USN Cruiser vs. IJN Cruiser Guadalcanal 1942
Author: Mark Stille
Illustrators: Howard Gerrard and Paul Wright
Among the many naval gun engagements that shattered the Pacific during World War Two, seven were cruiser duels and five featured heavy cruisers: The Battle of the Java Sea, Battle of Sunda Strait, Battle of Savo Island, Battle of Cape Esperance, Battle of the Komandorski Islands, Battle of Kolombangara and the Battle of Empress Augusta Bay. Of all the campaigns of the war the one that fascinates me the most is Guadalcanal; the naval battles are a prime reason. I’ve been reading about them for 35 years and eagerly read every new title that comes out. Thus, I was thrilled to receive USN Cruiser vs. IJN Cruiser Guadalcanal 1942
from the wonderful folks at Osprey, and with great anticipation I opened the cover.
Eight months and two days after Imperial Japanese naval air forces devastated the unprepared American fleet at Pearl Harbor, elements of Imperial Japan’s equally superb cruiser force dealt an equally unprepared American cruiser force the worst defeat ever suffered by the US Navy at sea. Two months later some of those same Japanese cruisers were out-maneuvered and blasted into defeat by a different US Admiral commanding different cruisers. This 22nd title of Osprey’s Duel series explore these two battles.
Author Mark Stille is an authority on the Imperial Japanese Navy and recounts these surface actions. Most of the heavy cruisers of Imperial Japan and the United States Navy that fought at Guadalcanal in 1942 were developed under the constraints of the successive Washington Naval Treaty, London Naval Treaty and Geneva Naval Conference. While the Imperial Naval Staff took liberties with the weight limits, the first few American designs were found to be underweight and up-armored accordingly. While the clunky looking US ships balanced firepower and speed and range and flexibility, heavy cruisers of the IJN navy were powerful, innovative, aesthetically handsome (most of them) warships. Japanese tactical doctrine designed them to bristle with powerful guns and torpedoes to outfight their rivals. Tactics emphasizing small-unit and night actions paid off handsomely in early engagements against the Allies, IJN ships being equipped with excellent optics and powerful searchlights. If IJN ships had a weakness it was lack of radar; IJN ships lagged well behind Allied ships in radar installation, to their eventual sorrow. Despite this, Allied crews and commanders were slow in exploiting their radar advantage and Japanese sailors with trained eyes, exceptional optics and searchlights frequently devastated radar-equipped Allied forces into 1943.
The first duel is the Battle of Savo Island. Admiral Mikawa sailed his cruisers between two radar equipped picket destroyers into Allied waters the night of August 9, he was outnumbered by a hodge-podge of Allied ships lacking coherent command and control with crews who, in the words of US Naval historian Samuel E. Morison, “…simply were not battle-minded…”. Mikawa, attacking by the IJN textbook first with torpedoes and following up with a hail of large shells, slaughtered the Allied ships for light loss. Four heavy cruisers were sunk for no IJN ship loss! Had he stayed and attacked the transports, he could have significantly altered the course of the war; instead he withdrew fearing air attack at dawn.
The other duel is the Battle of Cape Esperance where US Admiral Scott, lessons learned from the Savo debacle, surprised the Japanese. His command made several mistakes but none as bad as IJN Adm. Goto, who sailed blindly into the USN force, which ‘capped his “T”’. Although Goto lost ships and retreated his defeat was not as severe as the Allies suffered at Savo Island, and he successfully landed reinforcements on the island.
Mr. Stille presents USN Cruiser vs. IJN Cruiser Guadalcanal 1942
with 80 pages in seven chapters:
1. Design and Development
2. The Strategic Situation
3. Technical Specifications
4. The Combatants
6. Statistics and Analysis
Significant side panels introduce you to the careers of Vice-Admiral Mikawa Gun’ichi and Rear Admiral Norman Scott. The text is supported with accounts from both American and Japanese crew members. One details the teamwork of a US 5-inch gun crew. Each heavy cruiser class is briefly examined. As are the main weapons. Crew training and naval doctrine are discussed. Even if you do not care about the actual battles, these parts of the book are worth adding this title to your library. It is also available in PDF eBook and ePub eBook form.
Mr. Stilles gives a clear blow-by-blow account of the battles. I’ve read about both several times before and can attest to a better understanding now.
Photographs, Artwork, Maps
Supporting the text are several dozen black and white photographs, and a color photo of USS Quincy
. The overall quality of the images is high; several are even studio quality. The only one not of sharp quality is a Japanese photograph made during the Savo Island battle of burning USS Quincy
caught in searchlights!
Osprey is known for their original artwork and this book is no exception. Seven exceptional color illustrations by artists Howard Gerrard and Paul Wright enhance the subject:
I. USS San Francisco in profile and planform, Battle of Cape Esperance
II. US Navy Cruiser Weapons: the triple 8-inch/55 gun turret (Mark 14), the triple 6-inch/47 gun turret (Mark 16), and 5-inch/25 dual-purpose gun
III. Imperial Navy Cruiser Weapons: the 8-inch/50 Type C Turret, 5-inch/40 Type 89 gun, and 24-inch Type 93 “Long Lance” torpedo quadruple mount
IV. HILMS Chokai in profile and planform, Battle of Savo Island
V. Four panels of USS Quincy during the Battle of Savo Island, as seen from the deck of HIJMS Aoba
VI. A dramatic painting from the starboard bow of a Japanese cruiser loosening an 8-in. broadside. Curiously, the caption is disconnected from the painting, describing that Quincy, Astoria and Vincennes are taking hits and on fire. Perhaps the caption is for an excluded image that is used for half of the cover art?
VII. The Battle of Cape Esperance, the IJN blundering into the “T” as viewed from USS Helena
Finally, two maps diagram each battle.
With Guadalcanal heavy cruiser fights to recount, this book is a winner. Mr. Stille has created an awesome book that explains the doctrinal and technical foundations of these two very different Guadalcanal battles. The artwork and photographic content is great. Personal accounts are excellent. I did find two typos. Regardless I definitely recommend this book.
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