MERCHANT SHIPS AT GUADALCANAL
Bloody Guadalcanal, scene of so much bravery and severe fighting, was visited by a number of merchant ships to bring munitions, food, soldiers, and other supplies. But their contacts with [the] enemy were mild as compared with the intense struggle on shore. In fact, merchant ships in the Pacific had rather easy sailing until the invasion of the Philippines. Anti-submarine warfare in the Pacific never assumed the proportions that it did in the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. The Japanese used their submarines more to supply the outposts in their cast empire which had been seized. Enemy plane attacks on merchant shipping in the Pacific, while at times quite intense and costly to the United States, never compared with those to be encountered on the North Russia run or in the Mediterranean.
The Ernest Hinds and the Noordam reached Guadalcanal on December 17, 1942. The Noordam reported a lone enemy plane over Tulagi harbor on December 21. The Hinds fired at a submarine periscope between Guadalcanal and Florida Island. Her most serious difficulty came when she went aground on a coral reef and had to be towed to Tulagi. The Montgomery City arrived on December 26 and did not see action until the day she left, January 2, 1943. On this date she fired at the area in which a submarine had been sighted off Lunga Point, Guadalcanal.
The James Ramsey experienced eight air raids at Guadalcanal from January 27 to February 1, but fired only one round at one of seven planes seen on the latter date. The Peter Silvester was at Guadalcanal in late January and again in early March of 1943, She reported bombing attacks during both of these visits but that no bombs were close. She spent nights at Purvis Bay, Florida Island and returned to Guadalcanal by day. Only on March 16 while she was enroute to Noumea did two bombs land close. The William Lloyd Garrison, at Guadalcanal from February 12 to 17, reported no contact with the enemy. But four bombs were dropped close to the Island Mail at Tulagi and a direct hit was made on an unloading barge.
The Alcoa Pennant apparently experienced no enemy action while in the Solomons in February, 1943, but bombs fell close on her return trip while she was enroute to Espiritu. She also fired at a torpedo wake near San Francisco. Far different was the experience of the Elihu Yale in early March. Bombs fell around the ship at Tulagi on the nights of March 3 and 5. She also sighted one plane on March 9 while at Guadalcanal during the day. The Andrew Furuseth also reported bombs at Tulagi on February 22 and March 3. Four landed close on the latter date.
The Frederick Jackson Turner was under air attack on March 20, 1943, two days before she reached Guadalcanal, and three bombs fell 150 yards forward of the ship. She anchored at Port Purvis during
the night and unloaded at Guadalcanal during the day. Only on March 27 while at Port Purvis was she under attack. A bomb landed 100 yards away. Her Armed Guard officer saw planes attacking Tulagi and Guadalcanal on two nights and saw anti-aircraft fire on other nights. The Day Star was also close to the bombs which dropped near the Turner on March 20. But no air attacks came near to the Day Star while she was in the Solomons area. One bomb landed within 10 yards of the Lyman Beecher on March 20 and two or three others within 50 yards. Bombs also landed close on the nights of March 26 and 27.
The William Williams, the Louis Joliet, and the Dona Nati arrived at Guadalcanal on April 2, 1943 and departed April 7 to avoid a heavy air attack. Several enemy planes did attack the ships while at sea. The Williams shot down one plane and suffered a near miss from one bomb. The Louis Joliet also claimed a hit on a plane. The Dona Nati claimed one plane destroyed and one damaged and indicated that ten bombs were dropped, some close. These ships returned to Guadalcanal on April 14 and departed April 23. There were a number of alerts and high bombing attacks. For example, nine bombs were dropped on April 24, but none close to the departing cargo ships. Shell fragments landed on the deck of the William Williams. This ship was torpedoed on May 2 when about 250 miles southeast of Suva. She was abandoned, but reboarded next day and finally brought safely into port, thanks to the extension of watertight bulkheads. The
George M. Bibb reported that enemy planes were over every night except two during her stay at Guadalcanal from April 12 to 23. The nearest bomb which landed was dropped on April 16 and was some 200 yards from the ship. She also described a bombing attack at sea on the convoy.
Some ships escaped action altogether. For example, the Walter Reed was at Guadalcanal from May 16 to June 3 and had no contact with the enemy. Similar was the experience of the Brastagi. She indicated that Guadalcanal was bombed four nights between May 16 and 26 but that she never fired her guns.
The Dashing Wave experienced a high level bombing attack when two days out of Noumea but arrived safely at Guadalcanal the next day. Several bombing were dropped on the island on the night of May 23, but none fell near the ship. The best record of any merchant ship was made by the Nathaniel Currier. She arrived on June 14 and endured 13 raids and alerts in about eight days. On June 16 she got underway but enemy planes dropped bombs close. On that day she shot down three planes and assisted in downing another. She also scored hits on other planes. On June 23 when about 50 miles south of San Cristobel Island a torpedo wake crossed her bow. Her Armed Guard officer reported that two other ships were hit.
The Santa Ana reported that a ship was hit at Guadalcanal by an aerial torpedo on August 13. The Island Mail was at Guadalcanal for brief periods in August and September. She saw bombs dropped twice, once while at Guadalcanal. The Brander Mathews, at Guadalcanal in the latter part of October and the early part of November reported no contact with the enemy.
The Cape Romano, which arrived at Guadalcanal on September 13, 1943 and remained in the Solomons area until September 25, reported 24 depth charges were dropped by escorts between Espiritu Santos and Guadalcanal. Many bombs were dropped ashore but none landed near the ship.
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