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C.O.’s narrative

The following is the report Lt. Bud Loughman submitted on the sinking in his capacity as acting commanding officer.

 

Gerald F. Loughman, Executive Officer

(undated)

NARRATIVE OF U.S.S. MACAW

16 JANUARY FEBRUARY 1944

 

Gerald LoughmanAbout 1430, Captain J. A. CONNOLLY, U.S. Navy, CTG 17.5, Lieutenant Commander David ELLIS, U.S. Naval Reserve and Lieutenant (junior grade) A. W. McDERMID, U.S. Navy, came on board. About then a visual message from CTG 17.5 arrived ordering us to prepare for getting underway preparatory to attempting aid to U.S.S. FLIER aground at entrance channel. Made preparations for getting underway. About 1445, Underway, proceeding out of channel; same time making preparations to take FLIER in tow. Captain CONNOLLY, Commanding Officer, P. W. BURTON, Lieutenant Commander, U.S. Navy, the Executive Officer and the Navigating Officer on bridge. Proceeded out channel, came left and dropped starboard anchor about 1505 so as to be about 50 yards east of No. 2 buoy and 200 yards from FLIER. Veered to 45 fathoms of chain to water’s edge. Ship headed in westerly direction. During this period I was checking progress of preparation, keeping the Commanding Officer informed. We were attempting to place our stern in position by means of propulsion to pass messenger to FLIER, using anchor as pivot. During this time unsuccessful attempts were made to pass messenger to FLIER by motor launch. Ship’s stern was swinging southward, causing motor launch to lose steerageway. Motor launch slipped line, we started hauling in line. The YT 188 came across ship’s stern in order to receive messenger. Heavy swells prevented any contact. About 1535, cleared anchor, underway proceeding to new anchorage. At or about 1545, dropped starboard anchor about 75 yards Northwest of No. 2 buoy. Tried to hold at 30 fathoms of chain but was unable to do so. The strain was so great, chain overrode the wildcat to 75 fathoms. The swells were high enough to cause ship to roll about 35 degrees. Messenger was not ready because of difficulty in retrieving. Men had great difficulty remaining on their feet. Commanding Officer decided to return to lagoon to properly prepare messengers to float to FLIER on the way back out. About 1550, started heaving in on starboard anchor. About 1600, starboard anchor parted in two places, at jew’s harp and at second shot of chain. Remainder of chain was then heaved in. About 1605 port anchor made ready for letting go. The ship had gotten underway when chain parted, all engines on propulsion at I believe 15 knots and was standing in. At about 1609, steering 356 degrees P.G.C. ship was yawing badly due to heavy ground swell and quartering seas. Forward range indicating ship was on right side of channel and buoys #8 and 10 indicated ship in channel.

 

At approximately 1610 C/C to 354 degrees true. About 1611 C/C to 358 degrees True, ship to right of range but buoy #8 and 10 indicating ship in channel. About 1612 grounded on submerged reef on eastern side of main channel, caused by heavy quartering swell and strong easterly set. The ship seemed to have been lifted suddenly and set upon the reef. Ship hit three distinct times. Ship was about 460 yards north of buoy #2 to the best of my knowledge. Captain ordered all ahead full, left full rudder. Around 1615, all stop was given and then all back full was given to pilot house control. The Commanding Officer had planned to hoist out a stern anchor. Preparations were begun but had to be shortly abandoned due to loss of power.

 

 

– 1 –

 

Shortly after grounding, the shaft alley started to take water. All pumps were put on the shaft alley drain. Since the incoming water was too great to reduce in the shaft alley, all pumps were placed on engineering spaces which were then flooding. Within thirty minutes, the incoming water increased so rapidly it grounded out the main engines in the Generator Room. Shortly after, the 60 KW was put out of commission. The flooded compartments then were the generator room, motor room and shaft alley.

 

Ship remained in fixed position until heavy weather on 23 January, 1944 drove it further on the reef causing it to list to port. The U.S.S. FLIER was freed in the meanwhile. Salvage crew from U.S.S. CLAMP (ARS33) arrived on board 24 January, 1944 and stayed, going back to CLAMP occassionally, till 10 February, 1944. Three separate unsuccessful attempts were made by CLAMP with aid from other craft to free MACAW. First attempt, started on 29 January, moved MACAW approximately 35 feet aft. Unsuccessful due to inability to sufficiently dewater ship, particularly shaft alley and due to hauling gear casualties. Second attempt 30 – 31 January – shaft alley still flooded despite attempts to seal all outlets for air – also C-203 AL(after crew’s berthing compartment, salvage stores and engineer’s stores) discovered flooded due to hole punched in main deck when submarine rescue chamber carried overboard around 26 January. Both were contributing factors along with difficulties CLAMP and GAYLORD experienced.

 

The third attempt was made on 8 February. Hauling wire casualties and unfavorable currents and swells forced securing. On 10 February conditions were excellent. Salvage operations got underway in the afternoon. Pumps on board MACAW functioned well during afternoon but generator room pumps, one 6″ and one 10″ were casualties that night due to fouled impellers. Also one 6″ to motor room froze. Shaft alley definitely blown this time as ship was lively except for generator room. It seemed as though ship was pivoting on coral head beneath No. 3 main engine, and that engine would jump and down as much as 18 inches. CLAMP’s hauling wires fouled around coral heads. One was later freed which kept strain on MACAW.

 

11 February, 1944: Seas picking up. Around 0900 it was decided to wait for better weather, pumps ordered secured. Around 1000, CLAMP reported towing wires clear and ready to pull. 1030 Removed all except Commanding Officer, Executive Officer and 20 men of the MACAW. 1600 CLAMP pitching at mooring, slipped mooring.

 

MACAW personnel were relieved at intervals. The food situation was usually good. Auxiliary power was procured from a diesel welding machine generator. Quarters were usually cramped due to various lists the ship had most of the time. Aerologist reports from the beach were most helpful forewarning as to what side of the ship to batten down. The wind velocity and the state of the sea were usually greater than predicted however.

 

 

 

– 2 –

 

12 February, 1944

 

Ship’s heading at about 0700, 070° True, a 30° increase over previous day, listing 20° to starboard. A 304 AK (Gyro Room, Stores, seas wetting diesel welding machine generator, cutting off auxiliary power for submersible pump. D.W.M. Generator started during morning keeping water down in A 203 AL(CPO Mess and Berthing, etc.). During afternoon seas began breaking over starboard side in force. List increased to 23° starboard due to generator room overflowing main deck, water rising in A-203 AL (CPO Mess and Berthing, etc.). All power gone. Ship suffering heavy beating. HORSMAN later reported the Buda Air Compressor which had hung up on channel bar for skids for No. 1 surf boat, had crashed through bulkhead of recompression room.

 

Commanding Officer ordered all hands to bridge deck, food and clothing having been brought topside. Spirits of men excellent. Around 1800, it was apparent ship was slowly being forced into deeper water. Water rose from main deck to boat deck in less than an hour. By 1800, water was coming up inside ladder to bridge deck. After bulkhead in chart room pierced and leaking but was shored up with brass rail from Navigator’s desk and mattresses. Water had now reached coaming leading into pilot house. Commanding Officer ordered chart house abandoned, although he stayed in chart house attempting to make door to pilot house watertight. The spray shield along starboard side of bridge deck, about thirty feet in length carried away. It rose on a strengthner about twenty feet into the air and wavered as if it would fall against the ports of the pilot house. The TBY batteries became wet and started smoking. Communication with the Naval Operating Base ceased in the early part of the evening. You could hear the ship straining, as she slipped into deeper water. The ship’s list would increase to such an extent, it was thought she would go over. The ship’s heading also varied considerably. It averaged about 50° True. Water had by nine o’clock forced all hands to the port side. The port to the left of the foremast was used for an air supply and bailing purposes. Three men would hold it shut when tremendous seas would cover us. After losing our bailing cans, the port was dogged sufficiently to let it act as a valve. Three tenths of one percent of pressure was built up each time a wave covered the port. This was determined from the Aneroid Barometer. Water inside held to chest level for several hours. The port wrench was subsequently lost. We no longer could use the ports; Green water was continually covering even the high ones on the port side. Around two thirty (we at the time thought it was earlier) on 13 February, the air space was less than twelve inches to the overhead. Occasional lurches would fill that space with water. The carbon dioxide content became untenable. The Commanding Officer ordered the dogs of the port door released. The door opened with difficulty and stopped when two inches open. The handles were then pushed back an extra inch and the door was pushed open. The Commanding Officer told us to make for the foremast. He waited for the last man to leave before leaving. Before leaving a wave forced me back into the pilot house. That wave cleared the foul air and permitted several of us to get fresh air in the space formed by the top of the door to the overhead. The Commanding Officer and I went topside together. We were apparently washed overboard by the same swell. I could see several men on the foremast. MANNING, George Washington, S1c saw VAUGHN, Robert Andrew, StM1c V-6, USNR receive aid from KOEPKE, Augie Paul, BM2c, USN and in turn help KOEPKE when he needed assistance. MANNING further saw VAUGHN washed forward from the forward searchlight railing into the forward gun mount with such intensity as to knock the gun, locked upright, down. VAUGHN’s body was recovered on the 17th and pronounced by Submarine Base doctor, died from drowning.

– 3 –

 

William Roscoe FUNK, CPhM(AA), USNR, went topside with MATHERS, Lawrence Howlett, RT1c, V-6, USNR. MATHERS believes they were both swept over simultaneiously. FUNK was never seen again.

 

Lewis Andrew KINGSLEY, F1c, V-6, USNR, was seen and heard in the vicinity of the main mast by KNECHT, Erwin Richard, MoMM3c, V-6, USNR. He was calling for help. Before Knecht could reach him he was swept out seaward. He was later seen by WILLIAMSON, Richard Blaine, F1c, USNR well free of the ship and apparently in good condition. He was never seen after that. It is believed he was carried under by one of a series of great swells.

 

Donald Ashley WHITMARSH, MoMM1c, V-6, USNR was in the company of Richard Blaine WILLIAMSON, F1c, V-6, USNR. He was doing fine according to Williamson until a series of great swells separated them. WILLIAMSON nearly was drowned he reports. WHITMARSH was then seen by MANNING trying to make the ship. MANNING threw him a halyard, but a large swell carried him toward shore. He was never seen again.

 

Paul Willits BURTON, Lt. Comdr., USN, Commanding Officer (jacket No. 72367) was swept overboard with me. We were then separated. About twenty minutes later I called to a group and he heard me. He asked me how I was. He had mentioned to one of the group that the strap of his life belt was broken and he was seen swimming out to sea with the belt under his arm. The belts, although satisfactory when well inflated, had very poor buckles. Most of us had our belts slip off us while in the pilot house a half a dozen times.

 

KOEPKE, Augie Paul, BM2c, USN had his belt torn off on a 20 millimeter gun mount. HORSMAN, Lewill Edward, SF2c, USNR lost his when he was carried under.

 

Of the Commanding Officer, Executive Officer and Twenty men aboard at the time of abandoning, the following were saved to date:

SCOTT, C.A., BM2c

KNECHT, E.R., MoMM3c

 

By Crash Boat from the Naval Operating Base under Lieut. HARDY.

 

VERKENNES, J.T., S1c

MANNING, G.W., S1c

WADE, E.J., S1c.

 

“PARS” – Crash Boat from Naval Operating Base.

 

Gerald F. LOUGHMAN, Lieutenant, USNR.

LESTER, N.E., SF2c

KUMLER, C.H., EM2c

BROWN, T.E., CBM(PA)

KOEPKE, A.P., BM2c

WAINSCOTT, C., S1c

EHLERS, H.H., QM2c

MATHERS, L.H.,RT1c

 

 

– 4 –

 

The following men swam ashore to Eastern Island.

 

WILLIAMSON, R.B., F1c

BOLKE, A.F., GM3c

HORSMAN, L.E., SF2c

LIBERA, S., RM2c

 

Two 33 foot rearming boats from the Naval Operating Base while assisting in rescuing MACAW personnel overturned with the following known dead or missing:

 

LELMBECKER, [initials illegible], S1c – Missing.

SAMED, E.D., S1c – Missing.

DAUGHERTY, H.E., S2c – Known dead.

 

This narrative is made from reports from memory by officers and men of the U.S.S. MACAW, from notes received from log of U.S.S. CLAMP, from copies of TBY traffic between the U.S.S. MACAW and CTC 17.5, from reports of officers connected with the salvaging of the U.S. MACAW and lastly from my own memory.

 

G. F. LOUGHMAN

Acting Commanding Officer,

Senior Surviving Officer.

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