Night Air Action

Sea Stories

Gilberts Air Action, November 1943

Gilberts Air Action, November 1943

On November 25 and 26, 1943, BB55 was supporting the landing operations at Makin with Task Group 50.2.

“The night was clear but dark; sunset at 1817. There was no moon. Surface visibility after darkness was 4,000 yards. The sky was about 0.3 covered with cumulus clouds. The sea was calm, the wind was about 14 knots from 100 True.”

From 10 to 12 Japanese attack planes and one or more reconnaissance planes engaged the Task Group just after darkness.

Chart of Ship Tracks on November 25, 1943

Chart of Ship Tracks on November 25, 1943

“Two float lights were dropped…burned brightly for at least half an hour. Those flares gave excellent performance and silhouetted the force from a sector astern.”

“A plane was sighted visually close aboard on the starboard bow of this ship. A splash was soon under the plane but no wake or explosion was observed. A plane passed down the starboard side at a range of less than 200 yards at about the masthead height. It was taken under fire by one 40mm and two 20mm guns located on the starboard bow. After passing astern, the plane was soon to break into flames and crash into the water.”

Five-inch mounts #7 and #9 and then the whole starboard side battery opened fire on more planes. By 2008 all planes had assembled and retired to the northwestward.

-Action Report


“This was the first night action in which this ship has participated. The efficiency with which the batteries were controlled, the lack of confusion and the general excellence of performance is attributed to the state of training and the high morale of personnel.”

-Captain Frank P. Thomas, USN


“On the night of 26 November 1943, Task Group 50.2 while engaged in supporting operations in the Tarawa area successfully repelled a night air attack. Enemy planes dropped float light markers and aircraft flares and made several attacks on the formation at low altitudes. This ship sustained no damage and fired at ten enemy planes, two of which were seen to crash.”

-Action Report


48 star U.S. flag, linen, frayed on the ends. According to the tag “this flag was flown on the U.S.S. North Carolina during the engagements of Gilbert Island Nov. 20th 1943, Air Attack Nov. 24th & 25th 1943, and Bombardment of Nauru Dec. 8th 1943. It is the property of Cecil T. Jones, Chief Quartermaster, who was aboard the North Carolina at that time.”

Gilberts Action

“We went to the Gilberts. This was a memorable time for us because this was our first move back into the Mandate Islands. We would use this as a shield. We didn’t bombard in the Gilberts but we acted as a shield to block any Japanese effort to send a force down from the Kwajeleins. We had some long air attacks and this was the first time we [U.S. Navy] used night fighters.

Finally when the battle of the Gilberts came to an end we moved down to Naura and bombarded that. The Japanese had taken it over from the British and they were using the nitrate. We wanted to bust up their shipping facilities as much as best we could. That was one of our primary targets.”

-Commander Richard Walker, Gunnery officer