Amid rain, lightning, and dark, the British admiral and American general picked their way through choppy seas to the transport USS McCawley, off the coast of Guadalcanal. Maj. Gen. Archibald Vandegrift of the U.S. Marine Corps was exhausted. Britains Rear Admiral Victor Alexander Crutchley, commanding the Allied Screening Force, an Australian-American mix of six heavy cruisers, two light cruisers, and eight destroyers, looked ready to pass out.
So did the senior officer on McCawley they were going to see, Rear Admiral Richmond Kelly Turner, who commanded the American amphibious assault forces that were riding waves off the invaded islands of Guadalcanal and Tulagi that evening.
There was good reason for all three men to be fatigued. In the three days since they had led the invasion, none had been able to sleep. Now the three officers were losing their carrier-based air cover, and the transports would have to pull out without fully unloading their supplies. This was a grave issue, but their crisis was about to become far worsein minutes, they would be helpless spectators to the greatest defeat at sea in the history of the United States and Royal Australian Navies.
Operation Watchtower was the first Allied Pacific offensive of World War II. In early 1942, Fleet Admiral Ernest J. King was determined to drive the Japanese north through the Solomon Islands chain and up that jungle road to Tokyo.
The task was given to Vice Admiral Robert Ghormley, and the plan called for an invasion of two islands in the Solomons, the capital at Tulagi and Guadalcanal, a larger island south of Tulagi. Between them sat Savo Island, a dead volcano.
Japans General Gunichi Mikawa.
The assault was assigned to the 1st Marine Division under Vandegrift. Turner would command the invasion force of transports. The assaults air cover would come from Vice Admiral Frank Jack Fletchers three carriers, and its close-in defense and gunnery support from Crutchleys group. It was the first offensive mix of British, Australian, and American naval forces in battle.
Planned for September, the invasion was moved up to August 1 because the Japanese were building a runway for land-based planes on Guadalcanal. The base was a clear threat to American communications with Australia and New Zealand. Watchtower moved into high gear. Delays pushed the assault back to August 7.
Meanwhile, the invasions leaders met on Fletchers flagship, the carrier Saratoga, at Koro on July 26. There Fletcher outlined his plans. The carrier force would stay south of Guadalcanal. Turner would take the transports in with the cruisers and destroyers to protect him, under Crutchley. Fletcher then dropped his bombshell: he would withdraw his three carriers 48 hours after the invasion.
Turner was outraged. Withdrawing the air cover would jeopardize the operation. It would take longer than that to unload all the supplies. Vandegrift agreed. But Fletcher was firm. As fleet commander at the carrier battles of Coral Sea and Midway, two of his carriers had been sunk beneath his feet.
The whole force headed for Guadalcanal and Tulagi on July 31, and Crutchley finally had a chance to operate with his cruisers and destroyers. Some he knew already. The British-built County-class heavy cruisers HMAS Australia and HMAS Canberra had worked with the American heavy cruiser USS Chicago for some months, directly under his command.
But the new cruisers assigned to him, USS Vincennes, Quincy, and Astoria, had not. More importantly, despite long traditions of valor, professionalism, and ingenuity, the U.S. Navy did not actually have standard operating procedures for surface naval battles. Except for disastrous actions in the Java Sea under Dutch command in February 1942, the U.S. Navy had not fought a surface battle since 1898, and that against a decrepit Spanish Navy. U.S. Navy task group commanders were expected to determine their procedures on the spot, which could lead to difficulties with tactical communication and coordination.
But at least the force could count on solid leadership. Aged 48, Crutchley was a veteran sea dog with an immense red beard, holder of a Victoria Cross from World War I, and had fought surface actions in World War II.
As the Allied force steamed north, Crutchley worked out his tactical plans in his cabin on Australia. He was reluctant to put his complex and poorly coordinated force into a single unit, fearing it would come apart in the stress of battle. Later battles would prove him rightthe Americans would try that tactic in four major naval engagements in the Solomons and take harsh losses.
Instead, he chose to divide his force. His own group, used to working together, would guard the southern approach to Guadalcanal up to Savo Island as the Southern Group, while the three American cruisers would patrol the area between Savo and Tulagi. The Northern Group would be headed by the senior American officer, Vincennes skipper Captain Frederick Fearless Freddie Riefkohl. Each group would have three heavy cruisers and two destroyers.
To the east, Crutchley posted his light cruisers, USS San Juan and HMAS Hobart, to guard against a flanking move. And finally, he intended to put two destroyers on outpost duty, USS Blue and USS Ralph Talbot, which would head out before sunset and patrol, Ralph Talbot northwest of Savo, Blue southwest of Savo, all night long. They had the best radar capability of all his destroyers, a range of seven to 10 miles.
Turner approved Crutchleys plans, and on the night of Friday, August 7, the invasion force steamed from the west into what would soon be named Ironbottom Sound between Guadalcanal and Tulagi. At 6:50 am, the Marines stormed ashore.
There was no resistance on Guadalcanal. On Tulagi and its nearby islands, the Marines ran into determined defense, with Japanese troops radioing their headquarters in Rabaul, on the island of New Britain, for help.
The messages reached Admiral Gunichi Mikawa, who commanded the Japanese Eighth Fleet. He commanded the surface warship punch in the area from his flagship, the heavy cruiser Chokai, and the four warships of Cruiser Division Six assigned to him: Aoba, Kinugasa, Furutaka, and Kako. Backing them up were the two light cruisers Tenryu and Yubari, and a single destroyer, Yunagi.
Mikawa ordered seaplane tenders and supply ships loaded with reinforcements for Guadalcanal, fighters and bombers to fly 600 miles from Rabaul to Guadalcanal to attack the enemy ships, and his own scattered warships to assemble at Rabaul for a swift counterattack. He intended to hurl his five heavy and two light cruisers in one coiled fist, making a night attack on the enemy to destroy their fleet and transports.
The plan seemed foolhardy. The Americans had air superiority and plenty of reconnaissance planes to spot and track Mikawas force, so it would not have the advantage of surprise. It would have a limited amount of time to get into the Guadalcanal area by night and a limited amount of time to get back out. The American warships had radar to control their guns, a major advantage in night fighting.
But Mikawa and his men were unperturbed. The Imperial Japanese Navy trained hard for night battles. The Japanese may have lacked radar, but they trained the most skilled lookouts to serve by night. They could spot targets as far as four miles8,000 metersaway, even on dark nights. Their searchlights were superior to the American equipment.
Most importantly, unlike their American opponents, Japanese heavy cruisers were armed with torpedoes, in as many as eight tubes, the greatest in the world. Japans oxygen-fueled Long Lance torpedo was 24 inches in diameter, had a speed of 50 knots, a range of nearly four miles, and exploded on impact with the power of its 1,210-pound warhead. By comparison, the Americans regarded the idea of arming their heavy cruisers with torpedoes as obsolete and did not do so.
At 4:30 pm on August 7, Mikawa led his task force to sea to fight the enemy in the best samurai tradition. Mikawas force steamed down the gaps between the Solomon Islands chaina route that would later be called The Slotwithout interference, spotted by passing Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress bombers of General Douglas MacArthurs command in Australia. The American planes reported six unidentified ships sighted, but no moreno position, course, or speed.
Meanwhile, Japanese bombers attacked the American ships, putting a bomb into the destroyer Mugford, resulting in minor damage and killing 22 men.
That afternoon, Mikawa told his staff that his plan was a run-in by night, followed by a torpedo attack. He would take his chances with being spotted by day during the race down on the 8th.
On the Allied side, Crutchleys ships went to their positions, and everything was quiet, the ships steaming back and forththe Southern Force in a straight line, the Northern Force in a box patrol.
The next morning, August 8, Mikawa launched his seaplanes to check out Guadalcanal, and more Japanese bombers headed for the island.
When the raid came in at noon, the bombers were greeted by a massive barrage. The Japanese hit the destroyer Jarvis and a bomber crashed into the transport George F. Elliott, setting off a fire that soon raged out of control. The transport was abandoned. The destroyer Hull tried to sink it with four torpedoes and that failed. The George F. Elliott lay abandoned and smoking all through the night.
- Roosevelt Island Operating Corp. head fired over 'racially and sexually offensive' remarks - New York Post - June 20th, 2020
- Empire Outlets, Staten Island Mall: What Phase 2 means for Staten Island shoppers - SILive.com - June 20th, 2020
- Braised in the South food truck will settle down on Johns Island this summer - Charleston City Paper - June 20th, 2020
- A phased reopening - Thegardenisland.com - June 20th, 2020
- Boch provides a boost for Island charities - Martha's Vineyard Times - June 20th, 2020
- Big Island Road Closures, June 20 to June 26 - Big Island Now - June 20th, 2020
- Diego, the tortoise who saved his entire species, finally retires to uninhabited island - CNN - June 20th, 2020
- Town of Grand Island partners with local agencies to address questions related to solar energy - Niagara Frontier Publications - June 20th, 2020
- UFC fills out first four cards for Fight Island debut in July - ESPN - June 20th, 2020
- The island with a key to our future - BBC News - June 20th, 2020
- Interisland travelers tell all - Thegardenisland.com - June 20th, 2020
- MTM On The Road: A Tour Around Mackinac Island - 9 & 10 News - 9&10 News - June 20th, 2020
- Large mass of grasses creates floating island in Muskegon - WNEM Saginaw - June 20th, 2020
- Love Island's Malin Andersson posts poignant tribute to Sophie Gradon two years after suicide - Mirror Online - June 20th, 2020
- Town Council considering ordinance to require mask wearing on island - Block Island Times - June 20th, 2020
- Think twice before booking off-island travel, says Jersey Consumer Council - ITV News - June 20th, 2020
- UFC 251 -- Which fighter faces the most pressure on Fight Island? - ESPN - June 20th, 2020
- Islands of Ireland: Whiddy in the same boat - Irish Examiner - June 1st, 2020
- Mackinac Island eases into summer season with soft, soft opening - MLive.com - June 1st, 2020
- Watch Rivers Cuomo cover Jesus Christ Superstar song for Islands In The Zoom sessions - NME - June 1st, 2020
- Hundreds gather at Brown's Island: 'We are going to protest peacefully' - wtvr.com - June 1st, 2020
- New COVID-19 case with ties to San Juan Island under investigation - SanJuanIslander.com - June 1st, 2020
- Meet kumu the whitesaddle goatfish - Thegardenisland.com - June 1st, 2020
- Cruise the Greek Islands with Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon - The New Yorker - June 1st, 2020
- No new COVID-19 cases reported on Big Island - West Hawaii Today - June 1st, 2020
- Staten Island obituaries for May 31, 2020 - silive.com - June 1st, 2020
- Staten Island ShopRite melee ignites feuding factions on masks in pandemic - silive.com - June 1st, 2020
- Allow Staten Island students to have outdoor graduation ceremonies, city official says - SILive.com - June 1st, 2020
- The island that can save America | TheHill - The Hill - June 1st, 2020
- Long wait to reopen is over for Vancouver Island gyms Vancouver Island Free Daily - vancouverislandfreedaily.com - June 1st, 2020
- A Vancouver Island Road Trip of Crisp Wines and Gigantic Trees - Cond Nast Traveler - May 15th, 2020
- Up-Island towns uneasy about summer influx - Martha's Vineyard Times - May 15th, 2020
- Rock Island County reports another COVID-19 death - Quad City Times - May 15th, 2020
- Kite-surfing and social distancing, but no Sullivans at Castle Island - The Boston Globe - May 15th, 2020
- A grand opening - Thegardenisland.com - May 15th, 2020
- Long before Covid-19, these islands were a refuge from plague - CNN - May 15th, 2020
- Booth doing 'virtual' concert to raise Trooper Island funds - WTVQ - May 15th, 2020
- Love Island's Finley Tapp creates Scottish lockdown survival kit while isolating with Paige Turley - Daily Record - May 15th, 2020
- The Womens Jail at Rikers Island Is Named for My Grandmother. She Would Not Be Proud. - The New York Times - May 15th, 2020
- Top Cuban Official Accuses America Of Committing Acts Of Terrorism Against Island Nation - CBS Miami - May 15th, 2020
- Grand Island Public Schools Foundation launching Give GIPS Week - Grand Island Independent - May 15th, 2020
- District Court judge: City of Bellevue cannot engage in 'island annexation' - Omaha World-Herald - May 15th, 2020
- Rare blue dragons are washing up on the Padre Island National Seashore - CNN - May 15th, 2020
- Staten Island Home of the Week: Privately-gated community with panoramic views, $3M - SILive.com - May 11th, 2020
- Antibody testing begins on the Big Island - West Hawaii Today - May 11th, 2020
- Hardwood logging on Manus Island has not delivered promised local benefits, report finds - The Guardian - May 11th, 2020
- Coronavirus claims 11 more Staten Islanders; more than 2K released from Island hospitals - SILive.com - May 11th, 2020
- South Padre Island properties unphased by COVID-19 housing market, realtor explains - KGBT-TV - May 11th, 2020
- Love Island's Malin Andersson felt 'shame' for staying with abusive ex after he 'beat her up' - Mirror Online - May 11th, 2020
- Love Island 2020 could be set for surprise return this Autumn after cancellation - RadioTimes - May 11th, 2020
- Tunnel to Towers Foundation working to take care of Staten Island - SILive.com - May 11th, 2020
- Staten Island obituaries for May 10, 2020 - SILive.com - May 11th, 2020
- Reveling in the Enigmatic Beauty of Easter Island - The New York Times - May 11th, 2020
- Help for parents and teachers; author gives tips - Shelter Island Reporter - Shelter Island Reporter - May 11th, 2020
- NYC's Coney Island Beach in Cyclone of Confusion for Summer - THE CITY - May 11th, 2020
- Danny Dyer says Love Island is a "pile of s**t" and leaves The Ranganation viewers - digitalspy.com - May 11th, 2020
- Island Luck CEO: No logic or rational in govt. decision making - EyeWitness News - May 11th, 2020
- Staten Island Zoo to host virtual meet and greet with exotic animals: How to attend - SILive.com - May 1st, 2020
- Artists campaign against Bristol Spike Island eviction of Howard Silverman - The Guardian - May 1st, 2020
- Coronavirus: Woman took son to Greek island to 'protect him from COVID-19' - Sky News - May 1st, 2020
- TSB investigation into Island Queen III incident issues three concerns - The Kingston Whig-Standard - May 1st, 2020
- This Tech Conference Is Being Held on an Animal Crossing Island - VICE - May 1st, 2020
- Island COVID-19 confirmed cases rise to 19 - Martha's Vineyard Times - May 1st, 2020
- VIRTUAL TOUR Island Farm: Going back in time to coastal farm life in the 1800s | The Coastland Times - The Coastland Times - May 1st, 2020
- Car thieves flocking to Staten Island during pandemic, many of them repeat offenders - SILive.com - May 1st, 2020
- Coney Island Hospital Treated To Record-Breaking Meal Donation For Staff - BKLYNER - May 1st, 2020
- Analysis: Staten Island has the highest rate of people tested in NYC for COVID-19 - SILive.com - May 1st, 2020
- John Grisham Returns to Camino Island, This Time in Hurricane Season - The New York Times - May 1st, 2020
- Naples, Marco Island beaches to reopen Thursday - Wink News - May 1st, 2020
- New confirmed case brings Island total to 18 - Martha's Vineyard Times - May 1st, 2020
- Grand Island's mayor wants to know how the feds will help, says city 'has paid a price' - Omaha World-Herald - May 1st, 2020
- Pete Davidson & Judd Apatow Movie King of Staten Island Skips Theatrical, Hits VOD This Summer - Deadline - May 1st, 2020
- ITV considers filming Love Island in Cornwall or cancelling series - The Guardian - May 1st, 2020
- Elderly fisherman rescued from Niagara River near Grand Island - Niagara Gazette - May 1st, 2020
- Bali is worlds most Instagrammed island - The Jakarta Post - Jakarta Post - April 28th, 2020
- Staten Island coronavirus hospitalizations hold steady; death toll increases by 23 - SILive.com - April 28th, 2020
- Small Island crews return to work - Martha's Vineyard Times - April 28th, 2020
- Staten Island Sports Hall of Fame will once again honor 4 at annual golf outing - SILive.com - April 28th, 2020
- South Padre Island reopens but some locals think its too soon - KXAN.com - April 28th, 2020
- Grand Island-area residents urged to avoid church services; Health Department worker tests positive - Omaha World-Herald - April 28th, 2020