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Admiral U. S. Grant Sharp Jr., USN (Ret.) (1906-2001)

Volume I

Admiral U. S. Grant Sharp, Jr.Based on six interviews conducted by Etta-Belle Kitchen from September 1969 through February 1970, the volume contains 331 pages of interview transcript plus an index. The interviewee placed no restrictions on the use of the transcript, but his estate retains the copyright to the literary content of the material.

During World War II, Admiral Sharp was CO of the USS Hogan (DD-178) on convoy duty in the Western Atlantic and Caribbean as well as in the invasion of North Africa. In 1943 he was CO of the USS Boyd (DD-544) and took part in many strikes in the Pacific: Wake Islands, Nauru, the Marianas, the Bonins, Mindanao, Cebu, Negros, Luzon, Truk, Okinawa, and Formosa. Among his later assignments were: CO of the USS Macon (CA-132); Commander Cruiser Division Three; Director, Strategic Plans Division; Commander Cruiser Destroyer Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet; Commander First Fleet; DCNO (Plans and Policy) during the Cuban crisis; and CinC, U.S. Pacific Fleet.

 

An index to this volume can be viewed here (.pdf).

 


 

Admiral Sharp: After the Gilbert Island landings, we went -- the force we were with -- went by Nauru Island on the 8th of December and bombarded the island, without any reply from the island. There were a lot of battleships and cruisers and destroyers and they knew there were Japanese on the island. They tried to spot shore batteries and did a lot of shooting at the island, without any particular -- there was no reply so they didn't know whether they hit anything or not.

We had left the island, probably two hours when word came back that a plane was down off the island, one of the planes from one of the carriers, and the carriers planes were overhead and they thought they had a man in the water, a pilot. We were ordered to go back and try to rescue the man. The first word was the plane was down about five miles off the island, as I recall, and there didn't seem to be any problem. But as we were on our way in we were in contact with the aviator and he said that the slick was about two miles off the island.

Etta-Belle Kitchen: This is the aviator flying overhead?

Admiral Sharp: So that brought up the possibility that we were getting pretty close in case there were any shore batteries there. The division commander that was aboard sent a message to the Task Force Commander calling attention to that and the Task Force Commander said to continue on your mission.

Etta-Belle Kitchen: And who was that at the time?

Admiral Sharp: I think that was Commander Battleships -- Vice Admiral Reed. Well, we went on toward Nauru at 27 or 28 knots and in the meantime we got all our boilers on the line and were ready for -- went to general quarters and we were ready for anything that would happen.

Etta-Belle Kitchen: Did everybody on the ship know why you were going in?

Admiral Sharp: Yes.

Etta-Belle Kitchen: Did you tell them on the loudspeaker?USS Boyd (DD 544)

Admiral Sharp: Yes, everybody understood it. We went charging on in about 27 or 30 knots or something like that and the plane was circling overhead and said there was an object in the water. They thought it was a man. And as we pulled up to a spot we could see what looked like a man’s arm waving in the water. So as we pulled up alongside I backed down full and we had almost come to a stop when we could see that this was a float light bobbing around in the water and we just had started up when the shore battery opened up on us and the first shots hit in the forward engine room. The others were quite close. Well, when it hit I rang up flank speed all we could make, and at that time the shore batteries really opened up on us. We started firing back but it was very hard to locate the shore battery. All we could see was the flashes of the gun and I started zig-zagging and chasing the splashes. That is, when the splashes were over on the starboard bow I would turn the ship toward the splashes and hope that the gunner would, try to correct his shot and I would be over where the fall shot was last time.

This worked fairly well. We didn't get hit again although we did have some close ones. We finally chased along this way and got out of range of the guns. By this time we had found out that the forward engine was out of commission. The steam lines had been pierced by the shells and the forward engine room was full of steam. We had been going full blast and the boilers were pouring steam into those engines because we didn't realize at first that it was out of commission.

So we right away had a big job to do. The chief engineer who was down in the forward engine room was able to get up the hatch but apparently when he opened the hatch the steam from the engine room went up the hatch and he inhaled so much steam that he just got up and fell on deck and died right away.

There were about twelve to fifteen people down in the engine room and, of course, it was extremely hot down there. They apparently tried to get down in the bilges to get out of the heat but they were all killed. The engine room was filling up with water fairly fast. The forward engine room was the only place where we had any penetration of the hull. It finally filled up about three-quarters of the way with water and we got the lines isolated and all that and continued on at a slower speed to rejoin our task group. Meanwhile trying to pump out the engine room and plug up the holes and we soon found we couldn't plug up the holes until we had a chance to stop and put somebody over the side.

So about -- this must have been around noon that this happened, I guess. I finally joined the Task Group about two or three o’clock in the afternoon or something like that. We went alongside the flagship and got some medical assistance. In the meantime, our doctor had been doing operations down on the wardroom table and had pretty well bandaged up all the people that had flesh wounds from shrapnel.

The chaplain came over from the battleship and gave the last rites on the people that we hadn't been able to get out of the engine room. We decided to go off and have a burial at sea. The chaplain couldn't stay with the ship so we went on off and I performed the burial -- I guess it was the next morning that we did that, either that evening or the next morning -- I can’t remember.

Etta-Belle Kitchen: Were the bodies left down there until time for it?

Admiral Sharp: We got them out as soon as we could get the engine room pumped out. So it was the next day, I guess, when we had the burial at sea.

Etta-Belle Kitchen: You let men over the side to put a temporary patch on and then you were able to . . .

Admiral Sharp: Yes, while we were alongside. The first lieutenant, who was Lieutenant Anderson, went over the side and patched up, put a plug in the hole. So we had a burial at sea in which I acted as the Catholic chaplain. After that we were told to join the Denver.

 


Sharp, U.S. Grant, Jr. (1906-2001)
Admiral, U.S. Navy (Retired)

Volume II

 

Based on five interviews conducted by Etta-Belle Kitchen from March 1970 through June 1970. The volume contains 328 pages of interview transcript plus an index. The interviewee has placed no restrictions on the use of the transcript but his estate retains the copyright to the literary content of the material.

 

Volume II is a detailed chronicle of the admiral's years as Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet. These were years when the United States dealt with a crescendo of involvement in the military and political events of Vietnam. Among the many events he discusses are: 1965 air operations against Vietnam; capture of the Pueblo; and the Inchon landing. He discusses many of the political and military personages of that time who were involved with the Vietnam War.

 

(Note: Due to edits, corrections, and/or amendments to the original transcription draft, there are some inconsistencies between the recording and the text.)


 
 

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