The Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands
As the Battle for Henderson Field came to a close with a critical US victory on land, combat at sea and in the air raged on in the waters off Guadalcanal. Seventy years ago today, the Battle of Santa Cruz was fought as part of the Naval campaign for Guadalcanal. It was the third incidence since the Battle of the Coral Sea in which carrier (as well as land-based) aircraft from air craft carriers–in this case the Hornet and Enterprise–attacked the enemy without the surface ships ever coming within range of one another.
The Hornet—whose claim to fame was its role as the carrier from which the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo launched in April 1942 as well as a critical role at the Battle of Midway—was one of the casualties of the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands, sunk on 27 October after sustaining massive damage from repeated strikes by Japanese “Val” dive bombers and “Kate” torpedo bombers. She would be the last fleet carrier to be sunk by an enemy.
The Japanese would lose approximately 500 mean and 100 aircraft, versus US losses of 250 men and 80 aircraft. Like many of the naval battles of the Guadalcanal Campaign, the result was anything but a clear-cut victory for either side. While the Japanese were the victors at sea, the heavy losses they suffered would inhibit further landings of infantry reinforcements ashore on Guadalcanal, so Santa Cruz is also considered a strategic victory for the US.
For more about the Guadalcanal Campaign, See our Focus On: Guadalcanal.
This post by Curator Meg Roussel
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