The Battle of Vella Lavella (第二次ベララベラ海戦 Dainiji Berarabera kaisen ) was a naval battle of the Pacific campaign of World War II fought on the night of 6 October 1943, near the island of Vella Lavella in the Solomon Islands.
After their defeats on New Georgia and in the Battle of Vella Gulf, the Japanese had evacuated their garrisons in the central Solomons. A staging post had been established at Horaniu on the north tip of Vella Lavella for the evacuation barges. In October 1943, 600 soldiers remained, and a force of nine destroyers—Fumizuki, Matsukaze, Yūnagi, Akigumo, Isokaze, Kazegumo, Yugumo, Shigure, Samidare—was dispatched under Rear Admiral Matsuji Ijuin to rescue them.
At 22:30, they spotted a U.S. force of three destroyers—Selfridge, Chevalier, and O'Bannon, commanded by Captain Frank R. Walker—approaching from Vella Gulf. A second division of three U.S. destroyers—Ralph Talbot, Taylor, and La Vallette—was also sailing up the west coast of Vella Lavella. Walker did not wait for his other three destroyers to come up but attacked immediately. Both sides launched torpedoes and opened fire at about 23:00.
Yugumo, first in the Japanese line, was hit several times, knocking out her steering, and she was finished off by a torpedo and sunk at about 23:10. However, one of her torpedoes hit Chevalier, detonating the forward magazine. O'Bannon then collided with the crippled Chevalier, and for some time the two ships were locked together. Selfridge attacked alone and was hit by a torpedo at 23:06 and disabled. All three ships were severely damaged, and reinforcements were still 15 minutes away. However, the rest of the Japanese turned away, having perhaps misidentified the three approaching destroyers as cruisers.
Chevalier could not be saved and was sunk around 03:00. The Japanese completed their evacuation mission, ending the second phase of Operation Cartwheel with the Allied capture of the central Solomons after a three-month campaign that cost the Allies six ships; the Japanese lost 16.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Naval Battle of Vella Lavella.|
- Description by Vincent O'Hara
- Order of battle
- WW2DB: Solomons Campaign
- Parshall, Jon; Bob Hackett, Sander Kingsepp, & Allyn Nevitt. "The Battle of Vella Lavella (Combinedfleet.com)". http://www.combinedfleet.com/vlavella.htm. Retrieved 2006-06-14. -Article and analysis of the battle.
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