From: Oregon, USA
February 16, 1942
Location: Wake Island
Attached to: TF 6
Mission: Surface Combat
System Damage: 3
Float Damage: 0
It is just before dawn at Wake Island. Task force 6 approaches the island from the south, in column formation. In the lead are destroyers Kikuzuki and Sazanami. Heavy cruisers Kako, Furutaka, and Suzuya follow, and destroyers Hibiki, Uzuki, and Yuzuki bring up the rear.
A few miles to the west Captain Ban's three light cruisers and six destroyers are also converging on the island. Northwest of Wake another task force consisting of a heavy cruiser, two light cruisers, and five destroyers is still about 50 miles out.
The seas are fairly calm. Overhead patchy overcast partially obscures the stars which are beginning to fade in the first faint gray light of morning. Two hundred and forty miles to the east-southest Admiral Nagumo orders his carriers to begin turning into the wind and launching planes.
As the Hibiki nears Wake airplanes can be heard high overhead. These are Nells out of Eniwetok, and soon their sighting reports are reaching the converging Japanese ships.
Radio Operator, via speaker tube: Captain, we are getting reports of a large group of ships off the east end of the island. Transports and escorts, sir.
Captain Ishii: Thank you, please inform me immediately of all sightings. *growls* Where are the battleships? Where are the cruisers?
Radio Operator: Sir, getting reports from our carriers. Scout planes have spotted enemy destroyers and carriers 200 miles northeast of the island, heading east.
Captain Ishii: Good! Let our carriers deal with them.
Lookout: Sir, twelve enemy ships 21,000 meters 25 degrees to starboard. No, thirteen enemy ships.
Lieutenant Miharu: Sir, signal from Admiral Goto. Transport group spotted, we are ordered to change course 40 degrees to starboard and attack.
Captain Ishii: Very well. Change course as ordered. Speed to 30 knots.
Hibiki and the other ships converge slowly on the American task force. Radio reports come in of other small groups of ships to the north and northeast of the island. No capital ships are sighted. The range to the enemy task force shrinks to 19,000 meters.
Lookout: Sir, the enemy ships are scattering. The escorts are forming a screen in front of them.
Lieutentant Miharu: Signal from Suzuya, sir. We are to execute a starboard turn and open fire.
There are now three groups of ships heading east. In the northernmost group are eight large freighters, now beginning to scatter. Next is a rough column of gunboats, patrol craft, and minesweepers. These are trying to stay between the Japanese ships and the transports. Farthest south and beginning to pull a little ahead of the American ships is the Japanese column.
Captain Ishii: Set torpedoes to 1.5 meter depth. Angle ahead 30 degrees.
Chief Torpedo Officer Sugiyura: Yes sir! * a pause* Sir, ready to launch!
Captain Ishii: Launch torpedeoes! Main batteries, fire on the rear ship in the column!
The ship rocks as all six 5" guns fire on the patrol vessel bringing up the rear. Hibiki's gunnery is excellent. The first salvo is a straddle. On the second salvo a shell bursts on the target's stern. The crew cheers. The cheers are redoubled a moment later when one of Hibiki's torpedoes finds the same ship.
There is a explosion, and when it subsides the splashes of debris falling in the area are all that can be seen. The target, PC Tiger, has been annihilated, along with her crew of 20.
Captain Ishii: Well done! Shift fire to the lead ship!
By now most of the escorts are hit or sinking. The cruisers leave them to the destroyers and their 8" guns begin to find the range on the transports. Hibiki now engages MSW Bobolink. The minesweeper's lone gun is firing defiantly. A shell falls well short of Hibiki and now Hibiki's guns find the range. The minesweeper bursts into flames.
Admiral Goto orders the column to break formation and pursue the fleeing transports. Hibiki closes and scores hits on a new target, AK Dorothy Luckenbach. The transport begins to lose headway.
Lookout: Captain! New group of ships to the north! Range 24,000 meters. Destroyers, sir, it looks like they are fleeing.
Lieutantant Miharu: Sir, Suzuya is signaling that we are to break off the attack. We are to reform in column and pursue the enemy destroyers.
Captain Ishii: Very good. Captain Ban is coming up behind us, he and his crews can finish up here.
As the fight has moved east a new group of ships has been uncovered around the eastern tip of the island. These are a trio of seaplane tenders. Converted from old Clemson class DDs, they are easily mistaken for destroyers at range by excited lookouts. The seaplane tenders have only one thought, to escape. They are too old and too slow to have a chance, however.
Hibiki and her fellows reform in a slightly ragged column and head northeast to intercept them. Hibiki is now in the van, along with Uzuki. An unequal gun battle ensues. Hibiki opens fire at 19,000 meters; as the range closes she begins scoring hits on the center ship, AVD Thornton. As the Thornton begins to burn CA Kako moves up and finishes it off.
The waters around Wake are now dotted with debris and patches of oil, some of it still aflame. Columns of smoke arise from a dozen sinking vessels. Captain Ban's destroyer division has reached the scene of battle and is busy using torpedoes to finish off what remains afloat . Hibiki and her fellow ships scan the horizon, looking in vain for the American fleet.
Radio Operator: Sir, getting reports from Hiryu. No enemy carriers, repeat, no enemy carriers. The enemy ships are transports and destroyers. Our planes are attacking, sir.
Captain Ishii: Very good. Keep me informed.
Excerpt from "Naval Battles of the Pacific, Volume 1: Steel Sunrise" by Morris Elliot Samuelson; Harper, Row, and Fujimori, New York, 1965
The final toll at Wake Island was three destroyers, two minesweepers, three tankers, three seaplane tenders, two gunboats, five troop transports, eight freighters, and a cutter. Japanese losses were one Zero from Kaga which was forced to ditch due to engine trouble and three crewman injured by a shell hit aboard Sazanami.
As one sided as the engagement was, it was a bitter disappointment to the Japanese who had hoped to trap the American fleet there and annihilate it. Perhaps the most enduring consequence of the battle, however, was the effect it had on relations between the US merchant marine and the Navy. This relationship had long had an adversarial element. Following the disaster at Wake, however, it plummeted to new lows. The merchant sailors were slow to forget what had happened there, and charges of abandonment...
First action at Wake:
Second action at Wake:
< Message edited by Cuttlefish -- 2/24/2007 1:45:39 AM >