If you can see this text here you should update to a newer web browser

Normal | Highlight & Comment Highlighted Text will be in Yellow.

     This history covers Captain Inglis' time, from August, 1943, until her return to the US at the end of 1944.

FOR RELEASE......................



     The light cruiser U.S.S. Birmingham, took two torpedo hits and a direct bomb hit with an incredibly low loss of personnel and came out of the battle with Japanese planes west of Bougainville spoutting like a whale. And the Commander of the task force in which the Birmingham fought must still smile when he thinks "a couple of nicks!" meant to her inperturbable skipper, Captain Thomas B. Inglis, USN.
     The story of the Birmingham was unusual in many respects as it was told at Mare Island Navy Yard, California where the cruiser returned for repairs. As the roar of chipping hammers and the staccato beat of rivet guns reproduced some of the deafening noise of battle, officers of "the ship that spouted like a whale," added their bits to the dramatic tale.
     "It all happened in about 15 minutes on November 8 as the Birmngham, together with other members of an American Task Force, was steaming through Empress Augusta Bay, protecting the second landing on Bougainville," said Commander J. E. Chapman, from Norfolk, Virginia, then Executive Officer.
     "The Birmingham came out of the battle with holes in her


2. Birmingham

     that have sunk other ships. Only one man was killed, by the torpedo hit on the stern. Another, a telephone "talker", was missing, his head phone set found dangling over the side after the first torpedo hit. A third man died later from injuries received, but loss of life was amazingly low for a ship which had taken such tremendous blows".
     The plan for the day on November 8 had been "no drills, enemy action probable," but it wasn't until just before dusk on that day that Japanese "snoopers" (Observation planes) were spotted.
     Soon Japanese torpedo bombers were seen in the distance using their familiar circling tactics, waiting for an opening to roar in and drop their lethal charges.
     As it grew darker, clouds obscured the moon, and restricted the visibility from the ships. The Japanese planes started coming in closer, hiding behind the clouds.
     "It was lousy weather for shooting," one of the gtmntry officers remarked, "But as soon as they started coming in we started knocking them donw. Many of them would explode in the air and plummet into the water like a ball of flame that turned to a green phosphorescent glow as they sank beneath the waters."
     The first torpedo hit aft, followed by another forward. The force of the explosion vented upward blowing a hole in the deck. Each time the bow would plow into the swells a great column of water spouted high into the air.
     "It was a 'whale' of a spout," owlihsly commented one officer


3. Birmingham

     "When the water rushed through it sounded like a New York subway express roaring through a station."
     Then a Jap bomber scored a bomb hit on the face of one of the turrets.
     Concerned, the commander of the task force queried the Birmingham. How seriously had they been hit?
     "Just a couple of knicks! Everything under control," Captain Inglis flashed back in what will probably stand as one of the more notable statements of this war.
     But, the gun crews of the Birmingham and other American ships weren't idle. Hot lead got the Jap bomber who hit the turret as he flew over the starboard side. When the attack was over 12 Jap planes were marked down for sure, with the Birmingham credited with four. Undoubtably many others never reached their base.
     Later that night more Japanese planes returned but apparently not liking the lead medicine the American ships poured from their guns remained at a safe distance, after a few fatal attacks to come in.
     The battle, brief but furious, was not without its heroism and its touch of humor.
     As in the case of so many ships saved from sinking, it was a combination of the workmanship of the American production line and teamwork of the men who man the ship that saved the Birmingham.
     The damage control parties under direction of Commander Winston Folk fought back the waters that threatened to sink


4. Birmingham

     the ship that night, while the blazing guns continued to knock down the enemy planes above.
     When an ammunition magazine flooded after a torpedo explosion, "Bosun's" Mate second class C. B. Amick of Columbus, Md., rescued four men from the damaged compartment. He next help prevent the flooding of a lower ammunition handling room. Then Amick stayed in the compartment, locked in with three weakened sides threatening to break any minute, reporting on the condition of the compartment.
     When Chief Watertender Alexander went to his locker the next morning he found his wallet had been neatly pierced by a piece of Japanese shrapnel. "Boy! I'm glad I didn't have this in my pocket, he said holding up the mutilated wallet.
     Seaman second class E. J. Haas was firing his 20mm anti-aircraft gun with good effect when wounded by a bomb splinter. Turning to his companions on the gun he shouted exultantly in his best Brooklynese, "Jeez, fellows, I just won me de poiple heart!"---and turned back to firing his 20mm gun.
     The purple heart is awarded to men injured by enemy action.
     Taken to sick bay and told to rest quietly, Haas sneaked back to his gun and wound up his night's work by firing more rounds of ammunition than any other gunner on board. Haas hails from West New York, New Jersey. He has since been awarded the silver star for gallantry in action.
     The ship's chaplain, Lieut. A. W. Brocklebank who spent much of his time during the battle topside giving first aid to


5. Birmingham

     the wounded was mentioned by officers chronicling the action of the Birmingham.
     Following the fight, the Birmingham returned to Tulagi, where, as Lt. (jg) S. R. Shaw, USNR, one of the ship's gunnery officers, put it mildly, "We had our scratches patched up a bit." Lt. Shaw, by coincidence, hails from Birmingham, Alabama, where he attended Auburn University.
     Then, after two more stops, the Birmingham reached the West Coast.
     Officers and men of the Birmingham were unanimous in their praises of the light cruisers of the Navy, and the excellent work being done by the shipyard industries.
     Glad to be home, the men wo fight on the USS Birmingham were nevertheless anxious to get back to sea to complete "a little unfinished business with the Japs."
     Upon reaching Mare Island, Captain Inglis cautioned reporters. "We aren't bragging about what we have done," he said. "There are a lot of other ships that have been doing more, but I will say we couldn't have come trhough what we have without the fine team work of my officers and men.
     "They are the finest bunch of boys I know in spite of their various background in civillian life before joining the Navy. They all pulled together--a team of Americans fighting a ship built by Americans."
     A feeling, commonplace among naval men returning from war


6. Birmingham

     duty, was put into words by Captain Inglis as an epilogue to an off-the-record technical description of the Birmingham's action to fellow officers. Summing up the homecoming reactions of the officers and men of the Birmingham, Captain Ingles said:
     "We of the Birmingham gained from this experience a healthy respect for the soundness, seaworthiness and military effectiveness of the ships the Navy is providing.
     We were unquestionably lucky, but it is more than just luck when a cruiser takes three major hits and continues to shoot, float, and mote (SIC) at high speed throughout the night--and then steam under her own power for thousands of miles to dry dock with no more than the sketchiest of repairs.
     "We owe our lives, and we are grateful, to everyone who had a hand in the construction and equipping of our ship-- from the Navy Bureau Chief to the last draftsmen. We are grateful to the shipbuilders, from management to welder's helper, to the inspectors, to the Navy Yards, to manufacturers of equipment and all that labor with them, and to COngress and the taxpayers.
     "In truth, we are grateful to America, for there is scarcely an American man, woman or child who has not contributed something to our splendid ship.
     "Our experiences brought home to us what this wonderful country of ours can do when everyone pulls together.
     But we were dismayed and saddened to find upon our return


7. Birmingham

     to the States, after five months absence, that the newspapers, and common talk on the street are largely devoted to stories of disunity and dissention on the home front. One gets the impression that our worst enemy is not Tojo, but labor, or the farmer, or the bureaucrat, or the capitalist, or the ration chiseler--depending on whose ox is being gored.
     "The impression is all the more marked by contrast with life aboard ship. Out in the war zone, we have more important things to occupy our minds than trying to take unfair advantage of our fellows (Clearly the writer here had never been on the losing end of a shipboard card game!). Each member of the ship's company knows that the success of the mission, the safety of the ship, and his own life, depends on the intelligence, cool-headedness, and competence of every man on the ship. We become, through necessity, as well as coice, a 'band of brothers.'
     "Now, my point is that if this country of ours can produce a Birmingham--yes twenty Birminghams--in spite of waste, dissention and disunity, what couldn't it produce if we were all united in the single selfless purpose of winning the war?
     "At best, it is a long and bloody road to Tokio. Let's not make it any longer or bloodier by chiseling and squabbling among ourselves. Bouquets will beat brickbats to Tokio if used on the home front, we'll use the brickbats at sea, in the form of ammunition.
     "One way everyone can help and encourage us at sea is by


7. Birmingham

     promoting selfless unity of effort among capital, management, labor, and the government. A second way is by continuing to build and equip good ships--ships as sturdy, as seaworthy, and as dangerous to our enemies as the Birmingham."














National Archives & Records Administration, San Bruno Branch
Record Group 181, Mare Island Naval Shipyard Ship Files

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

Birmingham Home | Ships Home | Researcher@Large Home