Segment 5


The USS San Francisco replenished and headed down towards the Coral Sea. They raided New Guinea airport and the first Naval ace shot down his fifth plane over the airport. He was an enlisted man. Ward was way offshore of New Guinea and could only see the mountains. Ward could see the planes as they made their attack. After that they were patrolling around the Coral Sea and the USS San Francisco was detached. One of the guns outfitted on the San Francisco was faulty and was prone to blowing up. The 20 millimeters were a new and highly automatic weapon. [Annotators Note: At 41:08 the phone rings in Ward's house.] The USS San Francisco missed the battle of Coral Sea because they were in Vallejo California getting new weapons. The USS San Francisco, after receiving new guns, escorted four destroyers to Auckland, New Zealand. The ordinary sailor did not know it yet but they were preparing for Guadalcanal. When they arrived in Auckland the ships they convoyed, one of them was a hospital ship from Alabama. That ship ended up going to Fiji to set up a hospital. The hospital that they set up on Fiji ended up treating sailors from the USS San Francisco. They were also treating Marines who were hurt on Guadalcanal. Ward met a Marine who had a serious case of mesothelioma. He was a coal miner. Ward, when he was wounded, had to sit next to this man and hear night in and night out how he was having problems breathing. The USS San Francisco was assigned to a task force that had four cruisers and six destroyers. That was the amount of weight they had to fight the whole Japanese Navy. Two carriers had already been lost by the time the San Francisco was sent to the Solomons [Islands]. The Wasp came down to Guadalcanal after the Marines had landed. The USS North Carolina had just come on station and she had two destroyers with her. A night action took place when the Japanese steamed down and sunk a task group that supported the Marines that included the USS Quincy, the USS Vincenes, the USS Astoria, and the USS Canberra. The USS Chicago was badly damaged and rendered useless. Four heavy cruisers were sunk in 30 minutes. To lose four heavies was a remarkable thing. Some of the ships were sent from the Atlantic. The day the USS Wasp was hit, Japanese submarines had put themselves some distance away so that the destroyers could not pick up the submarines on radar. The submarine fired a spread and was able to sink the Wasp. The San Francisco was circling around at the ready in case they could help out with the Wasp. Ward remembers seeing ammunition exploding on the Wasp. Ward recalls seeing steel burning white hot on the Wasp. The USS Wasp listed to one side, a destroyer and a cruiser attempted to spray the fire. At about five in the evening the order was given to abandon ship and the San Francisco was there when she went down.


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