USS Chevalier DD 451
14 October 1943
From:   The Executive Officer.
To:    The Commanding Officer.

Subject:  Action report of enemy engagement night of 6
      October 1943.

    1. Our task unit consisting of U.S.S. SELFRIDGE, CHEVALIER, and O’BANNON in column was proceeding to join U.S.S. RALPH TALBOT, LA VALLETTE, and TAYLOR at a point 10 miles north of Sauka Point, Vella Lavella Island, New Georgia Islands. As evaluator in C.I.C., I was able to observe all contacts made, but unfortunately my record of bearings and ranges of contact was lost with the ship.

    2. From 2000 on, our unit was under constant observation by enemy snooper planes, of which there were three. These planes dropped a large number of flares on each side at irregular intervals to indicate our course. The SC radar on the SELFRIDGE was inoperative, so C.T.U. 31.2 was kept informed by TBS from the O’BANNON and CHEVALIER on the positions of the snoopers. The unit was maneuvered repeatedly attempting to get rid of the snoopers, but they kept contact with our unit.

    3. At 2000 while on course 300ºT, speed 25 knots, and about 15 miles north of Doveli Cove, Vella Lavella, we made a possible surface contact bearing 270ºT, distance 31,800 yards on the SG. We reported that this might be a rain squall due to its appearance.

2204 - Task unit changed course to 270ºT. We were unable to pick up our contact again.
2210 - Task unit changed course to 240ºT.
2223 - Made SG surface contact on what appeared to be a compact column of ships bearing 276ºT, range 23,000 yards, and they appeared to be on a northerly course.
2225 - Task unit changed course to 270ºT.
2228 - (About) Surface contacts reversed course to about 210ºT, speed 23 knots, and greatly increased their distance between ships. There were 4 distinct targets with a fuzzy trailing pip a little closer to us. The pips were all the same size.
2231 - Task unit changed course to 210ºT.
2232 - Four surface contacts in column with trailing fuzzy pip appeared to change course to the left to 190ºT. bearing 280, range 17,000 yards.
2335 - Task unit changed course to 300ºT.
2240 - Task unit changed course to 280ºT, changed speed to 30 knots. Picked up second group of targets bearing 276ºT, range 21,000 yards. They were in line with the closest target group which now appeared to be on course 160ºT.
2247 - Second group became three distinct targets considerably larger in size than those in the first group and they appeared to be in column open order at a range of 16,500. Also picked up a third group of indistinct targets bearing 326ºT, range 11,600 yards. These targets appeared to be in three close groups and they were definitely made of wood by appearance of the pips. Bridge was informed the these might be PT boats. The first group was now on our port bow bearing about 280º, 6500 yards; the second group on our starboard bow bearing about 305ºT.
2250 - Task unit changed course to 240ºT. The second and third groups appeared to be moving to the right. We were tracking #2 target in column.
2252 - Changed course to the right to about 270ºT, putting the first group a little ahead of our beam at 4700 yards; the second group a little on our bow range 9000 yards.
2253 - Fired 5 torpedoes from #2 mount and took target under fire. Noticed the PT boats, the third group, closing in rapidly, the range was 6500 yards. Notified bridge of PT attack.
2259 - (About) We changed course momentarily to the left putting the PT boats directly astern of us, range 2500 yards.
2300 - Came right to close second group of 3 large ships passing 300ºT at this time.
2302 - (About) A heavy explosion occurred causing me to be thrown into space.

    4. My next recollection was of attempting to get off the deck in the radar compartment that was filled with debris. The overhead was completely blown in with many beams extending downward. The SG radar was leaning inboard and shattered. My phones were dead and all lights were out. Upon going out on the bridge after climbing through the debris in the chart house, I found about six men up on their feet but all seemed to be dazed. It was impossible to see out forward through the ports on the bridge. The Captain was asking where we were hit. Upon going out on the starboard wing of the bridge and looking over the twisted wing shield, I noticed that there was absolutely nothing left of the ship forward of the bridge and that the ship appeared to be plunging down due to the movement forward. The Captain ordered the engines to back full but no communication could be made with either engine room. I sent three men down to the forward engine room to tell them to back. Was was noticed that the platform for the #2 20mm gun had been blown upward vertically covering up the ports in the bridge. The port wing of the bridge had been twisted inboard, broken, and somewhat twisted. The deck of the bridge was sloping forward. With permission of the captain I left the bridge to ascertain the damage sustained. The ship was covered with oil from amidships forward and wounded were scattered on the decks on the forward superstructure and main deck. From the middle of the captain’s cabin forward there was nothing. The deck in the captain’s head had disappeared and oil was gushing up into it. Men were attempting to recover the men in the I.C. room by means of the emergency hatch. The port whale boat had disappeared with the davits badly twisted and bent. Men were found coming out of #1 fireroom and on questioning, I found that they could only get water from forward and no suction from aft, and that the steam had dropped to 375 lbs. The were starting to secure the fireroom as water was coming in rather rapidly. Power was apparently off the ship.

    5. I noticed that the forward stack had a good sized hole in it and that the port bulwark was twisted, bent, and blown inboard. The galley port bulkhead had small holes in it. I looked down into the #1 engine room and shouted to them to back if they possibly could and keep the after plant going. The CMM in charge of the after engine room was found on deck and I ordered him to gather available engineers to keep the after engine room and fireroom in operation and to keep backing until further word. On accompanying him to the after engine room, I found the engine room flooded to the water line. The CMM stated that he had secured both the after engine room and fireroom, and that the starboard shaft was jammed. Men were then gathered to attempt to light off the after fireroom to supply steam to the forward engine room. It was found that the after fireroom had water three feet above the lower floor plates, and that the after fuel oil suction lines in the after engine room were out.

    6. On investigating the starboard side, it was noted that both amidships 20mm guns had disappeared, the spray shields crushed against the bulkhead, the 5” loading machine pushed off its base about six inches, and a big hole was in the starboard side adjacent to the starboard amidship 20mm guns. It was then learned by me that the O’BANNON had rammed the CHEVALIER at this place. I started men to jettisoning heavy gear on the starboard side as there was an appreciable list to starboard. Numerous groups of men were organized to take care of the wounded. Men on the fantail were told to take out all booster charges from the depth charges and jettison the 300 lb. charges.

    7. The Captain was then informed by me of the condition of the ship stating that the ship might be saved if the flooding was stopped. He ordered the starboard boat to be lowered and to have an officer put in charge of it; to jettison ship; to be sure the booster charges were removed from all depth charges and for me to supervise the debarkation of wounded men to the O’BANNON that was coming alongside. I was also ordered to make attempts to save the ship so that it could be towed by the stern back to port.

    8. Lieutenant (junior grade) Turner was ordered by me to take charge of the starboard boat and to standby for orders. After many attempts, the O’BANNON stopped trying to come alongside as the current and her badly damaged bow made such impossible. The O’BANNON began to lie off the port side of the CHEVALIER. Numerous working parties were organized to transfer the wounded to the port side to be transferred to the O’BANNON while other parties proceeded to jettison ship. The repair parties were instructed to inspect all compartments and to attempt to stop all leaks. Parties were organized putting the wounded into our starboard whaleboat and the two whaleboats from the O’BANNON. Upon completion of jettisoning, except very heavy material, the extra men were assembled on the fantail to await orders.

    9. I intended to have everyone abandon ship except the repair parties, the chief petty officers, and some officers, after all the wounded had been transferred to the O'BANNON.

    10. The repair parties reported that the water in the engineering spaces could not be stopped due to the depth of the water, and the large size of the cracks and holes; also that two handy-billy pumps could not possible pump out the water now in the engineering spaces and that the water was rising. The after engine room was flooded; the after fireroom had water up to its upper floor plates. The ship was settling lower by the bow, the roll was appreciably slower showing a tendency to hang and there was only six inches of freeboard on the starboard side amidships with the main deck frequently awash. This condition was reported to the Captain who then ordered the ship to be abandoned. This order was held up until all the wounded were transferred to the O’BANNON.

    11. The men were assembled on the fantail, instructed to inflate their life belts, enter the water feet first with hands over the eyes and nose. The men left the ship in a very calm orderly fashion using everything floatable that could be found on the ship. The repair parties were told to abandon ship after they searched the main deck for any remaining men. The Captain was then notified that the men were off the ship and he ordered me to abandon ship. I made one more search through the after living spaces with a broken battle lantern for stragglers, finding none, and in seeing the last boat appear to be casting off the port side from amidships, I slid over the side and swam to the O’BANNON. It is estimated that the CHEVALIER was completely abandoned by 0145. After being pulled aboard the O’BANNON, the condition of the CHEVALIER was reported to the Captain of the O’BANNON.

    12. The conduct of the crew and officers was phenomenal for their calmness, cool and collected reactions, and their whole hearted cooperation in saving the wounded and jettisoning ship. Each man did his best to help his other shipmates.

      It is recommended that Lieutenant George Anthony Gowen, E-M, U.S.N.R., be awarded the Silver Star for outstanding devotion to duty. Under very adverse conditions Lieutenant Gowen attempted everything humanly possible to maintain power in his engineering plant. He personally directed the securing of the main engines of the CHEVALIER after it was ascertained that it was impossible to keep power on the ship. After securing the main engines, Lieutenant Gowen personally aided and helped supervise the transfer of the wounded from the CHEVALIER to the O’BANNON. Through his efforts it is believed that many of the wounded were saved.

      It is recommended that Lieutenant (junior grade) James Joseph Turner, E-V(G), U.S.N.R. be awarded the Silver Star for outstanding performance of duty and exemplary devotion to duty under adverse conditions. Lieutenant (junior grade) Turner personally took charge and coxwained the ship’s motor whaleboat to transfer the seriously wounded from the CHEVALIER to the O’BANNON, although he had sustained a painful injury to his leg. Through Lieutenant (junior grade) Turner’s untiring and painstaking efforts, he transferred a large percentage of the wounded to the O’BANNON in the least possible time. He picked up many floundering survivors in the water and towed many rafts and floats filled with survivors to the O’BANNON. It is certain that many of the CHEVALIER survivors owe their lives to Lieutenant (junior grade) Turner’s efforts.

      It is recommended that Lieutenant (junior grade) Vernon Emery Binion, U.S.N., be awarded a letter of commendation for outstanding performance of duty. Lieutenant (junior grade) Binion, U.S.N., personally supervised the jettisoning of ammunition from the CHEVALIER. Through his calmness leadership, and example he greatly assisted in keeping the men calm and collected. He caused the jettisoning to be conducted most thoroughly and expeditiously.

      It is recommended that Lieutenant (junior grade) William Stokes Tillisch, SC-V(G), U.S.N.R., be awarded a letter of commendation for unusual exemplary performance of duty. Lieutenant (junior grade) Tillisch’s assistance in supervising the handling of the wounded and in keeping the personnel aboard-ship calm was of inestimable value. He not only carried out his duties of a supply officer but also the duties of line officers. His efforts contributed greatly to the number of men who were saved.

      It is recommended that Hollis D. GRAHAM, Pharmacist’s Mate first class, U.S.N.R. be awarded a letter of commendation for outstanding performance of duty. Graham contributed greatly to the administration of first aid and surgical treatment to the wounded under very adverse and dangerous conditions. Through Graham’s untiring efforts both on the CHEVALIER and O’BANNON many of the wounded were saved.

      It is recommended that Ensign Douglas Cullen Porter, D-V(G), U.S.N.R., be awarded a letter of commendation for outstanding performance of duty. Ensign Porter supervised the jettisoning of torpedoes and the handling of depth charges in a most expeditious manner. While Ensign Porter was swimming from the CHEVALIER to the O’BANNON he rescued one man, who had lost his life belt, from drowning by towing him to some floating debris where the man stayed until he was picked up.

      It is recommended that Gilbert IVERSON, Chief Pharmacist’s Mate, U.S. Navy, be awarded the silver star for unusual and outstanding performance of duty as senior medical survivor on the CHEVALIER. Through Iverson’s supervision and personal administration of first aid many critically wounded survivors were transferred safely to the O’BANNON, who probably would have died on the CHEVALIER. While swimming from the CHEVALIER to the O’BANNON, Iverson aided two non-swimmers to get to the O’BANNON. Upon reporting to the O’BANNON, Iverson worked without stopping for a period of over 24 hours administering aid to the wounded. Through his unexcelled zeal and personal efforts many of the critically wounded survived.

      It is recommended that Tom (n) ELDER, Steward’s Mate first class, U.S. Navy, be awarded a silver star for outstanding performance. After assisting in jettisoning all heavy ammunition from the magazine, ELDER swam towing two men with life jackets, who were unable to swim from the CHEVALIER to the O’BANNON, a distance of about 1200 yards.

      It is recommended that Egbert Rea HUTSON, Carpenter’s Mate first class, U.S. Navy, be awarded a letter of commendation for outstanding performance of duty. Hutson, as senior member of the after repair party, performed outstanding work in localizing the damage done to the ship, preventing more compartments from becoming flooded, in jettisoning, and in assisting the handling of the wounded. His outstanding supervision of the after repair had much to do in having it function as an excellent unit.

      It is recommended that Ensign Donald Eugene McGrath, D-V(G), U.S.N.R., be awarded the silver star for outstanding devotion to duty. After being injured and trapped in the flooded I.G. room, Ensign McGrath supervised and personally directed the rescue of six members of the crew trapped in the I.G. room causing their lives to be saved.

      It is recommended that Lieutenant (junior grade) Walter Zane Hewes, Jr., D-V(G), U.S.N.R., be awarded a letter of commendation for outstanding performance of duty as communication officer. Although Lieutenant (junior grade) Hewes was injured he personally destroyed all secret and confidential material aboard ship and also supervised the destruction of the radios. Lieutenant (junior grade) Hewes also materially aided in supervising the handling of the survivors.