Guest blogger Chuck Hill checks in with the first of two parts of the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal (12-13 November).  We are less than a month out from the attack at Pearl Harbor and Allied forces are on the move – in Europe, Africa, Asia and the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.  But so too are the Italian, German and Japanese forces and while the trend may be more in the defensive direction, the Allies’ footholds are precariously narrow.  In the Atlantic the U-boat campaign is sending tonnage to the bottom in numbers unimaginable in pre-war planning.  The skies over Europe are still held by the Luftwaffe – a least during the day as the RAF was finding out in trying to carry out “Bomber” Harris’ strategic bombing campaign. Soon the losses were too great, forcing the RAF to a night campaign and forfeiture of any semblance of “precision” bombing.  Progress is being made in Africa – but it isn’t Europe, and Russian and English demands for a second front in Europe are unceasing.  Meanwhile, in the Pacific – US Marines are occupying a scrap of land on a rugged island in the Solomons… – SJS

November 1942 was a busy month.

ww2_new_zealand_soldier_r_dysart_western_desert_egypt._ca_6_november_1942_da02713fAFRICA: 4 Nov., The Battle of El Alamein ends. 6 Nov., Vichy French forces surrender Madagascar to the Allies. 8 Nov., OPERATION TORCH, Allied forces land in French North Africa.

ANTI-SUBMARINE WARFARE: U-boat campaign sinks 119 ships totaling 729,100 tons, against the loss of 13 German and 4 Italian submarines. Total Allied losses to all causes are 807,700 tons, of which 131,000 are sunk in the Pacific and Indian Ocean, where German and Italian Submarines are also active. 4 Nov. The first meeting of the Anti-U-boat Warfare Committee takes place in London, including service chiefs, government ministers, and several scientists in the field of radar and operations research. Churchill chairs the meeting himself.

INDIAN OCEAN: 11 Nov., Indian minesweeper Bengal (1-3” gun) and the Dutch merchantile tanker Ondina (1-4”) are attacked by Japanese armed merchant cruisers Hokoku Maru and Aikoku Maru (both armed with 6-6”). Hokoku Maru was sunk and Aikoku Maru was driven off.

NEW GUINEA: November 2, Kokoda airstrip is recaptured by the Australian 25th brigade. 11-13 Nov., The Japanese are driven back to their beachheads at Gona and Buna.

ATOMIC RESEARCH: Work begins on the first atomic pile at the University of Chicago under direction of Enrico Fermi.

EASTERN FRONT: At the beginning of the month, Axis forces are advancing, but on November 19 the Soviets launch their winter offensive which will result in the German defeat at Stalingrad.

GUADALCANAL: The Tokyo Express has been very active. On 12 Nov, for the first time, Japanese troops on the island outnumber Americans. Both sides will rush to build up their forces for the expected showdown.


The Battle of Guadalcanal, 12-15 November

In November the Japanese would, again, attempt a major reinforcement of their forces on Guadalcanal. They hoped to land the 38th Division, with the bulk of the division embarked on eleven high speed merchant transports.

Between November 2 and 10, the Japanese had used 65 destroyer and 2 cruiser sorties to bring in about 8,000 men, but to clear the way for the transports, Henderson Field would have to be neutralized.

Yamamoto intended to repeat the success of the October 14 bombardment, when battleships Kongo and Haruna fired 918 rounds from their 14 inchers into Henderson Field, effectively emasculating it by the destruction of more than half of its aircraft and reduction of gasoline supplies to a single sortie for the remaining aircraft. That bombardment was followed up the next two nights by heavy cruisers that added an additional 752 of 8” on the night of 14/15 October and 912 more the following night.

But there had been a change of leadership on the American side. Shortly after the bombardment Halsey had replace Ghormley, and he was not about ready to let it happen again.

Still the odds of American success were long when available forces are compared:

Japan US
Aircraft Carriers 1(light)* 1 (damaged)
Battleships 4 2
Cruisers 11 8
Destroyers 36 22

Total (standard displacement)

324,966 tons 203,305 tons

*(Morison contends the Japanese had Junyo and Hiyo, but Dull specifically confirms that the Hiyo was not available)

Additionally Japanese operations were to be supported by 14 submarines, one of which, I-172 had been sunk on 10 November. Allied forces included 24 submarines, but these were handicapped by poor torpedoes.

Numbers of aircraft was close, but Henderson Field’s position on Guadalcanal gave the allies a huge advantage, as long as they could keep it operational.


The Night Melee of 12/13 Nov 13, BLOODY THIRTEENTH

IJNPage2Fictionalized in the Movie “In Harm’s Way,” staring John Wayne, the night battle that took place in the early morning hours of 13 November, 1942 has been described as a knife fight in a phone booth. Ranges were incredibly short, looking more 19th century than 20th.

When Halsey and his staff learned that a bombardment force was coming down the slot to hit Henderson field, they had to put together a force with what they had in the immediate area. Two groups of transports had arrived on the 11th and 12th. Using most of the units from their escort groups, a force of five cruisers (2 CA, 1 CL, 2 CLAA) and eight destroyers, totaling 58,748 tons, was hastily assembled.

The two escort group commanders were academy classmates, Rear Admirals Norman Scott (in USS Atlanta) and Daniel J. Callaghan (in USS San Francisco). Callaghan was senior, so became task force group commander (CTG67.4) despite Scott’s previous success at Cape Esperance. Scott went along for the ride.

Coming down the slot was Vice Admiral Hiroaki Abe, with two Battleships (Kiei and Kirishima) a light cruiser serving as destroyer leader and 14 destroyers totaling 96,393 tons.

Both sides had good intelligence about the others forces available, location, and direction of movement, so there should have been no surprises, but of course there were. For the Japanese, the big surprise was that, unlike most of their previous experience, the Americans would not vacate Iron Bottom sound at night, they would stand and fight.


Perhaps due to the limited time, Callaghan issued no battle plan, provided the ships’ COs no intelligence about what they were facing, and did not discuss how the battle was to be fought.

The choice of formation and the positioning of ships within it have been criticized. Callaghan chose a linear formation with four destroyers in the van and four following the line of five cruisers. A similar formation had seemed to work at Cape Esperance and it would tend to minimize confusion in the dark. But Callaghan’s column was at least 7400 yards long. The formation chosen tied the destroyers to the cruisers and virtually eliminated the possibility of a torpedo attack before the guns opened fire.

The new SG radar with its plan position indicator (PPI) that could show a clear picture of the relative position of all the ships and their position relative to the land, greatly improved situational awareness for those who had access to it, but they were still rare. Neither of the flagships had it, and the ships equipped with it were not placed forward in the formation where they would have the clearest picture: O’Bannon was forth in line, Helena eighth, and Fletcher last in the conga line.

Callaghan’s attempts to get a clear tactical picture from his seeing-eye dogs, O’Bannon and Helena crowded the TBS (Talk Between Ships), the single voice radio circuit. Frequently it was unclear if bearings passed on TBS were true or relative.

In the middle of the battle as USS San Francisco was aiming at a Japanese ship beyond USS Atlanta, but hitting her because she in the line of fire and the ranges were short, Callaghan ordered a cease fire that momentarily confused the US task force. Fortunately the order was widely ignored.

The Japanese were using flashless powder, the Americans had none.

The Japanese also had problems. Abe’s formation was not as he intended. Apparently designed to counter the threat of torpedo boats, the two battleships in column were protected by a horse USNPage2shoe shaped formation with his light cruiser, Nagara, in the lead and three destroyers on either side. There were also to have been advanced elements, three destroyers ahead to his left, and two ahead to his right. Three more destroyers were left behind to guard his rear. But in transit Abe had encountered a prolonged thunderstorm and had reversed course. When the weather cleared he had reversed course again. As a result, the destroyers on his left wing were out of position, behind the rest of the formation on his left side. As the battle developed, the two destroyers on the right wing were cutting across the main body’s line of advance.

1:24 The Americans detect the Japanese at 27,000 to the outer screen (two DDs) and 32,000 yards to the main body.

1:41 The leading US destroyer, Cushing, spotted the forward most Japanese destroyer, Yudachi, crossing left to right at 3,000 yards. To avoid a collision and unmask his torpedo battery Cushing made an abrupt left turn. All those behind followed in her wake, turning the column directly toward the Japanese main body. Permission to open fire was withheld.

1:42 Yudachi in turn, detected Callaghan’s force and instantly alerted the Japanese task group, but the Japanese also held their fire. Abe had not expected to encounter surface ships so his battleships had been prepared to fire only anti-personnel high explosive shells for the bombardment of Henderson field. For eight minutes these shells are struck below and armor piercing shells brought up, as the forces closed at over 40 knots (4,000 yards every three minutes).

1:50 Atlanta was bathed in the light of Japanese search lights and opened fire on a Destroyer at just 1600 yards. Battleship Hiei opened fire on Atlanta at only 4500 yards, less than one eighth of its maximum range.

When fire was commenced, at least the leading US destroyer, as much as 2300 yards ahead of Atlanta, if the formation had been maintained, must have been inside the Japanese’s inner screen, piercing it between the leading light cruiser in the center and the first destroyer on the Japanese right flank,

The opportunity to make a torpedo attack before opening fire with guns in lost. (US torpedoes are not working anyway, but they don’t know that at the time.)


IJNPage1Samuel Elliot Morrison remarked that Callaghan had made a mistake in not crossing the enemy’s “T.” In my opinion, crossing the “T” might only have made the American ships better targets for Japanese torpedoes, but why did Callaghan wait so long to open fire?

As Admiral Callaghan closed the enemy, he called out over voice radio, “We want the big ones!” Callaghan did not distribute a plan of attack, and apparently did not discuss how he planned to conduct the battle, so we cannot know what he was thinking, but I will propose what his actions suggest.

The “big ones” were Hiei and Kirishima. Sister ships Kongo and Haruna were escorting the Junyo in support of this operation. These four ships were built as battlecruisers to a British design. The first of class, Kongo, had in fact been built in Britain by the Vickers Barrow yard before WWI. The rest were built in Japan. Their design was a modification of the British Lion Class that included Princess Royal and Queen Mary that were sunk at Jutland. Their design preceded the Tiger, Renown, Repulse and the Hood.

Callaghan would have known the history of these ships, and would have known that their side armor was considerably lighter than that of most battleships. In fact the side armor was only 8 inches (Breyer). What he probably would not have known, was that two reconstructions had added 4,230 tons of armor and doubled their horsepower, increasing their speed to 30 knots (Chesneau). Even so, most of the additional armor had gone to horizontal protection so this change would have only reaffirmed a conviction that he could not fight these ships at long range. Get close enough and not only would his torpedoes be more accurate, the 8” guns of his heavy cruisers could penetrate their side armor.

In simple terms, the greater the range of the engagement, the more advantage the battleships enjoyed. The closer the engagement, the better chance he would have to actually hurt the battleships. In fact, it was later learned that it was an 8” shell that disabled Hiei’s Steering gear and led to her destruction. (Crenshaw, p23)

Why did Abe wait so long to open fire? And why was he so determined to use armor piercing (AP) ammunition when high explosive (HE) round would have still been highly effective against cruisers and destroyers? Why did he choose to retire almost as soon as the shooting started? Perhaps in the near total darkness of that moonless night with an American force, seen end on, advancing boldly toward him, Abe may have wondered if he was facing modern battleships. Could he have known that the North Carolina had left the Theater two months earlier after being torpedoed at extreme range. If he had received reports Washington and South Dakota well to the south, could he believe them? Reports were frequently inaccurate. Did he fear the shame of possibly loosing ships that were the personal property of the Emperor? Did the fact that the Americans were not using flashless powder add to the impression that he was facing a superior foe?

For whatever reason, Abe soon had enough and ordered his ships to retire. Morison remarked that while Kirishima turned promptly, Hiei was slow to do so. It appears that Hiei actually passed through Callaghan’s disintegrating column astern of Laffey, the second ship in the US line, then looped back around to pass South of Savo. During the course of the battle, the San Francisco, and perhaps others, passed between the two Japanese battleships.


The result of the battle might have been much more satisfactory if our torpedoes had worked properly. Barton fired five without a hit. Cushing fired six at Hiei at 1000 yards, observed three bull’s eyes but no effect on the ship, apparently they had prematurely exploded. Laffey fired two at Hiei at point blank range and watched them bounce off her blisters. Sterett fired four at only 2,000 yards and thought she had gotten two hits, but Hiei seemed to be undamaged. O’Bannon fired two hot, straight, and true, no explosion. Monssen got off five at 4,000 yards, again no explosions. Fletcher made a deliberate attack with 10 fish at 7,000 yards using her SG radar and while there was a red glow, it did not appear she got any hits either. (Crenshaw, p231) At least 34 torpedoes fired from close range with no hits. This compares with at least six hits by Japanese torpedoes.


As soon as Tanaka learned that Abe had withdrawn without bombarding Henderson Field, he turned the transports around and headed back to Shortlands.

Damage was extensive on both sides.

Destroyer Akatsuki, caught in a cross fire between San Francisco and a Destroyer sank suddenly taking nearly all its crew.

Destroyer Yudachi, the first ship to make contact had reversed course, had a near collision with Aaron Ward, passed through the American line and torpedoed the Portland, but then her luck ran out. Hit and heavily damaged, she went dead in the water. Her crew was removed. The wreck was sunk by Portland the following morning.

Kirishima took only a single 8 inch shell hit and would be back to fight again in less than 48 hours. Three Japanese destroyers were also damaged, two severely.

When the sun came up, Hiei was West of Savo Island, badly damaged, hit more than 30 times, and unable to steer. In a more benign environment, she might have been saved. She even fired a few rounds at Portland before the bombers arrived with the daylight, but she was only a few minutes from Henderson field. She was attacked repeated. Ultimately her crew accepted the inevitable. She was abandoned and sank the evening of the 13th.

In some ways it looked like the Americans got the worst of it. Barton sank in 10 seconds after being hit by two torpedoes.

Cushing, hit an estimated 17 times, survived the night. Abandoned and on fire, she blew up and sank the following afternoon.

Laffey, torpedoed astern and having taken shells in the bridge structure, mount 52, and amidships, was abandoned and sank after a large explosion at the stern.

Monssen, hit 37 times, caught fire and blew up the following afternoon.

Atlanta, hit by at least one torpedo and 49 shells, with damage to seven of her eight 5” mounts, survived the night, staying afloat long enough for her survivors to be taken off, but she could not be saved.

Juneau, torpedoed during the night battle, sank in approximately 60 seconds after being hit by a second torpedo from submarine I-26 while transiting away from the scene.

Portland, having taken a torpedo and two projectiles, could only steam in circles and was almost untowable.

San Francisco took 45 hits in addition to the torpedo bomber that had crashed into her before the battle had even begun.

Helena was hit 5 times, Aaron Ward (DD483) 9 times, O’Bannon (DD450) once, and Sterett 11 times. Only Fletcher came away untouched.

Personnel losses were much heavier for the Americans, primarily because of the loss of all but 10 men from the crew of the Juneau, but the ultimate material losses favored the Americans who could more easily absorb the losses which would be more than made up by new construction. Counting both Hiei finished off by aircraft and Juneau finished off by submarine; the Japanese lost a Battleship and two destroyers totaling 36,015 tons; the US lost two cruisers and four destroyers totaling 20,441 tons.

Yamamato was not pleased with Abe’s performance. He was given a lateral transfer ashore and retired a few months later, still a relatively young man. (Don’t confuse him with other Adm. Abes that may show up later. There were at least four in the Japanese Navy during WWII.)

When Admiral Halsey was promoted to four stars on November 26, 1942, he sent his three stars to the widows of Admirals Scott and Callaghan, recognizing that his success was founded on their sacrifice.

Both Scott and Callaghan received the Metal of Honor. Of the 57 Metals of Honor awarded to Navy personnel in WWII, five were awarded for this battle. In addition to the two admirals, the award was also given to three members of the San Francisco’s crew. They were:

  • LCdr Herbert Emery Schonland who was acting first lieutenant and a DC officer and the senior surviving officer on the San Francisco, for leading the damage control efforts that save the ship.
  • BM1 Reinhardt J. Keppler (namesake for DD 765), posthumously, for actions leading a damage control party that put out a fire in the San Francisco’s hanger, and for his actions the previous day when a torpedo bomber had crashed on board.
  • LCdr Bruce McCandless (1911-1968) (Namesake with his father, FF-1084), father of astronaut Bruce McCandless II and son of Commodore Byron McCandless (1881-1967), who was the only surviving officer on the bridge. He took San Francisco’s conn as she led the remaining ships of the column against the Japanese.
  • San Francisco’s captain, Capt. Cassin Young (namesake DD-793, now a museum ship in Boston, moored near Constitution) who was also killed on the bridge, had already been awarded the medal for his actions on Dec. 7, 1941, as CO of the Vestal (AR-4) which had been birthed forward of the Arizona.

After so much sacrifice on both sides, the Marines and sailors might have reasonably expected a respite, but it was not to be. For the next two nights as well, the sounds of heavy guns would echo across Iron Bottom Sound.


Cross-posted at USNI blog



Breyer, Siegfried, Battleships and Battle Cruisers 1905-1970, translated form the German by Alfred Kurti, Doubleday, 1973

Campbell, John, Naval Weapons of World War Two, Conway Maritime Press Ltd, 1985

Chesneau, Roger, ed., Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships, 1922-1946, Conway Maritime Press Ltd, 1980

Crenshaw, Russell Sydnor, Jr., South Pacific Destroyer, Naval Institute Press, 1998

Dull, Paul S., A Battle History of the Imperial Japanese Navy (1941-1945), Naval Institute Press, 1978

Lacroix, Eric and Linton, Wells II, Japanese Cruisers of the Pacific War, Naval Institute Press, 1997

Morison, Samuel Eliot, History of United States Naval Operations of World War II, Vol. V, The Struggle for Guadalcanal, August 1942—February 1943, Little, Brown and Co., 1948

SWD-1, Summary of War Damage to US Battleships, Carriers, Cruisers, Destroyers, and Destroyer Escorts, 17 October 1941 to 7 December 1942, reprint by The Floating Drydock

Tanaka, Raizo, “The Struggle for Guadalcanal,” from The Japanese Navy in World War II, Dr. David C. Evans, editor, Naval Institute Press, 1969, 1986

Young, Peter, ed., The World Almanac Book of World War II, Bison Books Ltd, 1981

Article Series - Solomon Islands Campaign Blog Project

  1. The Solomons Campaign: Geographical and Political Background
  2. The Solomons Campaign: Status of the United States Fleet and Plans After Midway
  3. The Imperial Japanese Navy after Midway
  4. The Solomon Islands Campaign: Prelude to the Series
  5. The Solomons Campaign: WATCHTOWER — Why Guadalcanal?
  6. The Solomons Campaign: Guadalcanal 7-9 August, 1942 — Assault and Lodgment
  7. The Solomons Campaign: Unleashing the Assassin’s Mace
  8. The Solomons Campaign: Execution at Savo Island
  9. The Solomons Campaign: The Battle of the Eastern Solomons, 24-25 August 1942
  10. The Solomons Campaign: Strategic Pause and Review – Japan’s Last Chance for Victory?
  11. The Solomons Campaign: THE BATTLE OF GUADALCANAL, Part I
  12. The Solomons Campaign: THE BATTLE OF GUADALCANAL, Part II
  13. The Solomons Campaign: Cactus Air Force and the Bismarck Sea
  14. The Solomons Campaign: Operation Vengeance – The Shootdown Of Yamamoto
  15. The Solomons Campaign: Ground Action – The New Georgia Campaign, June 20-November 3, 1943
  16. The Solomons Campaign: The Bougainville Invasion, November – December 1943(Part I)
  17. The Bougainville Invasion: November – December 1943 (Part 2)
  18. The Bougainville Invasion (Part 3): December 1943 – March 1944
  19. The Bougainville Invasion (Part 4): March 1944 – May 1944
  20. The Solomons Campaign: Battle of Santa Cruz (Part I)
  21. The Solomons Campaign: Battle of Santa Cruz (II)
  22. The Solomons Campaign: The Battle of Santa Cruz (III)
  23. Flightdeck Friday – MIA Edition: WWII Navy Aircrew Returns Home


  1. Willem Geluk

    INDIAN OCEAN: 11 Nov., Indian minesweeper Bengal (1-3” gun) and the Dutch merchantile tanker Ondina (1-4”) are attacked by Japanese armed merchant cruisers Hokoku Maru and Aikoku Maru (both armed with 6-6”). Hokoku Maru was sunk and Aikoku Maru was driven off:

    Onder verantwoordelijkheid van de Nederlandse regering te Londen hebben in de jaren 1940 – ’45 Nederlandse zeelieden deelgenomen aan acties om Japan en Duitsland te verslaan in hun beheersing van de Indische Oceaan. Hierbij moet worden opgemerkt dat de Nederlandse koopvaarders een vaarplicht hadden tijdens de Tweede Wereldoorlog.
    Deze zeelieden waren de vertolkers van het boek “Mare Libervm”, dat in november 1608 was gepubliceerd. Het handelde over het recht dat aan de Nederlanders toebehoort om deel te nemen aan de handel op Oost Indië; hoofdstuk vijf handelde over de Indische Oceaan.

    In het begin van de Tweede Wereldoorlog voerden geallieerde tankers olie en andere producten uit het Midden-Oosten naar Australië.
    Duitse piraten trachtten echter deze transporten aan te vallen en te plunderen.
    De band tussen de Japanners en de Duitsers was niet zo sterk als die tussen de geallieerde troepen; ze wantrouwden elkaar vanaf het begin van hun bondgenootschap.
    Een groot deel van de lagere Japanse officieren was onder de indruk van de prestaties van de Duitsers inzake het plunderen en torpederen van de geallieerde bevoorradingslijnen.
    De Japanse Keizerlijke Marine had daarom halverwege 1941 besloten om druk op de scheepvaartroutes te houden.
    Veertien koopvaardijschepen – de Tokusetsu Junyokan – werden omgebouwd tot raiders; van deze schepen werden de Aikoku Maru en Hokoku Maru (van de Osaka Shipping Line in beslag genomen voor militair gebruik) direct operationeel ingezet. De overige schepen waren de Kinjosan Maru, Kinryu Maru, Asaka Maru, Kongo Maru, Awata Maru, Noshiro Maru, Bangkok Maru, Saigon Maru, Ukishima Maru, Kiyosumi Maru, Akagi Maru en Gokoku Maru.
    De resultaten van hun acties waren o.a. het torpederen en bombarderen van de Vincent (USA), Malama (USA), Elysia (Brits) en het prijsmaken van de Genota (Nederland) en de Hauraka (Nieuw Zeeland).
    Hieronder wordt het relaas van hun laatste actie beschreven.

    In november 1942 stoomde het Nederlandse tankschip Ondina (van de N.V. Petroleum Maatschappij La Corona, Lloyd’s register 79860 / PGMT, 6341 ton, 11 mijl, uitgerust met één kanon van 10,5 cm en luchtafweermitrailleurs, verspreid over het schip), onder bevel van kapitein Willem Horsman, door de Indische Oceaan, ingezet op de lijn tussen Fremantle in Australië en Abadan op de olierijke kust van de Perzische Golf.
    De Ondina werd geëscorteerd door het korvet Bengal (455 ton, 16 mijl, uitgerust met één kanon van 7,5 cm en enkele luchtafweermitrailleurs), onder bevel van luitenant-ter-zee 1ste klasse William J. Wilson, RNR, van de Royal Indian Navy.
    De Bengal voer onder de vlag ‘White Ensign’.
    Dit korvet kon de oversteek naar Brits-Indië niet zelfstandig maken, omdat de brandstofvoorraad ontoereikend was.
    Het was de bedoeling dat dit kleine konvooi in Diego Garcia uit elkaar zou gaan: de Ondina naar de Perzische Golf en de Bengal naar Colombo. De escorte van de Bengal was van weinig betekenis.
    Toen de commandant van H.M.I.S. Bengal aan kapitein Willem Horsman meedeelde dat hij de Ondina onder zijn hoede moest nemen, glimlachte Horsman.
    Hij zei tegen de commandant “ik ben erg dankbaar voor uw escorte, want twee zijn meer waard dan één. Maar uw scheepje is zo klein, dat u er op kunt rekenen dat ik u niet in de steek zal laten, wanneer het onverhoopt op vechten aankomt”.
    De Ondina was, zoals alle geallieerde koopvaardijschepen, door de Defensive Equipment Merchant Service uitgerust met één kanon.
    De Conventie van Geneve had besloten dat een schip, waarbij het kanon achterop stond in plaats van voorop, niet getorpedeerd mocht worden; het was dan alleen defensief bewapend.

    Op 11 november voeren de Ondina en de Bengal in kiellinie met 10 mijl vaart.
    Toen dit konvooi zich op ongeveer 1470 mijl ten NW van Fremantle bevond (19050’ ZB en 92040’ OL), doken plotseling twee grote schepen aan de kim op. Met hoge vaart kwamen zij op het geallieerde konvooi af. (Deze schepen waren op 1 november 1942 uit Signapore vertrokken voor een piratentocht in de Indische Oceaan.)
    De commandant van de Bengal vorderde het verkenningssein met zijn seinzoeklicht, maar de naderende schepen bleven het antwoord schuldig.
    Aan boord van de geallieerde schepen begreep men dat het konvooi op een verband van twee Japanse raiders was gelopen. Deze raiders hadden op 5 november 1942 Singapore verlaten voor een offensief tegen de koopvaardij.

    De Bengal seinde aan de Ondina zich uit de voeten te maken, terwijl ze tevens een ontmoetingsplaats voor de volgende dag opgaf. Daarna stoomde het kleine fregat op volle kracht recht op de vijand af om de aftocht van zijn beschermeling, de Ondina, te dekken.
    Kapitein Horsman dacht echter niet aan weglopen. Hij had beloofd de Bengal in geval van nood te zullen bijstaan en “een man een man, een woord een woord.”

    De voorstomende Japanse raider (Hokoku Maru, 10.439 ton, kapitein-ter-zee Hirohi Imazato) opende om 12.05 uur het vuur en concentreerde dit op de Ondina.
    De Bengal, die was afgedraaid en achter de Ondina langs gevaren,
    opende om het vuur op de kaper Hokoku Maru.

    (De rapporten van Ondina en Bengal over de tijdstippen, inzake het openen van het vuur, verschillen van elkaar.)

    De tweede Japanse kaper (de Aikoku Maru, 10.439 ton, kapitein-ter-zee Tamotsu Oishi) bevond zich toen op 6 mijl van de gevechtsscene.

    Om 12.07 was de Hokoku Maru binnen bereik van de Ondina gekomen;
    Op de brug van de tanker bevonden zich naast kapitein Willem Horsman, de eerste stuurman M.J. Rehwinkel en een Chinese roerganger.
    De tweede stuurman B.B. Bakker, die als geschutscommandant optrad en bij het kanon stond, vroeg om het vuur te mogen beantwoorden. Bakker kreeg van Horsman de gevraagde toestemming.

    De eerste salvo’s misten, maar bij de derde salvo sloeg een granaat in op de midscheepse opbouw van de Hokoku Maru.
    Het vijfde schot veroorzaakt een geweldige explosie op de Hokoku Maru: een ‘lucky shot’.
    De Bengal wendde zich nu naar de tweede raider.
    De Japanner schoot terug en boekte op de Bengal een aantal treffers.
    Op het korvet brak brand uit. De bemanning van het oorlogsscheepje wierp een aantal neveltonnen over boord en was weldra aan het oog van de Ondina onttrokken.
    Op de Ondina nam men aan dat het was afgelopen met het dappere kleine fregat.

    De tweede Japanse raider – de Aikoku Maru – verlegde nu zijn vuur op de Ondina, die verwoed terugschoot. De gezagvoerder van de Ondina dacht dat hij nu alleen was.
    Hij zou de strijd pas staken nadat alle ladingen waren afgevuurd.
    De Ondina kreeg het zwaar te verduren; één van de treffers haalde de steng van de achtermast met de antenne omlaag. Hierdoor was het onmogelijk om het noodsein RRR uit te zenden.

    Om 12.45 was de munitie geheel opgeschoten; dit werd door de tweede stuurman Bakker aan gezagvoerder Willem Horsman gerapporteerd. Horsman gaf order om smokefloats vrij te zetten. Dit had weinig effect; Horsman zag zich toen gedwongen om de ongelijke strijd te staken. Horsman liet de witte vlag hijsen ten teken van overgave en gaf opdracht tot het stoppen en verlaten van het gehavende schip.
    Direct hierna kreeg de brug een voltreffer; Horsman werd dodelijk gewond.

    De eerste stuurman nam met even grote zelfverzekerde kalmte de taak van Horsman over.
    De Ondina werd verlaten, sloepen en vlotten verwijderden zich van de verloren gewaande tanker.
    Om 13.10 uur zag de bemanning van de Ondina het voorschip van de kaper Hokoku Maru met de boeg omhoog in de diepte zinken.
    De kaper Aikoku Maru naderde de Ondina, sloepen en vlotten tot op 400 meter. Om 13.15 uur vuurde deze kaper twee torpedo’s af op de Ondina; de tanker werd aan stuurboord getroffen in tank I en II. Hierdoor kreeg de Ondina zware slagzij.
    Kapitein Tamotsu Oishi gedroeg zich na het zien zinken van de Hokoku Maru als een ‘Major War Criminal’: hij liet de sloepen en vlotten van de Ondina mitrailleren. Alle sloepen werden lek geschoten; een aantal mensen werd ernstig gewond. De hoofdmachinist en drie Chinese schepelingen waren gedood.
    Volgens Japanse opvattingen behoorde een koopvaardijschip zich niet als een oorlogsschip te gedragen.

    De Aikoku Maru draaide nu af en ging drenkelingen oppikken van de gezonken raider Hokoku Maru. Van de 354 koppen waren 76 mensen omgekomen, inclusief kapitein Hiroshi Imasato.
    Toen alle zwemmende Japanners binnen boord waren, keerde de vijandelijke raider terug naar de Ondina. Omdat deze nog steeds dreef, lanceerde de raider nogmaals een torpedo. Deze miste de tanker echter. De Japanners gaven er nu de brui van. Zij begonnen zich onveilig te voelen op een terrein waar geallieerde kruisers in de buurt konden zijn. De Aikoku Maru liet de Ondina en haar overlevenden, die op enige afstand in reddingboten het verloop van de gebeurtenissen afwachtten, aan hun lot over en verdween via Singapore naar Rabaul.

    Nadat de raider verdwenen was verzamelde de bemanning zich in de reddingboten op een afstand van vier mijl van de Ondina.
    Er werd nagegaan welke bemanningsleden gesneuveld of gewond waren; ook werd er algemene scheepsraad gehouden. Bakker stelde voor om naar het schip terug te keren om te trachten water en voedsel van het wrak te halen. In de buurt van het schip gekomen vroeg Bakker aan een paar vrijwilligers om met hem aan boord te gaan. Aan dek bleek dat het schip niet veel dieper gezonken was sinds het moment dat de bemanning het schip verlaten had. De gedachte kwam op dat het wellicht mogelijk zou zijn om het schip te behouden. Door verschillende afsluiters te openen kwam de Ondina weer ‘recht’ te liggen. Onderzoek in de machinekamer wees uit dat deze in ‘geringe’ mate beschadigd was.

    Om zeven uur in de avond waren alle overlevenden weer aan boord van de Ondina; de vele branden werden geblust.
    Er werd koers gezet terug naar Fremantle. De zwaar beschadigde tanker, die aanvankelijk voer met 35 graden slagzij, bereikte op 18 november de haven.
    Na aankomst vernam men dat ook de Bengal, waarvan de opvarenden de Ondina reeds hadden afgeschreven, op 17 november de haven van Diego Garcia had gehaald.

    De Ondina was het eerste koopvaardijschip dat na de bevrijding een Nederlandse haven binnenliep. Het schip werd onderscheiden met de Koninklijke Vermelding ‘Dagorder’. Horsman (postuum) en Bakker werden onderscheiden met de Militaire Willems Orde.

    Kapitein Oishi Tamotsu werd nooit vervolgd voor het mitrailleren van de overlevenden van de Ondina.
    De kapiteins Oishi Tamotsu en Imazato Hiroshi werden postuum bevorderd tot Schout-bij-nacht.

    Van de originele raiders waren er vijf gezonken; de overwinning van de Ondina en Bengal zorgde er vervolgens voor dat de Japanse Keizerlijke Marine het plunderen en kapen van koopvaardijschepen in de Indische Oceaan werd gestaakt.


    • Bezemer K.W.L., Geschiedenis van de Nederlandse Koopvaardij in de Tweede Wereldoorlog, Elsevier, Amsterdam/Brussel, MCMLXXXVI.
    • Edwards B., ‘Blood and bushido: Japanese atrocities at sea, 1941-1945’.
    • Edwards B., ‘Beware the Grey Widow-Maker: The Ungoing Harvest of the Sea’, Brick Tower, 2004.
    • Hampshire A.C., ’Lilliput Fleet’, William Kimber, London, 1957.
    • Kelder A.R. , ‘ “Ondina” wreekt “Genota” ‘, in: “de blauwe wimpel”, 38e jaarg. nr. 12, 1983.
    • Kroese A., ‘Neerland’s Zeemacht in Oorlog’, The Netherland Publishing Company, London, 1944.
    • Kroniek van de Week, “Een tanker vecht met twee oorlogsschepen … door B.B. Bakker” No. 8, 20 november 1948.
    • Münching L.L. von, ‘De Nederlandse koopvaardijvloot in de Tweede Wereldoorlog’.
    • ‘Oranje’, 1ste Jaargang No. 11, Melbourne, 1943.
    • Poniewrski B., ‘HMAS Sydney Inquiry 1997 – Submission’.
    • Prime Minister’s Office, ‘Scrapbook 3’, Sydney, 1942.
    • Roskill S.W., ‘War at sea 1939-1945, volume II The period of balance’ in “History of the Second World War”, London, 1956.
    • Satyindra Singh AVSM, ‘Blueprint to Bluewater–The Indian Navy 1951-65’.
    • Sukani, ‘Hearts of Oak’, in: “India Review”, Washington, December 2008.
    • Supplement to The London Gazette, 12 July, 1948 (Nr. 38349).
    • The London Gazette: 29 January 1943, 30 July 1943, 17 September 1946, 8 and 9 July 1948.
    • The Naval Review, “Actions against raiders”, Vol. XXXVI, No. 4, November 1948.
    • Valkenier W.A.J.P., ‘Op de valreep’, Lanasta, Emmen, 2008.
    • Wolf K., ‘Twaalf dagen schipper’, in: “Panorama”, 43ste jaarg. No 3, 1956.

    Willem Geluk, Steenwijk.

  2. Willem Geluk

    January 5th, 2010 at 18:57
    INDIAN OCEAN: November 11, Indian minesweeper Bengal (1-3 “gun) and the Dutch tanker Ondina Merchantile (1-4) are attacked by Japanese armed merchant cruisers Hokoku Maru and Maru Aikoku (both armed with 6.6”) . Hokoku Maru was sunk and Aikoku Maru was driven off:

    Responsibility of the Dutch Government in London in the years 1940 – ’45 Dutch sailors participated in actions to defeat Japan and Germany in their control of the Indian Ocean. It should be noted that the Dutch merchants had a sailing duty during the Second World War.
    These sailors were the interpreters of the book “Libervm Mare”, which was published in November 1608. It was about the right that belongs to the Dutch participation in the trade in East Indies; chapter five covered the Indian Ocean.

    In the beginning of the Second World War claimed allied oil tankers and other products from the Middle East to Australia.
    However, these shipments German pirates tried to attack and plunder.
    The relationship between the Japanese and the Germans were not as strong as that between the allied forces, they distrusted each other since the beginning of their alliance.
    Much of the lower Japanese officers were impressed by the performance of the Germans on the looting and torpedoing of the Allied supply lines.
    The Japanese Imperial Navy had therefore decided to press mid 1941 on the routes to take.
    Fourteen merchant ships – the Tokusetsu Junyokan – were converted to raiders, these ships were Aikoku Maru and Hokoku Maru (Osaka Shipping Line of the confiscated for military use) direct operational deployment. The other ships were Kinjosan Maru, Maru Kinryu, Asaka Maru Maru Congo, Awata Maru, Noshiro Maru Maru Bangkok, Saigon Maru, Ukishima Maru, Kiyosumi Maru, and Gokoku Akagi Maru Maru.
    The results of their actions included the bombing of the torpedo and Vincent (USA), Malama (USA), Elysia (British) and the price of the Genota (Netherlands) and the Hauraka (New Zealand).
    Below is the story of their last action described.

    In November 1942 the Dutch tanker Ondina steamed (from the Petroleum Maatschappij NV La Corona, Lloyd’s Register 79,860 / PGMT, 6341 ton, 11 miles, equipped with a cannon of 10.5 cm and anti-aircraft machine guns, scattered about the ship), commanded by Captain William Horsman, the Indian Ocean, deployed on the route between Australia and Fremantle in Abadan in oil-rich coast of the Persian Gulf.
    The Ondina was escorted by the corvette Bengal (455 tonnes, 16 miles, equipped with a 7.5 cm cannon and some anti-aircraft guns), commanded by Lieutenant-at-Sea 1st kla e ** William J. Wilson, RNR, of the Royal Indian Navy.
    The Bengal run under the banner ‘White Ensign’.
    This corvette was crossed over to British India not independent, because the fuel supply was insufficient.
    The intention was that this small convoy in Diego Garcia would go out together: the Ondina to the Persian Gulf and Bengal to Colombo. The escort of Bengal was of little significance.
    When the commander of H.M.I.S. Bengal to Captain William Horsman Ondina announced that he had taken under his wing, smiled Horsman.
    He told the commander “I am very grateful for your escort, because two are worth more than one. But your ship is so small that you can count on you I will not abandon them when the fight comes on unexpectedly.
    The Ondina was, like all Allied merchant ships, the Merchant Service Equipment Defensive equipped with a gun.
    The Geneva Convention had decided that a ship, which stood behind the gun instead of lead, should not be torpedoed, it was only defensively armed.

    On November 11 and enter the Ondina Bengal in the keel line speed with 10 miles.
    When the convoy at about 1470 miles from Fremantle was at NW (19050 ‘S and 92,040’ E), appeared suddenly two large ships on the horizon. With high speed they arrived at the Allied convoy off. (These ships were on November 1, 1942 from Signapore left for a trip pirates in the Indian Ocean.)
    The commander of the Bengal claimed the reconnaissance signal his searchlight signal, but the approaching ships were the answer.
    On board of the Allied ships in the convoy was understood that a connection of two Japanese raiders were gone. These raiders had left Singapore on November 5, 1942 for an offensive against the merchant.

    The Bengal telegraphed to the Ondina to abscond, while also meeting the next day gave up. Then the small frigate steamed at full force right on the enemy to retreat from his protege, the Ondina to cover.
    Captain Horsman thought not to run away. He had promised the Bengal in case of emergency to assist and ‘one man one man, one word one word. ”

    The steaming Japanese raider (Hokoku Maru, 10,439 tons, master-at-sea Hirohi Imazato) opened at 12.05 hours the fire and it focused on the Ondina.
    The Bengal, which had been turned back and dangers along the Ondina,
    opened to fire on the privateer Hokoku Maru.

    (The reports and Ondina Bengal on timing, on the opening of the fire, different.)

    The second Japanese hijacker (the Aikoku Maru, 10,439 tons, master-at-sea Tamotsu Oishi) was then at 6 miles from the battle scene.

    To 12.07, the Hokoku Maru came within reach of the Ondina;
    On the bridge of the tanker were alongside captain William Horsman, the first mate MJ Rehwinkel and a Chinese helmsman.
    The second mate B.B. Bakker, who acted as an artillery commander and the gun was, the fire may be asked to answer. Bakker was Horsman of the requested authorization.

    The first salvos were missing, but the third salvo hit on a grenade in the midship structure of the Hokoku Maru.
    The fifth shot caused a tremendous explosion on the Hokoku Maru, a “lucky shot”.
    The Bengal now turned to the second raider.
    The Japanese shot back and recorded a number of hits on the Bengal.
    On the corvette fire broke out. The crew of the boat threw a war of fog barrels overboard and was soon to the eye of the Ondina removed.
    The Ondina was assumed it had ended with the brave little frigate.

    The second Japanese raider – the Aikoku Maru – now shifted his fire on the Ondina, who shot back angrily. The commander of the Ondina thought he was alone.
    He would stop the fight only after all charges were fired.
    The Ondina was the suffering, one of the hits took the stem of the mast behind the antenna. This made it impossible for the emergency broadcast signal RRR.

    At 12.45 the ammunition was completely coiled, this was the second mate of captain Willem Bakker Horsman reported. Horsman gave smokefloats order to free up. This had little effect; Horsman saw themselves as forced to abandon the unequal struggle. Horsman showed the white flag hoisting a sign of surrender and ordered to stop and leaving the crippled ship.
    Immediately after the bridge received a direct hit, Horsman was mortally wounded.

    The first mate took with equal calm confident about the task of Horsman.
    The Ondina was abandoned, boats and rafts are removed from the tanker lost.
    At 13.10 hours, the crew of the Ondina the bow of the hijacker Hokoku Maru with the bow up in the depth sunk.
    The hijacker Aikoku Maru approached the Ondina, boats and rafts up to 400 meter. At 13.15 the hijacker fired two torpedoes at the Ondina, the tanker was hit in the starboard tank I and II. This gave the heavy heel Ondina.
    Captain Oishi Tamotsu acted after seeing the Hokoku Maru sinking as a “Major War Criminal ‘: he had the boats and rafts of Ondina mitrailleren. All boats leak were shot, some people were seriously injured. The chief engineer and three Chinese sailors were slain.
    According to Japanese beliefs belonged to a merchant ship as a warship to behave.

    The Aikoku Maru turned now and was drowned picking up the raider Hokoku Maru sank. Of the 354 heads were 76 people killed, including Captain Hiroshi Imasato.
    When all swimming in Japanese board, turned the enemy back to the raider Ondina. Because it still drove, the raider again launched a torpedo. This, however, missed the tanker. The Japanese gave now’s beyond. She began to feel unsafe in an area where Allied cruisers in the neighborhood could be. The Aikoku Maru left the Ondina and its survivors in lifeboats at some distance the course of events await their fate and disappeared from Singapore to Rabaul.

    After the raider disappeared gathered the crew in the lifeboat at a distance of four miles of the Ondina.
    We analyzed the crew were killed or wounded, nor was there general ship board account. Baker suggested to the ship to return to seek water and food to reach the wreck. In the vicinity of the ship asked Baker to come to a few volunteers to go with him aboard. On deck showed that the ship had sunk much deeper since the time the crew had abandoned ship. The thought was that it probably would be possible to maintain the ship. Through various valves open again, the Ondina ‘right’ to lie. Research in the engine showed that in “low” level was damaged.

    For seven hours in the evening were any survivors back on board the Ondina, many fires were extinguished.
    Course was put back to Fremantle. The heavily damaged tanker, which originally sailed with 35 degrees heel, reached the port on November 18.
    On arrival it was learned that the Bengal, which the crew had already written off the Ondina, November 17 at the port of Diego Garcia had met.

    The Ondina was the first merchant ship after the liberation was a Dutch port. The ship was awarded the Royal Mention ‘dispatches’. Horsman (posthumous) and Bakker were awarded the Military William Order.

    Captain Oishi Tamotsu was never prosecuted for mitrailleren of the survivors of the Ondina.
    Masters Tamotsu Oishi and Hiroshi Imazato were posthumously promoted to Rear Admiral.

    Of the original five raiders were sunk, the victory of the Bengal Ondina and then made sure that the Japanese Imperial Navy looting and hijacking of the merchant ships in the Indian Ocean was discontinued.


    • KWL Bezemer, History of the Dutch Merchant Marine in World War II, Elsevier, Amsterdam / Brussels, MCMLXXXVI.
    • B. Edwards, “Blood & Bushido: Japanese Atrocities at Sea, 1941-1945”.
    • B. Edwards, ‘Beware the Gray Widow-Maker: The Ungoing Harvest of the Sea, Brick Tower, 2004.
    • Hampshire AC, “Lilliput Fleet”, William Kimber, London, 1957.
    • Cellar A.R. , ‘ “Ondina” revenge “Genota”, “in the” blue flag “, 38th Jaarg. No 12, 1983.
    • A. Kroese, “Holland’s Navy in War ‘, The Netherland Publishing Company, London, 1944.
    • Review of the Week, “A tanker fights with two warships by BB … Bakker “No. 8, November 20, 1948.
    • Münchingen L.L. von, “The Dutch merchant fleet in the Second World War”.
    • ‘Orange’, 1st Year No. 11, Melbourne, 1943.
    • Poniewrski B., “HMAS Sydney Inquiry 1997 – Submission”.
    • Prime Minister’s Office, “Scrap Book 3”, Sydney, 1942.
    • SW Roskill, “War at Sea 1939-1945, Volume II The Period of Balance” in “History of the Second World War”, London, 1956.
    • Satyindra Singh AVSM, “Blueprint to Bluewater, The Indian Navy 1951-65”.
    • Sukani, “Hearts of Oak”, in: “India Review”, Washington, December 2008.
    • Supplement to The London Gazette, July 12, 1948 (No. 38,349).
    • The London Gazette: 29 January 1943, 30 July 1943, 17 September 1946, 8 and 9 July 1948.
    • The Naval Review, “Actions against raiders”, Vol. XXXVI, No. 4, November 1948.
    • Valkenier WAJP, “At the very end”, Lanasta, Emmen, 2008.
    • K. Wolf, “Twelve days Skipper,” in “Panorama”, 43rd Jaarg. No. 3, 1956.

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