October 26, 1942 Guadalcanal- Santa Cruz
Hornet on fireOn October 26th, US and Japanese carriers once again exchanged blows off of Guadalcanal. Both the Japanese and the American forces had spotted each other, thus neither side was surprised. The Japanese first strike attacked the USS Hornet effectively putting her out of the battle. US planes successfully attacked two Japanese carriers both of whom were disabled. The Japanese then turned their attention to the Enterprise which they damaged but did not succeed in disabling. By the end of the battle the Hornet which was being towed was hit again and it became clear that she had to be abandoned. Both sides lost a large number of aircraft with the Japanese losing more pilots. The battle was a draw, but when it ended the US had only one operational Aircraft Carrier in the Pacific.
The Japanese were steadily building up their forces for an all out assault on the American marines on Guadalcanal. The American front lines were at Lunga Point. The Marines were commanded by General Vandegrift. To coincide with the ground assault the Japanese sent a large naval task force to attack Henderson Field and stop the American from giving naval support to their troops. The American navy knew that the Japanese were coming and sent the Hornet and Enterprise the only operational carriers in the Pacific.
The Japanese launched there first attack on American lines on October 23rd. For the next three days they launched repeated assaults against the American lines, but everyone of them were repulsed. The Americans lost 86 soldiers killed compared to nearly 3,000 panes killed.
At the same time a naval battle was taking place. On the morning of October 26th both the Japanese and American fleets discovered each others locations. Both carriers groups raced to launch their aircraft. The Japanese were the first to launch their aircraft. The Americans a few minutes later. In the meantime two patrolling American aircraft arrived over the Japanese carrier Zuiho and landed two bombs on the the flight deck, making the ship unable to land aircraft.
The main American strike force attacked the carrier Shokaku causing serious damage. They also seriously damaged the Japanese heavy cruiser Shokaku.
The Japanese on the other hand struck the Hornet, and took her out of the battle. As she ws being towed from the battle she was struck one more time and had to be abandoned. The Enterprise was also badly damaged from the Japanese attack. While the Japanese attack was successful in putting both US carriers out of action, the cost was overwhelming nearly all the the attacking Japanese planes were shot down. These were pilots that the Japanese would find impossible to replace. When the battle ended the US had only one carrier in the Pacific. However, back in the United States shipyards were about to launch dozens of new carriers large and small.