Naval Battle of Guadalcanal
13th November 1942: In a enormously destructive encounter both sides suffer ship losses - but the US Navy decisively ends the Japanese threat to Guadalcanal
Ever since the Marines handed landed on Guadalcanal in early August and seized the airfield, the Japanese had been determined to recapture it. Repeated Japanese infantry attacks on the perimeter of Henderson Field had been decimated during a series of valiant stands by the Marines.
The existence of the ‘Cactus Air Force’ - named after the code word for Guadalcanal - prevented the daylight resupply of Japanese forces on the island. Instead, the Japanese were forced to bring in troops on the ‘Tokyo Express’ - fast destroyers making the overnight trip, depositing their loads and departing quickly. This arrangement did not allow for the transport of heavy guns or the quantity of materiel needed to make a proper assault on the US positions.
In an attempt to break through these difficulties the Japanese now sought to bombard Henderson Field with special fragmentation shells - so that they would be free to bring in 7,000 new troops and their heavy equipment on slow transports by day.
But US Intelligence had caught wind of the operation. Between 12-15th November a series of naval clashes, combined with aircraft strikes from both Henderson Field and the carrier USS Enterprise, became known as the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal.
The Japanese task force was met head-on by a smaller U.S. Navy force. On a pitch-black night in the early hours of Friday 13th November, the two naval forces hammered into each other at almost point-blank range.
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