Bill Vose, October 2004

Capt. Bill Vose, 2004. Also by Bill Vose on this web site: The Reasons for Failure of our World War II Naval Torpedoes.

How Lengo Channel
Was Swept for Mines
In late 1942 I was the communications officer and sound (read sonar) officer on USS Gamble, DM 15 (ex-DD 123). We had escorted a supply ship from Espiritu Santo to the Solomons and were about to enter Lengo Channel, a deep water channel parallel to the northern coast of Guadalcanal (see navigation chart, bottom). Morning general quarters had just been secured when a Japanese submarine was spotted on the surface about three miles away to the northwest. We, of course, immediately attacked, and after several hours of depth charge attacks, we lost all contact, but we did have some wood planking and a pool of diesel fuel to show we had done serious damage. (It was not until the war was over that it was confirmed that the Japanese Submarine I-123 was lost that day in the Solomons.) We used an experimental detection device, the Ship’s Magnetic Submarine Detector (SMSD) in the attacks and it is most likely the only successful use of the device. That is another story.

We were pretty well beat after the submarine episode and were proceeding toward the landing area off the airfield on Guadalcanal, when we spied men on a small islet waving frantically to us. We lay to, launched a whaleboat and recovered a TBM crew who had ditched near the island after being shot up by a Japanese fighter. They had ditched near the islet, because they did not know whether Henderson Field was in our hand or the Japanese. They were in good shape except for severe sunburn on the tops of their feet!

While we were picking up the air crew we received a message from COMSOPAC (Adm. Halsey) to “Sweep Lengo Channel for Mines.” We immediately responded with “Submit we are a Minelayer, NOT a Minesweeper. Have no sweep ‘gear’.” After a short delay COMSOPAC responded with "Repeat, Sweep Lengo Channel for Mines.”

Our skipper Steve Tackney, ordered all hands (except the engineering watch) on deck, set speed at twenty knots, and we proceeded to transit Lengo Channel from the east to its end off Henderson Field.

Our newly-rescued air crew were not particularly overjoyed when they realized what was going on. On arrival off Henderson Field we sent a message to COMSOPAC “Have traversed Lengo Channel at twenty knots, encountered no mines, presume Lengo Channel clear.”

I told this story at our Tuesday Luncheon group some time back. Bill Simmons, who had been in O’Bannon at the time, looked at me in amazement. “Is that how we got the word that Lengo Channel was not mined?” he exclaimed.