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Battle of Empress Augusta Bay
Part of the Pacific Theater of World War II
A Japanese aircraft crashes (upper center) into the ocean near the U.S. cruiser Columbia on 2 November 1943, during air attacks on Allied ships off Bougainville, a few hours after the Naval Battle of Empress Augusta Bay.
Date 1–2 November 1943
Location Empress Augusta Bay, Bougainville, Papua New Guinea
Result Allied victory
 United States  Japan
Aaron S. Merrill,
Arleigh Burke
Sentaro Omori,
Matsuji Ijuin
4 light cruisers,
8 destroyers
2 heavy cruisers,
2 light cruisers,
6 destroyers
Casualties and losses
1 destroyer heavily damaged,
19 killed[1]
1 light cruiser,
1 destroyer sunk,
2 destroyers heavily damaged,
198-658 killed[2]

The Battle of Empress Augusta Bay, on 1–2 November 1943 — also known as the Battle of Gazelle Bay, Operation Cherry Blossom, and in Japanese sources as the Sea Battle of Bougainville Bay Shore (ブーゲンビル島沖海戦) — was a naval battle fought near the island of Bougainville. The naval battle was a result of Allied landings on nearby Bougainville in the first action in the Bougainville campaign of World War II and may also be seen as part of the Solomons and New Guinea campaigns. The battle was significant as part of a broader Allied strategy — known as Operation Cartwheel — aimed at isolating and surrounding the major Japanese base at Rabaul. The intention was to establish a beachhead on Bougainville, within which an airfield would be built.

On 1 November 1943 the US 3rd Marine Division landed at Cape Torokina in Empress Augusta Bay. The bay had been chosen because it was at the outer limit of Allied fighter plane range, and because the numerically-superior Japanese 17th Army was concentrated at other, more strategic sites in the north and the south. The Marines were backed by a force of four light cruisers (Montpelier, Cleveland, Columbia, and Denver) and eight destroyers (Charles Ausburne, Dyson, Stanly, Claxton, Spence, Thatcher, Converse, and Foote), commanded by Rear Admiral Aaron S. "Tip" Merrill.


Naval battle

The Japanese responded with air attacks from Rabaul and by dispatching a powerful naval force from Rabaul commanded by Admiral Sentaro Omori: heavy cruisers Myōkō and Haguro, light cruisers Agano and Sendai, and destroyers Shigure, Samidare, Shiratsuyu, Naganami, Hatsukaze, and Wakatsuki.

The Americans evacuated most of their landing craft and troop transports and lay in wait. They made radar contact at 02:30 on 2 November 1943 and Merrill dispatched his destroyers forward for a torpedo attack, after which his cruisers would open fire from a safe distance. The destroyers were seen by the Japanese, who dodged the torpedoes, but their evasive maneuvers threw them out of formation.

At around 02:50, the American cruisers opened fire, quickly disabling Sendai. The destroyer Samidare launched a torpedo attack but in doing so collided with Shiratsuyu. Myōkō collided with the destroyer Hatsukaze, slicing off her bows. The Japanese deficiency in radar meant that they had a great deal of difficulty finding the American cruisers, but at 03:13 they made contact and opened fire.

Merrill turned away under cover of smoke, and Omori, believing that he had sunk a heavy cruiser, considered that he had done enough and turned away to the east. The damaged Sendai and Hatsukaze were later found and sunk by gunfire. After the Japanese ships returned to Rabaul, they were joined by four large cruisers and more destroyers from Truk in order to reattack the Allied landing forces at Bougainville. On 5 November, however, two U.S. aircraft carriers raided Rabaul, heavily damaging four heavy cruisers and forcing them to retreat back to Truk, ending the Japanese warship threat to the Allied landing forces at Bougainville.




  • Brown, David (1990). Warship Losses of World War Two. Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-55750-914-X. 
  • D'Albas, Andrieu (1965). Death of a Navy: Japanese Naval Action in World War II. Devin-Adair Pub. ISBN 0-8159-5302-X. 
  • Dull, Paul S. (1978). A Battle History of the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1941-1945. Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-097-1. 
  • Hall, Cary Hardison (1987). The war cruises of the USS Columbia, 1942 to 1945: Personal recollections, with some augmentations by shipmates. War Memories Pub. Co. ASIN B00071N658. 
  • Hara, Tameichi (1961). Japanese Destroyer Captain. New York & Toronto: Ballantine Books. ISBN 0-345-27894-1. 
  • Kilpatrick, C. W. (1987). Naval Night Battles of the Solomons. Exposition Press. ISBN 0-682-40333-4. 
  • Lacroix, Eric; Linton Wells (1997). Japanese Cruisers of the Pacific War. Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-311-3. 
  • Jones, Ken (1997). Destroyer Squadron 23: Combat Exploits of Arleigh Burke's Gallant Force. Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-55750-412-1. 
  • McGee, William L. (2002). "Bougainville Campaign". The Solomons Campaigns, 1942-1943: From Guadalcanal to Bougainville--Pacific War Turning Point, Volume 2 (Amphibious Operations in the South Pacific in WWII). BMC Publications. ISBN 0-9701678-7-3. 
  • Morison, Samuel Eliot (1958). Breaking the Bismarcks Barrier, vol. 6 of History of United States Naval Operations in World War II. Castle Books. ISBN 0-7858-1307-1. 
  • Potter, E. B. (2005). Admiral Arleigh Burke. Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-59114-692-5. 
  • Roscoe, Theodore (1953). United States Destroyer Operations in World War Two. Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-726-7. 


  • Hone, Thomas C. (1981), "The Similarity of Past and Present Standoff Threats", Proceedings of the U.S. Naval Institute (Annapolis, Maryland) (Vol. 107, No. 9, September 1981): 113–116, ISSN 0041-798X 

External links


  1. ^ Morison, Breaking the Bismarcks, p. 322.
  2. ^ Dull, Imperial Japanese Navy, p. 302; Hara, Japanese Destroyer Captain, p. 242; Morison, Breaking the Bismarcks, p. 322; Hackett, Kingsepp, and Nevitt, Sources differ on Japanese personnel losses in naval battle. Breakdown of deaths by ship and source: Sendai- 412 (Dull), 185 (Hackett and Kingsepp), 320 (Morison), and 335 (Hara); Hatsukaze- 9 (Dull) and 240 (Nevitt, Morison, and Hara); Shiratsuyu- 4 (Nevitt) and 5 (Hara); Samidare- 1 (Hara).


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