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Evening star. [volume] (Washington, D.C.) 1854-1972, August 19, 1945, Image 35

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The U. S. Fleet Scored History’s Greatest Naval Record in Defeating Japan
In three years and
nine months of war the
United States Navy,
with whole-hearted as
sistance from the avail
able naval forces of our
Allies* the Netherlands,
Great Britain, Austra
lia and New Zealand,
and from the Army Air
Force, reduced the Im
perial Japanese Navy
from a first-class sea
power to a naval non
Told statistically, this
meant the effective de
struction of more than
300 warships—18 battle
ships, 15 aircraft car
riers, 56 cruisers, 138
destroyers—to say noth
ing of thousands of
smaller craft, amphib
ious barges, light coastal
units and submarines.
Hand in hand with this
destruction of combat
ant vessels has gone the
elimination of almost
ell of Japan's 5.629.845
tons of merchant ship
ping. This is probably
the first time in history
that a major power has
lost her navy and mer
chant * marine during
the course of a war.
Told chronologically, this story of
annihilation demonstrates dramatically
the constantly accelerating growth in
size and striking power of the United
States Navy as the Nation geared
Itself to peak production in industry
and, simultaneously, peak enrollment
In the armed services.
The First Six Month*
During the first six months of the
war from December 7, 1941, when the
Japanese struck at Pearl Harbor, to
May 4, 1942, when opening phases of
the Battle of the Coral Sea began, the
Allies were engaged in a defensive war
at sea. The Japanese, moving south
ward toward the Netherlands East
Indies, were engaged by smaller forces
of the United States, Netherlands and
Australian Navies, in the Battles of
Banka Island, Macassar Strait, Java
Sea. Madoera Strait and Lombok Strait.
Particularly in the narrow waters of
the Lombok and Macassar Straits the
enemy sustained damage from our sub
marines and light surface forces. But
the Allies' losses were also heavy and,
With fewer ships at our command, we
were less well able to sustain them. The
temporary victory rested with Japan:
She was able to impose her will on thj
Allies, landing her troops and over
running the Netherlands East Indies.
This concept of naval victory as a
means whereby a fleet establishes its
power to go where it wishes is an im
portant one, since it is the scale whereby
the present American victory is best
measured. Where, at one time, waters
almost 5,000 miles from Japan were once
dangerous for American shipping, in the
closing months of the war our ships
could and did steam within three miles
of the Japanese home islands to shell
shore installations at will, while the
few Japanese warships, still capable of
getting to sea, were forced to hide in
the recesses of the Inland Sea.
The Battle of Coral Sea
The first step toward this overwhelm
ing victory, a victory whether measured
by the opening of areas to our control
or by the physical destruction of Jap
anese naval power, came with the Battle
of the Coral Sea in the first 10 days
of May, 1942. At this time, the Jap
anese, either as a feint or with serious
Intent, were making aggressive fleet
movements in the waters around the
southeastern tip of New Guinea, threat
ening the important Allied base of
Port Moresby and, by extension, the
entire continent of Australia. To check
this operation, two American task forces
augmented by two Australian cruisers,
each built around a carrier as the im
portant striking unit, were assigned in
what might be termed an offensive
defensive operation.
On May 4 the action began with
a naval aircraft strike on the Japanese
base and staging area at Tulagi. On
May 7 and 8, the tattle proper
was joined. It established the pattern
of many of the most important sea en
gagements that were to follow: No sur
face contact was ever established be
tween the opposing forces, and each
force subjected the other to air attack.
The result was a clear-cut victory for
the United States Navy.
Flyers from the U. S. S. Lexington and
U. S. S. Yorktown sank one Japanese
carrier, damaged another, sank a light
cruiser, two destroyers, a cargo ship
or transport, four gunboats and de
stroyed 104 enemy aircraft. The cost
to us was the carrier Lexington, the
oiler U. S. S. Neosho and the destroyer
U. S. S. Sims. The true estimate of
the work accomplished in the Battle of
the Coral Sea, however, is obtained by
recognizing that the Japanese never
again threatened Port Moresby from
This victory, however, was far from
fiving the United States unchallenged
supremacy in any portion of the Pacific.
The Japanese still retained the initia
tive and in less than a month's time
after their defeat in the Coral Sea they
had mounted a full-scale invasion aimed
even more directly at the United States.
This was a drive through the Central
Pacific aimed at Midway Island, and,
in all likelihood at the more easterly
important islands of the Hawaiian
group. The Japanese force was for
midable, consisting, according to the
best estimates made on the spot, of five
carriers, at least four battleships, 10
cruisers, 34 or more destroyers, 8 to 12
troop transports and 4 to 6 cargo vessels.
Potentially, this was the greatest threat
ever poised against the United States
during the war.
From June 3 through June 6, the
Navy met this threat, fought it and
turned it back. Assisted by four Army
B-24s and 16 B-17s and 20 Marine
manned Navy planes based on Midway,
some 240 Navy planes from the U. S. S.
Hornet. U. S. S. Yorktown and U. S. S.
Enterprise, sank four enemy carriers
with the loss of all their planes and
many of their personnel; sank two
heavy cruisers, three or possibly four
destroyers and one or more cargo or
transport ships. In addition they heav
ily damaged two or possibly three bat
tleships, three or more heavy cruisers
and one light cruiser. At a conserva
tive estimate the enemy lost 4.800 per
sonnel. But, most important of all, he
lost the initiative. The Japanese inva
sion force which fled the scene was a
thoroughly beaten group, and it was
the last of its kind the enemy ever tried
to send against us.
Guadalcanal and Tulagi
Once the power of choice as to when
and where to strike was in the Navy's
hands it was not slow in making use
of it. On the morning of August 7,
two months to the day after the beaten
Japanese invasion force had disappeared
in disordered flight into the rain squalls
northwest of Midway, the Marines,
Transported and supported by the Navy,
landed on Guadalcanal and Tulagi Is
lands in the Solomons. The landings
were effected in co-operation with the
Army Air Force under General of the
Army MacArthur's command which
bombed Jap landing fields throughout
the general Solomons-New Britain-New
Guinea area.
From the point of view of the fleet
at sea, and. to a certain extent from
the point of view of the Marines ashore,
too, the landings were simply the begin
ning of the engagement rather than
an end in themselves. What followed,
so far as the destruction of the Japa
nese fleet was concerned, was a series
of engagements in which they tried to
reinforce their troops on Guadalcanal
and later, in further advanced Islands
in the Solomons and in which they were
uniformly and expensively unsuccessful.
These engagements took place over
almost a year (from the Battle of Savo
Island on August 9, 1942, to the Battle
of Vella Gulf on August 6, 1943;, but
they all partook of the same nature, an
attempt by the Japanese to hamper
our troops ashore in the Solomons and
to land, supply or evacuate their own
ground forces.
Naval Battle for the Solomons
Actually, all the engagements might
be called the Naval Battle for the Solo
mons; chronologically they are easily
divided as follow's: (1) the Battle of
Savo Island, night of August 9, 1942;
12) Battle of the Eastern Solomons, Au
gust 23 to 25, 1942; (31 Battle of Cape
Esperance, October 11-12; ($) Battle of
the Santa Cruz Islands, OAober 26; (5;
Great Battle of Guadalcanal, November
13, 14. 15; (6) Battle of Tassafaronga,
•iovember 30; <7; First Battle of Kula
Gulf, July 6. 1943; (81 Second Battle of
Kula Gulf, July 13; (9; Battle of Vella
Gulf, August 6.
The fast carrier task force, which became such a potent weapon in the American arsenal,
had its beginning with strikes at the Jap positions in the Marshalls, the Gilberts, Wake, Marcus,
Truk and Palau. Part of the mighty force which hammered the Marshall Islands into submission
is shown here. In the picture are nine aircraft carriers and a dozen battleships, destroyers and
Supply Ships. —N«vy Photo.
•SSWfc .-x.■&. .ytswAy.Mum.t-.o.vf.'/.wrf j.wi'*... ■of.v.-.vj* '.v.v.vf.. —— —— — — . •
“The sea road from Pearl Harbor to Tokyo was a long and bitter one, but not so long nor so
bitter as would have been the road from Japan to Pearl Harbor to the shores of the United States.”
These engagements, which perma
nently derailed the “Tokyo Express.”
were, for the most part, night surface
battles in which it was extremely diffi
cult to estimate results exactly. The
best estimates, however, show that the
Japanese bled their navy severely in
their futile attempt to aid their ground
forces in the Solomons.
A conservative count of their losses
show's that at least 4 battleships, 13
cruisers and 19 destroyers were sunk
or damaged in these actions. That
does not take into account the even
more serious losses they suffered in
landing barges, coasters and small
transports which were destroyed by
American PTs in their routine nightly
Navy PTs Have Fine Record
The Navy PTs and Australian MLs
attached to General of the Army Mac
Arthur’s command also compiled a
splendid record for harassing all enemy
efTorts to supply and relieve his ground
forces by amphibious barge along the
The U. S. S. Missouri, one of the newest of the Navy’s largest battleships, firing a salvo from
her two forward 16-inch gun turrets. -v. s. n.v,
northern coast of New Guinea, while
the Navy's 7th Fleet furnished the ships
and supported the landings which split
the Japanese on the island and de
stroyed their bases.
Meanwhile as the power of the im
perial fleet was waning in the South
and Southwest Pacific under the ham
mer blows of the Navy, so was it waning
in the other quarters of that vast ocean.
The fast carrier task force, which was
later to become such a potent weapon
in the American arsenal, had already
had its beginning with strikes at the
Jap positions in the Marshalls, the
Gilberts, Wake, Marcus, Truk and Palau.
Perhaps the most destructive of these
raids, so far as Jap ships were con
cerned. was the daring raid on March
10, 1943, by Navy flyers from the U. S. S.
Yorktown and U. S. S. Lexington across
the Owen Stanley Mountains of New
Guinea to strike at an enemy task
force deployed off Salamaua. This re
sulted in the certain sinking of five
transports or large cargo vessels, two
heavy cruisers, one light cruiser and
one destroyer, with serious damage to
other important light units of the
Japanese Navy.
Neutralizing Jap Islands
It should be borne in mind, however,
that while one mission of any Navy
in wartime is the destruction of the
enemy’s seapower, there are various
ways of achieving this. In the Pacific,
where the Jap was inclined to think of
his island bases as unsinkable aircraft
carriers as well as fleet anchorages,
repair facilities, staging areas and com
munications centers, it was as impor
tant to “sink” these unsinkable carriers
either by capture or by neutralization
as it was to sink actual floating car
By 1943 it was the islands, far more
than the Japanese fleet, which threat
ened to hamper our Navy’s free move
ment in the Central Pacific along the
most direct route to the Philippines
and Japan. Sped by American determi
nation, fortified by American industrial
productivity, our fleet, even then, was
more than a match for the units the
Japanese were willing to risk piecemeal
against us. Soon we were to prove
that they were more than a match for
the land-based Japanese power, too.
We had more than a hint that this
was the ease from the success of our
carrier strikes during 1942, when with
equal impunity Navy aircraft slashed
at newly won and long-fortified Jap
anese bases from New Guinea to Mar
cus Island. With tncse for background
and with the newly evolved system of
self-sustaining task forces in operation
(fueled by the fast tankers, stores and
ammunition replenished by fast tend
ers), the Navy was ready to start its
full-scale offensive drive.
In the South Pacific and its adjoining
command area of the Southwest Pa
cific the Japanese had been driven
steadily and painfully back from their
Solomons. Admiralties and New Guinea
bases. Their great stronghold at Ra
baul, coming more and more within
easy range of American planes taking
off from Marine-captured Henderson
Field and others, was being converted
into a liability, h graveyard for Jap
anese shipping which sought shelter
Even more important as a guide to
the future course of the war, the Navy
and the air and ground forces—Marine
or Army—were acquirin ' greater pre
cision, greater striking power, greater
“know how’’ in the business of am
phibious warfare. By November, 1942,
the problems of assault landings were
so clearly understood that the Navy
was prepared to tackle them with car
rier planes supplying the entire air
cover from preliminary reconnaissance
through preinvasion bombardment to
protective patrols until local airstrips
could be put in operation.
On November 19 naval task forces
began the softening-up bombardments
by carrier planes and surface units of
the Important atolls of the Gilbert Is
lands. prior to the landings 'Novem
ber 221 at Tarawa and Makin. The
land fighting was bloody, but no units
of the Japanese fleet appeared to make
the problem more difficult.
Two months later, after almost con
stant neutralizing strikes at all enemy
airbases in the area, Marines were
landed on February 2, 1943, on the im
portant atolls of the Marshalls, Kw’aje
lein, Roi and Namur. Once again there
was strong ground and air opposition,
but once again the Japanese declined
to commit any of their fleet to try to
stop the American drive.
The Blasting of Truk
With these unsinkable carriers in its
hands the Navy proceeded to search
even more diligently for something that
would sink. On February 17 and 18
the Navy carried this search into the
great Japanese bastion of Truk, where
carrier aircraft blasted enemy ship
ping. sinking eight ships, while battle
ships, cruisers and destroyers steaming
close offshore bombarded land Installa
If the Japanese were unwilling to
risk their ships they were not so cau
tious with their aircraft—army tr navy
—and every strike of an American task
force accounted for a satisfactory num
ber of enemy planes. The Battle of
Midw-ay had accounted for many, if
not most, of Japanese trained navy
flyers, and they were to lose almost all
the rest soon enough in the famous
“Marianas turkey shoot."
Meanwhile, as an indicaticft of the
caution with which they were attempt
ing to horde their surface vessels, at
tention may be called to th? Battle of
Komandorski Islands, in whicn a small
American group—one heavy, cruiser, two
light cruisers and four destroyers—
turned back a Japanese force twice its
size W'hen the latter sought to rein
force and supply garrisons in thj Aleu
tians. No ships. Japanese or American,
were sunk in the engagement. With
clear numerical superiority the Jap
anese refused to push the fight to any
real conclusion, but broke off and
steamed back to safer waters. Shortly
after this, on May 11, 1943, a Navy task
force landed the Army on Attu, and
:wo months later on Kiska in the
Submarines Make Big Score
While all these operations were going
in, a significant portion of the Navy,
mall in tonnage but mighty in lethal
aggressiveness, was carrying the war
deep into enemy waters. These W’ere
the submarines, which, from the start
of the war to its triumphant close,
harassed the Japanese incessantly, es
tablishing a highly effective blockade
tight around every supply route, clear
into the enemy's home waters. Navy
submarines accounted for more than
146 combatant ships and 1.041 non
combatant ships sunk.
With the capture of the key islands
in the Marshalls the pattern of this
stage of war in the Pacific was clear.
The United States could strike vir
tually anywhere it chose with its fast
carrier task forces; it
could land troops wher
ever the calculated risk
justified it. The effort
was to seize key points,
by - passing, isolating
and choking off enemy
strongholds in the pro
cess. This was the pro
gram in the South and
Central Pacific, where
the 3d and 5th Fleets
operated. It was the
program, too, in the
Southwest Pacific, where
the Navy’s 7th Fleet
under the over-all area
command of General of
the Army MacArthur
operated. Inevitably op
erations in command
areas were correlated,
as the drives drew closer
and closer to the Phil
ippines and Japan itself.
Following the capture
of the Admiralties and
the clearing of resist
ance from the eastern
portion of New- Guinea
by General of the Army
MacArthur's forces, the
Navy’s 5th Fleet neu
tralized the Western
Carolines with carrier
strikes and bombard
ment while the leapfrog
landings were made in
the Hollandia area of Northern New
Guinea late in March, 1944, transported
and supported by the Navy's 7th Fleet.
This close teamwork set the pattern
which was to be so successfully followed
six months later at Leyte and Luzon.
The Mariannas
With the great land mass of New ,
Guinea in Allied control, the next ob
jectives of the United States Fleet were
the strong bases of the Marianas, with
their excellent anchorages and great
potential landing fields. Even then,
these islands—particularly the largest,
Guam, Tinian and Saipan—were a
“must” for the Army Air Force, if they
were to put their B-29s to quick use
against the Japanese home islands.
They were a must, too, for a Navy
which had fought its way across the
Pacific from battered Pearl Harbor
and was not going to stop until it
anchored in Tokyo Bay.
The Japanese realized the importance
of holding these islands, for, on the
very day of the first Marine landing
on Saipan—June 15, 1944—the naval
command was notified that the Japa
nese fleet was at last venturing out to
sea. The result was a twofold disaster
for the enemy; on June 19. in a series
of air engagements over our landing
areas, the Japanese lost 402 planes
out of a possible 545 seen. This elimi
nated the threat of serious air attack
on our landings and freed the United
States naval covering forces to hunt
down the Japanese fleet.
Our Navy carrier-based planes found
it. after arduous search, late on the
afternoon of the 20th, and immediately
attacked, sinking two carriers, two de
stroyers and a tanker, and severely
damaging three carriers, a battleship,
three cruisers, one destroyer and three
tankers. During this engagement, 16
American planes were lost and the only
reason it wras broken off was that our
aircraft were dangerously low on fuel
with darkness rapidiy approaching.
The story of the return of the remain
ing flyers to the carriers in the dark
and of the decision to light up the car
riers to assist their landings is one
which has been told before, but can
never be told too often.
The capture of Guam, Tinian and
Saipan meant bases for the Army's
very long-range bombers for their at
tacks on Japan. The fast carrier task
force, with all its great weight of com
batant tonnage, battleships and cruisers
as wey as carriers, came into its owm,
ranging the seas from the Kuriles in
the north to the Sulu Sea in the south,
striking where and when it pleased,
probing every mile of the enemy's
Recapturing the Philippines
A weak point in those defenses W’as
soon discovered and it W'as found at a
place particularly important to Amer
icans, emotionally as well as strategi
cally. After successful assaults on the
Western Carolines—Peleliu, Anguar and
Morotai in mid-September—planes from
Navy carriers encountered surprisingly
little air opposition in the Leyte-Samar
area of the Philippines. This was re
ported to General of the Army Mac
Arthur by Fleet Admiral Nimitz, and
together they agreed to advance the
planned date of the assault on the
Philippines to the middle of October.
So gigantic an undertaking as the
recapture of the Philippines obviously
was a matter for complete co-operation
betw-een all branches of the armed
forces. And. equally obvious, that co
operation was firm from the start.
Navy carrier planes swept distant
airfields on Okinawa, Northern Luzon
and Formosa to prevent them from
being used as staging areas for enemy
(Continued on Page C-6.1
—"w—in——— I, in mtsmmmm
"The Navy’s PT boats compiled a splendid record for harassing enemy efforts to supply and
relieve his ground forces by amphibious barges.” These are PT (Vosper type) boats turned out bu
the Annapolis Yacht Club, Inc., getting a trial spin in Chesapeake Bay. ' susnJS?

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