Guadalcanal, June 1943. The U.S. Navy Task Unit 32.4.4 was anchored off Guadalcanal. The convoy was made up of four Liberty ships and three escorts. Gunner Bill McGee, fresh out of Boot Camp and on his first wartime sea voyage, was stationed aboard the Liberty, SS Nathaniel Currier. Suddenly, on 16 June at 1350 (1:50 p.m.), Condition “Very” Red was sounded and the crew scrambled to their battle stations. Out of the sky appeared 120 Japanese aircraft. Within minutes, the sky was filled with dogfights and flak from ship and ground guns. The battle raged on for nearly two hours. It was the largest aerial attack by the Japanese since Pearl Harbor. However, there would be no rest for the ill-fated T.U. 32.4.4. Seven days later, on 23 June, the convoy was again attacked by the Japanese, this time by torpedoes. When it was over, of the four Liberty ships in the original convoy, one was bombed, burned and beached on 16 June; two were sunk on 23 June; and only one remained… the SS Nathaniel Currier. “I was one lucky sailor to be aboard the Currier,” recounted McGee years later.
The dramatic and complete story of “The Fatal Voyage of T.U. 32.4.4” is recounted in blow-by-blow detail with firsthand accounts by the men who were there in McGee’s autobiographical Bluejacket Odyssey, 1942-1946: Guadalcanal to Bikini, available in soft cover on Amazon.