At 0050 the Salt Lake City "enlivened the occasion" by firing two star shells to illuminate the San Francisco. The flagship was then well ahead of the formation and her friendly character was doubted. In 10 minutes, however, the two cruisers identified each other, and the Salt Lake City fell in behind the flagship, reporting her maximum speed as 22 knots, an estimate she later raised to 25. Admiral Scott ordered all destroyers
to close him, but could obtain no acknowledgment from the Farenholt or the Duncan.
Two hours later the Boise was encountered for the first time since she had fallen out of the formation. She was heavily damaged, and had lost three officers and 104 enlisted men, but because of intensive damage control measures her fires were out and she was able to make 20 knots, the speed Admiral Scott accordingly set for the Task Force. Meanwhile, the Helena had joined, and the victorious formation steamed southwards, minus only the Farenholt and the Duncan.
Admiral Scott's major concern was to get out of range of enemy land-based aircraft by daylight. He sent a radio report of the battle to COMSOPAC. He also requested air coverage, which arrived soon after day broke. Later in the morning, a message was received from the Farenholt, stating that she was 50 miles to the rear. She reported that she had been holed twice near the water line but that she was seaworthy.
It was still necessary to pick up the Task Force's cruiser planes which had been flown to Guadalcanal. The Helena was detached for the purpose, and three destroyers, the Lansdowne, Aaron Ward and Lardner were dispatched from Espiritu Santo to screen her. The Aaron Ward was later directed to escort the Farenholt.
At 1530 on 13 October, Task Force SUGAR steamed into Espiritu Santo, followed two hours later by the Farenholt. The Helena, Lansdowne and McCalla arrived the next mornmg, with the Duncan's survivors aboard the McCalla (nine officers and 186 men). Also aboard were 3 Japanese seamen who had been picked up from the water in the vicinity of the Duncan.28
Total casualties in the Task Force were about 175 killed and an unspecified number wounded. The Action Reports which form the basis of this Narrative indicate about 15 sinkings of enemy vessels. As in all night actions, observation was difficult and many duplications resulted. A preliminary effort to eliminate these was made at a conference at Espiritu Santo, attended by all the ships' commanding officers, where the enemy losses were estimated as: one heavy cruiser of the Nachi class, one of the Kako class, and one of the Atago class; one possible light cruiser
of the Sendai class; four destroyers, one of the Hibiki class; one other possible, type unknown.
This estimate was later revised by Admiral Nimitz as follows:
Two-heavy cruisers, one of which was the Furutaka.
One light cruiser.
One auxiliary, possibly a transport.
Five destroyers, one of which was the Shirakumo.
One heavy cruiser, the Aoba, badly damaged.
It seemed apparent, from the losses inflicted, that the Japanese force was larger than had been reported to Admiral Scott on 11 October. The ships sighted by search aircraft that day totaled only two cruisers and six destroyers. But it will be recalled that an air attack was made on Henderson Field the afternoon of the 11th, possibly preventing detection of other units which were either part of the force sighted or comprised a separate group moving towards Savo Island so as to effect a junction with the force reported by search planes. There is no way of assessing the exact size of the Japanese forces engaged. Admiral Scott estimated that three heavy cruisers, one light cruiser, and six destroyers were involved.
28 The recovery of the Duncan's survivors from the shark-infested waters off Savo Island and the seizure of the Japanese prisoners are treated separately in the appendix, p. 20.
29 Later information made the following Japanese losses seem certain: sunk 1 CA (Furutaka), 2 DD (Fubuki and Natsugumo).
Last updated: May 28, 2003Transcribed and formatted by Jerry Holden for the HyperWar Foundation