The three carrier task forces which participated in the initial Solomons attack operated to the southeastward thereafter. Their mission, briefly, was: (a) to support the Tulagi-Guadalcanal garrisons, (b) to cover the Espiritu Santo-Noumea line of communications, (c) to cover the movement of our aviation ground crews, equipment and supplies into the Solomons, and (d) to destroy enemy forces encountered. Our combined strength was approximately 3 carriers, 1 fast battleship, 5 heavy cruisers, 1 light cruiser and 18 destroyers.

Our fourth and remaining carrier task force, built around the Hornet, was kept in readiness at Pearl Harbor, and on the 17th, when events indicated that the enemy would commit a large part of his strength in the South Pacific, was dispatched to the scene of impending conflict. However, the Hornet group arrived on the 29th, too late to participate in the action under discussion.

The three available task forces, combined as Task Force FOX1 under command of Vice Admiral Frank J. Fletcher in the Saratoga, included the Enterprise group, under Rear Admiral Thomas C. Kinkaid, and the Wasp group, under Rear Admiral Leigh Noyes.

Also available was the Marine Air Group at Guadalcanal, consisting at that time of approximately 12 scout bombers and 20 fighters, and the long-range patrol planes attached to Air Forces, South Pacific, consisting of 39 PBY's and 30 B-17's. The patrol planes, under the command of Rear Admiral John S. McCain, were making daily searches from bases at New Caledonia and in the New Hebrides.

By the 23d, our surface units were operating about 100 to 150 miles southeast of Guadalcanal in full expectancy that the Japanese soon would move. However, a combination of fueling needs and imperfect intelligence reports concerning the location of enemy carriers resulted in our being deprived of the Wasp group at the very moment when it was most needed. About 1700 on the 23d Admiral Fletcher received a dispatch


stating that all Japanese carriers were north of Truk. Consequently, Task force NEGAT, including two heavy cruisers and seven destroyers in addition to the Wasp, was sent south at 18302 to top off. This left at Admiral Fletcher's disposal Task Forces FOX and KING, composed as follows:

Task Force FOX:

    1 carrier:
      Saratoga (flagship of Admiral Fletcher), Capt. DeWitt C. Ramsey.
    2 heavy cruisers:
      Minneapolis (flagship of Rear Admiral Carleton H. Wright), Capt. Frank J. Lowry.
      New Orleans, Capt. Walter S. DeLany.
    5 destroyers:
      Phelps (Capt. Samuel B. Brewer, ComDesRon ONE), Lt. Comdr. Edward L. Beck.
      Farragut (Comdr. Francis X. Mclnerney, ComDesDiv Two), Comdr. George P. Hunter.
      Worden, Lt. Comdr. William G. Pogue.
      MacDonough, Lt. Comdr. Erle Van E. Dennett.
      Dale, Lt. Comdr. Anthony L. Rorschach.

Task Force KING:

    1 carrier:
      Enterprise (flagship of Rear Admiral Kinkaid), Capt. Arthur C. Davis.
    1 battleship:
      North Carolina, Capt. George H. Fort.
    1 heavy cruiser:
      Portland (flagship of Rear Admiral Mahlon S. Tisdale), Capt. Laurance T. DuBose.
    1 light cruiser (AA):
      Atlanta, Capt. Samuel P. Jenkins.
    6 destroyers:
      Balch (Capt. Edward P. Sauer, ComDesRon SIX), Lt. Comdr. Harold H. Tiemroth.
      Maury, Lt. Comdr. Geizer L. Sims.
      Benham, Lt. Comdr. Joseph M. Worthington.
      Ellet, Lt. Comdr. Francis H. Gardner.
      Grayson (Comdr. Harold R. Holcomb, ComDesDiv 22), Lt. Comdr. Frederick J. Bell.
      Monssen, Comdr. Roland N. Smoot.


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1 Task Force numbers have been omitted in the interest of security. Flag symbols for the first letter of the surnames of commanding officers have been substituted.

2 All times used are Zone minus 111/2.

Last updated: April 27, 2003

Transcribed and formatted by Jerry Holden for the HyperWar Foundation