After three tragic nights, in some of the most fierce naval battles of all time, this battle is finally over. Who won ? Looking at the performance of both navies, it seems clear that the Japanese dominated the naval scene with superior performance by all units. Their ship commanders showed the many years of preparation had paid off and their performance was professional. The American force was newly formed and had never trained as a unit and it showed. Many of our ship commanders did a commendable job while others gave less than a professional performance but all performed with utmost courage.

The Japanese Long Lance torpedoes worked amazing well and gave the Japanese side a definite edge. But, since the Japanese failed in their objective to land troops and retake the airfield this can definitely be counted as an American victory. That, after the battle on the 13th, the Japanese Admiral Abe left the battle area with one of his battleships practically undamaged along with other ships in good fighting condition, showed the Japanese Navy was capable of making some serious blunders. The airfield could have been shelled to keep the American airmen from hammering the Japanese transports the following day. Abe was relieved of his command upon his return.

NOVEMBER 13–15, 1942

To the superb officers and men on the sea, on land, in the air, and under the seas who in the past five days have performed such magnificent feats for our country. You have won the undying gratitude of your country and have written our names in golden letters on the pages of history. No honor for you could be too great, my pride in you is beyond expression. Magnificently done. May God bless each and every one of you. To the glorious dead, hail heroes—may you all rest with God.

Admiral, U.S. Navy

The fact that Admiral Halsey could have had his two battleships at Guadalcanal two days earlier than he did presents the puzzle as to what might the results have been if the battle had not been so one sided against the Americans. Instead of two battles in mid November, there would have been only one and the Americans would have had the preponderance of power.

Our Mark XV torpedoes were a tragic example of a failure by our military that defies the imagination and leaves one to wonder if the Mark XVs were ever adequately tested. Was the Navy aware that during this period of time nine out of ten of American torpedoes failed? Of all the torpedoes fired at the Hiei on the night of the 13th, Admiral Abe reported that none were effective. On the 15, it was the same situation. The number of young men who had to give their lives to launch these defective torpedoes should leave Americans with a heavy heart. These young men went into battle with confidence in their leaders and their equipment and it cost them their lives.

For those of us who were enlisted personnel on the O’Bannon, we exited the battle carrying the idea with us that we had put three of our torpedoes into the Hiei and were largely responsible for that ship’s demise. It took some fifty years for me to learn otherwise. For many others, it is likely that they never found out the truth. Maybe that was for the best, who can say. In the battles that followed, we enlisted sailors would never again be quite so trusting of our officers. But we would be more confident of our own abilities.