For some time, long after the attack at Pearl Harbor, stories and reports continued to surface about the incident involving a chaplain who was to have uttered the now famous words “Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition”.
These stories eventually made their way through the servicemen back to the press. The press, as McDowell noted, led some writers erroneously to identify other chaplains as authors of the phrase.
Nonetheless, the real chaplain, Howell Forgy, was aboard the USS New Orleans; during the Japanese attack. He was a Lieutenant (j.g.) on that Sunday morning in December, 1941.
Another Lieutenant who had been in charge of an ammunition line on the USS New Orleans during the attack remembered.
“I heard a voice behind me saying, Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition. I turned and saw Chaplain Forgy walking toward me along the line of men. He was patting the men on the back and making that remark to cheer them and keep them going. I know it helped me a lot, too”, he said.
USS New Orleans (CA32)
‘Miracle Ship – Battle of Tassaforonga’
One of the sailors aboard the New Or’lins that day at Pearl, who was ‘cheered up and encouraged’ by Chaplain Forgy, was my Uncle Dave.
I’m not sure of the year Uncle Dave joined the navy, but I believe he was on the shakedown cruise of the USS New Orleans in 1934.
My Uncle Dave was killed along with his shipmates and friends, in turret #1; on November 30, 1942; at the ‘Battle of Tassaforonga’.
183 sailors lost their lives that terrible night, but considering the horrific damage, it was truly a miracle it didn’t sink, with the loss of many more American lives.
The USS New Orleans, is indeed the, ‘Miracle Ship – Battle of Tassaforonga’.
And no less of a miracle, she was able to limp under her own steam to Tulagi Harbor, where her crew jerry rigged a ‘coconut log bow’, so they could then make it safely to Sidney for futher repairs, and then back to the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.
No one in the family of course knew at the time that Dave’s ‘baby sister’ Jean was to meet and marry a man after the war, named Carl.
Well, my Uncle Carl was a Marine on Guadalcanal; and the ‘Battle of Tassafaronga’ was fought in order to prevent the Japanese Imperial Navy from supplying their forces on the island.
From wikipedia: “Although a SEVERE TACTICAL DEFEAT for the US, the battle had little strategic impact as the Japanese were unable to take advantage of the victory to assist their ultimately unsuccessful efforts to drive Allied forces from Guadalcanal.”
BELIEVE ME, my Uncle Carl NEVER considered it a ‘severe tactical defeat’ the Japanese were unable to deliver food supplies to the Japanese forces on Guadalcanal.
Chaplain Forgy became Reverend Forgy- was a ‘friend of our family’, until his death in 1972.