Cameo Painting, underway splash is painted on to distract submarines judgments of speed ship is at ANCHOR when this picture was taken.

Updated 11/25/2016

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Green Island Operation

Personal Memories, Details of Damage, Orders and Time Details

1944

Underway with Task Force 38 to bombard Shortland Island the southern tip of Bougainville. Plenty of close return fire but no hits.Underway with T.F. 38 to cover landings on Green Island north of Bougainville. She arrived in the area between Buka and St.George Channel to support landing operations in the Green Islands off New Ireland.

Feb.14 (Valentines Day) Laid off south corner of Bougainville and started moving toward our target at late afternoon. ST. LOUIS is in lead of Cruisers. About 30 more minutes of sunlight left. Eight enemy planes pass astern, sounded GQ, four planes are coming over.

Japanese "Val" dive bomber

      At 1855 on the 14th,six Vals were sighted approaching ST. LOUIS's group. Crossing astern of the ships, the enemy planes went out to the southeast, turned, and re-approached, main battery and AA battery open fire. Only five remained in the formation which split into two groups. Two of the planes closed St Louis   Two bombers coming in a dive on ST.LOUIS. We are zig zagging frantically and doing about 27 knots to avoid being hit.   The first plane dropped three bombs, all near misses. The second released three more. One scored on the light cruiser, the other two were near misses just off the port quarter.  one of which was very close to our starboard bow, another which was a near miss on our port stern, causing considerable damage. The third bomb hit us amidships and exploded by my locker. It killed 23 of our shipmates. We had to abandon the after engine room because of damage to the air ventilation systems above it. Air attack continues. One of our Task Force a "Can" shot a plane down about 0500. Our force landed the troops OK, and our job done, we retired to the southeast of Bougainville

      "Feb. 15 Held Burial Ceremony on the fantail at 1500. Doctor requests that we take our wounded men back to base. At 1400 ST. LOUIS and one Destroyer leave task force for Purvis Bay, Florida Island, arriving there at 1430 on February 16,1944.


EXCERPT FROM: John Hinds:(Deceased)

      "As a gunners-mate in the 5th Division manning the 1.1's, 20mm, and 40mm anti-aircraft guns, I had lots of training and watch standing,.....Yet..... when its time to shoot for real it's over in seconds, especially, when airplanes are involved.

40 mm Bofor AA gun in action

      "I was first loader on a quad 40mm at Green Island. I suppose I may have put 6 or 8 clips (4 rounds to a clip) into the gun, when a bomb from a Val dive bomber went through the deck on our gun platform causing the ammunition in the ready room, under the gun, to start exploding just like a string of firecrackers. Later, the Captain came back to inspect the damage. He wanted to know who was sitting in the trainers' seat.  

     "One of the guys spoke up and said "He was". The Captain then replied. "If I were you, I would go to church Sunday or better yet, I would go before Sunday".

     "The bomb which hit ST. LOUIS penetrated the 40 millimeter clipping room near the number 6 mount and exploded in a midship living compartment. Twenty-three died and 20 were wounded, 10 seriously. A fire which had started in the clipping room was extinguished.   Communication with the after engine room ceased, and its ventilation system was damaged. the cruiser slowed to 18 knots. On the 15th, she survived another air attack and was then ordered back to Purvis Bay.

      "Repairs were completed by the end of the month and in March, ST. LOUIS resumed operations with her division. Through May, she remained in the Solomons.


Green Island Operation, survivors and damage,


Received from Larry Fridley -Sept 30

       This fascinating eyewitness account documented by Larry through his diary. The continuing "Saga" of the Lucky Lou ever widens on Valentines Day Feb 14th,1944. I was on watch in the after engine room as a control talker for all the engineering spaces. I had been talking with MM 1/c Rosandich about our last trip into port. He said he had gotten married and was very happy about it.

       Moments later G.Q. sounded and I went to my battle station which was in the passage-way next to the Executive Officers office. I also manned the phones at my battle station and talked last with Kitson F2/c who was in the Post-Office compartment next door.

      I was in the passage way with Lieut. Berton and James P. Jones. Berton was an Arkansas man; well liked. I had worked in the mail room with him earlier in the war.  Lieut. J.B. Berton was talking about somebody putting a pin through their inner-tube type life jacket and attaching it to themselves. "How stupid can you get he said"

       Then just a few moment later Lieut. Berton said for everyone to hit the deck, lie down. I made it around the corner of the room, Just as he got through saying that I heard the most dreadful explosion I had ever heard. The bomb blew Berton around the corner next to me. All the lights went out, water lines were bursting and steam hissed in the darkness, water everywhere.

       I thought the ship had been split into and I was still aboard part of her. I realized I still had on the phones and tried to make contact with "Kitson", but he had just been wiped out for good. He of course was in the Post-Office compartment that was hit with the bomb. (My battle station for many, many months on a previous trip out to sea.

       Since it was so dark some thing had happened that my phones got tangled & I couldnít get anybody anyway. Then someone turned on an emergency battery powered battle lantern, and there lies Lieut. Berton beside me. He had been struck by a large piece of bowed section of metal, three hooked prongs planted in his face.

       What is still bothering me, "In trying to get out of that compartment" , the guys stepped on the large sheet of metal that stretched all the way to Bertonís head, and it went even deeper in the flesh.

       "I was only 19 years old". I didnít know what to do, a fast decision had to be made, so with one hand I held the steel plate and with the other I pushed his head back. The metal came out real easy. The blood just gushed out. It got all over me.  So with the help of a fireman named Modestinni and Jim Jones we got him topside, but he was turning blue then. Iím sure he died in our arms going topside. A big job was getting him through the hatches, we were still at battle condition.

       When I came back down from top-side I was all wet and bloody and they thought I had been wounded and I didnít know whether I was or not except I felt all there. About a week of so later I found a piece of shrapnel in my chest.

       The part Iíll never forget was when we assembled later in a group beside the machine shop one deck below, Lt. Margoles was reassigning us to another temporary battle station and asked for a volunteer to go into the machine shop. Nobody wanted that spot, all that machinery and right on the water line. I should never have been 6'4" tall and standing directly in front of Lieut. Margoles that night, because nobody volunteered and he picked me. I felt I had been given my death warrant. At nineteen thatís the one time I can remember of being afraid. I kissed the machinery and I kissed the deck and also done some praying which I believe helped, because I felt that was really going to be the end for me.

       Today, they have a song out which relates very well to my prayer that night. Its name, "Help Me Make It Through The Night" Iíve thanked the Japs many times for not releasing a torpedo towards us the rest of that night. That was a temporary "Battle Station" Thank God

       Later that night or early next morning when I returned to the Post-Office compartment I realized a lot of my buddies from the boiler rook and engine room were there when the bomb hit. Rosandich MM1/c who I was talking to when it all started and others I stood watch with and knew very well such as Carraway CWT, Gustison F2/c, Shuman F2/c, Rosbury F2/c, Bryant F2/c. I can remember the terrifying heat, flames and smoke that poured through the ship.

       The following day in the afternoon, I helped bury 12 to the port-side and 11 were buried to the starboard. These were the first war causalities aboard the Lucky Lou.  This account has been rewritten from facts ( not memory) preserved and kept while serving aboard the USS St. Louis 1942-1944

Larry Fridley

 

James P. Jones, P.O. Box 194, Evansville, Ark. 72729. November, 1978

       I was assigned to the "Lucky Lou" right out of boot camp (San Diego). I went to Bremerton, WA. and on to Dutch Harbor, Alaska in trying to catch up with the ST. LOUIS out of Dutch Harbor. There were 6 of us who took the USS KASKASKIA oil tanker and met the ST. LOUIS at sea. In rough waters we boarded it in a bosun's chair. From the wide flat oily deck of that tanker I could see the slim gray shape of the Lucky Lou approaching with the big waves breaking across her bow, painted the most beautiful picture of any thing I have ever seen and to this day.

       I boarded the Lucky Lou after what seemed like a week in that Bosun's chair with my ditty bag in one hand, landed on the first platform above the main deck. I could see Captain Rood on the bridge and at the age of 17 made me feel like I had just gotten the best job in the whole Navy. That was in late 1942. I spent all of the war aboard her and I an very proud.

       All the acts of war aboard the Lucky Lou I felt very deeply about as I was fighting for my country and to protect the people I loved. But the one time that stuck in my mind the most I would like to tell all the ship's company about as I am sure no one knows,

       It was the action at Green Island where 23 of our Honored Shipmates died I was standing by the scuttlebutt (drinking fountain) talking to Lt. Bernard Burton as part of the engine room relief crew in the compartment where the 500 pound bomb hit. We were talking about home as usual as he and I were from the same general area. He must have loved his family very much as he talked about his wife and 2 very small girls so much I felt I knew them all their life.

       Well back to the subject I was backed up to the scuttlebutt, Lt. Berton was facing me, and he was saying his last words "Jones", you had better put your flame proof clothing on as this looks like the real thing" as we both put on our mask and were pulling on those long gloves that went to our elbows. I let myself slide down the side of the scuttlebutt until I was in a squatting position. I remember looking up at the Lt. as he finished dressing. At that moment things are a little fuzzy.

       As the ear ringing blast settled down, I was on the deck with the scuttlebutt that weighed in the neighborhood of 1,000 pounds on the other side of me. The compartment door had blown off and hit Lt. Berton full length. He was laying on top of me but still alive. Another friend was beside me of whom I an so sorry I have forgotten his name, (H-B Editorís Note!- probably "Larry Fridley")had taken shrapnel that would have been mine.

       To this day I will never know how I managed but with the electric fire and smoke filled room I took Lt. Burton to top side through the scuttle on the hatch and as I lay him out straight to make breathing easier for him, he died in my arms. And at this moment tears fill my eyes for Lt. Berton and all the other shipmates who gave their lives for us and for our country.  I an glad it is 5 a.m. and I am the only one up in the house for as remembering that day in detail for the first time, I have made myself cry:

       When we came to the states for repairs, the ship's company got shore leave. Well on mine I went home to Oklahoma to see my loved ones and had a beautiful time that made me forget the bad things that had happened. So my leave was almost up and it was time to return to my job of protecting my country. So I started back to the Lucky Lou. While standing beside the road for a very long time trying to thumb a ride to Okla. City where I had a train ticket to the West Coast, this 1939 Chevy stopped.

       The heavy set man in the front seat leaned across his wife and said "Sailor, do you want a ride". They opened the back door and I got in beside a beautiful young lady and 2 very small pretty little girls.   As we rode from that spot between Atoka and Coalgate, Oklahoma, the man in the front was asking me questions. The lady in the back asked one of the little girls: "Would you like to sit on a sailor's lap this time?". At one point the man asked me  where I was stationed and when I told him on the "ST. LOUIS", the lady in the back began to cry.

       I was in the car with Lt. Berton's wife, 2 daughters and either his brother or brother-in-law. I can't remember which. We stopped at a cafe and the man insisted on buying my lunch. While we were in the cafe, the 3 got off to themselves and talked so I couldn't hear what they were saying.  They came back and insisted above my protests to haul me all the way to Okla. City. As I look back now they must have had to pool their ration stamps for gas and tires which I knew had to be a terrible sacrifice for the rest of the month.

       If either Mrs. Berton or the girls are around or the man and his wife, I would like them to know I appreciated what they did.    

Jim Jones, Crewmember USS St. Louis  CL-49


EXCERPT FROM: John Hinds:

       "As a gunners-mate in the 5th Division manning the 1.1's, 20mm, and 40mm anti-aircraft guns, I had lots of training and watch standing,.....Yet..... when its time to shoot for real it's over in seconds, especially, when airplanes are involved.

       I was first loader on a quad 40mm at Green Island. I suppose I may have put 6 or 8 clips (4 rounds to a clip) into the gun, when a bomb from a Val dive bomber went through the deck on our gun platform causing the ammunition in the ready room, under the gun, to start exploding just like a string of firecrackers. Later, the Captain came back to inspect the damage. He wanted to know who was sitting in the trainers' seat.

       One of the guys spoke up and said "He was". The Captain then replied. "If I were you, I would go to church Sunday or better yet, I would go before Sunday".

      The following is  Eye-Witness and survivor accounts given Sept. 16th 1945 for the St. Louis Globe Democrat as an answer for wanted material on the missions, etc of their namesake ship the USS St. Louis On St. Valentine's Day, 1944, the St. Louis was covering American landings on Green Island, north of Bougainville. She lay off the island most of the day without incident; then "Six Jap, planes which had been far out on the horizon most of the late afternoon, closed on our port quarter about 7 P.M." Boatswain's Mate I-C Walter M, Brickhaus recounted

       They came in to about 10 miles at which point we identified them as "Vals". I was pointer on an after A. A. director then, and the trainer was another boatswain's mate by the name of Lee Pierson, from Newport News, Va. Pierson was always talking about his eyes being bad but that day he tracked those planes out to 30 miles and watched them turn to come back. Only four came on in, and these split in two groups one of the pairs heading right for us.

Japanese "Val" dive bomber

       "We opened up with everything we could bring to bear" but they were good pilots on a bombing run, none of those screwball kamikazes and they kept right on coming. One of the planes dropped a stick of three bombs and missed; the other also dropped three. He was lower and two missed and the other hit us almost amidships. We splashed him anyway. A coxswain named Parnett was trainer on a quad mount, and the bomb bent the outer edge of the trainerís seat he was sitting on and went on through the deck. Parnett wasn't even scratched but he went around for about a week with eyes as big as saucers."

       The bomb had exploded two decks below Parnett's seat in a compartment where some ammunition passers and a relief engineer crew were stationed. One result of the hit was that the after engine room had to be abandoned because of the heat and as a result the Admiral received a message from the St. Louis which is now famous: "Because of battle damage the St. Louis is restricted to speeds above 29 knots!" When It was possible to return to the engine room some time later all machinery was operating perfectly. Quite a compliment to the efficient engineers.

       The blast of the bomb did considerable internal damage to structure and personnel. Electricianís Mate 3/c Bill Murphy was one of the first to enter the blasted area.

       "I was the second fire hose handler to into the compartment" Murphy said. "We could hardly see because of the smoke but we did see some movement not far from us". We found four men there, all mangled, but still alive. They died minutes later. Being an electrician, I helped kill live circuits and cut out other circuits. I fought fire and helped evacuate wounded and killed. There werenít many wounded two or three I think. Most were dead. They said there was an officer in the next compartment with his head blown off but I didn't see. There was plenty right there where I was.

       "Those damn Japs knew we were hurt and they were trying to get us". The destroyers had put out a smoke screen and we were maneuvering round inside It. There must have been about 30 planes in all, and you could always hear their roaring engines. One tin can on our starboard beam would run out the smoke, turn outside fire like hell, and then duck back in. It was the worst night I ever spent, but I guess we have to expect such things once in awhile. War sure is hell"

       Although considerable structural damage had been sustained, it was considered not beyond the capacity of tenders and the ship's force to effect repairs. These repairs were completed some time in February at Purvis Bay.

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