The second surface engagement of GT5 decided the campaign.
The Battle of Koepang
Rear Admiral Crace (RAN) scanned the horizon to the NE as he led the ANZAC Squadron from the bridge of the HMAS Australia. The squadron was reinforced with five destroyers of DesRon 29 which followed the ANZACs in line astern.
It was 0400 hours and dawn as the mastheads of six cruisers scanned the horizon for enemy ships. Six minutes later the visibility had opened up to 30,000 yards and they saw the enemy dead ahead. Australia and IJNS Haguro opened on one another with their fore turrets and missed.
Crace ordered a turn to port to open up the broadsides of the heavy cruisers Australia and Canberra. He also ordered Commodore Collins (RAN) leading the Light Cruiser Division in HMAS Perth to turn to starboard to gain a cross fire but the execution was delayed a turn.
Rear Admiral Takagi commanding Cruiser Squadron 5 ordered a two point turn to port to open his three heavy cruisers’ broadside while DesDiv 2 continued. Takagi would try to use DesDiv 2 to lay smoke and isolate the Australian heavies. He had DesDiv 24 provide close escort to the four transports.
The next six minutes saw the Japanese gain a temporary advantage as their gunnery knocked out both fore turrets of Australia. Myoko also lost a fore turret and lost starboard side secondary’s as did Haguro.
After that it was HMAS Perth and Hobart’s turn as targets. Perth was hit hard losing her fore turret, a secondary, a TT and three hits to her hull slowing her to 14 knots. Hobart also lost her fore turret, a secondary, 2 TT, setting her afire, a hit to her hull and 2 hits in her engineering making her DIW until she quickly repaired one hit.
Return fire from Australia, Canberra, Perth and Hobart hit Haguro knocked out a another turret, 2 TT, setting her afire again, several hull hits including an engineering hit that slowed her to 21 knots. Myoko lost her secondarys, 2 TT, setting her afire and several hull hits including an engineering hit slowing her to 21 knots. Nachi suffered a hull hit.
Perth and Hobart both staggered out of line making smoke that covered Hobart and protected Perth from all except Haguro. HMNZS Achilles and Leander now opened on Myoko and Nachi while Perth fired on Haguro. Australia and Canberra could only target IJNS Harusame as her smoke had blanked the rest.
Perth firing rapidly hit Haguro several times including a float plane, setting her on fire yet again, the rest of her secondarys, TT and hull slowing her to 10 knots. Haguro returned the favor reducing Perth to four knots. Myoko hit Achilles knocking out a SL, secondary, TT and an engineering hit she quickly repaired. Achilles hit Myoko knocking out a secondary. Unfortunately, Myoko’s crew screwed up their repair efforts and made her engine hit permanent.
Leander hit Nachi knocking out a secondary, damaging her hull including damage to a bulkhead which Nachi quickly repaired. Leander suffered the loss of 3 hull and engineering hit that slowed her to 14 knots, a float plane, setting her afire and a TT. In addition the shock from Leander’s guns knocked out her radar, both FC and search.
The US destroyers now chimed along with the Australian heavies in hitting the Japanese destroyer Harusame four times in the hull, slowing her to 15 knots while a depth charge hit set her a fire.
The Japanese heavies turned away under smoke while the remaining destroyers of DesDiv 2 tried to get in place to attack with torpedoes. Achilles, Leander and Hobart now opened on them as well as the US cans. Murasame lost all her TT and gun mounts. Samidare lost a gun mount, TT and 4 hits to her hull and a bulkhead. Yudachi lost all her guns and TT as well as 3 hits in her hull and a bulkhead. In return the Paul Jones lost a gun; Pope an engineering hit; Peary a gun and a TT; while Pillsbury to a hit to her hull.
None of the ships or their formations had a morale failure but Takagi realized the jig was up and withdrew aborting the invasion. Crace grateful for the reprieve let them go. This abortion precluded the Eastern Attack Force from taking all its objectives ending the campaign in a Japanese defeat even though the Western Attack Force had taken all its objectives.