So, on a white day on September 15, 1942, a rather large detachment of American ships marched towards Guadalcanal, where serious battles were unfolding at that time. By that time, the United States and Japan had already exchanged slaps in the face of the battle at Midway and the battle at Savo Island, so that both sides were, to put it mildly, on a combat platoon. Especially the Americans, who just a month ago lost 4 heavy cruisers overnight.
The Big Squad needs a decryption, doesn't it? And he was really big.
Two aircraft carriers, Wasp and Hornet.
That's a lot, that's 150 aircraft.
The battleship "North Carolina".
Heavy cruisers Pensacola.
Light cruiser "Helena".
All this rather large group of ships covered "only" 6 transports on which the 7th US Marine Regiment was transported to Guadalcanal, which was supposed to replenish the battered ranks of the 1st Marine Division on Guadalcanal.
The so-called "torpedo crossing" began 250 miles from Guadalcanal, an area where Japanese submarines were very actively "grazing". It was in this area that the aircraft carrier "Saratoga" was torpedoed in August, not fatally, but offensively. For a month and a half of repair.
So the destroyers' acoustics were on their toes, hydroacoustic contacts in the area were something commonplace, so surely everyone was on full alert. Moreover, the weather was so-so: sunny, a fairly strong trade wind, the entire surface of the water in "lambs", that is. To see the raised periscope is very, very difficult, even if you look. And if you don't look ...
The two huge ships (Hornet and Wasp) were sailing at some distance, which was generally quite reasonable. Each of the aircraft carriers had their own cover group. The distance between aircraft carriers did not exceed 10 miles, that is, they observed each other quite normally.
At about 13 o'clock "Wasp", turning against the wind, began to release duty links. The second group also turned in this direction so as not to move away. When the planes took off, the ships returned to their previous course of 280 degrees, towards Guadalcanal. This happened around 14 pm.
At this point, on Pensacola and North Carolina, observers noticed that something was happening on the Waspe. Several aircraft were dropped from the deck into the water and sank behind the stern of the aircraft carrier, which began to slow down. At the same time, no signals from radio, searchlight or flags were observed.
The distance between the ships at that time was about 6 miles, so everything was excellently observed. But on the Hornet escort ships, this did not cause any fears, the procedure for dropping aircraft during a fire was common. About as common as a fire on an aircraft carrier, where, to be fair, there was always something to burn.
So when a cloud of black smoke billowed up over the Wasp, no one was particularly worried. A fire on an aircraft carrier is a common thing, the ships of the covering group are nearby, if anything is critical, they will call for help. 6 miles is not a distance.
And everyone calmly watched the show unfolding. The smoke intensified, the Wasp actually drifted, and there was no one on the deck. The first flames appeared, breaking through the flight deck.
The problem was that the Hornet's group was on the LEFT of the Wasp, and all the most interesting things were on the RIGHT side of the Wasp, where three torpedoes came one after another. But from all observers it was closed by the huge hull of the ship.
That is why, looking at the Wasp, the Hornet's group continued to turn to 280. They did not see the severity of the damage and did not understand that the entire crew had fought with fire and water. The damage was very serious, three Japanese torpedoes are three Japanese torpedoes. Not Long Lance 610 mm, Type 95 533 mm, but essentially the same Long Lance Type 93, but reduced for use on submarines.
The same 405 kg (for the first model) or 550 kg (for the second) explosives, a range of 9 km at 50 knots or 12 km at 45 knots. In general, much better than the same Americans.
And such three torpedoes hit the Wasp.
In principle, one and a half tons of explosive is a lot even for an aircraft carrier. The crew, of course, did everything they could, but the explosions destroyed the fuel lines for supplying aviation fuel, and the spilled gasoline made it very difficult to burn the fight for survivability.
On the rest of the ships, little by little they began to realize that fierce game was going on and it was necessary to somehow react.
At that moment, the receivers came to life and the first radio message arrived. It turned out to be incomplete.
"... the torpedo was heading for formation at the rate of zero - eight - zero."
Since the message was completely incomprehensible, no one began to puzzle. It would be worth it. The radio message was transmitted by the destroyer Lansdowne, which approached the Wasp to provide assistance and was partially shielded by the hull of the aircraft carrier from other ships.
In general, everyone spat on the radio. Nobody just understood who it came from and to whom it was addressed.
But just a few minutes later, another radiogram came:
"... the torpedo has just passed my stern and is heading towards you."
It is also incomplete, and it is also not clear who this "you" is. On the air, as expected, there was an uproar and a mess, as usually happens in such incomprehensible situations.
It quickly became clear that the radiogram came from the destroyer Mastin. On it, realizing that the radio message "did not reach", they raised a flag signal warning of a torpedo attack.
In general, the signal did not bring clarity, since it was completely unclear which ship was meant by the target of the attack.
Of course, everyone on the ships became agitated and began to look out for a torpedo in the waves. And the commanders of the ships began to give orders for maneuvers.
The Hornet was the first to go into the sharp right turn, followed by the North Carolina. Naturally, all the other escort ships also began to turn in the direction from which the torpedoes were supposed to come.
Everything was perfectly logical and correct. But luck in such matters is a very useful and significant thing.
At 14-27 the torpedo struck exactly in the nose of the destroyer "O'Brien". The bow was actually destroyed, the destroyer stopped, the crew began to fight for the life of the ship.
At 14-32 another torpedo struck the port side of the battleship "North Carolina", in the bow.
The nightmare began.
The squad leader, who was on the Hornet, gave the order to increase the speed to 25 knots and turn right twice in succession. The ships obeyed the command, even the North Carolina, which received about a thousand tons of water, received a 5,5 degrees list, but the crew quickly stopped the water flow and straightened the ship by counter-flooding.
The North Carolina certainly had a well-trained crew.
The destroyer Mastin, under which the torpedo passed (which was observed by many of the crew), suddenly reported that it had established hydroacoustic contact with the submarine, which was at a distance of 3 kilometers from the warrant. Acoustics "Mastina" gave a bearing to the target, the destroyer made an attack with depth charges, dropping 9 pieces. Contact with the boat was lost and could not be restored.
This does not mean that the boat was destroyed. Most likely, she simply was not in that place.
At the same time, the destroyers from the Wasp group were doing the same thing, although their bearings indicated that the boat was about 7 kilometers from the place where Mastin was dropping bombs. Most likely, the results of the work of the destroyers were about the same.
Meanwhile, on the O'Brien, the crew fought desperately and very successfully with the results of the explosion. The damage turned out to be very significant, but the flow of water was able to stop and the ship reached the base in New Caledonia on its own. A preliminary repair was made there, after which it was decided to send the destroyer for normal repairs in the United States.
However, during the passage in the area of the Samoa Islands, on October 19, 1942, with relatively little waves, the destroyer broke and sank. All the same, the damage to the hull from the torpedo affected.
The Wasp continued to burn. Something continued to explode on the ship. Initially, the spilled fuel caused fires of such intensity that a lot of the ship's equipment was removed. The command of the aircraft carrier was so absorbed in fighting the fires that it ceased to lead the escort ships.
However, closer to 15 o'clock it became clear that the aircraft carrier would not be able to defend. At 15-20 the detachment commander gave the order to leave the ship and sink it. The evacuation of the crew to the escort ships began. And at 21-00 the destroyer Lansdowne delivered the last blow with three torpedoes.
The loss of the Wasp crew was 193 killed and 367 wounded.
In general, of course, the story is unpleasant. The aircraft carrier was lost, the destroyer was subsequently lost. The battleship got up for repairs. And all from a single torpedo salvo.
So they began to come up with excuses. And it was logical. It is one thing if a flock of Japanese submarines operated in the area, which fired such a cloud of torpedoes that there was simply no chance of dodging them.
Particularly zealous in the reports were the members of the O'Brien's crew, who wrote such that it could be concluded that three submarines were simultaneously operating in the square. A very serious force.
However, the post-war proceedings allow us to conclude with certainty that the boat was alone. Although it was very difficult to do this, because there were practically no participants in this event.
Yes, boat J-15 was nearby and the sinking of the Wasp was observed from it, immediately reporting this news to the headquarters in Truk Atoll.
But the honor of sinking the aircraft carrier belongs to another boat, J-19, which also gave a radiogram, in which it reported that it had torpedoed the aircraft carrier Wasp.
However, neither J-15 nor J-19 reported hits on North Carolina and O'Brien. Which is understandable if the boats were in such a way that the Wasp covered the rest of the detachment's ships from them.
Historians have had many problems in finding the truth. The J-15 sank off Guadalcanal on November 2, 1942, and the J-19 did not return from combat patrols in late 1943 from the Gilbert Islands area. Plus the famous Tokyo fire in 1945, when many documents of the Japanese fleet... It is clear that after the war, much was rebuilt in hot pursuit, but it was really difficult to find something about this case.
Which gave rise to many interpretations.
For example, that J-19 was hit by torpedoes at Wasp, and J-15 sent its torpedoes to O'Brien and North Carolina. Many American researchers of the history of the fleet supported this version. It was more beneficial to them, since it is one thing when 12 out of 5 torpedoes hit, and quite another thing when 5 out of 6.
In the second case, the American sailors appear too in an ugly light, because they missed the volley and could not dodge the torpedoes.
Why exactly 12? It's simple. If there were two boats, then, according to the instructions (confirmed by Japanese naval officers), ANY boat should fire at an aircraft carrier-class ship or battleship with an exceptionally full salvo. In our case, with the J-15 and J-19 of the same type, these are exactly six torpedoes in the nose tubes.
This means that two boats could fire exactly twelve torpedoes. Which should have been noticed and tried to dodge them. That the Americans did not succeed at all.
If we take into account the opinion of the author of many monographs and articles, an expert on submarine warfare, German Jürgen Rover, who, having studied everything he could reach, came to the conclusion that one boat was shooting. J-19.
J-19 fires six torpedoes at Wasp. Three torpedoes hit, three logically go further. They overcome several miles, which separated the groups of ships, find (two of them) targets from the Hornet detachment, whose ships have turned on torpedoes, thereby making the torpedo's task easier.
True, this version was categorically rejected by the American naval circles, but they still have not presented any detailed refutation.
According to the recollections of the Wasp crew members who were on the bridge at that moment, four torpedoes were seen. One passed by, the rest were hit. It is clear that the Americans noticed the torpedoes when it was too late. It is clear that it was too late to dodge. Blinked.
But the fact that a full salvo with its half passed by and a battleship and a destroyer ran into these torpedoes. That does not honor the American sailors for the second time, since the Wasp could have reported torpedo hits, and the destroyers could duplicate messages about the attack.
It is clear that the commander of J-19, Captain 2nd Rank Takaichi Kinashi could not expect such significant results. And the Japanese simply could not see the results of hits in "North Carolina" and "O'Brien".
First, the Wospa's hull could close the rest of the ships from the crew of the boat. Secondly, the battleship and the destroyer were quite far away by themselves. Thirdly, the J-19 crew most likely practiced the commands for turning, diving and fleeing from the battlefield. And that's okay for a well-trained and well-trained crew. Given the presence of destroyers, a successful salvo was to be followed by an imminent attack by the destroyers.
The Americans point out that torpedoes from the J-19 would have to travel too long to hit a battleship and destroyer. Yes, if these were the old Type 89 torpedoes, it would be so. "Type 89" could pass 45 kilometers at 5,5 nodes, and 35 km at 10 nodes.
Alas, according to the Japanese fleet, both the J-15 and the J-19 were equipped with a new generation of torpedoes, the Type 95. This torpedo could travel almost 12 kilometers in a 45-knot course. This is more than enough to get past the Wasp and get into other ships.
Attempts by the Americans to involve J-15, along with J-19, in order to somewhat smooth out the impression of this incident, are understandable. But alas, in all the Japanese documents that have survived to this day, there is not a word about the participation of J-15 in the attack on a detachment of ships.
Code of honor, you know ... Samurai are such people ...
Can we say that the crew of Takaichi Kinashi's boat was lucky? Can. Does it belittle his merits? No. So the J-19 result is the most outstanding among divers around the world. Three ships in one salvo, hitting five out of six torpedoes - it's incredible. Yes, a huge element of luck, but nevertheless - two ships were destroyed, one was repaired.
One way or another, but this incredible luck J-19 occupies a unique place among the achievements of submariners of all fleets of the world.
If we restore the chronology, we get the following picture:
Submarine J-19 launched the attack at about 14-44. Six Type 95 torpedoes were fired at the Wasp aircraft carrier. Most likely, the torpedoes came out at intervals of 30 seconds, since the system for filling the pipes with water to compensate for the weight was very primitive. And after the volley, to be in front of the entire escort with a poster "Gentlemen, executioners, I ask you in line" is not for professionals after all.
14-45. Wasp received three torpedo hits on the starboard side. This suggests that the boat was shooting almost point-blank, from one and a half to two kilometers.
The fourth and fifth torpedoes passed in front of the ship's bow, and another one aft. The torpedo that passed astern was seen from the Helena.
14-48. The Lansdowne is watching the torpedo, giving a radio warning.
14-50 The torpedo is seen already from the ship of the Hornet group, the destroyer Mastina. They sent a radio warning and raised the appropriate flag signal.
14-51. "O'Brien" turns sharply to the right in order to avoid being hit by a torpedo, which was in the aft part and immediately gets another torpedo into the bow of the port side.
14-52. The North Carolina is hit, apparently by the same torpedo that had previously passed Mastin and Lansdowne.
The last, sixth torpedo, did not hit anyone.
What can be said in fact. Only the disgusting watch duty on American ships could allow such an incident. This is a fact that is difficult to get rid of. Five out of six torpedoes hit the ships, and nobody really sees them (torpedoes) on a white day.
The fact that the Americans missed the submarine and its torpedoes is half the battle. The second is that for a long time they tried to distort the natural course of events in order to somehow reduce the negative effect of their "feat".
Do not forget that "Wasp" produced aircraft, which were also supposed to carry out patrol service. The detachment was not in the most prosperous area.
But be that as it may, the result of Takaichi Kinashi's J-19 attack cannot but cause admiration for its result. Let the Americans do everything for their part to make it like that.