Japanese Flags
Japanese Account
Third Battle of Savo
Japanese Flags

This is a reprint of an article that was given to me by a shipmate of the USS Washington. Shipmate Jim Lowe took it upon himself to research the Japanese perspective of the "Third Battle of Savo". Jim obtained this text from the Japanese. Upon receiving it, he had to have it translated into English. This is the result of his work.
I am interested in obtaining additional Japanese accounts of this event. If you have this information available to you, please Email me.


The Battle of U.S. Aircraft Carrier

Admiral Lee, the commander of the U.S. Battle Ship Squadron, was ordered by the U.S. Government to stop the Japanese Battle Ship Squadron from attacking and destroying the Guadalcanal Airport; therefore, they were standing by south of Guadalcanal. In spite of the continuous attacks of the U.S. squadron on the 14th, Admiral Lee's squadron found out that a group of Japanese cargo ships, guarded by a destroyer and cruiser, were going toward Guadalcanal Island. Also Admiral Lee found out on the same day that Japanese main battle force was spotted at 14:00, 15 miles north of Guadalcanal Island, moving down to the south. From this Japanese tactic, Admiral Lee judged the Japanese were going to attack the Guadalcanal Airport the night of the 14th, followed by entering Guadalcanal Island by a group of Aircraft Carriers. Therefore, early that evening Admiral Lee's squadron left the place where they were standing by, and started moving along the west shore of Guadalcanal Island. The steaming order of the ships were, first four destroyer followed by the battle ship, 'Washington' and last the 'South Dakota'; they steamed in a vertical line. These four Destroyers were selected in the order of which one had the largest amount of fuel still left in the tank even though none had a commander on the board.

Japanese spy aircraft searched all afternoon. One spotted and reported," two cruisers and four destroyers were moving to the north', (this was Admiral Lee's squadron).

At first Admiral Lee decided to destroy the Japanese airport and then attacked a group of cargo ships. As Admiral Lee could not find the Japanese Battle Ship on the way back from the West side of Savo Island, he ordered a change of direction to the East at 19:00. Looking at Savo Island on the right side, he went inside of the water pass. (refer 22). At 20:52 while changing direction to the West, the radar of the Washington caught the target, 9 miles Northwest, confirmed visually at 21:12. The South Dakota also saw her. Under the 16 star bullet light the U.S. started to fire main gun at 21:17. Instead of firing back, the Japanese battle ship spread smoke and retreated to the North.

During this firing, the front Destroyer spotted the Japanese Destroyer 'Ayanami' going to the West, South of Savo Island at 21:12. The U.S. Destroyer made a warning sound and started to fire. Other U.S. destroyers started firing also. One destroyer kept firing star light bullet to the target. Soon after that, Japanese Destroyer Escorts and 4 Destroyers came from the South of Savo Island entering from the West and the U.S. started firing. The other three U.S. Destroyers targeted the Japanese Destroyers and started to fire; however, the Japanese Destroyers fired vigorously at the U.S. destroyer. While the U.S. destroyer was target of Japanese destroyer, the U.S. Battle Ship tried to rescue the U.S. destroyer by firing the second gun to the Japanese destroyer. However, the Washington's radar could not recognize the Japanese ship among many of the other target. Meantime, the electricity of the South Dakota was completely destroyed by the attack of Japanese bullet at 21:33, and it became impossible to use the radar system.

During this battle, at 21:38, torpedoes which the Japanese Destroyer fired started hitting U.S. Destroyers. Because of both Japanese gun and torpedoes, all 4 U.S. Destroyers lost the capability to battle without firing even one torpedo. As a result of the first battle with 'Ayanami', the First U.S. destroyer caught fire and was hit by any bullets and one torpedo from the Japanese Destroyer escort 'Nagara'. The first U.S. destroyer was sunk a little after 21:34.

The second U.S. Destroyer's bow was hit by Japanese torpedo during the battle at 21:38; her speed was reduced to 5 knots and she tried to go to the Cape Esperance; however, she sunk at 13:37 on 15th after she became unable to maneuver. The third U.S. Destroyer sunk also at 21:36, after hitting many bullets from 'Nagara' during the battle. The last U.S. Destroyer was running at reduced speed and was left alone at the war zone after taking a shell in the machine room and rudder.

Admiral Lee ordered a retreat at 21:48 after realizing that he could no longer use Destroyers. He also gave order to change direction slightly to the North. To avoid the U.S. Destroyers fire on the sea, the South Dakota changed direction and got lost from the flag ship completely. At this time, the South Dakota electricity was repaired; however, without complete radar screen, she was again attacked by the Japanese main force. The Japanese main force fired torpedo under the illumination of a search light. Even though none of torpedos hit the South Dakota, many of Japanese Destroyers' 36 miles gun targeted and hit her. As she was damaged on the deck and caught fired, the Captain of the South Dakota decided to retreat with full speed while battling against Japanese Main Force with all the available weapon.

Meantime, by changing direction slightly to the North, the 'Washington' was searching for the big Battle Ship with radar. It was difficult to distinguish between enemy or friendly ships; therefore, she was waiting to fire. However, because of the Japanese search light, it was clear which was her target. At 22:00, and at a distance of 8,400 yards, the Washington started to fire her main gun. Since Japanese main force was targeting the South Dakota, the Washington did not get hit much by Japanese, and was able to fire effectively. Soon, the 'Kirishima' caught fire and recognized rudder was destroyed.

As the South Dakota had lost communication and also lost position, Admiral Lee ordered the Washington to change direction to North West to assist the South Dakota. He ordered again at 22:20, to make a heading of 340 degree to induce the Japanese force to the North. The Japanese Force moved to the North, and started retreating the Japanese Force after spreading the smoke. Admiral Lee made Japanese Cargo Ship to enter the Guadalcanal delayed. He also ordered to right turn around and retreat at 22:32, realizing the South Dakota was saved and out of danger. While retreating, the Japanese Destroyer came after the Washington and fired torpedoes; but they explored in the after wave of the Washington. The South Dakota went back to the U.S. after being hit 48 times and virtually destroyed by big gun

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