|Solomon Islands or Battle of the Santa Cruz?|
|Carrier action - post first strike actions|
Anti-aircraft shell bursts, fired at attacking Japanese aircraft, fill the sky above USS Enterprise (center left) and her screening ships during the battle on October 26, 1942.
We decided to introduce You real Battle of Santa Cruz as a Solomon Islands. There was no battle in history similar to Solomon Islands map for Battlestations: Midway game. Battle of Santa Cruz has the same date (25 October 1942) and some units here we known from game.
The Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands, October 26, 1942, sometimes referred to as the Battle of Santa Cruz or in Japanese sources as the Battle of the South Pacific (南太平洋海戦), was the fourth carrier battle of the Pacific campaign of World War II and the fourth major naval engagement fought between the United States Navy and the Imperial Japanese Navy during the lengthy and strategically important Guadalcanal campaign. In similar fashion to the battles of Coral Sea, Midway, and the Eastern Solomons, the ships of the two adversaries were rarely in direct visual range of each other. Instead, almost all attacks by both sides were mounted by carrier or land-based aircraft.
The Japanese ground offensive on Guadalcanal was defeated by Allied ground forces in the Battle for Henderson Field. Nevertheless, the naval warships and aircraft from the two adversaries confronted each other on the morning of October 26, 1942, just north of the Santa Cruz Islands. After an exchange of carrier air attacks, Allied surface ships were forced to retreat from the battle area with the loss of one carrier sunk and another heavily damaged. The participating Japanese carrier forces, however, also retired because of high aircraft and aircrew losses plus significant damage to two carriers. Although an apparent tactical victory for the Japanese in terms of ships sunk and damaged, the loss of many irreplaceable, veteran aircrews by the Japanese provided a significant long-term strategic advantage for the Allies, whose aircrew losses in the battle were relatively low.
On August 7, 1942, Allied forces (primarily U.S.) landed on Guadalcanal, Tulagi, and Florida Islands in the Solomon Islands. The landings on the islands were meant to deny their use by the Japanese as bases for threatening the supply routes between the U.S. and Australia, and to secure the islands as starting points for a campaign with the eventual goal of isolating the major Japanese base at Rabaul while also supporting the Allied New Guinea campaign. The landings initiated the six-month-long Guadalcanal campaign. After the Battle of the Eastern Solomons, in which the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise was heavily damaged and forced to travel to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, for a month of major repairs, three U.S. carrier task forces remained in the South Pacific area. The task forces included the carriers USS Wasp, USS Saratoga, and USS Hornet plus their respective air groups and supporting surface warships, including battleships, cruisers, and destroyers, and were primarily stationed between the Solomons and New Hebrides (Vanuatu) islands. At this location, the carriers were charged with guarding the line of communication between the major Allied bases at New Caledonia and Espiritu Santo, supporting the Allied ground forces at Guadalcanal and Tulagi against any Japanese counteroffensives, covering the movement of supply ships to Guadalcanal, and engaging and destroying any Japanese warships, especially carriers, that came within range.
The area of ocean in which the U.S. carrier task forces operated was known as "Torpedo Junction" by U.S. forces because of the high concentration of Japanese submarines in the area. On August 31, Saratoga was torpedoed by Japanese submarine I-26 and was out of action for three months for repairs. On September 14, Wasp was hit by three torpedoes fired by Japanese submarine I-19 while supporting a major reinforcement and resupply convoy to Guadalcanal and almost engaging two Japanese carriers Shōkaku and Zuikaku (who withdrew just before the two adversaries came into range of each other's aircraft). With power knocked out from torpedo damage, Wasp’s damage-control teams were unable to contain the ensuing large fires, and she was abandoned and scuttled.
Although the U.S. now had only one operational carrier (Hornet) in the South Pacific, the Allies still maintained air superiority over the southern Solomon Islands because of their aircraft based at Henderson Field on Guadalcanal. However, at night, when aircraft were not able to operate effectively, the Japanese were able to operate their ships around Guadalcanal almost at will. Thus, a stalemate in the battle for Guadalcanal developed, with the Allies delivering supplies and reinforcements to Guadalcanal during the day, and the Japanese delivering supplies and reinforcements by warship (called the "Tokyo Express" by the Allies) at night with neither side able to deliver enough troops to the island to secure a decisive advantage. By mid-October, both sides had roughly an equal number of troops on the island. The stalemate was briefly interrupted by two large-ship naval actions. On the night of October 11–October 12, a U.S. warship force intercepted and defeated a Japanese warship force that was enroute to bombard Henderson Field in the Battle of Cape Esperance. But, just two nights later a Japanese force that included battleships Haruna and Kongō successfully bombarded Henderson Field, destroying most of the U.S. aircraft and inflicting severe damage on the field's facilities. Although still marginally operational, it took several weeks for the airfield to recover from the damage and replace the destroyed aircraft.
Second, on October 18, Admiral Chester Nimitz, Allied Commander in Chief of Pacific Forces, replaced Vice Admiral Robert L. Ghormley with Vice Admiral William Halsey, Jr. as Commander, South Pacific Area: this position commanded Allied forces involved in the Solomon Islands campaign. Nimitz felt that Ghormley had become too myopic and pessimistic to lead Allied forces effectively in the struggle for Guadalcanal. Halsey was reportedly respected throughout the U.S. naval fleet as a "fighter." Upon assuming command, Halsey immediately began making plans to draw the Japanese naval forces into a battle, writing to Nimitz, "I had to begin throwing punches almost immediately."
The Japanese Combined Fleet was also seeking to draw Allied naval forces into what was hoped to be a decisive battle. Two fleet carriers, Hiyō and Junyō, plus one light carrier, Zuihō, arrived at the main Japanese naval base at Truk from Japan in early October and joined Shōkaku and Zuikaku. With five carriers fully equipped with air groups, plus their numerous battleships, cruisers, and destroyers, the Japanese Combined Fleet, directed by Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, was confident that they could make up for their defeat at the Battle of Midway. Apart from a couple of air raids on Henderson Field in October, the Japanese carriers and their supporting warships stayed out of the battle for Guadalcanal in the northwestern area of the Solomon Islands, waiting for a chance to approach and engage the U.S. carriers. With the Japanese Army's next planned major ground attack on Allied forces on Guadalcanal set for October 20, Yamamoto's warships began to position themselves towards the southern Solomons to support the army offensive on Guadalcanal, and to be ready to engage any Allied (primarily U.S.) ships, especially carriers, that approached to support the Allied defenses on Guadalcanal. The Japanese believed that U.S. Navy forces were likely to be in the Solomons Island area because they had read a report from the United Press dated October 20 that stated that the United States Navy was preparing for a major sea and air battle in the South Pacific.