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CL 50/A15-3KK

NAVY #131

27 July 1943



The Commanding Officer, Marine Detachment.
The Commandant, U. S. Marine Corps.

The Commanding Officer, U. S. S. HELENA.

Report of Marine Detachment, U. S. S. HELENA,
subsequent to loss of ship in operations of war.

(A) Roster of Personnel returned to United States
via AdNavBane Espiritu Santo on board
(B) Roster of Personnel rescued from Vella Lavella
Island, B. S. I. and now attached to ComSerOnSoPac.
(C) List of men officially reported as missing in action.
(D) List of men reported as wounded in action.

1. At about 0200 on July 6, 1943, the U. S. S. HELENA, operating with a naval task force, encountered an enemy surface force near the mouth of Kula Gulf, New Georgia, B. S. I. The enemy force was engaged and in the resulting battle the HELENA was struck by three torpedoes launched by enemy destroyers. Shortly afterwards the ship was abandoned and it sank. The entire personnel of the marine detachment left the ship prior to its sinking. No records were saved.

2. One officer and thirty one men of the detachment were rescued by destroyers after being in the water several hours. They were transferred to the U. S. S. ST.LOUIS and U. S. S. HONOLULU at Advance Naval Base, New Hebrides. On July 23 they embarked on board the U. S. S. LEW WALLACE for San Francisco. The personnel in this group is listed in enclosure (A). Of this group one man was reported as wounded in action but details are not known at this time. He is listed in enclosure (D).

3. The commanding Officer, Marine Detachment and five marines remained in the water without rafts or boats for about thirty hours after which they found a rubber boat which had been dropped by a United States plane. About twenty other survivors from the HELENA were in or holding on to the boat. By improvising a sail and paddling for an additional thirty hours the survivors were able to reach land. The boat was beached on Velle Lavelle Island,


Subject: Report of Marine Detachment, U. S. S. HELENA, subsequent to loss of ship in operation of war.

B. S. I., on the afternoon of July 8. Friendly natives, after giving food and water to the survivors, hid the boat and took the party inland to avoid detection by Japanese patrols, which were active in the area. By midday on July 9 the natives had gathered 93 enlisted men (including 5 marines) and 22 officers (including the Commanding Officer, Martine Detachment) in the bivouac area. They erected shelters and continued to provide food daily for the party. The commanding officer of the survivor party was Lieutenant Commander John L. Chew, U. S. Navy, the first lieutenant of the HELENA. The Commanding Officer, Marine Detachment, was placed in charge of camp details, sanitation, and defense of the survivor party. The following arms were obtained from the natives and were placed in good mechanical condition by the marines in the party: 2 Winchester rifles, 3 Remington rifles, 1 Enfield rifle, 1 Japanese .30 caliber rifle, and 1 shotgun. The arms carried ashore by the survivors consisted of one .38 caliber revolver and one .45 caliber automatic pistol. A few rounds of ammunition were available per weapon. Outguards were established nightly and the natives assisted in protecting the camp at all times. Plans were prepared to guard against any contingency arising from the proximity of Japanese patrols. At one time a party of four Japanese approached too closely and were disposed of by the natives. The island was Japanese held and considerable Japanese aerial activity was noted by the survivors while in the water and on the island. All details which might be of interest to intelligence officers were related by Lieutenant Commander Chew and the Commanding Officer, Marine Detachment, to the COMSOPAC Intelligence Officer. Communication was established with naval authorities after a few days and at 0400 (LOVE) on July 16, a task force of fast transports and destroyers evacuated this group of 104 officers and men and a group of 2 officers and 59 men stranded on a distant part of the island. The evacuation was covered from Japanese patrol activity by a party of 5 marines and 6 bluejackets under command of the Commanding Officer, Marine Detachment. This group, armed with the above-mentioned weapons and knives, took position between a Japanese party and the evacuating group. The evacuation was completed without incident and the survivors of the Marine Detachment were the last men to leave the island. They embarked on board the U. S. S. WATERS and were taken to the Advance Naval Base, Tulagi. On July 18 the enlisted marines were placed on board the U. S. S. TRYON. They arrived in Noumea on July 21 and were transferred to COMSERONSOPAC'S Naval Casual Camp at Dumbea. The Commanding Officer, Marine Detachment was sent to Advance Naval Base, Guadalcanal and flown to Noumea on July 19. He is now attached to COMSERONSOPAC. The Personnel in this group is listed in enclosure (B)


Subject: Report of Marine Detachment, U. S. S. HELENA, subsequent to loss of ship in operation of war.

One marine of this group was hospitalized as a result of injuries sustained in the water and on Vella Lavella. The enlisted personnel will be transferred to the First Marine Amphibious Corps for further transfer to the Department of the Pacific. The Commanding Officer, Marine Detachment will be transferred directly to the Department of the Pacific.

4. Four men of the detachment are known to have abandoned ship but have not been recovered. They have been listed as missing in action and report has been made by dispatch to the Secretary of the Navy. They are listed in enclosure (C).

5. A final muster roll and a letter to the quartermaster concerning loss of all property is being prepared at the present time


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