Map 4: Arrival in the Solomons
Tracks of Squadron XRAY and Squadron YOKE
Unloading tank for Guadalcanal
The rehearsal exercises concluded, Task Force TARE refueled from the Kanawha and Platte and replenished ammunition from the Rainier. At 1630 July 31st it left Koro Island and the Fijis and commenced the long approach to the Solomons. Only a few miles to the north was Task Force NEGAT, which, until the evening of August 6th, maintained a generally parallel course and provided reconnaissance and patrols. Task Force TARE, on leaving the Fijis, assumed a circular formation, with the 19 transports and cargo ships proceeding in 5 columns in the center. The Hunter Liggett, the first ship in the middle column, acted as guide for the entire formation. The screen was disposed in 3 concentric circles about the Hunter Liggett, the first circle having a radius of 1 mile from the Hunter Liggett, the second a radius of 2, and the third a radius of 3.
Chapter 11: Approach to the Solomons
At noon on August 1st the position of the McCawley, the flagship of Task Force TARE, was latitude 19°03' S., longitude 179°09' E. The speed of the fleet was then only about 7 knots. Between 1630 and 1700 it sighted and exchanged signals with Task Force NEGAT. Proceeding almost due west, the McCawley's position was 18°58' S., 174°00' E. at noon the next day. The average speed was now up to 11.5 knots, and the weather continued good. At least once American B-17s, part of Task Force MIKE and operating from shore bases, swept low over the ships so that the personnel aboard might learn to recognize them. On August 3d the fleet passed through the southern New Hebrides. Several of the ships left and later rejoined the fleet after refueling at Efate and other nearby points. The course changed slightly to the northwest until on August 5th the one hundred fifty-ninth meridian was reached.10 Thereafter the fleet moved almost due north to its destination.
As it did so, the weather changed to a complete overcast, with a fresh wind and moderate sea. On August 5th the average course and speed was 296° T., 12.31 knots, with occasional zigzagging for submarine protection. Planes from Task Force NEGAT passed over the formation from time to time.
During the approach of the expeditionary force our land and tender based planes had been effectively carrying out their assignments. On August 1st, 10 B-17s of the Eleventh Bombardment Group bombed Japanese bases near Tulagi, destroying one patrol plane and damaging another,
starting fires in the Golf Club building and dropping four 500-pound bombs on Lunga airport. Two of the Zero fighters which attempted to intercept were shot down. On the following day B-17s again bombed installations at Lunga Point and, although they encountered heavy antiaircraft fire, they suffered no damage. Similar attacks on the target area were made almost daily through August 6th. Meanwhile, the McFarland, with five patrol bombers (PBYs) had arrived at Ndeni, and extensive searches of the operations area and toward enemy bases in the north were carried out energetically but with consistently negative results.
On Dog-Day, August 7th, nine PBYs were transferred from Espiritu Santo to the Maramasike Estuary in Malaita to operate from the Mackinac in providing an eastern outer patrol for our ship and land force in Tulagi-Guadalcanal.
On the eve of the attack, from his headquarters in the Argonne at Noumea, Admiral Ghormley sent a message of encouragement to the three task force commanders. The nation, he said, looked to the officers and men of the Allied expeditionary forces to electrify the world with a major offensive. He urged them to carry on in the spirit of Midway and to "sock 'em in the Solomons!"
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 There was an unverified report that the task force intentionally pursued, until August 5th, a course toward New Guinea in order to throw following enemy submarines or planes off the scent.