Monday, August 08, 2022

China to the Slot

The US military and her Commonwealth allies lost over 10,000 men killed in the Solomon Islands Campaign in WWII. 

Over 40 USN ships were sunk, 800 aircraft shot down.

We killed almost 90,000 Japanese, sunk over 50 of her ships, and destroyed over 1,500 of her aircraft to kick her out. 

You should know the map and the names.

How many warships do we have named after this campaign from battles to those who fought in it? 

How have we honored this legacy? How have we maintained this legacy?

We've been reporting on our lack of stewardship in the islands of the Western Pacific for years now, and things are getting more attention, but still do not seem to be getting much better as, step by step, the People's Republic of China keeps advancing. 

The latest news?

Chinese state-owned company is negotiating to buy a forestry planation with a deep-water port and World War II airstrip in Solomon Islands amid persistent concerns that China wants to establish a naval foothold in the South Pacific country.

A delegation from China Forestry Group Corp. visited the plantation that covers most of Kolombangar Island in 2019, asking questions about the length of the wharf and depth of the water while showing little interest in the trees, Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported on Monday.

The board of Kolombangara Forest Products Ltd., the takeover target known as KFPL which is owned by Taiwanese and Australian shareholders, wrote to the newly elected Australian government in May warning of the “risks/strategic threats” posed to Australia by such a sale, the ABC reported.
If that name does not ring a bell, let me help you out a bit.
On August 2, 1943, Moses and Koete were part of a team of eight scouts, working as indigenous guerrilla fighters, saboteurs, and spies behind enemy lines, feeding information on the movements of the Japanese back to the Allies. After witnessing an explosion at sea before dawn on August 2, they searched the atolls around Kolombangara for survivors of what they assumed to have been a shipwreck. On August 4 the scouts found the survivors, terribly dehydrated and sunburned, but alive. It transpired that a Japanese destroyer had cut an American torpedo boat in half and the surviving American crew had been swimming between atolls for days. This crew was led by a young lieutenant called John F. Kennedy.
There is a lot of American history here - not that our professional historians teach it all that much anymore as opposed to their trendy group-think causes of the quarter.

Also, what do you notice on this map?

There she is, Vella Gulf ... as in the Battle of Vella Gulf;
In Vella Gulf shortly before midnight, with the two divisions in formation 4,000 yards apart, they probed Blackett Strait; then turned north along the Kolombangara coast. Soon, radar contact was made with four Japanese destroyers carrying reinforcements for Kolombangara and closing on a course for Blackett Strait at a relative speed of nearly 50 knots. Less than ten minutes later, Division A-1 had maneuvered into position—exactly as planned—and fired 24 torpedoes. As it turned away to evade any Japanese response, Division A-2 crossed ahead of the oncoming Japanese formation to attack from a new direction.

After what seemed like an eternity, Division A-1’s torpedoes hit all four Japanese ships, blasting the first three and holing the rudder of the fourth. Division A-2 promptly opened gun and torpedo fire, completing the destruction of the three destroyers while the fourth, unseen, got away. The two divisions lingered, trying to pick up survivors but they refused rescue; Division A-2 then followed Division A-1 in retiring down the Slot, having sustained no damage or casualties.

The Battle of Vella Gulf, the U.S. Navy’s first independent destroyer action in the South Pacific, marked a turning point in American surface warfare. Coming a full year after the Guadalcanal landing, it showed that our weapons worked, that our doctrine was sound and that a surprise torpedo attack—delivered by destroyers as the primary attack unit—could be devastating to the enemy.
We like that battle because we won - where a a few months earlier the Japanese got a "W" at the Battle of Klomangara.

That is why we have a USS Vella Gulf (CG 72) and not a USS Klomangara.

Why does this matter today - these old battles?

The Solomon Islands were worth hundreds of thousands of lives last century for a reason. Nations may change in power dynamics in the Pacific, but geography does not.

Look at the Pacific from the Chinese perspective and it all makes sense.

If you want to delay the American navy from threatening your seaboard, you make her fight her way there.

If you want to threaten SLOC between North American and Australia, you have to control the Solomons at a minimum.

This is all known, or should be known. The Chinese sure know it. 

Chart credit to Rhodes Cartography.

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