(work in progress)
Prelude to Naval Actions in the Solomon Islands.
Admiral Isoroku Yamarnoto was the brilliant Commander- in- Chief of the Imperial Japanese Navy who, In February of 1941 ordered Rear Admiral Takijuro Onishi chief of staff to the 11th. Air Fleet to draw up a plan for a possible attack on the US Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor.
It was named Operation Hawaii or sometimes named Operation Z.
Pre dawn on the 7th. of December 1941, from the decks of six Japanese aircraft carriers 183 aircraft took to the air, consisting of high level bombers, torpedo carrying aircraft with their fighter escort A second wave of aircraft was ready to launch at 0705 ( 7.05 AM ) this flight did not contain any torpedo carrying aircraft
Without any declaration of war from Japan, both waves struck the totally unprepared US Fleet moored in Battleship row, or at Ford Island, and decimated the naval ships there.
The sole saving grace, the US Aircraft Carriers were at sea on an exercise routine, and thus were unscathed this ignominious attack.
The United States now entered the war, the die was thus cast for the ultimate defeat of the Japanese Empire.
The Japanese Southwards Thrust.
Japanese forces now started their mad dash southwards, In December, they had invaded Northern Malaya, sunk the Royal Navy Battle Ship Prince of Wales, and the Battle Cruiser Repulse, leaving the gate to Singapore wide open.
The British Colony of Hong Kong fell on Christmas Day 1941. Japanese Forces Supreme early in 1942.
The unbelievable happened on the 15th. of February, the so called impregnable fortress of Singapore surrendered, with that capitulation, thousands of both British and Australians want into captivity, POW'S of the Japanese. Before the war's end, a large number were to die as they ware forced to build the Infamous Burma Railway.
Also in February, the Japanese invaded the Dutch East Indies, they were after the oil available in this area.
At the Battle of Sunda Strait during this incursion by Japanese forces, both HMAS Perth and the US cruiser Houston were sunk.
April found United States forces having to surrender to the Japanese at Bataan in the Philippines, and General Douglas MacArthur ordered out by his President escaped to Australia to head up the Allies forces in the South West Pacific.
He travelled by a PT boat to Darwin, then eventually arriving by train in Melbourne, he strode down the platform to meet the welcoming party, looking like a conquering hero and saviour of Australia, not at all like a defeated general.
It was his departure from the Philippines that coined the name to be used somewhat disparagingly by Australian service people in the future "Dug Out Doug."
Slowing up the Japanese Advance.
On the 3rd. of May 1942, the Japanese moved into the Solomon Islands area, and occupied Tulagi, and set up a sea plane base there, they were also planning to invade Port Moresby in New Guinea.
Two important Naval actions took place in the first half of 1942.
( a ) The Battle of the Coral Sea.
On the 7th. of May at the Battle of the Coral Sea, both the IJN and USN each lost an aircraft carrier. The former Shoho, and the latter Lexington, one might well list this action as a draw, but it was an important strategic victory for the Allies, as Port Moresby was saved from a seaward invasion, forcing the Japanese to plan to attack it overland, and it was in New Guinea that Australian troops stopped the Japanese for the first time. In due course, and after much bitter fighting, a combination of US and Australian troops won the battle for New Guinea.
( b ) The Battle of Midway.
Admiral Yamamoto planned to capture the island of Midway, and concurrently thrust at the US held islands in the Aleutian chain.
He had assembled a huge fleet, 4 large and 2 medium aircraft carriers, 11 battleships, 16 cruisers , 55 destroyers backed up by submarines, they were meant to engage and destroy the US Pacific Fleet in its depleted form, and support the invasion of Midway. At the same time, the Aluetian Islands were to be assaulted by a second force of 2 carriers, 6 cruisers and 13 destroyers.
Japanese Naval Code Broken.
The US Navy had broken the Japanese Naval Code and Admiral Nimitz was privy to Yamamoto’s plans at Midway, but all he could muster against the imposing Japanese force was 3 Carriers, 8 cruisers, 17 destroyers and some submarines.
The Battle of Midway took place over 4/7 May, and proved the efficacy of the aircraft carrier and its planes, the two fleets did not actually come within sight of each other.
Midway was a decisive US victory, four Japanese carriers, Kaga, Akagi, Hiryu, and Soryu, were all sunk, as these had all been part of the Japanese Task Force that was used to attack Pearl Harbor, it was partial revenge for that unprovoked attack.
The Japanese could ill afford such carrier losses, and Midway affected the balance of Naval power in the Pacific.
The USN lost Yorktown, crippled by Japanese carrier aircraft, she was finished off with torpedoes from a Japanese submarine lurking nearby, the destroyer Hammann was sunk by a submarine, and a Fleet oiler was also a casualty.
The US Navy by losing a carrier, was now down to three carriers in the Pacific Fleet, Saratoga, Enterprise and Hornet, a factor that weighed heavily on Vice Admiral Fletcher at Savo, but I am getting ahead of myself by several months. A fourth US carrier, Wasp, was at San Diego, having just arrived there from the Atlantic.
The island of Midway was saved, but the islands of Attu and Kiska in the Aluetian chain were seized by the Japanese, and occupied until the spring of 1943, this did not matter a great deal as it had little impact on the course of the war in the Pacific.
Japanese land on Guadalcanal.
Early in July of 1942, the Japanese landed on Guadalcanal, and commenced to build an airfield there.
Major Martin Clemens, a District Officer and Coast Watcher with his group of native scouts was alone on Guadalcanal behind enemy lines, he observed the haste of the Japanese to construct an airfield here, and using a heavy and very cumbersome teleradio, he transmitted a warning message to his Coastwatcher boss in Australia, Eric Feldt.
This report was soon relayed on to Washington DC.
The US Chief of Navy Operations, Admiral Ernest King USN, persuaded the US Joint Chiefs that now was the time to go on the offensive in the Pacific, he had some trouble gaining this approval, the US policy being to build up their forces in the United Kingdom, go after Hitler and Mussolini, and defeat them first before turning their fire power onto Japan in the Pacific war.
General Marshall wanted his Douglas MacArthur to take command in any invasion at Guadalcanal, but King, always very supportive of his Navy, and a fierce protagonist won out. He insisted it would be an US Navy show with Navy Marines, and put Admiral Chester Nimitz in overall command.
King also made sure MacArthur could not stick his nose into Operation Watch Tower, by moving his command of the South West Pacific Area westwards from 165 degrees East to 159 degrees East, Guadalcanal now fell within Admiral Nimitz’s Pacific Command.
Operation Watch Tower.
Admiral Chester Nimitz as C in C Pacific, had his area of operations stretch from the Aleutians to New Zealand, and his responsibilities sub-divided into North - Central and South Pacific.
On the 17th. of May 1942, Vice Admiral R.L.Chormley USN, had been given command of the South Pacific area.
Vice Admiral F.J. Fletcher USN was put in charge of the Expeditionary Force, although he had no previous experience of this type, and had two carriers sunk under him at Coral Sea and Midway, Lexington, and Yorktown.
From contemporary reports he appeared to be a very tired man at this time.
Rear Admiral Kelly Turner USN was named as Commander South Pacific Amphibious Forces, and when King told him he was to command amphibious forces for the landings at Tulagi and Guadalcanal, he protested that he did not have sufficient knowledge about amphibious warfare, King brushed his protest aside with: “ YOU WILL LEARN.”
Turner back in 1939, had been in command of the US cruiser Astoria, the then Japanese Ambassador to the US had died, and Astoria was given the task of carrying his ashes back to Japan.
We will learn more of Astoria at the Battle of Savo Island, soon to be unfolded.
The Royal Navy, Rear Admiral V.A.C.Crutchley, Victoria Cross, which he had won as a Lieutenant in WW1, was appointed to command the Naval Support Group and also be Turner's second in command.
Rear Admiral J.S.McCain USN was to command the Air Task Force ie. all water and land based aircraft in the South Pacific.
The Officer in command of the 1st. Marine Division, Major General A.A. Vandergrift was given the Joint Chief's directive by Ghormley " To seize Tulagi and adjacent positions and land on 1st of August 1942."
The other important member of the cast of Watch Tower, was the Japanese Commander of their 8th. Fleet, Vice Admiral Gunichi Mikawa, IJN.
It is interesting to note, that Collier, in his book: The War in the Far East 1941 - 45, said: The ensuing expedition to Guadalcanal and Tulagi, was the first sea - borne expedition to enemy - held territory by US Forces since 1898.
It also happened that Operation Watch Tower was the very first Allied offensive planned against the Japanese in the Pacific Theatre.
Not enough time for planning.
Vandergrift thought he was making it very clear to Admiral King that his Marines could not be ready to land on the 1st. of August, but King was adamant, the landings would soon go ahead, and he could only win a three day postponement.
Ghormley now added his voice in protest against this rush, with a further plea to Admiral King to grant more time to prepare, but was only able to gain a further three days more grace. “That was it! “ King stated, “ Dog Day” the 7th. of August was set for the landings, and it would not be altered again.
( a ) Carrier Group. Vice Admiral Fletcher in Saratoga, commanding the total expedition. Rear Admiral L. Moyes in Wasp, Commander of the Air Support Force. The three carriers, Saratoga, Enterprise and Wasp, could provide 237 aircraft, of these 234, 98 fighters, 96 dive bombers, and 40 torpedo bombers were operational and ready to go when Dog Day dawned on the 7th. of August 1942.
This group was backed up with the new 35,000 ton battleship, North Carolina, 5 heavy cruisers, Minneapolis, New Orleans, Portland, Salt Lake City, and San Francisco, 1 light AA cruiser, Atlanta, and 16 destroyers.
( b ) Landing Group. Rear Admiral R.K. Turner in McCawley, Commander South
Pacific Amphibious Forces. 15 transports for Guadalcanal, 4 transports plus 4 destroyer transports for Tulagi.
Mayor General A. A. Vandergrift in command of about 18,000 Marines of the 1st. Marine Division and their equipment.
( c ) Naval Support Group under the command of Rear Admiral V. A. C. Crutchley VC, RN. ( flying his flag in the heavy cruiser HMAS Australia. ) 6 Heavy 8 inch cruisers:
HMAS Australia. Captain H.B. Farncomb RAN.
HMAS Canberra Captain F.E.Getting RAN.
USS Chicago. Captain H.A.Bode USN.
USS Astoria. Captain W.E.Greenman USN.
USS Quincy. Captain S.N.Moore USN.
USS Vincennes. Captain F.L.Riefkohl USN.
2 Light Cruisers. :
HMAS Hobart. Captain H.A.Showers RAN.
USS San Juan. Rear Admiral N. Scott USN.
8 Fleet destroyers for the fleet, Blue, Ralph Talbot, Patterson, Bagley, Helm, Wilson,
Buchanan, and Monssen.
7 destroyers to protect the transports.
( d ) Air Task Force. under the command of Rear Admiral J.S.McCain USN. Consisting of land based and water borne aircraft from the Army, Navy, Marines and RNZAF.
The real problem was that most of McCain’s land based aircraft were of short range, the B17’s had a 710 mile each way flight in daylight, to and from the Guadalcanal area.
Japanese Naval Forces.
After the Coral Sea and Midway battles, the Japanese were forced to decide that the only way they might reach Port Moresby was to attack it overland from Buna.
Vice Admiral Gunichi Mikawa IJN was given the command of the new 8th. Fleet, and he chose the heavy cruiser Chokai to hoist his flag on the 26th. of July 1942, he had 4 other heavy cruisers, 2 light cruisers, and destroyers as available to add to his command. He was based on Rabaul.
Approach to Landing Area, and the 7th. of August Landings.
During the last two days of the invasion force approaching the Solomon Islands, we were assisted by both patchy rain and lowered visibility.
Over the dark period of the 7th. of August Admiral Fletcher and his carrier group were about 100 miles south of the proposed beachhead.At this time, I was serving in HMAS Canberra as a watchkeeping Sub-Lieutenant RAN, in June, I had been granted my watchkeeping ticket, which meant that my Captain G.D.Moore RAN, believed I was competent to be in charge of the ship on my own as the Officer of the Watch.
We now slipped past Cape Esperance and early in the morning of the 7th. of August, my ship was in her bombardment position. Suprise was complete! at 0613 ( 6.13 AM ) both air strikes by carrier aircraft, and the naval bombardment started.
All hell broke loose, as the Tulagi beaches were were pounded with a withering fire, and all the Japanese seaplanes were caught on the water at Tulagi, and went up in flames.
On Guadalcanal, the Japanese retreated to the surrounding hills, but it was a different story here at Tulagi, the local defenders had no where to go, they stood and fought the invading Marines with desperation, and resisted any advance.
It took until the end of day 2 for the Marines at Tulagi to secure their landing positions and make any advances.
It did not take long for the Japanese to react, at 1100 ( 11 AM ) we were warned over the Ship’s broadcast system to expect an air attack, and all hands should go to lunch early, to be ready for this onslaught.
Paul Mason, an Australian Coastwatcher hidden in the mountains SE of Bougainville, had broadcast this warning.
He was spot on, a desperate, and well pressed home attack was carried out by Japanese twin engined torpedo carrying Betty Bombers. 16 were shot down, and we lost 12 carrier borne aircraft. It was the first time that I had been subjected to an enemy air attack, I was staggered just how the Japanese Betty’s could fly through so much flak thrown up by the Fleet’s AA guns, and come through unscathed. I thought no aircraft could survive such a barrage, but they did, as on they came to drop a deadly torpedo at the last moment, then pull into a steep climb trying to escape and head for home, all very scary. It was fortunate at this early stage of the war against Japan, that the frightful weapon of the Kamikaze Aircraft had not been conceived. That was still some way ahead, in October 1944. That was still to come in October of 1944.
US Destroyer Mugford was hit, with 22 of her crew dead.
Vice Admiral Mikawa sailed from Rabaul in Chokai with the light cruisers Tenryu, and Yubari plus the destroyer Yunagi, he was joined by 4 heavy cruisers from Kavieng, Aobe, Kako, Kinugasa and Furutaka, to form a formidible strike force that now proceeded south at high speed.
I find it interesting that this Japanese force of 7 cruisers, 5 heavy, and 2 light would proceed as a group with but a single destroyer. No Allied cruiser group of those numbers would ever venture off on a strike operation without at least several screening destroyers.
I guess that after several years of war we had been subjected to attacks from a very determined and efficient U-Boat arm of the German Navy, and had learned in those circumstances that it was mandatory to have your destroyers in sufficient numbers to help protect the main fleet. It was a different war in the Pacific, certainly the numbing cold of a North Atlantic winter was never present here, but I digress.
Sighting of Japanese cruiser force.
A B17 aircraft from MacArthur’s command sighted part of this group, and Lieutenant Commander Munson USN in his submarine S38, sighted Mikawa and his ships in the St. Georges Channel sailing SE, he reported 2 destroyers and 3 large unknown ships, he was so close he could not squirt off any torpedoes at these ships.
McCain had been asked by Turner to schedule a Catalina aircraft to search to the NW, the area where any enemy attack was likely to eventuate from, not only did McCain not send out this aircraft, but much worse, he did not inform Turner that he had not ordered this flight, so, quite naturally Turner assumed no threat was developing to his landing operations from that area.
Night Dispositions over the 7th/8th. of August.
Savo Island squats outside of Guadalcanal, leaving both a southern and northern entrance to the open water that leads to the landing beaches where the transports were still unloading the heavy equipment of the Marines and their ammunition and food supplies.
Australia, Canberra and Chicago with 2 destroyers, Patterson and Bagley, were placed to block the Southern entrance between Savo and Guadalcanal.
Between Savo and Florida to the north, 3 US heavy cruisers, Astoria, Quincy and Vinvennes with their 2 destroyers Wilson and Helm were deployed to guard this entrance.
The Australian light cruiser Hobart, and the US light cruiser San Juan with the destroyers Buchanan and Monssen blocked the gate at the Eastern entrance.
The two best radar and anti-submarine operating destroyers from the US Destroyer Squadron had been selected to carry out both the vital and important task of gate keeping to seawards to the west of Savo.
Blue and Ralph Talbot, were stationed to provide the three guarding groups of cruisers and destroyers with an early warning of the approach of any Japanese ships.
Well that was the plan, and these two destroyers were expected to stay alert and operate efficiently.
This night passed without incident.
Saturday the 8th of August.
The marines had achieved their objective on Guadalcanal, and had captured the airfield, now named Henderson Field.
We had another torrid day in the supporting ships, more hard pressed torpedo attacks from 40 Japanese twin engined Betty type bombers, with 17 of them downed.
At one stage I could count 6 blazing aircraft crashed in the surrounding waters, and the destroyer Jarvis was torpedoed, a blazing aircraft crashed into the transport George F. Elliot, which had to be abandoned, and then grounded south of Florida Island.
Hudson Aircraft sight Japanese Task Force.
An Australian Hudson aircraft flying out of Milne Bay in New Guinea sighted Mikawa and his force at 1025 ( 10.25 AM ) on the 8th. of August, their radio report was not acknowledged at base ( it later was learned that at the time of the report an air attack had closed down the radio station at Milne Bay )
Sergeant Bill Stutt flew his aircraft the long trip home, landed, and immediately was debriefed, reporting they had sighted 3 cruisers, 3 destroyers, and 2 seaplane tenders or gunboats on a course of 120 degrees, at a speed of 15 knots.
A second Hudson also saw Mikawa and on landing at base reported 2 heavy cruisers, 2 light cruisers, and a small unidentified vessel.
Back at his headquarters in Australia, MacArthur thought this force heading on a course of 120 degrees was most probably moving to the Shortlands to set up a seaplane base there, Turner believed they were moving to Rekata Bay on St.Isabel Island. Only the day before, an aircraft from the carrier Wasp had shot down a Japanese seaplane north of Rekata Bay. Mistaking some of the ships sighted to be
P 10 Solomons.
seaplane carriers, and then deciding these ships were heading to set up a new seaplane base was to prove unfortunate and costly in the long run.
Laying the blame on the Hudson crew.
The American Naval Historian Morison layed blame on the Hudson crew, he reported that they did not break radio silence to report their sighting, took their time flying back to base, had tea before debriefing etc. Many books written about Savo slavishly followed Morison’s lead and a stigma hung over the Australin Hudson crew led by Bill Stutt for many years.
Many years later, with Bruce Loxton, the author of The Shame of Savo, ( Bruce was a Midshipman in Canberra at Savo, and was badly wounded ) we interviewed Stutt and his Navigator, they confirmed they tried to report their sighting, hurried back to base and immediately debriefed, and that Morison’s report was nonsense.
Finally, a copy of a report from Chokai, which recorded that Stutt’s signal report to his base had been intercepted, and read, in Mikawa’s flagship, was unearthed in Japan. At long last Bill Stutt and his Hudson crew were vindicated, and Morison’s myth was finally laid to rest.
Mikawa launches 5 seaplanes.
5 seaplanes were launched from Mikawa’s cruisers to fly over Guadalcanal and its surrounding waters, they reported a count of all the Allied ships at Tulagi and Guadalcanal, but, best of all, no report of any sighting of US carriers.
Mikawa decided to steam his force through “The Slot,” the strait between New Georgia and St. Isabel Islands, to arrive off Savo by 0130 ( 1 AM ) on the 9th. of August.
Night Stations 8th./ 9th. August.
The same night stations were assumed for the night of the 8th. / 9th. of August as were steamed on the previous night.
Fletcher departs with his Carriers.
At Koro during a dummy run of the landfing craft prior to the actual landings, Fletcher had assured Turner he would stay and cover the landing beaches with carrier aircraft for 3 days, Turner had pleaded for a longer coverage, indicating he thought he need 5 days to unload all the heavy equipment etc for the Marines.
But Fletcher was adamant, and in the absence of his boss Ghormley, his view prevailed. But soon after we assumed our night stations, Turner read a message
from Fletcher to Vice Admiral Ghormley, indicating that his fighter numbers were down, and his fuel was running low, and asking approval to withdraw his carriers.
In fact, he took off immediately, without approval, without even telling Turner directly that he was leaving the landing area with his Carrier group. He was gone, having lost a crrier at Coral Sea, another at Midway, there was no way that Vice Admiral Fletcher was going to risk losing his third carrier.
“HE WAS OUT OF THERE!” after promising to support the landings with air cover for three days, Fletcher was gone after but 2 days, the landing area, the transports, the supporting warships, all bereft of any air cover, Turner was appaled.
Later, an examination of the ship’s logs revealed that fuel was not running low, the Japanese had in fact never sighted the carrier force at all, so there appeared to be little threat from them.
Morison’s verdict on this desertion by Fletcher was:“ His force could have remained in the area with no more severe consequences than sunburn.”
At least, in my view, Morison got that right!
Turner calls a meeting at Guadalcanal.
As I have indicated, Turner was most concerned at the departure of the Carriers, which he now believed put the transports and their supporting ships at high risk. He summoned both Rear Admiral Crutchley, and Major General Vandergrift to his flagship, Mc Cawley to a meeting to discuss the situation that had now developed. As Crutchley had some 20 miles to cover to obey his summons, he decided to pull Australia out of the line and at 2055 ( 8.55 PM ) he left to proceed to the meeting.
Turner informed his colleagues due to Fletcher’s departure, he intended to withdraw all surface forces at 0730 ( 7.30 AM ) on the 9th of August.The sighting of Mikawa’s force was discussed but Turner believed it’s destination was Rekata Bay.
This left Captain Bode in Chicago, in command of the southern force, at the time Canberra was leading Chicago, Bode decided he would stay where he was, and would exercise his command from the rear rather than take over the lead role.
As the clock ticked over at midnight, and the 8th. of August became the 9th. of August, I had already taken over my duties on Canberra’s bridge as Officer of the Watch. Sub Lieutenant Royce Dawborn, in handing over the watch told me: Our course was 120 degrees, speed 12 knots, reversing that course each hour by turning to starboard without any signal. Chicago was 600 yards astern, Patterson and Bagley
our escorting destroyers, 45 degrees on our port and starboard bow respectively, at a distance of 1,000 yards.
The ship was in the 2nd. degree of readiness with 2 by 8 inch turrets, A and X manned, plus one 4 inch gun crew on both port and starboard sides closed up at their guns, but the guns were not loaded.
In the case of the main armament, there is a choice of using High Explosive or Semi Armour Piercing shells, the former used when bombarding, and in some cases against aircraft, the latter in a ship to ship engagement, when it is planned for the shell to pierce a ship's side or superstructure and then explode. To load either type takes very little time and will be done on the order of the Gunnery Officer or the officer fulfilling his role.
We also had part Damage Control Teams in place.
Finally, before leaving the bridge, Dawborn had told me that aircraft engines had been heard overhead in his watch, and the Captain had been informed.
Lieutenant Commander E. J. Wight was the Principal Control Officer on the bridge, both the Captain and Navigator were also present when I took the watch, but soon left to get some rest in their sea cabins.
The ship with all her crew had spent a gruelling two days, closed up at action stations over many hours, waiting for Japanese air attacks, and repelling them on arrival. Sleep had been a luxury, and was at an absolute premium.
Rain almost cloaked Savo Island from view, mist hung in the air, no moon was visible, and a light NE wind slowly moved low lying cloud, thunder rolled across the sky. I felt a feeling, almost of foreboding in the heavy, oppressive atmosphere.
At 0100 ( 1 AM ) at the transport end of our patrol we duly altered course 180 degrees to starboard to take up our course of 310 degrees for the next hour.
Aircraft engines were heard over us, and the Captain was called to inform him. ( It was subsequently learned that two seaplanes had been catapulted from 2 of the Japanese cruisers to reconnoitre the area, and when required, drop flares to illuminate the scene)
About this time, Mikawa in Chokai, was heading for the middle of the 7 mile gap between Savo and Guadalcanal, he was leading his 6 other cruisers with the destroyer as tail end Charlie on a course of 120 degrees at a speed of 25 knots. This pack of dingoes was heading for the unsuspecting sheep.
Chokai sighted Blue on her starboard bow at about 5 miles, the Japanese Navy was not fitted with radar at this stage, but they specially trained their lookouts, and used high powered very efficient night glasses to locate their enemy at long distances at night, and we had considered the Japanese vision to be totally inferior to that of Westerners.
Mikawa reduced speed to cut down the wake thrown up by his ships at high speed, held his fire, but he need not have worried, no action from Blue, who now reversed her course to steam away. Mikawa breathed freely once more.
The whole Japanese column passed by, very close to Blue, the eyes of the entire Japanese force upon the US destroyer, but not a peep from Blue, no visual sighting, no radar contact, nothing, just unbelieveable.
Jarvis, the US destroyer badly damaged earlier, was limping along at 10 knots, just south of Savo, making for Australia to execute repairs. At 0134, ( 1.34 AM ) she was sighted by Chokai only 1.5 miles away on her port bow.
Once more the Japanese force held their fire, wanting to maintain secrecy about their presence, they crept past, and Jarvis did not see a thing.
The next afternoon, Jarvis was caught by a large group of Japanese aircraft and promptly sunk.
At last, the gate was open for Mikawa, and with his column he sailed through, at 0136 ( 1.36 AM ) both Canberra and Chicago were sighted by the Japanese at a range of 6 miles.
On Canberra's bridge.
I had to call the Navigator at 0145 ( 1.45 AM ) and was very conscious of the time, he wanted to fix the ship's position just prior to the next scheduled course alteration at 0200 ( 2 AM ).
I had just checked the chart table clock at 0143 ( 1.43 AM ) suddenly a series of events crowded in on me, an explosion due north, ( most probably a Japanese torpedo blowing up at the end of its run, not having found a target ) the Captain was called. The port lookout reported sighting a ship ahead, no matter how hard I looked with my binoculars, nothing, neither could the PCO, nor the Yeoman of signalls discern anything at all. Patterson, on our port bow signalling with a small blinker tube, we activated the action alarms. Patterson had in fact sighted the enemy, gave the alarm over her TBS ( talk between ships telephone ) " Warning! Warning! Warning! Strange ships entering harbour."
Canberra was not fitted with a TBS system, thus we did not receive that warning. It is quite amazing to think that there we were, in a desperate action situation, working with US Navy ships, one of our escorting destroyers sends out a vital message, and we cannot receive it because we have not been fitted with TBS equipment. Even at a distance of 60 years since Savo, I shake my head in disbelief!
But back to that awful night in question!
I quickly called the Captain, and the Navigating Officer, the PCO saw three ships on our starboard bow, gave the alarm, and ordered the 8 inch turrets to load. The Captain was the first on the bridge, I saw torpedo tracks approaching down our starboard side, the Captain ordered the engines full ahead, and starboard 35 degrees, to quickly swing the ship to starboard.
The Navigator had arrived, and told me " I have the Con." thereby relieving me from being the Officer of the Watch.
The Gunnery Officer took over from the PCO, and moved to the port Enemy Bearing Indicator ( this instrument is followed by the 8 inch Director, which in turn directs the main armament onto the same target delineated by the Gunnery Officer )
Further torpedo tracks were crossing our bows, ahead, starshell burst to light up the scene, and overhead aircraft dropped flares.
I hurried to my action station in the forecontrol overlooking the bridge, we were hit by a shell exploding on the 4 inch gun deck, and the Walrus aircraft was ablaze on its catapult. Another shell exploded on our port side just below the bridge, still another blew up just aft of my position, the plotting office was demolished. We were under severe fire from the Japanese heavy cruisers, I could see a large ship with a huge trunked funnel, no more than 3,000 yards away, blasting away. I recall muttering " My God! This is bloody awful!" I had been surrounded by incoming shells, but luckily remained unscathed.
Looking down onto the bridge, I could see absolute carnage, the shell bursting on the port side had demolished most of the bridge, the Gunnery Officer dead, decapitated, the Captain mortally wounded, with most of the other bridge officers wounded.
In the fore control, an able seaman standing alongside me had been struck down by a shell fragment, I gave him morphia, but he was a very sick young man.
The salvo of incoming shells had demolished both boiler rooms, there were no survivors, we lost all power, all steam, we did not, nor could not fire a shot.
The ship was listing noticeably to starboard, although only 2-3 minutes had elapsed,
for Canberra, the war was over. We had picked up a torpedo on the starboard side, ( post war it was established that this fish was fired by our starboard escort destroyer USS Bagley.)
Chicago had about 16 feet of her bow blown away by a torpedo, she could still steam, and charged off to port, did not fire her main armament, fired off starshell from both her port and starboard 5 inch guns in the perceived direction of the enemy, none of these starshells functioned. Chicago did not send off any warning of the Japanese attack to the Northern Cruiser group.
Patterson got off 50 rounds at the Japanese, but was herself hit, Bagley rushed off to the west, but Mikawa was long gone.
After demolishing Canberra, Mikawa divided his force into two groups, they swept past the Northern cruisers, and sank all three of them, his groups reformed as one, and quickly exited the scene at high speed for Rabaul and Kavieng.
On the way out, they came across Ralph Talbot, three cruisers engaged her, but she did not sink, escaping in a rain squall.
A small victory for the Allied cause, US Submarine S-44 caught Kako making for Kavieng, four torpedoes sent her to the bottom.
Back on board Canberra.
We were in a desperate position, fires above and below decks, nothing to fight them with, all the ships boats holed or destroyed, dead officers and sailors lying around, with many wounded wanting attention from a hard pressed medical team.
The ship listing to starboard, and at one stage looking as if she may roll over, we prepared to abandon ship, but she steadied and we stayed with her.
At about 0330 ( 3.30 AM ) Patterson came alongside our port side foreward, and we started to load the wounded into her, including Captain Getting. She provided pumps and hoses, and we started to fight the upper deck fires. Her Captain indicated that Turner said to inform us, if we could not steam by 0630 ( 6.30 AM ) Canberra would have to be abandoned, as he was withdrawing all the surface forces.
Suddenly, at 0430 ( 4.30 AM ) Patterson cut all lines, a ship had loomed up and opened fire, the destroyer also opened fire, then established it was the luckless Chicago, thinking she had found a Japanese ship on fire. At about 0630 ( 6.30 AM ) Patterson returned, and with Blue took off all of our survivors, we had 84 dead, and 109 more wounded. The US cruisers lost almost
I went to the transport Fuller, and Patterson ferried her load of survivors to the transport Barnett.
USS destroyer Selfridge pumped 263 by 5 inch shells and fired 4 torpedoes at Canberra, the tough old ship refused to succumb, finally the US destroyer Ellet administered the coup-de-grace with one of her torpedoes fired amidships into her starboard side, and at 0800 ( 8 AM ) on the 9th. of August 1942, my ship finally slipped below the waves.
The entire surface force now withdrew, the Marines abandoned with but part of their equipment and food supplies unloaded.
Savo- Greatest US Navy Blue Water Defeat.
Savo was a bitter defeat for both the United States and Royal Australian Navies.
It was the greatest blue water defeat in the history of the USN.
For Mikawa, a stunning victory, but he faced criticism for not attacking the vulnerable transports, he feared air attack from the US carriers, and did not know that Fletcher had withdrawn.
Captain Bode from Chicago
Captain Bode was criticised for not leading the Southern force when Crutchley departed in Australia to meet with Turner, and also for not warning the Northern cruisers, he was given a shore job, and later commited suicide by shooting himself.
Vice Admirals Ghormley and Fletcher.
Post Savo, both of these Vice Admirals were given shore positions, and never gained a command at sea again.
On a personal note, I have never forgiven Fletcher for leaving us without air cover after just two days, taking off his carriers meant Australia was not in the Southern group for Savo. Who knows? the outcome could have been quite different had she been present, leading the group.
Home, a Court of Enquiry, and two weeks survivor's leave.
Some weeks later I arrived in Sydney, faced a Court of Enquiry about the loss of Canberra, went on two weeks survivor's leave, rekitted, and was appointed to the old cruiser HMAS Adelaide, working in the Indian Ocean.
Battle of the Eastern Solomons. 24th. of August 1942.
After the disaster of the Battle of Savo Island, the beleagured US Marines were subjected to a daily bombing raid from Japanese aircraft emanating from Rabaul.
"Tojo Time" the Marines called it.
At night, Japanese cruisers and destroyers would steam down through "The Slot" to bombard the beachhead and Henderson Field, and withdraw before daylight dawned.
The only relief forthcoming, an occasional dash by destroyer transports into Iron Bottom Sound to bring in much needed fuel and supplies.
A type of status quo existed in this troubled area of the Pacific war at this time..
Importance of the Eastern Solomons to both the Allies and the Japanese cause.
Both Japan and the Allies needed the strategic positioning of Guadalcanal and Tulagi Islands.
If the Americans could maintain their toe hold here, their airbase would threaten Rabaul, on the other hand, Japan needed control over this Island chain if they were to cut the vital supply lines stretching from Hawaii through Samoa and Fiji and from the west coast of the United States mainland to Australia.
Australia was vital as a secure base on which to build up forces and supplies, to be used as the springboard from which the Allies could start to push back the Japanese advance.
The Japanese Navy controlled the seas north of Guadalcanal, but three US carriers, Enterprise, Saratoga and Wasp, waited to the south, anxiously prepared for the expected thrust of Japanese land forces to retake Guadalcanal and Tulagi Islands.
Japanese reaction to the US grab of Guadalcanal and Tulagi.
It did not take Japan long to react, the first assault coming on the night of the 14th. of August.
East of Henderson Field, 500 men from the Special Naval Landing Force came ashore, and on the following night, 1,000 more landed west of the Marines position.
The commanding officer, Colonel Kiyano Ichiki started to squeeze the Marines
guarding this vital air strip still to be completed, from both ends.
Any Japanese success was but momentary, US patrols on the 19th. and 20th. at the Battle of Tenura River, routed the Japnese invaders.
Henderson Field ( so named after a Marine pilot killed at the Battle of Midway ) was completed, now US pilots could end the Japanese air supremacy over the Solomons.
More Japanese moves on Guadalcanal and Tulagi.
On the 20th. of August, 3,000 men had embarked at Rabaul, their destination Guadalcanal, from Truk, the Fleet carriers Shokaku and Zuikaku, ( both involved in the raid on Pearl Harbor ) moved southwards.
100 miles ahead, and covering the troop transports was the light carrier Ryujo.
Yamamoto's Operation KA, had two basic objectives, crush the American carriers that had eluded him at Midway, and support the landing of these 3,000 troops on their way from Rabaul.
US intelligence issued a warning on the 21st. of August, predicting a large Japanese force on its way to the south.
Admiral Chester Nimitz reacted quickly, he ordered Vice Admiral Ghormley to concentrate his forces in the vicinity of the Solomons, the stage was about to be set.
On the 22nd. of August, Vice Admiral Frank Fletcher was ordered by Ghormley to take his three Task Forces, each with a carrier, north to take up the anticipated Japanese challenge.
Just before 1100 ( 11 AM ) an unidentified aircraft came up on Enterprise's radar screen, 55 miles SW of her, four Wildcats were sortied, and soon found a four engined, lumbering, Kawanishi flying boat, it was soon crashing into the sea in flames.
The Game hots up.
On the 23rd.as US ships patrolled just to the north of the Solomons, a patrol from Enterprise came across two Japanese submarines steaming southwards, probably ahead of the main force, they merely confirmed that a fight was in the offing.
Only a few hours later, Navy Catalinas found the Japanese troop convoy about half
way between Rabaul and Guadalcanal.
Enterprise launched a strike force but it failed to locate the transports, they had turned north on being observed.
Now, US intelligence informed Fletcher on the afternoon of the 23rd. of August, that it seemed the main Japanese force was still at Truk, but was this information right or wrong?
Fletcher agonised about fuel levels in his ships, and now decided to detach Wasp, and her Task Force 18 to proceed south, to pick up the fleet tankers and replenish their fuel.
24th. of August 1942.
A wide arc of the Pacific Ocean north of Task Force 16 ( the Enterprise Group ) was scoured by 23 aircraft from "The big E" searching to a depth of 200 miles, but no enemy ships to be seen.
But at 1000 ( 10AM ) a Catalina reported a carrier, a cruiser and a destroyer 200 miles NW of the US force.
This was the light carrier Ryujo, with the cruiser Tone, scouting ahead of the main Japanese force covering the transports.
Now but 20 miles from the US force, another enemy flying boat was shot down, and an aircraft from Saratoga brought down a futher Japanese scout plane within visual distance of the Americans.
Now the Japanese Admiral was aware of the position of US ships, but in turn, Fletcher was only aware of the whereabouts of Ryujo and Tone.
But where are the main Japanese forces?
It had become urgent that the main Japanese strike force be located.
To this end, at 1300 ( 1 PM ) 23 fighters and dive bombers were launched from Enterprise to seek out and hopefully attack the enemy ships.
Fletcher was in a bind, 30 minutes had just elapsed, no enemy report from his despatched aircraft, does he launch a second group to attack Ryujo and Tone, the only known Japanese carrier within range, or does he wait until the main force is found?
He now ordered Saratoga to send off 30 dive bombers with 7 torpedo carrying
planes to go get Ryuko, then, within minutes of this launch, Navy Catalinas and some of Enterprise's scout planes find them!
200 miles north of the Enterprise and Saratoga Task Forces, the two Japanese Fleet carriers Shokaku and Zuikaku are located, pressing on southwards at 30 knots.
With static filling the air waves, made worse by the undisciplined chattering between themselves of the US pilots, it took valuable time for this news to filter through to Fletcher. He now wanted his recently released strike aircraft to swap targets, and go for the main prize, the large carriers.
By the time his communications team contacted them, they were about to attack Ryuko, and by that evening she was sunk.
Attack on Enterprise.
Fletcher was in Saratoga, at 48,500 tons full load, she had been launched in 1925, her keel originally that of a battle cruiser, and with a flight deck of 900 feet, her 83 aircraft could get off her deck in quick time.
Enterprise, commissioned in May of 1938, at 25,500 tons in her wartime role, she was smaller than Saratoga, her flight deck 809 feet long and her top speed equal to that of Fletcher's flagship at 33 knots.
Enterprise and Saratoga, as two independent Task Forces were proceeding 10 miles apart, every operational fighter waiting to take off to protect their respective ships.
At 1632 ( 4.32 PM ) the first signs of an impending attack, on the radar, distance 88 miles, bearing 320 degrees, a host of bogies ( naval talk for enemy or unidentified aircraft ) both carriers turned into the wind to launch their fighter protection.
Sailing close by Enterprise was the new battleship North Carolina, the cruisers Portland and Atlanta, and 6 destroyers.
Everyone would be straining their eyes for the first glimpse of enemy aircraft, from my own experience in the Pacific war, I know that this period of waiting for an attack that is on its way, this lull before the storm of an incoming air assault is the really tough time. Once you are under attack, you are generally engaged in performing your own task, you are too busy to be much concerned, it is during the waiting time when you get that knot in your guts, and thoughts such as "Will I survive?" come into your head.
Above the US Task Forces - 54 fighters, up there to protect all the "Fish Heads" ( or ordinary sailors to the fly boys )
Solomons P 21.
Contact came at 1655 ( 4.55 PM ) at 18,000 feet, well above the scrambling Wildcat Fighters straining to gain height and intercept, were two sections of Japanese Val dive bombers, protected by the superior Zero fighters.
Over 20 minutes, a free for all dog fight took place, Wildcats, Vals, and Zeros all tangling together, Enterprise pilots later claimed 29 Japanese aircraft disposed of.
Launch of last Dive Bombers and Torpedo planes from Enterprise.
Whilst this battle raged over the Enterprise Task Force, the last 11 Dauntless bombers, and 6 Torpedo carrying aircraft were launched.
This decision to launch was well made, these planes had sat, readied on the flight deck, within minutes of them being airborne, a torrid attack by Vals was under way. Fire from the 5 inch batteries, mingled with the 20mm close range barrage, North Carolina and the two cruisers adding their considerable AA fire to the melee.
Down came the Vals in their first steep dive, one every few seconds, after releasing their bomb, they would fly close to the deck, trying to get away.
For two minutes the Big E weaved with great dexterity, her AA armament claiming 15 attackers, but the sheer weight of numbers of the attack overcame the defence, ( During Kamikaze attacks in Luzon, in the Philippines in January of 1945, I was staggered that attacking aircraft could survive the sheer wall of metal thrown skywards by the Fleet, and still come through to crash into a Fleet unit. )
The first bomb hit the flight deck of Enterprise, penetrated through five decks before exploding. It was precisely1714 ( 5.14 PM ) and it claimed 35 personnel, and the blast ripped open 6 foot wide holes at the waterline, the ship began to list to starboard.
The blast bulged the hangar deck upwards some two feet, and put the aft aircraft lift out of action.
The second bomb.
Within half a minute, a second bomb struck, only 15 feet from where the first bomb had penetrated the deck, a further 38 men died, 10 of whom were never identified, so fierce was this detonation.
Enterprise with smoke pouring from her wounds was still able to press on at 27 knots. Below decks and on the flight deck crews fought desperately to control the subsequent fires, restore power and rescue survivors.
Solomons P 22.
For 90 seconds the Task Force gunnery kept the invaders at bay, but now, only 2 minutes from the first bomb arriving, a third smacked into the flight deck, a ten foot hole resulted and No 2 lift disabled, more sailors died.
For now, the attack was over, and Enterprise listing, on fire, could still make 24 knots.
But, she still needed to recover her returning aircraft, working at a feverish pace, Damage Control crews took charge of the fires, patched the hole in the flight deck from bomb Number 3, counter flooded to correct the list, and stuffed the waterline holes with mattresses, backed up by timber shoring. With evening fast approaching, the Enterprise was able to recover her aircraft, a minor miracle in itself.
Launch of second Japanese strike.
The Japanese Commander, Chuichi Nagumo assumed the sacrifice of Ryujo had occupied the American aircraft attack, he launched a second strike to seek out the US ships.
Just as the Task Force picked them up on their search radar, Enterprise suddenly lost control of her steering, she swung right - left - right again, and at 1850 ( 6.50 PM ) the steering gear jammed hard over.
Radar showed an incoming attack but 50 miles away, Enterprise only just missed chopping the US destroyer USS Balch in half, meantime the big carrier was going around in circles, and not even going ahead on her starboard propellors, and astern on her port ones could pull her out of this deadly circling routine. It took 38 minutes of frantic work to fix the steering motor problem, but the luck of Enterprise held, the Japanese squadrons passed safely 50 miles to the south of the Task force, they reversed course to the north west, but did not sight the US ships.
Night fell, and Enterprise suprisingly survived, to fight further battles in the Pacific war.
The Battle ledger.
Although Enterprise was severely damaged, she lived, an American victory in this Battle of the Eastern Solomons could be claimed on two counts, strategically and
Solomons P 23.
Operation KA planned by Yamamoto had caused the sinking of Ryujo, the Japanese lost 71 planes from Shokaku and Zuikaka, and over 100 experiences pilots were killed, these of course irreplaceable, on the US side, 20 aircraft lost from their two carriers, and in Enterprise, 74 died with another 91 wounded.
Yamamato cancelled Operation KA, his first attempt to regain Guadalcanal, a total failure.
In deciding to send Wasp to refuel, Fletcher had effectively removed one carrier from the area, her presence at the time of the attack may have helped to save the Enterprise, or her aircraft on additional patrols may have located the Japanese force, but it is easy to speculate on what might have been. So many times in war time, and generally in one's life, WHAT IF is asked, but all to no avail!
After the Eastern Solomons, late August, and into September.
Late in August, the Japanese attempted to run 3,500 troops into Guadalcanal, and on the 28th. the Cactus Air Force Dive bombers attacked them, sinking the Destroyer Asagiri, and the landing was called off, with the ships returning to Rabaul.
But the next day, 450 soldiers came ashore from the Destroyer Yudachi, and supporting Japanese bombers sank the US Transport Colhoun trying to top up US supplies.
The Japanese were making nightly runs down "The Slot" with extra troops.
On the 26th. of August and east of San Cristobel, Fletcher's TF 11 with Saratoga, met up with Rear Admiral Noye's TF 18 which included the carrier Wasp.
Whilst Rear Admiral Kinkaid's third TF 16, sheltering the damaged Enterprise made for the New Caledonia area.
At Tongatabu, the damage to Enterprise was assessed, with an escort of the cruisers Portland and San Juan plus 4 destroyers, and a tanker she set out for Pearl Harbor on the 3rd. of September. At Pearl, repair crews slaved 24 hours a day to get her back into service.
Rear Admiral Murray's TF 17, with Hornet joined up with Fletcher and Noyes on the 29th. August, thereby giving Fletcher three carriers at his disposal once more. This TF included the heavy cruisers Northampton and Pensacola, the light AA cruiser San Diego, and 6 destroyers.
After TF 17 joined up, Fletcher moved south towards Espititu Santo, he would advance his force north by night, and run back south during daylight hours.
All up, his three carriers had 215 operational aircraft, and on the 30th. of August, TF 18, which included Wasp, was ordered back to Noumea to reprovision, it was June since she last stored ship, and this lengthy time won her the right for a break.
Early on the last day of August, Saratoga picked up a torpedo on her starboard side from the Japanese submarine I-26, injuring 12 including Vice Admiral Fletcher.
Solomons P 24.
Minneapolis passed a tow line to the stricken carrier, and with two engines she made good 10 knots, and was able to launch aircraft, this feat whilst under tow, was described as a "Unique performance."
The Sara now sailed for Pearl Harbor to undertake repairs, arriving there on the 21st. of September. to undertake repairs.
Vice Admiral Frank Fletcher relieved.
Fletcher was relieved of his sea command, and took up a shore job at Seattle, then in 1943, he was given the North Pacific area, he did not command at sea again.
Lunstrom in his book: "The First Team and the Guadalcanal Campaign," comments on Vice Admiral Jack Fletcher: "History has come down hard against Frank Jack Fletcher's competence as a carrier leader, but once his decisions are studied in the light of what he himself knew at the time, a different picture emerges."
But personally, I don't know about that, Fletcher lost Lexington at Coral Sea, and Yorktown at Midway.
As the Expeditionary Commander for the assault on Guadalcanal in August 1942, he had promised to keep his carriers in the area for three days, but withdrew them after only two days, leaving Turner with little alternative but to withdraw all surface forces, leaving Vanderfrift and his Marines high and dry on a hostile shore at Tulagi and Guadalcanal.
Now he is in Saratoga, and she is torpedoed.
I still belong to the school, that judges Vice Admiral Jack Fletcher harshly for his performance as a carrier commander.
By the 8th. of September, TF 18 had completed their stay at Noumea, and Noyes headed NE for Espiritru Santo, they escorted Turner's flagship McCawley, and he shared his plan to bring the 7th. Marines to Guadalcanal.
Turner asked Noyes:
( a ) to provide extra aircraft from his carrier for Cactus, ( this was the code name for Guadalcanal and Henderson Field )
( b ) maintain a constant anti-submarine patrol off Malaita - San Cristobel, and
( c ) attack any Japanese naval force threatening his convoy.
Noyes was non plussed by requests a and b, and quickly told Turner they were impossible, he had no spare fighters to send off to Cactus, he could not tie up his carrier in one area just to fly anti-submarine patrols to please him, now Turner put Noyes in the same poor light box, where he placed Fletcher earlier after his desertion after Savo.
Solomons P 25.
On the 9th. of September, Ghormley issued his basic organisation plan.
TF 61, Noyes with all the carriers, TF 62, all Amphibious Forces under Turner, TF 63, Air South Pacific under McCain, and a new group, TF 64, the South Pacific Screening and Attack Force under Rear Admiral Wright.
Landing US troops at Guadalcanal, Japanese destroyers bombard at the same time.
On the 4th.of September, US destroyer transports Little and Gregory were landing both troops and supplies at night, at the same time, Japanese destroyers Yudachi, Hatsuyuki, and Murakumo were carrying out a bombardment.
A Catalina flying boat saw their gun flashes and assumed they were coming from a submarine, dropped flares which illuminated the US ships for the Japanese just as if they were a christmas tree, and they were blown to pieces.
Reinforcements for Guadalcanal.
Earlier we learned that Turner had shared with Noyes his plan to land the 7th. Marine Regiment, they were now in 6 transports escorted by Wright's TF 64, and covered by Hornet and Wasp with their associate escorts.
Air searches had been flown to see if there was any threat from a Japanese naval force, but at this stage nothing was uncovered.
It was intended to be a two day trip from Espiritu Santo to Lunga at Guadalcanal, and a start was made on the 14th. of September.
On the other hand, a Mavis ( nick name for a Japanese Kawanishi flying boat ) out of Rabaul, sighted a US carrier 123 degrees 345 miles from Tulagi.
Noyes was operating about 100 miles NE of the transports to shield them from any approaching enemy force.
At 1035 ( 10.35 AM ) Noyes was advised by a Catalina that he had sighted 4 Battleships, and 7 Carriers on a course 140 degrees at 17 knots 325 miles NW of him. ( there is no way the Japanese had 7 carriers operating here, and I am sure Noyes would have had the same thoughts, but, ship recognition and reports from Allied air crews were so often very badly wrong. )
Shortly afterwards, this Catalina amended his report to now read: 3 Battleships, 4 Cruisers, 4 Destroyers and 1 Transport.
Now another Catalina reported a second group, 200 miles north of the first report, this was Vice Admiral Nagumo's Strike Force of 1 Carrier, 3 Cruisers and 4
Solomons P 26.
Six Zero's quickly located and destroyed this Cat.
Noyes despatched a scout group to seek out targets for Hornet's aircraft.
By 1415 ( 2.15 PM ) having failed to find any US carriers, Vice Admiral Kondo's Support Force altered course to 005 degrees and retired, the probing aircraft from Wasp missed them. By 1630 ( 4.30 PM ) both US carriers had recovered their aircraft, a stalemate for both US and Japanese forces.
The 15th. of September dawned to present a quiet scene, but by 1105 ( 11.05 AM ) a Bogey had come up on Hornet's radar, and a Combat Air Patrol from Wasp shot down a Mavis that had flown from the Shortlands, no one could be sure if TF 61 had been sighted, and reported, before the Mavis had been disposed of.
Wasp worked her aircraft to support Turner, and at 1345 ( 1.45 PM ) having just completed flight operations torpedoes were sighted making for her starboard bow.
Noyes had unknowingly crossed a line of Japanese submarines strung out from the north east to the south west.
I-19 was in a great position to let go with a 6 torpedo spread, another submarine I-26 also sighted the TF, but was too far away to fire.
One torpedo slammed into the starboard bow of Wasp, a second struck the hull, opening gas tanks and flooding bomb magazines.
Wasp was in mortal danger, and immediately took up an 11 degree list to starboard. 8 black mess attendants, cooks and stewards died from the second fish.
Counter flooding reduced the list to 4 degrees, but at 1405 ( 2.05 PM ) another huge explosion rent the Wasp, just ahead of the island, the bridge was shattered with Rear Admiral Noyes suffering burns, and Captain Sherman lucky to survive.
The decision was made to abandon ship over the stern, torpedoes that missed Wasp, continued to run to the north east, and one slammed into the US Destroyer O'Brien, which sank later. ( My surname is Gregory, my wife's maiden name was O'Brien, both ships carrying our names had been sunk.)
Another torpedo picked up the bow of the battleship North Carolina, flooding magazines and killing 5 crewmen, one spread of 6 torpedoes had gained a fair result for the Captain of I-19.
to be continued
Notes for completing this article.
More pictures here and 2nd page of here.
For this project, I propose to cover it Battle by Battle in date order. So, right now I am covering the preparation for the invasion of Tulagi and Guadalcanal., thats about done then I will do Savo, but just the bare bones as it is on the site under Canberra Lost, but in the total context its probably the most important battle, and has to be included here. Next will come the Battle of the Eastern Solomons, then Cape Esperance, Santa Cruz, The Battle of Guadalcanal, falls into the First Battle and then the Second Battle, finally, Tassafaranga. And to round it all off, a brief conclusion.
I think when I get to Savo, that we should use both maps on the Canberra story site.
Of course Admiral Yamamoto is the Japanese that was executed later by the US Airforce, will you please add his photo from that story here, and add a link to the execution site also.