The USS Edsall - A Lesson in Gunnery

Come hang out & shoot the breeze!
Istvan56
ShipComrade Staff
Posts: 142
Joined: Mon Jul 06, 2015 7:41 pm
Location: Nampa, Idaho

The USS Edsall - A Lesson in Gunnery

Postby Istvan56 » Tue Oct 13, 2015 7:37 pm

Image
USS Edsall (DD-219), a Tier IV WoWs Clemson class destroyer in San Diego, CA in 1921, US Navy photo

There have been few combat actions by single ships that have had more effect in changing naval tactics than what the USS Edsall (DD-219) taught the Imperial Japanese Navy on March 1, 1942. It was a lesson in gunnery taken to heart by the Japanese which later cost the US Navy dearly for teaching it to them. Despite what you might think Edsall landed no hits whether by guns or torpedoes on her tormentors. Nor, for the most part, did the enemy on her. That was the lesson taught the Japanese, how hard it is to hit a well commanded US destroyer. It is a lesson that many playing World of Warships could apply equally well.

Sadly, America did know about the battle and the heroic actions of that day until after Japan surrendered and her naval records were opened. We are going to look at the background of the ships involved, the tactics employed, the lessons learned and the tragic fate of the survivors of the USS Edsall. Due to time commitments I'm going to break this up into several posts to this thread over the course of the day.

The Clemson class - Tier IV WoWs USN Destroyer

Image
Read more about the WoWs Tier IV Clemson class destroyer on our ship tree.
Image
Istvan56
ShipComrade Staff
Posts: 142
Joined: Mon Jul 06, 2015 7:41 pm
Location: Nampa, Idaho

Re: The USS Edsall - A Lesson in Gunnery

Postby Istvan56 » Tue Oct 13, 2015 11:57 pm

Background to the Battle - The Japanese Strategy

The Imperial Japanese Army and Navy were tasked with seizing enough territory early on so that following a negotiated peace with the United States and other Allies the Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere, in reality the Empire of Japan, would still be a world power to be reckoned with. Japan wrongly guessed that the United States, if beaten back enough, would negotiate with them. Only Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto saw this as foolishness. He said, "I can run wild for six months … after that, I have no expectation of success," which came true six months after Pearl Harbor with the Battle of Midway. He concluded even before the war, "Should hostilities once break out between Japan and the United States, it is not enough that we take Guam and the Philippines, nor even Hawaii and San Francisco. We would have to march into Washington and sign the treaty in the White House."

Those in command did not share his view and wanted a knock-out punch for the US Pacific Fleet and then they would mop up the smaller US Asiatic Fleet. Regardless of Yamamoto's sentiments, best recorded in The Reluctant Admiral, a biography by Hiroyuki Agawa, Admiral Yamamoto developed the Pearl Harbor attack plan while other admirals focused on less powerful but yet as strategically important targets. Admiral Takeo Takagi, formerly a member of the Imperial Japanese Navy General Staff was given command over naval forces tasked with supporting the army in capturing the Philippines and then the Dutch East Indies, the former vital due to it being US Territory and the latter due to its oil, rubber, hardwoods and spices.

Takagi's most able opponent was Admiral Thomas C. Hart, commander of the US Asiatic Fleet and of the joint American-British-Dutch-Australian Command (ABDACOM), a man hampered by his political enemies. These included General Douglas MacArthur in command of the US Army forces in the Philippines, Hart's ABDACOM Chief of Staff British General Archibald Wavell, and Hart's second-in-command Dutch Admiral Conrad Helfrich. Admiral Hart and General MacArthur disagreed with each other from the start but Hart was not as devious or politically astute as MacArthur was. Following Hart's move by submarine to the Dutch East Indies, as ordered to take up command of ABDACOM, MacArthur spread the word in Washington that Hart was a coward and refused to help defend the already doomed Philippines. Wavell was telling Churchill a similar story, saying that Hart wouldn't attack and that the Dutch, who knew their territory best of all, were the ones to lead the defense of the Dutch East Indies.

Admiral Hart saw the Japanese as efficient and capable, something the British of the day dismissed until they were taught a brutal lesson with the fall of Singapore. Hart saw his mission as a delaying tactic, a fighting retreat trading territory to give the United States time to bring in a large, modern force to augment or replace his small fleet of mixed and mostly obsolete ships. Hart ordered his forces to hit the Japanese when they were most vulnerable, when tied to troop transports.

On January 24, 1942, in the Battle of Balikpapan four Clemson class destroyers, USS John D. Ford, USS Pope, USS John Paul Jones and USS Parrot, snuck in at night among the Japanese invasion force and first launching torpedoes and then opening up with their guns they accounted for four Japanese transports. It was a much needed victory for the small fleet.

Image
USS Marblehead, as she was during the Battle of the Flores Sea, is a Tier V premium gift or contest prize ship.

Next on February 3, 1942 the ABDA naval forces, consisting mostly of US ships, attempted to engage another Japanese convoy intelligence said was going through the Makassar Strait between Sumatra, Dutch East Indies and the British Malayan Peninsula. Set to be another night attack the force set off in daylight to time the attack correctly. Unfortunately they were spotted by Japanese aircraft and attacked. The flagship USS Huston lost her No. 3 turret and the USS Marblehead was badly damaged. Hart was overruled on sending Houston for repairs with Marblehead. It was another political decision where Hart was later shown to be right though at the time he was heavily criticized for it. Under Hart's command the Asiatic Fleet did not lose one ship but his political enemies had him tried and convicted in the court of public opinion of cowardice and incompetence and he was sacked on February 14, 1942.

Command was transferred to the Dutch with Rear Admiral Karel Doorman in charge of the ABDA naval forces. The Dutch view was myopic, they wanted to hold onto the last major Dutch colony no matter what the cost. Admiral Doorman didn't want to wait for the US Navy to get its act together, he would lead the hodge-podge ABDA fleet into decisive action.

The Japanese Imperial Navy struck on February 27, 1942 the Battle of the Java Sea commenced and over the next three days nearly the entire ABDA force was lost including 10 ships and 2,173 sailors were killed or were missing in action. Admiral Doorman bungled things so badly he was one of the earliest casualties. Only a few survivors escaped Admiral Takagi's forces to Australia. The cut off British and Dutch soldiers were then mopped up island by island until the Dutch East Indies surrendered on March 9, 1942. The US Asiatic Fleet ceased to exist.

For more reading about Admiral Hart and the US Asiatic Fleet I recommend reading Admiral Thomas C. Hart And The Demise Of The Asiatic Fleet 1941 – 1942 by David DuBois, East Tennessee State University Press and The Fleet the Gods Forgot: The U.S. Asiatic Fleet in World War II by W.G. Winslow.
Image
Istvan56
ShipComrade Staff
Posts: 142
Joined: Mon Jul 06, 2015 7:41 pm
Location: Nampa, Idaho

Re: The USS Edsall - A Lesson in Gunnery

Postby Istvan56 » Wed Oct 14, 2015 1:22 am

The USS Edsall (DD-219) before her sinking

Image
Joshua James Nix or "J.J." as he was known, as an Annapolis cadet circa late 1920's. Photo courtesy of http://www.navsource.org

In late 1941 Lt. Joshua James Nix (USNA Class of 1930,) was promoted to skipper of the USS Edsall over other more senior officers. He had served as executive officer (XO) on DD-219 for roughly a year prior to that. It was, as one of his men wrote at the time, "quite a break for Mr. Nix." It was also quite a break for men of the Edsall. (Source Donald M. Kehn, Jr., author of A Blue Sea of Blood: Deciphering the Mysterious Fate of the USS Edsall. I have a copy on order and I recommend it highly.)

On December 7, 1941 (already December 8th on the other side of the International Date Line), USS Edsall was with Destroyer Division 57 based in the Dutch oil port of Balikpapan, in what is now Indonesia. Her first mission came a few days after the attack when on December 10, 1942 the Royal Navy suffered a terrible blow losing the HMS Repulse and HMS Prince of Wales of Task Force Z. Lt. Nix and the Edsall was ordered to assist the British in looking for survivors. Edsall quickly steamed to Singapore where she picked up a British liaison officer and then headed to the last reported locations for the sunken battleships. She found no survivors, they had been already picked up by British destroyers, but on her way back she captured the Japanese fishing trawler Kofuku Maru towing 4 boats, it had been based in Singapore and was trying to escape internment. Edsall turned the ship over to the British who interned the crew (until the Japanese released them) and the boat became the MV Krait of Australian Special Forces fame.

Image
Kofuku Maru, captured by the USS Edsall went on to play an important role in Australian special operations missions as the MV Krait. The vessel is part of the Australian War Memorial today.

The USS Edsall was not on the raid on Balikpapan or the failed raid on the convoy in the Makassar Strait. She had been detached from Destroyer Division 57 in January to escort convoys of refugee ships escaping the Japanese onslaught. On January 20, 1942 with three Australian corvettes Edsall became the first US ship to sink a full size Japanese submarine, I-124, which was stalking one of her convoys.

Image
USS Edsall in wartime camouflage escorting the troop transport USAT Willard A Holbrook off of Java, February 15, 1942, photo courtesy Australian War Memorial

On February 19, 1942 Edsall again detected a Japanese submarine after her convoy and closed in for the attack. Due to either a faulty depth charge timer or miscalculation by the crew a depth charge detonated prematurely damaging the propeller shafts, bearings or even one of the props themselves. Regardless, Edsall could now only make 26 knots. Unfortunately, like the heavy cruiser Houston the ship was too important to take out of service to repair the damage. It was another fatal error by ABDACOM that later cost them the ship.
Image
Istvan56
ShipComrade Staff
Posts: 142
Joined: Mon Jul 06, 2015 7:41 pm
Location: Nampa, Idaho

Re: The USS Edsall - A Lesson in Gunnery

Postby Istvan56 » Wed Oct 14, 2015 2:06 am

The loss of the USS Langley

Image
In World of Warships the USS Langley is a Tier IV aircraft carrier

On February 26, 1942 the USS Edsall was ordered along with her sister-ship, the USS Whipple (DD-217), to rendezvous with the USS Langley (ex-CV-1, now a seaplane tender, AV-3) which was transporting 32 assembled P-40E Kittyhawks and the members of the Far East Air Force's 13th Pursuit Squadron (Provisional) along with the MS Sea Witch, a merchant ship carrying an additional 27 crated Kittyhawks. Both ships had been detached independently from convoy MS.5 and were now bound for Tjilatjap (Cilacap), Java to help provide much needed air cover from the threat of Japanese bombers. The Sea Witch made it but the USS Langley did not.

Image
USS Langley (AV-3) being sunk by her escorts after an air attack on 2/27/1942, US Navy photo taken from USS Whipple.

Early on the morning of February 27, 1942 the Japanese spot the USS Langley believing they caught a US Navy aircraft carrier with her escorts. At 11:40 hours nine Japanese bombers based in now captured Bali attacked Langley. The first and second waves of three had near misses, but the third wave hit Langley and 16 crewmen were killed. The wooden deck burst into flames, steering was damaged, and the ship developed a 10° list to port. The Langley would never make it to Tjilatjap harbor and eventually her engine room flooded. At 13:32, the order to abandon ship was given. After picking up survivors the Edsall and Whipple fired nine 4 in (102 mm) shells and two torpedoes into Langley, to sink the stricken ship. Edsall was overloaded with 177 survivors and Whipple had 308 crew and airmen aboard.

Image
USS Langley (AV-3) sinking on 2/27/1942, US Navy photo taken from USS Whipple.

Early the next day, on February 28, 1942 both destroyers met up with the USS Pecos (AO-6), an empty fleet oiler that had been on its way to India to refuel. The destroyers began to transfer survivors in Flying Fish Cove at Christmas Island. One destroyer would transfer survivors while the other patrolled looking out for enemy submarines or aircraft. At 0800 hours they were attacked by more Japanese land based bombers. The ships evaded this first wave scattering agreeing to meet later when the Japanese thought they had left for good.

The three ships met again at "oh-dark-thirty" (meaning very early in the morning) on March 1st to continue to transfer survivors. USS Edsall was ordered to take 32 surviving airmen to Tjilatjap to meet up with the crated fighters the Sea Witch had successfully unloaded. The ships departed company and each headed off to their respective destinations, the USS Pecos to Australia, the USS Whipple to Java to continue the war and USS Edsall to Tjilatjap to drop off the fighter pilots.
Image
Istvan56
ShipComrade Staff
Posts: 142
Joined: Mon Jul 06, 2015 7:41 pm
Location: Nampa, Idaho

Re: The USS Edsall - A Lesson in Gunnery

Postby Istvan56 » Wed Oct 14, 2015 2:09 am

The Loss of the USS Pecos (AO-6)

Image
USS Pecos (AO-6), date and time unknown, US Navy photo

The Japanese were not done attacking the USS Pecos. Despite the ships leaving the island the Pecos was spotted and around noon came under air attack this time from carrier based planes off of Sōryū and Akagi. Her crew radioed for assistance from the nearby destroyers and both turned back to help her. But they were too far away to save the Pecos.

The skipper of the Pecos, Commander Abernethy, changed course repeatedly shaking the aim of the enemy Val dive bombers. For his skillful action he later was awarded the Navy Cross. Meanwhile his crew used makeshift .50 caliber M2 Browning AA mounts to fight off the Japanese planes. Wave after wave of bombers staffed and dropped their payloads on and around the doomed ship. Langley survivors helped fight fires along with the officers and crew of the Pecos and several were wounded or killed as they lost their second ship in as many days. Later many of these men were honored for their bravery under fire, for when there are survivors to tell the tale, there is recognition.

Image
HIJMS Sōryū is the sister-ship of the Hiryū a Tier VII aircraft carrier in World of Warships.

Finally in mid-afternoon, with her fires out of control and the ship sinking Captain Abernethy ordered the ship abandoned. But the Japanese weren't done with her. The Vals, having dropped their bombs now took turns straffing the helpless men in the boats, on rafts or in the water. This pissed off the Pecos' XO, Lt. Commander Lawrence J. McPeake (Annapolis Class of 1924). McPeake manned one of the M2 Brownings and started pumping lead into the Vals as they made their low-flying straffing runs. He is credited with downing one Val and damaging a second, ending their merciless attacks. He then abandoned ship and swam away with another officer, sadly never seen again. After the war he was posthumously awarded the Silver Star and promoted to Commander.

After receiving the distress call from the Pecos at noon the USS Whipple headed to the last reported position of the fleet oiler at flank speed. Throughout the afternoon as the destroyer sped to the scene all available hands prepared for the worse. Anxiously they watched the skies and the sea for threats. Some knotted lines and cargo nets for picking up survivors. At 1922 hours she sounded General Quarters when lookouts spotted several small lights off both bows. They were flashlights held by survivors.

The destroyer slowed to avoid running over men or boats in the darkness. The prepared cargo nets and lines were lowered and survivors hoisted on board. The Whipple had to break off when there was the report of a submarine sighted but it proved a false alarm. She returned and renewed her rescue efforts. How many men she missed in the darkness or when she broke way is unknown but she was able to pick up 232 men from the water. The skipper of the Whipple had a hard choice to make. He knew there was a Japanese task force about with the carriers that launched the attack on Pecos. He could keep looking for survivors and risk his ship being sunk near the scene come morning light or escape with those she saved. He made the tough choice of saving those he had on board despite it meaning the death of those still struggling in the dark for their lives. He ordered his ship to make for Australia.
Image
Istvan56
ShipComrade Staff
Posts: 142
Joined: Mon Jul 06, 2015 7:41 pm
Location: Nampa, Idaho

Re: The USS Edsall - A Lesson in Gunnery

Postby Istvan56 » Wed Oct 14, 2015 3:14 am

The Epic Battle of the Edsall vs. IJN's "First Air Fleet"

On March 1, 1942 the USS Edsall had initially left the USS Pecos to head for Tjilatjap, Java to deliver the 32 US Army Air Corps pilots to their remaining planes. However, an hour after leaving Pecos and Whipple ABDACOM sent a message that the Japanese had landed on Java and all ships were to escape to Australia. Dutifully, and I'm sure with some relief for the airmen, Captain Nix headed to Australia.

Then at noon the Edsall picked up a distress call from the Pecos. She turned around and went back towards Christmas Island. However, unlike USS Whipple, she couldn't run as fast, the depth charge damage still limited her top speed to 26 knots. Little did her captain know that the lack of repairs had certainly doomed the ship.

Back on February 25, 1942, First Air Fleet (Kido Butai) commander Vice Admiral Chūichi Nagumo was given the mission to enter the Indian Ocean and “to cut off any escape of the Allied Forces.” The First Air Fleet was split with half of his carriers detached supporting the invasion of the Dutch East Indies from the north along with the fast Battleship Division 3/1, the Kongo and Haruna, and some cruisers and destroyers. Personally Nagumo led the rest south consisting of the aircraft carriers Sōryū and Akagi escorted by the fast battleships of Battleship Division 3/2, the Hiei and Kirishima, plus Cruiser Division 8 consisting of Tone and Chikuma, Destroyer Squadron 1 and six fleet oilers. The sea is full of merchant shipping fleeing the Dutch East Indies and Philippines for the presumed safety of Darwin, Australia not knowing the First Air Fleet has already rendered the port inoperable. The Japanese aircrews are having a field day.

Image
Hiei and Kirishima are Kongo class battleships, Tier V in World of Warships

On March 1, 1942 the First Air Fleet reconnaissance planes from CruDiv 8 have so far found the USS Pecos and the fleet is going to attack it by carrier planes. Then at 1130 hours another float plaine spots the Dutch merchantman Modjokerto. Chikuma, aided by the destroyers Kasumi and Shiranuhi, goes after Modjokerto. Chikuma sinks the merchantman by gunfire and then rescues survivors from the sea.

At noon the first wave from Sōryū reaches the Pecos. Both carriers are committed to sinking this fat prize when at 1550 hours one of the A6M2 Type 0 Model 11 "Zeke" fighters flying Combat Air Patrol (CAP) over the fleet spots what he identifies as a "Marblehead class" light cruiser trailing the fleet 30 km away. It is the Edsall, the pilot counted four funnels on the old Clemson class destroyer and thought it was a four stack Omaha class light cruiser.

Image
Tone and Chikuma are Tone class premium cruisers, Tier VII in World of Warships

At 1552 hours Vice Admiral Nagumo learns of the sighting and orders Vice Admiral Gunichi Mikawa's BatDiv 3/2 aided by CruDiv 8 to sink it. Admiral Mikawa must've thought it was a fox hunt as he ordered the Kongo class battleships Hiei, his flagship into the lead and Kirishima trailing into the chase while sending Tone and Chikuma to "hound' the prey from the starboard and port respectively.

At 1602 hours, barely twelve minutes from being sighted by the "Zero," the Tone first spots the Edsall and visa versa. One minute later Chikuma opens fire at extreme range, 21 km, with all the guns she can bring to bear but all of the 8" (203 mm) shells do nothing but kill fish. Captain Nix pours on the oil and lights off a smoke screen. The Edsall disappears from view but the Japanese ships have the speed to run the damaged destroyer down. It will only be a matter of time before they get her. Nix knows this but he plans on making them work hard for the kill.

At 1616 hours Hiei spots the Edsall and opens fire at a range of 27.9 km. Captain Nix sees the flash of the battlewagon's guns and immediately turns his ship. As the enemy fleet fires he changes directions, slows and speeds up again, and turns circles around their splashes. To aid in spotting the shifty destroyer Admiral Mikawa orders all spotting planes launched at 1619 hours. Then at 1620 hours he orders, "All ships charge!" At 1639 Mikawa orders all ships to flank speed. But even with the aid of the planes the battleships and cruisers can't hit their crafty foe.

For the next hour and a half Nix nimbly evades every salvo the Japanese can throw at him. He uses smoke and rain squalls to slip briefly out of view giving his crews a respite from the fire. At 1756 hours Nix gamely makes a run at the Chikuma firing torpedoes but they miss. Bravely Nix even orders the Edsall to close on his foes and opens fire with his 4" (102mm) guns but the shells simply fall short. Meanwhile the Japanese are firing with everything they've got.

At 1800 hours Chikuma has to quit firing due to a rain squall. It is around that time that reports start to come in from the main gun magazines that the cruiser is almost out of 8" ammunition. CruDiv 8 has fired 844 main gun shells and 62 secondary gun shells at Edsall for a total of 1 non-crippling hit by Tone and that only finally comes at 1835 hours.

The situation aboard the flagship is not much better. Out of 210 14" rounds and 70 6" rounds fired by Hiei at Edsall, only one 14" round hit at 1824 hours and it didn't seem to faze the destroyer. It likely over-penetrated causing minimal damage. Kirishima's gun reports were no better, in fact out of 87 14" and 62 6" the battleship had not made one single hit on their small foe. Edsall had dodged 1335 rounds of heavy caliber fire with only two hits. Admiral Mikawa admitted defeat, if they continued the fleet would be out of ammunition before they would sink the destroyer. The fox was winning.

Admiral Nagumo was furious when the request came for carrier aircraft to sink the Edsall. His aircrews and service personnel were tired from the repeated attacks against the Pecos which also had proven hard to sink despite having almost no effective AA guns. Against the backdrop of the setting sun he ordered two waves of air strikes against the Edsall. And he wasn't going to let the little gnat get away with dodging these bombs. Nagumo ordered the largest ship-killers he had in his arsenal to be loaded on the planes, 1,100 lb. (500 kg.) along with 550 lb. (250 kg.) HE bombs.

From 1827 hours to 1850 hours the planes attack the destroyer as Nix tries to evade. But near misses can be as bad as hits, especially with the big bombs. Eight of them either hit the ship or close enough to damage it. The pilots radio back success as a fire rages amidship and the destroyer looks to be out of control. In fact the engine room is flooding from her opened seams. In a final gesture of defiance Captain Nix turns the ship straight at his foes, offering the smallest target to them and looking that if he could he would resume his attacks on them. Then he begins evacuating the ship.

Image
The death of the USS Edsall captured on movie stock but blown up and used for Japanese propaganda. Even then they couldn't get it right. They misidentified the ship as the HMS Pope, confusing the USS Pope with British ships that were attacked on the same day as the Edsall was sunk.

Chikuma wastes no time and closes on the dead ship to finish her with 5" secondary guns, likely the only ones with enough ammunition to spare. Aboard the Tone a crewman has gotten a movie camera out and records 90 seconds of Edsall's final moments including when the Chikuma must've hit her magazine as she leaps from the sea with the explosion. At 1900 hours the Edsall rolls over and "shows her red bottom" as one officer aboard the Tone notes. The gallant ship and her able captain, Lt. J.J. Nix, are gone for good. The US Navy never hears of the story of Edsall's loss and merely chalks her disappearance as a loss of war, her crew "missing in action - presumed dead." There are no headlines, no honors or medals awarded. The Japanese quietly among themselves term the encounter a "fiasco."
Image
Istvan56
ShipComrade Staff
Posts: 142
Joined: Mon Jul 06, 2015 7:41 pm
Location: Nampa, Idaho

Re: The USS Edsall - A Lesson in Gunnery

Postby Istvan56 » Wed Oct 14, 2015 5:39 am

The Fate of the Crew of USS Edsall

The Japanese in World War II were a quirky bunch. At times they would be the most barbaric of enemies, not sparing women or children even from their abuse and slaughter. The machine-gunning of 100 Australian nurses during the conquest of the Dutch East Indies occurred around the same time that a Japanese officer and pilot flew over the site where HMS Prince of Wales and Repulse were sunk and dropped two wreaths, one for the Japanese dead and one of for the British dead. As I mentioned in my thread on the Tone thread that cruiser picked up 108 survivors though ultimately most were later massacred under orders.

The Wreck of the USS Edsall (DD-219)'s location

Records show that the Chikuma picked up a handful of survivors, the Tone too might have picked up some. There is even a report that the Myoko class cruiser Ashikaga came back for some. Numbers vary from five to 40 though I think the latter is more correct. Anyway, the ones aboard the Chikuma were fed and then questioned, almost admiringly which got someone to boast how Nix had dodged the rain of Japanese fire. The interrogation report made it up the chain of command and changes were ordered to improve Japanese gunnery. In the article A SHIP TO REMEMBER: USS EDSALL (DD 219) by Lion Miles & Co-authors Kelly Long, Dixie Geary they said this:

"On this intelligence the Japanese recommended a number of changes to the gunnery curriculum at their Yokosuka Naval Base. To counter the possibility of an enemy ship evading shells at long range, they reduced the initial firing range to 12,000 meters for cruisers against destroyers and 7,000 meters for destroyers against destroyers. That required a correct identification of the type of target (Tone had thought Edsall was a light cruiser). Pincer attacks from different directions were to be used to reduce the enemy’s chances for evasive maneuvering. And they introduced improved training and tactics for long range firing to reduce the wastage of ammunition."

Due to these changes Japanese gunnery improved as evidenced by the further losses to the US Navy in subsequent campaigns. To both cover up the shame of the Edsall "fiasco" all of the survivors from the Edsall, including the airmen, and even the survivors from the Dutch ship Modjokerto who might of witnessed some of the fiasco were taken to the Kendari "Death Factory" on the Philippines island of Celebes and executed by beheading. After the war Allied investigators were shown the mass graves and ten bodies were recovered, five from the Edsall's "black gang" who worked the boiler and engine rooms plus five un-named airmen from the 13th (Provisional) Pursuit Squadron originally from the USS Langley. These ten were re-intured together in 1949 in the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in Missouri.
Image
Istvan56
ShipComrade Staff
Posts: 142
Joined: Mon Jul 06, 2015 7:41 pm
Location: Nampa, Idaho

Re: The USS Edsall - A Lesson in Gunnery

Postby Istvan56 » Tue Oct 20, 2015 2:53 pm

This morning I received my copy of "A Blue Sea of Blood" by Donald M. Kehn, Jr. Again, I cannot recommend it enough to anyone who wants to know the details and the truth behind the "fiasco" the crew of the Edsall wrought on the Kaigun Nihon on the evening of March 1, 1942. In my 2 hour quick review of the book I found I had put into my article several small mistakes mostly from US Navy sources. As Kehn said, the US Navy knew nothing about the Edsall's epic struggle until after the war and then adopted an attitude of skepticism towards the Japanese records.

Even when evidence of war crimes against the survivors arose the US investigators were so overwhelmed by the numbers of such crimes that they didn't pursue justice for the crew. There was also the fact that the Japanese themselves, during the closing days of the war, issued orders for destruction of all records relating to war crimes and for the guilty officers to start fleeing before inevitable capture or surrender to the Allies. These actions are similar to those by the SS officials who conducted the "Final Solution" in the Nazi's extermination of the the Jews and other undesirables. Destroy evidence and flee. Fortunately most of the commanders and officers who gave the orders and led in the massacres of Allied prisoners did face justice because their actions were so pervasive that they were often guilty of multiple war crimes for which conviction on just one would mean prison or execution. At trial the Japanese, with their "Spirit of Bushido," showed even less remorse than the Nazi's.

It is truly sad that after such diligence in searching original records, interviewing the last of the surviving Japanese witnesses as well as contacting the families of some of the Edsall crew that nothing could be done to right the wrongs against the Edsall by an indifferent US Navy. Lt. J.J. Nix along with his officers and men upheld the finest traditions of the United States Navy to the very end against overwhelming odds. Kehn computed that the 1335 shells fired at the destroyer meant there was an average of 15 shells per minute being fired at them during the engagement. Of course this is an average, we know there were lulls during the four smoke screens and few rain squalls during the fight which means that during some individual minutes there were two or three times that number of ship killing shells in the air coming at the Edsall. J.J. dodged all but one (revised figure, only 1 shell hit Edsall from Chikuma, the closest enemy ship). The Edsall attacked Chikuma more than once, Japanese officers and crew reported that her 4" shells "narrowly missed" Chikuma as did the torpedoes which the cruiser only just avoided.

It is no wonder that the plucky ship and crew received respect by the Chikuma when they were picked up. A respect for their skills that the US Navy dismissed. And once dismissed by bureaucrats it is very hard to get the same bureaucracy to reverse itself and admit it was mistaken. And so these brave men who so gallantly served their country knowing full well they were dead men from the moment the first lookout spotted the Japanese task force bearing down upon them still go with honors and recognition by what should be a most grateful nation.

I ask you, my readers and fellow WoWs players of whatever nation, to remember the USS Edsall when you play the Tier IV Clemson destroyer and do your best to emulate J.J. Nix in jinking when shots are fired at you, using smoke and islands effectively to mask both your approach and escape, then close with the enemy for the attack even when the RNG odds are against you. And should your ship "show her red bottom" from enemy action be grateful it is merely a game and you can come back to port unscathed. For in real life, none of Edsall's crew ever made it back home. So hoist one of whatever your favorite brew is and say, "Here's to the Edsall, Pride of the Asiatic Fleet" and hit enter battle again. And if any should ever want to hear a sea story retell the Edsall's tale so she and her men are never forgotten.
Image
D.O.M
Posts: 1
Joined: Sat Feb 10, 2018 9:22 pm

Re: The USS Edsall - A Lesson in Gunnery

Postby D.O.M » Sat Feb 10, 2018 9:41 pm

Thank you for the great synopsis. I just purchased “Blue Sea of Blood” and will begin the read tonight.

My great uncle, Donald O McIntosh of the 13th Pursuit Squadron, who enlisted under my grandfather’s identity, was rescued by the USS Edsall after the sinking of the USS Langley. We never knew his fate until now.

If you have any information regarding the identities of dog tags recovered from the mass grave on the Philippines it would be greatly appreciated if you could contact me. Call me directly at 206 953 6144. I’ll share our family tail, and what records we’ve recovered. Thank you greatly.

Sincerely,
Zach McIntosh

Return to “General Discussion”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Bing [Bot] and 1 guest