Battle of Tassafaronga


Battle of Tassafaronga

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Battle of Tassafaronga


caption=USS "Minneapolis" at Tulagi with torpedo damage a few hours after the battle on December 1, 1942
partof=the Pacific Theater of World War II
date=November 30, 1942
place=off Tassafaronga, Guadalcanal
result=Japanese victory
combatant1=flag|United States|1912
combatant2=flag|Empire of Japan
commander1=Carleton H. Wright
commander2=Raizo Tanaka
strength1=5 cruisers,
4 destroyers
strength2=8 destroyers
casualties1=1 cruiser sunk,
3 cruisers heavily damaged,
395 killed [Frank, p. 516. Crenshaw, p. 99, quotes a report by Chester Nimitz stating that 398 men and 19 officers were killed in the battle.]
casualties2=1 destroyer sunk,
197 killed [ Nevitt, Allyn D., [http://www.combinedfleet.com/takana_t.htm Combinedfleet.com: IJN "Takanami"] , accessed April 2, 2008. Dull, p. 265; Evans, p. 202–203; Kilpatrick, p. 146; Frank, p. 513. Of "Takanami's" crew, Frank says 33 survived and Kilpatrick says 26 were captured by the Americans. Dull says 211 of the crew died.] |

The Battle of Tassafaronga, sometimes referred to as the Fourth Battle of Savo Island or, in Japanese sources, as the Nihongo|Battle of Lunga Point|ルンガ沖夜戦, was a nighttime naval battle that took place November 30, 1942 between United States (US) Navy and Imperial Japanese Navy warships during the Guadalcanal campaign. The battle took place in Ironbottom Sound near the Tassafaronga area on Guadalcanal.

In the battle, a US warship force of five cruisers and four destroyers under the command of Carleton H. Wright attempted to surprise and destroy a Japanese warship force of eight destroyers under the command of Raizo Tanaka. Tanaka's warships were attempting to deliver food supplies to Japanese forces on Guadalcanal.

Using radar, the US warships opened fire and sank one of the Japanese destroyers. Tanaka and the rest of his ships, however, reacted quickly and launched numerous torpedoes at the US warships. The Japanese torpedoes hit and sank one US cruiser and heavily damaged three others, enabling the rest of Tanaka's force to escape without significant additional damage but also without completing the mission of delivering the food supplies. Although a severe tactical defeat for the US, the battle had little strategic impact as the Japanese were unable to take advantage of the victory to assist their ultimately unsuccessful efforts to drive Allied forces from Guadalcanal.

Background

Guadalcanal Campaign

On August 7, 1942, Allied forces (primarily US) landed on Guadalcanal, Tulagi, and the Florida Islands in the Solomon Islands. The landings on the islands were meant to deny their use by the Japanese as bases for threatening the supply routes between the US and Australia, and to secure the islands as starting points for a campaign with the eventual goal of isolating the major Japanese base at Rabaul while also supporting the Allied New Guinea campaign. The landings initiated the six-month-long Guadalcanal campaign. [Hogue, p. 235–236.]

The Japanese were taken by surprise, and by nightfall on August 8 the 11,000 Allied troops, under the command of Lieutenant General Alexander Vandegrift, secured Tulagi and nearby small islands as well as the Japanese airfield under construction at Lunga Point on Guadalcanal. The Allies later renamed the airfield Henderson Field. Allied aircraft operating out of Henderson were called the "Cactus Air Force" (CAF) after the Allied code name for Guadalcanal. To protect the airfield, the US Marines established a perimeter defense around Lunga Point. Additional reinforcements over the next two months increased the number of US troops at Lunga Point on Guadalcanal to more than 20,000. [Morison, p. 14–15, Miller, p. 143, Frank, p. 338, and Shaw, p. 18.]

In response to the Allied landings on Guadalcanal, the Japanese Imperial General Headquarters assigned the Imperial Japanese Army's 17th Army, a corps-sized command based at Rabaul and under the command of Lieutenant General Harukichi Hyakutake, the task of retaking Guadalcanal. Units of the 17th Army began to arrive on Guadalcanal on August 19 to drive Allied forces from the island. [Griffith, p. 96–99, Dull, p. 225, Miller, p. 137–138.]

[
250px|thumb|left|The_Solomon_Islands._New Georgia Sound) runs down the center of the islands, from Bougainville and the Shortlands (center) to Guadalcanal (lower right).] Because of the threat by CAF aircraft based at Henderson Field, the Japanese were unable to use large, slow transport ships to deliver troops and supplies to the island. Instead, the Japanese used warships based at Rabaul and the Shortland Islands to carry their forces to Guadalcanal. The Japanese warships, mainly light cruisers and destroyers from the Eighth Fleet under the command of Vice Admiral Gunichi Mikawa, were usually able to make the round trip down "The Slot" to Guadalcanal and back in a single night, thereby minimizing their exposure to CAF air attack. Delivering the troops in this manner, however, prevented most of the soldiers' heavy equipment and supplies, such as heavy artillery, vehicles, and much food and ammunition, from being carried to Guadalcanal with them. These high speed warship runs to Guadalcanal occurred throughout the campaign and were later called the "Tokyo Express" by Allied forces and "Rat Transportation" by the Japanese. [Frank, p. 202, 210–211.]

The Japanese attempted several times between August and November 1942 to recapture Henderson Field and drive Allied forces from Guadalcanal, to no avail. The last attempt by the Japanese to deliver significant additional forces to the island failed during the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal of November 12 – 15. [Morison, p. 108–287, Frank, p. 141–143, 156–158, 228–246, 337–367, 428–492, 681.]

On November 26, Japanese Lieutenant General Hitoshi Imamura took command of the newly formed Eighth Area Army at Rabaul. The new command encompassed both Hyakutake's 17th Army in the Solomons and the 18th Army in New Guinea. One of Imamura's first priorities upon assuming command was the continuation of the attempts to retake Henderson Field and Guadalcanal. The Allied offensive at Buna in New Guinea, however, changed Imamura's priorities. Because the Allied attempt to take Buna was considered a more severe threat to Rabaul, Imamura postponed further major reinforcement efforts to Guadalcanal to concentrate on the situation in New Guinea. [Dull, p. 261, Frank, p. 497–499.]

upply crisis

Due to a combination of the threat from CAF aircraft, US Navy PT boats stationed at Tulagi, and a cycle of bright moonlight, the Japanese had switched to using submarines to deliver provisions to their forces on Guadalcanal. Beginning on November 16, 1942, and continuing for the next three weeks, 16 submarines made nocturnal deliveries of foodstuffs to the island, with one submarine making the trip each night. Each submarine could deliver 20 to 30 tons of supplies, about one day's worth of food, for the 17th Army, but the difficult task of transporting the supplies by hand through the jungle to the frontline units limited their value to sustain the Japanese troops on Guadalcanal. At the same time, the Japanese tried to establish a chain of three bases in the central Solomons to allow small boats to use them as staging sites for making supply deliveries to Guadalcanal, but damaging Allied airstrikes on the bases forced the abandonment of this plan. [Frank, p. 500–502, Jersey, p. 342–343. The barge bases were established in the Shortland Islands and on Vella Lavella and Gizo.]

On November 26, the 17th Army notified Imamura that it faced a critical food crisis. Some front-line units had not been resupplied for six days and even the rear-area troops were on one-third rations. The situation forced the Japanese to return to using destroyers to deliver the necessary supplies. [Evans, p. 197–198, Crenshaw, p. 136, Frank, p. 499–502.]

Eighth Fleet personnel devised a plan to help reduce the exposure of destroyers delivering supplies to Guadalcanal. Large oil or gas drums were cleaned and filled with medical supplies and food, with enough air space to provide buoyancy, and strung together with rope. When the destroyers arrived at Guadalcanal they would make a sharp turn, the drums would be cut loose, and a swimmer or boat from shore could pick up the buoyed end of a rope and return it to the beach, where the soldiers could haul in the supplies. [Hara, p. 160–161, Roscoe, p. 206, Dull, p. 262, Evans, p. 197–198, Crenshaw, p. 137, Toland, p. 419, Frank, p. 502, Morison, p. 295.]

The Eighth Fleet's Guadalcanal Reinforcement Unit, based in the Shortland Islands and under the command of Rear Admiral Raizo Tanaka, was tasked by Mikawa with making the first of five scheduled runs using the drum method on the night of November 30. Tanaka's unit was centered around the eight ships of Destroyer Squadron (Desron) 2, with six destroyers assigned to carry from 200 to 240 drums of supplies apiece, to Tassafaronga at Guadalcanal. Tanaka's flagship "Naganami" along with "Takanami" acted as escorts. The six drum-carrying destroyers were "Kuroshio", "Oyashio", "Kagero", "Suzukaze", "Kawakaze", and "Makinami". To save weight, the drum-carrying destroyers left their reloads of Type 93 torpedoes at the Shortlands, leaving each ship with eight torpedoes, one for each tube. [Dull, p. 262–263, Evans, p. 198–199, Crenshaw, p. 137, Morison, p. 297, Frank, p. 502–504.]

After the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, US Vice Admiral William Halsey, commander of Allied forces in the South Pacific, had reorganized US naval forces under his command, including, on November 24, the formation of Task Force 67 (TF67) at Espiritu Santo, comprising the heavy cruisers USS "Minneapolis", "New Orleans", "Pensacola", and "Northampton", the light cruiser "Honolulu", and the four destroyers ("Fletcher", "Drayton", "Maury", and "Perkins"). US Rear Admiral Carleton H. Wright replaced Thomas Kinkaid as commander of TF67 on November 28. [United States Strategic Bombing Survey (USSBS), p. 139, Roscoe, p. 206, Dull, p. 262–263, Crenshaw, p. 25–27, Kilpatrick, p. 135, Morison, p. 291–293, 296, Frank, p. 503–504.]

Upon taking command, Wright briefed his ship commanders on his plan for engaging the Japanese in future, expected night battles around Guadalcanal. The plan, which he had drafted with Kinkaid, stated that radar-equipped destroyers were to scout in front of the cruisers and deliver a surprise torpedo attack upon sighting Japanese warships, then vacate the area to give the cruisers a clear field of fire. The cruisers were then to engage with gunfire from convert|10000|yd|m to convert|12000|yd|m. The cruisers' floatplanes would scout and drop flares during the battle. [Roscoe, p. 207, Dull, p. 262–263, Crenshaw, p. 25–27, Kilpatrick, p. 137, Morison, p. 294, Frank, p. 503.]

, Wright's cruisers launched one floatplane each for Tulagi to drop flares during the expected battle that night. At 20:00, Wright sent his crews to battle stations. [Brown, p. 124–125, USSBS, p. 139, Roscoe, p. 206, Dull, p. 262, Crenshaw, p. 26–33, Kilpatrick, p. 139–142, Morison, p. 294–296, Frank, p. 504.]

Tanaka's force departed the Shortlands just after midnight on November 30 for the run to Guadalcanal. Tanaka attempted to evade Allied aerial reconnaissance aircraft by first heading northeast through Bougainville Strait before turning southeast and then south to pass through Indispensable Strait. Paul Mason, an Australian coastwatcher stationed in southern Bougainville, reported by radio the departure of Tanaka's ships from Shortland and this message was passed to Wright. At the same time, a Japanese search aircraft spotted an Allied convoy near Guadalcanal and communicated the sighting to Tanaka who told his destroyer commanders to expect action that night and that, "In such an event, utmost efforts will be made to destroy the enemy without regard for the unloading of supplies." [Hara, p. 161, USSBS, p. 139, D'Albas, p. 228, Evans, p. 199, Crenshaw, p. 137–138, Kilpatrick, p. 140–141, Morison, p. 295–296, Frank, p. 504.]

Battle

Prelude

At on November 30, Tanaka's ships sighted Savo Island from Indispensable Strait. The Japanese ships were in line ahead formation, interval convert|600|m|yd, in the order of "Takanami", "Oyashio", "Kuroshio", "Kagero", "Makinami", "Naganami", "Kawakaze", and "Suzukaze". At this same time, TF67 entered Lengo Channel en route to Ironbottom Sound. Wright's ships were in column in the order "Fletcher", "Perkins", "Maury", "Drayton", "Minneapolis", "New Orleans", "Pensacola", "Honolulu", "Northampton", "Lamson", and "Lardner". The four van destroyers led the cruisers by convert|4000|yd|m and the cruisers steamed convert|1000|yd|m apart. [USSBS, p. 139–140, Roscoe, p. 207, Evans, p. 199, Crenshaw, p. 33–34, Kilpatrick, p. 142–143, Morison, p. 297–298, Frank, p. 507.]

At 22:40, Tanaka's ships passed south of Savo about convert|3|mi|km|0 offshore from Guadalcanal and slowed to convert|12|kn|mph km/h as they approached the unloading area. "Takanami" took station about convert|1|mi|km|0 seaward to screen the column. At the same time, TF67 exited Lengo Channel into the sound and headed at convert|20|kn|mph km/h towards Savo Island. Wright's van destroyers moved to a position slightly inshore of the cruisers. The night sky was moonless with between convert|2|mi|km|0 and convert|7|mi|km|0 of visibility. Because of extremely calm seas which created a suction effect on their pontoons, Wright's cruiser floatplanes were delayed in lifting off from Tulagi harbor, and would not be a factor in the battle. [Hara, p. 161, USSBS, p. 139, Roscoe, p. 207, Evans, p. 199–200, Crenshaw, p. 34, 63, 139, Kilpatrick, p. 143–144, Morison, p. 297–298, 305, Frank, p. 507.]

At 23:06, Wright's force began to detect Tanaka's ships on radar near Cape Esperance on Guadalcanal about convert|23000|yd|m away. Wright's destroyers rejoined the column as it continued to head towards Savo. At the same time, Tanaka's ships, which were not equipped with radar, split into two groups and prepared to shove the drums overboard. "Naganami", "Kawakaze", and "Suzukaze" headed for their drop-off point near Doma Reef while "Makinami", "Kagero", "Oyashio", and "Kurashio" aimed for nearby Tassafaronga. At 23:12, "Takanami" visually sighted Wright's column, quickly confirmed by lookouts on Tanaka's other ships. At 23:16, Tanaka ordered unloading preparations halted and "All ships attack." [USSBS, p. 139, Roscoe, p. 207, Dull, p. 263–265, Evans, p. 200, Crenshaw, p. 48–49, 139, 145, Kilpatrick, p. 143–144, Morison, p. 297–298, Frank, p. 507–508.]

Action

At 23:14, operators on "Fletcher" established firm radar contact with "Takanami" and the lead group of four drum-carrying destroyers. At 23:15, with the range convert|7000|yd|m, Commander William M. Cole, commander of Wright's destroyer group and captain of "Fletcher", radioed Wright for permission to fire torpedoes. Wright waited two minutes and then responded with, "Range on bogies (Tanaka's ships on radar) excessive at present." [Kilpatrick, p. 144, Morison, p. 299, Frank, p. 508.] Cole responded that the range was fine. Another two minutes passed before Wright responded with permission to fire. In the meantime, the US destroyer's targets escaped from an optimum firing setup ahead to a marginal position passing abeam, giving the American torpedoes a long overtaking run near the limit of their range. At 23:20, "Fletcher", "Perkins", and "Drayton" fired a total of 20 Mark 15 torpedoes towards Tanaka's ships. "Maury", lacking SG radar and thus having no contacts, withheld fire. [Roscoe, p. 207–208, Dull, p. 263–265, Crenshaw, p. 48–51, Kilpatrick, p. 144–145, Frank, p. 508, Morison, p. 299–300. "Fletcher" fired ten, "Perkins" eight, and "Drayton" two torpedoes.]

At the same time, Wright ordered his force to open fire. At 23:21, "Minneapolis" complied with her first salvo, quickly followed by the other American cruisers. Cole's four destroyers fired star shells to illuminate the targets as previously directed then increased speed to clear the area for the cruisers to operate. [Brown, p. 128, Roscoe, p. 208, Dull, p. 263–265, Evans, p. 200–201, Crenshaw, p. 51–54, Kilpatrick, p. 145–146, Morison, p. 300, Frank, p. 508–509. Tanaka thought that Cole's destroyer's star shells were flares dropped by aircraft.]

Because of her closer proximity to Wright's column, "Takanami" was the target of most of the American's initial gunfire. "Takanami" returned fire and launched her full load of eight torpedoes, but was quickly hit by American gunfire and, within four minutes, was on fire and incapacitated. As "Takanami" was destroyed, the rest of Tanaka's ships, almost unnoticed by the Americans, were increasing speed, maneuvering, and preparing to respond to the American attack. All of the American torpedoes missed. [Hara, p. 162–163, USSBS, p. 139, Roscoe, p. 208, Dull, p. 263–265, Evans, p. 200, Crenshaw, p. 146–147, Kilpatrick, p. 145–146, Morison, p. 301–302, Frank, p. 509, Toland, p. 420.]

Tanaka's flagship, "Naganami", reversed course to starboard, opened fire and began laying a smoke screen. The next two ships astern, "Kawakaze" and "Suzukaze", reversed course to port. At 23:23, "Suzukaze" fired eight torpedoes in the direction of the gunflashes from Wright's cruisers, followed by "Naganami" and "Kawakaze" which fired their full loads of eight torpedoes at 23:32 and 23:33 respectively. [Dull, p. 265, Evans, p. 201–202, Crenshaw, p. 146–148, Morison, p. 302, Frank, p. 509–510.]

Meanwhile, the four destroyers at the head of the Japanese column maintained their heading down the Guadalcanal coast, allowing Wright's cruisers to pass on the opposite course. Once clear of "Takanami" at 23:28, "Kuroshio" fired four and "Oyashio" fired eight torpedoes in the direction of Wright's column and then reversed course and increased speed. Wright's cruisers maintained the same course and speed as the 44 Japanese torpedoes headed in their direction. [Hara, p. 164, Dull, p. 265, Evans, p. 201–202, Crenshaw, p. 146–151, Morison, p. 302–303, Frank, p. 509–510.]

At 23:27, as "Minneapolis" fired her ninth salvo and Wright prepared to order a course change for his column, two torpedoes, from either "Suzukaze" or "Takanami", slammed into her forward half. One warhead exploded the aviation fuel storage tanks forward of turret one and the other knocked out three of the ship's four firerooms. The bow forward of turret one folded down at a 70-degree angle and the ship lost power and steering control. Thirty-seven men were killed. [Roscoe, p. 208, Dull, p. 265, D'Albas, p. 229, Crenshaw, p. 56, Kilpatrick, p. 146, Morison, p. 303–304, Frank, p. 510–511, 514. After his ship was hit, Wright turned command of his force over to Rear Admiral Mahlon S. Tisdale on "Honolulu".]

Less than a minute later a torpedo hit "New Orleans" abreast of turret one and exploded the ship's forward ammunition magazines and aviation gasoline storage. The blast severed the ship's entire bow forward of turret two. The bow twisted to port, damaging the ship's hull as it was wrenched free by the ship's momentum, and sank immediately off the aft port quarter. Everyone in turrets one and two perished. "New Orleans" was forced into a reverse course to starboard and lost steering and communications. A total of 183 men were killed. [Brown, p. 137–138, Roscoe, p. 208, Dull, p. 265–266, D'Albas, p. 229, Crenshaw, p. 56–57, Kilpatrick, p. 146, Morison, p. 304–305, Frank, p. 511.] Herbert Brown, a seaman in the ship's plotting room, described the scene after the torpedo hit, Blockquote|I had to see. I walked alongside the silent turret two and was stopped by a lifeline stretched from the outboard port lifeline to the side of the turret. Thank God it was there, for one more step and I would have pitched head first into the dark water thirty feet below. The bow "was" gone. One hundred and twenty five feet of ship and number one main battery turret with three 8 inch guns were gone. Eighteen hundred tons of ship were gone. Oh my God, all those guys I went through boot camp with - all gone. [Brown, p. 134–135.]

"Pensacola" followed next astern in the cruiser column. Observing "Minneapolis" and "New Orleans" taking hits and slowing, "Pensacola" steered to pass them on the port side and then, once past, returned to the same base course. At 23:39, "Pensacola" took a torpedo abreast the mainmast. The explosion spread flaming oil throughout the interior and across the main deck of the ship, killing 125 of the ship's crew. The hit ripped away the port outer driveshaft and the ship took a 13-degree list and lost power, communications, and steering. [Roscoe, p. 208, Dull, p. 266, D'Albas, p. 229, Crenshaw, p. 57–58, Kilpatrick, p. 147–148, Morison, p. 305–306, Frank, p. 511–512, 514.]

Astern of "Pensacola", "Honolulu's" captain chose to pass "Minneapolis" and "New Orleans" on the starboard side. At the same time, the ship increased speed to convert|30|kn|mph km/h, maneuvered radically, and successfully transited the battle area without taking any damage while maintaining main battery fire at the rapidly disappearing Japanese destroyers. [Roscoe, p. 208, Dull, p. 266, Crenshaw, p. 58–59, Kilpatrick, p. 148–149, Morison, p. 306, Frank, p. 512.]

The last cruiser in the American column, "Northampton", followed "Honolulu" to pass the damaged cruisers ahead to starboard. Unlike "Honolulu", "Northampton" did not increase speed or attempt any radical maneuvers. At 23:48, after returning to the base course, "Northampton" was hit by two of "Kawakaze's" torpedoes. One hit convert|10|ft|m|0 below the waterline abreast the after engine room, and four seconds later, the second hit convert|40|ft|m|0 further aft. The after engine room flooded, three of four shafts ceased turning, and the ship listed 10 degrees to port and caught fire. Fifty men were killed. [Roscoe, p. 208, Dull, p. 266, D'Albas, p. 229, Crenshaw, p. 59–60, Kilpatrick, p. 148–149, Morison, p. 306–307, Frank, p. 512–513.]

The last ships in Wright's column, "Lamson" and "Lardner", failed to locate any targets and exited the battle area to the east after being mistakenly fired on by machine guns from "New Orleans". Cole's four destroyers circled completely around Savo Island at maximum speed and reentered the battle area, but the engagement had already ended. [Roscoe, p. 208, Crenshaw, p. 59–60, Kilpatrick, p. 148–149, Morison, p. 306–307, Frank, p. 512–513.]

Meanwhile, at 23:44 Tanaka ordered his ships to break contact and retire from the battle area. As they proceeded up Guadalcanal's coast, "Kuroshio" and "Kagero" fired eight more torpedoes towards the American ships, which all missed. When "Takanami" failed to respond to radio calls, Tanaka directed "Oyashio" and "Kuroshio" to go to her assistance. The two destroyers located the burning ship at 01:00 on December 1 but abandoned rescue efforts after detecting American warships in the area. "Oyashio" and "Kuroshio" quickly departed the sound to rejoin the rest of Tanaka's ships for the return journey to the Shortlands, which they reached 10 hours later. "Takanami" was the only Japanese warship hit by American gunfire and seriously damaged during the battle. [D'Albas, p. 232, Evans, p. 202, Crenshaw, p. 152–154, Kilpatrick, p. 151, Morison, p. 307, Frank, p. 513.]

Aftermath

"Takanami"’s surviving crew abandoned ship at 01:30, but a large explosion killed many more of them in the water, including the destroyer division commander, Toshio Shimizu, and the ship's captain, Masami Ogura. Of her crew of 244, 48 survived to reach shore on Guadalcanal and 19 of them were captured by the Americans. [Nevitt, Allyn D., [http://www.combinedfleet.com/takana_t.htm CombinedFleet.com] , April 2, 2008; Dull, p. 265; Evans, p. 202–203; Kilpatrick, p. 146; Frank, p. 513. Frank says 33 survived and Kilpatrick says 26 were captured by the Americans. Dull says 211 of her crew died.]

"Northampton"’s crew was unable to contain the ship's fires and list and began to abandon ship at 01:30. The ship sank at 03:04 about convert|4|mi|km|0 from Doma Cove on Guadalcanal (coord|09|12|S|159|50|E). "Fletcher" and "Drayton" rescued the ship's 773 survivors. [Roscoe, p. 209; D'Albas, p. 232; Evans, p. 521; Crenshaw, p. 65–66; Kilpatrick, p. 149; Morison, p. 312; Frank, p. 514–515.]

"Minneapolis", "New Orleans", and "Pensacola" were able to make it the convert|19|mi|km to Tulagi on the morning of December 1 where they were berthed for emergency repairs. The fires on "Pensacola" burned for 12 hours before being extinguished. "Pensacola" departed Tulagi for rear area ports and further repair on December 6. After construction of temporary bows from coconut logs, "Minneapolis" and "New Orleans" departed Tulagi for Espiritu Santo or Sydney, Australia on December 12. All three cruisers required lengthy and extensive repairs. "New Orleans" returned to action in August, "Minneapolis" in September, and "Pensacola" in October 1943. [Brown, p. 141–158, 173; Crenshaw, p. 68; Kilpatrick, p. 154–156; Morison, p. 309–312; Frank, p. 514–515.]

The battle was one of the worst defeats suffered by the US Navy in World War II, third only to the Attack on Pearl Harbor and the Battle of Savo Island. In spite of his defeat in the battle, Wright was awarded the Navy Cross, one of the highest American military decorations for bravery, for his actions during the engagement. Mitigating to some degree the destruction of his task force, Wright, in his after-action report, claimed that his force sank four Japanese destroyers and damaged two others. Halsey, in his comments on Wright's report, placed much of the blame for the defeat on Cole, saying that the destroyer squadron commander fired his torpedoes from too great a distance to be effective and should have "helped" the cruisers instead of circling around Savo Island. Tanaka claimed to have sunk a battleship and two cruisers in the battle. [Hara, p. 164; Crenshaw, p. 102, 107; Kilpatrick, p. 151–154; Morison, p. 314; Frank, p. 515–516. Of Cole's actions, Halsey stated, "Destroyers fired torpedoes at an excessive range. Torpedo firing ranges at night of more than 4,000–5,000 yards are not acceptable." and "The van destroyers, after firing torpedoes, did not assist the cruisers, but turned away and retired to the northwest. Similar lack of offensive action on the part of destroyers in future operations will not be tolerated." Says Crenshaw of Halsey's comments on Cole's actions, "Admirals Halsey and Nimitz, aided and abetted by their large staffs, didn't understand what had happened, yet felt they must take a firm stand to encourage better performance in the future. After exploring every aspect they could think of, they ended in heaping criticism on the only subordinate who had used his weapons to their maximum capability and who had handled his ships with both skill and determination."]

The results of the battle led to further discussion in the US Pacific Fleet about changes in tactical doctrine and the need for technical improvements, such as flashless gunpowder and improved torpedoes. The Americans were still unaware of the range and power of Japanese torpedoes and the effectiveness of Japanese night battle tactics. In fact, Wright claimed that his ships must have been fired on by submarines since the observed position of Tanaka's ships "make it improbable that torpedoes with speed-distance characteristics similar to our own" could have caused such damage. The Americans would not recognize the true capabilities of their Pacific adversary's torpedoes and night tactics until well into 1943. After the war, Tanaka said of his victory at Tassafaronga, "I have heard that US naval experts praised my command in that action. I am not deserving of such honors. It was the superb proficiency and devotion of the men who served me that produced the tactical victory for us." [Hara, p. 164; Roscoe, p. 209; Coombe, p. 140; Crenshaw, p. 88, 102, 105; Frank, p. 516–517.]

In spite of their defeat in the battle, the Americans had prevented Tanaka from landing the desperately needed food supplies on Guadalcanal, albeit at high cost. A second Japanese supply delivery attempt by 10 destroyers led by Tanaka on December 3 successfully dumped 1,500 drums of provisions off Tassafaronga, but strafing American aircraft sank all but 310 of them the next day before they could be pulled ashore. On December 7, a third attempt by 12 destroyers was turned back by US PT boats off Cape Esperance. The next night, two US PT boats torpedoed and sank the Japanese submarine "I-3" as it attempted to deliver supplies to Guadalcanal. Based on the difficulties experienced trying to deliver food to the island, the Japanese Navy informed Imamura on December 8 that they intended to stop all destroyer transportation runs to Guadalcanal immediately. After Imamura protested, the navy agreed to one more run to the island. [Roscoe, p. 209; Dull, p. 266–267; D'Albas, p. 232–233; Evans, p. 203–205; Kilpatrick, p. 156; Morison, p. 318–319; Frank, p. 518–521, 523. Tanaka states that the reasons that the 1,500 drums weren't pulled to shore immediately after his destroyers unloaded them was due "to the lack of shore personnel to haul in the lines, the physical exhaustion of the men who were available, and the fact that many of the ropes parted when drums got stuck on obstacles in the water". (Evans, p. 204.) Only four of "I-3's" crew survived her sinking and reached Japanese forces ashore (Hackett & Kingsepp, "HIJMS Submarine I-3: Tabular Record of Movement" [http://www.combinedfleet.com/I-3.htm] ).]

The last attempt to deliver food to Guadalcanal by destroyers in 1942 was led by Tanaka on the night of December 11 and consisted of 11 destroyers. Five US PT boats met Tanaka off Guadalcanal and torpedoed his flagship "Teruzuki", severely damaging the destroyer and injuring Tanaka. After Tanaka transferred to "Naganami", "Teruzuki" was scuttled. Only 220 of the 1,200 drums released that night were recovered by Japanese army personnel on shore. Tanaka was subsequently relieved of command and transferred to Japan on December 29, 1942. [Hara, p. 164; Roscoe, p. 210; Dull, p. 266–267; D'Albas, p. 232–233; Evans, p. 205–209; Morison, p. 319–321; Frank, p. 523–524.]

On December 12, the Japanese Navy proposed that Guadalcanal be abandoned. Despite opposition from Japanese Army leaders, who still hoped that Guadalcanal could eventually be retaken from the Allies, on December 31, 1942 Japan's Imperial General Headquarters, with approval from the Emperor, agreed to the evacuation of all Japanese forces from the island and the establishment of a new line of defense for the Solomons on New Georgia. The Japanese evacuated their remaining forces from Guadalcanal over three nights between February 2 and February 7, 1943, conceding the hard fought campaign to the Allies. Building on their success at Guadalcanal and elsewhere, the Allies continued their campaign against Japan, ultimately culminating in Japan's defeat and the end of World War II. [Evans, p. 208–209; Dull, p. 261, 268; Toland, p. 420–421.]

Notes

References

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first = Herbert C.
authorlink =
year = 2000
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title = Hell at Tassafaronga
publisher = Ancient Mariners Pr
location =
id = ISBN 0-9700721-4-7

*cite book
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year = 1991
chapter =
title = Derailing the Tokyo Express
publisher = Stackpole Books
location = Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
id = ISBN 0-8117-3030-1

*cite book
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authorlink =
year = 1995
chapter =
title = The Battle of Tassafaronga
publisher = Nautical & Aviation Publishing Company of America
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id = ISBN 1-877853-37-2

*cite book
last = D'Albas
first = Andrieu
authorlink =
year = 1965
title = Death of a Navy: Japanese Naval Action in World War II
publisher = Devin-Adair Pub
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id = ISBN 0-8159-5302-X

*cite book
last = Dull
first = Paul S.
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year = 1978
title = A Battle History of the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1941-1945
publisher = Naval Institute Press
id = ISBN 0-87021-097-1

*cite book
last = Evans
first = David C. (Editor)
coauthors = Tanaka, Raizo
year = 1986 (2nd Edition)
chapter = The Struggle for Guadalcanal
title = The Japanese Navy in World War II: In the Words of Former Japanese Naval Officers
publisher = Naval Institute Press
location = Annapolis, Maryland
id = ISBN 0-87021-316-4

*cite book
last = Frank
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year = 1990
title = Guadalcanal : The Definitive Account of the Landmark Battle
publisher = Penguin Group
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*cite book
last = Hara
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year = 1961
title = Japanese Destroyer Captain
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*cite book
last = Jersey
first = Stanley Coleman
authorlink =
coauthors =
year = 2008
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title = Hell's Islands: The Untold Story of Guadalcanal
publisher = Texas A&M University Press
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*cite book
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first = C. W.
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*cite book
last = Morison
first = Samuel Eliot
authorlink = Samuel Eliot Morison
year = 1958
chapter = Chapter 13: The Battle of Tassafaronga
title = The Struggle for Guadalcanal, August 1942 – February 1943", vol. 5 of "History of United States Naval Operations in World War II
publisher = Little, Brown and Company
location = Boston
id = ISBN 0-316-58305-7

*cite book
last = Roscoe
first = Theodore
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title = United States Destroyer Operations in World War II
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first = Naval Analysis Division
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title = The Campaigns of the Pacific War
publisher = Greenwood Press
location = New York
id = ISBN 8371-2313-5

External links

*cite web
last = Horan
first = Mark
url = http://www.navweaps.com/index_oob/OOB_WWII_Pacific/OOB_WWII_Tassafaronga.htm
title = Battle of Tassafaronga
work = Order of Battle
accessdate = 2006-05-17

*cite web
last = Hough
first = Frank O.
authorlink =
coauthors = Ludwig, Verle E.; Shaw, Henry I., Jr.
url = http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USMC/I/index.html
title = Pearl Harbor to Guadalcanal
format =
work = History of U.S. Marine Corps Operations in World War II
accessdate = 2006-05-16

*cite web
last = McComb
first = David W.
year = 2008
url = http://www.destroyerhistory.org/actions/tassafaronga.html
title = Battle of Tassafaronga
work = Destroyer History Foundation
accessdate = 2008-04-16

*cite web
last = Parshall
first = Jon
coauthors = Hackett, Bob; Kingsepp, Sander; Nevitt, Allyn
url = http://www.combinedfleet.com/kaigun.htm
title = Imperial Japanese Navy Page (Combinedfleet.com)
work =
accessdate = 2006-06-14


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