A miracle at sea

Delmar man looks back on ferocious sea battle 69 years ago

The World War II heavy cruiser Salt Lake City during the Battle of of the Komandorski Islands on March 27, 1943.

The World War II heavy cruiser Salt Lake City during the Battle of of the Komandorski Islands on March 27, 1943.

— “We had been ordered to intercept any Japanese ships going to Kiska, because they had established a foothold there,” said Krenn. “It was the longest battle in United States Naval history. It lasted three-and-a-half hours and there were no aircraft involved.”

As the four American destroyers and two cruisers formed what is called a “scouting line” to form a blockade, two Japanese transports were spotted with destroyer escorts. American ships then turned in attempts to cut off the line of retreat for the ships, but more Japanese were then spotted coming for the east. In total, the Japanese had two heavy cruisers, two light cruisers and four destroyers.

“They got off a couple shots and one caught our main fuel line so we were stuck,” said Krenn.

In actuality, salt water had entered the vessel and extinguished the boilers aboard the Salt Lake City. The only option, then, was to stay and fight. Dozens of men were killed during the fierce battle.

Krenn worked at his station as a signalman, providing a bird’s eye view to officers below.

“Our destroyers set out like David going up against Golith,” said Krenn. “Then they had to get out of there because they were being raked by fire.”

Shots were exchanged until the boilers could be restarted. As the Salt Lake City increased speed and American destroyers continued to fight, the Japanese retreated.

According to the article by Bishop, “Afterward, Americans who were engaged in the (battle) came to look upon it as a miracle at sea. For surely it is a miracle when a great fighting ship walks wounded on the water, halts in her tracks to die, then comes alive to lob victorious shells at her foe.”

According to Krenn, the battle got so bad from the time they were attacked to when the ship was repaired, commanding officers called soldiers to the bridge to drink a farewell toast.

“That’s how bad it was,” he said. “We were lucky.”

Krenn said he wished the battle was better publicized more and was focused on more because to him, the battle was important.

“The way wars are fought now, you don’t even need battleships anymore,” he said. “The fighting style is all different and with missiles you don’t even see the attacks coming. It’s important to remember our history and honor those who are no longer with us. They are the real heroes.”

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