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Naval Battle of Guadalcanal - 13-15 November 1942

This action report details Enterprise's involvement in the 13-15 November 1942 Naval Battle of Guadalcanal: a series of brutal day and night engagements that marked the turning point of the Guadalcanal campaign, and arguably of the Pacific War. Over 3 days, U.S. Navy surface forces, Marine aircraft based at Henderson, and Enterprise's Air Group Ten decisively repulsed a powerful Japanese bombardment and invasion force.

Air Group Ten in Action: 13-14 November.
Air Group Ten Casualties.
Enterprise and Japanese Losses.
Conclusions and Recommendations

Serial 0019
November 19, 1942.
From:The Commanding Officer.
To:The Commander in Chief, United States Pacific Fleet.
Via:(1) Commander Task Force SIXTEEN.
(2) Commander South Pacific Forces.
Subject:Action against Japanese Forces Attempting the Recapture of Guadalcanal, November 13 - 14, 1942 - Report of.
Reference:(a) Art. 712 and 874, Navy Regulations, 1920.
(b) PacFlt. Conf. Ltr. 24CL-42.
  1. Track Chart.
  2. Executive Officer's Report.
  3. War Diary.
  4. Detailed Summary of Air Operations.
  5. Comdr. Air Group TEN's Report of Action.
  1. In compliance with references (a) and (b), a report of the action which took place November 13 - 14, 1942, in the Southern Solomons is submitted herewith.
      1. On November 11, 1942, the U.S.S. ENTERPRISE got underway from NOUMEA, NEW CALEDONIA, and proceeded to sea in company with Task Force 16, Rear Admiral Thomas C. Kinkaid, U.S. Navy. After clearing the channel, Air Group TEN, composed of 38 fighters, 16 scouts, 25 bombers, and 9 torpedo planes, flew out from TONTOUTA Field and landed aboard.
      2. The ENTERPRISE had suffered considerable bomb damage from the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands on October 26, 1942. The forward elevator was not in commission and considerable underwater damage had not been repaired. The bomb hit which exploded in the officers' country had seriously affected watertight integrity in the area between frames 35 and 54, in addition to destroying living accommodations for approximately 70 officers. The ship's repair force and 59 officers and men on temporary duty from U.S.S. VESTAL and a construction battalion worked continuously night and day, watch and watch, repairing the structural damage and preparing the ship for battle.
      3. Task Force 16 proceeded on a northwesterly course west of NEW CALEDONIA. At 1925, November 12, 1942, a report was received from Radio GUADALCANAL of two enemy CV and two DD at 1450 (Love) on course 135°, speed 15, bearing 265°, distant 150 miles, from LUNGA POINT, or approximately 575 miles to the northwest of Task Force 16.
      1. Task Force 16 closed the contact at high speed, and in Latitude 14°-44'S, Longitude 161°-28'E, at dawn on November 13, 1942, a 10-plane search by single planes was launched, sector bearings 270° to 030° (T), distance 200 miles. No contacts resulted. However, in view of the fact that No. 1 elevator of the ENTERPRISE was still out of commission, it was deemed wise to send the torpedo planes with a fighter escort in on an offensive sweep with orders to attack any targets found and then to land at CACTUS and report to the Commanding General for temporary duty. This plane would increase the effectiveness of flight operations should an action occur, as well as reinforce HENDERSON Field. Accordingly, at 0810, when the search planes had reached the end of their search and no contacts had been made, 9 torpedo planes (8 armed with torpedoes and 1 with 500-lb bombs) and 6 fighters were launched for GUADALCANAL with instructions to search and to strike any suitable targets they might encounter. This flight also provided a search to considerable depth for muchly needed information. Subsequent information received on the activities of this group indicates that it struck the enemy many hard and timely blows. Enroute to CACTUS, this flight sighted a BB of the KONGO class with CA and DD escort 10 miles north of SAVO ISLAND steaming into position for bombardment of the air field. The TBF's attacked, scored 3 torpedo hits on the BB, landed at CACTUS for rearming, made a second attack three hours later scoring 3 more torpedo hits, and the left the BB practically dead in the water and listing heavily. These attacks probably prevented destructive bombardment of our only air base in the SOLOMONS and probably prevented the sinking of the PORTLAND then dead in the water 2 miles north of LUNGA POINT. Running shuttle trips from CACTUS during the next two days (14-15 November), this squadron made six additional attacks on Japanese vessels, expending a total of 26 torpedoes, 13 500-lb bombs, and 29 incendiary bombs.
      2. During the remainder of the 13th, both Combat and Inner Air Patrols were maintained over the Task Force. The only action occurred at approximately 1200 when a section of fighters led by Lieutenant S. W. Vejtasa, USN, was vectored to and shot down a 4-engine Kawanishi flying boat which had been shadowing 50 miles northwest of our force. Information received later indicated the position of our force had been reported to the enemy.
      3. During the night of November 13-14, a northwesterly course and high speed were maintained, placing this force at dawn on the 14th approximately 200 miles south-southwest of CACTUS. The situation at dawn on the 14th was obscure. No further contact reports on enemy carriers had been received, the presence or absence of other enemy forces within striking distance was not known, and no information as to the situation at GUADALCANAL or the availability of the field was at hand. It was decided to send out a search of the minimum number of planes capable of giving satisfactory coverage in order to maintain as large an attack group as possible, ready to strike any targets which were developed. Because of heavy rain squalls, the dawn launching was delayed until 0708 when 2 VSB were launched for single plane search of sectors bearing 285° - 315° (T) to a distance of 200 miles and 4 groups of 2 planes each to search sectors bearing 315°--015° (T) to a distance of 250 miles. At the same time a 3 plane Inner Air Patrol and an 8 plane Combat Air Patrol were also established. All search planes were armed with 500-lb. bombs and were ordered to transmit contact reports carefully and then attack.
      4. At 0808 Lieutenant W.I. Martin, one of the search pilots, reported that 10 unidentified planes were about 140 miles to the north, heading in the direction of our task force. On receipt of this message 12 VF were launched to augment our Combat Air Patrol. In addition, it was decided to send off the Attack Group, consisting of 17 VSB with 1000-lb, bombs and 10 VF, in order to clear the flight deck in case the ship should be subjected to attack and in order to strike early targets which, it was believed, certainly would be found in the GUADALCANAL area. Because of the absence of recent contact reports, this attack group was sent on a northerly course and instructed to listen for contact reports and to attack the best targets within range. The flight of unidentified planes was not picked up by the radar and no attack on us developed.
      5. The first contact report of enemy ships from our search planes was received from Lieut(jg) R.D. Gibson, of VB-10, at 0915. He reported a force of 9 enemy ships including one "possible XCV". At 0921 he reported the weather good and conditions favorable for dive bombing. He then (0935) amplified his report to include "2 BB, 2 CA, 1 possible XCV, 4 DD, position 08°-45'S, 157°-10'E, course 290°" (south of NEW GEORGIA).
      6. At 0925 ENTERPRISE broke radio silence to direct fighters. Lieut. M. Kilpatrick and Lieut(jg) W.K. Blair shot down a 4-engine patrol plane which was shadowing about 30 miles northeast of this Task Force.
      7. At 0944 Lt-Comdr. J.R. Lee, leader of the VSB group, was asked if he had received LT(jg) Gibson's contact report. He answered that he had missed the position. This information was given, and at 0945 Lt-Comdr. Lee's group was ordered to proceed to and attack this enemy force, then 270 miles from ENTERPRISE, and land at GUADALCANAL. These messages to the attack group were acknowledged.
      8. Lieut(jg) M.D. Carmody, at 0949, reported a second enemy force in position 08°-00'S, 158°-00'E (North of NEW GEORGIA), course 130°, speed 14 knots. A few minutes later, he amplified this report to read "many enemy transports, 2 CA, 3 CL, 6 DD", and confirmed position, course, and speed.
      9. Lieut(jg) Carmody then dove on one transport, and his wing man, Lieut(jg) W.E. Johnson, dove on another. Lieut(jg) Carmody's bomb hit just off the transport's stern. Lieut(jg) Johnson was seen being chased by Zeros and, up to the present, no further report of him has been received. Lieut(jg) Carmody landed back aboard at 1233 with 5 gallons of gasoline remaining after having been in the air for 5 hours and 21 minutes, and having performed his duties in an excellent manner.
      10. At 1044 Lieut(jg) R.D. Gibson reported that he and his wing man, Ensign R.M. Buchanan, had made direct hits on a NACHI class cruiser and left it burning badly. He reported being low on gasoline and that he was proceeding to CACTUS.
      11. The only other report from the search planes was from Ensign R.A. Hoogerwerf whose bomb fell only a few feet astern of a heavy cruiser. His wing man, Ensign P.M. Halloran, made a direct hit on another light cruiser which burst into flames and burned fiercely. Ensign Hoogerwerf reported on his return that the cruiser hit by Lieut(jg) Gibson, when last seen, was sinking and being circled by 3 DD's.
      12. At 1133, Lieut. W.I. Martin having completed a thorough search of the GUADALCANAL, FLORIDA, RUSSELL IS. and southeast tip of SANTA ISABEL reported "no enemy surface vessels in the vicinity of GUADALCANAL, FLORIDA, RUSSELL, SANTA ISABEL."
      13. A summary of the damage inflicted by the search planes: 2 hits on a CA (probably sunk), 1 hit on a CL, and near misses on an AP and a CA.
      14. The first attack group changed heading at 0940 to intercept the BB-CA force reported by Lt(jg) Gibson in the vicinity of RENDOVA I. One CA was sighted about 15 miles southwest of RENDOVA I., burning and apparently being abandoned. The group continued on a northwest track, sighted and attacked a force composed of CA's, CL's, and DD's, 30 miles west of RENDOVA I. Two direct hits were observed on one CL and several near misses on CA's and CL's. The VSB proceeded to CACTUS on completion of the attack. Eight VF returned to the ENTERPRISE and two proceeded to CACTUS after strafing a cruiser. Some half hour before reaching the target, the VSB changed course to the left while separated from the VF escort by a cloud. Due to scattered clouds in the area and inability of the VF to transmit on the search and attack frequency, contact was not regained. The 8 VF searched to the north and west, then due to fuel considerations, returned and landed on the ENTERPRISE. These VF were reserviced and relaunched with the second attack group.
      15. At 1405, a second attack group composed of the remaining 8 VSB with a 12 VF escort were launched to attack the transport force east of NEW GEORGIA, then proceed to CACTUS. The VSB were armed with one 1000-lb, 1/100 sec. fuze, bomb. At about 1620 this group attacked the transports with methodical and devastating effect, having been instructed to hit undamaged ships with only one bomb. One 1000-lb hit was made on each of five of the undamaged AP-AK's. The VF made two separate strafing attacks on the two remaining undamaged AP-AK's. The group landed at CACTUS.
      16. After launching the second attack group, the ENTERPRISE retired to the southward with only 18 VF.
      17. At 1500, the Combat Air Patrol was landed and the Task Force entered a weather front about 300 miles south of CACTUS.
      18. During daylight November 15, VF maintained Inner and Intermediate Air Patrols covering the Task Force retirement toward NOUMEA.
      1. Although the ship itself was not attacked, the two days of continuous General Quarters and operations in vicinity of enemy forces imposed unusual demands upon all hands. All departments operated smoothly and effectively.
      2. The excellent training which the Air Group has received, and the courage and determination with which it is inspired, were reflected in its magnificent performance. For this a large share of credit belongs to the Air Department, and on this account the performance of that Department is considered to have been outstanding.
      3. The report of the Executive Officer concerning conduct of personnel is fully concurred in. The recommendation for commendation of Commander Crommelin is being forwarded to the President Board of Awards, South Pacific Area, and further recommendations for awards to personnel of the Air Group are being prepared and will be forwarded to that Board.
      4. As a result of air actions, the following personnel are wounded or missing:
        • VF-10 - Wounded.
          • Lt.(jg) Henry A. Carey, A-V(N), USNR - Superficial wound left thigh.
          • Lt.(jg) Roy Marlin Voris, A-V(N), USNR - Painful but not serious gunshot wound in right thigh.
        • VT-10 - No casualties.
        • VS-10 - Missing in action on November 14, 1942:
          • Lt.(jg) W.E. Johnson, A-V(N), USNR., and Hughes, Hugh P., Jr. ARM3c, USNR - When last seen their plane was being heavily attacked by Jap Zeros. The section leader believes it was shot down.
        • VB-10 - Missing in action on November 14, 1942:
          • Ensign P.M. Halloran, A-V(N), USNR.
          • Lieut. V.W. Welch, USN.
          • Lt.(jg) J.D. Wakeham, A-V(N), USNR.
          • Ensign J.H. Carroum, A-V(N), USNR.
          • Gallagher, E., ARM3c, USN.
          • Ansley, H.C., ARM1c, USN.
          • Stanley, F.G., ARM1c, USN.
          • Hyson, R.C., ARM3c, USN.
        • Total Missing: 5 officers; 5 enlisted men.
        • Total Wounded: 2 officers.
    4. MATERIAL.
      Own Material.
      1. The ship's launching and arresting gear, with the exception of that damaged by enemy action on October 26, 1942, functioned normally.
      2. There was no action other than air.
      3. All aircraft on board were flown on combat missions, and there were no forced landings of planes launched from this ship.
      4. The ship and aircraft radio communications functioned satisfactorily. No fighter direction other than that incident to shooting down two "snoopers" was involved.
      5. The ship's radar functioned satisfactorily.
      6. All ordnance equipment on aircraft launched from ENTERPRISE functioned normally with the exception of two 1000-lb. bombs on scouts which failed to release for reasons so far undetermined. While operating from CACTUS, and probably due to servicing difficulties and lack of personnel, there were several instances of failure of flexible machine guns in SBD's to fire and bombs in TBF's and SBD's to release.
        Our Aircraft Losses.
        Five SBD's (B6, B12, B13, B14, B15) lost in action.
        Enemy Aircraft Losses.
        Kawanishi 97 VPB20 
        Nagoya Zero VF157 
        Damage to ENTERPRISE.
        Damage to Enemy: Summary of Hits.
        TypeHit byHitsResults
        1 BBVT-106 torpedoes plus 2 dudsProbably sunk
        1 CAVT-103 torpedoesProbably sunk
        1 APVT-102 torpedoesProbably sunk
        1 APVT-101 torpedoesDamaged
        3 APVT-101 500-lb bomb eachDamaged
        1 CLVS-102 1000-lb bombsProbably sunk
        3 APVS-101 1000-lb bomb eachBadly damaged
        1 APVS-101 1000-lb bombBadly damaged
        1 APVS-101 1000-lb bombBadly damaged
        4 AP-AKVS-101 1000-lb bomb eachBadly damaged
        1 APVS-101 1000-lb bombBadly damaged
        1 APVS-101 1000-lb bombBadly damaged
        1 AP(beached)VS-101 1000-lb bombBadly damaged
        1 AP(beached)VS-101 1000-lb bombBadly damaged
        2 AP-AK(beached)VS-101 1000-lb bomb eachBadly damaged
        1 CA(NACHI)VB-102 500-lb bombsSunk
        1 CLVB-101 500-lb bombBadly damaged
        1 APVB-101 1000-lb bombBadly damaged
        1 APVS-102 1000-lb bombsSunk
        2 APVB-101 1000-lb bomb eachBadly damaged
        1 APVB-102 1000-lb bombsBadly damaged
        2 AP(beached)VB-101 1000-lb bomb eachBadly damaged
        1 CLVF-10StrafedSlightly damaged
        2 APVF-10StrafedSlightly damaged
        1 DDVF-10StrafedSlightly damaged
        Stores dumpVS-101 1000-lb bombDestroyed
        Ammunition dumpVB-101 1000-lb bombDestroyed
        No accurate estimates of the total number of ships sunk and damaged can be arrived at. It is known that each of several ships was attacked and damaged at different times by different pilots. No near misses are included. Some of these vessels were also attacked by Army bombers and strafers and by Marine Corps dive bombers, torpedo planes and strafers.
      7. Ammunition Expended by ENTERPRISE.
        1. Ammunition supplied by the ship was as follows:
        • 12 - 500-lb bombs
        • 25 - 1000-lb bombs
        • 7 - Mark 13-1 torpedoes
        • 1 - Mark 13-2 torpedo
        • 49,000 rounds - .50 cal.
        • 72,000 rounds - .30 cal.
      1. Nothing in the operations herein discussed altered materially previously held views as to methods of operations of Carrier Task Forces. However, a number of points did arise which are worthy of mention.
      2. As in nearly all previous actions, the need for more complete information was keenly felt. Reports as to enemy targets in the GUADALCANAL area were in several cases incomplete and confusing. What now appears to have been erroneous reports of enemy carrier contacts might, under different circumstances, have had a decidedly adverse effect upon decisions as to the operations of this Task Force. The almost total absence of reports from GUADALCANAL as to the status of the landing field introduced an unnecessary element of uncertainty.
      3. The air operations of the ENTERPRISE, other than routine searches and patrols, consisted of the launching of attack groups, which were sent in to attack such targets as offered themselves in the vicinity of GUADALCANAL. Even the search on the morning of the 14th had orders to attack objectives found, and if necessary to proceed to GUADALCANAL for reservicing, and thereafter to operate from GUADALCANAL or return to the ship as conditions warranted or as directed. Under these circumstances it was permissible to launch the groups at distances from objectives varying from 230 miles up to as far as 290 miles. This is too far if recovery of planes by the carrier prior to their refueling is contemplated. Where such recovery is planned with present carrier aircraft, launchings at distances from objectives above 200 miles, are rather awkward. The reasons for this lie in the small fuel margin which is left for developing contacts; for combat at the objective (as was required here); and for finding the carrier under conditions of low visibility, or when due to imperfect plane navigation, or to unexpected and unannounced movements of the carrier, difficulty is experienced in locating her. It follows therefore that unless the carrier plans to stand on in and close the range, attacks should if possible be launched from positions no more than 200 miles from the objective, and preferably closer. To extend this distance by relatively small increments makes little difference to attacking enemy planes, whereas it may make a great difference when it comes to recovering one's own group.
      4. Availability of a landing field ashore altered the situation in this particular operation. However, everything observed here supported the generally accepted view, that a carrier should go in, hit, get clear, and not remain in the danger zone longer than absolutely necessary. Two "snoopers" which were shot down on successive days, together with other information received, indicates that the position of this force was known within rather narrow limits by the enemy during the time the force was operating in advance areas. Under such conditions the period of exposure must be kept to a minimum.
      5. Again it seems wise to point out the fact that there is a constant tendency to overestimate the travel of Point Option when this travel is in a down wind direction. Such overestimation is usually occasioned by the desire to advance in that direction. However, it in no way facilitates such advance and usually results only in a wide separation of the ship from Point Option with consequent embarrassment to returning planes. When patrols, searches, forced landings and unplanned launchings and recoveries are taken into account, it is literally astonishing how difficult it is to advance Point Option down wind. Therefore operating personnel must take into account very carefully items such as force and direction of the wind, numbers of scheduled launchings, and probable direction of movement of the carrier due to submarine reports and other emergencies such as threatened actual air attacks. It is easy to move Point Option in up wind directions, but difficult to move it down wind.
      6. The forward elevator was out of commission throughout all operations due to damage received on 26 October. A repair party was on board working on it throughout, and it was ready for starting tests after the 13th. However, due to fear of its sticking in a down position, and this blocking operations which were progressing satisfactorily, the tests were not made. In spite of this the ENTERPRISE operated 32 VF and 31 SBD with no difficulty whatsoever. Nine TBF and six VF were sent ashore in order to attack objectives at GUADALCANAL (which they did nobly) and to reduce plane congestion on the ship. Had it been necessary to land all of the 63 remaining planes at one time, some delay would have been encountered due to necessity of using number two elevator to clear the flight deck. Fortunately such necessity did not arise.
      7. The lack of sustained enemy air attack on CACTUS during this operation indicates an appreciable depletion of his air forces.
      8. The employment of the ENTERPRISE Air Group first from the ship and subsequently from the field at CACTUS was an effective use of the Group and resulted in maximum damage to the enemy.
      9. The conditions under which the torpedo planes were used with such destructive results in this operation were within the limitations governing the use of torpedo planes as advocated in previous reports.
      10. The successful landing of a large sea borne force in the face of strong aircraft opposition is extremely difficult.
      11. Our Mk. 13-1 torpedoes do not contain enough explosive; their speed is too slow, and range excessive.
      12. Enemy antiaircraft fire was relatively ineffective.
      13. The phenomenally high percentage of bomb and torpedo hits was due to careful training in basic fundamentals, excellent leadership in the air, the employment of small highly flexible units, and efficient fighter protection on our part, and lack of effective AA and fighter opposition by the enemy.
      14. The high percentage of malfunctioning torpedoes among those loaded at CACTUS indicates the necessity of improvement in the protection, maintenance, adjustment, and loading of torpedoes at the landing field of an advanced base. The necessity of protecting the firing mechanism from the elements and from dust should be impressed upon all personnel concerned.
      15. The potentialities for effective use of landing fields by carrier air groups should be given careful consideration in the planning of carrier task force operations.
      16. It is recommended that .08 second delay fuzes be made available for use with the demolition bombs now in the carriers.
(Signed) O. B. HARDISON
  • Cincpac (original & 2)
  • Comsopac (2)
  • Comairpac (1)
  • Comtaskforc 16 (3)

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