Naval Battle of Guadalcanal

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Dave Saxton
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Naval Battle of Guadalcanal

Postby Dave Saxton » Thu Nov 17, 2016 4:13 pm

The 74th anniversary of what is collectively known as the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal passed a few days ago. Next year will be the 75th anniversary and it should probably be better to make mention of it then. However, I want to make mention of it now. This was the decisive battle of the decisive campaign of the Pacific War. In retrospect it ultimately determined the outcome of that war.

The battle consisted of several battles over a three day period:

1)First there was an air battle over Savo Sound when the Japanese mustered up a large air raid against Admiral Turner's transports. The Japanese airmen came out the worst of it in combat with American fighter aircraft and AA from USN warships commanded by Rear Admirals Scott and Callaghan . This was during the afternoon of Nov 12th.

2)The Battle of Friday the Thirteen was fought after midnight. It was a bloody knife fight fought at point blank range. The USN cruisers and destroyers suffered badly. Both Admirals Scott and Callaghan lost their lives. The Long Lance torpedo proved deadly indeed. Although it was a tactical defeat for the USN, the IJN force was stopped from reaching its objective of bombarding Henderson Field.

3) The following morning American airpower from Henderson Field and the carrier Enterprise ruled the day. Japanese transports and barges suffered badly and the battleship Hiei, which was crippled during the battle of the night before, was eventually sunk.

4) That night Henderson Field was bombarded by two Japanese heavy cruisers Maya and Suzuya unopposed.

5)Henderson Field was not neutralized. Once again the IJN paid the price. Their cruisers were attacked as they retired after day light. The cruiser Kinugasa, which the Maya and Suzuya had joined up with was sunk. Once again Japanese transports suffered badly.

6)Admiral Kondo was ordered back that night to finish the job using the battleship Kirishima supported by a large force of cruisers and destroyers. However, Admiral Halsey had ordered Rear Admiral Willis Lee with the battleships Washington and South Dakota to Savo Sound to halt this attempt. The American vanguard destroyers suffered badly to Long Lance torpedoes, but the battleships remained untouched by the deadly fish. The South Dakota was badly damaged by shellfire, but the Washington sank the Kirishima. By dawn the Americans had won the decisive battle.
Entering a night sea battle is an awesome business.The enveloping darkness, hiding the enemy's.. seems a living thing, malignant and oppressive.Swishing water at the bow and stern mark an inexorable advance toward an unknown destiny.

Steve Crandell
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Re: Naval Battle of Guadalcanal

Postby Steve Crandell » Tue Nov 22, 2016 8:23 pm

Good synopsis. :)

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Re: Naval Battle of Guadalcanal

Postby beltsman » Fri Nov 25, 2016 7:47 pm

This was a very big battle for the very young American forces in the Pacific! Good write up :ok:

The battleship dual was intense for both sides. Extreme pummeling.

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Re: Naval Battle of Guadalcanal

Postby aurora » Fri Jun 23, 2017 6:18 pm

SOUTH DAKOTA sustained at least 26 projectile hits. It is estimated that one hit was 5-inch, six were 6-inch, eighteen were 8-inch and one was 14-inch. The calibre of these hits was estimated from the damage produced and fragments recovered of one projectile. In many cases the size of the entry hole of the projectile almost gave a direct measure of its calibre. Although structural damage was extensive, it was considerably less than would be generally expected from this number and calibre of hits.

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Dave Saxton
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Re: Naval Battle of Guadalcanal

Postby Dave Saxton » Tue Jun 27, 2017 6:28 pm

aurora wrote:SOUTH DAKOTA sustained at least 26 projectile hits. It is estimated that one hit was 5-inch, six were 6-inch, eighteen were 8-inch and one was 14-inch. The calibre of these hits was estimated from the damage produced and fragments recovered of one projectile. In many cases the size of the entry hole of the projectile almost gave a direct measure of its calibre. Although structural damage was extensive, it was considerably less than would be generally expected from this number and calibre of hits.

aurora

At the risk of upsetting some people, it should be pointed out that South Dakota's damages, while never in danger of causing it to sink, were significant. The fighting abilities were significantly impaired. The first salvo from Kirishima scored a 6" hit on the foretop's main fire control directer disabling it. Steam from broken steam lines to the funnel forced the abandonment from battle 2 position. The communications cabling to and from the forward secondary director were cut to pieces by splinters. Indeed all the cut up cabling and resulting short circuits throughout were tripping breakers and caused second general power failure. I recall Karl Heidenreich pointing out the surprising vulnerabilities of the cabling when he was presented with the original reports several years ago. Well did Admiral Lee comment:

...our battleships are neither designed nor armed for close range night actions with enemy light forces. A few minutes intense fire, at short range, from secondary battery guns, can and did, render one of our battleships deaf, dumb, blind, and impotent, through destruction of radar, radio, and fire control circuits.


Some design features such as the armoured weather deck -or whatever semantics one chooses to use for it- and the outer shell's use of armoured grade material did probably limit the damage from splinters, save some personal, and in the one case of the 14" hit on the after barbett, de-capped the incoming round.

Nonetheless, the water plane was riddled enough that SD was leaving behind a significant trail of oil in her wake.
Entering a night sea battle is an awesome business.The enveloping darkness, hiding the enemy's.. seems a living thing, malignant and oppressive.Swishing water at the bow and stern mark an inexorable advance toward an unknown destiny.

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Re: Naval Battle of Guadalcanal

Postby OpanaPointer » Wed Jun 28, 2017 5:44 pm

Years ago I read that South Dakota's sailors, at least some of them, blamed Washington for one hit. This blue-on-blue hasn't been confirmed that I know of so I'm just wondering if the legend carried on?

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Re: Naval Battle of Guadalcanal

Postby Dave Saxton » Wed Jun 28, 2017 11:44 pm

OpanaPointer wrote:Years ago I read that South Dakota's sailors, at least some of them, blamed Washington for one hit. This blue-on-blue hasn't been confirmed that I know of so I'm just wondering if the legend carried on?


While I have never heard of a friendly fire incident between BB56 and BB57 during this battle, friendly fire incidents were common during all of the chaotic Guadalcanal night battles by both sides. Admiral Scott on the Atlanta was killed by fire from the San Francisco, for example. However, knowing the relative positions of South Dakota and Washington to each other during the battle, I rather doubt that there were friendly fire between those two warships.
Entering a night sea battle is an awesome business.The enveloping darkness, hiding the enemy's.. seems a living thing, malignant and oppressive.Swishing water at the bow and stern mark an inexorable advance toward an unknown destiny.

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Re: Naval Battle of Guadalcanal

Postby OpanaPointer » Thu Jun 29, 2017 12:35 am

Dave Saxton wrote:
OpanaPointer wrote:Years ago I read that South Dakota's sailors, at least some of them, blamed Washington for one hit. This blue-on-blue hasn't been confirmed that I know of so I'm just wondering if the legend carried on?


While I have never heard of a friendly fire incident between BB56 and BB57 during this battle, friendly fire incidents were common during all of the chaotic Guadalcanal night battles by both sides. Admiral Scott on the Atlanta was killed by fire from the San Francisco, for example. However, knowing the relative positions of South Dakota and Washington to each other during the battle, I rather doubt that there were friendly fire between those two warships.

I haven't heard much about this, but "buried history nuggets" are interesting to trace out.

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Re: Naval Battle of Guadalcanal

Postby Thorsten Wahl » Thu Jun 29, 2017 3:44 pm

Lee comment:

...our battleships are neither designed nor armed for close range night actions with enemy light forces. A few minutes intense fire, at short range, from secondary battery guns, can and did, render one of our battleships deaf, dumb, blind, and impotent, through destruction of radar, radio, and fire control circuits.


Dave did you possess a copy of the whole comment ?
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Re: Naval Battle of Guadalcanal

Postby Dave Saxton » Thu Jun 29, 2017 8:26 pm

Thorsten Wahl wrote:
Lee comment:

...our battleships are neither designed nor armed for close range night actions with enemy light forces. A few minutes intense fire, at short range, from secondary battery guns, can and did, render one of our battleships deaf, dumb, blind, and impotent, through destruction of radar, radio, and fire control circuits.


Dave did you possess a copy of the whole comment ?



Hi Thorsten,

I probably do have the whole comment on copy but it is not handy, as most of that stuff is currently boxed up in storage. Hornfischer's Neptune's Inferno includes the comment as well if you need a handy source. Hornfischer cites Combat Division 6 report. However, Lee also makes those comments and expands on it in his Task Force 64 Action Report filed in Feb 1943 as I recall. All these documents along with the reports by Gatch and Davis are part of the Group 38 collection of documents at the US National Archives in Maryland.
Entering a night sea battle is an awesome business.The enveloping darkness, hiding the enemy's.. seems a living thing, malignant and oppressive.Swishing water at the bow and stern mark an inexorable advance toward an unknown destiny.


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