Jack Quarles Lewis was an Ensign on the USS Pringle in charge of the after engine room at General Quarters
I asked Jack about rumors of gambling aboard the ship:
Jack Lewis: "I have no direct knowledge of the gambling that went on, but there were constant rumors of large amounts of money being sent back stateside by various crewmen. This despite the fact that when we did have a payday the Captain strictly limited the amount that could be paid out, with the balance due remaining on the books. The only time full payment was made was when we finally got back stateside. This caused all kind of problems when we got back to San Francisco after the sinking, as all our pay records were lost and we could draw only a small advance until our pay records could be reconstructed from info finally obtained from the Navy Department.
As to the actual sinking, I remember it all to well. As I told you, I was an Ensign and assistant Engineering Officer. My GQ station was in the after engine room with seven men under me. 1 was 21 years old and considered practically a senior citizen as most of the seven were 17, 18, or 19.
When we were in action, communications with the rest of the ship was very poor, to say the least. The talker on the bridge would tell our talker what was happening when he had a chance, which was not very often. We listened to our guns, as we could tell pretty well just what was going on from the sound of them. When the five-inch opened up, we knew the Jap’s were out there. When the 40mm opened up, we know they were getting close. When we heard the 20mm we knew they were on top of us. We called that "pucker time."
When we were hit, we knew as it was a tremendous explosion, all electric power was lost, the steam pressure instantly dropped from 600 pounds to zero and of course all communications were lost. The only lights left were a couple of emergency lights mounted on the bulkhead.
The drill was that if we took a hit but had no damage in our compartment, we were to send a man topside to help with damage control. We had two vertical ladders that had a hatch at the top, the hatch opening onto the weather deck. I sent one man up the starboard ladder but when he reached up and opened the hatch, water came down .as the starboard side was already under water. Fortunately, he had the presence of mind to slam the hatch closed!
It was obviously time to "leave her", so I ordered everyone up the port hatch, I was last up the ladder, and I clearly remember reaching up and patting the man above me on the bottom in an effort to hurry him. When I came up through the hatch, I was about five feet from the rail, and-when I reached the railing I swam over it --- she-was going down that fast. I kicked off my shoes and pants and swam away as fact as I could, but I don't remember any suction from the sinking.
I looked back at the Pringle but all that was visible was the stern floating vertically with one screw still turning slowly. She slowly sank as the bulkheads gave way. Except for this stern section, she sank in about 3-1/2 minutes.
There were some 15 or 20 of us near by, and we closed on each other. Some were injured, some very severely. After a few minutes one of the big donut life rafts floated by and we closed on it. Unfortunately the bottom had been blown out and all that was left was the ring itself. We draped the seriously wounded over it with someone for each of them to make sure they did not get their heads underwater and drown. The rest of us took turns holding onto the raft for a few minutes to rest and then backing off to let someone else have a turn as there was not enough space for all of us to hold on at the same time.
There was a badly damaged first aid kit on the raft, but fortunately it had several undamaged morphine vials in it and I used them on the worst of the wounded. As I remember, no one escaped from after fire room or forward engine room and only two from the forward fire room. They were terribly burned from the steam, and one of them died on the raft.
After about 3 or 4 hours, the USS Hobson steamed up, and what a beautiful sight she was! They had boarding nets over the side for us, and several of the Hobson crewmen jumped in the water to help the wounded get on board. They put all of us in the after crew compartment and had us get into the bunks so we would not be in the way, as the Hobson had been hit at about the same time we were. I did go to the Hobson sickbay where their Chief Pharmacist mate was working on some of the wounded. Their doctor was operating on the worst wounded on the wardroom table. I talked the Chief into giving me a box of medicinal brandy, which I took back to the compartment. As I recall, the box had 24 little one-ounce bottles of brandy, and there were a lot more that 24 of us. I passed out the bottles with instructions to just take a taste and pass it on. No one was greedy or took more than a taste and everyone at least got that much.
Were back in Kerama Retto in a couple of hours and those of us who were not injured were transferred to a receiving ship where we stayed until finally boarding a ship for home. Home Sweet Home!!!