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The Battle of the Empress Augusta Bay - Aftermath

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WG Staff, Community, Alpha Tester
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8,605 battles

Since we just got a nice article on the portal... Reposting the maps here:

1st Phase


2nd Phase


3rd Phase




Now I won't describe the battle, no need to, as the article does cover it pretty well... However the follow up did lead to one of the "backed against the wall" moments for the Allies, surprising enough by this stage of war: The Japanese force in Rabaul was quickly reinforced with cruisers from Truk (kept in reserve for past half year) and next sortie was planned - one that would pose big problems for the US Navy (as they lacked sufficient surface forces in the area). To prevent this, a desperate operation was born - a carrier raid against Rabaul, scoring at that time among the best protected bases.

To achieve this, Sherman decided to go for a daybreak strike... And in utter disregard for standard procedures and safety, decided to launch his entire air group against the target (97 planes from Saratoga and Princeton), leaving no fighters to provide combat air patrol for his carriers (while some measure of CAP was provided by land based fighters, it was risky as there was no fighter direction for them, so the defensive scheme was not that safe). This risk was taken in a situation when Saratoga was the last combat capable of the big pre-war carriers of the US Navy - Lexington was sunk, Yorktown, Hornet and Wasp as well and Enterprise was only getting out of repair and refit after damage in the battles around Guadalcanal. Moreover the HMS Victorious was already discharged from her loan to Pacific fleet, leaving the available US carriers stretched really thin.


The raid, combined with later attack by land based planes, was a stunning success - all cruisers in port were hit, some of them seriously enough to stop the counterattack dead in its tracks. Damaged ships evacuated to Truk, all but Agano (which was only slightly damaged). And, to signify the break in the tide of war, just two days later on November 7 the carrier forces in South Pacific were reinforced by two new Essex Class carriers and USS Independence. The subsequent second strike on Rabaul thus played out differently - instead of desperate gamble this two-pronged strike  did not leave anything to chance and the Essexes got a great combat debut, delivering not only the strike, but also fighting off a 120-odd plane counterattack.



Given that this battle marked both the end of Japanese attemtps to counterattack in the Solomons, end of Rabaul as a base and at the same time end of the weakest period of the USN in the Pacific (with basically all heavy cruisers and flee carriers out of action) - while the second carrier strike marked the beginning of the inexorable influx of new ships...

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