Torpedo Strikes North Carolina
September 15, 1942
Visitors often want to know if NORTH CAROLINA was ever damaged by the enemy – the answer is YES. NORTH CAROLINA arrived in the Pacific ready to do battle on July 11, 1942. NORTH CAROLINA fought her first battle on August 24, 1942. It was the Battle of the Eastern Solomons. She shot down seven planes and helped shoot down at least seven more. She frustrated the attacks of many other planes.
She was torpedoed only two months later on September 15, 1942. NORTH CAROLINA was in the aircraft carrier HORNET task group. The two carrier task groups HORNET and WASP were escorting troop transports. The transports were carrying the 7th Maine regiment to reinforce Guadalcanal.
Carriers were in the center of each group. Ships formed protective circles around the carriers. Larger battleships and cruisers were the inner circle. Smaller destroyers were the outer circle. NORTH CAROLINA was one of the ships protecting the HORNET. The two task groups were about seven to ten miles apart.
Japanese submarine I-19 fired six long-range torpedoes at the carrier WASP in rapid sequence. Three torpedoes struck their target causing tremendous damage. The task group commander ordered WASP to be sunk that night.
The remaining three torpedoes raced on across several miles into the HORNET task group. One torpedo hit destroyer O’BRIEN. She broke up on October 19 while returning to San Francisco for repairs. Another torpedo ran until out of fuel.
The third exploded into NORTH CAROLINA’s port side. It hit just forward of the 12 inch thick armor belt designed to protect her from torpedoes. The enormous blast shook the Ship and crew and sent geysers of oil and water skyward. Tons of water quickly flooded through the enormous 32 x 18 foot torpedo hole. The water caused the Ship to list. The crew quickly righted the Ship by intentionally flooding compartments on the opposite side. Five men were killed and 23 were wounded.
Killed In Action:
Albert Speers Geary (washed overboard)
Oscar Callaway Stone
Ingwald Nels Nelson
William Osborne Skelton
Leonard Edward Pone
The torpedo attack victims were buried in the Army Cemetery on the island of Tongatabu.