunion for me, and she really helped me through all of the tough things like gifts for the ladies, gifts for the men, reminding me to call this person or that person. She really is my right hand.
I hope to see everyone at Branson next year.
Sonny Walker, President
Recap of September 2008 Work Party
This fall’s work party really had its ups and downs: It all started with Hurricane Hanna delaying our start. We couldn’t go aboard until Saturday. Fred Raleigh drove from Cincinnati and arrived Saturday afternoon and found the ship locked and no one from the association present. He left the ship at 5:00PM and drove back to Cincinnati thinking he had the wrong date. John Hudak and Dave Harhager arrived at 5:30PM. Poor Fred was our cook!!!! We couldn’t convince him to drive all the way back to Charleston so we had to improvise for our food. Everyone else arrived on time and had a great time.
Our biggest project for this work party was the fantail. The fantail had really become an eyesore with rust. Under the watchful eye of our first lieutenant, (Don Watson), crewmembers Sonny Walker, Terry Wade, Steve Smith, Bob Johnson, Dave Harhager and Barry Shugarts turned to with
crawlers, chippers, needle guns, etc. to take it down to bare metal in most spots.
We then put on a rust inhibitor, primed, added a coat of rubber coating and then finished with a top coat of deck gray. We had it looking like new. The temperature was really near the top of the thermometer and water was the main request to keep the workers going. This took almost 5 days to complete.
Bob Johnson, a lifelong friend of Barry Shugarts and former crewmember of the USS English, (Arla Johnson please don’t read this) ran the vacuum cleaner and kept the CPO quarters clean. Terry Wade, a retired Sergeant Major of the U.S. Marine Corps, we just called him a Jarhead, did a 4.0 job cleaning the mess deck and especially the deck tiles. (We all know that Jarheads are good at polishing stuff). It was really hot in the mess decks too. We really appreciated all of his work.
John Hudak (our Engineering Officer), along with Joe Luque continued with their quest of keeping the after fire room project moving along. This is a HUGE JOB and it will be another couple of years before it will be ready for public view. When they finish all of the preliminary work, fashioning new stairways, walkways and ladders, it will be ready for any of you Snipes to return to your home and paint! It is very hard for us Operation Department Types to understand the workings of “Snipedom”. John has made great progress and we need to keep him healthy so he can finish this job.
On Tuesday, Ari and Stephen Phoutrides arrived from Oregon. This really made the work party a true success. We always love to have our “elder statesman” here to guide us. Stephen is Ari’s son and he works almost as hard as his Dad. Really, no one works as hard as Ari. They turned to and cleaned the Officers’ Pantry and got it ready to paint, among other jobs too.
However, It was really hard to keep Ari working because the new Public Relations Director of Patriots Point, Charlie Hall, had all 3 major networks (local) and the newspapers aboard to interview Ari. We were on the local news two nights.
Ari was also invited to channel 2 for a 5 minute segment of answering questions called in by viewers. Stephen and I went along with him for
moral support. He did wonderfully. Although, while sitting in the “Green Room” waiting to go on, we were watching the OPRAH show (as it preceded the news), poor Ari kept waiting for Oprah to come in and see him. It was really hard to explain to the “old guy” that Oprah was in Chicago and we were in Mt. Pleasant, SC. Seriously, he did great answering the questions from the callers and he was treated like royalty by the TV station people. Good job Ari.
While we were there at the work party, three reunions from other “Tin Cans” were in Charleston: The first of the reunions was from the USS Wallace Lind. Those attending the reunion really enjoyed seeing a ship just like theirs again. The second group came from the ill-fated USS Frank E. Evans. She was involved in a collision with an Australian aircraft carrier off of Viet Nam in 1969. Some of the survivors that were able to escape from the bow section of the ship (that sunk in three minutes), came aboard and we accompanied them to the spaces from which they escaped. It was very emotional as some of them had not been able to go aboard another destroyer since the accident. The third group came from the USS Barry DD 933. She is now in Washington, DC as the duty reserve tin can. This is the job the Laffey held in her last years in service.
We had a visit from The Corvette Club from Hillsboro, Wisconsin. Richard McKinney took the time and gave them a guided tour. At the end of the tour they donated $47.00 to the work party fund. They really appreciated what we were doing and preserving the history of our ship.
I have to thank the guys that attended the fall work party and worked so hard in the heat and humidity. As some of you know, the steel really gets hot to kneel on and chip and/or paint. Well done!! I hope to see you again in April for our spring work party.
Sonny Walker. President
List of Attendees to the Fall 2008 Work Party:
Ray Broll – Bensalem, PA
Bob Johnson – Lewistown, PA
Dave Harhager – Swanton, MD
John Hudak – Vestaburg, PA
Joe Luque – Altamonte, FL
Richard McKinney – Baytown, TX
Ari Phoutrides – Portland, OR
Stephen Phoutrides – Portland, OR
Steve Smith – Snellville, GA
Barry Shugarts – Monee, IL
Terry Wade (USMC) – Mattawana, PA
Sonny Walker – Abingdon, MD
Don Watson – Eustis, FL
Honorable mention to Fred Raleigh of Medina, OH (Please see article above!!)
IMPORTANT – VERY IMPORTANT NOTICE
Mary Woodruff of KTC Creations, who supplies USS Laffey merchandise with online ordering, recently informed us of the following:
“My web server changed my domain name for my web site, without notifying me, and because of that…..anyone looking for me received the following message: www.kt-creations.com no longer exists.”
www.ktcreations.pages.qpg.com is the correct address to locate and order Laffey merchandise and this address now appears in the ships store location of our web site.
Mary Woodruff was quite upset about this change and hopes it did not cause any problems with our association membership.
YOUR VOICE FOR THE NAVY
Hello Shipmates ... Hey, who is the "Head Honcho" around here? Honcho is Japanese in origin. "Han" (squad) and "cho" (head) were combined to mean "squad leader." This term was loosely applied to mean "Boss" or "Big Shot." Adopted by the U.S. Pacific Fleet after WW II and popularized during the Vietnam War.
(Another tidbit of naval lore from military.com)
Ginny Sarver, wife of Bill Sarver, Sr.,(51-55) sent a note regarding the special shirts many of you had expressed interest in during the reunion. She wrote:
FREEDOM POLOS by Rock Point for men or women can be ordered from –
FOUR TOWNES EMBROIDERY
502 North Spring Garden Avenue
DeLand, FL 32720
A NON-POLITICAL SHIFT TO THE LEFT
At the end of the 2008 reunion memorial service on the fantail of the ship, most attendees stayed onboard and toured the Laffey once more. After a short while most visitors noticed that they needed to use their “sea legs” to get around. The Laffey had a very noticeable listing experience to the port. The very concerned looks on the faces of several Patriots Point workers was enough to make us all a little fearful that there was a major problem.
After we had left the Charleston reunion, Hugh Tant Brigadier General, USA, (Ret) and Executive Director of the Patriots Point Development Authority, informed the USS Laffey Association that Patriots Point personnel had located four holes near the stern port side. They pumped some 4,600 gallons of sea water out and temporarily plugged the holes.
We later received a more comforting, positive note that the USS Laffey was sitting more level than she has ever been while at Patriots Point. Other holes (smaller) are also being repaired. Many of these holes have been there since the ship experienced repairs in 1994.
It looks like “The Ship That Would Not Die” will not do so next to the pier at Patriots Point!!
AN APPROPRIATE POEM/SONG
Harlan D. Cox, RM3, 69-72 recently sent some information regarding license plates that will be addressed in the next newsletter. He also asked that any shipmate who served onboard while he was on the Laffey should please call him at 812-527-2223.
RM3 Cox also sent a poem/song that was drafted by his wife Charlotte and it seems fitting to enclose it in light of the previous article. It reads as follows:
Hail to Old 724
They call her the ship that refused to die.
Kamikazied, but her flag still flies.
Now she stands on display
in Charleston Bay
She’s honored and loved and proud.
Many brave men
Served her well.
Some made it home
But some of them fell.
Now she’s kept in ship-shape
So the names won’t escape
Our memories of the loved and proud.
Hail to old 724
Long may she live forever more.
Our hearts are full, our pride is high
For the ship that refused to die.
So stand brave and tall
You gave her your all.
She’s the best ship you ever saw.
USS RICH 2008 WORK PARTY
(The following letter was recently received)
Once again it was our privilege and pleasure to conduct a Work Party on the USS Laffey from October 12 to 18, 2008.
For early arrivals, they found the weekend windy and rainy with things looking bleak. Then on Monday the clouds and rain went away and provided us with near perfect conditions to get our work objectives met on time. At the end of the week, Saturday morning brought more rain, wind and much cooler weather. Nevertheless we were able to contribute to the appearance of the ship and complete our work list.
As always, it was an enjoyable experience to interact with visitors. It's astounding the number of questions they have. We also distributed 200 American flags furnished to us with the compliments of Modern Woodmen of America Insurance Company.
We did note, with amazement, the many accomplishments of the other work party groups since our visit in October, 2007. The refurbished/restored spaces looked spectacular and the visitors did slow down or stop to take in what it was like in the life of sailors aboard Laffey.
There were always folks in the theater watching the video.
The following members of the USS Rich Association participated in the 2008 Work Party:
Wally Bandomir – Waukesha, WI
James Carroll – Port Charlotte, FL
Robert Cochrane – Perkiomenville, PA
Marshall K. DuBois – Sarasota, FL
Roy Gnirke – Surfside Beach, SC
Steven D. Henry – Hurricane, WV
Richard Koeniger – Canaan, IN
Dale Robbins – Dundee, FL
Eugene Robbins – Dundee, FL
Joe Saunders– Hagerstown, MD
Gary Wilson – Brentwood, TN
Once again, please accept our thanks for permitting our participation in this program.
Sincerely, Marshall K. DuBois, SH2 (62-66) Ship's Office
The USS Laffey Association membership and its officers are thankful to have the participation of the USS Rich Association members in helping to maintain our ship. The devotion, time, and labor they have continued to provide are sincerely appreciated. To all from the USS Rich who were present for the October work party we extend a hearty well done!! A copy of this edition of the Laffey News will be sent to each participant.
WORK PARTY DONATIONS
The following donations dedicated to the Work Party Fund have been received:
Jill Michel $200.00
Editor’s Comment: During the October reunion in Charleston, there were many raffle winners who shared the cash pots that were available: To the credit of our Association and of our ship, each recipient donated their winnings to our Work Party Fund. A special note of thanks should be extended to former Radioman Dick Young who, for the second year in a row, not only managed to win like amounts twice but donated his $100 to the work party fund again. (I just know that Sonny is going to
take credit for tutoring Dick back in the 60’s!!!) Thanks to all of the winners who freely gave their winnings to the maintenance of the USS Laffey.
The USS Laffey Association extends a thank you to all who send donations. These contributions allow us to continue with the work parties to assure we have the finest looking ship at Patriots Point.
We ask that all association members who can financially afford to contribute to the work party fund please consider doing so with a check marked “For Work Party Fund”, to Sonny Walker. For those who have seen our Laffey recently, I’m certain you can attest to the value gained by your donation….We do have the finest looking ship at Patriots Point!!
ATTENTION ALL HANDS – PRAYER REQUEST
We have some folks that need our thoughts and prayers. Please take a few moments and offer prayers for the following shipmates and wives of shipmates listed.
Laura Knight: Wife of John Christopher Knight is fighting cancer.
Louie Delavina had a stroke and is recuperating and needs your prayers also. Louie does not have e-mail but Bob Hill has agreed to deliver any messages. Bob's e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also, please pray for Dale Prince’s (70-71) Mom. We were just notified in mid-October that she recently experienced a brain hemorrhage and may not pull through. The family might have some difficult decisions to make. Let’s pray for the family as well.
THE FINAL TREASURER’S REPORT BY JOEY
Joe Folino has furnished his final report of the financial status of the association to the board. His report covered the period of 02 July 2008 through 23 September 2008. Under Joey’s (and his wife Dinah’s) bookkeeper’s thumbs, the USS Laffey Association has continued to prosper and maintain its financial solvency. There was a slight increase from the previous quarter’s net report…..but not enough for the Folinos to have another vacation in Italy!! Well done Joe and George Kessler has some mighty big shoes to fill (Editor’s Comment – I know George well and he’ll do an excellent job).
THE FORGOTTEN WAR
Courtesy of Alex Churchill
Wonsan Harbor, North Korea 1952
First, I'd like to express my great appreciation for the way you bring to our attention the issues that are affecting our shipmates and their families, and calling upon us to remember them to our
Father in Heaven in our prayers. Thank you very much for making it possible for us to share in that precious responsibility.
I finally managed to dig out and digitize a slide that dates from May of 1952, location Wonsan Harbor, North Korea, where the Laffey was on duty interdicting enemy supplies coming down from the north and rescuing an occasional pilot who had to ditch his plane.
I got to wondering, what might I catch on my camera if I were to wait for the next shell with the shutter release half way cocked so that the concussion, hopefully, would jar my finger enough at the right time to finish the job?
As you can see from the above photo, the result was better by far than I had dared to imagine! Please feel free to use the photo as you see fit
I see that our skipper of that tour of duty is on your address list. Greetings to you Captain Conger. I hope all is well with you.
Very best wishes to all,
For those with computers at home or for those who have access to a computer at their local library, please take a few moments every so often and visit the official USS Laffey website: www.laffey.org and see what a good job AJ Tarquino is doing to keep us informed. Our website is constantly updated to inform all hands of changes and new features. Take a peak!!
Editor’s Comment: All hands should review the membership roster (scroll down) at the USS Laffey website and inform me and Pete Lacore, Membership Chairman, of any changes or corrections that need to be made to your listing. Pete’s address and phone number appear in the Laffey News Notes section of this newsletter.
FROM THE MEMBERSHIP CHAIRMAN
Please be reminded that the Board of Directors of the USS Laffey Association voted to have all dues payable on the 1st of January of each year. This will eliminate the confusion surrounding when to send your membership dues. For those who have not yet paid their 2008 annual dues, please remit $25.00 to Mr. Pete Lacore at the address shown in the Laffey News Notes Section.
EDITOR’S COMMENT: The Laffey News is intended for distribution to active membership and is included in your membership dues.
The following shipmates and USS Laffey Association members and their close relatives have been transferred to a better duty station:
Mary Ann Nardei, Wife of Fred Nardei, (60-62).
Passed away October 9, 2008
Harry J. Clark, CDR
Former Captain of USS Laffey 1958-59
Passed away in 2004
Linus G. Heying, RM1
Served aboard 1944-45
Survivor of Okinawa
Passed away on Good Friday 2008
Please take a moment in silence to honor and reflect upon the memories of those who have passed away.
V. Richard Hale, Jr. has provided a copy of his article on the battle of Guadalcanal published in the summer edition 2008 of Guadalcanal Echoes. SM2/C Hale was a pointer in 5” Gun Mount Number Two of DD459. His account of the battle is printed for all Laffey Association members to read:
The Night of November 12-13, 1942 – The five cruisers and eight American destroyers in that battle which faced off against two battleships, one cruiser, and eleven destroyers in the enemy force were a diverse lot in class and capabilities having never operated together.
We had four cruiser classes and five classes of destroyers ranging in age from 8 years to 228 days. There were two Atlanta Class AA cruisers, Helena a Brooklyn-class light cruiser, San Francisco a New Orleans-class heavy cruiser and Portland a heavy cruiser.
Laffey and Barton were Benson-class, the Fletcher and O’Bannon were Fletcher-class, Cushing a Mahan class, Sterett a Benham-class, Aaron Ward a Livermore-class and Monsson a Benson-class.
As we formed up in cruising disposition that night in single column entering Sealark channel, we were stretched out for a distance of 10,000 to 11,000 yards or roughly 5 to 5-1/2 miles.
There were two American admirals in the force that night. Rear Admiral Norman Scott, the victorious OTC in our previous battle of Cape Esperance on October 11, had a subordinate role to Rear Admiral Daniel Callahan although Callahan had no experience in a surface battle, let alone one at night. Scott was in the USS Atlanta and Callahan was in the San Francisco. Both would die that night.
Our disposition had four destroyers leading, the Atlanta following. Then the heavy cruisers San Francisco and Portland, followed by the Helena and Juneau. Four destroyers brought up the rear of the column. The oldest destroyer, Cushing led the formation and the newest Fletcher was on the tail end.
After midnight, early in the morning of November 13,1942 our force was steaming northwesterly parallel to Guadalcanal in Sealark Channel.
The enemy force of two battleships, a light cruiser and eleven destroyers were approaching us on an opposite heading. The battleships Hiei and Kirishima were older but faster than the ones we lost at Pearl Harbor and each carried eight 14” guns. The three-stack cruiser Nagara was also old but fast and carried six 6” guns. The eleven destroyers carried the ship killing Long Lance torpedoes.
The USS Helena with the most up-to date radar picked up the enemy force while it was still about six miles away. The confusing order given by Callahan was for odd ships to fire to one side and even ships to fire to the other. The enemy did not know this and primarily came down the starboard side of our formation.
Two enemy destroyers scouting several thousand yards ahead initiated the action with our two destroyers Cushing and Laffey. Searchlights and star shells lit up the seascape and the ships.
In the meantime, the battleships were on us. The Laffey was forced to go full astern to avoid a collision with the Hiei. I was a pointer in mount #2 and I could see our five-inch shells hitting the bulkheads on the bridge and those compartments flaming as our shells exploded. We could hear our 20mm guns behind our mount firing at the searchlights as well as spraying the bridge.
Within minutes a Long Lance torpedo hit us under our number four 5-gun mount taking our propellers off and pushing our fantail up in a 15 degree angle. Fire erupted immediately and as we had no means to fight it we were forced to abandon ship. The hit was such a force it spun us around in the water. Savo island was now behind us.
I went over the forward part of the ship as I sensed that it would blow up when the fire reached the magazine. As I was swimming away it did blow up it seemed a thousand feet high. I was hit on the top of my head from a piece of metal, but I think the oil in the water helped to control the bleeding.
The enemy cruiser Nagara steamed very close and switched on her searchlight. I could hear the searchlight shutters clap open and her boiler room blowers were whining very loud. She fired 6” salvos at a ship back nearer to Lunga. After we were picked up the following several hours later
and brought back to Lunga, we could see it was the Atlanta still afloat but motionless.
The Nagara was trying to cover the retirement of the Hiei, which was on fire, and attempting to get to the northwest of Savo Island. Her rudder had been damaged and forced her to stay in place until a hoped for tow could be made. In the meantime, the Kirishima and Nagara made their escape. The Cactus Air Force had other plans. They hit her with several bombs and torpedoes all afternoon until she was scuttled that night.
We had abandoned ship about 0200 and when the sun came up a Marine SBD Scout Bomber from Henderson Field flew low over us and wagged his wings to let us know we were spotted. I had joined a group in a raft and we hoped that we would soon be picked up as we were very close to the enemy positions at Cape Esperance.
Between us and the shore, however, the Portland circled slowly as she had taken a long lance near her rudder. Suddenly she opened fire on a disabled enemy destroyer about two or three miles away. After six salvos, the enemy can blew up.
Several hours later we saw a small craft heading our way at top speed as the daily air raid would soon hit us. The LCVP picked us up about a dozen of us and headed back to Lunga Point where we shed our oil soaked clothes and tried to get the oil off us in a little creek next to where we landed. We had oil all over us in our hair, ears, eyes and skin. Someone got some gasoline to cut the oil, which was a bad idea as standing there in the sun felt like being on fire.
We were given clean, but used Marine fatigues and well-worn combat boots and a kabar. The sheaf had a name on it “Raphael Husband.” At least the initials were the same as mine.
We were then taken to a Cub One unit in a grove of palm trees and given a cot in a tent near the shore. Having been awake more than two days, it took about 2 minutes before I fell asleep. Some time after midnight we heard a Condition Red. A couple of enemy heavy cruisers had slipped into the channel and started firing salvos at Henderson Field. These were the IJN Maya and IJN Suzuya. The heavy shells flying overhead sounded like freight trains. We were praying that none of the shells would fall short.
In the course of the next few weeks, all the survivors of the five ships we lost that night were gathered aboard the attack transport USS Barnett and shipped back to the receiving station at San Diego. Each survivor would be advanced one grade for “meritorious conduct in action.”
USS Laffey DD459 was one of two destroyers in WWII to be awarded a Presidential Unit Citation. The other was DD724 USS Laffey for action in April 1945 at Okinawa. The 724 is now a historic ship at Patriots Point, SC.
The fate of the other enemy battleship the IJN Kirishima was decided two nights later in the second phase of the Battle of Guadalcanal. It was sunk by the US battleships USS Washington and USS South Dakota. The cruiser Nagara was sunk on August 7th by the submarine USS Croaker two years to the day after the Marines landed on Guadalcanal.
There are three vivid memories that stand out in my mind when I think of the battle. One is the terrific fire that followed the torpedo hit on the fantail. Then the terrific explosion when the magazine blew up and the third was the sight of the ship vertical with the bow high in the air sliding beneath the water.
When director fire is ordered, the four gun mounts are locked into the director and all four guns swing as the director swings and fired when the pointer in the director pulls the trigger. In our gun mount, I did not wait for him. When the round rammed home I kicked the footplate and fired the gun, as we were so close we could not miss. While we were firing, we could hear the 20mm behind us firing at the searchlights. Reading reports of the battle later, it was estimated that the IJN Hiei took a total of at least 85 major caliber hits.
When my enlistment was completed, I left the Navy, applied for college under the GI bill, and earned a degree in architectural engineering from the University of Miami. I am now 86 years old enjoying the benefits of retirement.
LAFFEY NEWS NOTES:
- Please notify the editor (Bob Wampler) of any change in your address and inform him of any spelling or numerical errors that are contained on your newsletter mailing label. Changes and corrections should be sent to the editor whose address is shown on the back page of this and every edition of the Laffey News (or call and leave a message at 843-705-2296). You should also include a new phone number if your address changed.
- USS Laffey Association Membership Applications can be found at our website: www.laffey.org. Please encourage others to join or rejoin our dedicated and proud membership!
- Annual $25.00 membership fees, life membership fees, and new membership $25.00 fees should be in the form of a check or money order made out to the USS Laffey Association and then sent to Mr. Pete Lacore, Membership Secretary, 117 Confederate Drive, Cynthiana, KY 41031. For membership questions please phone Pete at (859)-234-2451.
Ships Store - as we have known of it in the past - no longer exists. In place of maintaining our own inventory and charging shipping costs, we have made arrangements with KT Creations to provide us with various ship store items.
Prices will be slightly higher. However, the additional costs will be offset by (1) pricing will include shipping and handling costs, (2) KT Creations will refund 12% of sales to the Association, and (3) we will not have to invest money in maintaining an inventory.
Pricing for some typical items are:
Polo shirts with pocket
Polo shirt with your name on right side
Jacket-Navy blue, 100% nylon, flannel lined, snap front
Jacket, with large design on the back of the jacket. Smaller design on the front and name on the front included. Motto of "Ship that Wouldn't Die" on the back too
Sweatshirt-Navy blue, long sleeve pullover
Sweatshirt with name on right side
Ball cap-Navy with gold lettering and ship design
(the photo is $20 hat and of better quality)
$15 and a $20 one
If you are not comfortable ordering off the website,
mail your order by using the order form at this link
Return to Home Page