USS SANTA FE SETS RECORD FOR FRONT LINE ACTION
ABOARD THE USS SANTA FE IN THE PACIFIC -- This light cruiser is again ready to add battle actions to her log which already reads like a history of the Navy's Pacific offensives.
Before returning to the West Coast recently for routine repairs, she steamed. more than 221,000 miles in 25 months without a major overhaul. She sank seven Jap ships and: downed seven planes while participating in 42 air strikes, 12 shore bombardments, and four surface actions.
Her toll in the North, South, and Central Pacific Areas includes one Java escort carrier, a light cruiser, a destroyer, and four cargo ships--erased in the war's longest frontline tour of any major naval unit, according to Rear Admiral. W. L. Ainsworth, U.S.N., Wonalancet, New Hampshire, Commander of Pacific Fleet Cruisers-Destroyers. Ack-ack gunners have bagged both single and multi-motored planes.
She want alongside the USS FRANKLIN twice to remove more than 800 men, many of them wounded, and to help fight fires on that carrier off Kyushu when it blazed and rocked under explosions.
During this tour of action the SANTA FE dial not lose a man of her complement or suffer any, serious battle damage.
To complete her long belated general overhaul and, patch minor damage incurred assisting the FRANKLIN, nearly one million man-hours were required of approximately 1,500 workman at the Naval Dry Docks, Terminal Island, San Pedro, California
The SANTA FE has returned to the firing line fitted with equipment of the latest design, including improved piping, lighting, and telephone systems; hull reinforcement; better ventilation facilities; improved fire-fighting installations; and increased armament.
Thirty-four medals and commendations have already been awarded various crew members. Officers and men wear eight battle stars in their Pacific Theater ribbon, and two in the Philippine Liberation ribbon.
She operated alongside the burning FRANKLIN for more than two hours, while officers and men stepped from the flaming decks of the big carrier to the safety of the SANTA FE to climax her 55th combat mission since leaving the United States in March, 1943.
"The Captain (Captain Harold C. Fitz, U.S.N., of 33 Browning Road, Somerville, Massachusetts) took us close aboard the FRANKLIN on the first pass in, while he sized up the situation," said Lieutenant Chauncey B. King, U.S.N., of 461 Sego Avenue, Salt Lake City, Utah, Assistant Damage Control Officer. "Astern the FRANKLIN was a double row of. men struggling in the water, who had been blown or forced off her decks by fire. We dropped over life nets, life jackets and rafts to these .men as we went up to the FRANKLIN.
"We passed so close aboard that our after fire-fighting party was able to put out the fire in the FRANKLIN's 40 millimeter gun tubs with our hose lines. Twenty millimeter and 40 millimeter ammunition was exploding and shooting all over the place. In fact, any time we approached closer than 1,000 yards we were showered with the carrier's projectiles.
"There was so much stuff falling on our helmets later that it sounded like hail."
The SANTA FE circled, came along the starboard side, and received wounded by gangway and makeshift mailbag breeches-buoys for 45 minutes until forced to cast off from the rapidly drifting FRANKLIN. Then, while crew members watched wide-eyed, Captain Fitz brought the SANTA FE up to the FRANKLIN at 25 knots, gave her hard right rudder and backed full on both engines. She stopped dead in the water a few feet off the FRANKLIN for a perfect approach.
"It was a most daring piece of seamanship," said Captain Leslie E. Gehres, U.S.N., of 370 "B" Avenue, Coronado, California, Commanding Officer of the FRANKLIN. "I want Captain Fitz to get full credit. It took a lot of nerve."
Passing hose lines to the carrier's forward deck and pouring water on the blazing flight deck, men from the SANTA FE, with those of the FRANKLIN, brought the flames under control.
Sighting five men on the carrier trapped by fire in an ammunition handling space, Richard Kemp, Chief Shipfitter's Mate, U.S.N.R., of Rochester, New Hampshire, and Clarence R. LaFontaine, Carpenter's Mate, First Class, U.S.N.R., of East Lebanon, Maine, got a line over to the group. The trapped men swung, hand over hand, to the safety of the SANTA FE.
With all phone, tube, and speaker inter-communication on the FRANKLIN dead, men fighting the fire in various parts of the ship were isolated from the bridge. The SANTA FE’s signalmen filled the gap.
"Orders and reports wore passed from the after flight deck of the FRANKLIN to men on our fantail, relayed by phone to our signal bridge, and signaled by semaphore to the bridge of the FRANKLIN -- just as an example of how complicated it was," said Lieutenant Norman R. Utecht, U.S.N.R., of 313 West Green Street, Olean, New York, Ship's Communication Officer. "We also used the walkie-talkie to good advantage, but the semaphore signalmen proved of most value."
Below decks, Chief Carpenter Lore Blair, U.S.N., of Williamsburg, Kansas, was busy reinforcing the SANTA FE's hull plating with timbers and shorings to offset the pressure of the sea grinding the cruiser against the sides and gun mounts of the carrier.
In the ship's sick bay Lieutenant Commander Carl Gilman, Medical Corps, U.S.N.R., of 1068 Lincoln Place, Boulder, Colorado, was working frenziedly on the 103 injured men transferred from the FRANKLIN.
"We were so busy treating the injured that we only kept records on those hospitalized for more than a day," Harold M. Haugen, Chief Pharmacist's Mate, U.S.N., of Adams, North Dakota, declared. "I guess we treated more than 100 others for minor burns, shock and injuries. In three days I got only three hours sleep, and some of the pharmacist's mates got less. Commander Gilman did a terrific job. He lost only one case, a man with third-degree burns on 65 percent of his body."
This man had received 18 pints of plasma, two pints of whole blood, and two pints of glucose in a vain effort to keep him alive, according to Lieutenant Commander W. M. Woodward, Dental Corps, U.S.N.R., of 124 Termino Avenue, Long Beach, California, the SANTA FE’s Dental Officer, who worked night and day with Lieutenant Commander Gilman and Lieutenant Martin S. B. Barnes, Medical Corps, U.S.N., of 333 Rockingham Street, Rochester, New York, in treating patients.
Joseph J. Lupo, Boatswain's -- Mate Second Class, U.S.N.R, 29, of 181 Palmetto Street, Brooklyn, New York, swung down a line midway between the two crashing, grinding ships to assist in the transfer of ''traveler'' stretchers. From the stern, Ray P. Hilly, Seaman First Class, U.S.N., 19, of 360 Riverside Drive, New York City, New York, dived overboard and rescued a badly burned man forced from the FRANKLIN into the sea by the flames. Altogether, 38 survivors were retrieved from the sea.
After one and a half hours alongside for the second time, the SANTA FE’s work was done. She cast off from the still-burning carrier, now taken in tow by the USS PITTSBURGH, and escorted her to Ulithi, where the FRANKLIN's wounded were transferred to a Navy hospital ship.
The SANTA FE had an earlier baptism as a rescue vessel. During the first carrier air strike on Formosa last October, she removed 233 men from a medium-sized warship badly damaged by bombs. Officers and crew were at battle stations for nearly five days and downed two Jap planes in covering the disabled unit until she was towed beyond enemy aircraft range.
Commanded by Rear Admiral (then Captain) Russell S. Berkey, U.S.N., of Joshuatown Road, Lyme, Connecticut, the Santa FE began her battle career in the Aleutians. She pumped six-inch shells into Jap installations at Attu and Kiska in April and May, 1943, and supported the amphibious force after both landings. She next accompanied an air strike against enemy-held Tarawa in September, 1943.
During the next five months the SANTA FE participated as escort in air attacks and bombarded shore defenses at Wake Island and Bouganville -- where she got her first three enemy planes November 8, 1943 -- then moved back to Tarawa and on to Kwajalein, Wotjo, and back to Kwajalein,
At Tarawa, Lieutenant (then Lieutenant, junior grade) Theodore T: Buzanoski, U.S.N.R, of 138 Farmington Avenue, Plainville, Connecticut, flying a ship's scout observation plane, departed from his usual role to score a direct hit on a Jap ammunition dump with a hand-released bomb.
The SANTA FE was part of a task force striking Truk from the air in February, 1944. She then moved to Saipan, where she knocked down another plane. Within the next 30 days her guns blasted at Palau, Yap, Hollandia, and Wakde and Sawar. By July, 1944, she had been in engagements at Truk, Saipan and Yap, and had also steamed in waters off Ponape, Pagan, Iwo Jima, Guam, and the Philippines.
Last August she steamed into the Bonins area, caught one Jap destroyer and sank her. She bombarded shore installations the following day.
After joining the air assault at the Palau Islands in September, the SANTA FE sent four Jap cargo ships to the bottom in waters off Mindanao in the Philippines. Survivors claimed they had been six months en route from the Japanese home islands, darting from port to port, afraid to venture into open sea because of American Naval air and surface power.
The next 30 days saw the cruiser participate in air blows at Eastern Leyte, Luzon, Eastern Samar, Okinawa, and Formosa. Between October 14-17 off Eastern Formosa her gunners downed two more enemy planes.
A week later off Luzon -- in the Cape Engano phase of the Battle for Leyte Gulf -- Santa Fe’s six-inch guns sank a Jap escort carrier and a light cruiser, both of which had been damaged by air strikes.
Escorting carriers in attacks on Leyte, Luzon, Formosa, and Okinawa during the next four months, the SANTA FE netted a seventh plane. In February she supported operations off Iwo Jima, and in mid-March accompanied the fast carriers smashing at Kyushu. .
She has fired 33,323. rounds of ammunition from her main and secondary batteries during shore bombardments and surface action, and another 174,330 rounds of anti-aircraft shells at attacking Jap planes. Altogether in 25 months of combat, she has fired more than 1,645,000 pounds of projectiles at the enemy, according to the Gunnery Officer, Lieutenant Commander G, M Hawes, U.S.N., of 410 West 50th Street, Kansas City, Missouri.
The ship's crew -- particularly the 254 men in the engineering department -- handled all repair and maintenance work during this extensive period, often making repairs while under way and in forward combat areas, according to the Engineering Officer, Lieutenant Commander Ralph Y. Packer, U.S.N., of 322 Wisconsin Avenue, Long Beach, California.
"The engineers completely overhauled the boilers six times and expended approximately 300,000 man-hours on boiler repairs alone," he said. "On two of the boilers a complete rebricking was done, and we also removed, repaired, and reset 16 safety valves. Harold Ransier, Boilermaker, First Class, U,S.N.R., of 907 Liberty Avenue, North Bergen, New Jersey, was in charge of this work and did a bang-up job."
More than 150,000 man-hours were expended by the crew on electrical overhaul, and another 120,000 man-hours on machinery work, according to Lieutenant Commander Packer. This type of doggedness kept the SANTA FE underway for 12,699 hours without any shipyard overhaul or repairs, he said,
Rear Admiral Berkey, who commissioned the SANTA FE at the New York Shipbuilding Corporation, Camden, New Jersey, November 24, 1942, was succeeded in command by Rear Admiral (then Captain) Jerauld Wright, U.S.N., of 1717 20th Street, Northwest, Washington, D. C. Captain Fitz is present commanding officer.
The ship’s first Executive Officer, Captain (then Commander) Clarence L, Aldrich, U.S.N., of East Berkshire, Vermont, was succeeded by Commander Thomas E. Boyce, U.S.N., of 507 Locust Street, Mount Vernon, Indiana.