USS McCawley (APA-4)

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For other ships of the same name, see USS McCawley.
USS McCawley APA-4.jpg
USS McCawley (AP-10, later APA-4) c. 1941-42
Career (USA)
Name: USS McCawley (APA-4)
Namesake: Colonel Charles G. McCawley, USMC
Builder: Furness Shipbuilding, England
Christened: Santa Barbara
Acquired: 26 July 1940
Commissioned: 11 September 1940
Renamed: McCawley, 29 July 1940
Reclassified: AP-10 to APA-4, 1 February 1943
Honors and
awards:
Five battle stars for World War II service
Fate: Sunk off Guadalcanal, 30 June 1943
General characteristics
Class & type: McCawley-class attack transport
Displacement: 9,600 tons (fl)
Length: 486 ft 6 in (148.29 m)
Beam: 63 ft 6 in (19.35 m)
Draft: 25 ft 6 in (7.77 m)
Propulsion: Sulzer "DR" type drive, no boilers, 2 x propellers, designed shaft horsepower 8,000
Speed: 17 knots (sources vary)
Capacity: Troops: 88 Officers, 1,207 Enlisted
Cargo: 164,561 cu ft
Complement: Officers 41, Enlisted 437
Armament: 4 x 3"/50 caliber dual-purpose guns, 2 x twin Bofors 40 mm guns, 18 x single Oerlikon 20 mm cannons.

USS McCawley (APA-4) was a McCawley-class attack transport that served with the U.S. Navy during World War II. Named after Charles G. McCawley, eighth Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, she was the lead ship in her class.

The second McCawley, formerly SS Santa Barbara, was completed in 1928 by the Furness Shipbuilding Company of Haverton Hill-on-Tees, England; acquired by the Navy from Grace Lines 26 July 1940; renamed McCawley (AP-10) 29 July 1940; and commissioned 11 September 1940, Capt. H. D. McHenry in command. She was reclassified an attack transport, APA-4, on 1 February 1943.

World War II[edit]

On 19 February 1942, McCawley got underway for Iceland with troops embarked. She returned to New York 25 March and then steamed to Norfolk, Virginia en route a new assignment with the Pacific Fleet.

Transiting the Panama Canal 18 April, she discharged marine aviators at Pago Pago 8 May and continued on to Wellington, New Zealand. Joining Amphibious Force, South Pacific, she became the flagship for Rear Adm. R. K. Turner shortly before the first Allied counter invasion of the war, Guadalcanal.

Invasion of Guadalcanal[edit]

On 7 August, the campaign started; at 0800 landings were made at Tulagi, at 0919 on Lunga Point, Guadalcanal. Air raids commenced on the 8th; McCawley's guns scored their first kills, destroying three, possibly four planes.

Supply missions amid naval battles[edit]

On the 9th, she witnessed the flares of the Battle of Savo Island, in which American heavy cruisers USS Astoria (CA-34), USS Quincy (CA-39), USS Vincennes (CA-44) and Australian heavy cruiser HMAS Canberra (D33) were lost and American heavy cruiser USS Chicago (CA-29) was severely damaged. The transports continued to unload cargo until sailing for Nouméa that afternoon.

McCawley returned to Guadalcanal 18 September with supplies and reinforcements, departing again the same day with wounded and POWs. Unfortunately, aircraft carrier USS Wasp (CV-7) was lost and battleship USS North Carolina (BB-55) and destroyer USS O'Brien (DD-415) were damaged by torpedoes while protecting this troopship convoy.

On 9 October, the transport again got underway for Guadalcanal in a convoy carrying over 2,800 reinforcements. One of the support groups for the convoy was Rear Adm. Norman Scott's cruiser force, which, on the night of 11 and 12 October, defeated an enemy force off Cape Esperance, insuring successful completion of the troop movement. McCawley landed her troops and cargo, returning once more to Nouméa with wounded and POWs.

On 8 November, McCawley departed Nouméa with other units of TF 67 for Guadalcanal. Two cruisers and three destroyers under Rear Adm. Daniel J. Callaghan supported them. At the same time, another convoy, covered by a cruiser and four destroyers under Rear Admiral Scott, set out from Espiritu Santo. Further direct support for the operations was to be supplied by battleships and destroyers of TF 64.

Transports from Espiritu Santo arrived at Lunga Point on the 11th, McCawley's group from Nouméa on the 12th. By dusk on the 12th, as reports of Japanese ship movements from Truk increased, 90% of the transports' lading had been discharged, despite torpedo bomber attacks.

The transports were pulled out and sent back to Espiritu Santo, while Admiral Callaghan's and Admiral Scott's combined force gallantly engaged the enemy fleet in the initial action of what would later be called the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal. The battle, lasting from 12 to 15 November, cost the Japanese two battleships, one cruiser, three destroyers, and eleven transports. The United States lost two cruisers and seven destroyers, and Admirals Callaghan and Scott were both killed.

On 24 November, McCawley departed Nouméa for overhaul at Wellington. She returned to New Caledonia 10 January 1943 with the 1st Marine Raiders and the 3rd Parachute Battalion. After discharging those units, she loaded Army troops and construction equipment and resumed supply runs to Guadalcanal. McCawley, redesignated attack transport APA-4 on 1 February 1943, continued to supply Guadalcanal until mid-June. At that time, she began preparations for the New Georgia and central Solomons campaign.

Attacked by enemy aircraft[edit]

At 0643 on 30 June, she began off-loading for the landing at Rendova Island, near New Georgia. Twice, before completion at 1350, operations were halted to prepare for air attacks which did not materialize. Then, as the withdrawing column entered Blanche Channel, torpedo planes attacked. McCawley 's gunfire brought down four; but a torpedo hit in McCawley's engine room, killed 15 of her crew, and knocked out all power.

Following the attack, Admiral Turner and his staff transferred to destroyer USS Farenholt (DD-491). Rear Admiral Wilkinson remained in McCawley to command salvage operations, while attack cargo ship USS Libra (AKA-12) took the transport in tow and destroyers USS Ralph Talbot (DD-390) and USS McCalla (DD-488) stood by to assist.

At 1640 all the crew, except the salvage party, were taken off by Ralph Talbot. Soon afterward, the group was attacked by dive bombers, and McCawley was strafed, but no further damage was inflicted as the salvage party manned her guns to shoot down one of the three planes destroyed. By 1850, the draft aft had increased to 38 feet (12 m), and Admiral Wilkinson ordered McCalla alongside to take off the salvage party. Within the hour all hands were aboard McCalla and pulling clear of the stricken transport.

Accidental sinking[edit]

At 2023 the final blow came. The doomed ship was again torpedoed and in 30 seconds she sank in 340 fathoms. The following day, it was learned that six motor torpedo boats had torpedoed an "enemy" transport in Blanche Channel, after having been informed there were no friendly forces in the area. PTs were then placed directly under Admiral Turner and given a liaison officer to keep them informed.

Awards[edit]

McCawley received five battle stars for World War II service.

References[edit]