a terrific explosion
(September 11, 1943, 0944)
Direct hit to number three turret by a radio-controlled Fritz X glide-bomb at 0944 hours, September 11, 1943. (Courtesy of the Naval Historical Foundation. Collection of Admiral H. Kent Hewett, USN.)
Savannah on fire and down by the bow after direct hit to number three turret. (Courtesy of the Navy Department, photo no. 80-G-3893.)
0944 – Ordered flank speed. Received direct hit on #3 turret damage and casualties unknown. Fire broke out immediately, life rafts on top of the turret burned. Some personnel are coming out of scuttles at several places. Captain ordered flooding of handling rooms and magazines forward. Central Station and all the rest of the forward stations do not answer on the battle telephones. We were coming left at the time we were hit. The plane was seen to bomb us with what appeared to be a rocket type bomb. The bomb went through turret three right over the middle gun, it is reported the bomb glanced off the middle gun, hit the left and continued on down the barbet. Smoke is pouring out of turret two. Sounded fire Quarters.
- excerpted from General Quarters Narrative, USS Savannah, September 11, 1943, Salerno, Italy
We could see two flights of Spitfires and P-38s flying very high and fast after two German bombers which later were identified as Dornier 209s. Lookout reported that it seemed as if one was hit and falling toward the ship. This was a mistake as at 0944 there was a terrific explosion up in the forward part of the ship followed two minutes later by another explosion. From where I was standing all you could see at first was a heavy cloud of green smoke pouring around the forward superstructure. I thought at first it was near miss and proceeded immediately to grab my first aid kits and go forward; however, for about ten minutes I was kept busy treating some badly burned hoist men who came up from down below. How they escaped nobody knows.
- Richard Sharron, PHM2, USS Savannah, September 17, 1943
The bomb impact was initially a huge crash, followed seconds later by a massive explosion that lifted the ship right out of the water, and knocked everyone to the deck. The bomb passed through the turret top, killed everyone inside, and exploded at the keel, blowing the bottom of the ship out and causing a huge geyser of water and debris to come out the port side a little forward of the bridge. It covered us with water, and almost immediately smoke started pouring from the hole in the turret. We all figured the magazine would explode at any second, but it didn’t. When the bomb exploded it blew out the keel directly under the magazine, and the water flooded the magazine before it had a chance to go off.
- Frank Romano, S1, USS Savannah