At its core, the battle at Guadalcanal on November 13, 1942 was not entirely traditional. About the same as the first battle off the Savo Island. On the other hand, what does “traditional sea battle” mean?
Well, until very recently, these were wake columns of ships, throwing various ammunition at each other. The whole question is only in range and power. So it was in the First World War. But already in the twentieth century, it became more interesting to throw blanks over the horizon, and even more interesting - to send planes there instead of shells.
Cheap and cheerful, because, as it turned out, twenty destroyed planes, plugging a destroyer with bombs or torpedoes, are not only cheaper, they are not worth anything compared to a destroyer. And if you sink several ships, albeit at the cost of hundreds of aircraft ...
Of course, Yamato fans can argue with me ... But ALL battles at sea took place according to this scenario. With insanely rare exceptions, such as the night battle at the Savo Island or the massacre of the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau over the Glories. The rest of the significant events took place with the help of aviation... Even an artillery battle with "Bismarck" seems to be. Whose torpedo jammed his rudders?
The battle at Guadalcanal on November 13, 1942 is interesting because it is a natural classic, artillery battle. But - with an interesting nuance. The fact is that the Japanese flew into the battle for themselves quite unexpectedly, but the Americans, not only were ready, but also went to this format quite deliberately.
At the same time, it came as a surprise to the Japanese side. The Americans, on the other hand, went on it deliberately for several reasons. In the end, everything turned into such an outrage, the results of which both sides were stunned.
So, Solomon Islands, late 1942. In June, the Japanese captured the islands, in August the Americans recaptured the islands and even completed the Japanese airfield on Guadalcanal. The presence of this airfield will later play a very important role in the events, since the nearest airfields of the Japanese were on Bougainville Island, 600 km from Guadalcanal.
What about aircraft carriers? And it was bad about them.
Do not forget that the Battle of Midway recently took place, where the Yankees gave the Japanese revenge, sinking the aircraft carriers Akagi (82 aircraft), Kaga (82), Hiryu and Soryu (54 aircraft each).
And a month before Midway there was a battle in the Coral Sea, where the Americans lost Lexington (78 aircraft), and the Japanese lost Seho (30 aircraft).
Well, August and September in 1942 were very fruitful, as the Japanese sank the Wasp (78 aircraft) and seriously damaged the Saratoga (78 aircraft) and the Enterprise (80 aircraft). The Americans sank the Ryudze (44 aircraft).
Plus in October the Japanese sank the Hornet (80 aircraft). True, they themselves were forced to send Sekaku, Zuikaku and Zuiho for repair and replenishment of the aircraft fleet.
And by November there was only one American Enterprise left in the Solomon Islands region, which had just returned from repairs.
Thus, massive air battles were canceled due to the lack of aircraft at the disposal of the fleets. The Japanese, however, had light aircraft carriers "Hosho" (20 aircraft) and "Chieda" (24 aircraft), the Americans had "Nassau" (20 aircraft), but information about their whereabouts at the time of the battle could not be found.
That was how sad it was with aviation. And both sides continued to send convoys, and, what is most interesting, they tried to intercept, because it is obviously much easier to drown several thousand people in bulk in the sea than to pick them out of the jungle.
And naturally, both sides tried to deliver reinforcements to their troops on the islands. And the Japanese decided to launch a general offensive on Guadalcanal in order to recapture the island and use the airfield that was finally completed by the Americans.
For this, 11 transports were allocated, on which 7000 infantry, 3500 marines, artillery, Tanks, ammunition and other useful things. 11 destroyers of Admiral Raizo Tanaka were supposed to cover the transports. From the air, the convoy was to be covered by the aircraft of the aircraft carrier "Dzuiho".
In turn, "Zuiho" was supposed to guard a strike force of two battle cruisers "Kongo" and "Haruna", a heavy cruiser "Tone" and two destroyers.
In order to neutralize the American aviation, the airfield on Guadalcanal had to destroy the ships of another detachment by artillery fire, which included the battle cruisers Hiei and Kirishima (of the same type Congo), the light cruiser Nagara and 14 destroyers. The detachment was commanded by Admiral Hiroaki Abe.
And all this considerable gang moved towards the Solomon Islands. The landing was scheduled for November 13 ...
Naturally, such a rather large convoy did not go unnoticed, American patrol aircraft found Japanese ships and reported to the command. The commander of the American forces, Admiral Turner, ordered the transports to urgently leave the area, and Admiral Callaghan to take all the ships available and move towards the enemy.
Callaghan's compound included the heavy cruisers San Francisco and Portland, the light cruisers Atlanta, Juno, and Helena, and 8 destroyers. As they say, what are they rich in ...
On the way to Savo Island, the Japanese rebuilt in order to open fire on the airfield. At that moment, American ships approached and in the darkness of a tropical night the radiometrists of the cruiser "Helena" at 1:24 am found the Japanese by radar.
But the Japanese found the Americans quite well without radars. Well, there was no radar on the Japanese ships. And at 1 hour 48 minutes searchlights flashed on the Japanese ships, highlighting the American ships with merciless fire. Admiral Abe ordered to open fire ...
The first on the "distribution" was "Atlanta", which was fired at by both strangers and their own. Plus, in this confusion, a torpedo was planted in the engine room of the cruiser. "Atlanta" lost its course and control, was killed by Admiral Scott and many officers.
The second was the destroyer Kushing, which was the first in the column. Several destroyers and the cruiser Nagara began to shoot at him at once. The destroyer fell out of the battle with very serious damage.
But the Americans fired back. Who played the role of the Akatsuki searchlight station received from everyone at once, fortunately, there was no big problem in shooting at the searchlights. Three cruisers and three destroyers literally riddled the Japanese ship and the Akatsuki sank, becoming the first victim of the battle.
Destroyers Sterett, Laffey and O Bannon attacked Hiei with torpedoes, but the torpedoes were not cocked due to the very short distance.
Next came the turn of the San Francisco, which was targeted by six destroyers and the Hiei, which was illuminating the American cruiser. The Frisco destroyed the entire superstructure with precise shooting, the commander of the detachment, Admiral Callaghan, was killed, and fires raged on the cruiser. But the San Francisco's return fire damaged the Hiei, which put out the floodlights. Taking advantage of the darkness, "San Francisco" and "Helena" withdrew from the battle.
The cruiser "Nagara" and the destroyers "Yukikaze" and "Terruzuki" stumbled upon the "Kushing", which was damaged at the beginning of the battle and was drifting and finished it off with shells. The Cushing sank.
The American destroyer Laffey, which slipped past the Hieya, immediately after it ran into the destroyers Samidare, Murosame and Asagumo, which closed the Japanese order. The Japanese hit Laffey with a torpedo and finished off with shells. The destroyer exploded and sank.
Other American ships fared no better. While "Portland" was engaged in the shooting of "Akatsuki", "good people" in the person of the destroyers "Inazuma" and "Akazuchi" stuck a torpedo into the stern of the heavy cruiser. Not only did the shattered claddings jam the steering, they themselves began to play the role of the steering wheel, forcing the Portland to circle in circulation.
"Portland" was able to fire 4 volleys at "Hiei", but did not rush around in circles, but stopped the cars and got out of the battle, remaining under the cover of darkness.
Not far from Portland, the light cruiser Juno froze in the dark, to which the destroyer Yudachi disabled the steering with a torpedo and interrupted the keel.
And about the same time the destroyer Burton was sinking to the bottom, into which hot Japanese guys from the destroyer Amatsukaze were hit by two torpedoes at once.
In general, the Japanese were leading 3: 1 on the sunken ships, plus three cruisers were disabled.
Meanwhile, the battle continued, the Japanese, who had gone into a rage, began to destroy everything in their path.
The destroyer Laffey, the Japanese destroyers Samidare, Murosame and Asagumo, who sunk the destroyer Laffey, found the destroyer Monssen. In general, with "Monssen" it turned out stupid история... One of his cruisers began to shoot at him, and the captain of the ship did not think of anything else but to turn on the identification lights. Their own, perhaps, stopped firing, but three Japanese destroyers turned the American ship into a sieve.
"Monssen" lost speed, control and everything weapon... The team left the destroyer, but it sank only in the morning.
4: 1 in favor of Japanese fleet.
"Amatsukadze" accidentally discovered the wrecked San Francisco and was about to finish off the cruiser with torpedoes, but the Helena, hanging out in the darkness nearby, intervened and fired a volley into the side of the Japanese destroyer.
Heavy cruiser "Helena"
The situation turned upside down, but fortunately for the Amatsukadze crew, his problems were seen by the lively three Samidare, Murosame and Asagumo. Three Japanese destroyers opened fire on the Helena with all their barrels.
Of course, the destroyers could not inflict serious damage to the cruiser, but they installed a smoke screen and dragged the rather crumpled Amatsukadze away.
Aaron Ward and Starrett discovered the lone Yudachi and attacked it with shells and torpedoes. We got it. We hit well, the team left the ship, but it did not sink and remained afloat.
Further luck for the Americans ended, "Starrett" outright lost the battle to the destroyer "Teruzuki" and left the battle, and "Aaron Ward" ran into the "Kirishima". It didn’t sink, but it ceased to be a battleship, because after all, a battle cruiser is serious.
On this the night battle was essentially over. It lasted only 38 minutes. At 2:26 pm, the oldest surviving American officer, Captain (Captain 1st Rank in our opinion), Gilbert Hoover ordered everyone who could go to the base.
But it turned out that not all were fighting. And in the morning the show continued to some extent.
At dawn, the Portland, which was slowly settling and being repaired, saw the Yudachi, abandoned by the crew, hanging nearby. Several volleys - and the score was 4: 2.
But not for long. The cruiser Atlanta, riddled with both strangers and his own (mostly), was never saved, and by evening it sank to the bottom. 5: 2 in favor of the Imperial Japanese Navy.
And the crawling battered American ships caught up with a submarine and sank the cruiser Juno. 6: 2.
By the way, the American Navy's rescue service worked more than disgustingly. A huge number of sailors did not survive this night, being devoured by sharks. The case of the five Sullivan brothers who served as volunteers on the Juneau became unpleasantly known and they all died. Two - in a few days, without waiting for help.
The last ship to die in this battle was the Hiei. What happened to the battle cruiser is hard to say. For the entire battle, it was hit by a single 203-mm shell and more than a hundred destroyer shells, that is, 127-mm. Apparently, communication and control were out of order. Only this can explain the fact that the ship could not normally fight off the rather sluggish attacks of American aircraft.
But in fact "Hiei" was thrown by Admiral Abe to be torn apart. The raids on the crawling Hiei continued all day. The escort destroyers did everything they could, but in the end the battle cruiser sank on the night of November 14.
6: 3 in favor of the Japanese. Dot? No.
Who has won?
The Japanese seem to have won the battle. Two light cruisers and four destroyers at the bottom, two heavy cruisers and three destroyers were under repair for a long time. In fact, only the cruiser Helena and the destroyer Fletcher remained intact for the Americans.
The Japanese lost a battle cruiser (later) and two destroyers. And they really had one more battle cruiser, a light cruiser and 11 destroyers to complete their tasks, 3 of which did not participate in the battle at all.
So who won the battle?
Definitely Americans. Even having lost so many ships, they were able to disrupt the main task: to neutralize Guadalcanal's aviation. And that was exactly what Admiral Abe's ships were supposed to do: to blow Henderson Field to dust. And not a single shot was fired at the airfield.
In "gratitude" for this, it was the pilots from this airfield that sank the "Hiei".
In general, Admiral Abe did everything to completely spoil the victory. Could he go to command any other ship in the squad, since Hiei had communication problems? I could. Nagara would be fine. It would have been possible for "Kirishima" to wait, especially since Abe later called a cruiser to drag "Hieya".
Could Henderson Field be plowed up with the remaining ammunition from the ships before dawn? Easy. 66 127mm barrels from Japanese destroyers would have made it very easy. Plus another 18 barrels of 152-mm "Nagara" and "Hieya", and 8 barrels of 356-mm ...
But Abe did not do this. Why is a matter of questions. Nothing hindered him in this, and there was time. The night battle ended at half past three in the morning, and there was more than enough time before dawn.
And even if we simply plowed the runways of the airfield, damaging or destroying some of the hundreds of aircraft based there, the Hiei would have survived and did not need to be rescued.
But apparently, Admiral Abe was enough to feel like a winner. Or, on the contrary, he was such a coward that the very thought of dawn and American planes made him flee the battlefield.
In any case, Abe did not fulfill the duties assigned to him by the order. He decided to be content with a seemingly small victory, losing in the end in a big way.
He did not dare to attack the airfield, he gave the Hiei to the Americans to be torn apart ... The admiral turned out to be so-so. Stupid and cowardly. No wonder Abe was removed from command of the ships by Yamamoto himself and in March 1943 he was generally dismissed. True, the admiral did not arrange hara-kiri for himself, he preferred to die quietly and calmly in 1949 himself.
But in fact, it was thanks to Abe's toothless actions that the Japanese landing on Guadalcanal did not take place. More precisely, it was postponed, but still ended in failure.
But here I would like to say a few warm words about the Japanese sailors.
They didn't have radars on the ships. No one. And, unlike the Americans, who perfectly (or almost perfectly) saw the Japanese on radar screens and were nominally ready to meet the enemy, the Japanese sailors improvised. Demonstrating a much higher combat skill.
Even the fact that at the beginning of the battle Admiral Abe turned on the searchlights on his Hiei, illuminating the targets of the entire squadron and thereby causing fire on his ship - this is worthy of respect and understanding, as well as the actions of the commander of the Akatsuki destroyer, Captain Osama Takasuke, the ship which was also flooded with light by an enemy detachment, not possessing the armor and durability of a battle cruiser.
The Japanese fired more accurately, used torpedoes better, but all this was crossed out by the helplessness of the command. So, like the previous battle at Savo Island, with a seemingly clear advantage, the victory was completely lost.
Japan had no luck with admirals. Or is Friday the 13th not that day after all?