On this day in 1942, the Battle of the Eastern Solomons, one of the handful of major carrier battles of WWII, took place. This photograph shows the USS Enterprise burning after suffering three direct bomb hits from attacking Japanese Aichi D3A "Val" Dive-bombers

The battle was seen as a tactical draw at the time, with both US and Japanese naval forces withdrawing from the area, the Japanese light carrier Ryujo being sunk and the American Enterprise severely damaged.

However, the battle continued the trend of the atrocious attrition suffered by the Imperial Japanese Navy's superb  aircrews, through a combination of no armour protection on aircraft, the determination to press home attacks in the face of withering US anti-aircraft fire, and a general doctrinal/philosophical acceptance that pilots and aircrew would die in combat. The US, in contrast, were extremely miserly with the lives of their airmen, going to great trouble and expense to rescue downed fliers and equipping aircraft with armour and self-sealing fuel tanks.

Nevertheless, the battle, and the subsequent, even bloodier Battle of Santa Cruz, would prove that the IJN's Carrier arm was far from the spent force it was long perceived to be after the disastrous setbacks at Midway.

If you'd like to learn more about these battles, do give Mark Stille's fantastic Santa Cruz 1942 a try!