Daily Event for June 30, 2014

Santa Barbara was a passenger/cargo ship built in 1928 by Furness Shipbuilding, Haverton Hill-on-Tees, England for the Grace Steamship Company of New York. She was taken over by the U.S. Navy on July 26, 1940, converted into a transport and renamed USS McCawley AP-10.

After commissioning her first assignment was to transport troops to Iceland, after her return to New York she was readied to head to the Pacific. Upon arrival in the Pacific USS McCauley became flagship for Rear Admiral Richmond K. Turner, Commander Amphibious Force South Pacific and was deeply involved in the battle for Guadalcanal. She remained an important vessel in the Guadalcanal occupation until mid June of 1943. She was redesignated APA-4 (attack transport) on Feb. 1, 1943 after a refit in New Zealand.

On June 30, 1943 USS McCawley was flagship of TF-31.1 and arrived off Rendova Island as part of the invasion force involved in Operation Cartwheel. Their part (Operation Toenails) was met with only slight resistance from the Japanese and the U.S. force was completely successful in the landings. The transports unloaded thousands of men and thousands of tons of supplies without a single vessel being lost, although USS Gwin DD-433 had been hit by a shell in the engine room. McCawley disembarked over 1,200 men and over 600 tons of material.

The slow response by the Japanese by no means meant that there was none at all. After they were finished unloading the task force weighed anchor and started for Guadalcanal. While in the Blanche Channel (between Rendova and New Georgia Islands) at 1553 McCawley was hit by a torpedo during a Japanese air attack. The torpedo hit the engine room and killed fifteen men. Just before the torpedo struck the task force had executed a hard starboard turn and when she lost power her rudder was stuck in this position.

The ship was badly damaged, but it was thought she could be saved. Vice Admiral Turner transferred his flag to USS Farenholt DD-491 while Rear Admiral Theodore S. Wilkinson remained aboard to supervise the salvaging of the vessel. Taking no chances VAdm Turner ordered USS Ralph Talbot DD-390 to come alongside and remove all personnel except those required to salvage the ship.

USS Libra AKA-12 took her in tow and remained even during another Japanese air attack. As time went on McCawley continued to take on water and settle deeper by the stern. The tremendous efforts made by the crew could not overcome the damage done and at 1850 RAdm Wilkinson called USS McCalla DD-488 alongside and ordered all personnel off the sinking ship. By 1920 USS McCawley was abandoned and USS McCalla prepared to scuttle the hulk.

The need to scuttle was settled at 2023 when USS McCawley was hit by two torpedoes, she exploded and sank in less than a minute. Apparently the work of a Japanese submarine, someone on USS Pawnee ATF-74 claimed to have seen the conning tower of a submarine, but this was nothing more than wartime adrenaline causing someone to see something that was not there. This is common during combat at sea. It was later learned that there had been no submarine, but a group of U.S. PT boats had torpedoed the McCawley.

Lt. Commander Robert B. Kelly, Commanding Officer of MTB Squadron 9 had orders to attack Japanese ships in Blanche Channel, which were expected, but never appeared. He was assured by Commander Naval Base Rendova that no American ships would be in the area, this was confirmed by a dispatch from VAdm Turner. So in the darkness Kelly and six of his twelve PT boats picked up a radar fix on a large ship surrounded by six or eight smaller vessels.

The six PT boats closed in two formations of three, the first one led by Kelly closed within 600 yards before he could actually see the ship in the darkness. The first three PT's fired four torpedoes each, two hitting McCawley, the rest narrowly missing the other ships. The second group of PT boats came in to attack the smaller vessels, but they put on all speed and were able to escape.

The next day Kelly found a landing craft marked APA-4 adrift in the channel and after authorities compared reports it was found that they had in fact attacked American ships. This could have been a tragedy, but luck was with the Americans that night. The transport was about to be sunk anyway and there were no personnel casualties because she had been abandoned. However the mistake did not go unnoticed and soon a liaison officer from the MTB Squadron was assigned to VAdm Turner's staff, with operational control of the PT boats being transferred to VAdm Turner.
© 2014 Michael W. Pocock

Roll of Honor
In memory of those who lost their lives in
USS McCawley APA-4
"As long as we embrace them in our memory, their spirit will always be with us"

Blansett, Elija J.
Motor Machinist's Mate 1st Class
Boyd, Jr., Charles E.
Fireman 1st Class (USNR)
Bradley, Donald J.
Fireman 1st Class (USNR)
Bristol, Harry D.
Watertender 2nd Class
Damarski, John
Motor Machinist's Mate 1st Class (USNR)
Herbert, Francis X.
Yeoman 3rd Class (USNR)
Hollowell, Charles J.
Fireman 2nd Class (USNR)
Johnson, Carl A.
Lieutenant (j.g.)
Jones, Karl K.
Electrician's Mate 3rd Class (USNR)
Kush, Stanley J.
Lieutenant (USNR)
Morgan, Thomas W.
Machinist's Mate 3rd Class
Rice, Victor L.
Motor Machinist's Mate 1st Class
Ryan, Thomas
Motor Machinist's Mate 2nd Class
Tedder, William H.
Chief Machinist's Mate
Uhre, Dale V.
Motor Machinist's Mate 2nd Class

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USS McCawley AP-10.

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