In the latter half of 1943, the “conductor” of the Tokyo Express found it a hazardous run (May, 1991)
As of August of 1943, Rear Admiral Matsuji Ijuin was the commander of the “Tokyo Express,” the Japanese group of ships that would try to reinforce their troops in the Solomon Islands.
The Japanese destroyers were quite deadly. The ships had won a battle against the US in November 29, 1942, when under the command of Rear Admiral Raizo Tanaka. The problem he had was that he criticized the Japanese strategy at Guadalcanal and that got him removed from command.
Things tended to go downhill, and in March of 1943 the last of the daylight Tokyo Express runs was held. US aircraft proved too much for the Japanese ships in daylight, so the runs went to a nighttime schedule.
On the night of July 5-6, the Japanese destroyers managed to sink the American cruiser Helena, but they lost two cruisers themselves and Akiyama, the commander of the group, was killed.
A week later there was another battle, and the Japanese ships managed to sink the destroyer Gwin. They lost only one ship, the Jintsu, but again the commander of the group, this time Admiral Izaki, was killed.
One of the key differences in WWII technology was the US use of radar; it was much more advanced than the Japanese form. On August 5, there was another night battle. Radar helped the US forces to sink three of four Japanese ships in one group.
US forces landed at the southern end of Vella Lavella on August 15, so that Japanese decided to take one of their destroyers that had a primitive radar along with other ships, 13 barges and three torpedo boats to try to land some troops to challenge the US forces.
The move was scheduled for the night of August 18. There's a long description of the battle which involved a lot of ships running into other ships. A alter battle, the Battle of Empress Augusta bay, didn't go much better. The Japanese attack force didn't fare much better. The whole thing goes to show just how terribly difficult it was fighting at nighttime during that war. Shelling your own ships or running into them apparently was not that uncommon on either side.
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