Arthur R. McLaughlin (1942/08/09)

Art applied all his leadership skills in vain in one last effort to assist his damaged ship.

Arthur Richard McLaughlin was born in Berkeley, California, on February 13, 1917, and at a very young age moved with his parents to Soquel, California. The family was later expanded to include a second son, Jack, and a daughter. Arthur remained in Soquel for the next seventeen years, attended Soquel Union Grammar School and in 1930 entered Santa Cruz High School. In addition to achieving scholastic excellence, he played football and served as the school's student body president.

McLauglin graduated from high school in June 1934 and enrolled at the University of California. At Berkeley he played football, majored in commerce and participated in the NROTC program. In 1939 McLaughlin received his BS degree and a commission as an ensign in the US Naval Reserve. From Berkeley he moved to Hawaii where he was employed in his uncle's bank.

In December 1940 Arthur McLaughlin was called into active duty and assigned to the USS Astoria. While serving aboard that ship, he was promoted to Lt. (jg). On December 7, 1941, his ship was steaming toward Midway Island, which saved it from the carnage at Pearl Harbor. During the first six months of the war, Arthur's ship was engaged in the battles of the Coral Sea and Midway and he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant. In August the Astoria headed for the Solomon Islands and Arthur McLaughlin's final adventure.

On the night of 8 August and 9 August [1942], a Japanese force of seven cruisers and a destroyer under Rear Admiral Gunichi Mikawa sneaked by Savo Island and attacked the American ships. At the time, Astoria had been patrolling to the east of Savo Island in column behind Vincennes and Quincy. The Japanese came through the channel to the west of Savo Island and opened fire on the Chicago and HMAS Canberra at about 01:40 on the morning of the 9th hitting both cruisers with torpedoes and shells. They then divided—inadvertently—into two separate groups and turned generally northeast passing on either side of Astoria and her two consorts. The enemy cruisers began firing on that force at about 01:50, and the heavy cruiser began return fire immediately. She ceased fire briefly because her commanding officer temporarily mistook the Japanese force for friendly ships but soon resumed shooting. Astoria took no hits in the first four Japanese salvos, but the fifth ripped into her superstructure turning her into an inferno amidships. In quick succession, enemy shells put her number 1 turret out of action and started a serious fire in the plane hangar that burned brightly and provided the enemy with a self-illuminated target.

The Santa Cruz High School Service Cardinal reported that McLaughlin met a heroic death, "At the start of the action in which he was killed, Arthur was relieved by the regular sky control officer, then made his own battle station. A violent explosion killed him and all of his men on August 9." His body was never recovered and is memorialized on the Tablets of the Missing at Manila American Cemetery. His awards include the Purple Heart.

(ABMC; SCHSC, Pg. 13; WIKI, USS Astoria CA-34; SCSn September 11, 1942, 6:5)

Creator: Nelson, Robert L.
Source: Remembering our own: the Santa Cruz County military roll of honor 1861-2010. Santa Cruz, CA: The Museum of Art & History, c2010.
Date: Undated
Type: OBIT
Coverage: 1940s
Rights: Reproduced by permission of Robert L. Nelson and The Museum of Art and History.


Nelson, Robert L. “Arthur R. McLaughlin (1942/08/09).” Remembering our own: the Santa Cruz County military roll of honor 1861-2010. Santa Cruz, CA: The Museum of Art & History, c2010. SCPL Local History. Accessed 13 July 2024.