On 7 May, the first day of the Battle of the Coral Sea, Abe lost his close-air support when U.S. aircraft sank the light carrier Shoho. The Transport Force retired to the north while the main forces slugged it out. Although the Japanese won a tactical victory in the battle, Admiral Inouye Shigeyoshi could no longer provide close-air support to Abe and ordered the invasion postponed until 3 July. Later events caused the invasion to be canceled.
Abe was promoted to vice admiral and given command of the Marshall Islands to prepare for an American invasion there. Ten days after Marines landed on Guadalcanal, Carlson's Raiders landed on Makin Atoll. They wiped out its small garrison and then withdrew to the two submarines that had carried them to the island. Nine Raiders did not make it back to the submarines. They were captured on 21 August by the Japanese relief force. The American prisoners were transferred to Kwajalein, where they were well treated.
In early October 1942, Abe met with a staff officer from Truk. The officer informed Abe that a revised policy allowed him to deal with prisoners locally and not transport them to Japan. Abe ordered Captain Obara Yoshio, commander of the Kwajalein garrison, to execute the prisoners. Despite Obara's protests, Abe insisted. The commander ordered four of his officers to perform the executions. Obara selected the day of Japan's annual memorial to departed heroes, the Yasukuni Shrine festival, as the execution date. On 16 October 1942, in the presence of Abe, the nine Americans were led to a large grave and beheaded.
The Japanese attempted to cover up the crime, but after the war, Marshall Islanders told U.S. authorities about the executions. Abe was arrested and tried on Guam for war crimes. Convicted, he was hanged there on 24 June 1947. Tim J. Watts
Dull, Paul S. A Battle History of the Imperial Japanese Navy (1941–1945). Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1978.; 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.; Smith, George W. Carlson's Raid: The Daring Marine Assault on Makin. Novato, CA: Presidio Press, 2001.
Tim J. Watts