Reservist

ISS2 2016

Reservist Magazine is the award-winning official publication of the United States Coast Guard Reserve. Quarterly issues include news and feature articles about the men and women who comprise America's premier national maritime safety and security

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sectors of Iron Bottom Sound, Canavan steered his boat into the dark night to patrol near Savo Island. Shortly before dawn on Wednesday, the 19th, Canavan sighted a warship steaming over the horizon from the west of Guadalcanal and assumed she was friendly. Instead, she was the large thirty- five-knot destroyer IJNS HAGIKAZE on a shore bombardment mission, headed in Canavan's direction. Realizing she was an enemy warship, Canavan pushed his throttle to the stops and steered a zigzag course for the Tulagi side of the sound. However, Canavan's evasive maneuvers proved too little and too late. With a top speed over four times that of the sluggish LCP, HAGIKAZE rapidly overtook Canavan and machine gunners began raking his boat. The crew's hopes of escape faded fast, so clad with life preservers the two Marines, along with Williams, Alcorn and Stickney, jumped overboard one at a time while Canavan remained at the wheel. The last man to go over the side, BM1 Stickney, shouted, "I'll see you in hell Bob!" Kneeling at the helm, Canavan tried to escape, but enemy fire hit the boat controls. With the situation hopeless, Canavan shoved the rudder hard right and, without donning a life preserver, plunged over the side. He later recounted how he cheated death the first of many times: "As I hit the water, a burst of gunfire hit the [floor]boards where I had been kneeling." HAGIKAZE closed on the empty circling LCP and shot out its motor. A small party boarded the boat and stripped out its machine guns and equipment before the destroyer sent it to the bottom of Iron Bottom Sound. Next, the Japanese warship retraced her course to deal with the crewmembers. Canavan had no life preserver and could do no better than play dead. To his astonishment, the ploy worked and the enemy left him alone. But lady luck did not smile on his shipmates. The Japanese located the five others, floating defenseless in the dark water, machine-gunned them and left them to the sharks. They were never seen again. After murdering Canavan's shipmates, HAGIKAZE resumed her mission of shore bombardment and steamed off to shell the marines on Tulagi. Meanwhile, fate had dealt Canavan both the gift of life and a death sentence. As the day dawned, he found himself alone and in shark-infested waters, clad only in shorts, with no a life preserver, and a dozen miles from the nearest island. So began one of the great stories of physical endurance in the annals of Coast Guard history. Canavan's chances of survival appeared bleak, so he first considered drowning himself. However, he changed his mind to attempt a crossing of Iron Bottom Sound. On Wednesday morning he set out toward American-occupied Tulagi, conserving his energy by using the sidestroke and backstroke. According to a rare aerial photograph of the Coast guard base at Lunga Point, guadalcanal. Bob Canavan operated out of this boat pool during august 1942. (Courtesy of the U.S. navy) Photograph of Coxswain Bob Canavan after recuperating from his swim across iron Bottom Sound to Tulagi island. (Courtesy of the Coast guard) Issue 2 • 2016 � RESERVIST 47

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