Chapter X

Savo--The Galling Defeat

The Battle of Savo Island

When the Astoria visited Japan in 1939, with Captain Richmond Kelly Turner commanding, a Japanese poet drew on the muses for the following words:

The spirit, incarnate, of friendship and love
Deep in the Heart of history.
The record of the human world, full of changes and vicissitudes.
The people of Japan, where cherries bloom,
In the future far away
Will never forget their gratitude to the Astoria.

20 April 1939--Bansui Doi

The "changes and vicissitudes" led the Japanese to "forget their gratitude to the Astoria" on 9 August 1942.

Commander Expeditionary Force (CTF 61) set the radio call authenticator for 9 August 1942, to be used on that same day by all ships in his command to verify their messages, as "Wages of Victory." It was a prophetic choice, for the "Wages of Victory" at Tulagi and Guadalcanal was Savo Island.

No American can be happy about the Battle of Savo Island. A good many professional United States naval officers feel a stinging sense of shame every time the words "Savo Island" are uttered.

A distinguished former Commander in Chief of the United States Fleet, and, in 1942, Chairman of the General Board of the Navy, Admiral Arthur J. Hepburn, U.S. Navy (Retired),1 mentally active and physically vigorous, spent over four months between 23 December 1942 and 13 May 1943 inquiring into the Savo Island disaster, personally questioning the principal commanders in the South Pacific and Southwest Pacific Areas, and the


Note: CTF 62 (Turner) Diagram of Savo Battle dispositions
submitted on 11 August 1942 to COMSOPAC with his letter to CTG 62.6 (Crutchley).
Diagram and letter forwarded by COMSOPAC to CINCPAC and COMINCH.

Battle Area Dispositions, Savo Island.


Commanding Officers still alive, as well as gathering a large amount of documentary evidence.

A two-volume Strategical and Tactical Analysis of the Battle of Savo Island has been published by the U.S. Naval War College at Newport, Rhode Island.2 Several full-length books on the battle, one labeling Admiral Turner "a blacksmith's son," have been written for popular consumption.3 Morison devotes a lengthy chapter to the subject in his 15-volume history of United States Naval Operations in World War II and much space in his other writings about that war.4

It is not the intention to rehash in detail here this sad story of the U.S. Navy in its first night heavy surface ship fight with the Japanese Navy. if there are any readers who are not familiar with this night battle, such readers should consult Morison before going further in this Chapter. Suffice it to record here that it occurred at the Savo Island terminus of a skillfully concealed Japanese dash south from Rabaul. It was carried through by a hastily gathered eight ship cruiser-destroyer force, which in the early hours of 9 August effected complete surprise and one-sided damage in turn to two different five-ship Allied cruiser-destroyer units patrolling to protect our transports at Tulagi and Guadalcanal.

The Japanese Navy achieved a stunning victory. It was aggressive in the planning concept of this operation and it was equally aggressive in carrying it out. Their night-time operational ability was far superior to that of the U.S. Navy ships companies which they encountered. They cleared from the roster three United States heavy cruisers and one Australian heavy cruiser with minor damage to their own ships. They placed the waters lying between the islands of Guadalcanal and Tulagi on the books as "Iron Bottom Sound" and manned it with an initial complement of United States Navy and Australian Navy ships.

Admiral Turner's comment in 1960 on the 1942 battle was as follows:

Whatever responsibility for the defeat is mine, I accept.

Admiral Hepburn, who, in 1942 investigated the defeat for Admiral King did a first-rate job. The Naval War College in 1950, did the most thorough analysis possible. I had my chance to comment on the Hepburn report to


Admiral Nimitz, before he placed his comments thereon. My comments contained the following:

'I desire to express myself as entirely satisfied with this admirable report. It is accurate, fair, logical, and intuitive.'

We took one hell of a beating. The Japs sank four cruisers, but missed their greatest opportunity during the war to sink a large number of our transports with surface ship gunfire. This was at a time when it would have really hurt, because we didn't have 50 big transports in our whole Navy. We got up off the deck and gave the Japs one hell of a beating, and the so and so critics can't laugh that off.

For a long time after the ninth of August, I kept trying to fit the pieces together to change our defeat into a victory. It all boiled down to needing better air reconnaissance, better communications, better radar, a more combative reaction, and a greater respect for Jap capabilities.5

In response to a question, if he expected to be relieved of command because of the disaster, Admiral Turner commented:

Only if the Navy found it necessary to satisfy the desire of the American people for a goat. Fortunately for me, the Navy resisted any pressure there might have been for this end.6

In this connection, Admiral Nimitz was asked the question by this writer: "Did you contemplate having Admiral Turner relieved after the defeat at Savo Island?"

He replied, "No, I never did, not for an instant. I thought he did very well."7

This decision not to relieve Rear Admiral Turner was labeled by Samuel Eliot Morison in 1954 "wise and just."8

However, Morison's 1954 appraisal of this decision is hardly supported by his later writings. In 1962, Morison wrote that Turner made a "bad guess" that the Japanese were not coming through that night, and that:

This was not Turner's only mistake that fatal night. He allowed his fighting ships to be divided into three separate groups to guard against three possible sea approaches by the enemy. . . . Turner was so certain that the enemy would not attack that night that he made the further mistake of summoning Crutchley in Australia to a conference on board his flagship, McCawley, twenty miles away, in Lunga Roads, Guadalcanal . . . [for a consultation]


to decide whether the partly unloaded transports should depart that night or risk repeated Japanese air attacks without air protection [the next day].9

In 1963, Morison, the great and good god of World War II Naval History, wrote:

Dogmatically deciding what the enemy would do, instead of considering what he could or might do, was not Turner's only mistake on that fatal night. He allowed his fighting ships to be divided into three separate forces to guard three possible sea approaches by the enemy.10

The Hepburn Investigation

The reason that Admiral Turner applauded the Hepburn Investigation is not difficult to find. In it there was no direct or implied criticism of Rear Admiral Turner's action or decisions.

One can take his pick--either (1) the ever changing appraisals of the semi-official naval historian; (2) the inordinately biased hocus-pocus of the popular fiction writer; (3) the analysis of the Naval War College as to why Savo Island happened and what was the degree of responsibility of the various seniors present, including Commanding Officers of the various ships; or (4) make up his own mind from the existing official record.

Admiral King, never one to flinch from damning an officer whom he believed to have erred badly, in his endorsement on Admiral Hepburn's Investigation Report said:

I deem it appropriate and necessary to record my approval of the decisions of and conduct of Rear Admiral R.K. Turner, U.S. Navy, and Rear Admiral V.A. Crutchley, Royal Navy. In my judgment, those two officers were in no way inefficient, much less at fault, in executing their parts of the operations. Both found themselves in awkward positions, and both did their best with the means at their disposal.

Admiral King was thoughtful enough to provide a copy of his endorsement to Rear Admiral Turner and Rear Admiral Crutchley.

To complete the picture, the following should also be quoted from the King endorsement:

5. . . . Adequate administrative action has been taken with respect to those individuals whose performance of duty was not up to expectations.

Captain George L. Russell, at that time Flag Secretary to Admiral King,


and the reviewing officer on the staff of the Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet, for the Admiral Hepburn investigative Report gave more detail on the administrative action. He later was Judge Advocate General of the Navy and then a Vice Admiral, U.S. Navy. His review was passed on and concurred in by the Deputy Chief of Staff, Rear Admiral W.R. Purnell, later Vice Admiral, U.S. Navy, and the Chief of Staff, Vice Admiral R.S. Edwards, later Admiral, U.S. Navy.

In this review, Captain Russell pointed out that:

(a) Vice Admiral Ghormley, who was head man in the area, and therefore answerable for the operation, was relieved not long afterward. Regardless of the fact that no reason for his change of duty was announced, there was a stigma attached to it, with everything indicating that he was relieved because of this defeat. . . .

(b) Admiral Hepburn mentions the failure of Rear Admiral McCain to search out the area in which the Japs must have been, after Rear Admiral Turner, in effect, asked him to do so, but apparently does not feel that he should be called to account for it. . . .

(c) Admiral Hepburn gives Admiral Turner pretty much a clean bill of health.

*  *  *  *  *
(d) Vice Admiral Fletcher and Rear Admiral Noyes have been relieved of their commands. Again no reason has been assigned, but the inference is that the latter, at least, has been tried and found wanting. In other words, something has already been done, administratively.

It does not necessarily follow that because we took a beating somebody must be the goat . . . to me it is more of an object lesson in how not to fight, than it is a failure for which someone should hang. . . .10

The two-volume Naval War College analysis, in its 23 pages of "Battle Lessons," mentions no personalities, but some of the biting "Lessons" apply directly to specific actions of specific command personalities. There are 26 Lessons. One of these was pertinent to Rear Admiral Turner personally. Nearly all of them are pertinent to every naval officer exercising command in the nuclear age, as well as in World War II, and several will be mentioned later in the chapter.

The Primary Cause--Inadequate and Faulty Air Reconnaissance

Admiral Turner, when asked, in 1960, if he would name "the primary


cause of his defeat at Savo Islands, and the thing about this primary cause which stuck in his craw the hardest," said: "Inadequate and faulty air reconnaissance and more faulty than inadequate."12

Before making this particular answer, he carefully considered a list drafted by this author and discarded the following as not being the primary cause:

  1. Lack of respect for Japanese aggressiveness.

  2. Lack of a specific night action battle plan in the Screening Group in event of an undetected surprise raid.

  3. Lack of combat reaction at the command level in the cruisers and destroyers of the Screening Group, or lack of a specific night action plan for these units.

  4. Delay of Screening Group Commander in rejoining his command.

  5. Withdrawal of Air Support Force.

  6. Command organization.

  7. Personnel fatigue.

  8. Lack of night battle training.

  9. Lack of appreciation of the limitations of radar, or radar failures.

  10. Communication delays, or failures.

  11. Failure to have more picket destroyers.

  12. Division of heavy ships (CA and CLAA) of Screening Force into three groups.

  13. Failure to maintain the prescribed condition of ship readiness in the heavy cruisers.

  14. The United States Navy's obsession with a strong feeling of technical and mental superiority over the enemy.

The official history of the Army and the monographs of the Marine Corps as well as Newcomb's popular The Incredible Naval Debacle, all give the impression that air reconnaissance, or perhaps osmosis, furnished information of such a nature that Rear Admiral Turner knew that a Japanese Naval Force was approaching the lower Solomons. These are the words these books use:

Word of this approaching force reached Admiral Turner at 1800, and when Admiral Fletcher notified him shortly thereafter that the carrier force was to be withdrawn, Turner called Vandegrift to the flagship, McCawley, and informed the general that, deprived of carrier protection, the transports must leave at 0600 the next day.13


At 1800 on 8 August, Admiral Turner received word that the Japanese Force was approaching.14

Turner had it [the despatch] too, and he knew he was in trouble.

Later, they could not say for sure when they first knew it, but for certain the fleet knew by midafternoon that the Japanese were coming.

Japanese surface forces were heading his way; everybody knew that.15

The Army history and the Marine monograph cite as their authority the following entry in the 8 August 1942 War Diary of Rear Admiral Turner as Commander Amphibious Force South Pacific Force.

About 1800 information was received that two enemy destroyers, three cruisers, and two gun boats or seaplane tenders were sighted at 1025Z at 5°49'S, 156°07'E course 12°, speed 15 knots.

This entry, except for the first six words and the zone time of the sighting, was almost a Chinese copy of the first part of a dispatch originated at General MacArthur's Combined Headquarters at Townsville, Australia, at 1817 that evening which read:

Aircraft reports at 2325Z/7Z 3 cruisers 3 destroyers 2 seaplane tenders or gunboats. 05-49 S 156-07 E course 12° true speed 15 knots. At 0027/8Z 2 subs 07-35 S 154-07 E course 15° true.16

This information was not in fact passed on by the aviator who made the actual sighting for seven hours and 42 minutes after the sighting, when a despatch was originated at his home base, after his return thereto, and time dated in New Guinea at 1807. The despatch was then

passed over the Australian Air Force circuit from Fall River to Port Moresby and thence to Townsville . . . [and thence to Brisbane and thence] over the Navy land-line circuit to Canberra in COMSOWESPACFOR 081817 [only ten minutes later] for transmission over the air on the Canberra BELLS broadcast schedule. Canberra then transmitted on the BELLS [broadcast] schedule to the Australian Forces, and to Pearl Harbor for transmission on the HOW FOX schedule to the U.S. Forces.17

Canberra completed its transmission at 081837, and Pearl Harbor completed its transmission on the Fleet (or FOX) broadcast schedules at 081843.

It was received in the McCawley via the FOX broadcast schedule, as the


Plane sightings of Vice Admiral Mikawa's Cruiser Force. Vice Admiral Gunichi Mikawa, IJN.
(NR & L (M) 37374)


McCawley had only two transmitters and five radio receivers, and could not spare one of the receivers to guard the Australian BELLS circuit.18 The message, not in the air until 1843, was decoded and available on the Flag Bridge of the McCawley about 1900, and not about 1800 as the War Diary entry would indicate.19 Rear Admiral Crutchley in the Australia received the message via the Australian BELLS broadcast circuit at 1837, since the Australian ship guarded this circuit in lieu of the American FOX schedule. He did not pass it to Rear Admiral Turner in the McCawley. This factual difference of one hour between the times many have assumed the message was available, and the time it was actually available to Rear Admiral Turner is important.

The sighting of the Japanese task force was some eight and a half hours old. The Japanese ships were 40 miles east of the town of Kieta situated on the east central shore of the island of Bougainville as shown in the map on page 363. They were not "In the Slot" but well east of it. Their reported course was not the course "Down the Slot," nor a course that would put them "In the Slot." Their reported speed was far from the 22-26 knots necessary to get them the 340 miles to Guadalcanal island the night of 8-9 August.

Instructions governing Army Air Force reconnaissance missions stipulated that:

A plane making contact at sea is to remain in the vicinity of the sighted target until recalled or forced to retire.20

The pilot of the Royal Australian Air Force Hudson Plane A16/218 on Search Mission FR623, originating at Fall River Field at Milne Bay, New Guinea, who sighted Vice Admiral Gunichi Mikawa's Cruiser Force headed south, shall remain unidentified, and alone with his own conscience, as far as this writer is concerned.21

He quite erroneously identified the seven cruisers and one destroyer that were in the waters below him. According to Morison:


Instead of breaking radio silence to report as he had orders to do in an urgent case, or returning to base which he could have done in two hours, [he] spent most of the afternoon completing his search mission, came down at Milne Bay [tip of Papua] had his tea, and then reported his contact.22

He not only failed to identify what he saw, but he failed to trail his contact, and he failed to report promptly. Four of the five Japanese heavy cruisers were sister ships, alike as peas in a pod from a distance.

After the war, an examination of Japanese action reports revealed that this plane was in sight from various Japanese cruisers of Vice Admiral Mikawa's force from 1020 to 1036, certainly long enough for the Hudson crew to get a good look at the formation.23

A later sighting of Vice Admiral Mikawa's Cruiser Force was made at 1101 by another of General MacArthur's Hudsons on Flight A16/185. This 1101 sighting suffered an even longer delay before reaching the officers who needed the information. The aviator did not get this sighting on the air for nine hours and 46 minutes after the occurrence. This 080947 report, when considered alongside the previous one, further confused the picture as seen by Rear Admiral Turner.

The second despatch read:

Air sighting 0001Z/8 Position 05-42 South 15-05 East. Two Cast Affirm Two Cast Love one small unidentified. One cruiser similar Southampton class. When plane attempted correct approach ships opened fire. At zero one two zero slant eight sighted small merchant vessel in 07-02 South 156-25 East course 290 speed 10.24

The Naval War College version of this despatch places an "or" between the two CAs and two CLs.25

The fact that the Australian plane attempted a "correct approach" on what to the aviator looked like a British heavy cruiser indicated that there was a question in the aviator's mind as to whether or not these were Allied ships. The fact that he was fired at probably riveted his attention on the ship immediately before him rather than the six other cruisers and one destroyer in the immediate area "and within visual signal distance,"26 It should be


Vice Admiral Gunichi Makawa, IJN.
Victor at Savo


noted that the Japanese Flagship Chokai sighted this aircraft, immediately after four of the five Japanese heavy cruisers had finished recovering their seaplanes at 1050, and while the seven large ships were forming up into a single column. The Chokai opened fire on the plane at 1100. The plane retreated and disappeared from sight of the Chokai at 1113. Vice Admiral Mikawa reported that his ships were on the northwesterly course of 3000 and that the plane was in sight for 13 minutes.27

How the Japanese ships all in sight of each other sighted the plane, and the plane did not correctly count the number of ships below it, lacks a ready explanation, except for the "fog of war.

This second sighting report added perplexity to the mystification already existing on the McCawley's Flag Bridge. The position reported indicated the Japanese force, if it was the same force as reported some 35 minutes previously, had moved northward and westward 7.5 miles. Since the Australian aviator, in this second sighting report, had not included a course and speed of the ships below him and since a plot of the two positions checked out the previous report by the pilot of A16/218 of a leisurely speed of 15 knots, Admiral Turner guessed that the seaplane part of the force as first reported was proceeding on to Rekata Bay and that part of the covering force was returning to Rabaul.28

It is an amazing fact, but one showing the vagaries of radio communications, that Vice Admiral Ghormley apparently was not cognizant of the 1025 sighting of the Japanese Cruiser Force until after Rear Admiral Turner arrived back in Noumea and told him of it.

A "Memorandum for Admiral Ghormley" prepared jointly on 14 August 1942 by his Staff Aviation Officer and his War Plotting Room Officer, while listing the 1101 sighting report, does not list the 1025 sighting despatch among the despatches received by COMSOPACFOR from COMSOWESPACFOR relating to enemy surface units on 7 August and 8 August 1942.29

No record of the time of receipt of the second Australian plane's report survived the flagship McCawley's torpedoing and sinking 10 months later. COMSOPAC radio watch finished copying the second sighting message at 2136, and it still had to be decoded. On 21 February 1943, six months after Savo Island, Rear Admiral Crutchley in an official report on Savo island


did not list this message as having been received at all by his flagship, the Australia. In 1960, Admiral Turner and one member of his staff reasoned that the second sighting report was not available on the Flag Bridge when CTF 62 (Turner) drafted and sent out his 081055 just before 10 p.m., or it would have been referenced in that despatch just as the initial sighting report was referenced. The only possible reference in the TF 62 official record currently available in regard to this second despatch is found in Rear Admiral Turner's statement:

All or at least some of these [four highly important] despatches [from COMSOWESPACFOR] were brought into my cabin during my conference with Admiral Crutchley and General Vandegrift.30

General MacArthur's Combined Headquarters at Townsville drew the inference from these two aircraft sighting reports of

a possible occupation of Bougainville and Buka Islands in strength--[and] possible use of Kieta aerodrome.31

Rear Admiral Turner had gotten into the guesstimating act at 082155-35 minutes before General MacArthur's guesstimating despatch sought the air. Rear Admiral Turner's guess, influenced by the fact that a Wasp scout had shot down a seaplane north of Rekata Bay, was quite as wrong as General MacArthur's. He opined:

Estimate from NPM 706 that Force named may operate torpedo planes from Santa Isabel possibly Rekata Bay. Recommend strong air detachments arrive Rekata Bay early forenoon. Bomb tenders in manner to ensure destruction.32

When Rear Admiral Turner sent this despatch, he did not know that CTF 63's (Rear Admiral McCain) search planes on the eighth of August, had not covered the Slot areas which TF 63 had been requested to cover. CTF 63's report of his air searches for the 8th was not time dated in his New Caledonia Headquarters on that day until 2333-27 minutes before midnight.33

The special air reconnaissance in the Choisel-Bougainville Slot Area requested by CTF 62 (Turner) of CTF 6334 failed to provide a contact


with the Japanese cruisers, when the TF 63 Army Air Force planes turned back at 1215 some 60 miles south of the Japanese cruisers and far, far short of the 750-mile search which had been expected and of which the B-17s were capable.

Admiral Hepburn commented:

. . . .this important negative information did not become known to Rear Admiral Turner until the next day. . . .

It is not unreasonable to suppose that timely information of the failure of the search plan might at least have resulted in a precautionary order to the Screening Force to maintain the highest degree of readiness. . . .35

TF 63 Air Reconnaissance

The problem of the undetected approach of the Japanese cruiser squadron to Guadalcanal was one which could have been solved but was not.

While it is the inadequate performance of the individual Australian pilots which is more often publicized when pre-Savo Island air reconnaissance is mentioned, there is also to be considered the record of inadequate search plans by CTF 63. These plans were a real help to the Japanese cruiser force.

CTF 61 (Vice Admiral Fletcher) had alerted CTF 63 (Rear Admiral McCain) to the problem of the undetected approach as early as 29 July in a message to Rear Admiral McCain in connection with Dog Day and Dog Day minus one.

[In accordance] Your Operation Plan 1-42, assume planes searching sectors 3 and 5 will arrive at outer limit search at sunset searching return leg by radar. Note that enemy striking group could approach undetected . . . by being to the northwest of sector 5 and north of sector 3.36

The capabilities of the aircraft and air crews for night flying weighted CTF 63's reply:

If weather forecast indicates favorable navigation conditions will comply your 290857. Otherwise daylight search will be made. . . .37

The Operation Order as issued initially by COMSOPAC on 16 July called for air reconnaissance by AIRSOPAC to

cover the approach to, and the operation within, the TULAGI-GUADALCANAL Area by search



scouting from NDENI by about 12 VPB not later than Dog minus 2 Day,


from east coast MALAITA with about 12 VPB beginning Dog Day.38

As the result of a recommendation from Rear Admiral McCain, Vice Admiral Ghormley changed his directive so as to reduce the requirement of 12 planes at Ndeni and Malaita to half that number and to delay the commencement of the search 24 hours at each place.39

In view of the decreased number and the later initiation of air reconnaissance by Rear Admiral McCain's forces, Rear Admiral Turner sought to better the air reconnaissance by having six VO planes placed directly under his command. He requested them from COMSOPAC.

As late as the conference in the USS Saratoga on 26 July, he was still trying to get some VO (observation) aircraft directly under his command. Rear Admiral Turner wanted these VO planes based at Tulagi under his immediate control for local search purposes against Japanese surface forces known to be in the Rabaul area.40

Rear Admiral Callaghan noted this in his post-26 July conference memo to Vice Admiral Ghormley.

6.6 VO planes Turner wanted. Desired them from BLEACHER. [Tongatabu, Tonga Island.] . . . Much argument how to get them to TULAGI AREA. No conclusions. I said, at the moment, could see no ship in sight to make this move.41

In 1960, Admiral Turner was convinced that if Rear Admiral McCain had appreciated the problem of the undetected Japanese surface ship approach more than apparently he did, that initially he would have made more airtight search plans for his aircraft in TG 63.2 and TG 63.6, and that had he been more flexible, he would have undertaken late afternoon search efforts on 8 August by the TF 63 PBY planes tender-based at Maramsike Estuary, Malaita, only 83 short air miles from Lunga Point.42

There is no operational or action report for the WATCHTOWER Operation by COMAIRSOPAC (McCain) in any of the record centers of the Navy. Nor is there a special COMAIRSOPAC report telling why he or his


subordinates did or did not do certain things, filed with Admiral Hepburn's investigation of this 7-10 August 1942 period. CTF 63's story just is not currently available. The War Diaries of COMAIRSOPAC and the USS McFarland, seaplane tender at Maramsike Estuary, Malaita, record only the incomplete nature of the planned searches.

Admiral Turner desired that the air reconnaissance matter be thoroughly researched in available records and then presented to him again. He died before this was done.

In 1960, he believed that CTF 6.3's air search despatch report for the eighth of August was unjustifiably tardy, and that it was inexcusable not to have told him earlier in the day of the TF 63 failure to search because of weather, or the extent and results of the special search he had requested. Because of the tardiness or omission of the air search reports, he did not know that TF 63 planes had not searched the Slot areas to the north of New Georgia. Since no positive sighting reports by the TF 63 planes in this area were made during the day, and no report of inability to search was made by Rear Admiral McCain, Rear Admiral Turner watched the clock on the Flag Bridge move from 8 to 9 August believing that it was a reasonable deduction that no enemy surface forces were in the area.43

CTF 63's (McCain's) failure to tell CTF 61 (Fletcher) and CTF 62 (Turner) that his planes were carrying through their assigned searches in a very limited way because of weather problems or other reasons vitiated the agreement made by CTF 63 on the Saratoga on 26 July 1942. As related in the Hepburn Inquiry:

It was specifically arranged by the Commanders Task Force Sixty-One, Sixty-Two, and Sixty-Three, that if the air scouting could not be made in any sector, Task Force Sixty-One would fill in for short range scouting, both morning and late afternoon, to protect against the approach of surface forces.44

Turner Versus the Field of Historians

Admiral Turner's reaction in 1960 to the official histories or monographs stating that he was advised of an "Approaching Force" is informative:

I have been accused of being and doing many things but nobody before ever accused me of sitting on my awrse and doing nothing. If I had known


of any 'approaching' Jap force, I would have done something--maybe the wrong thing, but I would have done something. What they wrote is just a g.d. distortion, and that sort of thing is why I want you to be g.d. certain that you don't distort in what you write.

What I failed to do was to assume that the g.d. pilots couldn't count and couldn't identify and wouldn't do their job and stick around and trail the Japs and send through a later report. And I failed to assume that McCain wouldn't keep me informed of what his pilots were or weren't doing. And I failed to guess that despite the reported composition of the force, and the reported course, and the reported speed, the Japs were headed for me via a detour, just like we arrived at Guadalcanal via a detour.

I wouldn't mind if they said I was too g.d. dumb to have crystal-balled these things, but to write that I was told of an 'approaching force' and then didn't do anything, that's an unprintable, unprintable, unprintable lie.

Nobody reported an 'approaching force' to me. They reported a force which could and did approach, but they reported another kind of a force headed another kind of way.

It was a masterful failure of air reconnaissance and my fellow aviators.45

Bringing Rear Admiral Crutchley to the Flagship

In regard to Morison's labeling as a "mistake" the summoning of Rear Admiral Crutchley in the Australia to the McCawley, the fact is that Rear Admiral Crutchley had sent the following despatch to his immediate senior shortly after nine o'clock the morning of 8 August:

As Second-in-Command when you have time could I have rough outline of present situation and future intentions.46

This was a request not lightly to be disregarded or denied. It was received before the message reporting 40 heavy Japanese bombers heading toward the Tulagi-Guadalcanal area, which required all the transports, including the McCawley, to get underway.

The COMPHIBFORSOPAC Staff members interviewed could not remember why their Admiral had put off Rear Admiral Crutchley until evening. In 1961-1962 they rationalized that it was probable that CTF 62 (Turner) felt, at that mid-morning hour, and with no favorable reports in from Tulagi where the Marines had been held up, that he did not know enough more than CTF 62.6 (Crutchley) did about the "present situation and future intentions"


to justify the conference. In any case, CTF 62 made the decision to bring CTG 62.6 aboard later.47

Soon thereafter the transports all were underway because of a Japanese air attack. The transports remained underway until just before 5 p.m.

The problem of bringing CTG 62.6 aboard before dark was discussed again by CTF 62 with the Staff.48

Just after 6 p.m. (1807) the message came in wherein Vice Admiral Fletcher recommended to Vice Admiral Ghormley the immediate withdrawal of all carriers. Rear Admiral Turner hoped that Vice Admiral Ghormley, looking at the larger picture and attaching more importance to the success of the whole operation than to the safety of the carriers, would turn Vice Admiral Fletcher down. However, now it was essential that the Second-in-Command be called aboard and the changed situation be discussed. This was done at 2037 in the evening.49 One specific question asked Rear Admiral Crutchley during his 70-minute stay in the McCawley was whether he "considered the screening ships could stick it out for one or two more days without carrier air support."50

Neither the Hepburn investigative Report, the Naval War College, nor this writer think it was a mistake for Rear Admiral Crutchley, the Second-in-Command, to want a conference with his Commander, nor a mistake for his Commander to grant such a request. It was a necessity. As Admiral Hepburn stated: "CTF 62's need to confer with his senior commanders cannot be questioned."51

The Naval War College stated: "This action of CTF 62 in calling this conference was sound."2

Enemy's Capabilities
The Naval War College Suggests

1. The enemy's capabilities, as well as the enemy's intentions must be considered. The highest priority must be given by a commander to those enemy courses of action considered more dangerous to his own force.53

By inference, Commander Task Force 62 did not give adequate weight to the capabilities of the enemy "cruiser-destroyer-seaplane force" sighted at


1025 on 8 August, 340 miles northwest of Guadalcanal, on course 120°, speed 15 knots.

When Admiral Turner had this read to him and was asked to comment thereon, he said:

It was the inclusion of the words '2 seaplane tenders' in that aviator's despatch which threw me for a loss. A seaplane tender except for the seaplanes on its elevator platform looks like a merchant ship. It is a merchant ship with special seaplane handling gear and stowage space. It doesn't look like a cruiser, or a destroyer or a gunboat. We didn't have very many in our Navy. By looking at Jane's fighting Ships we learned the Japs had about ten--more or less--basically the same design as ours. Top speed for our seaplane tenders was about 16 knots. The new Jap seaplane tenders were supposed to be a bit faster. [Jane's 1942 gives 3 of them credit for 20 knots, others top speed of 17 knots.] I didn't think 3 Jap cruisers and 3 destroyers would come to Guadalcanal and attack our 7 cruisers and 25 destroyers and I didn't think any seaplane tenders would be sticking their nose up close to our carriers, when they couldn't run any faster than 17 to 20 knots.

I did consider the capabilities of the reported enemy, but I didn't take these capabilities and multiply them by three or four and then dirty my trousers. If every time that a report had come in to Ghormley or Halsey or me during the next six months that some part of the Jap Navy was at sea 350 miles from Guadalcanal and their capabilities had been multiplied three or four times, we would have all died of fright and never would have licked them.

My error was one of judgment, putting faith in the contact report. General MacArthur's staff which had, or could have had, the opportunity to talk with the pilots made the same error.54

Was It a Mistake to Divide the Screening Group?

In regard to Morison's opinion that Rear Admiral Turner made the mistake of dividing the Screening Group, the following information and opinions have a bearing on this matter.

The Naval War College in commenting on the division of the Screening Group, said:

While a flat statement that it is unwise to divide a force may contain a sound element of caution, it is not necessarily unwise to do so for a division of forces may be necessary or desirable. Such axiomatic advice to be adequate should indicate when and in what measure such division may or may not be necessary or desirable.55


The primary reason for the division of screening forces into two main units and one lesser unit on the nights of 7-8 and 8-9 August was the geographical lay of the land and the required positioning of the two transport groups to accomplish the basic TF 62 mission.

A two-ship light cruiser unit, one Australian and one United States, was stationed in the sector east of the meridian of Lunga (160° 04' E) to cover an unlikely Japanese cruiser approach but possible enemy destroyer or PT boat approach through the restrictive waters in and surrounding Lengo Channel or Sealark Channel.

To the westward past Savo Island, there were two entrances to block. The northern was 12 miles wide, the southern seven and a half miles wide. These distances were such that the six heavy cruisers in one station keeping formation could not accomplish this blocking objective by withdrawing far enough to the eastward of Savo Island to obtain safe night maneuvering room without coming up against the northern Transport Area. Here it would be highly undesirable to fight a night battle, since it would put the transports within range of the enemy guns and torpedoes. If the heavy cruisers were projected to the westward and immediately beyond Savo Island, having the six heavy cruisers in one column formation at a practical night cruising speed in limited waters, 18 knots, would open up one entrance for the enemy to slip through when the formation was reaching the extremity of the other entrance.

It was as simple as that.

A secondary reason for the division of the Screening Group was that Rear Admiral Crutchley, as Commander Task Force 44, a Combined Force, during the months prior to WATCHTOWER, had issued special instructions "covering communications, tactics, including the use of searchlights" to Task Force 44 containing both Australian and United States Ships "to cover various points of doctrine and procedure." He did not issue these special instructions to Astoria, Vincennes, or Quincy, when these United States ships and numerous destroyers came under his temporary command off Koro island and he became CTG 62.6. This difference of detailed instructions influenced him, in part at least, to think it wise to employ the Vincennes group, from the Combined United States-Australian ship group "with only general direction as to cooperation, rather than try to incorporate them within a single tactical unit."56


Ships disposition prior to Savo Island Battle.

Rear Admiral Crutchley stated his case as follows:

I would point out that neither Australia nor Canberra were fitted with T.B.S. [Voice radio] and they had done some night training with Chicago and Desron 4, but none with the other cruisers, thus it was my firm intention to avoid handling a mixed force at night.

Speaking generally, I consider heavy ships in groups of more than 4 to be unwieldy at night.

*  *  *  *  *
. . . I therefore decided to block one SAVO entrance with the three CAs I knew I could command, and leave the other SAVO entrance to the three U.S. vessels.57

Rear Admiral Turner may be charged by historical theorists with a mistake in approving this procedure, whereby the Vincennes group operated under one set of detailed instructions and the Australia group under another, instead of demanding Combined night training on the way to the battlefield under the Australian set of instructions. But few salt water sailormen of the pre-radar, pre-voice radio eras will so charge either him or Rear Admiral Crutchley who sponsored the procedure.


The basic task was protection of the transports and cargo ships by the Screening Group irrespective of the approach route of a Japanese surface force. A plan which protected only against the particular approach chosen by the Japanese would not have passed muster.

In this connection, it is worth noting that the Japanese battle plan called for a division of their attack force into two attack groups and that they did so divide. As the Japanese stated it:

Crudiv 6 was to attack the transports at GUADALCANAL, while Crudiv 18 was to attack the TULAGI transports.

*  *  *  *  *
It was the original plan for the FURATAKA group [Crudiv 6] to take the outer course, but they took the inner course. I do not know why. I was with the inner group on the TENRYU [Crudiv 18].58

In March 1943, in response to a long questionnaire from Admiral Hepburn, Rear Admiral Turner wrote:

The difficulty of having two national services in one organization is recognized. It is believed that this was a mistake, although it was felt at the time that Admiral Crutchley's force [Task Force 44] probably was a more effective tactical unit than the remainder of the force [Task Force 62], which had never operated together, and whose vessels were from several task forces in both the Atlantic and Pacific Fleets. In connection with the matter of employing Admiral Crutchley's force in Task Force Sixty-Two, I made the specific recommendation to Admiral Fletcher that all units assigned to me should be from the U.S. Navy. See my despatch 200135 of July. This recommendation was not approved.59

Until someone comes forward with a workable alternate plan whereby the three approaches to the two groups of unloading transports could all be covered by an undivided Screening Group, labeling the division of the Screening Group a mistake is an opinion of one uninformed (a) of the seagoing standards and procedures of the Australian and United States Navy in August 1942, or (b) that all the cruisers in TF 62 had not been trained together, or (c) that all the ships of the United States and Australian Navies in TF 62 were not fitted with both radar and voice radio, or more probably, (d) of the lay of the land and depths of water in the Savo area.

Admiral Turner's reaction to Morison's comment that Rear Admiral Scott


should have been shifted to the Vincennes and placed in command of the North Area Force was:

TF 62 during the night of August 8 was divided into three important and valuable task groups: the XRAY (Guadalcanal) Group; the YOKE (Tulagi) Group; and the Screening Group. These three major groups were tactically separated by from 15 to 20 miles. All were prosecuting important operations throughout the night. Three Flag officers were available; Turner, Scott, and Crutchley. I considered then, and consider now, that the best command arrangement was for one Flag officer to command each of these major groups. (Until after the battle, I believed that Crutchley in Australia had rejoined his cruiser unit instead of displacing the Hobart in the latter's assigned position near the XRAY Group.)

There was another important reason which would have made me reject the idea, had it occurred to me, of transferring Scott to the Vincennes. Scott had been a Flag officer a very short time, and on this expedition was exercising his first semi-independent Flag command. He and Riefkohl of the Vincennes were Naval Academy classmates, and, until his promotion, Scott had been the junior. Riefkohl was considered a good officer and apparently was performing his tasks satisfactorily. To have superseded Riefkohl on his own ship by a classmate recently promoted over him would have been a heavy blow to general morale, and would have gone far toward destroying all prospects of Riefkohl's future usefulness and chances of promotion. Furthermore, a Flag officer's effectiveness is temporarily impaired when suddenly transferred to a strange flagship.

To my mind, the reasoning that led to the formulation of this criticism is entirely faulty.60

As Admiral Hepburn wrote:

The one outstanding consideration was that an enemy approaching the transport group through either of the passages around SAVO ISLAND should be certainly intercepted and brought to action, and this object was in fact achieved.61

But, one may add, at the price of a galling defeat.

The error in judgment in regard to the Screening Group would not appear to have been in dividing it into three fighting groups; more realistically the judgment error was in the split of the destroyer types between picket duty and anti-submarine duty. This division of strength resulted in an inadequate assignment of only two destroyer-types to picket duty to the west of Savo Island.


Disposition of Patrol and Screening Groups prior to the Battle of Savo Island.


Two destroyers, a minimum, were assigned to anti-submarine duty around each of the three cruiser forces in the North, South, and East. Two other destroyers were assigned to picket duty. Five destroyers, four destroyer-type transports and five destroyer-type minesweepers were assigned to anti-submarine duty around the two transport groups (XRAY and YOKE), in an outer and an inner anti-submarine patrol. This was somewhat more than the limited sea room called for.

Shifting of the two destroyers in the outer anti-submarine patrol around the XRAY group of transports to picket duty could have paid big dividends on the night of 8 August 1942, and still left a strong anti-submarine patrol of seven anti-submarine craft for XRAY and five for YOKE.

Knowledge in regard to the capabilities and limitations of radar in early August 1942 was limited.

Rear Admiral Turner, in March 1943, recalled:

The only point about which I was uncertain was the use of only two screening destroyers to the west of SAVO, employing radar. The number seemed small, but after some inquiry, I received assurances that these two vessels ought surely to detect the approach of any enemy vessels up to twelve to fourteen miles. Knowledge possessed by me and the staff concerning radar was practically non-existent. Admiral Crutchley had an officer who was considered well qualified in radar. I consulted some other officers with experience. All seemed to think this team was satisfactory.62

Some may question the desirability of leaving only fast minesweepers in the XRAY Group outer anti-submarine screen, but it should be remembered that the destroyer-type fast minesweepers, minelayers, and transports had retained their destroyer anti-submarine equipment upon conversion and were used for anti-submarine missions during this and many subsequent operations. One of these converted destroyers, the Colhoun (APD-2), made a submarine attack on 7 August 1942 and claimed in its special report on the action, that "numerous observers saw the bow of the submarine keel up, break water at an angle of 40° to the horizon." No Japanese record supports this kill. However, the Southard (DMS-10) was credited, post-war, with a firm submarine kill on the I-172 on 10 November 1942 and a converted destroyer, the Gamble (DM-15), was similarly credited on 29 August 1942 with sinking the 1-123. So during this period, these old converted destroyers were capable of effective anti-submarine action.63


Rear Admiral Turner had these comments on destroyer deployments:

Without question, subsequent events have shown that it was a grave military error not to have had more destroyer pickets. However, the picket line could not have been advanced very far to the front and still have given effective protection because then they would have uncovered the pass between FLORIDA and SANTA ISABEL ISLANDS, and the pass between GUADALCANAL and the RUSSELLS.64

The problem of Commander Screening Group was to provide protection to Transport Group XRAY and to Transport Group YOKE against air, submarine, and surface ship attack. Each of these enemy elements required diversion from giving fully adequate attention to the others. Enemy air attack required that the anti-aircraft guns of the whole Screening Group be positioned close to the transports at least at dawn and dusk as well as throughout the day. Enemy submarine attack required the 24 hour diversion of adequate destroyer-types to anti-submarine patrolling close around the transports as well as in the avenues of submarine approach. The threat of surface ship attack required principally the ready availability of the main and secondary

Multiple Approach routes; inadequate radar pickets, prior to the Battle of Savo Island.


batteries of the cruisers, and an early alert to the presence of the enemy ships.

In his 21 February 1943 report on the defeat of his forces, Rear Admiral Crutchley listed four radio message alerts from higher authority in regard to submarines in the area prior to 7 August, three more alerts on 7 August, and three further alerts on 8 August.65

That those on the spot were convinced of an increasing submarine menace is indicated by CTF 62's first post-Savo report in which, based on a Monssen report, he reported that one enemy submarine was probably sunk.66 Rear Admiral Crutchley in his report to Admiral Hepburn wrote:

. . . from information available, submarines appeared the greater menace [than a surface ship attack].67

*  *  *  *  *
. . . The submarine menace was considered so serious that, by order of Admiral Turner, all cruiser planes except those assigned to liaison duties with troops were used on the 8th for A/S screen and search for submarines.68

A survey of all TF 62 action reports indicates that four submarine contact reports were made in TF 62 on 7 August and six on 8 August 1942.69

First Reaction to Defeat

Sometimes first reactions are bitter but truthful. In Rear Admiral Turner's files, there is the first letter to his immediate senior following the defeat, written by the Rear Admiral Commanding H.M. Australian Squadron which contains this paragraph:

Having been placed in charge of the screening forces by you, I have naturally been searching for my mistakes which may have led to, or contributed to, this great loss. I feel that undoubtedly there must be some, but there are to my mind two main points that stand out--one is that fatigue to personnel caused lack of warning. In an operation of this kind, this is almost inevitable. The other is, that we, U.S. and British, must have practice in night fighting


for we cannot prosecute the kind of offensive required, without welcoming a night engagement.70

Defensive Decisions

At 1807 local time 8 August, 1942, Vice Admiral Fletcher (CTF 61) sent this message to COMSOPAC (Ghormley).

Fighter plane strength reduced from 99 to 78. In view of large number of enemy torpedo planes and bombers in this area, I recommend the immediate withdrawal of my carriers. Request tankers be sent forward immediately as fuel running low.

Vice Admiral Ghormley approved this request, thus setting the stage for the withdrawal of the air support for the amphibians and for the Battle of Savo Island. The background for this crucial withdrawal follows:

(A) The Prediction

In the despatch which Vice Admiral Ghormley and General MacArthur sent on 8 July to their respective Chiefs of Staff opposing the launching of WATCHTOWER in early August, they said:

The Carrier Task Groups will be themselves exposed to attack by land based air while unprotected by our land based aviation and it is extremely doubtful that they will be able to retain fighter escort to the transport area, especially should hostile naval forces approach.71

(B) The Basic Problem

Again on 11 July, Vice Admiral Ghormley had advised his seniors:

I wish to emphasize that the basic problem of this operation is the protection of surface ships against land based aircraft attack during the approach, the landing attacks, and the unloading.72


(C) Carrier Strength and Husbanding by Non-Aviator Commanders

Vice Admiral Fletcher was a distinguished Line officer, a wearer of the Medal of Honor, but not an aviator. He was serving as the commander of an Expeditionary Force containing 75 percent of the battle line carriers in the United States Navy, the Saratoga, the Enterprise, and the Wasp.73

The United States Navy had started the war with six battle line carriers and the slower and much smaller Ranger of only 16,000 tons. The latter could not be and was not used as a battle line carrier during World War II. No new carriers were due to reach the Fleet for another nine months, until the spring of 1943. One-third of the large carriers had been lost in action. The Lexington had been sunk on 8 May 1942, at the Battle of the Coral Sea. The Yorktown went down not quite a month later at the Battle of Midway. Both of these losses occurred in task forces under Vice Admiral Fletcher's immediate command. Naval aviators could be heard to say that the losses would not have occurred, had the Task Force Commander been a naval aviator. Vice Admiral Fletcher was conscious of these criticisms and determined that in all future operations full weight would be given to sound aviation points of view.74

This was one reason he flew his flag in the Saratoga, whose Commanding Officer, Captain DeWitt C. Ramsay (later Vice Chief of Naval Operations and then Commander in Chief, Pacific) was known to be up on the step and rising fast.

(D) Over-Riding Instructions

Admiral Nimitz's special instructions governing future combat operations, and issued prior to the Battle of Midway, contained these controlling words:

You will be governed by the principle of calculated risks which you shall interpret to mean the avoidance of your force to attack by superior force without good prospect of inflicting, as a result of such exposure, greater damage to the enemy. This applies to a landing phase as well as during preliminary air attacks.75


It was Vice Admiral Fletcher's belief that with only Japanese shore facilities to attack and only Japanese shore based air to fight, there was no prospect of inflicting greater damage on the enemy than the Navy's three precious carriers could receive. Additional Japanese submarines had been reported by CINCPAC enroute to the Guadalcanal area. Japanese land-based aircraft were active in the area and he had been informed by General MacArthur that "the Air Force now in sight for the Southwest Pacific Area is not adequate to interdict hostile air or naval operations against the Tulagi Area."76

Vice Admiral Fletcher felt that he had no choice but to obey his instructions.77

(E) The Immediate Problems--Enemy Carriers and Fuel Shortages

Despite the loss of four carriers at the Battle of Midway, the Japanese Navy in August 1942, still had as many battle line carriers (Junyo, Shokaku, Zuiho, Zuikaku) as the United States Navy.

From the middle of the afternoon of Friday, 7 August, when Japanese dive bombers hit destroyer Mugford, Vice Admiral Fletcher had been keenly alert to tile possibility of Japanese carriers being in the vicinity. These dive bombers were from the 25th Air Flotilla land based on Rabaul, but Vice Admiral Fletcher was not sure of this and they were a type of aircraft which could have been flown off carriers.

Soon after this dive bomber attack, he suggested to Rear Admiral Noyes, Commander Air Support Group, that the Saturday morning air search be toward Rabaul.

Rear Admiral Noyes replied:

ART [code name for Enterprise] has already been told to search. My information dive bombers probably land based from Rabaul via Buka or Kieta.78

Despite this reply containing a very sound deduction as to the source of the dive bombers, CTF 61 remained unconvinced that there were no carriers moving in on him. He told CTG 61.1 that "Bombers last seen leaving


Tulagi on westerly course," instead of the northwesterly course that they would have taken if returning directly to Rabaul.79

This northwesterly direction tied in with a practical position of the carrier which had been reported (erroneously) by General MacArthur's reconnaissance planes on the day before the landing. These Southwest Pacific planes, on 6 August, in error had reported an enemy carrier (15,000 tons) and three destroyers 32 miles south southwest of Kavieng in latitude 03022J South, longitude 150030J East, roughly. One hundred twenty miles west of Rabaul and 660 miles northwest of Guadalcanal, and to compound the error the carrier sighting had been "confirmed by photographs," with full data.80 Actually only Japanese destroyers were sighted.

Commander Air Support Group in his Operation Order for Saturday, 8 August, issued a few minutes later to the three carriers, directed:

Operations tomorrow Saturday forenoon, Wasp search toward Rabaul primarily for reported Cast Victor [carrier]. . . . Afternoon same, but Enterprise replaces Wasp.81

The possibility of Japanese carriers being in the Solomons area continued to affect the disposition of aircraft all during Saturday, the 8th of August. Commander Air Support Group continued to refuse requests to divert the Saratoga's fighters to provide additional combat air patrol over the amphibious forces even when it was known as early as 0957 that "40 large twin-engined planes" were enroute south to attack and that the first United States ships they would meet would be the transports.

When this large scale torpedo plane attack on the 8th of August was detected heading southeast, the Fighter Director for the carriers recommended to Fletcher, the Task Force Commander, the following disposition of aircraft.

All Saratoga available fighters Tulagi at 1100 plus one half Wasp fighters. Over carriers all Enterprise plus one half Wasp.

However, the Fighter Director ran into a stone wall, either at the Air Support Group Commander (Noyes) level or at the Task Force (Fletcher) level.

The following despatches give the questions and the answers.

Fighter Director requests Saratoga launch 8 VF Combat air Patrol for carriers at 0830. And at 1030.

*  *  *  *  *


Your . . . not approved. Saratoga must be ready to launch for or in case of attack. Please carry out my _______.

*  *  *  *  *
Saratoga does not appear to be complying with my orders for today's operations which require her until noon to maintain fighters and attack group ready for launching at all times in case of bombing attack or locating of enemy CV. Please refer conflicting requests to me.
*  *  *  *  *
Red Base again requests eight VF for combat patrol from me. Advise.

Your . . . negative. Invite your attention to present situation if enemy CV should be located and I ordered your attack group launched. Your fighters should also be ready for launching for actual bombing attack until noon.82

After the large scale Japanese morning torpedo plane attack against the amphibious forces on 8 August had been completed, having been met with devastating surface ship anti-aircraft fire--but a minimum of fighter opposition--and the results reported to the Expeditionary Force Commander (Fletcher), he had difficulty being convinced that the Japanese had carried out such a large scale torpedo plane attack.

He signalled:

Request any information about attack this morning. Were planes actually carrying torpedoes?

When assured of the actuality and multiplicity of the torpedoes, including one that had missed the McCawley's stern by "about 40 feet," the Expeditionary Force Commander made his decision to recommend withdrawal of the carriers because of the possibility of new torpedo plane attacks.

If the Expeditionary Force Commander (Fletcher) had not been worried greatly about there being a Japanese carrier over the horizon, it seems quite logical that he would have stepped in earlier and suggested to his senior subordinate (Noyes), the Air Support Commander, that 40 Japanese large twin engine planes were a sufficiently worthy target to justify diversion of defensive fighters to offensive use.

This Japanese torpedo plane attack was the one which torpedoed the Jarvis and directly led to her being sunk the next day, 9 August, by the Japanese 25th Air Flotilla, with the loss of all hands.

Admiral Turner recalled

Enroute from Koro to the Solomons my big worry was OIL, OIL, OIL.83


At 1200, local time, 8 August, Rear Admiral Kinkaid, Commander Task Unit 61.1.2 in the Enterprise made an entry in his War Diary reading as follows:

Fuel situation this Force becoming critical. It is estimated the destroyers have fuel for about three days at 15 knots, and the heavy ships have little more.

Every naval commander at sea in Word War II suffered from that strange logistical disease of AFFAG, and the malady affected some officers much more than others. For AFFAG related to the amount of Ammunition, Fuel Oil, Food and Aviation Gas, in each of the ships of his command at any given hour of the day.

On 29 July, Commander Task Force 61 (Fletcher) had reported that his force would be short over two million gallons of fuel oil after the scheduled Task Force fueling on that day.84

On 3 August CTF 61 notified COMSOPAC:

If no tankers Efate for Task Force 62, top off situation may be serious.85

And COMSOPAC knew the Tanker Esso Little Rock had missed her rendezvous with Task Force 61 at Efate.

Every effort was being made to keep the ships of Task Force 61 full. To illustrate, the Enterprise fueled on 24 July in Tongatabu Harbor taking about 12,000 barrels of fuel oil (504,000 gallons) and 61,900 gallons of aviation gasoline, again at sea on 29th July taking 4,000 barrels of fuel oil (168,000 gallons) and 34,000 gallons of aviation gas, and again on 10 August from the Kaskaskia (AO-27) taking 20,000 barrels of fuel oil (840,000 gallons) and 120,000 gallons of aviation gas.86

On as important and busy a day as 7 August, D-Day, the destroyer Gwin (DD-433) in Rear Admiral Kinkaid's task unit was fueled by the battleship North Carolina (BB-55). The fueling was conducted during darkness, which required a new skill for the 1942 United States Navy.87

The actual fuel situation on 8-9 August 1942 for all 16 destroyers in the Air Support Group and some of the heavier ships, was as follows:


TU 61.1.1   Received Expended On Hand
Dale SAT 8-8-42
SUN 8-9-42
Farragut SAT 8-8-42
SUN 8-9-42
MacDonough SAT 8-8-42
MON 8-10-42
Phelps SAT 8-8-42
SUN 8-9-42
Worden SAT 8-8-42
SUN 8-9-42
TU 61.1.2        
Enterprise FRI 8-7-42
SUN 8-9-42
North Carolina SAT 8-8-42
MON 8-10-42
Portland SAT 8-8-42
SUN 8-9-42
Atlanta SAT 8-8-42
SUN 8-9-42
Balch FRI 8-7-42
SUN 8-9-42
Maury SAT 8-8-42
MON 8-10-42
Gwin SAT 8-8-42
SUN 8-9-42
Benham SAT 8-8-42
SUN 8-9-42
Grayson SAT 8-8-42
SUN 8-9-42
# Low Ship in Group on 8 August, the day the withdrawal recommendation was made.


TU 61.1.3   Received Expended On Hand
Aaron Ward FRI 8-7-42
SUN 8-9-42
Farenholt SAT 8-8-42
SUN 8-9-42
Laffey SAT 8-8-42
SUN 8-9-42
Lang SAT 8-8-42
SUN 8-9-42
Stack FRI 8-7-42
SAT 8-8-42
Sterrett SAT 8-8-42
MON 8-10-42
# Low Ship in Group on 8 August, the day the withdrawal recommendation was made

With these data in hand, it is appropriate to consider:

The First Defensive Decision--Fletcher's Decision to Withdraw

At 2330 local time on 8 August, Commander Task Force 16 (Kinkaid) entered in his War Diary:

Due to enemy air attacks and reduction of fighters in our forces due to losses, together with critical fuel situation, has caused CTF 61 [Fletcher] to recommend to COMSOPAC [Ghormley] that carriers be withdrawn.

The English in this entry was as questionable as the decision it noted. The reduction in number of fighters had been caused by operational losses, as well as by enemy action.

Indicative of the communication time delays directly affecting operations is the delay surrounding the CTF 61 despatch requesting retirement. It went off a few minutes after 6:00 p.m. (081807). It was five and a half hours before a reply was originated by COMSOPAC and more than nine hours elapsed before COMSOPAC's 081144 reply was received in Turner's flagship, the McCawley, and it surely took another half hour to decode, write up, and deliver to Turner's Flag Bridge (090330).


In the meantime between 7 p.m. and 4 a.m., many decisions had to be on a tentative basis, depending upon what turned out to be the final COMSOPAC decision.

The fundamentals of the withdrawal as Admiral Fletcher recalled them in 1963 were:

  1. United States over-all carrier strength was at low ebb--four.

  2. No carrier replacements were in sight for another nine months.89

  3. The Japanese Navy could put more carriers in the area than TF 61 had in the area (4 vs 3).

  4. Japanese land based air (high level bombers, dive bombers and torpedo planes) was present and offensively active.

  5. CTF 61's instructions from CINCPAC were positive and limiting in regard to risking the carriers in the command.

  6. COMSOPAC had informed CTF 61 on 16 July that from 'captured documents,' the early arrival of a submarine division in the New Britain Area was predicted. 'Captured documents' was the euphemism used to obviate the non-permitted words 'decoded radio despatches.' The COMSOPAC submarine information of 16 July in regard to submarines in the general area had been followed up by a warning from CINCPAC of submarines moving south closer to the carrier operating area on 7 August:

    Enemy subs are on move to attack Tulagi occupation forces at Tulagi.90

This in turn had been followed by another despatch from CINCPAC on the eighth.

One division SUBRON Seven and units SUBRON Three en route Florida Area.91

On top of these fundamentals was one factor that Admiral Fletcher could not remember having seen discussed in public print since his 8 August 1942 decision, but which was much in his mind at that time. This factor was that the Japanese Zero plane and its pilot were given a very high rating in August 1942.

Nobody mentions the matter, for fear of bringing down the wrath of the aviators upon him, [but at that time] the Japanese Zero's all wore Seven League Boots [and] our aviators gave them a lot of g.d. respect.92


Support for the existence of this factor at this 1942 date is found in the following passage by a historian of Marine Corps Aviation:

. . . It is necessary to remember that the Japanese Zero at this stage of the war was regarded with some of the awe in which the atomic bomb came to be held later. U.S. fighter pilots were apt to go into combat with a distinct inferiority complex. Tales from the Pacific had filtered back to the U.S. . . . which attributed to the Zero (and the Japanese pilots) a sort of malevolent perfection . . . The Japanese fighter plane had not been mastered at Coral Sea nor Midway . . . and the Zero certainly lost none of its prowess there.93

Lieutenant Commander John S. Thach, USN, Commanding Fighting Squadron Three in the Saratoga on 7 August 1942 and a veteran of Midway, as well as the Marshall Islands and Salamaua-Lae attacks, said in "large attendance" interview at the Bureau of Aeronautics on 26 August 1942:

In connection with the performance of the Zero fighter, any success we have had against the Zero is not due to performance of the airplane we fly but is the result of the comparatively poor marksmanship on the part of the Japanese, stupid mistakes made by a few of their pilots, and superior marksmanship and teamwork on the part of some of our pilots.

This deficiency not only prevents our fighter from properly carrying out its mission but it has had an alarming effect on the morale of the fighter pilots in the Fleet at this time and on those who are going to be sent to the Fleet.94

Admiral Fletcher also wanted the record to show:

My despatch didn't say anything about needing to withdraw to fuel. If my recommendation to withdraw was approved, then I wanted to fuel as soon as tankers could reach me, as my staff had told me fuel was running low on some of the short-legged destroyers and Task Force Sixty One had never been belly full since its formation.95

It is worth noting that when COMSOPAC passed to CINCPAC the information of the 8 August withdrawal of the carriers on the next day, he did not mention the presence of large numbers of torpedo planes and dive bombers in the area or the 20 percent reduction in fighter aircraft to oppose


them as the reason for the withdrawal. He just said, "Carriers short of fuel proceeding to fueling rendezvous."96

This is the despatch which Admiral Fletcher believes has brought unwarranted censure on him because it assigned a reason for the withdrawal he had not used. The basic decision he considers was justified.97

It should be noted in this connection that on 9 September 1942, Vice Admiral Fletcher replied to COMSOPAC's request to supply supporting evidence for the latter's use in answering CINCPAC's questions about the Air Support Force withdrawal, avowedly due to a low fuel situation. Extracts from the reply follow:

On 7 August, CTF 16 [Kinkaid] sent a despatch saying his destroyers, except Gwin, had fuel remaining for two days at a speed of 15 knots.

*  *  *  *  *
At noon 8 August CTF 18 [Noyes] reported his destroyers had fuel remaining for only 31 hours at 25 knots.
*  *  *  *  *
At noon 8 August destroyers of Task Force 11 [Fletcher] had fuel remaining for only 35 hours at 25 knots.
*  *  *  *  *
It was not practicable to fuel destroyers from cruisers as the latter only had fuel available for 50 hours at 25 knots.

It is apparent that the virus of AFFAG was virulent in the Air Support Force on 7 and 8 August and that the CTF 16 (Kinkaid) despatch, if quoted correctly by CTF 61, was downright misleading, since TF 16 did not actually fuel until 1700 on 10 August and the destroyers of TF 16 did steam at speeds of 15 knots or higher in the meanwhile.

In connection with CINCPAC's question as to why the Air Support Force did not proceed post haste to a position where it could launch a dawn air attack on the retiring Japanese cruiser force, the Commander Expeditionary Force (Fletcher) stated that he was too far south by that time and that

the first indication of any night attack on Tulagi-Guadalcanal Area was received by this force at 0400 local time.98

The first record of the Savo battle in the Air Support Force War Diaries and Action Reports is at 0300 on 9 August by CTF 16 (Kinkaid) in the Enterprise, but all indications are that it was not until an hour later that


the Expeditionary Force Commander's Staff in Saratoga got the word and Admiral Fletcher insists it was between 0500 and 0600 when he was awakened and given the word. He was awakened shortly after 0330 on the 9th and told that COMSOPAC had approved the withdrawal of the Air Support Force. He then approved the change to the previously decided upon withdrawal course which was to be made at 0400. It was quite obvious that had the word on Savo been available to the TF 61 Duty Officer in the Saratoga at that time, it would have been given at that time to the Admiral. He later said:

Had I known of the attack then, since we were on a northerly course, I might well have continued on it. But it wasn't until much later that I was awakened and given the first indication of Savo.99

Admiral Kinkaid when asked about the decision of CTF 61 to withdraw the carriers on 8 August said that it was "a valid decision at the time, but wouldn't have been valid later in the war.100

Scanning the figures in the fuel table given in detail before, from the safe distance of 25 years, might lead one to observe that on the 8th of August 1942 when Rear Admiral Kinkaid was making the entry in his War Diary, only the Grayson (DD-435) (Lieutenant Commander Frederick J. Bell) justified the critical stage of worry about fuel which undoubtedly existed in TG 61.1.

Even though not critical, the fuel situation in the Expeditionary Force was a problem as indicated in the report of the transport President Jackson which was landing troops at Tulagi the morning of 7 August.

At 0759 rigged ship for fueling destroyers of TRANSDIV 12 (APDs).

At this time fire support groups and planes were shelling and bombing Tulagi, and

between 1004 and 1239, APDs McKean and Little were fueled. At 1304 APD Colhoun prepared to fuel alongside but numerous enemy plane radar contacts received during the afternoon prevented, so that it was not until the third attempt that fueling was completed at 1750.101

In 1963, Admiral Kinkaid could not remember whether he was asked for a recommendation by CTF 61, before that officer (Fletcher) went to COMSOPAC with his recommendation to withdraw the carriers from the support area, but he did not believe that he was consulted. He knows that he raised no


question at the time in regard to the decision, which in view of the necessity of conserving our carrier strength he viewed then and continues to view as sound.102

However, had information become available to the Commander Task Force 61 (Fletcher) during the night of the Japanese success at Savo Island, Admiral Kinkaid thinks that the task Force should have been turned north and every effort made to make air attacks on the retreating Japanese ships the next morning.103

Admiral Fletcher was told by this scribe:

Forrest Sherman, Commanding Officer of the wasp, tried to persuade Admiral Noyes to recommend to you to turn north after the first word was received of the Japanese surface ships being in the Guadalcanal Area.

The author then asked:

Did anyone try to persuade you to do this? Did this thought occur to you?

Admiral Fletcher's answer was:

I didn't know anything about Savo Island happening until about five to six the next morning, and I couldn't get through to Kelly Turner by radio and get details in regard to the Japs. One or two of my staff recommended that we go back. I said if I was a Jap, I would have planned on all our carriers coming back and would hit them with all my land based air.

If I had it all to do over again that morning and know about our losses, I would leave one carrier group behind to fuel, and would move two carrier groups up to attack and to continue to provide air support to Kelly Turner. This did not occur to me at the time as being sound.104

Rear Admiral Harry Smith, USN, Fletcher's Flag Lieutenant and Signal Officer in August 1942, stated in May 1963:

For some reason the Saratoga did not or could not copy CTF 62's blind despatches sent that night, and it wasn't until other ships sent us the news by blinker or infrared that we started to get the word about the Battle of Savo.


Considering all these fundamentals, and particularly Admiral Nimitz's instructions, Admiral Fletcher, in 1963, still thought:

A defensive decision was in order on 8 August although perhaps not exactly the one I made at the time.105


The Second Defensive Decision--Vandegrift's Perimeter Defense

Admiral Turner recalled that the defensive type naval decision made by Vice Admiral Fletcher to withdraw the carrier Air Support Forces (CTG 61.1) from an area where they might soon be subject to concentrated and coordinated submarine and land based air attacks was followed the next morning, Sunday, 9 August, by a defensive Marine decision made by Major General Vandegrift, which was equally decisive on the flow of the war in the Lower Solomons during the next four months.106

Major General Vandegrift at his 0900 conference of regimental commanders on the 9th directed that the planned ground offensive operations cease, that "further ground operations be restricted to vigorous patrolling," and that "defenses be immediately organized to repel attack from the sea."107

On Guadalcanal Island there were nearly 11,000 Marines stranded but intact. The first day on Guadalcanal, as the Army history relates it:

the Guadalcanal forces had landed unopposed and captured the airfield without casualties.108

Or as the Marine history puts it:

the lack of opposition (on the Guadalcanal side only) gave it somewhat the characteristics of a training maneuver. . . .109

Contact with the enemy on Guadalcanal the first and second day was nominal. As the Army history states it:

The enemy garrison, composed of 430 sailors and 1,700 laborers, had fled westward without attempting to defend or destroy their installations. . . .110

The Marine Corps history states:

There were hardly enough Japanese fighting men ashore on the island to bother the Vandegrift force. . . .111


if the Japanese struck hard while the landing force was abandoned and without air support, the precarious first step to Rabaul might well have to be taken all over again.112



estimating a counter landing to be the most probable course of Japanese action, General Vandegrift placed his MLR [Main Line of Resistance] at the beach. The bulk of the combat forces remained in assembly area inland as a ready reserve to check attacks or penetrations from any sector.113

Admiral Turner summarized his current thoughts on this second major defensive decision of the WATCHTOWER Operation in this way:

It's at least an 'iffy matter', as FDR used to characterize tough posers, whether a hard driving Marine offensive against the Guadalcanal Japanese starting on the 9th wouldn't have destroyed or completely dispersed the nucleus of Japanese forces on Guadalcanal Island. This would have permitted an adequate shore welcoming reception party for the first Japanese re-enforcements [5th Sasebo Special Naval Landing Force] whose advance elements of about 200 men aboard a single Jap destroyer [the Oite] arrived a week later--16 August--and made an unsupported daylight landing of troops and supplies.

After all, the 6000 Marines on Tulagi captured that island and a couple of others from some 750 well dug in and well organized Japanese with the moderate loss of about 150 killed and 200 wounded.

It's certainly a question whether if the Marines had been on the offensive, instead of dug in on the defensive, the Japanese were in enough strength to fight their way ashore even when on August 18th some 900 Army troops of the famous Ichiki Midway Landing Force of the 17th Army arrived.

A proper Marine reception committee at appropriate beaches around Lunga Point would have made the Japanese think more than once about 'reinforcing Guadalcanal' particularly if there had been no one to reinforce.114

In a memorandum to COMPHIBFORSOPAC on 2 August 1942, the Commanding General First Marine Division had written:

Operations against outlying Japanese detachments on GUADALCANAL and the smaller islands will be commenced without delay. The 1st RAIDERS BATTALION will be employed for this purpose. That Battalion has been ordered to reembark following seizure of TULAGI. This reembarkation was ordered for a dual purpose; namely, to have the Raiders available for operations against outlying detachments but primarily to have them available as a highly mobile rapidly striking reserve which could be landed on GUADALCANAL at some point in rear of hostile forces and thus greatly speed the conclusion of the attack on Japanese forces on that island.115


Admiral Turner opined:

The Navy made a defensive decision; the Marines made a defensive decision. Each one helped to bring on months of hard and costly defensive and then offensive fighting. In the long run, both fights were won.116


Considering the number of rear admirals whose performance in action during World War II failed to reach the high standards set by Admiral King and Admiral Nimitz and who were peremptorily removed from command or gently eased into non-battle assignments, it is quite apparent that had Rear Admiral Turner actually made a major mistake on that fateful evening of 8 August 1942, that Admiral King or Admiral Nimitz would not have kept him at sea in one of the more important combat assignments throughout the war.

When the captains of opposing football teams meet in the center of the field before the game starts, the referee tosses a coin, the designated captain calls "heads" and the coin turns up "tails." This captain has made a bad guess but not a culpable mistake in judgment. The coach doesn't bench him because of his bad guess.

The Battle of Savo Island was primarily a United States Navy defeat. All of the dozen "causes" listed earlier contributed to this defeat. Beyond the U.S. Navy, the Australian Navy and Air Force and the United States Army Air Force also contributed to setting the stage of the defeat.

As Commander of Task Force 61, under the Navy code, Rear Admiral Turner bore a command responsibility for whatever success was attained or failure suffered. He did not shrink from his command responsibility. He vigorously set about correcting those matters of operations, training, material and personnel which were within his purview, and recommending action in other areas.

Savo Island was a defeat. Guadalcanal was a victory. The important thing was to learn and apply every possible lesson from both.117


The Missing Final Report

In writing about Savo Island, Morison says:

Every ship in this battle except Jarvis submitted an Action Report. Admiral Turner made none. . . .118

To begin with, it should be noted that upper echelon commanders generally made operation reports on whole operations such as WATCHTOWER, and group, unit, and ship commanders made action reports on battles occurring during the operation. So it could as logically be said that Admiral Turner made no action report on the campaign in the Gilberts, the Marshalls, or the Marianas, omitting to state that he made operational reports.

Rear Admiral Turner, as Commander Task Force 62, or as Commander Amphibious Forces South Pacific originated three written official reports concerning the WATCHTOWER Operation which included the Battle of Savo Island. The first report, three pages in length plus a track chart, reproduced on page 356 was dated 12 August 1942 and titled "Night Action of Savo Island, August 8-9, 1942." It described and summarized the action as known at that early date by CTF 62. It included a "sketch chart, Battle of Savo Island" and requested any additional information that the Second-in-Command could furnish. It was addressed to the Second-in-Command, TF 62. A copy was given by hand by COMPHIBFORSOPAC (Turner) to COMSOPAC (Ghormley) together with 67 pages of reports from subordinate unit commanders. COMSOPAC sent all of this on to COMINCH via CINCPAC on 16 August 1942, as part of COMSOPAC's "Preliminary Report WATCHTOWER OPERATION." The initial document penned by Rear Admiral Turner, together with the track chart and other reports, was described officially by COMPHIBFORSOPAC as a "fairly comprehensive preliminary report," and is just that.

The second Amphibious Force, South Pacific report was dated 29 August 1942, and forwarded reports from eleven ships regarding the first three days of the amphibious landings as well as the night battle off Savo Island, and stated that "comment on tactical features of the night battle of Savo Island" will be submitted by the Commander Amphibious Force, South Pacific in his report of the WATCHTOWER Operation."

The third report, made on George Washington's birthday in 1943, by COMPHIBFORSOPAC was titled "Solomon's Operations, August 7-8 and 9, 1942" and


was nothing more than a blanket forwarding of reports slowly extracted from 36 subordinate units and commanders regarding the first three days of the WATCHTOWER Operation plus a statement that "pressure of operations has, so far, prevented completion of the final report" and "in view of the forthcoming operations, it seems likely that a final report will be further delayed." One could read between the lines that COMPHIBFORSOPAC would never get time to make a WATCHTOWER final report. This was an excellent prognostication. A final comprehensive report on WATCHTOWER or the Savo Island Battle was never originated by COMPHIBFORSOPAC (CTF 62).19

In addition to these reports originated by Rear Admiral Turner, on 15 October 1942, COMSOPAC addressed to CINCPAC a supplementary report to his preliminary report on "Operations in Solomons, 7-9 August 1942." This comprehensive report was forwarded to CTF 62 for comment before forwarding to CINCPAC and COMINCH, and thus gave Rear Admiral Turner a chance to provide any additional facts, and to express any differences of opinion that he might have had with COMSOPAC in regard to the known events or COMSOPAC's interpretation of them during the operations covered.

So it is hardly the correct story to say that "Admiral Turner made none," when writing about official reports on the Savo Island battle.


Admiral Turner was quite prepared to admit that he had not turned in a flawless performance in WATCHTOWER or "any other big operation."

any big operation.

Late on August 8th, and long after Vandegrift and Crutchley had left the McCawley, I was still waiting for Ghormley's reply to Fletcher. I was hoping


against hope that Ghormley would say 'No' to Fletcher and tell him to stay around for another 24 hours. I had no idea that Fletcher had been heading southeast all late afternoon and evening and was well south of San Cristobal by 2300. That information would have been most valuable to me and to all the Screening Group. But Fletcher didn't send it to me. Ghormley's reply approving Fletcher's withdrawal didn't come in until about 0330, and by that time Iron Bottom Sound had its first contingent [of our ships].120

Admiral Turner believed that the major effect of Vice Admiral Fletcher's announced intention of withdrawal on the actual Battle of Savo Island was that it resulted in Rear Admiral Crutchley not being with his Screening Group at the particular time the Japanese struck. It was his opinion that this was a serious loss of command ability, command cohesion, command knowledge of the situation, and command offensive response.

As for the effect after the Battle of Savo Island, Rear Admiral Turner had said frequently during the war, and the man continued to say in 1960, that the withdrawal permitted Mikawa's Cruiser Force "to live and enjoy their victory."121

Admiral Turner thought that there were a number of major lessons which he had learned out of the WATCHTOWER Operation, but that not everybody would agree with him. His key thoughts in 1960 related to organization. The basic task force organization established by COMSOPAC placed Commander Expeditionary Force and the Commander Aircraft Force, South Pacific at the same level in the command echelon. At the next lower level were Commander Air Support Force and the Commander Amphibious Force.

Over the years, Admiral Turner came to believe that the basic task organization established by COMSOPAC was faulty in at least one respect and that was:

at the top level, where the major element of air reconnaissance in the SOPAC area was not under the operational control of the Commander Expeditionary Force.

To this was added a grasping at might-have-been straws:

Had TF 63 [the air reconnaissance force] been included in the Expeditionary Force, perhaps Frank Jack [Fletcher] would have felt more like an Expeditionary Force commander and assumed a greater responsibility for sticking with the whole Force through to a success.

Finally, Admiral Turner commented:

Unity of command increases the chances for victory. The shore-based aircraft under General MacArthur's command was a large percentage of the total


reconnaissance aircraft searching the operational area. In WATCHTOWER, unity of operational command might have produced a greater feeling of responsibility on the part of the individual reconnaissance aircraft pilot to get his intelligence of enemy forces through to his top operational commanders promptly, as well as more direct communication channels. [Between air reconnaissance and the top operational commanders.]122

The lesson to be drawn from these remarks is that defeat in battle early in a war can quickly gain adherents to sound principles which will produce future victories.


Table of Contents  *  Previous Chapter (9)  *  Next Chapter (11)


1. Admiral Hepburn, Class of 1897, alive at age 87 at time this chapter written.

2. Naval War College, Savo Island, Vols. 1 and II.

3. (a) Richard F. Newcomb, Savo, The Incredible Naval Debacle off Guadalcanal (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1961); (b) Stan Smith, The Battle of Savo (New York: McFadden-Bartell Corp., 1962).

4. (a) Morison, Struggle for Guadalcanal (Vol V), ch. 2; (b) Samuel E. Morison "Guadalcanal-1942" Saturday Evening Post, vol. 235 (July 28-August 4, 1962), pp. 22-23, 63-65; (c) Samuel E. Morison, Two-Ocean War (Boston: Little Brown and Co., 1963), pp. 167-77.

5. Turner. Actually only a total of 41 APs were in commission on 8 August 1942. 16 APs were assigned to the Pacific Fleet on 8 August 1942. (PACFLT Fleet Notices 18CN-42 of that date).

6. Turner.

7. Nimitz.

8. Morison, Struggle for Guadalcanal, p. 63.

9. Morsion, "Guadalcanal-1942," Saturday Evening Post.

10. Morison, Two-Ocean War, p. 169.

11. Hepburn Report Vol. 1, no ser of 13 May 1943; Memorandum for Admiral, 31 Jul 1943, attached by Reviewing Officer.

12. Turner.

13. Zimmerman, Guadalcanal Campaign (Marine Monograph), p. 50.

14. Miller, Guadalcanal: The First Offensive (Army), p. 78.

15. Newcomb, Savo, pp. 80, 82, 86.

16. COMSOWESPACFOR to All Task Force Commanders, Pacific Fleet, 080717 Aug 1942. Cited in Hepburn Report, Annex T.

17. (a) Naval War Collete Savo Island, Vol. 1, p. 101; (b) COMSOWESPACFOR Communication Officer to Commander D.J. Ramsey, memorandum, 19 Feb 1943. Cited in Hepburn Report, Annex T.

18. Note: The five receivers were on circuits of

  1. Pear Harbor FOX (CINCPAC broadcast to all ships)
  2. CTF 61 Group Commanders Circuit
  3. CTF 62 Immediate Subordinate Commanders who were CTG 62.1, CTG 62.2, 62.3, etc.
  4. TF 62 All units tactical circuit
  5. Aircraft Warning Circuit.

19. Hepburn Report, Vol. 3, Communication Log.

20. General Headquarters Southwest Pacific Area, Signal Annex to Operation Instruction Number Two, 25 Apr 1942.

21. COMSOWESPACFOR Communication officer, memorandum, 19 Feb 1943.

22. Morison, Struggle for Guadalcanal, p. 25.

23. Naval War College, Savo Island, Vol. 2, p. 383.

24. COMSOWESPACFOR to all Task Force Commaqnders, 080947 Aug 1942.

25. Naval War College, Savo Island, Vol. 1, pp. 101, 383 (18). The quoted version is found in both COMSOPAC War Diary and the Hepburn Report, as well as the Plotting Room Officer, COMSOPAC, to Admiral Ghormley, memorandum 14 Aug 1942.

26. Ibid., pp. 73-74.

27. (a) Chokai War Diary; (b) Japanese Eighth Fleet War Diary, CIG 74633, USSBS Interrogation.

28. (a) Turner; (b) Staff Interviews.

29. Copy of Memorandum supplied by Captain Charles W. Weaver USNR and original then located in Comsopac files.

30. (a) COMSOPAC Action Report; (b) Turner; (c) Staff Interview; (d) Undated, but probably June 1943 Official Statement of Rear Admiral Turner on Admiral Hepburn's Report.

31. COMSOWESPACFOR to CINCPAC and All Task Force Commanders, Pacific Fleet, 0-81130 Aug 1942. Hepburn Report, Annex T.

32. CTF 62 to COMAIRSOPAC, 081055 Aug 1942. Hepburn Report, Annex T.

33. CTF 63 to CTF 61 into CTF 62, 081233 Aug 1942 in Hepburn Report, Annex T.

34. CTF 62 to CTF 63, 070642 Aug 1942. Hepburn Report, Annex T.

35. Hepburn Reporit, 13 May 1943, paras. 85, 87.

36. CTF 61 to CTF 63, 90857 Jul 1942. Hepburn Report despatches.

37. CTF 63 to CTRF 61, 300820 Jul 1942, Hepburn Report desptaches.

38. COMSOPAC Op Plan 1-42, Ser 0017 of 16 Jul 1942, para 3, Annex Baker.

39. COMAIRSOPAC to COMSOPAC, 190646, 201300 Jul 1942. Hepburn Report dispatches.

40. Turner.

41. Ghormley manuscript, p. 68.

42. Turner.

43. Turner.

44. CINCPAC, letter, PAC-11-SN-A17, Ser 00888 of 28 Jun 1943, subj: Comments on Hepburn Report, Annex F to encl. (A), p. 2.

45. Turner.

46. CTF 62.6 to CTF 62, 072211 Aug 1942, Hepburn Report, Annex T.

47. Staff Intervidew.

48. Ibid.

49. (a) Staff Interview; (b) CTF 62 to CTG 62.6, 080937, Aug 1942, Hepburn Report, Annex T.

50. RKT to Director Naval History, letter, 1948.

51. Hepburn Report, para. 84.

52. Naval War Collete, Savo Island, Vol. 1, p. 90.

53. Ibid., p. 48.

54. Turner.

55. Naval War College, Savo Island, Vol. 1, p. 348.

56. Hepburn Report, para. 92.

57. CTG 62.6 to Admiral Hepburn, memorandum, 21 Feb 1943. Hepburn Report, Annex B.

58. USSBS, Interrogations of Japanese Officials, USSBS Interrogation No. 255, Vol. I, p. 255. (Rear Admiral M. Matsuyama). Hereafter only the USSBS Interrogation No. and the page from Interrogations of Japanese Officials will be cited.

59. RKT, Memorandum for Admiral Hepburn, Mar 1943, p. 10, Hepburn Report, Annex F.

60. Admiral Turner to DCNO (Admin), official letter, 20 Aug 1950, subj: Comments on Morison's Vol. V, pp. 10-11. Note Admiral Turner's statement that Hobart was near XRAY Group.

61. Hepburn Report, para. 95.

62. RKT, Memorandum for Admiral Hepburn, Mar 1943, pp. 4-5.

63. Colhoun Anti-submarine Action Report, 7 Aug 1942.

64. Rear Admiral Turner to CINCPAC, official comment on Hepburn Report, 8 Jun 1943.

65. (a) Crutchley to Turner, report, 21 Feb 1943, pp. 4, 5, Hepburn Report, Annex B; (b) COMSOPAC 071142 Aug 1942; CINCPAC 062336, 08141 Aug 1942, Hepburn Report, Annex C.

66. (A) CTF 62 to COMSOPAC, 090815 Aug 1942, Hepburn Report, Annex T; (b) Monssen and San Juan Acrtion Reports.

67. Hepburn AReport, para. 82.

68. Hepburn Report, para. 89.

69. Action Reports of Colhoun, Monssen, San Juan, Mugford, Wilson, Crescent City, President Adams, Little, Neville.

70. V. Crutchley to RKT, letter, 13 Aug 1942.

71. COMSOPAC to OCMINCH, 081012 Jul 1942.

72. COMSOPAC to COMINCH, 112000 Jul 1942.

73. The Hornet, which on 7 July CINCPAC (CINCPAC 070125 July) had indicated to COMSOPAC might participate in WTOWER, was being held in the Hawaiian Area for defensive and training purposes.

74. Interview with Admiral Frank J. Fletcher, USN (Ret.), 25 May 1963. Hereafter Fletcher.

75. CINCPAC to COmmander Striking Force, Letter of Instructions, A16-3/A14-3 GG13(12)(16), Ser 0115 of 28 May 1942.


77. Fletcher.

78. CTF 61 (Fletcher) to CTF 61.1 (Noyes), 070357 Aug 1437 (local time). CTF 18 (Noyes) to CTF 61, 070527 Aug 1942.

79. (a) Fletcher; (b) CTF 61 to CTG 61.1, 070500 Aug 1942.

80. ONI Summary Information, 8 Aug 1942, (CINCSOWESPACAREA, COMSOWESPACFOR C-127, 7 Aug 1942).

81. CTF 18 to Saratoga, Enterprise, Wasp, 070510 Aug 1942.

82. (a) CTF 61.1 to CTF 16, 070120, Aug 1942; (b) CTF 61.1 to Saratoga, 072225, Aug 1942; (c) CTF 61.1 to CTU 61.1.1, 072315 Aug 1942.

83. Turner.

84. CTF 61 to COMSOPACFOR, 280201 Jul 1942.

85. CTF 61 to COMSOPAC, 030150, Aug 1942.

86. Ships' Logs.

87. (a) Kinkaid; (b) Ships' Logs.

88. Data taken from ships' logs. When data for 8 or 0 August does not appear in log, data from 7 or 10 August is listed. Not all the arithmetic checks, but that is the way the logs record the data.

89. The Essex, the next carrier to come into service was not commissioned until 31 December 1942 and joined the Fleet in May 1943.

90. (a) Fletcher; (b) CINCPAC despatch, 062336 Aug 1942, COMSOPAC despatch, 071142 Aug 1942, Hepburn Report despatches; (c) COMSOPAC, Op Plan 1-42, Annex A, para. 1.

91. CINCPAC, desptach, 080141 Aug 1942.

92. Fletcher.

93. Robert Sherrod, History of Marine Corps Aviation in World War II (Washington: Combat Forces Press, 1952), p. 81.

94. BUAER Intelligence Interview, 26 Aug 1942. Lieutenant Commander John S. Thach later became Deputy Chief of Naval Operations (Air) and then Commander U.S. Naval Forces, Europe. The Zero was more maneuverable but the United States Navy's fighters with their good pilots were "more fightable." The Zero out-peformed but did not have the survivability that the armor and self-sealing fuel tanks gave American planes. Nor did it have as heavy armament. Hence the ratio of losses in combat strongly favored the United States Navy.

95. Fletcher.

96. COMSOPAC to CINCPAC 090830, 090831 Aug 1942, Hepburn Report despatches.

97. Fletcher.

98. CTF 61 to COMSOPAC, letter A16-3 (0039N), subj: Preliminary Report Solomon Islands Opeartion.

99. (a) Fletcher; (b) Rear Admiral Harry Smith, a lieutenant commander in 1942 and the Flag Lieutenant to Vice Admiral Fletcher, related the same story in an interview on 17 May 1963.

100. Kinkaid.

101. President Jackson Action Report, 19 Aug 1942.

102. Kinkaid.

103. Ibid.

104. Fletcher.

105. Fletcher.

106. Turner.

107. Griffith, The Battle for Guadalcanal, p. 68.

108. Miller, Guadalcanal: The First Offensive (Army), p. 75.

109. Hough, Ludwig, and Shaw, Pearl Harbor to Guadalcanal (Marine), p. 257.

110. Miller, p. 73.

111. Hough, Ludwig, and Shaw, p. 257.

112. Ibid., p. 274.

113. Ibid., p. 275.

114. Turner.

115. COMGENFIRSTMARDIV to COMPHIBFORSOPAC, Memorandum, A6-3(4)076/222 AE-0020 of 2 Aug 1942.

116. Turner.

117. Turner.

118. Morison, The Struggle for Guadalcanal, p. 17.

119. (a) CTF 62 to CTG 62.6, letter, FE25/A16/Ser 0034 of 12 Aug 1942 included in COMSOPAC Ser 0053 of 16 Aug 1942; (b) COMPHIBFORSOPAC to COMINCH, letter, FE25/A16-3(3) Ser 0092 of 29 Aug 1942 with 11 enclosures; (c) COMSOPAC to COMINCH,, letter, A16-3(1)/, Ser 00171 of 156 Oct 1942 with endorsements, including COMPHIBFORSOPAC, A16-3/, Ser 00317 of 24 Oct 1942; (d) COMPHIBFORSOPAC to CMSOPAC and CINCPAC, letter, A16-3(3)/, Ser 231 of 6 Apr 1943. Forwarding copy of lost report of CTG 62.6 dated 13 Aug 1942 re First Battle of Savo Island; (f) COMSOPAC to CTF 62, letter, A16-3/, Ser 0058 of 30 Aug 1942 relating to CINCPAC's Ser 02576 of 23 Aug 1942, re Preliminary Report, Solomon Islands Operation.

120. Turner.

121. Turner.

122. Turner.