Tag Archives: October 6 1943

Warship Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2021: A Hell of a Night

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places.- Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2021: A Hell of a Night

As I am currently roaming around the wilds of Utah all week, today’s WWeds is shorter than normal, but I trust no less interesting.

USS Selfridge (DD-357) NH 63121

Here we see the Porter-class tin can USS Selfridge (DD-357), the second warship named after the very sinkable Thomas O. Selfridge which we have covered a few times in the past, in her gleaming pre-war lines.

Fast forward to the night of 6 October 1943, some 78 years ago today. The place, Northwest of Vella Lavella in the hotly contested Solomon Islands. There, three American destroyers– Selfridge, Chevalier, and O’Bannon— bumped into a convoy of barges and auxiliaries escorted by nine destroyers of the Imperial Japanese Navy — Akigumo, Fumizuki, Isokaze, Kazagumo, Matsukaze, Samidare, Shigure, Yūnagi, and Yūgumo— with the latter equipped with the formidable Long Lance torpedo.

The confused, swirling action by moonlight and searchlight lasted less than an hour and left Yūgumo and Chevalier on the bottom while O’Bannon and Selfridge were seriously damaged and left to the field of battle when the Japanese withdrew to attend to their convoy which was filled with evacuated Japanese soldiers.

Selfridge suffered 13 killed, 11 wounded, and 36 missing, with most of those carried away with a hit to her bow from two Long Lances.

As noted by a Navy damage control report, “At 2306-1/2, a torpedo detonated at about frame 40, starboard. There was some indication that a second torpedo detonated almost simultaneously at frame 30, port. The bow severed completely at about frame 40 and floated aft on the starboard side.”

Battle of Vella LaVella (II) 6th-7th October 1943 Damaged USS SELFRIDGE (DD-357) after the battle. Her bow had been wrecked by a Japanese destroyer torpedo in this action. Note 5″/38 twin gun. Alongside is USS O’BANNON (D-450), which damaged her bow in a collision during the action. 80-G-274873.

Extensive details of the damage and how it was repaired while only barely off the line at Purvis Bay and at Noumea, here while the full period 54-page report of the engagement from Selfridge’s skipper’s point of view, here

Selfridge steamed 6,200 miles back to the West Coast with a temporary bow fitted, arriving at Mare Island looking, well, abbreviated.

USS Selfridge (DD-357), coming into Mare Island Navy Yard, California, for bow blown off just forward of the bridge in a heroic action in the Battle of Vella Lavella on October 6, 1943. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. 80-G-316295

Permanent repairs, including the installation of a new bow, were made at Mare Island and, after refresher training out of San Diego, she returned to Pearl Harbor on 10 May 1944 in time to join the forces staging for the invasion of the Marianas.

USS Selfridge (DD-357), steaming out to sea after repairs at Mare Island Navy Yard, California. Repairs were completed in the spring of 1944. 80-G-316296

Rejoining the war, Selfridge was active in the Philippines and the liberation of Guam, before switching oceans to escort convoys across the Atlantic in 1945, earning four battle stars for her WWII service.

Decommissioned on 15 October 1945, Selfridge was struck from the Navy list on 1 November 1945; sold to George H. Nutman, Inc., Brooklyn, N.Y.; removed from Navy custody on 20 December 1946, and scrapped in October 1947.

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