The Battle of the Eastern Solomons
23--25 August 1942


Enterprise and screen maneuvering during attack


Japanese dive bomber crashes off starboard bow of Enterprise



A period of relative inactivity followed our successful occupation of the lower Solomons on 7-8 August and our severe losses in the night action off Savo Island on the 9th. During this "breathing spell" of about 2 weeks we carried out small-scale reinforcing operations for the Marines in the Guadalcanal-Tulagi area, while the Japanese employed surface units and aircraft in an attempt to prevent this reinforcement. Daring enemy attacks on the small conyoys carrying supplies and munitions to the Marines considerably retarded the strengthening of our positions.

At the same time, the enemy rapidly brought reinforcements to the Rabaul (New Britain) area for a major attack on our newly won footholds in the Solomons.

Between 9 and 23 August, groups of Japanese cruisers and destroyers bombarded Guadalcanal with relative impunity almost nightly. Operating in the close waters between Tulagi and Guadalcanal, these enemy ships would have been good targets for carrier planes and surface ships, in both of which we were superior numerically for a time. However, in order that our carriers' presence might be concealed from the enemy, we operated our task forces well to the south of Guadalcanal, out of range of hostile search planes. Consequently, the Japanese not only succeeded in causing us damage and seriously restricting our flow of supplies, but also they took advantage of the passing days in which they were not attacked to bring up powerful reinforcements.

We were aware of the steady accumulation of Japanese strength in the Rabaul area, having been informed of it by air reconnaissance, and other intelligence means. By 23 4ugust whatever local fleet superiority we had enjoyed had vanished, the enemy having on the scene of impending action a force estimated as follows:

    3-4 carriers--Zuikaku, Shokaku, Ryujo and possibly a fourth smaller carrier.
    1-2 battleships.


    7-15 heavy and light cruisers.
    10-20 destroyers.
    15 or more transports, cargo ships and oilers.
    166 land-based bombing and fighting planes.


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Last updated: May 6, 2003

Transcribed and formatted by Jerry Holden for the HyperWar Foundation