San Francisco in San Francisco City and County, California — The American West (Pacific Coastal)
The Naval Battle of Guadalcanal
Twenty-Four Minutes of Thundering Hell On Iron Bottom Bay
Friday the 13th November 1942
By July 1942 Japan’s military juggernaut had invaded and occupied Korea, Manchuria, China, Hong Kong, Burma, Borneo, New Guinea, Rabaul, Truk, The Philippines, Aleutians, Marshalls, Carolines, and the Solomons, which includes Tulagi, Savo and Guadalcanal Island. “A steamy, tropical malaria infested jungle.”
The Japanese worked feverishly to build airfields on several islands. The airfield on Guadalcanal was their last and most important. It was strategically located since the Japanese Air-Corps could then “hop” from Japan to Iwo Jima, Guam, Rabaul, Truk, Bougainville, and then Guadalcanal. Their next planned invasion was Australia.
U.S. Marines landed on Guadalcanal August 7th 1942. They captured and secured the airfield, naming it “Henderson Field”. True to their tradition and dedication, the Marines fought for months against thousands of Japanese soldiers attempting to regain control of the airfield. Dramatic aerial “Dog Fights” were fought daily in the skies above.
Japan’s Vice Admiral Hiroaki Abe was dispatched to bombard and land troops on Guadalcanal. His strike force consisted of two 32,000 ton Battleships—The Hiei and the Kirishima. Together they could fire off 23,840 pounds of bombardment salvos
Rear Admiral Daniel J. Callaghan, on board his flagship the USS San Francisco (CA-38), a 10,000 ton treaty cruiser, was directed to intercept the Japanese Naval Strike Force. His command consisted of 5 Cruisers and 8 Destroyers.
On November 12th, near Guadalcanal, a damaged enemy plane crashed into the USS San Francisco, destroying the Aft Control Station, killing and wounding 51 men. With a crippled flagship, RADM Callaghan bravely prepared his task force for this imminent battle. Overheard on the bridge was the comment “But this is suicide”. Rear Admiral Callaghan — cool, calm, and resolute, replied —“Yes, I know, but we’ve got to do it!”
This ferocious battle commenced at 1:48AM, Friday the 13th of November 1942. It was a sudden clash between 27 steel armored warships - 14 Japanese and 13 American. The U.S. Naval Ships had penetrated into the center of the Japanese battleship formation, a major advantage for RADM Callaghan.
Massive guns exploded in the pitch black night, firing hot projectiles with smoke and fire. Suddenly, the Japanese snapped on their bright searchlights. This gave the Admiral an additional advantage by identifying the enemy ships. He then issued the order “Get the Big Ones First”. Hundreds of salvos rained down on the enemy battleships with blistering devastation. Blazing ships became targets.
Hundreds of men on both sides escaping from their sinking ships swam for their lives in the black night sea. Men were killed by the spinning propellers of ships twisting and turning to avoid collision. Many more were killed by circling sharks.
Never in the history of modern warfare had U.S. Naval forces clashed with enemy ships at collision range in a pitch black night. This is the only U.S. Naval surface ship engagement in which an American Admiral was killed in action, let alone two: RADM Daniel J. Callaghan of the USS San Francisco (CA-38), RADM Norman Scott on the USS Atlanta (CL-51).
A total of more than 6,000 men on both sides were killed or wounded, 2 US Carriers, 4 US Destroyers and 2 Japanese Destroyers were sunk. At dawn, the Battleship Hiei aflame, floundering, and dead in the water — a derelict — abandoned and sank later that day. During the next few days, other Japanese ships were chased down and sunk, including the Battleship Kirishima.
The USS San Francisco, severely damaged and crippled, limped home at Christmas time to receive a new bridge and other major repairs at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard. She then returned to sea to give battle and bombardment support for landings and occupations in the Pacific. These included: the Aleutians, Wake, Kwajalein, Bougainville, Tarawa, Yap, Palau, Ulihi, Rabaul, Truk, Guam, Saipan, Tinian, Luzon and the Battle of the Philippine Sea, then on to Iwo Jima, and finally Okinawa, where the USS San Francisco (CA-38) earned her 17th battle star.
This battle on November 13th 1942, was a major turning point of World War II. It prevented the possible loss of Henderson Field, thus saving Australia from the planned invasion. It marked the beginning of victory in the Pacific.
Erected by USS San Francisco Memorial Foundation.
Location. 37° 46.962′ N, 122° 30.666′ W. Marker is in San Francisco, California, in San Francisco City and County. Marker is on El Camino Del Mar north of Sea Rock Drive, on the left when traveling north. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: San Francisco CA 94121, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Heavy Cruiser USS San Francisco (CA38) (here, next to this marker); This Memorial to Rear Admiral Daniel J. Callaghan (here, next to this marker); FDR's Salute (within shouting distance of this marker); Sutro’s Steam Train (within shouting distance of this marker); Navigating the Golden Gate - Bonfires, buoys, and foghorns (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Peoples of the Coast - Why did they live here? (about 700 feet away); Electric Streetcar Line (about 800 feet away); In Memory of Adolph Sutro (approx. ¼ mile away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in San Francisco.
More about this marker. The Memorial is located at Fort Miley, a unit of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area-Lands End.
Related marker. Click here for another marker that is related to this marker. To better understand the relationship, study each marker in the order shown.
Also see . . . Second Naval Battle of Guadalcanal: Turning Point in the Pacific War. U.S. Task Force 64 (including battleships Washington and South Dakota) finish off the IJN forces on 14-15 November 1942 - under VAdm. Willis Augustus "Ching" Lee, Jr. (Submitted on October 29, 2012, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland.)
Categories. • War, World II •
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on October 2, 2012, by Don Morfe of Baltimore, Maryland. This page has been viewed 949 times since then and 55 times this year. Last updated on July 20, 2014, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. Photos: 1. submitted on November 3, 2012, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. 2. submitted on October 8, 2012, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.