Location: Sacramento, California

I am a retired lawyer and administrative law judge, aged but active, with a variety of interests.

Friday, October 15, 2004

The Wartime Service of Saul Benjamin

The Wartime Service of Saul Benjamin

The Sacramento Bee of April 30, 2004 published the obituary of Saul Benjamin, who expired in Sacramento on April 23, 2004. He was 89.

For five years Saul was my colleague as an "author" of appellate opinions of the California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board in Sacramento. He was gentle, humane, friendly and self-effacing, and I never learned that he was a naval officer during WWII, as revealed in the obituary. He was the torpedo officer on USS Buchanan (DD 484) during the Guadalcanal battles of 1942, when things were going hot and heavy for the U. S. Navy. Iron Bottom Sound, the last resting place of a number of American ships, got its name from that campaign. It is my view that Saul's service deserves more notoriety than its brief mention in the obit. Accordingly, I have set out below the history of the ship in which he served.

History of U. S. S. Buchanan (DD-484)

USS Buchanan (DD-484), second of her name [a third is now in service] was one of 64 destroyers of the Livermore Class of 1938-1941. She was launched 22 November 1941 by Federal Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co., Kearny, N. J.; sponsored by Miss Hildreth Meiere, great-granddaughter of Admiral Buchanan; and commissioned 21 March 1942, Lt. Cdr. R. E. Wilson in command.

Buchanan got underway for the Pacific 28 May 1942. She played an effective role in the landings at Guadalcanal and Tulagi (7-9 August) and on 9 August she was present during the Battle of Savo Island and rescued many survivors of Astoria (CA-34), Quincy (CA-39), Vincennes (CA-44), and HMAS Canberra, sunk during the battle. In September she escorted Wasp (CV-7) and other units to Noumea, New Caledonia. Shortly there after, as part of TF 64.2, Buchanan assisted in the occupation of Funafuti Island in the Ellice Islands.

On the night of 11-12 October, as a unit of TG 64.2 Buchanan took part in the Battle of Cape Esperance. On 12 November the destroyer was damaged during the initial stages of the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal when she was accidentally hit by U. S. naval gunfire. She suffered the loss of five of her crew and had to withdraw from the action. After undergoing repairs, she was assigned to convoy escort duty until February 1943.

After leave in Sydney, Australia, Buchanan joined the screen of TF 15. On 30 April 1943, while screening in convoy, the ship ran aground off the southern coast of Guadalcanal and, after jettisoning heavy gear and ammunition, she was eased off the reef by three tugs. She proceeded to Espiritu Santo New Hebrides, for repairs. Repairs completed, she participated in the New Georgia Group operations (30 June-13 July) and while under heavy attack she effectively bombarded the enemy shore batteries during the invasion of Rendova. She participated in the bombardment of Munda (12 July) and the Battle of Kolombangara (13 July). Buchanan was damaged when she collided with Woodworth (DD-460) during the latter engagement and retired to Noumea for repairs. During the ensuing months, Buchanan convoyed ships to Noumea, Espiritu Santo, and Guadalcanal. She participated in the Treasury-Bougainville operation (1-11 November), taking part in the Rabaul and Buka-Bonis strikes. Next, as a unit of TF 38, she bombarded Shortland Island and Bougainville (8 and 13 January 1944). On 22 January, while going to the rescue of the torpedoed oiler Cache (AO-67), Buchanan hunted down and sank the Japanese submarine RO-37 in 11°47' S., 164°17' E.

During February the destroyer participated in various phases of the Bismarck Archipelago operation (15 February-1 March). She covered the Green Island landings and took an active part in the bombardment of Kavieng, Rabaul, and New Ireland before steaming to the United States to undergo a yard overhaul at Mare Island.

Upon completion of overhaul and refresher training, Buchanan returned to the Pacific and served with the transport screen during the assault and capture of the southern Palaus (6 September-14 October 1944) . She next participated in the strikes against Luzon between 14 and 16 December. On 18 December she was damaged by a typhoon in the Philippine Sea. Upon completion of repairs she engaged in attacks on Luzon, Formosa, and the China coast (6-16 January 1945) in support of the Luzon operation. During the remainder of World War II she participated in the Iwo Jima invasion (15 February-5 March ), Okinawa operation and supporting 3d and 5th Fleet raids (16 March-30 June); as well as the 3d Fleet operations against Japan (10 July -15 August 1945).

On 29 August she entered Tokyo Bay escorting South Dakota (BB-57). On 1 September she carried Fleet Admirals Nimitz and Halsey from their respective flagships to Yokohama where they met with General MacArthur and then returned them to the fleet. The following day she carried General MacArthur to Missouri (BB-63) where he accepted the Japanese surrender and then returned him to Yokohama. [This service was almost certainly in recognition of the ship's hard knocks and the fact that she was a survivor of the Battle of Savo Island, the greatest defeat ever suffered by the U. S. Navy.] She remained on occupation duty in the Far East until 8 October and then departed for San Francisco where she arrived 20 October. Buchanan steamed to Charleston, S. C. for pre-inactivation overhaul and went out of commission in reserve there 21 May 1946.

Buchanan was recommissioned 11 December 1948 at Charleston and underwent shakedown and refresher training with a nucleus Turkish crew aboard. On 29 March 1949 she got underway for Golcuk, Turkey, where she was turned over to the Turkish Navy 28 April 1949.

Buchanan received the Presidential Unit Citation and 16 battle stars for her World War II service.


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