Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands


caption=Anti-aircraft shell bursts, fired at attacking Japanese aircraft, fill the sky above USS "Enterprise" (center left) and her screening ships during the battle on October 26, 1942.
partof=the Pacific Theater of World War II
date=October 25, 1942 – October 27, 1942
place=Santa Cruz Islands, Solomon Islands
result= Japanese pyrrhic tactical victory; U.S. strategic victory

combatant1=flagicon|USA|1912 United States
combatant2=flagicon|Japan|alt Empire of Japan
commander1=flagicon|USA|1912 William Halsey, Jr.,
flagicon|USA|1912 Thomas C. Kinkaid
commander2=flagicon|Japan|naval Isoroku Yamamoto,
flagicon|Japan|naval Nobutake Kondo
strength1=2 carriers, 1 battleship, 6 cruisers, 14 destroyers, 136 aircraft [Frank, "Guadalcanal", p. 373. Breakdown of aircraft by type: 63-F4F Wildcats, 47-SBD Dauntless, and 26-TBF Avengers. The "136" number doesn't include B-17s based at Espiritu Santo (who played a small part in the battle) or any seaplanes in the area.]
strength2=4 carriers, 2 battleships, 10 cruisers, 22 destroyers, 199 aircraft [Frank, "Guadalcanal", p. 373. Breakdown of aircraft by type: 87-A6M Zeros, 68-Aichi D3A "Vals", 57-Nakajima B5N "Kates", and one Yokosuka D4Y "Judy."]
casualties1=1 carrier sunk, 1 destroyer sunk, 1 carrier heavily damaged, 2 destroyers heavily damaged, 81 aircraft destroyed, 266 dead [Frank, "Guadalcanal", p. 401 and Lundstrom, "Guadalcanal Campaign", p. 456. Breakdown of deaths: "Hornet"-118, "Enterprise"-44, "Smith"-57, "Porter"-15, "Pensacola"-3, "South Dakota"-2, "Morris"-1, and 22 aircrew. Four U.S. aircrew members were captured by the Japanese. Total U.S. aircraft losses included 32 Wildcats, 31 SBDs, and 18 TBFs.]
casualties2=2 carriers heavily damaged, 1 cruiser heavily damaged, 99 aircraft destroyed 400–500 dead [Frank, "Guadalcanal", p. 400–401 and Lundstrom, "Guadalcanal Campaign", p. 454. Japanese deaths from damage to "Zuihō" aren't known. Known Japanese deaths are: 60 on "Shōkaku", 190 on "Chikuma", seven on "Teruzuki", and 148 aircrew. Total Japanese aircraft losses included 27 Zeros, 40 Vals, 29 Kates, and 1 Judy.] |

The Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands, October 26, 1942, sometimes referred to as the Battle of Santa Cruz or in Japanese sources as the Nihongo|Battle of the South Pacific|南太平洋海戦, was the fourth carrier battle of the Pacific campaign of World War II and the fourth major naval engagement fought between the United States Navy and the Imperial Japanese Navy during the lengthy and strategically important Guadalcanal campaign. In similar fashion to the battles of Coral Sea, Midway, and the Eastern Solomons, the ships of the two adversaries were rarely in direct visual range of each other. Instead, almost all attacks by both sides were mounted by carrier or land-based aircraft.

In an attempt to drive Allied forces from Guadalcanal and nearby islands and end the stalemate which had existed since September 1942, the Imperial Japanese Army planned a major ground offensive on Guadalcanal for October 20October 25, 1942. In support of this offensive, and with the hope of engaging Allied naval forces, Japanese carriers and other large warships moved into a position near the southern Solomon Islands. From this location, the Japanese naval forces hoped to engage and decisively defeat any Allied (primarily U.S.) naval forces, especially carrier forces, that responded to the ground offensive. Allied naval forces also hoped to meet the Japanese naval forces in battle, with the same objectives of breaking the stalemate and decisively defeating their adversary.

The Japanese ground offensive on Guadalcanal was defeated by Allied ground forces in the Battle for Henderson Field. Nevertheless, the naval warships and aircraft from the two adversaries confronted each other on the morning of October 26, 1942, just north of the Santa Cruz Islands. After an exchange of carrier air attacks, Allied surface ships were forced to retreat from the battle area with the loss of one carrier sunk and another heavily damaged. The participating Japanese carrier forces, however, also retired because of high aircraft and aircrew losses plus significant damage to two carriers. Although an apparent tactical victory for the Japanese in terms of ships sunk and damaged, the loss of many irreplaceable, veteran aircrews by the Japanese provided a long-term strategic advantage for the Allies, whose aircrew losses in the battle were relatively low.

Background

On August 7, 1942, Allied forces (primarily U.S.) landed on Guadalcanal, Tulagi, and Florida Islands in the Solomon Islands. The landings on the islands were meant to deny their use by the Japanese as bases for threatening the supply routes between the U.S. and Australia, and to secure the islands as starting points for a campaign with the eventual goal of isolating the major Japanese base at Rabaul while also supporting the Allied New Guinea campaign. The landings initiated the six-month-long Guadalcanal campaign. [Hogue, "Pearl Harbor to Guadalcanal", p. 235–236.]

After the Battle of the Eastern Solomons, in which the aircraft carrier USS "Enterprise" was heavily damaged and forced to travel to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, for a month of major repairs, three U.S. carrier task forces remained in the South Pacific area. The task forces included the carriers USS "Wasp", USS "Saratoga", and USS "Hornet" plus their respective air groups and supporting surface warships, including battleships, cruisers, and destroyers, and were primarily stationed between the Solomons and New Hebrides (Vanuatu) islands. At this location, the carriers were charged with guarding the line of communication between the major Allied bases at New Caledonia and Espiritu Santo, supporting the Allied ground forces at Guadalcanal and Tulagi against any Japanese counteroffensives, covering the movement of supply ships to Guadalcanal, and engaging and destroying any Japanese warships, especially carriers, that came within range. [cite book
last = Hammel
first = Eric
authorlink = Eric M. Hammel
coauthors =
year = 1997
chapter =
title = Carrier Clash: The Invasion of Guadalcanal & and the Battle of the Eastern Solomons, August 1942
publisher = Pacifica Press
location =
id = ISBN 0935553207
p. 106.
]

The area of ocean in which the U.S. carrier task forces operated was known as "Torpedo Junction" [Frank, "Guadalcanal", p. 335.] by U.S. forces because of the high concentration of Japanese submarines in the area. [Hammel, "Carrier Strike", p. 6–7.] On August 31, "Saratoga" was torpedoed by Japanese submarine "I-26" and was out of action for three months for repairs. [Hammel, "Carrier Strike", p. 10–12.] [After this incident the then U.S. carrier task force commander Frank Jack Fletcher was relieved of his command and reassigned to shore duty for the remainder of the war. Frank, "Guadalcanal", p. 204–205] On September 14, while supporting a major reinforcement and resupply convoy to Guadalcanal, and almost engaging Japanese carriers "Shōkaku" and "Zuikaku" (who withdrew just before the two adversaries came into range of each other's aircraft), "Wasp" was hit by three torpedoes fired by Japanese submarine "I-19". With power knocked out from torpedo damage, "Wasp"’s damage-control teams were unable to contain the ensuing large fires, and she was abandoned and scuttled. [Evans, "Japanese Navy", p. 179–180, Hammel, "Carrier Strike", p. 24–41. Battleship USS "North Carolina" and destroyer USS "O'Brien" were also hit by torpedoes during the same attack. "O'Brien" later sank as a result of the torpedo damage, and "North Carolina" was under repair at Pearl Harbor until November 16, 1942.]

Although the U.S. now had only one operational carrier ("Hornet") in the South Pacific, the Allies still maintained air superiority over the southern Solomon Islands because of their aircraft based at Henderson Field on Guadalcanal. However, at night, when aircraft were not able to operate effectively, the Japanese were able to operate their ships around Guadalcanal almost at will. Thus, a stalemate in the battle for Guadalcanal developed, with the Allies delivering supplies and reinforcements to Guadalcanal during the day, and the Japanese delivering supplies and reinforcements by warship (called the "Tokyo Express" by the Allies) at night with neither side able to deliver enough troops to the island to secure a decisive advantage. By mid-October, both sides had roughly an equal number of troops on the island. [Hammel, "Carrier Strike", p. 19–21, 84–85.] The stalemate was briefly interrupted by two large-ship naval actions. On the night of October 11October 12, a U.S. warship force intercepted and defeated a Japanese warship force that was enroute to bombard Henderson Field in the Battle of Cape Esperance. But, just two nights later a Japanese force that included battleships "Haruna" and "Kongō" successfully bombarded Henderson Field, destroying most of the U.S. aircraft and inflicting severe damage on the field's facilities. [Frank, "Guadalcanal", p. 316–319.] Although still marginally operational, it took several weeks for the airfield to recover from the damage and replace the destroyed aircraft.

At this time, the U.S. made two moves to try to break the stalemate in the battle for Guadalcanal. First, repairs to "Enterprise" were expedited so that she could return to the South Pacific as soon as possible. On October 10, "Enterprise" received her new air groups; on October 16, she left Pearl Harbor; and on October 23, [Hammel, "Carrier Strike", p. 154–155.] she arrived back in the South Pacific and rendezvoused with "Hornet" and the rest of the Allied South Pacific naval forces on October 24, 273 nautical miles (505 km) northeast of Espiritu Santo. [McGee, "The Solomons Campaigns", p. 145.]

Second, on October 18, Admiral Chester Nimitz, Allied Commander in Chief of Pacific Forces, replaced Vice Admiral Robert L. Ghormley, as Commander, South Pacific Area (this position commanded Allied forces involved in the Solomon Islands campaign) with Vice Admiral William Halsey, Jr. [McGee, "The Solomons Campaigns", p. 134.] Nimitz felt that Ghormley had become too myopic and pessimistic to effectively lead Allied forces involved in the struggle for Guadalcanal. Halsey was reportedly respected throughout the U.S. naval fleet as a "fighter." [Frank, "Guadalcanal", p. 334.] Upon assuming command, Halsey immediately began making plans to draw the Japanese naval forces into a battle, writing to Nimitz, "I had to begin throwing punches almost immediately." [Hammel, "Carrier Strike", p. 150.]

The Japanese Combined Fleet was also seeking to draw Allied naval forces into what was hoped to be a decisive battle. Two fleet carriers, "Hiyō" and "Junyō", plus one light carrier, "Zuihō", arrived at the main Japanese naval base at Truk from Japan in early October and joined "Shōkaku" and "Zuikaku." With five carriers fully equipped with air groups, plus their numerous battleships, cruisers, and destroyers, the Japanese Combined Fleet, directed by Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, was confident that they could make up for their defeat at the Battle of Midway. [Hammel, "Carrier Strike", p. 146–149.] Apart from a couple of air raids on Henderson Field in October, the Japanese carriers and their supporting warships stayed out of the battle for Guadalcanal in the northwestern area of the Solomon Islands, waiting for a chance to approach and engage the U.S. carriers. With the Japanese Army's next planned major ground attack on Allied forces on Guadalcanal set for October 20, Yamamoto's warships began to position themselves towards the southern Solomons to support the army offensive on Guadalcanal, and to be ready to engage any Allied (primarily U.S.) ships, especially carriers, that approached to support the Allied defenses on Guadalcanal. The Japanese believed that U.S. Navy forces were likely to be in the Solomons Island area because they had read a report from the United Press dated October 20 that stated that the United States Navy was preparing for a major sea and air battle in the South Pacific. [Hara, "Japanese Destroyer Captain", p. 124–125.]

Battle

Prelude

From October 20 to October 25, Japanese land forces on Guadalcanal attempted to capture Henderson Field with a large-scale attack against U.S. troops defending the airfield. However, the attack was decisively defeated with heavy casualties for the Japanese during the Battle for Henderson Field. [Hammel, "Carrier Strike", p. 95–97.]

Incorrectly believing that the Japanese army troops had succeeded in capturing Henderson Field, a force of Japanese warships approached Guadalcanal on the morning of October 25 to provide further support for the army offensive. Aircraft from Henderson Field attacked the convoy throughout the day, sinking the light cruiser "Yura" and damaging the destroyer "Akizuki". [Hammel, "Carrier Strike", p. 103–106. The force consisted of Japanese cruiser "Yura", and destroyers "Akizuki", "Harusame", "Murasame", and "Yudachi" (Parshall, "Imperial Japanese Navy Page"-Combinedfleet.com). Although Hammel says that it was a supply convoy, Parshall says that it was a bombardment force. "Akizuki" went to Japan for repairs, which were completed on December 16, 1942. This incident is usually considered a separate action from the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands.]

Despite the failure of the Japanese ground offensive and the loss of "Yura", the rest of the Combined Fleet continued to maneuver near the southern Solomon Islands on October 25 with the hope of encountering Allied naval forces in battle. The Japanese naval forces included four carriers, because "Hiyō" had suffered an accidental, damaging fire on October 22 that forced her to return to Truk for repairs. [Hara, "Japanese Destroyer Captain", p. 124.] The Japanese naval forces were divided into three groups: The "Advanced" force contained "Junyō", plus two battleships, four heavy cruisers, one light cruiser, and 10 destroyers, and was commanded by Vice Admiral Nobutake Kondo in heavy cruiser "Atago"; the "Main Body" consisted of "Shōkaku", "Zuikaku", and "Zuihō" plus one heavy cruiser and eight destroyers, and was commanded by Vice Admiral Chuichi Nagumo in "Shōkaku"; the "Vanguard" force contained two battleships, three heavy cruisers, one light cruiser, and seven destroyers, and was commanded by Rear Admiral Hiroaki Abe in battleship "Hiei". In addition to commanding the Advanced force, Kondo acted as the overall commander of the three forces. [Frank, "Guadalcanal", p. 374–375.]

On the U.S. side, the "Hornet" and "Enterprise" task groups, under the overall command of Rear Admiral Thomas Kinkaid swept around to the north of the Santa Cruz Islands on October 25 searching for the Japanese naval forces. The U.S. warships were deployed as two separate carrier groups, each centered on either "Hornet" or "Enterprise", and separated from each other by about 10 nmi (19 km). A U.S. PBY Catalina based in the Santa Cruz Islands located the Japanese Main body carriers at 11:03. However, the Japanese carriers were about 355 nmi (655 km) from the U.S. force, just beyond carrier aircraft range. Kinkaid, hoping to close the range to be able to execute an attack that day, steamed towards the Japanese carriers at top speed and, at 14:25, launched a strike force of 23 aircraft. But the Japanese, knowing that they had been spotted by U.S. aircraft and not knowing where the U.S. carriers were, turned to the north to stay out of range of the U.S. carriers' aircraft. [Hara, "Japanese Destroyer Captain", p. 127.] Thus, the U.S. strike force returned to their carriers without finding or attacking the Japanese warships. [Hammel, "Carrier Strike", p. 163–174.]

Carrier action on October 26 - first strikes

At 02:50 on October 26, the Japanese naval forces reversed direction and the naval forces of the two adversaries closed the distance until they were only 200 nmi (370 km) away from each other by 05:00. [Hammel, "Carrier Strike", p. 186.] Both sides launched search aircraft and prepared their remaining aircraft to attack as soon as the other side's ships were located. Although a radar-equipped PBY Catalina sighted the Japanese carriers at 03:10, the report did not reach Kinkaid until 05:12. Therefore, believing that the Japanese ships had probably changed position during the last two hours, he decided to withhold launching a strike force until he received more current information on the location of the Japanese ships. [Frank, "Guadalcanal", p. 381.]

At 06:45, a U.S. scout aircraft sighted the carriers of Nagumo's Main body. [Hammel, "Carrier Strike", p. 187.] At 06:58, a Japanese scout aircraft reported the location of "Hornet"’s task force. [Frank, "Guadalcanal", p. 382.] Both sides raced to be the first to attack the other. The Japanese were first to get their strike force launched, with 64 aircraft, including 21 "Val" dive bombers, 20 "Kate" torpedo bombers, 21 Zero fighters, and two "Kate" command and control aircraft on the way towards "Hornet" by 07:40. [Hammel, "Carrier Strike", p. 191–192.] Also at 07:40, two U.S. SBD Dauntless scout aircraft, responding to the earlier sighting of the Japanese carriers, arrived and dove on "Zuihō". With the Japanese combat air patrol (CAP) busy chasing other U.S. scout aircraft away, the two U.S. aircraft were able to approach and drop both of their bombs on "Zuihō", causing heavy damage and preventing the carrier's flight deck from being able to land aircraft. [Frank, "Guadalcanal", p. 382.]

Meanwhile, Kondo ordered Abe's Vanguard force to race ahead to try to intercept and engage the U.S. warships. Kondo also brought his own Advanced force forward at maximum speed so that "Junyō’s" aircraft could join in the attacks on the U.S. ships. At 08:10, "Shōkaku" launched a second wave of strike aircraft, consisting of 19 Vals and eight Zeros, and "Zuikaku" launched 16 Kates at 08:40. Thus, by 09:10 the Japanese had 110 aircraft on the way to attack the U.S. carriers. [Frank, "Guadalcanal", p. 383.]

The U.S. strike aircraft were running about 20 minutes behind the Japanese. Believing that a speedy attack was more important than a massed attack, the U.S. aircraft proceeded in small groups towards the Japanese ships instead of forming into one large strike force. The first group, consisting of 15 SBD dive bombers, six TBF Avenger torpedo bombers, and eight F4F Wildcat fighters, led by Lt. C. R. Eation from "Hornet", was on its way by about 08:00. A second group, consisting of three SBDs, seven TBFs, and eight Wildcats from "Enterprise" was off by 08:10. A third group, which included nine SBDs, eight TBFs, and seven Wildcats from "Hornet", was on its way by 08:20. [Hammel, "Carrier Strike", p. 198–199.]

At 08:40, the opposing aircraft strike formations passed within sight of each other. Nine Zeros from "Zuihō" surprised and attacked the "Enterprise" group, attacking the climbing aircraft from out of the sun. In the resulting engagement, four Zeros, three Wildcats, and two TBFs were shot down, with another two TBFs and a Wildcat forced by heavy damage to return to "Enterprise". [Frank, "Guadalcanal", p. 384–385. Only the Wildcat safely recovered.]

At 08:50, the lead U.S. attack formation from "Hornet" spotted four ships from Abe's Vanguard force. Pressing on, the U.S. aircraft sighted the Japanese carriers and prepared to attack. Three Zeros from "Zuihō" attacked the formation's Wildcats, drawing them away from the bombers they were assigned to protect. Thus, the dive bombers in the first group initiated their attacks without fighter escort. Twenty Zeros from the Japanese carrier CAP attacked the SBD formation and shot down four of them. The remaining 11 SBDs commenced their attack dives on "Shōkaku" at 09:27, hitting her with three to six bombs, ruining her flight deck and causing serious damage to the interior of the ship. The final SBD of the 11 lost track of the "Shōkaku" and instead dropped its bomb near the Japanese destroyer "Teruzuki", causing minor damage. [Hammel, "Carrier Strike", p. 213–223.] The six TBFs in the first strike force, having become separated from their strike group, missed finding the Japanese carriers and eventually turned-back towards "Hornet". On the way back, they attacked the Japanese heavy cruiser "Tone", missing with all of their torpedoes. [Frank, "Guadalcanal", p. 387–388.]

, Japan, until January 1943.]

The U.S. carrier forces received word from their outbound strike aircraft at 08:30 that Japanese attack aircraft were headed their way. [Hammel, "Carrier Strike", p. 235.] At 08:52, the Japanese strike force commander sighted the "Hornet" task force (the "Enterprise" task force was hidden by a rain squall) and deployed his aircraft for attack. At 08:55, the U.S. carriers detected the approaching Japanese aircraft on radar, about 35 nmi (65 km) away, and began to vector the 37 Wildcat fighters of their CAP to engage the incoming Japanese aircraft. However, communication problems, mistakes by the U.S. fighter control directors, and primitive control procedures prevented all but a few of the U.S. fighters from engaging the Japanese aircraft before they began their attacks on "Hornet". [Hammel, "Carrier Strike", p. 235–239.] Although the U.S. CAP was able to shoot down several Vals, most of the Japanese aircraft commenced their attacks relatively unmolested by U.S. fighters. [Frank, "Guadalcanal", p. 385.]

At 09:09, the anti-aircraft guns of "Hornet" and her escorting warships opened fire as the 20 untouched Japanese Kates and remaining 16 Vals commenced their attacks on the carrier. [Hammel, "Carrier Strike", p. 249–251. The "Hornet's" screening ships included heavy cruisers USS "Northampton" and USS "Pensacola", light cruisers USS "San Diego" and USS "Juneau", and six destroyers.] At 09:12, a Val placed its 250-kilogram, semi-armor-piercing bomb dead center on "Hornet"’s flight deck, across from the island, which penetrated three decks before exploding, killing 60 men. Moments later, a 242-kilogram "land" bomb struck the flight deck, detonating on impact and creating an 11-foot (3.3 m) hole as well as killing 30 men. A minute or so later, a third bomb hit "Hornet" near where the first bomb hit, penetrating three decks before exploding, causing severe damage but no direct loss of life. [Hammel, "Carrier Strike", p. 253–356.] At 09:14, a diving Val was hit and damaged by anti-aircraft fire directly over "Hornet". The damaged Val crashed into "Hornet"’s stack, spreading burning aviation fuel over the signal deck. [Frank, "Guadalcanal", p. 386, and Hammel, "Carrier Strike", p. 262–267.]

At the same time that the Vals were attacking, the Japanese Kate torpedo bombers were also attacking "Hornet" from two different directions. Despite suffering heavy losses from anti-aircraft fire, the Kates planted two torpedoes in "Hornet" between 09:13 and 09:17, knocking-out her engines. As "Hornet" glided to a stop, a damaged Val approached and purposely crashed into the carrier's side, starting a fire near the ship's main supply of aviation fuel. At 09:20, the surviving Japanese aircraft departed, leaving "Hornet" dead in the water and burning. [Hammel, "Carrier Strike", p. 269–271.] Twenty-five Japanese and six U.S. aircraft were destroyed in this first attack on "Hornet". [Frank, "Guadalcanal", p. 386, Hammel, "Carrier Strike", p. 284.]

With the assistance of firehoses from three escorting destroyers, the fires on "Hornet" were under control by 10:00. Wounded personnel were evacuated from the carrier, and an attempt was made by the cruiser USS "Northampton" to tow "Hornet" away from the battle area. However, the effort to rig the towline took some time, and more attack waves of Japanese aircraft were inbound. [Hammel, "Carrier Strike", p. 271–280.]

Carrier action on October 26 - post-first strike actions

Starting at 09:30, "Enterprise" landed many of the damaged and fuel-depleted CAP fighters and returning scout aircraft from both carriers. However, with her flight deck full, and the second wave of Japanese aircraft inbound, which was detected on radar at 09:30, "Enterprise" ceased landing operations at 10:00. Fuel-depleted aircraft then began ditching in the ocean as the carrier's escorting destroyers rescued the aircrews. One of the ditching aircraft, a damaged TBF from "Enterprise"’s strike force that had been attacked earlier by "Zuihō" Zeros, crashed into the water near the destroyer USS "Porter". As the destroyer rescued the TBF's crew, the torpedo from the TBF began running in a wild circle and struck "Porter" and exploded, causing heavy damage and killing 15 crewmen. After the task force commander ordered the destroyer scuttled, the crew was rescued by the destroyer USS "Shaw" which then sank "Porter" with gunfire (coord|08|32|S|167|17|E). [Evans, "Japanese Navy", p. 520, Frank, "Guadalcanal", p. 388–389, Hammel, "Carrier Strike", p. 299.]

in the "up" position. [Hammel, "Carrier Strike", p. 300–313.] Twelve of the 19 Vals were lost in this attack. [Frank, "Guadalcanal", p. 390.]

Twenty minutes later, the 16 "Zuikaku" Kates arrived and split up to attack "Enterprise". One group of Kates was attacked by two CAP Wildcats which shot down three of them and damaged a fourth. On fire, the fourth damaged Kate purposely crashed into the destroyer USS "Smith", setting the ship on fire and killing 57 of her crew. The destroyer steered into the spraying wake of the battleship USS "South Dakota" to help put out the fires and then resumed her station, firing her remaining anti-aircraft guns at the still attacking Kates. [Frank, "Guadalcanal", p. 390–391. "Smith" eventually went to Pearl Harbor for repairs, which were completed in February 1943.]

The remaining Kates attacked "Enterprise", "South Dakota", and cruiser USS "Portland", but all of their torpedoes missed or were duds, causing no damage. The engagement was over at 10:53 with nine of the 16 attacking Kates shot down. [Frank, "Guadalcanal", p. 391.] After suppressing most of the onboard fires, at 11:15 "Enterprise" reopened her flight deck to begin landing returning aircraft from the morning U.S. strikes on the Japanese warship forces. However, only a few aircraft landed before the next wave of Japanese strike aircraft arrived and began their attacks on "Enterprise", forcing a suspension of landing operations. [Hammel, "Carrier Strike", p. 335–337.]

Between 09:05 and 09:14, "Junyō" had arrived within 280 nmi (520 km) of the U.S. carriers and launched a strike of 17 Vals and 12 Zeros. [Hammel, "Carrier Strike", p. 330–331, and Frank, "Guadalcanal", p. 391.] As the Japanese Main body and Advanced force maneuvered to try to join formations, "Junyō" readied follow-up strikes. [Hammel, "Carrier Strike", p. 331.] At 11:21, the "Junyō" Vals arrived and dove on the "Enterprise" task force. The Vals scored one near miss on "Enterprise", causing more damage, and one hit each on "South Dakota" and cruiser USS "San Juan", causing moderate damage to both ships. Eleven of the 17 Vals were destroyed in this attack. [Frank, "Guadalcanal", p. 391–393.]

At 11:35, Kinkaid decided to withdraw "Enterprise" and her screening ships from the battle, since "Hornet" was out of action, "Enterprise" was heavily damaged, and believing (correctly) that the Japanese had one to two undamaged carriers in the area. [Frank, "Guadalcanal", p. 395.] He directed "Hornet"’s task force to follow as soon as they were able. Between 11:39 and 13:22, "Enterprise" recovered 57 of the 73 airborne U.S. aircraft as she headed away from the battle. [Lundstrom, "Guadalcanal Campaign", p. 444. One U.S. aircraft was able to reach a U.S. airbase at Espiritu Santo.] The remaining U.S. aircraft ditched in the ocean, and their aircrews were rescued by escorting warships. [Hammel, "Carrier Strike", p. 345–352.]

Between 11:40 and 14:00, "Zuikaku" and "Junyō" recovered the few aircraft that returned from the morning strikes on "Hornet" and "Enterprise" and prepared follow-up strikes. The air staff officer on "Junyō" described the return of the carrier's first strike groups: cquote|We searched the sky with apprehension. There were only a few planes in the air in comparison with the numbers launched several hours before... The planes lurched and staggered onto the deck, every single fighter and bomber bullet holed... As the pilots climbed wearily from their cramped cockpits, they told of unbelievable opposition, of skies choked wth antiaircraft shell bursts and tracers.The only "Junyō" carrier bomber leader to return from the first strike wave appeared, "so shaken that at times he could not speak coherently." [Lundstrom, "Guadalcanal Campaign", p. 446.]

At 13:00, Kondo's Advanced force and Abe's Vanguard force warships together headed directly towards the last reported position of the U.S. carrier task forces and increased speed to try to intercept them for a warship gunfire battle. "Zuihō" and "Shōkaku", with Nagumo still on board, retreated from the battle area, leaving Rear Admiral Kakuji Kakuta in charge of the "Zuikaku" and "Junyō" battle forces. At 13:06, "Junyō" launched her second strike of seven Kates and eight Zeros, and "Zuikaku" launched her third strike of seven Kates, two Vals, and five Zeros. At 15:35, "Junyō" launched the last Japanese strike force of the day, consisting of four Kates and six Zeros. [Hara, "Japanese Destroyer Captain", p. 129–131, Hammel, "Carrier Strike", p. 357–358.]

After several technical problems, "Northampton" finally began slowly towing "Hornet" out of the battle area at 14:45. Also, "Hornet’s" crew was on the verge of restoring partial power to the ship. [Frank, "Guadalcanal", p. 395–396.] However, at 15:20, "Junyō"’s second strike arrived and attacked the almost stationary carrier. At 15:23, one torpedo struck "Hornet", destroying the repairs to the power system, causing heavy flooding and a 14-degree list. With no power to pump out the water, "Hornet" was given up for lost, and the crew abandoned ship. The third strike from "Zuikaku" attacked "Hornet" during this time, hitting the sinking ship with one more bomb. All of the "Hornet"’s crewmen were off by 16:27. The last Japanese strike of the day dropped one more bomb on the sinking hulk at 17:20. [Hammel, "Carrier Strike", p. 359–376.]

Destroyers USS "Mustin" and USS "Anderson" were ordered to scuttle "Hornet" with gunfire and torpedoes while the rest of the U.S. warships retired towards the southeast to get out of range of Kondo's and Abe's oncoming warships. With advancing Japanese destroyers only 20 minutes away, the two U.S. destroyers abandoned "Hornet"’s burning hulk at 20:40. The rest of the warships of Kondo's and Abe's forces arrived at "Hornet"’s location by 22:20, decided that she was too damaged to try to capture and finished the job of scuttling her with torpedoes by 01:35 on October 27 (coord|08|38|S|166|43|E). Several night attacks by radar-equipped Catalinas on "Junyō" and "Teruzuki", knowledge of the head-start the U.S. warships had in their retreat from the area, plus a critical fuel situation apparently caused the Japanese to reconsider further pursuit of the U.S. warships. After refueling near the northern Solomon Islands, the ships returned to their main base at Truk on October 30. During the U.S. retirement from the battle area towards Espiritu Santo and New Caledonia, "South Dakota" collided with destroyer USS "Mahan", heavily damaging the destroyer. [Evans, "Japanese Navy", p. 520, Frank, "Guadalcanal", p. 399. "Mahan" returned to action on January 9, 1943.]

Aftermath

The loss of "Hornet" was a severe blow for Allied forces in the South Pacific, leaving just one operational, albeit damaged, Allied carrier in the entire Pacific theater. "Enterprise", however, received temporary repairs at New Caledonia and, although still somewhat damaged, returned to the southern Solomons area just two weeks later to support Allied forces during the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, playing an important role in what turned out to be the decisive naval engagement in the overall battle for Guadalcanal. [Hammel, "Carrier Strike", p. 384.]

Although a tactical victory for the Japanese in terms of ships sunk, it came at a high cost for Japanese naval forces. Both damaged carriers were forced to return to Japan for extensive repairs and refitting. After repair, "Zuihō" returned to Truk in late January 1943. "Shōkaku" was under repair until March 1943 and did not return to the front until July 1943, when she was reunited with "Zuikaku" at Truk. [Parshall & Tully, "Imperial Japanese Navy Page (Combinedfleet.com)", [http://www.combinedfleet.com/shokaku.htm "Shokaku"] & [http://www.combinedfleet.com/Zuiho.htm "Zuiho"] .]

The most significant losses for the Japanese Navy, however, were in aircrew. The U.S. lost 26 aircrew members in the battle. [Lundstrom, "Guadalcanal Campaign", p. 456.] The Japanese, on the other hand, lost 148 aircrew members including two dive bomber group leaders, three torpedo squadron leaders, and 18 other section or flight leaders. Forty-nine percent of the Japanese torpedo bomber aircrews involved in the battle were killed along with 39% of the dive bomber crews and 20% of the fighter pilots. [Frank, "Guadalcanal", p. 400–401, Hammel, "Carrier Strike", p. 381, and Lundstrom, "Guadalcanal Campaign", p. 454.] The Japanese lost so many aircrew members that undamaged "Zuikaku" and "Hiyō" were also forced to return to Japan because of a scarcity of trained aircrew to man their air groups. Admiral Nagumo, upon being relieved of command shortly after the battle and reassigned to shore duty in Japan, stated, "This battle was a tactical win, but a shattering strategic loss for Japan. Considering the great superiority of our enemy's industrial capacity, we must win every battle overwhelmingly. This last one, unfortunately, was not an overwhelming victory." [Hara, "Japanese Destroyer Captain", p. 135.]

With its veteran carrier aircrew ranks decimated, and with no quick way to replace them because of an institutionalized limited capacity in its naval aircrew training programs, Japan lost its strategic opportunity to defeat Allied naval forces in a single, decisive battle before the industrial might of the U.S. placed that goal out of reach. Although they returned to Truk by the summer of 1943, the Japanese carriers played no further offensive role in the decisive Solomon Islands campaign. Historian Eric Hammel summed-up the significance of the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands as, "Santa Cruz was a Japanese victory. That victory cost Japan her last best hope to win the war." [Hammel, "Carrier Strike", p. 384.]

Notes

References

*cite book
last = Evans
first = David C. (Editor)
authorlink =
year = 1986 (2nd Edition)
chapter = The Struggle for Guadalcanal
title = The Japanese Navy in World War II: In the Words of Former Japanese Naval Officers
publisher = Naval Institute Press
location = Annapolis, Maryland
id = ISBN 0-87021-316-4

*cite book
last = Frank
first = Richard B.
authorlink = Richard B. Frank
year = 1990
title = Guadalcanal: The Definitive Account of the Landmark Battle
publisher = Penguin Group
location = New York
id = ISBN 0-14-016561-4
Online views of selections of the book: [http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader/0140165614]
*cite book
last = Hammel
first = Eric
authorlink = Eric M. Hammel
coauthors =
year = 1997
chapter =
title = Carrier Clash: The Invasion of Guadalcanal & and the Battle of the Eastern Solomons, August 1942
publisher = Pacifica Press
location =
id = ISBN 0-7603-2052-7

*cite book
last = Hammel
first = Eric
coauthors =
year = 1999
chapter =
title = Carrier Strike: The Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands, October 1942
publisher = Pacifica Press
location =
id = ISBN 0-7603-2128-0

*cite book
last = Hara
first = Tameichi
authorlink = Tameichi Hara
coauthors =
year = 1961
chapter =
title = Japanese Destroyer Captain
publisher = Ballantine Books
location = New York & Toronto
id = ISBN 0-345-27894-1
— First-hand account of the battle by the captain of the Japanese destroyer "Amatsukaze"
*cite book
last = McGee
first = William L.
authorlink =
coauthors =
year = 2002
chapter =
title = The Solomons Campaigns, 1942–1943: From Guadalcanal to Bougainville-Pacific War Turning Point, Volume 2 (Amphibious Operations in the South Pacific in WWII)
publisher = BMC Publications
location =
id = ISBN 0-9701678-7-3

*cite book
last = Lundstrom
first = John B.
coauthors =
year = 2005 (New edition)
chapter =
title = First Team And the Guadalcanal Campaign: Naval Fighter Combat from August to November 1942
publisher = Naval Institute Press
location =
id = ISBN 1-59114-472-8

External links

*cite web
last = Cagney
first = James
year = 2005
url = http://www.historyanimated.com/SantaCruzPage.html
title = "Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands"
format = javascript
work = HistoryAnimated.com
accessdate = 2006-05-17
- Interactive animation of the battle
*cite web
last = Chen
first = C. Peter
year = 2004–2006
url = http://www.ww2db.com/battle_spec.php?battle_id=8
title = "Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands"
format =
work = World War II Database
accessdate = 2006-05-17

*cite web
last = Horan
first = Mark
year =
url = http://www.navweaps.com/index_oob/OOB_WWII_Pacific/OOB_WWII_Santa-Cruz.htm
title = "Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands — 26 October 1942"
format =
work = Order of Battle
accessdate = 2006-05-17

*cite web
last = Hough
first = Frank O.
authorlink =
coauthors = Ludwig, Verle E., and Shaw, Henry I., Jr.
date =
year =
month =
url = http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USMC/I/index.html
title = Pearl Harbor to Guadalcanal
format =
work = History of U.S. Marine Corps Operations in World War II
pages =
publisher =
language =
accessdate = 2006-05-16
accessyear =

*cite web
last = Lanzendörfer
first = Tim
year =
url = http://www.microworks.net/PACIFIC/battles/santa_cruz.htm
title = "The Battle of Santa Cruz"
format=
work = The Pacific War: The U.S. Navy
accessdate = 2006-05-17

*cite web
last = Office of Naval Intelligence
first =
year = 1943
url = http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USN/USN-CN-SantaCruz/index.html
title = "The Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands, 26 October 1942"
format =
work = Combat Narrative
publisher = Publications Branch, Office of Naval Intelligence, United States Navy (somewhat inaccurate on details, since it was written during the war)
accessdate = 2006-05-17

*cite web
last = Parshall
first = Jon
coauthors = Bob Hackett, Sander Kingsepp, & Allyn Nevitt
year =
url = http://www.combinedfleet.com/kaigun.htm
title = Imperial Japanese Navy Page
format =
work =
accessdate = 2006-06-14

*cite web
last = Shepherd
first = Joel
year = 1998–2003
url = http://www.cv6.org/1942/santacruz/santacruz.htm
title = "1942 — Santa Cruz"
work = USS Enterprise CV-6
format =
accessdate = 2006-05-17

*cite web
last = Stekovic
first = Srdjan
year = 1999–2003
url = http://www.everblue.net/1942/
title = "Battle of Santa Cruz"
format =
work = Carrier Battles in the Pacific - 1942
accessdate = 2006-05-17

Further reading

*cite book
last = D'Albas
first = Andrieu
authorlink =
year = 1965
title = Death of a Navy: Japanese Naval Action in World War II
publisher = Devin-Adair Pub
location =
id = ISBN 0-8159-5302-X

*cite book
last = Dull
first = Paul S.
authorlink =
year = 1978
chapter =
title = A Battle History of the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1941–1945
publisher = Naval Institute Press
location =
id = ISBN 0-87021-097-1

*cite book
last = Fahey
first = James C.
authorlink =
coauthors =
year = 1983 (reissue)
chapter =
title = The Ships and Aircraft of the United States Fleet
publisher = Ships and Aircraft
location = 1265 Broadway New York 1, N. Y.
id = ISBN 0-87021-636-8

*cite book
last = Lacroix
first = Eric
authorlink =
coauthors = Linton Wells
year = 1997
chapter =
title = Japanese Cruisers of the Pacific War
publisher = Naval Institute Press
location =
id = ISBN 0-87021-311-3

*cite book
last = Morison
first = Samuel Eliot
authorlink = Samuel Eliot Morison
coauthors =
year = 1958
chapter =
title = The Struggle for Guadalcanal, August 1942 – February 1943", vol. 5 of "History of United States Naval Operations in World War II
publisher = Little, Brown and Company
location = Boston
id = ISBN 0-316-58305-7

*cite book
last = Parkin
first = Robert Sinclair
authorlink =
year = 1995
title = Blood on the Sea: American Destroyers Lost in World War II
publisher = Da Capo Press
location =
id = ISBN 0-306-81069-7

*cite book
last = Poor
first = Henry Varnum
authorlink =
coauthors = Henry A. Mustin & Colin G. Jameson
year = 1994
chapter =
title = The Battles of Cape Esperance, 11 October 1942 and Santa Cruz Islands, 26 October 1942 (Combat Narratives. Solomon Islands Campaign, 4–5)
publisher = Naval Historical Center
location =
id = ISBN 0-945274-21-1

*cite book
last = Rose
first = Lisle Abbott
authorlink =
coauthors =
year = 2002
chapter =
title = The Ship that Held the Line: The USS Hornet and the First Year of the Pacific War
publisher = Bluejacket Books
location =
id = ISBN 1-55750-008-8

*cite book
last = Smith
first = Douglas V.
authorlink =
coauthors =
year = 2006
chapter =
title = Carrier Battles: Command Decision in Harm's Way
publisher = US Naval Institute Press
location =
id = ISBN 1591147948

*cite book
last = Stafford
first = Edward P.
authorlink =
coauthors = Paul Stillwell (Introduction)
year = 2002 (reissue)
chapter =
title = The Big E: The Story of the USS Enterprise
publisher = Naval Institute Press
location =
id = ISBN 1-55750-998-0


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