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Battle of the Solomons Timeline

Authored By Dan Alex | Last Updated: 3/19/2015

Attempting to head-off the Japanese resupply of forces at Guadalcanal, the USN came into its own during several key engagements.

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The American invasion of Guadalcanal by United States Marine and Navy forces was the beginning of a long and arduous campaign to be fought on land, at sea, and in the air. While a bold (and ultimately costly) move, the threat of invasion was verifiable enough to the Japanese that resupply forces were ordered to the island to alleviate the pressure placed on the defenders by the Americans. As the strength of the Japanese war machine lay soundly in their Imperial Navy, victory was all but a certainty against the untested American forces.


During night fighting off the cost of Savo Island, an American cruiser contingent was all but destroyed by a force of IJN vessels. This led to the belief that the American sea-going force could be easily defeated in time. However, the presence of the American carrier groups quickly sent the Japanese cruisers out of the region and opened the IJN to a weakened defense. By this time the area near the Solomon Islands was under mixed control. The USN maintained a heavy airborne presence during daylight hours where aircrews attacked any moving vessel seeking passage between the Eastern and Western islands. The IJN maintained an advantage at and proceeded through the area when the USN aircraft were not in the sky. As these Japanese convoys progressed through the gap at speed in an effort to resupply their land forces at Guadalcanal, the gap became known as the "Tokyo Express". To combat the American carrier presence, attempts were made to bring the group within range of a combined IJN force and ultimately wipe them out.


The Battle of the Solomons began with the Battle of the Eastern Solomons. This engagement spanned three days - August 22nd through August 25th - and resulted in the IJN losing their light carrier IJN Ryujo. The carrier USS Enterprise was damaged enough to be pulled out of further action and the carrier USS Saratoga soon followed after receiving several enemy torpedoes. On September 14th the carrier USS Wasp was targeted by the IJN submarine I-19 and torpedoed further diminishing the American carrier presence in the region.


Imperial Japanese Army forces on Guadalcanal were proving to be a determined foe for the Americans. However their food and ammunition supplies were critical and starvation was rampant. The IJN sought to resupply their soldiers in due time by forcing their convoys through the American defensive perimeter. The night time Battle of Cape Esperance (October 11th - October 12th) was an American Navy warship attack against one such IJN convoy. Despite maintaining an element of surprise, the American warships engaged the enemy but allowed the protected IJN convoy managed to slip by. A few days later, IJN battleships Hiei and Kirishima opened fire against U.S. Marine positions ashore. The shelling was intense and little response was managed by the USN to quell the attacks as support in the area proved lacking. The following night heavy IJN cruisers continued attacks up and down the coast sending over 750 shells against suspected enemy positions.


An American carrier group led by Vice Admiral William Halsey in the South West Pacific went into action to support the Marines. As the Japanese encouraged participation from the American carriers, this move was welcomed but it also forced the IJN to commit her own carriers to the fray.


On October 25th, U.S. spotter planes located at least three of the IJN carriers with a fourth one en route. Fighting ensued that left the carriers Zuiho and Zuikaku damaged. USS Hornet was torpedoed and abandoned, left to sink by additional Japanese torpedoes where she sat. USS Enterprise was damaged but repaired enough to be brought back to the battle though the Japanese believed her to be out of the fight for good.


Regardless of the losses incurred by the USN, the Americans managed a final push and took Guadalcanal. Through this action, the forces of the USN delayed the resupply actions of the IJN just enough that America could claim to its first major land grab in the vast Pacific War. The Japanese could claim nothing more than a tactical victory, damaging or sinking several key USN carriers, battleships and lesser vessels but the damage against the Empire in the region had been done.


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There are a total of 35 the Battle of the Solomons Timeline Events. Entries are listed below by date of occurrence.

1942
Saturday
August 8th

A large contingent of Imperial Japanese Navy warships heads out of Rabaul towards Savo Island to strike at US Navy transports there.

1942
Sunday
August 9th

Three US and one Australian cruiser are sunk by the Japanese Navy during the morning hours.

1942
Sunday
August 23rd

The Imperial Japanese Navy enacts a plan to resupply their forces at Guadalcanal under the cover of three aircraft carriers made up of the IJN Ryujo, the IJN Shokaku and the IJN Zuikaku.

1942
Sunday
August 23rd

US naval patrol aircraft spot the incoming Japanese convoy, radioing positions back to the main task force.

1942
Monday
August 24th

US naval patrol aircraft once again spot the incoming Japanese convoy. Positions are sent to Task Force 61.

1942
Monday
August 24th

Task Force 61, comprised of the USS Enterprise, USS Saratoga and the USS Wasp head to intercept the Japanese convoy.

1942
Monday
August 24th

Task Force 61 sets up at locations east of Malaita Island in preparation for the battle. Aircraft are launched form the American carriers beginning what is known as the Battle of the Eastern Solomons.

1942
Monday
August 24th

At 3:15PM, American carrier aircaft from the USS Enterprise manage hits on the IJN Shokaku.

1942
Monday
August 24th

Dive bombers and torpedo bombers from the USS Enterprise manage critical hits against the IJN Ryujo and sink here where she stood at 3:50PM.

1942
Monday
August 24th

At about 4:41PM, the USS Enterprise is the victim of Japanese dive bombers and takes several direct hits but manages to keep fighting.

1942
Monday
August 24th

The Japanese Navy lose their seaplane carrier - the IJN Chitose - to American dive bombers at 5:40PM.

1942
Tuesday
August 25th

The Japanese Navy loses a pair of transport ships enroute to the Solomon Island chain.

1942
Tuesday
August 25th

The Battle of the Eastern Solomons ends with the Japanese Navy claiming at least 90 aircraft lost while the American Navy enjoys victory with 20 aircraft lost in the fray.

1942
Sunday
October 11th

A Japanese Navy convoy headed through the Eastern and Western Solomons is intercepted by a US Navy force, beginning what is known as the Battle of Cape Esperance.

1942
Sunday
October 11th

At 11:32PM, US Navy warships fire upon IJN vessels in the convoy, sinking the IJN Fubuki and damaging the IJN Furutaka and IJN Aoba, which themselves begin sinking.

1942
Sunday
October 11th

At midnight, the Japanese convoy is in retreat and gone from the region in roughly 30 minutes.

1942
Sunday
October 11th

The IJN Furutaka officially sinks at 12:40AM.

1942
Sunday
October 25th

Japanese Navy supply ships make their way offshore of Guadalcanal where land forces there are attempting to take Henderson Field.

1942
Monday
October 26th

A USN Consolidated PBY Catalina flying boat scout plane spots the Japanese waterforce and relays their position.

1942
Monday
October 26th

The US Navy sends Task Force 16 and 17 to intercept the Japanese resupply action.

1942
Monday
October 26th

US Navy aircraft are launched from USS Enterprise and USS Hornet but fail to locate the Japanese ships.

1942
Monday
October 26th

A PBY Catalina, capable of limited bombing, misses its mark as it attempts to hit several Japanese aircraft carriers at 2:50AM.

1942
Monday
October 26th

USS Enterprise launches a wave of Dauntless dive bombers in search of the Japanese group. Some 22 total aircraft are launched.

1942
Monday
October 26th

72 aircraft are launched as a combined force from USS Enterprise and USS Hornet.

1942
Monday
October 26th

The IJN carrier launch around 110 aircraft in response.

1942
Monday
October 26th

At 7:40AM, USN dive bombers damage the IJN carrier Zuiho.

1942
Monday
October 26th

US Navy and IJN aircraft formally meet in air to air combat by 8:15AM.

1942
Monday
October 26th

The USS Hornet takes a critical hit at 9:15AM from attacking Japanese Navy dive bombers and torpedo bombers. The IJN forces claim two torpedo hits and a further six bomb hits against her.

1942
Monday
October 26th

The crew of the USS Hornet begin evacuation procedures aboard their doomed ship.

1942
Monday
October 26th

The crippled IJN carrier Zuiho is hit by another four bombs, bringing her tenure at sea to an official close at 9:18AM.

1942
Monday
October 26th

USN bombers score several key direct hits against the carrier IJN Shokaku at 9:30AM.

1942
Monday
October 26th

USS Enterprise receives several direct hits from IJN dive bombers against her flight deck and forward elevator.

1942
Monday
October 26th

The Americans signal a withdrawal of all forces form the battle.

1942
Monday
October 26th

The USS Hornet is cleared of all crew by 11:40AM.

1942
Tuesday
October 27th

Destroyers of the IJN come across the remains of the USS Hornet and launch torpedoes against her, sending her to the bottom of the Pacific.