It now appears that we are unable
to control the sea in the Guadalcanal area.

— Adm. Chester W. Nimitz
Following the Marines’ landing on Guadalcanal and the Battle of Savo Island in early August 1942 and the carrier vs. carrier Battle of the Eastern Solomons later that month, the Guadalcanal operation fell into a stalemate. By day, the United States Navy and Marines controlled the air and sea. By night, the Japanese “Tokyo Express” brought in supplies and reinforcements via New Georgia Sound—the “Slot”—while their escorts bombarded Marine positions at will.

The Japanese, however, did not dislodge the Marines. After defeat at the Battle of Bloody Ridge, 12–14 September, they intensified their efforts. By day, they threatened to gain control of the air. By night, the Tokyo Express was not challenged until an American cruiser-destroyer force intercepted it at the Battle of Cape Esperance, 11–12 October.