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U.S.S. Patterson


When the Battle of Savo Island commenced at 0143 (1.43 A.M.) on the 9th. of August 1942, I was the Officer of the Watch on the bridge of the Australian Heavy Cruiser Canberra. We were leading the US Heavy Cruiser Chicago, with USS Patterson and Bagley our escorting Destroyers, respectively stationed on our port and starboard bow at 1000 yards distance.

U.S.S Patterson

[ click for much enlarged photograph ]

Patterson was first to sight the Japanese attacking Task Force of 7 Cruisers and 1 Destroyer, her Talk Between Ships (TBS) radio, issuing "Warning Warning Strange Ships Entering Harbour."

Canberra was not fitted with TBS equipment, and thus did not receive Pat's warning signal. Using a small signaling blinker tube, Patterson, also tried to raise the alarm by this medium.

Canberra quickly assumed the first degree of readiness, but it was already too late, we were raked by shells from the onrushing Japanese Cruisers, the Bridge hit, the Gunnery Officer killed, Captain Frank Getting mortally wounded. For this proud ship, the war was over.

U.S.S. Blue approaching Canberra

[ click for much enlarged photograph ]

Patterson opened fire at the enemy, the noise of her own guns drowning out her Captain's order to fire Torpedoes, she was illuminated by the Japanese and fired upon, and hit, but still managed to get off starshell and 50 rounds of gunfire.

The Japanese ships swept past, and on towards the unsuspecting Northern US Cruiser force.

Canberra was left a blazing, listing wreck, dead in the water, no power to steam, no water pressure to fight fires, without lighting.

About 0330 (3.30 A.M.) Patterson returned and came alongside our port side, to provide pumps and hoses to try and fight our fires. She proceeded to take aboard our badly wounded personnel, including our Captain.

At 0430 (4.30 A.M.) on sighting a supposedly hostile ship, she quickly slipped and got underway, but her Captain, uttered very reassuring words before she sped off " Don't worry, we'll be back."

Our hostile ship turned out to be Chicago, mistakenly thinking Canberra was a burning Japanese Cruiser.

H.M.A.S Canberra

[ click for much enlarged photograph ]

As dawn broke, Patterson, true to her promise returned, secured to our starboard side aft, and loaded our Ships' Company gathered there.

USS Blue, another Destroyer, secured to our port side forward, and took off the remainder of Canberra's crew- myself included.

Commander F R Walker USN, commanding officer of USS Patterson, and his crew, "Could indeed hold their heads up high!" for the way they fought their ship that night, and the manner in which they rescued many of my shipmates from the burning wreck that was HMAS Canberra.

Thank you Patterson, and all who sailed in her on that fateful night of August 9, 1942.

 

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