“I'll never forget the humiliation of slinking down Lengo Channel each evening in October and letting the Japs come in at night and bombard the s--- out of the Marines. Americans are not accustomed to having the s--- kicked out of them; it was very hard to take. But then to see Halsey come back and . . . and begin to turn things around, was really something.” — Lt. John Everett (NICHOLAS) recalling October 1942.
“I looked down and saw what could only be described as hell.
I knew I couldn't get out and really freaked. I screamed for help and a voice somewhere to my left yelled "over here". When I tried to go "over here" I found myself caught under lots of junk. Being pretty nutty by now, I broke loose and crawled to where I had heard the voice. God helped me and I saw the light, literally. Believe it or not, I had been in the pilot house but only had to step into the water. I can remember in bootcamp how I hardly passed the swim test and now I'm Olympic material. I did turn in time to see the De Haven
slip under.” — Al Breining, DeHAVEN, recalling February 1, 1943
“The operator on the starboard sound stack
reported an extremely loud underwater noise from the sonar. He then turned on the sonar speakers in the chart house so everyone in the space could hear. The noise was a very steady, high-pitched roar that could have been generated from multiple source . . . ‘That could be a spread of big torpedoes going like Hell! They sure don’t sound like a sound school training record!’” — Al Grimes, USS STRONG, recalling July 5, 1943
“As the bow plunged forward
it would go up and down and the waves were hitting my feet and legs below the knees, bouncing me into the hull. As the ship gained speed and leveled out I had climbed to within six to eight inches of the deck. I was exhausted” — Joe Moll SM/1 (NICHOLAS)
“I saw some nose-thumbing in O’BANNON,
but knowing your brother, that gesture was one grade higher than a cheer … we were deeply aware that ‘whence-it-comes’ had elevated the event to the highest possible honor.” — Virgil Wing WT/1 (NICHOLAS) July 6, 1943
“I remember the night we were sunk
that after I made an inspection of the engineering spaces, I went to the bridge to report to the captain. He was lying on his back just coming to after being knocked out from the explosion. He finally recovered enough to hear my report, and he looked up with half a smile and said, “Damn it, Gowen, if you had been making the right speed the torpedo would have hit the engine room! . . .
“USS O’Bannon’s engineer had asked me to trade a Veronica Lake movie to him, but we hadn’t gotten around to it before the battle. When we finally were picked up by the O’Bannon, I climbed the Jacob’s ladder covered with oil and soaked to the skin, glad to be still alive, and the engineer came running up to me and asked, ‘Did you bring the Veronica Lake movie?’” — Lt. George Gowen, Engineering Officer, CHEVALIER, recalling October 7, 1943
As we all know, the O’BANNON, CHEVALIER and SELFRIDGE did a bang up job the other night. On our arrival in port from our last mission, the following messages were sent and received:
FROM: COMDESRON 21 TO: O’BANNON — Congratulate you on your good work and your good fortune.
FROM: O’BANNON TO: COMDESRON 21 — Thank you for your message. We still seem to be lucky.
FROM: NICHOLAS TO: O’BANNON — Heartiest congratulations from each and every one of us. We are proud to know you. Best of luck in all your future operations.
FROM: O’BANNON TO: NICHOLAS — To the NICHOLAS gang from the O’BANNON gang. It was nuttin fellows really it was nuttin.
— NICHOLAS Press News, October 21, 1943, after the Battle of Vella Lavella
“On your detachment from the South Pacific fighting forces,
I wish you Godspeed. Your habit of getting into winning scraps with the Japs has made history ... DesRon TWENTY-ONE always will be remembered when Cactus, Munda, Kula, Vella and the Slot are mentioned. You may be sure I will welcome you back with open arms anytime, any ocean.” — Adm. Halsey to ships of DesRon 21, November 1943
The ship looked the part that she was—“The Mistress of the Sea.”
. . . “To be outstanding among the destroyers of the Pacific Fleet during the past two years is indeed a very high honor and one you should all be proud of.” . . . a great show for a noble ship who has done more than her share to help bring this war nearer to a victorious close. — RAdm. Kauffmann, ComDesPac, 28 January 1944
“I am proud to present to you a fitting token
of the respect and esteem which this ship, her officers and her men have well earned throughout the Navy . . . To say the record speaks for itself is not enough. In this case the record of the NICHOLAS is in a sense the record of one entire phase of the Pacific war . . . ” — Adm. Nimitz, 28 January 1944
Well today it happened and no one was very happy about it
… our old captain gave a swell farewell speech to his officers and crew and with tears in his eyes he had to stop before saying all. He admitted he didn’t want to leave the “Dilly.” As he sailed away in the gig, he kept waving back and never did turn around until he was out of sight. — “Doc” Ransom’s diary, LA VALLETTE, 10 March 1944
when an enemy shell struck the FLETCHER, BIGELOW, acting instantly as the deadly projectile exploded into fragments which penetrated the No. 1 gun magazine and set fire to several powder cases, picked up a pair of fire extinguishers and rushed below . . . and succeeded in quickly extinguishing the fires and in cooling the cases and bulkheads, thereby preventing further damage to the stricken ship. — Posth. Medal of Honor Citation of WT/2 Elmer Charles Bigelow (FLETCHER, February 14, 1945)
I had just gone into the wardroom and sat down in front of the radio when a terrific explosion occurred.
I flew through the air and landed on the deck under the transom with phonograph records all on top of me. — “Doc” Ransom’s diary, LA VALLETTE, 14 February 1945
“With so many men in front of me and the water and oil rising so fast,
I realized that my chance of reaching the that small opening before the compartment flooded was impossible. Since I was the last man out of the mess hall and last in line with no hope of getting out, for some reason—and I don’t know why—I looked behind me. Two men had dropped out of line and had the hatch door almost closed from the bunking area we had exited. I remain fully convinced today that this single act saved not only the lives of these two men but at least 15 more of us, because just moments later the compartment was flooded. — Paul Mahan, TM/3, JENKINS, recalling April 30, 1945
“At daylight, there was my old ship, the NICHOLAS, getting under way—honored to lead the entire armada, which stretched single file over the horizon into Tokyo Bay. It was and is the most spectacular sight I ever saw.” — Ens. Jack Fitch (DesRon21 Staff) regarding events of 29 August 1945
“One of our enterprising torpedomen approached me about buying a few additional chances on the “homeward bound” lottery. I asked him what he thought of all the “doings.” He said, “Oh, you mean all the brass and this surrender stuff.” I said “yes.” And he said, “Heh, maybe now they’ll let us go home. Sure you don’t want a couple more chances on the lottery?” — Lt. Ralph Young in a letter home, 2 September 1945 (NICHOLAS)
The history of the Pacific war
can never be written without telling the story of the U.S.S. O’BANNON. Time after time the O’BANNON and her gallant little sisters were called upon to turn back the enemy. They never disappointed me.
Out-numbered, out-gunned, during the dark days of ’42 and ’43 they stood toe-to-toe with the best the Japanese Fleet could offer—and never failed to send them scurrying home with their tails between their legs . . .
No medals, however high, can reward the gallant men of the tin-can fleet for their brave deeds. In her darkest hour their country called. They answered with flaming guns and high courage. — Adm. Halsey in the Foreword to James D. Horan’s story of O’BANNON, Action Tonight, 1945
“ . . . and I would be grateful if you would pass this message to the skipper of FFG 47, and to any of the DD 449’s crew who may be present: Admiral Halsey directed that NICHOLAS and O’BANNON be present in Tokyo Bay for Japan’s surrender because of their valorous fight up the long road from the South Pacific to the very end. The old-timers of DD 449 left a legacy of courage and fighting skill as an inspiration to FFG 47, a legacy which FFG 47 must strive to emulate.” — Adm. Carney (Adm. Halsey’s Chief of Staff, later Chief of Naval Operations), 1984.
“Each old sailor cherishes his own private inner shrine
that is filled with the memories of those great old guys he knew so long ago. They did what was needed when it was needed, regardless of the hours and risk—and it was no big deal. Each of us knew many like this; they were everywhere. That’s the way it was on STRONG.” — Al Grimes, 1989 (STRONG)
“That the line was held, against great odds, was due in no small measure to that valiant little band of destroyers—DesRon 21
—of which CHEVALIER was a part. Those gallant ships are long since gone—some, like CHEVALIER, victims of enemy fire and others, like O’BANNON, retired with highest honors and eventual decommissioning . . . [but] as long as free men everywhere stand for those high principles for which CHEVALIER and her men so valiantly fought, the spirit of CHEVALIER will live on. And it will never die.” — R.H. Roupe, Yeoman, 1993 (CHEVALIER)