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The FReeper Foxhole Remembers The Battle of Savo Island - (8/9/1942) - Dec. 18th, 2003 ^

Posted on 12/18/2003 12:00:25 AM PST by SAMWolf


Keep our Troops forever in Your care

Give them victory over the enemy...

Grant them a safe and swift return...

Bless those who mourn the lost.

FReepers from the Foxhole join in prayer
for all those serving their country at this time.

...................................................................................... ...........................................

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The Battle of Savo Island

The news of the landing on Tulagi and on Guadalcanal threw Rabaul into a frenzy of activity. Japanese 8th Fleet Headquarters, responsible for the defense of the Solomons, the Coral Sea, and the Rabaul area, prepared for operations against the American invaders. Vice-Admiral Mikawa Gunichi, Commander, 8th Fleet, however, had a rather difficult operation before him. When the Admiral ordered his forces to assemble, he had no clear knowledge of his opposition, but a very clear view of his own strength. The main unit, and flagship, of his force was the heavy cruiser Chokai, a 13,000-ton behemoth with ten 203mm guns and 24 torpedo tubes plus reloads. Chokai was the ray of light in a force of old ships, and the only heavy cruiser available to Mikawa at this point, though four more heavy cruisers were under his command.

These four ships were part of the most capable of Mikawa's forces, Cruiser Division 6 under Rear-Admiral Goto Aritomo, consisting of heavy cruisers Aoba, Kinugasa, Furutaka, and Kako. All of these cruisers carried six 203mm guns, and eight torpedo tubes. They were anchored at Kavieng, on the north coast of New Ireland, out of range of the U.S. bombers flying from Port Moresby, New Guinea and Townsville, Australia. These were the primary forcesAdmiral Mikawa would take to Savo Island, but they would need several hours to arrive - for the moment, all that was on hand was Cruiser Division 18, light cruisers Tenryu and Yubari under Rear-Admiral Matsuyama Mitsuhara. In addition, there were two divisions of old destroyers deployed to Rabaul, but operations withheld all but Yunagi from Admiral Mikawa's strike force.

Vice-Admiral Mikawa Gunichi, Commander Fourth Fleet, one of the ablest commanders in the IJN

On the Allied side, numerical strength and the naturally favorable position of forces was impressive enough. Off to the east of Guadalcanal, Vice-Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher commanded the three available U.S. carriers -- Saratoga, which flew his flag; Enterprise, and Wasp, a recent arrival and veteran of the Atlantic Ocean, including a sortie in the Mediterranean Sea. Her captain, Forrest Sherman, was widely regarded as a brilliant officer, and soon he was to be Admiral Nimitz' Chief of Staff. In attendance of these carriers was the battleship North Carolina, with Enterprise's Task Force, six cruisers, and sixteen destroyers. A fueling group of five oilers gave the Task Forces the ability to remain on sea for the duration of the landings.

Screening the landing forces, TF 62, under Rear-Admiral Richmond Kelly Turner, was the Australian Rear-Admiral Victor A.C. Crutchley's combined support/escort force, eight cruisers and eight destroyers. Another seven destroyers were attached directly to Turner, but Crutchley's units were further split. Destroyers Ralph Talbot and Blue covered the western approaches to the bay soon to be called Ironbottom Sound. Savo Island split The Slot, the body of water between the eastern and the western Solomons, in two lanes of approach. To cover both, and the eastern approach from Indispensable Strait, Crutchley divided his unit into three parts. To the east, there were the light cruisers San Juan and HMAS Hobart, plus destroyers Monssen and Buchanan, under the command of Rear-Admiral Norman C. Scott, COMTG62.4. Covering the northern approach from the west, between Florida Island and Savo Island, was Captain Frederick L. Riefkohl's Task Group 62.3, with heavy cruisers Vincennes, Astoria, and Quincy, and destroyers Wilson and Helm. To their south, Crutchley commanded his own force, TG 62.2, with the Australian heavy cruisers Australia and Canberra, and U.S. heavy cruiser Chicago. Escort and support was provided by destroyers Patterson and Bagley. Crutchley's command arrangements within his thin-spread escort force was easy, his force dispositions out of necessity and in hindsight good. His own Southern Group was well-trained. Australia and Canberra had formed a team in the Royal Australian Navy, and Chicago had been with them ever since early 1942. The Northern Group was born out of necessity: as it made no sense to split the Southern Group's experienced team up, the three remaining heavy cruisers naturally went together, while the lighter forces of Admiral Scott remained in the east to safeguard the sound from enemy light forces.

From the flagship San Juan (CL-53), Rear Admiral Norman Scott commanded the group of Allied cruisers that included, the Chicago (CA-29), at Savo Island. He was killed later in the year by friendly fire during the night action off Guadalcanal on 13 November.

In the light of such opposition, naturally, there had to be at least one advantage playing in the Japanese Navy's favor, and indeed there was more than just one. First, there was the fact that Admiral Mikawa could hope to sortie with a complete division of heavy cruisers which had operated together often enough to be a working, powerful team. Second, his ships carried the 24", oxygen-driven, one-ton-warheaded Type 93 (called "Long Lance" in Morison’s History of United States Naval Operations in World War II) torpedo, the most devastating of all Japanese weapons. This torpedo, designed to give the Japanese ships a long-range punch, reached out to almost 40,000 yards, and could go as fast as 49 knots (though not both at the same time). Third, his units all had received the exceptional night training of all IJN forces (save, obviously, carriers), while US ships owing to the risks of night training and to the Neutrality Patrol's demands had little to no experience in this kind of fighting. These were just the advantages known to Mikawa, and there was a fourth one which he didn't know of.

U.S. command arrangements had been put into effect shortly after MacArthur's return from the Philippines. In its pre-Guadalcanal form, Admiral Nimitz commanded North Pacific, Central Pacific and South Pacific forces. The latter's boundary with MacArthur's South-West Pacific Command ran right through the Solomons and placed Guadalcanal barely within Nimitz' command authority. Realizing this error, the U.S. high command soon edited the placement of this boundary, and moved it several degrees to the west, thereby cutting the Coral Sea, and putting Guadalcanal under Nimitz' authority. This was still an unsatisfying arrangement, though there would be no more changes.

Overall coverage of the Coral Sea, and the approaches to Guadalcanal and Rabaul, was only possible with cooperation between the commands. Or to give a more telling example: if Admiral Turner desired an air search of Rabaul, he would first have to ask Fletcher to forward this request to Admiral McCain, Commander, Aircraft, South Pacific, who in turn would have to ask MacArthur's air commander to conduct the search. Such arrangements could have but did not totally prevent the search of Mikawa's route. But as we shall see, other problems did.

Heavy Cruiser Aoba, flagship of Admiral Goto, and one of the IJN's oldest heavy cruisers. She saw extensive service in the Solomons campaign.

For Mikawa, August 7th was busy enough even without him sortieing against the enemy. Submarines were detached to attack the shipping off Lunga Point, Guadalcanal. Two transports were loaded with a few hundred men to conduct a landing to reinforce Guadalcanal, and sent off the same day. At 1430, Mikawa's assembled forces set off with him aboard Chokai. His route would take him out of Rabaul's Simpson Harbor; around Cape St. George, the southern tip of New Ireland; through the Buka Strait, between the islands of Buka and Bougainville, down the eastern coast of Bougainville, and finally through the Bougainville Strait into the New Georgia Sound, aptly named "The Slot" by U.S. naval forces. If nothing unexpected was to happen, Mikawa's units would be off Savo Island by midnight, 8th August.

By daybreak on August 8th, Mikawa's forces were in a position off the northeastern tip of Bougainville. Mikawa worried about the presence of the enemy carriers known to be somewhere in the area, but Rabaul could not give him any positive hints of enemy carriers in range of his formation. Mikawa was told that there were no enemy carriers in range - a grave mistake, which now threatened to place Mikawa within range of some 140 attack planes on three US carriers.

Here one of the ironies and inconsistencies of history writing reveals itself . No account condemns Mikawa's decision to attack - this one here makes no difference - but it must not be forgotten that the number one factor in Mikawa's success, indeed his mere survival, was extraordinary luck on his part. If truly seen from Mikawa's perspective, indeed one can not help but to question the logic of his decisions and rate them as impulsive more than thoughtful.

USS Vincennes, flagship of the Northern Group

But in either way, Mikawa's seven cruisers and the sole destroyer were steaming through The Slot already when night stopped Allied reconnaisance. And as luck would have it, Mikawa remained an unknown factor for the defenders of the U.S. transports.

In support of the landings, a complex air search plan had been developed, involving many small elements from various bases in the area. One of the areas spared from air reconnaissance, however, was The Slot. Admiral Turner, noticing this gap in his all-important early warning system, demanded a search to be conducted on 8th August over The Slot and the waters to its immediate north. Additionally, MacArthur's SOWESPACCOM would dutifully conduct the appropriate searches over its own territory. However, despite the urgency of Turner's request, COMAIRSOPAC McCain failed to comply -- no air search would be conducted over The Slot other than some more or less coincidental patrols.

Some of these came from carrier Enterprise, having drawn search duty for August 8, and launching several SBD Dauntless dive bombers. They would barely miss Mikawa. Two planes did not miss Mikawa, however. It was a Hudson bomber from the Royal Australian Air Force,that, its patrol originating from Milne Bay, New Guinea, sighted Mikawa at 1025 on August 8th east of Bougainville. Immediately, the pilot reported the enemy ships to his base. However, no radio contact could be made with Milne Bay. The pilot decided not to follow Mikawa, and return to his base to report on the sighting as soon as possible. The Hudson's report, paraphrased, reached the invasion forces, and indicated to the Allied forces that three cruisers, two gunboats, and two seaplane tenders were proceeding south. Turner believed this force would establish a base in one of the islands to the north, from where to employ planes against the Allies. Neither he nor his captains appeared to consider the force a threat.

Turner's decision was partially justified. Seeing that the ships reported were as a force too weak to hurt his screen, and that given the large variety of vessels, especially the presence of seaplane carriers, it seemed unlikely that this was a strike force, Turner decided not to go to a higher alert. Nor did he specifically inform his subordinates of the presence of the enemy force, or of what he intended to do about them. Certainly Turner had his hands full with the events ashore and his own problems with unloading. Certainly, Turner could not be asked to see through the haze of the message, that in fact five heavy cruisers, two light cruisers, and a destroyer were part of this force. However, he could well have presumed that the reported cruisers would attack him, and that the gunboats might easily be something different; and alerted his commanders accordingly, while asking Fletcher to intercept the force. He did not do all of that; it would cost the Navy dearly.

USS Astoria

Whilst Mikawa was moving south, the Allies were compounding the failure of their intelligence by dropping their plans into the dustbin. Admiral Turner, realizing that his transports were not yet unloaded and would require another day, and that his Marines ashore would require the supplies which he could still land. However, there was a problem there: no-one had anticipated that beforehand, expecting only that five cargo ships, and not the entire 19-transport force, would remain off Guadalcanal. However, Admiral Fletcher, owing to poor radio communications, had no idea that Turner would retain his entire force (including himself) off Guadalcanal, and radioed Admiral Ghormley on the evening of the eight about his intention to withdraw. Ghormley, with no knowledge of Turner's intention either, gave his okay. Fletcher thus duly informed Turner and set about to retire, placing his refueling on the ninth within the radius of action of his fighters to Guadalcanal. He intended to cover the expected five cargo ships, and Crutchley's cover force, before withdrawing for good.

It was an unfortunate turn of events, and one for which only the Allies' inexperience in loading and unloading combat transports could be called responsible. Turner's miscalculation, and that of his subordinates, in presuming the correctness of the sighting report, and in attempting to analyze what the Japanese force would do, and not what it could do, added to the problem. As eighth turned into ninth August, all that stood between Mikawa and his prey was the thin and inexperienced screen of Task Group 62.6, under Crutchley. Or so it would have been, but for the unfortunate results of the misunderstanding between Turner and Fletcher.

It had dawned upon Turner that there were problems with his unloading when Major-General Alexander Vandegrift of the 1st Marine Division acknowledged that he needed additional supplies, and a clear view of the situation on Tulagi. Turner acceeded, gave Vandegrift a destroyer-minesweeper, Southard to head to Tulagi, and summoned him and Crutchley to a conference aboard his flagship for midnight, August 8th. Darkness prevented Crutchley from taking a floatplane, or small boat (which was inadvisable given the 30nm stretch of open water between the Southern Group and the transports), and he took his flagship Australia to the rendezvous, thus depriving the Southern Force of a heavy cruiser.

Upon leaving, Crutchley placed the senior officer, Captain Howard D. Bode of USS Chicago, in charge of the Southern Group. With Crutchley's departure, the entire western line of defenses had no flag officer with it. Furthermore, Crutchley did not inform either Admiral Scott of the Eastern Group nor Captain Riefkohl of the Northern Group of his absence. Bode meanwhile decided against placing Chicago in front of Canberra, unwilling to risk night maneuvering. Bode decided that instead of making the change immediately, he might do so if Crutchley did not return before the next turn in the pattern, when placing Chicago before Canberra would be less risky. Furthermore, Bode believed Australia to be back soon, and the conference to be short.

Bode was right in assuming the latter - Crutchley's conference with Turner was short lived, and by midnight, Crutchley was back aboard his flagship. However, he did not regard night-time maneuvers as a good idea, and stayed in with Turner's force, some twenty miles from his group, again without informing the hapless Bode, who went to well-deserved and needed sleep, or Admiral Turner. Two days of continous Condition One - the entire watch on duty - had not improved the combat readiness of the U.S. force either. By the evening, Condition Two had been declared, with only half the watch on duty. Everywhere about the force, tired Captains and men went to their bunks, to gain strength for the next day's hard work.

Admiral Mikawa's approach was made even easier when Rabaul signalled him that air strikes had already accounted for a good deal of the enemy forces in the sound, including eight transports (which may have been important in his later decision to leave the transports alone instead of going after them). At midnight on August 8th, Mikawa's forces went to battle stations. One of the most spectacular naval battles ever was commencing. Mikawa's units sighted the island of Savo at 0047, and three minutes later, lookouts spotted the destroyer Blue, on its southerly patrol leg, at a mere 10,000 yards. The destroyer had his radar operating, but failed to sight the Japanese force, coolly steaming at 22 knots, guns trained out on Blue, into the northern passage. Another false destroyer contact was made to the north, however, and Mikawa again eased his forces south, into the southern passage.

KEYWORDS: freeperfoxhole; guadalcanl; ijn; ironbottomsound; japan; michaeldobbs; pacific; savoisland; usnavy; veterans
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Half an hour past one in the morning, Mikawa's line began to make for 30 knots, and went into battle. In another example for the luck that shone on Mikawa, even his close range sighting of the crippled destroyer Jarvis could not unbalance the admiral, who held fire.

Not too long thereafter, however, at 0130, Chokai's lookouts sighted the Southern Force, and the Northern Force thereafter, 17,000 yards distant. A minute later, Chokai's first torpedo left its tube, and five minutes into its run, the eerie silence over the sound was broken by the rolling thunder of Chokai's first eight-inch volley, aimed at Canberra.

On the latter, the sudden shock of gunfire from the north brought the bridge watch into action and Captain Getting to the bridge, but her engagement that night would be swift and violent. Turning northeast to unmask her aft batteries, Canberra was hit some twenty plus times in a matter of five minutes, lost power for her armament and pumps, and was rendered unable to fight with not a single main gun round fired. A single torpedo, fired by the destroyer Bagley, had also hit Canberra.

On Chicago, hints at the presence of enemy ships had been seen earlier but not triggered a response. Captain Bode, in tactical command, was in his cabin, and hurried up. Even as aircraft flares blossomed over the Southern Group, and Canberra started her turn, few on Chicago figured out the facts. Chicago did not get to fire her 203mm guns either, when she began a series of maneuvers undertaken to evade torpedoes. Alas, confusion reigned on her bridge. Captain Bode, who had come up from his cabin, reports came in of torpedoes approaching from starboard. Bode turned his vessel towards that direction, leading his to comb the Japanese torpedo spread. However, moments later, the bridge lookouts spotted torpedoes to port, from on the unengaged side, possibly from the same spread of Bagley that had hit Canberra. Bode swung his ship around again, trying to comb the new thread, but by doing so, exposed the entire length of his ship to the Japanese torpedoes. One slammed in Chicago, crippling her. Slowly, she swung westward (via a southerly heading), out of the battle. Captain Bode, immersed in the plight of his ship, and fighting the damages incurred, ignored his role as task group commander and failed to issue orders to his ships or to inform his superiors of what had happened. Chicago shortly rendered fire support to the destroyer Patterson, which was dueling with Japanese light cruisers Yubari and Tenryu. From Patterson, the only contact report had been made by the Southern Group, issued by Commander Frank Walker via radio at 0146.

While Chicago and destroyer Bagley steered clear of the enemy, Mikawa having turned northeast for more prizes, Patterson remained in contact until 0210. To Captain Riefkohl of Vincennes, officer in charge of the Northern Group, the actions south of him were masked by a cloudbank hiding the ships, though the fire of Patterson at the Japanese light cruisers was seen and judged as a minor engagement with light forces. Riefkohl accordingly refused to leave his position. Vincennes had in fact received Patterson's call regarding enemy ships but Riefkohl had not been informed. Now, with a slight increase in speed to 15 knots his only reaction to the presence of the enemy, he elected to wait for orders from Admiral Crutchley. His unit had just executed another of its scheduled turns, keeping course along the edges of a large box-like figure. Vincennes led, followed by Quincy, and Astoria in the rear. Destroyers Wilson and Helm had lost their positions on the flanks and were hurrying to catch up.

Admiral Mikawa, his helm already due northeast to deal with the Northern Force, now completely lost the coherence of his force. Already, the elderly destroyer Yunagi had departed the rear of his force, and now, just as the Kinugasa had aligned herself right behind the flagship Aoba, and the Kako, the Canberra drifted into the path of following Furutaka, forcing her to turn to port at once, leading her and the two light cruisers trailing her away from the main column. Now, the two separated pincers were moving at will against the outnumbered and unsuspecting Northern Force.

Riefkohl found himself, or would soon find himself, in a little-promising situation: to his rear, Chokai, Aoba, Kako and Kinugasa threatened to cross his T from the rear, a rather unusual maneuver but efficent nevertheless, while to the forces south, Furutakaand her two lighter colleagues would have to exchange broadsides with the enemy.

Mikawa could allow himself a moment of pleasure when at 0150 the searchlights of three Japanese cruisers snapped on to light the U.S. line up. A moment later, the first salvo left Chokai's gun tubes, and soon the entire Japanese line was firing, with torpedoes added for good measure.

On the U.S. ships, disbelief was the common reaction to the sudden illumination. Captains Riefkohl and Greenman (of Astoria) were certain they faced the Southern Group, accidently assuming their Allies to be the enemy. Soon, however, shells erased all hope that a peaceful conclusion could be found with a radio call or flag hoisting (although Riefkohl tried the latter with curious success lasting several minutes). Riefkohl ordered battle stations and twenty knots, the latter being made impossible by untimely interference from a torpedo from Chokai.

In a photo taken from a Japanese cruiser, searchlights illuminate the U.S. cruiser Quincy, which was the first ship in the group to succumb. She rolled over and sank in 11 minutes.

Neither of the three heavy cruisers put up much of a fight, though two salvoes from Quincy slammed into Chokai, destroying a gun turret.

As the battle unfolded, further problems reduced Mikawa's line, now merely a loosely connected and very broad bar instead of a neat line, but it was not later than 0220 that all three U.S. cruisers were reduced to swimming wrecks. There remained little to do for Mikawa, who kept to a new northwest course he had established during the brief engagement with the Northern Force. There, U.S. picket destroyer Ralph Talbot blundered into the Japanese path and was given an unhealthly large dose of fire. Burning and lisiting, only a rain squall at the right time saved the little ship from becoming another victim of Mikawa's. The Admiral, after consulting his staff,decided at shortly before three in the morning to cancel any further attacks and retire at top speed to Rabaul. Thereby, he concluded the first naval battle fought in the Solomons. The dawning of the new morning saw the vicinity of Savo littered with wrecks -- or worse, it didn't. Vincennes had slipped under at 0300 already, with her surviving crew being rescued from the shark-infested waters. Astoria had looked as if she were salvable, and energetic efforts went into her, improving her watertight integrity and keeping fires down, but uncertainty rose with regard to her ammo lockers, which were presumed to have not been flooded - correctly. Thirty minutes past midday, Astoria accompanied Vincennes and Quincy, having already sunk at 0238, down to the ground of Ironbottom Sound.

Canberra, burning fiercely in her interior, was ordered to be scuttled should she not be able to accompany Turner's retreat at 0600. With lots of fires raging around the boilers but none in a position to power the ship's engines, rudders, or even pumps, the ship was sunk by U.S. destroyer Ellet. Admiral Fletcher did not turn around to persue Mikawa,as the Japanese Admiral had expected, but kept heading southeast. Like rats leaving the sinking ship, all ships abandoned Ironbottom Sound by the evening of August 9th. Silence fell over the sound, and no hints remained that only a day before, Allied and Japanese naval forces had fought the largest surface battle to that date in the Pacific.

HMAS Canberra underfire

Several questions need to be discussed here, even if only for the sake of completeness. The primary one to be solved is, who must be made responsible for this disaster? First on this list would be Admirals Crutchley and McCain: the first, for failing to make known his extension of his stay with Turner's force, and for going to see Turner without informing anybody but Bode of his absence in the first place. The second for failing to conduct a requested air search without any reason and not informing the commanders of failing to conduct it, leaving them in a wrong feeling of immunity.

First and foremostly culpable was Turner, whose was the plan, afterall, by which the forces operated; which did consider that the Northern Force would not need flag officer with it; which had provided for the spotty air reconnaisance plans, and for Fletcher's early withdrawal.

Somewhere on the list would be Captain Bode of Chicago, not for failing to stand up to his new post as Task Group commander but for not informing the other commanders of the presence of a strong enemy force. Certainly, also, his handling of Chicago had been somewhat spotty; granted that the situation was difficult, his decision to head west, instead of east towards the transports, whose defense was his job, and where Australia was to be found, was false. Had he encountered Mikawa again, alone, he would have stood no chance.

Battle of Savo Island: "Kako" attacks "Vincennes"

There is, however, much more blame to spread around than could possibly be laid upon the commanders on the spot. The Allied operations plan was poor. Although the distribution of the forces could not be helped, the fact that there were only two flag officers with the three screening groups necessarily led to command problems. Captain Bode of Chicago can not be considered ill-suited for a task group command, but to control damage control efforts on his ship, designated a new course and general approach to the action for his vessel, worrying about torpedoes and the like, in addition to trying to control the rest of his force proved too much. The dogged skill of the Japanese torpedo men and gunners and the coolness of the Japanese approach added to the completeness of the victory by ascertaining that the initial blows would come out of the dark and be deadly at the same time. The engagement with the Southern Force had been decided in five minutes, and not much more time was needed to deal with the Northern Force, which had a slight advantage of strength, position and alertness over its southern counterpart. This combination of near flawless execution of a well-exercised operation by the Japanese, and the problematic layout of command and control arrangements on the Allied side led to the defeat of Savo; the worst naval defeat ever suffered by the U.S. Navy.
1 posted on 12/18/2003 12:00:25 AM PST by SAMWolf
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To: snippy_about_it; PhilDragoo; Johnny Gage; Victoria Delsoul; Darksheare; Valin; bentfeather; radu; ..
"The fact must be faced that we had an adequate force placed with the very purpose of repelling surface attack and when that surface attack was made, it destroyed our force," said Admiral Crutchley. After full allowance for the element of surprise and for the fact that the attacker at night enjoys an immense advantage, there remain many questions about the action which cannot be answered.

It is unexplained how the enemy managed to pass the two destroyers stationed to give warning of just such an attack. Visibility of course was very low. The enemy might have escaped radar detection for a while by approaching close to the shore of the islands, but to reach Savo Island he had to cross open water, and at this point our radars should have picked him up easily. The nature of the radar search conducted by the two destroyers was not reported. It was suggested, without any evidence, that their search may have been intermittent, and not continuous. If this is true, the enemy could have crossed the open water at a time when the radar was not in actual operation. Admiral Crutchley suggested that our failure could be explained by the enemy's having detected our patrolling destroyers from the air and having made a wide circuit to the westward, approaching close along the shore of Guadalcanal.

Of less importance but of considerable interest is the problem of the "something" seen close aboard the Patterson at the beginning of the engagement, and the "dark objects" seen between our ships by the Chicago. They may explain the fact that both the Chicago and the Canberra were struck by torpedoes which could scarcely have been fired from the enemy cruiser line.

Because the enemy cruisers came in very close to Savo Island, their destroyers may well have been on their starboard bow, perhaps at some distance. If they failed to turn eastward quickly as did the cruisers, they might have passed through our formation. It seems probable, however, that in spite of the poor visibility, enemy destroyers would have been recognized at the close range at which they passed.

Secondly, it is possible that the "seaplane tenders or gunboats" reported in the Melbourne dispatch were in fact tenders for motor torpedo boats, and that some of these were present. The restricted waters, smooth sea, and poor visibility were well suited to their operation.

Aviation fuel that ignited during the battle on board the Australian cruiser Canberra—her survivors being rescued here by the U.S. destroyers Blue (alongside) and Patterson—diverted Japanese attention from the U.S. cruiser Chicago.

The most likely conjecture is that enemy submarines were operating on the surface in coordination with the attacking cruisers. A lookout on the Vincennes saw a submarine surface just as the action began. Capt. Riefkohl believed his ship might have been torpedoed by a submarine, and, at the close of the action, the last 5-inch gun on his ship was reported to have hit the conning tower of a submarine. The following morning several of our destroyers made sound contacts, and the Mugford believed that she sank a submarine.

The attacking ships were never seen with sufficient clarity to make identification certain. Admiral Crutchley reported, "The consensus of opinion assesses the enemy force as comprising one 8-inch cruiser (which I think might have been the Chokai) and two light cruisers of the 5.5-inch type. Probably there were three destroyers. This would correspond to the force reported in the Melbourne warning.

There is some question as to whether the enemy operated in one or two groups. The latter suggestion came from some officers of the Vincennes group who believed that they had been caught in a cross fire.

USS Chicago (CA-29) off Guadalcanal the day after the action, showing crewmen cutting away damaged plating to enable the ship to get underway. She had been torpedoed at her extreme bow during the night action of 9 August 1942.
View looks forward along her port side, with # 1 eight-inch gun turret in the upper right. Note life rafts hung on the turret side and destroyers in the distance.

This could be explained by the fact that the enemy crossed astern of this group at such speed that the leading vessels of the enemy column might have been firing on our ships from their starboard quarter while the last ships of the column were still firing from the port quarter. Admiral Crutchley remarked, "The Vincennes suggests that the other enemy force consisted of destroyers. As the enemy had two separate transport groups to attack, there seems to be good reason for dividing his force into two sections, but if this were so, the enemy destroyer force apparently destined to be the one sent against Squadron Y at Tulagi was not intercepted by any of our patrols and it becomes difficult to explain why they did not go on to attack their real objective." The fact that the enemy planes dropped flares over Tulagi considerably later than over Guadalcanal indicates that the enemy plan was probably for a single force to attack first one and then the other.

It seems certain that our ships scored several hits on the Japanese, but there was no evidence that we inflicted any considerable damage. None of the enemy ships was seen to be seriously on fire, and apparently all cleared the area at high speed.

The redeeming feature of the battle was the splendid performance of our officers and men. They had been on the alert for days and had had about 48 hours of continuous, active operations immediately before the battle. In spite of this, their conduct under the most trying circumstances was beyond praise, and they made it, in the happy phrase of one of our officers, "a night in which heroism was commonplace."

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2 posted on 12/18/2003 12:01:21 AM PST by SAMWolf (Support your local medical examiner: die strangely!)
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To: All
In just 32 minutes the enemy had inflicted massive damage. Four heavy cruisers were sunk and a heavy cruiser and destroyer badly damaged. 1,270 men were killed and 708 injured. The enemy had comparative scratches on three cruisers.

What Went Wrong?

A court of inquiry determined that US ships required more training in night fighting.

There were several sighting of the IJN 8th fleet by USAAF and RAAF aircraft along with several other Japanese ship movements: each report was of different ship compositions and bearings. Weather and enemy air defenses were a factor, yet a common denominator of these sightings was delay in getting the information from MacArthur's Army zone to Nimitz's Navy zone on the scene. Japanese seaplane carriers were included in the sightings and the Allied fleet prepared for submarine or air attack, rather than surface action. Almost two thousand men paid for a chain of errors.

The 8th fleet cruiser's floatplanes were noticed and reported. Radio communication was poor that night and nobody associated aircraft reconnaissance with a surface attack. Visibility was 2 to 6 miles with rain in the area.

Both radar picket ships (radar range about 10 miles) were at the extreme ends of their patrols sailing away from the Japanese fleet. San Juan had modern search radar, but was at the other end of the Sound. Was too much or too little reliance placed on this new technology? This battle must be considered to have been fought in the pre-radar days.

RAdm Crutchley, RN, was in command of the screening force in recognition of allied unity: three of the eight cruisers were Australian. He had fought with Fletcher at Coral Sea, but was not totally integrated with the US Navy. HMAS Canberra, for instance, did not have TBS (short range radio known as Talk Between Ships) and could not hear the initial alarm issued by USS Patterson. Crutchley had left with his flagship, heavy cruiser Australia, that night to attend a conference called by RAdm Turner and did not participate in the battle. Chicago had the senior captain, but his ship was immediately torpedoed into a state of confusion that even included an exchange of friendly fire.

What went right?

Well, nothing, but luck helped a little.

Fortunately the Japanese did not steam through and attack the thinly defended transports. When the lead flagship turned towards the channel, his column, intent on sinking cruisers, failed to follow and continued north, then west to avoid shoal water, but away from the transports. The flagship then turned to chase after his squadron. To reform the Japanese fleet would have taken two hours; after attacking the transports and defenders the Japanese fleet would still be in the channel as daylight exposed them to carrier aircraft and any surviving ships of the earlier battle. The flag chartroom had been destroyed so that navigation into the channel would have been dangerous. Japanese naval tradition called for attacking warships; to expose cruisers to a second attack, with no torpedoes left, to extreme risk, for half empty transports may not have seemed worthy. They had already won a great victory over warships and that was enough for one night's work. The heavy cruiser, HMAS Australia, with screen commander Crutchley aboard, returning from his midnight meeting with Turner, was steaming to the battle site. Close support for the transports consisted of anti-aircraft light cruiser San Juan and light cruiser HMAS Hobart and destroyers Monssen and Buchanan.

Unaware of the nature of the battle, VAdm Fletcher's 3 carrier and 1 battleship force was withdrawing and not in range to attack the withdrawing enemy cruisers at first light. Fortunately the Japanese did not know this. Equally fortunate was that an enemy air attack of 40 bombers early the next morning could not find the carriers and were only able to finished off Jarvis (DD-799), torpedoed during the previous day's noon air attack.


All agreed the Japanese had not lost their fighting spirit after their defeat at Midway and that the allies had lost a major fight from problems with reconnaissance, communication, and preparedness. Yet RAdm Crutchley calls our attention that the propose of the fleet was to protect the landing and that the enemy did not get through. The cost was 1,270 sailors killed, more than Marine loss in the entire 6 month Guadalcanal campaign, 1,207.

3 posted on 12/18/2003 12:01:47 AM PST by SAMWolf (Support your local medical examiner: die strangely!)
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To: All

Veterans for Constitution Restoration is a non-profit, non-partisan educational and grassroots activist organization. The primary area of concern to all VetsCoR members is that our national and local educational systems fall short in teaching students and all American citizens the history and underlying principles on which our Constitutional republic-based system of self-government was founded. VetsCoR members are also very concerned that the Federal government long ago over-stepped its limited authority as clearly specified in the United States Constitution, as well as the Founding Fathers' supporting letters, essays, and other public documents.

Tribute to a Generation - The memorial will be dedicated on Saturday, May 29, 2004.

Actively seeking volunteers to provide this valuable service to Veterans and their families.

4 posted on 12/18/2003 12:02:04 AM PST by SAMWolf (Support your local medical examiner: die strangely!)
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To: SAMWolf; snippy_about_it; bentfeather; Darksheare; Johnny Gage; Light Speed; Samwise; ...
Good morning all at the Foxhole!

Hello troops and veterans!
THANK YOU for serving the USA!

5 posted on 12/18/2003 2:07:27 AM PST by radu (May God watch over our troops and keep them safe)
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To: carton253; Matthew Paul; mark502inf; Skylight; The Mayor; Professional Engineer; PsyOp; Samwise; ...

FALL IN to the FReeper Foxhole!

Good Thursday Morning Everyone

If you would like added to our ping list let us know.

6 posted on 12/18/2003 3:25:45 AM PST by snippy_about_it (Fall in --> The FReeper Foxhole. America's History. America's Soul.)
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To: snippy_about_it
Good morning, Snippy and everyone at the Freeper Foxhole. How's it going?
7 posted on 12/18/2003 3:37:45 AM PST by E.G.C.
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To: snippy_about_it
[God] comforts us in all our tribulations, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble. —2 Corinthians 1:4

The comfort God has given us
He wants us now to share
With others who are suffering
And caught in life's despair.  Sper

God does not comfort us to make us comfortable, but to make us comforters.

8 posted on 12/18/2003 4:25:53 AM PST by The Mayor (If God could Vote, he would vote with the Right wing conspiracy)
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To: SAMWolf

If you look at this photo, in addition to QUINCY, the flames on the left are VINCENNES and ASTORIA is the small point of light just to the right of QUINCY.

9 posted on 12/18/2003 5:17:46 AM PST by GATOR NAVY
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To: SAMWolf
On this Day In History

Birthdates which occurred on December 18:
1707 Charles Wesley, co-founder (Methodist movement)
1778 Joseph Grimaldi, known as the "greatest clown in history,"
1856 Joseph John Thomson, Eng, physicist discovered electron (Nobel 1906)
1879 Paul Klee, Swiss abstract painter.
1886 Ty (Tyrus Raymond) Cobb, American baseball player, first man to be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
1890 Edwin Howard Armstrong, NYC, radio pioneer inventor (FM)
1913 Willy Brandt, Mayor of Berlin and Chancellor of West Germany.
1913 Betty Grable (Elisabeth Grasle) (actress: The Gay Divorcee, Follow the Fleet)
1917 Ossie Davis (writer, actor: A Raisin in the Sun)
1919 Anita O'Day (Colton) (jazz singer)
1927 Ramsey Clark (U.S. Attorney General under President Lyndon Johnson [1967-1969]){never met a dictator he didn't like}
1943 Keith Richards (guitar: group: The Rolling Stones:)
1947 Stephen Spielberg (Academy Award-winning director)
1955 Ray Liotta (Actor: Good Fellas)

Deaths which occurred on December 18:
0468 Huna Mari bar Mar Zutra, rabbi, executed in Pumpedita
1505 John IX van Horne, prince-bishop of Lieges, executed
1565 Benedetto Varchi, Italian humanist/historian (L'Ercolano), dies at 62
1737 Antonio Stradivari, renowned violin-maker, dies in Cremona Italy at 93
1829 Jean-Baptiste de Lamarck, French nature investigator, dies at about 85
1919 Horatio William Parker, composer, dies at 56
1931 John T "Legs" Diamond US gangster, murdered at 35
1959 Dorothy L Sayers, writer, dies at 66
1977 Cyril Ritchard, actor (Peter Pan), dies at 80
1980 Alexei N Kosygin, Soviet PM (1964-80), suffers heart attack at 76
1996 Arthur Jacobs, musicologist, dies at 74
1997 Chris Farley, comedian (SNL, Tommy Boy), dies at 33
2000 Newspaper heir Randolph Apperson Hearst, the last surviving son of William Randolph Hearst, died in New York at age 85.



POW / MIA Data & Bios supplied by
the P.O.W. NETWORK. Skidmore, MO. USA.

On this day...
1118 Afonso the Battler, the Christian King of Aragon captures Saragossa, Spain, a major blow to Muslim Spain.
1378 Charles V denounces the treachery of John IV of Brittany and confiscates his duchy.
1719 Thomas Fleet publishes "Mother Goose's Melodies For Children"
1774 Jews expelled from Prague, Bohemia & Moravia by Empress Maria Theresa
1787 New Jersey becomes 3rd state to ratify constitution
1796 1st US newspaper to appear on Sunday (Baltimore Monitor)
1799 George Washington's body interred at Mount Vernon
1812 Napoleon Bonaparte arrives in Paris after his disastrous campaign in Russia.
1813 British take Fort Niagara in the War of 1812
1849 William Bond obtains 1st photograph of Moon through a telescope
1862 Nathan B. Forrest engages and defeats a Federal cavalry force near Lexington in his continued effort to disrupt supply lines.
1862 Union General Ulysses S. Grant announces the organization of his army in the West. Sherman, Hurlbut, McPherson, and McClernand are to be corps commanders.
1892 Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky's ballet "Nutcracker Suite" premieres
1898 Automobile speed record set-63 kph (39 mph)
1915 President Wilson, widowed the year before, marries Edith Bolling Galt
1915 In a single night, about 20,000 Australian and New Zealand troops withdraw from Gallipoli, Turkey, undetected by the Turks defending the peninsula.
1916 The Battle of Verdun ends with the French and Germans each having suffered more than 330,000 killed and wounded in 10 months.
1925 Soviet leaders Lev Kamenev and Grigori Zinoviev break with Joseph Stalin.
1932 Chicago Bears beat Portsmouth Spartans 9-0 in 1st NFL playoff game
1940 Adolf Hitler issues his secret plans for the invasion of the Soviet Union--Operation Barbarossa.
1941 Defended by 610 fighting men, the American-held island of Guam falls to more than 5,000 Japanese invaders in a three-hour battle.
1944 Japanese forces are repelled from northern Burma by British troops.
1947 Pope Pius XII publishes encyclical Optissima Pax
1948 Indonesia begins its 2nd political election
1951 North Koreans give the United Nations a list of 3,100 POWs.
1956 Japan is admitted to the United Nations.
1960 A rightist government is installed under Prince Boun Oum in Laos as the United States resumes arms shipments.
1963 Muskegon MI gets 3' of snow
1965 U.S. Marines attack VC units in the Que Son Valley during Operation Harvest Moon.
1966 Dr Seuss' "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" airs for 1st time on CBS
1970 An atomic leak in Nevada forces hundreds of citizens to flee the test site.
1972 President Richard M. Nixon declares that the bombing of North Vietnam will continue until an accord can be reached.
1985 Congress approved the biggest overhaul of farm legislation since the Depression, trimming price supports.
1985 UN Security Council unanimously condemns "acts of hostage-taking"(WOW!!Bold!)
1991 DeForest Kelly (Dr McCoy on Star Trek) gets a star in Hollywood
2000 The Electoral College cast its ballots, with President-elect Bush receiving the expected 271; Al Gore, however, received 266, one fewer than expected, because of a District of Columbia Democrat who left her ballot blank to protest the district's lack of representation in Congress.

Note: Some Holidays are only applicable on a given "day of the week"

New Jersey : Ratification Day (1787)
Niger : Republic Day (1958)
World : Underdog Day (Friday)
US : Pantotime Day
US : Crazy From Xmas Shopping Day (1 week warning!)
Stress-Free Family Holidays Month

Religious Observances
Christian : Feast of Our Lady of Solitude, patron of lonely

Religious History
1819 Birth of Isaac Thomas Hecker, American Roman Catholic leader. He entered the Redemptorist Order in 1845, and in 1858 founded the Missionary Society of St. Paul the Apostle (the Paulist Fathers). He was superior general of the Paulist Society during his last 30 years (1858_88).
1834 Emory College was chartered in Oxford, GA, under Methodist auspices. In 1915 it changed its name to Emory University and in 1919 the campus was relocated in Atlanta, GA.
1892 Rabbi H. Rosenberg was expelled from Temple Beth_Jacob in Brooklyn, NY, for eating pork.
1904 Indian mystic Sundar Singh, 15, was converted to Christianity through a vision. Baptized into the Church of England in 1905, Singh afterward donned the robe of a Sadhu (holy man) in an endeavor to present Christianity in a Hindu form. (He disappeared in April 1929, while undertaking a strenuous work in Tibet.)
1943 German theologian and Nazi martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in a letter from prison: 'The man who finds God in his earthly happiness...does not lack reminder that earthly things are transient...and...there will be times when he can say in all sincerity, "I wish I were home."'

Source: William D. Blake. ALMANAC OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH. Minneapolis: Bethany House, 1987.

Thought for the day :
"Enjoy yourself. It's later than you think."

Question of the day...
A stitch in time saves nine what?

Murphys Law of the day...(Getty's Reminder)
The meek shall inherit the earth, but NOT its mineral rights.

Astounding fact #76,981...
Elizabeth I of England suffered from anthophobia, a fear of roses.

10 posted on 12/18/2003 5:42:34 AM PST by Valin (We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.)
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To: SAMWolf
Didn't Mikawa break attack after spotlighting Chicago?
If you have a pic of the old girl, that'll tell me right off if this is the battle I'm thinking of.

In a certain naval battle, teh Japanese force commander had pretty much tromped anywhere he pleased.
But he put multiple rounds and a torpedo or two into one certain ship and then spotlighted it.
He saw a tripod foremast and assumed, wrongly, that he was up against a battleship and decided to call it quits thinking it was a trap.
IJN high command asked him about his decision, and he was adamant that he was up against a battleship.

11 posted on 12/18/2003 6:23:23 AM PST by Darksheare (Now they're barbecueing themselves for us.)
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To: snippy_about_it; SAMWolf; All

Good morning everyone in The FOXHOLE!

12 posted on 12/18/2003 6:39:10 AM PST by Soaring Feather (I do Poetry.)
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To: bentfeather
13 posted on 12/18/2003 6:53:20 AM PST by Darksheare (The tagline you have loaded cannot be read. Please go back and try refreshing the page.)
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To: radu
Good Morning Radu. First one in today.
14 posted on 12/18/2003 6:59:19 AM PST by SAMWolf (Support your local medical examiner: die strangely!)
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To: snippy_about_it
Good Morning Snippy.

Something to take your mind off of winter

15 posted on 12/18/2003 7:02:42 AM PST by SAMWolf (Support your local medical examiner: die strangely!)
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To: E.G.C.
Good Morning E.G.C.
16 posted on 12/18/2003 7:03:08 AM PST by SAMWolf (Support your local medical examiner: die strangely!)
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To: The Mayor
Hi mayor.
17 posted on 12/18/2003 7:03:28 AM PST by SAMWolf (Support your local medical examiner: die strangely!)
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To: SAMWolf
What went right?
Well, nothing, but luck helped a little.

What a mess this was. I realize hind sight is 20/20 but my goodness this was horrible.

I sure hope we learned a lot from this disaster.

Thanks for the report SAM. Good read.

18 posted on 12/18/2003 7:03:43 AM PST by snippy_about_it (Fall in --> The FReeper Foxhole. America's History. America's Soul.)
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Morning Gator Navy.

As many times as I've seen that photo I never noticed the other ships, thanks.
19 posted on 12/18/2003 7:06:45 AM PST by SAMWolf (Support your local medical examiner: die strangely!)
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To: SAMWolf
Thank you SAM. That looks inviting.
20 posted on 12/18/2003 7:08:34 AM PST by snippy_about_it (Fall in --> The FReeper Foxhole. America's History. America's Soul.)
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