Guest writer Chuck Hill joins us this week with Part II of his detailed write-up on the surface action off Guadalcanal in November 1942. Lots of lessons to be applied to today (see the roll-up at the end). BTW – whilst composing this submission he became a grandfather, so we lift a major league ‘mazal tov‘ his way…

PDF Action report of the Battleship Night Action between the U.S. and Japanese forces off Savo Island on November 14-15, 1942. The following text by Pieter Bakels is a summation of the battle.

PDF Action report of the Battleship Night Action between the U.S. and Japanese forces off Savo Island on November 14-15, 1942.

The Japanese had been relatively successful in increasing the number of men on Guadalcanal using warships as transports, but these men needed supplies and heavy equipment if they were to push the Americans off the island, and for that they needed to use larger, slower transports which would bring down even more men as well. Before these relatively vulnerable ships could venture near Guadalcanal the Japanese needed to cripple Allied air power out of Henderson Field.

An effort to do that had been stopped at great cost by Admiral Callaghan and his force of cruisers and destroyers in the predawn hours of November 13.

The eleven transports had already been en route when Admiral Tanaka, charged with escorting the transports, learned that Admiral Abe had been unable to bombard Henderson field. He and his eleven destroyers had wisely turned the transports north and returned them safely to base.

Unfortunately for the crews of the transports, that was not to be the end of their adventure. No sooner had the transports under Tanaka’s protection reached the safety of his base in Shortlands, than they were turned around to try again.

After Admiral Abe having failed, Admiral Kondo sent down a force of six cruisers and six destroyers under Vice Admiral Mikawa (who had been in charge at the Battle of Savo) and Rear Admiral Nishmura to try to knock out Henderson Field. While a heavy and two light cruisers along with 6 destroyers watched their back, three heavy cruisers fired 1,370 eight inch shells at Henderson field. But 277 lbs. eight inch shells

SBD Dauntless over Henderson Field

SBD Dauntless over Henderson Field

could not do what 1378 lbs 14 inchers had done in October. One dive-bomber and 17 fighters were destroyed and an additional 32 fighters damaged, but Henderson Field was still operational. Planes from Enterprise and Espiritu Santo, frequently fueling and rearming at Henderson Field would join those already based there in what would be one of the busiest days in the short but eventful history of the Marine Air Base.

After the bombardment Mikawa’s six cruisers and six destroyers, turned to the task of providing support for Tanaka’s convoy. They were attacked by air the following morning. Heavy Cruiser Kinugasa was sunk by dive bombers from the Enterprise, and three cruisers and a destroyer damaged. This was enough to make Mikawa abandon the transports and head for safety.

Transport Asumasan Maru on fire.

Transport Asumasan Maru on fire.

The planes then turned their attention to the transports. At the cost of only five aircraft, one heavy cruiser and seven transports were sunk, in addition to several other ships damaged. Tanaka and his destroyers did manage to save most of the men from the transports, but their supplies and heavy equipment were lost.

n33803

NIGHT BATTLE, 14/15 November

Mikawa’s bombardment the night of 13/14 November was unopposed except for two PT boats that launched six torpedoes without results. Halsey and his staff had intended to detach battleships Washington and South Dakota from Enterprise’s Task Force (TF16) to contest Japanese attempts to knock out Henderson Field, but poor planning had thwarted their intention. Washington, South Dakota, and four escorting destroyers were designated Task Force 64 under Rear Admiral Willis Augustus (Ching) Lee. Halsey and his staff had incorrectly assumed TF16 was further north and waited too long to cut them loose. By the time they got to the area, Mikawa was long gone. This may have been fortunate in that, while Mikawa’s bombardment failed to halt operation of Henderson Field, a night engagement with Mikawa might have left TF 64 too weak to counter the much greater threat that was on the way.

Vice Admiral Nobutake Kondo, commander of the “Advanced Force” formed an “emergency organization” adding battleship Kirishima, light cruiser Nagara, and four destroyers from Abe’s “Raiding Group” and light cruiser Sendai and four destroyers from Vice Admiral Kuita’s Carrier support group to his own “Main Body (Attack Group).” Two destroyers from Tanaka escort also joined as late reinforcement. The totals looked like this:

Japanese US
Battleships (BB) 1 2
Heavy Cruisers (CA) 2
Light Cruisers (CL) 2
Destroyers (DD) 11 4
Total displacement 92,763 82,202
(Displacement is standard tons as found in Chesneau’s, Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships, 1922-1946)

TF64, like Kondo’s bombardment group, was an ad hoc organization. Washington and South Dakota had never worked together and the four destroyers were from four different divisions, chosen only because they had the most fuel. The destroyers did not even have a designated division commander. Lee, like Callaghan, chose a column formation, but all the destroyers were 015673aplaced 4,000 to 5,000 yards ahead of the battleships giving them more of a scouting and screening function and at least giving them the opportunity to strike separately from the battle line.

As usual the Japanese formation was much more complicated. As envisioned by Japanese doctrine, Kondo hoped to reduce the opposing force by torpedo attack before the heavy units engaged. Battleship Kirishima followed two heavy cruisers in line ahead. They were protected by an inner screen of six destroyers and light cruiser Nagara under Rear Admiral Kimura, while a distant screen designated the “Sweeping Force” under Rear Admiral Shintaro Hashimoto consisting of flagship Sendai and three destroyers scouted several miles ahead.

Lee’s TF 64 had loitered south west of Guadalcanal during the day. Moving to a position to block Kondo, TF 64 looped clockwise around Savo Island passing north of the island, then turning progressively south-southeast and west, keeping the island to starboard.

Kondo was on a southwesterly course entering “The Slot” from the northeast. The Sweeping Force was headed south when at 22:10 Sendai spotted TF 64, steering southeast, off the port bow at a range of about five miles. Hashimoto split his force sending two destroyers, Uranami and Ayanami, counter clockwise around Savo to set up an ambush while Sendai and one destroyer followed the Americans.

Sandai reported TF 64 as two cruisers and four destroyers. Kondo detached light cruiser Nagara and four destroyers sending them south, to pass west of Savo Island to join Uranami and Ayanami in their ambush.

22:52 The moon was down. Lee changed course to the west taking the eastern half of Hashimoto’s sweeping force out of the radar shadow. 23:00 Washington picked up Sendai at a range of 16,000 yards. For fifty minutes high quality Japanese optics, made by companies that would later become famous for cameras and copiers had proven superior to the new technology of radar.

The battleship Washington (BB-56) leading South Dakota (BB-57) while firing at Kirishima on the night of 14-15 November 1942.

The battleship Washington (BB-56) leading South Dakota (BB-57) while firing at Kirishima on the night of 14-15 November 1942.

23:17 Washington and South Dakota opened fire on Sendai at 11,000 yards. Sandai and her accompanying destroyer made smoke and withdrew. Disappearing from South Dakota’s radar, she thought at least her target was sunk, but instead they looped back and resumed trailing the Americans.

23:22 The other two destroyers of the “Sweeping Force”, Uranami and Ayanami, had just come around the west side of Savo, when Walke, Benham, and Preston opened fire on them at a range of 15,000 yards. The range quickly closed to point blank.

23:25 Gwin, which had been firing star shells to illuminate Sendai, detected light cruiser Nagara and her four destroyers, in the shadows of Savo, only 1600 yards behind the first two destroyers and opened up on them. The Japanese responded quickly with guns and torpedoes.

23:27 Preston was hit by gunfire, her superstructure burning fiercely. She sank in nine minutes. She was hit five times and her torpedo warheads caught fire. She rolled, slowly capsized, hung for ten minutes with her bow in the air, then went down by the stern with the loss of 116 officers and men including her captain.

23:30 Uranami and Ayanami launched their torpedoes. As they continue counterclockwise around Savo, the Ayanami was hit at 23:32. She sank about midnight, scuttled after Uranami removed her crew.

23:32 Walke was hit by shell fire and at 23:38 a torpedo tore away her forecastle and sent the number two five inch mount 100 feet into the air. She sank at 23:43 with the loss of 75 of her crew also including her captain. The stern section plunged and her depth charges exploded killing crewmen in the water. The bow section continued to float, a hazard to ships following in her wake.

23:33 South Dakota suffered electrical failures from after being hit. Against doctrine three of four sections of her electrical system had been tied together. Power was restored with minor exceptions at 0036, but the loss of power to radios, radar, and weapons at a critical period was devastating to the morale of the crew that suddenly found themselves blind and helpless. The wreckage of sinking destroyers and men in the water destroyed the American formation. Washington dodged left to avoid them. South Dakota dodged right and was silhouetted by the burning destroyers.

23:35 Nagara and her four destroyers launch their torpedoes.

USS Benham

USS Benham

23:38 Benham was hit by a torpedo at about frame 6, destroying her bow back to frame 14. As she withdrew with Gwin she will also sink, finished off by Gwin’s guns after she begins to break up the afternoon of November 15. There were no deaths among Benham’s crew and only seven injured. LCdr Taylor, Benham’s CO was awarded the Navy Cross for his attempts to save his ship.

23:41 South Dakota fired at the eastern half of the sweeping force. This required aiming the aft turret directly over the stern. The blast set fire to the three scout planes on the stern and shock knocked out her SG surface search radar which remained inoperative for five minutes. The next salvo blew two of the planes overboard and extinguished most of the fires. With fires on her stern and backlit by the burning destroyers South Dakota made a tempting target. Kirishima, two heavy cruisers, and their two escorting destroyers moved in for the kill.

23:48 Lee detached his two surviving destroyers, allowing them to limp away.

23:48 South Dakota was on course 300. She picked up a target at 070 relative, 5,800 yds on reciprocal course. South Dakota was illuminated by the second ship in the Japanese Main Body.

23:55 Kimura’s flagship, Nagara, and the four accompanying destroyers launched 34 torpedoes at South Dakota. All missed.

00:00 Washington opened fire on Kirishima at 8,400 yards. Kirishima and the cruisers opened fire on South Dakota then at a range of about 5,500 yards. South Dakota returned fire on

00:07 Washington had hit Kirishima with nine 16” and about forty 5”. She was hopelessly wrecked, her topsides ablaze.

The Japanese battleship Kirishima takes hit after hit from Washington (BB-56) as the battle reaches its climax.

The Japanese battleship Kirishima takes hit after hit from Washington (BB-56) as the battle reaches its climax.

00:08 Firing ceased when all targets were lost. South Dakota withdrew from the fight and made for the prearranged rendezvous point. South Dakota had 38 killed or missing and 60 wounded. She had been hit at least 26 times including one 5 inch, six 6 inch, eighteen 8 inch and one 14 inch. Damage was later deemed superficial, but her fighting ability had been seriously reduced and she would be sent back to the US for refit as soon as a replacement arrived. Most armor piercing projectiles passed though the ship’s structure without detonating, apparently because of excessively long delay fuses chosen in the hope that near shorts (hitting the water short of the target) would proceed under water, and penetrate the hull below the waterline before the shell exploded. Ironically the single 14 inch shell that hit South Dakota and jammed her after turret was not an armor piercing round. In fact during the course of the entire war, no American battleship was ever hit by an armor piercing round from a Japanese battleship. (Campbell)

Washington lost track of South Dakota and did not know her condition. In an attempt to lead the Japanese away from her and his crippled destroyers, Washington continued north. Along the way she dodged several torpedoes. Here the decision to sacrifice some speed for maneuverability, giving her twin rudders, seems to have paid off. Even so the US battleships were lucky not to have been hit by Japanese torpedoes. Even Tanaka’s escorts got into the battle when two destroyers fired torpedoes at Washington at 00:39. Certainly some of the credit for the rare failure of the Japanese torpedo attack must go to the destroyers that disrupted the attempted ambush.

00:25 Kondo had had enough and ordered all ships not actively engaged to withdraw leaving Kirishima off the northwest coast of Savo, like Hiei before her, unable to steer. Sendai and escorting destroyers removed the crew, before she was scuttled at 0320. In all, the Japanese suffered 249 men killed and 84 wounded. Heavy cruiser Atago and light cruiser Nagara sustained only superficial damage. Heavy cruiser Takao and light cruiser Sendai were undamaged.

Unlike the battle two nights earlier, this was clearly an American victory. The Japanese lost a battleship and a destroyer totaling 34,070 tons. The Americans lost three destroyers totaling 4,909 tons. Washington took not a single hit.

Even so this victory was less significant than the blood bath two nights earlier, because most (but not all) of the damage to the transports had already been done.

Tanaka faced a painful decision. Only four of the original eleven transports were still afloat. If he turned them around and headed for home, they would almost certainly be sunk without k01467aaccomplishing anything after so much sacrifice. If he anchored them off Guadalcanal, loss would be even more certain, but some of the troops and supplies might make it ashore. Ultimately after receiving conflicting direction from his confusing chain of command, he chose to run the transports aground, assuring that at least part of their supplies would be landed. They were run ashore at about 04:00. They were attacked by planes from Henderson field and Enterprise, Army artillery, coast defense batteries, and ultimately a new arrival, destroyer Meade. Meade was eager to try out her new 40 mm guns which proved as effective against transports as against aircraft. The eleven transports lost totaled 77,608 tons. (Morison)

After dispatching the transports and working over the beach where the supplies and reinforcements were landed, Meade was then joined by a PT boat, landing and patrol craft, and an aircraft spotter in rescuing 135 men from the Walke and 131 from Preston (Morison).

————————————————————————————————————

WHAT WERE THE LESSONS TO BE LEARNED?

On the American side there was a clear need to understand the characteristics and limitations of your equipment, notably radar and the failed torpedoes. There was still a need for intelligence about the Japanese torpedoes. Task forces needed to operate and train together. There was the simple requirement of proper use of pro-words and radio discipline. Combat Information Centers were still to be developed. The danger of keeping aircraft, filled with gasoline, on deck was once again demonstrated.

Reasons sited by Admiral Tanaka for the failure of Japanese reinforcement efforts:

–Command Complications—multiple bosses, Combined Fleet, the Eleventh Air Fleet, and the Eighth Fleet. The result was confusing and at some times conflicting and incompatible.

–Force composition—forces were hastily thrown together without the opportunity to train together.

–Inconsistent operation plans—there was never a consistent operation plan.

–Communication failures

–Poor Army-Navy coordination—planning was done independently without coordination.

–Underestimation of the enemy.

–Inferiority in the air.

Basically I think the Japanese failed because they held back. The Americans put everything they had into the battle. Some of the units even entered the battle with wounds from previous engagements. Enterprise’s forward elevator was still not working after the Battle of Santa Cruz. South Dakota’s most forward 16” turret was not used because of a bomb hit from the same battle (Crenshaw). A torpedo bomber had intentionally crashed into San Francisco’s after control position hours before she committed to fighting battleships at point blank range. Some of the destroyers also fought with significant equipment like fire control radars out of commission.

Unlike the Americans, the Japanese seemed to have a predisposition to try to fight with the minimum force that seemed would succeed. How different the battles would have been, if the Japanese had also used the other two battleships they had available. And where was the Yamato, in port as always. Where were the other six battleships the Japanese had? All were better armed and armored than Kiei and Kirishima, and almost as fast.

The Japanese looked forward to an ultimate Mahanian sea battle that would decide the war. What they failed to see was that this was their opportunity. With 30,000 Marines on Guadalcanal and Tulagi, the US Navy had no choice but to fight to keep them supplied, or if that failed to evacuate them. With a substantial advantage in ships, it was the Japanese’s opportunity to score a crushing victory, but they held back and husbanded their resources for some future opportunity. Ultimately the great battle would come two years later in the waters of the Philippines, when the Japanese would be out numbered approximately three to one.

In the end, the Japanese managed to deliver only 2000 men, 1,500 bags of rice (a four day supply), and 260 round of mountain howitzer ammunition which was bombed and destroyed the same day, at a cost of two battleships, a heavy cruiser, three destroyers, and eleven transports (Dull). Tanaka reported that most of the men in the transports made it ashore, but without supplies and heavy equipment, soon each additional man would be one more that would need to be evacuated.

———————————————————————————————————–

In both these night battles, ships that were already damaged and on fire distracted their enemies from other threats, Hiei on 13 November and South Dakota on 14/15 November. As we will see, it will happen again.

015673b
Washington (BB-56) after the night action of 14-15 November 1942.

—————————-

References:

Breyer, Siegfried, Battleships and Battle Cruisers 1905-1970, translated from the German by Alfred Kurti, Doubleday, 1973

Campbell, John, Naval Weapons of World War Two, Conway Maritime Press Ltd, 1985

Chesneau, Roger, ed., Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships, 1922-1946, Conway Maritime Press Ltd, 1980

Crenshaw, Russell Sydnor, Jr., South Pacific Destroyer, Naval Institute Press, 1998

Dull, Paul S., A Battle History of the Imperial Japanese Navy (1941-1945), Naval Institute Press, 1978

Lacroix, Eric and Linton, Wells II, Japanese Cruisers of the Pacific War, Naval Institute Press, 1997

Morison, Samuel Eliot, History of United States Naval Operations of World War II, Vol. V, The Struggle for Guadalcanal, August 1942—February 1943, Little, Brown and Co., 1948

SWD-1, Summary of War Damage to US Battleships, Carriers, Cruisers, Destroyers, and Destroyer Escorts, 17 October 1941 to 7 December 1942, reprint by The Floating Drydock

Tanaka, Raizo, “The Struggle for Guadalcanal,” from The Japanese Navy in World War II, Dr. David C. Evans, editor, Naval Institute Press, 1969, 1986

Young, Peter, ed., The World Almanac Book of World War II, Bison Books Ltd, 1981

Cross-posted at steeljawscribe.com




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  • Chuck Hill

    You can find South Dakota’s damage report here alone with a lot of others. I should have referenced it.

    http://www.dcfp.navy.mil/cgi-bin/WarSummary.cgi

    Part I or the battle is discussed here:

    http://blog.usni.org/?p=4259#comments

  • Ernest Manfred

    The Marines had an unsinkable aircraft carrier called Henderson field.

  • CINCLAX

    Chuck…

    I always thought that South Dakota’s electrical system failed when she opened fire (main turret 3, I think), and before she was first hit. What say you?

    A very extensive report-analysis on Kirishima’s damage can be found at:

    http://www.navweaps.com/index…/Kirishima_Damage_Analysis.pdf

  • sid

    I always thought that South Dakota’s electrical system failed when she opened fire (main turret 3, I think), and before she was first hit. What say you?

    This is covered in some detail in the damage report linked by Chuck. See bullet#8 on page 2 which indicates that her electrical problems began when she checked fire at 0033 (looks like there is a time discrepancy of an hour with the narrative above?) and the effects of the firing began a cascading failure. The in depth discussion begins on p.11 Sec. C para. 41.

    Cautionary tale for the electric, sparsely manned, ships of today.

    Also, the fate of the Japanese transports is a lesson unheeded by those who advocate putting our ever harder to replace expeditionary assets into civil hulls.

    They are the true capital assets of a nation surrounded by oceans.

  • CINCLAX

    sid, you hit the nail on the head about the reduced crews in so many commercial ships, as well as the anticipated manning reductions advocated by many of today’s DoD bean counters. Many of today’s container ships are crewed by less than 20 officers & men.

    Hello! What happens when a missile, bomb or torpedo hits? It’s one thing to lose the ship and then call the underwriters. It’s an entirely different thing to put our Marines and their equipment at needless risk.

    It makes one wonder whether or not anybody’s thinking about Damage Control in a combat situation. It’s very doubtful the Stark or the Cole could have been saved had they been manned with skeleton crews. In contrast, the DC efforts of Navy crews in the Solomons campaign were usually nothing short of heroic. Just look at the Tulagi photos of all those cruisers and destroyers missing their bows and other parts of their anatomy–but still afloat!

  • Chuck Hill

    CINCLAX, sid,

    There was an hour discrepancy throughout South Dakota’s report so I chose to use the local time used by Morison and others. Apparently South Dakota was using a different zone description.

    In the link noted above, the electrical damage is covered in detail. As to cause it states, “During the action, power on fire control and interior communications circuits throughout the ship was lost for approximately three minutes as a result of short-circuits due to destruction by gunfire of cables and equipment on I.C. and F.C. circuits in the superstructure.”

    But this was a cascading failure and the shock of gunfire played a part in extending the loss of power (see para. 46)

    Thanks for the info on Kirishima.

  • Chuck Hill

    Just found this following CINCLAX lead on damage to kirishima. The contention here is that the 14″ hit was actually an armor piercing round.

    http://www.navweaps.com/index_tech/tech-092.htm

  • sid

    Hello! What happens when a missile, bomb or torpedo hits? It’s one thing to lose the ship and then call the underwriters. It’s an entirely different thing to put our Marines and their equipment at needless risk.

    Yeah. The Brits were were one more hit away from having to pack it up and go home in the Falklands…

    (cont)

  • CINCLAX

    Chuck….

    Interesting report on Kirishima’s 14″ AP hit. Pretty thorough stuff. Thanks!

  • sid

    Indeed, the Amphibious Commander had to take the precaution of anchoring his STUFT ships in shoal shallow enough, so they would not sink entirely if hit….

    (cont)>/i>

  • sid

    But, then you see this silliness emanating from the office of SECNAV as voiced by a Captain!!

    Although plans call for the Navy to buy another ship similar to the America — which will form the “America class,” a spokeswoman with Naval Sea Systems Command confirmed — the second ship could nonetheless be radically different. It could have a similar design, but not be a warship. Instead, the second America could be built to civilian standards, not military; have a civilian crew and master; and operate under Military Sealift Command.

    Under that scenario, it would have no built-in weapons, likely have a radically different internal design from the first America and be operated more like an MSC auxiliary than a Navy warship.

    Can you spell, L-I-S-C-O-M-E B-A-Y?

  • Chuck Hill

    Couldn’t find CINCLAx link as given, but I think it is here:

    http://www.navweaps.com/index_tech/tech-092.htm

    Very graphic presentation of Kirishima’s damage based on additional evidence including dive by Bob Ballard, he makes a strong case that she was actually hit 20 times by 16 inch and 10 to 17 times by 5 inch. That she was not scuttled but that she was sunk by progressive flooding exacerbated by attempts to counterflood.

    Some nice graphics of her armor system as well.

  • CINCLAX

    sid…God, that stuff really came out of SECNAV’s office? And what mission will this second ship fulfill for its $400+ million cost? USNI blog readers are invited to make suggestions. Here are a few of my own:

    1.) Luxury yacht for ranking Congressmen
    2.) Moveable State Department meeting facility; Foggy Bottom brings hot air to the littorals.
    3.) Tow boat for Midshipmen water skiing.

    C’mon folks. Use your imaginations.

    Apropos the Liscome Bay. A true “Kaiser Coffin.” At least she was carrying weapons and not hot air, and her bomb magazine just happened to take a hit.

  • sid

    Have to wonder if the Kirshima’s British Battlecruiser design elements contributed to her loss…?

    Her high speed ensured that Kirishima would play an active role in the first year of the Pacific War.

    “Speed is Life” didn’t work for her either.

    And, Chuck’s remark about the Washington makes my point that its not high speed, but maneuverability and acceleration that matters more in “Susceptibility Reduction”…

    Here the decision to sacrifice some speed for maneuverability [in the Washington], giving her twin rudders, seems to have paid off.

  • sid

    Apropos the Liscome Bay. A true “Kaiser Coffin.” At least she was carrying weapons and not hot air, and her bomb magazine just happened to take a hit.

    Not to hijack Chuck’s excellent post, but it must be noted the the Block Island -another Casablanca- took 3 torpedoes in way of her magazine, and only sank reluctantly.

    Now, granted, those torpedoes were not Long Lances, but its a vivid example of what detail “Vulnerability Reduction” design elements can achieve.

    Why the dramatic difference in outcome? Because magazine splinter protection had been hurriedly added to the class after the Liscome Bay disaster.

    But back to the thread. The USN had to climb a steep learning curve in the Solomons in regards to surviving battle damage. There too, each loss was keenly felt. As Chuck mentions in his narrative, many ships were fighting damaged. In other words, they possessed a degree of “Staying Power” that is almost wholly absent in modern designs. Good thing too. Because if those ships had not been viable, this world could well be a different place today.

    The Solomons Campaign was the last time this navy has been in a situation where it did not “have more ships and planes than the enemy has bullets,” as Nimitz remarked off Okinawa 3 years later.

    The next time the USN is liable to find itself in Harm’s Way though, its more than most likely to face a situation that much more resembles 1942 than 1945….

  • UltimaRatioReg

    “The next time the USN is liable to find itself in Harm’s Way though, its more than most likely to face a situation that much more resembles 1942 than 1945….”

    That is as close to a guarantee as it gets.

  • Chuck Hill

    I can’t help but see these two battles as sort of mirror images cruisers/destroyers against battleships/destroyers.You have the same sort of imbalance of guns and armor. In both cases the Japanese had an advantage in destroyers. In the second battle Kondo was in Callaghan’s position of needing to get in close to get through the adversary’s armor. His destroyers needed to get in closer to make sure they got hits.

    In the second battle it looked like the Japanese had a much better chance against Lee than Callaghan had against Abe. Why the difference?

    –Kondo may have believed his scouts’ description of the opposing force as two cruisers and four destroyers. The tactics subsequently used would have been appropriate if the two battleships had been cruisers.

    –Neither the Japanese Main Body nor the destroyers were handled aggressively. The main Body held back even though they knew enemy forces were headed around the south side of Savo. The cruisers’ guns did not have a possibility of penetrating the armor of these new battleships but their torpedoes could have done a lot of damage and particularly, after the American destroyers had been neutralized, the Japanese destroyers could have gotten in closer if an attack was made while the Battleships were distracted by an attack by the main body. That they only lost one destroyer is evidence that they did not press home the attack.

    –Lee’s disposition put his destroyers where they could be used effectively.

    –Radar insured that Japanese forces were engaged before they got in close.

    –The Washington straddled the Kirishima on the first salvo and started hitting on the second. She must have been diligent in her pre-action calibration. She used visual for bearing and radar range for the target solution. Clearly she was on the top of her game.

  • Abe

    Great book on the Washington by Ivan Muscant – “Battleship at War”. The Washington was prepared to fire – hid behind the burning destroyers and calculated the Kirishima’s movements.

    It’s a shame the ship was scrapped after the war. The Enterprise and the Washington are two which should’ve been saved.

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