War Instructions United States Navy 1944


Chapter 13. Procedure Following a Day Engagement

Section I. General

1300. The procedure to be adopted following a day engagement depends upon many factors, among them:

  1. The extent to which the enemy force has been defeated and disorganized and the extent to which our own forces have suffered in the engagement, as well as the supply of fuel and ammunition remaining in our ships.

  2. The strategical situation including the position of the enemy with reference to his bases and our position with reference to our bases or destination.

  3. The existing weather conditions.

1301. The officer in tactical command indicates to his force the general plan to be followed. If the results of the engagement have been favorable to us, his decision includes any of the following general plans of action:

  1. Pursuit or chase of the enemy.

  2. Maintenance of contact with the enemy in order to:

    1. Resume the engagement at a later time.

    2. Launch air attacks against enemy.

    3. Make night attacks on the enemy.

  3. Withdraw from action if unable for any reason to pursue or attack the enemy.

1302. If the results of the engagement have not been favorable to us, his decision includes any of the following general plans of action:

  1. Maintenance of contact with the enemy in order to:

    1. Make night attacks on the enemy, the results of which may make engagement possible with the enemy on the next day under favorable conditions.

    2. Launch air attacks against enemy.

    3. Move our principal force away from the enemy principal force if further engagement would result in disaster.

  2. To withdraw from action if compelled to withdraw before overwhelming enemy force.

  3. Fight our way through the enemy force in order to reach a secure base.

1303. The following instructions are applicable to most conditions following an engagement:

  1. Action between battle lines is broken off when directed by the officer in tactical command.

  2. Ships which have become separated from their own divisions or their own proper tactical commands join the nearest division or command of similar type.

  3. The officer in tactical command broadcasts or otherwise keeps our forces informed of the position, course, and speed of our battle line or principal combatant force and of other important units such as a train or convoy. A train or convoy normally is directed to take a specific course or direction.

  4. The officer in tactical command designates suitable units for maintaining contact with the enemy or for making night attacks on the enemy. Other units, not engaged

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    in such operations or in chase, are directed to steer a specific course or they are directed to form a disposition suitable for the situation.

  1. A reference position of the fleet guide, or battle line, or other unit is signaled in order that units may assemble or otherwise regulate their movements. A rendezvous is designated by the officer in tactical command prior to commencement of an engagement.

Section II. Chase

1304. In these instructions "pursuit" has been used to designate the operations of following or endeavoring to bring to action an enemy force which is employing retiring tactics or is withdrawing or delaying action and which is still an organized force subject to the control of its commander. "Chase" is used to designate the pursuit of a disorganized enemy force that has definitely withdrawn from action and whose efforts are primarily directed toward escape. Under such conditions, and owing to differences in the remaining speed of enemy vessels and the courses taken by different enemy units, there may be a wide dispersal or scattering of enemy vessels.

1305. Victory is not complete unless the enemy force is annihilated. Every enemy unit, if possible, is destroyed. If impossible to destroy enemy vessels, effort is made to force them ashore or into neutral ports for internment.

1306. The action to be taken in chase follows the turn of events and is according to the circumstances of the situation. Besides the material condition of the enemy vessels and our vessels and the direction or directions of flight of the enemy vessels, the proximity of land, enemy air bases, shoals, mine fields or ports of refuge for the enemy are factors which will influence the action that can be taken.

1307. Chase is normally initiated by the officer in tactical command and when practicable he issues appropriate instructions to insure that our efforts to complete the victory are coordinated.

1308. In the absence of any special instructions from him, subordinate commanders, when a chase is ordered, take the initiative in forming suitable units for the chase and in selecting suitable objectives for such units. The senior officers in the different parts of the battle area take appropriate action to insure a coordinated effort by our force.

1309. The following instructions are applicable to most conditions of chase:

  1. Appropriate types of available aircraft are employed in the chase, their effort being primarily directed against capital ships which are outdistancing our surface units and secondarily against enemy units which are faster than our vessels. Aerial photography is employed as feasible to assist the officer in tactical command in selecting a course of action.

  2. All available combatant units are employed in the chase.

  3. The chasing units are composed of vessels of similar type and approximately equal maximum speed, adhering to the existing organization as far as practicable. The units should be of adequate strength to destroy enemy vessels of similar type.

  4. Chasing units normally select as their objective enemy vessels of similar type.

  5. The slower chasing units follow the faster units, engaging the enemy's slower units and any of the disabled vessels from faster enemy units that may have dropped behind.

  6. Chasing units proceed at maximum speed consistent with adequate concentration. Small units or individual ships avoid becoming isolated and overwhelmed by superior enemy strength.

  7. In order to avoid mines, ships do not follow directly in the wake of enemy vessels.

  8. No attempt is made to accept the surrender of disabled enemy ships or to rescue survivors of enemy ships by vessels which have any chance of overtaking or destroying other enemy vessels. It is desirable that vessels which have no prospect of taking further

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    part of the action occupy enemy vessels before they are destroyed or sunk by the enemy, and rescue enemy survivors.

1310. The chase, as long as there remain enemy vessels to be destroyed, is not broken off at nightfall or when low visibility conditions are encountered unless because of shortage of fuel, ammunition or for other necessary reasons it is not wise to continue the chase. An enemy fleeing may scatter under cover of darkness with intention of permitting some units to escape.

1311. Aircraft, provided flying conditions are satisfactory, maintain contact with fleeing units at night and attack as practicable. Enemy heavy units are primary targets.

1312. Contact is maintained at night and tracking is accomplished on all targets that radar is capable of indicating. Enemy heavy units may possibly be definitely located by knowledge of radar indications. Attacks are made on these targets as opportunity affords and as frequently as possible by our destroyers, the larger units lending gunfire support as feasible and as required. The remainder of our force follows the general movement of the enemy as developed by tracking in anticipation of inflicting more damage as opportunities arise.

1313. Contact may be lost by enemy speed enabling them to reach beyond our radar range in which case the enemy may escape unless our aircraft can effectively slow them down or destroy them. But if contact is lost during the night because of radar being ineffective, suitable units with adequate speed are so disposed as to intercept the enemy the following day. Normally cruisers cover the enemy position circle of the following daylight preparatory to scouting.

Section III. Disabled Vessels After Action

1314. Battleships and other large combatant ships which are incapable of fighting and incapable of towing other disabled vessels, but which are able to steam proceed to the nearest friendly port or to the designated rendezvous, or proceed as directed.

1315. Battleships and other large combatant ships whose ammunition is exhausted, or whose speed is so much reduced that they cannot keep up with effective units, but are capable of towing, may be utilized, if the situation permits to tow disabled vessels or to rescue survivors. They are not used for these purposes if there is any possibility of enemy submarines being in teh vicinity or if possibility of air attack exists.

1316. Destroyers and other light vessels whose speed is reduced so that they cannot keep up with effective units of their type or cannot be used as screening vessels for effective large combatant vessels, are employed to screen or assist other disabled vessels, to rescue survivors, or to tow light vessels.

Section IV. Assistance to Disabled Vessels and Rescue of Survivors After Action

1317. The officer in tactical command after an action issues appropriate instructions regarding rendering assistance to disabled vessels and regarding the rescue or search for survivors. He uses his discretion as to the numbers and types to be employed. The existing situation determines whether it is prudent to use effective combatant vessels for this purpose and what precautions are necessary to safeguard the vessels engaged in assisting disabled vessels and picking up survivors.

1318. The commander usually designates in advance of an action an agency, normally a carrier, to correlate reports of downed aircraft and to control rescue operations using the available rescue facilities. Such rescue facilities may include submarines, destroyers, or specially designated and equipped aircraft or rescue boats.

1319. A rescue vessel having unwounded aviation personnel among the survivors picked up makes every effort possible to return them to their own ship in order to make them available for operations.

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