The Aola Bay Project
Meeting the possibility of losing some of our positions on Guadalcanal, notably Henderson Field, November 1942, found the Sterett again In a Task Force carrying reinforcements to the Solomons. From the 2nd to the 6th of November, the transports unloaded troops and supplies at our beach at Lunga Point, but the primary purpose of this trip was to form a new beach at Aola Bay, about 16–20 miles to eastward of our main positions. There we unloaded an Army Engineering Battalion. It was the job of this group to build an airfield at Aola Bay. This spot was chosen for obvious reasons, considering the topography of “Guadal.”

Guadalcanal is a mountainous island of volcanic origin some 40 miles in length (east to west) and 20 miles in width. On this relatively small land area are several mountains over 6,000 feet high and two or three of 7,000 or 8,000 feet. On most parts of the northern coast, the foothills of these mountains slope down almost to the water’s edge. There are two positions on the northern coast suitable for building an airstrip: the first and more desirable is in the vicinity of Lunga Point where Henderson Field is located. The other is at Aola Bay. An airfield at Aola Bay would save several very useful purposes. It would provide a stand-by field sufficiently far from the center of operations that if we should lose Henderson Field we could maintain an air strength on Guadalcanal to neutralize the Jap control of Henderson. Another practical use of a second field (other than the obvious advantage of having two fields instead of one) was that it would disperse our planes to minimize dam age by aerial bombs and naval bombardment.

Thus the Aola Bay project was undertaken. The combatant ships during the unloading phase wore employed in a manner by this time familiar to us: at night when the transports and cargo ships retired to the south of the Eastern Solomons, the combatant ships, cruisers and destroyers, formed up and patrolled Indispensible Straits—thus ensuring the other ships against possible surface attack by enemy ships approaching from the north and west. It had for almost two months been the practice to stay at our battle stations during all hours of darkness while In the Solomons area. It was a relief when the Task Force completed its assigned task and retired eastward through the slot between San Cristobal and Malaita Islands, and on the southeast to the good harbor of Espiritu Santo. Soon after our arrival at Santo, the Sterett received orders detaching her from her long duties as the South Pacific handy man and placing her once again on the “main team.” It looked like a fighting outfit when we joined the cruiser Task Force 64. (continued)