Naturally, based on that post action battle damage assessment, I absolutely reject your conjectures about US treaty cruisers. Your other conjectures fly in the face of what actually historically happened at Second Guadalcanal, when the conditions you want to state, occurred de facto. Kondo RAN. Lee held the anchorage.
I have just read this, and I admit that Pensacola
could probably have taken more damage than I give her credit for. However, I'd point this out:
During the engagement outlined above, SAN FRANCISCO sustained approximately 45 separate hits, plus numerous small machine gun or fragment hits. The most extensive damage was apparently done by the secondary (6") battery of the second battleship in the center group. One 14" hit was made by this battleship and one was apparently made by the battleship in the northern group, its angle of fall being about 13° from about 120° relative. The caliber of these two shells was determined by fragments recovered. Several hits made on the port side (Plates II and III) indicated shells heavier than 6" and these were probably from the heavy cruiser shown in the left group. The destroyer which passed down the port side probably made a few 5" hits and some small caliber hits with automatic weapons. Judging from the performance of our own projectiles against various weights of plating, and from the disposition and armament of the forces involved, it is estimated that 10 hits were 8", 15 were 6", 5 were 5 1/2", and 13 were 5" in addition to the two 14" hits mentioned above. Structural damage from these hits, though extensive, was fortunately not of a serious nature. It would undoubtedly have been more severe if it were not for the fact that special bombardment ammunition was used as stated in paragraph 4.
No A.P. or H.E. major caliber hits were received so far as can be determined. Minor caliber hits were apparently common projectiles with both instantaneous and delayed fuses.
Even the USN, masters of DC that they were, admitted that San Francisco
could have been more damaged if the IJN had been shooting proper AP shells - which, under Kondo's direction, they might have time to load. Add to this the fact that the New Orleans
-class are newer, more compact and tougher than the Pensacola
-class. The latter will probably stand up, but she'll still take severe damage if a battleship and two heavy cruisers all decide to shoot at her.
Also, what I really want to specify is this: suppose that Pensacola
, being a more experienced ship, follows Washington
in the line of battle. Thus the Japanese will be able to track both American ships as there is no distraction from South Dakota
moving in front of the destroyers. In that scenario, if Admiral Kondo saw a battleship and heavy cruiser, he'd undoubtedly order all his ships to engage them, thus preventing the radar-guided sneak attack that Lee managed in OTL. So a more effective Japanese response is very likely, especially regarding torpdoes (two targets in line - see Tassafaronga)