Action Reports Series 2
Guadalcanal and Beyound - The Solomons Campaign

Below are two of the thirty two Action Reports included this section "Guadalcanal and Beyound - The Solomons Campaign." If you would like to read more, please order the recently re-published book available from the Ship's Store.

Report 2-1 - Midway: Between Two Campaigns
Six months elapsed between the firing of PT 34's last torpedoes off Cebu and the first firing of torpedoes at Guadalcanal by boats of a new Squadron 3. During most of this time there were no bases from which the short-range PT's could go out to meet the enemy. They were not designed to patrol hundreds of miles to sea, but to deliver sudden punches close to shore and relatively near their bases. They met the enemy only once during these 6 months: on the fringe of the great Battle of Midway in June 1942.

Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron 1, then commanded by Lt. Clinton McKellar, Jr., was given 3 days' notice late in May to make its boats ready to proceed under their own power to Midway, 1,385 miles from Pearl Harbor. This was the longest run across open water that American PT's has ever made. Except for PT 23, which broke a crankshaft and had to turn back the first day, the boats made the run without strain, fueling from patrol vessels and a seaplane tender which met them at Necker Island, French Frigate Shoal, and Lisianski Island.

As at Pearl Harbor on December 7, breakfast was interrupted on the morning of June 4 by the arrival of Japanese planes. This time the air raid alarm gave the boat crews time to get their boats underway in the lagoon before the planes were overhead.

More than 60 Japanese Navy bombers come over, escorted by 50 Zero fighters. The first planes dropped bombs from high altitude along the north side of Eastern Island and in the hangar and barracks area on Sand Island. This attack was scarcely over when dive bombers swept down, scoring hits on the powerhouse on Eastern Island and on fuel tanks on Sand Island.

As the dive bombers pulled out over the lagoon, the PT's opened with all their guns. PT's 21 and 22 concentrated their fire on a low-flying Zero, which crashed in the trees on Sand Island. Another Zero came out of a steep dive to strafe PT 25. The 25 took 30 small-caliber hits above the waterline; 1 officer and 2 men were slightly wounded by shrapnel. Several times planes started to dive on other boats, but swerved off as soon as the PT's opened fire.

Sixteen U.S. Marine planes had gone up to meet the attackers. Maj. Verne J. McCaul, USMC, Group Executive Officer, Aircraft Group 22, Second Marine Aircraft Wing, reported, "Each pilot made only one or two passes at the bombers and then spent the remainder of the time trying to shake from 1 to 5 Jap fighters off his tail. Most succeeded by using cloud cover, or, in two cases, by leading the Japs into fire from light anti-aircraft guns ashore and on PT boats."

When the raid was over, PT's 200, 22, and 28 returned to the Sand Island dock and sent fire and rescue parties ashore. Ens. D. J. Callaghan, USNR, and Ens. Clark W. Faulkner, USNR, salvaged rifles, ammunition, hand grenades, and Packard engine spares from a burning hangar. Lieutenant McKellar, and R. H. Lowell, MM2c; V. J. Miastowske, F3c; and J. B. Rodgers, S2c, cut a path through barbed wire to fight fires in a large fuel oil dump. PT's cruised around the bay, searching for downed Marine aviators. They picked up five pilots and two enlisted men.

During the rest of the day, far to the northwest, Army and Marine Corps planes from Midway and Navy planes from the Enterprise, Yorktown, and Hornet blasted the Japanese invasion force. At 1930 all 11 PT's got underway to search for damaged Japanese carriers reported 170 miles to the northwest. The weather was squally, with poor visibility. These conditions, excellent for PT attack, also made it difficult to find targets. Unable to find anything by dawn, the PT's turned back to Midway. On the way, PT's 20 and 21 sighted a column of smoke 50 miles to the west. They sped toward it at 40 knots, but when they arrived all they could see was a large expanse of fuel oil and floating wreckage, apparently Japanese. Probably no Japanese carriers were left afloat. The planes were credited with sinking two carriers, the Kaga and Soryu, on June 4, and another two, the Hiryu and Akagi, on the 5th.

On June 6 the PT's put to sea, each with a flag-draped coffin aboard, to bury at sea 11 Marines who had fallen in the air raid two days before.

Report 2-2 - To the South Pacific
The United States took its first offensive action of the Pacific war on August 7, 1942, with the landing of the First Marine Division on Guadalcanal and the neighboring islands of Tulagi and Florida. It was obvious that PTs could be used effectively in the Solomons. Squadron 2, in Panama, was alerted in July for a move to a combat area.

The squadron had been enlarged to 14 boats during the summer when Lt. Comdr. Henry Farrow brought PTs 59, 60, and 61 to Panama from Melville under their own power, to prove that boats could run to Panama on their own bottoms. The Chief of Naval Operations directed that eight boats be transferred from Squadron 2 to form a new Squadron 3, and that the new squadron prepare for immediate shipment. The remaining six boasts were to remain in Panama. Lt. Cmdr. Alan R. Montgomery, who had relieved Lieutenant Commander Caldwell as commander of Squadron 2 in June, was ordered to assume command of the new unit when it was commissioned on July 27. Lt. George A Brackett, USNR, relieved him as commander of the parent squadron.

Designation of the new unit as Squadron 3 was unfortunate. Although all of the boats of the original Squadron 3 had been destroyed, the squadron was still carried on the books of the Bureau of Supplies and Accounts. Administrative confusion was inevitable. For example, when the new squadron requested its commissioning allotment, the Bureau of Supplies and Accounts tartly replied that this had already been granted to Squadron 3 in 1941, and that it was not the policy of the Navy Department to grant more than one commission allotment to any one command.

The first division of Squadron 3, PTs 38, 46, 48, and 60, departed Balboa on August 29 aboard the Navy oilers Lackawanna and Tappahannock, two PTs to a ship. They arrived September 19 at Noumea, New Caledonia, were unloaded, and were towed to Espiritu Santo by USS Bellatrix, a cargo ship, and the tender Jamestown, which had sailed from New York early in August to join the PTs in the Solomons. The boats were towed from Espiritu Santo by the fast minesweepers Hovey and Southard, converted four-stack destroyers, to a point 300 miles from Tulagi. There the boats were turned loose to proceed under their own power, arriving at Government Wharf, Tulagi, at daybreak on October 12.

The second division, PTs 37, 39, 45, and 61, was shipped to Noumea on a merchant ship and arrived at Tulagi on October 25.

Meanwhile Squadron 5, the first 12 Elco 80-foot boats, had arrived in Panama, scheduled for shipment to the Solomons. On recommendation of the Commander Panama Sea Frontier, who considered Squadron 2 a more experienced unit than Squadron 5, the new squadron was directed late in September to remain in Panama, while Squadron 2 was designated for shipment to the combat area. Six boats, PTs 109 to 114, were transferred to Squadron 2. Lt. Rollin E. Westholm was detached as commander of the newly commissioned Squadron 7 in New York and flew to Panama to take command of Squadron 2.

The change in orders placed Squadron 2 in an unenviable position. Squadron 3 had left Panama with the lion's share of the available spare parts on the assumption that Squadron 2 would remain there. Furthermore, Squadron 3 had taken the boats in best condition. The remaining 77-footers needed complete overhaul, which could not be accomplished in the time available. The squadron picked up the remnants, patched the boats as best it could, and departed for the combat area, arriving at Tulagi at the end of November.


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