Some say you can tell how a battle went by the aftermath left behind. This couldn’t be truer in the case of the clash between American and Japanese Naval forces near the Guadalcanal on November 13, 1942.
Even though American forces were vastly outnumbered, they put up a solid fight forcing the Japanese to change their plans. They even sunk the Japanese battleship Hiei via an airstrike.
Tracking The Japanese
U.S. Naval cryptanalysts kept a close eye on Japanese mail, making sure American forces were on top of the enemy’s position and plans.
Admiral William Halsey knew they would keep attacking Henderson Field, and he knew Japan had sent more forces, including one coming from the south.
The Kirishima, along with four cruisers and nine destroyers, were all on their way to attack Henderson, a force that was much too large for the US Navy to take on. Moreover, Halsey did not have many vessels available. In fact, he only had two warships that were escorting the already war-torn carrier Enterprise.
Fighting The Japanese Navy, Again
Admiral Willis Lee was onboard Washington, talking with Captain Glenn Davis about what they would expect. He knew if a fight were coming, it would happen at night, and the ship’s radar would be their best friend.
He was pretty confident that he could fight and destroy the Naval force that came with the two battleships. As predicted, the SG radar detected ships heading toward them at 2230 hours.
Lee’s response, ” Well, stand by Glenn, here they come.”
The men immediately got ready to man their 16-inch guns, loading them with 100-pound bags of powder which went in after the 2,700-pound shells. A process that usually takes 30 seconds took 15. Next, Washington shot nine 2,700 pound armor-piercing projectiles from their battery toward Japanese cruiser Sendai. South Dakota did the same.
The Japanese fell back in surprise but returned fire taking out the destroyers surrounding the Washington. Eventually, Washington lost the support of South Dakota too.
Up Against the Kirishima
Washington went head to head with the Japanese battleship Kirishima. It fired 2,700-pound shells at the ship, striking it with five of them. One caused severe flooding.
Kirishima returned fire but did not make contact. Washington continued to fire, hitting the Kirishima with 20 16-inch shells and plenty more 5-inch shells. Finally, the Kirishima limped away from the fight, leaving Washington as the victor.