Night Action off Guadalcanal
While operating 50 miles southwest of Guadalcanal it was learned that an enemy convoy would likely transit the passage off Savo sometime during the night hours. This Japanese bombardment group consisted of battleship Kirishima; heavy cruisers Takao and Atago; and a destroyer screen. ... Three ships were visually sighted from the bridge of South Dakota. Washington fired on the leading ship, and a minute later, South Dakota's main battery opened on the ship nearest her. Both initial salvos started fires on the targets. South Dakota then fired on another target until it disappeared from her radar screen. Turret No. 3-firing over her stern and demolishing her own planes in the process-opened on another target and continued firing until the target disappeared. Her secondary batteries were firing at eight destroyers close to Savo Island. A short lull in the battle followed after which radar plot showed four enemy ships just off Savo Island, approaching from the starboard bow. Searchlights from a Japanese ship in the enemy column illuminated South Dakota. Washington opened with her main battery on the leading, and largest ship. South Dakota's secondary batteries put out the lights; and she shifted all batteries on the third ship, believed to be a cruiser, which soon gushed smoke. ... South Dakota, under fire from at least three ships, had taken 42 hits causing considerable damage. Her radio communications failed; radar plot was demolished; three fire control radars were damaged; there was a fire in her foremast; and she had lost track of Washington. As she was no longer receiving enemy fire and there were no remaining targets, she withdrew; rendezvoused with Washington at a prearranged location; and proceeded to Noumea.