FIRST REPORT TO THE SECRETARY OF THE NAVY
Covering our Peacetime Navy and our Wartime Navy and including combat
operations up to 1 March 1944.
ADMIRAL ERNEST J. KING
Commander in Chief, United States Fleet,
and Chief of Naval Operations
(Issued 23 April 1944)
Table of Contents
LETTER OF TRANSMITTAL .......................................... 2
INTRODUCTION ................................................... 3
I THE PEACETIME NAVY ......................................... 4
Prior to the War in Europe ................................. 4
As Affected by the War in Europe ........................... 7
II THE WARTIME NAVY ........................................... 12
Fighting Strength .......................................... 12
Personnel .................................................. 20
The Marine Corps ........................................... 26
The Coast Guard ............................................ 27
The Seabees ................................................ 29
The WAVES .................................................. 29
III COMBAT OPERATIONS .......................................... 31
General .................................................... 31
Strategy ................................................... 37
The Pacific Theater ........................................ 39
The Defensive .......................................... 39
The Defensive-Offensive ................................ 47
The Offensive-Defensive ................................ 49
The Offensive .......................................... 70
Supporting Operation ................................... 74
The Atlantic Theater ....................................... 77
The Mediterranean Theater .................................. 82
Landings in North Africa ............................... 82
Landings in Sicily ..................................... 86
Landings in Italy ...................................... 88
IV TEAMWORK ................................................... 89
The Navy Team .............................................. 89
The Army and Navy Team ..................................... 89
The Allied Team ............................................ 90
V CONCLUSION ................................................. 92
UNITED STATES FLEET
HEADQUARTERS OF THE COMMANDER IN CHIEF
WASHINGTON 25, D. C.
27 March 1944
The Honorable Frank Knox Secretary of the Navy, Washington, D.C.
Dear Mr. Secretary:
In view of the importance and complexity of our naval operations and the
tremendous expansion of our naval establishment since we entered the:
war, I present to you at this time a report of progress.
It is of interest to note that the date of this report happens to be on
the 150th anniversary of the passage by Congress of a bill providing for
the first major ships of the United States Navy-the 44-gun frigates
CONSTITUTION, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT and CHESAPEAKE and the 36-gun
frigates CONSTELLATION and CONGRESS.
This report includes combat operations up to 1 March 1944. I know of no
reason why it should not be made public.
ERNEST J. KING
Admiral, U. S. Navy,
Commander in Chief,
United States Fleet and Chief of Naval Operations
FOR more than two years, the United States has been engaged in world-
wide war. Our geographical position, our wealth, resources and
industrial development, combined with an unfaltering will to victory
have established and enhanced our position as one of the dominant powers
among the United Nations. As such we have been closely and deeply
involved with our Allies in all the political, economic and military
problems and undertakings which constitute modern war. Historically, the
conduct of war by allies has rarely been effective or harmonious. The
record of the United Nations in this regard, during the past two years,
has been unprecedented, not only in the extent of its success but in the
smooth working and effective cooperation by which it has been
accomplished. As one of the United Nations, the United States has reason
to be proud of the inter-Allied aspects of its conduct of the war,
during the past two years.
As a national effort, the war has shown the complete dependence of all
military undertakings on the full support of the nation in the fields of
organization, production, finance, and morale. Our military services
have had that support in a full degree.
The Navy has also had full support from the nation with respect to
manpower. Personnel of our regular Navy, who, in time of peace, serve as
a nucleus for expansion in time of war, now represent a small portion of
the total number of officers and men. About ninety per cent of our
commissioned personnel and about eighty per cent of our enlisted
personnel are Naval Reserves, who have successfully adapted themselves
to active service in a comparatively short time. Thanks to their hard
work, their training, and their will to become assets their performance
of duty has been uniformly as excellent as it has been indispensable to
As to the purely military side of the war, there is one lesson which
stands out above all others. This is that modern warfare can be
effectively conducted only by the close and effective integration of the
three military arms, which make their primary contribution to the
military power of the Nation on the ground, at sea, and from the air.
This report deals primarily with the Navy's part in the war, but it
would be an unwarranted, though an unintended, distortion of
perspective, did not the Navy record here its full appreciation of the
efficient, whole-hearted and gallant support of the Navy's efforts by
the ground, air and service forces of the Army, without which much of
this story of the Navy's accomplishments would never have been written.
During the period of this report, the Navy, like the full military power
of the Nation, has been a team of mutually supporting elements. The
Fleet, the shore establishment, the Marine Corps, the Coast Guard, the
WAVES the Seabees, have all nobly done their parts. Each has earned an
individual "well done"-but hereafter are all included in the term, "The
PRIOR TO THE WAR IN EUROPE
THE fundamental United States naval policy is "To maintain the Navy in
strength and readiness to uphold national policies and interests, and to
guard the United States and its continental and overseas possessions."
In time of peace, when the threats to our national security change with
the strength and attitude of other nations in the world who have a
motive for making war upon us and who are-or think they are-strong
enough to do so, it is frequently difficult to evaluate those threats
and translate our requirements into terms of ships and planes and
trained men. It is one thing to say that we must have and maintain a
Navy adequate to uphold national policies and interests and to protect
us against potential enemies, but it is another thing to decide what is
and what is not the naval strength adequate for that purpose.
In the years following World War I, our course was clear enough-to make
every reasonable effort to preserve world peace by eliminating the
causes of war and failing in that effort, to do our best to stay clear
of war, while recognizing that we might fail in doing so. For a number
of years, the likelihood of our becoming involved in a war in the
foreseeable future appeared remote, and our fortunate geographical
position gave us an added sense of security. Under those circumstances,
and in the interest of national economy, public opinion favored the
belief that we could get along with a comparatively small Navy. Stated
in terms of personnel this meant an average of about 7,900 commissioned
officers, all of whom had chosen the Navy as a career, and 100,000
enlisted men more or less.
This modest concept of an adequate Navy carried with it an increased
responsibility on the part of the Navy to maintain itself at the peak of
operational and material efficiency, with a nucleus of highly trained
personnel as a basis for war time expansion.
For twenty years in its program of readiness, our Navy has worked under
schedules of operation, competitive training and inspection,
unparalleled in any other Navy of the world. Fleet problems, tactical
exercises, amphibious operations with the Marines and Army, aviation,
gunnery, engineering, communications were all integrated in a closely
packed annual operation schedule. This in turn was supplemented by
special activities ashore and afloat calculated to train individuals in
the fundamentals of their duties and at the same time give them the
background of experience so necessary for sound advances in the various
techniques of naval warfare. Ship competitions established for the
purpose of stimulating and maintaining interest were
(Plate 1 here)
officers in the higher commands experience and training in strategy and
tactics approximating these responsibilities in time of war.
Our peacetime training operations, which involved hard work and many
long hours of constructive thinking, were later to pay us dividends. For
example, it would be an understatement to say merely that the Navy
recognized the growing importance of air power. By one development after
another, not only in the field of design and equipment, but also in
carrier and other operational techniques-such as dive bombing-and in
strategic and tactical employment, the United States Navy has made its
aviation the standard by which all other naval aviation is judged and
has contributed its full share to the advances which were to make
aviation the sine qua non of modern warfare. It may be stated here, with
particular reference to naval aviation, that the uniform success which
has characterized our naval air operations is unmistakably the result of
an organization which was based on the conviction that air operations
should be planned, directed and executed by naval officers who are naval
aviators, and that in mixed forces naval aviation should be adequately
represented in the command and staff organization.
Size and Composition
The effects of treaty limitations on our Navy are too well known to
require more than a brief review. In 1922, under the terms of the
Washington Arms Conference, limitations upon capital ships and aircraft
carriers were agreed upon, the ratio established being five for the
United States, five for Great Britain, and three for Japan. Pursuant to
that treaty, the United States scrapped a number of battleships, but was
permitted to convert LEXINGTON and SARATOGA, then under construction as
battle cruisers, to aircraft carriers. Whatever the other effects of the
treaty, that particular provision has worked to our advantage because
those two ships, as battle cruisers, would now be obsolescent, and as
aircraft carriers they were-and SARATOGA still is-effective units of our
In 1930, at London, the parties to the 1922 treaty agreed upon further
limitations, this time with respect to cruisers, destroyers and
submarines. As a result of these two treaties, which reflected world
conditions at the time, and also because of our decision to maintain our
Navy at considerably less strength than that allowed by the treaties, we
experienced a partial building holiday that threw our small construction
program out of balance. Except for cruisers, hardly any combatant ships
(no battleships or destroyers) were added to our fleet during that
period, and few were under construction. In size, therefore, our Navy
remained static, with certain types approaching obsolescence. Moreover,
advances in the science of naval construction were hampered by the lack
of opportunity to prove new designs. As the accompanying chart (Plate 1)
indicates, our naval strength was at low ebb during the year 1927.
Our failure to build progressively was a mistake which it is to be hoped
will never be repeated. When a total building holiday in any type of
ship is prolonged, and there is no opportunity to proceed on a trial and
error basis, our designers are placed under handicaps taking years to
In 1924, and again in 1929, in response to representations to the effect
that we were dangerously deficient in cruisers even in a world at peace,
the Congress author-
ized the construction of a number of cruisers. These were appropriated
for from time to time, as were ships of certain other types (except
battleships), usually one or two at a time.
In 1933 our building program was stepped up materially by the
authorization for the construction of two new aircraft carriers, four
more cruisers, 20 destroyers and four submarines. The two carriers were
considerably different in design from those previously built. The other
types were more evolutionary as to new features, with the possible
exception of the BROOKLYN class of cruisers, which were to a degree a
departure from former light cruisers, both as to ship design and
armament. These cruisers were notable for their six-inch guns which
combined light but strong construction with rapid loading, giving them a
volume of fire far greater than any other light cruisers then-or now-in
In the previous year, eight destroyers of the FARRAGUT class had been
laid down. These were the first of a long series of new designs which
had been improved in each succeeding class up to the latest type laid
down in 1943. The 1933 program, which was considered large at the time,
used the FARRAGUT type of armament, not only for destroyers but for the
broadside batteries of the larger ships, because of the five-inch 38
caliber dual purpose gun which, because of its power, reliability and
extremely rapid loading, proved to be the best naval antiaircraft gun of
In March 1934, the Congress authorized but did not appropriate for a
Navy of treaty strength.
In 1935, in anticipation of making replacements under the terms of the
treaties, work was begun on the design of battleships of the NORTH
CAROLINA class. Original designs (completed in 1937) included many
features which have proved to be of great importance in the war; namely,
increased armor protection against bombs and gunfire, heavy fragment
protection around important control stations, modern five inch
antiaircraft weapons, good torpedo protection, and excellent speed and
steering qualities for rapid maneuvering. Contract designs for the
SOUTH DAKOTA and IOWA classes were completed in 1938 and 1939,
respectively. Most of these ships did not come into service until after
the war had been declared.
The 6000-ton ATLANTA class cruisers, featuring powerful antiaircraft
batteries, were designed in 1937.
In 1938, foreseeing the submarine menace, an experimental program for
patrol vessels was started. At the same time the motor torpedo boat was
started through a series of developmental stages.
In 1938, it had become apparent that in spite of all efforts on the part
of the United States to reach an agreement covering limitation of
armaments, and thus to establish at least the probability of world
peace, other nations were increasing their navies at an accelerating
rate. At that time, in spite of the fact that there was a general desire
on the part of most people everywhere in all countries of the world to
remain at peace, about one-fourth of the world's population was engaged
in war, and civilians were being driven from their homes and subjected
to bombing attacks. In view of the situation, the President, in his
message to the Congress, recommended an increase of 20 per cent in our
naval strength, exclusive of replacements permitted under the Vinson-
Trammel Act of 1934. In May 1938, the Congress authorized the recom-
mended program, giving us, on paper, what appeared to be reasonably
adequate naval strength.
The so-called agreement at Munich was such as to require an upward
revision of the defense requirements of this country. Subsequent events
in 1939 resulting in the outbreak of the war in Europe not only
confirmed those estimates, but made our building up to them a matter of
urgency. A great increase in design activity, in preparation for later
building programs, began at this time. War had become a distinct
AS AFFECTED BY THE WAR IN EUROPE
As a result of Germany's policy of expansion by political, economic and
military aggression, culminating in the invasion of Poland, the European
war began on 3 September 1939. While our position was for the time being
not clearly established, it was nevertheless apparent that this war
would affect the United States in a degree which might extend to our
becoming involved in a war for our national existence.
The Limited Emergency
The first step taken by the United States was the declaration of the
limited emergency by the President on 8 September 1939. The immediate
effect of this, so far as the Navy was concerned, was to fix the
authorized enlisted personnel strength of the Navy at l91,000 instead of
l31,485, and to authorize the recall to active duty of officers and men
and nurses on the retired and reserve lists of the Navy and Marine
Corps. Other direct effects were that the procurement of materials and
equipment, and the taking over of land needed for military purposes,
could be accomplished more readily. Also, the Coast Guard could be made
a part of the Navy if it appeared desirable, by Presidential order.
Indirectly, the limited emergency was responsible for changes in
contracting authority which eliminated competitive bidding, and for the
suspension of certain labor provisions relating to hours of work on
On 2 October 1939, the Congress of American Republics assembled at
Panama agreed upon a resolution which established a neutral zone
surrounding the Americas, with the exception of Canada, at an average
distance of 300 miles. By the terms of the resolution, belligerent
raiders and submarines were to be prevented from operating close to the
Western Hemisphere, as they had done in World War I, the thought
responsible for the resolution being that if belligerent operations took
place in that area, the United States and her Latin American neighbors
might well become involved in the war. The United States Navy being the
only armed force equal to the task of maintaining patrol in this
extensive area, the primary responsibility for the implementation of the
proclamation was obvious. The patrol was in fact taken by the United
States Navy, and at that time a portion of the 111 decommissioned
destroyers were recommissioned for the purpose of making it effective.
Preceded by heated debates, during which it was argued that, for
insufficient reason, we would be abandoning our traditional policy of
freedom of the seas, the Neutrality Act of 1939 became law on 4 November
1939, and American vessels and
citizens were thereby prohibited from entering combat zones. The Act
also established a so-called cash and carry policy, under which all
belligerents were required to do their own transporting of goods
purchased in the United States, and pay for them before being granted
clearance. In addition, it authorized the President to place
restrictions on the use of ports and territorial waters of the United
States by submarines or merchant vessels of foreign states (pursuant to
which he prohibited their use by foreign submarines of belligerent
states, except when there by force majeure) and prohibited the use of
United States ports as bases for furnishing men and supplies to ships of
belligerent states lying off those ports. Other consequences of the
Neutrality Act were to make effective certain laws previously enacted,
having for their purpose the maintenance of neutrality. These included
prohibitions against sending our armed vessels for delivery to
belligerents, and contained provisions for detaining armed vessels or
vessels manifestly built for warlike purposes or conversion thereto.
Included, also, insofar as detention and permissible length of stay were
concerned, were laws covering the use of our ports by foreign vessels.
In view of the situation, our requirements as to naval strength were
again presented to the Congress, in January 1940. At that time, the part
the United States was to play in the war was still not clear, but with
due regard for our national safety and with aggressor nations
disregarding treaties and pacts without hesitation-the immediate result
being rapid changes in the international situation-Congress recognized
that our security would be measured by our ability to defend ourselves.
Coupled with this uncertainty was the knowledge that the international
situation had been very difficult to predict. Many keen observers were
certain that no European war would break out in 1939, and there were
others who felt that we would be able to stay out of the war.
Pursuant to the recommendation of the Navy Department, and following a
careful examination of world conditions, the Congress authorized an
expansion of 11 per cent in our combatant ships, and the President
signed the bill on 14 June 1940.
Meanwhile, the aggressor nations had succeeded in imposing their will
upon numerous European countries. Germany had disposed of France and had
overrun the Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, Denmark and Poland, and stood
on the Channel coast, poised for an all out attack on Britain. In view
of that alarming situation, the Congress passed the so-called Two-Ocean
Navy Bill, which was signed by the President on 19 July 1940. The
increase in our naval strength authorized by this Act was 1,325,000 tons
of combatant ships-by far the largest naval expansion ever authorized.
This authorization was followed by the necessary appropriations in due
course, and, in the making, we had a Navy commensurate with our needs.
The Destroyer-Naval Base Exchange
During the summer of 1940, the Battle of Britain was in its initial
stages and the German submarine campaign had been prosecuted with
telling effect. At the beginning of the war Great Britain had suffered
severely from the general attrition of operations at sea, particularly
in destroyers in the Norwegian campaign and during the
retreat from Dunkirk. Faced with this situation, Great Britain entered
into an agreement with the United States, under the terms of which 50 of
our older destroyers no longer suited for the type of fleet service for
which they had been designed, but still adequately suited for
antisubmarine duty, were exchanged for certain rights in various
localities suitable for the establishment of naval bases in the Atlantic
area, and essential to the national defense. In addition to the bases
acquired in return for the 50 destroyers, we were granted "freely and
without consideration" similar rights with respect to the leasing of
bases in Newfoundland and Bermuda.
This acquisition of bases operated to advance our sea frontier several
hundred miles in the direction of our potential enemies in the Atlantic,
and as the bases were leased for a term of 99 years, we could profit by
their strategic importance to the United States not only immediately,
but long after the crisis responsible for the exchange.
The bases thus obtained by the United States were briefly as follows:
Location Facility Established
Antigua, B.W.I. Naval Air Station (Sea Plane Base)
British Guiana, S.A. Naval Air Station (Sea Plane Base)
Jamaica, B.W.I. Naval Air Station (Sea Plane Base)
St. Lucia, B.W.I. Naval Air Station (Sea Plane Base)
Bermuda, B.W.I. Naval Air Station (Sea Plane Base)
Great Exuma, Bahamas Naval Air Station (Sea Plane Base)
Newfoundland Naval Operating Base
Naval Air Station (Sea Plane Base, Air Field)
Trinidad Naval Operating Base
Naval Air Station (Sea Plane Base)
Lend-Lease and its Implementation
On 11 March 1941, the so-called "Lend-Lease" Act was signed by the
President. The provisions and effects of that Act are too well known to
require comment in this report. Naturally, we were unwilling to see a
large part of the material built with our labor and money lost in
transit, and our only recourse was to give the British assistance in
escorting the convoys carrying that material within North American
Incident to our decision, the United States entered into an agreement
with Denmark on 9 April 1941 relative to the defense of Greenland, and
on that day our Marines were landed there to prevent its being used by
Axis raiders. The Coast Guard cutter CAYUGA had already landed a party
there to conduct a survey with respect to airfields, seaplane bases,
radio stations, meteorological stations and additions to navigation, and
on 1 June, the first of the Greenland patrols was organized, consisting
chiefly of Coast Guard vessels and personnel.
On 27 May 1941, an unlimited national emergency was proclaimed by the
On 7 July 1941, United States Marines were landed in Iceland and
relieved some of the British forces stationed there.
On 11 August 1941, on board the United States cruiser AUGUSTA, the
President and Prime Minister of Great Britain agreed upon a joint
declaration covering the principles of mutual interest to the two
For some months, for the purpose of ensuring safe passage of goods
shipped under the provisions of the Lend-Lease Act, our naval forces had
been patrolling waters in the vicinity of the convoy routes, and had
been broadcasting information relative to the presence of raiders. On 4
September 1941, GREER, a four-stack United States destroyer was enroute
to Iceland, with mail, passengers and freight. When about 175 miles
south of Iceland, she detected a submarine ahead. The submarine fired a
torpedo at her and missed, whereupon GREER counterattacked with depth
charges. Another torpedo was fired at GREER but it also missed, and
GREER continued to Iceland. As a result of this incident, our naval
forces were ordered by the President to shoot on sight any vessel
attempting to interfere with American shipping, or with any shipping
under American escort.
On 15 October, KEARNY a new destroyer, one of a number of vessels
escorting a convoy from Iceland to North America, was torpedoed
amidships. Eleven of her crew were killed and seven were wounded, and
the ship was badly damaged but able to make port.
On 30 October, the naval tanker SALINAS was hit by two torpedoes about
700 miles east of Newfoundland. There were no casualties to personnel,
and SALINAS reached port safely.
On 31 October in the same vicinity REUBEN JAMES, another old destroyer,
was struck amidships by a torpedo. The ship was broken in two; the
forward part sank at once, but the after part stayed afloat long enough
to enable 45 men to reach the deck and launch life rafts from which they
were rescued. About 100 men were lost in this sinking.
Whatever the situation technically, the Navy in the Atlantic was taking
a realistic viewpoint of the situation. During the month of November,
further steps were taken to enable our naval forces to meet the steadily
growing emergency. On 1 November the Coast Guard was made a part of the
Navy. Prior to that time ten Coast Guard cutters were transferred to the
British. On 17 November sections 2, 3 and 6 of the Neutrality Act of
1939 were repealed by an act of Congress, thereby permitting the arming
ted States merchant vessels and their passage to belligerent ports
Another effect of the European war, of major importance to the United
States, was the alliance by which on 27 September 1940 Japan became one
of the Axis powers.
For many years it had been predicted and expected that eventually
Japan's policy of expansion would conflict with our interests in the
Pacific. Recognition of that possibility, plus Japan's growing naval
strength, were indicated by her being a party to the 1922 treaty on
limitation of armaments, and to subsequent treaties dealing with that
At the time of the 1922 treaty Pearl Harbor and Manila were fortified
bases, and Guam was being fortified. None of our other Pacific
territories and possessions was fortified. When, therefore, the parties
to that treaty agreed to maintain the fortification of certain Pacific
islands in status quo, the fortification of Guam was halted.
Subsequently conforming to the treaty provisions, we maintained the
status quo at Guam and Corregidor, and confined our precautionary
measures in the Pacific to the strengthening of Pearl Harbor and our
west coast bases.
Our foresight in developing Pearl Harbor and our west coast bases has
increased, immeasurably, our ability to carry on the war in the Pacific.
Whether or not Guam could have been made sufficiently strong to
withstand the full force of enemy attack is of course problematical, but
we appear to have had an object lesson to the effect that if we are to
have outlying possessions we must be prepared to defend them.
When, in the winter of 1935-1936, the Japanese declared themselves no
longer willing to abide by existing treaty provisions or be a party to
further negotiations, it gave rise to a feeling of uneasiness concerning
the trend of Japanese policy and activities. Unfortunately, the full
import of that move did not become apparent until later.
In 1931, Japan had embarked on a policy of aggression by the seizure of
Manchuria. This was followed by other conquests in China, and as we have
since learned, was accompanied by the fortifying of certain islands
mandated to Japan by the League of Nations, in direct violation of the
treaty provisions. A complete history of our relations with Japan during
the period 1931-1941 was issued by the State Department in the so-called
"White Paper" dated 2 January 1943.
Continuing her aggression, Japan moved into French-Indo China in 1940.
In 1941, the United States was engaged in protesting these and other
moves, and while conversations with the Japanese were being held, the
German offensive in Russia was being successfully pressed. It seems
likely that this influenced the Japanese decision to attack Pearl
Whatever the reasons, Japan, while her representatives in Washington
were still engaged in discussions, presumably with a view to finding a
means of preventing war, on the morning of 7 December 1941 attacked our
ships at Pearl Harbor. The attack was essentially an air raid, although
there were some 45-ton submarines which participated. The primary
objectives of the Japanese were clearly the heavy ships in the harbor
and our grounded Army and Navy planes were destroyed in order to prevent
them from impeding the attack. Damage done to the light surface forces
and the industrial plant was incidental. Of the eight battleships in the
harbor, ARIZONA was wrecked, OKLAHOMA capsized and three other
battleships were so badly damaged that they were resting on bottom. The
damages to the other three were comparatively minor in character. A
total of 19 ships was hit, including three light cruisers which were not
seriously damaged. Three destroyers were hit and badly damaged. (All
three were later restored to service.) Of the 202 Navy planes ready for
use on that morning only 52 were able to take the air after the raid.
Personnel casualties were in proportion to the material damage. The Navy
and Marine Corps suffered a loss of 2,117 officers and men killed and
The Japanese losses were about 60 planes, attributable mainly to
antiaircraft fire, and it is probable that others were unable, on
account of lack of fuel, to return to the carriers which composed the
A few hours later a similar but less damaging attack was made on the
Philippines. (The situation in the Far East is described elsewhere in
On the following day we declared " . . . that a state of war which has
thus been thrust upon the United States by the Imperial Government of
Japan is hereby formally declared. On 11 December a similar declaration
was made concerning Germany and Italy.
THE world diplomatic situation had been deteriorating for some years,
and Europe had been at war since September 1939. For those reasons, we
had been adding to our fleet from time to time, beginning in 1933, but
our decision to prepare ourselves fully for the inevitable conflict may
be considered to have been made when the so-called Two-Ocean Navy Bill
became law on 19 July 1940. At that time, we had to consider the
possible disappearance of British sea power. England itself was
threatened and its capture by the Germans would have meant the loss of
the Royal Navy's home bases and the industrial establishments. These, we
could readily see, would become very tangible assets indeed, in the
event that we were drawn into the war.
In round numbers, provision for a "two-ocean Navy" meant an expansion of
about 70 per cent in our combat tonnage-the largest single building
program ever undertaken by the United States or any other country.
Upon the outbreak of war in Europe in September 1939, the Navy
Department initiated expansion of naval shipbuilding facilities in
private yards and in Navy yards. In many instances, particularly in Navy
yards, the expansion provided facilities which were to be available for
repairs as well as new construction.
By 19 July 1940, when the two-ocean Navy was authorized, the program for
expanding facilities was well started, and it continued thereafter at an
accelerating rate until the early part of 1943. Early in the period of
the shipyard expansion, it was apparent that as the new programs for
cargo ships, tanks, planes, and Army and Navy equipment of all kinds
started to pyramid, the country's latent manufacturing capacity would
soon be overloaded. Thus the problem became not merely one of expanding
shipyards, but of expanding the manufacturing capacity of industry as a
whole to meet the needs of the Navy shipbuilding program.
Expansion of general industry to meet the requirements of this
shipbuilding program began with plants producing basic raw materials.
Next to be enlarged were plants capable of manufacturing the component
parts of a modern man-of-war ranging all the way from jewel bearings to
huge turbines. So comprehensive was the building program that nearly
every branch of American industry was affected either directly or
indirectly. Manufacturers were encouraged to let out their work to
subcontractors, particularly to plants which had been producing
nonessential materials. An automobile manufacturer, for example, was
given the job of producing extremely intricate gyroscopic compasses and
a stone finishing concern undertook the manu-
facture of towing machines and deck winches. Early in the building
program an acute situation in the construction of turbo-electric
propulsion machinery was solved by the construction of an enormous new
plant in a 50-acre corn field. As an illustration of the speed with
which the whole program was undertaken, the construction of that
particular plant was not begun until May 1942, and by the end of the
year the first unit had been produced, completed and shipped.
The rapidity of this naval expansion has had a profound effect upon our
military strategy. As a result of it, we were enabled to seize and hold
the initiative sooner than
(Plate 2 here)
we had originally anticipated, and to deal successfully with the
submarine situation in the Atlantic. The former has, of course, meant a
vast improvement in our military Situation everywhere and the latter was
of great benefit to the shipping situation, which was very serious in
the early months of the war and threatened to become more so with the
prospective increases in overseas troop movements and their support.
(See Plate 2.)
Immediately after the passage of the Two-Ocean Navy Bill, corresponding
contracts for new construction were let and there were soon more
warships and auxiliaries on the ways than had ever been under
construction anywhere in the world at any one time simultaneously with
this new construction, the conversion of merchant ships being
accomplished one of the most important of these being the escort
carriers later proved so effective in combating the German submarine
campaign in the
Atlantic. It is interesting to note that the conversion of these ships
was superimposed upon the shipbuilding effort following enactment of the
Two-Ocean Navy Bill, it having been long appreciated that sea-borne
aircraft would play a dominant role in overseas campaigns if and when
With a construction program well under way, it was most important to
keep alterations in design at a minimum in order to avoid delays.
Nevertheless, changes which would increase military effectiveness or
give greater protection to crews were not sacrificed for the sake of
speeding up construction. Another consideration which industry had to
take in its stride was the evolution of strategic plans and changes in
the type of operations which made it necessary, from time to time, to
shift the emphasis in construction from one type of ship to another. For
example, when the war began our carrier strength was such that we could
not stand much attrition. When, therefore, we suffered the loss of four
of our largest aircraft carriers in the Coral Sea engagement, at Midway,
and in the South Pacific, it was imperative that the construction of
vessels of this category be pushed ahead at all possible speed. Shortly
after we suffered the heavy loss in battleship strength at Pearl Harbor
our battleships under construction at the time were given top priority.
At another stage of the war, when the submarine situation in the
Atlantic was a matter of great concern, emphasis was placed upon escort
carriers and destroyer escort vessels. At the moment, major emphasis
rests with the construction of landing craft, because we intend to use
them in large numbers in future operations.
The production of aircraft quite naturally assumed proportions
commensurate with the building program. Thanks to the research and
experimentation that had been done in improving and perfecting the
various types of airplanes, and thanks also to the genius of United
States industry in the field of mass production, our air power increased
with almost incredible rapidity as soon as our airplane factories were
expanded and retooled for the various models of planes we needed. In
view of the delays to be expected from changes in design when on a mass
production basis, it was apparent that a nice timing in changes of
design would be necessary, so that the performance of our aircraft would
always be more than a match for anything produced by the enemy. A
notable example is the change-over from the Grumman Wildcat to the
In order to obtain a properly balanced navy, the construction of
combatant ships was supplemented by building patrol vessels, mine craft,
landing craft and auxiliary vessels of all types. Some 55 building yards
and yacht basins, located in practically all areas of the United States
served by navigable waters, have participated in the patrol craft
No maritime nation has ever been able to fight a war successfully
without an adequate merchant marine-something we did not have when the
two-ocean Navy was authorized. The Maritime Commission therefore began a
vast program of merchant ship construction at the same time we were
expanding the Navy, and the merchant shipbuilding industry, too, faced
an enormous expansion. Furthermore, the supply of materials necessary to
complete the huge program had to be carefully allocated, in view of the
country's other needs that had to be met. The Navy needed material to
build ships and manufacture Planes and equipment, the Army required
the material for military purposes, and civilian needs could not be
neglected. In order to control the allocation of material, the War
Production Board was established by the President and decisions as to
priorities have since been made by that agency.
Naturally, such a great undertaking involved thousands of business
transactions on the part of the Navy Department, with the contracting
builders and manufacturers. These transactions have been continuous, and
have been entered into on the basis of statutes which limit the profits
permissible, and provide for the negotiation and renegotiation of all
contracts. This part of the program has, in itself, been a colossal job.
At the beginning of the program ten battleships were under construction.
By the time Pearl Harbor was attacked only two, NORTH CAROLINA and
WASHINGTON, were in service, but since that time, six more have joined
the fleet. These include SOUTH DAKOTA and three sister ships, INDIANA
MASSACHUSETTS and ALABAMA, and two of a larger class, IOWA and NEW
JERSEY. A third ship in the latter class, WISCONSIN, was launched 7
December 1943, appropriately enough, two years to the day after Pearl
Harbor was attacked. In speed, in fire power, particularly antiaircraft
fire, in maneuverability, and in protection, these ships represent a
great advance over previous design.
Construction of aircraft carriers represents one of the most spectacular
phases of the naval shipbuilding program. The carrier strength of the
Navy on 7 December 1941 was seven first-line vessels and one escort
carrier, a converted merchant ship. Contracts had been placed for
several large carriers of the new ESSEX class, and some of these had
been laid down. Conversion of a number of merchant vessels was under
way. The pressing need to add to our striking power in the air and to
replace losses suffered in the Pacific during 1942 led to a great
expansion of the construction program for first-line carriers.
Concurrently, an even larger expansion of the escort carrier program was
undertaken. By the end of 1943, more than 50 carriers of all types had
been put into service in our Navy, and in addition a large number of
escort carriers had been transferred to Great Britain.
This remarkable record in construction enabled us in a single year to
build up our carrier strength from the low point reached in the autumn
of 1942, when SARATOGA, ENTERPRISE and RANGER were the only ships of our
fleet carrier forces remaining afloat, to a position of clear
superiority in this category. The rapidity with which new carriers of
various types were put into service in 1943 influenced naval operations
in many important respects. Availability of several ships of the ESSEX
class and of a considerable number of smaller carriers, completed months
ahead of schedule, contributed to the success of our operations in the
Southwest Pacific, aided materially in checking the submarine menace in
the Atlantic, and enabled us to launch an offensive in the Central
Pacific before the end of the year.
A large proportion of the ESSEX class carriers have joined the fleet.
Excellent progress is being made on construction of the remaining ships
in the original pro-
gram and of the additional vessels in this class authorized after the
Pearl Harbor attack. Nearly all of the carriers of the INDEPENDENCE
class, converted from light cruisers, have been completed. These ships,
though smaller than the ESSEX class vessels, are first-line carriers. It
is planned to supplement these two basic types of carriers with a third,
substantially larger than any of our present classes, which will
displace 45,000 tons, and will be capable of handling bombing planes
larger than any which heretofore have operated from the decks of
aircraft carriers. They will be far more heavily armed than smaller
carriers and will be much less vulnerable to bomb and torpedo attack.
The Navy's first escort carrier was the LONG ISLAND, converted early in
1941, from the merchant vessel MORMACMAIL. When experiments with this
ship proved successful, a sizeable conversion program was initiated,
using Maritime Commission C-3 hulls, and a number of oilers. In 1942,
because of pressing need, this program was greatly expanded.
The "baby flat-tops" have three principal uses. They serve as
antisubmarine escorts for convoys; as aircraft transports, delivering
assembled aircraft to strategic areas; as combatant carriers to
supplement the main air striking force of the fleet. Although their
cruising speeds are lower than those of our first-line carriers, these
auxiliary carriers can be turned out more rapidly and at a fraction of
the cost of conventional carriers. These ships have proved invaluable in
performing convoy escort and other duties for which larger and faster
carriers are not needed.
The BALTIMORE class heavy cruisers, a number of which are now in
service, were designed during the period from 19 July 1940 to 7 December
1941. These cruisers are considered as powerful as any heavy cruisers
afloat, particularly as recent technical developments have made it
possible to improve their fighting characteristics. The CLEVELAND type
of light cruiser (a development of the BROOKLYN class) was approved for
a large part of the cruiser program, its design having been completed
just before the expansion was authorized. The design of the large ALASKA
class was the result of a series of studies commenced when treaty
limitations went by the board and we were no longer bound by any
limitations on the size of ships.
Destroyers end Destroyer Escorts
The FLETCHER class of destroyers designed just after the outbreak of the
war in Europe, formed a large part of the new destroyer building
program. As compared with earlier destroyers, they are larger and have
greatly increased fighting power, made possible by the same technical
developments that permitted similar improvements in our cruisers.
Destroyer production has been highly satisfactory, and it has been
possible to expand and accelerate this part of the program in an orderly
manner. Although some new yards were engaged in building destroyers the
increases were made possible by expanding facilities in yards which had
had experience in destroyer construction. An idea of the acceleration in
the rate of delivery of destroyers may be had by comparison
with the figures for 1941 and 1943. In 1943, the rate was approximately
eight times that of 1941. (See Plate 3.)
Contracts for the first destroyer escorts were let in November 1941. In
January 1942, the program was increased, and as Germany stepped up the
(Plate 3 here)
U-boats several more increases were found necessary. Because of
priorities the commencement of a large building program was delayed, but
after delivery of the first vessel of the class, in February 1943, mass
production methods became effective in the 17 building yards concerned
The result was a phenomenal output of those very useful vessels.
As a result of the orderly progress which had been made in the
construction of submarines, involving continuous trial under service
conditions, the main problem to
be solved in building more submarines was the expansion of facilities.
For a period of 15 years or more, there were only three yards in the
United States with the equipment and the know-how to build submarines.
These were the Navy yards at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and Mare Island,
California, and the Electric Boat Company at Groton, Connecticut.
In addition to the expansion that took place at these yards, two other
yards went into the production of submarines. One of these was the Cramp
Shipbuilding Corporation of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and the other
was the Manitowoc Shipbuilding Company at Manitowoc, Wisconsin. The
building at the latter yard is a further testimonial to the ingenuity
displayed throughout the entire program, in that submarines are built at
Manitowoc, tested in the Great Lakes, then taken through the Chicago
drainage canal, and down the Mississippi River to New Orleans, where
they are made ready for sea.
One of the most important achievements has been the landing craft
construction program. Although the Navy had begun to experiment with
small landing craft in 1936, we had only a few thousand tons in this
category when we entered the war. In 1942, a billion dollar program for
the construction of landing craft was superimposed on the already heavy
building schedule, and the work was given top priority until the desired
quota was filled. The facilities of existing public and private
shipyards were given part of the burden. New yards were constructed,
many of them in the Mississippi Valley, where bridge-building and steel-
working companies which had had no previous experience in shipbuilding
put up new plants and swung into production. In the second half of 1942,
almost a quarter of a million tons of landing craft were produced, and
the figure increased to well over a third of a million tons for the
first half of 1943.
This production included a tremendous variety of vessels from small
rubber boats to tank landing ships more than 300 feet in length. Within
this range are small craft designed to carry only a few men, and ships
with a capacity of 200, tracked craft capable of crawling over coral
reefs or up beaches, craft for landing tanks or vehicles, craft for
landing guns, craft for giving close fire support-in fact, all types
necessary for success in that most difficult of military operations,
landing on a hostile shore.
As a natural consequence of the importance of aviation in war, there has
been a tremendous growth in the number of aircraft in the Navy.
Lessons learned in battle have been incorporated in the design of combat
planes. New naval aircraft have larger engines and more power, increased
protection for both crew and plane, and greater firepower than the
models in service at the time of Pearl Harbor. The Grumman Wildcat,
which served with distinction through the first year of the war, has
been largely replaced by two new fighters-the Chance-Vought Corsair and
the Grumman Hellcat. These two fighters were born of the war. While the
Corsair existed as an experimental model before Pearl Harbor, it was so
modified before going into production as to represent virtually a new
plane. Offering greatly in-
creased speed and firepower, the Corsair went into production in June
1942, and large numbers were being sent to the war fronts by the end of
the year. The Corsair was followed but in no sense succeeded by the
Hellcat, which carries more armament and has greatly increased climbing
ability. In production since November 1942, and in service with the
fleet since September 1943, the Hellcat rounds out a powerful striking
force for naval aviation. These two planes are superior to anything the
The Douglas Dauntless scout and dive bomber, in service when this
country entered the war, has undergone successive modifications but is
still in use. A new plane in this category-the Curtiss Helldiver-is now
ready for the fighting front. This plane can carry a greatly increased
bomb load, has more firepower, and is speedier than the Dauntless.
Twelve days after the attack on Pearl Harbor the Navy approved the final
experimental model of a new torpedo bomber, the Grumman Avenger. Six
weeks later, this plane began coming off the production line. Undergoing
its baptism of fire at the Battle of Midway, it gradually replaced the
Douglas Devastator and has now become almost an all-purpose plane for
the fleet. The Avenger is a speedy, strongly protected, rugged aircraft
capable of delivering a torpedo attack at sea or a heavy bomb load on
land targets. Since it was first put into service, its defensive
armament and auxiliary equipment have been improved, and a new model
introducing other improvements is almost ready for volume production.
No field of aviation has been more important to the Navy than that of
long range reconnaissance and patrol. After two years of war, the
Consolidated Catalina flying boat remains in active service, having
proved its usefulness in performing such varied tasks as night bombing
patrol, rescues, antisubmarine warfare, and even dive bombing. Since
Pearl Harbor, the Catalina has been supplemented by the Martin Mariner,
a larger plane, which has likewise proved to be versatile in this field.
The Navy has made increasing use of land-based patrol airplanes because
of the greater speed and range of newly developed models of this type
and their greater defensive ability as compared with seaplanes. With
more land bases becoming available, it has been possible to utilize them
effectively for long over-water operations. Their superior offensive and
defensive power makes them more valuable in antisubmarine warfare and
for combat reconnaissance photography and patrol.
Two principal types of land-based patrol planes are now in service with
the Navy-the four-engine Consolidated Liberator and the two-engine Vega
Ventura. The Navys version of the Liberator is an extremely useful
plane for fast, long range reconnaissance, search and tracking. A new
version, with more powerful defensive armament and greater offensive
strength, soon will be available. The Ventura is a strongly armed
aircraft which carries a heavy bomb load. It has proved a powerful
weapon particularly in the war against the submarine. Two other land-
based bombers-the Lockheed Hudson and the Douglas Havoc-have seen
limited service with the Navy and a third-the North American Mitchell-is
in use by Marine air squadrons.
The principal plane used by the Navy for scout observation work during
the war has been the Vought-Sikorsky Kingfisher. A newer plane in this
field, now in service is the Curtiss Seagull.
The field of air transport has been enormously expanded since the
the war. The Naval Air Transport Service now operates, either directly
or through contract with private airlines, more than 70,000 miles of
scheduled flights to all parts of the globe, helping to maintain the
Navy's long supply lines. Thus far, standard type transport planes have
been used. In December 1943, however, the Martin Mars, world's largest
flying boat, was accepted by the Navy after exhaustive tests which
proved its ability to carry heavy loads at long range. Manufacture of
the Mars, under a prime contract with the Navy, is now under way, and
the first production planes of this type recently entered actual service
as cargo carriers.
The tremendous increase in the number of fighting ships and the global
nature of the war required the acquisition of a commensurately large
fleet of auxiliaries. These ships were obtained by construction, by
conversion of standard Maritime Commission commercial hulls and by
acquisition and conversion of commercial vessels. A considerable number
of conversions of standard Maritime Commission types have been
accomplished under the supervision of the Maritime Commission. Probably
the most important vessels produced under the auxiliary program during
1943 were those which take part in actual landing operations, consisting
of attack transports, attack cargo vessels and general headquarters
ships. The demand for repair ships of standard and special types, which
increased many-fold during 1943, was met by new construction and
As previously stated, patrol vessels were necessary to a properly
balanced Navy. The first group of patrol craft, whose design was
developed before the war, was completed in the spring of 1942, and more
than 600 vessels of this type were completed in 1943. Motor torpedo
boats (which have been employed to good advantage in several different
theaters) were produced at intervals in accordance with military
requirements. The classification "Patrol Craft" includes the 110-foot
sub-chaser and the 136- 173- and 184-foot steel vessels. The greatest
emphasis on this type of ship prevailed prior to and during the German
submarine offensive off our Atlantic Coast and in the Caribbean.
The expansion program and the additional requirements following the
outbreak of war resulted in increases in personnel as follows. The
figures given include officers and men and the Women's Reserve, but not
officer candidates or nurses:
8 September 1939 7 December 1941 31 December 1943
Navy 126,418 325,095 2,252,606
Marine Corps 19,701 70,425 391,620
Coast Guard 10,079 25,002 171,518
Taking the number of men indicated into an organization was in itself an
enormous undertaking. Training them was an even greater undertaking, in
spite of their high intelligence and the other characteristics which
make the American fighting man
Procurement of Officers
In time of peace the Navy is manned almost entirely by officers of the
regular Navy, most of whom are graduates of the Naval Academy. Several
years before the war, knowing that the Naval Academy would not be able
to supply officers in sufficient quantities for wartime needs, the Navy
established Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps units at various
colleges throughout the country. Under the system set up, students were
given the opportunity to take courses in naval science (which included
training at sea during the summer months) and, upon successfully
completing them, were commissioned in the Naval Reserve. When the
limited emergency was declared, these officers were ordered to active
duty, but when the war broke out it became apparent that the combined
supply of commissioned officers from the Naval Academy and from ROTC
units would not be sufficient to meet our needs for the rapidly
In February 1942, therefore, offices of naval officer procurement were
established in key cities throughout the country. Hundreds of thousands
of officer candidates went to these offices and there presented their
qualifications. With the requirements of health, character, personality
and education duly considered, the applications of those who appeared
qualified were forwarded to the Navy Department for final consideration.
Under this procedure some 72,000 officers were commissioned in the Navy
directly from civil life, to meet immediate needs.
Meanwhile, educational programs designed to produce commissioned
officers had been established in numerous colleges throughout the
country. Included were the aviation cadet program (v-5) principally for
physically qualified high school graduates and college students, and
later the Navy college program (v-12) which absorbed undergraduate
students of the accredited college program (v-1) and of the reserve
midshipman program (v-7). At the present time there are 66,815 members
of the v-12 program in some 241 different colleges.
From the foregoing, it will be seen that high school graduates are now
the Navy's principal source of young officers. Their training is
described elsewhere in this report, but the various programs for Naval
Reserve officers have supplied the fleet with large numbers many of whom
have already demonstrated their ability and the wisdom of the policy
calling for their indoctrination and training before being sent to sea.
Officers of the regular Navy are universally enthusiastic over the
caliber of young reserve officers on duty in the fleet.
In general, procurement of officers has kept up with the needs of the
service, With the exception of officers in the medical, dental, and
chaplain corps and in certain highly specialized fields of engineering.
As graduates of professional schools are the chief source of
commissioned officers in the various staff corps and as there must be a
balance between military and civilian needs, we are at present somewhat
short of our commissioned requirements in certain branches of the
By comparison with the increase in size of the Naval Reserve, the
increases in the regular Navy have been small. The output of the Naval
Academy is at its peak, however having been stepped up by shortening the
course to three years and by increasing the number of appointments. In
addition, during 1943, 20,652 officers have been made by the advancement
of outstanding enlisted personnel.
Recruiting of Enlisted Personnel
When the President declared the existence of a limited emergency on 8
September 1939, the personnel strength of the Navy had been increased by
calling retired officers and men to active duty and by giving active
duty status to members of the Naval Reserve who volunteered for it. At
the time the large naval expansion was authorized in July 1940, however,
there were still only slightly more than 160,000 men in the Navy and by
the end of that year only 215,000. As late as June 1941, the total was
still well below 300,000, and it was apparent that a radical increase
over and above the existing figure was an immediate necessity. Various
measures were therefore taken to stimulate recruiting, by virtue of
which the Navy strength stood at 290,000 on 7 December 1941. In other
words, we doubled our personnel in two years.
Immediately after the attack on Pearl Harbor there was a large increase
in enlistments, and by the end of that month some 40,000 additional men
had been accepted for naval service. This heavy enlistment rate,
however, experienced in December 1941 and January 1942, subsequently
fell off at a time when the requirements were still mounting. In order
to meet the situation and to provide an adequate method of recruiting
the large numbers of men needed, our recruiting system, which had
already been expanded, was fortified by a field force of officers
commissioned directly from civil life, and by the fall of 1942, we were
accepting each month a total equivalent to peacetime Navy strength.
On 5 December 1942, the voluntary enlistment of men between the ages of
18 and 37, inclusive, was ordered terminated as of 1 February 1943, on
which latter date the manpower requirements of the Navy were supplied by
operation of the machinery of the Selective Service system. During the
period of active recruiting about 900,000 volunteers were accepted.
Since 1 February 1943, 779,713 men have entered the Navy through
Selective Service. During the same period voluntary enlistments within
the age limits prescribed totaled 205,669.
On 1 June 1943 the Army and Navy agreed on joint physical standards
which were somewhat lower than those previously followed by the Navy,
but still sufficiently rigid to permit all inductees to be assigned to
any type of duty afloat or ashore.
Strictly speaking, it is probably true that training is a continuous
process, which begins when an individual enters the Navy and ends when
he leaves it. In time of peace the number of trained men in the Navy is
relatively high. In time of war, however, particularly when we
experience a personnel expansion such as has been described, trained men
are at a premium. It is not an exaggeration to state that our success in
this war will be in direct proportion to the state of training of our
When we entered the war we experienced a dilution in trained men in new
ships because of the urgency of keeping trained men where fighting was
in progress, and initial delays in getting underway with the huge
expansion and training program had to be accepted. As the war
progressed, and as the enemy offensive was checked, we were able to
assign larger numbers of our trained men to train other men. Our ability
to expand and train during active operations reflects the soundness of
peacetime training and organization. With that as a foundation on which
to build, and with the tempo of all training stepped up, adequate
facilities, standardized curricula, proper channeling of aptitude, full
use of previous related knowledge, lucid instructions and top physical
condition became the criteria for wartime training.
Generally speaking, the first stage in the training of any new member of
the Navy is to teach him what every member of the Navy must know, such
as his relationship with others, the wearing of the uniform, the customs
of the service, and how to take care of himself on board ship. The
second stage involves his being taught a specialty and being thoroughly
grounded in the fundamentals of that specialty. The third stage is to
fit him into the organization and teach him to use his ability to the
The over-all problem of training officers involves a great deal more
than the education of the individual in the ways of the Navy. The first
step is classification according to ability, which must be followed by
appropriate assignment to duty. This is particularly true in the case of
Reserve officers, who must be essentially specialists, because there is
insufficient time to devote to the necessary education and training to
make them qualified for detail to more than one type of duty.
As previously stated, ROTC units, which were part of the v-1 training
program, had been established in various colleges, and courses in naval
science, which included drills and summer cruises, were worked into the
academic careers of the individuals enrolled. With the approach of war,
the training of these students was shortened in most colleges to two and
one-half years, and eventually they became part of the Navy college
training program (v-12).
In 1935, the Congress authorized the training of naval aviation cadets,
and that statutory authority was implemented by a program for their
training, known as the v-5 program, which was open to physically
qualified high school graduates and college students. Under the methods
adopted, a decision as to whether or not a candidate would be accepted
for the v-5 program was made by Naval Aviation Cadet Selection Boards,
who were guided by high standards covering the educational, moral,
physical and psychological qualifications of each individual. The period
of training normally requires from 12 to 15 months, exclusive of
additional college training required for 17-year-old students. Of this
time, six to eight months are spent in preliminary training in physical
education and ground school subjects at pre-flight schools. The
remainder of the training consists of primary, intermediate and advanced
flight training. Upon successful completion of the full flight training
course, an aviation cadet is commissioned ensign in the Naval Reserve or
second lieutenant in the Marine Corps Reserve and is then ordered to
active duty as a pilot.
The v-12 (Navy college training) program was established on 1 July 1943.
It consisted initially of students who were on inactive duty in the
Naval Reserve, new students from civilian life, and young enlisted men
especially selected. The new students from civilian life consist of
selected high school graduates or others with satisfactory educational
qualifications who can establish by appropriate examination their
mental, physical and potential officer qualifications. These students
are then inducted
into the Navy as apprentice seamen or as privates, United States Marine
Corps, placed on active duty, and assigned to designated colleges and
universities to follow courses of study specified by the Navy
v-12 training embodies most of the features of preceding Naval Reserve
programs. Depending on training requirements, and with the exception of
medical and dental officers, engineering specialists, and chaplains,
length of courses vary from two to six semesters. The courses of study
include fundamental college work in mathematics, science, English,
history, naval organization and general naval indoctrination for the
first two terms for all students. This is followed by specialized
training in a particular field, assignment of a student to special
training being based upon his choice and upon his demonstrated
competence in the field chosen, subject to available quotas. Upon
satisfactory completion of college training, students are assigned to
further training in the Navy, Marine Corps or Coast Guard, and if found
qualified after completion of that training they are commissioned in the
So far, the v-12 program has worked well. It permits the selection of
the country's best qualified young men on a broad democratic basis
without regard for financial resources, and the induction and training
of those young men who show the greatest promise of having superior
ability and the other qualities likely to make a good officer.
The link between the College Training Program and the fleets is the
Naval Reserve Midshipman Program. The Navy college graduates who are
going to deck and engineering duties with the forces afloat are sent to
one of the six reserve midshipman schools for a four months' course.
Upon the successful completion of the first month's study, they are
appointed reserve midshipmen, and after the remaining three months'
intensive training, they are appointed ensigns in the Naval Reserve.
Originally four Reserve midshipmen schools were established, located at
Columbia University, Northwestern University, Notre Dame, and the Naval
Academy. The program has been such an outstanding success, and the
demand for its graduates has so increased, that two additional schools
recently have been put into commission, at Cornell and at Plattsburg,
New York, with the result that there are nearly 9,000 men in this
training program at any one time. The combined result of the College
Training Program and the Reserve Midshipman Program is to meet the need
of the fleets for thoroughly trained young deck and engineering
Recruit training, in addition to the instruction given the individual in
the ways of the Navy, consists of his being fully informed of the
training opportunities open to him. This is followed by a series of
tests designed to determine the ability of each recruit. These tests are
based on the type of duty to be performed in the Navy, and in addition
to such tests as the general classification test, consists of a
systematic determination of aptitudes in reading and mechanical ability
and any knowledge of specific work. Through a system of personal
interviews these tests are supplemented by considering the background
and experience of the individual, so that the special qualifications of
each recruit may be evaluated. This information is then indexed and
recorded and used in establishing quotas for the detail of men to
special service schools or to any other duty for which they seem best
While the recruit is learning about the Navy, therefore, the Navy is
learning about him. A practical application of this system was the
assembly of the crew for NEW JERSEY, a new battleship. While the ship
was fitting out, a series of tests and a thorough study of the
requirements of each job on board were conducted. For example, special
tests determined those best fitted to be telephone talkers or night
lookouts or gun captains, and as a result, when the crew went aboard
each man was assigned to a billet in keeping with his aptitude for it.
As permanent establishments, we had four training stations-Newport,
Rhode Island; Norfolk, Virginia; Great Lakes, Illinois, and San Diego,
California. As soon as we entered the war it became apparent that it
would be necessary to expand these four stations radically and to
establish others. By November 1942, we had expanded the four permanent
training stations and established new ones at Bainbridge, Maryland;
Sampson, New York, and Farragut, Idaho.
The training in the fundamentals of the specialty to be followed by a
newcomer to the Navy is carried on ashore and afloat. Recruits showing
the most aptitude for a particular duty are sent to special service
schools designed to give the individual a thorough grounding in his
specialty before assuming duties on board ship. If he hopes to become an
electrician's mate he may be assigned to the electrical school; if a
machinist's mate, to the machinist's mate school; if a commissary
steward, to the cook's and baker's school, and so forth. Approximately
32 per cent of those who receive recruit training are assigned to
special service schools.
An advanced type of training is given men who are already skilled in a
specialty by assembling them and training them to work as a unit. This
is known as operational training, and in addition to the special meaning
of the term as applied to aviation training, it encompasses such special
activities as bomb disposal units as well as the training of ship's
crews before the ship is commissioned.
When the individual goes on board ship, he discovers that his training
has only begun, because he must learn how to apply the knowledge he has
already gained and how his performance of duty fits into the
organization of the ship. This is another form of operational training-
conducted, of course, by the forces afloat-which is a preliminary to the
assignment of that ship as a unit of the fleet. This does not mean that
the ship is fully trained, but it means that the training is
sufficiently advanced to fit the crew for the additional training and
seasoning that comes only with wartime operations at sea. With the
proper background of training, the most efficient ship is very likely to
be the one which has been in action. In other words, actual combat is
probably the best training of all, provided the ship is ready for it.
The health of the personnel in our naval forces has been uniformly
excellent. In addition, the treatment and prevention of battle
casualties has become progressively
The Medical Corps of the Navy has not only kept up with scientific
developments everywhere, but it has taken the lead in many fields. The
use of sulfa drugs, blood plasma and penicillin plus the treatment of
war neuroses, probably represent
the outstanding medical accomplishments of the war, but all activities
requiring medical attention have been under continuous study.
For example, the conditions under which submarines must operate have
been found to require special diet, air conditioning, sun lamps, special
attention to heat fatigue, and careful selection of personnel.
Similarly, in the field of aviation medicine, such matters as supply of
oxygen, decompression treatment, acceleration stresses, air sickness,
and fatigue, require the closest attention. In the case of aviation
medicine, flight surgeons, who are themselves qualified naval aviators
and therefore familiar with all aviation problems, have been
instrumental in keeping our aviation personnel at the peak of their
Naval mobile hospitals were developed shortly before the war. These are
complete units, capable of handling any situation requiring medical
attention. Each unit contains officers of the Medical Corps, the Dental
Corps, the Hospital Corps, the Nurse Corps, the Supply Corps, the Civil
Engineer Corps and the Chaplain Corps, and in addition, enlisted
personnel of a wide variety of non-medical ratings such as electricians,
cooks, and bakers. Mobile hospitals are organized and commissioned, and
being mobile as the name implies, are placed under the orders of the
Commander in Chief, United States Fleet, for such duty as may be deemed
desirable, the same as a ship. These mobile hospitals have proved
invaluable in all theaters.
While it is hardly possible to single out any one activity as
outstanding, the practice of evacuating sick and wounded personnel from
forward areas by plane to be treated elsewhere has been estimated to
have increased the efficiency of treatment by about one-third. The
beneficial effects of this practice on our ability to carry on a
prolonged campaign, such as in the Solomon Islands, are obvious.
There have been many more contributions to our military efficiency
having to do with not only medicine, but health in general. The question
of malaria control in the Solomon Islands, protective clothing, the
survival of personnel in lifeboats, the purification of drinking water,
the treatment of flash burns, the recording by tag of first aid
treatment received in the field, and periodic thorough physical
examinations are a few of the progressive measures which, collectively,
have been responsible for marked increases in our military efficiency.
THE MARINE CORPS
Statistics previously given indicate the personnel expansion of the
Marine Corps. In terms of combat units those figures represent a ground
combat strength of two half-strength divisions and seven defense
battalions expanded to four divisions, 19 defense battalions and
numerous force and Corps troop organizations and service units; 12
aviation squadrons expanded to 85; and increases in ships detachments to
keep pace with the ship construction program. Under the leadership of
Lieutenant General (now General, Retired) T. H. Holcomb, USMC, the
Marine Corps successfully met the greatest test in its history by
forging a huge mass of untrained officers and men into efficient
tactical units especially organized, equipped, and trained for the
complicated amphibious operations which have characterized the war in
Training of the expanding Marine Corps personnel had to be conducted by
stages because existing bases were inadeauate in housing, space, and
training for all Marines was continued at the established recruit depots
at Parris Island South Carolina, and San Diego, California. Specialized
advanced training for ground and aviation personnel before being
assigned to combat units was conducted chiefly at Camp Lejeune, New
River, North Carolina; at Camp Elliott, near San Diego, California; and
at Camp Pendleton, Oceanside, California. Improvised facilities were
used at those three bases until they had been developed into centers
capable of affording training in all the basic and special techniques
required in amphibious warfare. The final stage of training began with
assignment of personnel to combat unitS and ended with the movement of
those units to combat areas. (The effectiveness of individual and unit
training of the Marine Corps was first demonstrated at Guadalcanal and
Tulagi, eight months after the beginning of the war. That first test
showed Marine Corps training methods to be sound and capable of
producing combat units in a minimum of time.)
The commissioned personnel of the expanding Marine Corps were initially
obtained from reservists and graduates of the Marine Corps Schools at
Quantico. Later, commissioned personnel were obtained by including the
Marine Corps in the Navy v-12 program, by selecting candidates from
graduates of designated colleges and universities, and by increasing the
number of enlisted men promoted to commissioned rank.
Marine Corps aviation, while expanding to a greater degree than the
Corps as a whole, has continued to specialize in the providing of air
support to troops in landing or subsequent ground operations. Training
and organization in the United States and excellent equipment have made
it possible to operate planes from hastily constructed airfields with
limited facilities. The generally excellent performance of Marine
aviation squadrons operating from forward bases in the Central and South
Pacific areas in successful attacks against enemy aircraft, men-of-war,
and shipping attests the soundness of the organization.
In November 1942, the Marine Corps Women's Reserve was established, the
authorized strength being 1000 commissioned and 18,000 enlisted women,
to be reached by 30 June 1944. By 31 December 1943 there were 609
officers and 12,592 enlisted women in the organization, all of whom have
released male Marines for service in combat areas. The remarks relating
to the performance of duty of the WAVES contained in that part of this
report covering their organization and training, are equally applicable
to women in the Marine Corps.
Participation of Marines in combat is covered in Part III of this
THE COAST GUARD
The duties of the Coast Guard under naval administration consist of the
civil functions normally performed by the Coast Guard in time of peace
which become military functions in time of war, and the performance of
naval duties for which the personnel of the Coast Guard are particularly
fitted by reason of their peacetime employment. The organization
operates separately with respect to appropriations required for Coast
Guard vessels, shore stations, and personnel.
The increase in the size of the Coast Guard was necessitated chiefly by
additional duties in connection with captain-of-the-port activities in
the regulation of merchant
shipping, the supervision of the loading of explosives, and the
protection of shipping, harbors, and waterfront facilities. In addition,
the complements of Coast Guard vessels and shore establishments were
brought up to wartime strength; certain transports and other naval
craft, including landing barges, were manned by Coast Guard personnel;
and a beach patrol (both mounted and afoot) and coastal lookout stations
were established. The Coast Guard also undertook the manning and
operating of Navy section bases and certain inshore patrol activities
formerly manned by naval personnel, and furnished sentries and sentry
dogs for guard duty at various naval shore establishments.
Coast Guard aviation, which is about three times its previous size, has
been under the operational control of sea frontier commanders for convoy
coverage and for antisubmarine patrol and rescue duties. Other squadrons
outside of the United States are employed in ice observation and air-sea
rescue duty. Miscellaneous duties assigned to Coast Guard aviation
include aerial mapping and checking for the Coast and Geodetic Survey
and ice observation assistance on the Great Lakes.
The assignment of certain Coast Guard personnel to duties radically
different from those they normally perform required numerous changes in
ratings. This resulted in extensive classification and retraining
programs designed to prepare men for their new duties. The replacement
of men on shore jobs by SPARS, both officer and enlisted, has been
undertaken as a part of this retraining program. Approximately 10,000
SPARS-whose performance of duty and value to the service is on a par
with that of the WAVES and the women of the Marine Corps-will be
commissioned and enlisted when the contemplated strength of that
organization is reached.
The present strength of the Coast Guard was attained by the
establishment of the Coast Guard Reserve and by commissioning warrant
officers and enlisted men for temporary service. Other increases in the
commissioned personnel of the Coast Guard have been accomplished by
appointments made direct from civil life in the case of individuals with
particular qualifications, such as special knowledge in the prevention
and control of fires, police protection and merchant marine inspection.
A feature peculiar to the Coast Guard is the Temporary Reserve, which
consists of officers and enlisted men enrolled to serve without pay.
Members of the Temporary Reserve have full military status while engaged
in the performance of such duties as pilotage, port security, the
guarding of industrial plants, either on a full or part-time basis. At
the present time there are about 70,000 members of the Temporary
Reserve, but it is anticipated that it will eventually be reduced to
about 50,000. The Coast Guard Auxiliary, which is a civilian
organization, has contributed much of its manpower to the Temporary
Reserve, the result being a substantial saving in manpower to the
Under the general direction of Vice Admiral (now Admiral) R. R. Waesche,
USCG, Commandant, the Coast Guard has done an excellent job in all
respects, and as a component part of the Navy in time of war, has
demonstrated an efficiency and flexibility which has been invaluable in
the solution of the multiplicity of problems assigned. The organization
and handling of local defense in the early days of the war were
For some months before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor we had been
strengthening our insular outposts in the Pacific by construction of
various fortifications. When these islands were attacked by the
Japanese, the construction was only partially completed, and the
civilians who were employed there by various construction companies were
subjected to attack, along with our garrisons of Marines.
In that situation, the civilians were powerless to aid the military
forces present because they lacked the weapons and the knowledge of how
to use them. Furthermore, they lacked what little protection a military
uniform might have given them. As a consequence, the Navy Department
decided to establish and organize naval construction battalions whose
members would be not only skilled construction workers but trained
fighters as well.
On 28 December 1941 authorization was obtained for the first contingent
of "Seabees" (the name taken from the words "Construction Battalions")
and a recruiting campaign was begun. The response was immediate, and
experienced men representing about 60 different trades were enlisted in
the Navy and given ratings appropriate to the degree and type of their
After being enlisted these men were sent to training centers where they
were given an intensive course in military training, toughened
physically, and in general educated in the ways of the service.
Particular attention was paid to their possible employment in amphibious
operations. Following their initial training, the Seabees were formed
into battalions, so organized that each could operate as a self-
sustained unit and undertake any kind of base building assignment. They
were sent to advance base depots for outfitting and for additional
training before being sent overseas.
The accomplishments of the Seabees have been one of the outstanding
features of the war. In the Pacific, where the distances are great and
the expeditious construction of bases is frequently of vital importance,
the construction accomplished by the Seabees has been of invaluable
assistance. Furthermore, the Seabees have participated in practically
every amphibious operation undertaken thus far, landing with the first
waves of assault troops to bring equipment ashore and set up temporary
bases of operation.
In the Solomon Islands campaign, the Seabees demonstrated their ability
to outbuild the Japs and to repair airfields and build new bases,
regardless of conditions of weather. Other specialized services
performed by the Seabees include the handling of pontoon gear, the
repair of motor vehicles, loading and unloading of cargo vessels, and in
fact every kind of construction job that has to be done.
At present the Seabees number slightly more than 240,000, nearly half of
whom are serving overseas at various outposts. Fleet commanders have
been and are generous in their praise and appreciation of the work done
by construction battalions everywhere. There can be no doubt that the
Seabees constitute an invaluable component of our Navy.
Early in 1942, when the need for expansion of naval personnel became
acute, Navy Department proposed to the Congress that there be
established, as an
integral part of the Navy, a Women's Reserve. The stated purpose of the
proposal was to employ women in shore billets, so that men could be
released for sea duty. Acting on that recommendation, the Women's
Reserve was established on 30 July 1942, and the organization became
known as the WAVES the name being derived from the expression "Women
Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service." In November 1943, certain
statutory changes were made which provided for women becoming eligible
for all allowances or benefits to which men are entitled, and made
certain alterations in the composition of the organization, chiefly with
respect to promotions.
Initial plans called for 1000 officers and 10,000 enlisted women, and
immediately upon obtaining the necessary statutory authority for the
organization, officer training schools were established, at Northampton
and South Hadley, Massachusetts, utilizing the facilities of Smith and
Mount Holyoke Colleges. At the same time, a training school for yeomen
was established at Stillwater, Oklahoma, one for radio personnel at
Madison, Wisconsin, and one for storekeepers at Bloomington, Indiana.
Under the procedure followed at that time all WAVES went to one of these
schools immediately after joining the Navy, and upon the successful
completion of their training, to duty somewhere in the continental
United States where they could take the place of men.
All officer candidates now go to Northampton for their indoctrinational
training and may then receive further training elsewhere-there are 16
schools for special training-in communications, supply, aerological
engineering, Japanese language, radio and electronics, chemical warfare,
general ordnance and photographic interpretation, and many others,
including air navigation, air gunnery, and ship and aircraft
All enlisted WAVES now go to a general indoctrination school at Hunter
College in New York City, and there receive their basic training.
Further training at some other school-there are now 19 of them-designed
to train them in their chosen specialty, is now standard practice.
Enlisted personnel are trained as radio operators, yeomen, storekeepers,
for various aviation ratings, and for many others, including
pharmacist's mate. Approximately one-fourth of all enlisted women are
now on duty with naval aviation activities.
On 31 December 1943 there were 6,459 commissioned WAVES and 40,391
enlisted WAVES serving in various capacities. Present plans call for
nearly 100,000 WAVES by the end of 1944.
The organization has been a success from the beginning, partly because
of the high standards WAVES had to meet to be accepted, partly because
no effort has been spared to see that they are properly looked out for,
and partly because of their overpowering desire to make good. As a
result of their competence, their hard work, and their enthusiasm, the
release of men for sea duty has been accompanied in many cases,
particularly in offices, by increases in efficiency. The natural
consequence is an esprit de corps which enhances their value to the
Navy, and it is a pleasure to report that in addition to their having
earned an excellent reputation as a part of the Navy, they have become
an inspiration to all hands in naval uniform.
ORGANIZATION OF THE UNITED STATES FLEET
ON 1 February 1941, command afloat in the high echelons was vested in
three Commanders in Chief, one of whom commanded the Asiatic Fleet, one
the Pacific Fleet, and one the Atlantic Fleet, provision being made
whereby one of these three, depending on the circumstances, would act as
Commander in Chief, United States Fleet, chiefly for purposes of
standardization. In case two or more fleets operated together, he would
coordinate their operations. At the time Pearl Harbor was attacked, the
Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet was also Commander in Chief of
the United States Fleet.
Almost immediately after our entry in the war it became apparent that
for the purpose of exercising command all oceans must be regarded as one
area, to the end that effective coordinated control and the proper
distribution of our naval power might be realized. On 18 December 1941,
therefore, the President changed this organization by making the
Commander in Chief, United States Fleet, separate and distinct and in
addition to the other three Commanders in Chief, and ordered the
Headquarters of the Commander in Chief, United States Fleet, established
in the Navy Department in Washington.
As of 1 January 1942, Admiral H. R. Stark was Chief of Naval Operations,
Admiral (now Fleet Admiral) E. J. King was Commander in Chief of the
United States Fleet, Admiral T. C. Hart was Commander in Chief of the
Asiatic Fleet, Admiral (now Fleet Admiral) C. W. Nimitz, who relieved
Admiral H. E. Kimmel late in December 1941, was Commander in Chief of
the Pacific Fleet, and Vice Admiral (now Admiral) R. E. Ingersoll was
Commander in Chief of the Atlantic Fleet.
In March 1942, (coincident with my appointment as such) the duties of
the Chief of Naval Operations were combined with the duties of the
Commander in Chief, United States Fleet. Admiral Stark, who had so ably
performed the duties of Chief of Naval Operations during the vital
period preceding the war, became commander of United States Naval Forces
in Europe. This move was accompanied by a number of adjustments in the
Navy Department organization, calculated, among other things, to
facilitate the logistic support of the forces afloat by providing for
its coordination. Except for the fact that the Asiatic Fleet ceased to
exist as such in June 1942, that basic organization of the United States
Fleet and supporting activities is still in effect. In the spring of
1942, however, and from time to time thereafter, independent commands
were established directly under the Commander in Chief, United States
Organization Within Each Fleet
In time of peace, for purposes of standardization, and to facilitate
training and administration, our forces afloat operate under what is
known as a type organization. Each fleet is subdivided according to
types of ships in that fleet (this includes shore-based naval aircraft),
and in general, the officers assigned to command each subdivision are
the next echelon below the Commander in Chief of a fleet. The "type
commands" are primarily for administrative purposes. For operations,
vessels and aircraft of appropriate types are formed into operating
commands known as "task forces."
As of 1 February 1941, Naval Coastal Frontiers consisted of one or more
Naval Districts, depending on their geographical location, and Naval
Coastal Frontier forces were administrative and task organizations.
Commanders of those forces were responsible to the Navy Department for
administrative purposes and to the Chief of Naval Operations for task
On 20 December 1941 the operating forces of Naval Coastal Frontiers were
placed under the command of the Commander in Chief, United States Fleet
On 6 February 1942 Naval Coastal Frontiers became Sea Frontiers, and
Commanders of Sea Frontiers were made responsible to the Commander in
Chief, United States Fleet, for that portion of their commands
comprising ships and aircraft duly allocated as Sea Frontier forces. For
the portion comprising ships and aircraft allocated by the Chief of
Naval Operations as local defense forces, they were made responsible to
the Chief of Naval Operations.
The foregoing change in designation of Naval Coastal Frontiers is not to
be confused with the designation "Coastal Frontier." The latter, of
which Sea Frontiers form a part, are coastal divisions with
geographically coterminous boundaries within which an Army officer and a
naval officer exercise command over their respective forces and
In continental United States there are four sea frontiers: the Eastern,
covering the Atlantic seaboard; the Gulf, covering the Gulf of Mexico;
the Western, which takes in the southern part of the Pacific Coast; and
the North West, which covers the northern part of the Pacific Coast.
Advance Base Units
Early in the war the Navy undertook a large expansion of its system of
advance bases, many of which represented the consolidation of gains made
by combat units. Depending on the circumstances, that is to say, whether
they were gained as a result of a raid or as a result of an advance, the
permanency of their construction was varied to meet the situation. In
the south and central Pacific, the entire campaign thus far has been a
battle for advance bases where we can establish supply ports, ship
repair facilities and landing fields to act as a backstop for a
Advance bases range in size from small units for the maintenance and
repair of PT boats, manned by a handful of officers and men to major
bases comprising floating
drydocks, pattern ships, foundries, fully equipped machine shops, and
electrical shops, staffed by thousands of specialists. Some of these
bases are general purpose bases; others are established for special
purposes. Convoy escort bases, located at terminals of the convoy
routes, provide fuel, stores, ammunition, and repair facilities for
merchant ships and their escort vessels. Rest and recuperation centers
afford naval personnel facilities for relaxation and recreation after
they return from combat zones. Air stations provide the facilities of an
aircraft carrier on an expanded scale.
Once bases are built, they must be maintained. The problem of supplying
the Navy's worldwide system of advance bases is one of great complexity,
requiring a high degree of administrative coordination and attention to
the most minute detail. Food, clothing, fuel, ammunition, spare parts,
tools, and many types of special equipment must be made available in
sufficient quantities and at the proper times to maintain the fighting
efficiency of the fleet.
In view of the difficulties involved, the arrangements made for the
procurement and distribution of supplies to advance bases have been
extremely effective. New methods have been improvised and shortcuts
devised to simplify procedures and expedite deliveries. Among other
devices adopted is the mail order catalogue system. Through use of the
Navy's "functional component catalogue," it is possible to order all the
parts and equipment needed to set up any type of base from a small
weather observation post to a fully equipped airfield or Navy yard.
As our forces advance, new bases must be established and economy of
personnel and material demands that this be accomplished largely by
stripping the old bases that have been left behind as the front is
extended. This process is known as "rolling up the back areas."
When Pearl Harbor was attacked, the forces comprising the Atlantic Fleet
had been engaged with Axis submarines, but the forces comprising the
Asiatic and Pacific Fleets had not been previously engaged in combat. In
the case of all ships everywhere, the transition from a state of peace
to a state of war involved a great number of immediate changes, some of
which could not possibly be made until our ships had been in action. For
example, we profited from experiences gained after the war started with
respect to the use of certain of our weapons in actual combat. Such
things as depth charges and explosive charges in torpedoes and shells
were put to the real test by our forces, and all personnel have become
accordingly familiar with their handling and use. We also learned from
experience the best practice in such matters as the painting and
preservation of the interior of ships, camouflage, deficiencies and
improvement of equipment, and from time to time what new contributions
were of value. The most valuable of all experience has been that gained
with respect to the operational technique in such fields as air combat,
amphibious operations, and escort Of convoys.
The war was also the real test of the training methods we had followed
in time of peace particularly the exercise of initiative by officers. As
used in connection with the exercise of command, initiative means
freedom to act, but it does not mean freedom to act in an off-hand or
casual manner. It does not mean freedom to disregard or
depart unnecessarily from standard procedures or practices or
instructions. There is no degree of being "independent" of the other
component parts of the whole-the fleet. It means freedom to act only
after all of one's resources in education, training, experience, skill
and understanding have been brought to bear on the work in hand. This
requires intense application in order that what is to be done shall be
done as a correlated part of a connected whole-much as a link of a chain
or the gear within a machine.
In other words, our officers had been indoctrinated and were now in
larger measure on their own. Most of those officers understood perfectly
the transition that becomes automatic when we passed from the peacetime
to the wartime status, but it was thought desirable to define and
emphasize the standards expected in time of war, not only to confirm
their understanding, but for the benefit of newcomers. Without correct
exercise of the principle calling for initiative on the part of the
subordinate, decentralization, which is so essential, and which is
premised on division of labor, will not work.
The ability of a naval commander to make consistently sound military
decisions is the result of a combination of attributes. The natural
talent of the individual, his temperament, his reactions in emergencies,
his courage, and his professional knowledge all contribute to his
proficiency and to the accuracy of his judgment. We have spent years
training our officers to think clearly and for themselves, to the end
that when entrusted with the responsibility of making decisions in time
of war they would be fully qualified.
One of the mental processes that has become almost a daily
responsibility for all those in command is that of calculating the risk
involved in a given course of action. That may mean the risks attendant
upon disposition of forces, such as had to be taken before the Battle of
Midway, when an erroneous evaluation might have left us in a most
unfavorable strategic position; the risks of losses in contemplated
engagements, such as the Battle of Guadalcanal on 13-14-15 November
1942; the risks of success or failure dependent upon correct evaluation
of political conditions, of which the North African landings are an
example, and a host of others.
Calculating risks does not mean taking a gamble. It is more than
figuring the odds. It is not reducible to a formula. It is the analysis
of all factors which collectively indicate whether or not the
consequences to ourselves will be more than compensated for by the
damage to the enemy or interference with his plans. Correct calculation
of risks, by orderly reasoning, is the responsibility of every naval
officer who participates in combat, and many who do not. It is a
pleasure to report that almost universally that responsibility is not
only accepted, but sought, and that there have been few cases where it
has not been properly discharged.
The war has been variously termed a war of production and a war of
machines. Whatever else it is, so far as the United States is concerned,
it is a war of logistics. The
(Plate 4 here.)
the Army-of course-have presented problems nothing short of colossal,
and have required the most careful and intricate planning. The profound
effect of logistic problems on our strategic decisions is described
elsewhere in this report, but to all who do not have to traverse them,
the tremendous distances, particularly those in the Pacific, are not
likely to have full significance. It is no easy matter in a global war
to have the right materials in the right places at the right times in
the right quantities.
Superimposed on the shipping requirements for the overhead of logistic
needs has been the transportation of Army troops and the demands of
lend-lease. The combination of circumstances has made shipping a
question of primary importance which has been reflected in the
shipbuilding industry and the merchant marine.
When war was declared, an immediate estimate of the situation with
respect to material was made, as a result of which we could see that, no
matter how much material was produced within the next year, it would not
be enough. Therefore, with the idea of doing the first thing first,
every effort was made to produce as much material as possible of all
kinds, with the idea that as the war progressed our estimates could be
revised to fit our needs. Stock piles of spare parts and materials
needed for routine maintenance and repair of ships and aircraft were
therefore established at advance bases, additional supplies being
delivered under regular schedule.
Plate 4 is an over-generalization of the situation which existed in
April 1942 with respect to the relationships involving munitions,
manpower, and the eight fronts. From an examination of the diagram it
will be seen that in order to keep our operating forces balanced in such
a way as to conform to our planned operations, we had to maintain a
continuous flow of munitions and manpower from sources of supply. The
quantities involved, of course, had to be varied in accordance with the
importance of any particular front, that is to say, the urgency of a
particular campaign or operation. It is interesting to note that the
United States was, and is, the only nation represented as having a full
supply of both munitions and manpower.
It became possible to anticipate the needs for material much more
accurately after we had been in the war a little over a year, and
numerous changes were made in the methods of controlling the flow to the
In supplying the forces afloat with the material they need, different
methods are required. For example, spare parts and materials can be put
on a regular schedule, but in distributing battle damage spares, which
consist of complete units of pumps, turbines, boilers, turbo generators,
steering gear and other assemblies, it has been found advantageous to
keep them in stock at depots in the United States, and to effect
immediate delivery to points where they are needed. For example, on one
occasion a damaged submarine put into a distant base for extensive
replacement of her main drive controls and power cables. Within thirty-
six hours after receiving the information covering her needs a transport
plane loaded with nine tons of parts took off for the advance base.
While every kind of naval warfare has been experienced, with naval air
power more often than not predominating, the war to date has to a degree
terized by numerous amphibious operations-a method of warfare with which
the Japanese had had considerable experience. Our previous conclusions
that this type of warfare required a technique of its own involving the
closest coordination of all forces engaged-land, sea and air-have been
confirmed. The very exigencies of such operations have done much to
promote effective cooperation between those forces, and they have also
made all hands realize that the uniform they wear signifies first that
they are members of United States forces, and second that they are
members of a particular unit of those forces. The inevitable solution to
successful amphibious warfare is unified command, under which system all
those participating are under the command of the individual best
qualified to conduct the operation regardless of his status in our armed
The trend of events during the two years following the outbreak of war
in Europe indicated that the war would eventually engulf the United
States and become global in all its aspects. In keeping with that trend,
the growing truculence of Japan and the continuous clash of Japan's
policies with the policies of the United States made it likely that that
country would enter the war at the most propitious moment. Because of
that attitude, we were forced to retain the major part of our naval
strength in the Pacific, in spite of the unfavorable situation in Europe
reflecting the possibility of the need of our naval strength in the
Atlantic. We were therefore placed in an unfavorable strategic position,
in that our naval forces at that time were not adequate to meet the
demands in both oceans should we be forced into the war.
The sudden treacherous attack by Japan, which resulted in heavy losses
to us, made our unfavorable strategic position at the outbreak of war
even worse than we had anticipated. Had we not suffered those losses,
however, our fleet could not have proceeded to Manila as many people
supposed and there relieved our hard pressed forces. Such an undertaking
at that time, with the means at hand to carry it out and Support it,
would have been disastrous.
Although we had made some progress, and had for some months been
increasing our defenses in the Western Hemisphere, our armed forces and
our production were not adequately expanded and developed to permit our
taking the overall offensive in any theater. The Army ground and air
forces and our shipping were not yet prepared to move overseas in
sufficient strength for an offensive, and the Navy, even without the
losses sustained at Pearl Harbor, could not alone carry the war to the
enemy. We were therefore forced to assume the defensive in both oceans,
while preparations for an amphibious war were intensified.
Our strategy in the Atlantic involved maintaining our lines of
communications to Great Britain and to future bases of operations
against our enemies in Europe, in addition to insuring the security of
the Western Hemisphere. The control of the Atlantic was being vigorously
contested by German submarine and air forces, while the Axis face forces
constituted a threat of no mean proportions. To meet the situation we
trained men and manned ships and aircraft as soon as we could in order
to assume the
offensive. By the end of 1942, we were ready and moved overseas in force
with the Army.
By the spring of 1943, the war against German submarines in the Atlantic
had turned in our favor and we were fully on the offensive in that area.
Furthermore, we had built up to our strategic requirements for the
transportation and support of our Army ground and air forces overseas
and the reinforcement of British naval forces guarding against the
outbreak of the German surface forces. Coincident with this expansion
and general increase in our strength, there was a rapid buildup in the
forces employed in the Pacific.
At the outbreak of the war with Japan, we were initially placed on the
defensive, but while we were so engaged we made all preparations to
seize the initiative as soon as possible and embark on our own offensive
operations. To that end, our fleet supported the operations of the
Allied forces throughout the Pacific in retaining key positions and
preventing further encroachments by the enemy.
In view of the absence of any well developed bases in Australia and in
the South Pacific Islands between Australia and the United States one of
our first problems was to build bases which would serve as links in the
line of communications. Early in 1942, therefore, after surveying the
situation, Efate, Espiritu Santo, and certain islands in the Fijis and
New Caledonia were selected for advance bases, and developed in varying
degree to suit our purposes. The establishment of those bases, which
have been in constant use as fuel and troop staging stations and as
distribution points for material and supplies, was in large measure
responsible for our ability to stand off the Japanese in their advance
toward Australia and New Zealand. Without them we should have been at
such a disadvantage that it is doubtful if the enemy could have been
While essential sea and air communications to Alaska, Hawaii, New
Zealand, Australia, and other intermediate positions were being
established and protected, our submarines immediately took the offensive
in enemy waters. Also during this period, our naval air task forces were
instrumental in attacking enemy positions and in turning back enemy
seaborne forces, particularly in the Coral Sea and off Midway. The enemy
succeeded in making an incursion into the western Aleutians.
The actions in the Coral Sea and at Midway did much to wrest the
initiative from the enemy and slow down further advance. Our first
really offensive operation was the seizure of Guadalcanal in August
1942. This campaign was followed by a general offensive made possible by
increases in our amphibious forces and in our naval forces in general,
which has continued to gain momentum on the entire Pacific front. At the
end of February 1944, the enemy had been cleared from the Aleutians, had
been pushed well out of the Solomons, had been ejected from the Gilberts
and western Marshalls, was being attacked elsewhere, and was forced to
adopt a defensive delaying strategy. Meanwhile, our own positions in the
Pacific had been strengthened.
At the end of February 1944, therefore, we were in a position to support
our submarines, which had been on the offensive from the beginning of
the war, with strong naval forces, some of which were ground and air
forces not needed on the European front. A similar situation exists in
the Atlantic, in that the sea lanes are under our control and we are
definitely on the offensive in that area.
The Pacific Theater
The war in the Pacific may be regarded as having four stages:
(a) The defensive, when we were engaged almost exclusively in protecting
our shores and our lines of communication from the encroachments of the
(b) The defensive-offensive, during which, although our operations were
chiefly defensive in character, we were able nevertheless to take
certain offensive measures.
(c) The offensive-defensive, covering the period immediately following
our seizure of the initiative, but during which we still had to use a
large part of our forces to defend our recent gains.
(d) The offensive, which began when our advance bases were no longer
seriously threatened and we became able to attack the enemy at places of
our own choosing.
After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese withdrew from the central
Pacific and for the time being, except for the capture of the islands of
Guam and Wake, confined their major attacks to the Philippine Islands
and Netherlands East Indies. Our own operations were of necessity
limited to that line of enemy advance. Guam was easily taken. Our forces
on Wake, after gallant resistance which took a large toll of enemy
attacking forces, far superior in strength, were overcome at the end of
Except for the forces in the Philippine Islands under General (now
General of the Army) Douglas MacArthur, our strength in the western
Pacific area consisted chiefly of the Asiatic Fleet, a few aviation
units, and the garrisons of marines at Guam and Wake already referred
to. The small Asiatic Fleet commanded by Admiral Thomas C. Hart included
the heavy cruiser HOUSTON, the light cruiser MARBLEHEAD, 13 overage
destroyers, some 29 submarines, two squadrons of Catalinas comprising
Patrol Wing Ten, and a few gunboats and auxiliaries which could not be
counted on for combat. With this force (plus the light cruiser BOISE,
which happened to be in Asiatic waters when the war warning was
received) we undertook to delay the enemy's advance until such time as
we could muster sufficient strength to put up any real resistance. In so
far as completely stopping the advance was concerned, the campaign was
foredoomed, but it nevertheless contributed materially to the ultimate
check of the Japanese advance, and the energy and gallantry of the
officers and men participating constitute a remarkable chapter in the
history of naval warfare.
During the latter part of November, when the Japanese advances along the
coast of Indo-china indicated the approach of a crisis, Admiral Hart had
sent MARBLEHEAD and eight destroyers to Borneo. Likewise, HOUSTON,
BOISE, and the destroyer tender BLACK HAWK, had been dispatched to
operate in southern waters. On the evening of 8 December therefore,
after the Japanese had bombed our airfields and destroyed many of
General MacArthur's planes, our submarines and motor torpedo boats,
which were still in Philippine waters, were left with the task of
impeding the enemy's advance. On 10 December the navy yard at Cavite,
which had long been recognized as inse-
PLATE 5-THE DEFENSIVE PHASE IN THE PACIFIC
1. BATTLE OF MAKASSAR STRAIT, 24 JANUARY 1942: Japanese forces moving
southward are attacked by U. S. destroyers.
2. RAID ON THE MARSHALLS AND GILBERTS, 1 FEBRUARY 1942: U. S. carriers
and cruisers attack enemy bases.
3. BADOENG STRAIT, 19-20 FEBRUARY 1942: Combined forces under Rear
Admiral Doorman, R.N.N. engage Japanese force moving on Bali.
4. ACTION OFF RABAUL, 20 FEBRUARY 1942: Aerial engagement near the
enemy's major base in New Britain.
5. RAID ON WAKE ISLAND, 24 FEBRUARY 1942: A U.S. Task Force bombards a
former American outpost.
6. JAVA SEA ACTION, 27 FEBRUARY 1942: Combined forces attempt to
intercept Japanese convoys. The end of organized Allied naval resistance
in this phase of the war.
7. HOUSTON AND PERTH LOST, 1 MARCH 1942: The surviving cruisers of the
combined force are lost in an action near Soenda Strait.
8. RAID ON SALAMAUA AND LAE, 10 MARCH 1942: Carriers attack enemy ships
in recently occupied New Guinea bases.
9. RAID ON TULAGI, 4 May 1942: The opening blow of the Coral Sea
actions. U.S. carrier-based aircraft attack Japanese ships in the newly
10. BATTLE OF THE CORAL SEA, 7-8 MAY 1942: Carriers exchange blows.
Severe damage inflicted on the Japanese carrier force. LEXINGTON is
lost, but the Japanese advance is checked.
(Plate 5 here.)
cure, was practically wiped out by an air attack which also damaged the
submarine SEALION and the destroyer PEARY; SEALION being destroyed by
our own forces to prevent its capture. On the same day the Japanese
effected landings on the islands, and thereafter all attempts to bring
in effective quantities of supplies by sea proved unsuccessful. It
should be noted, however, that on 10 December there were some 200,000
tons of Allied shipping in Manila Bay; most of it good, and some of it
with valuable cargoes. All but one of these ships got clear, to the
southward, under what amounted to cover by our surface forces, and
escaped via the Sulu Sea and Makassar Strait. This was an important
The holding of the Army's positions on Bataan and Corregidor became only
a question of time, and Rear Admiral F. W. Rockwell, who was in command
of the local naval defense forces, moved with them to Corregidor on 26
Admiral Hart set up his headquarters in the Netherlands East Indies.
Shortly thereafter General Sir Archibald P. Wavell, of the British Army,
arrived and assumed supreme command in that theater, whereupon Admiral
Hart became the Commander of the Allied naval forces. Until Admiral
Hart's arrival in Java, Rear Admiral (now Vice Admiral) William A.
Glassford commanded the surface ships in southern waters, assisted by
Rear Admiral William R. Purnell and other members of the Fleet Staff. Up
to this point (in so far as the Asiatic Fleet was concerned) the
campaign was conducted in accordance with plans worked out in the Navy
Department prior to the outbreak of hostilities.
The method adopted by the Japanese in making their advances through the
Philippine Islands and the Netherlands East Indies was built around
their air power. After building up their strength at a given base they
would overcome the consistently inferior Allied air opposition at the
next point of attack and then send along heavily screened amphibious
forces to make landings. As a rule, the distances were too short to
permit attack by our naval forces while the enemy was en route. As soon
as the enemy were in control of a new area they would repair the
airfields and gather forces for the next attack. These tactics were well
adapted to the geography of the Philippine Islands and the Netherlands
East Indies, particularly as there was almost a total absence of
interior communications in the islands occupied.
In January 1942, therefore, the Japanese had overrun the Philippine
Islands, and the greatest part of our strength was in the Netherlands
East Indies, for which the Japanese were obviously headed. Our
submarines and motor torpedo boats were engaged in slowing down the
enemy advance to give us as much time as possible to get organized for
the surface actions that were in prospect in the Java Sea.
THE JAVA SEA CAMPAIGN
In that situation, Admiral Hart had to plan all our operations without
air sup port except for a few Army bombers and a few fighters based on
Java. Our PBY4s of Patrol Wing Ten were not suited for the type of
operations in prospect, and as a matter of fact it was only the superb
work of their pilots in the face of enemy fighters coupled with the
mobility of our tenders that made their use possible.
By the end of December, the Japanese were preparing bases at Davao on
Mindanao, and at Jolo in the Sulu Archipelago. From these points they
moved south to
attack Menado on the northern tip of Celebes, Tarakan in northeastern
Borneo, and shortly afterward Kema, with the obvious intention of moving
down Molucca Strait toward Ambon, Kendari, and Makassar Strait. By 20
January they appeared to be ready to move against Balikpapan, on the
east coast of Borneo.
Collecting the few ships at his disposal (until early February all
British and Netherlands surface ships had to be used to escort troop
convoys into Malaya) Admiral Hart decided upon a night torpedo attack.
This was delivered off Balikpapan (the action became known officially as
the Battle of Makassar Strait) early in the morning of 24 January by the
destroyers JOHN D. FORD, PARROTT, PAUL JONES and POPE under the command
of Commander (now Captain) P. H. Talbot. Whatever the losses sustained
by the enemy, the attack (one of four attempts by our cruisers and
destroyers to come to grips with the enemy at sea) was brilliantly
executed, and was responsible for the stalling of that particular force
for some time at Balikpapan. Other amphibious forces, however, continued
to advance eastward, and landed at Rabaul in New Britain and at
Bougainville in the Solomons. New positions on the coast of Borneo were
also seized by the enemy, and in the first few days of February they
captured Ambon and began bombing Soerabaja and several other Javanese
In furtherance of the effort to delay the enemy drive, a striking force
consisting of four cruisers and seven destroyers, about half of which
were Netherlands and the other half American, was formed under the
command of Rear Admiral Doorman of the Netherlands Navy. A large enemy
convoy having gathered at Balikpapan, Admiral Doorman undertook to run
up Madoera Strait into the Java Sea and deliver an attack, but our
forces were discovered by Japanese planes and subjected to a prolonged
bombing attack which prevented the carrying out of the plan. During this
attack HOUSTON suffered one direct hit which destroyed her number three
turret and MARBLEHEAD was forced to retire to the south coast of Java to
effect temporary repairs.
Continuing their advance, the Japanese attacked Palembang in southeast
Sumatra and entered Banka Strait. Admiral Doorman's force, in a second
effort to interfere with the enemy operation, was again forced to
withdraw by enemy planes. By 14 February the Japanese in Borneo and
Celebes were in a position to advance on Bali and eastern Java, and
Japanese forces in Sumatra were also threatening Java.
At this point in the campaign, in accordance with previous agreements
providing that it would be conducted by the Netherlands, Admiral Hart
relinquished operational command of Allied naval forces to Vice Admiral
Helfrich of the Netherlands Navy, and a few days later General Wavell
turned over his command and left the area.
Having been subjected to daily bombing at Soerabaja, our headquarters
were transferred from Soerabaja to Tjilatjap on the south coast of Java.
On 19 February Darwin (most of our forces basing there had been
transferred to Tjilatjap because Darwin not entirely suitable from the
beginning, was becoming untenable), on the north coast of Australia, was
subjected to a heavy air raid which destroyed the airport, warehouse
docks, and virtually every ship in the harbor, including our destroyer
Enemy forces having landed on the southeast coast of Bali, and seized
there, Admiral Doorman, with his composite force, attacked enemy vessels
in Badoeng Strait on the night of 19-20 February. This action resulted
in the sinking of the Netherlands destroyer PIET HEIN and damage to the
Netherlands cruisers JAVA and TROMP and to our destroyer STEWART. Damage
to the enemy in this action was impossible to assess but was believed to
The action in Badoeng Strait was encouraging but it did little to impede
the Japanese, who now controlled all the northern approaches to the
Netherlands East Indies, and seemed about to move on Java. In an effort
to bolster up our strength with fighter planes, LANGLEY with planes and
crew on board, and SEAWITCH, with more planes, were diverted to Java. On
26 February LANGLEY was sunk by enemy bombers. PECOS, a tanker, was sunk
about the same time in the same area. SEAWITCH arrived safely at
Tjilatjap but was too late.
On 27 February Admiral Doorman's composite force, consisting of two
heavy cruisers, three light cruisers and nine destroyers, attacked an
enemy force in the Java Sea, not far from Soerabaja. After maneuvering
for position, and after having joined action, the composite force, for
one reason and another, suffered a series of losses. These included the
sinking of the British destroyer ELECTRA and the Netherlands destroyer
KORTENAER, and damage to the British cruiser EXETER. Later that night
the Netherlands cruisers DE RUYTER and JAVA were sunk by a combination
of torpedoes and gunfire. This left only HOUSTON and PERTH, the American
destroyers having expended their torpedoes and retired to port to
refuel. Accordingly, HOUSTON and PERTH retired to Tandjong Priok.
Although the Japanese suffered some damage, they were successful in
preventing the striking force from reaching their convoys. The immediate
problem was now to rescue our remaining vessels from the Java Sea, the
exits to which were held by the enemy.
On 28 February EXETER, POPE, and ENCOUNTER headed for Soenda Strait and
were never heard from again. On 1 March HOUSTON and PERTH, accompanied
by the Netherlands destroyer EVERSTEN headed in the same direction, and
except for very meager reports of an engagement in Soenda Strait, they
have not been heard from since. Of the entire Allied force, only the
four American destroyers managed to make their way to Australia, after a
skirmish with Japanese destroyers patrolling Bali Strait.
On 28 February the Japanese laded on the north coast of Java. As no port
on the island of Java was tenable as a base for our surface forces, the
Allied naval command was dissolved and the American ships remaining at
Tjilatjap were ordered to proceed to Australia. Of the four destroyers
so ordered, EDSALL and PILLSBURY were lost en route. All other craft
escaped, with the exception of the gunboat ASHEVILLE. Thus ended the
gallant campaign of the Java Sea, conducted against overwhelming odds by
officers and men who did the best they could with what they had.
RAIDS ON JAPANESE POSITIONS
While the situation in the Far East was growing steadily worse, and the
Japanese were having things their own way there and elsewhere, our
Pacific Fleet, now commanded by Admiral Nimitz, carried out its first
offensive operation of the war. The targets selected were the Marshall
and Gilbert Islands.
To carry out raids on these islands, there was placed under the command
of Vice Admiral (now Admiral) William F. Halsey, Jr., a force consisting
of the carriers ENTERPRISE and YORKTOWN; the heavy cruisers CHESTER,
LOUISVILLE, NORTHAMPTON, and SALT LAKE CITY; the light cruiser ST.
LOUIS; and ten destroyers. Beginning 1 February 1942 bomb and
bombardment damage-very severe in some instances-was inflicted by that
force upon the islands of Wotje, Maloelap, Kwajalein, Roi, Jaluit,
Makin, Taroa, Lae and Gugegwe. It is quite possible that because of the
success at Pearl Harbor, much of the enemy's air strength originally
disposed in the Marshall Islands was withdrawn before these attacks were
delivered. Except for CHESTER, which suffered one bomb hit, and
ENTERPRISE, which was slightly damaged by shell fragments, none of our
vessels was damaged during the entire operation, and our personnel
losses were slight.
The raid on the Marshall and Gilbert Islands was so successful that
several other operations following the same pattern were conducted
during the following weeks. On 20 February a task force built around the
carrier LEXINGTON, and commanded by Vice Admiral Wilson Brown, attempted
a combination air and surface attack on Rabaul, New Britain. During the
approach, LEXINGTON was discovered by enemy twin-engined bombers, 16 of
which were destroyed by our fighter planes and antiaircraft, five of
them by a single pilot. The element of surprise having been lost and
fuel having been reduced by high-speed maneuvering, the attack on Rabaul
was not pressed home.
On 24 February Admiral Halsey took ENTERPRISE, two cruisers, and seven
destroyers and shelled and bombed Wake Island, which had been in enemy
hands since 22 December. Considerable damage was inflicted. We lost only
one aircraft during that operation. Eight days later planes from
ENTERPRISE bombed Marcus Island with reasonably satisfactory results.
Again, we lost only one plane.
On 10 March Vice Admiral Brown, with the carriers LEXINGTON and YORKTOWN
and supporting ships, raided the New Guinea ports of Salamaua and Lae,
where enemy troops had landed three days earlier. A number of enemy war
vessels and transport vessels were sunk or damaged, and the attack was
fully successful, even though it did not appear to delay appreciably the
enemy's advance toward Australia. Our losses were light.
On 18 April Tokio was bombed by army planes which took off from the
carrier HORNET the planes from ENTERPRISE providing search and fighter
planes for the operation. As a carrier operation, this raid was unique
in naval history in that for the first time medium land bombers were
transported across an ocean and launched off enemy shores. Whatever the
damage inflicted by these bombers, the attack was stimulating to the
morale, which at that time, considering the surrender of Bataan, and the
situation in general in the Far East, was at low ebb.
THE CORAL SEA
By the middle of April, the Japanese had established bases in the New
Guinea-New Britain-Solomon Islands area, which put them in a position to
threaten all Melanesia and Australia itself, and they were moving their
forces through the mandates in preparation for an extension of their
offensive to the southeast. Our available
forces at that time were eager and ready for battle, but they were not
any too strong for effective defense against major enemy concentrations,
much less adequate to carry out a large-scale offensive operation.
It should be noted at this point that during the first five months of
the war, nearly every engagement with the enemy had demonstrated the
importance of air power in modern naval warfare. Our initial losses at
Pearl Harbor and in the Philippines were the result of attack by
aircraft, and the enemy's superiority in the air had been one of the
controlling factors in our reverses in the Far East. Similarly, our
successful though inconclusive raids on the Japanese-held islands in the
Pacific had been conducted chiefly by carrier-based aircraft. The
results had been excellent and the costs low. As yet, however, there had
been no engagement between enemy carrier forces and our own, and
although we had reason to believe that most of our naval aircraft were
of good design and performance, we had no basis for comparison.
When the Japanese, on 3 May, began to occupy Florida Island in the
Solomons, Rear Admiral (now Vice Admiral) Frank J. Fletcher, who was
cruising in the Coral Sea with a force composed of the carrier YORKTOWN,
the three cruisers ASTORIA, CHESTER and PORTLAND and six destroyers,
proceeded north to interrupt the activity. On the morning of 4 May,
about 100 miles southwest of Guadalcanal, planes launched by YORKTOWN
sank and damaged a number of enemy vessels at Tulagi with loss of only
one aircraft, and in the afternoon, another attack group scored
additional hits, with the loss of two fighters.
On 5 May, Rear Admiral Fletcher's force had joined other Allied units,
one of which was a task group including the heavy cruisers MINNEAPOLIS
NEW ORLEANS, ASTORIA, CHESTER and PORTLAND, and five destroyers. There
were two flag officers in the task group, Rear Admiral (now Admiral)
Thomas C. Kinkaid and Rear Admiral (now Vice Admiral) William W. Smith.
The other unit, consisting of the Australian heavy cruiser AUSTRALIA,
and the light cruiser HOBART, plus the American heavy cruiser CHICAGO
and two destroyers, was under the command of Rear Admiral J. G. Crace,
Royal Navy, and was operated in conjunction with the carriers LEXINGTON
and YORKTOWN and four destroyers, which were under the command of Rear
Admiral (now Vice Admiral) Aubrey W. Fitch.
On the afternoon of the 6th, enemy forces had become sufficiently
consolidated in the Bismarck Archipelago-New Guinea area to indicate an
amphibious operation to the southward, perhaps against Port Moresby, on
the southeast coast of New Guinea. As enemy forces would have to round
the southeastern end of New Guinea, Rear Admiral Fletcher stationed an
attack group within striking distance of the probable track of the enemy
fleet, and the remainder of his force moved northward in an attempt to
locate enemy covering forces.
On the morning of the 7th, contact was made with the Japanese carrier
SHOHO, which was promptly attacked and sunk by aircraft from LEXINGTON
and YORKTOWN. We lost only one dive bomber in the attack, but the same
morning Japanese carrier planes sank our tanker NEOSHO and the destroyer
The next morning, contact was made with two enemy carriers, four heavy
cruisers, and several destroyers. One of the carriers was attacked and
severely damaged by our carrier aircraft, and as was anticipated, enemy
about an hour later. During the counterattack, both YORKTOWN and
LEXINGTON were damaged the latter rather severely. Both carriers and
their planes shot down a considerable number of enemy planes during the
engagement, and our aircraft losses were small by comparison, but early
in the afternoon an explosion on board LEXINGTON made her impossible to
control. She was therefore abandoned, and ordered sunk by one of our own
destroyers. Nearly all of her personnel were saved.
Thus ended the first major engagement in naval history in which surface
ships did not exchange a single shot. Although the loss of LEXINGTON was
keenly felt, the engagement in the Coral Sea effectively checked the
Japanese in their advance to the southward. Our losses of one carrier,
one tanker, one destroyer, and a total of 66 planes were considerably
less than estimated Japanese losses. Our personnel casualties totaled
The engagement in the Coral Sea marked the end of the period during
which we were totally on the defensive. There followed a lull during
which both sides were preparing for further operations. Our immediate
problem was to anticipate as nearly as we could what the next move of
the enemy would be, as we had lost touch with the heavy Japanese forces
which had participated in the Coral Sea action.
It was clear that the Japanese would not long remain inactive. Naturally
enough, our various important outposts would be good targets, with Dutch
Harbor and Midway offering them the best chance of success, either in
the nature of a raid or of an invasion. Furthermore, an operation
directed against these points would permit the enemy to retire without
too great loss or complete annihilation in case their plans did not work
out. At the same time, we had to consider the possibility that they
might renew actions in the Coral Sea. It was a plain case of calculating
the risk involved in stationing our forces. A mistake at that point
would have proved costly.
Considering the chance that the enemy knew little concerning the
location of those of our ships which had not participated in the Coral
Sea engagement, but certainly was aware that most of our available
carrier and cruiser strength was then in southern waters, it seemed
reasonable to expect that the Japanese would make the most of the
opportunity to strike us in the central and/or northern Pacific. Such an
attack was likely because of the prospect of success in the immediate
operation, and because if successful, the advance to Australia and the
islands in the south Pacific could be accomplished in due course with
comparative ease, once the enemy had cut our lines of communications.
Acting on our best estimate of the situation, our carriers and
supporting vessels were recalled from the south Pacific. YORKTOWN was
patched up temporarily, and scouting and patrol lines were established
well to the westward of Midway Island. Our total forces available in the
central Pacific consisted of the carriers ENTERPRISE, HORNET and
YORKTOWN, seven heavy cruisers, one light cruiser, 14 destroyers, and
about 20 submarines. These were divided into two task forces, one under
the command of Rear Admiral (now Admiral) Raymond A. Spruance (cruisers
of this task
force were commanded by Rear Admiral Kinkaid) and the other under the
command of Rear Admiral Fletcher. Another flag officer, Rear Admiral W.
W. Smith, was attached to the second task force. In addition, there was
a Marine Corps air group based on Midway, augmented by Army bombers from
On the morning of 3 June, enemy forces were sighted several hundred
miles southwest of Midway, on an easterly course. The composition of the
force sighted was not determined at that time, but it was clearly a
large attack force with supporting vessels. Late in the afternoon this
force was bombed by a squadron of B-17's under the command of Lieutenant
Colonel Walter C. Sweeney, Army Air Corps. While results of the attack
were not definitely determined, hits on several ships were reported. On
the morning of 4 June, contact was made with enemy aircraft headed
toward the island of Midway from the northwest, and immediately
thereafter, two carriers and the enemy main body were picked up in the
same vicinity. Although the enemy aircraft were not prevented from
dropping their bombs on Midway, the Japanese air attack force was
nevertheless subjected to heavy fire and the enemy plane losses were
large. Meanwhile, Army, Navy, and Marine Corps planes from Midway
attacked carriers, battleships, and other vessels, inflicting serious
damage on one enemy carrier.
At this point, our own carriers took a hand in the engagement. Having
been launched from a position north of Midway, a torpedo squadron from
HORNET (the now famous Torpedo Eight) without the protection of
fighters, and without accompanying dive bombers, attacked a force of
four enemy carriers. All planes in the squadron were shot down and only
one pilot survived, but the squadron made several hits on the enemy
carriers. About an hour later, torpedo squadrons from ENTERPRISE and
YORKTOWN attacked the same carriers, and also suffered heavy losses, but
registered hits on two carriers. These attacks were followed by dive
bombers from ENTERPRISE which smothered two carriers, and by more
bombers from YORKTOWN which hit a third carrier, a cruiser, and a
battleship. Two carriers had been set on fire and put completely out of
action. A third [SORYU] was damaged and was sunk later by the submarine
Planes from the only Japanese carrier remaining undamaged attacked
YORKTOWN, and although this attack force was annihilated, it succeeded
in making three bomb hits. Shortly afterward, enemy torpedo planes
scored two hits on YORKTOWN, and orders were given to abandon ship.
About two hours later, planes from ENTERPRISE attacked the undamaged
Japanese carrier and left her a mass of flames and immediately
thereafter, when a squadron from HORNET arrived, the carrier was blazing
so furiously that it was possible to concentrate on a nearby battleship
and a cruiser, both of which were hit.
At this stage of the engagement, it was apparent that we had won control
of the air and it remained for the aircraft from Midway to put on the
finishing touches. Army Flying Fortresses attacked an enemy heavy
cruiser and left it smoking heavily. Other planes scored hits on a
battleship, a damaged carrier, and a destroyer. By the end of the day
the Japanese were in full retirement.
On the morning of the 5th, aircraft from ENTERPRISE and HORNET made an
ineffective attack on an enemy light cruiser, but planes from Midway
enemy cruisers, one of which they crippled, and scored a number of hits
on them. poor visibility on the 5th prevented further operations.
On 6 June, HORNET planes located an enemy force consisting of two heavy
cruisers and three destroyers and made hits on the two cruisers. Planes
from ENTERPRISE also scored hits on those two cruisers and later in the
day HORNET planes successfully attacked two more cruisers and a
destroyer. On the same day, in an effort to save YORKTOWN, which had
been taken in tow, the destroyer HAMMANN went alongside to put on board
a salvage party. While she was alongside, YORKTOWN was struck by two
torpedoes from an enemy submarine, and HAMMANN by one. HAMMANN sank
within a few minutes and the next morning YORKTOWN also sank.
The Battle of Midway was the first decisive defeat suffered by the
Japanese Navy in 350 years.* Furthermore, it put an end to the long
period of Japanese offensive action, and restored the balance of naval
power in the Pacific. The threat to Hawaii and the west coast was
automatically removed, and except for operations in the Aleutians area,
where the Japanese had landed on the islands of Kiska and Attu, enemy
operations were confined to the south Pacific. It was to this latter
area, therefore, that we gave our greatest attention.
CAMPAIGNS IN THE SOUTH PACIFIC
The Landings in the Solomons
From the outset of the war, it had been evident that the protection of
our lines of communications to Australia and New Zealand represented a
"must." With the advance of the Japanese in that direction, it was
therefore necessary to plan and execute operations which would stop
Early in April, the Japanese had overrun the island of Tulagi, where (on
4 May 1942) they were attacked by our carrier-based bombers just before
the Battle of the Coral Sea. In July, the enemy landed troops and
laborers on Guadalcanal Island and began the construction of an
airfield. As the operation of landbased planes from that point would
immediately imperil our control of the New Hebrides and New Caledonia
areas, the necessity of our ejecting them from those positions became
increasingly apparent Developments in New Guinea, where the enemy had
begun a movement in the latter part of July, paralleling his Solomons
penetrations, increased the necessity for prompt action on our part.
The counter operation-our first real offensive move in force-was planned
under the direction of Vice Admiral R. L. Ghormley, who, in April, had
assumed Command of the South Pacific Force, with headquarters at
Auckland, New Zealand. Forces participating were the First Marine
Division, reinforced by the Second Marine Regiment, the First Raider
Battalion, and the Third Defense Battalion, supported by naval forces
consisting of three major units, two of which were under the command of
Vice Admiral Fletcher. These were an air support force under Rear
* The Korean Admiral Yi-sun administered a resounding defeat to the
Japanese Admiral Hideyoshi (so-called father of Japanese Navy) in 1592
off the Korean Coast.
PLATE 6-THE OFFENSIVE-DEFENSIVE PHASE IN THE PACIFIC
1. U.S. LANDING, 7 AUGUST 1942: U.S. Marines establish foothold on
Guadalcanal and Tulagi in the first Allied offensive of the Pacific War.
2. BATTLE OF SAVO ISLAND, 9 AUGUST 1942: Japanese night attack on naval
forces protecting landing. One Australian and three U.S. heavy cruisers
lost, other units damaged.
3. BATTLE OF THE EASTERN SOLOMONS, 23-25 AUGUST 1942: Powerful Japanese
naval forces intercepted by U.S. carrier-borne aircraft. Enemy breaks
off action after loss of carrier support.
4. BATTLE OF CAPE ESPERANCE, 11-12 OCTOBER 1942: U.S. cruisers and
destroyers in a surprise night attack engage a sizeable enemy force near
5. BATTLE OF SANTA CRUZ ISLANDS, 26 OCTOBER 1942: Blows are exchanged by
U.S. carriers and Japanese carriers operating with a powerful enemy
force moving to support land operations at Guadalcanal. Two enemy
carriers put out of action and four enemy air groups decimated.
6. BATTLE OF GUADALCANAL, 13-14-15 NOVEMBER 1942: Enemy concentrates
invasion force at Rabaul. U.S. naval forces covering reinforcements for
troops on Guadalcanal meet and decisively defeat this force in a series
of violent engagements in which heavy losses are sustained by both
7. BATTLE OF TASSAFARONGA, 30 NOVEMBER 1942: A Japanese attempt to
reinforce is defeated at heavy cost. NORTHAMPTON lost, three U.S. heavy
cruisers severely damaged.
Japanese complete withdrawal, 7-8 FEBRUARY 1943.
8. FIRST BATTLE OF KULA GULF, 6 JULY 1943: U.S. cruisers and destroyers
intercept the "Tokyo Express." HELENA lost.
9. BATTLE OF KOLOMBANGARA, 13 JULY 1943: The circumstances of the
engagement of 6th July are repeated. Three Allied cruisers severely
damaged by torpedoes.
10. BATTLE OF VELLA GULF, 6 AUGUST 1943: Japanese destroyers escorting
reinforcements are intercepted by our forces. Several enemy destroyers
(Plate 6 here.)
Noyes, consisting of three carriers, one new battleship, five heavy
cruisers, one antiaircraft light cruiser and a number of destroyers; and
an amphibious force under Rear Admiral (now Admiral) R. K. Turner,
composed of six heavy cruisers (two of them Australian), one light
cruiser (Australian), destroyers, and 23 transports. The third task
force, under Rear Admiral (later Vice Admiral) John S. McCain (now
deceased), was composed of land-based planes of various types based in
New Caledonia, the Fijis, and Samoa. Under the plan, they were to
cooperate closely with the planes under the command of General MacArthur
in New Guinea and Australia. Marine units were formed up in New Zealand
during June and July, under the command of Major General (now General)
A. A. Vandegrift, USMC.
After leaving New Zealand, and after effecting rendezvous with combat
units, the entire invasion force conducted a realistic rehearsal en
route to their objective. On the morning of 7 August, the landing force,
which took the enemy by surprise, made landings on Guadalcanal and
Tulagi. There was little opposition initially on Guadalcanal, but on
Tulagi the Japanese had constructed dugouts, and when they began heavy
fire, progress was slow and costly. The enemy delivered an air counter-
attack in the afternoon, but it was ineffective.
By the next afternoon, our Marines were in complete control of Tulagi
Island and were making satisfactory progress on Guadalcanal, where they
had taken possession of the airfield. The immediate objectives of the
operation had therefore been obtained, at the cost of one transport
sunk, one destroyer damaged and subsequently sunk, and one destroyer
damaged. Plane losses amounted to 21 fighters.
Battle of Savo Island
We had repulsed air raids on the 7th and 8th with only moderate losses,
but those attacks had considerably delayed the unloading of our
transports and cargo vessels. Moreover, in spite of heavy plane losses
inflicted on the enemy, further attacks on our vessels were a surety,
perhaps by surface craft and perhaps by enemy planes based on Santa
Isabel Island. At this critical time it became necessary for our
carriers to withdraw from their covering position because of lack of
fuel, and also because the Japanese had shown considerable air strength
and were suspected of having submarines available, to which we did not
care to expose our carriers.
In that situation, the cruisers of the screening forces under the
command of Rear Admiral V. Crutchley, Royal Navy, took up a night
disposition designed to protect the area between the Guadalcanal and
Florida Islands and the channel on either side of Savo Island. The
northern group covering the latter area consisted of the heavy cruisers
VINCENNES, QUINCY, and ASTORIA screened by the destroyers HELM and
WILSON. The southern group consisted of the Australian cruiser CANBERRA
and CHICAGO, screened by PATTERSON and BAGLEY. Two destroyers, RALPH
TALBOT and BLUE, were stationed not far from Savo Island. Late in the
evening of 8 August, a conference was held on board Rear Admiral
Turner's flagship, MCCAWLEY. This conference included Rear Admiral
A force of enemy cruisers and destroyers entered the area undetected
from the northwest at about 0145 and, aided by flares dropped by enemy
planes, opened fire on our screening groups with guns and torpedoes. the
result of the surprise and of the
Japanese fire, which was sufficiently effective to inflict severe damage
on our vessels in a few minutes, was that there was little effective
return fire. The action ceased at about 0215 at which time the Japanese
force, having rounded Savo Island, left the area on a northeasterly
course. During those thirty minutes QUINCY, VINCENNES, ASTORIA and
CANBERRA were so severely damaged that they subsequently sank, and
CHICAGO, RALPH TALBOT, and PATTERSON were damaged.
The surprise, which was the immediate cause of the defeat, was the
result of a combination of circumstances. Because of the urgency of
seizing and occupying Guadalcanal, planning was not up to the usual
thorough standards. Certain communication failures made a bad situation
worse. Fatigue was a contributing factor in the degree of alertness
maintained. Generally speaking, however, we were surprised because we
lacked experience. Needless to say, the lessons learned were fully taken
The immediate consequence of this cruiser battle was the retirement of
the enemy force, without any attack being made on our transports
unloading men and supplies on the beaches of Guadalcanal. The loss of
the four cruisers, however, and the subsequent loss of two aircraft
carriers left us inferior in strength for several months. The Japanese
did not take advantage of this opportunity to engage in a fleet battle
with the balance of power on their side, probably because they did not
know-and we did not let them know-how severe our losses were.
The Fight for Guadalcanal
Except as it affected the security of the islands to the south, and
Australia and New Zealand, the island of Guadalcanal by itself was not
particularly important, but, having been selected by us as the point to
step in and check the advance of the enemy, it became a focal point in
the fighting front established. After we had landed there, the immediate
situation was that of opposing ground forces on the island, and as each
depended on naval forces for supplies and reinforcements it was
inevitable that there would be naval engagements until the issue was
After the battle of Savo Island, the Japanese began bombing Marine
positions and making the adjacent waters almost untenable during the
daylight hours. At night, enemy surface forces bombarded our surface
installations almost at will. The Japanese, however, were unable to
bring up reserve ground forces from the northern Solomons.
So far as naval activity was concerned there was a lull of about ten
days. During that time the Japanese, who reacted violently to the
reverses suffered in the initial ding, collected all available
reinforcements near Henderson Field. The reinforced troops immediately
attacked. The result was a night battle at Tenaru River in which the
Marines were completely victorious.
Meanwhile, the enemy was concentrating his forces in the Rabaul area. By
3 August it was apparent that a major action was imminent.
The Battle of the Eastern Solomons
In anticipation of an enemy move in force, Vice Admiral Ghormley had
concentrated two task forces southeast of the island of Guadalcanal.
These were built
around the carriers SARATOGA and ENTERPRISE and included the battleship
NORTH CAROLINA the cruisers MINNEAPOLIS, PORTLAND, NEW ORLEANS and
ATLANTA, and 11 destroyers. On the morning of 23 August a transport
group was sighted by a search plane about 250 miles north of the island.
During the night our combined force moved north and contact was made the
next morning. In the afternoon of the 24th, planes from SARATOGA sank an
aircraft carrier [RYUJO] and in addition damaged a cruiser and a
destroyer. While these attacks were in progress, a flight of about 75
planes attacked ENTERPRISE and her escort vessels and inflicted
moderately severe damage on ENTERPRISE in spite of the intense
antiaircraft fire from escorting ships, particularly NORTH CAROLINA.
That night, Marine air attack groups from Guadalcanal attacked and
damaged two more enemy destroyers, and the next morning destroyed a
transport. In addition to the foregoing attacks, Army planes believed
they scored a hit on a cruiser, planes from SARATOGA reported hits on a
battleship and two cruisers, and Marine pilots reported damage to still
another cruiser. As a result of the action, the Japanese were all but
stripped of carrier support and broke off the fight although their
powerful surface forces were still largely intact.
Following the engagement in the eastern Solomons, no major action took
place in the South Pacific area for a period of about six weeks. During
those six weeks, however, the supply lines had to be kept open to
Guadalcanal. Japanese submarines and air forces were active in the
vicinity, and there were numerous scattered actions, which cost us the
carrier WASP, the destroyers OBRIEN, BLUE, COLHOUN, GREGORY and LITTLE,
and several other ships damaged. Also the Japanese made almost nightly
runs of what came to be termed the "Tokio express" from the Buin-Faisi
area to Guadalcanal, and enemy air forces bombed Marine positions by day
and by night.
By 13 September enemy ground troops had been reinforced, and another
attack was directed at Henderson Field. Although the issue was in doubt
for several hours, the Marines, thanks to replacements and artillery
support, succeeded in decimating the attacking force.
In spite of offensive operations directed against enemy ground troops
and supporting naval forces by our ground troops and by our Marine air
forces, the enemy by the end of September had succeeded in putting
practically an entire new division on the island. In addition, more
strong Japanese fleet units had been assembled to the northward, and the
situation again was threatening. Reinforcements to the Marines had now
become a necessity even though made in the face of enemy naval and air
superiority. Contemplated reinforcements included Army elements
available (the 164th Infantry).
Battle of Cape Esperance
After our carrier planes had attacked enemy shipping in the northern
Solomons as a preliminary, our naval forces in the area were disposed in
three groups. One was built around the carrier HORNET to the westward of
Guadalcanal. A second, to the
under the command of the late Rear Admiral Norman Scott, was stationed
south of Guadalcanal pending developments. Rear Admiral Scott's force
consisted of the heavy cruisers SAN FRANCISCO, SALT LAKE CITY; the light
cruisers BOISE, HELENA; and the destroyers BUCHANAN, DUNCAN, FARENHOLT,
LAFFEY and MCCALLA.
On the afternoon of 11 October enemy forces were reported in "the slot"
between Choiseul Island and the New Georgia group, headed for
Guadalcanal. Simultaneously, Henderson Field on Guadalcanal was attacked
by about 75 enemy aircraft. Rear Admiral Scott therefore headed north
with his force, which rounded the northwestern end of the island about
two hours before midnight. Just before midnight contact was made, and
our force opened fire.
Taken by surprise, the enemy did not return the fire for nearly ten
minutes, during which time our cruisers made the most of the opportunity
and delivered a devastating fire on the enemy force. In less than five
minutes four enemy targets had disappeared; two more were put out of
action by HELENA and BOISE; and FARENHOLT, DUNCAN, and BUCHANAN each
scored torpedo hits on enemy cruisers. In addition, BUCHANAN wrecked an
enemy destroyer with gunfire and set an unidentified enemy ship on fire.
When the Japanese opened fire, BOISE found herself engaged with a heavy
cruiser, and although the enemy cruiser soon burst into flames, BOISE
was damaged. During the exchange, SALT LAKE CITY scored hits on an enemy
auxiliary and destroyer. At this stage of the battle, Rear Admiral Scott
ceased firing to rectify his formation, and as most of the enemy targets
had disappeared there followed a short lull.
SALT LAKE CITY, HELENA, and SAN FRANCISCO reopened fire with telling
effect. The BOISE damage (fire) had been brought under control, and she
reentered the action, engaging a heavy cruiser and an unidentified ship,
but upon receiving further damage she was forced to retire. SALT LAKE
CITY, meanwhile, had covered BOISE and, assisted by SAN FRANCISCO
concentrated her fire on an enemy heavy cruiser until the action was
broken off by the enemy.
During the engagement DUNCAN was so badly damaged that she had to be
abandoned and FARENHOLT was damaged. SAN FRANCISCO had been hit, and as
previously stated, BOISE was severely damaged. Even so, the engagement
was a victory for us, attributable in part to surprise and confusion,
and in part to the accuracy of our gunfire.
During the succeeding days, in spite of the reverses suffered in the
Battle of Cape Esperance the Japanese continued their attacks on
Guadalcanal. Notwithstanding heavy losses inflicted on them, they
succeeded in getting a number of transports through, and landed nearly
another entire division. Our air attacks, however, left that division
with little equipment, few rations, and inadequate artillery support.
Meanwhile support for our Marines had been arriving, and General
Vandegrift had been able to improve his position. He now had better air
support, made more effective by new landing strips constructed by the
Seabees, but as shelling by enemy units continued, he was still in need
of strong naval support, especially as the Japanese gave no signs of
discontinuing their efforts to launch a full-scale attack.
Enemy submarines and aircraft renewed their efforts to interrupt our
communications, and it became increasingly clear that the next Japanese
move would be supported by powerful surface and air units. The destroyer
MEREDITH was sunk on 15 October while engaged in keeping our line of
communications open, and a few days later the heavy cruiser CHESTER was
damaged by enemy submarines, but our naval forces were reinforced by the
new battleship SOUTH DAKOTA and the damaged ENTERPRISE was again ready
for duty. Our naval forces were now divided into two parts, one being
the WASHINGTON group under the command of Rear Admiral (later Vice
Admiral) W. A. Lee, Jr. (now deceased), and the other consisting of two
carriers, one battleship, three heavy cruisers, three antiaircraft light
cruisers and 14 destroyers under the command of Rear Admiral Kinkaid.
The former group, reinforced by the ships surviving the Battle of Cape
Esperance, remained in the vicinity of Guadalcanal. The other moved
northwestward in an effort to engage the enemy.
On the night of 23-24 October the Japanese began a land assault at the
mouth of the Matanikau River, and although thrown back with heavy losses
continued their attack the following day. On the 25th, enemy ground
forces were supported by naval gunfire from two Japanese cruisers and
four destroyers which slipped into Savo Sound, and on the night of 25-26
October the enemy ground offensive reached its peak. At this point the
Japanese moved their naval units in force toward Guadalcanal.
The Battle of Santa Cruz Island
Early in the morning of 26 October our patrol planes made contact with
three enemy forces. One of these forces included a carrier. Another
consisted of two battleships, one heavy cruiser and seven destroyers.
The third, which included two carriers, was attacked by the patrolling
planes, and hits were scored on one of the carriers.
Simultaneously, our carriers launched three attack waves, one from
ENTERPRISE and two from HORNET. While en route, the ENTERPRISE attack
group encountered Japanese planes. After a short engagement during which
some of our planes were shot down, it located the enemy force containing
the battleships and made bomb hits on one of them. The first HORNET wave
reached the enemy carrier group without interference and reported at
least four 1000-pound bomb hits on a carrier. Other HORNET aircraft in
that group registered three torpedo hits on a heavy cruiser. The second
HORNET group discovered an enemy cruiser force and succeeded in bombing
two heavy cruisers and a destroyer.
While our aircraft were delivering their attacks, our own carriers were
being attacked by enemy carrier aircraft. HORNET suffered one bomb hit
and was set on fire by an enemy bomber which purposely dived into the
carrier's stack. Blazing gasoline was spread over the signal bridge,
which was further damaged by one of the bombs carried by the plane.
Resulting fires were extinguished in about two hours, but while the dive
bombing attack was being delivered, a torpedo attack developed and
HORNET received two hits which disrupted her power and communications.
The torpedo hits were followed by three more bomb hits and another
suicide plane crash which started more fires. Of 27 attacking aircraft,
20 were shot down by antiaircraft fire but the attack, which lasted 11
minutes, left HORNET dead in the water with many
fires on board and with a decided list. Our wounded personnel were
promptly removed by destroyers, the fires were extinguished in about a
half hour, and HORNET was taken in tow by NORTHAMPTON but in the
afternoon she was again attacked by torpedoes and dive bombers and had
to be abandoned and sunk by our own forces.
Just before noon, ENTERPRISE was subjected to an attack by 24 enemy dive
bombers, of which seven were shot down by antiaircraft fire in which
SOUTH DAKOTA participated. Shortly after, she weathered two attacks by
torpedo planes and one more attack from dive bombers.
The first dive bombing attack resulted in three hits on ENTERPRISE. Of
the torpedo planes making the first attack, one dived onto the destroyer
SMITH setting her on fire forward and exploding the plane's torpedo. By
energetic measures, however, SMITH brought the flames under control and
was able to make port. During this action dive bombers scored a hit on
SOUTH DAKOTA wounding her commanding officer, Captain (now Rear Admiral)
T. L. Gatch, and inflicted considerable damage on the light cruiser SAN
There were no further attacks and the two task forces were ordered to
retire independently. During the night they were pursued by Japanese
surface units, which turned back when it became clear that the enemy
attacks were not succeeding.
Enemy planes estimated to have taken part in the attacks on HORNET and
ENTERPRISE numbered between 170 and 180. Of that number 56 were shot
down by antiaircraft fire and about the same number by our own planes.
Our own losses were HORNET, the destroyer PORTER, which was torpedoed
while rescuing personnel of one of our planes, and 74 aircraft. We sank
no enemy vessels in the engagement, and our carrier strength in the
Pacific was now dangerously low, but there were partial compensations.
Two enemy carriers had been put out of action and four Japanese air
groups had been cut to pieces.
Battle of Guadalcanal
For a brief period on 26 October, following the all-out enemy attack,
the question of whether or not we could retain Henderson Field hung in
the balance. A counterattack by Marines and by Army troops, however,
restored our lines-the enemy lost 2200 men killed in that attack-and
General Vandegrift took the offensive on both flanks. Except for a minor
setback the following day, this constituted the last serious threat by
enemy land forces on Guadalcanal.
The enemy still exercised control over the waters adjacent to
Guadalcanal, and for the next two weeks our forces were engaged in
scattered actions calculated to interfere with that control. Our
submarines attacked Japanese supply lines, inflicting Considerable
damage, and on the morning of 30 October our light cruiser ATLANTA and
four destroyers bombarded enemy positions near Point Cruz. On the next
day the Marines, supported by naval gunfire, crossed the Matanikau River
and by 3 November had advanced beyond Point Cruz. On the evening of 2
November the Japanese had landed about 1500 men and some artillery east
of Koli Point but were unable to support that unit, and after our naval
forces bombarded the beach heads, destroying stores and ammunition, the
force was driven into the jungle and eventually exterminated On 7
November our aircraft from Henderson Field inflicted heavy
damage on an enemy light cruiser and two destroyers and shot down a
number of enemy planes.
By this time it must have been apparent to the Japanese that their
position was not being sufficiently improved by their continued night
landings from surface craft dispatched from neighboring islands (our PT
boats based at Tulagi attacked them repeatedly, sinking a destroyer and
many landing craft). As evidence of that realization they again began to
concentrate surface forces in the Rabaul-Buin area and by 12 November
were estimated to be ready with two carriers, four battleships, five
heavy cruisers, about 30 destroyers and enough transports for a decisive
invasion attempt. To oppose this force we had two new battleships, four
heavy cruisers, one light cruiser, three antiaircraft light cruisers,
and 22 destroyers. The damaged ENTERPRISE was not ready for action and
we were outnumbered in land-based aircraft.
Our troops on Guadalcanal had been reinforced on 6 November, but more
supplies and reinforcements were vitally needed. Under these
circumstances, Vice Admiral Halsey, who on 18 October had replaced Vice
Admiral Ghormley as Commander, South Pacific Force, realized that we
would have to cover our supply lines and at the same time counter the
expected enemy offensive, otherwise our position in the south Pacific
would be seriously jeopardized. Following this general plan, Rear
Admiral Turner was placed in charge of the supply operation and the late
Rear Admirals D. J. Callaghan and Scott assigned to command the covering
forces. In addition, Rear Admiral Turner was to be supported by a task
force commanded by Rear Admiral Kinkaid, built around the damaged
ENTERPRISE and the battleships WASHINGTON and SOUTH DAKOTA.
On the morning of 11 November, three of our cargo vessels escorted by
Rear Admiral Scott's task force reached Guadalcanal and began unloading
off Lunga Point. Loading operations were interrupted by an air attack
about four hours later which damaged the transport ZEILIN and by a
second air attack two hours after that. Our protecting aircraft and
antiaircraft batteries took a heavy toll of both attacking air groups.
We lost a total of seven planes. Our escorts, under Rear Admiral Scott,
retired to Indispensable Strait for the night.
On the morning of the 12th, the second contingent of ships with supplies
and reinforcements, under Rear Admirals Turner and Callaghan, arrived
and joined forces with Rear Admiral Scott. Unloading was immediately
begun. As on the previous day, the enemy delivered an air attack in the
afternoon but so effective was our air opposition that only one of about
25 bombers and torpedo planes escaped. One damaged enemy plane, however,
dived onto SAN FRANCISCO, starting a number of minor fires and killing
Meanwhile, our scouts had located strong enemy forces bearing down on
Guadalcanal from the northwest, disposed in three groups. To meet that
force Rear Admiral Turner assigned two heavy cruisers, one light
cruiser, two antiaircraft light cruisers and eight destroyers to Rear
Admiral Callaghan, and withdrew with the transports and cargo vessels,
escorted by three destroyers. The plan was for Rear Admiral Callaghan to
fight a delaying action, so that the battleship-carrier force under Rear
Admiral Kinkaid would have time to intercept the Japanese landing forces
believed to be en route.
After Rear Admiral Callaghan's force had escorted the transport group
clear of the area, it reentered the sound shortly after midnight through
Lengo Channel for the purpose of searching the vicinity of Savo Island.
Near Lunga Point three groups of enemy ships were picked up to the
northwestward and shortly afterward a fourth group to the northward. Our
own force was a single column, with four destroyers in the van, five
cruisers in the center, and four destroyers in the rear. In that
situation, which was by no means as clear then as it is now, it being a
very dark night with no moon-accurate identification of enemy ships was
almost impossible, and in the darkness the forces nearly collided with
each other before a gun was fired.
The action began when the Japanese illuminated our ships with
searchlights and both sides opened fire at close range. Immediate
results of the exchanges of gunfire were favorable to us. An enemy ship
in the right hand group blew up within a minute under the fire from SAN
FRANCISCO and other ships; and on the other side, two enemy cruisers
burst into flames. Other vessels were set on fire, and ATLANTA believed
she sank one of a division of Japanese destroyers crossing ahead of her.
Simultaneously, ATLANTA after suffering some hits herself, took a light
cruiser under fire. At this point ATLANTA was struck by a torpedo and
with all power lost, her rudder jammed. While she was circling, an enemy
heavy cruiser battered her heavily, starting intense fires and killing
Rear Admiral Scott and many other personnel on board.
A few minutes later SAN FRANCISCO found herself engaged with an enemy
battleship in the enemy center group. In addition to the fire of SAN
FRANCISCO the battleship was attacked by LAFFEY; and CUSHING although
badly damaged, scored torpedo hits on her. LAFFEY during this part of
the action, was hit by a torpedo and later blew up. CUSHING was put out
of action by gunfire.
BARTON was also torpedoed and sank almost immediately, but O'BANNON
closed with the battleship and made more torpedo hits. By this time,
PORTLAND had wrecked a destroyer, but had been torpedoed herself; and
JUNEAU, having lost all fire control, retired from the action.
SAN FRANCISCO assisted by PORTLAND (which responded to Rear Admiral
Callaghans radio, "We want the big ones"), concentrated fire on the
battleship; HELENA meanwhile engaging an enemy cruiser firing at SAN
FRANCISCO. At this point, a salvo from the enemy battleship smashed SAN
FRANCISCO'S bridge, killing Rear Admiral Callaghan, Captain Cassin
Young, commanding officer of SAN FRANCISCO, and many other officers and
men; but SAN FRANCISCO continued to fire, and before she was put out of
action she had also accounted for a destroyer.
To recapitulate the damages sustained in the first 15 minutes of the
CUSHING had been put out of action by gunfire and was dead in the water;
LAFFEY had sunk; STERETT and OBANNON had been damaged; ATLANTA was
burning; and SAN FRANCISCO and PORTLAND were badly holed. JUNEAU had
been forced to leave the action, and BARTON had blown up. HELENA had
suffered minor damage. Only AARON WARD, MONSSEN, and FLETCHER remained
The three undamaged destroyers continued the attack with gunfire and
torpedoes each scoring hits on cruisers and destroyers, MONSSEN in
addition having red torpedo hits on the damaged enemy battleship. In
delivering those attacks, however MONSSEN suffered damage which forced
her to be abandoned, and STERETT,
also damaged by gunfire, had to retire. The action, which lasted 24
minutes, and which was one of the most furious sea battles ever fought,
was terminated when FLETCHER torpedoed an enemy heavy cruiser. During
the last few minutes of the action the scattered Japanese forces had
been firing at each other.
After the firing ceased, HELENA, SAN FRANCISCO, and FLETCHER joined up,
proceeded out of the bay, and later fell in with JUNEAU, OBANNON and
STERETT. At daylight the next morning PORTLAND observed a Japanese
battleship [probably HIYEI which is known to have been sunk in this
action] circling slowly northwest of Savo Island, with a cruiser
standing by. ATLANTA was near the beach, but her fires had been
extinguished. CUSHING and MONSSEN were on fire, and AARON WARD was dead
in the water. Observing an enemy destroyer south of Savo Island,
PORTLAND, still turning in circles, sank it. Our planes interrupted the
Japanese battleship firing at AARON WARD.
CUSHING and MONSSEN finally went down, and as the conditions on board
ATLANTA were impossible to control she had to be sunk on the afternoon
of the 13th.
Just before noon on the 13th, the damaged JUNEAU was attacked by an
enemy submarine and sank almost immediately with heavy personnel losses.
On the morning of 13 November, ENTERPRISE launched a flight of torpedo
planes which found the Japanese battleship and fired three torpedoes
into it. Other attacks on the battleship were made by Army planes and
other land-based aircraft from Guadalcanal and Espiritu Santo, and
sometime during the evening the battleship sank.
On the morning of the 14th, a strong enemy force of cruisers and
destroyers shelled Henderson Field. A few planes were destroyed, but the
field was not damaged, and the bombardment was broken off when the force
was attacked by our PT boats. Subsequently, planes from Henderson Field
(including ENTERPRISE planes there) attacked and hit two heavy cruisers,
one of which was later subjected to a second attack by ENTERPRISE
planes. Other planes hit a light cruiser, and still another attack group
from ENTERPRISE scored hits on a second light cruiser.
As anticipated, an enemy transport force, preceded by a heavy advance
guard of battleships, cruisers and destroyers, was discovered north of
Guadalcanal. This obviously was the main invasion force, and was
escorted by fighter planes. Throughout the 14th, this transport group
was subjected to heavy air attack by our forces, which resulted in the
destruction of six transports, the probable destruction of two more, and
the damaging of four. The four damaged vessels continued to Guadalcanal
and beached themselves on Cape Esperance that evening Our losses in
these attacks were slight.
Rear Admiral Lee, with WASHINGTON, SOUTH DAKOTA, and ENTERPRISE had been
unable to reach the scene of the action before early evening on the
14th. Upon arrival he was ordered to conduct a search, his objective
being to intercept and destroy enemy bombardment forces and the
transport force itself.
Shortly after midnight a Japanese force was reported north of Savo
Island, headed west. Contact was made by WASHINGTON which immediately
opened fire on the leading target. SOUTH DAKOTA also opened fire,
selecting the third ship as her target. Both targets disappeared and
were presumed sunk. Simultaneously, four of
our destroyers, which were leading the battleships, attacked an enemy
group of six to ten ships, which also were taken under fire by the
secondary batteries of our battleships. During this part of the action,
PRESTON was sunk by gunfire, BENHAM was damaged by a torpedo, and WALKE
was hit by both torpedoes and gunfire. WALKE was abandoned and sank in a
few minutes. The remaining destroyer, GWIN was damaged and forced to
At this stage of the action all of our destroyers had been eliminated
but neither WASHINGTON nor SOUTH DAKOTA had been hit. WASHINGTON soon
located new targets, one of which was a battleship, and immediately
opened fire. SOUTH DAKOTA fired on an enemy ship which had turned on her
searchlights. The enemy in returning the fire concentrated on SOUTH
DAKOTA. The result of this exchange was that SOUTH DAKOTA shot out all
lights, and apparently sank one of the illuminating vessels, but was
herself hit, suffering considerable damage to her upper works.
WASHINGTON continued to fire at the battleship, and after setting her on
fire and after inflicting damage on other ships, forced the enemy to
retire. The enemy battleship [KIRISHIMA] is known to have been sunk in
The action having been broken off, and SOUTH DAKOTA and WASHINGTON
having become separated, both ships retired, and joined up the next
morning. At daylight on 15 November, the four Japanese vessels which had
beached themselves on Guadalcanal were bombed by aircraft from Henderson
Field, and shelled by Marine artillery. The destroyer MEADE, which now
exercised complete control in the area, all by herself, then completed
the destruction of the beached ships by leisurely bombardment. The three
day fight ended with an air engagement between ENTERPRISE fighters from
Henderson Field and a flight of about 12 Zeros.
The Battle of Guadalcanal, in spite of heavy losses we sustained, was a
decisive victory for us, and our position in the southern Solomons was
not threatened again seriously by the Japanese. Except for the "Tokio
express," which from time to time succeeded in landing small quantities
of supplies and reinforcements, control of the sea and air in the
southern Solomons passed to the United States.
After the Battle of Guadalcanal, our forces on the island retained the
offensive, hunting down the Japanese in the jungles and gradually
driving them westward. The 1st Marine Division was gradually withdrawn
and replaced by army troops, and in December General Vandegrift turned
over command to Major General (later Lieutenant General) A. M. Patch,
USA (now deceased).
At the end of November, however, another powerful Japanese attempt to
relieve Guadalcanal was suspected, and in order to counter such a move,
Admiral Halsey placed a force consisting of the heavy cruisers
MINNEAPOLIS, NEW ORLEANS, NORTHAMPTON and PENSACOLA, the light cruiser
HONOLULU and four destroyers under the Command of Rear Admiral C. H.
The Battle of Tassafaronga (Lunga Point)
On 30 November, Rear Admiral Wright reached the entrance to Savo Sound,
where he was joined by two more destroyers. Late that night, while
sound, his force made contact with seven enemy ships, and, as the range
closed, the destroyers in the van opened fire with torpedoes. Shortly
afterward all ships were directed to open fire.
Immediate results of the fire appeared decidedly favorable but because
of the visibility we were unable to get a clear picture of the enemy
formation, and there was a temporary lull in the action.
MINNEAPOLIS and NEW ORLEANS soon engaged new targets, one of which blew
up. At this time, however, both MINNEAPOLIS and NEW ORLEANS were struck
by torpedoes and a few minutes later PENSACOLA and NORTHAMPTON were also
torpedoed, the latter being so badly damaged that she had to be
abandoned. Undamaged ships undertook to close with the enemy but were
unable to regain contact.
The effect of this engagement was to break up a Japanese reinforcing
attempt, but only at severe cost. Our three damaged cruisers, however,
reached port safely and were repaired and refitted.
The Evacuation of Guadalcanal
With the exception of encounters with the "Tokio express," surface naval
action in the Guadalcanal area ended with the Battle of Tassafaronga
On land, our forces gradually compressed and weakened the enemy, and by
January the Japanese ground forces on the island, which had not been
adequately supported, occupied a most unfavorable position. Under these
circumstances, and bearing in mind the events of the past few weeks, it
was reasonable to expect another effort on the part of the enemy to
retake Guadalcanal. The Japanese had had time to repair and reorganize
their surface forces and to replace their carrier air groups, and
therefore when there were heavy increases in shipping at Buin and Rabaul
late in January, and a stepping up of air activity, it appeared that
they were ready to move. Ships available to Admiral Halsey to prevent
such a move now consisted of three new battleships, four old
battleships, two carriers, three auxiliary carriers, three heavy
cruisers, seven light cruisers, two antiaircraft light cruisers and
numerous destroyers-a force considerably stronger than any we had had in
the area up to that time.
On 27 January a convoy left New Caledonia for Guadalcanal. On 29 January
the heavy cruiser CHICAGO (a unit of the covering force for the convoy)
was torpedoed and badly damaged by enemy planes in a night attack, and
the next afternoon she was again attacked by planes, the damage
inflicted being so severe that she sank immediately after being
abandoned. In an effort to cover CHICAGO, the destroyer LAVALLETTE was
The convoy reached Guadalcanal without damage, unloaded, and departed on
the 31st. On the following day Army troops were landed behind enemy
ground forces at Verahue. While engaged in covering the landing craft
used in this operation two destroyers, NICHOLAS and DEHAVEN were
attacked by enemy dive bombers, and DE HAVEN was sunk.
In anticipation of another attack on the island our forces were disposed
south of Guadalcanal, and aircraft dispatched by Admiral Halsey and
General MacArthur carried out daily attacks on enemy air fields in the
Bismarcks and northern Solomons.
The first week in February the "Tokio expresses" were increased in size,
and it soon became apparent that the enemy was evacuating what little
strength he had left on the island. On the night of 7-8 February 1943,
exactly six months after our landing in the Solomons, the enemy
completed his withdrawal. On 8 February our troops on Guadalcanal, which
had been closing in on the enemy from both sides, joined forces, and the
first Solomons campaign, except for incidental mopping up, ended.
NEW GEORGIA AND BOUGAINVILLE CAMPAIGNS (INCLUDES NEW GUINEA OPERATIONS)
The evacuation of Guadalcanal on 8 February 1943 was by no means an
indication that the Japanese were retiring from the Solomon Islands. On
the contrary, there was ample evidence that they would make every effort
to retain their positions in the Solomons and in New Guinea. Conversely,
having pushed them out of the southern Solomons area, our next
undertaking was to push them out of the northern Solomons.
The most important enemy position in the northern Solomons was the
airfield they had constructed on Munda Point on the southwest coast of
New Georgia Island, but construction of a secondary base near the mouth
of the Vila River on the southern tip of Kolombangara Island had begun
in the latter part of December. These two airfields constituted a threat
to our position on Guadalcanal, about 200 miles away, and were therefore
repeatedly attacked by aircraft from Guadalcanal during January,
February, and March. In addition, our surface forces conducted a series
of bombardments of those positions. Munda was bombarded on the night of
4 January by a task group of cruisers and destroyers. The Vila-Stanmore
district of Kolombangara Island was shelled on the night of 23-24
January. On the nights of 5-6 March and 12-13 May both airfields were
bombarded simultaneously. Neither the air attacks nor the bombardments
were successful in putting the airfields out of commission for more than
a day or two at a time.
On 21 February our forces made landings in the Russell Islands, 60 miles
northwest of Guadalcanal, and immediately began the construction of
On 1 March, in an attempt to reinforce New Guinea, the Japanese sent two
convoys totaling 21 vessels through the Bismarck Sea. Both convoys were
discovered and were almost completely destroyed by United States Army
and Allied aircraft in a three day running attack.
Extensive preparations were now being made for the invasion of New
Georgia, and although there were no noteworthy naval engagements for
some time, aerial operations were intensified throughout the South
Pacific area. Japanese raids were frequent and heavy even though carried
out at severe cost to the enemy. During this period of stepped up air
operations, our advance base in the Russell Islands was in constant use
by our planes.
On 16 June one of the most furious air battles of the Pacific war was
fought over Guadalcanal. A force of enemy aircraft estimated at 60
bombers and 60 fighters was met by slightly more than 100 United States
fighters manned by Army, Marine Corps and Navy pilots. As a result of
this encounter 107 enemy planes were shot
down at a cost of six United States fighters lost, one landing ship
(tank) and one cargo vessel damaged.
On the night of 29-30 June, as a preliminary to the invasion of New
Georgia, a task group of cruisers and destroyers under the command of
Rear Admiral A. S. Merrill bombarded Vila-Stanmore and the Buin-
Shortland area near the southeast end of Bougainville Island. After the
operation was underway, both Munda and Vila airfields were repeatedly
On 30 June surprise landings were virtually unopposed in the Woodlark
and Trobriand Island groups between the Solomons and New Guinea, and at
Nassau Bay on New Guinea. On the same day landings were made
simultaneously by the Army at Rendova Harbor and by Marines at Viru
Harbor. Two groups of destroyers covered the landing at Rendova, and
effectually silenced enemy land batteries on Munda Point. Enemy aircraft
attacking our transports and destroyers were beaten off by our
protecting fighters or shot down by ships' antiaircraft batteries, but
not until they had succeeded in torpedoing and sinking the transport
On 2 and 3 July landings were made on New Georgia and at Vangunu Island
to the southeast of New Georgia.
During the night of 4-5 July a task group of United States cruisers and
destroyers bombarded enemy positions and gun installations on the
islands of Kolombangara and New Georgia, in order to support landings at
Rice Anchorage. During this bombardment the destroyer STRONG was sunk by
a combination of torpedo hits and gunfire from the shore batteries.
Immediately after the bombardment more landings were effected for the
purpose of seizing the harbors of Enogai and Bairoko.
Battle of Kula Gulf
As the "Tokio express" was making nightly runs through Blackett Strait
and Kula Gulf to supply and reinforce the Japanese at Vila and
elsewhere, an American task force of cruisers and destroyers, under the
command of Rear Admiral W. L. Ainsworth, was dispatched to intercept the
enemy. Early in the morning of 6 July contact with two enemy groups was
made in Kula Gulf. Our forces opened fire with devastating effect on the
first enemy group and subsequently took enemy ships in the second group
under an equally effective fire. Enemy fire consisted chiefly of
torpedoes. While the amount of damage inflicted on the enemy could not
be accurately determined, it is probable that two Japanese destroyers
were sunk in this action.
During the action the cruiser HELENA was torpedoed and sunk. Some of her
personnel were rescued on the spot, and others made their way to Vella
Lavella Island where they were later rescued.
Battle of Kolombangara (Second Battle of Kula Gulf)
During the second week of the New Georgia campaign our ground forces
consolidated their positions at Rendova, Rice Anchorage, Viru, and began
to close in on Munda. Meanwhile, the Navy continued to protect American
ground troops and to prevent the enemy from reinforcing his Munda
On 12 July another task group under Rear Admiral Ainsworth again
intercepted the "Tokio express." As a result of the engagement which
followed (on the
13th)-the enemy was again disposed in two groups-the first enemy group
was badly shot up, and one cruiser was probably sunk. The second,
however, inflicted considerable damage on our forces-the cruisers ST.
LOUIS and HONOLULU were damaged by torpedoes, and the destroyer GWIN was
set on fire and had to be sunk. The New Zealand cruiser LEANDER suffered
a torpedo hit while engaged with the first enemy group.
The two engagements in Kula Gulf were costly, but they removed a threat
of naval action by the enemy which might have jeopardized our landings
on the north coast of New Georgia. Furthermore, they effectively
prevented the Japanese from using the Kula Gulf route to supply and
reinforce their garrisons at Vila and Munda.
Our ground troops on New Georgia slowly converged on Munda, which was
also subjected to bombardments from the sea and air. Other air attacks
were delivered by Allied airplanes at Ballale, at Vila, at Vovine Cove,
at Buin, at Kahili airdrome and at Shortland Harbor. The biggest single
attack consisted of the dropping of 186 tons of bombs on Munda on 25
July. During the 37 days of the Munda campaign our planes destroyed an
estimated 350 Japanese aircraft at a cost of 93.
Munda airfield was captured on 5 August, almost exactly one year after
the first landing on Guadalcanal, and six weeks after New Georgia was
invaded. The fall of Munda climaxed the central Solomons campaign, and
Bairoko Harbor, eight miles to the northward, was the last remaining
Japanese strong point on New Georgia Island. Vila, on the southern tip
of Kolombangara Island, was virtually neutralized as soon as the Seabees
and Army engineers rebuilt the Munda air strip.
The Battle of Vella Gulf
Our rapid consolidation of our control over the sea routes and the heavy
ship losses sustained by the enemy during June and July made it
necessary for the Japanese to support their forces at Kolombangara by
barge traffic moving at night close to the coast of Vella Lavella. As
our PT boats inflicted considerable damage on enemy barges and landing
craft in that area, the Japanese, on 6 August 1943, undertook to send
equipment and troops, escorted by a cruiser and three destroyers, into
Vella Gulf between Vella Lavella and Kolombangara Islands. This
operation, which was calculated to support enemy forces at Vila, led to
the third surface action in the area within a month. A task group of
American destroyers commanded by Commander (now Commodore) Frederick
Moosbrugger took the enemy force by surprise shortly before midnight. In
an engagement lasting about 45 minutes, the three Japanese destroyers
were believed sunk. Our forces suffered no damage.
Invasion of Vella Lavella
Vella Lavella Island, about 14 miles northwest of Kolombangara, was
selected as the next objective in the central Solomons campaign.
Although the island was not occupied by the Japanese, and no opposition
in force was expected, preparations were made to resist air attacks from
enemy airfields to the north.
On 15 August three transport groups succeeded in making landings as
The anticipated enemy air attacks materialized, but did not seriously
interfere with the landings, as our own air support broke up their
Action of 17-18 August
On 17 August four enemy destroyers and a number of barges were reported
en route from Bougainville on a southeasterly course. Four of our
destroyers, under the command of Captain T. J. Ryan, Jr., intercepted
and attacked the enemy force north of Vella Gulf at night. Our forces
scored heavily with gunfire on enemy destroyers and barges, whereupon
the enemy force broke off the action. Our destroyers sustained no
The campaign on New Georgia ended successfully with the occupation of
Bairoko Harbor on 25 August. The Japanese lost heavily in attempting to
evacuate personnel across Kula Gulf to Vila, when PT boats attacked and
sank numerous barges filled with enemy troops. As a result of the
occupation of Bairoko, Kolombangara Island, which was still occupied by
a Japanese garrison, was now between our forces controlling New Georgia
to the southeast and those occupying Vella Lavella to the northwest.
Positions secured on Arundel, which was occupied on 27 August, made it
possible to bring artillery to bear on the Japanese installations at
With his air power weakened, the enemy decided to evacuate Vila during
the month of September. Again barges were used for the evacuation, with
costly results to the enemy. Toward the end of the month of September
our destroyers conducted a particularly damaging attack on barges, which
up to that time had been attacked chiefly by aircraft and PT boats.
Enemy personnel losses during the evacuation of Kolombangara were
undoubtedly heavy, and it was assumed that these heavy losses were the
cause of increased activity to the northward shortly thereafter,
particularly in the vicinity of Bougainville.
Action of 6 October
On the night of 6 October a task group consisting of three destroyers,
CHEVALIER, SELFRIDGE, and OBANNON, commanded by Captain F. R. Walker,
sighted a superior force of enemy ships south of Choiseul. The enemy was
disposed in two groups, one of which appeared to consist of a light
cruiser and four destroyers, the other of four destroyers.
Our destroyers, in spite of their being outnumbered, closed in and
attacked with gunfire and torpedoes. The result was the repulse of a
superior force and the inflicting of considerable damage, at the cost,
however, of the CHEVALIER which was torpedoed and sunk.
By 6 October the enemy completed evacuating his troops from Kolombangara
and Vella Lavella Islands, and the central Solomons campaign ended.
Attacks on Bougainville and the small islands to the north and south of
it began about three weeks after the evacuation of Kolombangara, our air
forces meanwhile having softened up the airfields of Kahili, Ballale,
and Karu by daily attacks.
On 26-27 October Mono and Stirling in the Treasury Islands were invaded
and occupied; on 28 October a landing was made on Choiseul Island; and
on 1 November landings were made on Bougainville Island. The landings on
Mono Island were preceded by bombardments by a task force commanded by
Rear Admiral (now Vice Admiral) T. S. Wilkinson. Another task force
under Rear Admiral Merrill bombarded enemy positions at Bonis on
Bougainville and at Buka immediately preceding our landing. Rear Admiral
Merrill's force then proceeded to the Shortland Islands off the southern
coast of Bougainville and delivered another bombardment on Morgusaia
In the meantime a landing force of Marines under the command of
Lieutenant General Vandegrift (who had returned to the area following
the death of Major General Barrett) landed at Empress Augusta Bay, about
midway up the west coast of the island of Bougainville.
Action of 2 November
Shortly before noon on 1 November an enemy task force of four cruisers
and eight destroyers was observed at the southern end of St. George's
Channel, but an attempt by Rear Admiral Merrill's force to intercept was
not successful, as the enemy retired before action could be joined. On
the following morning, however, a Japanese force consisting of three
groups of four ships each was picked up and attacked. After having
suffered considerable damage, the enemy again retired. We lost no ships
and sustained relatively light damage in this engagement.
The next day our ships, which had retired to Empress Augusta Bay, were
attacked by enemy aircraft but suffered no appreciable damage.
Army troops reinforced the Marines at Empress Augusta Bay on 8 November,
and, after consolidating our beach heads, took the offensive against
enemy troops on the island. On 8 November the enemy delivered an air
attack on a force of our light cruisers and destroyers under the command
of Rear Admiral L. T. DuBose. The attack was not successful, in that we
were able to protect our transports from enemy attacks while the
transports were retiring from Bougainville.
On the night of 12-13 November, while engaged in covering transports en
route to Torokina Point, Rear Admiral Merrill's task force was attacked
by enemy forces.
On 17 November Japanese planes attacking another of our echelons bound
to Torokina succeeded in sinking the destroyer transport MCKEAN.
Action of 25 November
On 25 November four of our destroyers, patrolling the area between Buka
and Cape St. George on the southern tip of New Ireland, attacked a
superior enemy force
with torpedoes and gunfire, inflicting considerable damage on the enemy.
None of our ships was damaged.
During the month of December, American land-based aircraft continued
vigorous operations against Japanese positions throughout the northern
Solomons, with the result that enemy airfields in the Buka-Bonis areas
were completely neutralized. Meanwhile, our troops and supplies
continued to move unopposed into the base at Cape Torokina on Empress
On 20 December a force of American destroyers bombarded a Japanese
concentration on northeastern Bougainville and on the 23rd, a task force
of cruisers and destroyers bombarded the Buka-Bonis area. On the 27th,
another force shelled the Kieta area.
Operations in New Guinea
Concurrently with the attacks on Japanese positions in the central
Solomons, a powerful attack had been launched in the New Guinea Theater.
On the night of 29-30 June Allied troops made a successful landing on
Nassau Bay, about ten miles south of the Japanese base at Salamaua, and
moved up the coast to Mubo and Komistum. After the landing, the Navy
assisted in the new offensive by the use of planes and PT boats to
harass enemy landing barges and prevent reinforcements from being put
ashore. Task units of our destroyers also assisted by bombarding enemy
defenses and installations.
On 3 September our amphibious forces were ready to move against the
enemy's naval and air bases in the Huon Gulf area, and a task force of
destroyers and smaller craft successfully landed the Australian 9th
Division and other troops near Nopoi. During the following days other
task forces escorted more landing craft to the beaches, successfully
fighting off air attacks, and on 7-8 September bombarded positions in
the vicinity of Lae. On 11 September Allied forces captured Salamaua and
five days later Lae, thereby giving our naval forces additional bases.
The next objective of the Allied amphibious forces was Finschafen on the
eastern end of the Huon Peninsula. On the morning of 22 September a task
force of destroyers and landing craft proceeded to a beach about six
miles north of Finschafen and after a brief bombardment landed a strong
Australian force. Enemy air attack was ineffectual. On 2 October
Finschafen was captured and our PT boats sank a number of barges loaded
with enemy troops attempting to get clear of the island. On the
following day our destroyer task forces suffered their first loss when
the destroyer HENLEY was torpedoed and sunk.
On 2 January an Allied landing in force was made on Saidor on the New
Guinea coast. There was no opposition to the landing, and there were no
On 13 February a final occupation of the Huon Peninsula was completed by
the meeting of Australian units coming from the eastward with the 32nd
United States Division.
As our forces moved toward control of the Solomons and New Guinea, it
became possible to strike more directly at Rabaul. This Japanese-held
port was in a key position to control the general area to the south.
On 5 November a task force under Rear Admiral (now Vice Admiral) F. C.
Sherman, built around aircraft carriers, delivered an air attack on
Rabaul. Bombs and torpedoes directed at shipping at anchor resulted in
heavy damage to enemy heavy cruisers and destroyers present. Although
our planes met Japanese air resistance, we shot down about 25 enemy
planes at the cost of three of our own. This carrier-based strike was
supplemented the same day by a large group of Liberators, which did
severe damage to Rabaul's waterfront.
A week later there was a second series of air attacks on Rabaul. This
time two American task forces were engaged. Rear Admiral Sherman's ships
sent in a large flight of planes, and although unfavorable weather
prevented inflicting as much damage as on the prior raid, hits were
scored on Japanese destroyers outside the harbor. The same day a task
force under Rear Admiral A. E. Montgomery sent in a large flight of
planes to attack Rabaul shipping. Heavy damage to cruisers and
destroyers in the harbor was reported. Our planes shot down 24 enemy
aircraft at the cost of seven of our own.
Early in the afternoon of 11 November a Japanese air attack was
delivered against the carriers under Rear Admiral Montgomery. No damage
was done to our ships and something over 50 enemy planes were shot down
by a combination of our own planes and antiaircraft fire. We lost three
planes in the encounter. Another flight of Liberators attacked Rabaul on
During the last ten days of December the major Japanese base on Rabaul
was struck by land-based planes operating from bases in the Solomons and
elsewhere in the South Pacific area. On 25 December planes from a
carrier task force attacked Kavieng, another important enemy base on the
northern tip of New Ireland. Reports indicated the damaging of a
destroyer, the sinking of two cargo ships and three barges, and damage
to other enemy units afloat. Upon its withdrawal, our task force was
heavily attacked by enemy planes, but received no damage. On 28 December
Kavieng was again attacked, this time by our shore-based aircraft.
The attacks on Rabaul were significant in that they destroyed and
damaged Japanese men-of-war (always a main objective of our aircraft),
which were thereby prevented from resisting our offensive in the
northern Solomons, New Guinea or the Gilbert Islands.
In the western end of New Britain island, successful landings were made
at Arawe on 15 December and at Cape Gloucester on 26 December by
amphibious forces from the Southwest Pacific Force.
On 1 January another carrier strike on Kavieng was delivered by a task
force under the command of Rear Admiral Sherman. This task force was
supported by a group of battleships under the command of Rear Admiral
Lee. Primary targets were two enemy cruisers and destroyers about to
enter the port. Preliminary reports indicated that the attacks on the
cruisers were successful. and that both were either
sunk or beached. One of the destroyers was hit by a heavy bomb and both
were strafed. Information is lacking as to the effect on the destroyers,
but both were believed heavily damaged. Between 20 and 30 enemy aircraft
intercepted the attack. Eleven were shot down. Our losses were two
fighters and one bomber.
On 4 January a task force successfully attacked two destroyers off the
entrance to Kavieng.
On 8 January cruisers under the command of Rear Admiral Ainsworth
bombarded the Shortlands without incident.
On 15 February an Allied landing in strength on Green Island, 120 miles
from Rabaul, was virtually unopposed. On 18 February two destroyer task
groups, one commanded by Captain (now Commodore) R. W. Simpson and the
other by Captain A. A. Burke, bombarded Rabaul and Kavieng without
suffering damage from enemy air attack. The task force making the
landing was under the command of Rear Admiral Wilkinson, assault forces
being composed of American and New Zealand troops. A task force of
cruisers and destroyers commanded by Rear Admiral Ainsworth covered the
advance and retirement of the assault forces. The aircraft task force
under Vice Admiral Fitch and a support force of cruisers and destroyers
commanded by Rear Admiral Merrill participated in the operation.
Occupation of the Admiralty Islands
On 29 February amphibious forces from the Southwest Pacific Force under
the command of Rear Admiral W. M. Fechteler (these forces included the
1st Cavalry Division, dismounted) conducted a reconnaissance in force on
Los Negros in the Admiralty Islands. As the reconnaissance revealed
insufficient enemy strength to warrant withdrawing our reconnaissance
forces, the island was promptly occupied. Covering forces were cruisers
and destroyers under the command of Rear Admiral (now Vice Admiral) D.
E. Barbey. This was a brilliant maneuver in the campaign in that part of
the Pacific, conducted under the direction of General MacArthur.
THE CENTRAL PACIFIC CAMPAIGN
Our only operations in the central Pacific following the Battle of
Midway had consisted of a diversionary damaging raid on the island of
Makin, in the Gilberts, by a small party under the command of Captain J.
M. Haines. On 17-18 August the submarines NAUTILUS and ARGONAUT
transported officers and men of the 2nd Marine Raider Battalion to the
island, where they annihilated the Japanese garrison and did severe
damage to enemy installations.
Toward the end of August 1943, while Allied forces in the southwest
Pacific were advancing toward the Japanese bases at Rabaul and Truk, and
while other forces in the Aleutians were consolidating their positions,
Admiral Nimitz organized important units of the Pacific Fleet for a
series of assaults on the enemy's outposts in the central Pacific. These
task forces succeeded in capturing certain islands on the eastern rim of
the enemy's defenses and in diverting the Japanese from the northern
Solomons and New Guinea. In addition, these operations represented
valuable combat training for new air and surface units of the fleet.
Capture of the Gilbert Islands
The Gilbert Islands are a group of coral atolls lying athwart the
equator. They had been held by the British up to the outbreak of war in
December 1941, when they were seized by the Japanese. Their location is
of great strategic significance because they are north and west of other
islands in our possession and immediately south and east of important
Japanese bases in the Carolines and Marshalls. The capture of the
Gilberts was, therefore, a necessary part of any serious thrust at the
In August, September, and October, carrier-based air strikes on Marcus,
Tarawa, Apamama, and Wake served to soften Japanese installations and
keep the enemy guessing as to where our next full-scale attack would be
delivered. The attack on Wake was particularly effective as it included
considerable bombardment in addition to air attacks. Enemy air
opposition was overcome, and a heavy toll of enemy planes was taken,
both on the ground and in the air. During October and early November,
planes from our bases attacked the Japanese in the Gilberts and also the
Marshalls. The Japanese retaliated by raiding our establishments in the
During October and November, various units of the Pacific Fleet were
placed under the command of Vice Admiral Spruance, who was designated
Commander, Central Pacific Force. Vice Admiral Spruance had commanded
one of the task forces at the battle of Midway and had more recently
been Chief of Staff to the Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet. Rear
Admiral Turner, who had been in command at sea during the campaigns in
the Solomon Islands, was placed in charge of our amphibious forces and
Major General (now Lieutenant General) H. M. Smith, USMC, in charge of
the landing forces. Other forces in the command were placed under Rear
Admiral (now Vice Admiral) H. W. Hill. The entire force consisted of
battleships, cruisers, aircraft carriers, destroyers and destroyer
escorts, transports and numerous auxiliaries and landing craft. Shore-
based aircraft were commanded by Rear Admiral (now Vice Admiral) J. H.
During the second week in November, while operations in the Bougainville
area and attacks on Rabaul were in progress, the force under Vice
Admiral Spruance headed west. On 19 November our cruisers bombarded
Tarawa, and on the morning of 20 November our attack groups were off
both Tarawa and Makin Islands.
Heavy shore bombardments by battleships and cruisers preceded the
landing at Makin. Army units which landed there met little opposition at
first, and although the Japanese eventually put up a stiff resistance
the issue there was never in serious doubt. The capture of Makin was
announced on 22 November.
The assault on Tarawa was bitterly contested. Tarawa was heavily
fortified, and garrisoned by about 3,500 Japanese troops on Betio, the
principal island in the group. They had been attacked repeatedly from
the air for weeks preceding the assault and on the day before they had
been heavily bombarded. In spite of these attacks, which silenced the
Japanese heavy guns, wrecked everything above ground and killed
approximately half of the enemy troops, their dugouts, pillboxes, and
bomb-proof shelters were still partially intact.
The enemy was able to concentrate his forces beside the only beach where
a landing was possible. In spite of fire support from the air and from
ships, our casualties were heavy. The fighting which ensued was
considered by many to be the most intense of any in the war, and the
personnel of the 2nd Marine Division, under the command of Major General
Julian C. Smith, and of the naval units which accompanied them in their
landing, demonstrated magnificent courage and tenacity. The assault
lasted nearly four days, at the end of which the island was captured.
During the assault period on both Tarawa and Makin, our transports,
covered by their escorts, lay off the islands unloading. In some cases,
ships were able to enter the lagoons and unload. During this period
enemy submarine attacks which developed off Tarawa were successfully
combatted, but LISCOME BAY an escort carrier, was torpedoed and sunk off
Makin. Rear Admiral H. M. Mullinnix, and the commanding officer, Captain
I. D. Wiltsie, and a large number of officers and men were lost. Enemy
air attacks were successfully driven off by our own aircraft.
After the completion of the assault phase of the operation, our task
forces withdrew to their bases to the north and south. Carrier task
groups, under Rear Admirals C. A. Pownall and A. E. Montgomery, attacked
enemy air bases in the Marshalls on 4 December, the main attack being
directed against the atoll of Kwajalein, where enemy naval and merchant
vessels, aircraft and shore installations were heavily struck with
torpedoes and bombs. A lighter attack was made on the island of Wotje.
Another task force under Rear Admiral Lee proceeding southward from the
Gilberts attacked the island of Nauru. Carrier planes bombed the island,
and battleships subjected it to heavy bombardments, starting large fires
and destroying a number of planes.
During the remainder of the year, Army and Navy land-based planes
carried out repeated attacks on enemy holdings in the Marshall Islands
and at Nauru, inflicting considerable damage on ships and shore
installations. Enemy air attacks on our newly acquired bases in the
Gilberts were delivered, but no serious damage was sustained.
Operations in the Marshall Islands
On 29 January offensive operations on the largest scale yet undertaken
were directed against the Marshall Islands by task forces under the
command of Vice Admiral Spruance. On that date simultaneous attacks were
delivered on Kwajalein by carriers commanded by Rear Admiral F. C.
Sherman, on Roi by carriers commanded by Rear Admiral Montgomery, on
Taroa by carriers commanded by Rear Admiral J. W. Reeves, and on Wotje
by carriers commanded by Rear Admiral S. P. Ginder. In addition,
cruisers under the command of Rear Admiral E. G. Small bombarded Taroa
and Wotje, and shore-based aircraft under Rear Admiral Hoover bombed all
four islands, together with Mille and Jaluit.
On 30 January carrier attacks were resumed on Kwajalein by forces under
Rear Admiral Reeves and the island was also bombarded by battleships.
Roi was again
attacked by Rear Admiral Montgomery's carrier force, and in addition was
heavily bombarded by battleships. Taroa and Wotje were again struck by a
carrier force under Rear Admiral Ginder and in addition were bombarded
by cruisers. Forces under the command of Rear Admiral Small assisted in
the bombardment of Wotje and Maloelap. Ebeye was struck by carrier
forces under Rear Admiral Reeves, and Eniwetok was attacked by carriers
under Rear Admiral Sherman. Mille, Jaluit and Wake were bombed by shore-
Other forces under Admiral Spruance's command in this operation
consisted of a joint expeditionary force (southern attack group) under
Rear Admiral Turner. Defense forces and land-based aircraft were under
the command of Rear Admiral Hoover. Rear Admiral Hill commanded an
attack group and Rear Admiral (now Vice Admiral) R. L. Conolly another
(the northern attack group). Expeditionary troops were under the command
of Major General H. M. Smith. The carrier task forces were commanded by
Rear Admiral (now Vice Admiral) M. A. Mitscher.
On 31 January the forces commanded by Rear Admiral Hill proceeded
against the atoll of Majuro, but found no Japanese present there. On the
following day troops were sent ashore and the atoll was occupied.
On 2 February landings were made on Roi, Namur and Kwajalein. Roi was
secured and enemy resistance on Namur was confined to the northern part
of the island. By the middle of the afternoon all organized resistance
on Roi and Namur was overcome and the Commanding General of the 4th
Marine Division (Major General Harry Schmidt, USMC) assumed command
ashore. Our casualties on these two islands were less than 100 killed
and 400 wounded. Simultaneously four smaller islands were occupied. At
Kwajalein our troops (7th Division, United States Army) made
considerable progress against increasing resistance.
By 5 February our troops on Kwajalein had captured the island, and by
the 8th, the entire atoll was in our possession.
Taroa, Wotje, Jaluit, Mille and Ponape were bombed and/or bombarded at
frequent intervals during the remainder of the month.
On 17-18 February forces under the command of Vice Admiral Spruance
delivered an attack on the island of Truk. The first part of the attack
by carrier-based planes was followed up by battleships, cruisers and
destroyers. Heavy damage was inflicted on the enemy, both in ships sunk
and damaged, and in planes shot down and destroyed on the ground. This
attack, which was delivered with devastating effect, was particularly
satisfying as it was generally regarded as partial payment for the debt
incurred when Pearl Harbor was attacked.
Forces participating in the attack on Truk included carriers under the
command of Rear Admiral Mitscher (under whom were Rear Admirals Reeves,
Montgomery and Sherman); cruisers commanded by Rear Admirals DuBose, J.
L. Wiltsie, and Rear Admiral (now Vice Admiral) R. C. Giffen; and
battleships under Rear Admirals G. B. Davis, E. W. Hanson, and Rear
Admiral (now Vice Admiral) O. M. Hustvedt.
On 17 February an expeditionary task group under the command of Rear
Admiral Hill (assault troops were headed by Brigadier General T. E.
Watson, USMC) landed on Eniwetok Atoll, which had previously been
bombarded and bombed
over a period of several days. Supporting forces included carriers under
Rear Admirals V. H. Ragsdale and Ginder, cruisers commanded by Rear
Admiral (now Vice Admiral) J. B. Oldendorf and Rear Admiral L. H.
On 18 February, after extensive bombing and bombardment, Engebi Island
was captured. With the capture of Eniwetok on 20 February, announced by
Rear Admiral Hill, control of the Marshall Islands, which were Japanese
possessions before the war, passed to the United States. The operations
in the Marshall Islands carried out by the forces under Vice Admiral
Spruance were characterized by excellent planning and by almost perfect
timing in the execution of those plans. The entire operation was a
credit to all who participated, and is a noteworthy example of the
results that may be expected from good staff work.
Raids on the Marianas
On 22 February (East Longitude Date), a task force under the command of
Rear Admiral Mitscher, en route to deliver attacks on Saipan and Tinian
in the Marianas, was detected by enemy search planes and subsequently
attacked by enemy bombers and torpedo planes. The task force suffered no
damage, shot down a number of planes and proceeded to deliver attacks on
the objectives stated the next day. During the attack several enemy
ships were sunk and damaged. About 30 enemy planes were shot down and 85
or more were destroyed on the ground. In addition, numerous small craft
were destroyed. At the same time our aircraft raided Guam.
NORTHERN PACIFIC CAMPAIGN
Since the Aleutian Islands constitute an aerial highway between the
North American continent and the Far East, their strategic value is
obvious. On the other hand, that chain of islands provides as rugged a
theater for warfare as any in the world. Not only are the islands
mountainous and rocky, but the weather in the western part of the
islands is continually bad. The fogs are almost continuous, and thick.
Violent winds (known locally as "williwaws") with accompanying heavy
seas make any kind of operation in that vicinity difficult and
uncertain. The Bering Sea has been termed a "storm factory," because
during the winter months the storms form up there and, at the rate of
one or two a week, travel east and southeast.
In May 1942, when we were calculating the various risks involved in the
disposition of our forces, Dutch Harbor in the Aleutian Islands was
considered to be a definite possibility as an enemy objective. A task
force to operate in that area was therefore organized and placed under
the command of Rear Admiral R. A. Theobald. His command included all
American and Canadian Army personnel in the north Pacific, including sea
and air units.
On 3 June 1942, just as the battle of Midway was beginning, Dutch Harbor
was attacked by Japanese high altitude bombers, presumably from enemy
carriers. The attacking force was not located immediately, because the
fog set in, and the intention of the enemy was therefore obscure. Within
a few days, however, it was discovered
that the enemy force had turned westward and effected landings on the
islands of Kiska and Attu, where they were erecting buildings.
During June and July, in spite of the weather, our submarines and
aircraft, by a series of attacks, succeeded in preventing the arrival of
major Japanese reinforcements. Army Air Force bombardment squadrons and
units of the Royal Canadian Air Force contributed notably to these
operations, as they did to the operations of the succeeding months. On 7
August Rear Admiral W. W. Smith, with a force of cruisers and
destroyers, bombarded the shore installations on Kiska, but because of
poor visibility the damage inflicted could not be ascertained. The
bombardment served, however, to indicate the need for air bases closer
to the islands occupied by the Japanese and as a consequence we occupied
the island of Adak, in the Andreanof Group, at the end of August. In
January 1943, we occupied Amchitka, considerably closer to Kiska, and by
February our fighter planes were able to operate from there. By that
time, we also had made good progress in establishing and equipping the
base on Adak. Meanwhile, Kiska was attacked almost daily by planes from
Because of weather conditions and the employment of our forces in other
theaters, no attacks, other than bombing raids, with the exception of
the bombardment previously referred to and the bombardment of Holtz Bay
and Chicagof Harbor, Attu, on 18 February by cruisers and destroyers
commanded by Rear Admiral (now Vice Admiral) C. H. McMorris, were
delivered on the islands until the spring of 1943.
Battle of the Komandorski Islands
In that situation, the enemy, late in March 1943, undertook to support
the two garrisons by sending through a small but heavily protected
convoy. Early on the morning of 26 March, a unit of our North Pacific
Force, commanded by Rear Admiral McMorris, encountered the advancing
enemy force, which included heavy and light cruisers, some destroyers
and cargo ships, about 65 miles south of the Komandorski Peninsula. Our
force, although outnumbered, closed for attack.
The engagement which followed developed into a running gunfire duel
between our cruisers SALT LAKE CITY and RICHMOND and enemy cruisers.
This was followed by a torpedo attack delivered by our destroyers, upon
completion of which the enemy retired in the direction of Paramushiru,
500 miles to the westward. Our damage was small and our casualties were
light. While the damage inflicted on the enemy is not definitely known,
a superior enemy force, after being engaged for three and one-half
hours, had been prevented from supporting Japanese garrisons at Kiska
The Capture of Attu
During the month of April, severe weather interfered considerably with
our operations, but later in the month a detachment of cruisers and
destroyers was sent to bombard the island of Attu.
Meanwhile, plans had been completed for an assault on Attu, and a force
consisting of battleships, an auxiliary aircraft carrier, destroyers,
auxiliaries and transports was placed under the command of Rear Admiral
Rockwell, who operated under the direction of Rear Admiral Kinkaid. In
addition to Rear Admiral Rockwells force
there was a unit consisting of cruisers and destroyers under the command
of Rear Admiral Giffen and another under Rear Admiral McMorris. The
entire operation was to be supported by the Army Air Forces under the
command of Major General Albert E. Brown. These troops were embarked in
On the morning of 11 May landings were made on the north coast of Attu,
and our troops proceeded inland. In the afternoon other landings were
made at Massacre Bay, and also at Holtz Bay. These landings were covered
by our naval forces, and in the bitter fighting which followed, various
naval units assisted Army troops by furnishing fire support and air
cover. Enemy attacks on our naval forces were ineffective. On 31 May the
"mopping up" stage ended, and the island was in our possession. Enemy
forces there had been virtually annihilated.
Occupation of Kiska
Following the assault on Attu, preparations were made for a similar
assault on Kiska. In anticipation of that assault, Kiska was heavily
bombed during July and August, and on numerous occasions was also
bombarded by our naval forces.
When assault troops landed on the island on 15 August it was found that
it had been evacuated by the Japanese under cover of the fog. Thus, the
Aleutian campaign ended, with our forces once more in possession of the
entire chain of islands.
Although it had no connection with the campaign herein described, the
bombardment of Paramushiru by a task force under the command of Rear
Admiral W. D. Baker was carried out on 4 February 1944. Large fires were
started. No damage was sustained by our forces. The bombardment is
included in this part of the report because it took place in the
Because of their ability to operate effectively in enemy controlled
waters the weakness of our Asiatic Fleet was partially compensated by
virtue of the 29 submarines assigned to it-our submarines took the
offensive immediately upon the outbreak of war. When our surface forces
retired to the south from the Philippine Islands, submarines [under the
command of Captain (now Rear Admiral) John Wilkes] succeeded in delaying
the enemy's advance and in giving intermittent support to our forces
remaining in the islands. As the Japanese advanced through the
Netherlands East Indies and into the Solomons, submarines continued to
interrupt enemy lines of communications, and since that time have
continued their attacks on enemy men-of-war and merchantmen with telling
At the beginning of the var Rear Admiral T. Withers was in command of
the submarines in our Pacific Fleet. Rear Admiral R. H. English, who
relieved him in May 1942, was killed in an airplane accident in January
1943. Since that time the uniformly excellent operation and
administration of Pacific Fleet submarines has been continued under the
direction of Vice Admiral C. A. Lockwood, who previously commanded
submarines of the Southwest Pacific Force. Rear Admiral R. W. Christie
succeeded to command of the submarines in the Southwest Pacific Force.
Atlantic Fleet submarines have been commanded since the spring of 1942
chiefly fitting out and training, have done much to make effective
combat submarine operations possible within a minimum time after each
submarine joins the Pacific Fleet.
Without adequate shipping, Japan can not hold out, much less support her
forces, in the islands of the Pacific. Furthermore, the Japanese
shipyards have limited capacity. Her shipping, therefore, was a natural
target for our submarines, and they have taken a tremendous toll.
For reasons of security, our submarine operations throughout the Pacific
can be discussed only in very general terms. No branch of the naval
service, however, has acquitted itself more creditably. Submarine
commanding officers are skillful, daring and resourceful. Their crews
are well trained and efficient. Their morale is high, and in direct
ratio to the success of submarine operations. Materially our submarines
are in excellent shape, and we have kept up to the minute in all
features of design and scientific development and research.
The versatility of our submarines has been so repeatedly demonstrated
throughout the war that the Japanese know only too well that in no part
of the Pacific Ocean are they safe from submarine attack. When the full
story can be told, it will constitute one of the most stirring chapters
in the annals of naval warfare.
The Atlantic Theater
At the outbreak of the war our operations in the Atlantic Ocean
consisted chiefly of escorting convoys to Great Britain, and to Russian
and Near East ports (also West Indian and South American ports) and of
training. Concurrently, with these operations, it was necessary to
dispose the heavy units of our Atlantic Fleet so that they would be
available immediately in case ships of the German Fleet, basing at
various ports in Germany, Norway, and France, attacked our shipping.
From time to time, in order to maintain a satisfactory distribution of
Allied strength, as insurance against such a breakout by units of the
German Navy, certain of our ships operated with the British Fleet.
By agreement with the British, emphasized at the Casablanca conference
and at each subsequent conference, the maintenance of the war-making
capacity of the British Isles has been a continuing commitment of the
United States. Obviously, such a commitment requires, as a prerequisite
to the furnishing of the necessary support the maintenance of overseas
lines of communication, so that the safe passage of lend lease
shipments, supplies to our own forces, and troop convoys can be
The responsibility for those naval operations required to keep open not
only those lines of communications, but, as well, all lines of
communications in the Atlantic Ocean, has rested with Admiral R. E.
Ingersoll, the Commander in Chief of the Atlantic Fleet. Faced with the
threat of the u-boat fleet (the methods taken to combat and overcome
that menace are covered elsewhere in this report) and with the
possibility of attack by other enemy units, escort of convoy operations
was of paramount importance.
Early in the war the attempts of the enemy to interrupt our lines of
communications, while not successful, nevertheless were a matter of
considerable concern. By judicious use of escorts, however, and by other
means, our convoys continued to go through. The magnitude of those
escort operations, which have been continuous, is not likely to be
overestimated, as we have expended tremendous effort in providing the
ships and training them, and in the execution of their duties. The
record of safe overseas transportation of troops and material speaks for
itself, in so far as the efficiency of those operations is concerned.
Direct support of units of the British Fleet in any operation requiring
combined effort has been another Atlantic Fleet activity calling for
careful planning and execution.
In addition, Admiral Ingersoll has had the responsibility for the
defense of the Western Hemisphere by our naval forces. That has involved
the stationing of air and surface forces at various points in North and
South America and in certain islands in the Atlantic Ocean, and, of
course, such changes in their disposition as might be warranted by the
situation. The South Atlantic Force, under the command of Vice Admiral
(now Admiral) J. H. Ingram, whose headquarters are in Brazil, has
operated in harmony and close combination with forces of the Brazilian
Navy in contributing to our control of the South Atlantic.
In order to facilitate the passage of convoys to Russia and Great
Britain, and in order to provide a base for our heavy surface forces,
considerable use has been made of Iceland, where we originally
established a base for forces engaged in escorting lend-lease convoys.
All of the bases acquired from Great Britain in exchange for the 50
destroyers have been in constant use, and of great value.
Except for antisubmarine actions and for occasional aircraft attacks,
units of the Atlantic Fleet have not been in any extensive combat in the
Atlantic Ocean. As covering and supporting forces, however, they have
accompanied our expeditions which landed in North Africa, and later in
Sicily and Italy, and in the case of the landings in North Africa, there
were some engagements in the Atlantic Ocean. The details of those
expeditions are covered separately in this report.
For the purpose of training the large number of newly commissioned ships
on the east coast, which report to the Commander in Chief, United States
Atlantic Fleet as soon as they are completed, a training command, under
Rear Admiral D. B. Beary, was established as a part of the Atlantic
Fleet. That command took over all ships (except submarines) as soon as
they were ready for sea, and conducted such operational training as was
necessary to fit each ship for duty in the fleet to which assigned. In
addition to that type of operational training, the Commander in Chief,
United States Atlantic Fleet was charged with extensive amphibious
From the foregoing it will be seen that the Commander in Chief, United
States Atlantic Fleet has had a wide variety of responsibilities which
have been contributory to the success of the multiplicity of operations,
some of which were carried out by the Atlantic Fleet and some by other
fleets. Because of the situation, there has been a continuous shift in
the strength and disposition of the Atlantic Fleet, in which connection
its flexibility and the manner in which adjustments and readjustments
were made have been of tremendous assistance to the Navy as a whole.
THE ATLANTIC SUBMARINE WAR
The submarine war-particularly the Atlantic phase of it-has been a
matter of primary concern since the outbreak of hostilities. Maintenance
of the flow of ocean traffic has been, and continues to be, a vital
element of all war plans.
Operating on exterior lines of communication on almost every front, the
United Nations have been dependent largely upon maritime transportation.
The success of overseas operations, landing attacks, the maintenance of
troops abroad and the delivery of war materials to Russia and other
Allies concerned primarily with land operations has depended to a large
extent upon the availability of shipping and the ability to keep it
moving. Shipping potentialities have been the major factor-often the
controlling factor-in most of the problems with which the Allied High
Command has had to deal.
The principal menace to shipping has been the large fleet of submarines
maintained by Germany. Our enemies have employed the submarine on a
world-wide scale, but the area of greatest intensity has always been the
Atlantic Ocean where the bulk of German U-Boats have operated.
The German U-boat campaign is a logical extension of the submarine
strategy of World War I which almost succeeded in starving Great Britain
into submission. Unable to build up a powerful surface fleet in
preparation for World War II, Germany planned to repeat her submarine
campaign on a greater scale and to this end produced a U-boat fleet of
huge size. The primary mission of this underwater navy was to cut the
sea routes to the British Isles, and the enemy undersea forces went to
work on this task promptly and vigorously.
The United States became involved in the matter before we were formally
at war, because our vessels were being sunk in the trans-Atlantic
traffic routes. Consequently, in 1941, we took measures to assist the
Royal Navy to protect our shipping. As stated in more detail elsewhere
in this report these measures included the transfer of 50 old destroyers
to the British, and-in the latter part of 1941-the assignment of our own
naval vessels to escort our merchant shipping on threatened trans-
The submarine situation was improving as 1941 drew toward a close.
Escort operations on threatened convoy routes were becoming more and
more effective. British aviation had become a potent factor, by direct
action against the U-Boats, and also by bringing under control the
German over-water air effort that had augmented the submarine offensive.
Our resources were stretched, however, and we could not, for a time,
deal effectively with the change in the situation brought about by our
entry into the war on 7 December 1941. Our whole merchant marine then
became a legitimate target, and the U-Boats, still maintaining full
pressure on the trans-Atlantic routes had sufficient numbers to spread
their depredations into wide areas hitherto immune. Our difficulty was
that such part of the Atlantic Fleet as was not already engaged in
escort duty was called upon to protect the troop movements that began
with our entry into the war, leaving no adequate force to cover the many
maritime traffic areas newly exposed to possible U-boat activity.
The Germans were none too quick in taking advantage of their
It was not until more than a month after the declaration of war that U-
Boats began to expand their areas of operation. The first move took the
form of an incursion into our coastal waters in January 1942. We had
prepared for this by gathering on our eastern seaboard our scant
resources in coastal antisubmarine vessels and aircraft consisting
chiefly of a number of yachts and miscellaneous small craft taken over
by the Navy in 1940 and 1941. To reinforce this group the Navy
accelerated its program of acquiring such fishing boats and pleasure
craft as could be used and supplied them with such armaments as they
could carry. For patrol purposes we employed all available aircraft-Army
as well as Navy. The help of the Civil Air Patrol was gratefully
accepted. This heterogeneous force was useful in keeping lookout and in
rescuing survivors of sunken ships. It may have interfered, too, to some
extent with the freedom of U-boat movement, but the heavy losses we
suffered in coastal waters during the early months of 1942 gave abundant
proof of the already well known fact that stout hearts in little boats
can not handle an opponent as tough as the submarine.
The Navy was deeply grateful for the assistance so eagerly volunteered
by the men who courageously risked their lives in order to make the best
of available means, but there had to be better means, and to provide
them no effort was spared to build up an antisubmarine force of adequate
types. Submarine chasers, construction of which had been initiated
before the war, began to come into service early in 1942. The British
and Canadian Navies were able to assign some antisubmarine vessels to
work with our coastal forces. Ocean escorts were robbed to reinforce
coastal areas. These measures made it possible to establish a coastal
convoy system in the middle of May 1942. Antisubmarine aviation had
concurrently improved in quality and material and training of personnel.
The Army Air Force had volunteered the services of the First Bomber
Command which was especially trained and outfitted for anti-submarine
The effect of these measures was quickly felt in the Eastern Sea
Frontier (the coastal waters from Canada to Jacksonville) where they
were first applied. With the establishment of the initial coastal convoy
(under the command of Vice Admiral Adolphus Andrews, Commander of the
Eastern Sea Frontier) in the middle of May 1942, sinkings in the vital
traffic lanes of the Eastern Sea Frontier dropped off nearly to zero and
have so remained. While it has not been possible to clear those routes
completely-there is evidence that nearly always one or more U-Boats
haunt our Atlantic Coast-submarines in that area long ago ceased to be a
When the Eastern Sea Frontier became "too hot," the U-Boats began to
spread farther afield. The coastal convoy system was extended as rapidly
as possible to meet them in the Gulf of Mexico (under the command of
Rear Admiral J. L. Kauffman, Commander Gulf Sea Frontier), the Caribbean
Sea, (under the command of Vice Admiral J. H. Hoover, Commander
Caribbean Sea Frontier), and along the Atlantic Coast of South America.
The undersea craft made a last bitter stand in the Trinidad area in the
fall of 1942. Since then coastal waters have been relatively safe.
The problem was more difficult to meet in the open sea. The submarine
chasers that do well enough in coastal waters are too small for ocean
escort duty. Destroyers and other ocean escort types could not be
produced as rapidly as the smaller craft. Aircraft capable of long
overseas patrol were not plentiful, nor were aircraft carriers.
In consequence, protection of ocean shipping lagged to some extent. By
the end of 942 however, this matter began to come under control, as our
forces slowly increased, and there has been a steady improvement ever
The Atlantic antisubmarine campaign has been a closely integrated
international operation. In the early phases of our participation, there
was a considerable mixture of forces, as the needs of the situation were
met as best they could be. For a time some British and Canadian vessels
operated in our coastal escorts, while our destroyers were brigaded with
British groups in the Atlantic and even occasionally as far afield as
north Russian waters. As Allied strength improved in power and balance,
it became possible to establish certain areas of national responsibility
wherein the forces are predominantly of one nation. This simplifies the
problem of administration and operation, but there still are-and
probably always will be-some areas where forces of two or more nations
work together in a single command, and always there is close
coordination in deploying the forces of the several Allies.
There is a constant interchange of information between the large
organizations maintained in the Admiralty and in the United States Fleet
Headquarters (in the form of the Tenth Fleet which coordinates United
States anti-u-boat activities in the Atlantic) to deal with the problems
of control and protection of shipping. These organizations, also, keep
in intimate touch with the War Shipping Administration in the United
States and with the corresponding agency in Great Britain.
Command of antisubmarine forces-air and surface-that protect shipping in
the coastwise sea lanes of the United States and within the Caribbean
Sea and Gulf of Mexico is exercised by sea frontier commanders, each
assigned to a prescribed area. The command is naval except in the Panama
area where the naval sea frontier commander is under the Commanding
General at Panama.
Since aircraft and surface combatant ships are most effective when
working as a closely knit team, it is the policy-in antisubmarine as
well as other naval operations-to weld together air and surface forces
in a single command in each area.
In the Atlantic Ocean, beyond the coastal area, antisubmarine forces-air
and surface-are part of the Atlantic Fleet under the command of Admiral
Ingersoll. One of the units of Admiral Ingersoll's fleet is the South
Atlantic Force (Vice Admiral Ingram commanding) which guards shipping in
the coastal waters south of the Equator and throughout the United States
area of the South Atlantic. Vice Admiral Ingrams command includes
highly efficient surface and air units of Brazil, which country has
wholeheartedly joined our team of submarine hunters. This team,
incidentally turns its guns on surface raiders and other bigger game
when the enemy provides the opportunity.
It is appropriate to express here appreciation of the services of
Netherlands antisubmarine vessels which have operated with exemplary
efficiency as part of the United States Naval Caribbean Force ever since
we entered the war.
Antisubmarine warfare is primarily a naval function, but, in accordance
with the general policy of working together, Army and Navy forces that
are available, turn to together on the enemy when need arises. Thus it
happens that there are instances in which Army aircraft join in the
submarine hunt. The assistance of the Army Air Force has been of great
value, particularly in the early phases of the war,
when naval resources were inadequate. An example of this is the
formation of the Army Air Force Anti-Submarine Command in the spring of
1942, which was given the equipment and training necessary to make its
members antisubmarine specialists. It operated, under the command of
Brigadier General (now Major General) T. W. Larson, in the United States
and abroad until last November, when the Navy obtained enough equipment
to take over the tasks so well performed by this command.
It is regretted that it is not possible at this time to go into the
details of our antisubmarine operations in this report. It would be a
great pleasure to recount the many praiseworthy exploits of our
antisubmarine forces, but to do so now would jeopardize the success of
future operations. The U-boat war has been a war of wits. The submarine
is a weapon of stealth, and naturally enough the German operations have
been shrouded in secrecy. It has been of equal importance to keep our
counter measures from becoming known to the enemy. There is a constant
interplay of new devices and new tactics on the part of forces working
against the submarines as well as on the part of the submarines
themselves, and an important element of our success has been the ability
to keep the enemy from knowing what we are doing and what we are likely
to do in the future. It is, also, of the utmost importance to keep our
enemies from learning our antisubmarine technique, lest they turn it to
their own advantage in operations against our submarines.
Submarines have not been driven from the seas, but they have changed
status from menace to problem.
The Mediterranean Theater
LANDINGS IN NORTH AFRICA
In July 1942, after several months of discussions and study by the
Combined Chiefs of Staff, it was decided to effect landings in force in
North Africa and there establish our troops in opposition to the German
forces. The strategic significance of that move since has become
apparent, in that the troops which were transported and landed in North
Africa subsequently moved through Sicily to Italy, and there engaged
enemy land forces.
The invasion of North Africa was a complicated operation. In the first
place, in view of the uncertainty of the relationships existing between
the French forces in that area and the Vichy government, the political
situation in North Africa required the most careful and diplomatic
handling. Obviously it was to our advantage to effect unopposed
landings, and the problem therefore was to persuade the French forces
not to resist. We could not afford, however, to take any chances in
revealing our own plans, and the dealings with the French authorities
had to be undertaken with utmost discretion. As it turned out, the
French forces resisted initially, but within a few days agreed to an
In addition to the foregoing difficulty, it was agreed that the forces
participating in the operations would consist of British and American
units. Furthermore, the nature of the operations was such that the
American units had to be both Army and Navy. Command relationships were
worked out accordingly, and Lieutenant General (now General of the Army)
D. D. Eisenhower, USA, was appointed Commander in
(Plate 7 here.)
Chief of the Allied force. His principal naval subordinate was Admiral
The plan agreed upon called for three points of attack: Oran and
Algiers, both Algerian seaports on the Mediterranean, and Casablanca on
the Atlantic coast of French Morocco. The attack forces assigned to
effect landings at Oran and Algiers
consisted of United States Army troops supported by British naval units
(with a few exceptions). The Casablanca attack force was composed
entirely of United States forces. This report deals chiefly with the
part played by United States naval forces in the operation.
Rear Admiral (now Admiral) H. K. Hewitt, who was placed in command of
the United States naval forces designated to support the Casablanca
attack [Major General (later General) George S. Patton (now deceased)
commanded the Army troops in this attack] left the United States on 24
October and the movement overseas proceeded without untoward incident.
On 7 November the forces separated and the three attack groups, the
covering force (under the command of Rear Admiral Giffen) and the air
groups proceeded independently to their assigned positions for the
Operations in French Morocco
Operations in French Morocco were conducted by United States forces
under the unified command of Rear Admiral Hewitt until General Patton's
headquarters were established on shore and he was ready to assume
command. The plan called for a main landing at Fedala, 14 miles north of
Casablanca, and secondary landings at Port Lyautey, 65 miles north of
Casablanca, and Safi, 125 miles south of Casablanca. The object of the
main landing was to capture Casablanca from the land side. The principal
objective at Port Lyautey was the airfield nearby, and the objective of
Safi was to capture the port by direct assault and then to assist in the
reduction of Casablanca.
Early in the morning of 8 November, shortly after our troops had been
landed, shore batteries opened fire on the naval forces supporting the
landings at Fedala. These shore batteries were engaged at intervals
during that morning by AUGUSTA, BROOKLYN, and accompanying destroyers.
Early in the afternoon the shore batteries on Point Fedala were
Several naval actions took place between Fedala and Casablanca on 8
November. Shortly after daylight, eight submarines left Casablanca.
Three others were sunk at their moorings. Early in the forenoon, two
French destroyer-leaders and five destroyers sortied and stood toward
Fedala. They were taken under fire and forced to retire. Shortly
afterward the French light cruiser PRIMAGUET sortied and joined the
French destroyers outside the harbor. The group, which stood toward
Fedala, was promptly engaged by AUGUSTA and BROOKLYN, and vessels of the
covering force. With the exception of one transport, which managed to
get back to the harbor, all French ships were either sunk or beached.
Meanwhile, the covering force, consisting of MASSACHUSETTS, WICHITA,
TUSCALOOSA, and four destroyers, exchanged fire with the shore batteries
at El Hank, and the French battleship JEAN BART, which was moored in the
harbor, and with the French forces that had sortied from Casablanca.
Another action took place on 10 November. Late in the forenoon the enemy
vessels took up a position outside of the harbor at Casablanca and
opened fire on our troops ashore, whereupon AUGUSTA and four destroyers
stood toward Casablanca and engaged the two enemy vessels. While in that
position, AUGUSTA was fired upon by JEAN BART. AUGUSTA and accompanying
destroyers immediately retired.
Sometime between 8 November and 10 November JEAN BART was sunk at her
moorings, but the water was shallow and she was able to continue to
Thanks to the elimination of the French forces at Casablanca the
landings at Fedala were successfully completed, but the aftermath was
costly. On 11 November the transport JOSEPH HEWES, the oiler WINOOSKI
and the destroyer HAMBLETON were torpedoed. The HEWES sank in an hour,
and the other two ships were later taken to Casablanca for repairs. On
12 November the transports HUGH L. SCOTT and EDWARD RUTLEDGE were
torpedoed and immediately caught fire and burned. All these attacks were
assumed to be from Axis submarines.
The attack on Safi was made principally by two destroyers, BERNADOU and
COLE, which were supported by gunfire from a covering group under the
command of Rear Admiral L. A. Davidson, consisting of the battleship NEW
YORK, the cruiser PHILADELPHIA and the destroyer MERVINE, BERNADOU,
carrying Army troops, and MERVINE, with naval personnel, made a daring
entry into the harbor early in the morning of the 8th, and there landed
their troops without serious difficulty.
The landings at Port Lyautey were made with comparatively little
difficulty. Stiff resistance was later encountered south of the mouth of
the Oued Sebou River, and shore batteries were not silenced until 9
November. Ships furnishing naval gunfire and naval aircraft support
included TEXAS, SAVANNAH, and a number of destroyers under the command
of Rear Admiral Monroe Kelly.
The Oran Operation
The naval support for the landings at Oran was furnished by the British
naval forces. In order to facilitate the capture of Oran, however, it
was decided to seize the harbor of Arzeu, about 25 miles east of Oran,
and by a daring and well executed assault, a small raiding party, under
Captain Walter Ansel, captured the harbor early in the morning of 8
Also assigned to assist British naval forces was a small United States
naval unit commanded by Lieutenant Commander (now Captain) George D.
Dickey. This unit, together with army units, was embarked in two British
ships, HMS WALNEY and HARTLAND both of which were formerly United States
Coast Guard cutters. Upon entering the harbor early in the morning of 8
November, both ships were discovered and sunk.
The Algiers Operation
Included in the naval task force assigned to assist in the Algiers
landings was a division of four American transports. These vessels had
proceeded from Great Britain in time to arrive on the Algerian coast
simultaneously with the forces arriving on the Moroccan coast from the
United States. Late in the afternoon of 7 November the transport THOMAS
STONE was torpedoed. Her troops thereupon were put in landing boats
about 160 miles from Algiers. After a hazardous trip, during which a
number Of the landing craft were lost, they succeeded in reaching the
Algerian coast, but by that time hostilities had ceased.
The transport LEEDSTOWN was attacked by German aircraft on the evening
8 November and again on the following afternoon, and was sunk by
torpedoes. The loss of personnel was light.
With the successful negotiation of the armistice on 11 November,
resistance from the French forces ceased, and in so far as the immediate
participation of United States naval forces was concerned, the operation
ended. Meanwhile, however, a naval unit on the east coast of French
Morocco was established as a Sea Frontier under the command of Rear
Admiral John L. Hall, Jr., and a Naval Operating Base at Oran, under the
command of Rear Admiral A. C. Bennett, was also established.
The United States naval forces participating in these operations were
taken from the U.S. Atlantic Fleet.
LANDINGS IN SICILY
By May 1943, German forces had been driven from Tunisia, and by that
time our fighting strength was such that we were able to make definite
plans for a major offensive move against the enemy in his own territory.
Sicily was selected as the immediate objective, and an amphibious
operation on the largest scale yet undertaken was planned. Generally
speaking, one part of the operation was to be a ship-to-shore movement
in which our troops were to be taken to the scene of the landing in
transports and there embarked for the actual landing in small boats. The
second part was a shore-to-shore movement, the troops being transported
directly to the landing beaches from the point of embarkation.
Like the North African operation, the landings in Sicily were to be
combined British and American. General Eisenhower was given command of
the expeditionary force and Admiral Cunningham was given command of all
naval forces participating. Under these officers were three task forces,
one of which was (with the usual provisions for change-over in command)
under the command of Vice Admiral Hewitt, and Lieutenant General Patton.
Army air forces were under the command of Brigadier General (now
General) Carl Spaatz. Under the plan agreed upon, landings were to be
made at five places on the island of Sicily. Three of those objectives,
namely Scoglitti, Gela, and Licata, on the south coast of Sicily, were
to be attacked by the American task force.
This report concerns itself primarily with the activities of the
American naval forces in the operation.
In anticipation of the operation, transports, cruisers and destroyers
were assembled at Oran and Algiers. Various types of landing craft were
assembled at Tunis and Bizerte. There were some exceptions to that
arrangement. On 5 July the largest ships of the Scoglitti force left
Oran and on the following day they were joined by the ships of the Gela
force from Algiers. As the force passed Tunis and Bizerte they were
joined by the small craft.
The landing at Scoglitti, early in the morning of July 10, which was
preceded by bombardment of shore batteries and beach positions by our
naval units, was
accomplished with comparatively little opposition, as the Italian troops
abandoned their positions at the first attack. Landings at Scoglitti
were both ship-to-shore and shore-to-shore operations, and by early
forenoon all troops were on the beach.
The landings at Gela were more of a shore-to-shore undertaking than
those at Scoglitti. Troops landed on schedule, and the first wave
encountered slight opposition, but the second wave met stiff resistance
and suffered heavy casualties until the shore batteries were silenced by
the naval gunfire from the light cruisers SAVANNAH and BOISE.
The landing at Licata was almost entirely a shore-to-shore operation,
practically all troops being transported in small craft. After
comparatively heavy opposition was encountered, all beaches were
captured by early forenoon and the unloading of supplies begun. We lost
the destroyer MADDOX and the minesweeper SENTINEL in the operation, both
being sunk by bombs.
After the Licata landing had been accomplished, the participating forces
were subjected to intense enemy air attack which lasted three days.
During that three-day period, also, the enemy launched a counterattack
with tanks, which took up a position from which they could fire on the
beaches and at the ships standing by. When this tank attack developed,
our cruisers and destroyers moved inshore and opened fire on them,
pending the establishment of anti-tank fire on the beach. So effective
was naval gunfire on this occasion that the tanks were successfully
repulsed at a most opportune time. Had there been no naval gunfire
support, or had it been less effective, our landing force in all
probability would have been driven into the sea.
By the 13th, most of our ships had completed unloading and left the
As our troops advanced inland and along the coasts from their landing
points, their advance was supported from time to time by naval gunfire.
During the period 12-14 July our cruisers and destroyers bombarded Porto
Empedocle and Agrigento, this bombardment being one of the factors which
contributed to the capture of those towns on 17 July. This bombardment
was followed by a short lull, in so far as naval participation was
concerned (a second contingent of transports had already arrived) and it
was not until the end of the month that our forces were again employed
directly in the attacks. On 31 July fresh troops were transported to
Palermo. These transports were attacked by German air forces when in
Palermo harbor, but were effectively protected by our destroyers.
Throughout the month of August the Navy supported the movements of land
forces as they closed in on Messina. Naval gunfire destroyed shore
batteries, roads, bridges, and other objectives, and on 17 August a task
force of cruisers and destroyers proceeded against southern Italy.
LANDINGS IN ITALY
Landings in Italy were in logical sequence to the occupation of Sicily.
Shortly after the Sicilian operation was completed, British forces began
crossing the Straits of Messina, and in order to assist these forces in
their progress up the Italian Peninsula, a combined Anglo-American
attack was undertaken some distance in the rear of Axis troops opposing
the British. The general region chosen was that portion of the Italian
coast extending from Cape Circeo to the southern headland to the Gulf of
Policastro and containing the important harbors of Naples, Gaeta, and
Salerno. The particular part of the coast selected for the initial
assault was the Bay of Salerno, which offered a number of beaches
suitable for troop landings.
Although the troops employed in the landings were exclusively British or
American, the naval forces supporting them were mixed. The latter were
placed under the command of Vice Admiral Hewitt and divided into two
parts, one of which was predominantly American and the other
predominantly British. The American (southern) attack force was assigned
coverage for the landings at Salerno.
The principal American convoy assembled at Oran, and British forces
formed up at Tripoli, Palermo, Termini (in Sicily) and Bizerte, and from
time to time, beginning 5 September, sailed from the points of assembly.
The landings were made on the morning of 9 September, and, although
successfully accomplished, met immediate resistance from the Germans,
who delivered a series of air attacks for the next two days. Also, enemy
fire on the ground was intense, exceeding anything previously
experienced and proving considerably more troublesome than had been
anticipated. In spite of the resistance, however, (which included
counterattacks, some of which were broken up most opportunely, as at
Licata, by fire of naval vessels) the port of Salerno was captured by
the 10th, and after heavy fighting on the 11th and 12th in the vicinity
of Salerno, the town of Battipaglia was captured.
On the 13th and 14th, the enemy succeeded in retaking some of the ground
previously gained by our troops. Our naval units, however, continued to
lend reinforcements and supplies, and Allied warships, including
battleships, cruisers, and destroyers, bombarded enemy positions. During
the remainder of the operation, our naval forces kept up a steady flow
of supplies to the various beaches, bombarded shore objectives, helped
to repel air raids, and finally on 1 October took the city of Naples
For several months our naval forces continued to operate in the
Mediterranean area chiefly in supplying our troops in that theater and
in keeping open the lines of supply.
On 22 January 1944, a joint force landed at Anzio, Italy, and there
established a beach head. The amphibious task force participating was
under the command of Rear Admiral F. J. Lowry. Gunfire support for the
operation was furnished by cruisers and destroyers.
THE NAVY TEAM
REPRESENTING as it does intense scientific research and the development
of various methods of fighting for hundreds of years, modern naval
warfare is admittedly complex. Historically, any new method of fighting,
whether with or without new weapons, has been productive of counter
measures which are usually successful in reducing its effectiveness.
This may be expected to continue. So far as new methods and weapons are
concerned, we are in a position to set the pace.
The Navy, perhaps more than any other of the services, is dependent on a
high quality of engineering skill and practice. All our ships and
planes, the establishment which designs and builds them, and the
equipment which operates and arms them could not exist without the
engineer and the technical expert. We are fortunate in having in the
United States in an unequaled degree the necessary engineering brains,
educational facilities and technical knowledge.
Each technician on board ship must learn not only how to operate his own
particular part of its machinery; he must also learn how to operate it
so that it will contribute most to the efficiency of that ship as a
unit. There is no better example of the necessity of team work than a
modern man-of-war. In a submarine, for instance, every man in the crew
and every officer has a job which directly affects the handling and
operating of the ship, her hitting power, and her survival, and each
depends on the other to do the right thing at the right time.
Once a unit is trained to operate efficiently by itself, the next
problem is to train it to operate with other ships and planes so that
all may function as parts of a powerful but smooth running machine. Each
unit must learn to play its position on the team, and the whole team
must be equipped, coached, drilled and taught to fight and win, anywhere
in the world.
Mobility is one of the prime military qualities. The surface, submarine
and air forces of the Navy possess mobility in a high degree. With the
increased tempo of our operations, therefore, the question of timing-
strategically and tactically-is all important It is the basis of the
coordinated striking power-the overall "teamwork"-which has been
successfully used in past operations, and which we count upon with
confidence for even more successful operations yet to come.
THE ARMY AND NAVY TEAM
In February 1942, the President established an agency known as the
United States Chiefs of Staff (frequently called the "Joint Chiefs of
Staff) whose function it is to exercise strategic control of our armed
forces in the war. The members of the
United States Chiefs of Staff are the Chief of Staff to the Commander in
Chief of the United States Army and Navy; the Chief of Staff of the
United States Army; the Commander in Chief, United States Fleet and
Chief of Naval Operations; and the Commanding General, Army Air Forces.
By effective coordination of strategic plans and their execution the
United States Chiefs of Staff have in effect operated the Army and Navy
as one national military force. Furthermore, by continuous exchange of
information of all kinds, including that relating to operating
techniques, new weapons, and strategic and tactical problems, the two
services have been able to derive the maximum benefit not only from each
other, but from all other agencies whose activities have a direct
bearing on the conduct of the war.
In keeping with the unity of action taken by the United States Chiefs of
Staff, that agency has worked out and established certain principles
relating to unity of command in joint operations. Under those
principles, and having due regard for the qualifications of the officer
and the type of operations likely to predominate in a given theater, the
supreme commander in the theater, and his principal subordinates, may be
officers of any one of the services. For example, it was agreed that
under certain conditions unity of command in our sea frontiers (which
correspond generally to Army defense commands) would be exercised by
naval officers. Under other conditions, unity of command would be vested
in Army officers. Another example was the unity of command vested in
General Eisenhower in the North African operation. Still another is the
unity of command exercised by Admiral Nimitz in the Pacific Ocean.
The principle of unity of command as it exists within our own forces, by
agreement with the British Chiefs of Staff, is extended to situations
where forces of more than one nation are engaged in the same operation.
The operations in the Mediterranean theater illustrate that arrangement,
which has worked well.
THE ALLIED TEAM
The British Chiefs of Staff or their representatives in Washington and
the United States Chiefs of Staff working together are known as the
Combined Chiefs of Staff.
The headquarters of the Combined Chiefs of Staff, consisting of the
United States Chiefs of Staff and representatives of the British Chiefs
of Staff, are in Washington, and there the day to day problems of the
war are under continuous consideration. Representatives of other Allied
nations and dominions attend the Washington meetings from time to time.
At intervals the Combined Chiefs of Staff, consisting of the United
States and British Chiefs of Staff, together with the heads of their
respective governments, have met to discuss and decide upon the over-all
conduct of the war. In meetings at Casablanca, Washington, Quebec and
Cairo-Teheran during the year 1943 agreements of far reaching importance
were reached. Russian representatives attended at Teheran and Chinese
representatives were present at Cairo.
These international conferences, which are of sufficient duration to
allow thorough presentations of matters of mutual interest, make
possible on-the-spot decisions
not only with respect to strategy and command relationships for combined
operations but also with respect to the commitments of each country.
In addition to the foregoing, the discussions relating to the war effort
in the Pacific area were made possible by the formation of the Pacific
War Council. That body, over which the President of the United States
presides, is composed of representatives of the United States,
Australia, Canada, China, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the Philippine
Commonwealth, and the United Kingdom. The Council does not meet
regularly, but was established as a means to promote informal exchanges
of views and information.