12 April 1945
ACTION REPORT AND SINKING OF USS EMMONS (DMS 22), 6 April 1945.
1. Enclosures (A), (B), (C) AND (D) submitted in accordance with Pacific Fleet Circular Letter 9L044. Enclosure (E) forward for information. These enclosures along with the following action report are submitted by Lieutenant John J. Griffin Hr. 174076 USNR in the absence of the commanding officer Lieutenant Commander Eugene N. Foss 2nd 73189 USNR, who is at present a casualty aboard the USS CRESCENT CITY (APA 21).
2. On 6 April 1945, this vessel in company with the USS RODMAN (DMS 21), the senior ship, was engaged in supporting operations of Sweep Unit 11 in the Northern Okinawa area George Three, east of Ie Shima, in the Ryukyu Islands.
3. About 1515 (all times are local times) Combat Information Center informed all stations that two enemy aircraft had been reported by the USS MACOMB (DMS 23), which vessel was operating in an adjacent area. Control checked the indicated bearing and all guns were brought to bear on two enemy aircraft closing our port quarter. With the range fouled we saw one plane crash on the forecastle of the USS RODMAN and the second carry out an unsuccessful bombing attack. As the range cleared we opened fire on the remaining plane with negative results.
4. Preparations were made to go alongside the crippled ship to assist in fighting the fire but as it was soon brought under control, we began circling in an effort to provide fire support. At this time numerous “bogies” were reported in the area (later developments showed them to number 50 to 75) as well as many units of the Combat Air Patrol. Dog fights were plentiful and many enemy planes were seen to “splash”. It appeared the enemy did not choose to engage our aircraft but were more intent on making an attacking run on surface craft. Much credit is due the pilots of the Combat Air Patrol who never hesitated to carry through their attacked although on many occasions it meant flying directly into friendly anti-aircraft fire. An estimated fifty planes were brought down by the courageous and excellent flying of these aviators.
5. As we supported the USS RODMAN many attacks were directed as us. Tonys, Vals and Zekes were identified. The USS EMMONS definitely “splashed” six planes before suffering the first of five hits. During this time four other attacks missed the ship by a matter of a few yards. All five hits occurred in rapid succession, almost instantaneously, and were well coordinated. The first hit was taken on the fantail at about frame 175; the second on the starboard side of the pilot house; the third on the port side of the Combat Information Center; the fourth on the starboard side of number three five-inch gun; and the fifth near the water line at frame 30, starboard side.
6. It is believed that all suicide planes carried bombs and strafed during the approach. Plot recorded the first hit at 1732 with the pitometer reading twenty-five knots, confirming the report of the engineering department that the ship was making 246 revolutions per minute and maneuvering radically. At 1734 Plot again recorded two simultaneous hits, the second and third received. Target speed of the planes was calculated at 235 knots.
7. All of the hull aft of frame 175 was entirely missing and serious damage was inflicted on the port screw rendering it inoperable. The entire bridge structure was destroyed and fire raged in all spaces from frame 67 forward to gun one, from the main deck up. Little or nothing remained of the decks from the main deck to the bridge overhead in that area. Several small fires were started in the after part of the ship and would break out again after being extinguished. The proportions of the fire, together with the exploding 20 mm ready boxes, made fire fighting extremely difficult forward although the handling rooms of both forward guns were sprinkled.
8. Damage was done to the fire mains forward but water was still supplied to the sprinkling systems and for this reason the cut-out valves were not closed. Water pressure could not be brought over about sixty pounds at any time after the casualty occurred. Many of the topside fire hoses were useless due to holes and cuts caused by shrapnel and strafing. Long leads had to be brought up from the engineering spaces. Flooding was in progress both forward and aft and the only completely undamaged spaces were the two fire rooms and the two engine rooms. A starboard list of about ten degrees and a settling by the stern developed.
9. After the second and third hits the word spread throughout the ship to “Abandon Ship”. The origin of this order cannot be determined, but many men had already left the ship when I reached the main deck after leaving my station in the useless Main Battery Director. Realizing myself the senior office aboard, I ordered all hands to stand by the ship until the situation was fully investigated. There were several craft in the vicinity but as they apparently were not going to come alongside in answer to our signals, many of the wounded were put in the water on life rafts and floats. The more serious casualties were kept aboard. All topside gear was jettisoned and one raft was kept alongside for the remaining men. The fire in the superstructure was brought under partial control enabling the whaleboat to be lowered. The boat then picked up many of the wounded and transferred them to nearby small mine craft.
10. It was decided at 1800, after consulting the other officers aboard, that the ship would have to be abandoned. This decision was reached for the following reasons:
(a) The port main engine was inoperable.
(b) The was no means of steering the ship as the rudder had been blown off.
(c) The fire forward could not be controlled due to the combination of its intensity and the low pressure on the main.
(d) The ship continued to take more water and settle perceptibly.
(e) There was imminent danger of explosion in both magazines and fuel tanks.
(f) The entire battery with the exception of two 20mm guns was inoperable.
11. About 1930 the PGM 11 came alongside to port to render assistance. As wounded were being transferred a heavy explosion occurred in the handling room of gun two and I ordered all hands to “Abandon Ship”. Prior to this all engineering spaces were completely secured except for the fire mains. Hose lines were still being directed on the fire.
12. All publications and radar equipment were completely destroyed by fire. Although the vessel was still afloat when abandoned it was certain that no danger of falling into enemy hands existed as there were many friendly units approaching the area which would be able to sink the ship if it started to drift toward the enemy beach. Also there remained some thought that salvage could be effected if proper equipment were made available at daylight. Higher authority was advised of the possibility of salvage by voice radio as the PGN 11 returned to the anchorage. It was reported, however, that the hulk was sunk the following morning by the USS ELLYSON (DMS 19).
13. The six officers and fifty-seven men who remained aboard until the last expended every effort humanly possible to combat the damage. Had assistance not arrived it was decided to remain aboard until morning. The wounded were cared for at the scene to the best of the ability of those aboard and acts of heroism were seen on every side. It is my intention to follow this report with several deserving recommendations for awards.
14. During the three hour air battle, all guns and fire control equipment functioned perfectly. The same may be said of the action which took place from 0330 to 0700 the same morning during which 125 rounds of five-inch ammunition was expended at three separate enemy planes. No hits were scored at that time. The enemy strategically made use of radar jamming “window” and on four occasions dropped illuminating flares.
15. Sufficient ammunition for only one more attack remained when the guns were put out of action. As anti-aircraft common and the special ammunition were expended, star shells, white phosphorous and common were pressed into service. After the main battery director became inoperative the gun crews continued to fire in local control and gun three “splashed” one plane with a common projectile. Much credit must be given the gun crews for their determination and excellent gunnery and their proven ability to carry on under the orders of the gun captain. The many hours of drills and exercises showed their effective results.
16. The uninjured members of the repair parties, assisted by others in the crew, carried out orders to the best of their ability under existing conditions. The engineering department functioned perfectly throughout the action, suffering little or no damage within the four engineering spaces themselves. The number two main circuit breaker tripped out and could not be closed again while number one board never lost its load until the plant was secured.
17. There were no serious fuel oil leaks evident and the condition of the various tanks is as follows: A-2 empty; A-3 and A-4 ballast; A-5, A-6 and A-7 filled ninety-five percent; C-2 and C-402 filled ninety-five percent diesel oil; C-3 and C-4 ballast; C-7 and C-8 filled eighty percent; C-9 and C-10 empty; C-401 filled ninety-five percent; C-9 and C-10 were about to be ballasted when General Quarters was sounded.
18. The PGM 11 transferred the sixty-three survivors to the USS GOSPER (APA 70) where the wounded were further treated. Other members of the crew were brought to the USS GOSPER and on 7 April six officers and 144 men were further transferred to the USS WAYNE (APA54). The wounded remained aboard the USS GOSPER and the USS CRESCENT CITY (APA21). All records were lost with the ship with the exception of a muster roll of the crew and a roster of officers.
19. Further amplifying comments regarding this action will be forwarded by Lieutenant Commander FOSS upon his return to active duty. Two copies are furnished direct to the Commander in Chief United States Fleet, three to the Commander in Chief United States Pacific Fleet and one to the Commander Task Group 51.15. Others forward to the Commander Mine Squadron TWENTY.
/s/ JOHN J. GRIFFIN Jr.
Commanding Officer USS EMMONS