Battle of Tassafaronga
The Guadalcanal campaign had going on since August, with the Americans occupying a small sliver of territory around Henderson airfield in the north of the island, and the Japanese occupying the rest. A number of attempts had already been made to dislodge the Americans, and the waters around the island had been the site of several naval battles, including the Battle of the Eastern Solomons and the Battle of Santa Cruz. Control of the waters was hotly contested, as both sides had to resupply their forces by ship. The Japanese tended to schedule their supply runs for the nighttime hours, and the Marines on Guadalcanal came to dub them the “Tokyo Express”.
On the night of November 30, an American task force under Rear Admiral Carlton H. Wright, consisting of five cruisers and six destroyers, intercepted a supply convoy of eight Japanese destroyers commanded by Rear Admiral Tanaka Raizo. The Americans detected the Japanese fleet first, and US destroyers opened the battle, launching torpedoes at the enemy. The cruisers opened fire a few minutes later with their guns, hitting a Japanese destroyer, but the Japanese responded with their own Long Lance torpedoes, hitting the cruisers Minneapolis, New Orleans, Pensacola, and finally the Northhampton. The Japanese retreated, although two of their ships stayed to rescue sailors from the wrecked destroyer. The Northhampton later sank from the damage inflicted on her, although most of her crew was able to evacuate safely. Among the men rescued from the American cruiser was the future actor Jason Robards.
The American had suffered one cruiser lost and three damaged for only one enemy destroyer sunk, and the Japanese had proven that in spite of their previous defeats, they were still a force to be reckoned with in night actions. However, the supply convoy was unable to complete its mission, and the Japanese Admiralty soon realized that regular resupply of Guadalcanal had become impossible. By the end of the year, the decision was made to evacuate their remaining troops and abandon the island.
- Historical Atlas of the U.S. Navy, by Craig L. Symonds, the Naval Institute, 1995
- A History of War at Sea, by Helmut Pemsel, Naval Institute Press, 1975
- World War II: 4139 Strange and Fascinating Facts, by Don McCombs and Fred L. Worth, Random House, 1983
- A Lesson in Tactics: the Battle of Tassafaronga, 30th November 1942
- Order of Battle
- Battle of Tassafaronga at Destroyerhistory.org