Battle of Tassafaronga, 1942

Minneapolis missing her bow after it was blown off by a torpedo at the Battle of Tassafaronga. Photo in the collections of the US Navy History and Heritage Command.

Location Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands
Year
1942
AD/BC
AD
History

On 29 November, 1942, the Japanese dispatched yet another Tokyo Express supply run to Guadalcanal. Eight destroyers, under Rear Admiral Raiz┼Ź Tanaka, were ordered to bring critical food supplies to the defenders on the island. US Navy intelligence got wind of the operation, and a task force consisting of four heavy cruisers, one light cruiser, and four destroyers was sent to intercept, under Rear Admiral Carleton H. Wright. Contact was made in the strait between Savo Island and Guadalcanal on 30 November, as the Japanese were preparing to unload their cargo. The Americans made contact first, via radar, with the Japanese making visual contact six minutes later. The Americans opened fire first, quickly disabling the destroyer Takanami. However, the Japanese destroyers counter-attacked with torpedoes, and two minutes after Takanami went dead in the water, they began to strike home. All four of the American heavy cruisers were hit, and critically damaged. Northampton went down around 3 am 1 December, but the other three were only saved by colossal damage control efforts by their crews. Takanami went down with heavy casualties, most of whom were killed when she exploded after sinking. While a tactical victory for the Japanese, the Americans prevented the delivery of the needed supplies, and this led directly to the decision by the Japanese to evacuate Guadalcanal in the following months. The disaster also contributed to the US Navy deciding to stop sending heavy cruisers into combat with Japanese destroyers in the confined waters of the Solomons.