Friday, February 27, 2009

Fullbore Friday

Though we covered her back in '06 very briefly, Sid's link to her damage report from the Third Battle of Savo Island during last weeks FbF made me think she needs another look.

Review last month's FbF and then come back here and let' s look at things from the perspective of the USS SOUTH DAKOTA (BB-57).

Just one chapter;
On 11 November, South Dakota, as part of TF 16, sortied from Noumea for Guadalcanal. On 13 November, she joined battleship Washington (BB-56) and destroyers Preston (DD-379), Walke (DD-418), Benham (DD-397), and Gwin (DD-433) to form TF 64 under command of Rear Admiral W. A. Lee. The next evening at 2330, the force was operating 50 miles southwest of Guadalcanal when Lee learned that an enemy convoy was coming through the passage off Savo sometime between 0030 and 0230. This was Admiral Kondo's bombardment group consisting of battleship Kirishima; heavy cruisers Takao and Atago; and a destroyer screen.

Admiral Kondo's forces were divided into three sections: the bombardment group; a close screen of cruiser Nagara and six destroyers; and a distant screen of cruiser Sendai and three destroyers in the van of the other forces. A quarter moon assured good visibility. Three ships were visually sighted from the bridge of South Dakota, range 18,100 yards. Washington fired on the leading ship, thought to be a battleship or heavy cruiser; and, a minute later, South Dakota's main battery opened on the ship nearest to her. Both initial salvos started fires on the targets. South Dakota then fired on another target and continued firing until it disappeared from her radar screen. Turret No. 3-firing over her stern and demolishing her own planes in the process-opened on another target and continued firing until the target was thought to sink. Her secondary batteries were firing at eight destroyers close to the shore of Savo Island.

A short lull followed after which radar plot showed four enemy ships, just clear of the left tangent of Savo, approaching from the starboard bow; range 5,800 yards. Searchlights from the second ship in the enemy column illuminated South Dakota. Washington opened with her main battery on the leading, and largest, Japanese ship. South Dakota's secondary batteries put out the lights; and she shifted all batteries to bear on the third ship, believed to be a cruiser, which soon gushed smoke. South Dakota, which had
been under fire from at least three of the ships, had taken 42 hits which caused considerable damage. Her radio communications failed; radar plot was demolished; three fire control radars were damaged; there was a fire in her foremast; and she had lost track of Washington. As she was no longer receiving enemy fire and there were no remaining targets, she withdrew; met Washington at a prearranged rendezvous; and proceeded to Noumea. Of the American destroyers, only Gwin returned to port. The other three had been severely damaged early in the engagement. Walke and Preston were sunk. Benham had part of her bow blown off by a torpedo and, while en route to Noumea with the damaged Gwin as her escort, had to be abandoned. Gwin then sank her by gunfire. On the enemy side, hits had been scored on Takao and Atago; Kirishima and destroyer Ayanami, severely damaged by gunfire, were abandoned and scuttled.

UPDATE: Via Kevin, a nice link to the SD memorial in SD on GoogleEarth.

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