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Survivor statements

Within days after the Macaw sank and Paul Burton drowned, Bud Loughman, the former executive officer who assumed command of the sunken ship, collected from the seventeen enlisted men who survived the sinking the following accounts of it.

Albert Bolke, Gunner’s Mate 3/c



Albert Bolke

When I was in the pilot house the water started rising about 1700. By eight the water started to come in the pilot house. The TB.Y. batteries started to get wet and burn so we thru out the port. At 2030 they could not get in touch with the beach. We waited in water up to our necks until the door was open. I went out and a big wave caught me so I grabed somebodys leg and held on until it went down. Then I caught the ladder and held on until the waves went down so I climbed up to the flying bridge and tried to make the mast just then I saw a big wave come and wash me into the water. I was headed out to sea and about four big waves caught me and push me in about two hundred yard. I swallowed a lot of water because the under current held me down quite some time. I started swiming toward the search light. As I was swiming I met Horseman and he didn’t have a life bet on so he was holding on to me and just then a big wave come and broke us up. As I came up I was about fifty yards ahead of Horsemen and that was the last time I saw him so I kept swiming toward the search ligh. About fifteen feet from shore a rubber raft came and picked me up. I didn’t have any cloths on so they rushed me to the hospital and a few minutes later they brought Williamson and Horsemen in.


Tom Emmet Brown, Chief Bosun’s Mate


At about 0230, Feb. 13-1944, the commanding officer gave orders to leave the pilot house of the U.S.S. Macaw and proceed to the flying bridge deck because there was very little air space left in the pilot house due to flooding. After the port hatch was opened I started up to the flying bridge and had just made it when I was washed overboard over the port side out into the chanel then back over the ship between the Main Mast and the stack and out toward the entrance bouy then I saw Wainscott asisting Kopke, MB 2/c who had lost his Life belt and swam over to asist them. We all held together and were joined by Mathers, Eliers, and Kumler. We all held together supporting Kopke between us and were carried to sea about 2 miles and were rescued by an N.O.B. crash boat at about 0700 Feb. 13-1944 and carried to the cable Station hospital. I was released from the hospital Feb. 15-1944.


Herman Harold Ehlers, Quartermaster 2/c



Herman Ehlers

Approximately 1730 the water began rising above the deck of the Captain’s cabin, Executive Officer’s room etc. The storm at this time was reaching a very high intensity and the breakers were very high and powerful. The ship was going steadily into deeper water and the breakers were coming up around the pilot house. By about 2000 the water reached the deck of the pilot house, coming up the ladder from the deck below. The door between the chart house and pilot house was then closed but since it is not watertight the water continued to come through and the water level began to rise in the pilot house. An effort was then made to bale the water out through a forward port but since the water was seeking the level of that in the chartroom it proved impossible to hold the water down. The ship at this time was on a fairly even keel the list alternating from side to side. The batteries for the TBY radio became wet and they were thrown through the port as they commenced to burn. Our last contact with the beach was at 2000 and an attempt to contact them at 2030 failed. Soon after this our last battery was thrown out. The breakers now were going over the pilot house and the ship began to list to starboard. This kept on increasing and the ship kept going down deeper into the water. By 2200 (these times are all only approximate and may quite possibly be very inaccurate) the water was about 4 feet deep on the level. The list of the ship caused the starboard side of the pilot house to be completely flooded forcing us to remain on the port side. The water continued to rise and we started to drain it as the water dropped outside every so often, through the port we had open. The port was held closed when the water level rose above it outside Eventually the water level seemed to be above the pilot house over two thirds of the time so the port was dogged down just tight enough so that air came in through it as the water dropped below it every now and then, sort of a breathing effect. Thus there was for quite a while sufficient air left for all of us but at about 0200 the ship had settled so far down that the water level in the pilot house rose until it was impossible for us to remain and live.

The port hatch was then, after some difficulty, opened and the water level outside just happened to drop at this time allowing us to file out. Just prior to the hatch being opened the water where I was, forward in the pilot house, reached the overhead, cutting off my air but as the hatch opened the water dropped quite a bit and gave me an opportunity to reach the hatch with little difficulty. After clearing the hatch I commenced climbing to the signal bridge having in mind to reach the fore mast if at all possible. After maintaining my hold on the signal bridge through several breakers I reached the mast and had just started to climb up when a large wave broke my hold and carried me off. After being under water for what seemed for quite a while I cam to the surface clear of the ship. I came up right among five other men, Koepke, Wainscott, Mathers, Brown and Kumler and we immediately joined together. We noted someone attempting to swim to a nearby buoy and we also began making an effort to reach it but due to the current we could not make it. We were then carried out towards sea where the water was much calmer. I believe we made two large circles of Eastern Island as we drifted throughout the night and by dawn we were drfiting towards the channel entrance about 2 miles out We were all quite cold. Koepke had a chest wound and no life jacket and Wainscott had a badly cut foot. Mathers had trouble with leg cramps We saw no one other than our group after having been carried out to sea. At about sunrise we sighted a crash boat off the channel entrance and it was not long after wards that it picked us up. Just as the boat reached us Kumler passed out but we were soon all aboard and so by the grace of God we reached shore safely.


Lewill Edward Horsman, Ship’s Fitter 2/c


What I remembered happened from 2000 until I reached the beach.

At 2000 the water was up about half way on the ladder from the deck housing to the chart room. Shortly after 2000 the after-bulk-head in the chart room gave way. The ship began to list to the starboard, and the water rising slowly in the pilot house. Everyone made themselves as comfortable as possible, talking, kidding and taking turns at the port, on the port side forward, that we had loose, holding the sea out when the breakers came, and letting air in and water out when the sea subsided. The port was finally at sea level, so it was dogged down most of the way before the pliers were lost.

We stayed in the pilot house until the water was up to our chins and the air was filled with CO2, everyone was breathing in short heavy breaths. Every one was calm and never said much, until we decided to leave the pilot house and try for the foremast. After a little trouble getting the hatch open, the men filed out. I pushed Verkennes and Mr. Loughtman ahead of me, leaving Lester behind me, bringing up the rear. Mr. Loughtman, just ahead of me, on reaching the hatch, stopped and stood beside the Captain. I ducked out and caught the antenna rod, where I took a breaker from the starboard and one from the port. I made the flying bridge and took a breaker wrapped around the Antennea. Lester, hanging to the Antennea rod, and I passed a few words, and I made for the foot of the mast. On my way to the mast I saw that a few had made it. A breaker washed me over the rail forward of the pilot house. I grabbed a rod and took the breaker in good shape. I was trying to make the mast again when a breaker washed me over. On not coming to the surface I discovered I had lost my life jacket. I took my jacket, pants, and shoes off, and then succeeded in reaching the surface. I came up about 50 to 100 yards from the ship, on the starboard beam. I saw Bolke and swam over to him. I took his pants off for him, so they wouldn’t drag him down, and so he could have free movement of his legs. The second or third breaker broke us loose and we were well on our way toward the beach. Bolke was 50 to 100 yards ahead of me. I never saw Bolke any more after that on my way to the beach. I took my time and kept working my way in toward Eastern Island. I was on my way through the barb-wire barrier on Eastern Island when two fellows helped me. They took me to the First Aid station where Bolke and Williamson had already been taken. Well taken care of after that.


Erwin Richard Knecht, Motor Machinist’s Mate 3/c



Erwin Knecht

Coming out of the hatch a wave dragged me under water toward the tri pod. Before reaching the tri pod I hit the ropes of the aft boom on the port side. The next thing I knew I was holding on to a platform or something and looking up I saw the tri pod. There was a voice calling Help me! Help me! while I was climbing up the ladder. When I reached the peak of the tri pod, I sat down to regain some of my strength. Looking down I saw Kingsley holding on one of the tri pods. I tried encouraging him by yelling You can make it Kingsley.” Just as I started down the ladder to help him a wave came over, after it passed I looked down and Kingsley was gone. I went to the top of the tri-pod where the commissioning pennant was and held on while the waves broke over and under me. About 4 o’clock in the morning I saw Whitmarsh coming toward the tri-pods. The waves were carrying him between the tri-pod and the mast. Manning was gathering up rope to try to aid him from the mast but a wave came along and dragged him away. After awhile I was getting sleepy but the rocking of the ship kept me awake. In the morning a LCM came out to rescue us but due to the wreckage it didn’t come close. Seeing this I went down the ladder and dove off into a current that led me away from the ship toward the LCM. In the meanwhile a scoop came to pick up the men on the mast but it capsized. The LCM picked me up and waited until Scott jumped off the mast and made his way toward them. They picked up Scott and brought us ashore.


Augie Paul Koepke, Boatswain’s Mate 2/c


Augie P. Koepke

Augie Paul Koepke

The water kept rising in the pilot house until the air space in the upper port side of the pilot house was almost gone. The Captain then gave the order to open the pilot house door, Brown & myself had been watching the door for hours & We had all the dogs released but three, We quickly released these dogs & put our shoulders to the door & shoved as hard as we could. The door about two inches I put my fingers in the crack trying to pull as well as push a wave caught the door & forced it shut mashing my fingers. I remarked then that the door wouldn’t open & hollered come on everybody shove on this door. We pushed & finally the door flew open. Two or three fellows went out before me. As I went out I hit my head on a Radio guard above the door & made my way to the Ladder leading to the Flying Bridge. I went up this ladder & onto the bridge deck & was working my way forward to the Mast. The Chief Bosin Mate Brown, Called to me & asked me to give Vaughn a hand. I didn’t know if he was injured or what, but I stopped & reached over the Flying Bridge deck & pulled him up & to geather we made our way to the foot of the Mast. (From the time we left the pilot house up until this time the Waves were not as strong as they had been & we seemed to be in a sort of lull.) A Big wave hit me and I was washed off the Flying Bridge. My Submarine jacket caught on the Starboard 20 MM gun & when the wave subsided I was dangling on the gun barrell which was in a upright position, I threw my arms over my head & slipped out of my jacket. My life belt was unhooked in this proceedure but I was free. I rose up on the next wave & saw Vaughn standing on the flying Bridge next to the Mast. I hollered for him to give me a hand & he did suceed in grabbing my arm, but another wave hit & I was washed over the Starboard side. I tried to swim back to the ship after I had removed my shoes & shirt. The Current carried me away faster than I could swim. I then saw Wainscott & told him to come over by me & he did. I then told him I was without a life jacket & he said, “That’s O.K. You stick with me, my jacket will hold us both up.” As we floated by the after part of the Ship we met Brown CBM & he joined up with us. I called to Mathers & Ehlers & everyone I saw to join us and stick to geather. We then Saw the Captain & I asked him to join, but he said he Could make out alright by himself. we floated out the Channel & as we neared the Starboard Entrance Buoy we tried to swim for that but Couldn’t make it against the Current. We saw two fellows who did make it & presumed one to be the Captain because he had been pretty close to us. Then we floated to sea & the Current carried us in Circles, but always farther to sea. We stayed out until we were picked up. I hung on to Broun’s Coat by the collar & also had my other arm around Wainscotts waist & my feet I wrapped around Mathers between these three me I was kept afloat. Two times during the night while we were floating I wanted to give up & asked them to turn me loose but Brown had me by my belt & wouldn’t let me go.

We sighted about Six planes taking off from Eastern Island & we thought they were looking for Us but they flew straight to sea on patrol. Ehlers spotted the moring star & told us it would be daylight in an hour or so & to stick it out. We waited until dawn & then two or three planes took off & we were pretty sure that one of them saw us he Circled. The Light 24″ or Beter from Sand was shining directly at us & then we sighted a boat a few hundred yards off the Entrance Buoy (outside) We hollered & Whistled & waved & tried to attract their attention but they were busy picking up the men off the Entrance Buoy. A short time later they came for us and we were taken aboard. As the Boat headed for Us it was then that Kumler laged behind, Brown or Ehlers asked him to stick with Us & finally they grabbed him Broun was the last to be taken aboard. I was striped and covered with Blankets & given a shot of Whiskey or Rum. The First Aid Man in the Boat rubbed my legs some to help Circulation. Upon arrival at the dock I was put in an Ambulance & taken to the Hospital.


Charles Hamilton Kumler, Electrician’s Mate 2/c

Feb 15 ’44


Charles Kumler

On the night of February 12th, and the morning of February 13th, aboard the USS MACAW were twenty enlisted men and two officers.


Since being confined to the pilot house and charthouse earlier in the evening because of the storm it finally became apparent that we would have to leave the chart house and stay in the pilot house due to after bulkhead giving away. As time went by, the water kept rising to such an extent that it was soon in the pilot house. We started bailing with an empty five gallon can, putting the water out a port hole. At about 2200, we had to give it up. The water was above the ports in the pilot house, and the sea level was over the ports on the outside. At approximately 0200, the water was so high that it was very hard for every one to keep their head in air. At about 0230, the air gave out altogether. Most of the men who could get air, couldn’t breath. It was then that the captain gave the order to abandon the pilot house, and try to make the bridge. The watertight door was opened, after a little difficulty, and the men started out.


I believe I was about the fifteenth man out, I was washed back aft, and my coat was caught on the No 6 20 Millimeter. After freeing myself, I came to the surface and was washed back over the stack and back between the booms to the after starboard side of the ship. I then saw MATHERS RT1c. We swam toward each other and clung together. After a while we saw EHLERS, QM2c so then we all three stayed together. About five minutes later, we saw BROWN, CBM, WAINSCOTT, S2c, and KOEPKE, BM2c, so we six clung together from then on. We made a circle and drifted out towards sea. Once we sighted a channel marker buoy and tried to get to it, but the current was so strong it was impossible.


At about 0530, I believe, I was out of my head, because I don’t remember anything from then until I was drinking coffee in the hospital at 1130 that same morning.


It has been said that I was picked up by a crash boat at about 0630 with five other men.


Nord Elliott Lester, Ship’s Fitter 2/c

Feb 17 ’44

To whom it may concern;

On Feb. 12th, 1944 while on the U.S.S. Macaw (A.S.R. 11) The ship was laying with the Starboard Quarter to the sea. About 1800 it was noticed that the swells from the sea were increasing in size. All loose gear was taken higher or lashed down, and all door, and ports were dogged down. About 2000 there was electric fire on the ten (10″) inch pump in the passage way, between the crews head, and mess hall. This fire was put out with a (CO2) Extinguisher. Soon gear from the boat deck was being carried over the side, by the seas. The Buda air pump made a large hole in the side of the Recompression Room, and the ship started to fill. Food and juices were taken to the Pilot house. The Captain passed the word that no one was to go below. 2030 water was at the foot of the ladder by the Captians Room. 2300 water started to enter the Pilot & Chart house, All hands started to bail water, emptying the water out a port in the Pilot house, between waves. The water continued to raise. All hands now were standing in water up to about their lower ribs, on the Port side of the Pilot house, as this was the high side. The Captain was at the door between Pilot House & Chart room, this door being used as a valve to stop water from coming in, and to let water out, when the water out side receded. The radio (TBY) went out about 2230 the seas now were breaking all the way over the Flying Bridge. The water continued to raise till about 0230, Feb 13th, 1944 the Captain passed the word to make for the foremast. C.B.M. Brown & B.M.2/c Koepke opened the door to the Bridge deck, from the Pilot house. All hands started to make their way to the foremast. There were no noises, or words of frightened men. I was the 20th man to leave the Pilot house. The 21st was Lt. Loughtman, and last was Lt. Comd. Burton.


I made my way to the Flying Bridge, and was hanging on to the Port Signal gun. There I saw L.E. Horsman S.F.2/c at the bottom of the foremast. The following wave I was washed over board. I was caught in the Channels out going tide. A wave came and I was washed against the stack, as the water receded I hit the tripod, or main boom, there I saw Knecht M.M.MO.3/c in the rigging, again as the water receded. I cleared my self, and hit the after three inch, and cleared the fan tail. As the tide was going out to sea, I saw the Channel Bouy, on the Port side going out. On making my way to the Bouy I saw Kingsley F.2/c who appeared to be all right, as I spoke to him a wave hit us, and that was the last I saw of him. I spoke to some one behind me, and said “make for that Bouy” and after Lt. Loughtman arrived.


Here we stayed until daylight. Soon a crash boat from N.O.B. picked me up first, Lt. Loughtman next. The crash boat started again, and soon stopped again. The picked up C.B.M. Brown, Koepke B.M.2/c Kumler E.M.2/c Wainscott S.2/c. We then started for the Sub Base, where ambulance’s and trucks were waiting for us. We were then taken to the hospital, and cared for.


Stanley Libera, Radioman 2/c

Feb 16 ’44


Stanley Libera

After leaving ships the navagation bridge I climbed the ladder to the signal bridge, trying to make the crows nest. A large breaker washed me off the signal bridge into the water where I grabbed the antenn and hung on to them for about a half hour swinging from one end of the ship to the other. The breakers when hitting me while hanging on the antenns I would swing to one side of the ship and keep hitting my legs on the search light platform. Manning S1/c was in the Crows nest trying to help me but breakers were to big and the current to strong. I saw three men altogether in the Crows nest and one on the after boom which was Knecht MoM 3/c. Finally one breaker hit me while still hanging on the Antenna and I hit my head on the search light plat form which made me let go. I swam as fast as I could to stay above the breakers as much as I could until I came where the water was not as rough. My life belt came down to knees where I almost lost it. After bringing it back over my bellie I swam for the closest search light. I past one buoy and later saw Williamson F 1/c swimming near by. We lost each other and I swam like heck for that search light. Finally I saw a crane near the light and when about twenty five yards off Eastern Island a rubber life boat picked me up and then I was taken to the hospital.


George Washington Manning, Seaman 1/c



George Manning

On the Macaw from 0200 to 0830

Feb 13, 1944

When the order was given to leave the pilot house, we all went out, like we had been drilled to do just such a thing under the circumstances. I was about the 12th or 13th man to leave. I forced my way up and in between the bulwarks and the Antenea Bracket. where I was hit by a large way I stayed until the water had receded, then I finished making my way up on the flying bridge and succeded in making it to the search light platform. I stopped there to give Vaughn (S mate 1/c) a hand he was hanging on to the rail around the Platform forward. When a large wave hit us and tore Vaughn lose and knocked him against the forward 3-inch gun barrel and knocked it down. It was the last I saw of him. I believe that it killed him instantly.

I then made my way back to the ladder on the foremast and climbed to the crows nest where Wade S1/c and Scott BM2/c were. And they entered the crows nest and asked me if I would stay out side and to tell them if the ship should start to roll over. Which I said I would.

I was standing on the ladder and I looked down and saw somebody hanging onto the antenna cable and signal halards. It was Liberia RM2/c, I told him to hang on and I would come down and try to help him. I descended and tried to pull him over so he could grab a hold of the foremast. I was trying to pull him up when a large wave hit us and it tore Liberia lose. I then climbed back up to the crow’s nest. I looked around and saw Knecht MoMM3/c and signal to him that there were two men in the crow’s nest. I then saw Whitmarsh MoMM1/c trying to swim back to the ship. I yelled and told him to head for the open sea that he would be picked up in the morning. I guess he didn’t hear me for he kept trying. I grabbed a hold of a signal halard and cut it lose and threw it to him. He tried to catch it but couldn’t a large wave hit him and that was the last I saw of him.

When day break came we sighted a rescue boat laying out. They circled the bow and put there stern to the waves. We told them to get the devil out of there and to come in at the stern. They must not of heard us for they tried to back down to us. A large breaker came in and capsized the boat. We saw them trying to make the beach but lost sight of them in the breakers.

An L.C.M. Layed out of the channel and went around our stern an waited. Knecht dove in and swam to it. It then went further out. Another boat came around the bow and I dove in and swam to it. I got a board and then Wade dove in. We were starting to pull him into the boat when the motor conked and we went broad side to the breakers. Where a large breaker hit us and capsized the boat. I came up and saw .Wade he was trying to help one of the crew. Another breaker hit us and I lost sight of Wade and the crew member. I then saw the cox of the boat and tried to get to him. I got within reaching distance when he was caught in a current and was swept down and away. I looked to see if he might come up but he didn’t so I started to swim for the beach. I was picked up on a sand bar by a crew of a small boat and then was transferred to a crash boat where I was treated we waited until they brought Wade in. They we were brought to the Hospital.


Lawrence Howlett Mathers, Radio Technician 1/c

Feb 15 ’44

February 15th 1944

Midway Island, T.H.


Lawrence Mathers

On the night of February 12th and the morning of February 13th, aboard the U.S.S. Macaw, the following are the events which transpired, according to the best of my observation and memory: In the pilot house of the U.S.S. Macaw were two officers and twenty enlisted men. The ship had attained by midnight a starboard list of some thirty to forty degrees. The seas were breaking with great force against and over the pilot house and flying bridge. By this time the railing around the bridge deck had been swept away. The captain (P.W. Burton), and the executive officer (G.F. Loughman), worked throughout to keep the morale of the men up, and the enlisted men present on their part showed no sign of panic at any time. Work of attempting to keep the water level in the pilot house down by bailing water out the forward port hole had been carried on since early the night before. Water was thrown out the port hole between breakers, and then the port was held shut against the sea by the men inside. At approximately 2 a.m. the water level had risen to the point where there was barely room for the heads of the officers and men between the surface and the overhead of the pilot house. At this point the fact became apparent that we must try to open the port hatch of the pilot house and attempt to reach the flying bridge. Some difficulty was experienced in getting the hatch open, during which time all hands were in peril of their lives. The hatch was finally forced open by the combined efforts of all those near it, and the incoming rush of water submerged the entire pilot house.As soon as the water receded, all hands moved out onto the bridge deck as soon as possible. I siezed the bar outside the hatch on the port side on which antennae were normally secured. Beside me was Funk, CPh.M, and on the ladder to our right was Bolke G.M 3/c. Above us, on the signal bridge railing, was Wainscott, S2/c. In this position, we were struck by the first large breaker to come over after we left the pilot house. When the force of the wave subsided, Funk was gone from my side, and Wianscott was gone from the railing. Bolke climbed up the ladder, and I climbed up so that my feet were on the bar and I was holding onto the signal bridge railing. The next large wave swept me away from the ship and to port for about fifty yards. The current there swept me back over the ship at a point about amidships, and out on the starboard side. Here I found Kumler, EM2/c, and we hung onto each other. At a point farther out on the starboard side, we met Ehlers, QM2/c, and the three of us hung together. Within a few minutes we met Brown, CBM, and Wainscott, S2/c, supporting between them Koepke, BM2/c, who was injured and without a life belt. We joined forces with these three, and formed a circle, supporting Koepke among us. At this time we were being carried to sea by the current, and were out of the breakers. We sighted a channel buoy, and attempted to swim to it, but were unable to overcome the current. We then drifted, as before, until approximately 6 A.M. when we were sighted and picked up by a crash boat attached to N.O.B., Midway Island. At this time Koepke, BM2/c, was very weak, and Kumler, EM2/c, was in a state of shock. We were brought ashore immediately, treated at the N.O.B. dispensary, and placed in sick bay.

Signed –

Lawrence Howlett Mathers

Radio Technician 1/c, V-6,



Charles Arnall Scott, Boatswain’s Mate 2/c

Feb 15 ’44

BM2/c-Charles Arnall-Scott

Charles Arnall Scott

At about 0000 on the night of Feb 12 1944, the water began to come up in the chart room and pilot house. We tried to bail some of it out but could not make any headway. We were sinking slowly into the deeper water. For about three hours we stayed in the Pilot house and the water came up slowly. We were about waist deep in water on the port side of the pilot house. The captain was at the door leading to the chartroom an kept opening it and closing it to try to let the water recede as much as possible. According to my standards there never was a better or more courageous man. At three oclock we left the pilot house and I fortunately made the flying bridge deck. As I started up the mast a wave caught me and knocked me free of the mast, but I caught on to an athwartships guy from the mast and was still on the flying bridge when the water receded. From there I went on up the mast. The reason for knowing the time of these events was that my watch was still running when I went aloft. At seven thirty in the morning I dove from the mast and swam out to the channel current which carried me out to sea where I was picked up by the L.C.M. We went in and we were sent to the hospital.

There were three men on the foremast. They were Wade, Manning and myself. On the after or Main Mast was one man he was Knecht.



Joseph Verkennes

Joseph Theodore Verkennes, Seaman 1/c


One of 22 men rescued from USS Macaw

On leaving pilot House, went up on flying bridge, hung on to 20 MM gun, when washed over to Starboard side. Grabbed 2 X 6 and made way to sand bar between the two islands.


Edward J. Wade, Seaman 1/c


Edward Wade


U.S.S. Macaw A.S.R. 12

Coming out of Pilot House of U.S.S. Macaw A.S.R/ 11 made way to Signal Bridge to Crows Nest waited till Morning when overboard. swam to beach picked up by N.O.B.


Curtis Wainscott, Jr., Seaman 1/c




Curtis Wainscott

On the evening of the 12th, we had moved up to the pilot house because the water was slowly coming up inside the ship. The sea was very rough and getting rougher all the time. The breakers were coming in our starboard quarter and moving the ship around a little but not very much.


We had shut all the doors and ports leading to the outside but one. This port we kept open for the radio antenna and later on in the evening we used it to let in air and try to bail out water. There were two of us on the port for awhile and then two more took over our place. We were placed there to open and close it when it needed to be. The water had begun to come into the pilot house from down below. When it was coming in bad we had to close the door leading from the pilot house to the chart room. That had stopped a lot of water from coming into the pilot house. We were getting a little water through the port when ever a big breaker would come over the ship. Ever now and then the batteries we had sitting around would get salt water in them and catch on fire, they would have to be tossed out a port. The water was getting higher and higher in the pilot house all the time. About eleven o’clock, I noticed through a port that part of the shield around the pilot house had been torn from the deck and was hanging over the antenna wire but soon fell over the side. After a long time, water reached out waist and then they had dogged down the port and it worked by itself from then on. After a while the water reached our shoulders. We then took a little list and that is when we started to leave. They had trouble at first getting the door open but when a few men got behind it, it soon opened. When the door opened every one started to leave one by one. When I got outside the door, I reached up and caught hold of the antenna bar on the bulkhead. There were two beside me on the same bar and there was someone hanging on my shoulders. I asked the Chief Boatswain to help me and at that time there was a breaker come over the ship and that is the last I saw of him or the fellows on the bar. I went from there up to the signal bridge where I stood for a moment. I saw the colored mess attendant . I made my way forward to help him but at that time a breaker hit me and I went over on the port side by the main mast and around the bow of the ship and then started to sea. While going out some one called and said they didn’t have a life jacket. I swam over and we got together. It was Koepke, BM2c. We were going out to sea all the time.


A little ways out we met the chief boatswain’s mate. We stayed together. Just a little farther out we saw the Captain. We tried to get to the channel buoy but couldn’t make it. We then headed out to sea. We made circle all night but didn’t go far. Some of us had cramps but not bad. The next morning about 0730 we were picked up by a crash boat and brought into the docks and from there we went to the hospital where we were treated and put to bed.


(The following names are the men I was with.)





T. Brown


Richard Blaine Williamson, Seaman 1/c



Richard Williamson

On the night Feb – 12 & Morning of Feb – 13 there were 22 men in the Pilot house The ship had a list of approximately 30 degrees to the starbord We were all on the port side of the ship every one was cool headed there was considerable pressure as the ship rocked. At about 2.30 Chief Funk said to the Captain don’t you think it is about time to open the hatch and abband ship & the Captain said Yes The men next to the hatch tried to open it but they couldn’t get it open. At that time the water level was above the top of hatch and the water level was about 1-1/2 foot from the over head. at this time the ship rooled & every one was under water but it rolled back & that give all of us a chance to get our breath then we all pushed & the hatch came open every one a head of me made it out ok. When I got out a wave came over & I was under the railing as soon as it passed I reached down to help Bolke who was holding on to Whitmarsh & another wave came over & threw me over board on the port side I came up back by the booms the current was very swift there it then carried me out toward the buoy on the starbord stern There I met Whitmarsh We were floating around to-gather untill a big breaker came & we were both taken under Whitmarsh & I were both trying to get to the buoy soon after the first big breaker came over. Another one came & I was carried toward shore. I hollered to Whitmarsh twice but didn’t get any answer. After that there was one breaker right after the other untill I land in shallow water next to an old barge that is sunk I thot of getting on it but I was so cold I kept right on toward shore. Liberia came up next to me while in the shallow water & I ask him how he was making it & he said ok after I left the post. Where the water was shallow I swam from there on to the shore I came out next to the crane on eastern Island There were several Marines waiting for me they were holding hands & standing in water about neck deep to pick me up from there I was taken to the hospital with Bolke who beat me ashore a few minutes This is all I remember other that the Marines sure treated us fine at hospital


Gerald F. Loughman, Executive Officer



16 JANUARY 1944



Gerald Loughman

About 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:




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




WADE, E.J., S1c.


“PARS” – Crash Boat from Naval Operating Base.


Gerald F. LOUGHMAN, Lieutenant, USNR.










– 4 –


The following men swam ashore to Eastern Island.







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.



Acting Commanding Officer,

Senior Surviving Officer.















– 5 –




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