22nd-23rd December 1942
Allied naval forces have carried out a massive redeployment of ASW resources in response to the enemy’s shift in strategy in his employment of submarines. This has reaped immediate reward with the confirmed sinking of a submarine in the shipping lanes between Brisbane and the Santa Cruz Islands and the damaging of one off Bombay in the Indian Ocean. The Livermore Class Destroyer Meredith was leading a two transport task force to the Santa Cruz Islands when her sonar man reported a solid contact to starboard. Her klaxon immediately sounded for action stations and a message was sent to the second escorting destroyer, the Laffey, to assist in engaging a possible enemy submarine. Firm contact was soon established an a rain of depth charges began to fall on the enemy’s position. Underwater explosions caused high spouts of water that rained down on the crews of the destoryers and their perserverance was rewarded when a shark like prow broke the surface 1,000 yards from the Laffey. 5 inch batteries immediately engaged the clearly damaged submarine, though her brave Captain was able to loose one torpedo before she unlitmately sank never to resurface again.
Off Bombay a couple of motor launches tasked with ASW patrol duties was vectored to a sighting off a wake spotted by a Walrus aircrat suspected to have been created by a periscope. AE’s nifty patrol areas command is a great tool for ASW TF’s. If one sets reaction orders to the limit of a ships range at full speed there is a chance that the patrol will react to any sighting of an enemy submarine. Such was the case off Bombay with the four ML’s under the command of Captain Ricketts. 12 depth charges were dropped after sonar made a definite contact with an enemy vessel. Though no confirmed sinking could be made a certain amount of debris and oil floated to the surface so Ricketts entered ‘Enemy submarine engaged and damaged in approaches to Bombay’ into the Ship’s Log.
In the Solomons and intrepid raid by a group of USN Destroyers sunk a float plane support vessel and also exposed a hole in the enemy’s search plane patrol areas. Recon of Munda by F5-A Lightnings had spotted a large auxiliary vessel in port that had been tending 12 float planes in the area. Submarines patrolling the area of the Southern Solomons had repeatedly made reports of sightings and attacks by enemy float planes. Plans were made for a five destroyer flotilla under LCDR Frost flying his flag in the Bristol Class Caldwell to carry out a high speed night sweep of Munda. The plan called for a two day approach with the high speed run being started just off Rennell Island. Frost led his ships in quickly and met no opposition and indeed a large AV vessel was soon spotted by the radar on the destroyers. Open Fire was given at 02:34 with the first salvoes getting direct hits on the enemy vessel and setting it ablaze. But as in other engagements with the IJN the bravery of Japanese sailors cannot be called into questions as she returned fire with her batteries scoring telling and damaging hits on the Meade and Barton. Yet the superior firepower of the USN squadron soon began to tell and one by one the enemy’s guns fell silent and the ship was seen to sink at 02:56. Frost ordered the retreat soon after and by daybreak the least damaged vessels were clearing Lunga. However the air search radar began to pick up contacts bearing in from the North and soon enough two wave of G4M1 and G3M2 bombers dropped several sticks of bombs from around 7,000 feet scoring no hits. AAA fire from the destroyers damaged several enemy planes and one was seen flying back gushing very black smoke from its port engine. Frost ordered both the Meade and the Barton to detach from the main task force as they could not maintain top speed. By dawn on the 24th December Forst had made Lunganville while the Barton was heading to Brisbane and the Meade had come under the protective umbrella of our fighters based in the Santa Cruz Islands.