Titans of the Seas: Chapter 14
- Finale at Guadalcanal
Any jubilation that Yamamoto felt was cast off when he returned his
attention tot he problem of Guadalcanal. So far all of the Japanese
attacks had been held off by the Marines on the islands. Due to the
situation on the Island the Army and the Navy finally agreed to go all
out to reinforce the island. NO more infiltratoin tactics, this time
an entire field army would mount a powerhouse drive. To bring such a
large force into play using destroyers woudl have involved around 800
round trips, but only a 150 if transports were used. This was a giant
problem in logistics no matter how one looked at it, especially for a
transport poor Japan. Even so it was going to be attempted. This
required some effort since transports would be subjected to attacks
from the aircraft at Henderson Field unless it could be neutralized.
Yamamoto had a plan though, he would move one division in transports
and cover this movement with the carriers of the combined fleet. This
would be preceeded by an softening up of Henderson by the bombardment
of two battleships. This time the match ups had changed somewhat.
Halsey was now back on the scene and putting new life in the command.
Despite the damage to the carrier Enterprise, Halsey was once again
moving it into harms way. He was covering it with the Battleships
Washington and South Dakota to provide it with a very formidable AA
The planned bombardment of Henderson Field might have disable the
field enough to make it safe for the transports to run down the slot,
but again the Americans were disrupting the plans of the Japanese. Due
to the fact that this trick had been tried previously with Curisers,
the American's had placed a force of ships in the waters around Savo
Island for just such an event. In these case despite the severe
mauling that the US forces took, they did prevent the primary mission
of the Japanese force and Henderson was not only operational, but
hadn't taken any rounds in the night from this force.
If there was any doubt about the fact that Henderson was still
functioning on the part of the Japanese, the Marine planes that
attacked the Battleship Hiei in the morning put those doubts to rest.
This same dawn found the Enterprise 280 miles off the island of
Guadalcanal. The Enterpirse launched a flight of the new TBFs to scout
out and see if they could find the Japanese carriers known to be in
the area (Junyo and Hiyo), but they came up empty and instead joined
in the attack on the Hiei. This attack helped to seal the fate of this
Japanese battleship which was subjected to attacks for the rest of the
Despite this ominous beginning Yamamoto pressed on with the plan that
he had put forward. For the plan to work though Henderson Field still
had to be neutralized. To do this Mikawa was sent with two heavy and
one light cruiser along with for destroyers to accomplish the task.
Halsey suspecting, or perhaps knowing, that such an event was in the
offing reacted. He did this by dispatching the Fast Battleships from
the Enterprise Task Force and putting them in position around the Savo
Island waters. Waters that were already being called Iron Bottom
Sound. While not a cleanly fought battle it was still one that
resulted in the Japanese primary mission failing. Henderson Field was
still in full operation the next day.
Now it was the transports turn to come in for trouble. These attacks
came from the very field that so much effort had been taken to
disable. There was some fighting with covering Zeros that were from
either of the two Japanese carriers in the area, but they didn't prove
to be of much hinderance in these attacks. The planes from the
Enterprise also joined in on these efforts. Of the origianal 11
transports only four were left after the attacks finished. Of those
lost all but one was sunk. The Japanese destroyers were only able to
fish out half of the troops that had gone into the water as the
transports sank. The losses from this attempt were staggering.
This battle finally caused some rethinking about holding Guadalcanal
on the upper commands of the Japanese. It took some time, but finally
it was agreed it was time to pull the troops out of Guadalcanal. The
Americans had finally moved from playing only defense to conducting
offensive operations. The time wasn't arrived with the Americans could
dictate the flow and tempo of operations but they were no longer
playing only to the Japanese tune.