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1962_07_28--022_SP Guadalcanal

64 The Saturday Evening Post fires ROOT BEER RI , For the livelier taste ipur thirst desires . Li • • ve it up With Livelier {-TIRES ' 1"„tatri fe Elm Guadalcanal cross her bow. She turned hard-aport to unmask her torpedo batteries and avoid a collision. This maneuver threw Callaghan's line into disorder. Now surprise was lost, and Callaghan's delay of eight minutes before opening gunfire—owing to the confusion engendered by Cushing's turn and fear of hitting friends—gave Abe precious time to change his bombardment shells for armor-piercing. "Cease Firing Own Ships!" At 0150, just as a Japanese destroyer's searchlight picked up Atlanta's bridge, the cruiser's five-inch guns began shooting. Japanese destroyers were only 1600 yards away; they and the battlewagons opened up at the same time on Atlanta, and one of their salvos snuffed out the lives of Admiral Scott and all but one of his staff. This cruiser was out of the battle, which from that moment became an unplanned general melee. Although neither battleship was hit early in the action, Abe didn't like what was coming at him and countermarched. Hiei sank Cushing, which had launched six torpedoes fruitlessly at her, and then had a brush with destroyer Laffey, so close that her fourteen-inch guns could not depress sufficiently to hit the destroyer. A Japanese destroyer then got a torpedo into Laffey, and she sank. The battleship had a similar brawl with 0' Bannon, which escaped almost unscathed, as she later did from many other actions. Hiei at one time was burning from stem to stern, but Kirishima took only one hit. Admiral Callaghan, informed that San Francisco was shooting at disabled Atlanta, ordered, "Cease Firing Own Ships!" When that order took effect, his ship was the first to suffer. Kirishima and two other Japanese ships hurled at San Francisco an avalanche of gunfire, which killed Admiral Callaghan and his staff and Capt. Cassin Young. Cruiser Portland, next astern in the column, took a torpedo hit which bent her stern plates so that they acted as a giant fixed rudder; she could steam in circles only. As she sheered out of column she let fly at Hiei, range 4000 yards, with both forward turrets. That concluded the night's performance for "Sweet Pea," as her sailors called this great fighting ship. Helena, next astern, did some useful shooting that helped speed the enemy on his way; but Juneau, the rear cruiser, was put out of action by a torpedo that exploded in her forward fireroom. Of the four rear destroyers, brand-new Barton had exactly seven minutes of life in combat. Two torpedo hits broke her in two, and down she went with most of her crew. Monssen was reduced to a burning hulk by some thirty-seven shell hits. Fletcher, the tail-end Charlie with radar, useless in that position, threaded her way shooting through the uproar and emerged without even her paint being scratched. Somewhere in the melee two Japanese destroyers, Akatsuki and Yudachi, went down, at whose hand nobody can tell. Four bells of this sinister midwatch had struck during these fifteen minutes of raw hell. A surrealist nightmare presented itself to the participants. Greenish light from flares and starshell dimmed that of the silent stars. Red and white trails of tracer shells arched and crisscrossed overhead, magazines exploded in blinding bouquets of white flame, oil-fed fires sent up twisted columns of yellow flame and black smoke. Around the horizon smoldering hulks of abandoned ships now glowed dull red, now blazed up when fires reached fresh combustibles. Geysers from shells that missed their targets rose from the surface of the sea, now fouled with oil and flotsam. At 0226 Capt. Gilbert C. Hoover of Helena, the senior undamaged cruiser, ordered all ships to retire eastward. Only San Francisco, Juneau, and three destroyers were able to comply. So ended in less than half an hour the most desperate sea fight since days of sail. Ship losses were fairly balanced; two American light cruisers and four destroyers against two Japanese destroyers and a battleship so badly damaged as to be a sitting-duck target for airmen next day. But the enemy bombardment mission was completely frustrated; Yamamoto admitted as much by relieving Abe of his sea command. Callaghan, dying, had completed his mission. His force saved Henderson Field from a heavy bombardment which would have stopped American air operations; and these on the 14th disposed of eleven troop-laden Japanese destroyers and transports. Mistakes Erased by Valor Thus, in the end, mistakes were canceled out by valor. Let none deny praise to those who fell that bloody night, with two great seamen and gallant gentlemen, Daniel J. Callaghan and Norman Scott. Dawn on 13 November rose on a glassy, metallic sea, stippled by the floating litter of death and destruction. The mountains of Guadalcanal turned to purple and then to lush green. Sailors of both nations on crippled warships stood, or slept, by their remaining guns, grimly aware that between ship and ship no quarter would be given. Eight damaged vessels, five of them American, were visible between Savo Island and Guadalcanal. Atlanta edged painfully over to Kukum and landed her survivors, but she was past saving and had to be scuttled. Around noon a Japanese submarine sank Juneau. Almost 700 men, including the five famous brothers Sullivan, went down with her. Each side now prepared to renew the battle. Vice Adm. Nobutake Kondo, who had been idling off Ontong Java, pushed south with his yet uncommitted heavy cruisers to gather up battleship Kirishima and cover a big Tokyo Express, commanded by Rear Adm. Raizo Tanaka, composed of eleven destroyers escorting eleven troop-laden transports. Carrier Enterprise and battleships Washington and South Dakota were boiling up from the south, "Big E" ringing day and night with hammer blows and the sputter of welders' arcs to repair the forward elevator. Admiral Kinkaid decided that the best thing he could do for the cause was to fly off nine Avengers and six Wildcats to beef up Brig. Gen. Roy S. Geiger's Marine air forces on Guadalcanal, and to do what good they could en route. They found Hiei limping along north of Savo Island, got two torpedoes into her. proceeded to Henderson Field, refueled, picked up some Marine SBDs (dive bombers), and this time made the battleship go dead in the water. B-17's from Espiritu Santo added an "egg" or two to the collection, and at about 1800 Hiei plunged. She was the first enemy battleship to be sunk by American forces. Ashore, as 14 November dawned, airmen, ground crews and stranded sailors rolled out of their foxholes, and Henderson Field warmed up to one of the busiest days in its history. The first strike flown off the field holed a retiring light cruiser and heavy cruiser Kinugasa. A strike from Enterprise finished her off. Tanaka the Tenacious American aviators, both land-based and carrier-based, now concentrated on Tanaka's transports that were barreling down the Slot. In a series of bold attacks they succeeded in sinking seven transports with all their supplies and most of their troops. But Tanaka the Tenacious refused to retire. With the four transports left and eleven troop-laden destroyers he pressed on to Guadalcanal. The big ones discharged their troops before dawn by running onto the beach, whence they never got off; but Tanaka and his destroyers scampered safely back to Shortland Islands. As the second day of this almost continuous naval battle came to an end, orders were given which led to another night action. Now Halsey's wise plan went into effect. Battleships Washington and South Dakota and four destroyers were sent forward to thrust into Ironbottom Sound and clean up. Rear Adm. Willis Augustus Lee, who commanded this detachment, knew very well how to handle battleships. Blessed with a scientific mind, he had studied how to make best use of radar, that new and vital aid to navigation and shooting. Coming south to meet him was Admiral Kondo with the yet undamaged battleship Kirishima, two heavy and two light cruisers, and a destroyer squadron, bent on delivering the heavy bombardment on Henderson Field which Callaghan's sacrifice had prevented Abe from performing. At 2215 November 14 Lee's force entered Ironbottom Sound. A firstquarter moon was shining. Lookouts could pick up looming heights on every side and shore outlines appeared on radar screens, but neither eyes nor radar discerned any trace of enemy. A rich, sweet odor like honeysuckle floated out from the land over the calm waters, a pleasant change from the fecal smells usually exuded by the Guadalcanal jungle. This seemed a good omen to the sailors. Light cruiser Sendai of the Japanese advance screen sighted Lee first, at 2210. Kondo now split his fourteen-ship task force, sending the big units west of Savo Island to lay for Lee, while Sendai shadowed him. At 2317 Lee opened fire on Sendai. The American gunners missed, and the Japanese ship doubled back


1962_07_28--022_SP Guadalcanal
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