Battle of Savo Island, 9 August 1942
The Imperial Japanese Navy, in response to Allied amphibious landings in the eastern Solomon Islands, undertook a night surface attack on the ships screening the Allied landing force. The Japanese task force, consisting of seven cruisers and one destroyer sailed from Rabaul, New Britain, and Kavieng, New Ireland, down New Georgia Sound (also known as "the Slot"). The Japanese planned to approach Savo Island under the cover of darkness, pass south of Savo, initiate their attack against the Allied Southern Force, then turn to the northwest in order to engage the Northern Force. With the second attack completed, the Japanese planned to continue through the channel north of Savo and then steam back up the Slot toward Rabaul. The Allied surface forces were caught unaware and routed, losing one Australian and three American cruisers. Allied dead totaled 1,023; 709 personnel were wounded. The Japanese only suffered light damage. The battle has come to be identified as the worst defeat in a single fleet action suffered by the United States Navy. If the Japanese commander, Vice Admiral Mikawa Gunichi, had also elected to destroy the Allied transports before returning to his task force’s bases, the campaign of Guadalcanal—and possibly the next phase of the Pacific War—might have evolved differently.
Read the combat narrative (PDF, 1.6 MB), republished in 2017 by NHHC with a new introduction in observance of the 75th anniversary of the battle. The formerly classified combat narrative was originally published by the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) in January 1943; an HTML reproduction of the text is available in the Online Reading Room.
Battle of Savo Island, 9 August 1942—Strategic and Tactical Analysis
Article: Disaster at Savo Island (examines command-and-control breakdowns and contrasts Allied and Japanese tactical expertise)
USS Quincy (CA-39), Astoria (CA-34) and Vincennes (CA-44) War Damage Report No. 29, Battle of Savo Island
Battle of Savo Island Allied and Japanese Orders of Battle
Vignette: Lieutenant Commander Joseph W. Callahan and Ralph Talbot (DD-390)
Vignette: Ensign Donald W. Lynch and Mugford (DD-389)