Sunday, November 18, 2012

Repairs to the USS San Francisco

On this date in 1942, Dad's repair ship, Vestal, while at Espiritu Santo, began emergency repairs to the USS San Francisco, which had received serious damage in the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal. At the time, Dad was still serving on the carrier Enterprise, completing emergency repairs, even while that naval battle raged.

In that famous sea battle, San Francisco engaged and hit 3 enemy ships, sinking 1 of them. At  one point, she battled at point-blank range with an enemy battleship, Hiei, which was heavily her superior in size and firepower. She silenced the battleship’s guns, and so disabled her that she could be sunk by torpedoes from US destroyers and aircraft. Unfortunately, San Francisco was seriously damaged in the fight, taking 45 hits. 77 sailors, including Rear Admiral Daniel Callaghan and Captain Cassin Young were killed, along with almost all of the other officers on the navigation bridge. 105 other sailors were wounded, and 7 were reported missing. Structural damage to the ship was extensive.

USS President Jackson maneuvering under Japanese air attack in the Naval Battle
of Guadalcanal. In the center background is smoke from an enemy plane
having just crashed into the after superstructure of
San Francisco.

Vestal was called upon to complete temporary repairs, and the San Francisco was able to sail to the states for overhaul on the 23rd. What made this repair job particularly poignant for Vestal's crew was the death of Captain Young. Young had commanded the Vestal during the surprise Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor 11 months earlier. Having received the Medal of Honor for his actions during the Pearl Harbor attack, Young was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for his actions in this battle.

Source: NavSource Online

Launched in 1933, the heavy cruiser USS San Francisco became one of the most decorated ships of WWII, earning 17 Battle Stars and the Presidential Unit Citation. Fighting back in the Pearl Harbor attack, she continued to see extensive action, later during the Guadalcanal Campaign, including the Battle of Cape Esperance and the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, during which she was heavily damaged and her captain and admiral killed. She served admirably in the Pacific Theater all the way through Okinawa and the preparation for the invasion of the Japanese home islands. The USS San Francisco was decommissioned in 1946 and suffered the ignominious demise of being rendered into scrap in 1961.

Sources: Naval Historical Center; USS Vestal War Diary, November 1942

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