The Sullivan brothers aboard the Juneau, February 14, 1942. From left, Joseph “Joe”, Francis “Frank”, Albert,

Madison “Matt” and George.

of Atlanta class was able to fire 6 tons

of the ammunition. The 127 mm caliber cannons were supplemented by three, later

four 28 mm caliber four-barrel cannons.

Later these were replaced by more efficient 40 mm caliber weapons and supplemented by a larger number of 20 mm

caliber cannons. The second four ships

were completed with only 12 127 mm caliber cannons, the side turrets were removed. Therefore, it is sometimes considered

a separate Oakland class. Gradually the

number of 40 mm caliber cannons was increased.


The AA cruisers in action

Juneau did not survive long enough to have

her weaponry changed. After her completion in the summer of 1942, she was first

deployed in patrolling duties in the northern Atlantic and Caribbean. When on

September 15 three torpedoes fired from

the Japanese submarine I-19 hit USS Wasp,

Juneau together with the destroyers rescued 1910 sailors from the sinking aircraft

carrier. On October 26, 1942, in the Battle

of Santa Cruz, she sailed as an escort of

the aircraft carriers Hornet and Enterprise. The American vessels shot down 38

attacking Japanese aircraft and Juneau

crew had a lion’s contribution in it. It was

the ship’s first battle. She met her fate in

the following battle though. The naval battle of Guadalcanal in November 1942 was

the only encounter of the surface vessels

where the Atlanta class cruisers took part.

Besides Juneau it was his sister ship Atlanta. Both were sunk. On one side it do-

February 2023

cuments that they were not suitable for

surface vessels’ combat. On the other

hand, their demise was caused by torpedoes and stronger opponent. Not even the

larger cruisers would have sustained such

a damage.

Bloody Guadalcanal

In the beginning of 1942 Juneau was attached to TF 67 task force escorting the ships

carrying the reinforcements and supplies

to Guadalcanal. The Japanese however

thought in a similar way. They intended to

land the troops on the island which would

support the ground attack against the Henderson airfield. It was a half-built airport

which the Americans captured, completed

and named after Major Lofton Henderson, VMSB-41 commander who was on

June 4, 1942, killed in the Battle of Midway.

The airfield was a thorn in the side for the

Japanese. The aircraft taking off from there controlled the airspace during the whole

day. The Japanese ships and ground troops

could only operate undisturbed at night.

The reinforcements were mostly brought

to Guadalcanal by the fast destroyers and

light cruisers so as they could return under

the cover of darkness. The Americans gave

them the nickname “Tokio Express”.

The Japanese destroyers, besides unloading the troops, used to fire a couple

of “salutes” towards the Henderson airfield. The slower Japanese ships carrying

heavy weapons and larger volume supplies however could not afford sailing within the Cactus Air Force range (Cactus

was the Allied code name for Guadalca-

nal). Therefore, the Japanese dispatched

a heavy group of combat vessels which

were tasked to destroy the airfield firing

from the sea. The core of the group was

formed by the battleships Hiei and Kirishima. Each of them carried eight 356 mm

caliber guns. For this mission, instead

of piercing shells, they were armed with

shrapnel grenades which were to explode

at the contact with the ground and destroy

the American aircraft with the fragments.

The American reinforcements reached

Guadalcanal on November 12 and started

to unload. On that day, while protecting the

transport ships, Juneau shot down 6 Japanese aircraft. When the Americans found

out that the strong Japanese fleet was

approaching, they withdrew the transport

vessels and dispatched their escorts into

the night battle with the enemy. Thus, the

American cruisers were lined up against

two enemy battleships. Under the standard circumstances any wise commander

would have withdrawn but this time there was nowhere to go. They were the only

ones to prevent the Henderson airfield

from destruction.

Close look at the night combat

The American side possessed the advantage of the reliable radar while the Japanese, at that time, had none. It was

dark, moonless night with rain showers,

so the visibility was minimal. The American commander, Rear Admiral Daniel

Callaghan however hesitated too much

and failed to take advantage of the early

radar information. Once he made the de-

Photo: Naval History and Heritage Command

Photo: Naval History and Heritage Command


Landing at Guadalcanal, August 7, 1942. From the USS

Alchiba, a Stuart Marine Corps M2A4 tank is being

unloaded into the landing craft LCM(2).

INFO Eduard