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Naval Battle of Guadalcanal Chronology 

Cruiser Night Action

12 November 1942

  • 1530: Japanese formation of Vice Admiral Abe set out for Guadalcanal after grouping 70 miles north of Indispensable Strait; intention to bombard Henderson Field

  • Dusk: Rear Admiral Daniel J. Callaghan received reconnaissance report on the enemy formation; ordered his ships into a line formation

  • 2200: Callaghan’s formation finished escort of transport and cargo ships and returned through Lengine Channel into Savo (Ironbottom) Sound


13 November

  • 0000: Abe’s formation encounters a squall northwest of Savo Island; Abe reverses course, then delayed planned bombardment of Guadalcanal to 0130

  • 0124: Helena detected Japanese formation on radar, two groups, 27,000 and 32,000 yards away, respectively

  • 0127: Callaghan ordered his 13-ship column to change course two points to starboard, to meet the enemy head-on

  • 0130: Helena reported event ships are on port bow distant 14,500 yards.

  • 0140: First sighting of Japanese ships, destroyers Yudachi and Harusame, reported by Cushing at 3,000 yards

  • 0141: Cushing suddenly turned left to expose torpedo batteries; ships behind must suddenly change course to avoid collision

  • 0142: All Japanese ships in Abe’s formation aware of contact with American formation

  • 0145: Callaghan gave the order “Stand By to Open Fire!”

  • 0150: Japanese searchlight illuminates superstructure of Atlanta; Atlanta responded with a salvo from her 5-inch guns knocking out the light; fire from Japanese destroyers cripple her and kill Rear Admiral Norman Scott and all but one of his staff

    • Callaghan ordered “Odd ships commence fire to starboard, even ships to port.”

    • Atlanta also received friendly fire from Callaghan’s flagship San Francisco

  • Cushing fired six torpedoes at battlewagon Hiei; none hit but Hiei turns westward and away; Cushing subsequently destroyed by Japanese gunfire

  • 0200-0204: Laffey almost collided with Hiei while machine-gunning her bridge and launching torpedoes that fail to arm; Hiei’s guns and a torpedo in the fantail put the Laffey out of action

  • U.S. destroyers Sterett and O’Bannon fire guns and torpedoes at Hiei; Sterett hit by enemy salvo that disabled her steering gear and destroyed her radar, but persisted under the command of Commander Jesse G. Coward; O’Bannon set Hiei afire

  • 0154: San Francisco delivers heavy salvos to what are believed to be Japanese cruisers and the Hiei, damaging it further; Callaghan ordered “cease firing, our ships!” after San Francisco’s shells hit the Atlanta, still dead in the water

  • No longer firing, San Francisco lost engine and steering control after being scraped by a destroyer; shellfire from the Japanese battleship Kirishima and two other vessels struck the bridge, killing Callaghan, his staff, and Captain Cassin Young.

  • Portland lost piece of stern to torpedo, causing her to circle; fires both forward turrets at Hiei

  • Helena received minor damage, but fired upon three Japanese ships in its vicinity, one of them likely Nagara

  • Juneau experiences difficulty identifying targets but fired along with other American ships; torpedo struck her forward fireroom and disabled her

  • Aaron Ward exploded and sank a ship to her starboard, then her director was knocked out by shellfire; batteries shift to local control

  • Barton fired shells and torpedoes to starboard before stopping to avoid a collision; struck by two torpedoes in her forward fire and engine rooms causing her to break into two and sink, taking most of crew with her

  • 0205: Monssen, fire control radar damaged from earlier air attack, relies on radio and optics to find targets; fired torpedoes at a large ship (either Hiei or Kirishima) on her starboard bow and another ship two miles on starboard beam; her guns struck the topside of a destroyer a quarter mile to starboard; Lieutenant Commander McCombs switching on fighting lights after believing he was being hit by friendly fire, which attracted Japanese gunfire and torpedoes that destroy her

  • Fletcher fired at the ship that illuminated Atlanta and set fire to another ship further away; emerged from battle undamaged

  • 0200: Abe ordered Hiei and Kirishima to head north away from Guadalcanal; bombardment of Henderson does not occur that night

  • 0220: As fighting continued, Sterett torpedoed a Fubuki destroyer and sank it, but was forced to retreat after receiving hits from 5-inch shells

  • 0315: Order given to abandon the burning Laffey

  • 0630: Portland, still stuck traveling in circles, sank a Shiguri-class destroyer with her 5-inch guns


Aftermath of Night Action

  • Rear admirals Scott and Callaghan killed; posthumously awarded Medal of Honor

  • Lieutenant commanders Herbert E. Schonland and Bruce McCandless kept San Francisco fighting after Callaghan’s death and Boatswain's Mate First Class Reinhardt J. Keppler fought fires and removed wounded in the ship in the heat of the battle. All are also awarded the Medal of Honor, Keppler posthumously

  • Atlanta irreparably damaged; scuttled at 2015

  • San Francisco severely damaged

  • Juneau damaged and later sunk by Japanese submarine I-26 at 1101 with much loss of life (including the five Sullivan brothers)

  • Portland immobilized

  • Helena, Aaron Ward, and O’Bannon damaged

  • Cushing, Monssen, Laffey, and Barton sunk

  • Hiei is damaged

  • Kirishima escaped with little damage

  • Destroyers Akatsuki and Yudachi sunk

  • Destroyers Murasame, Ikazuchi, Amatsukaze, and light cruiser Nagara damaged

  • Destroyers Yukikaze and Michishio later damaged by aircraft near Savo Island


Sinking of Hiei

13 November

  • 0615: Enterprise launched its dawn search about 270 miles south of Guadalcanal; no contacts made

  • 0800: Hiei, forward turrets smoking and aft turrets dangling, reported to be 30 miles northeast of Savo, heading toward Guadalcanal with a light cruiser and four destroyers

  • 0810: Enterprise sent nine TBFs and six F4Fs to reinforce Henderson Field and lower the number of planes on her deck due to damage from the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands

  • 1100: Hiei group sighted and attacked by Enterprise TBFs near Cape Esperance; torpedoes strike Hiei twice on the port side, once on the starboard side, once on the bow, and once on the stern; TBFs continue on to Henderson while Hiei circles north

  • 1110; Hiei was hit by a 500- pound bomb dropped by a B-17 from Espiritu Santo

  • 1430: Six TBFs, eight SBDs, and eight F4Fs of the Marines and Enterprise from Henderson attacked Hiei while it sat 10 miles north of Savo; Hiei suffered three torpedo hits and three direct bomb hits

  • 1800: Hiei was afloat five miles northwest of Savo, but three destroyers in its vicinity offload the crew; the battleship sank some time during the night


Japanese Resupply Attempt

14 November

  • 0220: Japanese cruisers and destroyers initiated a bombardment of Henderson Field; one SBD-3 and two F4F-4s destroyed; seventeen F4F-4s damaged; airfield itself suffers only minimal damage

  • 0340: Six PT boats from Tulagi-based MTB unit attacked the Japanese ships with torpedoes; no significant damage done, but the Japanese halt their bombardment and retire to the northwest around New Georgia

  • 0712: Enterprise launched dawn search

  • 0715: Henderson Field launched Marine torpedo, bomber, and fighter aircraft to attack the retiring Japanese bombardment force

  • 0800: Marine aircraft attack the bombardment force and hit heavy cruiser Kinugasa and light cruiser Isuzu, setting both afire

  • 0830: 12 Japanese transports spotted running “the Slot” towards Guadalcanal

  • 0850: Enterprise search aircraft sighted the bombardment group

  • 0856: Enterprise launched an attack force

  • 0949: Enterprise search aircraft locate the transport and scored a probable hit

  • 1014: Search aircraft dropped bombs on the Kinugasa, which started to flood and listed 10 degrees

  • 1115: Enterprise attack force intercepted the Japanese ships; Kinugasa was sunk and heavy cruisers Chokai, Maya, Isuzu, and destroyer Michishio damaged

  • 1250: Marine and Navy aircraft from Henderson Field and Enterprise attacked Japanese transport convoy scoring three torpedo and five bomb hits

  • 1345: Another Henderson group attacked with Marines making four bomb hits two more hits from Henderson-based Enterprise aircraft

  • 1348: Enterprise retired to the south

  • 1530-45: Henderson Enterprise planes made seven direct hits on convoy ships

  • 1630: Second group from Enterprise scored six 1,000-pound bomb hits on five ships; four Zeroes shot down; another Henderson group scored two more 1,000-pound bomb hits each on two ships

  • 1730: An Enterprise plane scored one more hit

  • 1900: Four Japanese transports were dead in the water and burning; four were damaged and smoking and retreating northward with destroyer escort; four were sunk

  • Japanese lost at least seventeen aircraft; Americans lost five aircraft, four officers, two men, and two officers wounded


Battleship Night Action

14 November

  • 1200: U.S. Task Force LOVE (64) about fifty miles southwest of Guadalcanal, consisting of destroyers Walke, Benham, Preston, and Gwin, and battleships Washington (flagship) and South Dakota, under the command of Rear Admiral Willis A. Lee, Jr.

  • 2100: LOVE turned toward Ironbottom Sound; Japanese force approaches from north in three sections; distant screen consisting of light cruiser Sendai and three destroyers (Rear Admiral Hashimoto Shintaro), close screen consisting of light cruiser Nagara and six destroyers (Rear Admiral Kimura Masitomi), and bombardment group consisting of heavy cruisers Atago (flagship) and Takao, and battleship Kirishima (Vice Admiral Nobutake Kondō)

  • 2210: Sendai sighted LOVE heading into the sound; destroyers Ayanami and Uranami detached to search south of Savo while Sendai and destroyer Shikinami pursue the Americans

    • Kondō issued attack order and divided Kimura’s group into two elements: cruiser Nagara and four destroyers advancing forward into the sound while two destroyers (Asagumo and Teruzuki) stay with the group to lead it around Savo

  • 2252: Lee placed his ships in a column and set his course west

  • 2300: Washington picked up Sendai on radar, nine miles north of her

  • 2312: Washington and South Dakota sighted Sendai

  • 2316: Lee ordered his captain to fire when ready

  • 2317: Washington fired at Sendai, which lays down smoke and retreats northward with Shikinami

  • 2322: American destroyers sight Ayanami and Uranami; Walke opened fire followed by Benham and Preston

  • 2326: Gwin sights Nagara and opened fire

  • 2330: Ayanami and Uranami fired torpedoes; Walke was struck by shells and listed to port but continues firing shells and torpedoes

  • 2336: Preston fired at Nagara, but was subsequently put out of action when shells destroy her firerooms, after stack and most of her topsides; Gwin struck in engine room and fantail and lost her torpedoes

  • 2338: Much of Walke’s forecastle and a chunk of Benham’s bow blown off by torpedoes

  • 2333: South Dakota’s electrical power failed

  • 2335: Nagara group retired close to Savo; Sendai and Shikinami returned and resumed action and approach LOVE from astern; Ayanami damaged; all four American destroyers out of action

  • 2336: Preston abandoned; capsized and sank ten minutes later; South Dakota’s power reactivated and her guns fire at Sendai

  • 2342: Walke’s stern sank and depth charges detonate under survivors

  • 2348: Lee ordered all remaining destroyers to retire and turned Washington slightly northward

  • 2355: Nagara group fired thirty-four torpedoes at South Dakota, all of which miss

  • South Dakota was lit up by searchlights and hit by large shells from bombardment group; replied with salvos against the lights

15 November

  • 0000: Washington fired at Kirishima with 16-inch guns; the shots fall short, but the engagement between battleships had begun
  • Bombardment force was caught up with firing upon the illuminated South Dakota and did not notice Washington approaching

  • Washington scored nine 16-inch and forty 5-inch hits on Kirishima, whose topside was set aflame and steering gear destroyed; Kirishima put out of action

  • Washington and South Dakota also scored hits on Atago and Takao

  • South Dakota, with multiple hits to her topside, no radio communications, one working radar, and many small fires, retired at full speed

  • 0025: Kondō ordered all ships not actively engaged to withdraw, abandoning his bombardment plan

  • 0033: Destroyers Kagero and Oyashio launched torpedoes at Washington; all are successfully dodged

  • 0040: Washington shook off destroyers

  • 0320: Kirishima sank northwest of Savo after being abandoned

  • 0400: Four remaining Japanese transports reach Guadalcanal and offload 2,000 troops

  • 0900: South Dakota fell in with Washington and the two proceed back to Nouméa

  • 1724: Benham abandoned and sunk by gunfire from Gwin 

Aftermath of Battleship Night Action

  • Walke, Preston, and Benham sunk

  • Gwin damaged

  • Washington mostly unscathed

  • South Dakota severely damaged with 39 killed or missing and 52 wounded; returns to United States for refitting

  • Kirishima sunk

  • Ayanami damaged and scuttled later

  • Atago and Takao damaged

  • Four transports beached and lost

  • Another Japanese bombardment attempt on Henderson thwarted

  • Captain Glenn Davis of Washington and Rear Admiral Lee cited by Morison as having “with a skill and imperturbability worthy of her eponym, saved the day for the United States.”

    —Christopher B. Havern Sr., Naval History and Heritage Command, October 2017

    From notes compiled by Thomas Biggs, NHHC Intern 

Published: Thu Nov 02 14:14:22 EDT 2017