World War II Pacific
The Japanese fleet consisted of four carriers: Shokaku (CV), Zuikaku (CV), Junyo (CVE), and Zuiho (CVL); four battleships: Hiei, Kirishima, Kongo, and Haruna; nine cruisers; 28 destroyers; eleven submarines and seven other ships.
On the US side was a fleet of less than half that size: Enterprise (CV-6), Hornet (CV-8), South Dakota (BB-57), Portland (CA-33), Northampton (CA-26), Pensacola (CA-24), Juneau (CLaa-52), San Diego (CLaa-53), San Juan (CLaa-54), and 14 destroyers. The light cruisers were new anti-aircraft types with sixteen 5" guns, rather than the fifteen 6" guns carried by most light cruisers.
Enterprise had departed Pearl Harbor, Oct 16, for the South Pacific, repaired from the big air battle at Eastern Solomon Sea on Aug 24. Hornet had bore the brunt of air cover in the Solomons until 24 October 1942 when she was joined by Enterprise northwest of the New Hebrides Islands. Together the two carrier groups formed TF 61 (RAdm Kinkaid) and steamed to intercept a Japanese carrier and battleship force bearing down on Guadalcanal to support a Japanese Army attack on Henderson Field. Scout planes located the enemy fleet and each attacked. The Battle of Santa Cruz Island took place 26 October 42 without contact between surface ships of the opposing forces. That morning Enterprise planes bombed carrier Zuiho. Planes from Hornet severely damaged carrier Shokaku, and cruiser Chikuma.
Meanwhile, Hornet, was fighting off a coordinated dive bombing and torpedo plane attack which left her so severely damaged that she had to be abandoned. Destroyers Mustin and Anderson attempted unsuccessfully to sink the burning hulk with nine torpedoes and shell fire. Japanese destroyers eventually sank her by firing four 24-inch torpedoes at her blazing hull.
Enterprise was hit twice by bombs with 44 killed and had 75 wounded. Despite serious damage, she continued in action and took on board a large number of planes from Hornet when that carrier had to be abandoned.
Porter (DD-356) stopped to pickup a downed air crew and was torpedoed either by I-21 or a ditched TBF. An Enterprise pilot dived to machine gun the torpedo, but was not in time. Porter (DD-356) was abandoned and sunk by Shaw (DD-373) after that ship took off her crew.
That evening the American forces retired to the southeast. Although the battle had been costly, combined with the Marine victory on Guadalcanal, they had turned back the attempted Japanese parry in the Solomons. American losses of a carrier and a destroyer were more severe than the Japanese which lost none -- both sides had several badly damaged ships. The Japanese goal was not achieved and the battle gained time for the U.S. to reinforce Guadalcanal against the next enemy onslaught. Furthermore, the damage to two Japanese carriers and a major loss of air crews sharply curtailed the air cover available to the enemy in the subsequent Naval Battles of Guadalcanal.
Enterprise entered Noumea, New Caledonia, for repairs by Vestal (AR-4); for several weeks there were no active US carriers and ONLY one battleship in the South Pacific. Enterprise sailed for the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal with repair crews still on board, launched her planes and retreated with her planes joining Cactus Air Force. South Dakota took a bomb on the forward gun mount but participated in the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal. San Juan took a bomb through the fantail; she repaired in Sydney and missed the next big battle.