65th anniversery of the Battle of the Komandorski Islands

Discussion in 'WW2 General' started by syscom3, Mar 27, 2008.

  1. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    The Battle of the Komandorski Islands was one of the most unusual engagements of World War II. It was a naval battle which took place on 27 March 1943 in the North Pacific area of the Pacific Ocean, near the Komandorski Islands.

    When the United States became aware of Japanese plans to send a supply convoy to garrisons on the Aleutian Islands, U.S. Navy ships commanded by Rear Admiral Charles McMorris were dispatched to intercept. The U.S. fleet consisted of the heavy cruiser Salt Lake City, the old light cruiser Richmond and the destroyers Coghlan, Bailey, Dale and Monaghan.

    Unknown to the Americans, the Japanese had chosen to escort their convoy with two heavy cruisers, two light cruisers, and four destroyers commanded by Vice Admiral Boshiro Hosogaya. On the morning of 27 March, the Japanese convoy was intercepted by the U.S. picket line and combat ensued. Because of the remote location of the battle and chance encounter on open ocean, neither fleet had air or submarine assistance, making this the only engagement exclusively between surface ships in the Pacific Theatre, and the last pure gunnery duel in American naval history.

    Battle

    Mistakenly believing that the fight would be easy, the American warships formed up and closed the range. Two transports fled for safety as the Japanese warships turned to engage. The American group was outgunned and outnumbered but pressed on and made a course change in hopes of getting a shot at the transports before their escorts could intervene. There was also a possibility that the Japanese would split their force and that Salt Lake City and Richmond could tackle a portion of them on more equal terms.

    The opposing cruisers simultaneously opened fire at a range of nearly ten miles (18 km). The ensuing battle was a retiring action on the part of the Americans since the Japanese foiled their attempt to get to the auxiliaries. Salt Lake City received most of the attention and soon received two hits, one of them amidships, mortally wounding two men, but she responded with very accurate fire. Her rudder stops were carried away, limiting her to 10 degree course changes. Another hit flooded forward compartments. Under cover of a thick smoke screen and aggressive torpedo attacks by the destroyers, the American cruisers were able to make an evasive turn, which for a while allowed the range to open. Salt Lake City soon began taking hits again, and her boiler fires died one by one. Salt water had entered the fuel oil feed lines. There was now cause for grave concern; she lay dead in the water, and the Japanese ships were closing fast. However, she was hidden in the smoke, and the enemy was not aware of her plight.

    The destroyers charged the Japanese cruisers and began to draw the fire away from the damaged Salt Lake City. Bailey suffered two 8 inch hits while launching a spread of five torpedoes at long range. In the meantime, Salt Lake City engineers purged the fuel lines and fired the boilers. With fresh oil supplying the fires, she built up steam and gained headway. Suddenly, the Japanese began to withdraw, because they were fast exhausting their ammunition. They did not suspect that the Americans were in far worse shape in terms of both ammunition and fuel.

    Outcome

    Although the Japanese force outnumbered the U.S. group by two to one, the engagement was tactically inconclusive. Both sides suffered damage, with the U.S. force not being as badly hurt by the superior firepower of the Japanese as could have been the case. When the Japanese force was poised for victory, Admiral Hosogaya—not realizing the heavy damage his ships had inflicted on Salt Lake City, and fearing American air forces were en route—chose to retire without delivering a knockout blow. Withdrawal led to a strategic defeat for the Japanese because it ended their attempts to resupply their Aleutian garrisons by surface, leaving only submarines for resupply runs.

    Hosogaya was retired from service after the battle.

    The picture above is of the heavy cruiser "USS Salt Lake City".
     

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  2. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    LETTERS REFER TO CIRCLED LETTERS ON CHART
    A Task Group Mike turned to base course 000º T. Half-hour to sunrise.
    B Richmond had 9 vessels (unidentified as to type) in sight.
    C At approximately this time two heavy cruisers were discerned in the enemy force.
    D Task Group Mike changed course to 330º T., to intercept Japanese AP/AK's.
    E Enemy CA's opened fire on Richmond, range approximately 20,000 yards. Flagship replied immediately.
    F Japanese CA's shifted fire to the Salt Lake City. Our heavy replied and hit an enemy CA with at least two 8-inch shells on the third or fourth salvo.
    G 40º left turn to 290º T. begun. Speed raised to 25 knots.
    H Course changed to 250º T. Speed upped to 28 knots.
    I Two planes launched from Japanese cruisers.
    J Richmond ceased fire as range to nearest enemy ship had opened to 22,800 yards.
    K Salt Lake City straddled enemy CA repreatedly. Japanese ship began smoking badly.
    L Salt Lake City hit at frame 102 on the port side.
    M Course changed to 280º T. Many straddles on the Salt Lake City.
    N Course changed to 300º T. Speed had increased to 33 knots.
    O Spotting plane about 12,000 yards to starboard was hit by AA fired by Salt Lake City, Bailey, and Coghlan. The scout disappeared smoking.
    P Course changed to 320º T. to close exposed Japanese light cruiser.
    Q Course changed to 020º T. Speed now 28 knots.
    R Salt Lake City suffers a steering casualty. Ship headed hard right.
    S Salt Lake City hit by shell which penetrated her main deck forward.
    T ComDesRon 14, assumed tactical command of the Bailey and Coghlan and those two ships stood by to lay smoke screen for the Salt Lake City.
    U Salt Lake City, Bailey, and Coghlan commenced making smoke. Our heavy cruiser entered it at 1020.
    V Course changed to 240º T. so that the Salt Lake City could take advantage of the smoke as it then lay.
    W ComDesRon 14 assumed tactical command of all four destroyers. Monoghan and Dale were immediately ordered to lay smoke, which they began to do shortly.
    X Bailey, Richmond, Coghlan, and Dale, in that order, became engaged with an enemy light cruiser.
    Y Salt Lake City hit by another 8-inch shell, this time on the starboard catapult. Aircraft and catapult damaged. Plane caught fire and was jettisoned.
    Z Course changed to 210º T. as task group commander decided to head south. Speed changed to 30 knots.
    a Salt Lake City hit at port frame 102 again, but this shell did not penetrate the hull. Indirect damage extensive.
    b Course changed to 180º T.
    c Salt Lake City's after engine room out of operation because of battle damage. her speed dropped to 20 knots.
    d Coghlan and Bailey started in for a torpedo attack on the enemy heavies.
    e Ememy CAs turned right to avoid the threatened attack.
    f Torpedo attack belayed as the Salt Lake City picked up speed. Our destroyers again joined formation astern.
    g At approximately this time, the Salt Lake City's engines stopped.
    h Salt Lake City swung left for a last-ditch defense just before she came to a dead stop in the water. HC projectiles fired by the after batteries because of a shortage of AP shells caused the enemy to fire AA, as he apparently thought he was being bombed by planes. Task group commander ordered ComDesRon 14 to carry out a torpedo attack on the enemy. The Bailey, Coghlan, and Monaghan, in that order, started in for the assault. The Dale was left to screen the Salt Lake City.
    i The Bailey, hit badly, fired five torpedoes and turned back toward our cruisers. The Coghlan and Monaghan did not expend torpedoes because of the unfaborable circumstances but also came left for retirement. The Bailey was hit by more shell fragments as she turned. The Coghlan also was damaged topside.
    j Salt Lake City, now making 15 knots, fired her last salvo of the battle. Richmond standing by to screen her and the retiring destroyers, if necessary.
    k Action ended. Task Group Mike retires eastward on base course 090º T.
     

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  3. magnocain

    magnocain Member

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  4. Njaco

    Njaco The Pop-Tart Whisperer
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    Great story Sys.!

    :salute:
     
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