World War II |

The United States Defeats The Japanese In the Battle of Cape Esperance – 10/11/1942

Japanese ships were on their way to provide reinforcement to their troops in Guadalcanal on October 11, 1942 but they were intercepted by the American Navy. The battle ended with the Navy sinking most of the Japanese ships that were in route.

The Guadalcanal Campaign (also known as the Battle of Guadalcanal) was the first offensive campaign of the Allied Forces against Japan. This began in August at the time that the marines landed on the islands of Guadalcanal. The Allies wanted to prevent the Japanese from threatening the Allies’ supply and thus initiated the offense. The U.S. troops made sure that they would gain an advantage with the ground fights, eliminating military units in a brutal combat. 

The Japanese were not easily dissuaded. They too initiated their counterstrikes from the air and sea. They harassed the Marines with bomb attacks, threatening their decreasing supply. However, the Navy members were smart; they went to work before the Japanese could successfully reinforce their own troops.

Threatened by Allied aircraft, the Japanese were unable to use large slow-moving transport to deliver supplies to their troops on the island. To minimize exposure to air attacks, warships were used to deliver the goods at night instead. This operation was nicknamed “Tokyo Express” by the Allies. The Battle of Cape Esperance commenced in the evening at the northwest coast of Guadalcanal Island where the battle was first fought by the surface ships of the opposing forces.

The Navy lost one of their destroyers but was able to sink the cruiser Furutaka along with three other Japanese destroyers. Japanese soldiers who were splashing in the water declined the rescue offered the Americans and chose instead to be devoured by sharks; being captured was considered more shameful for them.

The American lost hardware during the fight, but what was more saddening was the fact that they lost 48 people aboard the American destroyer Duncan. Another hundred more were lost when an American cruiser made the mistake of turning on a searchlight. This backfired for the American soldiers. Instead of acting as a searchlight, the ship illuminated its own sailors which made them an easy target by the Japanese.

The Americans pursued and attacked the Japanese ships that tried to provide reinforcement to their soldiers on the islands. Only a few Japanese troops successfully made to shore. The Japanese succumbed to defeat and prepared to evacuate the island by the end of 1942.

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Mark Hinderberg


Retired History Professor at Vanderbilt University. Love taking a portal through time and sharing my knowledge with anyone else who loves reading about history. It is my passion and my greatest hobby.