Operation Wisp D-Day +1 12th April 1943
A chaotic and disjointed day in which lady luck favours and abandons both sides.
The action starts with a nocturnal sweep by 4 IJN destroyers of Suva Bay. Two battleships and two light cruisers stand guard and they have radar sets that gives them eyes at night. As such, despite a massive Long Lance attack, the USN is able to sink the destroyer Ushio and drive her three remaining sisters away with a whiff of danger to the transports that keep unloading their troops and cargo on Lunga Point. This is where the operation starts to get disjointed as for no apparent reason the Massachusetts turns away and starts to steam for the Santa Cruz Islands, an action that will cause her Captain to suffer a court martial, a dishonourable discharge and two years in the brig. He was given specific orders to remain in place at Lunga regardless of the risk as the transports were the valuable targets and their mission paramount.
As such three transport groups decide to also follow their cover out of Lunga but lacking radar and in the ensuing confusion they steam North East instead of South. Later in the day both the AP Fuller and the xAK West Ivis will be sunk by Bettys near Tulagi. Further disaster was averted when D3A2s were off target while attacking LSTs that had also left. Further chaos and disaster followed, this being the action that caused the Massachusett’s Captian to be jailed, when the Covering Force stumbled upon a screen of Japanese submarines that were able to sink the Nashville and hit the Massachusetts itself with one torpedo. One wondered whether the Japanese custom of seppuku should have been employed by said Captain.
A second naval engagement was fought to the West of Guadalcanal when a light surface raiding group, the light cruiser Columbia and four destroyers, stumbled across the IJN Sazanami which had also attacked Suva Sound. The Columbia was returning from an unsuccessful sweep of Munda when he radar came alive with a contact. Short work was made of the Japanese destroyer as she was heavily out gunned and out numbered.
Lady luck then once again smiled on Japanese eyes as the second escort carrier ferrying in transports, the Chenango, was hit by a Val and Kate launched torpedo. Her Wildcats, along with Martlets from the Victorious, had earlier beaten off two attack waves. Though the Chenango was still afloat she was heavily damaged and her flight deck was closed. Her fighters found refuge on the Wasp while her Avengers made safe haven at Utupua. This news was further compounded by the reports coming from the Marshall Islands were the CVE Sangamon had been heavily damaged by a submarine off Kwajalein, her AVGAS store going up in a massive sheet of flame and noise. Yet the Allies could count themselves lucky that the strikes invloving more than 100 enemy fighters and 30 bombers failed to hit either of the fleet carriers off Kirakira. Bombs, torpedoes and even aircraft in their death throes all missed the Wasp and the Victorious as both their fighter screen and aggressive manoeuvring kept both ships intact and in the fight. Better news as well from Lunga where intial probing suggested a weak Japanese defence. Orders were to be given for an all out assault on the 13th as the situation was becoming dangerous. The Covering Force had retired and the CAP was down 50 Wildcats from the CVE’s. Submarines were also making the waters around the Southern Marshalls somewhat hazardous as well. Lady Luck needed to shine tomorrow on the USMC and US Army soldiers lumbering up for the fight in hills of Lunga.