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U.S.S. South Dakota jinxed????

Discussion in 'United States at Sea!' started by Class of '42, Mar 30, 2020.

  1. Class of '42

    Class of '42 Active Member

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    More I have read about the battleship U.S.S.South Dakota (BB-57), I might agree with others who hold similar thoughts about the ship. Yes she earned 13 battle stars along the way but was plagued by misfortunes all the way to Tokyo Bay in August 1945.

    For quickly she began getting a reputation in the fleet as a jinx ship because of her habit of getting into collisions, near collisions and suffering mechanical breakdowns at inopportune times.

    First time was when after sea trials in the Atlantic, she was ordered to proceed to Guadalcanal for action. Before she even got to the Panama Canal, her engines broke down. When she did finally reached the South Pacific, more misfits.

    On 6 September 1942, she was badly damaged when she struck an uncharted reef in the Lahai Passage. Divers from the repair ship Vestal inspected the hull and discovered a 150-foot (46 m) gash of length of plating.

    Another bad fortune had resulted in the South Dakota nearly colliding with the carrier Enterprise on Oc. 26, 1942, as a miscommunication while transferring steering control to the executive officer's (XO) station, which caused South Dakota to haul out of formation on, briefly headed toward Enterprise before the XO corrected the mistake.

    While attempting to avoid a submarine contact on the return trip to Nouméa, South Dakota collided with the destroyer Mahan on 30 October 42.

    During the Second Naval Battle of Guadalcanal on 13 Nov 1942 at 2311, the chief engineer tied down her circuit breakers, violating safety procedures. The system instantly went into series, and the big ship lost electrical power. Radar, fire control, turret motors, ammunition hoists, radios–everything went out, with her guns locked in train.

    Captain Gatch wrote later: ‘The psychological effect on the officers and crew was most depressing.

    At 2330 or so, South Dakota regained some electrical power but was still having problems, at 2342 she fired a salvo from her No. 3 turret that set fire to one of her Kingfisher seaplanes.

    With 39 dead and 59 wounded from exchanging fire with the Japanese task force, Captain Gatch realized his ship was in no shape for battle. He withdrew at 1 a.m., ‘to the great relief of the Task Force commander'.

    Admiral Davis was less charitable in his report of the action: ‘Retired? Hell, [South Dakota] just left the action. We didn’t know anything about it, and we didn’t see or hear from her until morning.’

    Later that morning after the battle, at 09:51, Admiral Lee’s lookouts spotted the South Dakota coming up, leaking oil and signaling ‘We are not effective.’ She took station ahead of the U.S.S. Washington, and her leaking oil entered Washington‘s evaporators, polluting Washington‘s water lines for months.

    After that she sailed thru the Panama Canal up to New York for dry-dock and repairs. Then she was sent to the North Atlantic for escort convoys...no instances noted here...unreported that is.

    The next operation in which South Dakota participated was the invasion of the Marshall Islands, code-named Operation Flintlock, on Jan 18, 1944. South Dakota was now part of TG 37.2, Third Fleet, but heavy seas injured several men aboard South Dakota and swept one man overboard, who was not recovered.

    On 6 May 44, South Dakota was replenishing ammunition from the ammunition ship USS Wrangell when a tank of propellant for the 16 in (410 mm) guns exploded. The blast detonated four more tanks and caused a serious fire, forcing the crew to flood the magazine for turret number 2 to avoid a catastrophic explosion. Three men were killed by the explosion and eight more were seriously wounded and later died; another twenty-four were less-seriously injured in the accident.

    Might of been more unreported instances after that but she did cruise in Tokyo Bay in August 1945 to join in the surrender proceedings...some were surprised she didn't breakdown or collide into the U.S.S. Missouri.
     
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  2. A-58

    A-58 Cool Dude

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    Jinxed is a pretty good description I’d say. Maybe some rogues here might be able to share some insight on whether or not other ships might have shared similar misfortune in their existence.
     
  3. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    If you take any spectrum and look at the far ends you'll find "lucky" and "jinxed". Somebody has to have the worst "luck". It comes down the old saying "You're born, shit happens, then you die."
     
  4. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Good Ol' Boy Staff Member WW2|ORG Editor

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    Cap. Gatch was accused of making some poor decisions at the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal. I wonder if poor day-to-day leadership was also evident and if that could have contributed to "bad luck"?
     
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  5. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    I've always wondered where the story of her "chief engineer" tying "down her circuit breakers" came from? That certainly is not what happened.

    "C. Electrical Damage and Casualties

    41. Extensive damage was done to electrical circuits in the superstructure. The loss of many fire control, interior communication, radio and radar facilities seriously impaired the fighting power of the ship particularly in night actions. The SOUTH DAKOTA Electrical Work List enumerated thirty-five different kinds of circuits needing repairs including such items as renewing all flexible wiring to main battery director No. 1 and to secondary battery director No. 1. From the information available, in most cases electrical damage cannot be associated with specific hits.

    42. The loss of all search radar was a serious handicap to SOUTH DAKOTA. In this regard the Commanding Officer in reference (a) stated:

    "The trust and faith in the search radar equipment is amazing. After this ship lost both SG and SC equipment, the psychological effect on the officers and crew was most depressing. The absence of this gear gave all hands a feeling of being blindfolded."

    43. During the action, power on fire control and interior communication circuits throughout the ship was lost for approximately three minutes as a result of short-circuits due to the destruction by gunfire of cable and equipment on I.C. and F.C. circuits in the superstructure. The short-circuits produced an overload such that the circuit breaker on the normal feeder to the I.C. switchboard tripped on main generator and distribution switchboard No. 1. The I.C. switchboard was equipped with automatic bus transfer to shift the power supply to the emergency Diesel generator switchboard No. 1 in case of interruption of normal power from the main board. As the capacity of the Diesel generator was considerably smaller than the connected load on the I.C. switchboard, the F.C. and I.C. bus was energized through a 1000 ampere circuit breaker which was designed to automatically open before the automatic bus transfer operated. Thus, only the load on the I.C. restricted bus, which was well within the capacity of the emergency generator, would remain on the board. The circuit breaker opened properly. But after the automatic bus transfer operated, the fuzes protecting the emergency supply "blew." Apparently several of the circuits connected to the I.C. restricted bus were still short-circuited. Defective circuits were isolated and power restored on all serviceable I.C. and F.C. circuits in approximately three minutes.

    44. Ordinarily, matters which are not the result of damage by enemy action are not included in damage reports. In this case, however, the fact that electrical failure initiated by the shock of gunfire was a handicap to SOUTH DAKOTA while in action warrants some comment. As a result of this failure, numerous control shifts had to be made and it was reported that all power on the after part of the ship was lost for about a minute. This occurred before receiving the first hit.

    45. At the time of the failure, normal power was being supplied to the after 5-inch director from generator and distribution switchboard No. 4 through a bus transfer panel, power distribution panel, and an automatic bus transfer switch (PLATE II). The automatic bus transfer switch received its alternate supply from generator and distribution switchboard No. 2 through a bus transfer panel and a power distribution panel. The AQB circuit breakers in the distribution panels, which were in unattended locations, were "locked in" in accordance with outstanding instructions.

    46. The shock produced by Turret III firing astern caused the contactor for the alternate power supply in the automatic bus transfer switch to close, thereby paralleling generator and distribution switchboards No. 4 and No. 2. As the two power sources were not in phase the resulting synchronizing current surge welded the contacts on the automatic bus transfer switch closed and the normal feeder cable to the after 5-inch director (FE834) ruptured and short-circuited between phases on the No. 4 generator and distribution switchboard side of the rupture. Because no mention was made of trouble on the alternate power supply to the director, it is inferred that the rupture of the normal feeder cleared the short-circuit on the alternate supply which then continued to supply the director. As the AQB circuit breaker in the power distribution panel was "locked in" the fault on generator and distribution switchboard No. 4 was cleared by the tripping of generator No. 7 ACB circuit breaker. It was not reported whether the feeder ACB circuit breaker tripped also but it was implied that it did.

    47. The operator then energized generator and distribution switchboard No. 4 from generator and distribution switchboard No. 3 by closing the bus tie (FE0404) circuit breaker. The circuit breaker for the normal feeder (FE0716) to the bus transfer panel was closed manually, causing the circuit breaker to generator No. 6 to trip. At this time, the circuit breakers on both normal feeder (FE0716) and alternate feeder (FE0420) to the bus transfer panel were opened. Power was restored to generator and distribution switchboards Nos. 3 and 4 by closing the circuit breakers to generators Nos. 5 and 6. The alternate feeder (FE0420) circuit breaker to the bus transfer panel was closed at generator and distribution switchboard No. 3, tripping out circuit breakers for generators Nos. 5 and 6 and the alternate feeder (FE0420). Circuit breakers for generators Nos. 5, 6 and 7 were immediately closed again, while circuit breakers on normal feeder (FE0716) and alternate feeder (FE0420) remained open. From the time of closure of the automatic bus transfer switch until closure of the circuit breakers for generators Nos. 5, 6 and 7 it was reported that about one minute elapsed. Repair parties then located the fault, isolated it and restored power to 5-inch mounts Nos. 6 and 8.

    48. The source of these electrical failures was the unreliable operation of the automatic bus transfer switch. All of these switches have been replaced by a manual type transfer switch.

    49. The power interruption on the after main switchboards was made more extensive by the failure of the feeder and the main generator circuit breakers to operate selectively under short-circuit conditions. As a result, instead of the feeder breaker operating alone to isolate the short-circuit, the generator breaker also tripped out at the same time. For proper operation, the generator circuit breakers should not open under fault conditions except when the fault is on the switchboard bus or between the generator and the switchboard. This means that the generator circuit breaker should have sufficient time delay at currents equal to the maximum short-circuit current of the generator to permit the feeder breakers only to trip. At the same time, the generator breakers must provide a reasonable amount of switchboard bus fault protection. After considerable study and development and subsequent to this casualty, improved circuit breaker performance was obtained by replacing the time delay dashpot trip devices on the main generator circuit breakers with a type PQ relay. The type PQ relays installed on the SOUTH DAKOTA were the first that became available. Nearly comparable improvement in selective breaker operation has been obtained on similar ships by the installation of special time delay dashpots on the generator breakers." (USS South Dakota BB57 Gunfire Damage, Battle of Guadalcanal, 14-15 November, 1942, War Damage Report No. 57, pp. 11-13. USS South Dakota BB57 War Damage Report No. 57)

    See also, http://www.navweaps.com/index_lundgren/South_Dakota_Damage_Analysis_Summary.pdf and Lundgren Resource - Battleship Action 14-15 November 1942 - NavWeaps for a detailed account of the damage and the action.
     
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  6. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    "Tying down the circuit breakers" was a joke that grew legs, I think. It was still a joke when I was top watch in a cruiser's engineroom.
     
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  7. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    Often also a crew person or the captain on Ship, plane or sub was considered bad luck.
     
  8. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    Well, from what I have read from SODAK crewmen, Gatch was well liked. He was less concerned with spit & polish, and more concerned with getting the job done. He focused mainly, possibly to much, on gunnery training, exercising the guns as much as possible.

    Also, the crew did not consider the SODAK "jinxed" or "hard luck". Many of the incidents mentioned were minor & happened often enough on other ships during wartime, that they were not considered as a jinx.
     
  9. bronk7

    bronk7 Well-Known Member

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    ..so it was caused by the firing of the guns?--which is what thought I had read before
     

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