However, we will deal with the conclusions at the end, but for now we will analyze what happened on that fateful night for many.
Solomon Islands, a control point in the South Pacific. Those who owned the islands could set up bases there and control, for example, traffic flows between Australia and America. It is very unpleasant for the Australians. And there New Zealand, as a member of the British Community, also stands up for distribution.
In general, both the Japanese and the Americans wanted to control the Solomon Islands. The Japanese did better, the islands were quickly captured, engineering units were transferred there, which began to build airfields and piers.
It is clear that at the headquarters of the allies (USA, Great Britain, Australia, Holland and New Zealand) everyone grabbed their heads and began to come up with a response plan. It was decided to begin sweeping the Japanese with an iron broom on August 1, 1942. The plan was called The Watchtower and preparations began for its implementation.
Thrown off in terms of landing "for three", that is, the United States, Australia and New Zealand. A combined marine division was prepared, for the transportation of which 23 transports were prepared.
To protect the transports, all combat-ready ships after Midway were assembled: 3 aircraft carriers (Enterprise, Saratoga and Wasp), the battleship North Carolina, 5 heavy and 1 light cruisers, and 16 destroyers. Well, plus up to a heap of all kinds of escort ships, tankers, hospitals, cargo ships with supplies. In total, there are about 70 ships in total.
Australian heavy cruiser "Canberra" guarding transports
And all this beauty hit the Solomon Islands on the morning of August 7. The Japanese, to put it mildly, missed such a detachment, and therefore the landing was a complete surprise for them. The engineering units, which consisted of 90% of Koreans and Chinese, naturally did not resist, and therefore the Allies captured Guadalcanal without any losses at all. The only place where resistance to the landing was shown at all was Tulagi Island.
To say that the Japanese were in shock is to say nothing. “It wasn’t, it wasn’t, and now again” - this is about the situation in the Solomon Islands. That's right, because the Japanese simply had nothing to defend their units on the islands!
The only thing that the Imperial Japanese Navy had in the area was the so-called 8th Fleet of Admiral Mikawa. 5 heavy cruisers (one Takao class, two Aoba types and two Furutaka types), 2 light cruisers and 4 destroyers.
If you look thoughtfully, all that this detachment could do was, perhaps, ruffle the allied landing forces and die heroically under the blows aviation fleet USA. However, Mikawa decided to attack the Allied fleet. But do it at night to minimize the actions of American aircraft. And this was a huge logic.
So a night swoop in order to inflict as much damage as possible on the landing ships and retreat was a very wise decision.
And then the Americans began to help the Japanese. With about the same success as in the Pearl Harbor case.
In general, it was simply unrealistic to approach Guadalcanal unnoticed, either from the side of Micronesia or from the side of New Guinea. Therefore, the Japanese used a very interesting maneuver: they walked like on a parade until they were noticed, and as soon as this happened, Mikawa moved to the southeast at full speed, and then made a sharp turn to the south.
The crew of the B-17 bomber, which discovered Mikawa's detachment in the afternoon on August 7, reported on it, but since the Americans could not understand where the Japanese ships were going at all, they did not do anything. As the saying goes, "a good knock will show itself." Moreover, it was clear that the detachment was not large.
And on August 8, the commander of the landing, Vice Admiral Fletcher, decided that the operation was successful, and ordered the carrier formation to withdraw to Pearl Harbor. A highly controversial decision, Fletcher believed that the loss of 20% of the aircraft was quite significant and that the supply of aviation fuel was coming to an end.
Meanwhile, the transports continued unloading, which was supposed to continue for at least another two days.
In general, Fletcher decided that it would be easy for the transports to hold out for a day or two without aircraft and sent the aircraft carriers to the base.
But in principle, there were still enough ships to guard the transports. For a more effective defense, the squadron was divided into three groups and placed in the most likely directions of the enemy's appearance.
Near the southern tip of Savo Island were three heavy cruisers: the American "Chicago" and the Australian "Canberra" and "Australia" and two destroyers.
North of Savo were the American heavy cruisers Quincy, Vincennes and Astoria.
Heavy cruiser "Quincy"
Two light cruisers, the Australian Hobart and the American San Juan, were patrolling east of the island.
They knew about the Japanese approximately. What they are. But where and how many of them - that was the question. In general, Vice Admiral Turner, who commanded the landing forces, instructed Rear Admiral McCain, who commanded the cruisers, to conduct reconnaissance in the Slot Strait. We will never know what prevented McCain from doing this, but the reconnaissance was not carried out.
And on the morning of August 8, Mikawa approached Guadalcanal. He so skillfully dispersed his ships in the area of Bougainville Island that Australian scouts, although they reported the presence of Japanese ships in the area of the island, could not say exactly how many there were. Plus, reports of Japanese ships reached the American command only late in the evening.
There was just a touching situation: there was no information about the enemy, the personnel of the group was tired the previous two days, when they were landing on the islands. True, they failed to fight, but nevertheless.
And the commander of the formation, British Rear Admiral Crutchley, who held the flag on the heavy cruiser Australia, gave the command to rest. And he went to confer with Admiral Turner. For himself Crutchley left the 1st rank captain Bode, who was also tired and went to bed. At 21 pm Turner and Crutchley began to think about where the Japanese were and what to expect from them.
Meanwhile, the Japanese were already there. After midnight a detachment of Japanese ships was already near Savo. At one in the morning, on August 9, the Japanese found the American destroyer Blue, which was patrolling ... It is difficult to say that the destroyer was patrolling, because Blue passed two kilometers from the Japanese squadron and found nothing. Apparently, everyone on the ship was also tired ...
Here, the understanding came to Mikawa's headquarters that everything is quiet and calm in the waters of Savo, and they have not yet been found. The ships were at full speed and headed for Savo. At 1.30 am Mikawa gave the order to attack, at 1.35 the signalmen discovered the southern group of ships, and at 1.37 the northern group was discovered.
In general, it is of interest how American ships equipped with radars, while conducting a radar patrol, could not detect Japanese cruisers. And why the Japanese signallers were more effective than the American radars.
Nevertheless, the Japanese ships launched an attack on the southern group. Fortunately, the northern group showed no signs of activity at all.
As it turned out, the only ship that maintained at least some combat readiness was the American destroyer Patterson under the command of Francis Spellman. Lieutenant Commander Spellman, seeing that some ships were entering the harbor, raised the alarm and opened fire on the unknown ships.
The Patterson's crew hit the Japanese light cruiser Tenryu several times from their 127-mm guns, but a 203-mm shell flew in from one of the older comrades and the destroyer's crew was not quite ready for the battle. I had to fight for survivability.
At that moment, seaplanes, taking off from Japanese cruisers, hovered over the American ships. They dropped lighting bombs over the Chicago and Canberra, illuminating the ships. The Japanese ships turned on their searchlights and opened fire.
The cruiser "Quincy" illuminated by Japanese ships under fire
At the same time, the crew of the destroyer Bagley woke up. The ship set in motion and, having completed the maneuver, fired a torpedo salvo towards the enemy ships.
All it would be fine, but at the same time, the cruiser "Canberra", over which the "chandeliers" from Japanese aircraft were burning, gave full speed and went into circulation, dodging the Japanese shells, which quite accurately lay next to the cruiser.
Here torpedoes from "Bagley" and hit exactly the center of the cruiser. Naturally, the Canberra, which had lost its speed, became just a target for the Japanese gunners, who planted more than 20 203-mm shells in the Canberra. The Australian cruiser completely lost its speed and began to gain water. It was possible to withdraw the ship from the battle, but that was the end of its participation in the battle.
Canberra is sinking
"Bagley" after such a successful debut withdrew from participation in the battle. But what had already been done was more than enough to win. The only question is whose.
The second in line was “Chicago”. The commander of the cruiser Howard Bowie deigned to rest, so that the cruiser did not even enter the battle. The Japanese cruiser "Kako" hit the "Chicago" with a torpedo, which disabled the fire control system. Chicago pulled out of the fight.
It is surprising that the acting commander of the formation Howard Bode, for a completely incomprehensible reason, did not report on the Japanese ships to a higher authority. At least Crutchley and Turner, who conferred aboard Ternenre's flagship transport. Or Bode could try to establish control over the battles of his group's ships.
However, he did nothing of this, and the American ships took part in the battle on the principle "I can do whatever I want."
Since the southern group was actually defeated, the Japanese, as expected, headed towards the northern group. While peace and quiet reigned there, flashes and explosions of shells were mistaken for a thunderstorm, and the first alarm signal from the destroyer Patterson simply did not go through due to the fact that the island of Savo itself was on the way, which not the most powerful radio station of the destroyer could not overcome ...
So the crews of the ships of the northern group were sleeping peacefully, and the ships slowly moved across the water area.
The Japanese split into two columns and actually embraced a group of American ships.
The lead "Chokai" illuminated the American ships and at 1.50 Mikawa's group opened fire.
The Chokai fired at Astoria, Aoba at Quincy, Kako and Kunigas at the lead Vincennes, while Furutaka and the destroyers began to hammer at the Quincy, which found itself in a very difficult situation.
The Quincy resisted, having managed to fire several volleys. Two shells hit the Chokai, one even in the navigator's room, well thinning the personnel of Mikawa's headquarters. 36 officers were killed.
But the Japanese ships literally riddled the American ship, killing the commander and practically the entire officer corps of the cruiser on the bridge, plus the Tenryu hit the Quincy with two torpedoes, and the Aoba with one. Only 22 minutes passed between the hit of the third torpedo and the moment when the cruiser completely disappeared under water. At 2.38 the Quincy sank.
Vincent lasted nearly an hour. Hits were recorded on "Kako" and "Kunigas", but two torpedoes from "Chokai" and one from "Yubari" did their job and at 2.58 the cruiser sank.
The Astoria was frankly stupid. The captain, awakened by the explosions, at first ordered not to shoot, because sleepily it seemed to him that the fire was being fired at his own. The Astoria was ripped open by the whole squad, practically all the ships of Mikawa's squad were shot at the cruiser. “The American cruiser turned into a blazing sieve, with which it was not clear what would happen faster - sink or burn.
Heavy cruiser "Astoria"
The last ship in the northern guard group was the destroyer Ralph Talbot. They stumbled upon him by accident, the destroyer was also patrolling half asleep when it was discovered by the Furutaki group. The Talbot received 5 hits from 203-mm shells, but in the conditions of a thunderstorm, the destroyer disappeared. The damage was severe, but worth it. The fact is that the Japanese decided that there were enemy ships undetected until that moment in the area.
At 02:16, when the Japanese cruisers were still firing at the American ships with might and main, Mikawa held a meeting with his headquarters. It was necessary to decide what to do next, since the squadron clearly needed time to reload the torpedo tubes and regroup to attack the transports.
As a result, Mikawa's headquarters made a landmark decision - to leave. At 2.20 a.m. a retreat was played on the ships, the Japanese ships stopped firing and went to the assembly point northeast of Savo.
The most interesting in this stories - the results.
The result for the American fleet was the loss of four heavy cruisers with more than 1000 crew members. "Canberra" was finished off by its destroyers, "Astoria" burned out and sank a few hours after the end of the battle. Quincy and Vincennes were already at the bottom by then.
The service by American sailors did not stand up to scrutiny. Radar patrols, signalmen, combat crews - all demonstrated the level of Pearl Harbor. Which was the reason for the defeat.
Yes, modern radars were not a reliable means of detection at that time, and often they did more harm than help. But no one canceled signal services and sentinels. And the fact that the Americans are 100% relaxed is an indisputable fact.
There was an investigation into the incident. Admirals Turner, Fletcher and Crutchley were found not guilty of the outrage that had taken place. The captain of the heavy cruiser "Chicago" Howard Bode was found guilty, whom Crutchley had left as the commander of the "southern" group during his absence. Howard Bode shot himself on April 19, 1943. In general, there was a reason, because the only thing that Bode could and did not do was not raise the alarm, which doomed the northern group to defeat.
The only thing that somewhat maintains the reputation of the American navy is that the submarine S-44 on August 10, when Mikawa's squadron was heading back to base, attacked a group of ships and sank the heavy cruiser Kako. Small but consolation.
Defeat? How can I say ... We look at the Japanese.
There, too, everything is very, very difficult. It seems that they sunk 4 heavy cruisers, they finished two destroyers pretty well, victory?
The landing was not destroyed, and the Allied offensive was not thwarted. Guadalcanal remained under Allied control, and the transports, which Mikawa's group could easily sink, subsequently supplied ground forces for months. That, in principle, some researchers directly associate with the further defeat of Japan in the campaign for the Solomon Islands.
Mikawa found himself in a difficult position. He did not know where the US Navy aircraft carriers were at the moment, which, in theory, with the onset of dawn, could make a chop of his squad. He mistakenly believed that there were still Allied ships in the area, "unmarketable" and ready for battle.
Plus he believed that the ships had used up too much ammunition.
In fact, it would be better to drown transports not with the main, but with the auxiliary caliber. But most of the officers supported Mikawa's idea of "ripping the claws", but can we clearly say about the victory of the Japanese fleet?
The five Mikawa heavy cruisers had 34 203 mm barrels of firepower. Five American and Australian cruisers - 43 barrels of the same caliber. But the Japanese cruisers carried 56 torpedo tubes, plus almost the same number were on the destroyers and light cruisers. And the Japanese used the torpedoes in full. The Americans, too, were hit by torpedoes, the whole question is that they are somewhat not in the right place.
But despite the loss of ships and people, which, of course, weakened the US fleet (they had to keep silent for two whole months about the results of the battle), the strategic initiative remained with the Americans.
The heavy defeat at Savo Island did not change the alignment on the front line in the South Pacific at all. Moreover, a serious struggle began for Guadalcanal, which lasted more than a year. Naval battles for the Solomon Islands continued until the end of 1943.
So, apart from moral satisfaction from the defeat in battle, the Japanese had nothing else. Japan has absolutely not been able to extract any positive aspects, except for political successes.
And if Mikawa was bolder ... If he attacked transports, the alignment could be completely different. But the second Pearl Harbor happened. That is, the battle won had absolutely no effect on the war.
But at least the Japanese won the battle as if by notes.