NAVSHIPS 48 (424)
U. S. S. BIRMINGHAM (CL62) TORPEDO
SOLOMON ISLANDS 8 NOVEMBER, 1943
30 October, 1944
Preliminary Design Section
Bureau of Ships
WAR DAMAGE REPORT No. 48
Printed By U. S. Hydrographic Office
U.S.S. BIRMINGHAM (CL62) Torpedo and Bomb Damage
8 November, 1943 Solomon Islands
608 ft. - 4 in.
Draft (Before Damage)
24 ft. - 3 in.
(a) C.O. BIRMINGHAM ltr. CL62/A16-3 Serial 008 of 11 November 1943 (Action Report). (b) C.O. BIRMINGHAM ltr. CL62/L11-1/L9-3 Serial 009 of 16 November, 1943 (Damage Report).
(c) C.O. BIRMINGHAM ltr. CL62/L11-1/L9-3 Serial 0016 of 30 November, 1943 (Battle Damage).
(d) C.O. WHITNEY ltr. AD4/L11 Serial 0017 of 23 November, 1943 (Repairs to Damage).
(e) COMDT NYPearl ltr. C-L11-1/CL/NY10 Serial Y-0285 of 28 January, 1944 (War Damage Report).
(f) COMDT NY Mare Island ltr. CL62/L11-1(360-621926) Serial 13299 of 5 May, 1944 (Supplementary War Damage Report).
Types of Bombs and Torpedoes
Flooding and Stability
I Torpedo Damage
II Bomb Damage
LIST OF PHOTOGRAPHS
1. Bomb damage to stern, starboard side.
2. Bomb damage to stern. Starboard side looking aft and to port.
3. Bomb damage to stern. Looking aft and to starboard.
4. Bomb damage to stern. Looking inboard and aft under third deck level.
5. Looking forward to port showing buckles in main deck, frames 132-128.
6. Bomb damage to stern. Looking aft port side showing damage to hatch cover and airplane crane.
7. Bomb damage to stern. Looking aft and to overhead in Hangar. Damage partially repaired.
8. Bomb damage to stern. Looking forward starboard side. Note temporary bulkhead 144.
9. Looking aft and outboard starboard side showing temporary repairs of stern damage.
10. Torpedo damage, port side. Note temporary patch at top of hole.
11. Torpedo damage, port side. Looking forward and inboard.
12. Torpedo damage, first platform. Looking forward and to port.
13. Looking forward on port side showing buckles in main deck, frames 19-12.
14. Torpedo damage, port side, showing temporary patch.
15. Torpedo damage, third deck level. Looking forward to port showing temporary pipe stringers.
16. Torpedo damage, starboard side, showing fragment holes in shell.
17. Bomb damage, No. 4 turret and guns.
18. Bomb damage, No. 2 gun of No. 4 turret.
SECTION I - SUMMARY
1. During an attack by enemy bombers and torpedo planes on the night of 8 November 1943, BIRMINGHAM sustained damage from hits by a bomb released from minimum altitude, and an aircraft torpedo. In addition, a second bomb detonated immediately above the gun barrels of No. 4 turret and caused further damage of a minor character.
2. The first bomb struck the shell on the starboard counter at frame 149 just above the waterline and detonated upon impact. A hole roughly 14 by 15 feet was blown in the shell, with most of the damage above the waterline. A few compartments adjacent to the damage flooded from the sea.
3. The aircraft torpedo detonated upon impact with the port shell at frame 20 about 10 feet below the surface. The shell was ruptured over an area roughly 28 by 32 feet. Interior structure on the port side between frames 18 and 23 from the hold up to the second deck was demolished. All compartments below the third deck between frames 15 and 27 flooded from the sea.
4. The second bomb detonated over the gun barrels of No. 4 turret and fragments scarred and pitted the turret face plate and gun barrels. Fragments entered the turret through the gun ports and caused some damage in the interior of the turret. As a result, the turret was jammed in elevation.
5. The structural damage at the bow and stern was severe but localized. Flooding was not extensive. Damage to the turret prevented its use. After damage, BIRMINGHAM was able to make 29 knots with little difficulty. Steering control was impaired slightly by the necessity of carrying 3 degrees right rudder to maintain a steady course. Thus, in spite of rather severe damage at both extremities, fighting efficiency was reduced very little.
6. No gasoline fires or vapor explosions occurred, although the first bomb detonated in way of the starboard aviation gasoline tank, which contained about 3500 gallons of gasoline at the time. Despite a rather large hole in the port shell, from the aircraft torpedo, the remaining structure proved adequate to prevent loss of the bow forwardof the torpedo hit. Damage control measures were prompt and effective, both in limiting flooding an in preventing trouble from gasoline fires.
7. After emergency temporary repairs by WHITNEY and the ship?s force, BIRMINGHAM proceeded to Navy Yard, Pearl Harbor.
Here, permanent repairs to the shell at bow and stern and temporary repairs for the restoration of interior watertight integrity were accomplished. Permanent repairs and authorized alterations were effected by Navy Yard, Mare Island, and the ship was placed back in service on 7 February, 1944.
SECTION II - NARRATIVE
8. On 8 November, 1943, BIRMINGHAM, a unit of a task group, was engaged in supporting landing operations at Empress Augusta Bay, Bougainville Island. The sea was smooth; the moon was three-quarters full; visibility was good except during intermittent rain squalls.
9. During the afternoon and until 1800, many bogies appeared on the radar screens. By 1818, it was evident that one or more enemy air groups were forming for an attack. Green, red and white flares were dropped by enemy snoopers to mark the position, composition and course of the formation. The ship went to General Quarters and set condition ABLE. At 1822, the task group went to 25 knots. At 1846, radical emergency maneuvering was commenced and speed was increased to29 knots. At 1911, BIRMINGHAM opened fire at enemy planes using radar control. At 1917, a plane (identified as a ?Val?) was sighted coming in through some clouds on the starboard quarter, very low and close aboard. Employing minimum altitude1 technique the plane released a bomb just before passing over the fantail. This bomb detonated as it struck the starboard counter, just above the waterline at about frame 149 (see plate II). The plane was shot down and crashed in the water about 500-1000 yards on the port beam.
10. The detonation caused appreciable shock and flexural vibration throughout the ship, but there was negligible damage exceptin the immediate vicinity of the hit. There was no flash nor flame although there was some smoke in the hangar which dissipated quickly.
11. The shell plating was ruptured (photos 1-4) over an irregularly shaped area, roughly 14 by 15 feet, extending longitudinally from frame 148 on the starboard side aft and across the stern some 10 feet to frame C, an extension of No. 2 longitudinal on the starboard side. Vertically, the hole extended from below the knuckle line almost to the second deck. Shell plating around the periphery of the opening was deflected inboard and upward. Distortion of shell plating extended from frame 142 on the starboard side aft and across the stern to frame C on the port side. Floors below the first platform on the starboard side aft of frame 144 were distorted. The first platform and third deck were demolished on the starboard side aft of frame 148 from the side inboard about 10 feet. Deck plating was buckled to the centerline and forward to frame 141. The crane machinery flat (at the second deck level) was deflected upward about 1 foot and punctured by several fragments. The main deck was pushed slightly upward over the damaged area and was wrinkled at several places as far forward as frame 130 (photo 5). Frames and partition bulkheads in way of the damaged decks were either ripped apartor twisted.
12. Compartments C-15-V, C-613-Gas, C-423-A, C-422 (gasoline trunk) and C-421-1A were opened to the sea and all were flooded. The elevator pit was flooded to a depth of about 2 feet.
13. There were no aircraft on board at the time of damage, but the two-gasoline tanks each contained about 3500 gallons of gasoline.Of the saltwater displacement type, each was completely full of liquid.The voids outboard of the tanks and the trunk were filled with CO2. The starboard tank (C-613-Gas) and the lower edge of the trunk were opened to the sea, but no fire occurred.
14. The hangar hatch cover (photo 6), which was closed with the crane housed on top of it at the time of damage, was lifted about 10 feet by the blast and twisted in a clockwise direction so that the after end came to rest on top of the port catapult (see plate II). The hatch cover was twisted out of shape and was punctured by fragments. The crane also was damaged by blast, and further damaged the hatch cover by impact after the blast.
15. The starboard smoke screen generator was wrecked by blast and was jettisoned. All of the crane machinery on the starboard side was damaged. The crane was forced out of alignment. The elevator pit drainage pumps with their control panels were damaged by distortionof foundations. The M and Q degaussing coils were severed and soaked with water. Both catapults were jarred out of alignment.
16. Ventilation ducts (photo 7) and hangar sprinkling pipes were pierced by fragments. Electric cables were cut. A section of a sprinkling pipe on the starboard after edge of the elevator opening was carried away. The elevator was forced out of alignment and jammed.
17. Shock jarred a contact switch in the steering gear room, causing it to close and start the idle steering motor.
18. Before the smoke in the hangar space cleared, men wearing rescue breathers led hose lines aft, under the assumption that gasoline had ignited. When the smoke cleared it was discovered that there was no fire and that the smoke was from the detonation of the bomb.
19. Within a minute after the hit aft, an aircraft torpedo from an unobserved plane detonated upon impact with the port shell at frame 20, about 10 feet below the waterline (see plate I). There was a single, loud detonation followed by a geyser of water which deluged the forward part of the ship. There was no flash nor flame.
20. The detonation ruptured the port shell (photo 10) over an irregularly shaped area, roughly 28 by 32 feet, extending longitudinally between frames 16 and 23 and vertically from the A to the H strake. Above the first platform F and G strakes were missing between frames 16 and 24. Forward to frame 15, the shell was pushed sharply inboard. The starboard shell in way of the hit was pierced by fragments in a number of places but was not otherwise appreciably damaged.
21. Structure inboard of the breach in the shell was severely damaged (photos 11 and 12). The vertical keel was buckled slightly between frames 18-1/2 and 19. Forward of this, the flat keel was raised gradually to a maximum of 2-1/4 inches in the vicinity of the stem. The floors and bulkheads in the hold and innerbottom were distorted and torn in a few places between frames 15 and 23.
22. The second platform was blown downward and ruptured between frames 18 and 22. Bulkhead 19 was demolished completely.The armored bulkhead at frame 23 between the second and first platforms remained intact. Bulkhead 15 was deflected forward slightly.
23. The first platform was demolished on the starboard side of the centerline between bulkheads 19 and 23. Bulkhead 19 was largely demolished. The port side of bulkhead 23 was carried away and the starboard side was badly buckled. The armored deck over the magazines aft of bulkhead 23 was not damaged. Damage on the first platform extended as far forward as frame 15.
24. A section of the third deck, roughly 12 by 16 feet between frames 19 and 23 was demolished. The deck was buckled and torn as far forward as frame 15 and aft to frame 27. Partition bulkheads in this area were demolished.
25. The second deck was pushed up and punctured in a few places between bulkheads 18 and 23. Partition bulkheads in this area were crumpled. The hatch cover at frame 19 was blown off.
26. The main deck plating (photo 13) was buckled transversely at frames 13 and 19 on the port side and wrinkled slightly at other points on the forecastle.
27. Piping, ventilation ducts and electrical cables below the second deck between frames 15 and 23 were carried away or extensively damaged. The fire main was carried away in A-404-EA and was punctured in A-206-L. Power panels and ventilation blowers on the second deck were watersoaked. Degaussing coils A, F, and M and the power cables for the anchor windlass, the forward electric fire pump and the forward damage drainage pump were severed. The forward degaussing generator unit, located in A-404-EA, was missing.
28. Compartments A-603-F, A-604-F, and A-605-T in the hold, were opened to the sea and flooded immediately. A-606-F (full of oil at the time) also was contaminated. A-610-F, which was empty at the time of the hit apparently flooded through a vent line.
29. Second platform compartments A-503-A, A-504-A, A-505-M and A-508-V (filled with fresh water at the time) were opened to the sea and flooded immediately. A-506-M flooded slowly through leaks around a scuttle and a watertight door. Reference (f) reported that this latter flooding was controlled, presumably by a portable electric submersible pump.
30. First platform compartments A-403-A, A-404-EA, A-406-A, A-405-T, and A-407-M were opened to the sea and flooded immediately. Leaks through electric cables put several inches of water on the deck of the small stores issue room in A-410-L. A submersible pump operated intermittently controlled the flooding in this space.
31. Third deck compartments A-306-1L, A-306-2A and Warrant Officers? staterooms between bulkheads 15 and 23 flooded to a depth of about 7 feet due to the pressure of the sea which forced water up through the ruptured third deck when the vessel was underway at high speeds.
32. At times, water was forced up through hatch 2-19 into A-206-L.A temporary trunk was installed between the second and main decks over this hatch for the purpose of allowing sea water under pressure with the ship underway to vent up through the main deck. It is not clear if this device had any value in relieving pressure under the second deck. Reports indicate that BIRMINGHAM presented an unusual spectacle with water spouting above the forecastle as the ship pitched.
33. Flooding forward and aft caused the ship to change trim by the bow about 3-1/2 feet. There was no noticeable list. Voids A-908-V, A-907-V, A-906-V and A-905-V, which were filled with fresh water prior to this action, were pumped out with portable submersible pumps to reduce the trim.
34. Flooding boundaries were bulkhead 25 on the second platform, bulkhead 27 on the first platform, and bulkhead 29 on the third deck.These bulkheads, as well as bulkhead 23 on the second deck and the second deck aft of bulkhead 23, were shored.
35. The break in the fire main in A-206-L was isolated by closing cut out valves at frame 34 on the second and third decks. The break in the fire main on the first platform in A-404-EA was isolated by closing a cut out valve at frame 34 in A-410-L.
36. There was no damage to machinery in the engineering spaces following the bomb and torpedo hits. Several hours later, however, Nos. 1 and 2 boilers salted up slightly. This condition was corrected when it was discovered that the bottom plate on the No. 4 condensate pump had been loosened (possibly from shock) and that the pump was taking suction from the bilge.
37. At 1942 a plane was taken under heavy fire by the port automatic weapons. This plane exploded over the ship and plunged into the water about 100 yards from the starboard side. A bomb, which was either released before the plane disintegrated or fell clear from the wreckage, detonated just above the gun barrels, and slightly aft of the face plate of turret No. 4 (see plate II). Detonation was high order, accompanied bya flash which entered the turret through the gun ports. The gun port bloomers were blown off. Fragmentation was extensive. A few fragments entered the turret through the brass spray shields in the gun ports, severed the air ejection line and jammed the elevating gear. The gun barrels and the face plate of the turret (photos 17 and 18) were pitted and scarred by fragments. Many fragments penetrated the wood planking and steel plating of the main deck, causing some damage to piping, ventilation and electrical equipment in second deck spaces. A few fragments penetrated the seconddeck into C-311-L. Hot fragments started smoldering fires in mattresses in C-204-L but the fire-retardant bedding covers prevented the fires from blazing openly. These were extinguished with hose lines. The starboard 20mm gun installations at frame 105 on the main deck, a distance of 60 feet from the detonation, were damaged by fragments.
38. After damage BIRMINGHAM maintained her required speed without difficulty. As a result of the holes in the shell forward and aft it was necessary to carry about 3 degrees right rudder to maintain course, and 10 to 30 additional turns were required to make the designated speeds.
39. USS WHITNEY (AIM) installed a temporary patch (photo 14) over the above-water portion of the rupture on the port side between frames 15-1/2 to 26. This patch consisted of 3/8-inch plate backed up by three longitudinals formed of heavy angles. The patch was bracedby transverse 3-inch pipe stringers (photo 15). A heavy stiffener (photo 16) was welded on the starboard side, extending from frames 18 to 22 to compensate for longitudinal strength lost by the rupture of the third deck in this area. The ship?s force installed a cofferdam inboard of the damage at the starboard counter (photos 8 and 9).
40. After these temporary repairs BIRMINGHAM proceeded to Navy Yard, Pearl Harbor for additional work before proceeding to the mainland for permanent repairs. Repairs effected by Pearl Harbor consisted of the removal of the damaged structure, the replacement of the shell in way of the damage at the bow and stern and restoration of interior watertight integrity by temporary repairs. Permanent repairs and many authorized alterations were accomplished by Navy Yard, Mare Island, and BIRMINGHAM was placed back in service 7 February, 1944.
SECTION III - DISCUSSION
A. Types of Bombs and Torpedoes
41. Damage to the starboard counter was estimated by the Commanding Officer to have been caused by either a skip-bomb or a porpoising torpedo. Damage was not extensive enough to have been caused by an aircraft torpedo, as even the smallest type used by the Japanese contains at least 338 pounds of explosive. This quantity of explosive would have caused much more extensive damage than BIRMINGHAM received. There have been a few reports which indicate that the Japanese occasionally use minimum altitude technique against naval targets. This, plus the fact that the damage was sharply localized, leads to the conclusion that a bomb hit the BIRMINGHAM aft. The damage was consistent with that which would have been caused by a 250 Kg. (550 pounds), S.A.P. type containing 133 pounds of explosive. This bomb is the one most widely employed by the Japanese Navy against naval targets.
42. The bomb which detonated just above No. IV turret obviously was some form of anti-personnel bomb. Photos 17 and 18 do not show any indications of a point of impact. Visual inspection also did not show any damage which would have been caused by impact. It seems probable that the bomb which caused the damage to No. IV turret was the 63 Kg.(138 pounds) G. P. type containing about 70 pounds of explosive and fitted with a nose fuze extension rod. The rod is fitted to cause air burst of the bomb approximately 18 inches above the point of impact of the rod.
Possibly this bomb was intended for use against ground forces on the beach at Bougainville, but instead was employed against BIRMINGHAM.
43. The damage to the port bow unquestionably was caused by an aircraft torpedo. It apparently was launched some distance from the ship, inasmuch as the attacking plane was not observed. The damage to BIRMINGHAM?S bow was the least which has been caused by a single Japanese aircraft torpedo since the attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941. The damage is consistent with that received on that date by HELENA*. It is probable, therefore, that this torpedo was one of the ?Type 91? aircraft torpedoes with which the Japanese started the war. This torpedo is known to contain an explosive charge of 338 pounds.
B. Structural Damage
44. Structural damage at both bow and stern was sharply localized, and was relatively light when compared with that sustained by other vessels from torpedo attack.
45. The torpedo hit on the port bow was forward of transverse armored bulkhead 23, of 5-inch STS. It is noteworthy that after damage sufficient structure remained to prevent loss or deflection of the bow, despite the fact that BIRMINGHAM maneuvered at speeds up to 29 knots. Cruiser bows forward of No. 1 turret are necessarily of light construction. This, combined with the narrow beam in this region, renders the bow structure quite vulnerable to torpedoes. It will be recalled that MINNEAPOLIS** lost her bow as the result of a torpedo hit at frame 20.In the case of MINNEAPOLIS, the torpedo, fired from a surface vessel, was undoubtedly much larger and contained a greater amount of explosive than the one which struck BIRMINGHAM. ST. LOUIS (CL49) and HONOLULU (CL48) received very severe damage to their bows as the result of torpedoes with much larger charges than that which struck BIRMINGHAM, although in these cases the bows were not completely severed. Cruisersof the CA139 and CL144 classes, of larger size, have somewhat stronger bow structure than did the earlier heavy and light cruisers. Nonetheless, torpedo hits forward of No. 1 turret usually will result in complete loss, or more or less complete destruction, of the bow structure, except when the warhead charge is small - as in the case of BIRMINGHAM.
C. Machinery Damage
46. Except for the minor difficulty with salting up of Nos. 1 and 2 boilers, described in paragraph 36, machinery in the engineering spaces suffered no damage. Although shock and flexural vibration of the hullwas reported to have been quite severe, it is noteworthy that shock damage did not occur.
D. Flooding and Stability
47. Although the flooding caused a change of trim by the bow of about 3-1/2 feet, stability characteristics were not appreciably affected. Flooding was confined principally to the spaces directly open to the sea.
* Buships War Damage Report No. 4.
** Buships War Damage Report No. 36
There was negligible off-center flooding and hence no noticeable list.The trim was promptly improved by pumping out forward voids which were filled with fresh water at the time of damage. Flooding boundaries were established and progressive flooding in several spaces was controlled by stopping minor leaks and unwatering with submersible pumps.
E. Damage Control
48. Damage Control measures were executed promptly and effectively. The gasoline trunk and void spaces surrounding the gasoline tanks had been flooded with CO2 prior to action, a routine safety precaution. Although CO2 normally will have little beneficial effect in preventing fires following large scale ruptures of tanks (CO2 quickly dissipates in air), the CO2 blanket in the upper portion of the trunk remained unbroken, and probably served to reduce the possibility of ignition of gasoline vapors after damage. Prompt de-energizing of electrical circuits in the areas of damage immediately following the hit probably was more effective in preventing any subsequent vapor fires. Even before the smoke was cleared in the hangar space, the after repair party, wearing rescue breathers, entered the area with hose lines and foam equipment ready to combat any fires in the initial stages. Another factor tending to reduce the hazard from gasoline vapor is that a large part of the gasoline was probably washed out through the ruptured stern as the ship moved ahead.
49. The value of fire retardant covers for mattresses was demonstrated when hot fragments from the bomb detonation over turret No. 4 ignited mattresses in a berthing space on the second deck below.The covers smoldered, rather than blazing openly, and the fires were confined to the several mattresses which were struck by fragments.
50. Prompt shoring of bulkheads which formed the after boundary of the flooded spaces forward probably prevented subsequent trouble from water pressure caused by high speeds immediately following the damage, and reduced the probability of progressive flooding. Wooden plugs and wedges installed from within the ship were used effectively in stopping leaks.
51. Reference (a) recommended that additional overboard discharge fittings for submersible pumps be provided on the third deck.This has been accomplished on most of the ships of this class; however, these additional openings through the shell of the ship create definite flooding hazards. Vigilance must be exercised to keep the caps onthe overboard discharge fittings screwed tightly when not in use.
52. BIRMINGHAM suffered surprisingly little reduction in fighting efficiency for such widespread damage. While this was partly because of the favorable location of the hits, it was also due to prompt and effective damage control measures. These prevented any serious after effects by restricting damage and flooding to the absolute minimum.
Photo 1: Bomb damage to stern, starboard side
Photo 2: Bomb damage to stern. Starboard side looking aft and to port.
Photo 3: Bomb damage to stern. Looking aft and to starboard.
Photo : Bomb damage to stern. Looking inboard and aft under third deck level.
Photo 5: Looking forward to port showing buckles in main deck, frames 132-128.
Photo 6: Bomb damage to stern. Looking aft port side showing damage to hatch cover and airplane crane.
Photo 7: Bomb damage to stern. Looking aft and to overhead in Hangar. Damage partially repaired.
Photo 8: Bomb damage to stern. Looking forward starboard side. Note temporary bulkhead 144.
Photo 9: Looking aft and outboard starboard side showing temporary repairs of stern damage.
Photo 10: Torpedo damage, port side. Note temporary patch at top of hole.
Photo 11: Torpedo damage, port side. Looking forward and inboard.
Photo 12: Torpedo damage, first platform. Looking forward and to port.
Photo 13: Looking forward on port side showing buckles in main deck, frames 19-12.
Photo 14: Torpedo damage, port side, showing temporary patch.
Photo 15: Torpedo damage, third deck level. Looking forward to port showing temporary pipe stringers.
Photo 16: Torpedo damage, starboard side, snowing fragment holes in shell.
Photo 17: Bomb damage, No. 4 turret and guns.
Photo 18: Bomb damage, No. 2 gun of No. 4 turret.
Plate I: Torpedo Damage
Plate II: Bomb Damage
1 Also known as "skip" or "masthead" bombing.