Battle of Vella Gulf

Battle of Vella Gulf

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Battle of Vella Gulf

caption=The U.S. destroyer "Sterett".
partof=the Pacific Theater of World War II
date=August 6, 1943 – August 7, 1943
place=Near Kolombangara in the Solomon Islands
result=United States victory
combatant1=flag|United States|1912
combatant2=flag|Empire of Japan
commander1=Frederick Moosbrugger
commander2=Kaju Sugiura
strength1=6 destroyers
strength2=4 destroyers
casualties2=3 destroyers sunk,
1,210 killed [Hara, "Japanese Destroyer Captain", p. 191-192, & Nevitt, "", [ "Long Lancers"] . Breakdown of deaths: "Hagikaze"-178, "Arashi"-178, "Kawakaze"-169, and 685 troops.] |

The Battle of Vella Gulf (Japanese: ベラ湾夜戦) was a naval battle of the Pacific campaign of World War II fought on the night of August 6, 1943 – August 7, 1943, in Vella Gulf between the islands of Vella Lavella and Kolombangara in the Solomon Islands.


The Americans were in a campaign of island hopping their way towards Japan. They had taken Guadalcanal the past year. After their victory in the battle of Kolombangara on July 13, the Japanese had established a formidable garrison of 12,400 in Vila at the southern tip of the island. It was the principal port on that island, and supplied at night using fast destroyers as transports known as the Tokyo Express. Three supply runs on July 19, July 29, and August 1 were successful. By August, the Americans were driving the Japanese out of the airfield on the large island of New Georgia just south of Kolombangara.

The last of these runs resulted in an unsuccessful battle for the U.S. which did not merit a name from military historians. It would become the infamous topic of magazine articles, books, movies and political campaigns when of fifteen PT boats which did not score a single sinking, the destroyer "Amagiri" rammed and sank future U.S. President John F. Kennedy's "PT-109", who was then remarkably found by two natives in a dugout canoe.


On the night of August 6 they sent a force of four destroyers under Captain Kaju Sugiura ("Hagikaze", flagship, "Arashi", "Shigure" and "Kawakaze") carrying 950 troops and supplies. The Japanese airfield at Munda on New Georgia, which the force at Vila was tasked with reinforcing, was on the verge of being captured (it would fall later that day), and the Japanese anticipated that Vila would become the center of their next line of defense.

The U.S. Task Group 31.2 of six destroyers ("Dunlap", "Craven", "Maury", "Lang", "Sterett", and "Stack") commanded by Captain Frederick Moosbrugger was lying in wait and made radar contact at 23:33. Having incorporated lessons of night-fighting after the Battle of Tassafaronga and the PT boat debacle, the Americans did not give away their position with gunfire but waited until their torpedoes were in the water. They fired 36 torpedoes in the space of 63 seconds. The 4 main U.S. ships, which included the "Craven", used the mountains of the main island, to their East, to camouflage their position, as Japanese radar was not as sophisticated as the American radar, and could not differentiate the ships and the island. All four Japanese destroyers were hit. "Hagikaze", "Arashi" and "Kawakaze" burst into flames and were quickly sunk by gunfire. The torpedo that hit "Shigure" was a dud, damaging the rudder only, and she escaped in the darkness. The many Japanese soldiers and sailors left floating in the water after their ships sank refused rescue by the U.S. destroyers. Over 1,000 Japanese troops and sailors were lost. 300 reached Vella Lava and were later transferred to Kolombangara. During the entire battle, not one U.S. ship was struck by so much as a single bullet.


The battle, coming less than one month after the night action at Kolombangara, was the first U.S. victory in a torpedo duel. The six destroyers had accomplished what a squadron of 15 PT boats could not, sink the Tokyo Express with torpedoes with no friendly losses. The Japanese could no longer supply the garrison on Kolombangara, and the Allies bypassed it, landing instead on Vella Lavella to the west.



*cite book
last = Brown
first = David
authorlink =
year = 1990
title = Warship Losses of World War Two
publisher = Naval Institute Press
location =
id = ISBN 1-55750-914-X

*cite book
last = Calhoun
first = C. Raymond
authorlink =
year = 2000
chapter =
title = Tin Can Sailor: Life Aboard the USS Sterett, 1939-1945
publisher = Naval Institute Press
location =
id = ISBN 1-55750-228-5

*cite book
last = Crenshaw
first = Russell Sydnor
authorlink =
year = 1998
chapter =
title = South Pacific Destroyer: The Battle for the Solomons from Savo Island to Vella Gulf
publisher = Naval Institute Press
location =
id = ISBN 1-55750-136-X

*cite book
last = D'Albas
first = Andrieu
authorlink =
year = 1965
title = Death of a Navy: Japanese Naval Action in World War II
publisher = Devin-Adair Pub
location =
id = ISBN 0-8159-5302-X

*cite book
last = Dull
first = Paul S.
authorlink =
year = 1978
chapter =
title = A Battle History of the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1941-1945
publisher = Naval Institute Press
location =
id = ISBN 0-87021-097-1

*cite book
last = Hara
first = Tameichi
authorlink = Tameichi Hara
year = 1961
chapter =
title = Japanese Destroyer Captain
publisher = Ballantine Books
location = New York & Toronto
id = ISBN 0-345-27894-1
-Firsthand account of the battle by Japanese squadron commander aboard "Shigure".
*cite book
last = Kilpatrick
first = C. W.
authorlink =
coauthors =
year = 1987
chapter =
title = Naval Night Battles of the Solomons
publisher = Exposition Press
location =
id = ISBN 0-682-40333-4

*cite book
last = Morison
first = Samuel Eliot
authorlink = Samuel Eliot Morison
coauthors =
year = 1958
chapter =
title = Breaking the Bismarcks Barrier", vol. 6 of "History of United States Naval Operations in World War II
publisher = Castle Books
location =
id = 0785813071

*cite book
last = Roscoe
first = Theodore
authorlink =
coauthors =
year = 1953
chapter =
title = United States Destroyer Operations in World War Two
publisher = Naval Institute Press
location =
id = 0870217267

External links

*cite web
last = Parshall
first = Jon
coauthors = Bob Hackett, Sander Kingsepp, & Allyn Nevitt
year =
url =
title = Imperial Japanese Navy Page (
work =
accessdate = 2006-06-14

*cite web
last = McComb
first = David W.
authorlink =
coauthors =
date =
year = 2008
month =
url =
title = Battle of Vella Gulf
format =
work = Destroyer History Foundation
pages =
publisher =
language =
accessdate = 2008-04-16
accessyear =

* [ Description by Vincent O'Hara]
* [ Order of battle]

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