Through December, the Japanese built and began operating an airfield at Munda Point in the New Georgia Islands, 100 miles north of Guadalcanal. This gave Japanese bombers an alternative staging point that was also conveniently closer to Guadalcanal; efforts to destroy the field by air continued frantically, while running supplies to both New Georgia and Guadalcanal placed a new tax on the Japanese destroyer force and rat submarines. A series of bright nights in early December made destroyer runs to the southern garrison too dangerous, hence the submarine supply runs and midget actions previously discussed on this page during December 1942. Raizo Tanaka’s last run on 11 December (previously detailed) in which Teruzuki was lost to PTs was the final straw. Destroyers would only go to New Georgia for the remainder of the calendar year. This would stunt the growing attrition rate of the IJN’s destroyer force, but not stop it entirely.
A massive naval buildup was ongoing at Rabaul throughout the month as well, which worried US leadership. Aircraft began to pester the anchorage, testing the waters with night bombings. One such attack on 27 December took a surprising turn; despite a release point 11,000 feet above the anchorage, American B-17s managed to hit five ships with their payloads. Four were transports and merchants, of which one sunk. The fifth was the old destroyer Tachikaze, shown here on her speed trials in 1921. A bomb ripped through Tachikaze’s bow and detonated with terrific results, ripping the bow from the little ship in an ironic swipe of revenge for those severed bows at Tassafaronga a month prior. The destroyer did not sink, but had to effect emergency repairs to prevent that end and was out of service for three months afterwards. Another blow to the IJN destroyers needed so desperately to extend supply lines to the contested southern island chain.
Tachikaze would later be sunk during Operation Hailstone, a concerted air raid on Truk, in 1944.