Planning a Bombardment

Sea Stories

In late January 1944, BB55 anchored at Funafuti in the Ellice Islands. Task Force 37 was dissolved and Task Force 58 was born. On January 23rd the Battleship was underway with Task Group 58.5 under command of Admiral Wills Lee.

Richard Walker, Gunnery Officer

Richard Walker, Gunnery Officer

“Our particular task force went to Roi and Namur which is the northwestern end of the Kwajalein lagoon. It is a beautiful lagoon, hundred miles long. The Japanese had installations at both ends but at Roi and Namur they had one island that consisted of nothing but an air strip. The other was where they had revetments with stores, torpedo warheads, bombs and so on and also their living quarters. John Kirkpatrick [Air Defense Officer] and I finally persuaded Captain Thomas to request from the carrier that they take photographs of these islands after the first strike from as low an altitude as possible.

They sent a fighter out taking oblique pictures, circling the islands at high speed. They came back with these things, took them back to the carrier, and they were developed. Then they flew them over and dropped them on the NORTH CAROLINA. We didn’t have accurate charts of any of the islands. We had maps that were drawn up by school children and things like that. We had nothing modern and we didn’t know what we were doing.

Aerial view of island and airfield from spotting plane

Aerial view of island and airfield from spotting plane

With these blowups that we had taken on the morning of the first strike we could see everything perfectly on the island…revetments, hangers, fuel supply, and personnel quarters. We took these pictures and sat down and numbered the targets. Then we put them on a board and gave one to each of the [fire control] director operators and the other two we took to Sky Control. We were able to designate the targets by numbering and assign a target to Sky I or Sky III or whatever it happened to be. They could look at this board with the picture on it and look over to the island and see exactly which end of the island it was and actually see the targets.

It worked absolutely perfectly. It was the first time it had been used. Our skipper was a little reluctant to ask this favor of the carrier but we finally talked him into it. It was a fantastic thing for us. At that point we had Marines ashore.”

-Lt Commander Richard Walker

 

“The plan was to bombard every two hours all night long…to keep the Japanese awake and hoping they would be less able to resist our landings. I didn’t get much sleep that night.”

-C.J. Baker, Firecontolman 3/c

 

Ships bombarding

Ships bombarding

“I went topside to watch our 5-inch guns fire at the island. We were about six miles off the beach. I could plainly see the water tank, radio tower, hangers and other buildings. The three battleships were all firing 5-inch rounds. It was quite impressive. We set an oil dump afire twice. We fired at pillboxes all along the beach. Many hits were made on the runways. I had the mid watch so I didn’t hit the sack until 0030.”

-Charles Paty, Radioman 2/c

 

Fires from bombardments on Roi Island

Fires from bombardments on Roi Island

“We were to spend the night just lobbing shells in on these two islands to keep the Japanese from getting a good

night’s sleep before we hit them in the morning. We did an awful lot of good because we blew up a lot of ammunition dumps and kept the Japanese off balance for the night.

We got in there about dark and saw a small ship anchored to a pier in the lagoon. We opened up on her…and she sank. I found out later that the next day they went onboard that ship and found Japanese charts of depths and channels of every lagoon in the Pacific which saved us months and months of surveying and hydrographic work.”

-Commander Joe Stryker