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Task Group       Operations Date
TG 21.12   Dep Norfolk, VA for Casablanca (for ASW operations) 07 Mar
    Arrv Casablanca, French Morocco (for replenishment) 28 Mar
    Dep Casablanca 30 Mar
    Rtn Norfolk (for repairs and alterations) 26 Apr
Units: USS Guadalcanal, VC-58, USS Forrest (DD-461) , USS Pillsbury (DE-133) , USS Pope (DE-134), USS Flaherty (DE-135) , Destroyer Division 20 in USS Forrest
Results: U-515 sunk, 9 Apr 44, U-68 sunk 10 Apr 44
Click here to proceed to the U-515 pages at the U-boat Archive website
USS Forrest refuels from USS Guadalcanal, 20 March 1944
USS Guadalcanal in Casablanca, French Morocco, for refueling, 30 March 1944
LTJG W.E. Davis is transferred from USS Chatelain to USS Guadalcanal. LTJG Davis crashed over the side attempting to land his TBF. He and his crew were rescued by USS Chatelain and returned to the USS Guadalcanal that afternoon, 31 March 1944.
ENS B. R. G. Daigmault's F4F, VF #7 Bu 16251, crashes into the barrier
U-515 is forced to the surface after depth charge attacks by USS Pope, USS Pillsbury and USS Chatelain. Chatelain maneuvers to bring guns to bear, 9 April 1944
U-515 crewmen climb aboard USS Pope, 9 April 1944
POWs are transferred to Guadalcanal, U-515 CO Kapitänleutnant Werner Henke, has just come aboard from USS Chatelain, 9 April 1944
Mount Pico Azores (7600 ft) as seen from USS Guadalcanal, 18 April 1944
Lighter-than-Air Experiments
        U.S.S. Guadalcanal was an escort carrier designed to handle heavier-than-air
Squadrons (HVA). Perhaps not so well known is the fact that at one time extensive lighter-than-air (LTA) experiments were conducted aboard ship. Here is how it happened.
        The Arresting Gear crew occupied a compartment located just under the flight deck near the stern. This space, while originally built as a repair shop, was modified on arrival in Norfolk, with the addition of bunks and lockers and became the AG crew's living spaces as well. Living up in the catwalk that way, we were able to get to our flight stations in a hurry.
        The AG crew was made up mostly of a bunch of adventurous young squirts about 18 or 19 years of age, barely out of high school. Orville Tolley AMM 1/c was the AG crew’s leading petty officer. “Tolley” had come from USS Hornet, lucky for us, and was I think, the only one in the crew who had ever been to sea before. There was also one old guy in the AG crew, about 24 years old, who doubled as our "father confessor". He struggled mightily to keep us all on the straight and narrow but his well intentioned efforts were largely in vain, I'm afraid.
        Anyway, one day Tolley turned us to in the combination shop/living quarters to make up spare deck pendents and then departed to take care of some other matters. This operation involved hydrochloric acid used for cleaning the cable and zinc for pouring the cable end fittings. The happy band produced a goodly supply of spare pendants, which were then neatly coiled and stored away in the supply locker for future use. In the process of pouring fittings, a jug of hydrochloric acid and some zinc chips had been left on the workbench.
        One of our crew recalled from his high school chemistry courses that zinc added to hydrochloric acid will produce hydrogen gas, ..."just like that used in the air ship "Hindenburg", he said (if you don't recall what happened to the "Hindenburg", you might want to look it up now; its quite pertinent to what follows). This revelation stirred a lively debate. Some of the crew agreed this was indeed true, but there was also a very vocal element, who, with loud and strident voices, demanded proof. Now, any "debate" on the Guadalcanal was usually accompanied by the laying of bets to settle the question of who was "right" and who was "wrong"; it was no different this time. There were wagers as to whether hydrogen could really be produced, and if so, would it lift anything, and if it could lift, how much weight would it lift, and so on and so forth. It was now a "put-up or shut-up" situation from which no self respecting U.S. Navy sailor would retreat.
        From this point, the "lighter-than-air" experiments began. An empty "Clorox" bottle, highly prized for making white hats “snowy white”, was retrieved from the garbage can and placed on the workbench. Some acid from the jug was poured in followed by a few chips of zinc. It was evident to even the skeptics that something was happening. The zinc chips bounced around on the bottom of the bottle in lively fashion, all the while emitting a copious stream of bubbles. Those "in the know" knew this to be hydrogen gas bubbling up through the acid but the skeptics were not convinced, claiming it could just as well be "soda pop" so far as they were concerned. It was suggested they might like to taste the "soda pop" if they were so sure of themselves, but that idea didn't go far ...after all, everyone had seen what this stuff could do to skin and fingernails and they were not about to risk their tonsils.
        After further discussion it was finally agreed that if this gas issuing from the bottle could demonstrate a lifting capability, it would be judged to be hydrogen. What to do? We needed a balloon. The AG crew’s reigning bon vivant allowed as to how he had a solution to the problem, whereupon he produced from his locker what he chose to call a "party balloon". Without further ado, the "balloon" was affixed to the neck of the bottle where it began to slowly inflate. This, of course, immediately led to a whole new line of inquiry. Just how big would it get before it burst ? More bets were laid.
        As we stood there gazing in fascination, the zinc bubbling merrily away, this thing grew bigger and bigger, seemingly without limit. After a while the Clorox bottle began showing signs of imminent "liftoff". At this point, the “chemists” began having visions of an extravagant liberty when we reached Norfolk which of course would be at the expense of the "doubters".
        One of the crew, who up until this moment had seemed entirely disinterested in the "lighter-than-air" experiments, was lying in his bunk with half closed eyes, leisurely enjoying a cigarette. Suddenly and without a word, he decided to take part in the experiment. He must have had it in mind that now would be a good time to test the "Hindenburg Theory". He flipped his cigarette at the "balloon", scoring a direct hit and achieving immediate and spectacular results. There was a sort of hollow, muffled, ..."W-h-o-o-m-p"... accompanied by the bright flash of the igniting hydrogen. An eerie pale blue flame flickered across the overhead and slowly died out. It was a spectacular display.
        Dead silence followed; we had all gone deaf from the over-pressure in the closed compartment. People’s mouths were seen to be moving but nothing was heard. As we sat recovering our senses and our hearing, the compartment door opened followed by a head inquiring if we had heard anything “unusual” in the past few minutes. This turned out to be a messenger from the OD down on the hanger deck who had heard the experiment and decided to investigate. To the folks on the hanger deck, the sound was heard as a dull thud that came from somewhere under the flight deck aft on the starboard side. We were pinpointed pretty good.
        Well of course we hadn’t really heard anything “unusual” – for it is always to be expected that hydrogen will make a big…“thud”… when it burns off. However, we didn’t think the messenger would understand the subtleties of this explanation so he departed with our advice he look elsewhere for the source of the mysterious noise. After all, everything was just hunky-dory in the AG shack.
        Bets were collected and when the ship arrived back in port some of us had one of those unforgettable Norfolk liberties. But it was also decided we knew all we needed to know about hydrogen, maybe even a little more than was necessary, and by mutual agreement the "lighter-than-air" experiments were concluded for good.
...Donald M. Baker ABM1/c, USS Guadalcanal
VC-58 VT pilots on the flight deck of the USS Guadalcanal, 15 April 1944
VC-58 VF pilots on the flight deck of the USS Guadalcanal, 15 April 1944
Visiting nurses in the Wardroom of the USS Guadalcanal at Norfolk Navy Yard, 5 May 1944