70th Anniversery of the Naval Battle for Guadalcanal
I just realized that today marks the end of the 70th anniversary of the most savage naval battle of WW2. Hard to believe we are this far removed from those terrible battles.
A salute to all the participants of that campaign! As the combatants fade away from the relentless march of time, I see it now as 67 years of peace.
Der Crew Chief
“Ironbottom Sound” looking southwest towards Savo Island (center) and Cape Esperance (left) on Guadalcanal. A U.S. destroyer is sillouhetted against Savo Island. Photo taken from USS San Juan on August 7, 1942. The majority of the warship surface battle of 13 November took place in the area between Savo Island (center) and Guadalcanal (left).
Smoke rises from two Japanese planes shot down off Guadalcanal, 12 November 1942. Photographed from USS President Adams [AP-38]; ship at right is USS Betelgeuse [AK-28].
Captain Daniel Judson Callaghan on the bridge of his flagship USS San Francisco [CA-38], circa 1941-1942, before his promotion to Rear Admiral.
For extraordinary heroism and conspicuous intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty during action against enemy Japanese forces off Savo Island on the night of 12–13 November 1942.
Although out-balanced in strength and numbers by a desperate and determined enemy, Rear Admiral Callaghan, with ingenious tactical skill and superb coordination of the units under his command, led his forces into battle against tremendous odds, thereby contributing decisively to the rout of a powerful invasion fleet and to the consequent frustration of a formidable Japanese offensive.
While faithfully directing close-range operations in the face of furious bombardment by superior enemy fire power, he was killed on the bridge of his Flagship. His courageous initiative, inspiring leadership, and judicious foresight in a crisis of grave responsibility were in keeping with the finest traditions of the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life in the defense of his country.
Rear Admiral Norman Scott pictured in c.1942, posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his part in Naval actions off Guadalcanal.
For extraordinary heroism and conspicuous intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty during action against enemy Japanese forces off Savo Island on the night of 11–12 October and again on the night of 12–13 November 1942.
In the earlier action, intercepting a Japanese Task Force intent upon storming our island positions and landing reinforcements at Guadalcanal, Rear Adm. Scott, with courageous skill and superb coordination of the units under his command, destroyed 8 hostile vessels and put the others to flight.
Again challenged, a month later, by the return of a stubborn and persistent foe, he led his force into a desperate battle against tremendous odds, directing close-range operations against the invading enemy until he himself was killed in the furious bombardment by their superior firepower.
On each of these occasions his dauntless initiative, inspiring leadership and judicious foresight in a crisis of grave responsibility contributed decisively to the rout of a powerful invasion fleet and to the consequent frustration of a formidable Japanese offensive. He gallantly gave his life in the service of his country.
The US South Dakota, seen here on 26 October 1942. The U.S. Navy battleship USS South Dakota (BB-57) firing her anti-aircraft guns at attacking Japanese planes during the Battle of Santa Cruz. A Japanese Type 97 Nakajima B5N2 torpedo plane (“Kate”) is visible at right, apparently leaving the area after having dropped its torpedo
USS Seaman First Class Calvin Graham
Amongst the men wounded on the USS South Dakota during this battle was Seaman First Class Calvin Graham, seen here pictured in May 1942, when he joined the US Navy. He was awarded the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart. for his actions at the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal on 12th/13th November 1942.
Graham was born on April 3, 1930 – he was 12 years old at the time of the battle. He was the youngest U.S. serviceman during World War II. When his mother revealed his age he was rewarded with three months in Naval custody and a Dishonourable Discharge – which meant that he was no longer entitled to his military honours. The decision was finally reversed by President Carter in 1978.
The U.S. Navy light cruiser USS Juneau (CL-52) off New York City (USA), 1 June 1942. A barge is alongside her starboard quarter. Her superstructure retains its original measure 12 “mottled pattern” camouflage scheme, but her hull has been repainted wave-style pattern.
Photo taken during the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal on 14-15 November 1942, showing the U.S. battleship USS Washington (BB-56) firing upon the Japanese battleship Kirishima. The low elevation of the barrels shows how the close range of the adversaries; only 8,400 yards, point blank range for the 16″/45 caliber main armament of Washington.
The Imperial Japanese Navy battleship Kirishima at Tsukumowan, Japan in 1937, sunk by a surprise attack by the USS Washington on the night of the 14th-15th November 1942.
Harold W. Bauer, US Marine Corps aviator in WWII – awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions during the battle for the Solomon Islands.
For extraordinary heroism and conspicuous courage as Squadron Commander of Marine Fighting Squadron TWO TWELVE in the South Pacific Area during the period May 10 to November 14, 1942.
Volunteering to pilot a fighter plane in defense of our positions on Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, Lieutenant Colonel Bauer participated in two air battles against enemy bombers and fighters outnumbering our force more than two-to-one, boldly engaged the enemy and destroyed one Japanese bomber in the engagement of September 28 and shot down four enemy fighter planes in flames on October 3 leaving a fifth smoking badly. After successfully leading twenty-six planes in the over-water ferry flight of more than six hundred miles on October 16, Lieutenant Colonel Bauer, while circling to land, sighted a squadron of enemy planes attacking the USS McFarland.
Undaunted by the formidable opposition and with valor above and beyond the call of duty, he engaged the entire squadron and, although alone and his fuel supply nearly exhausted, fought his plane so brilliantly that four of the Japanese planes were destroyed before he was forced down by lack of fuel.
His intrepid fighting spirit and distinctive ability as leader and an airman, exemplified in his splendid record of combat achievement, were vital in the successful operations in the South Pacific Area.
On November 14, Harold W. Bauer shot down two enemy aircraft in an attack 100 miles off Guadalcanal before being shot down himself. He was seen in the water apparently unhurt, floating in his life jacket. An intensive air and sea search over the following days failed to find him.
The U.S. Navy battleship USS South Dakota (BB-57) and two destroyers alongside the repair ship USS Prometheus (AR-3) for repairs, probably at Noumea, New Caledonia, in November 1942. The inboard destroyer, with the distorted bow, is probably USS Mahan (DD-364), which was damaged in a collision with South Dakota at the close of the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands on 27 October 1942. South Dakota received damage in both that battle and in the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal on 15 November 1942. The other destroyer may be USS Lamson (DD-367).
The Japanese transports Hirokawa Maru and Kinugawa Maru beached and burning after a failed resupply run to Guadalcanal on 15 November 1942.
The wreck of one of the four Japanese transports, Kinugawa Maru, beached and destroyed at Guadalcanal on November 15, 1942, photographed one year later.
The Battle of Tassafaronga, Nov. 30, 1942
United States Navy Task Force 67 just before the Battle of Tassafaronga on November 30, 1942. USS Fletcher is in the foreground, followed by other destroyers and, in the distance, cruisers.
From Navy Department, Office of Naval Intelligence, HyperWar: The Battle of Tassafaronga [ONI Combat Narrative]
The Japanese were now struggling to maintain supplies to their troops on Guadalcanal, where the surrounding sea was fiercely contested.13th November 1942: U.S. and Japanese clash off Guadalcanal Henderson Air Field had been reinforced and the US planes made daylight re-supply missions by shipping impossible.
The Japanese had started sending munitions by a nightly submarine drop but this was only able to provide the bare minimum that was needed. Now they resorted to half filling oil drums with supplies – these would be tied together in long chains and would be dropped at night to float in the water. They would then be pulled in to the shore by the land forces.
The plan was for Japanese fast destroyers to deliver the first of these drops on the night of the 30th November. Coastwatchers were able to spot the departure of this force – the intelligence was passed along and the US Navy despatched Task Force 67 to intercept. The US ships should have been well placed to effect an ambush as they had the significant advantage of Radar on a proportion of their ships. The US ships did identify the Japanese force by Radar and launched 24 torpedoes at them.
If most, or even any, of the 24 torpedoes had hit their targets the subsequent controversies about the Battle of Tassafaronga would probably have never emerged. Unfortunately they did not. The US Navy had yet to recognise that their Mark 15 torpedoes used from ships, like their Mark 14 torpedoes on submarines, were not effective. Amongst other problems they usually ran too deep and passed under the ships they were targeted at.
So in this action when the Japanese realised they were under attack they were able to swiftly respond. Their Long Lance torpedoes were very effective and did terrible damage to the US ships.
A close up of damage to the USS Pensacola during the battle of Tassafaronga.
The U.S. Navy heavy cruiser USS New Orleans (CA-32) camouflaged at Tulagi, Solomon Islands, some days after she was torpedoed during the Battle of Tassafaronga on 30 November 1942. Note that her stern is riding high, and that her forward end is low in the water. The torpedo and subsequent explosion had severed her bow between No.1 and No.2 eight-inch gun turrets.
USS Minneapolis at Tulagi with torpedo damage a few hours after the battle, on December 1, 1942.
USS New Orleans near Tulagi on 1 December 1942. The bow was blown off forward of turret two during the Battle of Tassafaronga the night before, killing 180+ of the ship’s crew.
The Battle did, however, prove to be a turning point. Despite the damage done to the US ships the Japanese were still unable to complete the resupply mission. Subsequent attempts to drop resupply loads in the water were shot up by the US planes from Guadalcanal. Soon the Japanese had to recognise that their attempt to dislodge the US forces from Guadalcanal had failed and they would have to withdraw. They would be retreating all the way back across the Pacific to Japan for the rest of the war.
It is striking how both the Japanese and the Germans were forced to recognise, by the harsh realities of war, that they were over-extended. In the space of little over a week both discovered that their most advanced units could not make any further progress and were in fact isolated and vulnerable. But the strategists in both countries took a very long time to face up to what that really meant.
Interesting point about the concurrent consequences of Guadalcanal & Stalingrad.
Last edited by stug3; 11-30-2012 at 10:56 AM.
The Japanese viewed their defeat in the battleship actions of November 1942 more seriously than they had the losses at Midway. They finally realized that guadacanal was a bottomless pit destroying their fighting capability. If Midway was the batle that prevented defeat of the USN, Guadacanal was the battle that started the long road to victory. There were to be many hard battles ahead, but never again was the issue in the pacific in any doubt
Hornfischer's Neptune's Inferno is a very descriptive and personal look at the Guadalcanal naval campaign. lots of survivor's stories and anecdotes recounting what it was like to be on board the participating ships from Savo Island to the loss of the Chicago. From the insubordinate whitehat who defied the OOD to sound general quarters when he realized his cruiser, the Astoria was under enemy attack, to the USN radio operator who, impatient to commence firing as the range inexplicably closed without a command from Scott to open fire quipped "What are we gonna do? Board 'em?" To dying Admiral Goto's frustrated rage at what he mistakenly took to be a friendly fire casualty, exclaiming "Bakayaro!" (Idiots). And Many Many more...
Just reread 'As the Catalina flies - a Hungarian girl growing up in Bougainville in the 1950s' by Anna Phillips. Very interesting book!
This anecdote from her father, Dr. Frank Tuza, who was the 'Namba wan doctor' of old Buin district:
'I met the wife of Paul Mason, an ex journalist and coast watcher who sat out most of the war in the hills above Buin, counting the enemy ships going past. He had been a particularly important figure during the battle of Guadalcanal. The Japanese wanted him at any cost, but the natives never gave him up.
At one point he broke his glasses and, as he could not continue his reports, he asked for another pair over the radio. The air force made a special drop of dozens of pairs...'
Last edited by A4K; 12-27-2012 at 05:48 AM.
Great story. During the first 12 months of the war in the PTO, especially during the Coral Sea Battle work up and the Guadalcanal campaign, the Coast Watcher's were (IMHO) every bit as important as the code breakers to the intel collection effort. Of course the content and temporal context were different but every bit as essential and they often served to fill gaps or inefficiencies in the aerial searches that plagued Big-MAC's intel collection efforts.
Originally Posted by A4K
Last edited by oldcrowcv63; 01-01-2013 at 06:21 PM.
The coastwatchers enjoyed elevated importance during the Guadacanal campaign, because the amount of intelligenece from the codebreakers had been compromised to a degree after Midway. Though the Japanese did not suspect their JN25 code had been broekemn after Midway, as a matter of routine they did finally change the codebooks and callsigns. This reduced the amount of intelligence for the USN, and was a direct factor in several military defeats that they suffered. Whilst the USN could generally judge that something was up from the general amount of signal traffic, whenever an operation was underway, they were unable to identify the the numbers or ships involved, or the overall battleplans. The Coastwatchers filled some of that void. They could provide information such as ship numbers, sometimes types, accurate estiates of speed and location/time. At a time when the USN was labouring with a shortage of good information, it was a welcome source of information.
Agree with you both.
Essential to victory, but all but forgotten afterwards (usual story)
someone really needs to write a good book on the coastwatchers. Perhaps it has been done, but if so, Im not aware of it.