Thus was Burke's "Little Beaver" squadron dispatched to the Battle of Cape St. George and into US Naval history.
A little more than a year earlier, near Guadalcanal, the night of August 8-9, 1942, Japanese Admiral Mikawa hastily assembled a force of seven cruisers and a destroyer near Buka to counter the US/Australian invasion force of eight cruisers and fifteen destroyers at Guadalcanal. Mikawa's force lacked radar, while the allied cruisers and several of the destroyers had radar. But the Japanese had trained for night combat and they were equipped with the world's best torpedoes. US torpedoes had not been adequately tested and proved unreliable and ineffective.
When the clash began, it took about a half hour for the Japanese to sink four allied heavy cruisers, damage two destroyers and kill over a thousand allied sailors. Japan escaped with minimal damage and a loss of 58 sailors.
It was the US Navy's worst defeat ever in a sea battle.
Captain Burke's destroyers were all equipped with radar and knew how to use it at night. The problems with American torpedoes had been fixed. By late 1943, the crews were battle-experienced and, more important, the officers knew how to effectively use the new equipment.
Burke's squadron found the Japanese, sank three destroyers and damaged another, pursuing them in a long stern chase. Burke withdrew before daylight, as the squadron was well inside range of Japanese land based aircraft.
When Arleigh Burke later became Chief of Naval Operations, he wrote a personal, characteristically modest, account of the Battle of Cape St. George for Parade magazine here.