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A question regarding the Battle of Tassafaronga.

Discussion in 'Naval Warfare in the Pacific' started by USS Washington, Jun 19, 2014.

  1. USS Washington

    USS Washington Active Member

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    As is known, an American cruiser force is defeated by a flotilla of Japanese destroyers off of Cape Tassafaronga on the night of November 30th, 1942, despite the superior numbers and firepower of the US battle group, due to the night fighting ability of the IJN. In the ensuing battle, 3 American heavy cruisers are badly damaged, 1 is sunk, while the Japanese only lose 1 destroyer, making this one of the worst defeats in the USNs history. Now, what I'm wondering is did the Japanese accomplish in their mission to unload supplies to the troops on Guadalcanal, or did the USN manage to prevent them from completing their objective, thus giving the Americans a strategic victory, despite the losses, as on some sites such as combinedfleet said that the IJN managed to drop off their supplies, but on others such as the wikia pages for this battle and the cruiser Northampton(the ship that was lost in this engagement) say that the Japanese retreated without completing their mission? Please help, I'm confused! :confused: :headbash:
     
  2. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Staff Member Patron  

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    This seems to indicate that the Japanese were NOT able to complete the mission of re-supply.

    The Battle did, however, prove to be a turning point. Despite the damage done to the US ships the Japanese were still unable to complete the resupply mission. Subsequent attempts to drop resupply loads in the water were shot up by the US planes from Guadalcanal. Soon the Japanese had to recognise that their attempt to dislodge the US forces from Guadalcanal had failed and they would have to withdraw. They would be retreating all the way back across the Pacific to Japan for the rest of the war.
    http://ww2today.com/30th-november-1942-the-battle-of-tassafaronga-off-guadalcanal
     
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  3. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Good Ol' Boy Staff Member WW2|ORG Editor

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    S.E. Morison in his The Two Ocean War (1963, Little, Brown and Co.) says (pp 210-211) that Tanaka failed to land the supplies.
     
  4. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    Rear Admiral Raizo Tanaka makes no mention of successfully dropping off his supplies.

    http://destroyerhistory.org/actions/index.asp?r=4280&pid=4286

    However, the only reason for calling this battle a "strategic victory" would be to act as a salve for lost US Navy prestige, since Guadalcanal had already been "lost" by this point.
     
  5. USS Washington

    USS Washington Active Member

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    Okay, so we did prevent the Japanese from accomplishing their mission! Thank you all for the responses, and it's good to know that the sacrifices of our brave sailors at Tassafaronga did not go in vain; They succeeded in stopping Tanaka from re-supplying the ground forces on Guadalcanal, despite our losses, and the USN learned some valuable lessons in this battle that would prove critical in later engagements during our drive up through the Solomons.
     
  6. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    Regretfully, they would learn those same lessons all over again at Kula Gilf and Kolombangara.
     
  7. USS Washington

    USS Washington Active Member

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    Regarding Kula gulf; The loss of the light cruiser Helena for 2 Japanese destroyers is certainly not a good trade off, but at the same time, sinking 2 destroyers and damaging 2-4 others at least means that the battle wasn't one sided in the IJNs favor by any means. But I don't disagree with what you say, I'm just trying to be a "glass half-full" kind of person with Kula gulf. Kolombangara, sadly, can definitely be seen as a repeat of Tassafaronga. :(
     
  8. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    Conflict between us...Perish the thought. We are having a discussion on my favorite subject, naval warfare in the Pacific. There is no conflict, and none is intended.

    To be fair regarding the action at Kula Gulf, the Americans did surprisingly well, considering the fact that the Americans were outnumbered - 3 light cruisers & 4 destroyers to 10 Japanese destroyers. Had the Japanese been "more on their game" American losses would have been more severe.

    Still it took time for the Americans to realize that using cruisers to swat destroyers st night was not in their best interest.
     
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  9. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    I would not call 3 CL and 4 DD vs 10 DD outnumbered, unless the cruisers were British C class and the "destroyers" made up of the likes of Mogador, Tashkent or Shimakaze.

    Dull sates a cutter from Takanami successfully landed though the ship was lost and that Kagero, Makinami, Kuroshio and Oyashio also released their cargoes before engaging. As the Japanese force was entering the planned release zone at the start of the battle it's likely some of that cargo go through as well. He also states "Kakakase and Suzukaze after their unloading operations also joined the battle". As Dull relies on Japanese sources I would believe him over Morrison where actual IJN action are concerned.

    Using cruisers at night where heavy ships loose their range advantage is a calculated risk, but in a night melee US destroyers were unlikely to get the upper hand in1942 against their Japanese counterparts that were optimized and trained for just that, so supporting them with cruisers made sense.
     
  10. SymphonicPoet

    SymphonicPoet Member

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    I've been reading through the Morrison Two Ocean War out of a sense that I SHOULD read the USN's official guy, and I must say that I am, so far, not impressed. He makes a lot of statements that amount to simple aspersions with neither analysis nor justification. Not only the Japanese, but also U.S. Officers he doesn't care for, like Fletcher, seem to receive nothing but scorn. I think it's safe to say I wouldn't turn to him for analysis. The Dull is no doubt a much more useful resource if you want to know what actually happened.
     
  11. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    If you are serious about naval history in WW2 you have to read Morrison, just as you have to read Churchill for WW2 in general, IMHO Morrison comes out as even more opinionated than Winston and with a lot less justification and doesn't do a good service to the people who served in the USN. I do not have 2 oceans war but most of the volumes of History of United States naval operations so I'm basing my opinion on that, Looking into the Guadalcanal volume it doesn't say much about the fate of the Japanese cargo though he mentions USS Honolulu fired on a wreck from a previous action believing it to be an unloading cargo and delves at length on the efforts to save the crippled cruisers.
     
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  12. USS Washington

    USS Washington Active Member

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    Okay, I'm glad to hear it, mate. :cheers:

    The Americans weren't outnumbered too much, and they did have heavier firepower in the form of those 3 cruisers, but yes, the USN did perform decently in this fight. Also, I wonder if the loss of Helena might have been partially attributed to the fact that, having expended her stocks of flash-less powder the previous night, she had to resort to using ammunition that used powder that produced bright orange flashes, thus illuminating her to the Japanese and giving them a target reference? And in regards to Kolombangara, what helped the Japanese was that they were equipped with a new device that sensed electrical impulses from radar, which enabled the Japanese to be aware the American/Kiwi presence for 2 hours, so it's possible that without this device, Admiral Ainsworth may have been able to achieve surprise, and inflict heavier losses on the IJN, and while it's not guaranteed due to the night fighting prowess of the Japanese, it would have made a difference at least.

    True, as was shown in the battles of Vella Gulf, Cape St. George, and to an extant, Horaniu, destroyers were better suited to intercepting other destroyers on their own, and in each of these engagements, the US did pretty well(granted, Horaniu was an inconclusive draw, but managing to damage 2 Japanese destroyers and sink 2 barges while suffering no losses showed that American destroyers were beginning to learn how to beat the IJN at its own game), the Americans defeat at Vella Lavella, in my opinion, was mainly attributed to the fact that they were outnumbered, and the fact that Captain Walker decided to banzai charge the Japanese DDs on his own instead of waiting for reinforcements and for not employing the same tactics that had worked to great effect at Vella Gulf. Though to be fair in regards to the USN using cruisers to intercept destroyers, the battle of Blackett Strait was a decent exception, where an American cruiser force successively ambushed and sank 2 Japanese destroyers while taking no losses to themselves, though I'll concede that was the exception, and not the rule.
     
  13. SymphonicPoet

    SymphonicPoet Member

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    Two Ocean War maybe only makes me a little serious. I was obviously speaking from a position of aggravation back there, but I quite agree. In order to understand US thinking on WWII I need to give the Morison a read, if only to understand where some of the ideas that have been current, lo, these last seventy years originate.

    But the larger point is that if you want to know what happened with Japanese units (or supplies) Japanese sources will be more reliable and histories including those sources will give a better accounting than those working only from USN or allied records. The Dull is a great little book, if short and just a touch dry. It's always a good place to start if you want the Japanese perspective.
     
  14. USMCPrice

    USMCPrice Idiot at Large

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    I agree with Symphonic Poet that you do need to read the same history from the Japanese side, but Morrison's Two Ocean Navy is an excellent book and essential also.
     
  15. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    It certainly didn't make sense to use heavy cruisers to swat at destroyers at night, but the rapid-fire 6" guns could be devastating, especially with radar control.

    The problem with using cruisers and destroyers together was the insistence on keeping them in a single formation and giving priority to the cruisers' engaging the enemy with gunfire. Empress Augusta Bay finally showed the right way to do it, giving the DDs freedom to maneuver and attack with torpedos while still coordinating with the cruisers.
     
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  16. Wgvsr

    Wgvsr New Member

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    Two Ocean War is an abridgement of the 15 volume series that FDR commissioned Morison to write. There are more modern histories of the Guadalcanal campaign, Frank, Hamel, etal.
    Bill
     
  17. SymphonicPoet

    SymphonicPoet Member

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    I am aware of the larger history, but 15 volumes still seems a little . . . daunting. Thought I'd start small. I have a lot of free time, I'll admit, but it is not limitless. May read the larger history one day if I can stomach the shorter. (He keeps stepping on my toes. I rather admire Fletcher, for instance.)
     
  18. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    IMHO, Two Ocean War, is an encyclopedia or today's Wikipedia - basically an introduction to the material, however, you have to look a lot deeper into the matter.

    It used to be "essential", but that has gone by the way side as other one or two volume treatments have come out.
     
  19. USS Washington

    USS Washington Active Member

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    It's definitely good to read the other sides perspective of the war, as it helps give you more insight on things.
     
  20. Poppy

    Poppy grasshopper

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    "did the Japanese accomplish in their mission to unload supplies to the troops on Guadalcanal,"...

    Japan had to "struggle" when attempting resupply. They changed to dropping drums- linked by rope, filled with food and supplies- from the decks of destroyers off the coast of Tassafaronga. The drums were either washed onto the beach or pulled ashore by swimmers waiting for the drop. (weren't there sharks-yikes)
    On the night of 30 November, the cargo was abandoned, so that Tanaka could work on US ships...
    Did not find whether those drums made it ashore.
     
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