Fighting for the Solomon Islands - Guadalcanal, part 3.
The Battle of the Eastern Solomons
Tokyo's headquarters initially regarded the Allied landings in the southern Solomons as an episodic affair within its strategic interests in the Pacific. The situation changed when the Americans briefly put Henderson Airfield into operation, for at that point Tokyo realized that if it lost Guadalcanal permanently, the air base there would substantially weaken Japan's position in the entire region. The first senior officer to run out of context was the commander of the United Fleet, Admiral I. Yamamoto. In a letter to his subordinate, Vice Admiral Mikawa, he states, "...the situation on Guadalcanal is very serious, more serious than that which faced our ancestors when they realized that they must take Port Arthur before the Russian Baltic Fleet arrived. If we do not act immediately with additional forces, at least three divisions, we can expect serious consequences."
After the Battle of Savo Island, which returned the naval initiative to the Japanese, Tokyo Headquarters became convinced that, given the situation where the Navy controlled the waters around Guadalcanal, there could be no problem in destroying the American landing force. Therefore, the necessary orders were issued to the commander of the 8th Fleet G. Mikawa, Commander of the 17th Army Lieutenant General Harukichi Hyakutake and the commander of the 11th Naval Air Force, Vice Admiral Nishizu Tsukahara, to immediately develop a plan to expel the enemy from the island by the end of August 1942 at the latest. The plan was developed and the upcoming action was code-named Operation KA.
The basic plan for the KA operation was approved by Admiral Yamamoto. The plan stipulated that the battleships and cruisers of the United Fleet would reach a position north of Henderson Airfield and, by firing their deck guns, would disable the American aircraft stationed on Guadalcanal, thus ridding Rear Admiral Tanaka's convoy of the danger threatening it from that side and allowing him to unload troops and material on Guadalcanal unmolested. The plan assigned the very difficult task to the advance party of the 3rd Fleet under the command of Rear Admiral Hara. His light carrier Ryuzo was to play a dual role. First, to attack Henderson Airfield with its deck planes, while also providing a decoy to which to focus potential U.S. carrier interest. And when the Saratoga, Enterprise and Wasp deal with the Ryukyus, the Shokaku and Zuikaku deck bombers will swoop in undetected. Rear Admiral Hara must have felt uncomfortable at the thought that in a similar situation in the Coral Sea battle, the light aircraft carrier Shohoho had played a similar role and gone down in eleven minutes. Indirect air support for the entire operation and reconnaissance will be provided by Vice Admiral Tsukahara's 11th Air Force. The main strategic objective of the operation was thus primarily to provoke the Americans into a decisive naval battle in which, Yamamoto hoped, the enemy's main naval forces would be destroyed and the area would be totally dominated. If the KA operation was successful, he had no doubt that expelling the Americans from the island would be a simple matter.
On August 21, 1942, the second part of Ichiki's Truk Base 28th Infantry Regiment and a special landing party - 1,500 men in all - boarded the transport ship Kinryu Maru and four transport destroyers. Convoy protection was provided by Rear Admiral Raisó Tanaka's (the famous Tokyo Express) 2nd Destroyer Division, commanded from the bridge of the light cruiser Jincu. Furthermore, Yamamoto assembled a truly formidable naval force in Operation KA, virtually the entire United Fleet.
These were mainly:
- The Strike Group of the 3rd Fleet , commanded by Vice Admiral Chuichi Nagumo, consisting of aircraft carriers Shokaku, Zuikaku, battleships Hiei and Kirishima, heavy cruisers Suzuya, Chikuma and Kumano, as well as the light cruiser Nagara and nine destroyers. The protection group was commanded by Rear Admiral Hiroaki Abe.
- A forward group of the 3rd Fleet, commanded by Rear Admiral Hara, with the light carrier Ryuzo, the heavy cruiser Tone, and two destroyers.
- A forward detachment of the 2nd Fleet, commanded by Vice Admiral Nobutake Kondo, consisting of
- the 4th Heavy Cruiser Division Atago, Maya, Takao and the 5th Heavy Cruiser Division Haguro, Myoko, as well as the light cruiser Jura, a seaplane mothership Chitose, an old battleship Mucu and six destroyers.
- Close protection of the convoy was entrusted to Vice Admiral Gunichi Mikawa and consisted of the heavy cruisers Aoba,Kinugasa, Furutaka and Chokai.
- Air support was provided by Vice Admiral Tsukahara's 11th Naval Air Force, which had 100 aircraft at its disposal.
- Nine submarines were still involved in the operation. Six were sent to reconnoiter ahead of the main surface force, and three took up positions in the Coral Sea west of the New Hebrides.
On the American side, Vice Admiral Ghormley was aware that heavy naval fighting was likely to take place in the South Pacific area, and he was therefore rapidly withdrawing reinforcements. On 17 August, the Pearl Harborfourth aircraft carrier Hornet, with escorting cruisers and destroyers, left the area. Moving up the Panama Canal from the U.S. East Coast were two brand new 38,000-ton battleships, the Washington and South Dakota, an anti-aircraft cruiser Juneau and several destroyers. However, these reinforcements were still a long way off, so it was necessary to make do with what was at hand, and there wasn't much of it.
It was the 61st Strike Group, under the command of Vice Admiral Fletcher, consisting of:
16th Task Force, under the command of Rear Admiral Thomas C. Kinkaid on the Enterprise with protection consisting of the battleship North Carolina, the heavy cruiser Portland, the light cruiser Atlanta and six destroyers.
On the morning of August 23, 1942, Ghormley's detachment of Vice Admiral Fletcher's 61st Strike Group took up position on the north side of Malaita Island, located northeast of Guadalcanal.
At the same time that the 61st Task Force was taking up positions on the approaches to the southern Solomons, the main force of the Japanese Combined Fleet was approaching from the north in five groups.
Vice Admiral Kondo was given operational command of the entire Japanese group, while strategic control was retained by Admiral Yamamoto, then aboard his flagship Yamato at the base at Truk.
On the morning of 23 August, the weather in the Eastern Solomons was rainy. The sky was covered with heavy leaden clouds and it rained almost constantly. Nevertheless, the crew of one of Vice Admiral McCain's reconnaissance catalinas, belonging to the South Pacific Air Force, managed to locate Tanaka's transport group and immediately sent a report of two cruisers and three destroyers escorting the transport group, heading at 17 knots towards Guadalcanal. Although the report was not accurate, it was still extremely valuable.
Vice Admiral Fletcher responded immediately. At 14:45, 31 dive-bombers Dauntless and six torpedo bombers Grumman TBF Avenger left Saratoga's flight deck, targeting the area from which the enemy convoy had been reported. Information about Tanaka's convoy was also picked up by the radio station at Henderson Airport, and so at 16:15, 23 bombers took off from Henderson with the mission to attack and destroy the convoy.
But the very attentive patrols on Tanaka's flagship cruiser, the Jinzō, did not miss that reconnaissance catalina, even if it only emerged briefly from the thick clouds. The rear admiral left nothing to chance. She continued on the same course for a few more hours and turned northwest at 13:00. Thanks to this prudent move, his group of vessels soon found themselves within range of both the Saratoga and the Henderson. When the American planes reached the area where the convoy was calculated to be, the crews saw only empty ocean. After several hours of unsuccessful searching, the fuel gauges began to indicate a dangerous loss of fuel, and the crews had to accept failure. The bombers from Saratoga could no longer make it back to the mother ship, so the formation commander, frigate captain Felt, ordered a landing at Henderson Airfield. The following day, early in the morning, Marine reconnaissance aircraft attempted to continue the search, but without success. Therefore, Felt and his pilots returned aboard Saratoga, where the last one landed at 11:00 a.m. On the Henderson, where important military material was still scarce, the half-ton bombs were left by his thirty-one Dauntlesses. As Felt laconically put it, it was a token of appreciation for the hospitality and gasoline provided.
On the afternoon of 23 August, neither Vice Admiral Kondo nor his opponent Vice Admiral Fletcher had any more precise reports on the whereabouts of the enemy forces, particularly the carriers. Kondo followed the instructions of the KA plan precisely, which directed him to proceed steadily to the Solomon Islands without delay and to refuel from tankers as he went. Therefore, his powerful fleet was constantly approaching Guadalcanal. Fletcher, on the other hand, was the victim of a serious blunder by the Intelligence Department of the Pacific Fleet Staff, which gave him information that the heavy ships of the Japanese Combined Fleet were still in the vicinity of Truk Atoll in the Carolines. Unfortunately, this information was totally erroneous, but Fletcher trusted it completely and, true to his tradition of over-concern for fuel status, sent Rear Admiral Noyes' 18th Task Force with the carrier Wasp south to rendezvous with the tankers. The consequence of this decision was that, in the battle that soon ensued, the Americans were weakened by the loss of one of their three carriers.
Light aircraft carrier Ryuzho
On the morning of Aug. 24 at 9:05 a.m., the situation changed abruptly. Fletcher's staff received a dispatch informing them that a reconnaissance aircraft had spotted a Japanese aircraft carrier Ryuzhō, a heavy cruiser and two destroyers heading south from Malaita 220 miles away. At 11:28, the information was confirmed by another reconnaissance aircraft. Vice Admiral Fletcher responded by ordering Rear Admiral Kinkaid to fly a group of aircraft from Enterprise to verify the information. At 12:29 p.m., a group of 23 aircraft took off from Enterprise, which turned into a strong wind that was rushing at 30 kilometers over the dark ocean surface. As the position of the Japanese ships was reported at a distance of 245 miles, the commander of the air formation was ordered to search up to 250 miles away.
About the same time, a radar aboard Saratoga detected the Japanese reconnaissance seaplane Emily. Immediately a group of four fighters took off and it was not long before the Japanese aircraft was shot down by the on-board guns. However, no one was sure if the crew of the Japanese reconnaissance aircraft had time to send the necessary data. Fletcher therefore had to allow for this possibility. Fifteen minutes later, the radar operator detected an air formation 100 miles away and heading for Guadalcanal. These were 21 deck planes from the Ryukyus, as Rear Admiral Hara was carrying out his part of the task as part of Operation KA. Although Fletcher could do nothing to help Henderson in the current situation, there was no need to, for the attackers were met by planes from Henderson's airfield, and after a brief fight sixteen of the twenty-one Japanese planes ended up in flames in the jungle and coastal waters around the island. The raid was repelled without damage.
After 12 hours, wildcats from Saratoga and Enterprise shot down two more Japanese reconnaissance aircraft. There was now no doubt that the enemy had been informed of the location and strength of the two American task forces, and Fletcher took immediate action. At 13:45, 30 dive bombers and 8 torpedo bombers took off from the deck of Saratoga, with the aim of attacking the only carrier of which the Americans had been informed, namely the Ryukyus. The American admiral thus fulfilled Yamamoto's expectations and took the bait. He now had 51 dive bombers and 15 torpedo bombers in action, heading for the area where Ryuho's presence had been reported. Other aircraft guarded the operational volumes from enemy submarines. Only 14 dive bombers and 12 torpedo planes remained aboard both Saratoga and Enterprise. In this situation, at 1400, another group of enemy ships, including one carrier, was reported by reconnaissance to be 60 miles northeast of the Ryukyu position. Then other serious reports began to come in. In fact, aircraft which had taken off to attack the Ryukyus reported its presence at a position of 317 degrees at a distance of 200 miles at 1410 hours. Twenty minutes later they sighted Vice Admiral Nagumo's Shokaku and Zuikaku in position 340 degrees at a distance of 198 miles, and another 10 minutes later four cruisers and several destroyers of Rear Admiral Abe's in position 347 degrees at a distance of 225 miles. In this flood of important information, which poured like an avalanche upon the American vice-admiral's head, the absence of the third carrier, Waspu, which he had somewhat hastily dispatched to refuel, though it was not absolutely necessary, weighed heavily upon him. Not to be outdone by the bad circumstances, serious breakdowns in radio communications began to occur. As it was imperative to attempt to divert the attacking aircraft to the most important targets, namely Zuikaku and Shokaku, Fletcher attempted to establish communication with the air group commander, Frigate Captain Felt, which unfortunately failed repeatedly due to atmospheric disturbances. Due to poor weather conditions, even the remaining available aircraft that Fletcher still had did not take off. The American commander, therefore, had practically no opportunity at this point to attack an adversary about whom he finally knew all he needed to know, and he himself must have assumed that even Nagumo was already informed and that Japanese planes with their cargo of bombs and torpedoes were on their way. He therefore at least did everything necessary to defend his volleys. More fighters took off, all vessels were put on high alert. The fire and rescue squads took up their posts, as did the anti-aircraft gunners and the doctors and medics in the ship's infirmaries. The radar operators never took their eyes off their instruments.
The first wave of American aircraft attacked Rear Admiral Abe's cruiser group at 14:40 without success. At 15:15, two more dive bombers attacked Shokaku, but to little effect. The explosion of one half-ton bomb narrowly missed the ship and the shrapnel injured several sailors. Torpedo Avengers attacked at about the same time, targeting Ryukyu.
Two of them managed to drop torpedoes, but without a hit, and the rest of the aircraft were driven off by Japanese fighters. The last pair of Avengers attacked the cruiser Tone, but to no avail, and in addition one of them was shot down by a Japanese fighter. The planes of the second wave, which took off at 13:45 hours from Saratoga under the command of frigate Captain Felt, were already considerably more successful. At 15:50, the first group of dive bombers under the command of Corvette Captain Schumway, a veteran of Midway, attacked Ryukyu from an altitude of 5,000 yards. Moments later, a second group attacked the same ship. The planes, armed with half-ton bombs, went into dive flight and, like a group of predators, fought their way through a barrage of Japanese anti-aircraft fire. The moment the carrier's deck appeared in the sights, the planes dropped their bomb load, and then, with their engines open at full throttle, the pilots quickly leveled their machines above sea level to escape the Japanese fighters, who were taken completely by surprise by the attack. Black smoke rose from the superstructures of the Ryuuj, shrouding the entire area in darkness, and the ship shook violently. Because the coordinating Felt was unsure how badly damaged the ship was, and because the Ryuuzho represented the most important target he knew of at the moment, he ordered Lieutenant Harwood's torpedo Avengers to attack as well. The latter used a tried and tested Japanese tactic and split his aircraft into two formations of three machines each, with one formation attacking the stern and the other the bow. This was a fatal combination for Ryuuzo, as she had no chance to avert disaster. As she made a sharp change of course to avoid torpedoes approaching from one side, she found herself directly in the path of others coming from the opposite direction.
Not a single American plane from the second wave was shot down, but they left behind a ship whose fate was sealed. The Ryukyu, which was hit by about ten half-ton bombs (exact number unknown) and one torpedo, soon banked twenty degrees and the machines stopped. The commander ordered the ship abandoned and it sank at 20:00 hours. Rear Admiral Hara watched her demise with a stern face from the bridge of the cruiser Tone. No one knew his true feelings, but he had officially fulfilled to the letter the task he had been assigned as part of Operation KA. Ryuuzo played the role of decoy successfully.
A reconnaissance seaplane, ejected from the deck of the Chikuma, appeared over Fletcher's compound at 14:05 hours, and just before it was shot down by American wildcats, managed to send a message about the exact position of the American carriers. An hour later, Vice Admiral Nagumo gave the order to send the first wave of dive and torpedo bombers under fighter cover to attack the enemy. When Nagumo learned of the attack on Ryuuji, he had no doubt that the hour of retribution for Midway had arrived. He believed that he would be able to catch the two American ships in a situation where they would be deprived of most of their deck aircraft. To make sure they didn't escape, he sent out a second attack wave at 16:00.
At 16:02, an enemy air group appeared on the Enterprise's radar screen, but disappeared from the screen after a moment. The intercept was not restored until 16:19. Six minutes later, the Japanese aircraft were spotted by fighters cruising northwest and immediately announced, "36 bombers at 4000 meters, with large numbers of fighters above and below them."
At 16:29, the Japanese air group came within 25 miles of Enterprise. Its commander, Corvette Captain Seki, fired a signal flare the moment he sighted Enterprise, ordering her to deploy in attack formation. At that moment, the Japanese aircraft were pounced upon by the wildcat American fighter defences. One of them was piloted by Lieutenant Donald E. Runvan. When he sighted the enemy, he and his aircraft were at an altitude of 6,000 meters about five miles northwest of the Enterprise.
He chose the dive bomber Val as his first target, attacked it with the sun at his back, and the unsuspecting Japanese was blown to pieces by the explosion of its fuel tanks. Moments later, he shot down another rampart in the same manner and fired a burst of incendiary rounds into it. As he was about to repeat this tactic a third time, he noticed a zero bearing down on him from behind. Unfortunately, he spotted the enemy too late and was completely helpless. Fortunately, the Jap didn't have good aim and didn't hit him, he flew over him and his unprotected rear was momentarily in the sights of Runvan's machine guns. The stream of bullets pierced the zero like a lattice, flames erupted, and the Japanese fighter crashed into the ocean. A few minutes later, Runvan managed to shoot down another Japanese rampart, this time from below. The last target Runvan had ammunition for was another zero. After a short and grueling battle, the Japanese fighter, leaving a trail of smoke behind it, sought salvation in escape. An interesting feature of this battle was that on the American side, in addition to fighter cover planes, bombers, which normally do not perform this activity, were involved. A squadron of ten Dauntlesses under Corvette Captain L.J. Kirn , just returning from a raid on Ryukyu, spotted four Japanese ramparts less than 200 yards above the surface. Kirn didn't miss his chance, a rare opportunity for a bomber pilot. On his orders, the squadron changed course, and the startled Japanese soon found themselves under fire from large-caliber machine guns. Three Japanese planes ended up shot up in the sea and a fourth escaped in the smoke, and it was clear that it would not get far.
As air battles raged within 20 miles of the American ships, the group of ships around Enterprise increased speed to 27 knots, and anti-aircraft gun operators watched the skies anxiously for the first high-altitude bombers or low-flying torpedo planes to appear.
At 16:41, Saratoga's radio station sent out an open-speech warning : "Warning, torpedo planes climbing from a bearing of 320 degrees, distance ten miles!" The tension could be cut and it was clear that the enemy must already be somewhere very close, yet despite all the attention, no one on Enterprise had seen them yet. It was truly unbelievable, but at this very moment, the Japanese dive-bomber fleet was at 6,000 metres directly over the Enterprise. Thanks to the camouflage paint that had been applied to the bellies of the planes, the patrols had missed the attack formation until the very last moment. At 16:42, the commander of the Japanese formation initiated a steep dive and the sun's rays reflected off the wings of his aircraft. This flash alerted the Enterprise's battery of 20mm anti-aircraft guns and the battery immediately opened fire with smoke grenades in an attempt to mark the location of the attacking enemy. In a matter of seconds, dozens of 127mm, 28mm and 20mm AA guns from all ships turned in that direction. Captain of ship A. C. Davis immediately gave the order for Enterprise to begin zigzagging in an attempt to prevent the attackers from accurately targeting the bombs. Nevertheless, several Japanese crews managed to lock on to the deck and three bombs hit the American ship. The first bomb hit the aft elevator, which is used to transport aircraft from the below-deck hangars. Because it was fitted with a timed fuse, it penetrated the third deck area before exploding. Immediately a massive fire broke out, the explosion killed 35 sailors and tore through the side of the ship. Seawater began to penetrate the interior of the ship through the punctured side and the ship listed three degrees. The second bomb hit the ammunition supply for the 127mm battery on the starboard side in the stern. The force of the blast, compounded by the explosion of the stored ammunition, blew the battery apart, killing all 38 crewmen and setting the entire area around it ablaze.
The third bomb was fortunately defective, and so did no major damage, only warping several cover plates. That ended the Japanese raid on the Enterprise. Ten more Japanese ramming attacks were made on the battleship North Carolina at 16:43. This new, powerful ship, commissioned in 1941, had a large firepower. In addition to nine 406mm guns for her main armament, she had twenty dual-purpose 127mm guns usable for anti-aircraft defense and dozens of additional fast-firing guns of all calibers. She therefore prepared such a welcome for the attackers that only three managed to drop bombs in her vicinity. The others were blown to bits in the sea. Moments later, another group of six Japanese bombers attacked North Carolina with the same result as the previous one. The mighty battleship emerged from the engagement without a scratch.
Back on Enterprise, the situation looked considerably worse. The two Japanese bombs that hit the stern caused extensive trouble. The first of these had torn open the main ventilation duct in the hold, letting in heavy black smoke that billowed into the wheelhouse. Although the engineers immediately shut off and sealed the ventilation, they soon began to suffocate from lack of fresh air. As soon as they turned the fans back on, the entire room immediately filled with smoke and chemicals used in the firefighting. It was only a short time before the last man manning the steering machine collapsed. The rudder remained locked in the 20 degree right position and no one had time to turn on the spare machine. This caused the ship to sail in large circles and was completely out of control, almost causing a tragedy when the bow of the Enterprise just missed the destroyer Balch by a few yards, all in a situation where another raid or attack by an enemy submarine could be expected at any moment. The bridge was helpless. Fortunately, after half an hour, the first engineer, W. A. Smith, managed to turn on the spare steering engine and get it running. No one aboard the Enterprise, however, knew the danger the ship had narrowly escaped. At 16:45, a second wave of Nagumo aircraft, consisting of 18 dive-bombers and nine torpedo planes, was heading for the carrier. The formation flew a 140-degree course that would have taken it directly over the damaged Enterprise. A few minutes later, the formation suddenly changed course 40 degrees south, apparently due to a navigational error, after which the Japanese aircraft began to move away from Enterprise. Soon thereafter, the commander of the Japanese formation, Corvette Captain Murata, determined that if his planes were to return safely to their mother craft, the search would have to be aborted due to fuel loss and a northwest course back to the waiting Nagumo. The Americans were very lucky this time.
As the radars on Fletcher's ships announced the approaching Japanese aircraft just after sixteen o'clock, the last bombers from Saratoga suddenly took off. It was two dive dauntlesses and five torpedo avengers that were the only ones to find and attack Vice Admiral Kondo's advance party at 1735, 70 miles from Stewart Island. The torpedo planes targeted the cruiser column, unfortunately all the torpedoes ended up harmlessly in the sea. The two dive-bombers piloted by Lieutenant Elder and Ensign Gordon fared better. They targeted a second cluster of enemy vessels, specifically the mother ship for the Chitose seaplanes, thinking it was a battleship. At 17:40, the two pilots launched a raid and the two half-ton bombs, although not directly hitting the seaplane carrier, exploded just off its sides. As this type of ship is not heavily armoured, both bombs caused a hull breach in the aft engine room. The flooded engine room and the seven-degree list completely disabled the ship from further participation in the operation.
At 8:05 p.m., Aug. 24, 1942, as the last planes landed on the decks of the American carriers,
Vice Admiral Fletcher gave the order to withdraw both task forces and sail south to rendezvous with the waiting tankers. This ended the engagement, known as the Battle of the Eastern Solomons, for the 61st Strike Group. The cause of Fletcher's retreat was a well-founded fear of Japanese guns and torpedoes. Although the Ryukyus had been sunk and many Japanese aircraft shot down, Vice Admiral Kondo was left with a massive firepower of battleship and cruiser guns, as well as an untouched supply of torpedoes. In this respect, the Americans were not an equal partner to the Japanese, and so Fletcher opted for a tactical retreat, perfectly burning the Japanese admirals' pond as they planned to shoot it down in a night raid.
In the meantime, Vice Admiral Kondo regrouped his task force and headed south at high speed, into the area of anticipated American presence. However, unable to locate them until 24:00 and fearing that to continue further south would mean coming within range of enemy aircraft launching from ground bases in the early morning light, he ordered a return to Truk Base, which occurred on 28 Aug. The damaged Chitose was temporarily repaired by the Japanese and docked at Truk Base on 30 Aug.
Contradmirál Raisó Tanaka
The Tenacious Tanaka
The last group in the KA operation that remained to continue to carry out the task assigned to it was Rear Admiral Tanaka's convoy consisting of the 9300 ton transport ship Kinrju Maru, four transport destroyers and a covering division of eight destroyers with the light cruiser Jincu. Throughout the day of 24 Aug, Tanaka sailed steadily south towards Guadalcanal. When he learned at 2400 that the main force of the Combined Fleet was leaving the battlefield, it did nothing to sway his decision to continue his mission and press on. Early in the morning of 25 August he sent a group of five destroyers to the Lunga salient, with the task of shelling the enemy positions.
The Guadalcanal airmen knew, of course, that there were clusters of enemy vessels operating in the waters of the southern Solomons, and so at first light on 25 Aug a group of 36 dive-bombers took off from Henderson Airfield, with the aim of attacking mainly enemy carriers. As the search proved futile, the returning aircraft sighted Rear Admiral Tanaka's group directly below them at 0935. The planes immediately launched an attack. Second Lieutenant L. Baldinus placed a half-ton bomb directly between the two forward gun turrets of the light cruiser Jincu, which was immediately badly damaged and 61 sailors were killed. Thanks to the heroic performance of the crew, the ship did not sink. Another American bomb hit the transport Kinrju Maru, which caught fire and stopped. Moments later, eight flying fortress B-17s from the Espiritu Santo base in the New Hebrides appeared on the scene, high in the sky, showering Tanaka's convoy with a barrage of bombs. The destroyer Mucuki was hit by three bombs and sank at 11:40 a.m. This was the final punctuation to Operation KA and the Battle of the Eastern Solomons. Shortly thereafter, Tanaka was ordered to abort the operation and withdraw to Faisi Base on Shortland Island south of Bougainville.
Headquarters in Rabaul finally understood that transporting reinforcements to Guadalcanal in broad daylight was a suicidal business. Thus, the Battle of the Eastern Solomons did not end in a major success for either side, but it can still generally be said that the strategic victory was on the side of the Americans. The Japanese failed to reinforce the Guadalcanal garrison, and the losses suffered in the battle were much higher on the Japanese side. The Japanese lost the light carrier Ryuzhō and the destroyer Mutsuki. The seaplane carrier Chitose and the cruiser Jincu were damaged. Most painful for the Japanese was the loss of many experienced pilots, which Tokyo found increasingly difficult to replace.
Sources and literature used:
Hart, Basil Liddell, History of the Second World War, Jota Ltd. ISBN: 80-7217-117-9
Keegan, John, The Second World War, Pavel Dobrovský - Beta publishing house Prague-Plzeň 2003
Hubacek, Miloš, Pacific in flames, Mladá fronta, third edition Prague 2003 ISBN: 80-204-0642-5
Hubacek, Miloš, Vítězství v Pacifiku, Panorama Prague 1985
Griffith, Samuel B.: Bitva o Guadalcanal Prague, 1970
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