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Don Yeamans
USS ASTORIA Quartermaster Striker

Savo Survivor

1943 photograph of Quartermaster Striker Don Yeamans.
-photo courtesy of Don Yeamans

From USS ASTORIA and the Men Who Sailed Her:

Don Yeamans came aboard ASTORIA at Mare Island in June 1941. He was a bugler for about six months, then a QM [Quartermaster] Striker. His rate was S2/c. He recalled the night of 8-9 August 1942:

All of my watches, special sea detail and GQ [General Quarters] were on the bridge. On GQ I was the captain’s talker on the head phone. Royal Radke, Leo Brom, Carwile and I were on duty (Royal and I were QM of the watch) on 9 August at approximately 1:45am after the shooting started. I was at the port side where and when Radke pulled the GQ alarm. He was getting hell from the Captain when the 5-inch gun deck caught fire and shells were exploding all over. The Captain told me to get in touch with central steering, but my phone line went dead and I couldn’t reach anyone. I reported that to the Captain.

“The bridge was hit on the starboard pelorus. I went over there and saw that Armbrust was hit. Then a big shell hit on the port side. I was thrown about ten feet and I was left without a right eardrum and little hearing in the left ear. I went to the port side and saw that Carwile, Brom and navigator Eaton were dead. Fire was all around us and almost everyone was gone, except myself and another man. We made our way to the bow. The steel deck was hot and we had to keep moving to keep from getting our feet burned.

“I was thinking about the ammunition locker under us and wondering if it would explode. I didn’t know it had been flooded.

“Someone yelled, ‘Abandon ship.’ I got in a raft and was picked up by a destroyer. It had started to rain, the hardest I’d seen in a long time. It put out all the fires topside.

“At about 6:30 or 7:30 the destroyer pulled alongside the ASTORIA aft. Jerry Todd and I volunteered to go back aboard to help save the ship. We worked in a bucket brigade. About 11:30 all hope was gone. The ship had a list to port and was slowly going over. I had a 5-inch shell casing for a float. I was with Royal Radke who couldn’t swim, but I talked him into jumping with me. I doubt there were 15 people left aboard when we jumped.

“We were picked up by the BAGLEY, later transferred to the transport JACKSON, to the WHARTON, then the HENDERSON brought us to the receiving ship in San Francisco.”

Editor’s Note: Don Yeamans was instrumental in coordinating USS ASTORIA reunions for many years. He was my first point of contact in beginning to research the ship back in 2006, and has been interviewed for a number of books and articles since that time. I am very grateful for his support and assistance.


Jones, Pat (ed.) The USS ASTORIA (CA-34) and the Men Who Sailed Her. USS ASTORIA Reunion Association. Privately printed, 1992.

Yeamans, Don. Private photo collection.

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