Richard Jongordon, (Chief Johnny)
From my notes and my memories, by Richard Jongordon (Chief Johnny):
The Battle of Guadalcanal, November 13, 1942, History
About the various and many acts that were happening during the last hours of war, from the ammo shelling that USS San Francisco (CA-38) received from different Japanese warships on that black night, to the 14‑inch bombardment projectiles from enemy battleships, the most damaging. It killed the admiral and his staff, including the ship’s Captain Cassin Young, and all the men in the Command Center except one kid, Floyd Rogers, age 19.
Be informed, USS San Francisco experienced over 107 killed and 100 wounded. Some would die later.
Follow the facts about Floyd Rogers and Lt. Jack Bennett. This report is about my memories of this night. I was part of the Medical Department. I shall never forget that night. I was trying to find the men who were wounded.
They were scattered all up and down the decks. The men dead, we could not help, but the wounded needed attention immediately. In this dark night a flashlight in my hand would have been great. Note: Some men who were wounded did not need any attention. The war became less active after about 60 minutes of heavy shooting. The only man who had full command of USS San Francisco was Floyd Rogers, for 3 hours.
All four aircraft were sent off the ship the day before this battle. The hangar space became a sick bay on one side; the other side was a stack of dead bodies.
Manpower on USS San Francisco – 1,167 men; average age was 19. Me too.
Survival – Keep USS San Francisco Alive and Floating
All men had 2 jobs. They all had “General Quarters” duties to be ready for any and all battles. Also, war station or ammunition, food, laundry, etc.
I had three: first was Damage Control – why me? Because I carried the keys for all store rooms. Most rooms had food supplies stored. Second, the Medical Department, if needed, As stated above, I was busy. Third, be ready to help direct ammunition handling for the 8 5-inch guns by my men also worked in the galley. Be ready with food and coffee from the galley, pending the captain’s orders, day or night.
Major problems that required attention to save our ship USS San Francisco and save hundreds of our men.
First, no commander of the ship; they were killed. Others were required to take control as they could. Floyd Rogers took command and did his best to control the ship – its speed, its direction this black night. He watched for islands; they were all around, very easy to plow into land at any moment. Yes and it could be any ship, small or big, American or Japanese.
The rudder had no electric control. It was done by the hands of a man receiving instructions from Floyd Rogers.
Second, because all the times that our ship was hit by small shelling and receiving the bombarding shells, a large part of our electrical system was destroyed.
No talking with other American ships still floating.
A Big Serious Problem Growing
USS San Francisco received a bombardment projectile from the Japan battleship the Hiei. It struck the bow at the waterline of our ship; it made a round hole about two feet wide. As USS San Francisco was traveling forward, the bow bounced up and down with the waves; that said, while the bow was deep in water, hundreds of gallons of sea water were sucked into our ship. When the bow was up high, the water rushed into the rear decks. Millions of gallons of water were surging from starboard side to the port side; this was in the crews mess hall, splashing side to side. I walked down into this area, over three feet of water above the belt of my pants, walking up the other side. I was alone.
We must let the water flow back to the sea, but how? I stood around with part of the Damage Control gang.
First, stop the water from coming into our ship.
Warrant Officer Robert A. Dusch was a chief carpenter with woodworking knowledge. With four men helping, they took two bed mattresses and placed them over the open hole.
Next, they got a table from the Officers Mess Hall. With this table placed over the mattress, made it secure and firm.
Again the question, how to get rid of millions of gallons of sea water? The chief engineer and the chief electrician decided to open the hatch into the engine room where the sea water could be popped from the floor of the engine room out to the sea. A problem – the hatch was three feet below water. So a man would hold his breath and with a wrench in hand, unbolt the hatch lid and let the water flow down into the engine room. This saved the ship from flipping over.
The damage that was given USS San Francisco during the firing of projectile between the enemy warships and American warships.
USS San Francisco – a large part of the electrical system was badly shot out so could not communicate with other American warships.
The steering unit needed power to turn the big rudder yet it could be adjusted by the hands of one man in this tight space, but he needed air. It was sent in by electricity but now no power. So he had to go outside to get orders from the command center — yes from Floyd Rogers —who else could order a direction of our ship?
This hazard lasted about 2 full hours with a kid age 19 in charge of this battleship. He was petrified, alone; he must save our ship.
So Floyd Rogers gave the man in the rudder room orders to slow down USS San Francisco and put the steering in to circles, around and around. This is our ship’s history.
See the section about Floyd Rogers.
Do know that we received 12 or 13 big bombardment projectiles during the engagement? One bombardment shell exploded on contact and sent out hundreds of small shrapnel flying in every direction. It caused over 359 causalities – some dead, some dying, some wounded and in need of help. Remember this action was on a very black night. Wounded men were scattered on all floors and in many rooms. I had no flashlight.
After about 2 hours, who is our new captain of this fighting warship tonight? Bruce McCandless, although injured, the oldest man, an officer. Herbert Schonland, the senior officer in time in Navy qualified, but gave it to McCandless. Both ran the ship and gave themselves a Medal of Honor; initially only Callaghan and Keppler. Callaghan was on quite a few ships; Louis LeHardy was an officer, with Callaghan at Annapolis. Roosevelt/Churchill talked to LeHardy. Gave Callaghan the best ship available, heavy cruiser USS San Francisco.
We were there at the shore of Iwo Jima for the first invasion of Marines. We were shelling the Japanese for about three days and so a quick trip to Subic Bay in the Philippines for more ammo then a fast 24-hour trip back to Iwo Jima for our shelling to help and in time, with about eight American war ships in a circle around the island when the flag was raised and locked on the top of this mountain as the ships were watching ships. A bit of history: all ships blew their horns for it seemed like 5 minutes – a celebration I can still to this day HEAR, those ships’ horns blasting.
More tornado history by the CA-38 and its first sea trip with our new Captain Callaghan and the first for me also. I was a third class seaman, age 18. Honolulu to San Diego, experiencing a tornado. The ship was traveling due east, with high winds on our starboard.
A big wave splashed over the starboard railings over the well-deck; two men Chief Boatswain and a seaman both grabbed on to the wooden sled that is used to allow our airplanes to land; this sled washed over the port railings into high seas. The next wave on starboard brought back the other sailor and that day was his birthday. We watch the waves carry Chief Boatswain flow out into the sea; we waved to him, he waved back to us, a good bye CA-38 — never saw him again.
The really big tornado for CA-38.
USS San Francisco with three destroyers cruising in waters between Guam and Iwo Jima in August 1944. The CA-38 was in the most devilment tornado that we could never believe. I was asleep in the lower decks late this night. I wake up nearly falling out of my bunk with big banks above as the ship rolled from side to side the aircraft in the hangar came free it rolled side to side with a huge bang crash so now more sleep, the tornado became more dangerous. No sailor could walk on the deck any place. The ship did lose a man washed over the side and he was on a higher deck.
This tornado lasted this night through two next days –slacked off the last night.
Any person who was on board during this tornado will never forget it.
The wind was over 100 miles per hour heavy wind – next the waves in our front were 40 to 50 feet high—much higher than CA-38 and this required great seamanship. The CA-38 must head into the wind for safety. Heading into the wind caused the ship to rise in the bow – very high and then it would slam straight down. With each up and down I felt fear; with every down slam our ship would groan and seemed to cry.
Truly I was greatly worried – this was 10 or 20 times more dangerous than the other tornado on the first trip to San Diego in 1941.
Friends and shipmates with me today. I now give you the very, very bad story. Reminder: I had stated that three destroyers were with the CA-38 during this tornado. Each ship had a crew of about 500 men. All three had planned to lay by our side and take a supply of fuel if needed, this could not happen, the waves were so furious and big. Sorry kids, all ships ran out of fuel and the wind caused each to sink.
With no survivors – not even one sailor – sad, sad day.
Facts are all true and can be proven.
USS Juneau (CL-52)
I was just a kid age 19. A part of the supply division, Lt. William Price requested that we must inspect the store rooms to know about the food supply in storage without sea water entering from holes in our ship from the battles of a few hours ago. Food in storage would be needed when preparation is started in the galley. Hayward Stout from Sadie, Tennessee of my Galley team, he agreed to help do the inspection starting with storage in our ship’s bow.
Food in this storage would be sacks of beans, sacks of flour and rice. Yes, sacks of coffee beans.
If no sea water had entered from the holes on the side of our ship, the food supply would be ready.
USS Juneau (CL-52) was discovered resting on the bottom of the sea. It sank on 11/13/42, from a torpedo that was aimed at USS San Francisco.
USS Juneau SANK in less than one minute.
My partner Hayward was working on the lid of the store room with his wrench when Lt. Jack Bennett who was at that moment the officer in command of the ship, screamed TORPEDOES – TORPEDOES. As I stood on the bow and looked out in front, I saw a torpedo skim by in front of us 160 to 190 yards out, it passed us.
A Japanese submarine shot a spread of three torpedoes aimed at USS San Francisco at about 4:30 pm on 11/13/42. One torpedo was aimed at our bow, one was aimed at our stern, one was aimed at the center of USS San Francisco.
The time was perfect for the enemy sending torpedoes at us, and very bad timing for USS San Francisco because our ship was parked and moving very little. It could only turn slightly into the coming torpedoes with no movement forward; yet Lt. Jack Bennett did turn our ship to allow the two torpedoes aimed at our bow and the stern to pass by us – yet the center torpedo was on dead center, aimed at the good ship “Frisco.”
The captain of the Japanese submarine could not see USS Juneau. It was on the other side of our ship and they were not told that we had a spread of three torpedoes all aimed at USS San Francisco.
Moments go by very fast .Battles between the Japanese warships had ended long ago. We could see danger to hit at any second – very, very SOON.
We had no way to duck our heads, just brace ourselves. Would the Japanese sub send us a new gift – a fourth fresh torpedo just for sport – a question.
YES the torpedo aimed at the center of USS San Francisco WENT UNDER our ship – it plowed into the gun powder magazine of USS Juneau. Standing on the bow of the “Frisco” I a kid age 19, no life jacket on, could not believe.
I saw USS Juneau explode – a big bang – Juneau seemed that (total ship) jump up out of the sea water and with a great splash back to sea in only a few seconds.
How could this happen – a question that I asked?
In time that question had an answer. I pass it on.
Torpedoes will run straight as planned but water at the top will change with the waves. So a device like an antenna secured onto the top of the torpedo will rise up or down; it tells the torpedo to be below the top of the water so it will enter the lower bottom of a ship – clever? Yes.
In war miracles do happen – makes you ask how come I escaped, I survived? Did GOD help?
USS Juneau with 676 men on board. Yes, with the five Sullivan brothers from Waterloo, Iowa – four died that day. One, George, survived in a life flotation unit with nine other men from USS Juneau were on this flotation for about six days, no food, no water to drink. George became a mental case. He kept asking for his brothers – where are they? Where?
The sight of an island could be seen; it was about two or three days away. This flotation moves with a slow rate. George in desperation knows that his four brothers were waiting on this island for him.
George said he could swim faster than this flotation is moving. He dove in and true, a hungry shark was ready for a meal . A second man died from drinking water from the sea. Seven men were met by a local fishermen. A US ship came to get them in several days.
Chief Johnny is this statement true? How do you know? Shipmates and friends – a news article in a local NJ paper had a short story about the last man off USS Juneau several years after the sinking. I called the paper, talked to the editor. He gave me the name of this last survivor. With his name and the help of the telephone operator she gave me his number. I called him, explained that I was from USS San Francisco and watched the sinking of his ship. What do you think his first question of me was? WHY DID YOU NOT stay and PICK US UP? You are right, that is what we should have done. He explained life on this raft for six days. Sorry his name is off my records.
Admiral Daniel J. Callaghan
Captain Callaghan conducted my first Captain’s ship inspection about March 28 1941 at Pearl Harbor. Later, I inspected the floor of the ship’s bridge on Nov. 13 1942; his body was one of many, a bad sight, and we helped bury the Admiral with about 100 other honorees that morning as USS Juneau exploded.
As I have matured over the years, I often think about him. I am reminded about the great courage this man carried in his heart for America, the US Navy and the war – to be the commanding officer, carrying the great responsibility of 13 ships, with over 8,000 men into a battle that was accepted as suicide is almost unbelievable. Up to that date America was losing the war. I am deeply honored to have had this brave man to be our leader.
Lt. Jack Bennett
Jack Bennett was a friend of Daniel Callaghan while they were in attendance at Annapolis. On December 7, 1941, ship’s Captain Callaghan was in Honolulu and not with us on Sunday morning when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Jack Bennett was not yet assigned to USS San Francisco, but was in about 2 months later, after we came back from Wake Island, before we left for New Zealand 1942. The ship’s crew advance in numbers to over 1,000 men and officers including Jack Bennett. USS San Francisco had no ammunition; it was in storage on the dock and the ship was being painted. No one fired a single shot that moment.
About the 18 men the water from sinking the cargo Japanese ship by a different US submarine, not the Queenfish. The captain preferred to follow rules – let a destroyer rescue men in the waters; Jack was unhappy and persuaded the captain to allow him do it. With a line tied around his waist and the chief standing there to also tie a line around his waist they both jumped into the water with the submarine parked; they got the men one at a time to the submarine and helped them get up the side and to safety.
Years later, Jack is telling me about his invitation to “Perth” Australia for a reunion of the men whom he helped save on the Queenfish submarine. In Perth, he saw many children, kids of the men he saved. Jack said that this brought tears to my eyes.
Floyd Rogers, at the young age of 19, had total control of the ship USS San Francisco (CA-38) for over 2 to 3 hours, with no officers, or any ship’s leaders, to give direction or speed or action necessary to save our ship from a collision with any other struggling US ships.
The big danger was all the islands and the Japanese enemy battleships fired a projectile into our ship’s command center, killing all persons there, except this one kid. He jumped up and took the wheel, and had control of USS San Francisco. For over 2 hours, totally alone. ADM Callaghan and ship’s captain, killed. Louis LeHardy, communication officer, killed. The chief, who had his hands on the wheel for ship’s direction, was killed. Floyd Rogers, the only man alive in the command station during this black night was now the only person at the helm.
Let’s explain some facts. The Chief Quartermaster was at the wheel, waiting for instruction from the ship’s captain or ADM Callaghan. Floyd’s duties were to take notes, write them down to make certain that his chief always had a correct direction. In a war, all men must keep the ship alive and deter the enemy. Floyd was doing what must be done, taking control. Several hours later with poor Floyd fighting to save our warship, Lt. Jack Bennett, who had been fighting fires on the well deck, saw that the ship was going around and around in circles, at a very slow speed. Jack seeing a problem, dashed up four decks to the command center, and saw poor Floyd holding the ship’s direction wheel with great fear and desperation. He was very relieved to see Lt. Jack Bennett there to help him. Floyd’s first comment to Jack was, “Do you see that light way over there? It must be a Japanese warship coming this way.” Jack Bennett grabbed the 5-cell flashlight off the wall and aimed it at the light, miles away. Flashing CA38, CA38, CA38 – time and time again. Soon, a flash came back. It was USS Helena. Jack explained by Morse code – all officers have been killed.
Lt. JG Jack Bennett was a boy scoutmaster who taught the scouts Morse code.
This history has never been sent or made public before.
More about this subject (here and now). Did Floyd Rogers get a thank you kid from the then new Captain Bruce McCandless?
No thank you, no ribbons. All now —from Lt. Jack Bennett who stayed in touch with Floyd. Floyd was very mentally shocked and needed medical help. The war was over; Floyd went north to Oregon and lived in a shack, alone on the side of a mountain with a fence around it and a bunch of big dogs protecting him day and night. Information from Lt. Jack Bennett in his hospital in San Carlos, CA.
Reinhart Keppler – age 19, a crew member of USS San Francisco during the night Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, November 13, 1942.
As my shipmates and friends know that I ( a kid age 19) was on this warship during the days and nights of this the greatest battle, with over 300 men on USS San Francisco that were killed or wounded, They were scattered on all upper or lower floors (called decks ). Richard’s galley was closed during General Quarters and I was assigned, first to Damage Control; why me? – because I, Richard had the keys to all storage spaces. Next duties were to give support to the Medical Department if needed. All officers knew me very well because of action of food preparations when I needed extra hands to help bring boxes of food from the store rooms. The Officer of the Deck would give the order. During the days of bringing groceries on board from a supply ship nearby, I became the man in charge of the actions that day. There were NO Safeways around the corner for supplies. That said, we now move into the time of our firing of projectiles to the enemy battleship; they were also firing into USS San Francisco with their 14-inch bombardment projectiles, when they hit, the explosion was a scattering of hundreds of small items, flying in every direction and also they would start fires. The fear was a fire with the doors open to the airplane’s hangar space with oils and gas storage. This would be very hazardous. Lt. Jack Bennett with a left arm bleeding in a sling, working in the dark with Reinhart Keppler, BM 1/c in Jack’s 3rd division putting out the fires from the enemy’s battleship the moment of a explosion and its fires were started. However unbeknownst to Jack Bennett or to Keppler, he received shrapnel from a explosion into Keppler’s leg, developing a serious wound bleeding heavily.
With Jack Bennett holding a water hose in his good right hand for Keppler to extinguish the fires quickly, they did not see in the dark, that Keppler was bleeding so greatly that he bled to death and died with the other end of the fire hose in his hand. These facts gave Jack Bennett great unhappiness. Jack felt sorry and guilty for not watching his friend Keppler more carefully.
Several days later, it was overheard , Bruce McCandless, Lt.Cmdr (the temporary captain of USS San Francisco), was preparing the Battle Report to be ready to be given to ADM Halsey at Espiritu Santo Island, the US office of the Pacific War.
The conversation between Jack Bennett and Bruce McCandless became heated. Jack demanded that Reinhart Keppler be given the Medal of Honor; finally this was granted by McCandless, including ADM Callaghan, Lt. Bruce McCandless, himself.
A Medal of Honor for his partner in crime, Herbert Schonland and McCandless.
ALL medals were granted with the blessing of ADM Halsey.
Halsey was captain of the aircraft carriers; was our Patton. He took aircraft carriers out. USS Hornet was one of his ships. He later approved Callaghan on USS San Francisco. Halsey said that he was going to give the Japanese half of the Pacific; they get the bottom half.
Cheers for this day to all my shipmates of our USS San Francisco Memorial Foundation.
I reported on deck in August 1941; Captain Callahan, one month before me in Pearl Harbor. I was age 18. Carrying my sea bag to the deck, alone; one month before his first inspection. The captain said – welcome sailor – and came and shook my hand. Like to have him as my father. Down to my bunk, I asked – who was that? – and found out he was the captain. Not admiral nor aboard at Pearl Harbor; he was at Honolulu.
About 2 years later I became a chief commissary with responsibility for organization of the ship’s galley to produce 23,000 meals each week. A big job, then I also had General Quarters (war) duties – the damage control department. Why me; I carried the keys to all storage rooms, if needed I was ready – next with the medical if necessary, then to when action is over – all men call for food.