The Marines were in the midst of their bloody fight to take the island of Guadalcanal on November 14, 1942. But there was another battle going on at the same time, some 20 miles offshore between the U.S. Navy and the Japanese Navies. Under cover of night, the Japanese were bringing a fleet into the fight to defend their troops on Guadalcanal, including the battleship Kiroshima. But they would find themselves up against two American battleships, the North Carolina-class USS Washington and the USS South Dakota.
As the Japanese battleship, Kiroshima, bore down on the island, she was unaware of the presence of the USS Washington about 10 miles off in the darkness. The captain of the American Battleship USS Washington notified the rest of the American fleet that she was coming to play with the words, “Stand aside, I’m coming through.”
With her nine 16″ guns, she opened fire on the Kiroshima with devastating force and accuracy. The Kiroshima fought back with her smaller guns and her torpedoes. The battle was so fierce that the Marines could see the flashes and hear the roar of the big guns from both ships where they were on Guadalcanal some 20 miles away.
The battle was so intense that at one point, the USS Washington unleashed 42 rounds from her 16″ guns in the span of three minutes. The Washington‘s guns fired their 2,000-lb shells in the direction of the Kiroshima with incredible accuracy, piercing her hull and superstructure, setting her on fire. The Kiroshima scored her own hits on the Washington, but, in the end, the USS Washington was victorious. The Kiroshima was so completely damaged that she was scuttled the next day and was sent to the bottom of the sea in an area that became known as “Iron Bottom Sound.”
We can only imagine what that battle must have been like for the crews of both ships. It was a titanic battle of the biggest, most heavily armed ships ever built. It would be the only time in WWII in which a battleship sunk another battleship. It was at great cost though. 242 American and 249 Japanese sailors would be killed in action during that fight.
This video from the History Channel covers the battle with images and context. It is a profound piece of WWII and U.S. Navy history.Whizzco