World War II, Pacific
Naval Battle of Guadalcanal
12-16 November 1942
The Naval Battle of Guadalcanal ended the Japanese hope for conquest.
The Japanese finally sent most of the Imperial Fleet to expel the Americans from
Guadalcanal in a three night sea battle.
Available to then were 2 escort carriers, 4 battleships, 7 heavy cruisers, 4 light cruisers, and 30 destroyers.
The US had no operational carriers and only one battleship, Washington (BB-56), but
too distant to engage.
The carrier, Enterprise (CV-6) and battleship, South Dakota (BB-57)
had taken bomb damage at the Battle of Santa Cruz and
were repairing at Noumea.
The U..S had available : 2 heavy cruisers, San Francisco (CA-38) and Portland (CA-33);
1 light cruiser, Helena (CL-50);
2 antiaircraft cruisers, Atlanta (CLaa-51), and Juneau (CLaa-52);
and eight destroyers.
Both sides were in the process of sending full Army divisions to Guadalcanal.
The U.S. arrived on Nov 12 and unloaded troops and most of their supplies
before bombers damaged San Francisco and a destroyer and the convoy
withdrew. The Japanese had sent a bombardment force of two battleships
attended by a light cruiser and 11 destroyers, intending to destroy Henderson Field to allow their troop
landing on Nov 13 without air attack.
The convoy escort of U.S. cruisers and destroyers were the only ships available to engage the Japanese battleships that night.
The Japanese did not expect the U.S. force and the big guns were loaded with high explosives shells.
The Americans maneuvered by radar in the dark to bring there small force to the center of the Japanese
fleet before sighted by Japanese eyes. Suddenly a Japanese searchlight illuminated the lead cruiser.
Atlanta fired her 16- 5" guns, but received
14" shells and two torpedoes. Cushing
and Laffey rushed to her aid and
suffered a similar fate. San Francisco took 14" shells,
Portland and Juneau each took a torpedo. A torpedo
split Barton in two and
Monssen took shellfire.
After 24 minutes of confused firing, both sides retired.
The escaping American ships were sighted by submarine
I-26 and the already damaged
Juneau exploded and went down before the smoke cleared
taking the Five Sullivan Brothers with her. That night the U.S. lost over
1,500 men including two admirals.
The Japanese lost two destroyers.
Next morning, Marine flyers from the undamaged Henderson Field
found a battleship slowed with engine damage and attacked
with bombs and torpedoes. Still damaged Enterprise arrived to launch
her aircraft, which landed on Guadalcanal as she retired. AAF B-17's
participated. Her admiral ordered Japanese battleship Hiei scuttled.
A Japanese troop convoy of 11 ships and
12 destroyers was delayed for 24 hours to allow a second attempt
to bombard Henderson Field, this time with cruisers.
With the American fleet gone, two heavy cruisers
were able to fire 1,000 rounds to disrupt, but not destroy, the American airfield.
Next morning, scout planes found the retiring Japanese ; American planes attacked. Kinugasa was sunk
and three more heavy cruisers were damaged. Meanwhile the troop convoy of transports and DDs was sighted. Planes shifted
their attention. By nightfall seven
transports had been sunk.
The Japanese rushed their remaining
battleship and four cruisers to bombard the airfield to protect the
The two American battleships with four destroyers
arrived in time to meet the Japanese force. The two sets of van destroyers engaged
and and the battlewagons opened fire. South
Dakota (BB-57) had an electric fault that took her guns out of an early part of the
battle and she took heavy hits. Washington (BB-56) 16" shells pelted
the Japanese battleship. The destroyer fight saw two Japanese destroyers and three U.S. destroyers sunk.
Her admiral ordered battleship Kirishima abandoned
and sunk by torpedoes.
Meanwhile the remaining four Japanese transports
were run aground to most expeditiously unload 2,000 surviving troops, but their equipment was destroyed with the dawn. The Japanese now had 32,000 troops on
Guadalcanal, but their Navy had to give up on support. The Tokyo
Express of destroyers continued to run at night to bring in supplies,
but only could bring in enough to sustain the troops; they
could not bring any more reinforcements. The American air fields on
Guadalcanal had survived and continued to grow. It took another
two months for the Japanese Army to give up and withdraw. From this
point onward, the Japanese could only retreat.
At the Coral Sea, the Japanese advance was checked.