The above painting by Naval artist Peter Hsu (copyright authorized) shows the 502 under air attack 4/14/45
ACTION REPORT SERIES:
SIGSBEE'S THIRD WAR ACTION
ACTION REPORT CAPTURE OF KWAJALEIN ATOLL, MARSHALL ISLANDS, 31 JANUARY TO 2 FEBRUARY 1944. THIS VESSEL WAS ASSIGNED FIRE SUPPORT UNIT 4 (TASK UNIT 52.8.4 COMPOSED OF RINGGOLD AND SIGSBEE.
From: The Commanding Officer
To: The Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet
Via: (1) Commander Task Unit 58.2.4. (2) Commander Task Group 52.8. (3) Commander Task force 52. (4) Commander Fifth Fleet. (5) Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet, and Pacific Ocean Areas.
Subject: Action Report, Capture of Kwajalein Atoll, Marshall Islands, 31 January to 2 February 1944.
A. Fire Support Unit FOUR was assigned the following duties: 1. Deliver fires in sector one on Dog Day in close support of landings on Ennyabegan Island. 2. After landings on Dog Day, to furnish gunfire support to sweeping operations by going inside the lagoon. 3. On Dog plus One Day, furnish close supporting fires from sector four inside the lagoon for landings on Kwajalein Island. 4. Furnish call fires as directed by Commander Task Force 52 and Shore Fire Control Parties.
B. This schedule was followed in general. The action was terminated when SIGSBEE was relieved of call fire duties in sector four at 0827, 2 February 1944.
C. This vessel departed with Task Force 52 from Pearl on 22 January 1944. Various raining exercises were conducted enroute to objective. The Task Force was fueled at sea on 26 January.
D. Based on the latest information, I assumed that inside the lagoon the SIGSBEE would have to be prepared for the following: 1. Enemy submarines, including the midget type. 2. Enemy mines of various types. 3. Enemy air attack. 4. Enemy battery fire from the various islands. 5. Torpedo fire from ashore. 6. Enemy motor torpedo boats. 7. Danger of grounding on coral heads or shoals. The hydrographic information was naturally very meager.
E. The enemy forces encountered were all shore based with the exception of several small enemy vessels inside the lagoon near Ninni Island. RINGGOLD took these vessels under fire in the early morning of Dog Day until ordered to return to assigned area. SIGSBEE was astern of RINGGOLD during this phase, but was not ordered to fire.
PART II Chronological Account of Action
0455 31 January - General Quarters
0515 Left formation in company with RINGGOLD, MCKEE, STEVENS for sweep ahead of track of Advance Transport Unit on various courses and speeds.
0529 RINGGOLD and SIGSBEE executed turn to course 310 degrees T, speed 15 knots, and continued sweep to northwest. MCKEE and STEVENS were ordered to return to screen.
0538 Advanced Transport Unit stopped in assigned area.
0601 Ships right to course 170 degrees T, speed 10 knots. RINGGOLD bearing 090 degrees T, 3,000 yards. Sweep completed, proceeding to station for fire support mission.
0659 Commander Task Force 52 ordered Fire Support Unit 4 to proceed to northwest and for RINGGOLD to take under fire several small enemy AKs southwest of NINNI ISLAND. Various courses and speeds.
0715 Two enemy AKs sighted north of GEA ISLAND. RINGGOLD opened fire.
0718 Unit 4 ordered to cease firing. No damage to enemy ships observed, from RINGGOLD's fire.
0728 Hoisted battle ensign following motions of RINGGOLD.
0735 On station on track "A" off ENNYLABEGAN ISLAND. Various courses and speeds maintaining station by turn movements following the motions of RINGGOLD.
0821 On orders from Commander Task Unit 52.8.4, raked the beach from south to north, 3 salvos per area. This order was given due to hostile fire landing near our unit. Fire appeared to be from small caliber guns.
0831 Commander Task Force 52 ordered 52.8.4 to fire in assigned areas. This was complied with.
0844 Commenced firing at beaches in assigned area with 40mm guns.
0903 First wave reported 300 yards from beach. In accordance with instructions from Commander Task Unit 52.8.4 commenced raking fire down the beach from north to south.
0913 Ceased firing.
1215 Released by SFC 71 from call fire duty. Relieved by STEVENS. Proceeded in company with RINGGOLD to join transport screen.
1220 Commander DesDiv 50 requested screening assignments for RINGGOLD and SIGSBEE.
1815 RINGGOLD and SIGSBEE ordered into lagoon for the night to protect ships to be anchored there.
2002 Anchored in 27 fathoms of water with 90 fathoms of chain to starboard anchor. Established necessary security measures with anchor ready to slip. U.S.S. PRESIDENT POLK bearing 212 degrees T, 700 yards. U.S.S. VIRGO baring 276 degrees T, 1,000 yards distance.
0600 1 February General Quarters
0845 On station in column astern of RINGGOLD proceeding to Track "E". This track was off KWAJALLEIN ISLAND on the lagoon side.
0915 Having maneuvered into a satisfactory firing position with line of fire clear of RINGGOLD, commenced scheduled fires in areas198 and 199 on KWAJALEIN ISLAND.
0925 Commenced strafing beach with starboard 40mm battery.
0928 First wave 500 yards from beaches Red 1 and 2. Ceased firing with 40mm battery.
0930 Ceased firing with 5" battery. William Hour. Slightly exceeded ammunition allowance for this period.
0938 Fired at targets of opportunity on KWAJALEIN ISLAND in Zone Q, well clear of our own troops. Followed motions of RINGGOLD in delivering this fire.
0948 Ceased firing. Gun #5 handling hangfire. Turned hose into barrel of gun and cleared turret of all personnel.
0954 Small splashes in water on port bow indicting we were being fired on by small caliber guns. Large salvo landed 500 yards on starboard.
0958 Observed a number of splashes landing near this ship. Thee were "overs" coming from our ships firing from outside the lagoon.
1003 Observed SOC spotting plane shot down. Landed in boat lane beween ENUBUJ and KWAJALEIN ISLAND. One crew bailed out at 250 feet, but chute failed to open.
1338 Received orders to relieve RINGGOLD in sector four for call fire.
1431 Received orders from SFC to fire in square 111. Commenced firing. SFC 83 reported he was under fire and could not observe fall of shot.
1520 Ceased fire. Target destroyed.
1527 SFC requested to take under fire lookout tower and large building in area 109. Commenced firing.
1558 Heavy black smoke and fire observed from our fire. Ceased firing.
1626 SFC 83 told Commander Task Force 52 that our fire had been very effective. Commander told us, "Well done, keep up the good work. Let's pour it on them!".
1800 Requested permission from Task Group 58.2.4. to anchor in present position in order to furnish fire support during the night. Approved.
1822-1905 Fired at targets of opportunity during this period.
1847 Ordered to remain in lagoon all night. Ordered to provide illumination on call on coffee frequency.
1905 Fired 3 salvos. After firing at this target, commenced firing in assigned areas in accordance with previous instructions. For a while it was necessary to maneuver ship with the engines while stall at anchor in order to bring guns to bear. The wind had shifted during a squall.
2115 Ordered to illuminate line between Zones R and S for first half hour of each hour. Illuminated with 36" searchlight.
2150 Direct hit by our fire on magazine or pill box which exploded and flamed for one half hour.
2305 Japanese shore battery opened fire on this ship. Ship presented an excellent target as the 36" searchlight was turned on and ship was anchored. The SIGSBEE was also silhouetted by the moon and by star-shells from ENUBUJ ISLAND. Observed at least 7 near misses. Each splash landed closer to the ship. Immediately ceased illumination and sounded general quarters. Slipped anchor and cleared area promptly. Made complete report to Commander Task Force 52 by TBS.
2340 Gunnery officer was able to locate enemy gun on KWAJALEIN that was firing at our front lines. Opened fire on this gun. Used gun 3 for star-shell illumination. Maneuvered at various courses and speeds to keep ship in suitable firing area.
0003 2 February - Ceased firing
0009 Turned on 36" searchlight on orders of Commander Task Force 52 to draw enemy fire, by illuminating one half hour of each hour.
0030 Ceased illumination. Did not observe any hostile fire during this period.
0039 Commenced firing at gun on KWAJALEIN ISLAND.
0100 Commenced illumination.
0106 Ceased illumination, being fired on by guns from Southern tip of EBEYE. OTC notified.
0121 Commenced counter battery fire on EBEYE.
0137 Opened fire on Northern tip of EBEYE ISLAND against active Jap battery.
0200 Illuminated for 5 minutes on orders of CTF 52 to enable MINNEAPOLIS and SAN FRANCISCO to observe enemy fire directed at us.
0202 SIGSBEE being fired on from KWAJALEIN ISLAND. Notified CTG 52.8 in MINNEAPOLIS that a shell had passed overhead and called attention to gun flashes to left of our searchlight beam.
0235 Ordered b N.L.O. 83 to fire in Zone Tare. Opened fire as soon as clear of cruisers.
0248 N.L.O. 83 directed SIGSBEE to fire at own discretion.
0352 Commenced intermittent harassing fire on assigned area.
0400 Resumed illumination on regular schedule of one half hour each hour.
0705 Asked Commander Task Force 52 for relief from present duties due to shortage of ammunition.
0827 Relieved of Fire Support duties by HAGGARD DD-555. Returned to anchorage area to search for anchor which was buoyed.
PART III PERSONNEL PERFORMANCES AND CASUALTIES
1. The conduct of the officers and crew of the SIGSBEE during the period covered by this action report was on a par with past performance and left nothing to be desired. Only prompt action by all concerned enabled the SIGSBEE to extricate herself from a dangerous situation, then evening of 1 February, when under hostile fire while anchored off KWAJALEIN ISLAND, and illuminating the assigned area, with the 36" searchlight.
2. Several incidents concerning the handling of gunnery casualties are worthy of mention:
A. The gun captain and gun repairman were ordered to unload gun number two of its full powder charge, believed to be a hangfire, and to clear the gun using a short clearing charge. The remainder of the crew were ordered clear of the mount. These two men, LeBoeuf, Lester J. BM1/c and Farnam, Joe J. GM2c worked quickly and soon had the cartridge unloaded and the gun cleared. During the interval when an effort was being made to get the reminder of the crew in the gun, these two men placed the gun in automatic and resumed fire acting as powder and shell loader, spademan and hot shellman, keeping up with the fire for about four salvos, by which time the gun was again manned.
B. Gun number five loaded, with its breech only partially closed, constituted a hot gun. All personnel in the mount and upper handling room were ordered clear except the gun captain, Freeman, William .J. BM2/c, and Hershey, Mark C. GM2/c. Meanwhile Repair Party 3 was instructed to place a hose down the muzzle and to play another hose on the barrel to help cool the gun as quickly as possible. Tomlinson, Clifford N. CGM, went to the mount to assist in closing the breech. Ensign Richard E. Braumiller, and Austgen, Donald N., S1/c placed the hose down the barrel of the gun. The breech was forced closed and the gun unloaded through the muzzle on a clear bearing. The crew of the gun then re-manned their stations.
C. There were no personnel casualties.
PART IV RECOMMENDATION
It is recommended that ships engaged in illumination be backed up by another destroyer which would take under fire, immediately, any enemy batteries which might open up against the searchlight. Our attempts at counter-battery fire were greatly hampered by the necessity for getting way on the ship and clearing the restricted anchorage area. A "backer-upper" 2,000 yards further offshore could have opened up immediately and held the target and not been bothered by impaired night vision. This, in effect, was what was eventually done when the two cruisers were moved in as support.
Cmdr. B.V. Russell