Foreword to the NHC Edition
The Battle of Savo Island and the Battle of the Eastern Solomons comprise one of a series of twenty-one published and thirteen unpublished Combat Narratives of specific naval campaigns produced by the Publications Branch of the Office of Naval Intelligence during World War II. Selected volumes in this series are being republished by the Naval Historical Center as part of the Navy's commemoration of the 50th anniversary of World War II.
The Combat Narratives were superseded long ago by accounts such as Samuel Eliot Morison's History of the United States Naval Operations in World War II that could be more comprehensive and accurate because of the abundance of American, Allied, and enemy source materials that became available after 1945. But the Combat Narratives continue to be of interest and value since they demonstrate the perceptions of naval operations during the war itself. Because of the contemporary, immediate view offered by these studies, they are well suited for republication in the 1990s as veterans, historians, and the American public turn their attention once again to a war that engulfed much of the world a half century ago.
The Combat Narrative program originated in a directive issued in February 1942 by Admiral Ernest J. King, Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet, that instructed the Office of Naval Intelligence to prepare and disseminate these studies. A small team composed of professionally trained writers and historians produced the narratives. The authors based their accounts on research and analysis of the available primary source material, including action reports and war diaries, augmented by interviews with individual participants. Since the narratives were classified Confidential during the war, only a few thousand copies were published at the time, and their distribution was primarily restricted to commissioned officers in the Navy.
The Guadalcanal Campaign was one of the most arduous campaigns of World War II. While it began auspiciously for American forces with little initial opposition from the Japanese, the battle quickly degenerated into a contest of wills that lasted for six months during which the
tide of battle ebbed and flowed as both sides injected more and more forces into the struggle. The key to the entire campaign was the control of the sea approaches to Guadalcanal. The first of many Japanese challenges to American sea power was the Battle of Savo Island, one of the worst defeats ever suffered by the U.S. Navy. That engagement provided American naval forces with a bitter lesson in the superiority of Japanese nighttime naval tactics.
The U.S. Navy redeemed itself in another action that is described in this narrative. Two weeks after Savo Island, during the Battle of the Eastern Solomons, American planes sank an enemy light carrier and a damaged seaplane carrier; and the Japanese lost 75 planes. American losses were 25 planes and damage to the carrier Enterprise. The significance of this battle was that it turned back the first major Japanese effort to retake Guadalcanal.
The Office of Naval Intelligence first published this narrative in 1943 without attribution. Administrative records from the period indicate that Ensign Winston B. Lewis wrote the account of the Battle of Savo Island, while Lieutenant (jg) Henry A. Mustin authored the description of the Battle of the Eastern Solomons. Both were Naval Reserve officers. Lewis was a professional historian who taught at Boston's Simmons College prior to the war; after the war, he taught history and political science at Amherst College and later joined the faculty of the U.S. Naval Academy. Before World War II, Mustin was a journalist with the Washington Evening Star. After the war, he returned to that newspaper and later was associated with the Columbia Broadcasting System, Mutual Broadcasting, and the Voice of America.
I wish to acknowledge the invaluable editorial and publication assistance offered in undertaking this project by Mrs. Sandra K. Russell, Managing Editor, Naval Aviation News magazine; Commander Roger Zeimet, USNR, Naval Historical Center Reserve Detachment 206; and Dr. William S. Dudley, Senior Historian, Naval Historical Center. We also are grateful to Rear Admiral Kendell M. Pease, Jr., Chief of Information, and Captain Jack Gallant, USNR, Executive Director, U.S. Navy and Marine Corps WW II 50th Anniversary Commemorative Committee, who generously allocated the funds from the Department of the Navy's World War II commemoration program that made this publication possible.
Dean C. Allard
Director of Naval History
Office of Naval Intelligence
1 October, 1943.
Combat Narratives are confidential publications issued under a directive of the Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Fleet and Chief of Naval Operations, for the information of commissioned officers of the U.S. Navy only.
Information printed herein should be guarded (a) in circulation and by custody measures for confidential publications as set forth in Articles 75½ and 76 of Naval Regulations and (b) in avoiding discussion of this material within the hearing of any but commissioned officers. Combat Narratives are not to be removed from the ship or station for which they are provided. Reproduction of this material in any form is not authorized except by specific approval of the Director of Naval Intelligence.
Officers who have participated in the operations recounted herein are invited to forward to the Director of Naval Intelligence, via their commanding officers, accounts of personal experiences and observations which they esteem to have value for historical and instructional purposes. It is hoped that such contributions will increase the value and render ever more authoritative such new editions of these publications as may be promulgated to the service in the future.
When the copies provided have served their purpose, they may be destroyed by burning. However, reports acknowledging receipt or destruction of these publications need not be made.
Rear Admiral, U.S. N.,
Director of Naval Intelligence.
8 January 1943.
Combat Narratives have been prepared by the Publications Branch of the Office of Naval Intelligence for the information of the officers of the United States Navy.
The data on which these studies are based are those official documents which are suitable for a confidential publication. This material has been collated and presented in chronological order.
In perusing these narratives, the reader should bear in mind that while they recount in considerable detail the engagements in which our forces participated, certain underlying aspects of these operations must be kept in a secret category until after the end of the war.
It should be remembered also that the observations of men in battle are sometimes at variance. As a result, the reports of commanding officers may differ although they participated in the same action and shared a common purpose. In general, Combat Narratives represent a reasoned interpretation of these discrepancies. In those instances where views cannot be reconciled, extracts from the conflicting evidence are reprinted.
Thus, an effort has been made to provide accurate and, within the above-mentioned limitations, complete narratives with charts covering raids, combats, joint operations, and battles in which our Fleets have engaged in the current war. It is hoped that these narratives will afford a clear view of what has occurred, and form a basis for a broader understanding which will result in ever more successful operations.
E. J. King
ADMIRAL, U.S. N.,
Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet, and Chief of Naval Operations.
Lewis, Winston B.
[Battle of Savo Island]
The battles of Savo Island, 9 August 1942 and the eastern Solomons, 23-25 August 1942.
Winston B. Lewis authored the account of the Battle of Savo Island, while Henry A. Mustin authored the description to the Battle of the Eastern Solomons which the Office of Naval Intelligence published without attribution in 1943.
Originally published: Washington, D.C. : Publications Branch, Office of Naval Intelligence, United States Navy, 1943. (Combat narratives. Solomon Islands campaign ; 2-3)
Includes bibliographical references.
1. Savo Island, Battle of, 1942. I. Mustin, Henry A. Battle of the Eastern Solomons. 1993. II. Naval Historical Center (U.S.) III. Title. IV. Series: Combat narratives. Solomon Islands campaign ; 2-3.
The paper used in this publication meets the requirements for permanence established by the American National Standard for Information Sciences "Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials" (ANSI Z39.48-1984).
For sale by the U.S. Government Printing Office Superintendent of Documents, Mail Stop: SSOP, Washington, DC 20402-9328