USS DeHaven DD-469 Operations
by Newt Robinson

Listed below are the engagement dates and area of operation that earned DeHaven DD-469, one Engagement Star on the Asia Pacific Campaign Medal, as well as a brief description of the operations taken from the United States Naval Institute publication: "United States DESTROYER Operations in World War II".
 

19 Jan 43 P9 Capture and defense of Guadalcanal
31 Jan 43 P9 Capture and defense of Guadalcanal

General Patch's "Cactus" forces lost no time in striking at the hungry enemy. While Patch's infantrymen stormed the Japs in their pillboxes, destroyers Mustin and Perkins maneuvered off the mouth of the Matanikau, firing at designated targets. Together they pelted the Japs with 2000 rounds of 5-inch.

On January 12, 1943, destroyer Reid steamed along the Guadalcanal coast near Cape Esperance, and plastered Japanese shore positions with 360 rounds of 5-inch.

Operating out of Purvis Bay near Tulagi, Captain Brisco's "Cactus striking Force" destroyers Nicholas, O'Bannon, Radford, and DeHaven stepped in to deliver a shore bombardment on January 19. On the occasion the four DD's pounded the Japs with over 2000 rounds of 5-inch.

Destroyer Fletcher contributed a bombardment on January 26. The target was near Visale an enemy occupied mud-hole washed by the waters of Cape Esperance. Fletcher carried a distinguished observer on their mission. His passenger was General Patch, and one of his observations was an expression of high satisfaction with destroyer artillery.

On the banks of the Bonegi River, flanking Tassafaronga, the American vanguard encountered 600 troops whom Tanaka had landed at that point to cover the garrison's retirement. Moving up to within a mile of the Bonegi's mouth, destroyers Anderson and Wilson turned their 5-inch 38 batteries on the beach, and gave the 600 Japanese a thorough blasting.

Meanwhile, the Japs had been working night and day to build an airfield at Vila, a coconut plantation on the southern coast of Kolombangara Island, opposite New Georgia, on the west side of Kula Gulf. Early in the morning of January 24, Admiral Ainsworth led a bombardment group up the "Slot" to Kula Gulf, and down the Gulf to give the airstrip at Vila the Munda treatment. His bombardment force contained cruisers Nashville and Helena, and the destroyers Nicholas, DeHaven, Radford, and O'Bannon.

While O'Bannon picketed the northern entrance of the Gulf, the rest of the group steamed down to Vila to give the airfield a gun-lashing. The cruisers pounded the field with 2000 rounds of 6-inch, and the destroyers pegged about 1500 rounds of 5-inch at the target. Jap shore guns replied with indifferent marksmanship. As Ainsworth's group steamed out of Kula Gulf and raced down the "Slot", Jap "Bettys" arrived on the scene. Using full radar control destroyer Radford removed some of these from the night sky, and at daylight fighter planes from Henderson Field broke up the attack.

In this action Radford scored an interesting first. This was the first time a U.S. man-of-war shot down attacking aircraft with AA guns under full radar control (tracking and gunnery directed by radar), and without benefit of searchlight. The planes were not seen until four exploded like burning meteors in the night.

As at Munda, the Japs soon repaired the damage at Vila, and the airfield remained a thorn in the American side until the enemy was ousted from southern Kolombangara.
 

01 Feb 43 P9 Capture and defense of Guadalcanal

Loss of DeHaven DD-469

To block the enemy at Cape Esperance, General Patch dispatched an infantry battalion to Verahue Beach. The troops were carried to the beachhead by five LCTs and a seaplane tender under escort of Captain Briscoe's "Cactus Striking Force" from Tulagi destroyers Fletcher, Radford, Nicholas, and DeHaven. Fighters from Henderson Field covered the landings, which were handily made in the early hours of 1 February 1943.

As luck would have it, the Japanese had decided to begin their evacuation on this date. And their scout planes, looking down on Marovovo, evidently took the "Cactus Striking Force" for a group laying in ambush to intercept. The word was enough to bring a squadron of Aichi dive-bombers to the scene.

Winging over the horizon on the afternoon of 1 February, the Japanese airmen caught a glimpse of two destroyers and several LCTs about two miles southeast of Savo Island. The destroyers were Nicholas and DeHaven shepherding a trio of unloaded landing craft back to Tulagi. To the northwest of Cape Esperance, Fletcher and Radford were coming with the rest of the unloaded LCTs, but they were not spotted by the Japanese.

The destroyers had been warned by Guadalcanal radio that the enemy was in the air and on the hunt. Radars and lookouts were watching the sky, and the destroyer and LCT gunners were waiting at hair trigger. Unfortunately the American ships off Savo had not been furnished with fighter cover; all of the American fighter planes had remained with the Radford-Fletcher group. This neglect, whatever its cause, exposed Nicholas and DeHaven to a cyclonic attack.

Some fourteen "Vals" were in the sky. Nine of these were counted by DeHaven as the flight roared in at 5000 feet. The ships' clocks timed the attack at 1457. Down came the lightning as six of the planes plummeted on the target destroyer.

DeHaven's anti-aircraft batteries rattled, banged, and flamed, smearing the sky with flack. The barrage was unable to stop the bombers. The screaming planes ripped through the AA curtain, and dropped three bombs squarely on the ship.

One bomb, smashing the destroyer's bridge, killed her captain, Commander C. E. Tolman. Men, guns, and deck gear were blown high in the air. A near miss, exploding near the bow, crushed in a section of the hull. With fires leaping from her mangled superstructure, DeHaven wallowed in agony, settling by the head. She went down as her frantic engineers were fighting their way topside out of the inferno, and sailors topside were desperately striving to launch rafts.

Meantime, destroyer Nicholas (Lieutenant Commander A. J. Hill) was beating off an attack by eight dive-bombers. Near misses killed two men and damaged the ship's steering gear, but otherwise she came thru without hurt. Two of the landing craft shot down a plane.

The battle ended as abruptly as it had begun, and the planes winged away to report another United States warship on the floor of "Iron Bottom Bay". The nearby LCTs circled in to rescue the DeHaven survivors. There were deplorably few to be rescued.

Of the ship's fourteen officers, only four were found alive. One of the four was painfully wounded. And 146 men 38 of them wounded were recovered. Altogether 167 of the destroyer's complement had perished with the ship.

Adding DeHaven's name to the long, lugubrious list, the United States Navy could count her as the fifteenth destroyer lost in the Guadalcanal campaign.

The American victory at Guadalcanal was purchased at a high price in life, limb, and material. Naval loses were particularly high. Ship for ship, the Japanese came out on the easier end of the bill, as the following table shows:

U. S. Navy and Imperial Navy

LOSSES

In the Guadalcanal Campaign

7 August 1942 to 7 February 1943

TYPE OF CRAFT AMERICAN JAPANESE
Battleships 0 2
Aircraft Carriers 2 1
Heavy Cruisers 5 2
Light Cruisers 2 2
Destroyers 15 12
Total 24 19

The above table does not summarize the whole statistical story. Although the United States Navy suffered the heaviest losses as compared to the Japanese Navy, the U. S. Marine Corps and the Army endured relatively light causalities compared to those suffered by the Japanese Army on Guadalcanal. Japanese aircraft losses were the heavier, and in other categories such as submarines and auxiliary craft, their naval losses considerably exceeded the American.

The fifteen destroyers which went down in the Guadalcanal Campaign were Tucker, Jarvis, Blue, Duncan, Meredith, O'Brien, Porter, Cushing, Monessen, Laffey, Barton, Walker, Preston, Bonham, and lastly DeHaven. It might be said that the squadron is permanently bases on the bottom of "Iron Bottom Bay".

 

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