Chapter 17: Action of August 8

0630 President Hayes and President Adams arrive at Tulagi with reinforcements.
0900 Combat Team C lands on Gavutu
0910 VT-8 bombs Tanambogo.
1038 Warning received of 40 enemy planes over Bougainville proceeding southeast.
1140 Saratoga fighters launched to intercept
1157 Enemy dive-bombers and torpedo planes attack from northeast. George F. Elliott and Jarvis hit.
1345 Buchanan and Monssen requested by land forces to provide close fire support on Tanambogo.
1400 Another warning of enemy air attack. Unfulfilled.


1645 Destroyers still firing on Tanambogo.
1807 Admiral Fletcher recommends withdrawal of carriers. Approved by COMSOPAC.
1821 News received of 3 enemy cruisers, 2 destroyers, and 2 gunboats or seaplane tenders sighted at 1127 at 5°49'S., 156°07' E., course 120° T, speed 15 knots.
2345 Conference aboard McCawley decides to move out transports the next morning.

At 0500 on the morning of the 8th Admiral Crutchley ordered the outer patrol groups and units to return to the transport areas and to resume day screen. As enemy submarines might be expected to intrude during the day, he directed the minesweepers to form an antisubmarine patrol westward of Sealark and Lengo Channels. He also established an antisubmarine air patrol with at least three cruiser planes in the air all the time.

Air Patrols

At 0630 the President Hayes and President Adams arrived in transport area YOKE with the reinforcements for Tulagi and Gavutu. Soon afterwards dive bombers from our carriers appeared in the sky above and began hammering the enemy's remaining hideaways in Tulagi and Tanambogo.

The Wasp, in company with her sister carriers, had retired a short distance to the south for the night. On returning in the morning to her previous position southwest of Guadalcanal, the Wasp maintained a continuous combat patrol of eight fighters over the Tulagi transport area until 1200. Shortly before dawn she launched 12 scouts to search sector 280° to 040° to a radius of 220 miles and extended to include all of Santa Isabel Island and the New Georgia group. No contact was made except for a Japanese fighter seaplane which was encountered about 40 miles off Rekata Bay and which was shot down by Lt. Comdr. E.M. Snowden. Meanwhile bombers were supplied to Commander Amphibious Force for action against designated objectives. Fighters were recalled and refueled at noon in anticipation of an enemy attack which, as on the previous day, proved to be directed at the ships in the transport areas.

In forwarding the reports of the Saratoga's air group, Capt. DeWitt C. Ramsey stated that on August 7th the Saratoga had been designated by Admiral Noyes to hold herself in readiness as a striking force the next day, in the event that it should prove advisable to make an attack on an enemy carrier believed to be in the vicinity. Later in the evening of the 7th, Capt. Ramsey wrote, the Saratoga Group Commander returned from Tulagi and reported that Commander Amphibious Force (Admiral Turner) had specifically requested him to provide a bombing flight in


support of a coordinated land offensive against Tanambogo about dawn on August 8th. Security considerations did not permit transmission of this request to Admiral Noyes, who was in the Wasp, before launching the flight. The Saratoga furnished the service requested, Capt. Ramsey stated, and informed Commander Task Group NEGAT of the action taken.

Comdr. Felt of the Saratoga commanded bombers and torpedo planes in the Tulagi area the morning of the 8th. The Air Support Director in the McCawley informed him at 0755 that he was attempting to obtain suitable targets for the bombers but that the situation on shore was not clear. "I reported that early in the morning I had seen a few persons moving on the eastward beach of Tanambogo but thereafter had seen no signs of activity on this island and that Gavutu seemed to be fully occupied with our own troops who were exposing themselves in an unconcerned manner," Comdr. Felt wrote. "At about 0820 the dive bomber squadron departed for its ship without having been given a target for attack. At 0910 Orange Base One (Air Support Director in the McCawley) informed me that the Japanese dug in on Tanambogo were still putting up a stiff counterfire and I was ordered to attack with the remaining bombers on station (VT-8) . . . Just prior to the bombing a garbled message was received from Orange Base 'Three'35 attempting to cancel my orders to attack. Orange Base and myself attempted to get repeats, the former ordering an authentication and it was decided that the Orange Base 'Three' message should be disregarded. I strafed at the completion of the bombing attack and then left station at about 1005 to return to my ship."

The Enemy Air Attack of August 8

At 1038 Admiral Turner received a dispatch announcing that 40 enemy twin-engine bombers were passing Bougainville Island, north of Tulagi-Guadalcanal, and proceeding southeast. He immediately ordered all ships to move out of the transport areas and assume a cruising disposition. By the time the planes appeared, almost precisely at noon, the transport groups and screens were in formation and maneuvering at top speed.

Reports differ as to the exact number of enemy planes, some putting the figure at 25, others at 40. But it is agreed that most of them were large, twin-engine bombers and that they approached our ships from the east, rounding the southeast point of Florida Island at an extremely


low altitude, possibly only 50 feet above the water. Apparently they did not drop any torpedoes or bombs in the Tulagi area, but proceeded in a southwesterly direction toward their major target, the ships off Guadalcanal. But both transports and screening ships at Tulagi opened an intense and effective antiaircraft fire as the planes passed them. In five minutes, from 1200 to 1205, the Chicago expended 142 rounds of 5"/25 cal. antiaircraft common, 288 rounds of 1.1-inch service, 634 rounds of 20-mm. HE tracer, 633 rounds of 20-mm. HE, and 500 rounds of .30 caliber tracer and AP.36 Nine to fifteen planes were believed to have been shot down. The bombers were protected by Zero fighters and these were seen to be engaged by our carrier planes at high altitudes. One observer said that the Japanese planes came in from astern on a parallel course with the formation of the ships in the Tulagi area, apparently maneuvering to draw fire and cause the ships to fire on one another.

The attack was directed at our ships off Guadalcanal, which put up a punishing barrage of fire. The vessels of Transport Group XRAY at this time were proceeding north in a line of four division columns of three or four ships each (with the Heywood alone on the left flank), interval 1,500 yards, distance between ships 1,000, speed 13 knots. The sea was smooth and calm, the sky cloudy, and the ceiling was about 1,500 to 2,000 feet. At 1157 the enemy planes were seen approaching from the northeast, coming in over the hills on the eastern part of Florida Island, rapidly losing altitude and heading directly for the transports in a long line. The transport formation was promptly and effectively maneuvered by the Task Force Commander (Admiral Turner) by two 30° "turn" signals in a direction away from the approaching planes.

Meanwhile the screening vessels, cruisers and destroyers had opened fire and several planes were observed to fall. When the transports let loose with their antiaircraft guns, the enemy formation began to break up, some planes passing over the transports, some between the columns, and some ahead and astern. In a few seconds many glided into the sea in flames, while others crashed precipitously. Only three aircraft were seen to pass entirely through or around the transport formation. Two of these were shot down by the screening vessels to the westward and only one plane apparently escaped.


One of the falling aircraft barely missed hitting the Vincennes' stern, while another crashed on the deck of the George F. Elliott setting the ship afire. The plane struck the heavy steel strongback of the starboard forward boat davit, "driving one engine down on deck, spreading parts of plane and parts of bodies of Japanese on deck, exploding and throwing gasoline and lubricating oil all over the topside and down into C.P.O. quarters and the engineroom and fireroom."37 Within a few minutes the Elliott hauled out of formation, and other ships observed that a large part of her crew were going overboard or floating in her wake.

At about the same time it was seen that the destroyer Jarvis had been hit by a torpedo and was seriously injured but still able to operate under her own power. As will be seen, these proved to be our only ship losses, while at least 14 enemy planes were known to have been shot down. The "ack-ack" must have been intense, with over 50 ships delivering the most concentrated fire of which they were capable for about 10 minutes. One destroyer complained that her range was intermittently fouled by transports and that most of her firing took place sharp on the bow with tuns 3 and 4 masked. The enemy retired to the northwest, pursued by our fighters.

*    *    *

At 1002 the Enterprise had launched three fighters for patrol over the transports. Shortly before noon Fighter Control in the Chicago warned them of an impending enemy attack. In a few minutes from an altitude of 17,000 feet they sighted several Japanese torpedo planes flying low over the water from Tulagi to Guadalcanal. Our fighters dived steeply to attack. Ens. W.M. Rouse made a stern run on one enemy plane and set it afire. he then pulled up, made a run on another and sent it slithering down to the sea in flames. He headed for a third, but Machinist D.E. Runyon, who had previously shot down another in a head-on run, beat him to it. Ens. J.D. Shoemaker made a beam approach on a fifth and shot it down. The sixth and remaining Japanese plane escaped. Four of the enemy losses were twin-engine torpedo planes similar to the horizontal bombers and the fifth was either a single-engine torpedo plane or a Zero or new type of escort fighter. All U.S. pilots returned aboard the Enterprise at 1340.

Fighting Squadron Five of the Saratoga, much to its chagrin, missed the action at noon on the 8th. Taking off at 0700, Lt. Comdr. Simpler


let a combat patrol of four planes over the transports. After searching for missing pilots along the northwest coast of Guadalcanal, his planes returned to the carrier at 1000. "Upon landing," wrote Lt. Comdr. Simpler, "I was informed by other pilots of the squadron that an enemy bombing attack was en route to the transport area. Knowing that similar information had been correct on the previous day, I went immediately to the Air Plot. Lieut. D.A. Sooy, Lt. Comdr. C.E. Wakeman and myself estimated that the attack would arrive at about noon, 2 hours from the time of the report. This estimate was correct. I was launched at 1140, as leader of eight VF, to intercept this attack at Guadalcanal about 70 miles away, with a climb of 16,000 feet rendered necessary to get above the weather. I arrived in time to see the antiaircraft bursts still in the air, but no enemy aircraft in sight."

As on the previous day, a squadron of bombers from the Wasp, VS-71, Lt. Comdr. John Eldridge, Jr., leading, accidentally intercepted the enemy attack on August 8th. While this flight of 11 SBD-3s was retiring from a bombing of Mbangi Island off Tulagi, the rear gunner of the squadron leader's plane observed a formation of planes approaching from the northeast. At first the newcomers were thought to be a relief arriving from another carrier, and our planes continued on their retirement course. They were soon seen to be enemy bomber or torpedo planes traveling at 3,000 feet. At about the same time six Zero fighters suddenly appeared and attacked the first section of 3 planes in our squadron. They made 12 firing runs, but without effect. One was observed to have a belly tank. Meanwhile the leader of the squadron's last section, Lt. (jg) Robert L. Howard, who was retiring after dropping his last bomb, had sighted twin-engine bombers (tentatively identified as T-97 heavy bombers) approaching our transports.

Lt. Howard began making runs on the enemy bombers but his guns failed to fire. He repeated after recharging his guns but still could not fire, discovering a few moments later that his armament switch was off. Eventually he had to abandon the chase because of the antiaircraft fire from our ships. Just at that moment he was attacked by four Zeros. His rear gunner, Lawrence P. Lupo, Seaman Second Class, kept the Zeros from getting too close, scoring several hits on them. After about eight passes, one Zero veered up sharply and made a head-on run which Lieut. Howard met with simultaneous fire from his fixed guns. The enemy plane burst into flames, passed close under his left wing, and crashed among the boats


from the transports. While the pilot was engaging the plane ahead, Lupo, the rear gunner, was firing on a fighter directly astern, shooting numerous holes through the tip of the vertical stabilizer of his own plane. This and the rest of our SBDs returned safely to the Wasp. Together with the 14 enemy planes claimed by the ships; gunners, the total "shoot-downs" appeared to have been 20. We suffered no plane losses.

After the attack the transports in Squadron XRAY returned to Beach RED to resume unloading. En route Capt. Reifsnider, commanding the transports, boarded the George F. Elliott. The oil fire was still burning fiercely in the fireroom, and while the conflagration in the lower decks amidships appeared to be under control it was in reality smoldering and spreading. The Hull was alongside pumping water through five or six fire hoses. The Elliott had lost power soon after the plane struck.38 The Hull undertook to tow the Elliott to Beach RED, about 10 miles away, in the hope of unloading some of the cargo and equipment which remained undamaged. But she could make no progress with a tow-line, and her commanding officer "was reluctant to try to tow the vessel from alongside." Abandoning this effort, the Hull continued to supply water to fight the fire.

When at 1400 an unfulfilled report of another air attack was received, the Elliott's gun crews were recalled from the destroyer and from boats in the vicinity to man her antiaircraft batteries. Later, the main passageways of the ship were closed in the hope that the fire, if partly smothered, would burn itself out. This proved a false hope, for soon it was noted that the bulkheads were rapidly heating deck by deck. The paint on the side of the ship opposite the destroyer caught fire and the hull plating was red hot. Shortly after dark the whole midsection became enveloped in flames which rapidly spread toward the bridge. The fire was also spreading aft, and word was received, via the destroyer alongside, that personnel there were being removed. The fire finally broke into No. 3 hold forward, and any further attempt to save the ship or salvage the cargo was deemed futile. The few remaining people on board were taken off in


boats to the Hull and Dewey. Admiral Turner ordered her sunk by torpedo fire. It was later learned, wrote Capt. Reifsnider, that the Hull fired four torpedoes at close range without effect, and the vessel was still afloat and on fire when the transports retired from the scene the following evening. Three officers and seven enlisted men on the Elliott were killed. Fifteen Marines were reported missing, but the majority of these were believed to have reached shore safely.

As for the Jarvis, she had previously been towed into shallow water by the Dewey. The bottom of her hull was open from frame 30 to about 55, but her boilers and machinery remained intact. Fourteen of her crew were missing and seven had to be sent to the McCawley for hospitalization. Upon her reported that she was able to proceed under her own power, Admiral Turner directed her to steam to Noumea via Lengo Channel under escort of the Hovey. When, however, in the early evening the Hovey attempted to join the Jarvis she could not find her. The last seen or heard of the destroyer was early in the morning of the 9th, when the Blue sighted her rounding Cape Esperance, presumably bound for Noumea.

During the afternoon, when there were several alerts for enemy air attacks which did not materialize, some of the ships picked up fallen Japanese fliers from the water. The Selfridge made two of them prisoners and turned them over to the Barnett. The Blue rescued four more and planned to deliver them to the Astoria next morning. The Neville reported receiving six from an unnamed ship; of these, three were injured, two uninjured, and one was dead. When the Bagley approached a group of Japanese fliers who were perched on a half-sunken plane, they opened fire on our destroyer, and when the Bagley continued to near them, turned their guns on themselves.

Cleaning up Tulagi

Soon after 0700 on the 8th the President Jackson landed the First Battalion Second Marines (less Company B) on Beach BLUE, and the President Hayes landed the Second Battalion. The First Battalion, commanded by Lt. Col. R.E. Hill, was ordered to sweep Tulagi clean of Japanese from the beach to the western end of the island, and the Second Battalion, commanded by Lt. Col. B.W. Atkinson, was directed to perform the same operation from the beach to the island's eastern end.

No serious breaks had been made in our lines during the night, and at dawn the Marines had resumed the offensive. Companies E and F


of Combat Team 2, who had been mopping up the western part of the island, led the second day's attack. From a line northeast of Hill 281, with F on the right and E on the left, they advanced over the top of the hill to the southwest side of the island. This maneuver gave the Marines mortar and machine-gun positions on three sides of the main enemy concentration. That afternoon Company G of Combat Team 2 and the Raiders rushed the ravine and blasted the Japanese out of their many hiding places. At about 1500 physical occupation of the island was complete.

"The tenacity of the individual [Japanese] soldier was astonishing," General Vandegrift wrote.39 "Each Jap fought until he was killed, each machine-gun crew to the last man, who almost invariably killed himself rather than surrender." Of the 500 Japanese estimated to be on Tulagi only 3 surrendered. According to the prisoners, about 40 attempted to escape by swimming to Florida. The Raider Battalion suffered 90 casualties, of whom 3 officers and 33 enlisted men were killed or died of wounds on the island.

The Taking of Tanambogo

The Third Battalion of the Second Marines (Combat Team C), commanded by Lt. Col. R.G. Hunt, was at first ordered to land from the President Adams on Beach BLUE, but at 0705 the order was changed and the battalion was directed to proceed in boats to Gavutu. The Adams steamed part of the way toward Gavutu in order to reduce the distance the boats would have to proceed after launching. Meanwhile the Monssen and Buchanan had stood toward Tanambogo to provide close fire support for the imminent reattack on that island.

Shortly before 0900 the first wave of boats left the Adams for Gavutu and landed on the beach there an hour later. The rest of Combat Team C followed in six more waves of boats. Companies I (Capt. M.P. Hajan) and K (Capt. H.A. Courtney) joined the Parachute Battalion in exterminating the few remaining Japanese. Their operations were hampered by persistent sniper fire from Tanambogo, and so preparations were hastened to launch a new attack on that island. The enemy air attack at noon and several false alarms which kept our fire support groups on antiaircraft alert for an hour or more at a time, handicapped the organization work, however,

The Buchanan and Monssen shelled targets on Gavutu and Tanambogo


Map 9: Tank Lighters' Route to Tanambogo


frequently during the day as requested by fire control parties ashore. In this they were assisted by the air support, which also bombed Gaomi, Makambo and other nearby islands from which scattered groups of Japanese maintained a sniping fire. So severe was our shelling and bombing of Tanambogo that one observer said the island was changed from "green to red."

At 1600 the Buchanan stood into Gavutu Harbor on the island's east coast, slowed to steerageway, and opened fire with her 5-inch battery on Tanambogo hill at a range of 1,100 yards. She then moved out of Gavutu Harbor toward Gaomi, shifting her fire to the flat area on the southeast side of Tanambogo Islands. At 1615 two tanks of the Third Platoon, C Company, Second Tank Battalion, commanded by Lieut. R.J. Sweeney, embarked from Gavutu in two assault boats. About an hour later they arrived near the Buchanan and semaphored that they were about to land on Tanambogo and requested the destroyer to cease fire. The Buchanan then retired to open water south-southeast of Gavutu, and later joined the San Juan, Hobart, and Monssen for night patrol between Florida and Guadalcanal.

The two Marine assault boats were the President Adams'40 Landing Tank Lighter No. 1, G.L.D. Sporhase, Boatswain's Mate, Second Class, and Landing Tank Lighter No. 2, B.W. Hensen, Boatswain's Mate, Second Class. The lighters had proceeded with other landing craft to Gavutu earlier in the afternoon, where they were ordered to prepare for a landing on Tanambogo. At about 1700 Lighter No. 1 left for Tanambogo with one tank and a detachment of several Marines. Sand bags left by the enemy on the Gavutu beach had been loaded on the lighter for the protection of the Marines. As the lighter got under way from Gavutu those aboard it saw the Buchanan "pouring salvo after salvo" into the beach at Tanambogo and "Japs flying through the air from the trees." Smoke and fire were mounting from oil drums set afire by the destroyer's shells. After the Buchanan had ceased fire, the tank commander gave orders for the lighters to proceed to the beach. As it passed the destroyer, it


is reported, the Captain waved to the men in the lighter and shouted, "Give 'em hell!" The naval crew began firing their machine guns at Japanese on the shore, and the tank crew opened fire with their 37-mm. guns. Enemy snipers were active on Gavutu, Tanambogo, and Florida Islands as the lighter circled Gaomi Island and headed into the eastern shore of Tanambogo. It scratched bottom on several coral reefs but kept going.

On reaching the beach, the lighter dropped its ramp and the tank rolled off. The enemy's fire was heavy, and a Marine sergeant who was standing forward of the lighter's engine room was killed instantly. The other Marines followed the tank ashore, a few falling as their small line was raked by enemy fire. The naval crew had to get out, stand in the line of fire, and raise the ramp by hand, as it had no motor. After the ramp was raised, the crew backed the lighter away from the shore as far as they could in order to keep the ramp between them and the enemy' fire. Soon after heading back for Gavutu, the boat passed a point of land which was covered with trees. Japanese snipers opened fire. "We spotted the flash from a gun up in one of these trees," Boatswain Sporhase reported, "and I picked up the Marine's Reising gun and blasted the flash. The Jap fired again and I got a better bead on him, and fired again and he come tumbling down like a bird."

On its return to Gavutu, Lighter No. 1 was ordered to ferry about 20 Marines to Tanambogo. This time, because of the protection it provided, the ramp was not lowered, and the Marines "bailed out over the sides." Although the fire was almost continuous as the boat approached and departed from the beach, the naval crew again escaped injury.

Tank Lighter No. 2 had a similar experience. On approaching Tanambogo beach on its first trip, the craft ran aground on the coral a few yards from shore. "When we couldn't get any nearer the beach," Boatswain Hensen reported, "I signalled the tank to run off, rather than stop to lower the ramp. I had told Lieut. Sweeney (the Marine tank commander) to run right into the ramp and knock it down with the tank when I gave the signal that the stops were off. So the tank knocked the ramp down and started up the beach with the fourteen Marines right behind it. Lieut. Sweeney had his head sticking out the top of the tank, trying to fire the machine gun, and that is the last I saw of him alive. They shot the top of his head off."41

This tragedy resulted from the fact that Lieut. Sweeney's tank, while


delivering effective fire into the enemy positions, had got ahead of its supporting troops. The Japanese rushed from their dugouts and caves and stalled the tank by poking a large iron bar into the track. In trying to rid itself of the bar, the tank backed onto the stump of a coconut tree and became caught. It was then powerless to move either forward or backward, and the Japanese threw "Molotov cocktails" and other inflammables into it, killing all of the crew except one man who escaped through the turret. The other tank executed its mission perfectly, keeping well within support of the advancing infantry.

Company I of Combat Team C, commanded by Capt. W.G. Tinsley, followed the two tanks ashore. About half of the company pushed up the southern slope of Tanambogo hill, while the rest worked around the east and north sides and along the shore. The fighting was close and savage.42 At about this time the first platoon of Company K (Lieut. J.J. Donahue), assisted by a few paratroops, crossed the causeway from Gavutu and established themselves on the south side of the island. Meanwhile, the enemy-held cave on the south side of Hill 148 on Gavutu had been reduced by an amphibious tractor.

By 2200 Tulagi and both Gavutu and Tanambogo were completely in our hands, except for a few isolated nests of snipers. During the evening and night an almost constant procession of boats moved between the transports and the islands, bringing supplies to the Marines and evacuating the wounded. It was estimated that on all 3 islands there had been 1,400 Japanese, of whom 1,000 had been on Gavutu and Tanambogo. The Tulagi force was entirely naval, believed to be part of the Special Landing Force (Marines) with headquarters at Rabaul. On the other 2 islands about 400 were naval troops (Marines and naval aviation personnel) and the remaining 600 were believed to have been laborers. Although no accurate count could be made of bodies, as many were left in blasted caves and dugouts, it was believed that a reasonable estimate was: 1,500 Japanese killed, less 23 captured and 70 escaped to Florida. Despite the rugged fighting, our casualties were comparatively small. In taking the


3 islands we lost 8 officers and 100 enlisted men killed, missing, or died of wounds; and 7 officers and 133 men wounded; or a total of 248 casualties.

Guadalcanal, August 8

Meanwhile, except for the congestion of boats and supplies on Beach RED,43 satisfactory progress was being made on Guadalcanal. The advance to the west had been resumed early in the morning. The First Battalion of Combat Team A continued along the shore through the comparatively favorable terrain of flat coconut plantations. Combat Group B encountered much more difficult going in the thick jungle several miles inland. A few prisoners were picked up during the morning. Interrogation revealed that no large enemy force was in the vicinity and that the only regularly organized garrison had retreated to the west. Thus at midday it was decided that Combat Team A (Fifth Marines) should move rapidly astride the road leading to Kukum and seize the village and enemy installations there. They crossed the Lunga River at the main bridge and encountered no opposition until their advance elements entered Kukum at 1500. This, however, amounted only to light fire from low knolls near the village and was quickly silenced. In the meantime Company Group B (First Marines) had been able to make faster progress in the plains east of the airfield and by 1600 they were in possession of the airdrome, having encountered only one small enemy patrol. For the night they were ordered to occupy the line of the Lunga.

It was found that the Japanese had done a remarkable piece of work in developing their Lunga Point positions since occupation of July 4th. In 5 weeks they had constructed large, semipermanent camps; finger wharves; bridges; machine shops; two large radio stations; ice plants; two large and permanent electric power plants; an elaborate air compressor plant for torpedoes, and a nearly completed airdrome with


hangars, blast pens, and a 3,600-foot runway. Defenses consisted of three antiaircraft batteries and machine-gun emplacements.

The military garrison, excluding labor troops, was believed to have consisted of 200 naval personnel and about 400 naval landing force troops (Marines). The latter, according to General Vandegrift, were well trained and equipped and "the reason for their precipitous flight toward Kokumbona must remain an enigma." There was no organized defense of the Lunga Point area. Camp sites had evidently been abandoned "in a state of utter confusion." Arms and personal equipment were left behind in large quantities, and no effort had been made at demolition. "Few dead were found as a result of the aerial and naval bombardment," wrote General Vandegrift, "but upon examination of prisoners it appeared that the daybreak bombardment caught the garrison completely by surprise and that a state of panic ensued which was followed by a precipitate and disorderly flight to the west."


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[35] There was no Orange Base "Three."

[36] Contrary to the report of another ship, the Chicago did not fire any of her 8-inch guns. Her report states: "The main battery did not engage because of the high bearing rate of the unfavorable target angles existing, and of the proximity of friendly surface craft."

[37] Commanding Officer's report.

[38] In describing the air attack, the Betelgeuse's war diary states: "It is interesting to note . . . that during the sortie from the anchorage a TR type boat (a tank lighter with ramp) was observed in formation maneuvering with it and attempting to keep up with it. It later developed that this was the Betelgeuse's TR-9, manned by Sam Willard McCoy, Seaman Second Class, and Edward George Camham, Fireman Third Class. They had been asked by some Marine major on Beach RED to put him on some ship before it got underway. McCoy volunteered and was attempting to catch that ship when the Elliott was hit. McCoy then went to the Elliott and stood by to help. He helped transfer the wounded, picked up survivors, transfer records, valuables, etc."

[39] First Marine Division Commander's report.

[40] An account of the reinforcement of Gavutu and the second attack on Tanambogo is contained in the action of the President Adams, Comdr. Frank H. Dean. The boat division Officers and coxswains of the Adams were suddenly required to land their Marines on a beach at Gavutu, about which they had almost no advance information, under frequent sniping fire from enemy troops on Tanambogo. The crew were either at Battle Stations or unloading stations (condition ONE-AFIRM) for approximately 70 hours. As the allowed complement (393 men) did not permit adequate manning of the ship's battery during unloading operations, many men had to double on winch details, hatch parties, gun stations, mess duties and sea watches.

[41] From action report of President Adams.

[42] The first Marine Division Commander's report states that "sniper fire from nearby Gaomi (Palm) Island harassed the landing party until about 1700, when U.S.S. Gridley silenced the enemy on the islet." As the Gridley was not in the expeditionary force, it is probable that reference was made to the Henley, which reported that she was engaged in silencing snipers and machine-gun nests on Gaomi (Palm) Island (Florida-Tulagi Group) at 1720, August 8, 1942. After 210 rounds of 5-inch AA common ammunition was expended at 1,500 to 1,700 yards "Marines on Gavutu Island reported all opposition was destroyed."

[43] In view of some criticism that Marines standing apparently idle in the vicinity of Beach RED were not used to help unload the boats, the following remarks in the First Division Commander's Report may be of interest: "The shore party organization was functioning efficiently and all concerned were doing their utmost, but, as had so often been pointed out in peacetime maneuvers, the manpower available at the beach was physically inadequate to cope with the tremendous volume of incoming supply. In theory the conditions might have been alleviated by the assignment of combat troops to unloading operations, but at the time in question (the afternoon of August 7th), the Division Commander was constrained to dispose all his forces tactically. In the situation as it then existed, he occupied the most dangerous of all positions for any commander of a naval or military force: i.e., being in close proximity to a large enemy force which possessed complete knowledge of his dispositions and movements, while he, the Division Commander, was unable to make contact with the enemy or to gain information as to the direction from which he might appear . . . (Thus) it was incumbent upon him to employ all his forces toward seizure of the objective and protection of rear area installations against assault from the flank or the rear."

Transcribed and formatted by Patrick Clancey, HyperWar Foundation