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Battle of Midway: 4-7 June 1942, Online Action Reports: Commanding Officer, USS Hammann, Serial 2 of 16 June 1942


DD412/P6-1
 
Serial 2
U.S.S. Hammann, (DD412),
C/O Fleet Post Office,
Pearl Harbor, T.H.
 
  June 16, 1942.
 
From: The Commanding Officer.
To: The Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet.
 
Via: (1) ComTaskGroup 174. (Comdesron Two).
(2) ComTaskFor 17.
 
Subject: Action Report; 4-6 June, 1942.
 
Reference: (a) Art. 712, U.S. Navy Regulations.

1. In view of the fact that the Hammann was sunk about 1600 on June 6, with total loss of all records, this report must be made entirely from memory. Consequently, no record of the ship's track is included and times and locations given are only approximate. However, the Hammann was at all times in company with other vessels and comparison of this report with their records should indicate times and places accurately. The Hammann was operating under Commander Taskforce 17 consisting of Yorktown, Astoria, Portland, Morris, Russell, Hammann, Anderson, and Hughes. The destroyers were designated as Task Group 17.4 under administration and tactical command of Commander Destroyer Squadron Two.

2. On the night of June 3, reports were received by radio of scouting plane contact with two AKS accompanied by two small vessels 450 miles West of Midway and a group of eleven or twelve ships containing two or three BBs, two or three CAs, one CV, and destroyers 700 miles west of Midway on course 090, speed 20. Taskforce 17 at this time was about 300 miles NNE of Midway. Taskforce 16 was in the same area. During the night both taskforces moved in a Southeasterly direction.

3. On the morning of June 4, contact was made by scouts from Midway with another enemy force containing two BBs, two CAs and 4 CV with destroyers located about 200 miles SW of the taskforces. Taskforce 16 flew off air attack groups about 0900 (LWT) and taskforce 17 launched air attack groups about 1000. Taskforce 17 then took a closing course. The taskforce took antiaircraft disposition "V" with the two cruisers twenty five hundred yards on relative bearing 060 and 300 and DDs on relative bearings 020, 120, 180, 240, and 340. Hammann was on 020. About 1300 the first planes of returning attack group approached and two or three fighters landed. At this time the OTC broadcast over TBS that a large group of unidentified planes was approaching from Westward, distant 26 miles. Planes in the landing circle were signaled off and preparations made to repel attack.

Fighters picked up the enemy bombers about 5 miles out and shot down a large number, eight or ten as a rough estimate. It seems probable that there were 18 planes in the attack group. The remainder came on through and attacked the Yorktown, obtaining two or three hits. This vessel definitely shot down one enemy plane with 20mm as he was escaping after dropping his bomb and got probably hits on others. The entire attack lasted only a few minutes. Hammann fired 120 rounds of 5" and about 900 rounds of 20mm. Yorktown began smoking heavily and slowed to a stop. DDs and cruisers in screen began circling. This continued for about ten minutes while Yorktown was fighting fire. At this time one of our own bombers returning circled close aboard the Hammann and threw a note on deck stating that one of our torpedo bombers was down 8 miles distant, bearing 240° Did not take any action as it appeared there were still some unidentified planes in the vicinity and Yorktown required full support. About 5 minutes later another plane crashed in the water about 2 miles ahead of Hammann. As there were now no further indications of enemy planes in the vicinity, proceeded to pick up pilot and radioman from this plane, slightly injured. Plane proved to be from Enterprise. Upon completion, sighted the rubber boat of the torpedo bomber previously reported to us about five miles Southward and proceeded at 30 knots to pick them up. Pilot was rescued only slightly injured but radioman was dead. Returned at 30 knots and rejoined Yorktown screen. Yorktown shortly increased speed to ten knots and then to fifteen.

4. About 1430 enemy planes were reported approaching from the West. Yorktown appeared to have damage well under control, making 15 knots, and launched all fighters on deck. Shortly afterward a group of 12 to 18 torpedo planes made a direct attack on Yorktown from her port quarter. Hammann was able to fire a barrage on a line passing just astern of Yorktown to path of incoming planes. It appeared that six or eight enemy planes were shot down during their approach but it could not be determined by whom. Hammann shifted fire to a plane on Yorktown's bow and definitely shot him down with 5". The attack was pressed in to close range and several torpedoes struck the Yorktown. Several more enemy planes were shot down by gunfire at close range after torpedoes were dropped. Hammann shot down two definitely and possibly three with 20mm as they were retiring.

5. After the torpedo attack Yorktown listed heavily and slowed gradually to a stop. Screening vessels formed a circling screen. Three destroyers were ordered to stand by Yorktown. About 1700 Yorktown began abandoning ship. As the first three destroyers began to fill up with survivors, Hughes and then Hammann were ordered by Comdesron Two to leave screen and assist in picking up survivors from the water and life rafts in vicinity of Yorktown. Twice during the rescue operations, unidentified planes were reported in the vicinity but no enemy planes were sighted. Hammann went close astern of Yorktown and picked up the last of the survivors including the commanding officer, Captain BUCKMASTER. Total survivors rescued by Hammann was 87.

6. Upon completion of rescue work, cruisers formed column, screened by destroyers. Hammann went alongside Astoria, as directed by CTF-17, and transferred Captain BUCKMASTER and two of his officers. Resumed station in cruising disposition on Easterly courses. Hughes was directed by CTF-17 to return and standby Yorktown. The two cruisers from Taskforce 16 left the disposition to rejoin their taskforce. At sunrise the following morning, destroyers were directed to transfer all Yorktown survivors to Portland and to fuel from Portland during the transfer. While Balch and Benham were transferring survivors, Hammann went alongside Astoria, as directed by CTF-17, and received Captain BUCKMASTER and a salvage party of Yorktown officers and men. About 1500, Hammann followed Anderson alongside Portland. Transferred Yorktown survivors to Portland and received additional Yorktown officers and men for salvage party. Fueled to 90% capacity. Upon completion, Hammann, Balch, and Benham, designated as Taskgroup 17.5, Captain BUCKMASTER, set course 285° T. speed 16 knots to return to Yorktown.

7. About 0400, sighted Yorktown, screened by Hughes, Gwin and Monaghan, about 8 miles on starboard beam. Changed course to join this screen and continue screening till daylight. At 0615, Hammann went close aboard Yorktown and transferred salvage party consisting of Captain BUCKMASTER, 29 officers, and 130 men to Yorktown. Hammann rejoined screen. About 0800, CTF-17.5 directed Hammann to lie off, close on starboard bow and provide hoses and water for fighting fire. It was found impossible to lie clear of Yorktown and maintain position accurately enough to permit effective assistance, so Hammann came in and moored alongside Yorktown forward. The ship rested against Yorktown's bilge keel but splinter mattresses and large fenders dropped between prevented any damage other than to bottom paint. While coming alongside, a piece of Manila line was sucked into the port main circulating pump freezing the pump. This engine was secured temporarily while the circulator was opened and the line removed. Two hoses were led to Yorktown with foamite and one water hose led to flight deck to attack to Yorktown's foamite system to fight fire. One hose was rigged aft to pump in salt water for counterflooding and an oil suction hose to remove oil from Yorktown's port tanks to correct list. Other services were furnished as practicable, including coffee and food for the salvage party. By noon, the fire was reported under control and two or three degrees of list had been removed.

8. About 1536 (Zone plus ten time) emergency signals were made by destroyers in the screening circle and simultaneously four torpedo tracks were sighted about 600 yards on starboard beam. Hammann signalled for full speed astern on inboard engine in the hope of pulling clear but apparently the torpedoes struck as the signal was being answered. Both forward and after 20mm guns fired at the tracks as the torpedoes had been seen to broach some distance from the ship and they hoped to explode them. General Quarters was sounded when the tracks were first sighted, and though less than one minute lapsed before the torpedoes arrived. Many men reached their battle stations. The first torpedo appeared to pass under the Hammann in the vicinity of No. 2 gun and exploded against the side of the Yorktown. The second torpedo struck the Hammann in #2 fireroom. This torpedo apparently broke the ship's back as a pronounced sag was noted in this vicinity. The forward bulkhead of forward engine room was carried away. Large quantities of oil, water, and debris were blown high into the air coming down on both Hammann and Yorktown. The Hammann was blown out from the Yorktown and aft parting all mooring lines and hoses. The commanding officer received a heavy blow in the solar plexus by being thrown against a desk in the pilot house, which rendered him temporarily unable to breathe or speak and later proved to have broken a rib. The ship began to settle immediately and the Executive Officer, who was on the bridge passed the word "All hands abandon ship." By the time the Commanding Officer was able to walk from the Pilot House to the starboard wing of the bridge, the main deck forward was awash and the ship was settling rapidly by the head. Life rafts had been launched and a great number of men were on the rafts or in the water. As soon as all personnel were clear of the bridge, the Gunnery Officer, Executive Officer and Commanding Officer climbed down the outside ladder to the forecastle deck. The forecastle deck was just submerging and all three swam clear of the ship. It is estimated that the ship sunk within three to four minutes from the time of the first torpedo explosion. Based upon interviews with survivors, it is believed that not more than a total of twelve to fifteen men failed to get clear of the ship and into the water. About one minute after the ship submerged there was a heavy explosion underwater, judged to be either a depth charge or one of the Hammann's torpedoes. The cause of this explosion is unknown. All depth charges had been set on safe when the Hammann went alongside Yorktown in the forenoon, and all safety forks were in place. The safety settings of depth charges had been checked again by Ensign C.C. ELMES, Jr., and James W. THOMAS, Metalsmith first class about half an hour before the ship was torpedoed. At least two survivors noted a torpedo apparently running in it's tube as the ship was sinking.

9. The underwater explosion apparently killed a large number of men in the water and injured about eighty five more of whom twenty six died on board U.S.S. Benham enroute to Pearl Harbor. Of a total of 13 officers and 228 men on board, two officers were known dead and seven missing, twenty five men were known dead and forty seven missing. Of the remainder all were rescued by U.S.S. Benham and returned to Pearl Harbor excepting the Commanding Officer and one man picked up by U.S.S. Balch and later transferred to U.S.S. Gwin for transportation to Pearl Harbor.

10. During the action with enemy aircraft, all officers and men of the Hammann performed their duties with coolness, calmness, and efficiency. Every man's conduct was above reproach. One of the enemy torpedo planes strafed the ship with .30 Cal. machine gun but no personnel were hit. Several machine gun bullets passed through ventilators into the fireroom and were preserved but were later lost with the ship. The strafing plane was shot down by 20mm gun crews. During the phase when survivors were being removed from the Yorktown, all hands exerted themselves to the utmost in getting the men on board and in caring for them after they were on board.


  U.S.S. Hammann
Pearl Harbor, T.H.
June 16, 1942.
 
From: The Acting Executive Officer.
To: The Commanding Officer.
 
Subject: Action Report; 4-6 June, 1942.
 
Reference: (a) Article 712, U.S. Navy Regulations.

1. During the action from 4 to 6 June, 1942, I was Gunnery Officer of the U.S.S. Hammann. All of my records having been destroyed, this report is made up from memory.

2. The Hammann was operating with Task Force 17 about 120 miles northeast of Midway Island. On June 4, 1942, at about 1145, enemy planes were reported coming in. These were sighted at a range of 18.000 yards. Our fighters engaged the enemy and the first four or five planes that the director got on were knocked down by our own fighters. The next one was tracked for about 1,500 yards to a range of about 9.000 yards before opening fire. The bursts seemed to indicate at least 50 percent duds and fire was made s till less effective by the ship's maneuvers. This plane flew over the Hammann and jammed the director, for a second, in elevation. Fire was then sifted to a barrage over the Yorktown. The 20MM machine gunners assisted in knocking down a few planes and definitely downed one dive bomber. At about 1430 more enemy planes were reported and sighted coming in on the Yorktown's port side. The Hammann being on the off side of the attack laid a barr! age over the Yorktown's port quarter. The torpedo planes appeared to split up and fire, after maneuvering, picked up a torpedo plane on the Hammann's port bow. He was tracked in and knocked down when still about 3,500 yards from the Yorktown. It is believed and recommended that destroyers be allowed to get off station more in order to permit 100% operation of the 5" AA battery. Radical changes of own ship's course and speed introduced large errors into the fire control problem. Volume of fire was greatly reduced because most of the time only two guns would bear. This is not using an excellent AA battery to the best advantage.

3. The final action of the Hammann occurred at about 1530 on June 6, 1942. The Hammann was moored portside to the Yorktown. At this time four torpedoes were reported on our starboard beam. I was on the bridge at the time. General quarters was sounded and I ran up to the director. I had barely got on top of the director when I sighted 4 torpedo wakes about 500 yards on the starboard beam of the Hammann coming in at about 30 knots. I ordered the forward machine gunner, Willie Virgil Allison, GM3c, 295 72 66, U.S.N. to open fire on the torpedoes with the 20MM machine guns hoping one would broach and possibly be detonated. The after machine gunner, Roy T. Nelson, Sea2c. V-6, 662 20 89, took up the fire immediately. They continued fire until the ship was struck by two torpedoes and their magazines were emptied. When the first torpedo struck the director was severely jarred. Immediately following the first torpedo the second torpedo hit. The jar was very great and I was knocked off the director to the lookout platform. Upon regaining my senses a few second later I saw that the forecastle deck was awash and ordered the director crew and lookouts to put on their life jackets and lay below. They all did so in a very orderly manner. None were left when I left this area. When I got down to the bridge, the executive officer was going down the vertical ladder which parallels the mast and the Captain was the only man on the bridge. We inspected the pilot house, chart house, and radar room and found no one. We then went below. Upon arriving at the break of the forecastle, the Captain, Executive Officer, Engineer Officer and myself all jumped into the water and swam clear of the ship. The Captain pointed at a Mess Attendant, Raby, Edward Wesley, who had been struck in the head and was holding onto the forecastle life line. I swam back to get him and just before I got there the ship went under. Raby, having a life jacket, floated free. At about this time a terrific underwater explosion went off which all but knocked me out. I remember grabbing a life jacket and hanging on. Later I saw the bow of the Yorktown with lines hanging down into the water. I swam over to the Yorktown and hung on to one of the lines until Dr. J.H. Peterson, Lieut. (jg) (MC) USNR, Hendricks, John Rodney, 320 53 16 CTM(PA), U.S.N. and Kline, Lawrence J. 311 46 30, F2c. U.S.N. came along in the Hammann's gig and picked me up. The above three men did wonderful work in picking up survivors and I believe they deserve great credit for their work.

Kimbrel, Barlyn M. 355 91 31, TM1c. U.S.N. sacrificed his life for his shipmates. He rechecked the depth charges after the torpedo hits. He then made men put on life jackets and pushed them into the water. He was the last man to leave the fantail and was apparently killed by the underwater explosion.

Crawford, Alonza Jr., 274 39 37, MAt1c. did wonderful work on board the U.S.S. Benham in taking care of wounded. He stayed up all the first night and worked almost continuously the first day.

[signed]
C. C. HARTIGAN, Jr.
Lieut.(jg), U.S. Navy,
Executive Officer.


Source: Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet report, Serial 01849 of 28 June 1942, World War II action reports, Modern Military Branch, National Archives and Records Administration, 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD 20740.

[The document is also on microfiche, F-2042 (7 fiche) which can be ordered, using the duplication order form and the fee schedule, from the Operational Archives Branch, Naval Historical Center at the above address.


09 January 2007