On the night of 30 November–1 December 1942, the cruisers and destroyers of Task Force 67 surprised a force of Japanese destroyers off Tassafaronga Point, Guadalcanal. The Japanese responded effectively to the attack and launched torpedoes. While the heavy cruiser Minneapolis (CA -36) and the other cruisers fired at Japanese transports and warships, the torpedoes started to hit. Minneapolis took two in the port side simultaneously. One torpedo struck below the stacks, blasting open boiler room Number 2 and flooding boiler rooms 1 and 3 as well. The other torpedo struck well forward and detonated the aviation gas tank there. The resultant massive explosion blew 80 feet of the bow almost completely off. Avgas fires burned on the forward part of the ship and the forward magazines began to flood.
Ensign Allen W. Bain quickly moved the forward repair party into action. Bain was not a typical ensign: Almost 34 years old, the North Dakota native had served 10 years as an enlisted sailor and was warranted carpenter in Minneapolis in 1937. Bain remained with the cruiser, and fought in many of the early Pacific actions in early 1942. Promoted to temporary ensign in the summer of 1942, he stayed with “Minnie” as operations began around Guadalcanal.
Bain led his men to the scene of the fire from their station on the second deck. As the ship continued to fight, Bain risked being blown overboard or severely injured by the blast of the forward 8-inch guns firing at targets crossing the bow as he directed the fire-fighting detail. Once the fire was extinguished, Bain made a rapid survey of the damage forward and quickly ascertained the extent of the destruction which he reported to Central Station, information of “great value in the damage control efforts.” For his heroism and “intelligent and fearless action,” Bain received the Silver Star.
Bain continued to serve the U.S. Navy, and retired as a commander in 1956.
—Curtis A. Utz, Naval Historical Center, November 2008
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