The new Fourth Edition with 44-page Index
U.S. Destroyers Use SG-radar to Detect Periscopes
Copyright 2012 Franklyn E. Dailey Jr.
Franklyn E. Dailey Jr., Capt. USNR (Ret), appears in episodes of the History Channel series, "Patton 360:" He is the author of "Joining the War at Sea 1939-1945," which provides detail on World War II invasions at Casablanca and Sicily recounted in Patton 360. Author Dailey's book also covers, in detail, landings at Salerno, Anzio and Southern France, all from D-day to completion of the efforts.
I am here exercising author's privilege to take a break in narrative storytelling to recap some earlier thoughts. I also need to acknowledge an e-mail on 08/28/08 from Will O'Neil, Capt USNR (Ret) who corrected my classification of SG radar as X-band (3.3 cm) when in fact it was S-band (10 cm).
1. The conclusion from the USS Kearney's survival of a torpedo hit, that upcoming destroyer classes like the Fletchers and Sumners would be less vulnerable to torpedo hits, was in my opinion, premature. Yes, others, like USS Hambleton, did survive. Explosive penetration into the hull and keel damage found U.S. WW II-built destroyers still prone to loss, especially in open seas.
2. Skipper Al Murdaugh and hiscrew on the USS Edison, DD-439, earned a well deserved first star on their Theatre Ribbon in pioneering hold-down tactics against the U-boats in the North Atlantic. Using HFDF and/or other contact reports, instead of hugging the convoy and holding on for dear life, escorts learned to push out on a bearing beyond sight distance from the convoy and engage in suppression efforts. This tactic impeded U-Boat efforts to achieve relativebearing advantage on the convoy's direction of advance. The U.S. was still to suffer enormous ship losses but when SG radar did come, these early lessons, the newer radar, and finally shore based or Hunter/Killer air surveillance, all combined to tip the balance in our favor. That, and the unparalleled production efforts of workers on the home front!
3. A contributing factor to heavy loss of life, even to loss of the destroyer itself, was the practice, in the absence of a specific sound contact resulting in actual pursuit of an enemy sub, of leaving the depth charges on a setting other than "safe". When, in pursuit of a sound contact, the setting of the "pattern" was a doctrinal part of the attack for actual anti-submarine attack runs, the destroyer increased its own vulnerability as a necessary part of the effort to destroy the submarine. But, while cruising or patrolling in periods with no sonar contact, Edison's depth charges were set on "safe." We practiced , on every watch at sea, the human skiill of fast setting a depth charge pattern, upon making sonar contact.
4. Two long distance telephone calls I received in early October 1997, responding to Chapters then published on the Internet, were sparked by questions I raised about the introduction of SG radar to US warships in late 1942 and early 1943. The caller was John Weld, my brother-in-law, who was a Lt. USNR on the staff of Rear Adm. Richmond Kelly Turner, Commander Amphibious Force, South Pacific, in 1942, for the landings on Guadalcanal. He pointed me to the existence of the book titled, "Guadalcanal", by Richard Frank, published in 1990. John Weld's memories on the use of SG radar in the South Pacific, particularly off Guadalcanal, paralleled my own from the experience at Casablanca. Some of our warships in both oceans had the SG radar. Most did not have it in the fall of 1942. The turning point advantage that SG could provide could only be appreciated on board the ships which had it, and possibly not by all on board. SG was new, the SC radar experience had been poor, and most sea commanders had no appreciation for the potential of the new SG radar. In 618 pages, the Index to "Guadalcanal" shows that Richard Frank mentioned the SG radar at least 11 times. I will make an excerpt of just the first of these. From "Guadalcanal", page 294 in Chapter 12, "The Battle of Cape Esperance":
"The one serious deficiency in Scott's calculations (Rear Adm. Norman Scott with four cruisers and five destroyers) was his selection of a flagship. Heavy cruisers Salt Lake City and San Francisco were nominally his most powerful units, and Scott hoisted his flag in the latter. However, the mastheads of both these vessels supported only metric-wave SC search radars of much inferior performance to that of the newer centimetric SG radars sported by both his light cruisers.......Because of the erratic performance of the SC radar (ordered turned off to avoid being picked up by Japanese listening countermeasure equipment, which, as it turned out, the Japanese did not have) the American Admiral did not regard its (the SC radar's) loss as grave, and as he was ignorant of the enormous improvement in technology represented by SG radar, he did not switch his flag to one of his light cruisers, the Helena or the Boise."
5. In his book, "Guadalcanal", author Richard Frank credits Admiral King with the compelling perseverance to pursue the Guadalcanal landings, and for his effective infighting along with General Marshal to provide some very basic Pacific deployments while honoring European commitments. I had credited Admiral Nimitz for the Guadalcanal initiative. Nimitz was in fact following King's direction, albeit with approval and zeal.
6. Readers may be interested in other feedback to date (Nov. 9,1997) on this story. A number who have had no connection with the events covered have commented favorably because of their interest in naval action history. About half of these have been spontaneous from the Web, the other half have been cued by other communications to look it up on the Web. Separately, a threesome of delightful E-mail correspondents are now actively in communication about the USS Buck. Two of those lost a close relative on the Buck, and the third is a son-in-law of a Buck survivor. With only 57 survivors of the sinking of the Buck, and the attrition of the ensuing 54 years on that number, it is remarkable that Jack Dacey (whose uncle, James J. Dacey Jr. Sound Operator's Mate 2/c was KIA on Buck), Dean Lambert (whose brother, G.S. "Beppo" Lambert, LCDR USN was KIA on Buck) and Jim Lingafelter (whose father-in-law, Helmuth Timm S 1/c, survived the sinking of the Buck) have an opportunity to exchange the few bits of knowledge available after the Buck's loss in 1943. In so doing, they will expand that knowledge. I am certainly proud that Web searches led Jack Dacey and Jim Lingafelter to "Joining The War At Sea". Each of these men has taught me something I had not appreciated before about the Internet and about my story. Dean Lambert has supplied information on source locations that would never have been available to me without the remarkable tool of the Internet.
A more recent check-in is Bob Swanson, who maintains a USS Augusta website at www.internet-esq.com/ussaugusta and has posted Augusta's war diary for Torch on the site at /diary/1142.htm Bob's father served aboard the USS Augusta. A most relevant Web visit was made possible by a posting Bob Swanson made of the Augusta's Action Report at URL http://www.internet-esq.com/ussaugusta/torch/actionreport.htm in which one learns that the Augusta had the U.S. Fleet's most advanced complement of radar systems, including the SG. So, at TORCH, the U.S. sea commander, Admiral Hewitt, was embarked on the best command ship he could have. (A look back at Chapters Five and Six shows that the Augusta seemed to be everywhere in making best use of her capabilities. One can be sure, though, that Augusta was also where Admiral Hewitt needed to be. The interruption of the first debarkation attempt from Augusta for General Patton demonstrated that Augusta went to where fire support was needed and putting the General ashore took second priority. )
The last person to check in before Web publication of this Metalogue was Ken Williams, who served aboard the USS Ludlow. Let me emphasize. Ken served aboard the Ludlow from commissioning in 1941 until August 1944. Ken came to this story courtesy of Bob Swanson. Ken has put up a Ludlow page at http://mypage.ihost.com/nosmoke/ This website may no longer be operating. Sad to say, but Ken Williams has passed and I will miss him. (inserted 03/17/02)
7. Some details of the use of the SG, particularly in correcting the Fedala landfall (navigational aspect recounted by Morison, and the radar in use now confirmed, thanks to Bob Swanson's publication of her action report, to be the SG aboard the Augusta) position for the transport group, and in detecting the sub as it escaped after three torpedoings late in the afternoon (again, Augusta's action report courtesy of Bob Swanson) of the 11th of November, greatly enhance one's knowledge of those fateful hours. It is fairly certain that that sub was U-173. The statistics match and the Morison's Volume II has the USS Bristol encountering U-173 on the surface at just 1200 yards range on her escape northward. From a 1990s Web archive in Germany, thanks to Dean Lambert, I found the following:
I believe there is a typo in the information table above and that it is intended to be the USS Hambleton. Fate runs a circuitous route. In a later action on 17 May 1944, in waters east of Cartagena, the USS Hambleton is one of a group of U.S. destroyers credited in this same archive with sinking U-616, which had earlier sunk the USS Buck. We shall offer more details on U-616 when we get to the action in which the Buck was lost.
For the sinkings at the anchorage on the 12th, Morison in his Volume II apparently had enough postwar access (1947) to U-130's log to detail the number of torpedoes she fired from bow tubes (6) and from stern tubes (2). Four of the six hit. From that same German Web archive:
The two U-boat tables above came from http://uboat.europe.is/boats I am indebted to Dean Lambert for that URL.
My insertion of the U-130 and U-173 tables here from Web downloads involves a few questionable efforts on my part to code HTML. The links will be alive if readers use the URL above and go directly to that web site.
8. After the French capitulated, Admiral Hewitt and Captain Emmet and others deliberated late in the afternoon of 11 November 1942 about berthing ships of the central transport group in Fedala or in Casablanca, which would have brought about a move from their vulnerable anchorage in the open roadstead off Fedala. Admiral Hewitt's decision against moving the ships into a protected harbor on 11 November, revealed in Samuel Eliot Morison's account, was based on the impending arrival of a re-supply convoy from the States that would need all available harbor facilities. Three ships torpedoed just an hour after the meeting on the 11th, in a U-boat attack, which intelligence had indicated might happen, certainly confirmed the new danger at the Fedala anchorage. Another meeting on the 12th again went against moving Captain Emmet's transports into the harbor. In reflecting on the meeting decisions of the 11th and the 12th, one can only speculate that one of those vacuums in the chain of command appears to have occurred. Captain Emmet had the authority to get the transports underway and he had his own screening force of destroyers to provide escort. The fact that he took the action to get underway with the transport group twenty four hours later on the 12th, after three more devastating U-boat hits had been recorded, makes it clear that the command structure subsequent to the first landings left him such initiative. The participation of Admiral Hewitt in the decisions not to move, a decision based on berthing options in Fedala and Casablanca and a D+5 convoy arrival, froze the chain of command. Was the option to just put to sea ever seriously discussed at either meeting? Captain Emmet's responsibility not to further delay off loading of his transport group may have caused him to set aside a review of all the command options he could exercise, independently of the Admiral and the harbor situation. One of those options was to get the transport group underway.
9. I attended a USS Edison reunion at the Holiday Inn in Portsmouth, Virginia in mid-October 1997. I made a representation to the 45 in attendance, about 20 of whom served on the Edison, to use this story and the E-mail, to stimulate more information. . Two important telephone calls have come from Harry Russell as the result of the reunion. Harry was a Yeoman aboard the Edison during the period covered. He has also talked with Vern Willmert by phone after the reunion. Vern was another Edison Yeoman. Both of these men later went into the officer corps. Their experience, especially with personnel and files while on Edison duty, has been shared with Jean Whetstine and Robert Cloyd, the two editors of the Edison Newsletter, published now for over 30 years. This valuable resource will hopefully continue to be published by Jean Whetstine.