By Bonner, Kit | Sea Classics, March 2010 | Go to article overview


Bonner, Kit, Sea Classics

Scattered across the bottom of Sealark Channel are the eerie remains of one of the Pacific War's most bitterly fought senes of battles Partili - Conclusion

The Battle of Savo Island, which took place on the night of 9 August 1942, was a bloody wake-up call for the Allies. The enemy was not the stereotypical coke bottle-thick eyeglass wearers who were bow legged and stumpy looking characters made fun of in Disney cartoons. These Japanese were well-trained, brilliant sea fighters who desperately wanted their airfield back at Lunga Point on Guadalcanal. The enemy was willing to commit much of their surface Navy, Naval air forces, and ground troops for this purpose. The Japanese were also willing to fight to the death to accomplish this.

The Imperial Staff realized that much of Japan's future hinged on this airfield. With the field, they could control the sea lanes for 1000-mi in any direction and could prevent an effective alliance between Australia/New Zealand and the United States. However, without the field, the Japanese militarists would be fighting a neverending rear guard action to keep the Allies away from the Home Islands. The Japanese dream of Hakko Ichiu - or the unifying the eight corners of the world under one roof - would just be a dream and not reality. Hakko Ichiu was a mythical utterance of Emperor Jimmo in 600 BC, which since the 1920s had become the political and military battle cry of the militarists.

Of course, not all of the müitary leaders were fully supportive of a war with the United States and Commander of the Imperial Combined Fleet; Admiral Isoruko Yamamoto warned all who would listen about the fallacy of attacking the United States. His 1941 words, roughly translated, "I shall run wild considerably for the first six-months or a year, but I have no confidence in the second- or third-years. .. we should at all costs avoid a Japanese-American war."

Ironically, the Solomon Islands became the central point upon which victory or defeat hinged for both the Allies and the Japanese.

If the Japanese did not retain Guadalcanal and its sole airstrip, this would be the end of the beginning. The American success at Midway was fortune smiling on the United States and did not really test the metal of the two belligerents. The Solomon Islands would be the real test. The Battle of Savo Island again reminded the Allies that the Japanese should never be underestimated. This battle on 9 August cost the Allies four heavy cruisers while the Japanese escaped with moderate damage.

The Allies - in particular the US Navy - were soundly defeated off Savo Island two-days after the invasion of Tulagi, Guadalcanal and the Florida Islands. The Allies learned some vital lessons from the action off Savo Island:

Improve communications between ships, flagships, and command to command.

Never take the opponent for granted, and all ships should be at maximum readiness.

Replace outdated leadership with modern thinking and technically savvy commanding officers.

Sleep is something that could no longer be afforded on a regular basis in an active combat zone. It had to be arranged for and not interfere with combat operations.

Learn as much as possible about the enemy and his new and improved weapons.

Have Naval intelligence share as much information as possible with the appropriate commands.

Radar had to be improved, and when this happened, commanding officers are to be compelled to depend on this new advantage. Anything and everything was necessary to defeat the obvious night fighting skills of the Japanese. On the other hand, there was too much reliance on the radar feedback from the destroyers USS Blue and USS Ralph Talbot This incident was similar to the misplaced faith in the Opana Radar Station on Oahu on 7 December 1941.

After the Battle of Savo Island, there were four major conflicts at sea in the Guadalcanal region between early August 1942 and February 1943. …

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