Honda (Pedernales) Point, California, Disaster, 8 September 1923
Salvaging Operations

CFO-14

Point Arguello Radio Compass Station
Arlight, California
About 3 miles south Destroyer Wrecks
3 October, 1923

From: Lieutenant Charles F. Osborn, (CC), US Navy
To: The Commander, Destroyer Squadrons, Battle Fleet
Subject: Salvaging Operations—Honda, California

1. Pedernales Point is a bold, rocky, headland, about fifty feet high, with a loose, sandy, bare, tableland on top, Honda Section House, consisting of Foreman’s house and about five outside shacks, is about one quarter mile away. Fresh water can be obtained from one pump at the Section House.

2. Tuesday noon, 25 September 1923, all salvaging work by the Naval Personnel stopped, and the Merritt Chapman & Scott Co., took over all work. The Salvaging Officer, Captain John G. Church, US Navy, detached all Naval Personnel, except myself, on that date.

3. The following is a very brief statement of the events up to that time:

Tuesday, 11 September 1923:

About 4:00 A.M., the USS Undaunted and USS Tillamook, underway from Pedernales Point for Port San Luis (Avila, California), to land wrecking gear. Upon arrival, I proceeded immediately by automobile, to Honda, and conferred with Captain D.C. Nutting (CC), US Navy. He told me to remove all materials possible from vessels, that if any vessels were to be pulled off that special contract would be let. As all the gear we had was for pulling vessels off we decided to send it back to the Yard.

We sent for the working Party from USS Relief, on the Yard Tugs; Lieutenant W. O’Neill (CC), US Navy, with about sixteen men from the USS Melville reported to me; we removed confidential papers from the Chauncey; USS Tern, and USS Ortolan assisted.

Wednesday, 12th:

Ordered Navy Yard Civilian Crew of six men at Pt. Arguello to report for duty here; obtained two teams and tractor, with drivers, from Mr. Hermen Thompson, Surf, California; Relief Working Party arrived and we combined both Melville and Relief Parties; established a temporary camp on the cliff overlooking the Chauncey; Undaunted told to escort the Tillamook back to the Yard, and Undaunted to return; boarded the Young and burned holes in her port side, abreast living and Machinery spaces, for finding bodies – found none; obtained confidential papers Woodbury; removed motor sailor Chauncey; with teams removed thirteen torpedoes from Chauncey and Lee; and men slept on the ground under ship awning.

Thursday, 13th:

Wired Navy Yard for tents and field equipment; rigged breech-buoys to all vessels; obtained six torpedoes from Lee; removed confidential papers Nicholas, and Lee – wardroom on both vessels being partly flooded; Tern, taking our only Motor-Sailor sailed about 5:30 p.m.

Whenever possible, torpedoes were fired out to the boats so that torpedoes could be delivered direct to Mine-Sweeper; otherwise they were pulled out by teams, or tractor, from the shore. Afterwards, they were pulled over the cliff, on sleds, to the railroad by the tractor.

Friday, 14th:

Tent flies arrived from Navy Yard and permanent camp established on the cliff; wired to Yard for necessary rigging gear to proceed with salvaging; recovered five torpedoes from Woodbury, spar gun torpedo sights, ordnance equipment from Lee and Woodbury; Captain John G. Church arrived and took charge.

Saturday, 15th:

Received Department radio reference materials removed by Navy, what materials desired removed by each Bureau, stating that salvaging vessels as a whole not approved, etc. We replied that Naval Force, assisted by ten Yard Riggers could remove all the materials desired. Informed by Yard that Rigging Gear being held up pending award of contract – this action practically prevented us from removing any articles such as guns, tubes, searchlights, etc. Rough seas broke over all vessels, limiting our work to the Chauncey and Lee. Removed radio receiving apparatus Chauncey, Lee. Ortolan sailed.

Sunday, 16th:

Too rough to work on board vessels so day was spent hauling seven torpedoes over the cliffs, up to the railroad, by tractor. Brant with two motor-sailers arrived, but seas too rough to get into boat communication with her. Lieutenant W. O’Neill, with part of Melville Party returned; requested fifteen Yard riggers with gear, if we are to remove guns, etc.

Monday, 17th:

Undaunted arrived from Navy Yard; sea very rough, all work limited to Chauncey; removed searchlights, portable gear, etc.; Fuller sunk down about six feet; Young adrift, drifted in closer to Chauncey; Nicholas broke in two, forebody capsizing and drifting in toward the shore.

Tuesday, 18th:

Brant transferred boats and stores to Undaunted, and then sailed; received radio reference Operating Base awarding contract, and asking for recommendations; we replied advising that we be supplied with salvaging gear; if we were to proceed, or that contract be let as soon as possible; sea conditions bad, all work limited to Chauncey.

Wednesday, 19th:

Received notice that contract awarded to Chapman & Scott Co.; boarded Nicholas and succeeded in firing out four torpedoes from starboard tubes; sent another part Melville and Destroyer Force back. Admiral S. Robison, US Navy, inspected the Wrecks.

Thursday, 20th:

Boarded Fuller and fired out all torpedoes (Torpedo tubes just submerged) and searched bridge and upper structure for confidential pamphlets; found no pamphlets; noted that bridge instruments and miscellaneous bridge gear had been removed; recovered sky-gun of Chauncey; railroad started installing spur track at station.

Friday, 21st:

Boarded Delphy and Young and could remove but one torpedo from the Young; pulled out one torpedo Woodbury; three overboard war head detonators Chauncey and Fuller.

Saturday, 22nd:

Tried to remove torpedoes on Delphy and got out one of the two; spent whole day on Delphy.

Sunday, 23rd:

Fired out three of the four torpedoes on the Young. Fired out the last torpedo on the Woodbury; received wire from Yard to return the Radio Civilian Force to Pt. Arguello, as soon as possible.

Monday, 24th:

Spur track at the station completed; contractor gear arrived on the track; recovered one torpedo from Nicholas, one that had gone overboard shortly after the ship struck; put over two power boats of the Lee; removed all gun sights, torpedo sights from the Nicholas; tried again to remove the last torpedo on the Delphy, and the last one on the Young; sent the Undaunted to San Diego to unload her salvaged gear; made preparations for breaking camp: I received my orders from Captain J.G. Church to remain here as Naval Representative.

Tuesday, 25th:

Captain J.G. Church, US Navy, left about 5:30 A.M.; Melville and Destroyer Force left 6:30; removed all salvaged gear on shore to box car on track; broke camp, cleaned up grounds, and turned over to Mr. Garnder, the “Wreck-Master”; sent Relief party back to Mare Island at 1315; sent box car of gear to Mare Island at 1630; I established temporary quarters at the Point Arguello Radio Station. (There is no place at Honda Section House for Officer).

4. The Contractor used the greater part of last week to set up a permanent camp on the cliff, and to rig the Chauncey for removing the waist guns; Friday, he made his first gun lift, but while sending gun ashore the span carried away and the gun was dropped on the rocks. Saturday, he removed the other waist gun. His tug Peacock arrived Thursday, and sailed for San Pedro, Sunday. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and today, the seas have been very high, such that the Contractor has been unable to accomplish anything. On Monday, the Fuller broke abaft the second smokestack, the afterbody sank immediately. Tuesday, the forebody sank.

5. I have discussed the possibility of burning holes in the sides of the Young, and in the Delphy, and of sending divers into the wardrooms for the recovery of the confidential papers in the safes. The Contractor is willing to try, although he does not like the idea of sending the diver into the interior on account of the swells. I am sure that the safes on both ships are submerged, at least several feet. The first opportunity that we have, we will burn the holes and investigate. The Contractor wants me to furnish a diver, one who is familiar with underwater cutting. I will have to furnish the underwater cutting torches – we have only one at Mare Island Navy Yard.



Charles F. Osborn


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