by Vincent P. O'Hara

The savagery of the battles fought off Guadalcanal in the second half of 1942 would not be matched for the rest of the war, but as the Allies advanced up the Solomon Islands toward Rabaul, they fought the Japanese in a series of engagements more protracted and nearly as bitter.

These ten battles and engagements were generally fought in close waters.  The three of the first four, First Kula Gulf, Kula Gulf and Kolombangara involved Allied light cruiser/destroyer forces intercepting Japanese destroyers engaged in transport missions.  In the Engagement off Vila a Japanese destroyer transport force accidentally encountered an Allied light cruiser/destroyer bombardment force.  The next four battles, Vella Gulf, Horaniu, the evacuation of Kolombangara and Vella Lavella and the last battle, Cape St. George all involved American destroyer forces intercepting Japanese destroyer transport forces.   Only in the next to last battle, The Battle of Empress Augusta Bay, did a Japanese cruiser force offensively attempt to interfere with American transports protected by light cruisers and destroyers.

The Guadalcanal battles in 1942 had seriously depleted the American cruiser forces in the Southwest Pacific: five heavy cruisers and one light cruiser were sunk and seven heavy cruisers and two light cruisers were seriously damaged.  The Japanese only lost one heavy cruiser to surface action, although several more were sunk by aircraft and submarines.  They had more of these assets available in the area, but were extremely conservative in their employment.  As a result, the Japanese fought eight of these ten actions exclusively with destroyers whereas the Americans employed cruisers in five of the ten.   While honors in the ten battles, actions and engagements were evenly split between the Japanese and Americans, the Americans were clearly outfought only once, while the Japanese suffered three decisive defeats losing eight destroyers at no cost to the Americans.  The Americans were finally learning how to use radar and torpedoes effectively.