Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Naval Battle of Kula Gulf, 1943

In July of 1943, the Allies began launching their next offensive against the Japanese in the Solomon Islands, landing troops on the island of Rendova on July 5th, the first step to seizing the major Japanese airstrip on New Georgia Island.

On the same day, Rear Admiral Walden L. Ainsworth led a U.S. task force of Navy cruisers and destroyers to the New Georgia Sound, or "the Slot,"1 in the Solomons. They planned to stop a Japanese naval transport from reinforcing its force on Guadalcanal.

Source: Perry-CastaƱeda Library Map Collection, University of Texas

The Battle of Kula Gulf began in the early hours on today's date in 1943, when Ainsworth's task group confronted 10 enemy ships off the northwest corner of New Georgia. Within the first few minutes of the battle, Ainsworth's force managed to sink the destroyer Niizuki, killing Admiral Teruo Akiyama. Another Japanese destroyer was forced to run aground and was later destroyed, and 2 more were damaged.2 Consequently, the Japanese were only able to land a portion of the 2,600 reinforcement troops they planned.

Admiral Ainsworth's success, however, was tempered by the loss of one of his light cruisers, USS Helena. Flashes from Helena's guns made her a target for the enemy. Within a few minutes, she was struck by 3 torpedoes and sank soon after, with a loss of 168.

1"The Slot" was so named by the Allies for both its geographical shape and the high volume of warships that used it. The many Japanese naval transports to resupply their garrison on Guadalcanal were referred to as the "Tokyo Express." Many naval battles were fought in and around "the Slot" during 1942 and 1943, between the Allies and the Imperial Japanese Navy.
2One of the damaged Japanese destroyers that escaped was the Amagiri. On August 2, near Kolombangara, the Amagiri will run down and cut in two the famous USS PT-109, commanded by future President, Lieut. John F. Kennedy.

Sources: Report of USS Helena, July 30, 1943; Destroyer History Foundation

No comments:

Post a Comment