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USS Chester CS-1
(CL-1: dp. 3,750; 1. 423'2"; b. 47'1"; dr. 16'9"; s. 24 1
cpl. 359; a. 2 5", 6 3", 2 21" tt.; cl. Chester)
The first Chester (CL-1) was launched 26 June 1907 by Bath Iron Works, Bath, Maine, sponsored by Miss D. W. Sproul; and commissioned 26 April 1908, Commander H. B. Wilson in command.
In the period prior to World War I, Chester operations included training activities off the east coast and in the Caribbean, participation in the Fleet Reviews of February 1909, October 1912, and May 1915, and many duties of a diplomatic nature. She carried a Congressional committee on a tour of North Africa in 1909, and the next year joined in a special South American cruise commemorating the 300th anniversary of the founding of Buenos Aires, Argentina. As American interests in the Caribbean were threatened by internal political troubles in several nations Chester patroled off Mexico, Santa Domingo, and Haiti, and transported Marine occupation force in 1911. Later that year she carried men and stores to Scorpion, station ship at the then Austrian port of Trieste, returning to Boston with the American consul at Tripoli.
After a period in reserve from 15 December 1911 to 5 November 1913, Chester returned to duty in the Gulf of Mexico guarding American citizens and property during the revolution in Mexico. She joined in the occupation of the customs house at Vera Cruz 21 April, and transported refugees to Cuba, performed various diplomatic missions, and carried mail and stores to the squadron off Vera Cruz until 19 June 1914. She returned to Boston for overhaul and another period in reserve, from 12 December 1914 to 4 April 1915.
Late 1915 and early 1916 found Chester in the Mediterranean to aid in relief work in the Middle East, and off the Liberian coast to protect American interests and show American support for the government there threatened by insurrection. Chester returned for duty receiving ship at Boston, where she was out of commission in reserve from 10 May 1916 to 24 March 1917.
When recommissioned, Chester operated on protective patrol off the east coast until 23 August 1917, when she sailed for Gibraltar, and duty escorting convoys on their passage between Gibraltar and Plymouth, England. On 5 September 1918, the cruiser sighted an enemy submarine on her starboard bow. In attempting to ram the enemy, Cheater passed directly over the U-boat as it dove, damaging her own port paravane. Depth charges were hurled at the submarine's presumed position, but_ no further contact was made.
At war's end, Chester carried several Allied armi tice commissions on inspection tours of German ports, then carried troops to the Army units operating in northern Russia. On her homeward bound voyage, on which she cleared Brest, France 26 April 1919, she carried Army veterans to New York, which she reached 7 May. Eleven days later she arrived at Boston Navy Yard for overhaul, and was decommissioned there 10 June 1921. In 1927 she was towed to Philadelphia Navy Yard, and on 10 July 1928, her name was changed to York. She was sold for scrap 13 May 1930.
USS Chester CS-1 - History
(CA-27: dp. 9,200 1. 600'3", b. 66'1", dr. 16'6" s. 32 k.
cgl. 621 a. 9 8', 4 5", 6 21" tt. cl. Northampton) _
The second Chester (CA-27) was launched 3 July 1929 by New York Shipbuilding Co., Camden, NJ., sponsored by Miss J. T Blain, commissioned 24 June 1930, Captain A. P. Fairfield in command and reported to the Atlantic Fleet.
Chester cleared Newport, R.I., 13 August 1930 for an extensive European cruise. She visited Barcelona, Naples, Constantinople, Phaleron Bay, And GibrAltar before returning to Chester, Pa., for voyage repairs 13 October. She joined the Scouting Fleet as flagship for Commander, Light Cruiser Divisions and on 6 March 1931 embarked the Secretary of the Navy for the Canal Zone where he observed the annual Fleet problem from Texas (BB-35). Chester carried the Secretary back to Miami, Fla., arriving 22 March, then sailed to Narragansett Bay for exercises and duty escorting two visiting French cruisers.
Following nn overhaul at New York Navy Yard during which she was equipped with two catapults amidships, Chester stood out of Hampton Roads 31 July 1932 with planes and ammunition for the west coast. She arrived at San Pedro, Calif., 14 August and joined in the regular activities of the Fleet. Departing San Pedro 9 April 1934 as flagship of Commander, Special Service Squadron, she arrived in New York 31 May for that day's Presidential Naval Review, returning to San Pedro 9 November. On 25 September 1935 Chester embarked the Secretary of War and his party for a voyage to the Philippines in connection with the inauguration of the President of the Philippines Commonwealth on 16 November. Returning to San Francisco 14 December 1935, she resumed operations with Cruiser Division 4.
Sailing from San Francisco 28 Oetober 1936 Chester arrived at Charleston, S.C., 13 November and departed 5 days later to escort Indianapolis (CA-35) with President F. D. Roosevelt embarked for a good-will visit to Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Montevideo, Uruguay. Chester returned to San Pedro 24 December.
Chester remained on the west coast for fleet exercises and training cruises to Hawaiian and Alaskan waters from 1937 except for a cruise to the east coast for exercises and overhaul (23 September 1940-21 January 1941). Homeported at Pearl Harbor from 3 February, the cruiser exercised in Hawaiian waters, and made one voyage to the west coast with Commander, Scouting Force embarked (14 May-18 June 1941). From 10 October to 13 November she escorted two Army transports carrying reinforcements to Manila, P.I. Upon her return she joined Northampton (CA-26) and Enterprise (CV-6) and was at sea returning from Wake Island when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.
Chester remained on patrol with TF 8 in Hawaiian waters. On 12 December her planes bombed a submarine, then guided Balch (DD-363) to a depth charge attack which continued until contact was lost. Chester supported the reinforcement landing on Samoa (18-24 January 1942), then joined TG 8.3 for the successful raid on Taroa (1 February). Retiring under heavy air attack she received a bomb hit in the well deck which killed eight and injured 38. She returned to Pearl Harbor 3 February for repairs.
Following an escort voyage to San Francisco, Chester joined TF 17 for the Guadalcanal-Tulagi raid (4 May)the attack on Misima Island, Louisiade Archipelago (7 May) and the Battle of the Coral Sea (8 May) during which her steady antiaircraft fire protected the carriers providing the air strikes which stopped the invasion force heading for Port Moresby, New Guinea. Five of Chester's crew were wounded in this encounter. On 10 May she received 478 survivors of Lexington (CV-2) from Hammann (DD-412), whom she transferred to Tonga Island 15 May.
After a west coast overhaul Chester arrived at Noumea 21 September 1942, to join TF 62 for the landings on Funafuti, Ellice Islands (2-4 October). She then proceeded south and while cruising in support of the operations in the Solomons, Chester was hit by a torpedo on the starboard side, amidships, on 20 October which killed 11 and wounded 12. She returned to Espiritu Santo under her own power for emergency repairs 23 October. Three days later SS President Coolidge struck a minefield and Chester sent fire and rescue parties to her aid as well as taking on the 440 survivors for transfer to Espiritu Santo. She steamed to Sydney, Australia, 29 October for further repairs and on Christmas Day departed for Norfolk and a complete overhaul.
Returning to San Francisco 13 September 1943, Chester operated on escort duty between that port and Pearl Harbor until 20 October. On 8 November she cleared Pearl Harbor for the invasion of the Marshalls. She covered the landings on Abenama Island and bombarded Taroa, Wotje, and Maloelap, then assumed antisubmarine and antiaircraft patrol off Majuro until 25 April 1944 when she sailed for San Francisco and briefoverhaul (6-22 May). She joined TF 94 at Adak, Alaska, 27 May for the bombardments of Matsowa and Paramushiru in the Kuriles on 13 and 26 June, then sailed to Pearl Harbor, arriving 13 August.
Chester sortied 29 August with TG 12.5 for the bombardment of Wake Island (3 September), then arrived at Eniwetok 6 September. She cruised off Saipan and participated in the bombardment of Marcus Island, 9 October, before joining TG 38.1 for the carrier strikes on Luzon and Samar in support of the Leyte operations, as well as searching for enemy forces after the Battle for Leyte Gulf (25-26 October). From 8 November 1944 to 21 February 1945 Chester operated from Ulithi and Saipan in bombardment of Iwo Jima and the Bonins, supporting the invasion landings of 19 February.
After another west coast overhaul, Chester returned to Ulithi 21 June 1945 and conducted patrols off Okinawa from 27 June, as well as covering minesweeping operations west of the island. In late July, Cheseer was assigned to the force supplying air cover for the Coast Striking Group (TG 95.2) off the Yangtze delta and protecting minesweeping. In August she made a voyage to the Aleutians, and on the last day of the month sailed to participate in the occupation landings at Ominato, Aomori, Hakodate, and Otaru, in September and October. She embarked homeward bound troops at Iwo Jirna and sailed on 2 November for San Francisco, arriving 18 November. She made another voyage to Guam to bring home servicemen (24 November-17 December), then steamed on 14 January 1946 for Philadelphia, arriving 30 January. Chester was placed out of commission in reserve there 10 June 1946. She Was sold on 11 August 1959.
World War II [ edit | edit source ]
1942 [ edit | edit source ]
Chester supported the reinforcement landing on Samoa (18–24 January 1942), then joined Task Group 8.3 (TG 8.3) for the successful raid on Taroa (1 February). Retiring under heavy air attack, she received a bomb hit in the well deck which killed eight and injured 38. She returned to Pearl Harbor on 3 February for repairs.
Following an escort voyage to San Francisco, Chester joined TF 17 for the Guadalcanal-Tulagi raid (4 May) the attack on Misima Island, Louisiade Archipelago (7 May) and the Battle of the Coral Sea (8 May) during which her steady antiaircraft fire protected the carriers providing the air strikes which stopped the invasion force heading for Port Moresby, New Guinea. Five of Chester ' s crew were wounded in this encounter. On 10 May, she received 478 survivors of Lexington from Hammann, whom she transferred to Tonga Island on 15 May.
After a West Coast overhaul, Chester arrived at Nouméa on 21 September 1942, to join TF 62 for the landings on Funafuti, Ellice Islands (2–4 October). She then proceeded south and while cruising in support of the operations in the Solomons, Chester was hit by a torpedo from I-176 Β] on the starboard side, amidships on 20 October which killed 11 and wounded 12. She returned to Espiritu Santo under her own power for emergency repairs on 23 October. Three days later, President Coolidge struck a mine, and Chester sent fire and rescue parties to her aid as well as taking on the 440 survivors for transfer to Espiritu Santo. She steamed to Sydney, Australia on 29 October for further repairs and on Christmas Day, departed for Norfolk and a complete overhaul.
1943 [ edit | edit source ]
Returning to San Francisco on 13 September 1943, Chester operated on escort duty between that port and Pearl Harbor until 20 October. On 8 November, she cleared Pearl Harbor for the invasion of the Marshalls. She covered the landings on Abemama Island and bombarded Taroa, Wotje, and Maloelap.
1944 [ edit | edit source ]
Chester assumed antisubmarine and antiaircraft patrol off Majuro until 25 April 1944, when she sailed for San Francisco and brief overhaul (6–22 May). She joined TF 94 at Adak Island, Alaska on 27 May for the bombardments of Matsuwa and Paramushiru in the Kuriles on 13 June and 26 June, then sailed to Pearl Harbor, arriving on 13 August.
Chester sortied on 29 August with TG 12.5 for the bombardment of Wake Island (3 September), then arrived at Eniwetok on 6 September. She cruised off Saipan and participated in the bombardment of Marcus Island on 9 October, before joining TG 38.1 for the carrier strikes on Luzon and Samar in support of the Leyte operations, as well as searching for enemy forces after the Battle for Leyte Gulf (25–26 October).
1945 [ edit | edit source ]
From 8 November 1944 to 21 February 1945, Chester operated from Ulithi and Saipan in bombardment of Iwo Jima and the Bonins, supporting the invasion landings of 19 February.
After another West Coast overhaul, Chester returned to Ulithi on 21 June, and conducted patrols off Okinawa from 27 June, as well as covering minesweeping operations west of the island. In late July, Chester was assigned to the force supplying air cover for the Coast Striking Group (TG 95.2) off the Yangtze River Delta and protecting minesweeping. In August, she made a voyage to the Aleutians, and on the last day of the month sailed to participate in the occupation landings at Ominato, Aomori, Hakodate, and Otaru in September–October. [ citation needed ]
CHESTER CL 1
This section lists the names and designations that the ship had during its lifetime. The list is in chronological order.
Chester Class Scout Cruiser
Keel Laid 25 September 1905 - Launched 6 June 1907
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World War II Database
ww2dbase The second US Navy cruiser named for the city of Chester, Pennsylvania was laid down 6 Mar 1928 (some sources say 6 Mar 1926) at the New York Shipbuilding Company in Camden, New Jersey, United States and launched 3 Jul 1929. USS Chester was commissioned 24 Jun 1930 with Captain A. P. Fairfield in command. Her shakedown cruise was a six-week Mediterranean cruise followed by participation in Fleet Problem XV off the Canal Zone in Panama.
ww2dbase Following an overhaul at New York Navy Yard where she was equipped with two aircraft catapults amidships, Chester spent two years as part of the Pacific Fleet operating out of San Pedro, California, United States. In 1935 Chester took the Secretary of War and his party to the Philippines for the inauguration of the President of the Philippines Commonwealth. A year later, Chester was among the escorts for the USS Indianapolis as she transported President Franklin Roosevelt on a good-will visit to Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Montevideo, Uruguay. Chester spent the next five years with the Pacific Fleet based at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
ww2dbase When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on 7 Dec 1941, Chester was at sea as part of the Enterprise task group returning to Hawaii from Wake Island. Chester then spent six weeks patrolling Hawaiian waters before sailing in support of landings on Samoa and Taroa in the Marshall Island. As Chester retired from Taroa she suffered her first casualties of the war when an aerial bomb struck Chester's well deck that killed eight and injured 38.
ww2dbase After repairs, Chester sailed again and in May 1942 she saw action off Guadalcanal and Tulagi in the Solomon Islands, Misima Island in the Solomon Sea, and offered anti-aircraft protection for the carriers during the Battle of the Coral Sea. The Chester then took aboard 478 survivors from the doomed aircraft carrier USS Lexington (Lexington-class) and delivered them to Tonga. Chester briefly returned to the west coast of the United States before rejoining the fight in the Ellice Islands.
ww2dbase On 20 Oct 1942, while cruising in support of the operations in the Solomons, Chester was struck by a torpedo fired from Japanese submarine I-176. The torpedo exploded on Chester's starboard side amidships, killing eleven and wounding twelve. Chester remained afloat and made her own way to Espiritu Santo for preliminary repairs. While there, the luxury liner SS President Coolidge, which had been converted into a troopship, hit two mines while entering the harbor and had to be beached. The order to abandon ship was given aboard the President Coolidge and Chester sent all her small boats to assist in the rescue, eventually taking aboard 440 survivors.
ww2dbase Chester sailed to Sydney, Australia for another level of repairs to her torpedo damage before steaming almost 10,000 miles to Norfolk, Virginia, United States for a complete overhaul.
ww2dbase Chester was away from the war zone for just over a year that finished with a month of escort duty between San Francisco, California and Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii. In late November 1943, she returned to action in the Gilbert Islands and then the Marshall Islands. With the capture of Majuro Atoll in the Marshall Islands and its conversion to a forward anchorage, Chester became part of Majuro's submarine and antiaircraft screen until late April 1944. After some brief yard work in San Francisco, Chester then sailed to the Adak in Alaska's Aleutian Islands where the commander of Cruiser Division Five, Rear Admiral E.G. Small, made Chester his flagship. Chester then participated in the bombardment of Matsuwa (now Matua) and Paramushir in the Kurile Islands in June 1944. Returning to the Central Pacific, Chester was part of a bombardment sortie to Wake Island in September 1944 and then Marcus Island a month later.
ww2dbase Cruiser Division Five was then assigned to screen the Fast Carrier Task Force in the build-up for the landings on Leyte in the Philippines and remained with the carriers throughout the Battle for Leyte Gulf. Chester sailed with Vice Admiral John McCain's Task Group 38.1 and on 25 October 1944 these ships had withdrawn for refueling when Admiral Takeo Kurita's Center Force was discovered bearing down on the landing beaches from Samar in what turned out to be the height of the Leyte engagement. Chester then turned with the rest of McCain's ships to chase Kurita back through the San Bernardino Strait.
ww2dbase Beginning in November 1944, Chester operated out of Ulithi in the Caroline Islands and Saipan in the Mariana Islands while still flying the flag of the Cruiser Division Five commander. In mid-November 1944, Chester and her task unit made a sortie to shell Iwo Jima in the Bonin Islands.
ww2dbase At dawn on 20 November 1944, Chester and the rest of Cruiser Division Five (USS Salt Lake City and USS Pensacola) departed Ulithi bound for another bombardment of Iwo Jima. What they did not know was that this was the date and place chosen by the Japanese to debut a new desperate special attack weapon, the kaiten manned torpedo. As Chester steamed out of the channel, one of her escorts, the USS Case, rammed one kaiten and broke it in two. Another kaiten successfully infiltrated the harbor and detonated against the hull of the fully laden fleet oiler USS Mississinewa which was inside the harbor but plainly visible from the ships in the channel. Chester sailed on and successfully shelled Iwo Jima four days later. Through the end of January 1945, Chester and her sisters made five more sorties to shell Iwo Jima as well as Chichi Jima and Haha Jima, all in preparation for the Iwo Jima landing set for mid February.
ww2dbase Beyond just the preliminary shelling, Chester and her cruiser division took part in the Iwo Jima landings as well. For three days prior to the Marines landing, Chester circled the island shelling shore positions. In the early morning of 19 February 1945, the day the Marines landed, the waters around Iwo Jima were so crowded with ships and the night was so dark that Chester and the amphibious command ship USS Estes collided – bumped really – but it was enough to carry away Chester's starboard outboard propeller. Chester completed her operations for the day by shelling positions ashore as the landings took place but by the end of the day, she withdrew for repairs.
ww2dbase Chester made her way across the Pacific to Mare Island Naval Shipyard in California where she spent the entire month of April 1945 in drydock. After some sea trials and a brief shakedown, Chester returned to the war zone in the last days of June 1945 to the waters around Okinawa, Japan. A month later, Chester screened a force of escort carriers making a raid on Shanghai, China and patrolling the Yangtze River delta. Chester then returned to the Aleutian Islands where she received news that Japan had surrendered.
ww2dbase Chester participated in the landing of occupation forces in northern Japan in September and October of 1945 before returning to the United States in November with a load of servicemen from Iwo Jima. Chester made another voyage across the Pacific to transport servicemen from Guam back to the United States, arriving in mid-December.
ww2dbase The Chester then moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States where she remained until, battered and scarred, she was decommissioned on 10 June 1946. The ship was placed in the reserve fleet until it was sold for scrap on 11 August 1959.
ww2dbase USS Chester earned 11 battle stars for her service in World War II.
Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships
US Navy: USS Chester War History and War Diaries
Naval History and Heritage Command
E. Joel Starr (RM3c USS Chester)
Last Major Revision: Jan 2016
Heavy Cruiser Chester (CA-27) Interactive Map
Chester Operational Timeline
|6 Mar 1928||The keel of heavy cruiser Chester was laid down by the New York Shipbuilding Company in Camden, New Jersey, United States.|
|3 Jul 1929||Heavy cruiser Chester was launched at Camden, New Jersey, United States.|
|24 Jun 1930||USS Chester was commissioned into service with Captain A. P. Fairfield in command.|
|6 Dec 1941||USS Enterprise and her task group (Enterprise, Northampton, Chester, Salt Lake City, Balch, Maury, Craven, Gridley, McCall, Dunlap, Benham, Fanning, & Ellet) encountered heavy weather which delayed the refueling operation for destroyers and delayed the group's arrival at Pearl Harbor.|
|1 Feb 1942||The United States launched its first air offensive against the Marshall Islands as SBD and TBD aircraft from carriers USS Yorktown and USS Enterprise struck Japanese bases in the island group. Cruisers USS Northampton, USS Chester, and USS Salt Lake City also bombarded atolls in the Marshall Islands, sinking gunboat Toyotsu Maru and transport Bordeaux Maru and damaging cruiser Katori, submarine I-23, submarine depot ship Yasukuni Maru, minelayer Tokiwa, and several others. Vice Admiral Mitsumi Shimizu was wounded aboard Katori. USS Chester sustained damage from a Japanese dive bomber during the attack 8 were killed, 21 were wounded.|
|20 Oct 1942||While cruising in support of the operations in the Solomon Islands, USS Chester was struck by a torpedo fired from Japanese submarine I-176, killing eleven and wounding twelve.|
|3 Sep 1944||Task Group 12.5 consisting of carrier USS Monterey, cruisers USS Chester, USS Pensacola, USS Salt Lake City, and destroyers USS Cummings, USS Reid, and USS Dunlap conducted a bombardment of Japanese positions on Wake Island in the Pacific.|
|24 Nov 1944||USS Chester bombarded Iwo Jima, Japan.|
|10 Jun 1946||USS Chester was decommissioned from service.|
|11 Aug 1959||Heavy cruiser Chester was sold for scrap.|
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Visitor Submitted Comments
1. Anonymous says:
13 Jan 2016 05:31:36 PM
The flagship of CruDiv5 was the USS Chester.
Please tell all about her in WW2.
2. EJStarr says:
1 Feb 2016 02:09:58 PM
After the Japanese vacated their sole occupation in the
Aleutians, I, as Radioman 3rd Class, was assigned
to ship's company on the battle-worn USS Salt Lake
City. We joined the USS Chester and the USS Pensacola
in Pearl Harbor and we formed Cru Div 5. The Chester
became the flagship and the Admiral in charge moved
there, taking his communications staff with him, including
The Cru Div 5 was involved in the taking over
many islands ..Gilberts, Marshalls, Carolines AND
Iwo Jima, which I eyewitnessed. That and the
kamikaze attack of the Mississinewa oiler was terrible.
3. Anonymous says:
26 May 2017 02:43:33 PM
My husband was on the USS Chester to Pearl Harbor about 1943. The ship had white officers that was served by African Americans men. Is there any way to get the names of the African Americans on board? His records were destroyed.
4. Michael Albanese says:
31 Jan 2018 05:45:22 AM
Is there a list of KIA casualties from the USS Chester available?
5. Vincent Sheehan says:
15 Aug 2018 10:41:38 AM
My father, John Vincent Sheehan, Sr., served aboard the Chester from early 1943 until the end of the war as a store keeper 1st class. Just hoping someone emembered him. He was very proud of his service aboard her. He passed away in 1991 at the age of 81.
6. Sandra Laughlin says:
17 Aug 2018 06:40:57 PM
My father was on the USS Chester when Pearl Harbor was bombed. I was there as a 1year old with my mother. Does anyone remember my father, Carl W. Clinton?
7. Aldyn says:
7 May 2019 09:43:26 AM
My grandfather, Elwood (Doug) Miller, was a second class machinist mate onboard the USS Chester from 1942-1944. He passed away in 2013 at the age of 94.
8. John R. Mueller says:
17 Sep 2019 10:07:35 PM
My father, Clement H.(Bud)Mueller served on the Chester from late 1939 to late 1944, he then transferred to sub school. He retired in 1962. Master Chief. Chief
9. James H Whitcomb says:
16 Aug 2020 03:53:15 PM
my father, James R. Whitcomb, served in the Chester from Nov.44 thru the end of the war, in the E div. I still have a rifle & bayonet he got at Ominato at the end of the war in Japan.
10. John wilson says:
22 Oct 2020 04:19:33 PM
My grandfather along with three brother in laws were part of the Chester crew for many years. Probably almost all of her years. John Clinton Waldron, Robert Seacrist, Richard L Seacrist, and Davies G Seacrist. I’m sure they knew some of those crew members mentioned. They were proud of their country and proud of their ship mates!
All visitor submitted comments are opinions of those making the submissions and do not reflect views of WW2DB.
USS Westchester County: Attacked During the Vietnam War
According to one veteran of the river war in Vietnam, ‘The Mekong Delta’s quiet at night, so quiet you can hear a pin drop for a klick [a kilometer].’ And for the crew of USS Westchester County, LST (landing ship, tank) 1167, the night of November 1, 1968, had been no exception — until 0322 hours, when a team of VC swimmers almost succeeded in turning the ship into a fireball.
Originally designed to transport and land troops directly onto a beach, in late 1968 Westchester County was serving as a temporary home and base to 175 soldiers of the 9th Infantry Division’s 3rd Battalion, 34th Artillery, and to the crews of Navy River Assault Division 111. Assigned as support ship for Mobile Riverine Group Alpha, ‘Wesco,’ as she was known throughout the fleet, was anchored midstream on the muddy My Tho River, 40 miles upstream from the coastal seaport of Vung Tau. Clustered in a rough semicircle around the LST were the Brown Water Navy command ship USS Benewah, the repair vessel USS Askari, two large barracks barges, a small salvage vessel and scores of squat, green armored assault craft. All were fully loaded with fuel and ammunition.
Tied to Wesco‘s starboard side and cushioned from the ship’s hull by a 50-foot-long teakwood log called a ‘camel’ were three ‘ammis,’ huge aluminum pontoon barges linked together that served as combination pier, loading dock and ammunition and gasoline storage depot. The 25 monitors, assault support patrol boats and armored transports of River Assault Division 111 were moored to the ammis. On the ship’s main deck were five fully fueled Army helicopters below, on the tank deck, more than 350 tons of high explosives and ammunition were stored.
Operating out of Yokosuka, Japan, the 384-foot-long LST was one of many World War II and postwar amphibious workhorses pressed into service with the Brown Water Navy. She was no stranger to the coffee-colored rivers of the Mekong Delta, and on the night of November 1, the ship was almost at the midpoint of her fifth combat deployment to the Republic of Vietnam. So far, the cruise had been routine — for a combat tour — filled with hot, humid, seven-day workweeks, little liberty time ashore and the always-present chance of VC attack.
Nevertheless, morale was high. The ship’s engineering department had recently taken the coveted Squadron ‘E’ for excellence, and the award was now proudly displayed on her bridge. With only one month left in the delta, Wesco‘s 132-man crew looked forward to offloading their mobile riverine ‘guests’ and sailing for Singapore and a well-deserved period of rest and recreation.
It was a typical night on the river. The ship was darkened, with only navigation lights showing. Forward and aft, 3-inch rapid-fire guns were loaded and ready, manned by reduced crews. Armed lookouts were posted on deck. A roving petty officer made sure that gun crews and sentries remained alert. A full watch was in place on the bridge, and in the engineering spaces the’snipes,’ as engine-room personnel were known, stood ready to answer all bells. In the distance, muffled thumps could be heard as picket boats made their rounds, dropping concussion grenades to ward off enemy frogmen. Below decks, in the crowded berthing compartments, the silence was disturbed only by the whir of air-conditioning fans and the murmurs of sleeping men.
But as the crew slept, a team of VC frogmen evaded the picket boats and silently approached the ship. The messenger of the watch had just gone below to wake the oncoming duty section when two enormous explosions ripped into Wesco‘s starboard side. A pair of swimmer-delivered mines, each estimated to contain between 150 and 500 pounds of explosives, had been simultaneously detonated directly beneath the camel.
Compressed between the pontoons and the LST’s hull, the force of the explosions was driven upward, shredding steel plating, rupturing fuel tanks and blasting into the berthing compartments. One of the ammis seemed to leap out of the water as a huge spray of oil, water and hardwood splinters was thrown into the air. In an instant, visibility within the ship was reduced to zero as lighting was knocked out and the air filled with clouds of choking steam and vaporized diesel fuel.
In the crowded sleeping areas, the blasts rolled an entire deck upward and back, like the tongue of a shoe, leaving only a cramped crawl space jammed with twisted metal and mangled bodies between the deck and bulkhead. Below, in the Army berthing spaces, men, bedding, weapons, ammunition and personal gear were hurled across the compartment as two gaping holes opened the interior of the ship to the muddy waters of the My Tho.
Shock waves reverberated across the water, and Wesco began listing to starboard. General Quarters was sounded throughout the ship as men groped in the tangled darkness to reach battle stations or aid wounded shipmates. The LST’s commanding officer, Lt. Cmdr. John Branin, had been pitched from his bed by the blast. Thinking his ship was under rocket attack, Branin picked himself off the deck, struggled into his pants and dashed for the bridge.
Just beneath the main deck a volcano waited to erupt. Two-thirds of the tank deck, running nearly the entire length of the ship, was being used for ammunition storage. More than 10,000 rounds of Army 105mm and 155mm high-explosive ammunition were stored there, closely stacked alongside pallets of 20mm ammunition, boxes of C-4 plastic explosive, Claymore mines, white phosphorous ammunition and cases of flares and pyro-technics. In the wake of the explosions, loose and damaged ammunition lay scattered about the deck. Clouds of highly flammable vaporized fuel hung in the air. With just one spark, the entire contents of Westchester County could easily go ‘high order.’
Amidships on the second deck, in the hard-hit senior petty officers’ compartment, Hospital Corpsman 1st Class John Sullivan struggled to breathe as he regained consciousness. An emergency battle lantern from the deck above cast a hint of light through the diesel fog in the devastation around him. Thrown from his bunk, Sullivan found himself lying half on the deck and half in a gaping hole that had suddenly appeared six inches away from where he had been sleeping. Dazed and disoriented at first, he instinctively pulled himself away from the opening. Below, unseen in the darkness, the waters of the My Tho poured into the ship. Sullivan felt a burning sensation in his right leg. A large chunk of flesh had been torn from the inside of his knee. With the General Quarters alarm sounding faintly in the background, the blast-deafened corpsman became aware of muffled cries for help. Gingerly, as much by feel as by sight, Sullivan skirted the hole in the deck and began crawling through the gloom, across the wreckage and toward the source of the voices.
On the bridge, Commander Branin and his executive officer, Richard Jensen, faced a grim situation. Early reports indicated severe damage amidships and suggested heavy casualties, especially among the senior petty officers. Movement about the ship was extremely hazardous on oil-slick decks. Communications between repair parties and damage control central was almost negligible. On the tank deck, clouds of vaporized fuel and tons of ammunition provided the potential for an explosion of hellish dimensions. And while it was now clear that the LST was not being rocketed, there was a very real possibility that the VC had planted more than two mines.
But for the moment, Branin’s attention was occupied by a more immediate problem. Wesco‘s list was increasing as tons of river water continued to flood into ruptured compartments. As the ship heeled, charts, publications, shattered glass and overturned equipment began to slide across the bridge deck. For an instant Branin thought, ‘She’s going all the way over!’
If the LST was to be saved, the list had to be corrected — and corrected fast. Twenty-four years of naval service and an intimate knowledge of the Wesco‘s unique capabilities gave Branin his solution. Designed for amphibious assaults, the landing ship was equipped with a sophisticated ballasting system. By flooding a series of huge internal tanks, the ship was designed to be able to partially sink herself onto a beach and offload her armored cargo through a set of massive bow doors. After that, it was simple to pump out the ballast, refloat the ship and back away. Since depths on the tidal rivers of the Mekong Delta can change rapidly and become quite shallow, Wesco‘s forward ballast tanks were already flooded as a precaution when the mines exploded. Branin knew that if the hull in the forward part of his ship was still watertight, he could ‘deballast’ the LST’s forward starboard tanks and, theoretically, offset the tons of water flooding in amidships.
With so many of the senior petty officers killed or wounded, many of the ship’s vital stations had to be quickly reorganized. Junior petty officers and nonrated men stepped up, instinctively taking charge at battle stations suddenly undermanned and without leaders. As watertight doors were being closed throughout the ship, 22-year-old Petty Officer 2nd Class Rick Russell found himself alone in the LST’s forward pumping station. Discovering little damage in the forward section of the ship, Russell made contact with the bridge by sound-powered phone, reported in and stood by for orders. Almost 30 years later, Branin still gives his youthful shipmate credit for reversing Wesco‘s list by ‘doing exactly as he was told.’
Miraculously, there was still electrical power to the pumps and, with Branin’s damage control officer relaying precise instructions, Russell began the complex process of deballasting the forward starboard tanks. While the captain held his breath, instructions were passed, valves opened and pumps started. As water was forced from the tanks, the rate of list began to decrease. Groaning, Wesco straightened herself out and slowly started rolling back.
Because of the darkness and devastation, a detailed investigation of the ship’s condition was still extremely difficult, but with an hour and a half before first light, damage control and rescue efforts continued. Soundings indicated that the flooding was being brought under control as compartments next to the devastated areas were sealed off.
Over the next half-hour the situation began to stabilize, but deep within Wesco‘s mangled second deck berthing compartments, hospital corpsman John Sullivan knew only that there were wounded men still trapped in the destruction around him. After feeling his way through the choking darkness of the senior petty officers’ quarters, Sullivan finally located his injured shipmates. Sandwiched between the remains of their bunks and tons of tangled steel, two sailors lay pinned in the wreckage. Sullivan hollered for help and began first aid.
Without light to work by, the corpsman treated his patients by touch. One of the wounded men was still conscious a large, metal support hook had been driven through his arm. The other sailor wasn’t making any noise at all. Sullivan probed the top of the man’s head — it was mushy, but he was still breathing. Both sailors had multiple injuries. After treating their wounds as best he could, Sullivan was able to pry the men free and, with the help of an impromptu rescue team, evacuated them to a higher deck. According to Sullivan: ‘We didn’t obey a whole lot of first-aid rules on moving victims. At the time, it was just a matter of getting them the hell out of there.’
Of the 11 men quartered in the first class petty officers’ berthing area, three had been in other parts of the ship on watch five were killed outright. Sullivan and his two wounded shipmates were the only sailors to emerge alive from the compartment after the explosions.
After evacuating the wounded men from the remains of the first class quarters, Sullivan headed for the bridge to find out where else he was needed. Along the way, the hospital corpsman realized that his leg was still bleeding and what clothing he had been wearing at the time of the explosions was long gone. Sullivan was able to find a pair of pants and a pair of shoes that fit, but his leg would have to wait.
By now, every crew member still able was hard at work. As soon as it became evident the ship was not under sustained attack, Captain Branin released nonvital men from their topside battle stations to assist with rescue and casualty evacuation. Until blowers could clear the lower decks of vaporized fuel, the use of cutting torches was out of the question. Chain falls, pry bars, come-alongs and screw jacks were used to free men trapped in the wreckage. Battle lanterns and portable lighting equipment provided illumination. On the ammunition-laden tank deck, an attentive fire party stood by with hoses at the ready while sailors gingerly went about the work of collecting damaged ammunition, gently setting it aside until it could be disposed of.
In the flooded fourth-deck troop compartment, the inrush of river water and diesel oil finally abated, stabilizing at a depth of 6 feet. But inside the 88-man berthing area was a scene out of Dante’s Inferno. Rescue teams were held up by an impenetrable tangle of debris. Sheets, blankets, pillows, M-16 rifles and duffel bags were intermingled with shredded metal lockers, bunk stanchions and an incredible jumble of personal gear. Another hazard facing the rescuers was a bewildering assortment of grenades, mines and ammunition, brought back aboard the ship in violation of regulations by soldiers returning from the field. Once all the trapped and injured survivors were evacuated, the compartment was abandoned until a complete investigation could be conducted. The next day, salvage divers removed the remains of five soldiers who had been crushed in the explosions.
At first light, as boats shuttled rescue equipment and wounded men to and from the scene, the scope of the VC attack and the damage resulting from it became obvious. Wesco‘s hull was scarred by a pair of gaping, 10-foot holes, and the ship still listed 11 degrees to starboard. On the oil-soaked main deck, two of the Army choppers were wrecked beyond repair. The inboard ammi, miraculously still afloat, was grotesquely crumpled, its forward third punched inward by the force of the blasts. Dozens of damaged light anti-tank rockets, Claymore mines, blocks of C-4 plastic explosive, flares, grenades and other loose ordnance lay strewn across the ammi’s twisted deck. The pontoon’s guard shack was a jumble of splintered timber Petty Officer 3rd Class Harry Kenny, the sailor who had been manning this post, was missing. Several armored assault craft moored to the ammi were severely damaged and in danger of sinking. The teakwood camel was no longer in the water. The forward half of the enormous log had been vaporized, and a telephone-pole-sized chunk of the remaining 25 feet had been driven through the ammi’s aluminum hull with the splintered remainder scattered over the decks of the pontoon and LST.
While a corpsman from River Assault Division 111 tended to casualties in sick bay, John Sullivan returned to the devastated starboard-side berthing areas. Two men had been discovered still alive in one of the partially flooded lower compartments. A huge sheet of steel had pinned them and their bunks against the overhead. Directly below the men, sunlight and the waters of the My Tho River entered the ship through a 10-foot-wide hole. Once again Sullivan made his way into the wreckage and stayed with his two shipmates for more than an hour, rendering first aid and giving encouragement. Slowly, the metal was pried back far enough to pull the wounded sailors free. A Boston whaler was then driven directly into the ship through the hole to take them to safety.
About 1100, Sullivan himself finally left the ship to receive medical attention. Once his wounded leg was sewn up, the corpsman returned to the LST for his most difficult task of the day, identifying and fingerprinting the bodies of his dead shipmates.
Several days later, after unsuccessfully attempting to assess the full damage to his ship where she lay, Branin reluctantly gave orders to beach Wesco, and the LST was gently run aground on the bank of the My Tho near Dong Tam. At low tide, enough of the hull was exposed to enable the captain to plan temporary repairs.
With the help of a repair division from Askari and a team from Naval Support Activity, Dong Tam, Wesco‘s crew worked around the clock for the next 14 days, building a cofferdam to keep the river at bay, cutting away mangled steel and binding up the LST’s wounds.
But before the temporary repairs could be completed, Branin and his men faced one more challenge. A local shortage of structural steel plating and I-beams threatened to keep the ship in its vulnerable riverbank position until a shipment of the critical materials could arrive from a repair base in Japan or the Philippines. Not willing to wait, Branin decided to follow a time-honored Navy tradition and sent a party ashore for a little ‘midnight requisitioning.’ That evening at an Army engineer compound near Dong Tam, Branin’s men located a stockpile of portable bridging equipment, complete with assorted I-beams and plenty of steel plating. Within hours the ‘borrowed’ I-beams and patches were cut to size and welded into place on Wesco.
On November 14, 1968, with the help of a large Navy tug, the crew of Westchester County refloated their ship and steamed down the My Tho, outbound for the South China Sea and a 2,500-mile voyage home to Yokosuka for dry-docking and permanent repairs. Wesco‘s passage home was not to be an easy one. Along the way, the wounded LST lost a race trying to outrun a typhoon. Rough seas caused cracks and ruptures in the temporary repairs, and the ship’s damaged holds began taking on water. By the time the LST entered Tokyo Bay on November 25, flooding from the hole in the aft part of the ship had overwhelmed pumps capable of pumping 3,200 gallons per minute. Once again, parts of the damaged areas were flooded to the waterline.
This time the crew was ready. Watertight doors and well-braced bulkheads sealed off flooded compartments from the rest of the ship. Well-tested damage control parties stood by, confident of themselves and of Wesco‘s ability to take whatever was thrown at her.
At 1000 hours the next day, battered but unbowed, Westchester County passed the Yokosuka breakwater and steamed into her home port. Obvious patches marked where the VC mines had torn into her side, and her main deck was still piled high with debris cut away dur-ing the repair effort. But topside, the ship sported a fresh coat of haze-gray paint, and while the special sea-and-anchor detail scrambled to make her fast to the pier, a veteran crew manned Wesco‘s rail.
When the final casualty figures were tallied, they showed that 17 crew members of Westchester County had been killed in the explosions five 9th Infantry Division soldiers died in the wreckage of the troop compartment. Also killed in the attack were one sailor from River Assault Division 111, one South Vietnamese Navy sailor and one South Vietnamese ‘Tiger Scout’ interpreter. Twenty-two crewmen had been wounded. The 25 KIAs lost in the mining of Westchester County represent the U.S. Navy’s greatest single-incident combat loss of life during the entire Vietnam War.
In a postwar analysis of the attack, retired Army explosives expert Captain Robert Shelley expressed his opinion that the mining had been a well-planned and executed enemy operation that fell just short of becoming an unparalleled allied disaster. Shelley, whose 21 years of active service included 14 years with explosive ordnance disposal, two tours in Vietnam and command of the unit tasked with clearing the Suez Canal after the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, said that had Westchester County‘s cargo of ordnance gone high order, the resulting blast would have been equal to that of a small nuclear weapon, destroying the ship instantly and generating an enormous wave capable of capsizing other good-sized vessels. Thousands of gallons of diesel fuel would have been spilled into the river, with tons of unexploded ammunition and automobile-sized pieces of the ship being hurled into the shoreline, the local town, and onto ships anchored several thousand yards away. According to Shelley, had the mining of Westchester County been entirely successful, it could have easily resulted in immobilizing or destroying the entire Mobile Riverine Force. Shelley credits the action and quick thinking of Wesco‘s crew — and a slight miscalculation in the VC’s placement of their charges — for averting a tragedy that, terrible as it was, could have been incalculably greater.
Following repairs in Japan, Westchester County continued to make regular deployments to Vietnam until the end of the American involvement. By the time she was decommissioned in 1973, Wesco had been awarded three Navy Unit Commendations, two Meritorious Commendations and 15 Engagement Stars, a combat record matched by only two other LSTs. More than 36 awards and commendations were awarded to the ship’s crew for its performance during and immediately after the November 1 attack. Lieutenant Commander Branin received the Bronze Star. Hospital Corpsman First Class John Sullivan was awarded the Silver Star and the Purple Heart. Branin and Sullivan later retired from the Navy, and today both men live in Ramona, Calif.
In 1974, USS Westchester County was turned over to the Turkish navy, where she continues to serve as TCG Serdar (L 402).
This article was written by Navy veteran and documentary filmmaker Gene Frederickson and originally published in the August 1998 issue of Vietnam Magazine. For more great articles be sure to subscribe to Vietnam Magazine today!
USS Chester CS-1 - History
VADM Edward S. Briggs, USN Retired (The Ship’s 5th Captain)
Admiral Chester W. Nimitz
In reference to the quotation by Admiral Nimitz, USS Turner Joy (DD-951) is just such a destroyer, a general purpose ship of the line, named in honor of the late Vice Admiral Charles Turner Joy whose distinguished career by every measure marked him a naval leader. A “fast ship” in the John Paul Jones tradition, at 3,900 tons she was capable of a broad range of combat operations. Her weapons array of torpedoes, 3″ – 50 and 5″ – 54 naval guns, search and detection radars, sonar, fire control systems, and electronic suites enabled mission assignments including anti-air as well as anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare, battle force screening, intelligence gathering, long-range shore bombardment, and naval gunfire support of land troops.
Indeed, her most unique and extensive naval employment came during the Vietnam conflict when, assigned to the U.S. Seventh Fleet in the western Pacific Ocean, Turner Joy continually engaged from coastal waters tactical targets ashore and close-in enemy maritime logistic support traffic. Her three 5″ – 54 dual purpose naval guns, capable of extended ranges to 12 miles, suited her well for such assignments. At decommissioning in late 1982 the Commander-in-Chief U.S. Pacific Fleet summed up her service: “USS Turner Joy has played a significant role in the success story of the U.S. Pacific Fleet. A veteran of many deployments — both in war and peace — Turner Joy will long be remembered for her heroic actions off the coast of Vietnam. She was there in the beginning when she sank two attacking North Vietnamese torpedo boats … and in the closing chapter … is reported to have fired the Navy’s last round in the Vietnam conflict.”
USS Turner Joy was built by Puget Sound Bridge and Dredging Company, Seattle, Washington. Christened by Mrs. C. Turner Joy, May 5, 1958 and placed in commission August 3, 1959, the ship became an active unit of First, Third and Seventh Fleet Task Forces, conducting training exercises and executing tasks associated with the forward deployment and presence of both carrier and surface battle groups in the Western Pacific. During the period 1960-1964 she won both Commander Cruiser-Destroyer Force and Flotilla Battle Efficiency awards for excellence in performance and deployed three times to western Pacific waters.
Midway through the third deployment in 1964 Turner Joy joined the Ticonderoga (CVA-14) carrier task group, part of Fast Carrier Striking Force, Seventh Fleet (TF-77) operating in the South China Sea approaches to the Gulf of Tonkin. She and US Maddox (DD-731) found themselves on “watchdog” patrols in international waters southwest of the Communist Chinese island of Hainan and along the coast of South and North Vietnam. Such reconnaissance patrols were common practice in troubled times, conducted for the purposes of observing naval activity, assisting South Vietnam naval patrol intercepts of enemy infiltration attempts, and in gathering necessary intelligence on North Vietnamese forces. On August 2, 1964, Maddox was attacked in international waters by North Vietnamese torpedo boats. Maddox sank or damaged two of the Russian-built PT boats a third and fourth suffered similar fates at the hands of jet fighter aircraft from Ticonderoga. Turner Joy joined Maddox after that sea engagement concluded, and the two ship unit remained on patrol in the Gulf. On the evening of August 4, 1964, after earlier indications of impending attack, the two-ship patrol unit was again engaged by as many as six North Vietnamese PT boats in a prolonged sea battle lasting more than two hours. The enemy reportedly fired torpedoes and their rapid-fire guns in a series of attacks against both ships. Once again jet fighter and attack aircraft of the carrier task group joined the fight and coordinated their efforts with those defensive measures of the two ships. In the end, two PT boats were believed sunk and two badly damaged. Maddox and Turner Joy gave a good account of themselves.
It was, then, the beginning of a period of distinguished combat service for the Turner Joy. Over the next eight-plus years of the Vietnam war she earned nine separate battle stars on her Vietnam Service Medal. Including the “Gulf of Tonkin incident”, she deployed to the Vietnam war zone during a part of each year from 1964 through 1973. Her principal tasks in each of those deployments were long-range shore bombardment and naval gunfire support during long periods of Task Group 70.8 “gunline” operations off the coast of South Vietnam. These tasks included destruction of fixed elements of Viet Cong infrastructure, logistic targets of opportunity, enemy troop and weapons concentrations, close support of friendly troops, and night harassing fire. When assigned to “Sea Dragon” operations under Task Force 77, primary tasks included shore bombardment against North Vietnamese strategic targets, maritime logistic traffic, and counterbattery fire against coastal artillery and air defense batteries located proximate to the coastline.
Some examples illustrative of these missions help tell the story. In 1965, Turner Joy conducted the first ever naval gunfire support mission of South Vietnam’s west coast, while operating in the Gulf of Thailand. During some 100 missions of the 1966/67 deployment the ship fired over 9,000 rounds of 5″/54 and 3″ 50 ammunition at targets located in both South and North Vietnam. During Sea Dragon operations the ship received counterbattery fire from coastal defense batteries, suffering minor damage to the superstructure and several spaces below the main deck. In the six months of Gulf of Tonkin operations during 1968, Turner Joy expended nearly 24,000 rounds of 5″ and 3″ gun ammunition during some 200 assigned missions accomplishing a variety of tasks in both South and North Vietnam.
Regunned in 1972 with the first 5″/54 Mod 10 mounts in the Pacific Fleet, Turner Joy was there at the end of the Vietnam conflict. During the last month of the war, the ship fired over 10,000 rounds from the new rapid fire mounts supporting the combined military effort in South Vietnam at the DMZ and conducting Sea Dragon naval gunfire strike operations against enemy targets and shore batteries in North Vietnam. Turner Joy fired the last naval gunfire against opposing forces as the ceasefire began on January 27, 1973.
She steamed on as part of the Seventh Fleet for two additional deployments during the years 1974-1976, participating in a succession of fleet operations and exercises as well as combined operations from the Sea of Japan to the Tasman Sea, into the Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf. Even as the newer, more capable Sprunce class destroyers entered the fleet in 1975, Turner Joy remained a Battle Group mainstay in both Third and Seventh Fleets.
During the years 1977-1979 the ship underwent extensive overhaul and repair to rehabilitate primarily the 1200 lb steam propulsion system. In 1980 she was once again an active element of both Fleets of the Pacific, exercising in joint and combined operations from California waters to the South China Sea. In 1982 the Navy decided to decommission the Forrest Sherman class ships. It marked the end of an era — the end of the sleek “gunships” that performed so well in open ocean combat as well as providing naval gunfire support and long-range bombardment in the war years. In November 1982 her commissioning pennant was hauled down. She had earned her place in history, and performed with distinction. During her 23 years of service she earned the Navy Unit Commendation, three Battle Efficiency “E’s”, numerous Force and Flotilla departmental awards, and the respect of those who served her so well — the destroyermen who made her heart beat in the face of wartime challenges and peacetime naval operations in the troubled waters of the world.
USS Chester CS-1 - History
As the lead ship of the world&rsquos most powerful and capable class of warships, the USS Nimitz (CVN 68) has served with distinction and honor in many regional and international crises as our nation&rsquos finest instrument of peace, power projection, and platform for diplomacy, lending to the reputation of her namesake, and motto &ldquoTeamwork, a Tradition.&rdquo The ship was named for a great military leader: Chester W. Nimitz.
To honor the accomplishments of Chester W. Nimitz, the United States Navy named its largest and most powerful class of aircraft carrier after the Fleet Admiral.
Nimitz, who died four days shy of his 81st birthday in 1966, assumed the highest position in the Navy December 15, 1945 when he replaced Fleet Admiral Earnest King as the Chief of Naval Operations in Washington D.C. Under his watch, the Navy experienced great change. He commissioned the first nuclear-powered submarine and established the Blue Angels.
Through Nimitz&rsquo career he helped establish the practice of underway replenishment he helped install diesel engines in modern Navy vessels. He became one of the first submarine commanders he built the submarine base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. He established one of the first Reserve Officer Training Corps at the University of Southern California. He also worked as the Assistant Chief of the Bureau of Navigation in Washington, D.C.
During the aftermath of the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, Nimitz was promoted to the rank of admiral, skipping the rank of vice admiral, and on December 31, 1941 he assumed command of the Pacific Fleet. When it came to fighting the war, Nimitz said, &ldquoIt is the function of the Navy to carry the war to the enemy so that it is not fought on U.S. soil.&rdquo
Nimitz effectively managed the war in the Pacific through superior leadership and teamwork. He said, &ldquoLeadership consists of picking good men and helping them do their best.&rdquo Nimitz hand-picked the men who served under him and took their advice whenever making a decision. &ldquoSome of the best advice I&rsquove had comes from junior officers and enlisted men.&rdquo
|Courtesy of U.S. Navy |
The USS Nimitz turns during sea trials in March 1975. She would make her first deployment in July 1976.
After her commissioning on May 3, 1975, Nimitz&rsquo first deployment began on July 7, 1976 when she departed Norfolk for the Mediterranean. Included in the task force were the nuclear-powered cruisers USS South Carolina (CGN 37) and USS California (CGN 36). The deployment marked the first time in 10 years that nuclear-powered ships had deployed to the Mediterranean.
|Courtesy of U.S. Navy |
The USS Nimitz (CVAN 68) was christened by Admiral Nimitz&rsquo oldest daughter Catherine on May 13, 1972.
In November 1976, Nimitz was awarded the coveted Battle &ldquoE&rdquo from Commander, Naval Air Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet for being the most efficient and foremost aircraft carrier in the Atlantic Fleet. The ship returned to Norfolk on Feb. 7, 1977 after a seven-month deployment. Nimitz again sailed toward the Mediterranean Sea on Dec. 1, 1977. Following a peaceful deployment, the ship returned home to Norfolk on July 20, 1978.
During Nimitz&rsquo third cruise to the Mediterranean beginning on Sept. 10, 1979, she was dispatched to strengthen the U.S. Naval forces in the Indian Ocean area as tensions heightened over Iran&rsquos taking of 52 U.S. hostages. Four months later, Operation Evening Light was launched from Nimitz in an attempt to rescue the hostages. The rescue was aborted in the Iranian desert when the number of operational helicopters fell below the minimum needed to complete the rescue. Nimitz&rsquo homecoming on May 26, 1980 was, at the time, the largest given to any carrier battle group returning to the United States since the end of World War II.
On August 18-19, 1981, during her fourth deployment, Nimitz and USS Forrestal (CV 59) conducted an open ocean missile exercise in the Gulf of Sidra near what Libyan leader Khadafi called the &ldquoLine of Death.&rdquo On the morning of August 19, two Nimitz aircraft from VF-41, were fired upon by Libyan pilots. Nimitz pilots returned fire and shot both Libyan aircraft from the sky. Newspapers across the country rallied around the incident against terrorist-backing Libya with front page headlines reading: &ldquoU.S. 2 - Libya 0.&rdquo
Nimitz departed the Mediterranean on May 21, 1987, crossed the Atlantic Ocean, rounded the rough waters of Cape Horn, South America, and sailed for the first time in the waters of the Pacific Ocean enroute to her new homeport of Bremerton, WA., arriving there on July 2,1987. In September 1988, during her initial Western Pacific deployment, the ship operated off the South Korean coast to provide security for the Olympic Games in Seoul. On October 29, 1988, Nimitz began operating in the North Arabian Sea where she participated in Operation Earnest Will. Nimitz returned home on March 2, 1989. Following an extensive overhaul period, Nimitz departed Bremerton on February 25, 1991, for the Western Pacific and eventually the Arabian Gulf, relieving USS Ranger, during Operation Desert Storm and returned home on August 24, 1991. Nimitz again deployed on February 1, 1993 to the Arabian Gulf, relieving USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63) as part of Operation Southern Watch.
On September 1, 1997, Nimitz set out on an around-the-world cruise that would allow the carrier to return to her East Coast roots and begin a multi-year overhaul at Newport News Ship- building and Drydock Company. During the around-the-world deployment, Nimitz was ordered into the Arabian Gulf to support Operation Southern Watch and various United Nations initiatives answering each challenge. At times the Nimitz Battle Group was the only force available in the region to enforce U.N. sanctions as lraq launched a campaign of defiance.
Before the cruise was over, the U.S. returned to a policy of keeping two carriers in the Gulf simultaneously. Nimitz returned to Virginia on March 1, 1998 and on May 26, 1998 began her mid-life refueling overhaul.
On June 25, 2001, Nimitz departed Newport News Shipbuilding and began preparations for her transition to her new homeport of San Diego, California. Nimitz arrived in its new homeport of San Diego on November 13, 2001.
As hostilities grew during the early part of 2003, Nimitz was tasked to set sail in March to support combat operations in Afghanistan and lraq as part of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. The ship returned to San Diego in November after more than eight months at sea. As a result of the crew&rsquos hard work and the ship&rsquos success, Nimitz was awarded the Battle &ldquoE,&rdquo as the finest carrier in the Pacific Fleet the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal the Navy Unit Commendation and the 2003 Admiral H. Flatley Memorial Award for excellence in aviation safety, in combination with the ship&rsquos air wing, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 11.
|Courtesy of U.S. Navy |
The bust of Chester W. Nimitz and his namesake ship at the Newport News Shipyard, Va. in 1972.
In May 2005, Nimitz embarked on a six-month deployment to the Western Pacific, Indian Ocean and Arabian Gulf in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and the Global War on Terrorism. These operations helped set the conditions for security and stability in the maritime environment and complemented the counter-terrorism and security efforts of regional nations. While in the Fifth Fleet area of operations, NIMITZ and its embarked air wing, CVW 11, launched more than 4,500 sorties totaling more than 11,000 flight hours. More than 1,100 sorties and 6,000 flight hours were flown in direct support of troops on the ground in Iraq.
Ships from the Nimitz Strike Group also conducted 286 queries, 410 approaches and 14 boardings of foreign vessels in support of Fifth Fleet Maritime Security Operations.
Shortly after leaving the Gulf, the strike group participated in Malabar 2005, the seventh annual bi-lateral exercise between the U.S. and Indian navies. For the first time in the history of the exercise, a U.S. carrier operated together with the Indian carrier INS Viraat (R 22).
During the deployment, the Nimitz Strike Group made a number of port visits throughout the Western Pacific and Arabian Gulf including stops in Hawaii, Hong Kong, Malaysia, India, Thailand, Bahrain, and Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Nimitz also made her first-ever stops in Guam and Fremantle, Australia. The ship returned to San Diego in November 2005 and subsequently was awarded the Pacific Fleet Battle &ldquoE&rdquo and the Admiral H. Flatley Memorial Award.
The Worst Shark Attack In History & The Sinking Of The USS Indianapolis
The worst shark attack in recorded history also happened to be a disaster for the US Navy. When, on July 30, 1945, USS Indianapolis was sunk by a Japanese submarine, the Navy didn’t realize the ship had been lost until four days later – after which hundreds of men floating in the ocean for days had been eaten by sharks.
Toward the end of July 1945, the Portland-class heavy cruiser USS Indianapolis delivered a number of key components to be used for the construction of the atomic bomb that would be dropped on Hiroshima, to the Pacific island of Tinian.
Little did the crew of Indianapolis know of the horrors that lay in wait for them after they had completed this mission.
After delivering the components of the atomic bomb, USS Indianapolis set a course for the Philippines. However, just after midnight on the 30th of July, the cruiser was spotted by a Japanese I-class submarine. The Japanese didn’t hesitate to attack and successfully torpedoed the American ship.
USS Indianapolis (CA-35), 27 September 1939
Indianapolis was hit by two Japanese torpedoes, each of which did terrible damage. One hit a store of aviation fuel, and the other hit the ship’s own fuel tanks. The resulting explosions ripped the cruiser in half. The ship went down in 12 minutes, with around 300 seamen losing their lives as it sank.
USS Indianapolis had 1,196 sailors on board, and the 896 who survived the sinking must have thought that, despite the horrific nature of the disaster, a rescue effort would be close at hand. As it turned out, though, salvation would not come for four days – and those four days in the open sea would be four days of terror.
The U.S. Navy heavy cruiser USS Indianapolis (CA-35) underway in 1939.
The danger of sharks to US servicemen – especially Navy personnel – in the Pacific has been known since the beginning of the war. Indeed, in July 1942, the Office of Strategic Services (the OSS, which was the predecessor to the CIA) started to investigate the possibility of developing a shark repellent to be used by Naval servicemen.
Indianapolis’s intended route from Guam to the Philippines
A number of different substances and combinations of substances were used in various OSS experiments. While initial progress was slow, a working formula was eventually found by combining copper acetate with black dye. It was proposed that pellets of this formula be attached to life jackets to keep sharks away from men in the water.
Japanese submarine I-58 (1943)
Unfortunately for the servicemen aboard USS Indianapolis, the Navy didn’t issue them with any of this shark repellent (which was later used up to the ‘70s, including on NASA equipment that came back from space and landed in the ocean).
The forward torpedo room of I-58 while at Sasebo in 1946 just before the submarine was scuttled.
The 800-odd seamen who survived the sinking of the cruiser and lived through the night were greeted with a horrifying sight when the sun rose the next morning: hundreds of shark fins cutting through the water.
The sharks had been attracted by the blood of all the sailors who had perished or been wounded from the explosions on Indianapolis, as well as by the thrashing of many bodies in the water.
Oceanic whitetip with a rusty fish hook in its mouth.Photo: Alexander Vasenin CC BY-SA 4.0
A huge number of, most likely, oceanic whitetips (one of the most aggressive species of shark), began to swarm around the men who were bobbing in the water in lifejackets and life preservers.
A model of the I-No. 58 submarine (late type) of the Imperial Japanese Navy.Photo: 利用者:宮本すぐる CC BY-SA 3.0
There were plenty of bodies floating in the water for the sharks to feast on – but the feeding frenzy that ensued soon began to attract more and more sharks. And when the hundreds of sharks that had arrived finished with the floating bodies, they turned their attention to the living.
Survivors of Indianapolis on Guam in August 1945
The sailors in the water quickly realized that their chances for survival would be maximized by banding together in groups. In this way, they could kick and punch approaching sharks together and keep an eye on each others’ backs.
Those men who were already injured, though, stood little chance against the ravenous animals. Anyone who was bleeding was attacked repeatedly until they succumbed. Individual men in the water made for easy targets for the sharks, who dispatched them swiftly.
USS Indianapolis (CA 35), off Guam, July 18, 1944. Left to right: Admirals Chester W. Nimitz Ernest J. King and Raymond A. Spruance. Indianapolis was Spruance’s flagship.
Even for those lucky enough to have made it onto one of the few life rafts that had survived the sinking, things were difficult, to say the least. Almost no food or water had been salvaged from the cruiser because it had sunk so quickly. In addition, those on the life rafts were completely exposed to the sun.
Dehydration set in quickly, and within a day or two, some men were so tormented by their thirst that they started drinking seawater, which soon brought about an agonizing end. As the salt poisoning took effect, these men would often go mad and begin thrashing around in a frenzy – which not only attracted more sharks but also got them agitated and fired up to attack.
Survivors of the heavy cruiser USS Indianapolis (CA-35) are brought ashore from the U.S. Navy hospital ship USS Tranquillity (AH-14) at Guam, 8 August 1945.
Sometimes, as these men drowned, they would grab onto other men in the water, and the force of their struggles would pull their comrades under the waves. In a desperate attempt to survive, some men would push the bodies of recently-deceased comrades toward the sharks in an attempt to draw the beasts’ attention away from themselves.
The U.S. Navy hospital ship USS Tranquillity (AH-14) arrives at Guam, carrying survivors of the heavy cruiser USS Indianapolis (CA-35), 8 August 1945.
All in all, it is not certain how many seamen succumbed to shark attacks, how many drowned, and how many perished from ingesting seawater. What is known for certain is that the sharks who swarmed around the survivors for four days ate hundreds of the men. Estimates of the fatalities directly linked to the sharks range from dozens to over 150.
Survivors of the heavy cruiser USS Indianapolis (CA-35) are brought ashore from the U.S. Navy hospital ship USS Tranquillity (AH-14) at Guam, 8 August 1945.
The remaining survivors were finally rescued four days after Indianapolis sank when a Navy aircraft flying over the ocean spotted the men floating in the ocean.
The Navy had actually intercepted a transmission from the Japanese submarine that had sunk the cruiser but had dismissed it as a ploy to lure American vessels into the area for an ambush.
The U.S. Navy hospital ship USS Tranquillity (AH-14) arrives at Guam, carrying survivors of the heavy cruiser USS Indianapolis (CA-35), 8 August 1945. The bow of the destroyer escort USS Steele (DE-8) is visible in the foreground.
Of the 1,196 servicemen who had been on the cruiser when it was torpedoed, only 317 lived to tell the tale. It was the greatest loss of life in a single incident in the history of the US Navy, and it remains to this day the worst shark attack in recorded history.
The U.S. Navy seaplane tender USS St. George (AV-16) at Guam, on 8 August 1945. The ambulances in the foreground are awaiting the arrival of the hospital ship USS Tranquillity (AH-14) with survivors of the sunken heavy cruiser USS Indianapolis (CA-35).
The US Navy blamed the captain of Indianapolis, Captain Charles McVay, for the disaster, stating that he failed to follow a zigzag course and thus made his ship vulnerable to attack.
McVay was court-martialed in December 1945, but even though he was later restored to active duty, he was consumed by guilt and eventually took his own life.
McVay was officially exonerated from blame by President Clinton and Congress in 2000. For the captain of USS Indianapolis, though, the official exoneration came a few decades too late.
Report of Action, USS Chester, Vera Cruz April 21-22, 1914
To: Commander Detached Squadron, U.S. Atlantic Fleet [Admiral Fletcher], U.S.S. Prairie, Flagship.
Subject: Report of Action - Vera Cruz, Mexico, April 22, 1914.
1. The Chester left her anchorage in the Panuco River above the city of Tampico at 9:08 A.M., April 21, 1914. She was cleared for action and the crew at general quarters. Off Arbol Grande, passed Mexican gunboats Bravo and Zaragoza. They were partially cleared for action, but did not apparently expect to be attacked. Exchanged usual ceremonies in passing.
2. Arrived outside the River at 10:40 A.M. anchored between Connecticut and Minnesota and transferred companies “A” and “C” USMC, and their equipment. Received the following order by radio from Admiral Mayo: “After transferring Connecticut’s and Minnesota’s marines proceed Vera Cruz with dispatch”.
At 11:31 A.M., got underway and proceeded full speed for Vera Cruz.
3. After passing in Adentro Passage [when arriving at Veracruz, around 11:30 pm], went to general quarters, proceeded into inner harbor and anchored bow and stern between the city and No. 3 breakwater.
[Translator’s Note (T/N): “No. 3 breakwater” must be the one (on the yellow tower) that forms the inner harbor, starting from shore near Fort Santiago.]
Darkened ship and prepared for attack on port hand, expecting possible artillery fire. (About 9:00 P.M., a radio had been intercepted ordering the San Francisco to be prepared for firing from the southeast breakwater when she entered).
[T/N: The San Francisco arrived at Veracruz around 8:30 pm, about 3 hours ahead of Chester.]
The marines were disposed on the entire port side on main deck with rifle magazines loaded
the Mexican Naval Academy was abeam – distance about 1850 yards. At the quarantine Buoy on our port bow was the Norwegian steamer “HAAKON”, and on the port quarter, the Mexican steamer “EL GOBERNADOR”, the latter having no flag hoisted. The British cruiser “ESSEX” was anchored off our starboard bow.
All vessels had their flags flying. Immediately after the ship was anchored she was struck by rifle bullets one missed Major Butler, who was on the Bridge, by about a foot, striking the foremast and breaking a voice tube.
4. At 1:40 A.M., received orders to land Marines and ship’s landing force. The Marines were landed first under command of Major Butler and the following officers: Lieut. H.W. Stone, Lieut. E.A. Ostermann, Lieut. A. A. Vandegrift. Attached hereto, marked “A”, is a list of the names of Marines landed.
Immediately after, the ship’s landing force under command of Lieut. George E. Lake and Ensign Franklin S. Steinwachs, U.S. Navy, was landed names of men attached hereto marked “B”. This landing force was equipped with rifles and two Benet-Mercie guns.
5. The ship was struck repeatedly during the night was kept darkened and battle ports closed guns ready for action. Men not needed at the guns and other stations were armed with rifles and kept standing by.
6. […] obedience to signal, the Commanding Officer. […] arrival, called on Admiral Fletcher on the Prairie and was informed of the disposition of our forces and the Mexicans on shore.
7. An attack on the ship was expected by daylight and preparations made for it. At daylight fire was opened on the Chester with small arms on both quarters and the port side, from shore and small vessels anchored to the southward of No. 3 breakwater. As soon as this firing could be located it was returned with rifle fire, but continued and increased.
As day became brighter, men were seeing firing from a tug on the starboard quarter and the starboard quarter 3-inch gun was, at my direction, fired point blank at her, striking immediately under her pilot house, racking her fore and aft, exploding just forward of the fire room, breaking her main steam pipeline and doing considerable damage. Eight people hastily left the tug in fishing schooners that were alongside.
Soon after, men were seeing firing from a barge on the port quarter. She was fired on, at my direction, and people on her left immediately and firing ceased.
These two shots had the effect of nearly stopping fire from the small vessels in the vicinity. Later on, an armed boat’s crew in command of Chief Boatswain [Gustav] Freudendorf was sent to search them but no arms were found they had doubtless been thrown overboard.
As objects became more distinct the fire directed at the ship was located a group was discovered firing from behind a lumber pile where No. 3 breakwater joins the shore. The after 5-inch gun was fired, striking the top of the lumber pile and dispersing the men behind it. These three shots had a very quieting effect upon the neighborhood to the south and southwest of the ship, and firing from that direction practically ceased.
8. The exact location of our forces on shore as they advanced was not known, but Mexican soldiers were seeing firing in the open space between the ship and Hidalgo [sic: Juárez?] Monument. A 5-inch shell was fired at this force, striking the ground and exploding. It afterwards developed that this shot materially assisted the marines advancing under Lieutenant Stone, USMC.
Another Mexican force was seen at the base of this monument firing towards our forces and a 5-inch shot was fired striking and exploding near the base of this monument. No more Mexicans were seen in this vicinity after this shot was fired.
Mexican soldiers in uniform, were seeing firing from the corner of a street south of the monument and a 3-inch shell was fired from the after port gun, striking the corner building and exploding no more firing was seen from this vicinity.
9. A force was discovered firing from or near, the baseball [?! ]park which was fired on with the after starboard 3-inch gun.
Later, forces were discovered entrenching near and beyond the slaughter house and fired on. There were some cavalry with this force, and it took several shots from the starboard 3-inch gun to make them entirely disappear.
Firing was then seen from Fort Santiago at which several 3-inch shells were fired, also from the south wing of the Naval Academy and one 3- inch was fired into it.
The above is a gener [sic] discription [sic] of what occurred during the morning.
10. […] as soon as firing was located […] and if this did not stop it to fire […] . This rule proved very effective. There were a number of other shots fired, but the first shot in every case was directed, personally, by the Commanding Officer, especially before opening fire on private residences in which case every shot fired was authorized by him.
11. Nearly abeam of the ship, in the question shown on the chart, are three private residences. The one on the south said to have been occupied by a German family, the next, by a Mexican family and the one to the north had flying over it the Venezuelan and Uruguayan flag, and over the doorway the coats-of-arms of those countries.
Fire was first observed from the middle one of these houses which is a white concrete structure with a red roof and tower. This fire was observed from the top window in the tower and immediately afterwards from all windows. A 3-inch shell was put in the top window, and as the firing continued from the others, each window was fired at in succession and the firing ceased. This building was visited the day following and a quantity of empty shells were found all over the house especially in the upper part.
The Consular Building having consular flags flying over it, was not under suspicion and a great surprise was felt when rifle fire was observed coming from it. When reported to the Commanding Officer he personally examined it with powerful glasses and saw the firing himself. Three 3-inch shells were put in the left side of this building. The firing ceased and people in the building appeared immediately after in the doorway with a white sheet. This building was visited the next day by the undersigned and a party of officers from this vessel.
The inmates of the house assured him that there had been no firing from this building. An officer was sent to inspect the roof and said that it had just been swept clean.
The undersigned has since been informed by Lieutenant I.C. Johnson, USS New Hampshire, that he was fired on when about twenty yards away by a group of men from the top of this building when he was trying to administer first aid to the wounded.
After our forces advanced and were seeking cover behind coal and lumber piles on the seawall, a heavy small-arms fire was seen coming from windows of the southern house, so the Commanding Officer ordered fire opened from the after port 3-inch gun.
There was a box freight car between the ship and the house and some of our men were lying immediately behind the car, necessitating great accuracy of fire, so that the first shot was fired high and it struck the center of the roof. The next one struck under the gable and the next to the right of the center window. The firing from this building ceased. The shooting of the gun-pointer, an ordinary seaman, was exceptionally good, for had he struck the box car it probably would have resulted in a great loss of life to our men. He was rated seaman immediately.
12. At about 8:30 or 9:00 o’clock, a regiment of our forces, afterwards ascertained to be the Second Regiment, landing forces of the New Hampshire, South Carolina, Vermont and New Jersey, appeared in column formation from behind the lighthouse building and marching to the southward immediately in front of the new Market.
The regiment proceeded in this direction, passing in front of and close to the Naval Academy Building. The men were observed to be at “port arms” and “shoulder arms”, apparently not expecting attack. From their actions it appeared that our forces must have taken this building so that it was feared to open fire.
13. […] firing had been seen from this ship from the Naval [Academy], but it was under suspicion and the after 5-inch [the?] after 3- inch and port waist guns were trained on the second story of the building the 5-inch gun been given the central portion. There was not time to give further directions but Chief Boatswain Freudendorf, in charge of the waist gun, directed the fire without any orders, showing excellent initiative. The Regiment proceeded and went column right down the street immediately to the south of the Naval Academy [presently, Calle Esteban Morales].
About two companies had passed down the street when a heavy and vigorous machine-gun and small arm fire opened, coming from the roof and windows of the Naval Academy. Chester opened fire practically simultaneously with the opening of the fire from the Naval Academy, firing directly over our forces.
The firing was very accurate: the first 5-inch shot struck the southeast corner of the building under the gable and made a large hole in the roof which had a most decided moral effect on the people firing from the roof.
The Chester continued firing for some time, until the building had become enveloped in a reddish dust and the firing from it ceased.
The order to «Cease Firing», was received by radio at 8:20 A.M. to «Cease Firing 5-inch» at 9:10 a.m. In general, the guns directed their fire from window to window, an occasional shot being fired at the roof.
After the regiment fell back, a few 3-inch shots were fired at the lower story. The firing was exceptionally good especially as it had to be done over our own forces.
The Officers and men, especially the gun pointers, were cool and not excited. Previous firing in the morning was of great benefit in steadying nerves and getting the initial range. Considerable rifle firing was done from the main deck and from the 3-inch gun ports. In the morning, people near the seawall were seeing firing.
After the ship had ceased firing in obedience to orders, firing had opened up again from shore and was returned by small-arms fire.
The Regiment previously referred to had meanwhile fallen back to the seawall and opened fire on the Naval Academy with field pieces and later marched to the south and directed fire on the Naval Academy Annex to the left.
14. Referring to the Mexican and Norwegian steamers neither one interfered with our fire to any extent. During the morning the ship was being repeatedly struck by a fire from apparently close range, but its origin could not be detected.
At 8:00 o´clock a signal was received from shore signed “Anderson”, saying, “That vessel on your port bow is firing at us”.
The Officer of the Deck, by my direction, hailed the “Haakon” and told him that he had been reported for firing and if we saw him fire he would be immediately sunk.
An armed boat was sent to the vessel without her flag flying, which from her name, “El Gobernador”, was assumed to be a Mexican, and it was believed more likely that the fire was coming from her and not from the HAAKON”.
Lieutenant (J.G.) A.D. Turnbull, searched the ship with his party, but found only one revolver. The Master of the vessel was not on board and it was in charge of the first Officer. Lieutenant Turnbull ordered the Mexican to move and go to the outer harbor, but the acting Master stated that he could not as his machinery was disabled. He was then informed that if any fire came from his ship he would immediately be fired on and sunk.
The following signal was received from shore at 8:47 a.m.,
[…] vessel with a “W” on her stack has fired at us and wounded […al”], signed “Anderson”.
By my direction, the Officer of the Deck again hailed the “HAAKON” and told her to put to sea immediately or she would be sunk. She promptly cut her stern lines, got up anchor and proceeded to the outer harbor.
15. The conduct of the Officers and men of the Chester was exemplary and eminently satisfactory in every way this applies to all branches, engineer’s force, mechanics, signal force as well as the deck force. A number of the engineer’s force were members of the landing force, some [stayed] on board with rifles and some at the guns handling ammunition.
The fine spirit of everyone from the time the tension began at Tampico until and during the engagement at Vera Cruz could not have been better.
16. Although the ship was being struck by bullets and bullets could be heard passing in the air and two men were wounded at the guns, no nervousness whatever was observed even among the signal force who were the most exposed and were located where the ship was being struck more repeatedly. In fact, trouble was experienced in making the men expose themselves as little as possible. By actual examination of the ship, about one hundred were discovered.
17. There were two casualties Arthur Bernstein, seaman, who was opening ammunition boxes at the after 5-inch gun, being shot through the right forearm, and Alvin M. Johns, coal passer, being struck by a bullet on the dorsum of the left foot while near the port waist 3-inch gun.
18. The commanding Officer directed the fire of the three after guns in general. The Executive Officer was in general charge and Lieutenant Turnbull at times directed the fire of the after 3-inch gun. Ensign Holt was in charge of the after 5-inch and was also Officer of the Deck. Ensign Gates and Chief Boatswain Freudendorf were in charge of the two 3-inch waist guns and Ensign Gates also assisted in signals forward. The conduct of these officers was eminently satisfactory and gallant and this applies with equal force to the gun-pointers, gun’s crews and entire ship’s force: everyone showing a desire to do everything he could.
19. There were no misfires or any casualties to the material. So far as could be ascertained from an examination of the buildings, etc., on shore, all shells fired by Chester exploded, the fuses working perfectly. Their sensitiveness was shown in the shell fired at the tug which struck comparatively frail woodwork and exploded in engine room. A number of noses and bases of shells were picked up in buildings, the remainder of the shells apparently breaking into small pieces.
20. The following rounds of ammunition were fired:
21. The Commanding Officer records his appreciation of the readiness, spirit, zeal, promptness, alertness, willingness and in general, the high efficiency and preparedness shown by Major S. D. Butler, his officers, Lieut. H. W. Stone, Lieut. E. A. Ostermann and Lieut. A.A. Vandergrift and the men under him, Company “D”, 2nd Advance Base Regiment, USMC, during their stay on this vessel. The undersigned has never seen a finer body of soldiers, and from his recent experience will always be opposed to any proposal to remove marines from on board ship. Major Butler, by his counsel, enthusiasm and high spirit was of great aid and assistance to the undersigned during his stay on board and at Tampíco.
22. A list of the Officers and men on Chester at time of engagement is attached, marked “C”. Reports by the following officers are enclosed herewith:-
23. A copy of signals sent and received, marked ”D”, is attached herewith.