Albert L. Breining's personal recollection of the last days of the 469
I was seventeen three days after Pearl Harbor, but didn't join up until '42 with about six others from Newark, NJ (there is a point here). We went to boots together at Coddington point, Newport, RI, and then to Boston to put the DeHaven into commission (don't remember the date). Our shakedown consisted of a rough ride in or near Casco Bay, Maine. All I remember was being sick forever. Thank the Lord we were very much needed in the Pacific so we didn't hang out too long on the east coast. I think I was still sick until we entered the Panama Canal. So much for tincans!
After the Panama Canal, our first port of call was Tongatapu where I got sick again. I pigged out on coconuts with the other city boys from Newark. Then to either New Hebrides or New Caledonia where we stripped the ship of all flammable material. We left shortly, in company with other ships for the other Canal (Guadalcanal) and Tulagi.
Most of what was is written by Mr. Herr appears to be very accurate. However, I recall two things differently. One, I don't believe we were making 20 knots because we were still pacing the LCM's and two, one more person left the pilot house beaten, bowed and bloody. Me!
I was a signalman striker at the time and both my watch and GQ station were as the talker stationed at the bulkhead just aft of the helmsman. I was the Captains' connection to the lookouts, guns, etc. The bomb that blew up #2 mount and just about "everything forward of the stack" trapped me somewhere inside of the bridge. I must have been out for a short time ( stunned, more than likely) and the first thing I remember was panic and the thought that I had very little time left. The only light I could see came from a large hole in the deck (or more likely the overhead). I looked down and saw what could only be described as hell. I knew I couldn't get out and really freaked. I screamed for help and a voice somewhere to my left yelled "over here". When I tried to go "over here" I found myself caught under lots of junk. Being pretty nutty by now, I broke loose and crawled to where I had heard the voice. God helped me and I saw the light, literally. Believe it or not, I had been in the pilot house but only had to step into the water. I can remember in bootcamp how I hardly passed the swim test and now I'm Olympic material. I did turn in time to see the DeHaven slip under. When I finally remembered to inflate my life belt I discovered holes in it. Fortunately for me there were empty 5" 38 aluminum powder cans floating nearby which I used until I found some guys on a life raft. I managed to hold on until sometime later when we were picked up by one of the LCM's.
I ended up spending a horrible night on Guadalcanal and was flown from the island the next day on a DC3 to a hospital in Noumea. Later is was transferred to a hospital in New Zealand so I lost contact with my shipmates and never really had a chance to compare notes.
I did meet up with a marine that told me he and some buddies were at Cape Esperance watching us get beat up and betting on how long it would take to sink us. He said it only took seven minutes.
Many wonder why the guns of the DeHaven were late to respond to the attack. I know why the guns did not begin firing until the last minute. The Jap planes that got over us came from the direction of Henderson Field. The skipper was concerned that the planes might be ours so he asked me to ask the lookouts to report as soon as they could identify them as enemy. Nothing! Once more the question and once more nothing. Then the captain exclaimed, "damn, tell them to hurry up!" After I relayed his message, soon came the reply, "They're Japs, we can see the meatballs!".
All the delay in identification combined with the slow speed of the ship gave the aces that dove on us a real field day. Bye-bye DD!
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