Monday, November 26, 2012

26 November 1943: The Battle of Cape St. George

Fought on Thanksgiving Day, 26th Nov. 1943, the Battle of Cape St George was perhaps the greatest destroyer action fought in the Pacific Campaign in World War II. It was the last engagement between surface ships in the Solomon Islands Campaign.

Americans had landed troops on Bougainville on November 1st, 1943. This posed a threat to the Japanese based on Buka island to the west. 900 Japanese army troops were loaded on the destroyer transports Amagari, Yugiri, Uzuki and sent together with the destroyers Onami,v Makinami, under the command of Capt. Kagawa to relieve the garrison.

The US Navy learned of the convoy and sent Desron23 (Destroyer Squadron 23, 'The Little Beavers') -five Fletcher class destroyers, Charles Ausburne, Claxton, Dyson, Converse and Spence under the command of Captain (later Admiral) Arleigh Burke to intercept it.

The Japanese destroyers landed the 900 troops and supplies, then embarked navy personnel, who were being withdrawn, and were returning to Rabaul, when at about 01:40 (1:40 am) they were spotted by the US ships using radar. Desron23 approached at high speed and launched 15 torpedoes at 01.55, before the Japanese sighted them. Onami was hit by several torpedoes and sank immediately.Makinami was hit by one torpedo, disabled and sunk by gunfire. The transport destroyers fled in different directions. Burke pursued Yugiri to a point very close to Japanese air cover and sank her at 03:30 before turning away for safety under US air cover. 

Until this battle, the Japanese Imperial Navy had dominated night fighting, repeatedly inflicting heavy damage on the US Navy. After this battle, the US Navy gained dominance in night fighting and "owned the night" in the Pacific for the remainder of the war.

This battle ended Japan's famous "Tokyo Express" and saw the end of Japanese resistance in the Solomon Islands.

Live Long and Prosper...

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