Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Fighting Hogans

Only 17 days after President Franklin D. Roosevelt told America there had been a “sneak attack” on Hawaii’s Hickam Field by the Japanese Empire, William Francis Hogan, my uncle, (image right) became one of America’s fighting men. His first full day in the U.S. Navy was on Christmas Day 1941.

Purple Heart
                                            Uncle Bill made the ultimate sacrifice (His name is inscribed in the Yonkers, N.Y., Veterans Memorial near Getty Square at City Hall) for his country in the early morning hours of Sept. 5, 1942 when his APD-3 ship, the USS Gregory  (at left) and its sister ship, the USS Little, came under fire in a surprise attack from superior Japanese forces near Guadalcanal in what came to be called "Iron Bottom Sound" because of the many tons of both allied and enemy shipping sunk there.

The versatile, high speed transport ships patrolled the waters around the hotly contested islands performing “routine” duties such as moving men, ammunition and supplies wherever they were needed.

Encounters with the enemy were common and the sounds of gunfire in the distance were routinely heard.
A day earlier, Uncle Bill’s ship had delivered a marine raider battalion onto Savo Island.

The Gregory, along with th
e Little, plied the inky black waters of the channel between Guadalcanal and Savo Island on their way back to anchorage at Tulagi amid a low haze. Because conditions obscured all the landmarks in the area, it was decided to stay on patrol rather than risk steaming blind through the channel.

As the ships slipped through the waters in darkness at 10 knots, three Japanese destroyers, the Yudachi, Hatsuyuki and the Murakumo, moved unnoticed on their mission to bombard shore positions.
Shortly before 1 a.m., the sound of gunfire echoed through the night and those on duty saw gun flashes in the distance. Some crew members thought it was merely some far off action or a Japanese submarine.
But at 12:46 a.m. everyone aboard was alerted or awakened by the sound of General Quarters. Each man took to his battle station.
The Americans were considering whether to depart the area quietly, undetected, or to close for action. But the decision was quickly taken out their hands when a Navy pilot, who also had observed the gunfire believing it was from a Japanese submarine, dropped five flares that illuminated the area nearly on top of the Gregory and the Little.
Silhouetted against the blackness of the night, the ships were seen clearly by the Japanese destroyers. Radar on the Gregory quickly revealed there were four targets, including three destroyers, which apparently had been joined by a cruiser. Japanese searchlights were soon scanning the Gregory. Almost immediately, shells began raining down on the American transports. The battle was joined.

Built as destroyers, the APD's had traded some of their immense firepower for speed and for cargo room and space for carrying troops. Against three Japanese destroyers, they were not only outnumbered but outgunned.
As crew members of the Gregory began returning fire, they saw a large explosion on their sister ship, the Little, and now the Japanese guns trained on them. Under the glare of the searchlights, the Gregory took hits almost immediately. But Gregory's gunners quickly darkened one of the searchlights.
Two of Gregory's boilers burst and the bridge took a direct hit. The pilot house exploded and the galley deck house was ablaze. The ship was listing and sinking.
Surprised, outgunned and overmatched, the Gregory  was all but dead in the water less than three minutes after the flares revealed their position.
The order to abandon ship was given by the Gregory’s skipper, Lt. Commander Harry F. Bauer, who was among the wounded. The crew scrambled to get the lifeboats into the water. Meanwhile Bauer ordered two men to go to the aid of a crewman who was shouting for help. Commander Bauer was never seen again. He was posthumously awarded the Silver Star.
By this time, most of the ship’s crew was in the water, but shrapnel was flying everywhere. Some men abandoned their lifeboats and took to the water. For a while, the Japanese shelling stopped and some men considered going back to the ship, but the bombardment soon resumed. This time their guns were targeting the men in the water, not the ship. Some 40 minutes after the battle began, the Gregory sank, stern first. Two hours later, the Little followed the Gregory down.

All but 11 of Gregory’s crew survived, six of them swimming all the way to Guadalcanal. It took them all night.
Uncle Bill was among six men reported by a survivor as dead on the ship before it went under. He noted seeing the bodies as he prepared to abandon ship. Records indicate Uncle Bill was just 25 years old.

Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz spoke of the gallantry of the men of the Gr
egory and the Little.
"Both of these small vessels fought as well as possible against the overwhelming odds,” Nimitz said. “With little means, they performed duties vital to the success of the campaign."
The Gregory received two battle stars for its service in World War II.
Some 50 years after Gregory was lost, in July, 1992, a sunken U.S. Navy high-speed transport was discovered on the sea floor off Lunga Point. While its identity remains uncertain, it’s believed the ship is either the Gregory or the Little. The Gregory was named after Admiral Francis Hoyt Gregory, a native of Norwalk, Conn., who was born on Oct. 9, 1780.
About Uncle Bill and the Hogan Family
Uncle Bill was the son of an Irish immigrant, Michael J. Hogan, who came to America from Dungarvan, County Waterford, in 1906. Michael, better known as Shamus O'Brien (image below, left), soon became a widely known prize fighter out of Yonkers and a lightweight champion in New York and in Ireland.

amus was married to Adelaide Searles Hogan . In addition to William Francis Hogan, after whom I was named, the couple had seven other children, two of whom, Adelaide and Gilbert, died as infants in the influenza outbreaks of the early 1900s.

All four of Shamus’ sons served in the military. In
addition to Uncle Bill, John and Michael (known as “Mitch,”) were Navy men. Although family members have little information about their military exploits, it is known that John's service included time in Africa and Mitch served aboard the USS Charles R. Ware. Edward Hogan’s service was with the Army Air Corps, where he won his wings. According to family sources, Edward had served in London during the war and flew P-51 escort fighters.

Shamus and Adelaide's daughters, Elena (Helen) Ho
gan Torpey, my mother, had worked as a riveter for Eastern Aircraft Co. in Tarrytown, N.Y., during the war. Mary (Mae) Hogan Dropauer, whose husband, Richard, had been wounded in the invasion of Iwo Jima, also was a working mother.

Helen, given an opportunity, proudly asserte
d that she was “Rosie the Riveter,” a fictional patriotic character that originated with one of her co-workers at Eastern Aircraft. Rosie was created in 1942 to promote the value of women in the workforce and she later gained great fame from Norman Rockwell’s image in the May 29, 1943 issue of the Saturday Evening Post.

Surely, with four sons serving gallantly in World War II, and one making the ultimate sacrifi
ce, the Hogan family could fairly be called “the real Hogan heroes.”
According to Eddie Cantwell, who wrote of my grandfather, Michael J. Hogan aka Shamus O’Brien, on the Waterford County Museum site in Dungarvan, Ireland, “Today his name (William F. Hogan) can be found engraved on three monuments, one in Getty Square, Yonkers, the second at Fort McKinley in the Philippines, and a third, which has been erected recently at a location on the coast of the Solomon Islands.”

I was only six years old when Pearl Harbor was attack
ed, but I remember the day clearly. Uncle John came to our house to tell of the bombing of Hickam Field. Without hesitation, I went to my bedroom where I strapped on my cap guns and declared I was ready to fight.

My memories of Uncle Bill are a little hazy, but I clearly remember the day he took me for a walk down Ludlow Street
in Yonkers – the street where I lived when I was born. We strolled all the way down the street almost to the Hudson River, where there was a small helicopter, parked behind a chain link fence, that he knew I would love to see. The small 'copter apparently was being stored there. I was thrilled.

I will never forget the sad day when Uncle John came to our house on Warburton Avenue in Yonkers to inform Adelaide -- his mother and my grandmother --  that Uncle Bill’s ship had been reported lost by the New York Daily News. He brought the newspaper with him that featured a picture of the ship (or one like it.)
I was living with Nana at the time. As I lie in my bed that night, I got little sleep as a Gold Star mother mourned her young hero.

For several weeks before that black day, Uncle Bill’s letters to Nana were read aloud in our home. In his letters, Uncle Bill spoke proudly of participating in Naval gun battles against the enemy. I remember he specifically boasted of killing at least two of the enemy in firefights.

I still possess Uncle Bill’s Purple Heart among my souvenirs. Although the ribbon is moth eaten, and I know the military will replace it at no cost if requested, I’ll continue to treasure it as is.

Somewhere near the time of Uncle Bill’s death, Shamus came calling on his estranged wife, possibly to console her. But Adelaide refused to acknowledge his repeated k
nocks on her door.

Nana took her son's death very hard, of course. A Gold Star hung in her window throughout the war. Uncle Bill’s picture, in his Navy uniform, stood on an end table in her living room for the rest of her life. She steadfastly refused to even look at anything marked “Made in Japan.”
I had lived with Nana for at least eight years, and throughout that time I never recall any discussion of her tragedy. Her grief was so great that she never talked of it, and she never attended a single funeral.
Following are the reports of 10 survivors of the Gregory obtained by my cousin Tabitha, granddaughter of my Uncle "Mitch" Hogan, through federal Freedom of Information sources and the Military Personnel Office in St. Louis. Other facts and declassified information she obtained came from Ted Rankin, who had served with Uncle Bill. Additional information came from Curtis Clark of San Diego and the National Organization for Veterans reunion.

'Battle Report of Surprise Night Action'

Report of Ensign Alvin L. Gallin, Feb. 8, 1952

(1) At 0056 on the morning of Sept. 5, 1942 I was awakened by the sound of gunfire. I began dressing, and when the general alarm sounded at 0058, reported to my battle station on the after deck house. Firing could still be heard, but I could see no flashes. Almost immediately thereafter a flare burst about 1,000 yards off the port bow. Events then followed in rapid succession. A searchlight about 2000 yards off the starboard quarter illuminated the U.S.S. Little, then on our starboard bow, turning right. Three salvos were fired; the Little burst into flames. I ordered Gun #3, the after 4” 5
0 cal. gun to train on the light and commence firing. Gun #3 had a misfire, and did not go off. The Gregory turned left at the time, and put the enemy astern of us. Then a ship behind that which was firing at the U.S.S. Little commenced firing at us. I ordered Gun #3 trained on it, and then told the Gun Captain to fire percussion. Gun #3 commenced firing. The enemy then illuminated us with a searchlight which swept forward.The second round from Gun #3 carried away the searchlight tower. They dropped one salvo just short of the fantail and ceased firing. The ship which had been firing at the Little illuminated us, and another just forward of the port quarter began firing at us. Apparently #3 had fired about five rounds. I noticed that the ship was dead in the water. I turned around and looking forward the bridge and galley deckhouse were ablaze. This was my first realization that the ship had been hit. I ordered the after life rafts cut away and started forward to see what had happened. Just forward of the after deck house the ammunition and repair parties were standing fast. I gave the order to set all depth charges on safe, and continued forward. Amidships, the boats were being lowered to the rail. I gave the order to stand by the boats. Men were coming out of the engine rooms; the fire room air lock was open, but no one was coming out. Going farther forward, I saw that the port after side of the well deck was ablaze,and one man was fighting a gasoline fire on the auxiliary radio generator with a CO2 extinguisher. There were two men lying dead near the radio shack. The enemy was not firing at the time. I went up to the bridge, and discovered that it was abandoned. The port wing of the bridge was a flaming shambles, slippery with blood. The Executive Officer and the control talker were on the deck, dead. I could not reach the pilot house. I started aft, passing the word to abandon ship. I sent half the after ammunition party forward to look for wounded, and order the rest into the boats. Gun #3 was still firing, but I ordered the crew to abandon ship. I started forward again, and met Mr. Heine at #1 skids. We thought we were the only officers left and decided to rendezvous the boats off the port beam. I went to the bridge again. Two men were carrying Mr. Decker from the bridge and one told me there were none left alive. Returning amidships I found that two boats were gone, and one was at the rail, filled with about 40 men. The ship had had only three boats. Mr. Heine and I got into the boat. Then Mr. Heine returned aboard to lower the boat. Hiter, a yeoman, came aft and said there were still some wounded aboard. Mr. Heine told me to lie alongside, and went forward. I ordered the boat engine started, but apparently flying shrapnel had disabled it. Shelling then commenced again; much shrapnel was flying about. I ordered the men to abandon the boat and swim as far from the ship as possible. Francis, the cook, and Mr. Decker appeared to be dead. I jumped in the water with the coxswain, and began swimming. The enemy was on the port bow and quarter, illuminating and firing. The water around me was covered with six splash salvos; shrapnel was flying through the air. It seemed to me that the enemy was firing up a ladder which continued well beyond the ship. I could see three ships ablaze, leading me to believe that one of the enemy was burning; I did not see any of the enemy ships. I estimate the total elapsed time from General Quarters to have been about 20 minutes. I gathered a group of men about me and continued away from the ship. We were about 1,000 yards from the ship when the firing ceased. Woods, BMlc, USCG and I started back to the ship for a raft. We had gone about 50 yards when a row of five flares was laid down the port side of the ship. Believing the enemy was circling, we turned back but could not find the original group. We were in the water until about 0800 the next morning, when a landing boat recovered us. We had gathered a group of six men during the night, and had alternately tried swimming south toward Guadalcanal and huddling together to keep warm. The moon and current were used as indications of direction.

(2) I believe that every man did his best in the face of overwhelming odds. There was no panic at any time. The ship was abandoned in an orderly manner. The Gun Captain of #3 gun, Kristof, and his crew deserve special mention, as does Wagner, the gunner’s mate who set all charges on safe.

Charles R. Young, WT2c – Bridge

I had the watch in the fire room, heard several shells burst and heard #2 blower slow down, saw that steam line to it was ruptured. Shell came through port side forwa
rd, a couple above water line and hit #1 boiler. I pulled emergency fuel oil trips a second before both boiler fronts fell in. Left fire room – abandoned ship. Had to feel way out of fire room. Full of steam and smoke. Made sure all boiler stops were secured.

David L. Burton, QM2c

I had just taken the mid-watch and about 0055 I logged gunfire on port bow. We awoke the Captain and went to General Quarters. We were on course 130 degrees steering on the stern of the Little. A starshell burst on the port bow about 2,000 yards away. Little changed course to 280 degrees and we followed. I had the wheel as
that was my General Quarters Station. The enemy ships spotted the Little with a searchlight and opened fire on their starboard quarter. We came to port with a full left rudder and the second ship spotted us opening fire and we opened with our anti-aircraft, and a few seconds later with our main battery. Someone gave the word we’re afire on the well deck, most everyone on the bridge seemed to be on the port side and the word to abandon ship was passed. We had a direct hit on the port wing of the bridge, exploding in the pilot house knocking me to the deck with several others. I got to my feet made my way to the starboard wing of the bridge and jumped. After I was in the water I seemed to be all right. I heard Mr. Wilson call and tried to get him but couldn’t make it. I saw Mr. Dyer, P.R. Smith, Kirkman and Mr. Fair.

Clarence C. Justice, BM2c - #2 Gun

I was sleeping on the well deck when someone called me for General Quarters. When I awoke I heard guns firing, but I thought it was just another sea battle, a good piece off. I dressed in a hurry as usual for general quarters and went to Gun #
1 but Adamski was there and I asked someone what was going on. About that time the Little burst into flames so I ran to my gun. As soon as I got there a shell hit us on the bridge and we lost all communications. Povlich, S2c, was missing so I told Connors to take the trainers seat. He trained around to starboard and I loaded. Granberry, SC2c, was the only loader. I had Metzger and West but they were hit by schrapnel. About this time, Povlich manned his station and he tried to fire by auxiliary generator. He tried to fire by percussion, but the enemy was out of the line of fire. We had been hit at least twice. A shell hit under the gun and knocked me off the after deck. I entered the galley passageway, a shell hit #2 stack and one in the troop space. I went back to the gun but no one was there and helped them because the Captain was wounded. The Captain said it was no use to stay with the ship. He went over the side on the well deck and Ellis and I followed him. Ellis got him in tow by his kapok and we got a little way out from the ship. Things quieted down for a while and the Captain asked us to take him back to the ship, but one of the Jap ships pulled up closer and started shelling the ship again. Most of the shells were hitting right around us. Then someone yelled that he was drowning and that he couldn’t last much longer. The Captain made Ellis let him go and to go look for him. I followed to help look. We never found him so we came back and yelled for the Captain but he never answered. One of the shells or the sharks must have got him. 

Robert W. Zarecor, GM5c

As I went to my station on the galley deckhouse they were firing on the beach. It stopped and one or two flares dropped near the Little, which was ahead of us. Then a searchlight picked her up and she was hit and set afire being fired upon from the starboard side. A searchlight on the port side of us picked us up and we were hit by the galley. I saw the top of the #2 stack go then the bridge. Men were going over the side from the bridge and galley deck. I started down the ladder to the well deck b
ut it was in flames so I went down by #1 stack on the starboard side, made my way aft where there were quite a few men. I saw Duzy in the steering engine room hatch complaining that someone fired a gun and nearly took his head off. Made my way forward again and Mr. Gallin was calmly telling the men to lower the boats and abandon ship. I made the boat in #3 skids.

Joseph J. Roletti, CMM (AA)

At 2245 I relieved the watch and about 0057 General Quarters sounded. It went long after (unintelligible)…to get out of the engine room, by that time, smoke was co
ming down the ventilator. We got to top side and saw the ship had lost headway so we dropped two life rafts by the engine room. Lowered #3 boat which 31 men got in and started to move away from the ship as it was still being fired on and shrapnel was flying around us.

Chester M. Ellis, Cox

I manned my General Quarters station, all gun crew was there, got one rang
e that was all from control. We broke out ammunition and loaded the gun. Granberry broke out the shell and put into the gun. The gun captain (Justice) reported ready one. There was a hit through the galley and about half the crew disappeared. I set range down lower between 2,000 and 3,000 and there was the pointer left (Pickett) and two loaders, Granberry and West. I think Povlich was still at his seat but not sure. Someone on the starboard MMs was knocked down and got up and started to fire his gun. By that time there were hits all over the bridge and deckhouse. At least 10 or 15. The ship had stopped and the gun could not bear. Someone was saying “Abandon Ship.” Everyone started toward the port life raft. There was a hit under it and they turned and went to the starboard side. Wood was on the port side. We tried to get the key out, could not so cut lines. Wood and I pushed one over, was intending saving other for wounded men on the bridge and well deck when I found the captain. He was on the well deck sitting on the bulwark right aft the bridge. Justice had started back up the Galley deck house and come back. I had told the captain we had a life raft but I got back. Wood had thrown it over, it looked as if he had been jarred off. There was no one around so Justice and I went off too. I called to the captain, He answered. We went over to him and asked how he was. He said not bad, just his legs. It looked like it was over so we got an order from the captain to swim slowly toward the ship. Just as we started, they began to fire again. So he said lets get out of here. Someone said help can’t swim. The captain worried about his men. The captain said go give him a hand. I started back and he started calling Justice. He got no answer so I turned and started back calling him. Didn’t get an answer and could not find him. A piece could have hit him. Among the people I saw dead was Hogan, Drazba, Smith, R.C. (Executive Officer) in the legs and stomach, two men in the wheel house, someone on deck.

Frank A. Duzy, MM2c


At approximately 0100 Sept. 5, 1942 the General Quarters alarm sounded. Before it sounded the ship was making 2/3 speed. Nugent, MM1c, relieved me and I went topside and aft to the steering engine room, which was my GQ station. I put the JV phones on and reported ready to the engine room; the fire room also reported manned and ready. I noticed then that we were making a fast speed. A short time later I heard gunfire. I stuck my head out of the hatch and saw the U.S.S. Little burning, then a ship with her searchlight on us was approaching us from the starboard quarter. I heard us get hit from him up forward, less than a minute later #6 depth charge gun went off. We were on fire forward and I saw two sailors in the water by the port side near the propeller guard. I heard a seaman shout for someone to throw out a life preserver. I then noticed that the ship stopped and no searchlights were trained at us. I took off the phones, secured the steering engine and shifted to hand steering. Then I went up on topside to see what was going on. There wasn’t anyone on the after deck house so I went forward. There was a boat alongside so I got in. The boat was already loaded so we left the ship. After we left the ship two searchlights were trained on the ship and then they were firing again. There was at least three enemy ships.

Thomas C. Ingle, CMM (AA)

I was awakened by the General Quarters. We reported ready for GQ at about 0058 and started making all possible speed. It seemed like at once the ship was being shelled. We lost contact with the bridge and steam pressure dropped to zero. The engine room started filling with smoke and as there was nothing we could do we abandoned the engine room. On topside we cut loose the life rafts and stood a
round the starboard side of the after deck. A fire was blazing in the port galley passageway. Block was there and asking me if there was pressure on the fire main. This was impossible of course. I observed the Assistant Engineer (Mr. Gallin) quietly giving orders to lower all boats. Thirty one men including myself left the ship in #3 boat. Strange, Slc, was very helpful and cool, in that he attended the wounded and saved lives in the boat.

Walter T. Adamski, BM1c


I was gun captain on the #1 battery gun. I had the 00-04 watch so my gun was already manned when GQ went. Orders came from Control to train to starboard and pick up target. Then came commence firing. We fired two rounds to starboard and then I went and secured #1 MG, which was swinging loose. When I got back to the gun we were bearing on our own bridge so we could not fire. We were hit on the forecastle in the paint locker which went up in flames. We seen the men from control abandon ship just after we fired our second salvo. My gun crew left the ship when we could not bear anymore to starboard. The gun crew was very cool and calm.

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