It was during one of these missions that McFarland almost met her end. On 16 October she had once again made one of her mad dashes up the channel and discharged most of her cargo to take aboard 150 wounded men who could still walk. One last lighter remained alongside to receive her aviation gas when suddenly there was a general alarm. Sound gear had picked up a Jap submarine. Before her deck crew could throw off the lines to the lighter, McFarland was underway. The current jammed the lighter against her side while the ship tried to avoid the first danger. At this point, another even more imminent threat materialized from above. Nine enemy planes suddenly peeled out of a cloud bank. Each of them carried two 300-pound demolition bombs slung under their wings. The first two missed altogether, though one bomb from the second plane dropped close enough to throw water and splinters as high as the bridge. The third plane was shot down less than 100 yards away by a direct hit from McFarland’s 3-inch guns. Meanwhile, a flght of Army P-38s, homeward bound to Henderson Field, had become aware of the “Mac’s” plight. With their last drops of gas they turned to the fight.

The Army squadron was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Bauer. He himself shot down three more of the enemy planes before his gas tank ran bone-dry and he was forced down into the dark sea, never to be seen again. Bauer’s fighters splashed three more of the enemy’s planes. But three more were still boring in. Two of these planes were stopped dead by the Mac’s 20 millimeter guns. The lone remaining Jap plane kept boring in from astern and, as his first bomb hit far astern, the second made a direct hit right on the ship’s tapering fantail where here depth charges were stacked.

The result of the combined explosion of the Jap’s bomb and the ship’s depth charges sounded like an ammunition dump blowing up. The entire ship took to the air, almost clearing the water and every man aboard was thrown off his feet. Upon examining the ship it was found that the deck from the amidship structure aft was missing.

The gasoline barge, still hovering nearby, caught fire and most of her cargo went skywards in one great blast. The weird illumination from the flaming barge gave the captain, LCdr. John C. Alderman, and his executive officer, Lt. Earle G. Gardner, their first chance to estimate the damage in the darkness for there were no lights aboard.

With her rudder gone, the steering engine gone and the room that had housed the steering gear now a cavernous opening, McFarland began to take a dangerous list. In all the destruction there was only one consoling fact: the engines were still running!

Commander Alderman, determined to save his ship, set course across Sealark Channel to Tulagi, 20 miles away, steering with his engines. There he ran her into a creek that was later named McFarland in honor of the ship’s visit there, and grounded her on a mudbank. Covering her with heavy foliage the able bodied began giving the wounded first aid.(continued)

Source: Office of Naval Records and History, Ship’s Histories Section, Navy Department: History of USS McFarland (DD 237), 1952.