Jan 16th 1943
FROM: SS Guardfish.
Have attacked and hit with two torpedoes Kaga class carrier 60 nm southeast Truk. Kaga steamed with 2 light cruisers and heavy destroyer escort.
The position of the enemy carrier, plotted in the map suggests a sortie to intercept the Rabaul invasion force. Two torpedoes, probably not enough to sink the carrier, after all, it was originally designed as a battleship, enough however to send it back to Truk. Or so the allied brass hopes.
The news from Sorong is not good. A task force including two battleships, Kongo and Haruna, and three heavy cruisers, Takao, Atago and Furutaka, and assorted destroyers approached the invasion force. The covering force, though outnumbered and outgunned tried to intercept and allow the invasion transports to escape. CL Nashville took 13 impacts and remained on fire and heavily damaged. DD Monaghan, Allen, Stronghold and Electra were all damaged too. CLAA San Juan managed to escape with only one shell impact.
A second force led by Kirishima, CA Myoko CL Jintsu and Yuro and 7 destroyers tore into the invasion force. The results are a disaster for the transports and their escorts:
DD Ward, Shell hits 21, and is sunk
DD Tenedos, Shell hits 14, and is sunk
CM Keokuk, Shell hits 2, Torpedo hits 1, and is sunk
AP Wharton, Shell hits 24, Torpedo hits 1, and is sunk
AP Zeilin, Shell hits 4, Torpedo hits 2, and is sunk
AP J. Franklin Bell, Shell hits 14, Torpedo hits 1, and is sunk
AP Heywood, Shell hits 12, Torpedo hits 1, and is sunk
AP George F. Elliot, Shell hits 16, and is sunk
AP Fuller, Shell hits 14, and is sunk
AP McCawley, Shell hits 27, and is sunk
AP Barnett, Shell hits 5, Torpedo hits 3, and is sunk
PC Zeeman, Shell hits 4, and is sunk.
The only mitigating factor being that all the troops had unloaded already.
In Rabaul, the invasion force comes under attack by torpedo carrying Betties. xAP Diomed and Khandalla are hit but again, most of the combat forces had already debarked.
A large carrier force attacks the survivors from the covering force. 25 Val dive bombers attack CLAA San Juan and DD Monaghan. They score a hit on Monaghan at a cost of 2 dive bombers destroyed and 8 damaged. A second group of 48 B5N2 Kate bombers with 31 A6M2 escorts attacks DD Schley and Electra, but all the torpedoes miss.
Later in the day, the 37th Infantry Division and a section of the 3rd Marine Division launch a deliberate attack in Rabaul. The entrenched Japanese 19th and 87th Guards suffer 755 casualties at a cost of 267.
In Sorong, despite bombardment by the Japanese battlewagons, the 19th Australian Batallion, 2/9th Field Regiment and 5th Marine defense battalion attack the 42nd JNAF engineer unit and recapture the base.
Mitscher puts into Milne Bay for fuel and ammo although no torpedoes are to be had and the battleships also cannot reload their heavy shells.
Tension grips the Rabaul invaders, what will Kaga do? How about the Sorong carrier force, will it steam at full speed east and engage the Rabaul invaders before they can unload the 3rd marine?
Appear at places to which he must hasten; move swiftly where he does not expect you.