Battle of the Komandorski Islands


Battle of the Komandorski Islands

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Battle of the Komandorski Islands


caption=The cruiser USS "Salt Lake City", damaged by Japanese cruiser gunfire, starts losing speed prior to going dead in the water during the battle under a smoke screen laid by accompanying destroyers.
partof=World War II, Pacific War
date=27 March 1943 [The date is often given as 26 March because the U.S. ships used Honolulu time which refers to the other side of the International Date Line. However, the local date at Komandorski Islands was 27 March]
place=open sea, south of the Komandorski Islands
result=Tactically inconclusive;
U.S. strategic advantage
combatant1=flagicon|USA|1912 United States
combatant2=flagicon|Japan|alt Empire of Japan
commander1=flagicon|USA|1912 Charles McMorris
commander2=flagicon|Japan|naval Boshiro Hosogaya
strength1=2 cruisers,
4 destroyers
strength2=4 cruisers,
4 destroyers
casualties1=1 cruiser damaged
1 destroyer damaged
7 killed [Morison, "Aleutians, Gilberts and Marshalls", p. 33. Five were killed on "Bailey" and two on "Salt Lake City".]
casualties2=2 cruisers damaged
14 killed [Morison, "Aleutians, Gilberts and Marshalls", p. 33 and Hackett, "CombinedFleet.com", [http://www.combinedfleet.com/nachi_t.htm] . Thirteen were killed on "Nachi" and one on "Maya".]

The Battle of the Komandorski Islands was one of the most unusual engagements of World War II. It was a naval battle which took place on 27 March 1943 in the North Pacific area of the Pacific Ocean, near the Komandorski Islands.

When the United States became aware of Japanese plans to send a supply convoy to garrisons on the Aleutian Islands, U.S. Navy ships commanded by Rear Admiral Charles McMorris were dispatched to intercept. The U.S. fleet consisted of the heavy cruiser "Salt Lake City", the old light cruiser "Richmond" and the destroyers "Coghlan", "Bailey", "Dale" and "Monaghan".

Unknown to the Americans, the Japanese had chosen to escort their convoy with two heavy cruisers, two light cruisers, and four destroyers commanded by Vice Admiral Boshiro Hosogaya. On the morning of 27 March, the Japanese convoy was intercepted by the U.S. picket line and combat ensued. Because of the remote location of the battle and chance encounter on open ocean, neither fleet had air or submarine assistance, making this the only engagement exclusively between surface ships in the Pacific Theatre, and the last pure gunnery duel between major combatants in American naval history.

Battle

* 0600: The United States ships were formed in a scouting line at six-mile intervals zig-zagging at 15 knots on base course 020.
* 0730: Lead ships "Coghlan" and "Richmond" made RADAR contacts with the two trailing Japanese transports and a destroyer on course 080 at 13 knots. A navigating officer on one of the transports visually observed the American force minutes later.
* 0740: The Americans changed course to 080 and the rear ships increased speed to operate as a compact group. Five RADAR contacts were counted.
* 0755: The Japanese turned northward to course 340 and the Americans came to course 000 to follow.
* 0811: The Americans visually identified the RADAR contacts as two transports, two light cruisers, and a destroyer.
* 0820: The Americans sighted the masts of four more Japanese ships on the horizon.
* 0835: The Americans identified the masts as two heavy cruisers and two destroyers and turned to course 240.
* 0838: The Japanese transports swerved off to the northwest.
* 0839: The Americans increased speed to 25 knots.
* 0840: "Nachi" opened fire on "Richmond" at a range of 20000 yards. The second and third salvos were straddles.
* 0841: "Richmond" opened fire on "Nachi". The third salvo was a straddle.
* 0842: "Salt Lake City" opened fire on "Nachi" at a range of 21000 yards. The second salvo was a straddle.

As the range closed, "Bailey" opened fire on "Nachi" at a range of 14000 yards and then switched to a light cruiser. "Coghlan" opened fire on "Nachi" at a range of 18000 yards.Millsap, Ralph H., CDR USN "Skill or Luck?" "United States Naval Institute Proceedings Supplement" March 1985 pp.78-87]

* 0845: "Nachi" launched eight torpedoes. All missed.
* 0850: One of "Richmond"s 6-inch shells hits the starboard side of "Nachi"s signal bridge killing 11 and wounding 21. Another shell hit "Nachi"s mainmast and severed the flagship radio communication.
* 0852: One of "Richmond"s 6-inch shells hit "Nachi"s torpedo compartment. Another of "Richmond"s 6-inch shells hit "Nachi"s control room killing two and wounding five. "Nachi" dropped back after losing electrical power to ammunition hoists and gun mounts.
* 0903: "Richmond" ceased firing. "Salt Lake City" continued firing from stern turrets.
* 0910: "Salt Lake City" was hit by an 8-inch projectile fired by "Maya". The starboard observation plane caught fire and was jettisoned.
* 0920: "Salt Lake City" was hit by an 8-inch projectile fired by "Maya". Two men were killed.
* 1010: "Salt Lake City" was hit by an 8-inch projectile fired by "Maya".
* 1059: "Salt Lake City" was hit by an 8-inch projectile fired by "Maya".
* 1103: "Salt Lake City" was hit by an 8-inch projectile fired by "Maya". "Salt Lake City" transferred water to correct a list caused by flooding.
* 1152: "Salt Lake City" was hit by an 8-inch projectile fired by "Maya".
* 1153: Salt water entered a fuel tank in use and extinguished "Salt Lake City"s boiler fires.
* 1154: "Salt Lake City" slowed to a stop. "Bailey", "Coghlan" and "Monaghan" approached the Japanese cruisers for a torpedo attack while "Richmond" and "Dale" made smoke to shield "Salt Lake City".
* 1203: "Salt Lake City" restarted boilers and increased speed to 15 knots.
* 1213: "Salt Lake City" increased speed to 22 knots.
* 1225: "Bailey" launched five torpedoes at 9500 yards. All missed. "Bailey" was hit twice by 8-inch shells and came to a stop with five dead. "Coghlan" was hit once.
* 1230: Japanese ships retired westward. Neither "Coghlan" nor "Monaghan" launched torpedoes.

"Salt Lake City" fired 806 armor piercing projectiles and then 26 high capacity shells after the supply of armor piercing ammunition was exhausted. Powder and shells were manhandled aft from the forward magazines to keep the after guns firing. "Salt Lake City"s rudder stops were carried away, limiting her to 10 degree course changes.

Outcome

Although the Japanese cruisers outnumbered the U.S. group by two to one, the engagement was tactically inconclusive. Both sides suffered damage, with the U.S. force not being as badly hurt by the superior firepower of the Japanese as could have been the case. When the Japanese force was poised for victory, Admiral Hosogaya—not realizing the heavy damage his ships had inflicted on "Salt Lake City", and fearing American air forces were en route—chose to retire without delivering a knockout blow. Withdrawal led to a strategic defeat for the Japanese because it ended their attempts to resupply their Aleutian garrisons by surface, leaving only submarines for resupply runs.

Hosogaya was retired from service after the battle.

Notes

References

*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
location =
id = ISBN 0-8159-5302-X

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

*cite book
last = Garfield
first = Brian
authorlink = Brian Garfield
coauthors =
year = 1995
chapter =
title = The Thousand Mile War
publisher = Aurum Press
location =
id = ISBN 1-84513-019-7

*cite book
last = Lacroix
first = Eric
authorlink =
coauthors = Linton Wells
year = 1997
chapter =
title = Japanese Cruisers of the Pacific War
publisher = Naval Institute Press
location =
id = ISBN 0-87021-311-3

*cite book
last = Lorelli
first = John A.
authorlink =
coauthors =
year = 1984
chapter =
title = The Battle of the Komandorski Islands, March 1943
publisher = Naval Institute Press
location =
id = ISBN 0-87021-093-9

*cite book
last = Morison
first = Samuel Eliot
authorlink = Samuel Eliot Morison
coauthors =
year = 1951 (Reprint 2001)
chapter =
title = Aleutians, Gilberts and Marshalls, June 1942-April 1944, "vol. 7 of" History of United States Naval Operations in World War II
publisher = University of Illinois Press
location = Champaign, Illinois, USA
id = ISBN 0-316-58305-7

External links

* [http://www.microworks.net/pacific/battles/kommandorski_islands.htm Battle of Komandorski Island: March 26, 1943]
* [http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USN/Aleutians/USN-CN-Aleutians-9.html USN Combat Narrative: The Aleutians Campaign Chapter 9:The Battle of the Komandorskis]


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