S E C R E T
|From:||The Commanding Officer.|
|To:||The Commander in Chief, United States Pacific Fleet.|
|Via:||(1) Commander Task Force SIXTEEN.|
(2) Commander South Pacific Force.
|Subject:||Action against Japanese Air Forces Attacking Task Force Eighteen off Rennel Island.|
|Reference:||(a) Articles 712 and 874, U.S. Navy Regulations, 1920.|
(b) Pac.Flt. Conf. ltr. 24CL-42.
|Enclosures:||(A) Executive Officer's Report.|
(B) Track Chart.
(C) War Diary.
(D) Commander Air Group Ten Report of Action
- In compliance with references (a) and (b), a report of the action which took place
on January 30, 1943, east of Rennel Island is submitted herewith.
- On January 28, 1943, the U.S.S. ENTERPRISE got underway from Segond Channel, Espiritu Santo and proceeded to sea in company with Task Force 16, Rear Admiral Frederick C. Sherman, U.S. Navy, Commander of the Task Force. Task Force 16 consisted of the U.S.S. ENTERPRISE, SAN DIEGO, MORRIS, ELLET, MUSTIN, HUGHES, and RUSSEL, and was ordered to destroy any Japanese forces advancing on the Southern Solomon Islands. After clearing the channel, Air Group Ten, composed of 35 fighters, 14 scouts, 12 bombers and 13 torpedo planes, flew out from Espiritu Santo and landed on board.
- In accordance with ComSoPac despatch 271145 Task Force 16 proceeded through Bougainville Strait north of Malekula Island and headed for Point Easy, latitude 15° 30' S., longitude 161° E. On the evening of January 29, 1943 Task Force 16 was directed to proceed to Point Able, latitude 16° 30' S., longitude 157° E., and there to rendezvous with Task Force 11, U.S.S. SARATOGA, Flagship, at 2100 January 29, 1943, for the purpose of conducting combined exercises.
- At 1300- January 29, 1943, the following despatch (in plain language) was received
from Commander Task Force 16:
"INFORMATION X TF 18 ATTACKED BY ENEMY BOMBERS AND TORPEDO PLANES SOUTH OF GUADALCANAL DURING NIGHT 29-30 JAN X CHICAGO DAMAGED AND UNDER TOW OF LOUISVILLE IN POSITION LAT 10-33 LONG 160-07 AT 2115 LOVE 29TH COURSE 150 X THIS FORCE WILL SEARCH FOR AND PROVIDE AIR COVERAGE AT DAYLIGHT FOR TASK FORCE 18 X ENTERPRISE ASSIGN 18 VF TASK AIR COVERAGE FOR TASK FORCE 18 X MAINTAIN 6 VF OVER TF 18 DURING DAYLIGHT X LAUNCH 4 SEARCH PLANES AND FIRST SECTION OF VF AT EARLIEST DAWN X MAINTAIN INNER AND INTERMEDIATE PATROLS OVER TF 16 AND COMBAT PATROL IN READINESS ON DECK X OPERATION ORDER 2-43XX"
Task Force 16 closed Task Force 18 and commencing at daylight, the ENTERPRISE provided air coverage as directed by the above despatch.
- Weather on January 29-30, 1943, was as follows: A tropical front was situated a short distance north of the ship the entire day. Partly cloudy from 1230-1830 - with broken alto-cumulus and alto-stratus clouds about 15,000 feet. Scattered to broken cumulus and strato-cumulus at 1000-1500 feet the entire day. After 1830 upper clouds slowly increased becoming overcast with few breaks by 2230. This condition continued until 0830, after which the clouds rapidly decreased to scattered. Light showers between 2022 and 2116; light continuous rain between 0020-0210; moderate showers between 0843-1022. Ceiling mostly unlimited, but lowering to less than 1000 feet in showers. Visibility good, but lowering less than 1 mile in moderate showers. Surface wind 1230-1130, mostly ENE, velocity varying from calm to 14 knots at times; 1130-0030, gentle SSE 5-10 knots; 0030-0430, gentle ESE 4-7 knots; 0430-1230, gentle SE to ESE 6-10 knots. Sea mostly smooth with only slight long low swell. Flying conditions average.
- THE ACTION
- At 2100 January 29, 1943, the Combat Patrol sighted a Zero fighter, landplane type, approximately 20 miles west of Task Force 16. The patrol gave chase but the enemy plane climbed into the sun and pulled rapidly away. This plane probably was a photographic-reconnaissance type fighter.
- At 0035 January 30, 1943, search radar picked up a bogey bearing 230°, distance 40 miles. Fighters were vectored out but in a forty mile chase to the NE, the bogey opened out on the VF. Estimated speed of bogey 200-220 knots. This bogey circled Task Force 18 and was tracked until 0200 when it faded from the screen.
- At 0304 the following dispatch was received from Radio Guadalcanal: "Eleven unidentified twin-engine aircraft bearing two six eight Tare dis one three zero course one five zero 1145L."
- At 0440 four fighters on Combat Patrol over Task Force 18 sighted one Type 1, Mitsubishi twin-engine bomber plane on a SE course. This plane which was apparently on advance reconnaissance was shot down after a 40 miles chase to the SW.
- At 0454 the CXAM search radar reported a group of bogies, bearing 300°, distance 67 miles. The ship went to General Quarters and prepared to repel air attack. Ten additional fighters were launched to augment the combat patrol of 4 VF over Task Force 16 and 6 VF over Task Force 18.
- At 0459 the 6 VF over Task Force 18 were vectored on course 190°, distance 20 miles. They intercepted a group of 12 twin-engine, Type 1, Mitsubishi planes, which were headed for the ENTERPRISE. At this time the enemy planes were within 17 miles of the ENTERPRISE, having been tracked in on a direct line, bearing 330°. Upon being intercepted by Lt. Kilpatrick's group they turned left and headed for the CHICAGO. The ENTERPRISE was in sight of Lt. Kilpatrick's section at the interception. This turn enabled the combat patrol to close, attack, and shoot down three planes. Nine enemy planes reached the screen of 4 DD and 1 Corvette protecting the CHICAGO. At this time the 4-plane Combat Air Patrol over Task Force 16 sighted the enemy aircraft and joined in the attack and four more enemy planes were shot down during the approach. Our fighters pursued the enemy through AA fire, and after passing over the CHICAGO,three more enemy planes were shot down and one damaged. A detailed report of the action is contained in the report of Commander Fighting Squadron Ten (Enclosure (A) of Enclosure (D)).
- At 0553 radar screen clear.
- For the remainder of the day routine Combat Patrols were maintained over Task Force 16 and 18 and Inner and Intermediate Patrols over Task Force 16. At sunset, Task Force 16 retired towards the south.
- The performance of the pilots of Fighting Squadron Ten in destroying eleven out of thirteen enemy planes was highly commendable. The courage and determination displayed by our pilots in following the attacking enemy planes through our own anti-aircraft fire is in accordance with the highest traditions of our service. The conduct of the ship's company, when air attack was believed imminent, was excellent.
- Recommendations for awards will be made by separate letter.
- There were no personnel casualties.
- In general the performance of the aircraft, aircraft armament, and the arresting gear of the carrier was excellent.
- The experience of VF-10 with attempts to drop wing tanks in battle has been very discouraging if the plane is making appreciable speed and particularly so if there is fuel in the tank. During this battle only one pilot could release the wing tank. The remainder were forced to join combat with the wing tanks in place. Under such circumstances the wing tank is a serious fire hazard, reduces the speed of the aircraft, and at very high speed effects the pilots gunnery.
- Eleven thousand (11,000) rounds of .50 caliber ammunition were expended.
- Although communications were not entirely satisfactory during the period of this action, they were much improved over former actions and sufficiently satisfactory to enable interception of the enemy by our Combat Patrol with the resultant destruction of enemy planes. Fighter direction was very good. It should be noted that YE equipment is not designed for communication purposes, but for homing only. The attempts to communicate on YE channel are experimental in nature, using stop-gap equipment and make-shift procedure, with the object of vectoring fighters to investigate bogies without breaking radio silence. Regarding communication on assigned fighter radio frequency the unsatisfactory results on this occasion were, as usual, largely due to the inadequate communication equipment installed in fighters. This has been the basis of too much correspondence in the past to warrant further comment here, especially in view of the current efforts of the Bureau of Aeronautics to rectify deficiencies at an early date. In this connection it may be noted that VF were operated beyond the recommended reliable range of VF radio equipment.
- OWN AND ENEMY LOSSES
- Our Aircraft Losses - none. Two planes received superficial damage from enemy fire.
- Enemy Aircraft Losses - 11 Type 1 - Mitsubishi Twin-engine torpedo bombers destroyed and one damaged.
- Japanese forces are capable of launching a torpedo-bomber attack at a distance of at least 275 miles, the distance from Munda to position of CHICAGO.
- The Japanese may now be using a single engine high performance type of reconnaissance plane, probably a Zero type fighter designed for photographic-reconnaissance work.
- The difficulty of providing effective air coverage from carriers for crippled vessels is considerable. If the carrier remains with the crippled escort she can furnish fighter direction but she is extremely vulnerable to both enemy aircraft and submarine attack. Probably the best distance is from 50-75 miles dependent upon visibility. At this distance, though fighter direction cannot be furnished, the maintenance of the patrol is simplified and the risk of discovery is much reduced. At further distances an undue amount of time and fuel is consumed in flights to and from station.
- Japanese torpedo-bomber pilots once committed to an attack are most determined and will press it home.
- Japanese torpedo-bombers make very accurate drops at speeds on the order of 250 knots.
- The Japanese will send out a strike of torpedo-bombers without fighter coverage in face of strong enemy opposition.
- Japanese torpedo-bombers depend upon high speed rather than armament for defense.
- An estimated group speed of 160 knots of the Japanese planes from the time sighted by our forces at Guadalcanal to arrival at the point of contact was approximately accurate.
- Fighter planes fired on all planes shot down. However, in an engagement such as this and, where fighters follow the torpedo planes on into the screen, undoubtedly the AA fire contributed to the destruction of some of the hostile planes.
- Protection of large convoys and crippled vessels can well be accomplished by a fighter equipped ACV. This offers a most useful field for that type carrier.
- All external fuel tanks must be designed for dropping at high speed.
- New type faster fighters should be supplied to our first line carriers at the earliest possible date as it is becoming increasingly more difficult for the F4F-4, even with altitude advantage, to intercept the fast enemy aircraft in sufficient time to break up and defeat an attack on surface vessels.
|(Signed) O. B. HARDISON.|