Guest blogger Chuck Hill checks in with the first of two parts of the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal (12-13 November). We are less than a month out from the attack at Pearl Harbor and Allied forces are on the move – in Europe, Africa, Asia and the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. But so too are the Italian, German and Japanese forces and while the trend may be more in the defensive direction, the Allies’ footholds are precariously narrow. In the Atlantic the U-boat campaign is sending tonnage to the bottom in numbers unimaginable in pre-war planning. The skies over Europe are still held by the Luftwaffe – a least during the day as the RAF was finding out in trying to carry out “Bomber” Harris’ strategic bombing campaign. Soon the losses were too great, forcing the RAF to a night campaign and forfeiture of any semblance of “precision” bombing. Progress is being made in Africa – but it isn’t Europe, and Russian and English demands for a second front in Europe are unceasing. Meanwhile, in the Pacific – US Marines are occupying a scrap of land on a rugged island in the Solomons… – SJS

November 1942 was a busy month.

ww2_new_zealand_soldier_r_dysart_western_desert_egypt._ca_6_november_1942_da02713fAFRICA: 4 Nov., The Battle of El Alamein ends. 6 Nov., Vichy French forces surrender Madagascar to the Allies. 8 Nov., OPERATION TORCH, Allied forces land in French North Africa.

ANTI-SUBMARINE WARFARE: U-boat campaign sinks 119 ships totaling 729,100 tons, against the loss of 13 German and 4 Italian submarines. Total Allied losses to all causes are 807,700 tons, of which 131,000 are sunk in the Pacific and Indian Ocean, where German and Italian Submarines are also active. 4 Nov. The first meeting of the Anti-U-boat Warfare Committee takes place in London, including service chiefs, government ministers, and several scientists in the field of radar and operations research. Churchill chairs the meeting himself.

INDIAN OCEAN: 11 Nov., Indian minesweeper Bengal (1-3” gun) and the Dutch merchantile tanker Ondina (1-4”) are attacked by Japanese armed merchant cruisers Hokoku Maru and Aikoku Maru (both armed with 6-6”). Hokoku Maru was sunk and Aikoku Maru was driven off.

NEW GUINEA: November 2, Kokoda airstrip is recaptured by the Australian 25th brigade. 11-13 Nov., The Japanese are driven back to their beachheads at Gona and Buna.

ATOMIC RESEARCH: Work begins on the first atomic pile at the University of Chicago under direction of Enrico Fermi.

EASTERN FRONT: At the beginning of the month, Axis forces are advancing, but on November 19 the Soviets launch their winter offensive which will result in the German defeat at Stalingrad.

GUADALCANAL: The Tokyo Express has been very active. On 12 Nov, for the first time, Japanese troops on the island outnumber Americans. Both sides will rush to build up their forces for the expected showdown.


The Battle of Guadalcanal, 12-15 November

In November the Japanese would, again, attempt a major reinforcement of their forces on Guadalcanal. They hoped to land the 38th Division, with the bulk of the division embarked on eleven high speed merchant transports.

Between November 2 and 10, the Japanese had used 65 destroyer and 2 cruiser sorties to bring in about 8,000 men, but to clear the way for the transports, Henderson Field would have to be neutralized.

Yamamoto intended to repeat the success of the October 14 bombardment, when battleships Kongo and Haruna fired 918 rounds from their 14 inchers into Henderson Field, effectively emasculating it by the destruction of more than half of its aircraft and reduction of gasoline supplies to a single sortie for the remaining aircraft. That bombardment was followed up the next two nights by heavy cruisers that added an additional 752 of 8” on the night of 14/15 October and 912 more the following night.

But there had been a change of leadership on the American side. Shortly after the bombardment Halsey had replace Ghormley, and he was not about ready to let it happen again.

Still the odds of American success were long when available forces are compared:

Japan US
Aircraft Carriers 1(light)* 1 (damaged)
Battleships 4 2
Cruisers 11 8
Destroyers 36 22

Total (standard displacement)

324,966 tons 203,305 tons

*(Morison contends the Japanese had Junyo and Hiyo, but Dull specifically confirms that the Hiyo was not available)

Additionally Japanese operations were to be supported by 14 submarines, one of which, I-172 had been sunk on 10 November. Allied forces included 24 submarines, but these were handicapped by poor torpedoes.

Numbers of aircraft was close, but Henderson Field’s position on Guadalcanal gave the allies a huge advantage, as long as they could keep it operational.

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Let’s get this list going.

As an observation and a nod, not a criticism (of course) of our Vice President Joe Biden – who observed that, “You can go back 500 years. You cannot find a more audacious plan. Never knowing for certain. We never had more than a 48 percent probability that he was there.”

Because this will be a list, compiled into one blog post, whatever you put in the comments (respectfully and to the point of the post) we will incorporate into the post – then delete. Please submit your comments to us here or via or give us your submissions via Twitter  or Facebook . And when the first 500 hits it, [UPDATE]: WE WILL MAKE A BRACKET COMPETITION.

Give us your best of the best who were audacious – winners or losers – those who dared. We will update the list daily, no repeats – so dig deep when your favorite has already been mentioned.

Listed in order of submission and raw commentary (and without attribution and to protect the innocent):

500. SEAL mission per Vice President Joe Biden: Audacious on the part of our Commander in Chief, President Obama.

499. Japanese attack on Pearl was an Orange/Blue war-gamer exercise 6 or 7 years before 1941.

498. Entebbe, anyone? Or one might even argue that the raid on Bin Laden’s compound would not have been possible without the lessons learned from the even more audacious (if ultimately unsuccessful) plan of Operation Eagle Claw.

497. Lets start early. 1519 Hernan Cortez landed 600 Spaniards and about a dozen horses at Cozumel. He BURNED HIS SHIPS so there was no way to escape, and he and his men had to fight to the death. He led his men to destroy the entire Aztec Empire something that no invader had done in over 6 centuries. In the process he actually convinced the Aztecs that he was THEIR GOD.

496. Henry V at Agincourt – Nope, too early. 

496. (Do-over) ‎”Kedging“- How USS Constitution Sailors evaded 170 guns of HMS Africa, Shannon, Belvidera & Aeolus!


Dare I say George Washington before the Battle of Trenton? Christmas Day 1776.

George Washington Crosses the Delaware in the dark of night to attack the British in Trenton.

For me there is one and only one #1. Without it an army driffs away, an idea dies, a piece of paper signed at the greatest personal risk becomes meaningless. General George Washington’s decision to attack Trenton on the morning after Christmas 1776 with a night march of impossible proportions couples not only audaciousness, but the greatest risk. For me it is the single most important moment without even a close second in American history, and for the idea of freedom as the world knows it today, possibly. My own telling here:

494, Eben Emael and the raid to free Mussolini

493. CDR “Red” Ramage, USS Parche, Pacific, 1944: as commanding officer of the U.S.S. Parche

492. Col Robin Olds, Operation BOLO Mig Sweep, North Vietnam, 1967

491. Doolittle Raid Doolittle Raid, 1942…(while a japanese radio broadcast stated, almost to the moment of the attack, how Japan would never be attacked, with air raid sirens suddenly going off-a “baghdad bob” moment)…which in turn, caused grave consternation, and thus triggered rash action by the Imperial Japanese Navy, resulting in catastrophic loss at Midway, with which they would lose their offensive initiative for the remainder of the war…despite efforts to regain it at Guadalcanal and others.

490. Admiral David Farragut leads his ships into Mobile Bay, 1864. Approaching the mine field laid by the Confederates the USS Tecumseh (first in the battle line) hit a mine and exploded, shocking the entire fleet. The USS Brooklyn stopped dead in the water, and the Captain asked the Admiral for instructions. Farragut ordered his ship, the Hartford, to steam around the Brooklyn and take the lead, signaling his forces “Damn the Torpedoes…Full speed ahead!” The entire column of 14 ships passed safely through the mine field and took Mobile.

489. April 22, 1778. At 11 p.m. on this day in 1778, Commander John Paul Jones leads a small detachment of two boats from his ship, the USS Ranger, to raid the shallow port at Whitehaven, England, where, by his own account, 400 British merchant ships are anchored.

488. Captain Charles Stewart of USS Constitution taking on two warships simultaneously in February 1815.

487. Though unsuccessful, Desert One was audacious.

486. How USS Constitution Sailors evaded 170 guns of HMS Africa, Shannon, Belvidera & Aeolus!

485. Berlin Airlift

484. Mikawa at Savo

482. Market Garden (for a not-so-successful example)

481.Camp Century Greenland, 1959-1966. A nuclear powered, under-the-ice-camp of about 200 men doing Arctic military research and testing the feasibility of siting ICBMs in the Greenland icecap. Project Iceworm was the code name for a US Army Top Secret proposal during the Cold War (a study was started in 1958), to build a major network of mobile nuclear missile launch sites under the Greenland ice sheet. The ultimate objective of placing medium-range missiles under the ice – close enough to Moscow to strike targets within the Soviet Union – was kept secret from the Danish government.

480. Manstein Plan, France 1940 (replaced the original von Schlieffen plan), bait the allies into the low countries, cut them in half, and take the entire region in 6 weeks.

479. 1588, english channel, England vs Spain. English ships, more maneuverable, chipped away at the snds of the Spanish Armada’s ships (arranged in an arcing format) instead of taking them head-on. Forced the Spanish ships into disorder, and over a few days, whittled them down to near-insignificance…forced the Spaniards into a roundabout route around Scotland back home…but were destroyed in a storm before they could make it back, save 50…out of 130.
Audacious to say the least.

478. 1970, USAF and Army Special operations crash land an HH-3 helicopter in the middle of the Son Tay prison complex in North Vietnam in an attempt to rescue 65 American POWs. The operation is carried out perfectly, but the prisoners were moved a few months earlier to different accommodations.

477. Operation Dynamo, the “miracle of Dunkirk” in WW2

476. Battle of the River Plate, 1939. One of the greatest psyche-outs in naval annals. Spee literally pulverized UK’s Ajax, Achillies(NZ), and Exeter. One’s fire control was out, another’s main gunnery was out, the third was mauled but intact. GS was also damaged, and thinking the UKs 3 were still coming after him (most would’ve broke off by then), he made for Montevideo…where he was told to leave within 72hours. GS was relatively intact, despite some damage, and could have re-engaged. Thinking there were more heavies coming (via the radio traffic of the 3, who remained, even though they would have been cut to pieces had the GS came out to face them), Capt Langsdorf scuttled the Graf Spee without a battle. 3 days later he shot himself. Sheer audacity, and well executed…using nothing but guile.(the truly genius strategist finds ways to war without battle-Sun Tzu)

475. The bayonet charge of Joshua Chamberlain on July 2, 1863 at Little Round Top during the Gettysburg battle.

474. Bridge at Dong Ha

473. ‎1918 Battle of Belleau Wood

472. June 1995 rescue of Scott O’Grady

471. Battle of the Bulge, with the Germans scraping up enough armor, soldiers and fuel to give the US and Allied Armies a real good scare

470. USS ENGLAND taking the bull by the horns, and sinking 6 Japanese subs in less than 2 weeks.

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