On 1 November 1943, as DesRon 45 plus three Squadron 22 veterans prepared to support the landing by the 3rd Marine Division at Cape Torokina, just north of Bougainville’s Empress Augusta Bay, Admiral A.S. Merrill’s cruiser division and DesRon 23 under Capt. Arleigh Burke moved to disguise the operation. After bombarding Buka to the north of the landing area and then the Shortland Islands to the south, DesDiv 45 ran south to refuel at Hathorn Sound in the New Georgia Group, then rejoined Merrill as he turned north again to intercept any Japanese formation that might close the beachhead.
The Japanese did not disappoint. Off Empress Augusta Bay in the early hours of November 2, Admiral Merrill’s formation crossed ahead of a more powerful Japanese force and withheld fire while both of Burke’s destroyer divisions moved out on the enemy’s flanks to deliver a torpedo attack. Although the Japanese altered course before Burke’s first torpedo salvo could hit, Merrill opened fire amidst the confusion and then expertly maneuvered his cruisers to avoid any torpedoes until the Japanese retired.