The Battle of Vella Gulf
During World War II, many of the important waterways of the war were
named more for their significance than their location. Kula Gulf and
the surrounding waters became known as "The Slot." This narrow body of
water stretching between Kolombangara and New Georgia became the route
of the "Tokyo Express" - a group of fast running Japanese cruisers and
destroyers which made midnight runs up "The Slot," resupplying the
garrison on Kolombangara. This "slot" also became the site of the
Battle of Vella Gulf.
The operation began on the morning of 6 August 1943 on board the USS
DUNLAP, where the captains of six destroyers met with Commander Task
Group 31.2, Commander Frederick Moosbrugger, to discuss the 'Battle
Plan.' The group was designed in two division of three destroyers each.
USS DUNLAP, USS CRAVEN and USS MAURY comprised Division A-1. Division
A-2 had USS STACK, USS STERRETT, and USS LANG. CDR Moosbrugger's plan
was to have Division One make a torpedo attack and Division Two to
attack with guns and torpedoes when the initial attack was complete.
The Task Group was proceeding in a column formation at General Quarters
on the night of the 6th of August at twenty-five knots, when the first
report of a radar contact, using the "Sugar George" radar was made.
Both the DUNLAP and CRAVEN held contact at 19,700 yards, bearing 351
degrees true from DUNLAP. It was soon determined there were multiple
targets on course 180 true at 26 knots. The Commander Task Group 31.2
ordered Division One to prepare to fire eight torpedoes to port. A
fourth target eventually appeared on the radar scope, and the formation
maneuvered to fire.
At 2341, eight torpedoes were fired as the crew waited for the
explosions to begin. "Turn 9" was given by CDR Moosbrugger. At the
completion of the turn, the explosions began. The first explosion was
soon followed by another ten seconds later, and to the right of the
first. Another ten seconds passed before a third explosion even farther
to the right echoed in the Gulf.
Rounds of gunfire from the second division followed these explosions.
Both divisions closed on the enemy. With two targets sinking, and the
other fiercely burning, another round of gunfire assaulted the fourth,
remaining Japanese ship. Eighty-seven rounds were fired in total. This
remaining ship was identified by lookouts to be a three-stack cruiser,
but the extent of the fire precluded any further recognition.
Various torpedoes were reported by the ships of Task Group 31.2, but
the enemy's aim was poor, and no damage was sustained. Under threat of
an enemy submarine in the area, constant course changes were required
over the next hour to avoid torpedo and "bogey" reports.
At 0105 on 7 August, the decision was made to reverse course in hopes
of trying to recover survivors. Nets and lines were readied for use,
and armed men posted; however, the MAURY's main feed pump crashed.
Division One was ordered to retire with MAURY as the guide.
General Quarters was secured at 0359, and friendly air cover arrived
three hours later. The Task Group passed north of the Russell Islands
and proceeded toward Koli Point.
There were several lessons learned from this engagement. First,
destroyers, when correctly handled making a coordinated torpedo attack,
are an effective asset in securing sea lanes to enemy traffic. Complete
understanding of battle plans by all hands results in battle confidence
and success. The element of surprise contributed to the enemy defeat.
USS VELLA GULF was sponsored by Mrs. Mary Ann McCauley and was
commissioned into the Naval Service on 18 September, 1993 in ceremonies
at Norfolk, VA.
USS VELLA GULF successfully completed Sea Trials during the month of
February 1998. In the months of May and June, VELLA GULF completed a
two-month BALTOPS Cruise, taking part in the 26th annual maritime
exercise U.S. Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) '98 in the Western Baltic Sea
from June 8-19, 1998. During the exercise, the commander, Carrier Group
Eight, commanded the exercise from USS VELLA GULF. The cruise was an
opportunity to work with foreign military units and show presence in
ports that no Navy vessel had been to before. In November, VELLA GULF
completed an AMMO onload, LAMPS moved aboard, completed a successful
C2X, and had made a port call at St. John, U.S. Virgin Island. Upon the
completion of C2X, VELLA GULF continued pre-deployment work-ups.
In January 1999, after winning her fifth consecutive "Battle E", VELLA
GULF performed Tomahawk Launch Area Coordinator duties during Tomahawk
training exercises and had the AEGIS training and readiness center
onboard for a week of Force Air Defense Commander training.
VELLA GULF's successful completion, in February 1999, of JTFEX '99
marked the end of a ten-month work-up. The vessel headed out for
deployment to the Adriatic Sea on 26 March 1999. After a six-day
transit, VELLA GULF took her position in the Adriatic Sea and
participated in everything from Tomahawk Strike Ops to Fast-track
Logistics Ops as part of Operation Noble Anvil. In May and June, VELLA
GULF continued to participate in support of combat operations, shot
Tomahawks, assumed warfare commander duties (ADC, ASUWC, ASWC and
Launch Area Coordinator), and conducted numerous at-sea refueling and
stores replenishment events until the relaxation of weapons posture and
cessation of hostilities.
VELLA GULF began the month of August engaged in multi-ship exercises.
She Participated in DIVTACS, LeapFrogs, Tomahawk exercises, submarine
exercises, Flight Ops, and Gunnery exercises. VELLA GULF returned home
on 22 September 1999 and went in November to Yorktown, VA, for a
complete weapons offload.
As part of the USS GEORGE WASHINGTON (CVN 73) Carrier Battle Group
(CVBG), and in response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001,
USS VELLA GULF set sail in support of defense and humanitarian efforts
off the coast of New York.
VELLA GULF deployed on September 19, 2001, as part of the THEODORE
ROOSEVELT Carrier Battle Group, to the Mediterranean, and "to points
East" in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The THEODORE ROOSEVELT
Carrier Battle Group transited the Suez Canal on October 13th and
arrived in the Arabian Sea on October 15th, before returning home in
The Coat of Arms of the
VELLA GULF links the officers and men of Division "Able One" and
Division "Able Two," who fought so valiantly at the Battle of Vella
Gulf, with the crew that will sail the VELLA GULF into the future. The
commissioning pennant recalls the previous ship of the same name, USS
VELLA GULF (CVE 111). Dark blue and gold are the colors traditionally
associated with the Navy. The Battle of Vella Gulf occurred in a body
of water known as "The Slot" in the Solomon Islands, which is
represented by the flaunches in the middle of the shield. The wavy
division at top refers to the sea. The six U.S. Navy destroyers
involved in the battle are recalled by the six sections comprising the
shield, while the four Japanese destroyers, the "Tokyo Express," which
were defeated, are suggested by the red discs. Dark blue alludes to the
darkness of the nighttime battle. Counter- changing the colors of the
shield underscores unity of U.S. Naval components, while the bald eagle
characterizes the U.S. victory and naval strength, past and present.
The crossed swords embody the synergism of the officer-enlisted teams.
The Crest: The trident symbolizes
sea prowess and the modern weapons of CG 72: The vertical launch, and
the AEGIS Systems (anti-submarine, surface, and air warfare). The
lightning flashes represent quick strike capabilities and allude to the
advantage of radar, which was instrumental to the U.S. Navy victory in
the Battle of Vella Gulf. Red traditionally symbolizes courage and
firepower. The star commemorates the Battle Star awarded to the
previous VELLA GULF for her service in World War II.
Motto: The motto is adapted from a
favorite military maxim of General Stonewall Jackson, which reads: "To
move swiftly, strike vigorously, and secure all the fruits of victory,
is the secret to successful warfare."
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