December 23, 1942
Dear Mrs. Smith, I assume that your husband's death has been announced and I want to write yo you giving the details as I know you are interested. First, I was to express my appreciation for the find work that he did for the ATLANTA. He was Communication Officer as you know, but in addition he was one of the three officers of the deck. All of his work was well done and it was a pleasure to have such an officer in our complement. On the night of 12-13 November the ATLANTA, several other cruisers and destroyers were ordered to make a sweep through Save Sound. This sound is the area between Savo, Florida and Guadalcanal Islands in the Solomon Group. At about 1:30 am of the 13th we made contact with a force of Japanese ships. It is believed this force consisted of 1 battleship, 4 or 5 cruisers and 6 destroyers a force much larger than ours. They were apparently attempting to get into position to bombard our airfields on Guadalcanal Island. When gun fire opened we were in to a range of 1,600 to 2,000 yards which is extremely close for modern gun fire. We were engaging a Jap light cruiser and destroyer when we were suddenly hit by two torpedoes which completely disabled the ship. We lost all power due to both firerooms being flooded and the ship gradually slowed and finally became dead in the water. Shortly afterwards we were hit by terrific salvos of 8 inch shells fired from our port quarter. Your husband was inside the pilot house at this time and one shell burst just outside the pilot house door sending fragments through the entire area. Phil was standing next to J.S. Smith, the navigator, and they both went down at the same time. When I observed his I went in to the pilot house and looked at them and it was quite evident that they were both killed instantly. Their bodies went down tiwth the ship when she sank several hours later. If there are further details that you would like, please do not hesitate to write to me. The Navy has lost an excellent officer and delightful shipmate. Please accept my sincerest sympathies. Very sincerely yours. S.P. Jenkins Captain, U.S. Navy. Mrs. P.T. Smith, Jr., 630 E. Lincoln Avenue Mt. Vernon, N.Y. Please consider this letter confidential. It or its contents should not be published, except for such matter as has been released by the Navy Department.