On the night of 8–9 August 1942 off Savo Island, the Japanese 8th Fleet surprised an Allied task force protecting the landing at Guadalcanal, destroying four heavy cruisers and killing more than a thousand U.S. and Australian sailors in approximately 37 minutes, handing the U.S. Navy the worst defeat in its history. While no one factor can account for such a defeat, one of the principal causes was determined to be the superiority of Japanese lookouts.
Ever since man has been sailing ships, he has relied on lookouts. Even though modern ships are equipped with electronic sensors, such as radar and sonar, the most sophisticated equipment may not detect such things as smoke, small navigational markers, objects close to the ship, flares, or people in the water. Navy ships rely on lookouts to ensure navigational safety and to provide amplifying tactical information.