During the hotly contested struggle for the Solomon Islands during World War II, while Japanese and U.S. soldiers and Marines were engaged in heavy fighting on Guadalcanal and other islands in the chain, the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) supported its forces ashore by using destroyers to make frequent sorties down a water passage that ran among the islands and became known as “The Slot.” These sorties—dubbed the “Tokyo Express” by the Americans—led to frequent engagements with U.S. warships in the area and resulted in a number of major naval engagements that proved to be key components to the ongoing campaign.
On the night of 1 August 1943, 15 U.S. torpedo patrol boats engaged four of these Tokyo Express destroyers in combat. Unlike many other nights, neither side suffered any major losses in the fighting. But one of the U.S. patrol boats—the PT-109—was unfortunate to be lying in the path of the IJN Amagiri, one of the marauding enemy destroyers. It was a pitch-black night, and neither vessel’s captain was aware of the other’s presence in the darkened Slot.