In June 1942, Abe commanded the cruiser and battleship screen in the Battle of Midway; that August, he led the Vanguard Group in the southwest Pacific. This force, consisting of the battleships Hiei and Kirishima and the cruisers Kumano, Suzuya, and Chikuma, was involved in the carrier battles off the Eastern Solomon Islands. In late October, the Vanguard Group, augmented by destroyers, fought in the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands, which was a tactical victory for Japan but at some cost. The Chikuma was especially hard hit.
In early November, the Japanese planned a direct assault on Guadalcanal. Abe was ordered to shell the U.S. air base Henderson Field to prepare for an amphibious assault. As his ships moved southward, they met the defending Allied force commanded by U.S. Rear Admiral Daniel Callaghan on the night of 12–13 November 1942. The resulting battle was one of the fiercest in naval history, and although Callaghan lost two cruisers and four destroyers and was himself killed, he forced Abe and 13,000 Japanese troop reinforcements to turn back. Abe lost two destroyers in the battle itself. His flagship, the Hiei, was also crippled and succumbed to subsequent U.S. air attack.
Abe took the blame for the unsuccessful mission, was relieved of his command on 20 December 1942, and resigned from the navy in March 1943. He died in Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture, on 6 February 1949.
Frank, Richard B. Guadalcanal. New York: Random House, 1990.; Morison, Samuel Eliot. History of United States Naval Operations in World War II. Vol. 5, The Struggle for Guadalcanal, August 1942–February 1943. Boston: Little, Brown, 1949.