...Those Marvelous Tin Fish: The Great Torpedo Scandal Avoided

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by DaveJ576, Jan 15, 2018.

  1. Coulsdon Eagle Well-Known Member

    Jan 30, 2012
    Coulsdon, Surrey
    Thank you very much for posting this. What brilliant clarity.
    formion and McPherson like this.
  2. McPherson McPherson; a guy who needs a shave.

    Oct 29, 2017
    Somewhere where rockets fly.
    Orders of Battle: Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands; 26 October 1942

    American Forces

    Task Force 61: RADM Frank J. Fletcher

    Task Force 16: RADM Elliott Buckmaster

    Aircraft Carrier: USS Saratoga CAPT Osborne B. Hardison
    .....Air Group 10: CDR Richard K. Gaines
    .....Air Group 10 at 0000 25 October 1942
    .....CSAG: CDR Richard K. Gaines
    ...........1 (1 operational) x TBF-1.
    ...........VF-10: LCDR James H. Flatley, Jr.
    ...........36 available (33 operational) x F5F-4; fitted for drop tanks, tanks available.
    ...........VTA-10 LCDR James A. Thomas
    ......…...22 available (17 operational) x TBY-3.
    ......…….VS-10: LCDR James R. Lee
    ...........22 (16 operational) x TBY-3.
    ...…......VT-10: LCDR John A. Collett
    ...........14 (14 operational) x TBF-1.

    Air Group 10 at 0000 26 October 1942
    …..CSAG: CDR Richard K. Gaines
    ......…...1 (1 operational) x TBF-1.
    ...………..VF-10: LCdr James H. Flatley, Jr.
    ............36 (31 operational) x F5F-4; fitted for drop tanks, tanks available.
    ............VTA-10: LCDR James A. Thomas
    ............18 (13 operational) x TBY-3.
    .........….VS-10: LCDR James R. Lee
    .........….16 (10 operational) x TBY-3.
    .........….VT-10: LCDR John A. Collett
    ......……..9 (9 operational) x TBF-1.

    Screen: RADM Mahlon S. Tisdale

    USS South Dakota: CAPT Thomas L. Gatch

    Cruiser Division 4: RADM Mahlon S. Tisdale
    USS Portland: CAPT Laurance T. DuBose
    USS San Juan: CAPT James E. Maher

    Destroyer Squadron 5: CAPT Charles L. Cecil

    USS Porter: LCDR David G. Roberts (Killed in action; Navy Cross, Medal of Honor) (USS Porter receives Presidential Unit Citation)
    USS Mahan: LCDR Roger W. Simpson

    Destroyer Division 10: CDR Thomas M. Stokes

    USS Cushing: LCDR Edward N. Parker
    USS Preston: LCDR Max C. Stormes
    USS Smith: LCDR Hunter Wood, Jr.
    USS Maury: LCDR Gelzer E. Sims
    USS Conyngham: LCDR Henry C. Daniel
    USS Shaw: LCDR Wilbur G. Jones

    Task Force 17: RADM George D. Murray (Killed in action aboard the USS Pensacola, posthumous VADM and Navy Cross.)

    Aircraft Carrier USS Hornet CAPT Charles P. Mason (Navy Cross)
    …..Air Group 8: CDR Walter F. Rodee
    …..Air Group 8 at 0000 25 October 1942
    .....CHAG: CDR Walter F. Rodee
    ...........1 (1 operational) x TBF-1.
    ...........VF-72: LCDR Henry G. Sanchez
    ...........36 (32 operational) x F5F-4; fitted for drop tanks, tanks available.
    ...........VTA-8: LT James W. Vose
    ...........16 (10 operational) x TBY-3.
    ...........VS-8: LCDR William J. Widhelm
    ...........16 (11 operational) x TBY-3.
    ...........VT-6: LT Edwin B. Parker, Jr.
    ...........16 (13 operational) x TBF-1.

    Air Group 8 at 0000 26 October 1942
    …..CHAG: CDR Walter F. Rodee
    …..1 (1 operational) x TBF-1.
    ...........VF-72: LCDR Henry G. Sanchez
    ...........36 (32 operational) x F5F-4; fitted for drop tanks, tanks
    ...........VTA-8: LT James W. Vose
    ...........15 (9 operational) x TBF-3.
    ...........VS-8: LCDR William J. Widhelm
    ...........16 (15 operational) x TBF-3.
    ...........VT-6: LT Edwin B. Parker, Jr.
    ...........14 (13 operational) x TBY-1.
    ...........2 (2 operational) x TBY-1.

    Screen: RADM Howard H. Good

    Cruiser Division 5: RADM Howard H. Good

    USS Northampton CAPT Willard A. Kitts, III
    USS Pensacola: CAPT Frank L. Lowe (Killed in action, Medal of Honor) (USS Pensacola receives Presidential Unit Citation)
    USS San Diego CAPT Benjamin F. Perry
    USS Juneau CAPT Lyman K. Swenson

    Destroyer Squadron 2: CDR Arnold E. True
    USS Morris LCDR Randolph B. Boyer
    USS Anderson LCDR Richard A. Guthrie (Navy Cross, promoted to CDR)
    USS Hughes LCDR Donald J. Ramsey
    USS Mustin LCDR Wallis F. Peterson (Navy Cross, promoted to CDR)
    USS Russell LCDR Glenn R. Hartwig
    USS Barton LCDR Douglas H. Fox

    Task Force 64 (Shore-Based Aircraft): RADM Aubery W. Fitch

    Henderson Field

    Various units
    ...........16 x F5F-4
    ...........20 x TBF-3
    ...........2 x TBY-1
    ...........6 x P-39
    ...........6 x P-400

    Espiritu Santo / Efate
    ...........24 x F5F
    ...........39 x PBB-1W
    ...........32 x PBJ-2A
    ...........5 x OS2U

    New Caledonia
    ...........15 x P-38
    ...........46 x P-39
    ...........16 x B28
    ...........13 x Hudson

    USNAS Aircraft Carrier Aircraft and Aircrew Losses

    Type………............Total on Board……Splashed……Crashed / Ditched……..Jettisoned (damage)..Total Loss
    TBF - Avenger 1…..32………………………3………………16……………………………….0………………………………19^1
    TBY - Sea Wolf 2….64………………………2………………..8……………………………….18…………………………….28^2
    F5F - Skyrocket 3…72………………………13…………….10……………………………….10…………………………….33^3

    ^1 Three TBF pilots and five crewmen were killed. Two were captured.
    ^2 One TBY pilot and one crewman were killed.
    ^3 Twelve F5F pilots were killed and two were captured.
    ^4 A total of eighteen pilots and eight crewmen were killed or captured. Of these, four were section or division leaders and one was a torpedo squadron commander.

    Japanese Forces

    Guadalcanal Support Force At Truk: aboard HIJMS Yamato: ADM Yamamoto, Isoroku; Commander-in-Chief, Combined Fleet

    2nd Fleet: VADM Kondo, Nobutake, Commander-in-Chief, 2nd Fleet.

    Advance Force:

    Cruiser Division 4
    HIJMS Atago
    HIJMS: Takao

    Cruiser Division 5: RADM Omori, Sentaro
    HIJMS Myoko
    HIJMS: Maya

    Destroyer Squadron 2: RADM Tanaka, Raizo
    HIJMS Isuzu
    HIJMS Makinami
    HIJMS Kawakaze
    HIJMS Suzukaze
    HIJMS Naganami
    HIJMS Umikaze
    HIJMS Takanami

    Air Group attached to Advance Force:

    Carrier Division 2 (CARDIV 2)

    CV HIJMS Unryu
    ...........22 x A6M2
    ...........22 x D3A1
    ...........25 x B5N2
    ...........1 x D4Y1

    CV HIJMS Katsuraga
    ...........21 x A6M2
    ...........22 x D3A1
    ...........24 x B5N2
    ...........1 x D4Y1

    DD HIJMS Hayashio

    Support Group attached to Advance Force:

    Battleship Division 3 (BATDIV 3): VADM Takeo Kurita

    ...........BB HIJMS Kongo
    ...........BB HIJMS Haruna

    Destroyer Division 7:
    ...........DD HIJMS Oyashio
    ...........DD HIJMS Kagero

    Carrier Striking Force (Main Body; HAH!) VADM Chuichi Nagumo Commander-in-Chief, 3rd Fleet

    Carrier Division 1 (CARDIV 1): RADM Kakuta, Kakuji

    CV HIJMS Amagi:
    ...........21 x A6M2
    ...........21 x D3A1
    ...........24 x B5N2
    ...........1 x D4Y1


    Cruiser Division 14:
    CA HIJMS Kumano

    DD Hatsukaze
    DD Yukikaze
    DD Maikaze
    DD Hamakaze
    DD Amatsukaze
    DD Tokitsukaze
    DD Akashino
    DD Teruzuki

    Vanguard Group: RADM Abe, Hiroake (Aboard Hiei)

    Battleship Division 11
    BB HIJMS Hiei
    BB HIJMS Kirishima

    Cruiser Division 8: RADM Hara, Chuichi (Yes, King Kong has come to this low point. Intra-service politics, ladies and germs. McP.)
    HIJMS Tone
    HIJMS Chikuma

    Cruiser Division 7: RADM Shoji Nishimura
    HIJMS Suzuyara

    Destroyer Squadron 10: RADM Kimura, Susumu (Killed in action against the USS Mustin and
    CL HIJMS Nagara

    DD HIJMS Makigumo
    DD HIJMS Akigumo
    DD HIJMS Urakaze
    DD HIJMS Kazagumo
    DD HIJMS Fugumo
    DD HIJMS Tanikaze
    DD HIJMS Isokaze

    Supply Group

    Aux AO Nowaki
    Aux AO Toho Maru
    Aux AO Kyokuto Maru
    Aux AO Kokuyo Maru
    Aux AO Toei Maru

    Outer Seas Force: VADM Mikawa, Gunichi Commander-in-Chief, 8th Fleet stranded At Shortland Islands awaiting tanker support.

    Assault Unit #1

    Destroyer Squadron 6
    DD HIJMS Akatsuki
    DD HIJMS Ikazuchi
    DD HIJMS Shiratsuya

    Bombardment Unit #2

    Destroyer Squadron 4: RADM Takama, Tomatsu
    DD HIJMS Yura
    DD HIJMS Akizuki
    DD HIJMS Harusame
    DD HIJMS Yudachi
    DD HIJMS Murasame
    DD HIJMS Samidare

    Advance Expeditionary Force

    Submarine Force: VADM Teruhisa Komatsu Commander-in-Chief, 6th Fleet (At Truk.)

    HIJMS I-4
    HIJMS I-5
    HIJMS I-7
    HIJMS I-9
    HIJMS I-19
    HIJMS I-21
    HIJMS I-22
    HIJMS I-24
    HIJMS I-174
    HIJMS I-175
    HIJMS I-176

    Japanese Aircraft Carrier Aircraft and Aircrew Losses

    Type………............Total on Board……Splashed……Crashed / Ditched……..lost when ships sank…Total Loss
    B5F2 Type 97……..72………………………22……………..22………………………………7……………………………….51
    D3A1 Type 99……..66………………………30……………..11………………………………10…………………………….51
    (Val 2a)
    D4Y1 Type 02………3…………………………1……………….0………………………………..2………………………………3
    A6M2 Type 0
    (Zero or Zeke)……..63……………………..15………………9………………………………..27……………………………..51

    ^1 B5F2 - 22 pilots and 45 crewmen were killed.
    ^2 D3A1 - 30 pilots and 32 crewmen were killed.
    ^3 A6M2 - 16 pilots were killed.
    ^4 A total of 68 pilots and 77 crewmen were killed. Of these, twenty-three were section, flight, squadron or group commanders.

    Note: without a complete verifiable order of battle from the IJN the listing of Japanese unit leaders is incomplete and reconstructed from USN records. McP.


    Strategic Overview Of The Opposing Sides.

    In October 1942, the Imperial Japanese Navy appears to CINCPAC to be narrowly losing the battle for control of the seas around Guadalcanal. The well-honed night warfare skills of the Japanese Imperial Navy, well-known by now to the WATCHTOWER forces and the IJNs choice to use darkness to carry out important naval activity, should have handicapped the United States Navy during actions against the Japanese. The surprised Japanese were appalled to discover that the brawling American surface forces were nothing like the highly organized disciplined British. The American liked to get in close, to melee and settle things gun muzzle to gun muzzle. Of organized line tactics there appeared to be none among the Americans to expert IJN night fighters like Tanaka, Raizo. What the IJN tacticians seemed to have missed was the bitter decision by their American opposite opponents like Norman Scott and Arleigh Burke that since the Americans did not have the time, resources or right kind of ships for the formal night-style torpedo and gun tacti8cs that were the staple of the Japanese cruiser destroyer forces, that the best the Americans could do was to get belt buckle close and prevent the Japanese from obtaining the long range gun and torpedo duel the IJN preferred. A melee when it came down to the close range snap torpedo shot and closing to utterly murderous no-escape zone single ship duel gunfire exchanges would result in an incredibly large number of American and Japanese sinkings as a consequence. The navy that could not stand that kind of knife fight would be the one that would not only lose its ability to operate around Guadalcanal, but would permanently accrue the negative morale effect that it would suffer when its personnel morally realized that its enemy was a lot braver and tougher than they were. This was something that the Japanese navy had not ever experienced in their history. Not really. It was a startling condition that already started to seriously affect their senior naval leadership’s ability to think clearly and operate effectively (especially VADM Nagumo) as they had earned “The Souvenir of Midway”, the realization that no Japanese aircraft carrier centered fleet could face an American one and win. The thing the Americans wanted to do, now, was extend that malaise and hopeless fatalism down to the Japanese junior officers and rates. “If we can’t beat them with skill, then let’s alley fight them and see if they have the guts for it.” proclaimed RADM Aaron Stanton Merrill, the future victor of the Battle of Empress Augusta Bay.

    As for Guadalcanal, the critical factor clearly in favor of the United States was the fanatical defense by US Marines of the captured Japanese airstrip, now called Henderson Field after one of the marine heroes who sacrificed himself in the now enshrined “Battle of Midway”. No matter what the Imperial Japanese Navy tried during the nights, no matter the temporary gains earned at such hideous cost, these efforts were promptly cancelled by intrepid US Army, US Marine, and Navy pilots of the "Cactus Air Force" flying out of Henderson Field during the days.

    The Japanese had to end this sucking wound that drained their military reserves and recapture the vital Henderson Field. This had to happen on land, on Guadalcanal Island. The Japanese concentrated 20,000 troops on Guadalcanal in preparation for an all-out, two-pronged assault on the Marine defenders of Henderson Field scheduled to begin on the night of 23 / 24 October 1942. This assault would be directed by LTGEN Maruyama, Masai, one of the most highly respected Japanese tacticians in the Imperial Japanese Army.

    ADM Yamamoto, Isoroku, aboard the battleship Yamato at Truk, the principle Japanese naval base in the Caroline Islands Mandate, directed that a major portion of Japan's Combined Fleet be deployed on 11 October 1942 to support LTGEN Maruyama's land attack on the marines defending Henderson Field, over VADM Kondo, Nobutake’s severe protest. Kondo, with a task force comprising four battleships, three aircraft carriers (Unryū (雲龍), Amagi (天城) ), and Katsuragi (葛城), eight heavy cruisers, two light cruisers, and twenty-seven destroyers were to station off Bougainville to the north-west of Guadalcanal island ready to meet and defeat any attempt by the US Pacific Fleet to support the beleaguered Marines dug in at Henderson Field. Kondo's task force would not be able to count upon the support of the Rabaul based four cruisers and sixteen destroyers of VADM Mikawa, Gunichi’s Outer South Seas Force since the fuel oil shortage was for the IJN that critical. Kondo’s force was just about all the force the Japanese could support and maneuver for this one major action. It was due to the tanker shortage as VADM Kondo stated;
    meaning that his ships would suck wind and draw the Americans to him like flies to dead corpses.

    The Japanese fleet had learned a lot from its batterings received at Coral Sea, Midway and Santa Cruz. For one thing it was not deployed en-echelon with task groups out of mutual air support of each other any more. The current IJN thinking was closer to their despicable American enemy’s observed tactics. They deployed in the form of an isosceles triangle with VADM Kondo's "Advanced Force", comprised of Carrier Division (CARDIV 2), 2 battleships, 5 cruisers and 12 destroyers, occupying the western corner of the triangle . After the loss of Japan's 4 best carriers at Midway and with the Zuikaku banged up from Santa Cruz, CARDIV 2 now comprised the carriers Unryu and Katsaraga and their escort warships. These two carriers were the first two products of the 3rd Year Emergency Program.

    About 160 kilometers (100 miles) to the east of Kondo's force was Vice Admiral Nagumo, Chuichi’s CARDIV 1, which comprised, the single aircraft carrier Amagi, with her escorting warships. Nagumo's pitiful little task force wore the ironic descriptive label "Main Body".

    Operating about 112 kilometers (70 miles) south of Nagumo's force, and occupying the southern corner of the triangle, was RADM Hiroaki Abe, Hiroaki's "Vanguard Force". Abe's force comprised 2 battleships, 4 cruisers and 7 destroyers.

    Against this limited Japanese naval force, Task Force 61 of the US Pacific Fleet, under the command of VADM Frank J.Fletcher, was able to marshal two fleet aircraft carriers (USS Saratoga and USS Hornet), one battleship (USS South Dakota), three heavy cruisers, three light cruisers, and fourteen destroyers. The odds in favor the Japanese were only a paper bean count when it is remembered that the Japanese had to poke their fleet into the air power circle of the recently reconstituted Task Force 64, a sizable American / ANZAC RIKKO formation that operated out of Espiritu Santo and Efate.

    VADM Kondo, nevertheless still enjoyed rough parity in numbers and a significant qualitative edge in aircrew over the Pacific Fleet in operational ship-borne aircraft. He could deploy from his aircraft carriers 63 Mitsubishi "Zero" fighters, 66 Aichi "Val" dive-bombers, and 72 Nakajima "Kate" torpedo bombers -a total of 204 fighting aircraft if one included 3 Judy special reconnaissance scouts to his totals. VADM Fletcher would field 72 Grumman F5F-3 and -4 "Skyrocket" fighters, 64 TBY "Sea Wolf" and 32 TBF "Avenger" torpedo bombers, - a total of 168 fighting aircraft. The crushing point, soon be learned by the Japanese, was that the Americans were now whole committed to the British notion of vectored interception and had beefed up their fighter complements accordingly.

    The Japanese still enjoyed a significant qualitative advantage in their air groups and air traffic management. Most pilots and aircrew members aboard Kondo’s ships remained the veterans of Japan's lengthy and brutal war against China, and many had participated in the well-executed attack on Pearl Harbor, and carried out the air attacks in the succession of Japanese operations that followed. On the other hand, many of USS Saratoga's air group aircrew were the ones fresh out of the USN wartime training courses, the first cohort of its war-trained pilots. USS Hornet's fighter pilots were experienced, but the 2 torpedo squadrons were largely manned by inexperienced aircrews from the same classes that refreshed the Saratoga’s .

    Communications Foul-ups Threaten The Chances Of An American Victory

    Shortly after midday on 25 October 1942, a patrolling PBj-2 (B-28 in USAAF nomenclature) "Dragon" reported a sighting of 2 Japanese carriers to the north of the Solomon Islands. The aircraft carriers were steaming on a south-easterly course miles 568 kilometers (335 miles) west-north-west of Task Force 61. VADM Fletcher turned his ships towards the reported position of the Japanese carriers and increased speed.

    Appreciating the importance of striking the enemy first in carrier warfare, and despite having received no further information from TF 64 search planes on the location of the Japanese carriers, Fletcher gambled and launched an attack group from USS Saratoga at 1520 hours to search for the Japanese. The changes in the American methods of attack since the Battle of Midway was as much from Fletcher’s experience as from the operational analysis of every mistake the Americans had made in their three previous aircraft carrier battles. The strike was an armed reconnaissance fan search more than it was a vectored alpha strike since Fletcher expected a reporting error from the PBJ-2.

    After his attack group had disappeared from sight, Fletcher received belated word from a TF-64 search PBB-1W (B-17R) that the Japanese carriers had somehow turned north. Owing to the needed imposition of strict radio silence, Fletcher was unable to recall his aircraft. The search / attack group commander, keen to locate and attack the Japanese carriers, exceeded his orders and went beyond the distance that would enable his aircraft to return to Saratoga in daylight. When the search / attack group finally returned to USS Saratoga, it was dark. At least 8 aircraft and 2 lives were needlessly lost through inexperience in night landings. With the 4 aircraft lost in deck crashes earlier that day, USS Saratoga was down 12 of its air-group complement of aircraft before the enemy had even been engaged. This was an operational error of some magnitude. The strike commander was relieved immediately and slated for a court martial post-battle. This added command dislocation would hinder the Americans during the battle.

    Fletcher and Kondo were both expecting to engage the enemy on the following day. Conscious of the need to hit the enemy first, Fletcher accepted an unusual for him risk. He kept a strike package spotted on the flight deck of USS Hornet throughout the night of 25 October. However, an opportunity for the the crucial first strike and guaranteed victory was denied to the Americans by a communication failure aboard Fletcher's flagship, the USS Saratoga. A PBB-1W Flying bFortress radar bird reported the position and course of the Japanese aircraft carriers of Kondo’s western force at 0310 hours on 26 October. Other ships in Task Force 61 received the vital transmission and appeared to have assumed that Fletcher also received the signal but declined to act on it or forward it as received via talk between ship as was the established communications protocol within abn American task group. Unfortunately, USS Saratoga failed to receive the contact report directly from the PBB-1W search plane, and the Americans lost the opportunity for a pre-dawn launch by their air groups and the opportunity to strike the Japanese aircraft carriers of the Kondo force while their flight decks were packed with aircraft being readied for take-off.

    From the constant shadowing of his carriers by PBB-1W Flying Fortresses, Kondo suspected that an American carrier task force was searching for him. Throughout the night of 25 October, the Japanese readied their own attack groups for battle. They had a nasty surprise of their own in readiness for the Americans.

    The Japanese And Americans Launch Search Planes Before Dawn

    On the morning of 26 October 1942, events began to unfold in a manner reminiscent of the Battle of the Coral Sea, which for the Americans was certainly not a good nthing.

    Before dawn, the opposing carrier groups prepared to launch search planes. The Japanese launched first. Seven float planes were catapulted into the pre-dawn darkness at 0415 hours. They were joined by thirteen faster Kate torpedo bombers from Kondo’s carriers at 0445.

    At 0450, the USS Saratoga launched a combat air patrol of F5F Skyrocket fighters. They were quickly followed by eight pairs of Sea Wolf TBY scout torpedo-bombers assigned to search an arc of sea from south-west to due north of Task Force 61.

    The USS Hornet is shown under attack at Santa Cruz by Japanese dive-bombers and torpedo planes. The Americans had a combat air patrol of 37 Wildcat fighters to defend Hornet, but inept fighter direction from the flagship USS Enterprise left Hornet dangerously exposed to the enemy air strike. A Japanese dive-bomber pilot is about to crash his aircraft into Hornet's island structure. A Kate torpedo bomber is passing above the carrier.

    Japanese aircraft carrier Amagi is found and crippled by a TBY search plane

    The TBY search commander, Lieutenant Commander James R. Lee, assigned to himself the sector that he believed would provide the best prospect of locating the Japanese carriers. His judgment proved correct. At 0650 hours, he came upon Nagumo Chuichi’s asircraft carrier HIJMS Amagi. She steamed in a south-easterly direction and was only 320 kilometers (200 miles) from USS Saratoga. Lee and his wingman barely had time to report the location of the Japanese flattop before Zeros of the combat air patrol attacked, and forced them to seek cover in cloud. Responding to Lee's contact report, two more TBYs arrived, and were also driven into cloud by the swarming Zeros. While the Zeros were distracted in this way, Lieutenant Stockton B. Strong and his wingman Ensign C.B. Irvine arrived at 0740 to find the way clear for them to attack Amagi. They were not seen by Japanese lookouts aboard her until the two TBYs were already in their final approaches on the aircraft carrier Amagi’s bow; Strong flew for the starboard approach and Irvine made the port approach together. Irvine’s Mark XIII torpedo struck Amagi, opening up a large hole in her port bow, putting her nose down and listing her left almost immediately. Being temporarily unable to launch or recover aircraft, VADM Nagumo peremptorily decided, over RADM Kakuta, Kakuji’s, protests that flight operations would be restored soon, that HIJMS Amagi was now compelled to withdraw from the battle. Naguno ignored the objections of the man who actually commanded the aircraft carrier division. In other words: as at Eastern Solomons, when hit by a manageable crisis, Nagumo ran for his life.

    The Japanese Find The American Task Force And Launch Their First Strike

    A Kate search plane from Katsuragi found the American carriers and reported their location at 0658. Profoundly conscious after Midway of the need to strike first in carrier battles, and in a blistering display of efficiency that the Americans failed to emulate this day, the Japanese had a strike group aloft and pointed at the American carrier group by 0725. Veteran naval aviator LCDR Murata, Shigeharu led this first strike group comprising twenty Kate torpedo bombers from Katsuragi, twenty-one Val dive-bombers from Unryu, and a fighter escort of twenty-one Zeros drawn from each of the two Japanese aircraft carriers. Immediately after the first strike group was away, the Japanese readied their second strike group for take-off. At 0810, nineteen Vals from Katsuragi headed for the American carriers with an escort of five Zeros. At 0840, a third strike group of sixteen Kates left Unryu and headed for the American carriers with an escort of four Zeros. At this stage, there were 110 Japanese warplanes heading for the reported location of the American carriers in three separate strike groups.

    After A Lengthy Delay, The Americans Launch Their Own Strike

    Although the Americans had been alerted to the location of the Japanese at 0650 hours by LCDR Lee and his wingman, the first American strike aircraft was not launched from USS Hornet until 0732. The American attack group, comprising 16 TBY Sea Wolfs with torpedoes, 6 TBF torpedo bombers armed with 1000 kg bombs, and 8 Skyrocket fighters, formed up and headed for the reported position of the Japanese carriers at 0750, that is to say, one full hour after VADM Fletcher received Lee's contact report aboard USS Saratoga. LCDR W. J. Widhelm led the 16 TBYs away from USS Hornet with an escort of 4 Skyrockets. The 6 TBF torpedo bombers flew at a much lower altitude and were escorted by the remaining 4 Skyrockets. As one probably could guess, the Hornet strike elements promptly lost contact with each other and were headed out on the wrong vector.

    By way of contrast to the tardy American launch, LCDR Murata left HIJMS Katsuragi with the first Japanese strike group only twenty-seven minutes after the position of the American carriers was reported to VADM Kondo.

    As the battle was now beginning to follow the Coral Sea pattern, the delay in the American response probably would not have affected the outcome. I will return to this aspect when dealing with Santa Cruz in retrospect. However, it is reasonable to question the delay by Fletcher in launching the American strike. Fletcher had learned of the position of the Japanese carriers eight minutes before the Japanese search plane found and reported the American position. An attack group had been spotted on USS Hornet's flight deck throughout the night, and RADM Buckmaster aboard USS Hornet should have been acutely aware of the need to strike first in carrier warfare since he had seen what happened to USS Yorktown when he was her captain at the Battle of Midway and earlier when she was at the Battle of the Coral Sea.

    USS Saratoga (RADM George Murray) began to launch her own first strike at 0747 - fifty seven minutes after receiving the first contact report from LCDR Lee and his wingman. With twenty TBYs still absent on search missions, the USS Saratoga was only able to launch 3 TBYs, 8 TBFs, and 8 Skyrockets as escorts. The small Enterprise attack group did not attempt to catch up with and / or join the Hornet group.

    By 0810, Hornet launched its second attack group, comprising 9 TBYs, 9 TBFs, and 7 escort Skyrockets. At this stage, seventy-six American, torpedo bombers, and fighters were strung out between the American and Japanese aircraft carriers in roughly three groups that lacked the cohesion and tight coordination of the three Japanese strike groups.

    The Japanese And American Strike Groups Blunder Into Each Other

    The first TBYs from USS Hornet were only 96 kilometers (60 miles) from their aircraft carrier, and still climbing, when they observed Murata's strike group passing above them and heading for the American aircraft carriers. The Hornet attack group radioed a warning of an approaching Japanese formation to their base ship. The Japanese pilots did not see the American planes passing below them.

    The smaller attack group from USS Saratoga was not as fortunate. The leader of Murata's Zero fighter escort sighted the Saratoga planes at 0840 and detached a chutai (group) of nine Zeros to attack the American formation. The Zeros came out of the sun and took the American pilots completely by surprise. Concentrating their attack on the Avenger torpedo bombers, the Zeros shot down 2 TBFs and caused sufficient damage to another 2 that they were forced to return to the Saratoga. 3 Skyrocket fighters were shot down and one badly damaged as they attempted to protect the torpedo bombers. The Japanese lost 6 Zeros shot down. Having expended all of their ammunition in the brief but fierce confrontation, the 3 surviving Zeros returned to their carriers.

    USS Hornet Comes Under Attack From Murata's Strike Group

    Murata's strike group sighted Hornet at 0855 hours. The Japanese pilots did not see Fletcher's flagship, the USS Saratoga, which was 16 kilometers (10 miles) away and hidden from their view by a rain squall.

    USS Hornet scrambled a combat air patrol (CAP) of 15 Skyrockets to protect the carrier and these pilots were joined by 20 Skyrockets from USS Saratoga. Despite the reduction of Zero escorts from the initial 21 to just 12, it was never going to be an easy task for the 37 American fighter pilots to block a determined and coordinated attack by Murata's remaining 53 strike aircraft. However, the task of the Skyrocket pilots was made even more difficult by incredibly inept fighter direction from the USS Saratoga that failed to provide the defending pilots with vital information about the altitude and direction of approach of the Japanese planes. As a result, USS Hornet was left dangerously exposed to the incoming attack.
    In a desperate attempt to save his ship, the fighter director on USS Hornet seized control from the inept USS Saratoga and gave the American pilots the accurate information that was needed to place them in the path of the Japanese strike group. It was almost too late. When the defending Skyrocket pilots finally sighted the approaching Japanese strike group about 40 kilometers (25 miles) out from Hornet, the Japanese bombers were well above the Skyrockets and already entering their high speed attack modes.

    Despite the best efforts of the Skyrockets, about 20 Val dive-bombers broke through about 0910 and hurtled down on USS Hornet which was being skilfully maneuvered inside a tight ring of her escort warships. Plunging through a curtain of steel being thrown up by the flattop and her escort warships, the fiercely determined Japanese pilots were able to drop three bombs that ripped open the flight deck and penetrated deeply into the carrier.

    At about 0914, a suicidal Val pilot plunged his dive-bomber vertically into Hornet's island structure and strewed flaming parts of his aircraft across the island structure and flight deck. LCDR Homer W. Carter, USN (Ret.) was a Naval Aviation Pilot at the time and nearly lost his life when this Val dive-bomber hit the island structure. He provides a graphic account of this incident:

    [Source of this account is via CDR Tom Cheek USN (Ret.). The narrative has been edited and modified to fit the war game result obtained on 18 Feb, 2019 this year.,. McP.]

    While the Val dive-bombers were still attacking USS Hornet, they were joined by Kate torpedo bombers. The Kates separated into two formations that came at Hornet simultaneously from both sides in a coordinated torpedo attack that was very difficult for a large ship to avoid. At 0915, two torpedoes missed Hornet on her starboard side. One clanged as a dud near the forward engine room.

    The final assault on USS Hornet by Murata's strike group came from another suicidal pilot. This pilot crashed his plane into the Hornet forward of the bridge. The trail of flaming debris ended in the forward elevator shaft. LCDR Carter describes this incident as he saw it:

    The attack was over at 0925, and it left Hornet dead in the water, without power, and listing 8 degrees to starboard. Fires were burning in spots through the damaged ship. It would take 90 minutes to bring them under control and to restore Hornet to operational condition.

    The attack on USS Hornet cost the Japanese forty-two of LCDR Murata's original sixty-two plane strike group. The killed airmen were irreplaceable veterans who had been honing their war skills since Japan attacked China in 1937.

    Hornet's First Attack Group Finally Finds The Japanese Fleet Carrier Unryu

    As their carrier was about to receive the first Japanese air strike at 0855, USS Hornet's first attack group sighted the cruisers Tone and Chikuma from Rear Admiral Abe, Hiroaki's Vanguard Force. The Hornet pilots were only interested in Japanese carriers, and they flew on.

    Whereas fighter direction from Kinkaid's flagship USS Saratoga had been abysmal on this morning, the Japanese performed very efficiently. The Americans were surprised by a vectored intercept. LCDR Widhelm's Hornet attack group was detected by Unryu’s radar when the TBYs were ninety-seven miles 155 kilometers (97 miles) out from the Japanese carrier, and the Japanese fighter director expertly placed 14 Zeros of Unryu's combat air patrol in a position and at an altitude to intercept the incoming Hornet group effectively. The Zeros scythed through Widhelm's attack group and quickly isolated the 4 Skyrocket fighters from the TBYs they were protecting. A pair of Skyrockets were soon spiraling towards the sea in flames.

    The Zeros then turned their full attention to LCDR Widhelm's 16 TBYs. However, Widhelm had drawn his TBYs into a tight defensive formation that enabled the massed firepower of the Sea Wolf rear gunners to create an effective shield. The Japanese then concentrated their attack on Widhelm's plane, and finally struck his engine. Despite trailing smoke from his damaged engine, Widhelm refused to be diverted from his objective - the Japanese carriers.

    At 0915, the Japanese carriers were sighted but Widhelm was not fated to take part in the Hornet attack. His laboring engine finally shut down, and he was forced to ditch his aircraft and share with his gunner a view of the attack from sea level. Another TBY was shot down, and 2 received sufficient damage from the Zeros to force them to turn back.

    LT James "Moe" Vose assumed command when Widhelm's engine failed. Still under constant attack from the swarming Zeros, Vose led the remaining 12 Hornet TBYs on towards VADM Kondo's flagship carrier Unryu. At 0927, Vose was first to make his run on the Unryu. He was closely followed in turn by another elevenTBYs. The Zeros followed them in, desperately trying to splash the tough US torpedo planes. Ignoring the storm of metal thrown up from the carrier and the Japanese escort warships, the gallant American TBY pilots scored an astonishing four torpedo hits on Unryu with their fish. Having learned their lesson from Midway, the Japanese had not left the flight deck of Unryu carelessly littered with fueled aircraft, ordnance and gasoline hoses to be wrecked by dive bombers. What good was that against Mark XIII torpedoes, though? The four fish tore the great ship's hull open almost equidistantly along her port side, and guaranteed her sunk within the day. Surprisingly, she did not explode into an inferno likie the Americans had come to expect from a mortally struck Japanese aircraft carrier.

    More Communication Failures Hamper The Americans

    Although Widhelm had repeatedly broadcast sighting reports after finding Unryu, being the first torpedo attack group from Hornet, the second attack group from Hornet, and the attack group from Enterprise all failed to receive these sighting reports, and all failed to sight a Japanese carrier on this morning. These groups instead found and launched attacks on the heavy cruisers of Rear Admiral Abe's Vanguard Force. The attack on heavy cruiser Chikuma by Hornet's second attack group achieved success. Chikuma received her fair share of rockets and torpedoes and was sunk.

    The Second Japanese Strike Group From Katsuragi Attacks USS Saratoga

    At 1000 hours, the radar on USS Enterprise detected the approaching second Japanese strike group comprising 19 Aichi Val dive-bombers and 5 Zeros that had left Katsuragi at 0810. Incredible as it may seem, the Japanese strike group was only 37 kilometers (23 miles) away from Enterprise when first picked up on radar. In addition to the inadequacy of the radar warning, the fighter direction from the flagship was again inept. The 21 Skyrockets of the combat air patrol received little useful information from the fighter director on the USS Saratoga, and much of that was confusing to the American pilots. Once again, on this morning, the fighter pilots found themselves too low and too late to intercept the incoming Japanese strike group. They were only able to shoot down 2 Vals before the remaining 17 Japanese dive bombers pushed over into their dives on the American aircraft carrier at 1015.

    USS Hornet has already been crippled and the subsequent Japanese air strikes are now focused on VADM Fletcher's flagship USS Saratoga.

    A storm of anti-aircraft fire, augmented by 32 newly mounted Bofors 40mm anti-aircraft machine guns on the USS Saratoga and the battleship, USS South Dakota, rose to meet the plummeting Vals. At 1017, a bomb penetrated the forward overhang of the flight deck of USS Saratoga and exploded just above the water line. Bomb shrapnel pierced the hull and killed 1 sailor and wounded 11 others. A TBY parked on the flight deck was blown overboard by the force of the explosion. The first bomb strike was quickly followed by a second, a dud, that penetrated the flight deck just aft of the forward elevator. This bomb split into two parts. One part bounced around in the hangar and destroyed 5 aircraft. The other part ricocheted aft to the third elevator well and killed 4 men. A third bomb exploded in the water close to the carrier, and the blast shook the ship and tossed aircraft about on the flight deck. Another TBY was blown into the sea by this blast. The third bomb also damaged an engine and caused the carrier to leave an oil trail in its wake.

    Of the nineteen Val dive-bombers that attacked Saratoga and the South Dakota, not one returned to their carriers. Ten were shot down and the rest failed to return to their home ships. Causes of their losses can only be guessed.

    The Third Japanese Strike Group From Unryu Attacks USS Saratoga

    Damage control parties were still hard at work on the USS Saratoga when the ship's radar picked up another approaching wave of enemy aircraft at 1040. This formation was the third strike group that had left Unryu at 0840. It comprised 16 Kate torpedo bombers and their escort of 4 Zeros. The Kates had failed to close the distance between them and the Vals of the second wave, and consequently, the USS Saratoga did not have to face a coordinated attack by dive-bombers and torpedo bombers of the kind that had Battered the USS Hornet earlier that morning.

    The Kates approached the USS Saratoga against a background of dark clouds, and they were not seen until one came under attack from a defending Skyrocket and burst into flames. Following their standard attack pattern, the Kates separated into two formations and prepared to assault the American aircraft carrier simultaneously from both sides in a coordinated pincer torpedo attack.

    The 12 Kates evaded the Skyrockets defending the Saratoga and 7 of these lined up in a line of bearing attack to discharge their torpedoes at the carrier from starboard. Again, the gunners on the USS Saratoga and her bodyguard warships unleashed a storm of anti-aircraft fire at the approaching enemy planes, and 8 were blown out of the sky before they could drop their torpedoes. The 2 remaining Kates dropped their torpedoes aimed at the carrier. By skillful handling of the helm, Captain Osborne B. Hardison evaded all torpedoes launched at his ship in this attack from starboard.

    The 5 Kates approaching from the port side found themselves now facing the stern of Saratoga rather than the broad expanse of her port side. The gunners efficiently routinely destroyed these Kates, and only one was able to make an aimed torpedo drop, and Hardison evaded it easily and contemptuously.

    Of the 110 aircraft launched that morning from Vice Admiral Kondo's carriers Unryu, and Katsuragi, and , only 24 returned to the remaining serviceable carrier. The 66 lost aircrews had been highly skilled veterans who had been honing their fighting skills continuously since Japan began its brutal war against China in 1937. Together with the aircrews lost by Japan at Coral Sea and Midway, they were an irreplaceable reservoir of naval aviation fighting skills.

    The Attack By The Fourth Strike Group On USS Saratoga

    The Saratoga had weathered two determined attacks on the morning of 26 October, and was preparing to recover aircraft when the disconcerting news was received that a fourth enemy formation was approaching. The new threat came from a strike group comprising 17 Val dive-bombers and 12 Zeros that had left Kondo’s carriers at 0914. They had passed by the apparently stopped and smoking Hornet and pressed on to find the Saratoga.

    At 1121, when Saratoga was about to be enveloped by a rain squall, this fourth strike group found her. As the Japanese pilots approached the American carrier, they found the rain cloud base varied from 300 to 450 meters (1,000 to 1,500 feet) altitude above sea level. To maintain visual contact with the American flattop, the Japanese dive-bomber pilots were forced to abandon their customary steep high altitude attack mode and approach the carrier in a shallow gliding approach. Against a background of dark rain clouds, the enemy planes were difficult for the American gunners to see but they managed to "splash" about half of the Vals before they could release their bombs.

    Captain Hardison again threw the big ship into a series of sharp turns designed to frustrate the aim of the Japanese pilots. During one very sharp turn, a bomb glanced off the exposed hull below the waterline and exploded in the sea close to the carrier. The blast pierced the hull in several places and jammed the forward elevator in the closed or "up" position.

    Fortunately for the USS Saratoga, the weather conditions appear to have prevented the Japanese dive-bomber pilots from coordinating their attack on the carrier, or perhaps they lacked the skilled combat experience of their peers. Several Vals ignored the USS Saratoga and attacked the light cruiser USS San Juan. Near misses caused the sea to erupt around the cruiser and one bomb hit the hull just above the waterline. This bomb bounced off her plate and exploded under the ship, jamming the rudder at full right. For almost a quarter of an hour, San Juan circled aimlessly before full control was regained.

    At 1129, several Vals emerged from the low cloud base and fastened upon the battleship USS South Dakota. All but one bomb missed the large battleship. This bomb bounced off the main battery number one turret. The heavily armored turret protected the crew members inside but the blast when the bomb caromed off and exploded, still wounded about fifty crew members in exposed positions. Two later died.

    Eleven of the seventeen Vals from this attack failed to return to their home ships.

    Although damaged from three successive attacks, USS Saratoga was still able to recover aircraft, and this had become an urgent priority. During the fourth Japanese attack, aircraft from both USS Hornet and USS Saratoga had been forced to circle the carrier. Some were damaged and most had almost empty fuel tanks. LT (jg) Clayton Fisher from USS Hornet's Torpedo/Attack Eight (VTA-8) was forced to ditch his badly damaged Sea Wolf near the light cruiser USS Juneau because he was very low on fuel and could not risk obstructing the flight deck of USS Saratoga at this critical time.

    Recovery of aircraft was still possible, but made more difficult because of the damaged condition of the carrier. The forward elevator was still jammed in the closed position from a bomb blast, and the aft elevator was temporarily jammed in the open or "down" position, leaving a gaping hole in the flight deck. Despite these difficulties, the Landing Signal Officers began to shepherd their flock safely back aboard the USS Saratoga.

    VADM Kondo Prepares To Exploit Japan's Tactical Advantage

    By 1000 hours on the morning of 26 October, Vice Admiral Kondo was aware that VADM Nagumo's aircraft carrier, Amagi, had been damaged and thus Nagumo had decided to withdraw from the battle. He was also informed that the USS Hornet had been rendered a mission kill and he believed that the same was true of the USS Saratoga. The Unryu’s captain reported she was doomed and it was only a matter of time before she went under. However, Katsuragi was undamaged and still fully operational, the Japanese surface fleet was virtually intact and Kondo was keen to exploit a tactical situation that was turning strongly in Japan's favor. He wanted to bring the American task force within range of the guns of his battleships and heavy cruisers. He ordered RADM Abe's “Vanguard Force” to join him with Abe’s 2 other battleships so he could execute a combined surface action. At 1018, he signaled his intention to ADM Yamamoto at Chu’uk (Truk) to take the fight to the Americans with his surface warships and ordered RADM Kakuta, Kajuri to take over CARDIV 1 and Nagumo’s escort force and place it all under his direct command, in effect relieving VADM Nagumo, Chuichi and censuring his conduct in the middle of a “famous victory”. The loss of face of such a relief from command would be tantamount to Kondo’s declaration that he believed Nagumo should jump off the fantail of HIJMS Amagi and swim with the sharks. Aside from that little intra-service politics, Kondo's plan was to launch a coordinated air and surface attack against the remaining American warships, sink them all a la Tsushima and thus gain the decisive Mahanic victory that had eluded the IJN for so long since the war’s beginning.

    Shortly before VADM Nagumo learned that his fleet had been placed under Kakuta’s command, he was still engaged in withdrawing his damaged flagship, Amagi, at top speed out of the range of planes from the USS Saratoga. At 1140, HIJMS Amagi received VADM Kondo’s message that placed RADM Kakuta in command of the “Main Body”. That same message contained an order to RADM Kakuta to launch a strike from Amagi and destroy the USS Saratoga. After recovering his aircraft that had taken part in the first strike on the Saratoga, Kakuta turned Amagi's bow towards CARDIV 2 and the “Advance Force” to join up. The “Main Body” steamed at high speed to join Katsuragi and Kondo’s “Advance Force”. At 1223, VADM Kakuta sighted HIJMS Katsuragi and the two carriers took station together while the various Japanese commanders decided upon their next course of action.

    At 1240, Kakuta received by signal a good fix on the location of the USS Hornet, and at 1306, he launched Amagi’s second strike of 7 Kate torpedo bombers and 12 Zeros to find and sink the American aircraft carrier. It must be noted, that while Amagi’s crew had successfully sealed off the damaged hole in the bow portside, and damage control parties had counter-flooded to correct the 8 degree left list they could not do anything about the pronounced 4 degree down bow cant, not a 呪われる神々(Murphy sent to Perdition) thing about it at all as Kakuta told his flag secretary.

    At this time, HIJMS Katsuragi was preparing to launch its third strike of the day. With its air group heavily depleted in the first two strikes on Hornet and Saratoga, Katsuragi could now only muster 2 Vals, 6 Kates armed with bombs instead of torpedoes, and 5 Zeros for her third strike.

    The Battle To Save USS Hornet

    At 1335 hours, the USS Saratoga had completed repairs to her her flight deck and was in the process of recovery of all American aircraft aloft including those from the still mission-killed USS Hornet. At this stage, VADM Fletcher decided to break off the action and withdraw his task groups. He signaled VADM William F. Halsey at Noumea that he was unable to provide fighter cover for the crippled USS Hornet or the rest of the fleet. This effectively meant that the USN PACFlt was tucking her tail between her legs and making “the better part of valor” the order of the day.

    From the moment that the last Japanese plane withdrew at 0925, frantic efforts were undertaken to repair USS Hornet. LCDR Homer W. Carter, USN (Ret.) takes up his story again:

    In a desperate attempt to save USS Hornet, the heavy cruiser USS Northampton has taken the crippled carrier in tow. The eight degree list to starboard is clearly visible. It was at this time that the second attack was made on Hornet by torpedo bombers from Unryu.

    The aircraft carrier's escort destroyers USS Morris, USS Russell, and USS Mustin came alongside and passed fire hoses to Hornet's crew. By 1000, all fires had been brought under control, and working by the light of hand lanterns, the ship's engineers were attempting to restore engine power. While the "black gang" were toiling frantically to save their ship, Homer Carter recalls how he took part in the gruesome task of collecting dead bodies for burial:

    While the engineers were laboring to restore engine power, the heavy cruiser USS Northampton prepared to take Hornet in tow. This activity was interrupted by the arrival of a lone dive-bomber from Katsuragi. The attack by this Val produced a near miss on destroyer Morris, and caused the attendant warships to cast off lines and scatter. The USS Hornet was finally taken under tow by Northampton at 1130, but the dead weight of the carrier prevented the cruiser achieving a speed above 3 m/s (4 knots). After about ten minutes, the tow-line snapped, and at 1145, RADM George D. Murray shifted his flag from Hornet to heavy cruiser USS Pensacola. The seriously injured and those who could not assist in the salvage work were then transferred to the escort destroyers.

    At 1455, when the USS Hornet's crewmen had secured another line to Northampton and the carrier was moving through the water at 3 m/s (4 knots), news was received that enemy aircraft were approaching. This was the second strike group from Amagi. At 1520, the strike group leader sighted the USS Hornet under tow and the Japanese prepared to attack. With USS Saratoga having been withdrawn from action, there were no fighters to defend the crippled carrier. The tow-line was severed and USS Northampton took evasive action. Although reduced to manually operated guns, the gunners on USS Hornet joined with the gunners of their escort warships to send out a powerful challenge to the approaching Kates. A t least 7 Kates and 2 Zeros were shot down, but 1 torpedo was released at Hornet and found its mark. It clanged. The incidence of Japanese air dropped dud gifts was startling to the Americans who were the recipients. Immediately prior to this attack, Homer Carter and his team had been still engaged in recovering bodies, and were looking for a young Marine named Church. He describes this Japanese attack:

    The dud torpedo had enough drive through to punch a hole into USS Hornet’s torpedo defense and open up the number 2 engine room. Seawater poured into the carrier through this new breach, and the ship was soon listing at an angle of 4 degrees. Captain Charles P. Mason realized that the USS Hornet was now in deep trouble and signaled the USS Pensacola and the USS Northampton for assistance to take off crew. The Japanese attack was a bitter blow for those on USS Hornet like Homer Carter who believed that there was still hope of saving their ship:

    At 1540, while preparations to abandon Hornet were under way, the aircraft from Katsuragi’s third strike came into view. The 2 Vals achieved near misses on USS Hornet and cruiser USS San Diego. The 6 Kates attacked next, and all missed of them missed in their drops to starboard.

    At 1550, having been apprised that Kondo's battleships were approaching the stricken USS Hornet, VADM Admiral Halsey ordered a general withdrawal.

    During the end of the last Japanese air attack, the I-19 saw her opportunity. She maneuvered to put herself about 2000 meters portside and ahead of the sitting duck USS Hornet and launched a spread of 6 Type 93 torpedoes. The USS Pensacola was already maneuvering to draw alongside to take off USS Hornet crew when CAPT Frank L. Lowe received warning from his portside lookouts of a submarine periscope. Maneuvering with complete disregard for his own ship’s safety and mindful of the thousands of men on USS Hornet, CAPT Lowe put USS Pensacola in between the Japanese submarine, the torpedoes he presumed she launched and their intended victim.

    CDR Shogo, Narahara had aimed a tight group of 6 fish with less than a 5 second interval and a 1 degree dispersion to overlap and make sure of the big 230 meter (770 foot) long American carrier. One can imagine his surprise when a 170 meter long cruiser plonks herself right in the middle of his target solution.

    he remarked to LT Murata, Shoji, his executive officer.

    USS Pensacola was hit four times in rapid succession as she steamed into the paths of the torpedoes. Some 483 of her 545 man crew died instantly as the ship exploded into three pieces. The rest presumably drowned when she went down, it was that quick. The two torpedoes that missed the USS Pensacola passed ahead of and between the USS Hornet and the USS Northampton.

    LCDR Carter describes the death of the USS Pensacola:

    [Note: The pejorative slang terms LCDR Carter uses for the Japanese people executing their proper duty in his description is despicable and deplorable; no matter the circumstances and his point of view he described. McP.]

    The escort warships were still taking off USS Hornet crew at 1702, when 4 Vals from Amagi appeared and launched a final attack on the carrier. One bomb missed Hornet closely astern but caused little additional damage.

    The Hornet Refuses To Die

    With the approach of nightfall, Vice Admiral Kondo decided to seek a decisive night battle with the Americans and ordered the warships of the Advanced Force and the Vanguard Force to converge and close at high speed with the withdrawing American ships.

    From the heavy cruiser USS Northampton, RADM Howard H. Good signaled the destroyer USS Mustin at 1810 to pass a tow line to the USS Hornet. The destroyer passed a line and attempted to tow. The effort was ludicrous. The 2,200 tonne destroyer could barely make 2 m/s (3 knots) towing the massive 23,000 tonne USS Hornet.

    The destroyer USS Anderson was detached to aid the towing of Hornet. This added to the absurdity of the effort as the two towing destroyers could only drag USS Hornet along at 5 m/s or 4 knots at 1930. Floatplanes from VADM Kondo's approaching warships watched the activities of the two destroyers with close interest, and reported what they were seeing to Kondo. At 1920, RADM Ugaki, in ADM Yamato’s name, signaled from battleship Yamato at Truk that Hornet was to be captured and taken in tow. This was the high state of absurdity at the Battle of Santa Cruz. Nevertheless, it could be safely said, that Fletcher was in enormous trouble. What was he going to do? Sacrifice Hornet and 1,500 US sailors to the Japanese?

    In response to Ugaki's signal, Kondo ordered a destroyer squadron to close with Mustin and Anderson and engage them. At 2015, Mustin's radar detected an approaching surface contact but Hornet was still refusing to move despite everything her engineers could do to get her turn over. The two destroyers cut loose their tow lines and prepared to sell themselves to buy the USS Hornet more time. They charged at the Japanese destroyers they detected by radar, until they came within gun range pumping 12.7 cm shells (5-inch) shells into the apparent Japanese leader, the cadet ship HIJMS Nagara and her companion the HIJMS Makigumo until the two Japanese warships were burning fiercely and racked by explosions. With their radars indicating that more enemy vessels were fast closing with them, USS Mustin and USS Anderson departed the area at 2040 and returned to their charge, the USS Hornet. As for the rest of the Japanese destroyers? They must have missed the Americans in the dark. It is the only explanation for how USS Hornet escaped. Twenty minutes after the American destroyers had polished off the HIJMS Nagara and her companion the HIJMS Makigumo, the USS Northampton arrived solo to find Hornet finally under power and making about 4 m/s (10 knots). After identifying the unknown carrier as USS Hornet, the Northampton secured her with another tow line and dragged her southeast toward TF 17 and the USS Saratoga. The USS Hornet finally passed out of immediate danger at 0135 on 27 October, meaning that the 1,080 officers and men aboard her would not become prisoners and that she would not be a Japanese war trophy after all. Her epic rescue coincided with Navy Day in the United States and was a profound shock and embarrassment to ADM Kondo who let such a prize slip from his fingers. In addition, it was soon discovered that the glory-seeking RADM Kimura, Susumu, who was supposed to secure the USS Hornet for the IJN had met his inglorious end by charging ahead and blundering into a mere two US destroyers who had killed his ship, the light cruiser HIJMS Nagara in a ridiculous circular gunfight. Nobody seemed to care about the HIJMS Makigumo, who ate a torpedo in that same action. She was just another footnote in the endless parade of Japanese destroyers going to the bottom in the Guadalcanal Campaign, she was.

    The fuel situation as he had predicted for Kondo's forces became critical by midnight on 26 October, and ADM Yamamoto apprised of it, ordered a withdrawal to Truk, unless a dawn air search to the east on 27 October revealed the presence of American warships. When none were found, Kondo directed all ships to set course for Truk. Perhaps the fact that the late as usual to the party USS Machate had found and torpedoed the AO Kyokuto Maru and AO Kokuyo Maru during the same time that the HIJMS Nagara was being gang-gunned might have convinced Kondo not to see any American ships in the area when 1/3 of his tanker support was now on the bottom of the Southwest Pacific Ocean.

    End of Part 1.

    Part 2 is the fun part. Read as the Japanese get RIKKOED!
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2019
  3. vl100butch Well-Known Member

    Mar 27, 2014
    Madison, MS
    End of Part 1.

    Part 2 is the fun part. Read as the Japanese get RIKKOED!

    Mac, you are just plain EVIL....ROFLMAO!!!!!

    hope to see part 2 soon!!!!!
    Butchpfd and McPherson like this.
  4. Athelstane Anglo-Saxon Troublemaker

    Jun 8, 2011
    That would be quite the propaganda victory. I wouldn't want to be within fifty nautical miles of Ernest J. King when word reaches Washington.
    All Hail Enterprise and Adamant like this.
  5. McPherson McPherson; a guy who needs a shave.

    Oct 29, 2017
    Somewhere where rockets fly.
    In the RTL, the Japanese came within an hour of earning it. It was that close. In the ITTL they rush things that much harder to arrive an hour early instead of being careful and that is how I was able to write it the way it shakes out.
  6. mattep74 Well-Known Member

    Jan 24, 2004
    Japanese Carriers hit by a few bombs, sunk. American carrier look like a Swiss cheese and survive. Seems a bit streched.
  7. Athelstane Anglo-Saxon Troublemaker

    Jun 8, 2011
    Oh I know.

    It's one of the clearest points in evidence of how steep the learning curve was for the US Navy at that point in the war, and how shoestring the entire Solomons effort was.

    And with more aggressive Japanese commanders, why...

    "Considering the great superiority of our enemy's industrial capacity, we must win every battle overwhelmingly in order to win this war. [Santa Cruz], although a victory, unfortunately, was not an overwhelming victory." - Chuichi Nagumo. Perhaps you chaps should have thought harder about that before going to war?
  8. McPherson McPherson; a guy who needs a shave.

    Oct 29, 2017
    Somewhere where rockets fly.
    The USS Hornet took ~ 700 shells 7 Japanese and 6 US torpedoes to sink her. The Akagi was scuttled by 1 bomb. Kaga took 4, Soryu took 3 and Hiryu, depending on whose accounts took between 3 to 6 bombs. It is an RTL fact that US fleet carriers were easy to mission kill but TOUGH to sink. Their Japanese opposites could have been as tough (witness Shokaku whose crew is legendary for their damage control efforts) but Japanese crews were not usually trained to fight to save the ship the way the Americans or British or German crews were. And to be honest, some Japanese damage control methods were simply not well thought out (counterflooding as the cure for everything), nor were some of their ship design choices. (elevator wells too deep below the main strength deck into the float bubble, firefighting mains over centralized, no portable pumps or manual firefighting gear. No flash gear, no fireproof ready use ammunition boxes, critically vulnerable electrical service mains without battle short capacity. etc,.)
  9. Colin Haggett Well-Known Member

    Nov 20, 2017
    Melbourne, Australia
    I've seen George Muller mentioned twice but without any context - what problems did he cause please.
  10. HJ Tulp Vice Admiral, Eutopian Navy

    Nov 27, 2007
    Amsterdam, the Netherlands
    IIRC he captured a Japanese encryption device. There were two problems though. The first was that the encrypted messages were already being decrypted by US intelligence. This you can't really blame the guy. What you can blame him though, is that he made the capture of the device obvious to the Japanese, who simply changed the code.
  11. All Hail Enterprise CV-6 Best Waifu

    Nov 2, 2017
    The Yorktown-class carriers were almost god-like in terms of survivability, and when combined with American damage control they were basically zombie-like.
    • Yorktown, despite having residual damage from Coral Sea, still refused to sink after a combined 2 torpedo hits and 3 bomb hits, and she probably could have survived Midway if I-168 hadn't attacked
    • Hornet ate 3 bombs, 3 torpedoes, and 2 Val dive bombers crashing into her as well as 9 scuttling torpedoes (granted, USN torpedoes sucked so many failed to detonate) and 500+ rounds of 127mm destroyer gunfire and refused to sink. It took another 4 so-called long lance Japanese torpedoes to put her down
    • Granted, Enterprise never took a torpedo hit, but her reputation speaks for herself
    Early Japanese carriers, on the other hand, didn't really have much survivability or notable damage control crews. I mean, seriously, Akagi was sunk by literally a single bomb, and Kaga lost effectively all of her damage control abilities to a single bomb hit.

    As the war went on, even though IJN CVs improved in terms of survivability, their crew quality (including their damage control teams) decreased, if the sinking of Taiho was anything to go by. IMO, the Shoukaku class represented what the IJN could do with an actually decently survivable carrier and competent damage control—they both survived hits that earlier IJN carriers had been sunk by.

    It's not like the US had a monopoly on damage control throughout the entire war, —Lexington was sunk in a very similar way to Taiho thanks to early USN failures in damage control: it took a while for the lessons regarding things like AvGas storage and the use of carbon dioxide to put out fires to be refined.

    US damage control is really the stuff of legends: [​IMG]
    Here is USS Minneapolis (CA-36), a New Orleans-class who lost her entire bow and still survived the clusterf**k that was the Battle of Tassafaronga. If that doesn't scream godly damage control, then I don't know what does.
    Last edited: May 11, 2019
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  12. McPherson McPherson; a guy who needs a shave.

    Oct 29, 2017
    Somewhere where rockets fly.

    Destroys some myths about the IJA.
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  13. McPherson McPherson; a guy who needs a shave.

    Oct 29, 2017
    Somewhere where rockets fly.

    I is not an aircraft carrier!
  14. Athelstane Anglo-Saxon Troublemaker

    Jun 8, 2011
    The IJN was determined to give the whole "battle carrier" concept the ol' college try.
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  15. McPherson McPherson; a guy who needs a shave.

    Oct 29, 2017
    Somewhere where rockets fly.
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  16. McPherson McPherson; a guy who needs a shave.

    Oct 29, 2017
    Somewhere where rockets fly.
    (Reposted from the Alternate Warships Thread, because it bears on this ATL. McP.)

    I'm not going to dispute the issue at all. King was a drunk, a womanizer and an universal hater. After Leahy screwed everything up in 1937 and Stark followed him thereafter to make it much much worse^1, FDR needed someone who could pull things together. For all that King did wrong in the one critical area where we can blame him (Battle of the Atlantic, Drumbeat, and his refusal to listen to the British because of his Anglo-phobia...) he tended to eventually make correct decisions and even in the Battle of the Atlantic, (Once Royal Ingersoll took over that problem.) he ironed his mistakes out. American leadership as bad as it was in 1941, 1942, and 1943 was better than Britain's navally in their respective admiralties by 2 orders of magnitude. YMMV and it should about that opinion, but that notion is my personal opinion and I think I have some grounds for it; however cloudy the history still remains about King and Pound, et al...


    Hybrid flattops.

    Apparently, not by the Japanese; there seems to have been some question about their pre-war modernizations in the entire battle-line, from the elevation of the guns to the reworked superstructures on their battleships in general. Somehow, Ise's and Hyuga's cases were more unusual in defective result than expected. In their cases the Pagoda superstructures piled too much weight at that flotation section of the hull causing some severe hull frame stress. Armor redistribution was not well thought or somehow was poorly reworked, the anti-torpedo defense was still suspect and although later the Japanese properly ballasted for the removal of the aft turrets when they slapped on that hanger and flight deck, the concrete ballast was set a bit too high in the float bubble void screwing up metacentric moment; causing the Ise and Hyuga to shimmy shammy like wriggling worms, when at full power. Self sinkers they could have been if they had been used more in that configuration. I think my botch-job might have in RTL been a worse engineering disaster result?

    Well, the Japanese had no problem building airframes. It was the engines and pilots shortage that was problem. (Sen-sui-ni-kwa-nuh stu-tse-kwa na-hei or 先祖に加わる一つの旅 or one trip to join the ancestors.) was the solution. Shinano was built to be an aviation depot ship and a launch platform for kamikazes.

    I think I agree with this assessment.

    ^1. One has no idea how bad the Fat Leonard Scandal is in the modern context, but the Redman brothers in 1942, I believe, because of their buffalo shipping with Navy Crypto, added a whole year to PACFlt's woes (Santa Cruz was as much those imbeciles' faults as it was Halsey who ordered Kincaid to act on their garbage "cooked intel".). I think there is a good case for capital sentences to be handed out after courts martial in the case of the Glenn Marine scandal, and that the Redmans should have been sent to prison for their shenanigans in 1942 and 1943. Sheesh, the two cases stink for the same exact reasons!

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  17. McPherson McPherson; a guy who needs a shave.

    Oct 29, 2017
    Somewhere where rockets fly.
    (Reposted from the Alternate Warships Thread, because it bears on this ATL. McP.)

    Why the KGVs might have been 4-2-4 x 14 instead of 3-3-3 x 15

    Flop-rammer behind the gun. (see saw Mark 2)

    Some uncertainty here, but triplet guns in individual isolated gun pits would have not meant much difference in the barbette turntable size. By using known and certain designs for twins, the result is that from a known twin to a quadruple is an "apparent" design simplicity and shortcut. Of course after the practical result reveals the error in the wrong thought process it is too late to go back and design a triple from scratch.

    Same again. All sorts of unforeseen consequences from ballast issues to armor redistribution to frame stress carries through and down. Refer to the problems the IJN and Italians had in their rebuilds. Or the Americans.... You think some of the Pearl Harbor rebuilds did not have potential hogging issues that had to be factored when they were "modernized" with their new superstructures?






    "I'm just an angel in disguise."

    Note that her upper works were razed to the strength deck, she's a lot fatter in the mid section and she looks like a SoDak now?

    The obvious 1944 gun suite (AAA to a fare thee well)m, the radars and the directors, are plain to see. What one does not see is that inside that outer skin below the new superstructure, the Americans rebuilt her entire amidships torpedo and bomb damaged section, rehung her belt armor, added a huge antitorpedo blister, reframed her and rearranged subdivisions and bulkheads inside as they trunked her funnels, added forced ventilation, rearranged compartmentation fattened her up with that huge new torpedo blister, replaced/repaired her electric motor/generator sets and upgraded her physical plant. 2 and 1/3 years at Pearl and Puget Sound she was undergoing this work. Under wartime conditions and pressures the only thing left somewhat untouched on her was her main armament. Even that was tweaked inside the barbettes. Why? She clogged a couple of slipways, a drydock, and occupied 1,000 workers who could have been used to build a new ship, say a fast carrier or an oil tanker or even another gunship.

    So why rebuild her? Pride? Or maybe someone needed a West Virginia congress cretin for some reason?

    One might see the need to not float her out of the anchorage to clear a berth and then scuttle her in deep water for morale purposes back in that day like a sensible navy would have done (USS Maine 1898-1904), but it sure is weird that her old berth at Pearl still has a pier marker with her name on it to this day.

    Anyway, besides making the point that insanity can be a group effort, the thing is from an engineering standpoint, when someone makes a glib suggestion about what could be ATL done to "improve" something, (Refer to my Ise Abortion above.) one must take into account the hidden details of why the RTL people of the time did not do what to us, post-hoc, seems "obvious".

    Unless you are FDR or Bennie the Moose. Politics.
  18. Athelstane Anglo-Saxon Troublemaker

    Jun 8, 2011
    I always wondered if the fact the CNO at the time (Stark) was the Wee Vee's former CO might have had something to do with it?

    Well, I'm sure it didn't hurt.

    I've also wondered how much more it really would have cost to build, say, another South Dakota - you know, something fast enough to actually escort the fast carrier task forces - over what it cost for that nearly three year rebuild of Wee Vee - though I can think of better uses for the money and the slip than either...

    But at the end of the day it was probably a combination of pride, a way of making good as much of the damage done at Pearl Harbor as a PR move, and the sentimental power of black shoe officers in the Navy's senior leadership. At least she acquitted herself well at Surigao Strait when she had her chance.
  19. marathag Well-Known Member with a target on his back

    Feb 2, 2013
    And made her too wide to get thru the Panama Canal.

    This was as close as the WWII USN got close to the 'Great Rebuilds' of the Post Civil War era, where like USS Puritan, lifted up the Ship's Bell, and build a near brand new ship underneath.

    All that work, and didn't try to make her faster.
    At least the Italians accomplished that 5.5 knot increase with their reconstructions
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  20. McPherson McPherson; a guy who needs a shave.

    Oct 29, 2017
    Somewhere where rockets fly.
    Where do you propose inserting the 30 meter hull plug to get the additional 4 m/s natural speed and get the additional 50,000 kWatts to drive the new 42,000 tonne standard displacement monstrosity? It, all, has to affect the frame plan, the hull flow design, ship turn radius, the flotation sausage sectionally, deep load, roll, metacentric etc.
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