WWII (1943-46)

“Friendly Fire” from Battleship NORTH CAROLINA — Part 3

Memory from: Lieutenant Jim Gilboy

Setting the Scene

Lieutenant Jim Gilboy was Assistant Damage Control Officer aboard the KIDD at the time of the "attack." He recounts the rather ingenious way the damage control teams stemmed the flow of water into the ship's messdeck. He also recalls the humorous story of the KIDD's "one-up" on the NORTH CAROLINA in the aftermath.

The Recollection

This is the story of our first day in combat and my first experience in damage control. We passed through the Panama Canal in August, 1943, and were escorting carriers and battleships to the southwest Pacific area, crossing the line [equator] on September 2nd. The task force commander ordered the KIDD to take position as a target for star shell practice. We went to the usual dawn General Quarters, a standard practice in any combat area, and positioned the ship away from the task force. The KIDD, being a new ship, and I, being Assistant Damage Control Officer, it was my job to inspect fittings to be sure we were watertight. Finding some “X” fittings open, I went looking for Arnold Smith, CM1/c, in charge aft, and was told he could be found in the crew’s messhall. Heading forward, I found wooden splinters scattered over the main deck, a bit unusual, I thought, on a metal ship. I descended into the crew’s messhall, found water swishing on the deck and the executive officer, George Hill, in charge of utter confusion. To my question “What happened?”, George ordered me to use my derriere to stop up a hole in the port side of the hull saying I could be of some use to the repair party. I complied, not questioning an order, and found the water cool and refreshing. Eventually a patch was rigged and I lost my position, but I didn’t even get a “Thank you” or a letter of commendation. The story was the NORTH CAROLINA needed a target for their star shell drill.

The KIDD was chosen. Their 5″/38-cal. battery director sighted us dead on target and fired a salvo–forgetting to correct elevation of the guns for star shells–the accuracy of their gunnery was perfect, making three hits, one on the motor whaleboat, one through the hull at the waterline, and one into the officer’s room just aft of the wardroom. This last shell hit the wardrobe of (I believe) Dr. Herenden, ramming a hole through all his clothing and nesting there. Doc Savage, the gun boss at the time, retrieved the shell, carrying it nestled in his arms for all to see, who scattered on sight. He eventually disarmed the flare and it became a wardroom trophy. We had one casualty: Handy, I believe, who was (as a participant in a drill) strapped into a Stoker stretcher when the shell passed over him, causing him to suffer a cut finger. No Purple Heart medal–shell was friendly. Several days passed and, ordered alongside the NORTH CAROLINA for fueling, a large frosted cake decorated with a replica of a Purple Heart medal and ice cream were passed over to the KIDD along with an apology. Even better is the epilogue. According to stories (I wasn’t there), the off-watch officers and Captain Roby went to dinner at PI Y. Chungs in Honolulu. Finishing and needing a way back to the ship, they hitched a ride in an Army station wagon. At the entrance to the restaurant, the Army wagon encountered a Navy station wagon, resulting in slight damage to each. Captain Roby, being the senior officer aboard, volunteered to discuss the encounter with the occupants of the other vehicle. The first alighting from the Navy wagon turned out to be the Captain of the NORTH CAROLINA. Captain Roby, with usual calm, collected control opened with “I believe this now evens us up.”

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