Stanley Fell and the Juneau

Tom McDermott
Posted 12/7/21

Stanley Fell was born in Steward on Sept. 21, 1921.

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Stanley Fell and the Juneau


Stanley Fell was born in Steward on Sept. 21, 1921.

He went to school in Sycamore and his family later moved to Lindenwood. Stanley was a small-town boy who would become a part of history. Like so many, Stanley graduated from high school as the United States was being drawn into World War II.

One year after Pearl Harbor was attacked, Stanley enlisted in the Navy. By 1942, Stanley was a Fireman First Class upon an Atlanta Class Light Cruiser. Light cruisers were designed to be fast scout ships or flotilla leaders. These cruisers were well-armed and very effective against air-craft and water-craft. 

The Fireman First Class worked in the engine room which was located in the in the belly of the ship and kept the cruiser’s engines running at peak efficiency. Stanley was stationed on the U.S.S. Juneau under the leadership of Captain Lyman Swenson.

The Juneau saw action at the Buin-Faisi Raid, Battle of Santa Cruz and The Battle of Guadalcanal. At Guadalcanal the Juneau was part of a small force protecting landing craft and scouting for Japanese vessels. On Sept. 15, 1942, the Aircraft Carrier Wasp with 11 other war ships were escorting troop transports to Guadalcanal.

At 2:44 p.m. a lookout spotted three torpedoes. The Wasp turned hard to starboard, but it was too late. There were several explosions and severe fire. Within about 30 minutes, almost 2,000 sailors were in the water.

The Juneau was one of the crafts that participated in the rescue of the stricken crew. The Wasp sits today beneath 14,000 feet of water, the crew for the most part was saved. The crew of the Juneau was rightfully proud of the part they played in the rescue. Little did they know that in two short months they would be the ones in the water.

The weather was bad on Nov. 13, 1942. Stanley would have been working below decks in the engine room. Reports of a group of Japanese ships approaching were received and several troop carriers were diverted to safer locations.

The fighting crafts, including the Juneau, prepared to meet the enemy. 30 torpedo planes led the Japanese attack. The Juneau shot down six enemy planes and allied aircraft shot down 23. Only one Japanese bomber escaped. The Japanese fleet included two battle ships, one light cruiser and nine destroyers.

The weather grew worse and visibility was almost non-existent. By the time the warring parties could see each other they were so close that each shot fired took a terrible toll. The Juneau was struck on the port side by a torpedo launched by the Japanese Destroyer Amatsukaze.

The Juneau, Helena and San Francisco were heavily damaged and headed toward Espiritu Santo for repairs. The Juneau was listing badly, she was steaming on one screw, but the crew below deck was doing everything in their power to keep the ship moving on a straight course.

At about 11 a.m. two torpedoes were launched from Japanese submarine I-26. One struck the Juneau in the same spot she had been hit during the earlier battle. There was a massive explosion and the Juneau broke in two and disappeared within 20 seconds. The Helena and the San Francisco, afraid of another sub attack and assuming that no one could have survived the explosion, fled the area without searching for survivors.

Over the next several days, 100 men fought to stay alive in the open ocean. On Nov. 20, USS Ballard recovered two survivors. A PBY Seaplane rescued five sailors five miles away. Three more made it to San Cristoba (now Makira) Island. 100 went into the water and 10 survived, the elements and the sharks took the rest.

We will never know at what point Stanley Fell lost his life, we do know that he was never recovered. For most, the Juneau is remembered as the ship where the five Sullivan brothers lost their lives. They were immortalized in the 1944 film “The Fighting Sullivans.”

Let us remember our local hero, Fireman First Class Stanley Fell, and all of the 687 crew members that were lost that day in 1942.

Tom McDermott is a Flagg Township Museum historian and Rochelle city councilman.