USS Quincy sunk by Japanese in battle off Guadalcanal

“When General Quarters sounded I went to my battle station,” 96-year-old Pete Cahill of Cape Haze, Fla. recalled a lifetime later. “I was one of six lookouts atop a 20-foot pole in the bow of the heavy cruiser USS Quincy off Guadalcanal. It was somewhere around 2 a.m.

“We were hit with the first Japanese salvo. Our ship was in disarray,” the old salt said. “The bridge took the first hit. Everybody on the bridge was killed, including the captain.

“The ship was on fire and sinking!”

During the next 15 minutes Cahill and his shipmates took a pounding from the Japanese fleet consisting of seven cruisers and a destroyer. The Quincy was also torpedoed three times in the fight.

Vice Admiral Gunichi Mikawa sailed from New Britain and New Ireland to attack the Allied transports that brought 16,000 American Marines ashore with little resistance on Guadalcanal two days earlier. The “Leathernecks” dug in after capturing the partially built Japanese airstrip they dubbed “Henderson Field.”

Mikawa and his fleet caught Allied naval forces by surprise in the middle of the night. Enemy flares dropped from search planes surprised the unsuspecting crew of the Quincy. She was hit in a crossfire from the cruisers Aoba, Furutaka and Tenrya and moments later burst into flames.

As the American cruiser changed course to charge her Japanese attackers she was struck by a couple of torpedoes from Tenyuya that severely damaged the already flaming ship. At 2:15 a.m. the Quincy was struck by a third torpedo from Aoba which put her out of action.

“Everybody was abandoning ship. It was 15 or 20 minutes after we were first hit by enemy fire, Cahill said. “The captain was dead and the ship was sinking. It was time to get off.

“I went over the side without a life jacket and started swimming around in the dark sea,” he remembered. “There were a lot of people in the water with me who were dead or wounded. I started looking around for a life raft. I found a 4-foot raft that six of us held on to until daylight.

The USS Quincy was sunk during the “Battle of Savo Island” on Aug. 9, 1942 by a Japanese task force along with three other Allied cruisers. Pete Cahill was aboard the “Quincy” when she went down. Photo provided

The USS Quincy was sunk during the “Battle of Savo Island” on Aug. 9, 1942 by a Japanese task force along with three other Allied cruisers. Pete Cahill was aboard the “Quincy” when she went down. Photo provided

“A destroyer picked us up about 7 a.m. I don’t recall the ship’s name, but it was filled with wounded sailors. I had shrapnel wounds to my arms and legs,” Cahill said. “It took us to a transport where we were off loaded near Guadalcanal.“

The Japanese didn’t stay around, they fled the area by sun up. The enemy was concerned about the three American aircraft carriers that accompanied the Marines to the Canal that could cause them severe damage.

By the time Vice Admiral Mikawa pulled out with his fleet and headed home his ships had sunk three American heavy cruisers at Salvo Island off Guadalcanal: Quincy, Astoria, Vincennes and the Australia cruiser Canberra. It was one of the worse defeats for the U.S. Navy by the Japanese during the Second World War.

Cahill survived the “Battle of Savo Island,” but 370 of his shipmates didn’t. They ended up on the bottom of “Iron-bottom Sound” off the island.” Another 167 of the sailors aboard the Quincy were wounded in the naval battle.

Cahill with a shadow box of World War II medals he received for his service during the Second Wold War. Sun photo by Don Moore

Cahill with a shadow box of World War II medals he received for his service during the Second Wold War. Sun photo by Don Moore

The rest of his service during World War II was pretty uneventful. He made a couple of convoy trips in other ships to the Pacific Theatre of Operation. His last duty during the war was decommissioning ships in the St. Johns River near Jacksonville. He helped put other ships in mothballs.

He was discharged from the Navy in 1945 a chief petty officer.

Margaret and Pete Cahill of Cape Haze have been married 65 years and have five children. Sun photo by Don Moore

Margaret and Pete Cahill of Cape Haze, Fla. have been married 65 years and have five children.
Sun photo by Don Moore

Cahill returned to his Freehold, N.J. his home where he had grown up and became a carpenter. He retired in 1988. Cahill and his wife, Margaret, who have been married 65 years, moved to the Cape Haze 25 years ago. They have five children: Nancy, Dennis, Carol, Robert and Joan.

Cahill’s File

Pete Cahill on his 96th birthday at his home in Cape Haze, Fla.Name: Pete Cahill
D.O.B: 19 Nov. 1920
Hometown: Freehole, N.J.
Currently:  Cape Haze, Fla.
Entered Service: 1940
Discharged: 1945
Rank: Chief Petty Officer
Unit: USS Quincy
Commendations: Purple Heart, World War II Victory Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Theatre Medal, Good Conduct Medal
Battles/Campaigns: Battle of Savo Bay

This story was first published in the Charlotte Sun newspaper, Port Charlotte, Fla. on Monday, Dec. 5, 2016 and is republished with permission.

Click here to view Cahill’s collection in the Library of Congress.

Click here to view the War Tales fan page on FaceBook.

Click here to search Veterans Records and to obtain information on retrieving lost commendations.

All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be republished without permission. Links are encouraged.

William Peter Cahill, of Cape Haze, Florida, passed away on Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017.

He was born on Nov. 19, 1920 in Perrineville, New Jersey to Clara Scanlon Cahill and William Cornelius Cahill.

“Pete” served in the U.S. Navy during World War ll, earning a Purple Heart when his ship, the USS Quincy, was torpedoed and sank with few survivors.

He was a member of the Elks, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Knights of Columbus and Saint Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, Grove City, Florida. In his day, he was an avid tennis player and a much loved amateur comedian. He was also an accomplished woodworker.

Pete will be greatly missed by his wife of 67 years, Margaret Mary: his son, William Dennis; and daughters, Nancy (Christopher) Wood, Carol (Michael) McKenna, and Joan (Vincent) Spallone. Also his daughter-in-law, Catherine Wilder Cahill; his grandchildren, Billy, Bobby and Angela Cahill, Matthew Peters, Kyle Cahill; and many nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents; his brother, Robert Cahill; his sister, Betty Barham; and his son, Robert Cahill.He was beloved by all who knew him.

A memorial Mass will be held in the future.

Arrangements entrusted to Your Traditions Cremation and Funeral Chapel, Sarasota.


  1. I was just in a cemetery in Danville, Indiana and found a military marker for Thomas H. Downard, S1 USN. It says “August 10, 1943, USS Quincy”. I was surprised at the date a year and a day after the actual sinking. Next time I’m in town I’ll check again.

    • The Navy declared the missing decreased one year and one day after they went missing, my Uncle Marty was missing from the Quincy and that is how his official record reads also.

  2. My Uncle, Kenneth A. Kiebert, was aboard the Quincy that night, also. He never talked about the happenings that night. I believe he was an Aviation Machinists Mate.

  3. My father James Hutchison was on board the Quincy and was fortunate to have survived the sinking. Eleven months later July 10, 1943 he was on the USS Maddox DD622 which was sunk by a German torpedo bomber in the Invasion of Sicily. He was one of 74 who survived from a crew of 284. We was injured pretty badly and at the end of his enlistment he was Honorably Medically discharged. He never talked about either experience until he was in his 70’s and I pretty much forced him too.

  4. My uncle, George Rideout was on board the Quincy that night. He survived after many hours in the water. Is there anyone out there who remembers him? He was an electricians mate 1st class.

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