Archaehistoria

USS Mackinac (AVP-13)

Figure 1

Besides the August 7, 1942 objectives of seizing Guadalcanal and Tulagi Areas as part of Operation WATCHTOWER , the invasion of Malaita Island was also a planned objective. Task Force 63.1 was tasked with the Malaita Island component and consisted of the small seaplane tender USS Mackinac (AVP-13) steaming into the Northern entrance to Maramasike Passage and setting up a seaplane base on the morning of Dog Day. There was some uncertainty Malaita would be free of Japanese, so sending in a seaplane tender into such an unknown situation was a calculated risk. Part of the plan was the Avenger TBF-1 bombers of Torpedo Squadron EIGHT (VT-8) would fly low early in the morning of August 7 through Maramasike area and radio the “all clear” to the Mackinac so she could proceed. Bad weather thwarted the first attempt of the Avengers to check the passage, but a later flight found no indication of Japanese and successfully  radioed the “Mighty Mac” to come in and set up the most forward seaplane base in the South Pacific. Whilst the ship was setting up base, the PBY-5 Catalinas of her assigned Patrol Squadron 23 (VP-23) had departed Espiritu Santo and were in the air patrolling the Northern approaches to the Solomon Islands. These nine flying boats would return to the ship at dusk. The advanced seaplane base would be one of the briefest in the South Pacific war, as the early departure of the covering aircraft carriers and the shattering defeat of the U.S. Navy in the Battle of Savo Island in the early morning of 9 August 1942 suddenly exposed the “Mighty Mac”. The ship pulled out the same day, leaving one of her brood (See Site MALA37) wrecked on a reef in the passage as rare archaeological evidence of Task Force 63.1. The photo above shows the USS Mackinac (AVP-13) on the September 16,  1943 off Mare Island, California. [NA, 19-N-52329].

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