Battle of Cape Esperance


Battle of Cape Esperance

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Battle of Cape Esperance


caption=The heavily damaged Japanese cruiser "Aoba" disembarks dead and wounded crewmembers near Buin, Bougainville and the Shortland Islands a few hours after the battle on October 12, 1942
partof=the Pacific Theater of World War II
date=October 11, 1942 – October 12, 1942
place=Near Cape Esperance and Savo Island, Guadalcanal
result=United States tactical victory
combatant1=flag|United States|1912
combatant2=flag|Japan|alt
commander1=Robert L. Ghormley,
Norman Scott
commander2=Gunichi Mikawa,
Aritomo GotōKIA,
Takatsugu Jojima
strength1=4 cruisers,
5 destroyers
strength2=3 cruisers,
8 destroyers,
2 seaplane tenders
casualties1=1 destroyer sunk,
1 cruiser,
1 destroyer heavily damaged,
163 killed [Frank, "Guadalcanal", p. 310. Breakdown of U.S. deaths are: "Boise"- 107, "Duncan"- 48, "Salt Lake City"- 5, and "Farenholt"- 3.]
casualties2=1 cruiser,
3 destroyers sunk,
1 cruiser heavily damaged,
341–454 killed,
111 captured [Frank, "Guadalcanal", p. 309. Frank breaks down the Japanese deaths as follows: "Furutaka"- 258, "Aoba"- 79, "Fubuki"- 78 (with 111 caputured), "Murakumo"- 22, and "Natsugumo"- 17. Hackett says 80 were killed on "Aoba" in addition to Gotō and 33 were killed and 110 missing on "Furutaka".] |

The Battle of Cape Esperance, also known as the Second Battle of Savo Island and, in Japanese sources, as the Nihongo|Sea Battle of Savo Island|サボ島沖海戦, took place October 11 – 12, 1942, and was a naval battle of the Pacific campaign of World War II between the Imperial Japanese Navy and United States Navy. The battle was the third of five major naval engagements during the Guadalcanal campaign and took place at the entrance to the strait between Savo Island and Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands.

On the night of October 11, Japanese naval forces in the Solomon Islands area, under the command of Gunichi Mikawa, sent a major supply and reinforcement convoy to their forces on Guadalcanal. The convoy consisted of two seaplane tenders and six destroyers and was commanded by Rear Admiral Takatsugu Jojima. At the same time but in a separate operation, three heavy cruisers and two destroyers under the command of Rear Admiral Aritomo Gotō were to bombard the Allied airfield on Guadalcanal (called Henderson Field by the Allies) with the object of destroying Allied aircraft and the airfield's facilities.

Shortly before midnight on October 11, a U.S force of four cruisers and five destroyers, under the command of Rear Admiral Norman Scott, intercepted Gotō's force as it approached Savo Island near Guadalcanal. Taking the Japanese by surprise, Scott's warships sank one of Gotō's cruisers and one of his destroyers, heavily damaged another cruiser, mortally wounded Gotō, and forced the rest of Gotō's warships to abandon the bombardment mission and retreat. During the exchange of gunfire, one of Scott's destroyers was sunk and one cruiser and another destroyer were heavily damaged. In the meantime, the Japanese supply convoy successfully completed unloading at Guadalcanal and began its return journey without being discovered by Scott's force. Later on the morning of October 12, four Japanese destroyers from the supply convoy turned-back to assist Gotō's retreating, damaged warships. Air attacks by U.S. aircraft from Henderson Field sank two of these destroyers later that day.

Despite Scott's victory in the action, the battle had little immediate, strategic implications. Just two nights later two Japanese battleships bombarded and almost destroyed Henderson Field, and more Japanese reinforcements were successfully delivered to the island.

Background

On August 7, 1942 Allied forces (primarily U.S.) landed on Guadalcanal, Tulagi, and Florida Islands in the Solomon Islands. The objective was to deny the islands to the Japanese as bases for threatening the supply routes between the U.S. and Australia, and secure starting points for a campaign to isolate the major Japanese base at Rabaul while also supporting the Allied New Guinea campaign. The Guadalcanal campaign would last six months. [Hogue, "Pearl Harbor to Guadalcanal", p. 235–236.]

Taking the Japanese by surprise, by nightfall on August 8, the Allied forces, mainly consisting of U. S. Marines, had secured Tulagi and nearby small islands, as well as an airfield under construction at Lunga Point on Guadalcanal (later completed and named Henderson Field). Allied aircraft operating out of Henderson became known as the "Cactus Air Force" (CAF) after the Allied codename for Guadalcanal. [Morison, "Struggle for Guadalcanal", pp. 14–15 and Shaw, "First Offensive", p. 18. Henderson Field was named after Major Lofton R. Henderson, a Marine aviator killed during the Battle of Midway.]

In response, the Japanese Imperial General Headquarters assigned the Imperial Japanese Army's 17th Army, a corps-sized formation headquartered at Rabaul under Lieutenant-General Harukichi Hyakutake, with the task of retaking Guadalcanal. Beginning August 19, 1942, various units of the 17th Army began to arrive on the island. [Griffith, "Battle for Guadalcanal", p. 96–99, Dull, "Imperial Japanese Navy", p. 225.]

Because of the threat by CAF aircraft, the Japanese were unable to use large, slow transport ships to deliver their troops and supplies to the island, and warships were used instead. These, mainly light cruisers or destroyers, were usually able to make the round trip down "The Slot" to Guadalcanal and back in a single night, thereby minimizing their exposure to CAF attacks. Delivering troops in this manner, however, prevented most of the heavy equipment and supplies, such as heavy artillery, vehicles, and much food and ammunition, from being delivered. In addition, they expended destroyers that were desperately needed for commerce defense. These high speed runs occurred throughout the campaign and were later called the "Tokyo Express" by the Allies and "Rat Transportation" by the Japanese. [Frank, "Guadalcanal", p. 202, 210–211.]

The Japanese controlled the seas around the Solomon Islands during the nighttime. However, any Japanese ship remaining within range of the Caf during the daylight hours (about 200 miles (322 km)) was in danger. This situation existed for several months during the campaign. [Morison, "Struggle for Guadalcanal", p. 113–114.]

The first attempt by the Japanese Army to recapture Henderson Field was on August 21, 1942, in the Battle of the Tenaru, and the next, the Battle of Edson's Ridge, lasting September 12 through September 14; both failed. [Frank, "Guadalcanal", p. 141–143, 156–158, 228–246, & 681.]

The Japanese set their next major attempt to recapture Henderson Field for October 20 and moved most of the 2nd and 38th Infantry Divisions, totalling 17,500 troops, from the Dutch East Indies to Rabaul in preparation for delivering them to Guadalcanal. Between September 14 and October 9, numerous Tokyo Express runs delivered troops from the Japanese 2nd Infantry Division as well as General Hyakutake to Guadalcanal. In addition to cruisers and destroyers, some of these runs included the Japanese seaplane tender "Nisshin" to deliver heavy equipment to the island including vehicles and heavy artillery other warships could not carry because of space limitations. The Japanese Navy promised to support the Army's planned offensive by delivering the necessary troops, equipment, and supplies to the island, and by stepping up air attacks on Henderson Field and sending warships to bombard the airfield. [Rottman, "Japanese Army", p. 61; Griffith, "Battle for Guadalcanal", p. 152; Frank, "Guadalcanal", p. 224, 251–254, 266–268, & 289–290; Dull, "Imperial Japanese Navy", p. 225–226; and Smith, "Bloody Ridge", p. 132 & 158.]

In the meantime, Major General Millard F. Harmon, commander of United States Army forces in the South Pacific, convinced Vice Admiral Robert L. Ghormley, overall commander of Allied forces in the South Pacific, Marines on Guadalcanal needed to be reinforced immediately if the Allies were to successfully defend the island from the next expected Japanese offensive. Thus, on October 8, the 2,837 men of the 164th Infantry Regiment from the U.S. Army's Americal Division boarded ships at New Caledonia for the trip to Guadalcanal with a projected arrival date of October 13. [Frank, "Guadalcanal", p. 293; Cook, "Cape Esperance", p. 19–20; Morison, "Struggle for Guadalcanal", p. 147–148; and Dull, "Imperial Japanese Navy", p. 225.]

To protect the transports carrying the 164th to Guadalcanal, Ghormley ordered Task Force 64, consisting of four cruisers, USS "San Francisco", USS "Boise", USS "Salt Lake City", and USS "Helena", and five destroyers, USS "Farenholt", USS "Duncan", USS "Buchanan", USS "McCalla", and USS "Laffey", under U.S. Rear Admiral Norman Scott, to intercept and combat any Japanese ships approaching Guadalcanal and threatening the convoy. Scott conducted one night battle practice with his ships on October 8, then took station south of Guadalcanal near Rennell Island on October 9, to await word of any Japanese naval movement towards the southern Solomons. [Cook, "Cape Esperance", p. 16 and 19–20; Frank, "Guadalcanal", p. 295–297; Morison, "Struggle for Guadalcanal", p. 148–149; and Dull, "Imperial Japanese Navy", p. 225. Since not all of the Task Force 64 warships were available, Scott's force was designated as Task Group 64.2. The U.S. destroyers were from Squadron 12, commanded by Captain Robert G. Tobin in "Farenholt".]

Continuing with preparations for the October offensive, Japanese Vice Admiral Gunichi Mikawa's Eighth Fleet staff, headquartered at Rabaul, scheduled a large and "singularly important" Tokyo Express supply run for the night of October 11. "Nisshin" would be joined by seaplane tender "Chitose" to deliver 728 soldiers, four large howitzers, two field guns, one antiaircraft gun, and a large assortment of ammunition and other equipment from the Japanese naval bases in the Shortland Islands and at Buin, Bougainville, to Guadalcanal. Six destroyers, five of them carrying troops, would accompany "Nisshin" and "Chitose". The supply convoy, called the "Reinforcement Group" by the Japanese, was under the command of Rear Admiral Takatsugu Jojima. At the same time but in a separate operation the three heavy cruisers of Cruiser Division 6 (CruDiv6), "Aoba", "Kinugasa", and "Furutaka", under the command of Rear Admiral Aritomo Gotō, were to bombard Henderson Field with special explosive shells with the object of destroying the CAF and the airfield's facilities. Two screening destroyers, "Fubuki" and "Hatsuyuki", accompanied CruDiv6. Since U.S. Navy warships had yet to attempt to interdict any Tokyo Express missions to Guadalcanal, the Japanese were not expecting any opposition from U.S. naval surface forces that night. [Frank, "Guadalcanal", p. 295–296; Hackett, "HIJMS Aoba: Tabular Record of Movement"; Cook, "Cape Esperance", p. 31 and 57; Morison, "Struggle for Guadalcanal", p. 149–151; D'Albas, "Death of a Navy", p. 183; and Dull, "Imperial Japanese Navy", p. 226. "CombinedFleet.com" states Jojima commanded the reinforcement convoy. Other accounts, however, state the commanding offier of "Nisshin" commanded the convoy and Jojima was not present. Jojima may have issued orders to the convoy from elsewhere in the Solomon Islands.]

Battle

Prelude

. Gotō departed the Shortland Islands for Guadalcanal at 14:00 the same day. [Cook, "Cape Esperance", p. 31–32 and 57; Frank, "Guadalcanal", p. 296; Morison, "Struggle for Guadalcanal", p. 150–151; and Hackett, "IJN Seaplane Tender" Chitose.]

To protect the reinforcement group's approach to Guadalcanal from the CAF, the Japanese 11th Air Fleet, based at Rabaul, Kavieng, and Buin, planned two air strikes on Henderson Field for October 11. A "fighter sweep" of 17 A6M Zeros swept over Henderson Field just after mid-day but failed to engage any U.S. aircraft. Forty-five minutes later the second wave, 45 "Betty" bombers and 30 Zeros, arrived over Henderson Field. In an ensuing air battle with the CAF, one Betty and two U.S. fighters were downed. Although the Japanese attacks failed to inflict significant damage, they did prevent CAF bombers from finding and attacking the reinforcement group. As the reinforcement group transited the Slot, relays of 11th Air Fleet Zeros from Buin provided escort. Emphasizing the importance of this convoy for Japanese plans, the last flight of the day was ordered to remain on station over the convoy until darkness, then ditch their aircraft and await pickup by the reinforcement group's destroyers. All six Zeros ditched; only one pilot was recovered. [Frank, "Guadalcanal", pp.295–296; Cook, "Cape Esperance", pp.32–33; Morison, "Struggle for Guadalcanal", pp.149–150. Frank says five weren't recovered, but Cook says only one wasn't .]

Allied reconnaissance aircraft sighted Jojima's supply convoy 210 miles (338 km) from Guadalcanal between Kolombangara and Choiseul in the Slot at 14:45 on the same day and reported it as two "cruisers" and six destroyers. Gotō's force, following the convoy, was not sighted. In response to the sighting of Jojima's force, at 16:07 Scott turned toward Guadalcanal for an interception. [Cook, "Cape Esperance", pp.19 and 31; Frank, "Guadalcanal", p.296; Morison, "Struggle for Guadalcanal", p.150; Dull, "Imperial Japanese Navy", p.226; and Hackett, "IJN Seaplane Tender" Chitose.]

Up to this point, the Allies had lost every surface night battle with the Japanese navy, losing eight cruisers and three destroyers without sinking a single Japanese warship. Aware of the Japanese advantage in night fighting, Scott crafted a simple battle plan for the expected engagement. His ships would steam in column with his destroyers at the front and rear of his cruiser column. The destroyers were to illuminate any targets with searchlights and discharge torpedoes while the cruisers were to open fire at any available targets without awaiting orders. The cruiser's float aircraft, launched in advance, were to find and illuminate the Japanese warships with flares. Although "Helena" and "Boise" carried the new, greatly improved SG radar, Scott chose "San Francisco" as his flagship. [Frank, "Guadalcanal", pp.293–294; Cook, "Cape Esperance", p.22–23, 25–27, and 37; and Morison, "Struggle for Guadalcanal", pp.149.]

At 22:00, as Scott's ships neared Cape Hunter at the northwest end of Guadalcanal, three of Scott's cruisers launched floatplanes. One crashed on takeoff, but the other two patrolled over Savo Island, Guadalcanal, and Ironbottom Sound. As the floatplanes were launched, Jojima's force was just passing around the mountainous northwestern shoulder of Guadalcanal, and neither force sighted each other. At 22:20, Jojima radioed Gotō and told him that no U.S. ships were in the vicinity. Although Jojima's force later heard Scott's floatplanes overhead while unloading along the north shore of Guadalcanal, they failed to report this to Gotō. [Cook, "Cape Esperance", pp.25–29, 33, and 60; Frank, "Guadalcanal", pp.298–299; Dull, "Imperial Japanese Navy", p.226; and Morison, "Struggle for Guadalcanal", pp.152–153.]

At 22:33, just after passing Cape Esperance, Scott's ships assumed battle formation. The column was led by "Farenholt", "Duncan", and "Laffey", and followed by "San Francisco", "Boise", "Salt Lake City", and "Helena". "Buchanan" and "McCalla" brought up the rear. The distance between each ship ranged from 500 yards (457 m) to 700 yards (640 m). Visibility was poor because the moon had already set, leaving no ambient light and no visible sea horizon. [Cook, "Cape Esperance", pp.20, 26, and 36; Frank, "Guadalcanal", p.298; Morison, "Struggle for Guadalcanal", pp.152–153.]

Gotō's force passed through several rain squalls as they approached Guadalcanal at 30 knots (56 km/h). Gotō's flagship "Aoba" led the Japanese cruisers in column, followed by "Furutaka" and "Kinugasa". "Fubuki" was starboard of "Aoba" and "Hatsuyuki" to port. At 23:30, Gotō's ships emerged from the last rain squall and began appearing on the radar scopes of "Helena" and "Salt Lake City". The Japanese, however, remained unaware of Scott's presence. [Frank, "Guadalcanal", p.299; Cook, "Cape Esperance", pp.58–60; Morison, "Struggle for Guadalcanal", pp.152–153.]

Action

At 23:00, the "San Francisco" aircraft spotted Jojima's force off Guadalcanal and reported it to Scott. Scott, believing that more Japanese ships were likely still on the way, continued his course towards the west side of Savo Island. At 23:33, Scott ordered his column to turn towards the southwest to a heading of 230 degrees. All of Scott's ships understood the order as a column movement except Scott's own ship, "San Francisco". As the three lead U.S. destroyers executed the column movement, "San Francisco" turned simultaneously. "Boise", following immediately behind, followed "San Francisco", thereby throwing the three van destroyers out of formation. [Cook, "Cape Esperance", p. 38–42, Frank, "Guadalcanal", p. 299, Morison, "Struggle for Guadalcanal", p. 153–156.]

At 23:32 "Helena's" radar showed the Japanese warships to be about 27,700 yards (25,329 m) away. At 23:35, "Boise's" and "Duncan's" radars also detected Gotō's ships. Between 23:42 and 23:44, "Helena" and "Boise" reported their contacts to Scott on "San Francisco" who mistakenly believed that the two cruisers were actually tracking the three U.S. destroyers that were thrown out of formation during the column turn. Scott radioed "Farenholt" to ask if the destroyer was attempting to resume its station at the front of the column. "Farenholt" replied, "Affirmative, coming up on your starboard side," further confirming Scott's belief that the radar contacts were his own destroyers. [Frank, "Guadalcanal", p. 299–301, Cook, "Cape Esperance", p. 42–43, 45–47, 51–53, Morison, "Struggle for Guadalcanal", p. 154–156.]

At 23:45 "Farenholt" and "Laffey", still unaware of Gotō's approaching warships, increased speed to resume their stations at the front of the U.S. column. "Duncan's" crew, however, thinking that "Farenholt" and "Laffey" were commencing an attack on the Japanese warships, increased speed to launch a solitary torpedo attack on Gotō's force without telling Scott what they were doing. "San Francisco's" radar registered the Japanese ships, but Scott was not informed of the sighting. By 23:45, Gotō's ships were only 5,000 yards (4,572 m) away from Scott's formation and visible to "Helena's" and "Salt Lake City's" lookouts. The U.S. formation at this point was in position to cross the T of the Japanese formation, giving Scott's ships a significant tactical advantage. At 23:46, still assuming that Scott was aware of the rapidly approaching Japanese warships, "Helena" radioed for permission to open fire, using the general procedure request, "Interrogatory Roger" (meaning, basically, "Are we clear to act?"). Scott answered with, "Roger," only meaning that the message was received, not that he was confirming the request to act. Upon receipt of Scott's "Roger," "Helena", thinking they now had permission, opened fire, quickly followed by "Boise", "Salt Lake City", and to Scott's surprise, "San Francisco". [Cook, "Cape Esperance", p. 42–50, 53–56, 71, Frank, "Guadalcanal", p. 300–301, D'Albas, "Death of a Navy", p. 184, Dull, "Imperial Japanese Navy", p. 227–228, and Morison, "Struggle for Guadalcanal", p. 156–157.]

Gotō's force was taken almost completely by surprise. At 23:43 "Aoba's" lookouts sighted Scott's force, but Gotō assumed that they were Jojima's ships. Two minutes later, "Aoba's" lookouts identified the ships as American, but Gotō remained skeptical and directed his ships to flash indentification signals. As "Aoba's" crew executed Gotō's order, the first American salvo smashed into "Aoba's" superstructure. "Aoba" was quickly hit by up to 40 shells from "Helena", "Salt Lake City", "San Francisco", "Farenholt", and "Laffey". The shell hits heavily damaged "Aoba's" communications systems and demolished two of her main gun turrets as well as her main gun director. Several large-caliber projectiles passed through "Aoba's" flag bridge without exploding, but the force of their passage killed many men and mortally wounded Gotō. [Frank, "Guadalcanal", p. 301–302, Cook, "Cape Esperance", p. 68–70, 83–84, Dull, "Imperial Japanese Navy", p. 226–227, D'Albas, "Death of a Navy", p. 186, and Morison, "Struggle for Guadalcanal", p. 158–160.]

Scott, still unsure who his ships were firing at, and afraid that they might be firing on his own destroyers, ordered a ceasefire at 23:47, although not every ship complied. Scott ordered "Farenholt" to flash her recognition signals and upon observing that "Farenholt" was close to his formation, he ordered the fire resumed at 23:51. [Cook, "Cape Esperance", p. 70–77, Frank, "Guadalcanal", p. 302, Morison, "Struggle for Guadalcanal", p. 158–160.]

"Aoba", continuing to receive damaging hits, turned to starboard to head away from Scott's formation and began making a smoke screen which led most of the Scott's ships to believe that she was sinking. Scott's ships shifted their fire to "Furutaka", which was following behind "Aoba". At 21:49 "Furutaka" was hit in her torpedo tubes, igniting a large fire that attracted even more shellfire from Scott's ships. At 23:58, a torpedo from "Buchanan" hit "Furutaka" in her forward engine room, causing severe damage. During this time, "San Francisco" and "Boise" sighted "Fubuki" about 1,400 yards (1,280 m) away and raked her with shellfire, joined soon by most of the rest of Scott's ships. Heavily damaged, "Fubuki" began to sink. "Kinugasa" and "Hatsuyuki" turned to port instead of to starboard and escaped the immediate attention of Scott's ships. [Frank, "Guadalcanal", p. 302–304, Cook, "Cape Esperance", p. 73–79, 83–86, Dull, "Imperial Japanese Navy", p. 228, Morison, "Struggle for Guadalcanal", p. 160–162.]

During the exchange of gunfire, "Farenholt" received several damaging hits from both the Japanese and American ships, killing several men. She escaped from the crossfire by crossing ahead of "San Francisco"' and passing to the disengaged side of Scott's column. "Duncan", still engaged in her solitary torpedo attack on the Japanese formation, was also hit by gunfire from both sides, set afire, and looped away in her own effort to escape the crossfire. [Cook, "Cape Esperance", p. 80–84, 106–108, Frank, "Guadalcanal", p. 303–304, Morison, "Struggle for Guadalcanal, p. 161–162.]

As Gotō's ships endeavored to escape, Scott's ships tightened their formation and then turned to pursue the retreating Japanese warships. At 00:06, two torpedoes from "Kinugasa" barely missed "Boise". "Boise" and "Salt Lake City" turned on their searchlights to help target the Japanese ships, giving "Kinugasa's" gunners clear targets. At 00:10, two shells from "Kinugasa" exploded in "Boise's" main ammunition magazine between turrets one and two. The resulting explosion killed almost 100 men and threatened to blow the ship apart. Seawater rushed in through rents in her hull opened by the explosion and helped quench the fire before it could explode the ship's powder magazines. "Boise" immediately sheered out of the column and retreated from the action. "Kinugasa" and "Salt Lake City" exchanged fire with each other, each hitting the other several times, causing minor damage to "Kinugasa" and damaging one of "Salt Lake City's" boilers, reducing her speed. [Frank, "Guadalcanal", p. 304–305, Cook, "Cape Esperance", p. 74–75, 88–95, 100–105, Dull, "Imperial Japanese Navy", p. 228–229, and Morison, "Struggle for Guadalcanal", p. 162–165.]

At 00:16 Scott ordered his ships to turn to a heading of 330 degrees in an attempt to pursue the fleeing Japanese ships. Scott's ships, however, quickly lost sight of Gotō's ships, and all firing ceased by 00:20. The American formation was beginning to scatter, so Scott ordered a turn to 205 degrees to disengage. [Cook, "Cape Esperance", p. 96–97, Frank, "Guadalcanal", p. 306, Morison, "Struggle for Guadalcanal", p. 163–166.]

Retreat

During the battle between Scott's and Gotō's ships, Jojima's reinforcement group completed unloading at Guadalcanal and began its return journey unseen by Scott's warships, using a route that passed south of the Russell Islands and New Georgia. Despite extensive damage, "Aoba" was able to join "Kinugasa" in retirement to the north through the Slot. "Furutaka's" damage caused her to lose power around 00:50, and she sank at 02:28, 22 miles (35 km) northwest of Savo Island. "Hatsuyuki" picked up "Furutaka's" survivors and joined the retreat northward. [Cook, "Cape Esperance", p. 58, 97–98, 111, 120, Frank, "Guadalcanal", p. 306–307, D'Albas, "Death of a Navy", p. 187, Dull, "Imperial Japanese Navy", p. 229, and Morison, "Struggle for Guadalcanal", p. 168–169.]

"Boise" extinguished her fires by 02:40 and at 03:05 rejoined Scott's formation. "Duncan", on fire, was abandoned by her crew at 02:00. Unaware of "Duncan's" fate, Scott detached "McCalla" to search for her and retired with the rest of his ships towards Nouméa, arriving in the afternoon of October 13. "McCalla" located the burning, abandoned "Duncan" about 03:00, and several members of "McCalla's" crew made an attempt to keep her from sinking. By 12:00, however, they had to abandon the effort as interior bulkheads within "Duncan" collapsed causing the ship to finally sink 6 miles (10 km) north of Savo Island. American servicemen in boats from Guadalcanal as well as "McCalla" picked up "Duncan's" scattered survivors from the sea around Savo. In total, 195 "Duncan" sailors survived; 48 did not. As they rescued "Duncan's" crew, the Americans came across the more than 100 "Fubuki" survivors, floating in the same general area. The Japanese initially refused all rescue attempts but a day later allowed themselves to be picked up and taken prisoner. [Frank, "Guadalcanal", p. 307–308, Cook, "Cape Esperance", p. 95–96, 108–110, 114–130, 135–138, Morison, "Struggle for Guadalcanal", p. 166–169.]

s accompanied by 14 Wildcats found the two Japanese destroyers 170 miles (274 km) from Guadalcanal. In the ensuing attack, "Murakumo" was hit by a torpedo in her engineering spaces, leaving her without power. In the meantime, "Aoba" and "Hatsuyuki" reached the sanctuary of the Japanese base in the Shortland Islands at 10:00. [Cook, "Cape Esperance", p. 111, 120–122, Frank, "Guadalcanal", p. 308–309, Morison, "Struggle for Guadalcanal", p. 169.]

Rushing to assist "Murakumo", "Asagumo" and "Natsugumo" were attacked by another group of 11 CAF SBDs and TBFs escorted by 12 fighters at 15:45. An SBD placed its bomb almost directly amidships on "Natsugumo" while two more near misses contributed to her severe damage. After "Asagumo" took off her survivors, "Natsugumo" sank at 16:27. The CAF aircraft also scored several more hits on the stationary "Murakumo", setting her afire. After her crew abandoned ship, "Shirayuki" scuttled her with a torpedo, picked up her survivors, and joined the rest of the Japanese warships for the remainder of their return trip to the Shortland Islands. [Frank, "Guadalcanal", p. 309, Cook, "Cape Esperance", p. 130–131, Dull, "Imperial Japanese Navy", p. 230, and Morison, "Struggle for Guadalcanal", p. 169.]

Aftermath and significance

Captain Kikunori Kijima, Gotō's chief of staff and commander of the bombardment force during the return trip to the Shortland Islands after Gotō's death in battle, claimed that his force had sunk two American cruisers and one destroyer. "Furutaka's" captain, who survived the sinking of his ship, blamed the loss of his cruiser on bad air reconnaissance and poor leadership from the 8th fleet staff under Admiral Mikawa. Although Gotō's bombardment mission failed, Jojima's reinforcement convoy was successful in delivering the crucial men and equipment to Guadalcanal. "Aoba" journeyed to Kure, Japan, for repairs that were completed on February 15, 1943. "Kinugasa" was sunk one month later during the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal. [Frank, "Guadalcanal", p. 309–312, Hackett, "HIJMS Aoba", Morison, "Struggle for Guadalcanal", p. 169–171.]

. [Frank, "Guadalcanal", p. 311, Cook, "Cape Esperance", p. 140–144, Morison, "Struggle for Guadalcanal", p. 170–171.]

Although a tactical victory for the U.S., Cape Esperance had little immediate, strategic effect on the situation on Guadalcanal. Just two days later on the night of October 13, the Japanese battleships "Kongō" and "Haruna" bombarded and almost destroyed Henderson Field. One day after that, a large Japanese convoy successfully delivered 4,500 troops and equipment to the island. These troops and equipment helped complete Japanese preparations for the large land offensive, scheduled to begin on October 23. The convoy of U.S. Army troops reached Guadalcanal on October 13 as planned and were key participants for the Allied side in the decisive land battle for Henderson Field that took place October 23, 1942 – October 26, 1942. [Frank, "Guadalcanal", p. 313–324, Cook, "Cape Esperance", p. 150–151, Dull, "Imperial Japanese Navy", p. 230, and Morison, "Struggle for Guadalcanal", p. 171.]

The Cape Esperance victory helped prevent an accurate U.S. assessment of Japanese skills and tactics in naval night fighting. The U.S. was still unaware of the range and power of Japanese torpedoes, the effectiveness of Japanese night optics, and the skilled fighting ability of most Japanese destroyer and cruiser commanders. Incorrectly applying the perceived lessons learned from this battle, U.S. commanders in future naval night battles in the Solomons consistently tried to prove that American naval gunfire was more effective than Japanese torpedo attacks. This belief was severely tested just two months later during the Battle of Tassafaronga, in which Japanese torpedoes inflicted one of the worst defeats suffered by the U.S. Navy in its history. In retrospect, it appears that luck may have had as much to do with Scott's victory at Cape Esperance as the complacency that allowed Gotō's ships to be surprised by Scott's force. A junior officer on "Helena" later wrote, "Cape Esperance was a three-sided battle in which chance was the major winner." [Cook, "Cape Esperance", p. 59, 147–151, Frank, "Guadalcanal", p. 310–312, Morison, "Struggle for Guadalcanal", p. 170–171.]

Notes

References

*cite book
last = Cook
first = Charles O.
authorlink =
year = 1992 (Reissue)
title = The Battle of Cape Esperance: Encounter at Guadalcanal
publisher = Naval Institute Press
location =
id = ISBN 1-55750-126-2

*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 = Frank
first = Richard B.
authorlink = Richard B. Frank
year = 1990
title = Guadalcanal : The Definitive Account of the Landmark Battle
publisher = Penguin Group
location = New York
id = ISBN 0-14-016561-4

*cite book
last = Griffith
first = Samuel B.
authorlink = Samuel B. Griffith
coauthors =
year = 1963
chapter =
title = The Battle for Guadalcanal
publisher = University of Illinois Press
location = Champaign, Illinois, USA
id = ISBN 0-252-06891-2

*cite book
last = Morison
first = Samuel Eliot
authorlink = Samuel Eliot Morison
coauthors =
year = 1958
chapter = Chapter 8
title = The Struggle for Guadalcanal, August 1942 – February 1943", vol. 5 of "History of United States Naval Operations in World War II
publisher = Little, Brown and Company
location = Boston
id = ISBN 0-316-58305-7

*cite book
last = Rottman
first = Gordon L.
authorlink =
coauthors = Dr. Duncan Anderson (consultant editor)
year = 2005
chapter =
title = Japanese Army in World War II: The South Pacific and New Guinea, 1942–43
publisher = Osprey
location = Oxford and New York
id = ISBN 1-84176-870-7

External links

*cite web
last = Hackett
first = Bob
coauthors =Sander Kingsepp
year =
url = http://www.combinedfleet.com/aoba_t.htm
title = HIJMS Aoba: Tabular Record of Movement
work = Imperial Japanese Navy Page (CombinedFleet.com)
accessdate = 2006-06-14

*cite web
last = Hackett
first = Bob
coauthors =Sander Kingsepp
year = 1998–2006
url = http://www.combinedfleet.com/chitosesp_t.htm
title = IJN Seaplane Tender Chitose: Tabular Record of Movement
work = Imperial Japanese Navy Page (CombinedFleet.com)
accessdate = 2006-06-14

*cite web
last = Hackett
first = Bob
coauthors =Sander Kingsepp
year =
url = http://www.combinedfleet.com/furuta_t.htm
title = HIJMS Furutaka: Tabular Record of Movement
work = Imperial Japanese Navy Page (CombinedFleet.com)
accessdate = 2006-06-14

*cite web
last = Hackett
first = Bob
coauthors =Sander Kingsepp
year =
url = http://www.combinedfleet.com/kinugasa_t.htm
title = HIJMS Kinugasa: Tabular Record of Movement
work = Imperial Japanese Navy Page (CombinedFleet.com)
accessdate = 2006-06-14

*cite web
last = Horan
first = Mark
year =
url = http://www.navweaps.com/index_oob/OOB_WWII_Pacific/OOB_WWII_Cape-Esperance.htm
title = "Battle of Cape Esperance"
work = Order of Battle
accessdate = 2006-05-17

*cite web
last = Hough
first = Frank O.
authorlink =
coauthors = Ludwig, Verle E., and Shaw, Henry I., Jr.
date =
year =
month =
url = http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USMC/I/index.html
title = Pearl Harbor to Guadalcanal
format =
work = History of U.S. Marine Corps Operations in World War II
pages =
publisher =
language =
accessdate = 2006-05-16
accessyear =

*cite web
last = Lanzendörfer
first = Tim
authorlink =
coauthors =
date =
year =
month =
url = http://www.microworks.net/PACIFIC/battles/cape_esperance.htm
title = Stumbling Into Victory: The Battle of Cape Esperance
format =
work = The Pacific War: The U.S. Navy
pages =
publisher =
language =
accessdate = 2006-05-16
accessyear =

*cite web
last = Nevitt
first = Allyn D.
coauthors =
year = 1998
url = http://www.combinedfleet.com/fubuki_t.htm
title = IJN Fubuki: Tabular Record of Movement
work = Imperial Japanese Navy Page (CombinedFleet.com)
accessdate = 2006-06-14

*cite web
last = Nevitt
first = Allyn D.
coauthors =
year = 1998
url = http://www.combinedfleet.com/hatsuy_t.htm
title = IJN Hatsuyuki: Tabular Record of Movement
work = Imperial Japanese Navy Page (CombinedFleet.com)
accessdate = 2006-06-14

*cite web
last = Nevitt
first = Allyn D.
coauthors =
year = 1998
url = http://www.combinedfleet.com/muraku_t.htm
title = IJN Murakumo: Tabular Record of Movement
work = Imperial Japanese Navy Page (CombinedFleet.com)
accessdate = 2006-06-14

*cite web
last = Nevitt
first = Allyn D.
coauthors =
year = 1998
url = http://www.combinedfleet.com/natsug_t.htm
title = IJN Natsugumo: Tabular Record of Movement
work = Imperial Japanese Navy Page (CombinedFleet.com)
accessdate = 2006-06-14

*cite web
last = Office of Naval Intelligence
first =
year = 1943
url = http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USN/USN-CN-Esperance/index.html
title = "The Battle of Cape Esperance 11 October 1942"
work = Combat Narrative
publisher = Publications Branch, Office of Naval Intelligence, United States Navy
accessdate = 2006-05-17
-somewhat inaccurate on details, since it was written during the war
*cite web
last = Tobin
first = T. G.
coauthors =
date = October 23, 1942
url = http://www.destroyerhistory.org/desron12/capeesperance.html
title = Report of Action off Savo Island, Solomons, Night of 11–12 October, 1942.
work = Destroyer History Home Page (DestroyerHistory.org)
accessdate = 2006-06-14
- Copy of the commander of U.S. Destroyer Squadron 12's after action report.
*cite web
last = Tully
first = Anthony P.
coauthors =
year = 2003
url = http://www.combinedfleet.com/Nisshin.htm
title = IJN Nisshin: Tabular Record of Movement
work = Imperial Japanese Navy Page (CombinedFleet.com)
accessdate = 2006-06-14

Further reading

*cite book
last = Kilpatrick
first = C. W.
authorlink =
coauthors =
year = 1987
chapter =
title = Naval Night Battles of the Solomons
publisher = Exposition Press
location =
id = ISBN 0-682-40333-4

*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 = Langelo
first = Vincent A.
authorlink =
coauthors =
year = 2000
chapter =
title = With All Our Might: The WWII History of the USS Boise (Cl-47)
publisher = Eakin Pr
location =
id = ISBN 0-316-58305-7

*cite book
last = Lundstrom
first = John B.
coauthors =
year = 2005 (New edition)
chapter =
title = First Team And the Guadalcanal Campaign: Naval Fighter Combat from August to November 1942
publisher = Naval Institute Press
location =
id = ISBN 1-59114-472-8

*cite book
last = Miller
first = Thomas G.
authorlink =
coauthors =
year = 1969
chapter =
title = Cactus Air Force
publisher = Admiral Nimitz Foundation
location =
id = ISBN 0-934841-17-9

*cite book
last = Parkin
first = Robert Sinclair
authorlink =
year = 1995
title = Blood on the Sea: American Destroyers Lost in World War II
publisher = Da Capo Press
location =
id = ISBN 0-306-81069-7

*cite book
last = Poor
first = Henry Varnum
authorlink =
coauthors = Henry A. Mustin & Colin G. Jameson
year = 1994
chapter =
title = The Battles of Cape Esperance, 11 October 1942 and Santa Cruz Islands, 26 October 1942 (Combat Narratives. Solomon Islands Campaign, 4–5)
publisher = Naval Historical Center
location =
id = ISBN 0-945274-21-1


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