On the morning of 14 November 1942, the eleven transports of Rear Admiral Raizō Tanaka’s Outer South Seas Force Reinforcement Force were steaming southeast down “the Slot” toward Guadalcanal. Filled with more than 7,000 Imperial Japanese Army troops and tons of ammunition and supplies, and escorted by the ships of three destroyer divisions, these ex-merchantmen were on a mission to reinforce the Japanese infantry units on Guadalcanal.
Spotted by American search aircraft after 0700 and again just before 0900, Tanaka’s ships soon was targeted for attack. At about 1100, a combined Marine-Navy 38-plane strike began taking off from Guadalcanal’s Henderson Field. This group included seven TBF Avenger torpedo planes of VT-10 from the carrier Enterprise (CV-6) under the command of Lieutenant Albert P. “Scoofer” Coffin, the squadron’s executive officer. Coffin, a 1934 graduate of the Naval Academy from Indianapolis, had the lead division of four TBFs. Arriving over the Japanese reinforcement convoy just after the completion of several unsuccessful attacks on the ships by SBD dive bombers from Guadalcanal, Coffin’s aircraft descended for torpedo attacks on two transports in the southern column. His lead division managed to put two torpedoes into the port side of one transport, while the trailing division, under Lieutenant Macdonald Thompson, put another torpedo into the starboard side of the other ship.
Scoofer Coffin was later awarded the Navy Cross for “extraordinary heroism” in combat in the Solomon Islands area during the period of 13-15 November 1942. At war’s end, he was commanding Carrier Air Group 19 in San Diego.
—Jeff Barlow, Ph.D., Naval Historical Center, November 2008
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