A little classic of naval warfare.
— Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz
Division and ship records from the battle—presented here as PDF files—tell the story well. These include orders, battle plan, deck logs, war diaries, action reports, track charts and endorsements.
“Dear Moose,” wrote Comdr. Arleigh Burke to Comdr. Frederick Moosbrugger, his Naval Academy classmate and his relief as commander of Task Group 31.2 in the Solomon Islands, “Your battle the other night will go down in history as one of the most successful actions ever fought. It was splendidly conceived and marvelously executed.”1

“A perfect American victory” echoed Capt. Tameichi Hara commanding destroyer Shigure, the sole surviving Japanese ship.2

Both were writing about the Battle of Vella Gulf, 6–7 August 1943 when, for the first time, an effective combination of doctrine, planning and execution produced a superb US torpedo attack that surprised the enemy and sank three of his four ships.

As a demonstration that American destroyers—when equipped with functional torpedoes and free to maneuver independently of larger ships—could deliver a decisive attack, Vella Gulf was immediately seen by both sides as a breakthrough event in the Pacific war: the tactics pioneered in this battle served as a model for the Battles of Empress Augusta Bay, Cape St. George and Surigao Strait to come.

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This article was prepared following presentations at sea, June 2007, in USS Vella Gulf (CG 72) in collaboration with her then-commanding officer, the late Capt. Steve Davis, author of “Perfect in Every Respect,” an article on the battle published in the August 2008 edition of Naval History.
1. Potter, E.B., Admiral Arleigh Burke, A Biography, Random House, 1990.
2. Hara, Tameichi, Japanese Destroyer Captain, Naval Institute Press, 2007.