Monday, February 19, 2018



Marines Wade Through Lagoon, Guadalcanal, August 1942"A 2d Marine Division patrol wades through one of Guadalcanal's many tropical lagoons. The battle for the Solomon Islands was the first offensive for American troops against the Japanese in World War II."


Bloody Ridge, Guadalcanal A photo from the top of Bloody Ridge, site of a brutal battle on Guadalcanal in WWII. Solomon Islands,

Map of Japanese Empire at it's peak in 1942


Iron Bottom Sound, Solomon Islands. Dawn over Iron Bottom Sound. In the distance is Guadalcanal and Bloody Ridge.

By the end of 1942, the Japanese Empire had expanded to its farthest extent. Japanese soldiers were occupying or attacking positions from India to Alaska, as well as islands across the South Pacific. From the end of that year through early 1945, the U.S. Navy, under Admiral Chester Nimitz, adopted a strategy of "island-hopping". Rather than attacking Japan's Imperial Navy in force, the goal was to capture and control strategic islands along a path toward the Japanese home islands, bringing U.S. bombers within range and preparing for a possible invasion. Japanese soldiers fought the island landings fiercely, killing many Allied soldiers and sometimes making desperate, last-ditch suicidal attacks. At sea, Japanese submarine, bomber, and kamikaze attacks took a heavy toll on the U.S. fleet, but Japan was unable to halt the island-by-island advance. By early 1945, leapfrogging U.S. forces had advanced as far as Iwo Jima and Okinawa, within 340 miles of mainland Japan, at a great cost to both sides. On Okinawa alone, during 82 days of fighting, approximately 100,000 Japanese troops and 12,510 Americans were killed, and somewhere between 42,000 and 150,000 Okinawan civilians died as well. At this point, U.S. forces were nearing their position for the next stage of their offensive against the Empire of Japan.

Four Japanese transports, hit by both U.S. surface vessels and aircraft, beached and burning at Tassafaronga, west of positions on Guadalcanal, on November 16, 1942. They were part of the huge force of auxiliary and combat vessels the enemy attempted to bring down from the north on November 13th and 14th. Only these four reached Guadalcanal. They were completely destroyed by aircraft, artillery and surface vessel guns. (AP Photo) 

Nggela, Solomon Islands. A view of Nggela, one of the Florida Islands. In the distance is the wreck of the cruise ship World Discoverer.

This is infamous Henderson Field, the airstrip that was under constant Japanese bombardment and American repair from August 20 to end of November 1942. US SeaBees (Naval Construction Battalions) ensured that the strip could be used by own fighters and bombers to hold the Japanese from landing reinforcements and equipment

Following in the cover of a tank, American infantrymen secure an area on Bougainville, Solomon Islands, in March 1944, after Japanese forces infiltrated their lines during the night. (AP Photo) # 

Torpedoed Japanese destroyer Yamakaze, photographed through periscope of USS Nautilus, 25 June 1942. The Yamakaze sank within five minutes of being struck, there were no survivors. (AP Photo/U.S. Navy) # 

American reconnaissance patrol into the dense jungles of New Guinea, on December 18, 1942. Lt. Philip Winson had lost one of his boots while building a raft and he made a make-shift boot out of part of a ground sheet and straps from a pack.(AP Photo/Ed Widdis) # 

Japanese soldiers killed while manning a mortar on the beach are shown partially buried in the sand at Guadalcanal on the Solomon Islands following attack by U.S. Marines in August 1942. (AP Photo) # 

A helmeted Australian soldier, rifle in hand, looks out over a typical New Guinea landscape in the vicinity of Milne Bay on October 31, 1942, where an earlier Japanese attempt at invasion was defeated by the Australian defenders.(AP Photo) 
Aug. 1942: U.S. Marines, with full battle kits, charge ashore on Guadalcanal Island from a landing barge during the early phase of the U.S. offensive in the Solomon Islands during World War II. On October 23rd, 5,600 Japanese soldiers attacked US positions on the east of the defensive zone. Pin point artillery fire ensured the failure of this attack. On October 24th, the Japanese launched a major attack from the south with 7,000 men. At one stage a small number of Japanese troops got inside the defensive perimeter but fierce fighting drove them back. When Kawaguchi ordered a withdrawal, he had lost 3,500 men - 50% of the force that had attacked. Why had both attacks failed?

The American positions in the defensive perimeter had been expertly sited. However, the Japanese had failed to take into account the sheer difficulties they would face by going through a tropical jungle to attack the Americans.

Shores of Guadalcanal. Becalmed upon the sea of Thought,
Still unattained the land it sought,
My mind, with loosely-hanging sails,
Lies waiting the auspicious gales. No stone tells the place where their ashes repose,
Nor points out the spot from the graves of their foes.

They died in their glory, surrounded by fame,
And Victory's loud trump their death did proclaim;

January 1943: Two American soldiers of the 32nd Division cautiously fire into a Japanese dugout before entering it for inspection during a drive on Buna, which resulted in a defeat of Japanese forces in the Papaun peninsula of New Guinea during World War II. (AP Photo/U.S. Army Signal Corps)The Japanese had landed men on Guadalcanal on August 18th. A regiment led by Colonel Ichiki and a special naval landing force were assigned the task of defeating the Marines. Ichiki. He had been told to expect more troops to support him but such was Ichiki's views on the Marines (one shared by many Japanese officer) that he believed that his men were more than a match for the Marines. He decided to attack on August 21st. Ichiki ordered a simple bayonet attack on the American positions. Carefully placed machine gun posts meant that many Japanese were killed. Ichiki ordered his men to withdraw but Vandergrift had ordered one of his reserve battalions to encircle the Japanese.
Jan. 26, 1943: An infantryman is on guard on Grassy Knoll in Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands during World War II. 

The Japanese hierarchy in Tokyo refused to admit defeat and ordered yet more men to Guadalcanal. In mid-November 1942, planes from Henderson attacked a convoy of ships bringing Japanese reinforcements to Guadalcanal. Of eleven transport ships, six were sunk, one was severely damaged and four had to be beached. Only 2,000 men ever reached Guadalcanal - but few had any equipment as this had been lost at sea. On December 1942, the emperor ordered a withdrawal from Guadalcanal. This withdrawal took place from January to February 1943 and the Americans learned that even in defeat that the Japanese were a force to be reckoned with. 11,000 Japanese soldiers were taken off the island in the so-called 'Tokyo Night Express'.
February 2, 1943: An American jeep proceeds along a trail through the jungle on Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands during World War II. (AP Photo)Frequently, Kawaguchi's men were too fatigued to effectively fight and the terrain had forced them to leave mortar and artillery behind. Therefore, any attack on the American lines was done by an old-fashioned infantry charge against positions that were equipped with mortar and artillery. The terrain had also done a great deal to hinder Japanese communications. 

With the Japanese in disarray, Vandegrift decided the time was ripe for the Americans to go on the offensive as opposed to being cooped in a defensive role. However, the US 1st Marine Division was in no state to do this and in November 1942, it was replaced by 25th Infantry Division and the US 2nd Marine Division.

Japanese bomber planes sweep in very low for an attack on U.S. warships and transporters, on September 25, 1942, at an unknown location in the Pacific Ocean. (AP Photo) # 

On August 24, 1942, while operating off the coast of the Solomon Islands, the USS Enterprise suffered heavy attacks by Japanese bombers. Several direct hits on the flight deck killed 74 men; the photographer of this picture was reportedly among the dead. (AP Photo) # 

A breeches buoy is put into service to transfer from a U.S. destroyer to a cruiser survivors of a ship, November 14, 1942 which had been sunk in naval action against the Japanese off the Santa Cruz Islands in the South pacific on October 26. The American Navy turned back the Japanese in the battle but lost an aircraft carrier and a destroyer. (AP Photo) # 

These Japanese prisoners were among those captured by U.S. forces on Guadalcanal Island in the Solomon Islands, shown November 5, 1942. (AP Photo) # 

Japanese-held Wake Island under attack by U.S. carrier-based planes in November 1943. (AP Photo) # 

Crouching low, U.S. Marines sprint across a beach on Tarawa Island to take the Japanese airport on December 2, 1943.(AP Photo) # 

Secondary batteries of an American cruiser formed this pattern of smoke rings as guns from the warship blasted at the Japanese on Makin Island in the Gilberts before U.S. forces invaded the atoll on November 20, 1943. (AP Photo) # 

Troops of the 165th infantry, New York's former "Fighting 69th" advance on Butaritari Beach, Makin Atoll, which already was blazing from naval bombardment which preceded on November 20, 1943. The American forces seized the Gilbert Island Atoll from the Japanese. (AP Photo) # 

Sprawled bodies of American soldiers on the beach of Tarawa atoll testify to the ferocity of the battle for this stretch of sand during the U.S. invasion of the Gilbert Islands, in late November 1943. During the 3-day Battle of Tarawa, some 1,000 U.S. Marines died, and another 687 U.S. Navy sailors lost their lives when the USS Liscome Bay was sunk by a Japanese torpedo. (AP Photo) # 

U.S. Marines are seen as they advance against Japanese positions during the invasion at Tarawa atoll, Gilbert Islands, in this late November 1943 photo. Of the nearly 5,000 Japanese soldiers and workers on the island, only 146 were captured, the rest were killed. (AP Photo) # 

Infantrymen of Company "I" await the word to advance in pursuit of retreating Japanese forces on the Vella Lavella Island Front, in the Solomon Islands, on September 13, 1943. (U.S. Army) # 

Two of twelve U.S. A-20 Havoc light bombers on a mission against Kokas, Indonesia in July of 1943. The lower bomber was hit by anti-aircraft fire after dropping its bombs, and plunged into the sea, killing both crew members. (USAF) # 

Small Japanese craft flee from larger vessels during an American aerial attack on Tonolei Harbor, Japanese base on Bougainville Island, in the Central Solomon Islands on October 9, 1943. (AP Photo/U.S. Navy) # 

Two U.S. Marines direct flame throwers at Japanese defenses that block the way to Iwo Jima's Mount Suribachi on March 4, 1945. On the left is Pvt. Richard Klatt, of North Fond Dulac, Wisconsin, and on the right is PFC Wilfred Voegeli.(AP Photo/U.S. Marine Corps) # 

A member of a U.S. Marine patrol discovers this Japanese family hiding in a hillside cave, June 21, 1944, on Saipan. The mother, four children and a dog took shelter in the cave from the fierce fighting in the area during the U.S. invasion of the Mariana Islands. (AP Photo) # 

Columns of troop-packed LCIs (Landing Craft, Infantry) trail in the wake of a Coast Guard-manned LST (Landing Ship, Tank) en route to the invasion of Cape Sansapor, New Guinea in 1944.(Photographer's Mate, 1st Cl. Harry R. Watson/U.S. Coast Guard) # 

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Dead Japanese soldiers cover the beach at Tanapag, on Saipan Island, in the Marianas, on July 14, 1944, after their last desperate attack on the U.S. Marines who invaded the Japanese stronghold in the Pacific. An estimated 1,300 Japanese were killed by the Marines in this operation. (AP Photo) # 

With its gunner visible in the back cockpit, this Japanese dive bomber, smoke streaming from the cowling, is headed for destruction in the water below after being shot down near Truk, Japanese stronghold in the Carolines, by a Navy PB4Y on July 2, 1944. Lieutenant Commander William Janeshek, pilot of the American plane, said the gunner acted as though he was about to bail out and then suddenly sat down and was still in the plane when it hit the water and exploded.(AP Photo/U.S. Navy) # 

As a rocket-firing LCI lays down a barrage on the already obscured beach on Peleliu, a wave of Alligators (LVTs, or Landing Vehicle Tracked) churn toward the defenses of the strategic island September 15, 1944. The amphibious tanks with turret-housed cannons went in in after heavy air and sea bombardment. Army and Marine assault units stormed ashore on Peleliu on September 15, and it was announced that organized resistance was almost entirely ended on September 27.(AP Photo) # 

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U.S. Marines of the first Marine Division stand by the corpses of two of their comrades, who were killed by Japanese soldiers on a beach on Peleliu island, Republic of Palau, in September of 1944. After the end of the invasion, 10,695 of the 11,000 Japanese soldiers stationed on the island had been killed, only some 200 captured. U.S. forces suffered some 9,800 casualties, including 1,794 killed. (AP Photo/Joe Rosenthal/Pool) # 

Para-frag bombs fall toward a camouflaged Japanese Mitsubishi Ki-21, "Sally", during an attack by the US Army Fifth Air Force against Old Namlea airport on Buru Island, Dutch East Indies, on October 15, 1944. A few seconds after this picture was taken the aircraft was engulfed in flames. The design of the para-frag bomb enabled low flying bombing attacks to be carried out with higher accuracy. (AP Photo) # 

Gen. Douglas MacArthur, center, is accompanied by his officers and Sergio Osmena, president of the Philippines in exile, extreme left, as he wades ashore during landing operations at Leyte, Philippines, on October 20, 1944, after U.S. forces recaptured the beach of the Japanese-occupied island. (AP Photo/U.S. Army) # 

The bodies of Japanese soldiers lie strewn across a hillside after being shot by U.S. soldiers as they attempted a banzai charge over a ridge in Guam, in 1944. (AP Photo/Joe Rosenthal) # 

Smoke billows up from the Kowloon Docks and railroad yards after a surprise bombing attack on Hong Kong harbor by the U.S. Army 14th Air Force Oct. 16, 1944. A Japanese fighter plane (left center) turns in a climb to attack the bombers. Between the Royal Navy yard, left, enemy vessels spout flames, and just outside the boat basin, foreground, another ship has been hit. (AP Photo) # 

A Japanese torpedo bomber goes down in flames after a direct hit by 5-inch shells from the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown, on October 25, 1944. (AP Photo/U.S. Navy) # 

Landing barges loaded with U.S. troops bound for the beaches of Leyte island, in October 1944, as American and Japanese fighter planes duel to the death overhead. The men aboard the crafts watch the dramatic battle in the sky as they approach the shore. (AP Photo) # 

This photo provided by former Kamikaze pilot Toshio Yoshitake, shows Yoshitake, right, and his fellow pilots, from left, Tetsuya Ueno, Koshiro Hayashi, Naoki Okagami and Takao Oi, as they pose together in front of a Zero fighter plane before taking off from the Imperial Army airstrip in Choshi, just east of Tokyo, on November 8, 1944. None of the 17 other pilots and flight instructors who flew with Yoshitake on that day survived. Yoshitake only survived because an American warplane shot him out of the air, he crash-landed and was rescued by Japanese soldiers. (AP Photo) # 

A Japanese kamikaze pilot in a damaged single-engine bomber, moments before striking the U.S. Aircraft Carrier USS Essex, off the Philippine Islands, on November 25, 1944. (U.S. Navy) # 

A closer view of the Japanese kamikaze aircraft, smoking from antiaircraft hits and veering slightly to left moments before slamming into the USS Essex on November 25, 1944. (U.S. Navy) # 

Aftermath of the November 25, 1943 kamikaze attack against the USS Essex. Fire-fighters and scattered fragments of the Japanese aircraft cover the flight deck. The plane struck the port edge of the flight deck, landing among planes fueled for takeoff, causing extensive damage, killing 15, and wounding 44. (U.S. Navy) # 

The battleship USS Pennsylvania, followed by three cruisers, moves in line into Lingayen Gulf preceding the landing on Luzon, in the Philippines, in January of 1945. (U.S. Navy) # 

U.S. Marines going ashore at Iwo Jima, a Japanese Island which was invaded on February 19, 1945. Photo made by a Naval Photographer, who flew over the armada of Navy and coast guard vessels in a Navy search plane. (AP Photo) # 

A U.S. Marine, killed by Japanese sniper fire, still holds his weapon as he lies in the black volcanic sand of Iwo Jima, on February 19, 1945, during the initial invasion on the island. In the background are the battleships of the U.S. fleet that made up the invasion task force. (AP Photo) # 

U.S. Marines of the 28th Regiment of the Fifth Division raise the American flag atop Mt. Suribachi, Iwo Jima, on February 23, 1945. The Battle of Iwo Jima was the costliest in Marine Corps history, with almost 7,000 Americans killed in 36 days of fighting. (AP Photo/Joe Rosenthal) # 

A U.S. cruiser fires her main batteries at Japanese positions on the southern tip of Okinawa, Japan in 1945. (AP Photo) # 

U.S. invasion forces establish a beachhead on Okinawa island, about 350 miles from the Japanese mainland, on April 13. 1945. Pouring out war supplies and military equipment, the landing crafts fill the sea to the horizon, in the distance, battleships of the U.S. fleet. (AP Photo/U.S. Coast Guard) # 

An attack on one of the caves connected to a three-tier blockhouse destroys the structure on the edge of Turkey Nob, giving a clear view of the beachhead toward the southwest on Iwo Jima, as U.S. Marines storm the island on April 2, 1945.(AP Photo/W. Eugene Smith) # 

The USS Santa Fe lies alongside the heavily listing USS Franklin to provide assistance after the aircraft carrier had been hit and set afire by a single Japanese dive bomber, during the Okinawa invasion, on March 19, 1945, off the coast of Honshu, Japan. More than 800 aboard were killed, with survivors frantically fighting fires and making enough repairs to save the ship. (AP Photo) # 

During a Japanese air raid on Yonton Airfield, Okinawa, Japan on April 28, 1945, the corsairs of the "Hell's Belles," Marine Corps Fighter Squadron are silhouetted against the sky by a lacework of anti-aircraft shells.(AP Photo/U.S. Marine Corps)
A wave breaks over the main deck of the fleet oiler USS Neosho, engulfing the hose crew, as she refuels USS Yorktown in early May 1942, shortly before the Battle of Coral Sea in the South Pacific. The Neosho was lost in that battle. (NARA) # 

A Japanese aircraft carrier is bombed by a U.S. Navy plane in the Battle of the Coral Sea, in May of 1942. This was the first naval battle in history in which neither side's ships ever sighted or fired directly upon the other. (AP Photo) # 

Crewmen abandon ship on board the aircraft carrier USS Lexington, after the carrier was hit by Japanese torpedoes and bombs during the Battle of the Coral Sea. Note the destroyer alongside taking on survivors. The USS Phelps eventually torpedoed the stricken carrier, scuttling it and sending it to the bottom of the sea. (U.S. Navy Aviation Museum) # 

The USS Lexington explodes after being bombed by Japanese planes in the Battle of the Coral Sea in May of 1942. More than 200 of the carrier's 2,951-man crew went down with the ship. While Japanese forces won a tactical battle, a number of their damaged ships were unable to participate in the upcoming pivotal Battle of Midway, which took place one month later. (AP Photo)

 The Imperial Japanese Navy, in response to Allied amphibious landings in the eastern Solomon Islands, mobilized a task force of seven cruisers and one destroyerunder the command of Vice Admiral Gunichi Mikawa. The task forces sailed from Japanese bases in New Britain and New Ireland down New Georgia Sound (also known as "the Slot"), with the intention of interrupting the Allied landings by attacking the supporting amphibious fleet and its screening force. The Allied screen consisted of eight cruisers and fifteen destroyers under British Rear Admiral Victor CrutchleyVC, but only five cruisers and seven destroyers were involved in the battle. In a night action, Mikawa thoroughly surprised and routed the Allied force, sinking one Australian and three American cruisers, while suffering only light damage in return. The battle has often been cited as the worst defeat in a fair fight in the history of the United States Navy.[6]
After the initial engagement, Mikawa, fearing Allied carrier strikes against his fleet upon daybreak, decided to withdraw under cover of night rather than attempt to locate and destroy the Allied invasion transports. The Japanese attacks prompted the remaining Allied warships and the amphibious force to withdraw earlier than planned (prior to the unloading of all supplies), temporarily ceding control of the seas around Guadalcanal to the Japanese. This early withdrawal of the fleet left the Allied ground forces (primarily United States Marines), which had landed on Guadalcanal and nearby islands only two days before, in a precarious situation, with limited supplies, equipment, and food to hold their beachhead.
Mikawa's decision to withdraw under cover of night rather than attempt to destroy the Allied invasion transports was primarily founded on the high risk of Allied carrier strikes against his fleet upon daybreak. In reality, the Allied carrier fleet, similarly fearing Japanese attack, had already withdrawn beyond operational range. This missed opportunity to cripple (rather than interrupt) the supply of Allied forces on Guadalcanal contributed to Japan's inability to later recapture the island. At this early critical stage of the campaign, it allowed the Allied forces to entrench and fortify themselves in sufficient strength to successfully defend the area around Henderson Field until additional Allied reinforcements arrived later in the year.[7]
The battle was the first of five costly, large scale sea and air-sea actions fought in support of the ground battles on Guadalcanal itself, as the Japanese sought to counter the American offensive in the Pacific. These sea battles took place every few days, with increasing delays on each side to regroup and refit, until the November 30, 1942 Battle of Tassafaronga (sometimes referred to as the Fourth Battle of Savo Island or, in Japanese sources, as the Battle of Lunga Point

View of the "green hell" of Guadalcanal the Pacific War was fought in. Humidity and tropical deseases like malaria made things even worse. Solomon Islands is still the country with the most serious malaria exposure in the South Pacific region.


View of central Honiara. The promontory is called Point Cruz, with Kua Bay with the food market (red square roof) to the left and Mbokona Bay with the Yacht Club and Mendana Hotel to the right (Honiara is on the islands' north coast, so west is to the right). Mataniko River/Chinatown is on the far left, and if you look closely, you can also make out the Parliament and the War Memorial in the hills.

An urgent message was dispatched to the Naval General Staff in Tokyo, requesting permission to mount a surface attack on the Allied fleet the following night, August 8.

Rear Admiral Gunichi Mikawa commanded the Japanese Eighth Fleet, which held the upper hand throughout the Battle of Savo Island.
Rear Admiral Gunichi Mikawa commanded the Japanese Eighth Fleet, which held the upper hand throughout the Battle of Savo Island.

The Imperial Navy’s chief of staff, Admiral Osami Nagano, considered a night surface attack too audacious; Mikawa had few warships while the Allies seemed to have many, and the transports were certain to be closely guarded. Still, Nagano deferred to Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, commander in chief of the Combined Fleet, the Navy’s
operational arm. Yamamoto, who was headquartered at Truk, knew Mikawa to be a cautious man and respected his judgment. He radioed his approval: “Wish your fleet success.”

Mikawa, who had been admonished to oversee the foray from Rabaul, boarded his flagship, the heavy cruiser Chokai, on the afternoon of August 7 and ordered the remainder of the Eighth Fleet to stand south through St. George Channel. The force comprised five heavy cruisers, two light cruisers, and one fleet destroyer.
The waters were poorly charted, and the going was slow. Though Mikawa and his staff navigator spent long hours poring over the few charts they had at their disposal, the day was lost. Mikawa feared discovery by Allied reconnaissance aircraft, so he decided to remain north of Bougainville until the late afternoon of August 8, when he would steam at all possible speed through St. George Channel, between the double chain of islands—soon to be known as “the Slot”—and launch his attack after rounding Savo, just to the west of the presumed Allied fleet anchorage off Lunga. The Slot, though narrow and restricted, presented the surest means for arriving off Savo at a favorable hour. The risk of discovery was great, but speed was of the essence.

Spotting the Japanese Fleet

Rear Admiral Richmond Kelly Turner, the invasion fleet commander, received a message from the north late on the afternoon of August 7: “Two destroyers and three larger ships of unknown type heading [southeast] at high speed eight miles west of Cape St. George.”
The source of the message was an American submarine charged with guarding the waters around the Slot. The boat had had barely enough time to avoid being run down by the Japanese column, much less launch a torpedo attack.
The Eighth Fleet reached Bougainville by dawn on August 8 and launched four float reconnaissance planes to probe the Allied anchorage. The Japanese warships then scattered to confound routine Allied reconnaissance flights in the area.
Chokai was spotted at 10:20 am by a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) patrol bomber, which circled overhead for a time. Admiral Mikawa reversed course until the Australians left, hopefully convinced that the Japanese cruiser was heading back to Rabaul. Nevertheless, when a second RAAF bomber appeared, Mikawa felt he had little to lose, so he ordered his force to re-form and head through the Slot toward Savo.
In the meantime, one of the Japanese floatplanes returned to report that 18 transports, six cruisers, 19 destroyers, and a battleship were arrayed around Tulagi, Savo, and the northern coast of Guadalcanal. It seemed to Mikawa that he was outnumbered, 26 warships to eight. But the reconnaissance pilot added that the Allied warships were split into three groups, and that gave the Japanese admiral hope that he could destroy at least one battle force before the others could join the fight. The Eighth Fleet steamed on, entering the Slot itself late in the afternoon. The fleet navigator estimated that the cruiser column would arrive off Savo at midnight.
The Eighth Fleet had been formed only a week earlier and had never before operated as a unit, so the simplest of battle plans had to be promulgated. Chokai’s signal lamp blinked Admiral Mikawa’s orders to the other vessels at 4:30 pm: “We will proceed from south of Savo Island and torpedo the enemy main force in front of the Guadalcanal anchorage, after which we will turn toward the Tulagi forward area to shell and torpedo the enemy. We will withdraw north of Savo.” The warships were ordered to stream white sleeves from both wings of their bridges for identification.

On the flight to the Western Province, the Solomon island world unfolds in all its beauty. Tiny islands, there are about 1,000 of them, covered in rainforest, surrounded by beaches and reefs in turquoise waters.


This is the little hamlet (left) and airstrip of Lambete/Munda on New Georgia island in Solomon Islands' Western Province.Allied Screen at Savo

Minutes before dusk, just as the danger of discovery was nearly past, one of Chokai’s lookouts spotted a masthead to starboard. The fleet sprang to action, sirens wailing, guns tracking the target, which was identified as a friendly seaplane tender bound for New Georgia, a bit farther to starboard.
Just as the Eighth Fleet left the friendly ship astern, Maj. Gen. Alexander Archer Vandegrift, ashore on Red Beach with the main body of his 1st Marine Division, was asked to join Rear Admiral Kelly Turner and Rear Admiral Victor Crutchley, the British commander of the screen warships, aboard Turner’s flagship for urgent consultations.
Only minutes earlier, Turner had heard from Vice Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher, the carrier flotilla commander: “Fighter plane strength reduced from 99 to 78. In view of the large number of enemy torpedo planes and bombers in the area, I recommend the immediate withdrawal of my carriers. Request tankers sent forward immediately as fuel is running low.” Fletcher was pulling out even earlier than he had thought he might during the run-up to the invasion.
Surprised brass: Admiral Richmond Kelly Turner (left) and USMC Major General Alexander Vandegrift confer aboard the USS McCawley shortly before the Japanese attack.
Surprised brass: Admiral Richmond Kelly Turner (left) and USMC Major General Alexander Vandegrift confer aboard the USS McCawley shortly before the Japanese attack.
Though he had no inkling as to its purpose, Admiral Crutchley sensed a note of urgency in Turner’s summons. The giant, red-bearded Briton precipitously ordered his flagship, the heavy cruiser Australia, to leave the screening force south of Savo and follow Guadalcanal’s northern coastline to the main fleet anchorage off Lunga.
The Allied screen had been informally divided into three groups. Southern Force, with which Australia had been on station, was reduced to two cruisers and two destroyers. Its patrol sector lay between Savo and Cape Esperance at the southern entrance to the channel. Another group, Northern Force, composed of three cruisers and several destroyers, patrolled the northern entrance, between Savo and Florida Island. The third group, Eastern Force, composed of a pair each of light cruisers and destroyers, patrolled the eastern extremity of the anchorage. Crutchley exercised direct tactical control over all three groups and had designated no subordinate commanders.
His departure without word to Northern or Eastern Forces left two-thirds of his command leaderless to all practical purposes. He did inform his senior Southern Force captain that he was leaving, but did not actually leave the man in control. That officer did not even think to move his own heavy cruiser, Chicago, to the head of the patrol column, as convention dictated, nor did he inform any of the other captains. Captain Frederick Reifkohl, whose heavy cruiser Vincennes was in Northern Force and who was senior captain in the screening force, should have been left with the overall command, but he did not even know that Crutchley had left the patrol area with the flagship. The cruiser screen was left leaderless and without a plan.

Interpreting the Japanese Fleet’s Actions

Turner’s meeting was late getting started. Crutchley had pulled Australia out of the screen in haste, but it still took two hours of poking around in the gloom for him to find Turner’s flagship, the transport McCawley. General Vandegrift embarked in a small boat and did not find the flagship until 11 pm.
While waiting for Vandegrift, Turner and Crutchley discussed a message that had just been relayed from the air base at Milne Bay, New Guinea: An RAAF aircrew had spotted a Japanese naval force heading southeast from northern Bougainville. The message had arrived following an eight-hour delay because the pilot had waited to land before making his report. The message indicated that the Japanese force was composed of three cruisers, three destroyers, and a pair of seaplane tenders.The admirals agreed that the presence of the tenders might indicate a morning air attack. The fact that only three cruisers had been sighted was reassuring; the Japanese would not dream of launching a surface attack, particularly at night, with a force of only three escorted cruisers.
Turner knew that the Japanese would feel obliged to make some sort of gesture against his fleet, and he suspected that the Slot would be used to make an approach. Accordingly, he had requested a Navy long-range patrol bomber to search the channel that day. There was, as yet, no report, which the admirals took to be a good omen. In fact, the mission had not been undertaken.
Surprised by a strong Japanese naval force less than a week after American Marines had landed on Guadalcanal , four Allied cruisers were lost in the debacle of the Battle of Savo Island.
Surprised by a strong Japanese naval force less than a week after American Marines had landed on Guadalcanal , four Allied cruisers were lost in the debacle of the Battle of Savo Island.
When Vandegrift entered Turner’s compartment, he noted that the two admirals seemed about to pass out from the oppressive heat. He accepted Turner’s offer of a cup of coffee, then sat down to hear the bad news.
Turner told him of Fletcher’s decision to leave early. Vandegrift grew livid; the carrier force commander had earlier promised to give him at least 12 hours to unload the transports––more than he now proposed. Even then, Vandegrift had had no hope of getting his division’s supplies ashore. Turner repeated the news about the seaplane tenders and indicated that, lacking air cover, he too was obliged to retire at dawn; his transports were highly vulnerable to air attack.
Turner, the amphibious force commander, asked the Marine division commander for his opinion, and the general replied that the 1st Marine Division was in fair shape on Guadalcanal; he doubted that Tulagi could be adequately defended, though he admitted having no direct knowledge in that regard. Turner nodded and mentioned that he had foreseen the response, and that a fast minesweeper was standing by to carry Vandegrift to Tulagi.
Crutchley offered to take the general to the minesweeper on his way back to Australia. Vandegrift declined, but the Briton insisted: “Your mission is much more important than mine.” The two boarded Crutchley’s gig minutes before midnight. A heavy rain squall was blustering to port, separating the Northern and Southern Forces. To starboard, a red glow marked the spot where the transport Elliott, the victim of an aerial bomb, lay grounded and burning. As Vandegrift mounted the minesweeper’s ladder, Crutchley shook his hand and said that he knew what losing the fleet meant to the Marines. “I don’t know as I can blame Turner for what he’s doing,” said the British admiral.

The Blind Allied Picket

Gunichi Mikawa was moving in for the kill. The Japanese had any number of advantages, not the least being their ability to control events. But they lacked radar, and that, Mikawa feared, might be their undoing.
Rigorously selected and keenly trained lookouts, the finest in any navy, were capable of spotting mere shadows at eight miles, and they were equipped with the finest night binoculars in the world. In addition, three three-place spotter planes had been launched to track the Allied fleet. When Mikawa engaged Southern Force, they were to launch parachute flares to assist Japanese gun crews.
American picket destroyers near Savo heard the sound of aircraft engines as the Japanese floatplanes traversed the anchorage. Several duty officers queried higher authorities, and several issued warnings. A few did nothing. It was finally agreed that the aircraft were Fletcher’s, though no one could explain what carrier aircraft might be doing over Savo in the dead of night, nor why no one had been told to expect them.
It was 11:45 pm. Admiral Crutchley was unavailable, somewhere amid the shipping, ferrying Archer Vandegrift to the minesweeper. Australia was routinely notified of the aircraft contact, but no one aboard felt compelled to take charge.
The Eighth Fleet was approaching Savo at 10 minutes after midnight. The conical island was ahead to port and Cape Esperance loomed to starboard when lookouts spotted a low form moving dead ahead. Gun crews swung out their batteries to cover the dark silhouette; 50 naval rifles were brought to bear in a trice.
Blue, an aging picket destroyer, routinely changed course at 12:40 am from roughly northeast to roughly southwest, maintaining her speed at 12 knots. Visibility was good. No unusual contacts had been made by radio, radar, sonar, or sight since 11:45. The crew was at General Quarters, the highest state of alert. Lookouts had been concentrating on navigation landmarks to the east for several minutes before and during the turn, which happened to be away from the path of the Eighth Fleet. Blue made no movement of recognition and continued blithely on her way. It was 12:43 am.
Blue’s failure to react worried the Japanese admiral nearly to distraction. He had no idea what the American skipper’s game might be, though it was easy to imagine him trying to bluff his way out of certain destruction while filling the airwaves with alarms. Mikawa chose to assume that he had not been sighted. To make certain, he dispatched his lone destroyer, Yunagi, to keep tabs on the seemingly blind picket. Ironically, Blue had been moving toward the projected Japanese track from 12:10 to 12:40 am. Even more ironic is the fact that Ralph Talbot, the picket destroyer north of Savo, also had her stern to the Japanese warships as they squeezed through the passage.
Japanese lookouts perched in the masts poured down a torrent of data to fire control stations as their ships approached the Allied force. Mikawa ordered speed increased to 26 knots and released his captains to commence independent firing at any time. Torpedoes hissed into the water an instant later.
It was now 1:36. Southern Force had been firmly fixed, coming up from the southeast.

“Warning! Warning! Strange Ships Entering Harbor.”

At 1:43, just as the Japanese spotter aircraft were preparing to release their flares, lookouts aboard the destroyer Patterson sighted a shadow in their ship’s path. “Warning! Warning! Strange ships entering harbor.”
It was an instant late. The parachute flares blossoming overhead silhouetted Chicago in Japanese gunsights. Then the Australian cruiser Canberra appeared. Chokai, only 4,500 yards distant, opened with her main batteries, Aoba fired from 5,500 yards, and Furutaka opened from 9,000 yards.
This photograph taken from the deck of the Japanese cruiser Chokai shows flares illuminating the American cruiser USS Chicago and the Australian cruiser Camberra on the night of August 8-9, 1942.
This photograph taken from the deck of the Japanese cruiser Chokai shows flares illuminating the American cruiser USS Chicago and the Australian cruiser Canberra on the night of August 8-9, 1942.

View over the Western Province's tropical island paradise. Water temperature rarely drops below 30 °C / 80 F here.


View over the Western Province's tropical island paradise. In the turquoise, water is extremely shallow. The reef forms a little lagoon here.Before Canberra’s crew even spotted the enemy, before the Australians could train out their guns, Japanese torpedoes had blasted a great hole in the side of their ship, followed closely by the first 4.7- and 8-inch salvoes. Canberra’s captain fell, mortally wounded. The ship’s gunnery officer died in the first blast, along with many of his shipmates. Canberra launched two torpedoes and got off a few 4.7-inch rounds. Then she was out of the fight, her power out, dead in the water.

Patterson surged after the enemy cruiser column while Japanese gunners put out a few disdainful salvoes in her direction. The after-gun mount was hit, and ready ammunition and powder exploded and burned. Patterson came on, firing at the tail cruiser Yubari. Suddenly it was quiet. The Japanese were beyond sight. Patterson’s torpedoes were still in their tubes despite the captain’s order to launch them.
Destroyer Bagley was up next, but she had no luck. The spread of torpedoes she launched sped off uselessly to the north.
Chicago got off easier than Canberra by pure chance and because her lookouts had seen orange flashes at 1:42 am—the Japanese launching torpedoes—and aircraft flares over the transports a minute later. Canberra’s sudden wheel to starboard from dead ahead clinched the matter. Lookouts passed word that two shadows were in sight nearby. The captain, who was just awakening from a nap, ordered his 5-inch secondary batteries to prepare to illuminate with star shells. A lookout spotted a torpedo wake to starboard at 1:46, and Chicago was hit a minute later, her bow blown clear off. Gunners staggered under the impact, then fired star shells in an effort to pinpoint a target—any target. The damaged cruiser tried for two minutes to range in on a pair of mysterious lighted targets ahead. One must have been the destroyer Yunagi, which Admiral Mikawa had detached to look after Blue. The second target might have been Jarvis, a destroyer damaged by a Japanese aerial torpedo that afternoon.
Preoccupied with licking their own wounds or coming to the aid of cripples, no one in Southern Force thought to issue an alert. The Japanese had sustained zero damage in the course of crippling a pair of cruisers and a destroyer.
Admiral Mikawa was already on the scent of the Northern Force cruisers, which were maintaining a boxlike patrol pattern north and east of Savo. American lookouts had no idea that a battle had been fought to the south because Savo’s silhouette and a line of squalls between the two Allied forces obscured the view.

Hitting the Northern Force

On glimpsing Northern Force through a break in the squall line, Mikawa ordered a course shift to east-northeast at 1:44 am.
Chokai, in the van, made the prescribed move, as did the three heavy cruisers immediately astern. But Furutaka, the last of the heavies, found herself on a collision course with the cruiser ahead and veered to port, her bow aimed directly at the American cruiser line to the north. She settled on a more northerly heading at 1:47, the two light cruisers in her wake. By pure chance, the two Japanese columns were on parallel courses with the Northern Force column between them.
Patterson’s voice-radio warning at 1:43 and the string of parachute flares to the south had alerted Northern Force to danger, but no one knew from where it might emerge nor, in fact, that it was approaching at all. Without hard facts, the line of cruisers maintained its 10-knot patrol speed, the helmsmen taking care to turn a square corner to the northeast at the end of the southwestern leg of the box.
Tenryu’s lookouts spotted the American column at 1:46, just as their ship was turning to follow Furutaka to form the inadvertent second column. Word was flashed two minutes later to Admiral Mikawa, who ordered torpedoes launched immediately; 17 were away within moments. The Eighth Fleet majestically charged against the unknowing Americans, batteries swiftly swinging outboard to track targets.

General Quarters on the Astoria

Astoria, at the tail of the American column, was maintaining a routine watch. Her skipper, Captain William Greenman, was sleeping off the accumulated strain of two days on the conn. The officer of the deck, Lt. Cmdr. Jim Topper, noted slight tremors from the south, but assumed that destroyermen were relieving their anxieties by dropping depth charges on phantom submarines. The tremors were Chokai’s torpedoes harmlessly detonating after missing Chicago.
A lookout reported seeing a star shell far to port, and Jim Topper looked up in time to see a string of aircraft flares. Someone else pointed to a searchlight beam (Chokai’s) at 1:50. That did it! Topper called Astoria’s crew to General Quarters only a minute before a shell exploded just off her bow.
The main-battery spotter announced that three enemy cruisers were off the port quarter and closing, but it was 90 seconds before Astoria’s 8-inch guns could be trained out to port and fired at Chokai.
The crew of the USS Astoria's No. 3 gun, a 5-inch weapon, works feverishly during the gunnery practice in the spring of 1942.
The crew of the USS Astoria‘s No. 3 gun, a 5-inch weapon, works feverishly during the gunnery practice in the spring of 1942.
As Lt. Cmdr. Topper was passing the order to commence firing, Captain Greenman, who had been routed out of his bunk moments earlier, stepped onto the control bridge and hurriedly assessed events to that moment. “Topper,” he cautioned, “I think we’re firing on our own ships. Let’s not get excited and act too hasty. Cease firing.”
The ship’s gunnery officer remained convinced that the targets were hostile; he pleaded to be allowed to resume firing. Captain Greenman assented at 1:54.
Meanwhile, Chokai had had time to fire four full salvoes at Astoria, but none had yet scored. The misses might have given the American gunners time to strike back, but the debate on Astoria’s bridge and the cease-fire order benefited the Japanese flagship. The fifth 8-inch salvo then ripped through the American cruiser’s superstructure, and Astoria’s midships section burst into flames. Chokai blazed away as Captain Greenman firmly ordered all his guns into action.
It was too late for Astoria. Her communications had been destroyed, and her deck was disintegrating under the impact of repeated hits. The gun crews were severely hampered by the heat and smoke of fires; in all, Astoria managed to get off 11 partial 8-inch salvoes. Captain Greenman had to order an abrupt course correction to avoid ramming Quincy, which was in line dead ahead. The move was unfortunate, for it brought Greenman’s ship between Quincy and more menacing Japanese batteries.
Then the worst blow of all fell: A shell burst directly on Astoria’s bridge, cutting down most of the bridge watch. The helmsman managed to regain his feet and bring the cripple back on course to the northwest, but scores of sailors below decks were felled by searing flames, billowing smoke, and superheated steam. The cruiser slowed to barely seven knots. Fires were raging down her entire length, but her crew continued to fight; Turret 2’s last salvo caught Chokai’s forward turret. But then Astoria was left behind.

USS Quincy: First Ship Sent to the Ironbottom Sound

Quincy was already getting hit. The watch had had warnings and hints identical to those registered aboard Astoria, but they too had helped little. On receiving Patterson’s warning, the officer of the deck had called Captain Samuel Moore from his emergency cabin, abaft the bridge, where he was resting. Just as Moore appeared on the bridge, the second cruiser in the Japanese starboard column, Aoba, fixed his ship in her main searchlight battery and pumped several rounds into the water beside Quincy’s bow. Moore ordered his gunners to “fire at the ships with the searchlights on.”
When the guns did not bear on the targets quickly enough, Moore again ordered, “Fire the main battery!” But nothing happened for long seconds, though the cruiser’s 5-inchers had been trained out for minutes. “Hurry up,” the captain fumed. “What’s taking so long?” Immediately, a full nine-gun salvo was loosed. “Full speed ahead,” Moore ordered.
Captain Samuel N. Moor commanded the USS Quincy during the Guadalcanal operations.
Captain Samuel N. Moor commanded the USS Quincy during the Guadalcanal operations.
After the second salvo, Moore decided that he was firing on friendly ships, so he ordered recognition signals lighted.

This is Mbabanga Island in Vonavona Lagoon, very close to my destination Gizo. The jetty belongs to the Fatboys Resort, a well known and popular place in these parts. Next to nice bungalows (on the island end of the jetty),

Quincy’s officer of the deck felt that the ship was on a collision course with Vincennes, dead ahead, so he ordered course shifted slightly to starboard, a move that masked the forward guns.
Quincy was then struck in the stern aircraft hangar, and the volatile contents of the structure erupted in a furious blaze. The captain ordered the burning observation plane to be pushed over the side, but crewmen could not get close enough.
“Hard a-starboard,” Moore ordered. The ship turned directly into the beam of a Japanese searchlight.
“Fire at the searchlight!”
Turret 1 traversed and fired, and the Japanese ship went dark.
Lighted better than she could have been by searchlights, Quincy caught numerous rounds from both Japanese columns. The next incoming salvo was 100 yards short, and the next was 75 yards over. Everyone on the bridge pulled in their heads; they knew a straddle when they saw one. Nearly all the starboard 5-inch gun crewmen were felled by the next salvo. Two torpedoes struck the port bow and breached the forward magazine, which blew up.
Moments after Turret 2 received a direct hit and exploded, Captain Moore encouraged his surviving gunners to “Give ‘em hell,” then was felled by a direct hit on the pilothouse, which took out most of the bridge watch.
The galley was ablaze, as were all the boats on the boat deck, the hangar area, the well deck, and the fantail. The ship was listing to port. A Japanese cruiser passed by at high speed, about 200 yards to port, and pumped salvo after salvo into the cripple. One of Quincy’s firerooms was opened to the sea by a torpedo, and communications to that point were lost, dooming the black gang, which was sealed off. A 5-inch gun was destroyed when another hit sparked its ready ammunition.
Captain Moore said with his dying breath, “Beach the ship.” The bridge phone talker, a lieutenant commander, staggered out of the pilothouse and mumbled through a face that had been half shot away, “Everything will be okay. The ship will go down fighting.”
Apparently down by the stern, the cruiser USS Quincy is illuminated by Japanese searchlight beams and pummeled by accurate torpedo and shellfire. The Quincy was one of four Allied cruisers lost at Savo Island, with the Astoria the last to sink.
Apparently down by the stern, the cruiser USS Quincy is illuminated by Japanese searchlight beams and pummeled by accurate torpedo and shellfire. The Quincy was one of four Allied cruisers lost at Savo Island, with the Astoria the last to sink.
Quincy’s senior surviving officer made his way to the bridge, where, stunned by the carnage, he immediately ordered, “Abandon ship!” The survivors made it into the water by the slimmest of margins. At 2:35 am, the heavy cruiser capsized to port, twisted furiously, and slid away beneath the waves—the first of numerous warships to inhabit the floor of what would soon be called Ironbottom Sound.

Vincennes Set Alight

The leading Northern Force cruiser—the last the Japanese overtook—was Vincennes, and she had had more warning than her dying sisters. Captain Frederick Reifkohl was awakened after the deck watch first spotted flares and after men on deck felt two distinct underwater explosions and spotted flashes of gunfire away to the south. Reifkohl felt that ChicagoCanberraAustralia, and their escorts were firing on aircraft. He ordered speed increased to 15 knots.
Aviation Machinist’s Mate 3rd Class William “Rusty” Campbell, a member of the port aft 20mm gun crew, distinctly saw illumination burst over Astoria, then saw Japanese shells strike the trailing cruiser from the waterline to the bridge. Fires flared and died.
A Japanese cruiser abaft the port beam illuminated Vincennes at 1:50, but Captain Reifkohl thought that the lights were those of Southern Force and sent an urgent radio appeal for the lights to be doused. Nevertheless, the gunnery officer ordered his guns trained out to port to track the nearest silhouette.
Rusty Campbell spoke rapidly into the sound-powered phone resting on his chest, asking permission to open with his aft 20mm gun to try to douse the lights. Permission to fire was denied because, a disembodied voice said in his ear, “They might be our friends out there.”

Not without a fight: Before Vincennes sank three miles east of Savo Island, she inflicted casualties on the enemy.
Not without a fight: Before Vincennes sank three miles east of Savo Island, she inflicted casualties on the enemy.

Some WWII wrecks are scattered in the waters around Ghizo. A nice and interesting one is the Japanese transporter Toa Maru, she left Truk to support the invasion of Tarawa on Nov 25, 1943 and was sunk on the same day. She rests on starboard side, goes down to 37 meters and has been taken in to the "Top 20 best divesites of the world".


The hull and parts of Toa's superstructure are overgrown with coral.

The 8-inchers and most of the lighter weapons were tracking targets, but Kako, the third cruiser in the eastern Japanese column, got off the first rounds. A violent explosion engulfed Vincennes well forward on the port side. Rusty Campbell’s sound-powered phone went dead.

Vincennes’ 8-inchers returned fire at 1:53 over a distance of five miles. Their second salvo hit the last of the Japanese eastern cruisers, Kinugasa, but incoming struck Battle 2, the secondary command center, right over Campbell’s head.

Campbell slipped out of his harness and crouched behind his gun’s splinter shield. Another salvo hurtled him over the splinter shield and onto the deck, burying him under a pile of 20mm ammunition cans. A helping hand pulled the temporarily blinded gunner from beneath the cans.

The Japanese had succeeded in setting the American cruiser’s aircraft hangar aflame, so they switched off their searchlights and fired at the burning target.
Campbell regained his sight as he was crawling inboard past the motor launches. A chief petty officer grabbed him and ordered him to run out some hose to try to fight the fire raging around the spotter plane on the port catapult, Campbell’s primary work station. Campbell did as he was told, clamping the hose to the nearest hydrant on the boat deck and turning the valve. All he got was an ample shot of live steam.
The deck was growing hot beneath Campbell’s feet, so he was only too glad to obey instructions to get down to the fantail; a storage locker only 10 feet beneath Campbell’s gun was filled with bombs and depth charges, and Campbell wanted to be as far away as he could get from that blast when it occurred.
As Captain Reifkohl ordered a turn to port so he could close on the Japanese, a hit on the port side of the bridge cut down many of the men standing around him, but Reifkohl remained on his feet, untouched. All around, guns were being demolished and communications throughout the ship were disrupted as more of the Japanese cruisers found the range. Vincennes’ main battery fire had to be maintained under local control.
Reifkohl next ordered a starboard turn to bring his ship out of the crossfire. Just then, however, several of Chokai’s torpedoes exploded on the port side by Fireroom 4.

“We’d Better Get Our Asses Out of Here”

It was 1:55, and Vincennes was doomed. One fireroom was off line, its crew smothered to a man. A torpedo from Yubari, in the western Japanese column, burst beside a starboard fireroom at 2:03, killing the entire complement.
Emerging from the cover of the starboard aft 20mm gun, Rusty Campbell and the gunners around him peeked down at the well deck, where they saw the port 5-inch batteries and the bridge take repeated hits. There were fires everywhere. Campbell shouted down to a shipmate to learn what was going on, and the man shouted back that “Abandon ship” had been passed. In fact, though the cruiser was slowly losing way and listing heavily to port, Captain Reifkohl was only just beginning to think about ordering the crew into the water.
Campbell felt it was time to make a decision. He told the two gun crews, “We’d better get our asses out of here.”

This flathead or crocodile fish (Platycephalida) sits on the edge of the hull, posing for the divers. Lucky for him that we are not in need to catch our lunch, since this kind of fish is also popular on the BBQ.


The crystal-clear water around Ghizo, in Roviana and Vonavona Lagoons is around 30 °C / 80 F warm year-round and a diver's delight.


The beach next to the Fatboys Resort on Mbabanga Island


Most diversities you visit from Munda are in the large Roviana Lagoon. There's a lot of wall and dropoff diving here, abundant coral and fishlife make it another prime dive destination.

Propeller and radial engine of an intact wreck of a Douglas SBD4 "Dauntless" dive bomber. Some claim that SBD stands for "slow but deadly"... Maybe it really was too slow, as it was shot down on July 23, 1943 when Munda airfield was still in Japanese hands.


The Dauntless pilot, Jim Dougherty, had to crash-land near Rendova Island and was saved by US troops on the island. This is the plane's tailfin, with a sponge in the foreground. The wreck is only 14 meters deep.

Twenty frightened sailors moved for the ladder at the same instant, jostling one another for position, dropping heavily to the deck below. They had to pass through the main superstructure aft, down three decks in all, to get to the fantail, from which they could enter the water. The ship’s power was gone, so it was stone dark inside. Shells burst through the port bulkhead, sending everyone sprawling to the deck in a great heap. Campbell fell face up, another man’s shoes in his face. He saw holes appear in both bulkheads as another shell went right through the compartment without detonating. There was a good deal of shouting. A third shell exploded when it hit the starboard bulkhead. The man on top of Campbell went limp while Rusty took a piece of shrapnel in the foot.

The roiling mass of men slowly sorted itself out and dribbled down the ladder to the next deck, where a secured manhole cover barred the way; it seemed to take ages before eager hands undogged the hatch. Campbell was the first man through, and he was terrorized. It was pitch dark, so he could not see if a hatch directly beneath his feet was open. If it was, Campbell could plunge 20 feet to a steel deck. If not, the drop was a few inches. He hung for long moments by his fingertips, until a pair of feet hit him in the head, and he plunged into the abyss. The fall was a four-incher. Campbell shouted to the men above that it was safe to come ahead.

In the dark: The Australian cruiser Canberra conducting a night-firing drill. Canberra fired only a few rounds before she was left dead in the water.
In the dark: The Australian cruiser Canberra conducting a night-firing drill. Canberra fired only a few rounds before she was left dead in the water.

A dilemma arose. Campbell’s berthing space was directly beneath his feet. He pondered the merits of making a quick side trip to winkle out the $60 in cash he had hidden among his skivvies and the new $55 gabardine dress blues he had worn only twice. Suddenly, the connecting hatch opened and ammunition handlers from below boiled toward the adjacent fantail. Rusty followed them into the open, wondering at his stupidity.
Campbell stepped onto the fantail and walked forward until stopped by thick flames and smoke. He turned back aft just as Japanese shells hit the bulkhead over his head. He ran. Another shell sent a piece of shrapnel into his left leg and hit the kapok life jacket covering his stomach so hard he doubled over. He smelled something burning, reached down to where he had been hit, and scorched his fingers on a white-hot piece of shrapnel embedded in the life jacket.
The firing abruptly stopped at 2:15 am.

The Ellett Arrives

Only the destroyer Ralph Talbot stood between the Eighth Fleet and freedom, and her skipper ordered her in after the Japanese. FurutakaTenryu, and Yubari, the western Japanese column, fired a total of seven salvoes at the oncoming American destroyer, but she was hit only once, in the torpedo tubes. Then Yubari fired one last time, holing Ralph Talbot’s charthouse, knocking out part of the automatic gun-control system, and striking a 5-inch mount. The destroyer countered with an unsuccessful four-torpedo spread and ended the fight by entering a rain squall near Savo.
Ensign Paul “Tuny” Moffat, a destroyer squadron supply officer, was asleep in his stateroom aboard Ellett, a new destroyer and one of the fastest in the U.S. fleet, when he was awakened by the General Quarters klaxon. Moffat could hear the sound of gunfire from the west and could feel the ship storm away from its station off Tulagi. When Moffat came topside and headed for his battle station, the forward machine-gun battery, he could see flashes of gunfire to the west. By then, Ellett was steaming toward the battle at full speed.
Search and destroy: The Japanese cruiser Yubari uses its searchlights to seek out the Northern Fleet.
Search and destroy: The Japanese cruiser Yubari uses its searchlights to seek out the Northern Fleet.

In 1995, 52 years later, Jim the 75-year-old ex-pilot returned to Munda and dived his old plane.
This photo shows the double cockpit for the pilot and the gunner.

By the time Ellett arrived off Savo, the Japanese were gone. Though mindful that his primary mission was getting at the transports, Admiral Mikawa elected to forgo his advantage because he expected the American carriers to mount search-and-strike missions before dawn. He need not have worried, for Fletcher’s task force had already steamed out of range. The foray had been a clear victory, but the Japanese warships had seriously depleted their magazines, and Mikawa was convinced that he had tackled a far larger battle force than the Allies actually had in the vicinity. He chose discretion and left.

Ellett’s captain, Lt. Cmdr. Francis Gardner, conned his ship directly to the aid of Quincy and Vincennes, which were aflame and in imminent danger of sinking. When Gardner heard cries for help from the water, he took an unprecedented and incredibly dangerous step. At his order, Ellett went dead in the water, fully illuminated by the burning cruisers. Rescue operations immediately commenced.

Abandoning the Vincennes

Ensign Tuny Moffat was the first man into the water, the one who tested rumors about schools of predatory sharks being loose in the channel. There were no sharks, but there were more castaways than Moffat could begin to help. He got a firm grip on one swimmer and helped him back to Ellett, at which point he was ordered to reboard because he was not secured to the ship with a lifeline, as were dozens of other destroyermen who had followed him into the inky water.
Vincennes was listing heavily to port, and there was a wide divergence of thought on the subject of abandoning ship. Some gunners had remained at their stations with secondary batteries, but crewmen were also drifting astern in life rafts. As Rusty Campbell stood by the rail—trying to make up his mind, watching seawater reach the port scuppers—he reached into his pocket, pulled out a cigarette, and lit up. He had taken only a few drags when a young officer snarled from by his elbow, “Sailor, put that cigarette out! Don’t you know the smoking lamp is out?” The seaman stared at the officer in disbelief. Vincennes was aflame from stem to stern, and here was a character who was worried about a burning cigarette. Shock deepened when the officer repeated his order: “You heard what I said! Put that cigarette out!” Campbell flipped the butt into the water and glared back at the officer, convinced the man was about to ask for his name, rate, and service number.
Then it was time to go. Campbell took off his shoes and placed them neatly in line with 40 or 50 other pairs, then stepped off the deck into the water and swam about a hundred feet to the nearest raft. A strange sound behind Campbell brought him around. He floated on his back just in time to see Vincennes roll over, her four screws right on the surface. People were standing on her keel, between the screws. She hung there for a few minutes, then gently slid beneath the light swell.
Twenty-year-old Rusty Campbell, who had been at home aboard Vincennes since before the war, felt warm tears in his eyes as he pulled for a nearby raft and was helped out of the water.
Hundreds of refugees boarded Ellett and moved into every available space below decks to receive medical care or rest. A bluejacket whose lower jaw had been shot away died in Ensign Moffat’s bunk. Moffat was sickened when the open deck behind his machine-gun battery was used to store the dead, who were neatly stacked—like cordwood—to conserve space.
Cold light of day: Despite heroic efforts, Canberra’s crew could not save her; she was scuttled by friendly fire.
Cold light of day: Despite heroic efforts, Canberra’s crew could not save her; she was scuttled by friendly fire.
Quincy and Vincennes went down during the night. Canberra’s crew fought to extinguish the flames that were ravaging the ship, but the Australian cruiser was too badly mauled for quick salvage. A message from Rear Admiral Kelly Turner clinched her fate; she was to be scuttled if she could not retire with the fleet at 6:30 am. Her executive officer reluctantly ordered his crew to abandon ship, and hundreds of pajama-clad Aussies transferred to the destroyer Patterson, where spare clothing was broken out of the crew’s lockers and unselfishly passed around. Blue moved to assist Canberra’s crew at 6 am, and she and Patterson took off the last of 608 Australian officers and sailors shortly after 6:15.
Tuny Moffat watched from Ellett as a dark form loomed out of the semidarkness several thousand yards out. Was a Japanese cruiser returning to sink rescue vessels? Moffat watched and waited as the barrel of Ellett’s forward 5-inch gun depressed and tracked the target. Shell after shell was pumped into the silhouette, frightening men in the water and aboard Ellett. The target was Canberra! Unbeknown to Moffat, Ellett had been ordered to scuttle the Australian cruiser with gunfire, but could not. Canberra did not sink until torpedoed by another destroyer at 8 am.

A pastel-colored, beautiful sunset over Roviana Lagoon..


USS Vincennes CA-44 Enters Pearl the photo says that this is the Vincennes entering Pearl Harbor in 1938. Based upon the lack of the WWII splinter shielding, this photo appears to have been taken prior to being updated for the war.

Meanwhile, Chicago’s befuddled captain was looking for game, and he settled on Patterson in the half light of the new day. Luckily, no hits were scored before Chicago ceased firing.

Rescuing Survivors

Astoria was still afloat, and her crew wanted her to stay that way. Prodigious efforts by Captain Greenman and 300 volunteers who reboarded her following rescue proved fruitless. A minesweeper tried to pass a tow, but that effort failed and a cargo ship finally came alongside to evacuate the salvage crew. Astoria heeled over to port at 12:35 pm and sank.

The USS Astoria fires its 8-inch guns during gunnery practice off Hawaii in July 1942. Within minutes of meeting the Japanese off Savo Island, the Astoria was in flames.
The USS Astoria fires its 8-inch guns during gunnery practice off Hawaii in July 1942. Within minutes of meeting the Japanese off Savo Island, the Astoria was in flames.
Hundreds of men remained in the water for hours. Shortly after crawling aboard a life raft, Rusty Campbell went back over the side to make room for an injured man. Somehow, he wound up alone and adrift on the wide sea, fearful that his limited prowess as a swimmer would kill him. He was treading water, getting panicky, when something nudged him in the side. A shark? No. It was an empty 5-inch powder can, which he grabbed for dear life. Minutes later, several more powder cans floated by, and Campbell put one apiece beneath each armpit and behind his knees. Out of the darkness came the sound of singing. It was a shipmate, who was repeating the lyric of a popular song: “Hold tight, hold tight. I want some seafood, Mama.” The two exchanged tales and scuttlebutt, then drifted apart. The tide carried Campbell toward the burning and grounded transport Elliott.
In time, Campbell saw ships stopping to take on survivors. His prayers seemed about to be answered when he saw a destroyer (Ellett) heading right for him. She was only a hundred yards away when she began to drop depth charges at an imagined submarine in the channel. The concussion nearly bilged Rusty, but he desperately clung to his ammunition cans until another destroyer, Helm, came up beside him. Campbell was dragged to the deck, where he asked the time. It was 9 am. His watch had stopped when he went into the water; it read 2:40 am.
The unprecedented loss of four first-line cruisers in a single action in which the enemy had been but superficially damaged was catastrophic. The defeat was mitigated somewhat on August 10 when an American submarine put a pair of torpedoes into Kako’s hull and left her sinking off New Ireland. That put the score in the Solomons at four heavy cruisers and one transport sunk and one destroyer (Jarvis) missing to one Japanese heavy cruiser sunk.
Kelly Turner’s amphibious force and its surviving escorts retired early in the morning, as promised. It carried in its holds a vast amount of equipment and stores belonging to the 1st Marine Division.

View from Japanese War memorial, Honiara


Traversing Iron Bottom Sound Guadalcanal coastline has the most remarkable shapes.

Kolombangara at sunrise. There is absolutely no doubt that any early morning in the Solomons will bring just rewards.


Light waves


Fishing Trip - Solomon Islands. As part of their customary life, trips in dug out canoes start off as fun, but in the end it’s a means to food security, no matter how young you are. The boys spend hours on the water, and occasionally stop off on a lonely beach to cook part of the catch for lunch.


USS ASTORIA CA-34 on August 8th, 1942 This photo of USS ASTORIA CA-34 was taken in Iron Bottom Sound the day before her sinking. It is the last known photo taken of "Nasty Asty."Written on the back of the photo: "USS Astoria (sunk)"

Japanese bombers attack transport ships off Guadalcanal, circa August 8th, 1942Three Japanese bombers are visible making a low-level pass against allied transports in the waters of Iron Bottom Sound.Written on back of photo: "Peaceful and placid waters but fury above."


VINCENNES CA-44 salvo August 7th, 1942. In the dawn hours of August 7th, 1942 USS VINCENNES CA-44 fires a salvo in support of the Marine landings at Guadalcanal. Written on back of photo: "Dawn entering Guadalcanal. U.S. cruiser Vincinnes (sic) bombards and silences shore batteries."



USS ENTERPRISE CV-6 in August 1942 Written on back of photo: "Aircraft carrier Enterprise whose planes covered the landing."


USS SAN JUAN CL-54 in August 1942Written on back of photo: "America's answer to the bomber--U.S. cruiser San Juan--8 twin 5" A.A. turret"


Japanese bombers attacking, circa August 8th 1942. Flak bursts form as Japanese bombers pass overhead.Written on the back of the photo: "Formation broken up by A.A. fire. Fighters engage the Japs."


Japanese bombs detonate nearby, circa August 8th, 1942. Written on back of photo: "High level bombers unload. No hits."


Japanese bomber over allied transports off Guadalcanal, circa August 8th 1942. A Japanese bombers makes a low-level pass against allied transports in the waters of Iron Bottom Sound. Written on back of photo: "Another torpedo bomber on fire on the left hand of the picture, another can be seen coming in to attack."


Aftermath of Japanese bombing attack, circa August 8th 1942. Smoke pours skyward around allied transports in the zig-zagging wake of an Australian cruiser. Written on back of photo: "Another torpedo bomber on fire. There's three down in this bunch, score now 7."


USS QUINCY CA-39 in silhouette, August 8th 1942. Taken on August 8th, 1942, this is one of the last photos ever taken of QUINCY CA-39.Written on back of photo: "USS Quincy shoots down the first high-level bomber."

Transports unload Marines at Guadalcanal, circa 7 August 1942Landing craft filled with USMC personnel head ashore at Guadalcanal, circa 7 August 1942. Written on back of photo: "Marines off southward at Guadalcanal to clash with the Japs"


Marines landing at Guadalcanal, circa 7 August 1942. Written on back of photo: "Marines landing from transports"

Japanese bombers attack transport ships off Guadalcanal, circa August 8th, 1942Three Japanese bombers are visible making a low-level pass against allied transports in the waters of Iron Bottom Sound.Written on back of photo: "Peaceful and placid waters but fury above."

"Any man who may be asked in this century what he did to make his life worthwhile, I think can respond with a good deal of pride and satisfaction, 'I served in the United States Navy,'" wrote President John F. Kennedy in August 1963. A former naval officer, Kennedy was born in Brookline, Massachusetts on 29 May 1917 to Rose and Joseph P. Kennedy. After attending public schools in Brookline, Kennedy went on to The Choate School in Wallingford, Connecticut, and attended the London School of Economics from 1935 to 1936. Kennedy graduated cum laude from Harvard University in 1940 and began graduate school at Stanford University.

PT boat officers Reed, Kennedy, Ross, and Fay
Lieutenant John F. Kennedy's encounter with a Japanese destroyer on the night of August 1, 1943, may be the most famous small-craft engagement in naval history.
File:PT-109 crew.jpg
LTJG Kennedy (standing at right) on the PT-109 in 1943. For other photos see
January 1943: While on a bombing run over Salamau, New Guinea, before its capture by Allied forces, photographer Sgt. John A. Boiteau aboard an army Liberator took this photograph of a B-24 Liberator during World War II. Bomb bursts can be seen below in lower left and a ship at upper right along the beach.  (AP Photo/U.S. Army Force)

Tanambogo and Gavutu Seaplane Base, Solomon Islands aerial photograph, on 17 April 1942, while the base was still in use by the Royal Australian Air Force. Seized by the Japanese in early May, these islands were captured by U.S. Marines on 7-8 August 1942. The small island in the upper right center is Gaomi.
The Guadalcanal Campaign, also known as the Battle of Guadalcanal and codenamed Operation Watchtower by Allied forces, was a military campaign fought between August 7, 1942 and February 9, 1943 on and around the island of Guadalcanal in the Pacific theatre of World War II. It was the first major offensive by Allied forces against the Empire of Japan.

The Death of Joe Jr.Kennedy Reclines

File:JFK PT-109 Coconut.jpgThe coconut with the carved message, cast in a paperweight.


Guadalcanal-Tulagi Operation, August 1942
Makambo Island, inside Tulagi harbor just north of Tulagi Island, under bombardment by Allied ships and U.S. carrier aircraft on 7 August 1942, the day U.S. Marines landed on Tulagi. A pattern of four shells has just landed in the water nearby and fires are burning ashore.
Despite having a bad back, Kennedy was able to join the U.S. Navy through the help of Captain Alan Kirk, the Director, Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) who had been the Naval Attache in London when Joseph Kennedy was the Ambassador. In October 1941, Kennedy was appointed an Ensign in the U.S. Naval Reserve and joined the staff of the Office of Naval Intelligence. The office, for which Kennedy worked, prepared intelligence bulletins and briefing information for the Secretary of the Navy and other top officials. On 15 January 1942, he was assigned to an ONI field office the Sixth Naval District in Charleston, South Carolina. After spending most of April and May at Naval Hospitals at Charleston and at Chelsea, Massachusetts, Kennedy attended Naval Reserve Officers Training School at Northwestern University in Chicago, Illinois, from 27 July through 27 September. After completing this training, Kennedy entered the Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron Training Center, Melville, Rhode Island. On 10 October, he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant, Junior Grade. Upon completing his training 2 December, he was ordered to the training squadron, Motor Torpedo 

Squadron FOUR, for duty as the Commanding Officer of a motor torpedo boat, PT 101, a 78- foot Higgins boat. In January 1943, PT 101 with four other boats was ordered to Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron FOURTEEN, which was assigned to Panama.
Seeking combat duty, Kennedy transferred on 23 February as a replacement officer to Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron TWO, which was based at Tulagi Island in the Solomons. Traveling to the Pacific on USS Rochambeau,
Kennedy arrived at Tulagi on 14 April and took command of PT 109 on 23 April 1943. On 30 May, several PT boats, including PT 109 were ordered to the Russell Islands, in preparation for the invasion of New Georgia. After the invasion of Rendova, PT 109 moved to Lumbari. From that base PT boats conducted nightly operations to interdict the heavy Japanese barge traffic resupplying the Japanese garrisons in New Georgia and to patrol the Ferguson and Blackett Straits near the islands of Kolumbangara, Gizo, and Vella-Lavella in order to sight and to give warning when the Japanese Tokyo Express warships came into the straits to assault U.S. forces in the New Georgia-Rendova area.

PT 109 commanded by Kennedy with executive officer, Ensign Leonard Jay Thom, and ten enlisted men was one of the fifteen boats sent out on patrol on the night of 1-2 August 1943 to intercept Japanese warships in the straits. A friend of Kennedy, Ensign George H. R. Ross, whose ship was damaged, joined Kennedy's crew that night. The PT boat was creeping along to keep the wake and noise to a minimum in order to avoid detection. Around 0200 with Kennedy at the helm, the Japanese destroyer Amagiri traveling at 40 knots cut PT 109 in two in ten seconds. Although the Japanese destroyer had not realized that their ship had struck an enemy vessel, the damage to PT 109 was severe. At the impact, Kennedy was thrown into the cockpit where he landed on his bad back. As Amagiri steamed away, its wake doused the flames on the floating section of PT 109 to which five Americans clung: Kennedy, Thom, and three enlisted men, S1/c Raymond Albert, RM2/c John E. Maguire and QM3/c Edman Edgar Mauer. Kennedy yelled out for others in the water and heard the replies of Ross and five members of the crew, two of which were injured. GM3/c Charles A. Harris had a hurt leg and MoMM1/c Patrick Henry McMahon, the engineer was badly burned. Kennedy swam to these men as Ross and Thom helped the others, MoMM2/c William Johnston, TM2/c Ray L. Starkey, and MoMM1/c Gerald E. Zinser to the remnant of PT 109. Although they were only one hundred yards from the floating piece, in the dark it took Kennedy three hours to tow McMahon and help Harris back to the PT hulk. Unfortunately, TM2/c Andrew Jackson Kirksey and MoMM2/c Harold W. Marney were killed in the collision with Amagiri.

Because the remnant was listing badly and starting to swamp, Kennedy decided to swim for a small island barely visible (actually three miles) to the southeast. Five hours later, all eleven survivors had made it to the island after having spent a total of fifteen hours in the water. Kennedy had given McMahon a life-jacket and had towed him all three miles with the strap of the device in his teeth. After finding no food or water on the island, Kennedy concluded that he should swim the route the PT boats took through Ferguson Passage in hopes of sighting another ship. After Kennedy had no luck, Ross also made an attempt, but saw no one and returned to the island. Ross and Kennedy had spotted another slightly larger island with coconuts to eat and all the men swam there with Kennedy again towing McMahon. Now at their fourth day, Kennedy and Ross made it to Nauru Island and found several natives. Kennedy cut a message on a coconut that read "11 alive native knows posit & reef Nauru Island Kennedy." He purportedly handed the coconut to one of the natives and said, "Rendova, Rendova!," indicating that the coconut should be taken to the PT base on Rendova.
Kennedy and Ross again attempted to look for boats that night with no luck. The next morning the natives returned with food and supplies, as well as a letter from the coastwatcher commander of the New Zealand camp, Lieutenant Arthur Reginald Evans. The message indicated that the natives should return with the American commander, and Kennedy complied immediately. He was greeted warmly and then taken to meet PT 157 which returned to the island and finally rescued the survivors on 8 August.
Kennedy was later awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for his heroics in the rescue of the crew of PT 109, as well as the Purple Heart Medal for injuries sustained in the accident on the night of 1 August 1943. An official account of the entire incident was written by intelligence officers in August 1943 and subsequently declassified in 1959. As President, Kennedy met once again with his rescuers and was toasted by members of the Japanese destroyer crew.
In September, Kennedy went to Tulagi and accepted the command of PT 59 which was scheduled to be converted to a gunboat. In October 1943, Kennedy was promoted to Lieutenant and continued to command the motor torpedo boat when the squadron moved to Vella Lavella until a doctor directed him to leave PT 59 on 18 November. Kennedy left the Solomons on 21 December and returned to the U.S. in early January 1944.
On 15 February, Kennedy reported to the Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron Training Center, Melville, Rhode Island. Due to the reinjury of his back during the sinking of PT 109, Kennedy entered a hospital for treatment. In March, Kennedy went to the Submarine Chaser Training Center, Miami, Florida. In May while still assigned to the Center, Kennedy entered the Naval Hospital, Chelsea, Massachusetts, for further treatment of his back injury. At the Hospital in June, he received his Navy and Marine Corps Medals. Under treatment as an outpatient, Kennedy was ordered detached from the Miami Center on 30 October 1944. Subsequently, Kennedy was released from all active duty and finally retired from the U.S. Naval Reserve on physical



Amagiri (Destroyer, 1930-1944)


Amagiri, a 1750-ton Fubuki class destroyer, was built at Tokyo, Japan. She was completed in November 1930 and spent the next decade taking part in combat exercises and, during the later 1930s, in operations connected with the Sino-Japanese War. When Japan began the Pacific War on 8 December 1942, Amagiri covered landings on the coast of Thailand. Later involved with the campaign to conquer Malaya and Singapore, she engaged two British destroyers off the Malay coast on the night of 27 January 1942. She also supported the invasion of western Java in February and served with Admiral Yamamoto's force in the Battle of Midway
Amagiri participated in the 14-15 October and 14 November bombardment missions during the Guadalcanal Campaign, and helped escort the last major Japanese convoy to that island, on 15 November 1942. Employed as a high-speed transport during the Central Solomons Campaign, she participated in the Battle of Kula Gulf on the night of 5-6 July 1943. While on another reinforcement run to Vila on 2 August, Amagiri rammed and sank the U.S. motor torpedo boat PT-109 and engaged other PT boats in Blackett Strait, south of Kolombangara. Later in the year, she was at Rabaul during the U.S. carrier air raids on 5 and 8 November and carried troops to Bougainville on 6-7 November. Another reinforcement mission to Bougainville, on 24-25 November 1943, resulted in the Battle of Cape Saint George, in which Amagiri escaped pursuing U.S. destroyers led by Captain Arleigh Burke. She was sunk by a mine near Borneo on 23 April 1944.
Kinugawa Maru (Japanese cargo ship)
Beached and sunk on the Guadalcanal shore, November 1943.
She had been sunk by U.S. aircraft on 15 November 1942, while attempting to deliver men and supplies to Japanese forces holding the northern part of the island.
Savo Island is in the distance.

In the six months between August 1942 and February 1943, the United States and its Pacific Allies fought a brutally hard air-sea-land campaign against the Japanese for possession of the previously-obscure island of Guadalcanal. The Allies' first major offensive action of the Pacific War, the contest began as a risky enterprise since Japan still maintained a significant naval superiority in the Pacific ocean.
Nevertheless, the U.S. First Marine Division landed on 7 August 1942 to seize a nearly-complete airfield at Guadalcanal's Lunga Point and an anchorage at nearby Tulagi, bounding a picturesque body of water that would soon be named "Iron Bottom Sound". Action ashore went well, and Japan's initial aerial response was costly and unproductive. However, only two days after the landings, the U.S. and Australian navies were handed a serious defeat in the Battle of Savo Island.
A lengthy struggle followed, with its focus the Lunga Point airfield, renamed Henderson Field. Though regularly bombed and shelled by the enemy, Henderson Field's planes were still able to fly, ensuring that Japanese efforts to build and maintain ground forces on Guadalcanal were prohibitively expensive. Ashore, there was hard fighting in a miserable climate, with U.S. Marines and Soldiers, aided by local people and a few colonial authorities, demonstrating the fatal weaknesses of Japanese ground combat doctrine when confronted by determined and well-trained opponents who possessed superior firepower.
At sea, the campaign featured two major battles between aircraft carriers that were more costly to the Americans than to the Japanese, and many submarine and air-sea actions that gave the Allies an advantage. Inside and just outside Iron Bottom Sound, five significant surface battles and several skirmishes convincingly proved just how superior Japan's navy then was in night gunfire and torpedo combat. With all this, the campaign's outcome was very much in doubt for nearly four months and was not certain until the Japanese completed a stealthy evacuation of their surviving ground troops in the early hours of 8 February 1943.
Guadalcanal was expensive for both sides, though much more so for Japan's soldiers than for U.S. ground forces. The opponents suffered high losses in aircraft and ships, but those of the United States were soon replaced, while those of Japan were not. Strategically, this campaign built a strong foundation on the footing laid a few months earlier in the Battle of Midway, which had brought Japan's Pacific offensive to an abrupt halt. At Guadalcanal, the Japanese were harshly shoved into a long and costly retreat, one that continued virtually unchecked until their August 1945 capitulation.

Photo #: 80-G-17066

Guadalcanal-Tulagi Operation, August 1942

Japanese Navy Type 1 land attack planes (later nicknamed "Betty") fly low through anti-aircraft gunfire during a torpedo attack on U.S. Navy ships maneuvering between Guadalcanal and Tulagi in the morning of 8 August 1942.

Note that these planes are being flown without bomb-bay doors.

Photo #: NH 97766

Guadalcanal-Tulagi Operation, August 1942

Japanese Navy Type 1 land attack planes ("Betty") make a torpedo attack on the Tulagi invasion force, 8 August 1942. The burning ship in the center distance is probably USS George F. Elliott (AP-13), which was hit by a crashing Japanese aircraft during this attack.

The original photograph came from the illustrations package for Rear Admiral Samuel Eliot Morison "History of United States Naval Operations in World War II", volume IV (originally published opposite page 293).

Photo #: NH 69117

Guadalcanal - Tulagi Operation, August 1942

A Japanese torpedo plane attack on U.S. transports between Guadalcanal and Tulagi, 8 August 1942.

Several G4M1 bombers are visible, flying low through anti-aircraft shell bursts near the destroyer in the center.

Photo #: NH 97751

Guadalcanal-Tulagi Operation, August 1942

Ships maneuvering during the Japanese torpedo plane attack on the Tulagi invasion force, 8 August 1942. Several Japanese Navy Type 1 land attack planes ("Betty") are faintly visible at left, center and right, among the anti-aircraft shell bursts. Destroyer in the foreground appears to be USS Bagley (DD-386) or USS Helm (DD-388). A New Orleans class heavy cruiser is in the left distance, with a large splash beside it. Column of smoke in the left center is probably from a crashed plane.

The original photograph came from Rear Admiral Samuel Eliot Morison's World War II history project working files.

U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.

Online Image: 68KB; 740 x 560 pixels

Photo #: NH 97752

Guadalcanal-Tulagi Operation, August 1942

Ships maneuvering during the Japanese torpedo plane attack on the Tulagi invasion force, 8 August 1942. Several Japanese Navy Type 1 land attack planes ("Betty") are faintly visible in the center and at right. The ship in the left center appears to be USS San Juan (CL-54). Other ships present include two destroyers, a fast transport and a heavy cruiser, with the latter very distant at the right.

The original photograph came from Rear Admiral Samuel Eliot Morison's World War II history project working files.

U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.

Online Image: 68KB; 740 x 560 pixels


Motor Torpedo Boat 109 (PT-109) was laid down 4 March 1942 by the Elco Works Naval Division of the Electric Boat Company in Bayonne, New Jersey. The seventh 40-ton Motor Torpedo Boat (MTB) built there, she was launched on 20 June, delivered to the Navy on 10 July 1942, and fitted out in the New York Naval Shipyard at Brooklyn.
PT-109 joined MTB Squadron FIVE and shifted to Panama, replacing the first eight PT boats that sailed on transports for the south Pacific in early September. Six of the Elco boats, PTs 109 through 114, were then transferred to MTB Squadron TWO on 26 October 1942 and prepared for deployment to the Solomon Islands. The boats were loaded on cargo ships and sailed west, arriving at Sesapi, Tulagi harbor, Nggela Islands, at the end of November. There, the Elco boats joined the earlier boats--which had established the MTB base at Sesapi in October--to form Motor Torpedo Boat Flotilla ONE, under Commander Allen P. Calvert.
The sound between the Nggela Islands and Guadalcanal, called "Iron Bottom Sound" for the number of warships sunk there, was geographically favorable for PT operations. The two western entrances, one between Cape Esperance and Savo Island to the south; and the other, between Savo Island and Sandfly Passage to the north, were relatively narrow. Finally, the western tip of Guadalcanal was less than thirty-five miles across sheltered water from the PT base at Sesapi.
Starting the night of 13-14 October, when four boats attacked a Japanese force bombarding Henderson Field, it became regular practice to send the MTBs out on patrol when Japanese warships were reported heading down the "slot"--the broad passage between New Georgia and Santa Isabel. These reinforcement missions--delivering men and supplies to the Japanese-held shore of Guadalcanal--were called the "Tokyo Express." When those forces were spotted by plane or coast watcher, the torpedo boats put out from Tulagi and stationed pickets in the channels around Savo Island. Other motor torpedo boats waited inside "Iron Bottom Sound," ready to move toward either passage when enemy ships were spotted.
The first action for PT-109, then commanded by Lt. Rollins E. Westholm, took place on the night of 7-8 December 1942, after reconnaissance planes reported eight Japanese destroyers moving down the "slot." Eight PTs split into three groups to meet this opposing force, with patrols off Kokumbona, another off Cape Esperance, and a four-boat division lay to [came to a stationary position] near Savo Island to act as a striking force. After initial contact took place off Cape Esperance, the striking group of four boats closed and unleashed a torpedo attack. In the ensuing running gun battle, the PTs weaved around the destroyers in a confused melee. Although PT-59 was hit by shellfire, and suffered minor damage, the Japanese withdrew, racing north with uncertain damage and without delivering their reinforcements.
Four days later, five patrolling PT boats encountered eleven Japanese destroyers northwest of Savo Island. In the melee, the MTBs managed to torpedo and sink destroyer Terutsuki at the cost of PT-44, sunk by two destroyers off Savo Island.
In early January 1943, PT-109 encountered the Japanese several more times as she and her sister boats continued intercepting "Tokyo Express" supply runs. On the night of 2-3 January, she had two bombs from an enemy plane explode off her port beam and, after firing torpedoes at an enemy destroyer, a Japanese patrol plane strafed her wake east of Savo Island. In the early morning darkness of 9 January, the PT boat closed [approached] the beach on Guadalcanal to destroy enemy stores by strafing a supply depot with .50 caliber and 20-mm guns. Then, on the night of 11-12 January, PT-109 joined eight other MTBs to attack eight Japanese destroyers off Cape Esperance. In the ensuing battle, PT-112 was sunk and PT-43 damaged, though not before a torpedo hit seriously damaged Japanese destroyer Hatsukaze.
On night patrol on 14-15 January 1943, PT-109 unsuccessfully searched northwest of Savo for signs of nine expected Japanese destroyers. At one point, a patrolling plane dropped a depth charge about 150 yards off the port quarter. Before dawn, she closed Cape Esperance looking for an opportunity to attack enemy troops and stores. At daylight, however, enemy shore batteries caught her in range and punched three holes in her hull. She then made an unsuccessful attempt to pull PT-72 off a reef southwest of Florida Island before returning to base.
During the night of 1-2 February 1943, twenty Japanese destroyers steamed down the slot as part of Operation "KE," the evacuation of their remaining troops from Guadalcanal. Although attacked by two waves of fighters and bombers from Henderson Field at dusk, only one destroyer was damaged. The rest closed Cape Esperance, covered by half a dozen patrol planes. The Japanese were spotted by eleven PT boats in positions around Savo Island, but heavy defensive fire drove off the attacking PT boats. Accurate gunfire from Kawakaze sank PT-111 and PT-37, while a Japanese seaplane destroyed PT-123. During the battle, both PT-115 and PT-38 beached themselves on the western side of Savo Island and were pulled off by PT-109. This was the most violent action the PTs participated in off Guadalcanal, and it was their last, as the Japanese completed their evacuation of that island on 7-8 February.
Over the next few months, while the MTB flotilla regrouped on Tulagi, the Japanese devoted most of their efforts to strengthening their garrisons in the upper Solomons. There were few offensive operations by either side, a respite sorely needed by PT-109 and her sister boats. The flotilla was short on manpower, with barely enough men to man the motor torpedo boats, let alone repair those damaged in combat and maintain adequate base facilities. Indeed, the crews were exhausted and easy prey to malaria, dengue fever and other tropical diseases. During this trying period, Lt. Westholm left PT-109 to become operations officer for the flotilla, leaving Ensign Bryant L. Larson in command of the boat.
On 21 February, the MTBs escorted transports for the invasion of the Russell Islands, with PT-109 personally delivering Col. E. J. Farrel and his staff to the beach in Renard Sound. After the transports landed the remaining Marine and Army troops, the PTs began nightly offshore security patrols to protect the beach head. Additional patrols covered the familiar channels off Savo Island in case the Japanese returned to the Solomons. These operations became more difficult on 5 March, when a single plane dropped four bombs on Senapi, destroying the operations office and riddling the hull of PT-118. Then, on 7 April, the last major Japanese air strike in the Solomons managed to sink three Allied ships in Tulagi harbor and damage two others, temporarily disrupting MTB base operations.
In between regular security patrols, PT-109 underwent several short maintenance periods, which included the installation of a surface search radar set. As radar sets were not issued with this class of PT-boats, the device was undoubtedly a "scrounged" item and it is unclear how long it lasted. Ensign Larson left the boat on 20 April 1943 and Ensign Leonard J. Thom, USNR, the executive officer, took charge until relieved by Lieutenant (jg) John Fitzgerald Kennedy, USNR, on the 24th. Starting in late April, the motor torpedo boat increasingly conducted patrols in the Russell Islands area and on 16 June, PT-109 shifted with other boats to a "bush" berth on Rendova Island in support of these forward operations.
On 1 August, an air strike by 18 Japanese bombers struck this temporary base, wrecking PT-117 and sinking PT-164. Two torpedoes were blown off the latter boat and ran erratically around the bay until they fetched upon [ran ashore on] the beach without exploding. Intelligence reports indicated five enemy destroyers were scheduled to run that night from Bougainville Island through Blackett Strait to Vila, on the southern tip of Kolombangara Island. Despite the loss of two boats, the flotilla sent out fifteen motor torpedo boats out in four sections to meet the Japanese destroyers.
Lieutenant Brantingham in PT-159 made radar contact at midnight with ships approaching from the north, close to Kolombangara. Soon after this he sighted what he believed to be large landing craft and closed range for a strafing run only to run into heavy shellfire that revealed the "landing craft" to be destroyers. He got off four torpedoes, and PT-157 launched two as well, before the two boats withdrew.
Lieutenant Kennedy in PT-109 patrolled without incident until gunfire and searchlights were seen in the direction of the southern shore of Kolombangara. The location was undetermined, however, and the boat rendezvoused with PT-162 to determine the source of firing. PT-109 then intercepted a terse radio message [probably from PT-159] "I am being chased through Ferguson Passage! Have fired fish." At this time, PT-169 came alongside and reported an engine out of order. She lay to with PT-109 and PT-162 to await developments while instructions were requested from base. Orders were received to resume normal patrol station, and PT-162 being uncertain as to its position, requested Lieutenant Kennedy to lead the way back to patrol station.
Lieutenant Kennedy started his patrol on one engine ahead at idling speed. The three boats were due east of Gizo Island and headed south with PT-109 leading a right echelon formation. Unknown to them, the Japanese destroyer Amagiri was returning north after completing a supply mission to Kolobangara and had spotted the torpedo boats at a range of about 1,000 yards. Rather than open fire--and give away their position--the destroyer captain, Lieutenant Comander Kohei Hanami, turned to intercept and closed in the darkness at 30-knots. Initially spotted by PT-109 at 200 to 300 yards, Kennedy ordered the boat turned to starboard, preparatory to firing torpedoes. The turn was too slow, however, and the destroyer rammed, neither slowing or firing her guns as she split the boat apart. While the Japanese destroyer was slightly damaged in the collision, smashing in part of her bow and bending her screws, the warship still made 24-knots on the run home to Rabaul and arrived safely the following morning.
Meanwhile, the crew of PT-109 were thrown in the water as the Japanese destroyer knifed through their boat. Fire ignited spilled gasoline on the water some twenty yards around the wreckage, driving the crew in all directions. It quickly became clear that the forward half of the boat was still floating after the flames died down and Lieutenant Kennedy, Ensign Thom, Ensign George Ross, QM3 [Quarter Master Third Class] Edman Mauer, RM2 [Radioman Second Class] John Maguire and S1 [Seaman First Class] Raymond Albert all crawled back on board the hull. Shouting soon revealed three men were in the water some 100 yards to the southwest, while two others were an equal distance to the southeast. These were GM3 Charles Harris, MoMM2 [Motor Machinist Mate Second Class] William Johnston, MoMM1 [Motor Machinist Mate First Class] Patrick McMahon, TM2 [Torpedoman Second Class] Ray Starkey and MoMM1 [Motor Machinist Mate First Class] Gerald Zinser.
Lieutenant Kennedy swam to the group of three where he found one man helpless because of serious burns and another struggling to stay afloat owing to a water-logged kapok life jacket. Trading his life belt to the latter sailor, he towed the injured man back to the wreckage of PT-109. Returning to the scene, he helped tow the exhausted crew member back to the boat. Meanwhile Ensigns Thom and Ross towed the other two survivors back to the floating section. Two sailors, TM2 Andrew Kirksey and MoMM2 Harold Marney, were never seen and presumed killed in the collision with Amagiri.
Daylight on 2 August found all eleven survivors clinging to the wreckage of PT-109 about four miles north and slightly east of Gizo anchorage. When it became obvious the boat remnants would sink, Kennedy decided to abandon ship to a small island some four miles southeast of Gizo, hoping to avoid any Japanese garrisons that way. At 1400, the crew pushed off for land, towing the badly burned engineer and two non-swimmers on a float rigged from a wooden post which had been a part of the 37mm gun mount. Arriving on shore, the group took cover and set up a temporary camp.
That night, Kennedy grabbed a salvaged battle lantern, donned a lifejacket, and swam to a small island a half-mile to the southeast, then along the reef stretching into Ferguson Passage where he tried unsuccessfully to intercept patrolling motor torpedo boats. Returning in the morning, he turned the lantern over to Ensign Ross who swam the same route into Ferguson Passage that evening. He too had no luck and returned the next morning.
When the remaining rations, and all the local coconuts, had been consumed, the survivors investigated a small islet west of Cross Island and took cover in the heavy brush the next day. Undaunted by the sight of a New Zealand P-40 strafing Cross Island itself, Kennedy and Ross swam to that island in search of food, boats or anything which might prove useful to their party. At one point, the two men found a Japanese box with 30-40 bags of crackers and candy and, a little farther up the beach, a native lean-to with a one-man canoe and a barrel of water alongside. About this time a canoe with two natives was sighted but they paddled swiftly off despite all efforts to attract their attention.
During the night of 5 August, Kennedy took the canoe into Ferguson Passage but found no PT boats. Returning home by way of Cross Island, where he picked up the food, he found the two natives there with the rest of the group. Ensign Thom, after telling them in as many ways as possible that he was an American and not a Japanese, had finally convinced the natives to help the Americans. The natives were then sent with messages to the coast watchers on Wana Wana, one was a pencilled note written the day before by Ensign Thom and the other a message written on a green coconut husk by Kennedy.
The next day, eight natives arrived with instructions from the coast watcher for the senior naval officer to go with the natives to Wana Wana. After the natives dropped off food and other supplies, including a cook stove, they hid Kennedy under ferns in a large war canoe and paddled him to Wana Wana. The war canoe reached its destination about 1600 [4 p.m.] and later that night Kennedy made rendezvous in Ferguson Passage with PT-157, piloted by Lieutenant (jg) W. F. Liebenow. In company with PT-171, and guided by natives who knew passages through the reefs, the survivors were picked up by small boats later that evening. Everything went off smoothly and PT-157 returned the survivors to Rendova by morning.
Lieutenant Kennedy was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal "for extremely heroic conduct as Commanding Officer of Motor Torpedo Boat 109 following the collision and sinking of that vessel in the Pacific War Area on August 1-2, 1943. Unmindful of personal danger, Lieutenant (then Lieutenant, junior grade) Kennedy unhesitatingly braved the difficulties and hazards of darkness to direct rescue operations, swimming many hours to secure aid and food after he had succeeded in getting his crew ashore. His outstanding courage, endurance and leadership contributed to the saving of several lives and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service."
PT-109 earned two battle stars for the operations listed below:
1 Star/Capture and Defense of Guadalcanal:
7-8 December 1942; 13-15 January 1943; 1-2 February 1943.
1 Star/New Georgia Group Operation:
New Georgia-Rendova-Gangunu Occupation: 1-2 August1943.
List of Commanding Officers
Ensign Bryant L. Larson, USNR: 16 July 1942 - 20 April 1943.
Ensign Leonard J. Thom, USNR: 20 April 1943 - 24 April 1943.
Lieutenant (jg) John Fitzgerald Kennedy, USNR: 24 April 1943 - 2 August 1943.
Combatant Features
Motor torpedo boats, contrary to some beliefs, did not go seventy miles-per-hour nor did they launch torpedoes at high speed. PT-109 was a plywood boat measuring 80 feel in length and had a maximum beam [width] of 20 feet. Her maximum draft was six feet and she was powered by three 12-cylinder Packard engines, each of which developed 1,350 horse power. She could carry as many as four 21-inch torpedoes and originally mounted four .50 caliber machine guns in two twin mounts. One 20-mm was mounted on the fantail [aft or rear of boat] and small arms included submachine guns, rifles and 12-gauge shotguns. She could communicate with a blinker tube having an eight-inch searchlight, and by voice radio that had a range of 75 miles. Her maximum speed for a range of 358 miles was 35 knots (roughly 30 mph.). A full-load patrol speed of nine knots would he usual in covering a 600-mile range. Under ideal conditions, and after torpedoes have been fired, a maximum speed of approximately 46-knots (roughly 40 mph.) is possible. Her usual complement was three officers and nine men.

Declassified (8 SEP 59)
Subject: Sinking of PT 109 and subsequent rescue of survivors.
Source: Survivors of PT 109.
Narrative: On the night of August 1, fourteen boats were ordered into Blackett Strait from the Rendova PT base in anticipation of the Bougainville Express running into Vila. Four patrol sections were formed: 1st, under Lt. G. C. Cookman was stationed in Ferguson Passage; 2nd, under Lt. W. Rome, whose station was East of Makuti Island; 3rd, under Lt. A. H. Berndston stationed between Makuti Island and Kolombangara; and the 4th, the section in which PT 109 was a part, under Lt. E. J. Brantingham stationed five miles West of the 3rd section. Lt. Brantinghams' boats were further subdivided into two sections; PT 159, radar equipped, operating with PT 157, while PT 162, under the command of Lt.(jg) J. R. Lowrey, was the lead boat of the second section with PT 109 following. PTs 159 and 162 both carried TBYs for inter-boat communications. Instructions were issued to Lt.(jg) Jack Kennedy, captain of PT 109, to follow closely on PT 162's starboard quarter, which would keep in touch with the radar equipped PT 159 by TBY. [Portable radio equipment of low power used as emergency for TBS.]
All boats departed from Rendova at 1830 and reached their patrol station about 2030. The 4th section patrolled without incident until gunfire and a searchlight were seen in the direction of the southern shore of Kolombangara. No radio or other warning had been received of enemy activity in the area. It was impossible to ascertain whether the searchlight came from shore or from a ship close into shore. Presumably it was not a ship as PT 162 retired on a westwardly course toward Gizo Strait. PT 109 followed and inquired as to the source of the firing. PT 162 replied that it was believed to be from a shore battery. However, PT 109 intercepted the following sudden terse radio message: "I am being chased through Ferguson Passage. Have fired fish". That was all, but it was enough to inform the group that an action with the enemy was in progress, and a significant one. At this time PT 169 came alongside to inquire about the firing in Blackett Strait and to report that one of her engines was out of order. PT 169 lay to with PTs 109 and 162 to await developments.
In the meantime all contact with PT 109 had been lost. Instructions from base were requested and orders were received to resume normal patrol station. PT 162, being uncertain as to its position, requested PT 109 lead the way back to the patrol station, which it proceeded to do. When Lt. Kennedy thought he had reached the original patrol station, he started to patrol on one engine at idling speed.
The time was about 0230. Ensign Ross was on the bow as lookout: Ensign Thom was standing beside the cockpit: Lt. Kennedy was at the wheel, and with him in the cockpit was McGuire, his radioman; Marney was in the forward turret; Mauer, the quartermaster was standing beside Ensign Thom; Albert was in the after turret; and McMann was in the engine room. The location of other members of the crew upon the boat is unknown. Suddenly a dark shape loomed up on PT 109's starboard bow 200-300 yards in the distance. At first this shape was believed to be other PTs. However, it was soon seen to be a [Japanese] destroyer identified as the Ribiki Group of the Fubuki Class bearing down on PT 109 at high speed. The 109 had started to turn to starboard preparatory to firing torpedoes. However, when PT 109 had scarcely turned 30, the destroyer rammed the PT, striking it forward of the forward starboard tube and shearing off the starboard side of the boat aft, including the starboard engine. The destroyer traveling at an estimated speed of 40 knots neither slowed nor fired as she split the PT, leaving part of the PT on one side and the other on the other. Scarcely 10 seconds elapsed between time of sighting and the crash.
In April 1943, 25-year-old John F. Kennedy arrived in the Pacific and took  command of the PT-109.  Just months later, the boat collided with a Japanese ship, killing two of his men (John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library, PC101).
In April 1943, 25-year-old John F. Kennedy arrived in the Pacific and took command of the PT-109. Just months later, the boat collided with a Japanese ship, killing two of his men (John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library,
A fire was immediately ignited, but, fortunately, it was gasoline burning on the water's surface at least 20 yards away from the remains of the PT which were still afloat. This fire burned brightly for 15-20 minutes and then died out. It is believed that the wake of the destroyer carried off the floating gasoline there by saving PT 109 from fire.
Lt. Kennedy, Ensigns Thom and Ross, Mauer, Mc McGuire and Albert still clung to the PT 109's hull. Lt. Kennedy ordered all hands to abandon ship when it appeared the fire would spread to it. All soon crawled back aboard when this danger passed. It was ascertained by shouting that Harris, McMahon and Starkey were in the water about 100 yards to the Southwest while Zinser and Johnson were an equal distance to the Southeast. Kennedy swam toward the group of three, and Thom and Ross struck out for the other two. Lt. Kennedy had to tow McMahon, who was helpless because of serious burns, back to the boat. A strong current impeded their progress, and it took about an hour to get McMahon aboard PT 109. Kennedy then returned for the other two men, one of whom was suffering from minor burns. He traded his life belt to Harris, who was uninjured in return for Harris's waterlogged kapok life jacket which was impeding the latters' swimming. Together they towed Starkey to the PT.
Meanwhile, Ensigns Thom and Ross had reached Zinser and Johnson who were both helpless because of gas fumes. Thom towed Johnson, and Ross took Zinser and Johnson who were both helpless because of gas fumes. Thom towed Johnson, and Ross took Zinser. Both regained full consciousness by the time the boat was reached.
Within three hours after the crash all survivors who could be located were brought aboard PT 109. Marney and Kirksey were never seen after the crash. During the three hours it took to gather the survivors together, nothing was seen or heard that indicated other boats or ships in the area. PT 109 did not fire its Very pistols for fear of giving away its position to the enemy.
Meanwhile the IFF [Identification, friend or foe] and all codes aboard had either been completely destroyed or sunk in the deep waters of Vella Gulf. Despite the fact that all water- tight doors were dogged down at the time of the crash, PT 109 was slowly taking on water. When daylight of August 2 arrived, the eleven survivors were still aboard PT 109. It was estimated that the boat lay about 4 miles north and slightly east of Gizo Anchorage and about 3 miles away from the reef along northeast Gizo.
It was obvious that the PT 109 would sink on the 2nd, and decision was made to abandon it in time to arrive before dark on one of the tiny islands east of Gizo. A small island 3 1/2 - 4 miles to the southeast of Gizo was chosen on which to land, rather than one but 2 1/2 miles away which was close to Gizo, and, which, it was feared, might be occupied by the Japs.
At 1400 Lt. Kennedy took the badly burned McMahon in tow and set out for land, intending to lead the way and scout the island in advance of the other survivors. Ensigns Ross and Thom followed with the other men. Johnson and Mauer, who could not swim, were tied to a float rigged from a 2 x 8 which was part of the 37 mm gun mount. Harris and McGuire were fair swimmers, but Zinser, Starkey and Albert were not so good. The strong swimmers pushed or towed the float to which the non-swimmers were tied.
Lt. Kennedy was dressed only in skivvies, Ensign Thom, coveralls and shoes, Ensign Ross, trousers, and most of the men were dressed only in trousers and shirts. There were six 45s' in the group (two of which were later lost before rescue), one 38, one flashlight, one large knife, one light knife and a pocket knife. The boats first aid kit had been lost in the collision. All the group with the exception of McMahon, who suffered considerably from burns, were in fairly good condition, although weak and tired from their swim ashore.
That evening Lt. Kennedy decided to swim into Ferguson Passage in an attempt to intercept PT boats proceeding to their patrol areas. He left about 1830, swam to a small island 1/2 mile to the southeast, proceeded along a reef which stretched out into Ferguson Passage, arriving there about 2000. No PTs were seen, but aircraft flares were observed which indicated that the PTs that night were operating in Gizo not Blackett Strait and were being harassed as usual by enemy float planes. Kennedy began his return over the same route he had previously used. While swimming the final lay to the island on which the other survivors were, he was caught in a current which swept him in a circle about 2 miles into Blackett Strait and back to the middle of Ferguson Passage, where he had to start his homeward trip all over again. On this trip he stopped on the small island just southeast of "home" where he slept until dawn before covering the last 1/2 mile lap to join the rest of his group. He was completely exhausted, slightly feverish, and slept most of the day.
Nothing was observed on August 2 or 3 which gave any hope of rescue. On the night of the 3rd Ensign Ross decided to proceed into Ferguson Passage in another attempt to intercept PT patrols from Rendova. Using the same route as Kennedy had used and leaving about 1800, Ross "patrolled" off the reefs on the west side of the Passage with negative results. In returning he wisely stopped on the islet southeast of "home", slept and thereby avoided the experience with the current which had swept Kennedy out to sea. He made the final lap next morning.
The complete diet of the group on what came to be called Bird Island (because of the great abundance of droppings from the fine feathered friends) consisted of coconut milk and meat. As the coconut supply was running low and in order to get closer to Ferguson Passage, the group left Bird Island at noon, August 4th, and using the same arrangements as before, headed for a small islet west of Cross Island. Kennedy, with McMahon in tow arrived first. The rest of the group again experienced difficulty with a strong easterly current, but finally managed to make the eastern tip of the island.
Their new home was slightly larger than their former, offered brush for protection and a few coconuts to eat, and had no Jap tenants. The night of August 4th was wet and cold, and no one ventured into Ferguson Passage that night. The next morning Kennedy and Ross decided to swim to Cross Island in search of food, boats or anything else which might be useful to their party. Prior to their leaving for Cross Island, one of three New Zealand P-40s made a strafing run on Cross Island. Although this indicated the possibility of Japs, because of the acute food shortage, the two set out, swam the channel and arrived on Cross Island about 1530. Immediately the ducked into the brush. Neither seeing nor hearing anything, the two officers sneaked through the brush to the east side of the island and peered from the brush onto the beach. A small rectangular box with Japanese writing on the side was seen which was quickly and furtively pulled into the bush. Its contents proved to be 30-40 small bags of crackers and candy. A little farther up the beach, alongside a native lean-to, a one-man canoe and a barrel of water were found. About this time a canoe containing two persons was sighted. Light showing between their legs revealed that they did not wear trousers and, therefore, must be natives. Despite all efforts of Kennedy and Ross to attract their attention, they paddled swiftly off to the northwest. Nevertheless, Kennedy and Ross, having obtained a canoe, for and water, considered their visit a success.
That night Kennedy took the canoe and again proceeded into Ferguson Passage, waited there until 2100, but again no PTs appeared. He returned to his "home" island via Cross Island where he picked up the food but left Ross who had decided to swim back the following morning. When Kennedy arrived at base at about 2330, he found that the two natives which he and Ross had sighted near Cross Island, had circled around and landed on the island where the rest of the group were. Ensign Thom, after telling the natives in as many ways as possible that he was an American and not a Jap, finally convinced them whereupon they landed and performed every service possible for the survivors.
The next day, August 6, Kennedy and the natives paddled to Cross Island intercepting Ross, who was swimming back to the rest of the group. After Ross and Kennedy had thoroughly searched Cross Island for Japs and found none, despite the natives' belief to the contrary, they showed the two PT survivors where a two-man native canoe was hidden.
The natives were then sent with messages to the Coastwatcher. One was a penciled note written the day before by Ensign Thom; the other was a message written on a green coconut husk by Kennedy, informing the Coastwatcher that he and Ross were on Cross Island.
After the natives left, Ross and Kennedy remained on the island until evening, when they set in the two-man canoe to again try their luck at intercepting PTs in Ferguson Passage. They paddled far out into Ferguson Passage, saw nothing, and were caught in a sudden rain squall which eventually capsized the canoe. Swimming to land was difficult and treacherous as the sea swept the two officers against the reef on the south side of Cross Island. Ross received numerous cuts and bruises, but both managed to make land where they remained the rest of the night.
On Saturday, August 7, eight natives arrived, bringing a message from the Coastwatcher instructing the senior officer to go with the natives to Wana Wana. Kennedy and Ross had the natives paddle them to island where the rest of the survivors were. The natives had brought food and other articles (including a cook stove) to make the survivors comfortable. They were extremely kind at all times.
That afternoon, Kennedy, hidden under ferns in the native boat, was taken to the Coastwatcher, arriving about 1600. There it was arranged that PT boats would rendezvous with him in Ferguson Passage that evening at 2330. Accordingly he was taken to the rendezvous point and finally managed to make contact with the PTs at 2315. He climbed aboard the PT and directed it to the rest of the survivors. The rescue was effected without mishap, and the Rendova base was reached at 0530, August 8, seven days after the ramming of the PT 109 in Blackett Strait.
When Kennedy took charge of PT-109, on April 25, 1943, he was already a millionaire heir, society figure, and ambassador's son (see photo). But fame and fortune were scarce comfort to him on August 2, 1943.
That night at about 2 a.m., the Japanese destroyer Amagiri (see photo), by accident or by design, bisected the much smaller PT-109 (see size comparison), killing two of Kennedy's crew.
A torpedo from John F. Kennedy's PT-109 rests some 1,200 feet (360 meters) underwater in the Solomon Islands. Key details from the torpedo and its nearby launching tube helped identify this wreck site as that of the World War II boat.
The jury-rigged scraper in the foreground was attached to a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) and dubbed STUPID (sediment transport unit piloted in depth) by the search team. It was used in a fruitless attempt to clear away sand and reveal more remains of PT-109.
After drifting on PT-109's still-floating bow overnight, Kennedy and the other shipwreck survivors—several of them injured—swam for several hours to reach this tiny island, shown with much larger Kolombangara in the background.
Now known as Kennedy Island, the deserted atoll was then called Plum Pudding. Despite its lush appearance, Plum Pudding was lacking in food and devoid of fresh water, and the survivors were soon weary from heat, hunger, and most of all, thirst.
After two nights on their first island refuge, the PT-109 survivors risked the swim to another island—one with more coconuts, sources of much-needed food and water.
The survivors swam some two miles (three kilometers) to Olasana Island (right), shown much as they would have seen it as they began their swim. At left is Naru Island, where Kennedy first encountered the Solomon Islanders who would play a pivotal role in his rescue.

The Australia-based fishing boat Grayscout was chartered for the May 2002 PT-109 expedition and temporarily converted to a shipwreck-search vessel.
The green container on deck, which serves as an onboard ROV repair shop, was transported from the U.S. via cargo ship to Australia. Both expedition ROVs, including lighting rig Argus(shown suspended from the rear of the ship), arrived inside the container.
Kennedy spent the rest of the night helping rescue injured and wave-tossed crew members (see photo). By dawn the survivors were all clinging to the still-floating bow.
By afternoon they were making a several-hour swim—the strong towing the injured—to a deserted island (see photo). Despite a back injury, Kennedy himself pulled the worst case, tugging the sailor's life vest with his teeth.
The following days (see detailed time line at right) saw several fearless attempts to be rescued. The men were weary with starvation and thirst, when they were eventually rescued by Solomon Islanders loyal to the Allies.
The islanders could operate in daylight without arousing Japanese suspicion, and many served as scouts for Allied coastwatchers operating behind enemy lines. Two of them helped deliver to a coastwatcher a coconut Kennedy famously carved with a rescue message.
After receiving messages from the 109 crew, the coastwatcher radioed the PT base to arrange a rescue. Six days after their stranding, Kennedy and crew were safe aboard a sister ship, PT-157. (Hear a firsthand account of the rescue from PT-157's Welford West.)
The PT-109 survival story passed into popular culture and became perhaps Kennedy's greatest political asset.
Kennedy the President had a PT-109 float in his inaugural parade, doled out 109 tiepins to visitors, and kept his medals on permanent display. And on his Oval Office desk sat, lacquered and almost illegible, the world's most important coconut.

Photos of my trip to the Solomons 2002..ASC
The Solomon Islands is a nation in Melanesia, east of Papua New Guinea, consisting of nearly one thousand islands. Together they cover a land mass of 28,400 square kilometres (10,965 sq mi). The capital is Honiara, located on the island of Guadalcanal.
The Japanese defeat at the Battle of Midway had forced planners in the Imperial Army to reconsider their plans of expansion and to concentrate their forces on consolidating the territory that they had captured. The victory at Midway was also a turning point for the Americans as after this battle, they could think in terms of re-capturing taken Pacific islands - the first confrontation was to be at Guadalcanal.
Guadalcanal is part of the Solomon Islands which lie to the north-eastern approaches of Australia. Though it is a humid and jungle-covered tropical island its position made it strategically important for both sides in the Pacific War. If the Japanese captured the island, they could cut off the sea route between Australia and America. If the Americans controlled the island, they would be better able to protect Australia from Japanese invasion and they could also protect the Allied build-up in Australia that would act as a springboard for a major assault on the Japanese.

Shores of Guadalcanal. Becalmed upon the sea of Thought,
Still unattained the land it sought,
My mind, with loosely-hanging sails,
Lies waiting the auspicious gales. No stone tells the place where their ashes repose,
Nor points out the spot from the graves of their foes.
They died in their glory, surrounded by fame,
And Victory's loud trump their death did proclaim;

The Japanese hierarchy in Tokyo refused to admit defeat and ordered yet more men to Guadalcanal. In mid-November 1942, planes from Henderson attacked a convoy of ships bringing Japanese reinforcements to Guadalcanal. Of eleven transport ships, six were sunk, one was severely damaged and four had to be beached. Only 2,000 men ever reached Guadalcanal - but few had any equipment as this had been lost at sea. On December 1942, the emperor ordered a withdrawal from Guadalcanal. This withdrawal took place from January to February 1943 and the Americans learned that even in defeat that the Japanese were a force to be reckoned with. 11,000 Japanese soldiers were taken off the island in the so-called 'Tokyo Night Express'.

On January 2, 1976, the Solomons became self-governing, and independence followed on July 7, 1978, the first post-independence government was elected in August 1980. The series of governments formed from there on have not performed to upgrade and build the country. Following the 1997 election of Bartholomew Ulufa'alu the political situation in the Solomon's began to deteriorate. This is why we were not allowed to go ashore in these islands.

November 20, 1943: Under attack from Japanese machine gun fire on the right flank, men of the 165th Infantry are seen as the wade through coral bottom water on Yellow Beach Two, Butaritari, during the assault on the Makin atoll, Gilbert Islands. (AP Photo)
Nov. 4, 1942: Two alert U.S. Marines stand beside their small tank on Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands during World War II. The military tank was used against the Japanese in the battle of the Tenaru River during the early stages of fighting. (AP Photo)

Jan. 21, 1943: Native stretcher bearers rest in the shade of a coconut grove as they and the wounded American soldiers they are carrying from the front lines at Buna, New Guinea take the opportunity to relax. The wounded are on their way to makeshift hospitals in the rear. (AP Photo)

January 1943: While on a bombing run over Salamau, New Guinea, before its capture by Allied forces, photographer Sgt. John A. Boiteau aboard an army Liberator took this photograph of a B-24 Liberator during World War II. Bomb bursts can be seen below in lower left and a ship at upper right along the beach.  (AP Photo/U.S. Army Force)

Aug. 1942: U.S. Marines approach the Japanese occupied Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands during World War II. (AP Photo)

        Captured Blog: Past Inaugurations
U.S. President-elect John F. Kennedy, wearing his high hat, and his wife, Jacqueline Kennedy, are shown as they leave their Georgetown resident for the inauguration day ceremonies in Washington, D.C., Jan. 20, 1961. Kennedy will be sworn in as the 35th President of the United States. (AP Photo) # Captured Blog: Past Inaugurations
Before World War I steam torpedo ships, which were larger and heavily armed, were the most used. The new internal combustion engines generate much more power to weight and engine size, and allowed the development of a new class of smaller, faster ships. The engines, permitting the use of boats designed to reach high speeds under certain sea conditions. The result was a small torpedo boat with a length of between 15 and 30 meters and a maximum speed of 30 to 50 knots (56 to 93 km h), which carried between 2 and 4 torpedoes fired from simple fixed mounts fore and several machine guns. These torpedo boats followed in handy during World War II. The Royal Navy torpedo boats MTB (shortstop) Motor Torpedo Boats acronym of the Navy S-Boote (Schnellboot or "fast ship" named by the British E-boat), the Italian MAS and MS and the U.S. Navy PT Boat (Patrol Torpedo Boat acronym) is one of their types.
Classical action of the torpedo boats, was in February 1942 when S-Boats and German destroyers protected the fleet composed of the cruisers Scharnhorst, Gneisenau, Prinz Eugen and other smaller vessels from the Royal Navy MTBs. During World War II, the United States, used the PT Boat in the South Pacific in a number of roles to those for which had been designed in recognition, rapid transport, mail, search and rescue. Participated in fleet actions and worked in small groups behind enemy lines. Some PT Boat replaced two or four tubes with additional weapons for attacks on the coast, vessels and trailers, isolating the enemy, preventing their reinforcement or evacuation.
The most significant military ship sunk by torpedo boats during the Second World War, was the cruiser HMS Manchester which was sunk by two Italian torpedo boats (MS 16 and MS 21) in 1942.
The Death of Joe Jr.

Jan. 21, 1943: Native stretcher bearers rest in the shade of a coconut grove as they and the wounded American soldiers they are carrying from the front lines at Buna, New Guinea take the opportunity to relax. The wounded are on their way to makeshift hospitals in the rear. (AP Photo)
January 1943: While on a bombing run over Salamau, New Guinea, before its capture by Allied forces, photographer Sgt. John A. Boiteau aboard an army Liberator took this photograph of a B-24 Liberator during World War II. Bomb bursts can be seen below in lower left and a ship at upper right along the beach.  (AP Photo/U.S. Army Force)
Aug. 1942: U.S. Marines approach the Japanese occupied Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands during World War II. (AP Photo)
This was the view of front row seats in the inaugural stand before the administration of Democrat John F. Kennedy took over from that of Republican President Dwight Eisenhower. From left: Mrs. Lyndon B. Johnson, wife of new vice-president; Mrs. John F. Kennedy, wife of president-elect; Eisenhower; John F. Kennedy, who took oath as president a few minutes later. Lyndon B. Johnson, the new vice president. At right is Richard Nixon who was Kennedy's opponent in the election. (AP Photo) #
Captured Blog: Past Inaugurations
In this Jan. 20, 1961 black-and-white file photo, the crowd in Capitol Plaza gather to witness the inauguration of John F. Kennedy as President of the United States. (AP Photo) #
Captured Blog: Past Inaugurations
U.S. President John F. Kennedy delivers his inaugural address after taking the oath of office at Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 20, 1961. Kennedy said, "We shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and success of liberty." Kennedy was sworn in as the 35th president of the United States. (AP Photo)

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