Naval History and Heritage Command

National Museum of the U.S. Navy

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Battle of Vella Gulf:  August 6-7, 1943

Just before midnight on August 6, 1943, Task Group 31.2, a group of six U.S. Navy destroyers led by Commander Frederick Moosbrugger, waited in Vella Gulf for the Japanese who were planning to land troops and supplies at Vila, Kolombangara with four destroyers.    Not giving away their position until firing their torpedoes, the Task Group hit all four enemy destroyers.  Bursting into flames, Hagikaze, Arashi, and Kawakaze were sunk.   Over 1,500 Japanese sailors lost their lives in the attack.  The last one, Shigure, was hit by a dud and escaped into the night.  On January 25, 1945, USS Blackfin (SS-322) would sink Shigure in the Gulf of Siam.    This action is notable for being the first engagement where U.S. Navy destroyers were authorized to operate independently from a cruiser force in the Pacific campaign. 

Image:  19-N-42250: USS Stack (DD-406), off Mare Island Navy Yard, California, March 21, 1943.   She was one of the six destroyers that took part in the Battle of Vella Gulf, August 6-7, 1943.   Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collection of the National Archives.