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Ariecho

September 18 - Focus: USS Helena

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General

  • On September 18, 1931, the Mukden Incident occurred, which was the true starting point of what would become World War II in the Pacific.  Also known as the Manchurian Incident, it would start continue with the full invasion of Manchuria and the departure of Japan from the League of Nations.

  • 3 U-boats were commissioned on a September 18: 1 in 1940 and 2 in 1941.

  • 9 ships, worth 30,000 tons were sunk on a September 18 between 1939 and 1945.

  • 45 Allied ships were commissioned on a September 18 between 1939 and 1945.

  • No Allied ship was lost on a September 18 between 1939 and 1945.

  • 1 U-boat listed as sunk on September 18, 1944 (U-925), but unconfirmed.
1939
  • On September 18, 1939, USS Helena, a light cruiser, was commissioned.  One of the 2 ships of the Saint Louis-class, she was laid down on December 9, 1936. and launched on August 27, 1939.

USS Helena was present in Pearl Harbor when the Imperial Japanese Navy attacked.  Because she was occupying the USS Pennsylvania's regular position, she got the attention of Japanese aircraft who torpedoed her, flooding one engine room and one boiling room.

After extensive repairs, she participated in the Guadalcanal campaign, as an escort to the USS Wasp.  On October 11, her radar spotted the Japanese fleet in what is now known as the Battle of Cape Esperance where she helped ambush Admiral Goto's force.  Through the cover of darkness, the two fleets came as close as 5,000 yards and while the US fleet now had visual contact, the Japanese had not detected the Americans.  Once Admiral Goto was eventually made aware of the presence of enemy ships, he didn't give the order to engage them, but to close in to positively identify them.  By then, the US fleet had successfully crossed the T, and within minutes, the Japanese heavy cruiser Aoba was hit by 40 shells.  Minutes later, the US fleet shifted its attention to the heavy cruiser Furutaka and the destroyer Fubuki.  The battle ended with the loss of 2 Japanese heavy cruisers and 3 destroyers.  The US Navy lost USS Duncan, a destroyer, and had 1 light cruiser heavily damaged (USS Boise) as well as 1 destroyer (USS Farenholt).

 

On July 6, 1943, Helena participated in the battle of Kula Gulf.  Around 02:00, her group of 3 cruisers and 4 destroyers was engaged by a force estimated as strong as 10 destroyers.  Within minutes of engaging the Japanese group, Helena was hit by 3 torpedoes.  More than her sinking, the fate of her survivors was made famous, and eventually inspired a book "Sunk in Kula Gulf".  Here is an extract from it.

 

The early morning hours of July 6, 1943, found the USS Helena off the Solomon Islands in what would later be known as the Battle of Kula Gulf. But the ship’s participation in the battle came to a swift end when three Japanese torpedoes suddenly struck. One hundred and sixty-eight sailors went down with the ship, many never surviving the initial torpedo hits. As the last of the Helena disappeared below the ocean’s surface, the remaining crewmen’s struggle for survival had only just begun.

 

Sunk in Kula Gulf tells the epic story of the Helena’s survivors. Two destroyers plucked more than seven hundred from the sea in a night rescue operation as the battle continued to rage. A second group of eighty-eight sailors —clustered into three lifeboats—made it to a nearby island and was rescued the next day. A third group of survivors, spread over a wide area, was missed entirely. Clinging to life rafts or debris, the weary men were pushed away from the area of the sinking by a strong current. After enduring days at sea under the hot tropical sun, they finally found land. It was, however, the Japanese-held island of Vella Lavella and deep behind the front lines. The survivors organized and disappeared into the island’s interior jungle. Living a meager existence, the group evaded the Japanese for eight days until the Marines and U.S. Navy evacuated the shipwrecked sailors in a daring rescue operation.

 

Using a wide variety of sources, including previously unpublished firsthand accounts, John J. Domagalski brings to life this amazing, little-known story from World War II.

 

Posted Image

USS Helena (1943)

Other recommended links about USS Helena

Sinking of the Helena narrated by US veterans

1944
  • On September 18, 1944, USS Duluth, a Cleveland-class light cruiser was commissioned.  Laid down on November 9, 1942, she was launched on January 13, 1944.  She didn't have any significant participation during World War II.

Posted Image

USS Duluth

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2,242
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View PostGijoe297, on 18 September 2013 - 09:25 PM, said:

im enjoying the forms and your posts about naval history before the forms get crowded with junk when alpha comes out

Always happy to help.  Thank you!

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