|On November 12th 1942 The USS Cushing led a hastily assembled group of ships against a superior Japanese Task group intent on bombarding the Marines on Guadalcanal. George Burghardt served aboard the Cushing and was a veteran of that infamous battle. This is this story.|
|On the 12th we escorted a convoy of transports into Iron
Bottom Bay and spent the entire day on station. In the afternoon we had
an air attack and there was a twin engine Japanese Bomber shot down and
we passed by close enough and could see the pilot and co-pilot setting
in their seats. Soon after there was a Japanese life raft with the Rising
Sun on it. We slowed enough so that it could be recovered. They were going
to cut it up for souvenirs for the crew.
We left before nightfall with the transports and the rest of the escorts and I thought that was the end of the mission. I donít know what time we reversed course and went back in with the Task Force. We were the lead ship in the column.
We went to GQ sometime around 2100 or 2200 and I didnít know what was up until all Hell cut loose.
I was stationed on # 1 Torpedo Tube located amidships between the stacks. There were also 2 Torpedo mounts on the main deck just aft of where # 1 tube mount was located amidships.
We fired 2 of our Torpedoes out of #1 Mount and I heard that we had at least one hit. The 2nd class Torpedoman told me to stay on the phone and he left to see if he could help out elsewhere.
The phone went dead and the Torpedomen on the range finder were both killed. Had several close hits close by and on the bridge. I think I was out for a short time and what I remember next was tracer shells going both ways overhead.
Everything was quiet so I took off the phones and went down to the main deck couldnít see anyone at first then saw another shipmate and he said they were abandoning ship. The gun crews had put the water tight lids back on the 5Ē powder cases ( which could be used for floatation devises ) . We both threw over a powder case and jumped in then could only find one of the cases so we shared the one we found. We both had life jackets on and swam out until we met up with a life raft with injured aboard and several shipmates pushing it towards shore. We could see lights on Guadacanal so we knew which way to go.
I donít know how long we were in the water but it was well after sunrise before we were picked up. I would guess around 8 hours.
At daylight we could see the Cruiser USS Portland going around in circles because of damage to her steering mechanism.
We were picked up by landing craft and taken to the beach on Guadacanal. We were issued clothing and sent to an area among the coconut trees to set up tents and cots.
I donít know how long we were in the water but it must have been at least 7 hours and maybe more like 9 hours. Time didnít mean much at that time.
I was very fortunate, as the only injuries were a few small pieces of shrapnel and a larger piece that hit me on the right side of my neck.
In the tent I was in, there was a shipmate who had been lucky at poker. When he opened his wallet he had a fist full of wet paper so we started spreading the bills over the cots and it at least covered 2 cots.
That night we had to find a foxhole as the Tokyo Express showed up and started shelling Henderson airfield that wasnít too far from where we were staying. There was another Sea Battle taking place but I didnít hear it or know about it until later.
The next morning we unloaded supplies all day and on the last load I decided to ride on the load to help unload, as I wanted to see where it was going. The load was on a heavy equipment trailer behind a small Caterpillar. On the way we lost one or two items off the load stopped and picked it up. I said to the man running the Cat that he should pull to the left or he is going to hook the load on a small sapling. I jumped up on the trailer between the load and the tires. He didnít pull over and the load came back and pushed back onto the tires and both of my legs were pulled between the trailer bed and the tires. Luckily there was a Chaplain in a Jeep that seen what was happening and stopped the Cat operator. The next morning my ankle was swelled up like a balloon and they took me to a Hospital tent. We had to get to a foxhole almost every night because of the Tokyo Express.
I was evacuated a few days later and ended up in an Army Hospital in Fuji. And finally ended up on the USS Jenkins DD 447 for a short hitch. I had a chance to back to Torpedo School in Keyport WA and have my first leave in 3 years.
Several years ago I saw a Reunion notice in the Portland paper and sent
a letter and a card to the address shown in the notice to be displayed
at the Registration Desk and in that way I was able to call and talk to
all the surviving Torpedomen.
By George E. Burghardt
Phone # 503-842-6986