Albert T. Harris
|Albert Thomas Harris|
August 29, 1915|
|Died||November 12, 1942
at sea Solomon Islands
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Service/branch||United States Naval Reserve|
|Years of service||1940–1942|
|Rank||Lieutenant (junior grade)|
|Unit||San Francisco (CA-38)|
|Battles/wars||World War II
|Awards||Navy Cross (posthumous)|
Early Life and Military Training
Born in Madison, Georgia, Harris attended North Georgia College and the University of Georgia before enlisting in the Naval Reserve on September 10, 1940. After a period of training, some of which he spent on the battleship New York (BB-34), he was discharged on June 15, 1941, to accept an appointment as a midshipman in the Naval Reserve the following day. After receiving training at the Naval Reserve Midshipmen's School at Northwestern University, he was commissioned an ensign in the Naval Reserve on September 12, 1941.
Following instruction in communications, Harris was assigned to the 12th Naval District temporarily on November 15, 1941. There he awaited transfer to the heavy cruiser San Francisco (CA-38). He reported for duty on board that ship at Pearl Harbor on the afternoon of January 6, 1942.
Two days after he reported, his ship sailed with Task Force (TF) 8 as part of the force covering the movement of marines to Samoa. Detached from TF 8 to provide local cover for the newly arrived forces at Tutuila, San Francisco then rejoined her old division, Cruiser Division 6 (part of TF 11), soon after clearing Samoan waters on February 8. Ens. Harris saw his first action on February 20, 1942, when San Francisco screened the aircraft carrier Lexington (CV-2) as TF 11 battled Japanese land-based bombers off Bougainville in the Northern Solomons. San Francisco received credit for downing one of the attacking aircraft.
On March 10, 1942, the cruiser stood ready to protect Lexington, as that carrier and Yorktown (CV-5) launched a successful surprise attack on enemy shipping off the New Guinea settlements of Lae and Salamaua. In the spring of 1942, Ens. Harris's ship escorted convoys between the United States, Hawaii, Australia and the Fiji Islands.
After seeing a convoy safely to Fiji in July, San Francisco joined the expeditionary force bound for the Solomon Islands, in the initial assault phase of "Operation Watchtower", the invasion of Guadalcanal. His ship covered the landings on August 7, and, following a logistics period at Nouméa, New Caledonia, covered a supply convoy to Guadalcanal. During the latter movement, he witnessed the loss of the carrier Wasp (CV-7) on September 15. He took part on the Battle of Cape Esperance on the night of October 11 and 12, and participated in the shelling of Japanese supply and ammunition dumps at Koli Point on November 4.
Newly promoted Lt. (j.g.) Harris saw his last action on the afternoon of November 12, 1942, when 21 Japanese twin-engined torpedo planes (Mitsubishi G4M1 "Betties") attacked San Francisco's task group near Lunga Point. While commanding the antiaircraft battery on the aft machine gun platform, he directed the fire of his 20-millimeter guns on an approaching Japanese torpedo plane that had been set ablaze by gunfire from the nearby transport McCawley (AP-10). Maintaining heavy fire until the Betty crashed into them, Harris and three of his gun crews died in the fiery crash.
Commander Herbert E. Schonland, who took command of the San Francisco after Captain Cassin Young died of wounds suffered in the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, praised "the remarkable fire discipline and courage" of Harris and his men. "They met their deaths without flinching," Schonland wrote, "and in a manner which has been an inspiration to us all."
Lt. (j.g.) Harris was awarded the Navy Cross posthumously.
The destroyer escort Albert T. Harris (DE-447) was laid down on 13 January 1944 at Newark, New Jersey, by the Federal Shipbuilding & Drydock Co. She was launched on 16 April 1944, sponsored by Mrs. J. D. Harris, the mother of Lt. (j.g.) Harris, and commissioned on 29 November 1944 at the New York Navy Yard, Lt. Comdr. Sidney King in command.