almost entirely flooded
0950 – Commenced getting water pressure. All power was off for a couple of minutes. Steering control was lost in the forward part of the ship. Steering aft has been given control and is maneuvering the ship, to avoid collision with two transports that appear in our immediate course. Repair parties and fire fighting parties are busily and orderly going to work to save the ship. All hose connections and fire fighting equipment is being put into use as fast as possible The Captain says keep working we are going to save the ship. The forecastle is now strewn with hose much hose and pumps galore.
1002 – Ship has taken on a 6 degree list.
1008 – An explosion occurs in turret three. Some more men are injured who are working there fighting the fire. The men were thrown off the turret by the explosion as debris is thrown all over the forecastle again. Many men have been overcome by gas. Water pressure is increasing, getting better results. Men who were on the turret and near the door of the turret have gone back to their positions or have been carried away. A hose is being put into the turret through the muzzle of one of the guns.
- excerpted from General Quarters Narrative, USS Savannah, September 11, 1943, Salerno, Italy
Two minutes after the hit, at 0946, No. 1 fireroom filled with heavy toxic smoke and had to be secured and abandoned. Remember now, that the entire load had been lost when power to the electric pumps went out. Fortunately, all the battle lanterns worked and most of us carried flashlights. Because the ventilation blowers had lost power, it became very warm; my flashlight was red hot.
But, due to the direction of our chief engineer and the individual initiative of all the sailors in the engineering spaces, we got the plant back up on the line and the ship underway in just a few minutes. Believe me though, it felt like forever.
- Willie Rich CWT, USS Savannah
The bomb had hit directly on Turret #3, wiping out all of the gun room, shell deck, electric deck and handling rooms. The third division lost all but five men who were on battle lookout station at the time. Turret #2s personnel were all lost but about twelve due to asphyxiation from the heavy smoke coming from the handling rooms. Turret #1 lost approximately seventeen men in her handling rooms. All anti-aircraft hoists were either badly damaged or blown up by the explosion. We lost our Main Control stations, anti-aircraft magazines, all 6” magazines, several living compartments and the sick bay area. The ship had then taken a decided list to port and everything forward of the superstructure below the second deck was almost entirely flooded.
- Richard Sharron, PHM2, USS Savannah, September 17, 1943
Chief Watertender Wille Rich
Chief Rich was awarded a letter of commendation for remaining in the engineering spaces amidst smoke and intense heat. (Surface Warfare, 1981, US Navy)