By lex, on December 14th, 2009
A five minute sea battle at Guadalcanal is being reinterpreted based on recent discoveries, according to Richard Fernandez:
The accepted story is that the Kirishima which entered the scene in company with destroyers, fired on and disabled the shorted-out USS South Dakota. In the meantime, the USS Washington fired a series of accurate salvos which inflicted 9 16 inch and 40 5 inch hits on the battlecruiser, causing it to lose control and eventually scuttle itself.
The real story, according to Lundgren is that Kirishima took 20 x 16″ and 17 x 5″ in the five minute battle. At the 8,400 range of the engagement, Washington’s 16″ battery was firing with only a 7 degree elevation and the shell dispersions were so narrow at these ranges that the splashes literally merged.
Twenty 16″ shells would have been hard to survive in any case, but the new theory is that the Japanese officers followed their training and counter-flooded to reduce list on the engaged side and essentially placed the ship’s center of gravity above its center of buoyancy.
Fernandez attributes the ship’s rapid loss in part to out-dated systems thinking on the part of the Kirishima‘s officers. I’d have to say it was at least in part to a very fine state of gunnery training aboard Washington.