Halsey on Deck
November 1st to November 30th, 1942

November 1, 1942, Sunday. Moored as before to USS Argonne, undergoing hull and degaussing system repair. 1300 We got underway to go alongside Lassen to complete ammunition replenishment. The Captain went to a conference on Washington. Fueled ship and proceeded to outer harbor anchorage, B 43 Dumbea Bay, Great Roads, Nouméa.

November 2, 1942, Monday. Anchored as before in Birth 43, Dumbea Bay, Great Roads.

We got a new 20mm single barrel machine gun and mounted it on the fantail. Now, that’s a battle station I wanted to have. I approached the Chief Gunner’s Mate, Baer, on the proposition. He thought I was joking. I wasn’t, and reminded him that I had an expert pistol rating. I kept asking but kept getting a brush-off, maybe due to the Chief Engineer. Anyway, my battle station remained the forward fireroom to my regret.

November 3, Tuesday, at anchor as before. Up at 0213 to light off the after plant. Back to bed from 04 to 0600 when we went to general quarters at the sortie. We have the patrol duty outside Bulari Passage. USS Barton passed us coming in from the same patrol. We were on station by 0630. It was a day of drills and battle problems. Between them, we stood regular watches and had two sound contacts that brought us to general quarters and hunt and destroy tactics, but the echoes came from whales. We are keeping in touch with Aedee Light, at 15 miles as per orders. After evening chow, slept until time to go on watch at 2330.

November 4, 1942, Wednesday, steaming as before at various courses and speeds on patrol. I had the midwatch, and waited up for dawn alert 0430 to 0530. At 1200, we sighted USS Lansdowne standing out to relieve us. We returned to anchorage and fueled ship from a tanker, then moored alongside Barton in her berth. We had a Deanna Durbin film, so I stayed up until 2100 to see it. I’ve found about one-in-four movies worth the time or sleep loss.

November 5, 1942, moored as before to USS Barton. 0745 dropped port anchor and veered to 45 fathoms as Barton got underway. I worked in the plant all morning. Lighted off at 1400. Underway from harbor at 1530, on watch 20 to 2400. Showered and played blackjack and won $25. ComSoPac is sending us to Auckland, N.Z., to escort a transport back to the war zone. Everyone is hopped up about some liberty ashore... How can that be while I have so much loot?

Our frequent escort missions I attribute to Captain Brown’s seniority and his reputation at high levels. Juniors of unknown capabilities are not selected for independent missions.

Old Settler told me to be careful with my dungarees since there are none this side of Hawaii. We can expect worse.

Upon our arrival at Nouméa there was a movement to dye white hats and white uniforms to make them less visible. With reflection I quit wearing a hat: a hat cost $1.50, and a full suit of whites cost around $4.50. I should dye them and make them useless? In rear areas like Nouméa, my wearing spanking white uniforms had
caused no complaints. Up around Cactus, I wore dungarees without a hat.

Considerable moaning was heard when Admiral Halsey ordained “unit stores,” i.e., your shopping list must contain (or you will receive) X pounds of full-grown mutton for every pound of beef. There was plenty of mutton in New Zealand and Australia; beef had to come 10,000 miles. A lot of mutton got cooked, but not a lot was eaten.

On the subject of food, I wondered why onions and bacon be come the first casualties in war rations. The working parties now had to be watched carefully lest the one case of onions disappear between the motor launch and the spud locker. Settler showed me a case that contained a third of its original number, but with the springy, wooden slats still intact. Each man steals one onion, his month’s supply. So none to cook with. Later, when dehydrated potatoes became the norm, fresh potatoes took on the luster of onions. I often partook of a stolen raw-onion-raw-potato snack while on watch.

We got underway and stood southward, steaming independently toward Auckland, New Zealand. I had the 20 to 2400 watch in the forward fireroom.

November 6, steaming as before on base course 150° True, speed 16 knots. I was on the watch 08 to 1200. We tracked some planes at 25 miles and then in to 18 miles, but never sighted them. A radar contact on a ship that turned out to be USS President Adams, upon our challenge.

A shipmate gave me a good book on machine ship practice (a Ford Motor Co. textbook). The Navy could never afford anything like that . . . before now, I should add.

On watch 20 to 2400. Played blackjack again, but lost. Maybe we’ll get ashore after all.

November 7, steaming as before on base course 150° True, speed 16 knots. 0717 Made sound contact bearing 150 True, distance 800 yards. We went to battle stations and prepared to depth charge a target, then sighted a group of whales.

I had the watch 20 to 2400. Before I got off watch, Moynihan called on the phone that we had a landfall, Cape Rainga Light on North Island, N.Z.

November 8, Sunday, at sea. Steaming as before on base course 160° True. Passed Cape Brett, made a landfall at 0335, and entered swept channel to Auckland, exchanging challenges and calls with Cape Brett. We waited for a pilot, who took us into the inner harbor. Captain Brown left the ship to make his official calls ashore.

The liberty party got into dress blues. I rated liberty but stayed in undress—if it came true I only had to change jumpers.

The Captain’s gig returned: we could see the U.S. Army Transport Maui standing out.

Also, we could see the ferries crossing the harbor upon which were lots of women wearing vari-colored dresses. Too far for detail, but imagination filled in their splendors. The buffed and shined liberty party crowded the port rail, and then stood with slack jaws watching the shore when the 21MC announced: “Now, set the special sea detail!”

We were underway almost immediately, and the moaning went on for the next 24 hours.

I had the second dogwatch, 1730 to 2000. Played awhile at blackjack and won $60. Today’s event prove there are more than one kind of luck, like fingerprints, personal and universal.

November 9, 1942, Monday. Steaming as before on base course 318° True, escorting USAT Maui with U.S. Army troops embarked. On watch 1600 to 2000. There is a general lift on the news of the landings in North Africa. The lift will be felt all over Europe.

November 10, 1942, Tuesday. Steaming as before in company and escorting USAT Maui on base course 330° True, speed 5.5 knots.

In the afternoon the Old Man pulled a surprise, firing two 5-inch guns that brought all hands to “voluntary” general quarters. We then went through some gunnery and torpedo drills.

I’m watching the news from Algeria, names of ports we had visited in Squadron Forty Tare, ’38 or ’37.

November 11, steaming as before in company with USAT Maui enroute to Nouméa. 0355 Began echo ranging with Sail Charlie radar and got land contact at 65 miles about 0730.

115 Entered Great Roads and passed ships of Task Force 16 making a sortie: Washington, South Dakota, Enterprise, Northampton, San Diego and Kittyhawk. We went alongside SS J.C. Connel to fuel. Anchored in Berth A 5.

The Captain made a call on the operations officer of ComSoPac. I played some cards and lost $90 bucks-dollars.

November 12, anchored as before in Great Roads, Nouméa. All the deck force sent over the side to paint the hull. Worked all day in the plant on repairs and preventive maintenance. In memory of peacetime, I came on watch yesterday and some clown had hung a sign on the blower throttle: “I dream of steaming, with a light brown haze . . .” (If you don’t remember Stephen Foster you’ve missed that.)

A tender working party came aboard and installed another 20 mm gun on the fantail. I signaled Chief Baer and pointed to my chest. He shook his head vigorously.

A dispatch from ComSoPac gave us 45 minutes to get underway (Old Settler on decoding watch). So we followed Bellatrix out the channel; we speeded up to 20 knots to pass the reef before darkness.

November 13, Friday, steaming as before on base course 159° True screening Bellatrix. I had the midwatch. The news came down from North Africa: Darlan is taken and he has ordered a cease fire. At 0500 we sighted a formation of transports and supply vessels under escort: USS Barnett, Fuller, Hunter Liggett, Neville, Alchiba, and Kent. Escorts were USS Hopkins, Manley, McKean and Ellet. We patrolled off the entrance waiting for Sabine.

On watch 12 to 1600. News! Germans occupy all of France.

November 14, steaming as before, acting as screen on Sabine. I had the midwatch, general quarters from 0415 to 0500. I slept until 1130 and on watch 12 to 1600. From the scuttlebutt: seven destroyers lost at Guadalcanal, San Francisco badly damaged, All of Task Force 64 doing the same charge into Sealark Sound that we had exercised three weeks before.

This time they found a Jap bombardment group firing on the troops and engaged them. Barton was one of the destroyers sunk.

November 15, 1942, steaming as before in company with Sabine as screen enroute to Base Button. Shot craps after watch and won $60. Dawn general quarters 04 to 0500; on watch 08 to 1200.

1315 entered Espiritu Santo and went alongside USS Guadaloupe for fuel; after fueling we moved over to the assigned anchorage.

The Old Man went to a conference with Commander Task Force 63 on board USS Curtiss.

I’ve had another earache for the past 12 hours.

November 16, 1942, at anchor Santos. Went to the Doc for the earache: sympathy and ointment. I think that the sympathy was more effective.

O’Bannon moored alongside. Our old friends gave us the first straight dope on the 12–13th November battle at Guadalcanal: Atlanta lost and two destroyers. O’B got a shrapnel hole in the breach gate of one torpedo tube.

We listened and laughed with our old drinking buddies: “Sonofabitch, ain’t no foremast like that in PacFleet, shoot ’im!”

“Couldn’t train fast enough to get on, we was in a hard-left rudder . . .”

“Fuckin’ lights they use, had me blinded . . .”

“Superheat? Couldn’t relight fast enough, just left if off!”

“Next time you go up there, watch for the sign Ol’ Halsey’s put up on Tulagi . . . Kill ’em all, he says!”

At 1430 we were sent out to meet and escort the damaged destroyers Gwin and Benham, and to escort them to Base. Shaw was assigned with us. As we stood out, Northampton and Pensacola stood in. Northampton was the famous stand-out in PacFleet with her extended forward stack. We found Gwin at 2000, and were informed that Benham had sunk enroute and that her survivors were on board.

November 17, steaming as before in company with Shaw and Gwin, standing in toward Base Button. 0618 sighted USS McCawley, Crescent City, President Jackson and President Adams, escorted by O’Bannon and Sterett standing out. All but the escorts were transports. By 0730 we were anchored in the assigned berth in Segond Channel. I worked the full day in the plant.

I’m reading The Last Time I Saw Paris. Still sick with earache and other complications, all nauseous.

November 18, 1942, anchored as before in Segond Channel, Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides. Up at 0600. I went over to visit San Francisco, officially to beg for any spare parts they could let us have since they were headed Stateside.

I saw a lot of former shipmates who were San Francisco plankowners. Plankowner was also a boast, “we had good damage control because we know our ship.” Then Borles said scornfully at me, “Fleet wanderers never learn their ship!”

I was being lectured. Having memorized my faults and weaknesses, resolving to change those that were no fun, this “fleet-wanderer accusation had been overlooked.

The San Francisco’s bridge and the forward part of the armored deck was a shambles. The laundry, port side forward, had taken a direct hit and the mangle was blown into the boiler uptakes. I was told that Nick, the laundryman had lost an arm. Was he in there as a member of midship repair?

Another story I was told: an unnamed petty officer sat down on an upturned water bucket, then collapsed a heart attack when he saw the Juneau blow up the next day. His reported last words: “That’s enough for me!”

I came back to Nicholas with a bag of Harrock (rock-hard) packing material and some pressed-asbestos gasket material.

Lighted off the plant and got underway at 1600 to patrol the entrance to Segond Channel with Shaw. We were on station and sound-searched all night. Meanwhile, I won $100 at blackjack.

The way money changes hands it becomes worn out. All our currency bears the Hawaii imprint that was slapped on it just after December 7, 1942—the precaution taken in event of occupation, in which case the currency would not be convertible.

Nicholas is now operating directly under the orders of Admiral Halsey, ComSoPac.

November 19, 1942, continued anti-sub patrol off Western Entrance to Segond Channel, and drilled all day at battle stations. On watch 04 to 0800. Worked in the plant until time to go on watch at 1600. I got off watch at 2000 and went right to the sack, very tired.

November 20, 1942, steaming as before on anti-sub patrol off Western Entrance to Segond Channel. On watch 04 to 0800; worked in the plant until 1500. On watch 16 to 2000. Played blackjack and lost the whole wad.

We got a dispatch that sent us off at high speed to the northwest. That charge of fear and excitement was canceled just two hours later.

November 21, 1942, steaming as before in company with Shaw proceeding to anchorage at Base Button (Espiritu Santo). On midwatch to 0400. At 0600 moored alongside Shaw and the tanker Guadeloupe and fueled ship. That extra three hours for fueling ship is a painful burden after the rest of the ship’s company are standing down.

Later in the morning we took on provisions from USS Cygnus. We got mail: three books and letters from Tom, Verta and Mom.

I won back $120. At 1130 we sortied to patrol the Western Entrance again. Explosions had been reported in the channel minefield, and we looked for signs of submarine debris but found none.

Read and slept until midnight.

November 22, 1942, patrolling as before off the entrance to Segond Channel. I was on the midwatch and at dawn alert until 0530. Slept the morning until time to relieve the watch at 1200 At 1730 we were ordered back into port and moored alongside USS Anderson.

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   Old Settler told this one, and I only believed him because he was my friend. Had the ships and stations of his exploits been listed in his Continuous Service Certificate, it would have needed a file drawer of its own. But I never pried.

It was a Sunday morning in Manila Bay aboard Canopus, submarine tender. At breakfast Settler sat down in the mess captain’s seat, and the S Division messcook delivered one cold fried egg with two slices of toast to the waiting duty section. That was all. After Settler’s verbal explosion, the mess cook cowered and Settler stormed up the ladder to the galley. The duty ship’s cook defended the ration—direct orders from the Commissary Steward.

“That crapshootin’ sonofabitch is spending’ that other egg somewhere on the beach!”

He went to the officer-of-the-deck who explained that nothing could be done until Monday morning, but that he, too, thought that eggs came in pairs. Settler hadn’t eaten that cold egg; he was doing a slow burn that ate at his stomach lining. He spent two hours in the sail locker fitting canvas over a wooden frame—that frame just fit through the door to the paint locker where another shipmate assisted to make a sign.

Settler mounted to the foc’sle and started his pacing fore and aft, with the six-by-ten-foot sign carried high. Soon the OD’s messenger arrived, “What the hell you doing—OD wants to know?”

“I’m picketing the . . . goddamned ship!” Settler hollers. “That ain’t allowed—is it? OD wants to know what the sign says.”

Settler turned the sign so the boy could read it: I’M A TWO-EGG MAN ON A ONE-EGG SHIP in two-foot-high lettering.

As it frequently happened, USS Augusta rode at anchor in the bay, this time about 600 yards away, wherein dwelt CinC Asiatic Fleet.

The OD hardly had time to digest his messenger’s report, for the command duty officer scrambled up the foc’sle ladder in his bathrobe with the command message clipboard under his arm . . .

That was the only time Canopus ever had two Sunday breakfasts, one at eight and one at eleven. Eggs totaled three, two were hot with bacon.

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   November 23, 1942, moored as before. 0550 moved to alongside Guadeloupe and fueled ship. Painted in the plant all day, then to the sack to read my new books.

We have been placed in Task Force 67 under Rear Admiral Kincaid whose flagship will be Northampton. The other ships of the Force: Pensacola, New Orleans, Honolulu, Helena, Lamson, O’Bannon, Fletcher, Maury and Grayson.

November 24, 1942, moored as before alongside Anderson. Up at 0500 to clean the ship. Anderson got underway, so we dropped an anchor and veered to 80 fathoms in 30 fathoms of water. New Orleans, McCall and Gridley stood in at 1000. Around the noon hour, the Captain left the ship to attend a conference in Lansdowne.

November 25, 1942, anchored as before in assigned berth in Segond Channel, Espiritu Santo Island. 1130 Fletcher moored alongside. We all worked in the living compartments all day.

November 26, 1942, anchored as before. On watch 08100 to 1200. Underway at nine to patrol the harbor entrance. It is Thanksgiving Day. General quarters for drill in the afternoon. I had the second dogwatch. The excitement is in the air—we are going somewhere. We went into harbor to top-off the fuel tanks. I wrote some letters, played cards for an hour or so and lost money.

November 27, 1942, moored as before alongside USS Sabine. We moved to a channel anchorage at 0430. Underway to sea at 0615. Slept in the forenoon.

The mail orderly lost a bunch of stamps and the Exec decreed a search of all lockers. Incredible! The stamps weren’t found, so what of the searchers?

On watch 16 to 2000. We are enroute to Guadalcanal (Cactus) with transports and supply vessels: Neville, President Hayes, Heywood and Fomalhaut with accompanying destroyers Lansdowne, Grayson, Shaw and Nicholas. We took the No. 1 position to use our Sail George radar.

November 28, 1942, Saturday, steaming as before enroute from Santos to Guadalcanal in company with vessels of Task Unit 62.4.6. On watch 04 to 0800, dawn alert was at 0430 to 0530.

Ensign Reidler has been assigned a battle station in the forward fireroom where I hold sway in action. He’s a good man and it’s not his fault that he lacks the savvy, for he’s nominally in charge. He really can’t exercise his function and doesn’t try to.

We were in sight of San Cristobal Island before nightfall. USS Barnett escorted by Hughes and Manley passed through our formation in the opposite direction. I wondered if Clyde Hynes was still aboard Manley. Upon getting this close to the action, we started boosting steam on the standby boilers, keeping them ready for use between 550 p.s.i. to 600 p.s.i. To the sack at 2000.

November 29, 1942, Sunday, screening as before ahead of the heavy vessels of TU 62.4.6. General quarters for passing through Lengo Channel into Sealark Sound.

On watch 04 to 0800. As we came up the Sound, parallel to the Purvis Bay channel, we could see the famous sign on a jungle hill, black-on-white, it read: KILL JAPS, KILL MORE JAPS . . . HALSEY.

We began patrolling off Togoma Point, and could see the lights of a vessel aground on Lunga Point, which turned out to be USS Alchiba, which was torpedoed the day before and beached for patching.

After watch, I worked on Forced Draft Blower No. 6, trying to balance the rpm with No. 5. On watch 16 to 1800, the first dogwatch.

Showered and to the sack at 8 p.m. I am reading Driven Woman.

I bought a pair of army shoes from a seaman named yon. He must have traded something for them. They are comfortable and rugged, and from the construction, I’d guess they would last fifty years on a ship.

November 30, 1942, Monday, steaming as before in company with Heywood, President Hayes and Grayson to southward of Lengo Channel.

I had the midwatch and stayed up for the dawn alert. The Task Unit had reversed course, and we reentered Sealark Sound; the transports went to the unloading area.

The unloading continued all day, the destroyers taking anti-submarine patrol and prepared for air defense. At 1900 we were passing down through Lengo Channel, Task Force 67 passed into Sealark Sound going northward to intercept enemy combat vessels coming down from north of Savo Island.

At 2330 before going on watch, I could see the gun flashes and star shells where TF 67 had made contact with the enemy somewhere up the “Slot.”

The seas were still disputed, but we could deliver the supplies and the troops to the Guadalcanal garrison.