Eye Witness Account – Rabaul

USS Charles Ausburne, flagship at Battle of Cape St. George

USS Charles Ausburne, flagship at Battle of Cape St. George

An ideal night for a nice quiet torpedo attack.

by: Capt. Arleigh A. Burke

There may have been blacker nights than Thanksgiving Eve, 1943, [26 November 1943], in the South Pacific, but none could have been more completely blacked out with regard to information of the enemy.

Arleigh A. Burke

Arleigh A. Burke

The Solomon Islands campaign, one of the decisive battles of WWII in the Pacific, was at its height and the issue had not yet been resolved.  Our destroyers were streaming north in search of the Japanese, who were reported to be evacuating their forces from the islands of Buka and Rabaul.

Suddenly our ships made contact with an unidentified force – strength unknown – and closed to fight it out.  The battle continued throughout the night.  One after another, the breaks fell to us.  The pieces of the puzzle gradually slipped into their proper places as, one by one, the enemy warships were routed or sunk.

Battle of Cape St. George

Battle of Cape St. George

But as dawn came, a new battle loomed ahead.  Pursuit of the beaten Japs had put our formation deep in enemy waters, far beyond our own air cover.  The weather was clear.  Japanese airfields were close by and we knew they had many fighters and bombers on the four bases in the vicinity of Rabaul.

As we began our retirement southward, aerial attack seemed imminent.  We hadn’t suffered a single casualty during the night action, but now, perhaps, our luck had run out.

Battle of Cape St. George, by: Anton Otto Fischer

Battle of Cape St. George, by: Anton Otto Fischer

To our surprise, nothing happened – nothing at all.  The Japanese did not strike back!  As we continued to sail into friendlier waters, identical requests began coming to the flagship, (USS Charles Ausburne, DD 570), from every destroyer in the formation. [Destroyer Div. 44/Squadron 23]  Finally we passed them all along to Admiral Merrill, our commander back in Purvis Bay: “Please arrange Thanksgiving services for all hands on arrival.”

They were waiting for us when we returned to port – our Protestant, Catholic and Jewish chaplins.  An explanation was also waiting – a reconnaissance dispatch stating that 58 enemy bombers and 145 fighters had been observed on Japanese airfields near Rabaul.  They had not attacked up presumably because, through the grace of Divine Providence, they didn’t know our exact position and hence, couldn’t find us in time.

Gen. James Van Fleet w/ RAdm. Arleigh Burke aboard the USS Los Angeles, Korea 1951

Gen. James Van Fleet w/ RAdm. Arleigh Burke aboard the USS Los Angeles, Korea 1951

I’ll always remember that Thanksgiving Day in that beautiful, tropical harbor: battle-scarred ships nested together in a quiet anchorage, battle-weary crews giving thanks to God for their victory – and for their deliverance.

___ Admiral Arleigh Burke, Chief of Naval Operations

Article is from The Parade, 18 November 1956; Destroyer History.org

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

George Alcox – Middleburg Hts., OH; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 414 Fighter Grp/13th Jungle Air Force

Richard Betts – Woburn, MA; US Navy, WWII

The Lone Sailor

The Lone Sailor

Thomas Frosini – Finleyville, PA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 221st Medical/11th Airborne Division

Merle Hill – Waikato, NZ; WRNZS # 386, WWII

Ian Martin – Forest, AUS; RA Air Force, WWII, pilot

Roy Shiosaki – Spokane, WA; US Army, WWII, ETO, Sgt., 324th/44th Division

Robert Thompson – Argyle, WI; US Navy, WWII, squadron radioman

Martin Upmal – Montpelier, VT; US Army, Korea

William Van Dyke Sr. – Columbus, GA, US Army, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Sgt. Major (Ret.27 yrs), Silver Star, Bronze Star

John Keith Wells – No. TX; USMC, WWII, PTO, 28th Marines/5th Marine Div.; helped to raise 1st flag on Iwo Jima

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on February 29, 2016, in First-hand Accounts, Uncategorized, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 49 Comments.

  1. Reblogged this on quirkywritingcorner and commented:
    The video is hilarious. ~ Connie

    Like

  2. What an amazing story – and on Thanksgiving!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Divine intervention or very good luck that no aerial attack ensued, the outcome would have been very different.
    Good reading gp.
    Cheers.

    Like

  4. I’ve not had much time for blog visits lately, but am thankful that when I did have a time to visit, i landed here. Thanks for sharing this story.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Amazing!

    Like

  6. It’s a wonder they were safeted and not detected by the enemy

    Liked by 1 person

  7. A very Happy Thanksgiving, indeed, by the grace of God!

    Like

  8. I am so sorry to use this comment space to ask for help but I could not find a contact form. My daughter is writing a book that has a navy pilot in it set during mid 1970s. She needs to pick someones brain for info about Navy destroyers active during that time, especially how they dealt personnel during dry dock. She has googled endlessly but needs and wants real world experience. Thank you!

    Like

  9. The title says so much about wartime thought. How thankful they must have been to have not been detected by the enemy that Thanksgiving Day.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I read all the positive comments above and have nothing to add except that all the soldiers thanked God for being spared a deadly attack deep in enemy territory, truly a miracle.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I can imagine how memorable that Thanksgiving must have been for those brave soldiers — great post GP.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Not many battles have a nice ending like that one. Thanks a lot for sharing it with us.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. At last, pure good news … thanks for this. I just looked it up, and this entry fleshes out a few bones—

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Cape_St._George

    —and even better about the furious aviators afterwards~!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Hi you! I wrote a military inspired post you might enjoy. It is always good to remember why we have our freedoms today. Isn’t it?

    Liked by 1 person

  15. So glad that they got a reprieve and that the Japanese couldn’t find them. Very interesting, Everett!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. What wonderful timing! Love the cartoon too!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Always good to read these first-hand accounts and memoirs. They were very lucky that time!
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Really interesting story. Thanks for posting it!

    Like

  19. Must have been a very happy Thanksgiving.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Amazing combination of daring and luck. The Japanese must have been furious when they found out that there had been so many prime targets within striking distance.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Thank you, Kathy.

    Like

  1. Pingback: My Article Read (2-29-2016) – My Daily Musing

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