KURZMANN (Author, Left to Die): The ships were heading toward - or
limping you might say - toward base.
When a lone submarine in the area aimed its torpedoes at the USS
San Francisco which was a flagship, but the torpedoes missed and it hit
the Juneau by mistake so to speak.
We were about 3,000 yards from the Juneau when it happened.
Victor Gibson was standing watch on the bridge of the San Francisco.
(USS San Francisco Crew): All at once I saw two torpedoes coming kind of
from our port side towards right across the front of our bow and then when
they got by us I went to the starboard side and the one that was closest to
the San Francisco, it looked to me like that was the one that went on over
and hit the Juneau and pow! Fifteen
or 20 seconds, the Juneau was destroyed.
CECIL: She was
there one minute and I looked away for a second and I looked back up and all
there was was a cloud of smoke with a big explosion.
And when the smoke cleared, there wasn't anything on the water.
Couldn't see any survivors at all.
But there were survivors. Of the Juneau’s 700-man crew, about 140 were
thrown clear into the water, many of them suffering with terrible wounds.
was without a doubt the most horrifying thing we’d ever seen.
B-17 crew chief William Entrikin was on a routine search mission when he saw
the Juneau explode.
ENTRIKIN (B-17 Crew): People were clinging to anything that they could cling
to and of course they were all well covered with bunker sea and oil, and
black as tar and hardly recognizable as human beings.
lot of them just died right there you know in the water, they drowned, they-
because the- there was nothing to hang on to.
There was hardly any debris left.
So there were maybe a hundred men or so who got aboard these three
Signalman Lester Zook was a seasoned crew member of the Juneau.
ZOOK: We could
look and see our other ships going away. I mean, they were just- split out right away.
But there was due cause for that.
We were in the torpedo junction.
Frank Holmgren was 19 when he joined the Navy, despite not knowing how to
(USS Juneau Crew): And they kept going and I heard the guys start saying
"they ain't gonna come back" and the other ones said "oh
yeah, they’re gonna come back and pick us up." And the next thing we know - they're gone.
After the task force’s two admirals were killed in the night battle, Capt.
Gilbert Hoover, commanding officer of the USS Helena, assumed command.
Captain Hoover, had refused to send a radio signal for help for these men
because he'd been given orders not to, not to use the radio because of the
possibility that the Japanese would pick up the signal and he was convinced
that no human being could have survived after that hit.
So he decided rather than go back and look for survivors, that the
ships should continue on toward base.
LESTER ZOOK (USS
Juneau Crew): They’re not going to stay there and get destroyed
themselves, but they will come back that night and look for us.
Then when the next day we didn't see 'em again, it's still - it's
still no point of getting hardly nervous you know about it, because the
planes could have reported us like they should have and probably did, so a-
rescue is imminent.