Battle of the Komandorski Islands

Battle of the Komandorski Islands
Part of World War II, Pacific War

The heavy cruiser Salt Lake City, damaged by Japanese cruiser gunfire, starts losing speed prior to going dead in the water during the battle under a smoke screen laid by accompanying destroyers.
Date27 March 1943[Note 1]
Locationoff Komandorski Islands
Result Tactically inconclusive
United States Strategic United States victory
 United States  Empire of Japan
Commanders and leaders
United States Charles McMorris Empire of Japan Boshiro Hosogaya
1 heavy cruiser,
1 light cruiser,
4 destroyers
2 heavy cruisers,
2 light cruisers,
4 destroyers
Casualties and losses
1 heavy cruiser severely damaged,
2 destroyers slightly damaged,
7 killed,
20 wounded[Note 2]
1 heavy cruiser moderately damaged,
1 heavy cruiser slightly damaged,
14 killed,
26 wounded[Note 3]

The Battle of the Komandorski Islands was a naval battle between American and Japanese forces which took place on 27 March 1943 in the North Pacific, south of the Soviet Komandorski Islands. It is considered one of the most unusual naval engagements of World War II, in that it was a daylight surface engagement in which air support played a negligible role and in which the inferior force emerged victorious.


When the United States became aware of Japanese plans to send a supply convoy to their forces on the Aleutian Islands of Alaska, U.S. Navy ships commanded by Rear Admiral Charles McMorris were sent to prevent this. The fleet consisted of the heavy cruiser Salt Lake City, the light cruiser Richmond and the destroyers Coghlan, Bailey, Dale and Monaghan.[1]

American intelligence estimated that the Japanese escort consisted of one heavy cruiser, one light cruiser, and four destroyers.[2] However, the Japanese 5th fleet had been reinforced by two more cruisers, so that the Japanese escort force actually consisted of the heavy cruisers Nachi and Maya, the light cruisers Tama and Abukuma, and the destroyers Wakaba, Hatsushimo, Ikazuchi, and Inazuma, commanded by Vice Admiral Boshiro Hosogaya. On the early morning of 26 March, the Japanese convoy was intercepted by the American picket line some 100 miles south of the Komandorski islands and 180 west of Kiska, just to the west of the International Date Line.[2] Because of the remote location of the battle and chance encounter on open ocean, neither fleet had air or submarine assistance, making this one of the few engagements exclusively between surface ships in the Pacific Theater and one of the last pure gunnery duels between fleets in naval history.

Although the Japanese cruisers heavily outgunned the American force, the engagement was tactically inconclusive. Both fleets suffered damage, with the U.S. Navy warships escaping almost by luck. With the Japanese fleet on the edge of victory, Admiral Hosogaya — not realizing the heavy damage his ships had inflicted and fearing American war planes would appear — retired without destroying his enemy. This amounted to a strategic defeat, as it ended Japanese attempts to resupply the Aleutian garrisons by surface ship, leaving only submarines to conduct supply runs. Hosogaya was accordingly retired from active service after the battle.


As the range closed, Bailey opened fire on Nachi at a range of 14,000 yd (13,000 m) and then switched to a light cruiser. Coghlan opened fire on Nachi at a range of 18,000 yd (16,000 m).[3]

Salt Lake City fired 806 armor-piercing projectiles and then 26 high-capacity shells after the supply of armor-piercing ammunition was exhausted. Powder and shells were manhandled aft from the forward magazines to keep the after guns firing. Salt Lake City′s rudder stops were carried away, limiting her to 10° course changes.[3]

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Order of battle

United States Navy

Task Group 16.6 - RADM Charles McMorris, Commander, Task Group 16.6

Destroyer Squadron 14 - CAPT Ralph Riggs

Imperial Japanese Navy

Northern Force - VADM Boshiro Hosogaya, Commander, Fifth Fleet (Northern Force) Cruiser Division One:

Destroyer Division 21: - CAPT Amano Shigetaka

D Convoy - RADM Tomoichi Mori, Commander, Destroyer Squadron One

Destroyer Division Six: - CAPT Takahashi Kameshiro

2nd Escort Force


  1. The date is often given as 26 March because the U.S. ships used Honolulu time which refers to the other side of the International Date Line. However, the local date at Komandorski Islands was 27 March
  2. Morison, Aleutians, Gilberts and Marshalls, p. 33. Five were killed on Bailey and two on Salt Lake City, 7 hospital cases and 13 minor injuries, Coghlan was also hit once.
  3. Morison, Aleutians, Gilberts and Marshalls, p. 33 and Hackett,, . Thirteen were killed on Nachi and one on Maya.


  1. Dull, Paul S. (2007). A battle history of the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1941-1945. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press. pp. 261–265. ISBN 1-59114-219-9. Retrieved 19 March 2015.
  2. 1 2 O'Hara, Vincent P. (2007). "Chapter 7: Alaska: Komandorski, March 1943". The U.S. Navy against the Axis : surface combat, 1941-1945. Annapolis, Md.: Naval Inst. Press. ISBN 159114650X. Retrieved 19 March 2015.
  3. 1 2 Millsap, Ralph H., CDR USN "Skill or Luck?" United States Naval Institute Proceedings Supplement March 1985 pp.78-87

External links

Coordinates: 53°5′55″N 168°12′46″E / 53.09861°N 168.21278°E / 53.09861; 168.21278

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