Wotje

USS Fletcher DD-445

Wotje Island Action Report

January 30, 1944

USS FLETCHER (DD445)
c/o Fleet Post Office
San Francisco, California,
4 February, 1944.

DD445/A16-3
Serial 07

CONFIDENTIAL

From:  The Commanding Officer
To:      The Commander in Chief United States Fleet.
Via:     (1) Commander Destroyer Squadron TWO (Commander Screen).
           (2) Commander Task Group 53.5 (Rear Admiral J.B. OLDENDORF, USN)
           (3) Commander Task Force 53, (Rear Admiral R.L. CONOLLY, USN)
           (4) Commander, Central Pacific Fleet.
           (5) Commander, Pacific Ocean Area.

Subject:   Action Report - Wotje Bombardment.

References: (a) U.S. Navy Regulations.
                 (b) Commander Northern Attack Force Operation Order A157-44 and Annex "F" thereto.
                 (c) CTG 53.5 Cruising Instructions, Serial 009 of 19 January, 1944.
                 (d) PacFleet Conf. Letter 2CL-44.

Enclosures: (A) Track Chart.
                 (B) Executive Officers Report.

  1. On the morning of 30 January, 1944, this vessel engaged with other units of Task Group 53.5 in the bombardment of Japanese airfields, dispersal areas, hangars, armament and other shore installations on Wotje Island, Wotje Atoll, Marshall Islands Group.

  2. (a) This vessel departed from Lahaina Roads, T.H., on 21 January, 1944 as part of the transport screen (Task Unit 53.2.5) and together with other units of Task Force 53, proceeded via direct route, enroute to Roi Island, Kwajalein Atoll, Marshall Islands Group. All times referred to in this Action Report as  Zone Plus Twelve, West Longitude Date.

     (b) In accordance with reference (b) Task Group 53.5 took departure of the main body of Task Force 53 at 1200, 29 January 1944, and formed Cruising Disposition 3L-1, proceeding toward Wotje Island. Ships present: Wotje Bombardment Group - Rear Admiral J.B. OLDENDORF, USN, Commander Northern Support Group (Task Group 53.5).

CRUISERS
USS LOUISVILLE (F)
USS SANTA FE - Rear Admiral L.T. DU BOSE, USN, ComCruDiv 13.
USS BILOXI
USS MOBILE

DESTROYERS
USS MORRIS - Captain SOLOMONS, ComDesRon TWO, Commander Screen.
USS ANDERSON
USS HUGHES
USS FLETCHER
USS MUSTIN
USS RUSSELL

     (c) The following assumptions were made:

         (1) That there would be no substantial enemy surface forces in the area.
         (2) That enemy submarines would be present in the area.
         (3) That enemy air attacks were probable.
         (4) That enemy shore batteries would fire on own forces.

     (d) The weather conditions at 0700, 30 January, 1944 were as follows:

         Wind - Northeast, Force 4.
         Sea - Moderate with no swells.
         Visibility - 25 miles.
         Barometer - 29.50 inches.
         Blue sky with about 0.4 cirrocumulus clouds.

  3. (a) The approach to the objective was laid to pass through points "Dog", "Charlie", "Baker" and "Able" as shown in Enclosure (A). "Zero time" was set as the time that the guide passed through Point "A", bearing 140°(T) distant 9000 yards from the southwest tip of Wotje Island. At 0530, 30 January, 1944, Zone Plus 12 Time, base course was changed to 270°(T) and Approach Disposition for Phase I was formed with ANDERSON, MORRIS and HUGHES in anti-submarine screen 2000 yards ahead of guide; FLETCHER, LOUISVILLE (guide), SANTA FE, BILOXI, MOBILE, MUSTIN and RUSSELL arranged in order, in column, distance 1000 yards. Between 0540 and 0610 the formation maneuvered on various course to attain position on the proposed track. At 0610 steadied on course 300°(T), speed 15 knots. At 0620 changed course to 030°(T) and approached point "A".

     (b) Upon passing through point "A", the LOUISVILLE opened fire. AT 0638 changed course to 000°(T). At 0642 commenced firing according to plan. Phase I of the bombardment called for sixty (60) half salvos, with a salvo interval of six seconds. The plan was based upon spots for each salvo from the reference point (center of target area). The assigned target area was the dispersal area, hangars, building, and other installations in the area between the intersection of the runways and a point one-half mile south of the intersection of the runways. The spotting plan provided for extensive coverage of the target area, especially the dispersal areas adjacent to the runways. The opening range on Phase I was 8400 yards, target bearing 294°(T). Spots were applied as planned and all but five of the salvos were observed to fall in the target area. Several fires were observed to start throughout the island.

     (c) At 0643 a black puff of smoke was observed on the bridge of the ANDERSON, 800 yards ahead and she swerved sharply right. At the same time, numerous shells were observed to fall nearby, the nearest being 100 yards off the port bow of this vessel. FLETCHER followed the motions of the ANDERSON in swinging hard right and thereafter steered evasive courses to evade enemy gunfire from the shore. At 0653, ceased firing with target bearing 270°(t), range 10,300 yards. Ammunition expended, 125 rounds of 5"/38 caliber AA common projectiles.

     (d) At about 0710 the formation withdrew to the eastward preparatory to Phase II. At 0720, own carrier based aircraft executed a coordinated dive bombing and strafing attack on Wotje Island.

     (e) At 0800, formed screen on USS BILOXI, and at 0906 commenced firing in Phase II of the bombardment plan. The opening range was 11,850 yards and target bearing 330°(T). The salvo plan used for Phase II was two-gun salvos, with observed spots applied to each salvo. During this phase full optical control was used. Buildings, towers and gun emplacements in the assigned target area were plainly visible. Fall of shot was easily distinguished and direct spots were applied to each target until hits were obtained. Two or three spots were sufficient in most cases. Fire was continued until 0957 at which time ceased firing on true bearing 219°, range 14,300 yards. Of the targets hit, several fires were started, a large crane was observed to topple and several buildings were demolished. The total ammunition expended on this phase was 130 rounds of 5"/38 caliber AA common projectiles.

     (f) At 1020 took screening station ahead of the BILOXI while that vessel fired. At 1023 a shore battery was observed to open fire on the BILOXI. AT 1025 commenced firing at 8000 yards on the shore battery and on the first half-salvo, obtained a direct hit on the target, probably putting the gun out of commission. No further firing by this battery was observed. Two more half-salvos were fired into the smoke of the first explosion. At 1028 ceased firing. Ammunition expended - 7 rounds 5"/38 caliber AA common projectiles.

  4. (a) The performance of the ordnance equipment was excellent and highly satisfactory. The bombardment proceeded according to plan. Spots were applied in Phase I by an officer in the plotting room, assigned to control the spots according to the pre-arranged plan. Gunner control facilities were, as usual, coordinated with the Sugar George Radar. During the approach, when the range had closed to 14,000 yards, Combat Information Center informed the gun control of the true bearing and range to the target at a point 500 yards ahead (one minute run) on the course line, in order that the computer could be set up in advance. Upon passing the given point a "Mark" was given to Plot and the gunnery problem commenced, using a target speed of "Zero". At frequent intervals thereafter, with the Director in automatic control, the range and bearings were checked against the navigational ranges and bearings. Only small corrections were necessary at any time.

     (b) During Phase II, the Director was again placed on the center of the target area using navigational ranges and bearings. In this instance, however, the lack of an accurately defined point on Wotje Island on which to take SG ranges and bearings; the known error in SG bearing and the possibility of the charts being inaccurate; led to the decision to use full optical control, supplemented by SG ranges and bearings, since prominent objects in the target area were now clearly discernible in broad daylight in the stereo-rangefinder. This method proved highly successful as shown by the numerous direct hits obtained. Using stereo-ranges only, a direct hit was obtained on the opening salvo against the shore battery at 1025.

   (c) A total of 262 rounds of 5"/38 caliber AA common projectiles were expended as follows:
       Phase I - 125 rounds.
       Phase II- 130 rounds.
       Counter-battery fire - 7 rounds.

Nose fuzes of all projectiles were set on "Safe" in order that no air bursts would be obtained and the projectiles would burst on impact.

     (d) The Japanese shore battery that fired upon our own ships appeared to be of medium caliber, as gauged by the size of splashes of the shells. A large number of the batteries observed were twin mounts. The enemy fire was heavy and accurate at a range of 8000 yards, and fairly accurate at a range of 11,000 yards. Their point of aim seemed to be the leading ships in each case.

  5. (a) The effectiveness of surface ship bombardment against shore installations is considered to be very great when carried out in volume. Where vertical structures are present, the effect of direct hits is usually sufficient to inflict considerable damage to both material and personnel. In addition, the rapidity, volume, and persistence of fire of a surface ship is bound to have a definite effect on the morale of enemy personnel.

     (b) It is believed that the use of bombardment at intermediate and short ranges against flat hard surfaces, as in the instance of an airfield, is likely to result in a number of the projectiles ricocheting off the flat surface due to their relatively flat trajectory and resulting in no more damage than a shallow groove at the point where the projectile was deflected.  Their effectiveness in this case is less than in the case of the damage produced by bombing such surfaces.

  6. There were no personnel or material casualties. The performance of all officers and men was of the highest order and in keeping with the best traditions of the Service. Although shrapnel burst over the ship and numerous salvos landed near during all the phases of the bombardment, the firing was not interrupted at any time.

/s/ R.D. McGINNIS

Copies to:
  Cominch (Adv.copy)
  CinCPOA (Adv.copy)
  CDS 21
  CDD 42
  War Diary (3)

DD445/A16-3

USS FLETCHER (DD445)
c/o Fleet Post Office,
San Francisco, California,
CONFIDENTIAL                                                       31 January, 1944

From:  The Executive Officer
To:      The Commanding Officer

Subject: Action Report - Wotje Bombardment.

Reference: (a) Art. 948, U.S. Navy Regulations.

  1. This vessel engaged in the bombardment of Wotje Island, Wotje Atoll, Marshall Islands Group on 30 January, 1944.

  2. The performance of duty of officers and men was in keeping with the highest standards, and only by the thorough cooperation and coordination of all departments was this vessel able to successfully accomplish its mission, namely, an efficient mutilation of the Japanese shore installations on Wotje Island, Wotje Atoll, Marshall Islands Group.

  3. The performance of the ordnance equipment was excellent and highly satisfactory.

  4. There were no personnel or material casualties.

/s/  J.G. Hughes

Serial 068

c/o Fleet Post Office
San Francisco, Calif.,
5 March, 1944

C-O-N-F-I-D-E-N-T-I-A-L

FIRST ENDORSEMENT
 to
CO FLETCHER Action Report
of 4 February, 1944,
DD445/A16-3, serial 07.

From:  Commander Destroyer Squadron TWO.
To:    The Commander in Chief, United States Fleet.
Via:   (1) Commander Cruiser Division FOUR (Commander Task Group 53.5)
         (2) Commander Group Three, Fifth Amphibious Force (Commander Task Force FIFTY THREE)
         (3) Commander Central Pacific Fleet.
         (4) Commander Pacific Ocean Area.

Subject: Action Report - Wotje Bombardment.

  1.     Forwarded.

  2.     Report and comments on this bombardment was made in Commander Destroyer Squadron TWO serial 0043 of February 8, 1944.

/s/ E. A. SOLOMONS

Copy to:
  FLETCHER.


SECOND ENDORSEMENT to                                                            16 March 1944.
USS FLETCHER ltr. DD445/
A16-3 Serial 07 dated
4 February 1944.

C-O-N-F-I-D-E-N-T-I-A-L

From:  Commander Cruiser Division FOUR (CTG 53.5).
To:      Commander in Chief, United States Fleet.
Via:     (1) Commander Group Three, FIFTH Amphibious Force (CTF 53).
           (2) Commander Central Pacific Force.
           (3) Commander in Chief, Pacific Ocean Areas.

Subject: Action Report - Wotje Bombardment

       1. Forwarded.

       2. As usual the FLETCHER performed her duties as expected and in keeping with the best traditions of the service.

/s/ J. B. OLDENDORF

Copy to:
  USS FLETCHER
  ComDesRon-2

GROUP THREE, FIFTH AMPHIBIOUS FORCE
UNITED STATES PACIFIC FLEET
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA


Serial No. 063

C-O-N-F-I-D-E-N-T-I-A-L                                                                     March 30, 1944

3rd Endorsement on
CO, FLETCHER, conf. ltr.
DD445/A16-3 serial 07
dated February 4, 1944

From:  Commander Group THREE, FIFTH Amphibious Force.
To:      Commander in Chief, Unites States Fleet.
Via:     (1) Commander FIFTH Amphibious Force.
           (2) Commander Central Pacific Force.
           (3) Commander in Chief, Pacific Ocean Areas.

Subject: Action Report - Wotje Bombardment.

     1. Forwarded.

/s/ R. L. CONOLLY

FIFTH AMPHIBIOUS FORCE, PACIFIC FLEET
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA

Serial: 0234                                                                                   5 April 1944


CONFIDENTIAL
FOURTH ENDORSEMENT to
CO, FLETCHER, conf. ltr.
DD445/A16-3 Ser. 07 dated
4 February 1944.

From:  Commander FIFTH Amphibious Force, U. S. Pacific Fleet
To:      Commander in Chief, Unites States Fleet.
Via:     (1) Commander in Chief, Pacific Ocean Areas.

Subject: Action Report - Wotje Bombardment.

     1. Forwarded.

/s/ J. J. KIRCHER,
By direction

Copy to:
  ComGrp 3, 5thPhib
  ComCenPac (complete)


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