History | 21 July 2015Unseen Images of the USS Edsall Sinking in 1942 Share article facebook twitter google pinterest The USS Edsall was a destroyer during World War II that mysteriously disappeared in March of 1942. Despite the later discovery of bodies identified as Edsall crewmembers near a remote airfield on the coast of Celebes, what happened to the ship remains a matter of mystery and, perhaps, deliberate obfuscation. Author Donald Kehn does some serious sleuthing to get to bottom of the mystery in his book A Blue Sea of Blood. Below is an excerpt from the book with images Kehn examined from a Nichiei newsreel. Solve the mystery yourself when you read the book, available here. Source – A Blue Sea of Blood …When I finally received a DVD copy of the rare Japanese Nichiei newsreel from the Nederlands Instituut voor Beeld en Geluid, I was in for more surprises: There was half a minute of extra footage of Edsall’s end that had not been incorporated by Niek Koppen into his documentary; given the poor quality of the images, it wasn’t hard to understand why he had not used it. Even so, the Nichiei newsreel proves that the famous photo of “HMS Pope” is in fact a combination print, thanks to photographic special effects. There is no major salvo splash on the forward section of the ship when it is hit by the four shells around its stern. And there was the original Japanese-language soundtrack. Immediately before the Edsall footage is shown, there are inserted segments of prewar film, with various Imperial Navy units, including “Special Type” destroyers and at least one Atago-class cruiser. The narrator recounts early-war successes to the accompaniment of selections from Wagner’s more martial passages. One can make out the spoken names of various Allied warships sunk during the NEI campaign: Houston, Exeter, DeRuyter. Then appears that “scrap of blurred and wavering film,” with its undeniable ninety seconds of combat footage, over which no voice intrudes—just the booming echoes of heavy guns. After the final major salvo lands around the ship’s stern, the film freezes. This cinematographic device is used elsewhere in the newsreel. Then, strangely, the frame comes to life again, like a marble statue shifting into animation in front of one’s eyes, and the towering shell splashes collapse around the stricken vessel. There is one more cut, and then the four-funneled ship is no longer visible. One sees white smoke and what appear to be much smaller disturbances on the surface of the sea (perhaps tertiary gunfire?) before a large, dark cloud billows up from the water, as if soot from the stacks and boilers was forced out as she sank. The quality of the footage as shown in the Japanese newsreel is even poorer than that of the excerpts in Niek’s film. One must view everything repeatedly in order to make heads or tails of the actual events. Yet the footage reveals the dogged determination of the Victory at Sea producers—Lt. j.g. Donald R. Morris and company—in 1952. This rarest of naval warfare footage is so with good reason. So, whether misnamed at Smyrna’s destruction or mistaken for a British destroyer, a light cruiser, or one of the Dutch ships lost in the Java Sea, the Edsall has accumulated fables and misapprehensions over the years, and has only now grudgingly discharged some of her deeply stored secrets… The last stand of the Edsall was captured on film and distributed in a Nichiei newsreel. Compare top image with propaganda still pictured below. Finally, at bottom, she appears to have slipped beneath the waves, only the rising smoke remaining. Film captures by permission of Nederlands Instituut voor Beeld en Geluid, Hilversum, Holland Source – A Blue Sea of Blood Source – A Blue Sea of Blood The infamous Nichiei newsreel image doctored for use as a still in the April 15, 1942, issue of Asahigraph magazine, as well as in the propaganda booklet “Victory on the March” in December 1942 as “the British destroyer HMS Pope.” NARA II, College Park, MD, 80-G-178997 A Blue Sea of Blood Deciphering the Mysterious Fate of the USS Edsall Author: Donald Kehn This book explores the many puzzling facets of the Edsall’s disappearance in order to finally tell the full story of the fate of the vessel and her crew. Based on exhaustive research of the historical record–including newly deciphered Japanese documents and previously unrevealed material from the crew’s family members–Upon a Blue Sea of Blood offers a painstaking reconstruction of the ship’s history. The book investigates not only the Edsall’s mysterious final action, but also her wide-ranging pre-war career and the curious uses to which her story was put–generally under false pretenses–first by the pre-war U.S. Navy and then by the Japanese wartime propaganda machine. And finally, military historian Donald Kehn considers the circumstances surrounding the curious obscurity of the Edsall’s heroic service and final battle in American histories. Redressing six decades of official indifference, Kehn’s account recovers a significant chapter missing from the history of World War II–and tells a long-overdue story of courage and tragic loss. Share article facebook twitter google pinterest If you have any comments on this article please contact us or get in touch via social media.