Chief Petty Officer William Bergstresser was standing watch on Halloween night in the engine room of his ship, an old four-stack Clemson-class destroyer that had seen better days. It was 0525 and he was less than halfway into the morning watch when a violent explosion shook the ship and was followed almost immediately by an even greater detonation. The lights went out, but his experienced hearing told Bergstresser that the steam flow had been disrupted, and he was aware of “a sinking motion of the ship as if she were going down by the bow.” His senses were on the right track but only partially correct. Making his way upward to the main deck, he discovered that “the whole forward part of the ship, including the bridge [was] completely demolished and carried away.” Chief Bergstresser was no longer just in charge of the engine room—he was now in command of the ship—what was left of her. All of the destroyer’s commissioned officers had been killed, leaving only Bergstresser and 43 of his shipmates, from an original crew of 159.
Lest We Forget - “What Were Their Names?”
By Lieutenant Commander Thomas J. Cutler, U.S. Navy (Retired)