The Naval battle of Sitka Pip.
...Uncertainty reached it's peak during the last week of July leading up to the Battle of Sitka Pip. On 23 July a Catalina on patrol made contact with seven vessels about 200 miles southwest of Attu. This was first assumed to be our Task Force George but it was not. Then on July 26 began the fiasco, the genuine snafu, that we called The Battle of Sitka Pip. Actually, it was neither a fiasco nor snafu from the perspective of the time. After all, the spotting planes, the battleships, cruisers, and destroyers were equipped with July 1943 vintage radars. Both Task Groups were operating in company in the darkness on July 26 when they made contact with the supposedly seven vessels 90 miles southwest of Kiska. I vividly recall the scene in our CIC on that night when orders were given to all ships with radar contact to open fire. Reports immediately began coming in from several ships of salvos launched and speculations as to hits.
Aboard Santa Fe intent focus centered on our radar guys, some frantically urging target identification with eager trigger fingers. Speculation abounded.
"Are those guys firing at splashes?"
"New Mexico is letting go with 14-inchers - making hellava splash."
"Nah, there's something out there!"
Captain Berkey was cool as a cucumber, ordering that we hold fire until we had a sure fire target or targets. But so many ships were firing that the temptation mounted as time went on and the stress in CIC was intense. Gunners grumbled. Target ranges came in from 12,000 to 20,000 yards. Starshells were used but no targets were seen.
"Weather?" The Battle of Sitka Pip came and went and Santa Fe never fired a shot. But anxiety, and General Quarters, prevailed throughout most of the night which was not alleviated with the light of dawn when it was learned that an "investigation" by parties unknown would be conducted. Ultimately, Captain Berkey was fully vindicated for his calm demeanor under fire by "keeping his head while all about you others are losing theirs" and accepting the sound judgment of his radar gang that "there's nothing out there but high seas." But the echo of the gunner's bitter frustrations still ring in my ears of what I heard on the sound powered telephone in CIC the night of the Battle of Sitka Pip.
What we soon heard was not the results of an "investigation" but "suggestions" by a group of radar experts that the contacts some ships saw - or thought they saw - might have been caused by what they called "triple-trip echoes (or radar pips) from an island about 110 miles away". When we first heard it, the island named was Sitka and some wag aboard came up with the something to the effect that "Well, that was some battle we were in the other night, the Battle of Sita Pip." The experts had actually named Amchitka as the island echoed. They also made the hypothesis in the case of the New Mexico that target course and speed could have been developed by the use of ranges of 23,000 yards instead of 223,000 (the distance to Amchitka) which finally gave target course approximately parallel to the American force and speed slightly less.
But what a night! And what a battle! If you have any doubts, look at the official Navy record stating "The heavy ships of Task Group Gilbert alone punished the phantoms with 518 14-inch shells, 485 8-inch, 25 5-inch 38 caliber, and 76 5-inch 25 caliber." We also heard that the New Mexico was soon detached to the Bremerton Navy Yard to rebore her 14-inch guns, a casualty of the Battle of Sitka Pip....
So how you have reacted if your task force have wasted most ammunition against nothing - this with 1943 radars - and then next morning a Japanese task force appears...