U.S.S. Kearny Official Action Report
OCTOBER 20, 1941
Declassified July 7, 1964

From: Commanding Officer, USS KEARNY
To: The Chief of Naval Operations

Subject: Engagement with enemy submarine while escorting British convoy SC-48 at 0010 on October 17, 1941

1. The KEARNY was assigned to commander Task Force four, task group 4.1.4 under Captain H.L. Thebauld, U.S. Navy in PLUNKETT. Task group 4.1.4 consisted of Commander destroyer Squadron 27 in Plunkett, Commander Destroyer Division 21 in LIVERMORE, KEARNY, GREER, and DECATUR.

2. On 11 October 1941, Task Group 4.1.4 departed Reykjavik, Iceland, with american convoy and joined western bound British convoy ON-24 on 13 October 1941. This convoy was escorted safely through the submarine zone. During night of 15-16 October 1941 orders were received from Commander Destroyer Squadron 27 to concentrate on PLUNKETT and proceed with him to aid of eastern bound convoy SC-48 which had been attacked and was escorted by on British destroyer and four corvettes.

3. On 16 October 1941, Task Group 4.1.4 joined the escort force of eastbound British Convoy SC-48. The escort vessels were ordered to take station as follows on receipt of dispatch from Columbia, quote:


During evening twilight KEARNY was directed to make a sweep astern and drop four depth charges widely separated. This mission was completed and KEARNY rejoined convoy and was on station as darkness closed in. During evening, ship was in Condition III with continuous sound watch patrolling station assigned.

It is of interest to note at this time that the KEARNY was running a split engineering plant which was standard practice on board whenever in submarine waters; that is, one boiler in each fireroom was steaming with the other ready in standby condition. Each fireroom furnishing power to a single engineroom. It is certain that this procedure saved the ship, for even though No.1 fireroom was gone and therefore also the starboard engine, the KEARNY was able to clear the danger zone slowly but surely with No. 2 fireroom and port engine.

With full left rudder, to avoid British corvette, commenced swinging ship to port in circling area on port quarter of convoy as this appeared to be a submarine area. It is probable that the KEARNY was silhouetted by the burning freighter to submarine to Northwest which was thus in a favorable attack position and not seen by KEARNY.

About 0010 torpedo struck the ship on starboard side at about the turn of the bilge between frames seventy and seventy four, in latitude 57-04 North, 23-00 West. At this time a second torpedo ran past the starboard side of ship on slightly converging coure and a third was noted crossing astern close abroad from starboard to port.

4. From after the torpedo hit, this report is made without regard to time because clocks and chronometers were stopped. The blast of the explosion ruptured the main deck and carried up with full force through the upper deckhouse and vented through any soft patches in deck. Damaging starboard side of superstructure deck, bridge, and director. The giving away of plate in deck of galley passageway through which instruments were lowered into I.C. room vented this space and was no doubt the factor that saved the plotting room personnel. This upward force carried firebrick and clay aloft plastering superstructure to the height of the director. Bulkheads on starboard and after sides of superstructure were blown in and decks lifted. signal bags, 24-inch and 12-inch searchlights and pelorus on starboard wing of bridge shattered and blew overboard and bridge deck lifted and bulged about 12 inches and all rivets sheered in deck plating. Bulwark on bridge blown away. Director was trained on port bow and explosive force dished in rear of director.

5. The torpedo explosion caused the loss of all interior communications and electric power to forward part of ship. The whistle and siren were blowing full blast to increase the confusion. The first few minutes were used in clearing decks of wounded and shocked men. All officers and men swung into their jobs without further orders. Due to deafness, caused by explosion, no communications and darkened ship, each man had to do his duty on his own initiative and reacted perfectly. The Executive Officer took charge at secondary conn. Although electric generator was running in aft engineroom, all current had to be cut off due to reported electric fires about ship. As soon as fires were isolated and electric cables checked, current was turned on as quickly as possible. steering was shifted to hand steering with direction control by voice from the deck. Main radio was put out of commission by the concussion and the emergency radio took over clearing message to Commander Destroyer squadron 27 in PLUNKETT that we had been torpedoed. Antennae were foulde by lines and wires. Thes grounds had to be cleared imediately. commander Destroyer Squadron 27 directed KEARNY to proceed nearest port which was Iceland. During this period, navigation was conducted by using wind directions and the North star when visible to get clear of the submarine activity as soon as possible. Although magnetic compass was available at secondary conn, no flashlights were permitted and it was not until after daybreak that a compass course could be steered. Celestial navigation in early morning was very difficult due to chronometers being stopped and radio equipment damaged so that no tick could be obtained. About 18 hours later a visual tick was obtained from GREER. the gyro was out of comission and steering was difficult aft by magnetic compass as lights were out for most of the night. course was laid by North star which could be seen at intervals and by watching the colors as the wind was steady, force 4 west-south-west. Sea: moderate swell from northwest. As to the engines, although the KEARNY was running on a split plant system, aft fireroom fuel oil suction was through the foreward fireroom fromforeward tanks. Suction was shifted aft as soon as extent of damage was ascertained but this resulted in a slug of water putting out fires in No. 2 fireroom until suction from another tank established. It is recommended, from this experience, that when running a split plant, fuel for the boilers be taken from different parts of the ship. After the explosion in the foreward fireroom, the bulkhead stop valve could not be closed until after daylight when the metalsmith crawled beneath the deck and cut away fouled reach rod with acetylene torch and then was able to shut off valve. Until that was completed the starboard engine was run on back pressure and was able to make 85 rpm while port engine was making 94 rpm. The bulkhead between fireroom and engineroom was deflected aft about one foot which was immediately shored. This shoring held and ship was able to proceed at ten knots even with a moderate roll and pitch.

6. The injured from the bridge were settled in the Division Commander's cabin while those injured on the deck and vicinity of radio were put in the Captain's cabin, Executive Officer's and Gunnery Officer's staterooms. Sickbay was flooded but the battle dressing box and sterilizer located in the galley were available to handle the emergency. Emergency first aid bags throughout the ship gave us additional supplies. It is recommended that three battle dressing boxes be distributed about the ship away from sickbay. Our allowance is now two, but form this experience it is deemed very desirable that another supply source be made available and by all means not stowed in the sickbay. Wounded in stretcher could not be brought down inside ladders. Block and tackle had to be rigged around mast and wounded lowered to decks below. It is imperative that all ships have more than only the inside ladders available for passage of personnel from the forecastle deck to the bridge and director. when this ship was built, a ladder was installed from the aft side of bridge down to top of upper deckhouse. this was removed under protest and although a recent order was received to reinstall same, this work had not been accomplished. A jacob's ladder had been installed for just such an emergency as the KEARNY encountered and it was used a great deal. During all this, the KEARNY was still at general quarters stations ready to repel any form of attack and Condition X was not secured and Condition III set until about 0800 after daylight. during all these events and emergencies every man did his duty and manned his station unless directed to proceed to some other point of action. The initiative shown by all hands in coping with the rapid development of events without orders is one to bring the highest praise. During darkness, no lights were permitted. Although this handicapped the repair party to some extent in expediting repairs, no chance could be taken on receiving another torpedo hit. As dawn broke, emergency repairs to cables, water and steam lines proceeded rapidly. Phone circuit established to following points: bridge, fireroom, both enginerooms, secondary conn, and steering engineroom. No engineroom communications, except 2JV telephone circuit, available with I.C. room flooded. One 12-inch signal light available, rigged at secondary conn. Broken steam lines isolated and electric jumper cables rigged to bring power and light foreward.

At this time the ship was down by the head about four feet. All 50 calibre ammunition was stowed below, ten of the twelve machine guns dismounted and stowed below, all heavy weights, such as: torpedo exercise heads, repair kits, etc., moved to as low a point as possible. Eight tons of small arms ammunition, shells and powder were moved from the vicinity of frame 30 to the vicinity of frame 175. This lifted the bow approximately one foot. On entering port, draft foreward 15 feet 8 inches; aft 12 feet 6 inches. After the above was accomplished, the ship rode well and a continuous watch was kept on shored bulkhead. Attempt was made to pump out I.C. room but to no avail. At 1430, October 17th, the GREER joined the KEARNY to render assistance. At 1700, same day, the MONSSEN arrived with doctor and medical assistance. Request was made on Senior Officer Present Afloat, Iceland, for blood plasma and apparatus which was delivered by plane the following morning. The receiving of this blood plasma without question saved the life of Kurtz, S.R. (TM3c) and although he was delivered to the Army hospital at Reykjavik, Iceland, in a critical condition, he should recover unless complications set in. At 0830, October 19th, KEARNY arrived Reykjavik and transferred all hospital cases to British hospital ship for further transfer to the U.S. Army hospital at Reykjavik. As soon as patients were transferred, got underway and proceeded to Hvalfjordur and reported to Senior Officer Present Afloat.

Commanding Officer U.S.S. KEARNY DD-432

My thanks to George Duggan for this information.