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McCawley Class Transport
486' 6" x 633' 6" x 25' 6"
1 x 5"/38 DP gun
4 x 3"/50 DP gun
2 x Twin 40mm AA guns
18 x 20mm AA guns
USN July 20, 1942
USN July 20, 1942
USN June 14, 1943
Built by Furness Shipbuilding Company at Haverton Hill-on-Tees, England. Completed 1928 as SS Santa Barbara and operated by the Grace Line. On July 26, 1940 acquired by the U. S. Navy (USN) as a McCawley Class Transport. On September 11, 1940 commissioned as USS McCawley (AP-10) with Captain H. D. McHenry in command. She was the second ship named after U. S. Marine Col. Charles G. McCawley.
During February 1941 participated in exercises in the Caribbean Sea.
On February 19, 1942 McCawley embarked U. S. troops and departed as part of a Atlantic Convoy to Iceland. On March 25, 1942 arrived New York then departed for Norfolk and was assigned to the Pacific Fleet. On April 18, 1942 transited the Panama Canal then proceeded to the South Pacific. On May 8, 1942 disembarked U. S. Marine Corps (USMC) aviators at Pago Pago then continued to Wellington.
Assigned to the Amphibious Force South Pacific and became the flagship for Rear Admiral Richmond K. Turner. On July 20, 1942 docked at Wellington and photographed with Landing Vehicle Tracked (LVTs). During the voyage to the Solomon Islands, a Rear Admiral Richmond K. Turner and Major General Alexander A. Vandegrift were photographed on the flag bridge.
On August 7, 1942 participated in the U. S. landings at Tulagi and Guadalcanal with her anti-aircraft gunners firing at attacking Japanese aircraft claiming three or four enemy planes as shot down. On August 8, 1942 after sunset, Rear Admiral Turner held a conference of his senior ship commanders aboard McCawley after learning the U. S. carriers would depart sooner than expected and decided to withdraw the transports the next morning but relented to Vandegrift who asked them to unload as long as possible. During the night of August 8-9, 1942 witnessed the Battle of Savo Island then in the afternoon withdrew to Nouméa Harbor.
On September 18, 1942 returned to Guadalcanal landing supplies and reinforcements and departed the same day with wounded personnel and Japanese Prisoners Of War (POW) bound for Nouméa Harbor.
On October 9, 1942 departed with reinforcements and supplies bound for Guadalcanal and after the Battle of Cape Esperence October 11-12, 1942 unloaded off Guadalcanal then departed with wounded and POWs bound for Nouméa Harbor.
On November 8, 1942 departed Nouméa Harbor as part of Task Force 67 (TF-67) bound for Guadalcanal arriving November 12, 1942 and unloaded then departed bound for Nouméa Harbor before the start of the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal.
On November 24, 1942 departed Nouméa Harbor bound for Wellington for overhaul until the end of the year. On January 10, 1943 arrived Nouméa Harbor disembarking the 1st Marine Raiders and the 3rd Parachute Battalion then loaded U. S. Army troops and equipment for Guadalcanal.
On February 1, 1943 redesignated as attack transport APA-4 and continued to perform supply runs to Guadalcanal. On February 26, 1943 part of Task Unit 62.4.6 bound for Guadalcanal. For the next three months, McCawley continued to perform supply runs until the middle early May 1943.
On May 7-11, 1943 at anchor in Nouméa Harbor. On May 26, 1943 at anchor in Nouméa Harbor and was assigned to "Operation Toenails" for the New Georgia campaign. On June 14, 1943 conducted rehearsals with U. S. troops and Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel (LCVP) before departing to lead the "Western Landing Force" under Task Force 31.1 (TF-31.1) bound for Rendova Island.
On June 30, 1943 at 6:43am McCawley was the first to land and begin unloading 1,2000 U. S. personnel and cargo on northern Rendova Island. In the morning, the first Japanese air raid by twenty-seven A6M Zeros that was intercepted by U. S. fighters and did not attack the U. S. vessels.
By 1:50pm unloading was completed despite air raid warnings that required the force to head east twice and were targeted by shore batteries at Munda. By 3:00pm the transport force began withdrawing to the east and south in the Blanche Channel bound for Guadalcanal.
At 3:30pm a second Japanese air raid commenced with G4M1 Bettys escorted by A6M Zeros targeted the transports and was intercepted by escorting U. S. fighters from the "Rendova Patrol". Only ten Bettys manage to get to the ships due to the fighter escort and anti-aircraft fire. The only damage inflicted was a single aerial torpedo that hit McCawley amidships on the starboard side causing a 18-20' hole in the engine room with the loss of fifteen including thirteen enlisted and two officers all listed as Missing In Action (MIA). Meanwhile, another two torpedoes passed down the starboard side very close. The damage caused the ship to list to port, jammed the rudder and stopped her engines immobilizing the ship.
Afterwards, Turner and his staff transferred to USS Farenholt (DD-491) and by 4:40pm most of the crew transferred to USS Ralph Talbot (DD-390). Afterwards, Rear Admiral Wilkinson remained aboard to command a salvage crew and was taken under tow by USS Libra (AKA-12) with destroyers USS Ralph Talbot (DD-390) and USS McCalla (DD-488) providing assistance.
The third Japanese air raid in the early evening by D3A Val dive bombers with eight targeting the damaged ship under tow but scored no hits. Aboard, a U. S. Marine officer manned an anti-aircraft gun on the stern and claimed one shot down with escorts claiming two more. At 6:50pm the draft aft had increased to 38' with flooding increasing and the salvage crew was transfered to USS Ralph Talbot (DD-390). At 9:02pm Turner ordered USS McCalla (DD-488) to torpedo the ship if it settled further or could not be towed. Meanwhile, fleet tug USS Pawnee (ATF-74) arrived to take over the towing operation.
At 9:32pm three torpedoes impacted the damaged ship causing it to sink stern first in 30 seconds into 340 fathoms in what was believed to be an attack by an enemy submarine. In fact, the torpedoes were fired by six P. T. Boats from Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron 9 (MTB 9) under the command of Lt. Commander Kelly patrolling in Blanche Channel and were unaware any U. S. vessels were in the patrol area. After passing through a light rain storm between Rendova and Mbalumbalu their radar spotted targets and concluded they were enemy targets. The first section of three P. T. Boats closed to 600 yards and each fired four torpedoes causing evenly spaced hits on the transport causing it to sink. The second section of three P. T. Boats led by Lt Commander Kelley targeted the escorts (destroyers USS Ralph Talbot and USS McCalla) but was unable to close and broke off their attack at the southern edge of their patrol area. Returning, the P. T. Boats saw a damaged landing craft in Blanche Channel marked APA-4 and some of the P. T. Boat crews believed the escorts were friendly destroyers. After returning, he reported his attack and his doubts about the identity of the targets but he was assured no friendly ships were in the area. After their action reports were submitted, it became clear they had attacked and sank McCawley, luckily without any loss of life.
Afterwards, stricken from the Naval Register. For her World War II service, USS McCawley earned five battle stars. As a result of this incident, Amphibious Force South Pacific assumed direct control of PT-boat squadrons with P. T. liaison officer assigned to Rear Admiral Turner's staff to avoid any other accidental attacks.
NARA USS McCawley "Action Report: Seizure and occupation of Rendova, torpedo plane, dive bombing and submarine [sic PT Boat] attack on USS McCawley" July 4, 1943
NARA USS Zane War Diary June 1943 (Action Report) page 35
(Page 35) "1552 Enemy bombers (G4M1 Bettys) changed course and approached transports from port quarter, commenced low torpedo runs. 1554 Observed several enemy planes crash in flames into sea. USS McCawley observed to suffer torpedo hit. Fighter plane combat continued at low altitude until 1600."
NHHC (NHHC) "H-020-2: Central Solomon Islands Campaign: Kula Gulf, Kolombangara, Vella Gulf, PT-109, and Battles with No Names (Not High-Velocity Learning)"
Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) "Casualties: U.S. Navy and Coast Guard Vessels Sunk or Damaged Beyond Repair during World War II 7 December 1941-1 October 1945"
"USS McCawley (APA-4) torpedoed by Japanese aircraft off Rendova, Solomon Islands, and sunk by U.S. motor torpedo boats, 30 June 1943."
Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) " H-009-1: Defeat at Savo Island"
NavSource - USS McCawley (APA-4)
At Close Quarters PT Boats in the United States Navy (1962) pages 114-116 (June 30, 1943), 553 (index)
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