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Subject:   U.S.S. North Carolina - Action of August 24, 1942, report of.

     1.   On August 24, 1942, this ship engaged in repelling a coordinated air attack by Japanese planes on Task Force Sixteen from 1712 to 1721, Zone -11.5 time. The reports of observers indicate that the Enterprise and the North Carolina were the principal objectives of the attack of about forty (40) enemy aircraft. The action was notable for the large number of planes reaching bombing attack points and the enormous volume of anti-aircraft fire. Th North Carolina suffered no structural damage in spite of seven (7) near-miss bombs and some strafing. The casualties amounted to one (1) killed (enlisted) and none wounded.

     2   The North Carolina was operating with Task Force Sixteen as a cruiser in the assigned station 2.5-180; Enterprise as guide at center; Atlanta at 2.5-060; Portland at 2.5-300 with destroyer screen of six (6) destroyers in Cruising formation One of reference (b); axis 100º true, on the afternoon of August 34, 1942.

     3.   The weather was fair with bright sunshine, visibility unlimited, blue sky, towering scattered cumulus clouds, sea moderate, wind from southeast at about sixteen (16) knots. This Task Force was operating with Task Force Eleven to the northward of the Guadalcanal-Ndeni line. The noon position was 9º south, 163º east. An enemy carrier task force had been reported in position 4º- 40' south, 161º- 15' east on course 180 at 1005. At 1326 a Japanese four-engine aircraft was shot down by our carrier aircraft about 18,000 yards to the southward of the formation. At that time, the Enterprise was engaged in flight operations. General Quarters was sounded and all battle stations were continuously manned until after the action at 1851.

     4.   At 1530 the ship was in position 8º- 44' south, 163º- 17' east when the search Radar discovered many unidentified aircraft on true bearing 299º, range 141,000 yards. At 1631 large groups of enemy aircraft were again reported by search radar at ranges of 83,000, 84,000 and 86,000 yards end these ranges began to decrease rapidly in the succeeding few minutes. At 1640 the speed of Task Force Sixteen was increased to twenty-seven (27) knots on course 130 and this base course and speed were maintained until the attack developed. At 1706 large groups of unidentified aircraft had been tracked in to about 30,000 yards on true bearings around 335. After that, contacts became numerous on widely varying bearings and intermingled with contacts with friendly planes. At 1710 signal was made "stand by to repel air attack". The task stations were closed in to the 2,000 yard circle with

the exception of the North Carolina which remained at 2,500 yards ss prescribed. Two (2) or three (3) low-flying planes were sighted at 18,000 yards, bearing about 330º true when another plane fell burning on the water in that locality. At 1711 dive bombers were first seen on the port bow over the Enterprise at a range of 8,000 yards, altitude 15,000 bearing about 100º true. At 1712 dive bombers attacked the Enterprise. The North Carolina opened fire with 5"/38 Group Three (Director Two with Mounts Two, four and Six). There were about fifteen (15) VSBs in this attack which appeared to be directed mostly at the stern of Enterprise. Several planes crossed over the stern of Enterprise and the second or third bomb appeared to hit the starboard aide aft, outboard, on the flight deck. (Enterprise was hit by three bombs and four near misses in this action) The bombers attacked in rapid succession with about 100 yards between planes. The Enterprise commenced radical course changes which the formation followed without signal, still maintaining speed of twenty-seven (27) knots. At 1713 the North Carolina was attacked by dive bombers from our starboard bow. This attack, of about ten (10) VSBs, was opposed by 5"/38 Group One (Director One with Mounts One, Three and Five), 5"38 Group Two, which shifted targets without ceasing fire, and by various automatic weapons. Part of this attack group was turned off by our fire but three (3) bombs hit near the ship as follows:

      (a) One (1) bearing 300 relative from the foremast at seventy-five yards, one (1) bearing 090 relative from the foremast about fifty (50) feet and one (1) near the port side, amidships, near enough to flood the main deck in the vicinity and jar off one (1) case ejector chute of 5"/38 Mount number Ten.

      5. As glide bombers and torpedo planes were observed at numerous ranges and bearings they were taken under effective fire by guns of all batteries which could bear. Practically all of the guns were in action simultaneously; 20- 5"/38 cal., 16- 1"1/75 oal., 40 - 20 mm and 26 - .50 cal.; a total of 102 guns. At about 1715 a second dive bombing attack was made on this ship from the port quarter by about six (6) VSBs. Four (4) bombs hit near the ship in this attack as follows:

     (a) One (1) abreast the starboard catapult about 100 yards off, one (1) abreast the starboard catapult at about 150 yards off, one (1) dead astern about 50 yards and one (1) abreast the port catapult near enough to knock automatic weapons gunners down and flood the deck with about a foot and a half of water.

     (b) This attack was opposed solely by 20 mm., guns aft, but two (2) planes were definitely shot down.

     6. At this time eight (8) or ten (10) heavy bombers were sighted at 15,000 feet, slightly on the port bow, position angle


65º making a horizontal bombing run over this ship. These bombers were unopposed and were not sighted until the position angle was 70º because of clouds. This attack was coordinated with the second dive bombing attack. A pattern of heavy bombs, estimated at six (6) to eight (8), landed between this ship and the Enterprise. There were no further coordinated attacks but fire was continued on enemy aircraft in low position angles until 1722 when there were no more aircraft within range. A careful analysis of many observers reports that this ship shot down at least seven (7) enemy planes end possibly fourteen (14).

     7. The following comments on enemy plane markings, ammunition and tactics are submitted:

        (a) Enemy type of planes:  It is believed that the attacking force consisted of about thirty (30) dive bombers (type 99 Aichi), about six (6) fighters Zero land type), about eight (8) torpedo planes or glide borders (type not established) and several observers reported having seen a Messerschmitt 109.

        (b) Plane markings:  The planes were black or dark green on the upper half of the fuselage with white or silver bellies, horizontal stripes on fuselage of red, yellow and white; a band of four (4) red lines around the fuselage and tail; a white cross on the side of the fuselage. Some wing tips were red, and the wheels were red, white, black or yellow.

        (c) No bomb fragments were found but it is estimated that dive bombers used 250 end 500 pound bombs, some with instantaneous fuzes. The bombs used by horizontal bombers appeared to be of 1,000 pounds with delayed action fuzes. There was little strafing but our only casualty was killed by a machine gun bullet. One (1) bullet measuring 0.428 inches in diameter was found on deck and is being forwarded under separate cover.

        (d) The attack was well coordinated. Low-flying planes were sighted on the port quarter at the same time that the dive bombing attack commenced. A moment later planes appeared from all directions and at altitudes from 50 to 5,000 feet. Most of the dive bombers attacked from about 20º to the right of the sun in a falling leaf manner to about 3,000 feet then straight in at a dive angle of about 70º. They released at very low altitudes.

     8. Some of the low-flying planes maneuvered in and out at about 6,000 to 10,000 yards. Some came in as for torpedo attack more directly and were shot down. Others came in a glide from about 6,000 feet and leveled off from 50 to 200 feet at a range of about 2,000 to 4,000 yards. One group of machine gunners confirmed the presence of a torpedo attack, stating that they saw a torpedo drop from a plane that had been shot down.

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     9. The horizontal high bombing attack which was unopposed was materially assisted by a bank of clouds and the coordination of a simultaneous dive bombing attack. Low-flying planes proved a distraction, two (2) of which crossed over the main deck. One (1) was seen to fly the length of the ship slightly above the main deck at close range. The speed od the planes was established at from 180 to 200 knots.

    10. A piece of the fabric from a Japanese plane was recovered on deck and is being forwarded under separate cover. It is believed that only three (3) dive bombers escaped. They pulled out of their dives at a very low altitude and flew close to the water eighter (??) on parallel or opposite courses until fired on when they turned sharply away and escaped. Par of one dive bombing attack was turned off by our five-inch fire and some low-flying planes were observed to withdraw but were later shot down.

    11. During the section the following ammunition was expended:

        (a) 841 - 5"/38 cal.
        (b) 1,067 - 1"1/75 cal.
        (c) 7,425 - 20 mm.
        (d) 8,641 - .50 cal.

This is considered to be an excellent performance of all batteries in the period of nine (9) minutes.

    12. The search Radar gave accurate information in ample time to allow complete preparation for the attack. The first dive bombing attach was sighted over the enterprise at about 14,000 feet. The attack had started by the time fire was opened, using normal tracking methods. It was impossible to pick up the targets with fire control Radars prior to sight contact because of the multiplicity of targets and the presence of a large number of friendly and enemy planes of a wide arc.

    13. In the event of a coordinated attack the director officers were trained to open fire on the most dangerous targets in their respective sectors. In this present attack after designating the first few targets, the function of Sky Control consisted in furnishing target designations to each director so that there was always a target in each sector. This enables all directors to continue in practically uninterrupted fire.

    14. Radical maneuvers of the ship caused targets to shift rapidly into adjacent sectors. In some cases director officers showed good judgement by continuing apparently effective fire after their targets had shifted from assigned sectors.

    15. In all cases of planes diving at this ship and when time precluded ranging, a 1.8 second fuze barrage was used.

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     16. Although automatic weapons are served by various JY telephones, the noise of the action made communications with these guns impossible and in many cases they opened fire beyond effective range although they had been repeatedly instructed to avoid doing so. Control of the 1"1 mounts was very good.

     17. The radical maneuvers at full power resulted in a great deal of vibration in rangefinders and the reticules in Sky One, Two and Three could not be seen until the magnification was reduced to twelve power at which Sky One and Sky Two operated fairly well but Sky Three had to rely on FD Radar ranges. Sky Four optics were constantly obscured by smokepipe gases and cork particles from 5" guns.

     18. The fire of two (2) 5"/38 cal guns was interrupted for short periods by minor casualties. Two (2) 1"1 guns of Mounts Two and Three had minor casualties. Of the forty (40) 20 mm. guns, one (1) was out of action the entire time and three (3) others had stoppages. Minor casualties interrupted the fire of six (6) of the twenty-eight (28) .50 caliber machine guns. Practically all of the automatic weapons were repaired on the spot and resumed fire.

     19. Gun blasts from the forward main deck 5" mounts when shooting forward, seriously interfered with two (2) .50 caliber guns and these have been moved to new locations on the after main deck.

     20. During the action, some of the .50 caliber guns nearly ran out of ammunition. An additional supply will have to be provided.

     21. Ship control was maintained in the Pilot House on the Navigation Bridge where personnel were in an exposed position. This was necessary in order to keep station on the Enterprise, guide of Task Force Sixteen, while that vessel maneuvered radically without signal at twenty-seven (27) knots during the attack. Due to the limited visibility aft, handling the ship under such conditions from the Conning Tower is not practicable.

     22. The experience gained with this Task Force when it was maneuvered for days off Guadalcanal with few signals of course or speed from the Enterprise while the latter launched and recovered aircraft and meanwhile maintained the position of this Task Force with relation to the other two (2) Task Forces there, was valuable training for the maneuvering during this air attack.

     23. This ship departed from the East Coast on June 5, 1942, and except for two stops of three days each and one of ten days, all prior to July 15th, has been underway since that time steaming a total of 23,560 miles at the time of the action. During much of this time and nearly all of the time during the past month, a boiler condition was prescribed which for a ship of this type required that all boilers be out in on the main steam line at


least one hour daily and ready to cut in on thirty minutes notice at other times. This condition permitted very limited opportunity for boiler upkeep. Such repair to plastic cones as was necessary was accomplished under hazardous conditions, the repairmen entering the boilers in asbestos suits and making the repairs in the intense heat of a recently secured boiler in four instances.

     24. The training afforded the anti-aircraft batteries of this vessel by firing six drone practices was of inestimable value. These practices are the nearest approach to actual attack and afford an opportunity to organize and train fire control parties that can not be approached in any other type of practice.

     25. Although it is most difficult to do so, sky lookouts must keep the zenith under constant surveillance for detection of high altitude bombing attacks. The sky lookouts, who have special equipment for looking overhead, apparently were distracted by the planes at lower altitudes and failed to detect the planes at high altitude overhead.

     26. There were no torpedo tracks observed in this section and there was only one (1) torpedo reported falling from a plane that had been shot down, but it appeared from the tactics of certain of the low-flying planes that they intended to make a torpedo attack but could not get in to attack positions.

     27. The NORTH CAROLINA was an objective of the attack and thereby reduced the number of attacks on the ENTERPRISE. No bombing attacks were observed on other vessels of this Task Force.

     28. The Radar was excellent in detecting and giving ample warning of the approach of unidentified and enemy aircraft. This information was disseminated to fire and ship control stations.

     29. All anti-aircraft batteries were effectively employed in repelling the very well executed, coordinated air attack on this ship and it is considered that the following officers are deserving of especial credit for their efficient work in training these batteries and for the excellent performance of the batteries during the action:

         Commander Tom B. Hill, USN., Gunnery Officer  (Later Admiral)
         Lieut Comdr. Alfred G. Ward, USN., Fire Control Assistant  (Later Admiral)
         Lt. Cdr. John E. Kirkpatrick, DE-V(G) USNR, Air Defense Offer. (Later Rear Admiral)
         Lieut. John J. Kircher, USN.,  (Later Commander at least)

     30. The fact that the ship was able to keep station at twenty-seven (27) knots, before and during the action, and maintain twenty-five (25) knots in formation throughout the night following, under the conditions of foul bottom, deep draught, and warm injection temperature existing, reflects credit on the Engineer Department and the Engineer Officer, Lieut. Comdr. William S. Maxwell, USN.  (Later Rear Admiral)

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     31. The conduct of the officers and men under my command, nearly all of whom were in action for the first time, was exemplary.

Copy to:   CTF 61 (Advance)       
Combatdiv SIX
/s/ G. H. Fort.
















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National Archives & Records Administration, Seattle Branch
Record Group 181, Puget Sound Naval Shipyard Ship Files circa 1940-50.

Transcribed by RESEARCHER @ LARGE. Formatting & Comments Copyright R@L.

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