The Hyper War website has scanned and posted a great number of battle damage reports from the Second World War, including some from the most famous US Naval actions in her history. Among them is the loss report of the three US Cruisers, Quincy (CA-39), Astoria (CA-34), and Vincennes (CA-44).

Since the topic of that tragic 8-9 August 42 action has come up in several comments of late, I wanted to offer this up for reading. Despite the official tone of the summaries, it isn’t hard to get a feel for the frightful and bloody chaos on those decks and in the waters around Savo.

Here it is: savo-battle-damage-reports

One very interesting question has an answer that eludes me. So I will offer it out to those smarter than I am. What prompted the decision for the US Navy in the 1930s to remove the torpedo tubes from its heavy and light cruisers? There are references to some Naval War College war games, whose results are referenced as an impetus to that decision. But I have not seen any written summary of those conclusions any place. The decision certainly ran counter to the thinking of the Royal Navy and the IJN. Anyone have any insight?

Posted by UltimaRatioReg in History, Navy

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  • sid

    So I will offer it out to those smarter than I am. What prompted the decision for the US Navy in the 1930s to remove the torpedo tubes from its heavy and light cruisers?

    Yet another plug to republication of Friedman’s Desing Series

    He discusses this in both his “Cruisers”, and here in “Destroyers” (lower right hand side)

  • sid

    When that report was compiled, the USN was still unaware of the Long Lance threat.

    Also, they had no knowledge the Houston had succumbed to the Long Lance as well, prior to this action.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    I wanna be Norm Friedman when I grow up.

  • UltimaRatioReg


    Did you ever see anything from written exercise AARs that would have made the “gun club” take up that course of action?

  • Craig Howard

    While I cannot quote chapter and verse, I suggest the answer to your question is the Washington Naval Treaty on cruiser tonnage limits. (Something had to go and it was the torpedo armament). Also, most cruisers built in the 30s did have limited torpedo armaments but they were secondary to cheaper and more expendable destroyers in that regard, even in the IJN.

  • Lloyd

    The decision seems to be based on doctrine

    ” After this, I want to clarify my opinion on one point, that of the lacking torpedo armament on US cruisers. Those who have stated that the US cruisers were at a disadvantage without them, and that their removement was a great failure, seem not to understand the situation that the US was to find in battle. The first problem is self-inflicted: US cruisers, relying on their line-of-battle combat tactic, were trained to fight the battle from long-distance. Besides the First Battle of Guadalcanal, there was no situation in which the short-ranged US torpedoes could possibly have inflicted hits.

    Second, it is a proven fact that, during the four surface engagements fought in 1942, in all of which US torpedoes were present, at best ONE hit, one of USS Farenholt or Duncan on Furutaka during the Battle of Cape Esperance (this hit could as well have been shell fire). As well, the best realistic estimate of US torpedoes hitting a stationary, clearly visible target at the time was three in eight (given by Frank, Guadalcanal, in the chapter on Santa Cruz).

    In NONE of the battles in which cruisers were present, sparing Empress Augusta Bay, was a torpedo attack part of the employed tactics. In Empress Augusta Bay, the US cruisers were too far away from the enemy formation; a torpedo attack would have been useless.

    It remains the fact that the DESTROYER was the ship of choice for the torpedo; while the employment of torpedoes in Japanese cruisers was okay in the early Guadalcanal battles, the later Empress Augusta Bay, fought at about the time when US tactics as a whole were starting to take effect, rendered the Japanese cruiser’s torpedoes useless.”

  • @ UltimaRatioReg – You wrote, “… that tragic 8-9 August 42 action has come up in several comments of late …”.

    I’m new to reading this blog and have a special interest in the Battle of Savo Island. I’ve tried to find the comments to which you refer with no luck. Could you please give me a hint as to where the relevant comments are?


  • sid

    Did you ever see anything from written exercise AARs that would have made the “gun club” take up that course of action?

    Finally had a chance to dig up my copy of Friedman’s US Cruisers.

    (Yowsers! Look at that asking price!!)

    The debate about torpedoes in cruisers seems to have spilled over from the earlier debate about equipping battleships with them.

    As with the BBs, the thinking was the rapidity and range of gunfire was a better option than the limited number of torpedoes that could conceivably be brought to bear in an engagement. In 1930, the General Board held a hearing on the subject. NWC studies and Fleet Experiments with carrier aviation convinced all that the likelihood of cruisers being able to employ torpedos was 50-50 at best. However, the first CAs -the Salt Lakes and the Northhamptons- were in fact completed with tubes.

    They never were popular with the operators though. In 1933, the Scouting Force commander, Adm Lanning, considered torpedoes a battle damage hazard, and much preferred the space and weight be given over to increased 8 inch ammunition and powder capacity. By 1934, confronted with another possible modification to the Treaty, the torpedoes and tubes were removed from the early CAs.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    Bob Meade,

    sid, being one of the smartest people on the planet, makes direct reference to Savo Island here: with a chilling snapshot of USS Quincy caught at very close range in the searchlight beams of the Japanese cruiser column. The original post, as you will see, is from our very bright Middie regarding the need for proper crew rest.

    …and there are several oblique references, in the discussion of Midway and Frank Jack Fletcher, as well as on the subject of LCS and its reduced crew/inability to absorb battle damage. (Lots of those, as LCS is a favorite topic for the verbal grist mill.)

    Savo is a particularly tragic story, and has been a subject of great interest to me since I was a young lad.

  • UltimaRatioReg


    Thanks for the summation. A bit of a paradigm shift for me, as it seems the decision of the USN General Board was borne out to be a correct one. I had wondered if it wasn’t.

    Wonder how the scales may have tipped if we would have possessed a torpedo equivalent to that deadly Long Lance…

    And yes, I almost choked on my toast and coffee. Two hundred bucks for Friedman’s US Cruisers? But if I had it, I’d spend it. No doubt it is the seminal work on the subject. Just reinforces that I wanna be Norm Friedman when I grow up.


  • UltimaRatioReg – Thanks for those pointers.

    If you are interested in an Australian viewpoint on the Battle of Savo Island, you may wish to read the series by my friend Mackenzie Gregory who had the watch on HMAS Canberra that fateful night:

  • Chuck Hill

    Torpedoes were not totally removed from US cruisers, they were carried on the Omahas and the Atlanta Classes which were probably seen as directly supporting destroyers as they attacked the enemies Battle Line.

  • UltimaRatioReg


    Your link is absolutely phenomenal. Might I ask permission to post a portion of it that is salient to much of our conversations here?


  • Byron

    I took a fast lap at that link, thanks very much for providing it, Bob!

  • Great Post, Thank for the info.