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USS Enterprise CV-6
The Most Decorated Ship of the Second World War

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Battle of the Eastern Solomons - 24 August 1942 (Read More...)

Short but sharp, the Battle of the Eastern Solomons was a strategic and tactical victory for the United States. The Japanese light carrier Ryujo was sunk, the enemy air groups took heavy losses, and a major effort to reinforce Guadalcanal was defeated. However, Enterprise absorbed severe damage from an enemy dive bombing attack. Though forced to return to Pearl Harbor for repair, Enterprise's experience proved that carriers weren't nearly as vulnerable as was commonly believed at the time.

Events of 23 August and forenoon 24 August.
Enemy Attack and Notes on Defense.
Damage, Losses and Casualties.
Conclusions and Recommendations

Serial 008
September 5, 1942.
From:The Commanding Officer.
To:The Commander-in-Chief, United States Pacific Fleet.
Via:The Commander, Task Force SIXTEEN.
Subject:Action of August 24, 1942, Including Air Attack on U.S.S. ENTERPRISE; Report of.
Reference:(a) Articles 712 and 874, U.S. Navy Regulations, 1920.
(b) PacFlt. Conf. Ltr. 24CL-42 of June 21, 1942.
  1. Track Chart.
  2. Executive Officer's Report.
  3. War Damage Report; Copy of.(less photographs).
  4. Medical Officer's Report.
  5. War Diary for August 24, 1942; Copy of.
  6. Fighter Director Report, with Track.
  7. Set of Photographs.
  8. One Reel of Motion Pictures of Actual Bomb Impacts (one only, under separate cover, to CincPac).
  9. CEAG conf. ltr. A16-3/Pb/051 of 9/2/42.
  10. CEAG conf. ltr. A16-3/Pb/052 of 9/2/42.
  1. In compliance with references (a) and (b), a report of the action which took place August 24, 1942, including the air attack on the U.S.S. ENTERPRISE, is submitted herewith.
    1. Following the operations in support of the successful occupation of TULAGI-GUADALCANAL by United States forces on August 7-8, 1942, the U.S.S. ENTERPRISE, flagship of Commander Task Force SIXTEEN, Rear Admiral T. C. Kinkaid, U.S. Navy, in company with Task Force SIXTY-ONE, was continuously employed in the NEW CALEDONIA-NEW HEBRIDES-SOLOMON area to protect our lines of communication and to destroy enemy forces encountered.
    2. On August 23, 1942, ENTERPRISE was duty carrier for Task Force SIXTY-ONE (Task Forces ELEVEN and SIXTEEN were present), and conducted the early morning search. Search planes sighted two enemy submarines on the surface, one in latitude 06-48 S, longitude 163-20 E, and the other in latitude 07-30 S, longitude 162-15 E. Both were proceeding southward at high speed and both were attacked by bombs with undetermined results. The afternoon search, launched at approximately 1450, made contact with another enemy submarine in latitude 08-54 S, longitude 162-17 E, also on the surface and also headed south at high speed. This submarine was attacked with bombs and machine-gunned, and was unquestionably damaged.
    3. The discovery of three enemy submarines east of the SOLOMON ISLANDS and head south on the surface at high speed pointed strongly to the possibility of a considerable enemy movement to the southward along the track of the advancing submarine screen.
    4. During the afternoon of August 23, an enemy carrier, probably the RYUJO, with supporting ships was reported by a patrol plane to be northeastward of the TULAGI area. SARATOGA launched an attack group to search for and destroy this force but the group did not make contact, probably because of long delay in patrol plane report of a radical change of enemy course shortly after the initial report. The group landed at GUADALCANAL where it remained overnight.
    5. At 1200, August 24, when in latitude 09-04 S, longitude 162-59 E, Task Force SIXTY-ONE, now consisting of Task Forces ELEVEN and SIXTEEN (Task Force EIGHTEEN had retired to refuel), changed course to the north to close the enemy which had been reported advancing on GUADALCANAL from the northeastward. During the early forenoon the weather cleared and the visibility improved to a marked degree. Generally speaking, the weather was fine and the flying and operating conditions excellent.
    6. The early morning search conducted by ENTERPRISE to a distance of 200 miles made no contact with enemy forces and the planes landed aboard without incident. Later on in the forenoon and in the early afternoon radar made contact with several snoopers and they were shot down. These enemy planes undoubtedly reported the position of Task Force SIXTY-ONE tot the enemy aircraft carrier task forces, making possible the attack which followed late that afternoon. Several submarines also were attacked in the vicinity of our force. This makes it likely that the apparent screening employment of submarines by the enemy paid dividends in information as to our positions and movements.
    7. During the forenoon a patrol plane reported the RYUJO (at 1005) and its accompanying vessels some 275 miles north of TULAGI. The SARATOGA launched an attack group at about 1400 to intercept and attack that force, which was again reported at 1440 by ENTERPRISE search planes. At 1309 ENTERPRISE launched 23 planes for a 250 mile relative search, sector 290-090°(T), from origin at latitude 8-56 S, longitude 163-03 E. Point Option: course 000°(T), speed 10 knots. The search flight which remained airborne until after the attack, made contacts with enemy forces as follows:
      1. At 1440, the RYUJO, 1 CA, and 3 DD were sighted bearing 317°(T), distance 198 miles, from our position at that time. The report of this contact was not received by ENTERPRISE until 1548. This was probably due to its being drowned out by fighter director transmission in the same general frequency band and to the high level of local interference developed around this frequency when the ship is making high speed.
      2. At 1500, 2 CV, 4 CA, 6 CL, and at least 8 DD were sighted bearing 340°(T), distance 198 miles, from our position at that time. Report of this was not received by ENTERPRISE, probably for the same reasons that delayed reception of the report in (a) above.
      3. At 1510, 4 CA, 3-5 DD were sighted bearing 347°(T), distance 225 miles from our position at that time. This report was received.
    8. Between 1300 and 1330 an Inner Air Patrol of 6 VSB and a Combat Air Patrol of 16 VF were launched by ENTERPRISE. The VSB remained in the air until after the attack. The VF were landed, serviced, and re-launched by SARATOGA at about 1530. At 1440, ENTERPRISE launched an additional 8 VF which remained airborne throughout the attack. At 1540, ENTERPRISE launched another 8 VF which also remained airborne throughout the attack.
    9. From 1430 ENTERPRISE had ready an attack group consisting of 7 VF, 11 VSB and 7 VTB. Final orders to launch this group were not received until about 1655 and the last plane on board was launched at 1708. At 1710 this group, less VF, was ordered by voice radio to proceed to attack RYUJO, with alternative landing thereafter at GUADALCANAL.
    1. The ENTERPRISE had been directed by Commander Task Force SIXTY-ONE to "take over all duties on return of search planes," which was about 0945. Consequently the ENTERPRISE maintained inner air patrols for Task Force ELEVEN and Task Force SIXTEEN, conducted the afternoon search, and exercised fighter direction control. At 1630 the bearing of the sun was 325°(T); there were a moderate southeast wind and moderate seas. There were 25 ENTERPRISE and SARATOGA fighters in the air and 20 fighters were ready on deck in SARATOGA. At 1632 radar detected a large unidentified flight bearing 320°, distance 88 miles. This echo immediately faded from the screen and no further indications of the presence of those planes were picked up for 17 minutes. The altitude had been estimated as 12,000 feet from the radar altitude calibration curve. SARATOGA was informed and asked to launch the planes she held in readiness.
    2. At 1641 our search group was warned to keep clear of the area as an enemy attack on our force was imminent. This was not received by some of our scouts.
    3. At 1649 a large unidentified flight was detected by radar bearing 320°, distance 44 miles. The altitude was again estimated to be 12,000 feet. This group appeared to be the same enemy attack group previously detected, and the ship and task force were warned again of the incoming attack.
    4. At this time there were 38 fighters in the air over the force, two sections having landed on and five having taken off from SARATOGA since 1630. At 1655 a fighter section sighted the enemy bearing 300°, distance 33 miles from ENTERPRISE, comprising about 36 bombers with many Zero fighters above and below. All of our fighters were informed. Enemy torpedo planes escorted by fighters also headed in for attack from the same general direction, but their total number is not certain.
    5. After the initial contact between our VF and the enemy, the radio discipline was bad. At many times two or more pilots were trying to talk simultaneously and much of the traffic was non-essential. The air was so jammed with these unnecessary transmissions that in spite of numerous attempts to quiet the pilots, few directions reached our fighters and little information was received by the Fighter Director Officer. It is the impression in ENTERPRISE that the radio discipline of ENTERPRISE fighters was better than that of SARATOGA fighters, probably because of special caution given to all pilots that day. It must be expected that this confusion described here will always develop where there has not been ample opportunity to develop radio discipline by use of the radio in drills.
    6. About this time, SARATOGA launched two sections which she had re-serviced, making a total of about 53 fighters in the air. At 1659, when about 25 miles from the ship, the enemy group split into numerous sections and moved around to the north.
    7. When about 14 miles from the ship, the enemy group was reported by an unidentified fighter to be at 16,000 feet altitude. This information was re-broadcast to the fighters and was put on the warning net. Attacks by our fighters, though prompt and expert, had delayed effectiveness because of the interposition of enemy Zero fighters. As a result, many enemy dive bombers reached diving position before they could be intercepted.
    8. The large enemy attack group was tracked continuously from 1649 all the way in and then when the attack did not immediately follow, Radar Plot reported: "The enemy planes are directly overhead now!" The last ENTERPRISE plane had been launched three minutes before and the ship (and Task Force), already making 27 knots, had begun radical maneuvering with maximum rudder.
    9. The enemy dive bombing attack on the ENTERPRISE commenced at 1711. Enemy planes were being engaged by our fighters as they commenced their dives. The number of enemy bombers which dove on the ENTERPRISE, variously estimated between 20 and 40, was probably about 30. The dives were commenced at an altitude of 16,000-18,000 feet. Some planes were seen to spiral to lower altitudes before diving. The dives were steep, estimated at 70°, well executed and absolutely determined. The releases were made at about 1,500 to 2,000 feet. All of the dives were from the port side of the ENTERPRISE, and most of them from the port quarter. This relative direction was maintained even though the ship was turning rapidly to starboard. The attack planes came in at intervals of about seven seconds for a period of about four minutes. During this time there were two short lulls of 20-30 seconds duration.
    10. Throughout the attack the anti-aircraft fire of the ship, particularly with automatic weapons, was most gratifying. Target after target was taken under literally tremendous fire concentration. This, together with the excellent anti-aircraft assistance from other ships in the Task Force and our radical turns at high speed, was responsible for the small percentage of bomb hits.
    11. No torpedo planes reached their objective as all were intercepted approximately 60 miles away and were either destroyed or driven off.
    12. The SARATOGA was not attacked. She was ten or fifteen miles on the disengaged side. Had she been as close as usual, or had the large attacking group used the good judgement to divert some of its planes onto SARATOGA, the enemy planes that got away might have gone home happier.
    13. The attacking group is thought to have been composed of approximately 75 aircraft including dive bombers, torpedo planes, and their fighter escorts. At least 20 bombs were dropped in the vicinity of ENTERPRISE. Three were hits aft and starboard, causing fatalities and injuries as well as substantial damage to the ship. In addition there were three near misses, causing substantial damage in one case and superficial damage in two cases. There were several other misses near enough to deluge the ship with water, and two blazing planes came close to landing on the flight deck. Fires were soon checked and brought under control.
    14. At 1816, the ship was making 24 knots and the deck was again ready to receive aircraft. The first plane landed at 1819. Twenty-five aircraft were landed aboard before a steering casualty occurred at 1851. The remainder of the ENTERPRISE planes then in the vicinity were landed aboard the SARATOGA. The ENTERPRISE attack group did not, because of darkness, locate the RYUJO group, and at about 2100 the 11 VSB of the attack group landed at GUADALCANAL. The 7 VTB chose the alternative of returning to the ship. At 2158, we began landing those planes aboard, but when the second plane, with its windshield fouled with oil, crashed into the No. 2 crane a long delay was foreseen. Therefore, the remaining planes were sent to the SARATOGA and landed by her.
    1. In spite of continuous search radar reports, the enemy planes were not picked up by either director, and were not sighted by the sky lookouts until the planes were in their dives. As the approach of the enemy planes was from almost astern, they were in the blind angle of the fire control radar which is mounted on the forward director. It appears, however, that F.C. radar should have been able to pick up the enemy group when it was close in at high altitude, some planes being ahead of this ship, since there was an appreciable delay between the time search radar reported the planes overhead and the time the dives commenced.
    2. At about 1709 the Battery Officer on 20mm Battery No. 4 sighted a puff of smoke high on the port bow and soon thereafter made out a dive bomber coming down. One gun commenced firing immediately, although the range was about 4,000 yards. This firing, while beyond the range of the gun, brought the attack to everyone's attention. Guns were left in local control and open sights were generally used.
    3. The 5-inch bursts from this ship appeared to be under the bursts of other ships firing and generally well in line and ahead of the planes. Several planes were noticed attempting to pull away from bursts and others were seen to emerge from bursts on fire, while three planes were reported to have disintegrated as though directly hit. (The use of influence fuzes on 5-inch projectiles would make them devastating against a dive bombing attack).
    4. After the first bomb hit, all power failed on the 5-inch guns aft and they had to be trained, elevated and loaded by hand. Hand ramming reduced the rate of fire of these guns by more than half.
    5. Local control, employing sights and tracer spotting, was used on the 1.1 mounts. Some difficulty was experienced in picking up the targets and getting the fire on the planes because the hand train is not fast enough to keep up with the turning of the ship. Opening of fire on mounts No. 1 and No. 2 was delayed a few seconds because the pointer pressed his foot firing pedal before the safety lever had been thrown.
    6. Numerous bomb fragments struck 1.1 mounts No. 3 and No. 4. One gun in mount No. 3 was put out of commission. The cooling water line to mount No. 4 was severed and three of the cooling jackets were punctured. Water from near misses flooded the mounts knee deep and made it difficult for the crews to retain their footing. The 1.1 mounts were greatly handicapped when shooting to port because of the limited arc of train.
    7. Local control, with tracers, was used on the 20mm guns. Since the dives were steep, there was practically no deflection and the fire was very accurate and in heavy volume.
    The damage to the ship caused by three bomb hits and two of the near misses is briefly described below. A full and detailed report of damage appears in the War Damage Report, Enclosure (C).
    1. One large bomb hit the forward starboard corner of No. 3 elevator, passed through various decks and bulkheads, and exploded in the chief petty officers' messroom near the starboard side, starting a stubborn fire and causing the following damage:
      1. The after 50 feet of the hangar deck was raised to a crown of approximately 2 feet.
      2. Second deck - 16 foot hole, deck buckled, and all compartments wrecked between frames 157 and 173; watertight bulkhead at frame 173 ruptured; stubborn fires in bedding and clothing.
      3. Third deck - 16 foot hole tangent to the side of the ship, starboard side; fragment holes in side plating; watertight bulkheads between frames 157 and 173 badly damaged and the included compartments wrecked; stubborn fires in bedding, clothing, and furnishings.
      4. No. 3 elevator machinery badly damaged and rendered out of commission; small fire in pump room.
      5. Fourth deck - several holes in starboard plating between frames 169 and 172; largest hole 5' x 2' at waterline; 15' hole in deck; watertight bulkhead at frame 165 holed by fragments; moderate fire in storeroom between frames 157 and 165.
      6. First platform deck - storeroom starboard side between frames 162 and 173 open to the sea and completely flooded.
    2. One large bomb hit at frame 179, starboard side, and exploded in the gun gallery between the flight deck and the gun gallery deck near the inboard bulkhead, causing high fatalities and heavy damage as follows:
      1. Ready powder for Gun 5 burned.
      2. Group III AA guns out of commission.
      3. Ready aviation issue room wrecked and burned, and aviation metal shop wrecked.
      4. Flight deck to starboard of No. 3 elevator raised approximately two feet.
    3. One medium bomb struck the flight deck at frame 137 starboard. It exploded (probably a low order detonation) before it had completely penetrated the flight deck, starting a small fire in the parachute loft and causing the following damage:
      1. Fragments damaged No. 2 elevator and put it out of commission; damage probably not serious.
      2. Several fragment holes in hangar deck and bulkhead
    4. A near miss under the port fantail caused the following damage:
      1. Corner of flight deck, port side aft, raised approximately one foot; minor deflection of side plating at third deck, and deflection of about one foot at fourth deck.
      2. Third and fourth decks sprung.
      3. Probable minor under-water damage, as indicated by a slow leak in one void.
      4. All degaussing cables for a length of 30 feet around port counter were carried away from moorings; many leads apparently severed.
    5. A near miss at frame 80, port side, resulted in numerous fragment holes in that location, all above the water line.
    6. Additional damage was sustained as follows:
      1. One fire main riser and one damage control riser damaged.
      2. After sections of the gasoline mains were ruptured.
      3. The starboard steering motor grounded out, causing the rudder to jam.
      4. No. 1 and No. 2 arresting wires and the first barrier were damaged.
    7. The fires started by the bombs near No. 3 elevator were stubborn and persistent, due principally to the large amounts of inflammable materials in the aviation issue storeroom and in the chief petty officers' quarters. After all fires were apparently extinguished, small fires recurred, and it was after midnight before the last fire had been put out. Being aware, from damage reports in other ships, of this tendency, the ship had concentrated on thorough and continuous fire watch, with valuable results.
    8. Various bomb fragments, including nearly a complete bomb fuze, are being forwarded under separate cover to the Officer-in-Charge, Intelligence Center, Pacific Ocean Areas, Commandant, Fourteenth Naval District, for examination and further shipment to the Bureau of Ordnance if deemed advisable.
    9. A serious steering casualty resulted indirectly from the bomb explosion on the gun gallery. The exhaust ventilator trunk coming from the steering engine room was carried away at the gun gallery level. Incident to the fire fighting in this vicinity, water and foamite poured into the trunk and ran directly down to the steering engine room, flooding the steering motors and grounding the electrical control panel. At 1850, with the wheel amidships, steering control was lost and the rudder continued to move full right until it came up against the stop, and finally jammed at 22° right. The ship was making 24 knots, and the sudden steering casualty made danger of collision with our supporting ships real and imminent. The emergency signal was made by whistle and all engines were immediately backed full. The ship cleared the BALCH by an extremely small margin. When the situation had eased, a speed of ten knots was set in order to reduce the hazard of submarine torpedo attack. Smoke entered the steering engine room and several of the men succumbed because of heat and lack of air. It was 38 minutes before the standby steering unit, by heroic and intelligent work on the part of ship personnel (described in enclosure (B), could be made operative and steering control regained.
    10. There was no damage to the main propulsion plant.
    1. Aircraft losses sustained by ENTERPRISE Air Group were as follows:
      Missing(probably shot down)
       2 VF, 1 VTB.
      Water Landings(out of fuel):
       1 VF, 2 VSB, 2 VTB.
      Damaged in action(beyond repair; expended):
       1 VF, 1 VTB.
    2. The crews of 2 VF and 1 VTB are missing.
    1. Killed:
       2 officers and 72 men.
       6 officers and 89 men.
    2. It is doubtful that two bombs exploding anywhere else in the ship could have caused such a large number of casualties as the ones which hit the ship near No. 3 elevator. The explosion in the gun gallery pocket was virtually at the focal center of the gun gallery and killed all personnel present on that battery. The explosion in the third deck compartment resulted in nearly all of the remaining casualties, as it occurred amidst another unavoidable personnel concentration which included personnel in the elevator pump room, a sub-division of a repair party, and an ammunition handling party.
    3. The Medical Department proved to be entirely self-sufficient and handled the situation without calling for aid from the remainder of the ship's company. No attempt was made to move wounded personnel from battle dressing stations to the sick bay until fires in the vicinity of the sick bay had been extinguished, the area cleared of smoke, and material condition "Baker" set. The excellent treatment given to the wounded is attested by the fact that with the exception of four men who died from multiple extreme injuries soon after the action, there have been no subsequent fatalities among the casualties.
    1. ENTERPRISE Air Group claims to have destroyed the following enemy aircraft:
      1. By VF-6 - - - - - - - - - - 26
      2. By VS-5 - - - - - - - - - -  1
      3. By VT-3 - - - - - - - - - -  1
                      Total - - - - 28
    2. It is impossible to state the number of enemy aircraft destroyed by ENTERPRISE anti-aircraft fire inasmuch as all ships of Task Force SIXTEEN were firing at the same targets. Ships of Task Force SIXTEEN claimed enemy planes shot down by anti-aircraft batteries as follows:
      1. ENTERPRISE  - - - - - - - - 15
      2. NORTH CAROLINA  - - - - - -  6
      3. PORTLAND -  - - - - - - - -  2
      4. ATLANTA - - - - - - - - - -  1
                      Total - - - - 24
      It is very probable that some of these claims are duplications, and some planes shot down by our fighters may also be included in the above figures. On the other hand, no "probables" or "possibles" are included in any of these claims.
    3. It is understood that the SARATOGA Group shot down approximately 18 planes, making the grand total of enemy aircraft probably destroyed at the scene of action approximately 70. It is believed that others may have failed to return to their carriers. Certainly it is a fair assumption that the air groups that attacked ENTERPRISE had little remaining combat effectiveness when the action was finished.
    1. By Aircraft:
      .50 caliber - 13,000 rounds.
      .30 caliber - 1,500 rounds.
      500 lb. bombs - 35 (ten dropped on targets, others jettisoned).
      1000 lb. bombs - None (11 delivered to GUADALCANAL).
      Torpedoes - 7 (jettisoned).
    2. By AA Batteries:
      5"/38 AA common - 97 rounds.
      1.1 - 1,500 rounds
      20 mm - 12,280 rounds.
      .50 caliber - 880 rounds.
    1. The conduct of ENTERPRISE personnel was superb. Not a single instance of panic or fear was observed. The coolness, initiative, and devotion to duty displayed by all hands were in keeping with the highest naval traditions. There were numerous cases in which individuals performed their duties in an exceptional manner. These are fully set forth in the Executive Officer's report, enclosure (B). The recommendations contained therein as to promotions, advancements, citations, and commendations are strongly concurred in. Where letters of commendation by the Commanding Officer are recommended, such letters will be prepared and delivered. Favorable action is particularly urged in the recommended promotion of the Damage Control Officer, Lieutenant Commander H. A. Smith, U.S. Navy.
    1. Communications.
      1. Once again, as in the past in the Coral Sea and at Midway, communications have been shown to be weak to the point of danger. Due to lack of proper training, reporting pilots in all commands continue to transmit vague, ambiguous, and confusing contact reports, frequently omitting several of the vital components of a complete contact report and often failing to continue to report.
      2. Lack of discipline in the matter of radio transmission by aircraft in contact with the enemy has been the subject of detailed comment by the Fighter Director Officer in enclosure (F). Radio silence should not be imposed on such occasions because responsible leaders of flights can and should furnish valuable information to Fighter Director Officers and to the Task Force Commanders, but there should be little necessity for inter-plane transmission except by the squadron and division commanders, and this should be limited to the minimum necessary for the prosecution of the attack. The intolerable confusion caused by unrestrained transmission is difficult to eliminate, for war conditions reduce to zero the experience, prior to action, of the majority of pilots in the use of voice radio. There can and must be improvement, however.
      3. An even more serious fault in existing communications was the delay in receipt of contact reports which originated with our shore and tender-based aircraft. Sometimes as many as six to twelve hours elapsed from the time of contact to the time of receipt of the report of contact by the interested commander, even though such reports were in the urgent priority category.
      4. In the matter of finding, accurately reporting the position of, and tracking units and groups of enemy forces, we suffer by comparison with the enemy. With the development of radar by the Japanese for fighter direction, the present effectiveness of our seaplane scouts and patrols will be reduced. In the future these vital operations will require fast, long-range, airplanes with heavy defensive armament. In other words, the Navy must have large numbers of landplane bomber-type aircraft on which it has first call and complete control.
    2. Steering Casualty.
      The steering casualty which occurred at 1850 on August 24, following the attack by enemy dive bombers and resulting indirectly therefrom, was most serious. Had conditions been only slightly worse, this casualty might easily have led to the loss of the ship. As it was, the ship was forced to steam in a circle for 38 minutes while control was being regained. It is recommended:
      1. That ventilation and cooling of the steering engine room be improved as covered in enclosure (C), and
      2. That means of freeing the rudder from the steering gear, preferably remotely controlled, be provided in order that the rudder may be brought amidships and the ship steered by its engines in the event of an irreparable casualty to the steering engine or gear.
    3. Air Group Personnel.
      1. Shortly before sailing on the current mission, the ENTERPRISE Air Group was formed of hastily collected remnants of squadrons from three previously existing air groups. The majority of the pilots were very inexperienced, and although an intensive, last minute, training schedule was conducted, the time available was definitely insufficient for adequate progress. Except for the fighting squadron, the state of gunnery and bombing proficiency of the Group when it embarked was extremely low and the Group had not had opportunity to become a cohesive striking unit.
      2. Although every opportunity to train was utilized during passage to the Coral Sea, with much obvious improvement, and although there was much more training opportunity than could normally be expected after a task force departs on a specific mission, the lack of gunnery training and indoctrination of the Group as a whole was keenly felt. This condition obtained to a lesser degree in the fighting squadron, which had had more previous training than the others and which, in the preliminary and final engagements, accounted for the destruction of a large number of enemy aircraft while sustaining relatively small losses itself.
      3. These conditions are pointed out in no spirit of criticism, for it is realized that the need for best possible preparedness and training of carrier air groups is recognized by all concerned. The demands of the strategic situation, coupled with an unavoidably inadequate initial backlog of trained carrier squadrons, have almost literally left us no choice in the matter to date.
      4. Nevertheless, it cannot be too often reiterated nor too strongly stressed that conditions that have had to be accepted to date are really serious and that we must take care not to underestimate the vital urgency of improvement.
      5. The squadron should not be considered a separate entity which may be shifted from one group to another at will. The group should be the unit, and no group should normally be sent aboard a carrier for active combat with the enemy until it has had at least four months of intensive gunnery, tactical, and scouting training as a unit and in an area in which training is not unduly interfered with by the necessity for security and defensive measure. This can be termed old stuff. It is very true, however. The sooner it is possible to do it the sooner we shall become not merely more effective by enormously more effective in both offense and defense. Meanwhile, employment of a carrier in combat areas with less than the best possible air group can be justified only by most urgent strategic demands; and the possible price of merely average effectiveness, or even less, must be not only accepted but recognized.
    4. Identification, Friend or Foe.
      The performance of IFF equipment in all planes, both shore-based and carrier-based, is generally unsatisfactory. There results an excessive number of false reports of enemy aircraft and reports of unidentified aircraft which must be considered enemy until investigated. This causes unnecessary fighter direction transmissions, fighter investigation, time loss, and reduction in effectiveness of combat patrols. The condition has a deleterious effect upon alertness and fighting efficiency. The fault with the IFF is not known. If it is one of maintenance, then suitable maintenance instructions should be issued and personnel properly trained. If the fault is one of design, other or modified equipment should be procured. This is of highest urgency.
    5. Anti-Aircraft Protection.
      1. The fire control radar in ENTERPRISE was ineffective. It is not known whether or not other vessels in the Task Force obtained acceptable results from their corresponding equipment, but the fact remains that no 5-inch fire from any vessel in the Task Force was commenced while the enemy aircraft were at the high altitudes at which these guns were the only ones having the necessary range. The 5-inch fire was commenced only after that of ENTERPRISE small caliber weapons, and after the first attacking planes were in their dives.
      2. Unquestionably the personal element looms large in the operation of the fire control radar, and improved results can be obtained with additional training. It has been reported, however, that the fire control radar equipment is of extreme sensitiveness and requires the reasonably accurate predetermination by other means of range, elevation, and azimuth in order to pick up the target. If this is to a degree which is not likely to be possible of attainment in the tense, hurried, atmosphere prior to and during battle, the existing equipment should be replaced with other equipment that can fulfill its purpose under all conditions.
      3. Supporting vessels cannot wholly protect an aircraft carrier from a determined dive bombing attack from high altitude, and their fire is apt to be less effective than that of the carrier herself due to deflection problems. The 20mm guns, while probably the most effective anti-aircraft guns against dive bombers, have not sufficient range to prevent determined attacking planes from reaching an effective release point. Well trained 20mm batteries can, however, prevent low releases and can take a heavy toll in attacking dive bombers which pull out at low altitudes. The 20mm gun is considered to be a generally excellent and effective weapon, and it is recommended that these guns be installed in every available space on all ships. Well directed fighting planes in large numbers still remain the most effective defense against attack by enemy aircraft.
    6. Torpedo Planes.
      1. As previously stated, not one enemy torpedo plane penetrated our fighter screen to reach its dropping point. This, together with our own heavy torpedo plane losses in the Battle of Midway, indicates the vulnerability of this type in good visibility against adequate fighter defense. It may be, therefore, that serious consideration should be given to torpedo plane use of the carrier torpedo-bomber only under special favorable conditions such as moonlight, low visibility, or for finishing off cripples.
      2. On the other hand, there has not yet been any real test of our new torpedo-bomber, the TBF. Its superiority in speed, maneuverability, armor, and armament to both enemy torpedo planes and our own earlier version of this type may produce quite different results. This is more likely if the torpedo plane attack is well handled, with good timing, coordination and fighter protection. Furthermore, the superiority of the torpedo attack over high altitude bombing, both in accuracy and damage effect, is so great that torpedo plane use should not be limited on the basis of experience to date.
      3. Tests to date would appear to offer promise of relatively high accuracy of our torpedo-bomber when used as a glide bomber instead of a horizontal bomber. It is recommended that this development be continued in view of the limited accuracy of horizontal bombing against a maneuvering target and because of the weight reduction that will be possible if glide bombing can profitably be substituted for horizontal bombing as a torpedo-bomber mission.
      4. The TBF plane, because of its size and weight, is at present a serious potential liability on board aircraft carriers. Too large a number can reduce flight and hangar deck flexibility and slow up flight deck operations at crucial times. A TBF crash on deck can be handled only after long delay and this might well be fatal under certain conditions. It is recommended that the total number of TBF planes in a carrier of the ENTERPRISE type be limited to 12, resultant space being used for fighters and scout bombers, and that crane tractors capable of hoisting a TBF be provided immediately for all carriers operating this type of plane. The latter recommendation is of urgent importance.
    7. Ship's Ordnance.
      1. The rates of elevation and train of the 1.1 mounts should be further increased.
      2. It is recommended that 1.1 gun mounts Nos 1 and 2 be moved farther forward and mounts Nos. 3 and 4 farther aft in order to increase the unobstructed arcs of fire of these guns to port.
      3. It is recommended that additional 20mm guns be installed in every suitable available space at the earliest practicable date.
    8. Damage Control.
      Discussion, comments, and recommendations concerning Damage Control material and personnel matters are contained in the War Damage Report, enclosure (C).
    9. Tactical and Strategic Considerations.
      1. Discussion and recommendations under this heading are not altogether limited to the action of August 24. They include opinions resulting from operations leading up to that point. They are all, however, associated directly or indirectly with the battle itself. No criticism, other than constructive, is intended. The aim is to offer ideas, whether obvious or not, for what they may be worth, in the hope that the constant effort of the entire Fleet - the production of more effective results - may in some degree be furthered.
        1. The very heavy attack sustained by ENTERPRISE, although resulting in temporary loss of her availability for offensive action, has encouraging features. There could hardly have been a more serious test for an aircraft carrier. Results demonstrated that fighting planes, anti-aircraft, ship maneuvering, damage control, and indomitable spirit on the part of the crew can accomplish considerably more, and against greater odds, than had generally been thought possible.
        2. Since war cannot be fought without risk and since the strategic situation demands, and will continue to demand, the utmost in effective offensive employment of our aircraft carriers, it has to be accepted that other carriers in the future will be exposed to attack, no matter how successful we may be in improving our own proficiency. It is valuable, therefore, to know that even heavy attack is by no means necessarily fatal and that it is actually possible under such conditions to exact a heavy toll from the enemy.
        3. However, our defensive capabilities, whatever they may be, must remain secondary to improvement by every conceivable means of the offensive potentialities of our carrier task forces.
        4. As elsewhere stated, the carrier air group cannot be too highly trained. Good enough is by no means good enough. Anything other than clear-cut superiority can at any time make all the difference between decisive victory and decisive defeat. In aircraft carrier employment it is continuously proved that the ability of a single individual can make or break the entire situation. As obvious examples, we have only to consider the far reaching effect of a crash on deck at a critical time, or inaccurate navigation by a scout, or an incomplete or incorrect contact report, or mediocre skill in aerial combat, or inaccurate bombing and torpedo dropping, or poor judgement of all varieties. The demands in basic capacity (including flying skill, intelligence and judgment) are such that otherwise adequate special training periods are not enough. Only the best student graduates should be assigned to carrier aviation. Elimination should be ruthlessly continued thereafter. Where any doubt exists as to the superiority of a given pilot, he does not belong in carrier aviation.
        5. The Japanese have provided striking examples of the importance of rigid selection. The writer is convinced, from personal observation and from general familiarity with Pacific war developments to date, that Japanese naval aviation was initially composed of very expert and highly trained personnel. Of late, however, there have been increasingly frequent and more and more definite indications of deterioration in their overall competence and their combat proficiency. In some cases, literally astonishing ineptitude has been displayed. Clearly, the Japanese have not currently been able to develop enough suitably expert pilots to cancel their losses and they are unquestionably paying for their failure to do so. This emphasizes our own necessity for drastic selection and intensified training. We must simultaneously avoid and take advantage of the weakness the enemy is now showing. We must get ahead, and stay ahead, in the vital race for superiority of the individual.
        6. Much has been said of the value of our own land-based air "umbrella" when in the combat area. Much remains, however, to be done to exploit this advantage. More and better planes for long range coverage are obviously essential. No less obvious is the need that still exists for far better individual training of personnel in making accurate, complete and continuous reports. The same applies to communication arrangements that will result in the immediate reception of search and contact information by carrier task forces.
        7. These points are even more important than they may seem, for it is clear that the strategic factors of the Pacific war will, until the war is finished, make it necessary to employ carriers largely in such a manner that an effective air umbrella will always be needed. With less than perfection in the functioning of long-range search, our striking force effectiveness will be meager and our Fleet units will be unduly jeopardized. No criticism whatever is here intended of the excellent performance to date, under severe handicaps, of our patrol plane arm. More and better planes would solve nine-tenths of their troubles.
        8. It must be expected that the enemy will continue to make expert use of his own air umbrella. The strategic situation may often be such that there is no satisfactory counter to this. It is submitted, however, that it may often be possible to obtain an important advantage by remaining outside the fringes of the enemy's long range air search while still in effective striking position and under coverage of our own shore or tender-based search. The carrier game calls for playing the percentage at every turn if success in the long run is to be attained. The present situation in the SOLOMONS area appears to offer the opportunity briefed here.
        9. Another factor in the supremely important problem of obtaining accurate and timely information while denying information to the enemy is the employment of submarines. In the SOLOMON ISLANDS operations of the past month the Japanese have employed their submarines extensively with their fleet forces. They have used them in large numbers for screening and for distant scouting and observation. Submarine sightings in the area extending generally south and east from TULAGI have been altogether too numerous to be accounted for except by the conclusion that large numbers were present and that they were required to obtain information of our forces even at some considerable exposure of and risk to the individual submarine. Similar use of our own submarines, in the area of enemy approaches to the SOLOMONS would be valuable. It is realized that the number at present readily available is small. It should be increased by diversion as necessary from missions assigned to date. The information that could be furnished would be of the highest importance. Their potentialities for damaging major enemy fleet units would, at the same time, be increased. The Fleet needs them.
        10. During the past month the strategic situation has required long continued presence of carrier task forces in limited areas within at least approximate range of the enemy. Such risks, of course, must be accepted. They should, however, be minimized in every possible way. The percentage should always be played. The widest possible variation should be made in general location from day to day while still meeting strategic requirements. Higher speeds, even at some increase in fuel expenditures, should be used. There should be no hovering during a given day in the same general vicinity. Retirements for fueling should be made to widely different points and to greater distances than those used to date, even though again at the cost of additional fuel expenditures. Occasional departure, whenever the strategic picture permits, entirely away from the area should be undertaken so as to leave the enemy guessing where we have gone and when and where we will appear next. It may be said that the only way to remain continuously ready to meet emergencies during the present situation is to remain constantly on the spot. But serious losses, with consequent inability to meet those emergencies, are far too apt to occur if the enemy, through his long range search planes and his submarines, is allowed to remain continuously informed of at least our approximate locations and actions.
        11. The joint operation of carrier task forces has been thoroughly tested. The advantages of operating at least two carriers in the same vicinity are too numerous and positive to be denied. The writer is convinced, however, that we must concentrate on elimination or reduction of the disadvantages that at present still result from joint carrier task force operation.
          1. The joint operation of more than two carrier task forces is too unwieldy. This applies to both the inherent lags in visual communications and the lags and complications in tactical handling. It is doubtful if any amount of indoctrination and training can reduce these inherent disadvantages sufficiently to meet the criteria of battle emergency.
          2. The senior task force commander should also be Commander Air. Delegation of this task to the next senior task force commander, as has been done, may appear to be a logical decentralization. In practice, however, it bears too close an analogy to the well recognized fallacy of having the commander of a carrier task force elsewhere than in the carrier itself. Separation of the commander of the entire force and Commander Air inevitably results in complication and misapprehension as to orders and plans. It also injects the very serious probability of delay in emergency when minutes are precious. The surface and air components of carrier task forces are necessarily so closely interwoven that best results can only be produced by a single command. The increase in staff that may be necessary to meet this requirement should, of course, be provided.
          3. When carrier task forces are jointly operating, their combination into composite formations should seldom be necessary and should always be avoided if possible. In emergency there should be no delaying factor that could have been anticipated. Flexibility and speed of operation are reduced by composite formations. We should not be so formed up that, when the need for instant action arises, we are in trouble if we change formation and in trouble if we don't.
          4. Furthermore, it should unquestionably be the exception rather than the rule that carrier task forces operating jointly be less than ten miles apart, and this distance should be of the order of fifteen or twenty miles when action is thought to be imminent. The point is that joint support causes joint exposure when separation is small. Had SARATOGA not, somewhat fortuitously, been well separated from ENTERPRISE on the afternoon of 24 August, it is hard to suppose that she would not also have been attacked.
          5. Standard Cruising Instructions for carrier task forces should be expanded to cover the many features of joint task force operation that now necessitate frequent explanatory and detailed signals.
        12. A factor of the highest importance in determining success or failure of a carrier task force is the striking range of its air group. To excel in this will be a tremendous advantage. More should be done to produce this result. There will always be a gap between theoretical airplane performance and what is actually practicable in war operations. Much can be done, however, to lessen the present gap. There must be concentration on individual training and instruction in detailed operation of the power plant and handling of the airplane so as to produce the greatest possible fuel economy under all circumstances. The range of the current fighting plane should be increased, if possible, by increasing the capacity of its belly tank, for fighting planes must accompany attack groups for reasonable assurance of success. Doctrine and training must be developed to such a point that immediate decision can be made, whatever the circumstances, as to whether or not an attack group can reach its objective, and so that the navigational problem can either be worked out more promptly aboard ship or in the air after departure. Special selection and adequate training of pilots, elsewhere recommended, should, furthermore, make it possible to employ night operation for either launching or landing without hesitation or undue risk.
        13. There should be serious reconsideration of the entire current doctrine of search and attack by carrier groups, bearing in mind once more the percentage viewpoint that the force that gets the jump on the other is the force, other things being equal, that stands to win. Hence the importance, elsewhere discussed, of our shore-based long range search. The carrier's own search is necessarily so limited in range that its results cannot remain conclusive for a sufficient length of time, certainly not overnight nor even between early morning and late afternoon searches. Furthermore, the longer the range and the wider the sector, the fewer planes remain available for striking. Where our air umbrella is sufficiently effective, the carrier air search should be limited to establishing relatively local security and to guiding the attack group by sweeping a limited sector enroute to the enemy contact reported by long range search. As a highly important corollary to this, clearly evident on 24 August, every possible step should be taken to achieve immediate decision and action with respect to launching an attack group. Delay to confirm by our own search a contact report from other sources, particularly if visibility is good, is nearly bound to jeopardize fatally our chances of success. The enemy is fast. We must be faster!
(Signed) A. C. DAVIS
  • Cincpac (original & 2)
  • CTF-16 (4)

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