Naval Battle of Guadalcanal - Other Actions, November 13–14

Other Actions, November 13–14

Although the reinforcement effort to Guadalcanal was delayed, the Japanese did not give up trying to complete the original mission, albeit a day later than originally planned. In the afternoon of 13 November, Tanaka and the 11 transports resumed their journey toward Guadalcanal. A Japanese force of cruisers and destroyers from the 8th Fleet—based primarily at Rabaul and originally assigned to cover the unloading of the transports on the evening of 13 November—was given the mission that Abe's force had failed to carry out—the bombardment of Henderson Field. The battleship Kirishima—after abandoning its rescue effort of Hiei on the morning of 13 November—steamed north between Santa Isabel and Malaita Islands with her accompanying warships to rendezvous with Kondo's Second Fleet inbound from Truk to form the new bombardment unit.

The 8th Fleet cruiser force—under its commander, Vice Admiral Gunichi Mikawa—included the heavy cruisers Chōkai, Kinugasa, Maya, and Suzuya, light cruisers Isuzu and Tenryū, and six destroyers. Mikawa's force was able to slip into the Guadalcanal area uncontested because the battered U.S. naval forces had withdrawn. Suzuya and Maya—under the command of Shōji Nishimura—bombarded Henderson Field while the rest of Mikawa's force cruised around Savo Island guarding against any U.S. surface attack (which did not occur). The 35-minute bombardment caused some damage to various aircraft and facilities at the airfield but did not put it out of operation. The cruiser force ended the bombardment around 02:30 on 14 November and cleared the area to head towards Rabaul on a course south of the New Georgia island group.

At daybreak, aircraft from Henderson Field, Espiritu Santo, and Enterprise—stationed 200 nmi (230 mi; 370 km) south of Guadalcanal—began their attacks, first on Mikawa's force that was heading away from Guadalcanal, and then on the transport force heading towards Guadalcanal. The American air sorties from Henderson Field were possible due to a supply of 488 55-gallon drums of 100-octane gas that was hidden in a secluded area under the jungle canopy by Cub-1 sailor, August Martello. The attacks on Mikawa's force sank Kinugasa, killing 511 of her crew, and damaged Maya, forcing her to go to Japan for repairs. Repeated air attacks on the transport force overwhelmed the escorting Japanese fighter aircraft, sank six of the transports, and forced one more to turn back with heavy damage (it later sank). Survivors from the transports were rescued by the convoy's escorting destroyers and returned to the Shortlands. A total of 450 army troops were reported to have perished. The remaining four transports and four destroyers continued towards Guadalcanal after nightfall of 14 November, but stopped west of Guadalcanal to await the finish of the warship surface action (below) before continuing.

Kondo's ad hoc force rendezvoused at Ontong Java on the evening of 13 November, then reversed course and refueled out of range of Henderson Field's bombers on the morning of 14 November. The U.S. submarine Trout stalked but was unable to attack Kirishima during refueling. The bombardment force continued south and came under air attack late in the afternoon of 14 November, during which they were intercepted by the submarine Flying Fish which launched five torpedoes but scored no hits, then reported its contact by radio.

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