Battle of Tassafaronga, 30 Nov 42
The USN developed a plan to ambush such convoys. When a convoy was reported, a task force of cruisers and destroyers would wait in their path, detect the destroyer convoy by radar, launch a silent torpedo attack, and, after the torpedoes had done their work, attack the surviving ships with overwhelming gun fire.
A convoy was reported heading for Guadalcanal for the night of 30Nov42 and TF 67 sailed with four heavy cruisers, one light cruiser and six destroyers to intercept in Savo Sound off Lunga Roads. The Japanese convoy of eight DD sailed in line astern; six were encumbered by drums of supplies, two were scouts and escorts.
Radar aboard the flagship detected the convoy at eleven miles and the US task force turned to parallel the enemy. The Japanese sailed close to the coast where they could not be detected by several of the DD radars and out of effective torpedo range. While commanders discussed the situation, the convoy passed its closest point of approach and twenty torpedoes were finally fired as the distance lengthened. Star shells were fired before the torpedoes completed their runs. The Japanese replied with a barrage of their excellent, long range and accurate torpedoes at the American gun flashes. The scout destroyer Takanami reversed course firing incessantly, drawing the concentrated fire of the American ships while the convoy delivered their supplies, reversed course and launched a second salvo of torpedoes. Four cruisers took six torpedo hits and the remaining seven Japanese destroyers made good their escape. Heavy cruiser Northampton sank while Minneapolis, New Orleans, and Pensacola were badly damaged. Only the light cruiser, Honolulu, and the six destroyers escaped damage.
The Japanese had to increasingly use submarines to ferry supplies to their troops on Guadalcanal. The U.S. had air superiority and underwater supply was deemed necessary. As many as 38 subs were stripped of arms and used as transports at the cost of twenty lost. Consider that the few remaining submarines engaged in an attack role sank Yorktown (CV-2), Wasp (CV-7) and damaged Saratoga (CV-3), Hornet (CV-8) and North Carolina (BB-55) and many other warships and merchantmen. The battle for Guadalcanal drained the naval resources of both sides. Each had to rebuild. The Japanese Navy continued to fight well, but had to stop its advance. The U.S. was coming to the end of the period of just being a holding action in the Pacific.