Guadalcanal Campaign file photo

Guadalcanal Campaign

7 Aug 1942 - 9 Feb 1943

Contributor: C. Peter Chen

This article deals particularly with the events taking place on and around the island of Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands. For details on the Solomons Campaign, please see this article.

Landing at Guadalcanal:
7 Aug 1942

"Even before one drop of blood had been spilled on its fecund soil or a single corpse buried in it," Dan van der Vat said, "Guadalcanal stank". Even Morison, the US Navy's own historian, used the self-coined word "faecaloid" to describe the humid jungle island. When asked about the conditions on the island, United States Marine Corps veteran and author William Manchester said "[m]ove a thousand yards inland. Just be sure you take a compass and leave a Hansel-and-Gretel trail behind you. If you don't you will die." Such was the awful conditions that Japanese and American men fought in.

Before the Japanese began constructing an airfield on Guadalcanal, the island was mostly ignored even by the Japanese occupiers. At the evidence of such an airfield being constructed, however, the mosquito and disease-plagued island, with the waters around it, soon became a hotly contested zone for the next six months. On 7 August 1942, the US First Marine Division landed on the island of Guadalcanal successfully albeit amateurish amphibious landing techniques (this was one of the first amphibious assaults in the war). The landers lacked information about the terrain, the tide, and the weather; some of the Marines were even wielding WW1-era rifles. On 0910 that morning, two battalions of the Fifth Marine Regiment established a 2,000-yard beachhead very quickly, and the airfield subsequently fell under American control. Vice Admiral Gunichi Mikawa, the newly installed commander of the Japanese Eighth Fleet based at Rabaul, ordered an air assault on the Allied ships, but did not meet success. Mikawa then gathered every ship he could find and start sailing south.

Some days ago, Mikawa actually had already sent six transports filled with troops for Guadalcanal. While in transit, Meiyo Maru was attacked by American submarine S-38 commanded by Lieutenant Commander H. G. Munson, sinking her with a loss of 342 men. The rest of the transports turned back for Rabaul. Had this transport mission succeeded, the fight on the island of Guadalcanal would be much tougher for the American Marines.

The airfield was named Henderson Field after Lofton Henderson, a Marine pilot lost during the Battle of Midway.

The Japanese troops continued to shell the field with artillery, attempting to destroy or recapture the field. Bombers from Rabaul, despite constant Allied attack on that Japanese air field, were sent to attack Henderson as well. However, Allied engineers were able to keep the field available for aircraft to land and take off. Meanwhile, the American Marines slowly drove back the land elements of the Japanese forces on the island with superior firepower. The Americans held on to Henderson Field, but the Marines there felt helpless due to the lack of adequate naval support while the Japanese controlled the sea.

Battle of Savo Island
9 Aug 1942

A few moments after midnight during the early morning of 9 August 1942, Mikawa's fleet of aging cruisers and two destroyers arrived at the southern shore of Savo Island. He launched a night attack against the Allied fleet which consisted of American and Australian ships. The Japanese fleet sneaked by the destroyer USS Blue, but maintained stealth because Blue's lookouts committed a common mistake of lookouts: they scanned in every direction for hostile ships except for the sea behind them. The tired American sailors, who had been under constant stress for days, also gave Mikawa a greater ability to maintain undetected. The American forces were divided into three groups to guard the three entrances of the area that would eventually be named Ironbottom Sound. Mikawa's task force was consisted of the following:

At 0137, Mikawa's radar-less ships launched torpedoes toward the American ships at the distance of about 5,000 yards. About this time, American destroyer Patterson sighted the Japanese ships and sent out the broadcast "Warning-Warning: Strange Ships Entering Harbor!" But the warning was not announced in time. At 0143, before the torpedoes struck, the Japanese guns opened up. Very soon after, the Australian cruiser Canberra was struck by two torpedoes on her starboard side; it was immediately followed by a hit by shells, which mortally wounded Captain Getting of the ship. Canberra sank five minutes later. Torpedoes reached the American cruiser Chicago a little bit later, giving her a chance to fire a few more rounds out of her 5-inch guns, but she still could not escape the fate of being struck by the Japanese torpedoes. She was then hit by a shell which caused little damage, but did start a fire that marked her as a target for Japanese guns. Chicago and Patterson continued to fight bravely, but they committed a great mistake: they did not ensure the group immediately north of them that they had engaged the Japanese. The notification did not go out until 0210, by then the northern group had already engaged in combat.

The heavy cruiser Vincennes of the northern group was sailing in calm waters with the other ships in a box patrol formation when she was suddenly illuminated by Japanese spotlights. She was attacked first by shells, then was struck by a torpedo launched long before. Mikawa's cruisers, split up to two columns by mistake, surrounded the Allied ships on both sides and opened fire with their guns. Aboard the cruiser Astoria, damage control officer Lieutenant Commander Topper felt the concussions of the southern battle a few minutes before, but shook it off as distant destroyers launching depth charges. Astoria did not realize they were under attack until they were illuminated by Japanese star shells. They turned their guns and started firing, but momentarily the firing was ceased because the captain of the ship, who had just been awakened, feared that they were firing on friendly ships in all the confusion. Astoria was soon hit by an 8-in salvo, and the fire marked her as a clear target for Japanese ships under the night sky. The cruiser Quincy probably received the worst attack among these cruisers. Illuminated by Japanese searchlights, the Japanese sailors laughed us they noticed Quincy's guns were all trained in. They had caught her completely by surprise. "We continued the battle very easy minded, without any worries," commented the executive officer of Chokai after this discovery. Quincy's seaplane catapult was struck quickly, creating a torch to mark her location, therefore the searchlights were no longer necessary. She eventually sank at 0235.

Fearing an American retaliatory attack by air at daybreak, Mikawa turned his two columns to port and returned westwards. By this action, he had failed to attack his primary targets: the poorly defended Allied transports off Lunga Point, loaded with vital food and ammunition that the American Marines desperately needed to fight on Guadalcanal. Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto of the Combined Fleet personally noted his displeasure for this failure, though Mikawa argued that he had already expended all his torpedoes, therefore it was not worthwhile to risk the Allied air raid at daybreak to commence the attack on the transports. What Mikawa did not realize was that American Admiral Frank Fletcher's carrier group had left the general vicinity only a day ago, therefore American retaliation by air actually would not had been a concern.

The Japanese fleet sailed back to New Ireland with minor damage and utmost pride, however, only 70 miles out of the destination port of Kavieng, cruiser Kako was sank by American submarine S-44 under the command of Lieutenant Commander John R. Moore with four torpedoes. The American submarine escaped easily.

The final tally heavily favored the Japanese. Mikawa's forces suffered a destroyed torpedo tube on Aoba, a destroyed chart room on Chokai, a storeroom flooded by a shell hole and some damage to turret number one and port steering control room on Kinugasa, and the cruiser Kako sank. The damage on the Allied side was much greater, probably best illustrated by the amount of casualties reported by the US Navy after the battle:

Killed or Died of WoundsWounded
Canberra8455
Chicago221
Vincennes332258
Quincy370167
Astoria216186
Ralph Talbot1111
Patterson811
Jarvis??

The casualty counts on DD Jarvis were unknown because she was sunk by an air attack later that day.

After the battle, the American Navy conducted an analysis of the American failures that led to the disaster. Among the top of the list were the men's inadequate preparedness for night action, failure to communicate between battle groups, and the failure to detect enemy reconnaissance aircraft before the attack.

Miscellaneous Engagements
9 Aug-15 Sep 1942

With the Japanese Navy patrolling the waters off Guadalcanal, the Marines at Henderson Field knew they had to hold on to the airfield at all costs. Without a functional airfield, they would be truly isolated from the rest of the Allied forces. Major General Alexander Vandegrift of the United States Marines Corps set up a five-mile defense line from the Tenaru River to Kukum, while putting his 75-mm half-track vehicles and captured Japanese 3-in guns on the coast as makeshift coastal batteries. Some 90-mm anti-aircraft guns were deployed around the airfield against low-level bombing attempts, but they did little to keep away the Japanese high-level bombers.

Because the Japanese controlled the sea, supplying the Marines was difficult. The American admirals decided that typical transports were too slow and too vulnerable to venture into Japanese-controlled waters, therefore destroyers must be re-fitted to perform supply missions. On 15 Aug destroyers Colhoun, Gregory, Little, and McKean made the first run to Guadalcanal and brought in aviation fuel and ammunition, leading the way for later destroyer supply runs.

On 19 Aug, a small scale offensive was conducted by the Americans to keep the Japanese on their toes. The Americans were able to capture the villages of Kokumbona and Matanikau at the cost of 65 Japanese and 4 Americans, but Vandegrift pulled back his Marines to the original perimeter due to the lack of men and resources.

The Japanese commander at Guadalcanal was General Harukichi Hyakutake of the Japanese 17th Army with headquarters in Rabaul. Underestimating the American numbers at Guadalcanal, he believed 1,000 troops were all he needed to re-take the island. He sent Colonel Kiyono Ichiki, the man originally assigned to be the occupier of Midway, to accomplish this task. Ichiki landed his 916 men on the island after a bombardment by six destroyers to aid his landing. The Americans detected Japanese reinforcements on the island after an attack on a 34-man Japanese patrol on 19 Aug found the Japanese killed to be cleanly-shaven and neatly dressed, which was very unlike any soldier on either side once he had spent more than two weeks on this hot and stinky island. In the evening of 20 Aug, American defenders detected large-scale movements. At 0130 on 21 Aug, 200 Japanese soldiers charged the Americans' eastern flank at the mouth of Tenaru River. The Japanese troops charged close to the line and engaged in savage fighting involving bayonets and rifle butts. Many Japanese soldiers purposely overran the American perimeter and threw grenades and firecrackers to create confusion among the American defenders. By day break, the American Marines fended off the Japanese attack, killing every single attacker. Lieutenant Colonel Lenard Cresswell led a group of men eastward and by 1400 that day had enveloped the remainder of Ichiki's men. Despite the initial determined defense and subsequent desperate bayonet charges, Ichiki was not able to break the envelopment. About 1600 that afternoon, five American light tanks joined the attack, putting additional pressure on the Japanese who were already demoralized after being strafed by American aircraft. By sun down, nearly every man in Ichiki's group was killed; Ichiki committed suicide in disgrace. The very few who survived the battle fled and eventually joined up with Rear Admiral Raizo Tanaka, who commented that "this tragedy should have taught us the hopelessness of bamboo spear tactics."

During Ichiki's attack, escort carrier Long Island reinforced Henderson Field by bringing 19 Wildcats and 12 SBD Dauntless dive bombers. The sight of these aircraft landing at Henderson was recalled by Vandegrift as "one of the most beautiful sights of my life. I was close to tears and I was not alone." On 22 Aug, a portion of the Army's 67th Fighter Squadron arrived at Henderson. Although the aircraft and pilots were from different services and were of all sorts of models, the hodge-podge air group was able to contribute to the airfield's defense. These aircraft and their crew received a great boost on 1 Sep when the first of the US Navy's 6th Construction Battalion arrived on Guadalcanal. The CBs, or often called Seabees, brought six 5-in guns and their expertise in engineering and construction. With their skills, they were able to repair damage done to the runway of the airfield by Japanese bombing within 40 to 60 minutes. During a particular hour on 14 Oct, for instance, 13 bomb craters were counted; while American aircraft circled above waiting to land, the Seabees filled them all within the hour.

General Hyakutake sent a convoy with 3,500 men to reinforce Guadalcanal. When this convoy entered American aircraft range on 28 Aug, it was detected. At 1800 that day, eleven Marine Corps dive bombers attacked the convoy 70 miles north of Guadalcanal. Destroyers Asagiri was sunk, and Shirakumo and Yugiri damaged. The landing was cancelled after the attack as the ships returned to the Shortlands. The Americans only lost one aircraft in this engagement.

On 29 Aug, five Japanese destroyers sortied in retaliation. After landing 450 soldiers on Guadalcanal, they failed to find American targets. The next day, fast transports Colhoun and Little were found by Japanese bombers and were attacked promptly. In a rare display of accuracy from bombers against moving ships, a stick of bombs dropped only 50 feet from Colhoun, causing horrific concussion damage to the transport that was converted from an older destroyer. She sank within minutes, taking 51 lives with her. Behind the bombers, destroyer Yudachi followed; that evening Yudachi disembarked the troops she transported at Taivu.

On 31 Aug, Japanese submarine I-26 found carrier Saratoga's task force and planted a torpedo on her starboard side. Destroyer Monssen was charged to hunt down the submarine, which she reported she had destroyed, but in actuality I-26 escaped the scene safely. Saratoga was not critically damaged, but her speed was knocked down to 12 knots. She would require three months of work in the docks to patch her up again. Also on 31 Aug, seven or eight Japanese destroyers ran the American aerial blockade and landed 1,200 troops (along with their commander Major General Kiyotake Kawaguchi) on Guadalcanal.

In the early morning hours of 5 Sep, destroyer transports Greg and Little ran across a Japanese night patrol consisted of three destroyers (Yudachi, Hatsuyuki, and Murakumo) and destroyer transports. Originally successful in sneaking up to the Japanese force, a Navy Catalina reconnaissance aircraft operating out of a separate unit found the Japanese ships at the same time and dropped five flares. The sudden illumination of the area exposed the American destroyer transports. Greg was badly damaged by 5-in shells and abandoned, and Little followed suit. The engagement ended at 0135 after the Japanese ships left the area. Survivors were picked up by landing boats after daybreak.

On 15 Sep, carrier Wasp's group was escorting transports containing men of the 7th Marine Regiment destined for Guadalcanal. The group was found by Japanese submarines I-19 and I-15. A spread of torpedoes fired by I-19 struck Wasp, and either a stray torpedo from that salvo or a separate torpedo launched by I-15 struck North Carolina. Wasp remained afloat for hours, but eventually the fire was becoming out of control. Captain Sherman ordered abandonment of the ship, and he personally left the ship at 1600 that day. By nightfall, Wasp had proven to be unwilling to go down, and destroyer Lansdowne was ordered to fire torpedoes to scuttle the ship. Five torpedoes were fired, but only three exploded. Wasp sank at 2100. North Carolina fared better; with her good construction and a skilled damage control team, she was making 25 knots not long after the torpedo struck, although she had to use that good speed for her return to Pearl Harbor for proper repairs. Not from from North Carolina, the destroyer O'Brien was also struck by a torpedo. She survived the battle with good damage control and was later patched up temporarily at Espiritu Santo. However, while en route for the west coast of the United States for proper repairs she broke apart on 19 Oct and sank.

Battle of the Ridge / The First Battle for Henderson Field
12-13 Sep 1942

During the day on 12 Sep, the American Marines reported an unusual number of skirmishes with Japanese patrols, and Vandegrift prepared his forces for an attack. He formed his defenses at the area known as the Ridge 1,500 yards from Henderson Field. The Ridge's close right flank was guarded by Marine engineers and pioneers, and the far right flank on the coast by Lieutenant Colonel Biebush. The close left flank was guarded also by Marine engineers, and the far left flank at Tenaru River by Lieutenant Colonels Pollock and McKelvy. The Japanese, under the command of General Kiotake Kawabuchi, attacked after nightfall. Biebush, Pollock, and McKelvy fended off the secondary attacks amongst Japanese yells of "banzai!" and "Maline (sic), you die!", but the main thrust at the Ridge was a different story. Japanese troops charged the Ridge wave after wave with grenades, rifles, and bayonets, with each wave signaled by red flares which attracted attention from American mortars. During the battle, salty exchanges of "US Maline (sic) be dead tomorrow!", "Hirohito eats shit", and "Eleanor eats shit" were heard in between bursts of machine gun fire. Throughout the night, the fearless Japanese attackers charged and charged, pushing the Marines to the last knoll of the Ridge. If the Japanese could push the Marines off of the last knoll, then there would be no further natural obstacles defending Henderson Field. The Marines held. The last charge took place at dawn, and after that charge the Japanese offensive ceased. The Marines noted that the Ridge was "littered with Japanese bodies sprawled in the pitiful and repulsive attitudes of death." As American aircraft took off and strafed remaining Japanese units still in the area, the Marines buried 40 of their fallen comrades and treated the 103 wounded. The Japanese casualties were much greater. Out of the 2,000 troops committed on this night offensive, over 800 were killed in battle (200 reported by McKelvy, 600 reported by Colonel Edson at the Ridge), and hundreds more died of their wounds on their retreat to the coast. By the end of Kawaguchi's campaign, he had little over half of the 3,450 troops he had at the time he landed on the island.

Battle of Matanikau
23 Sep-9 Oct 1942

After Wasp's sinking, the 7th Marine Regiment finally made their way to Guadalcanal on 18 Sep. With the fresh reinforcements, Vandegrift thought it was time to mount the counter offensive that he had long wished to commence. The Japanese forces were heavily entrenched near the Matanikau River, with strong natural defenses consisted of steep hills, sharp kunai grass fields, and ravines running along the coast. On 23 Sep, Lieutenant Colonel Lewis Puller of the 7th Marine Regiment led his men northwest from Henderson Field toward the mouth of the river while Lieutenant Colonel Griffith led his men toward a Japanese-held bridge upstream. Lieutenant Colonel McDougal's men were dug in along the eastern bank of the river. Though heavy artillery fire, Griffith's man attacked the bridge without success, and was bogged down there for four days before being recalled downstream.

In attempt to break the stalemate, Puller sent three companies of his men under the command of Major Otho Rogers to land behind enemy lines in Higgins boats. Rogers was killed shortly after the landing, and the group was soon surrounded on a kunai grass knoll being attacked on all sides. They were evacuated later that afternoon under the cover fire from destroyer Monssen and SBD aircraft from Henderson Field.

With Rogers' attack failed, the stalemate ensued for the next ten days. Vandegrift had his men build up defenses along the perimeter so that some of the men assigned to defensive duties could be freed for a follow-up offensive. On 7 Oct, six battalions were ordered to mount another attack. On the same day, Colonel Nakaguma received orders from General Hyakutake to act as well. Nakaguma led his 4th Infantry Regiment in preparation to cross the river, but Colonel Edson's troops outflanked them and pushed the Japanese back to the western bank. The next day, Japanese troops attacked again in heavy rain, engaging in fierce hand-to-hand combat, and again failed to break through. On 9 Oct, Colonel Whaling's Marines secured the bridge they were not able to secure at the end of the previous month. With American control of the bridge, Americans under the command of Whaling, Puller, and Lieutenant Colonel Hanneken poured across the other side of the river. They found no Japanese troops, however. Undetected, the Japanese had already moved further west into two ravines that offered defensive superiority against targets coming from the shore, but not from their southern inland approaches. Marine artillery showered destruction upon the Japanese crowded in the ravine, and any Japanese who attempted to flee were gunned down my well-placed machine guns. It was later realized that 690 of Nakaguma's men were killed in the ravines.

During the actions at Matanikau River, the American Marines lost more than 120 lives. More than 220 were wounded.

Battle of Cape Esperance
11-12 Oct 1942

Sailing with a line ahead formation, Rear Admiral Norman Scott's destroyers patrolled the waters off Cape Esperance the night of 11 Oct 1942. Around 2220, 14 miles off of the cape, cruiser Salt Lake City's reconnaissance aircraft burned from an accidental ignition of flares. At that time, Rear Admiral Aritomo Goto's ships, sailing in a T-shaped formation, was only 50 miles northwest of Scott's force. However, focused so much on night time navigation and their primary mission of bombarding Henderson Field, Goto's lookouts did not think much of the distant fire. In fact, after a short while, the lookouts assumed the fire was a signal from Japanese troops on the beach; they answered with blinker, and naturally received no replies. The American ships were too busy navigating at night as well to notice the faint blinker light from Goto's ships.

At 2250, American cruiser San Francisco's aircraft detected unknown ships six miles south of Savo Island. Scott was cautious with the news, avoiding the chance of friendly fire. What the aircraft found, however, was indeed Japanese ships, but they were not Goto's. The ships detected belonged to another group under the command of Rear Admiral Takaji Joshima. Joshima had under his command seaplane carriers Chitose and Nissin and six destroyers. They were carrying 728 Army men, field guns and other artillery pieces, and miscellaneous supplies on a run to supply Guadalcanal. After their delivery, they were to reinforce Goto's group in bombardment of Henderson Field.

At 2332 Scott committed a potentially major mistake. He feared that his current course would lead him to a disadvantageous position when engaging Joshima's group, he ordered his ships to conduct a column-left maneuver that for at least 10 minutes would render his ships in disarray. What Scott did not know was Goto's proximity. Even though cruiser Helena, equipped with the new SG radar, detected possible contacts, she did not report this to Scott right away. At 2338, Scott finally received Helena's report, along with possible contacts reported by other ships, and became somewhat suspicious of another enemy group; even at this point, he did not order San Francisco to turn on her own radar for fear that additional working radars would decrease their stealth. The American ships finally completed their maneuvers at 2345; at this time, they were between 4,000 and 5,000 yards away from Goto's ships. Helena's crew was sure that their findings were indeed Japanese ships and her skipper Captain Hoover requested permission to fire by issuing the radio message "Interrogatory Roger". On the flag bridge of cruiser San Francisco, Hoover's request was misinterpreted as an acknowledgment of a previous radio message, and sent back an affirmative "Roger" to indicate receipt. An identical exchange again took place as Hoover confirmed what he believed was an order to commence firing. At 2346, Helena opened fire to Scott's surprise and an even more surprised Goto who sailed in the dark without radar. The other American ships followed Helena and fired their primary and secondary guns. Goto's ships returned fire quickly despite of the surprise. The honor of the first hit was given to the Japanese, who landed a hit on cruiser Salt Lake that killed several men.

On the flag bridge of San Francisco, Scott, who never ordered to fire, was not convinced that the targets were indeed Japanese. He ordered a cease fire only a minute after Helena's first salvo. The blunder was repeated on the other side. Goto also feared of friendly fire, and was further convinced when he noticed some American ships stopped firing only after a minute (only some ships complied with Scott's cease fire order). Goto ordered a column movement to starboard as he attempted to identify the ships on the other side. Around this time, American destroyer Duncan was hit by a combination of friendly and hostile gunfire and flashed its identity several times to notify the American ships, which further persuaded Scott that he was indeed firing on American ships. Also around this time, Goto was mortally wounded as a shell exploded on cruiser Aoba's bridge. By pure luck, Scott's line was "crossing the T", enabling his guns to fire in succession against the Japanese line without offering the Japanese an opportunity to bring all their guns to battle, but even at this time Scott was furiously repeating his cease fire order that not every ship followed. At 2351, Scott was finally convinced that the ships were Japanese, and ordered a resume firing. The Japanese were now under the command of Captain Kikunori Kijima, who ordered the Japanese line to turn and fire back. Cruiser Furutaka maneuvered herself between Aoba and the American forces, sacrificing herself to protect Goto's flagship in her escape. Japanese destroyer Fubuki, sailing in the van, was sunk by gunfire during the escape. At midnight, Scott ordered cease fire to regroup his ships, but many American skippers ignored the order and continued to engage the fleeing Japanese ships. The American ships broke off the pursuit at 0100 on 12 Oct.

Despite the victory, Scott's force did not sail away from the battle unscathed. Duncan, which was fired upon by both friendly and hostile ships, eventually sank. Cruiser Boise's forward 6-inch ready ammunition would be detonated by a pair of 8-inch hits from Furutaka, killing everyone inside turrets number 1 and number 2, disabling her, though the magazine crew kept minimum amount ammunition exposed and probably saved the ships from worse fate; perfectly-timed flooding also prevented further explosions aboard Boise. San Francisco suffered light damage. Destroyer Farenholt was damaged by Japanese gunfire. On the Japanese side, Furutaka sank 22 miles northwest of Savo Island. Aoba was burning from 40 enemy hits. Worst of all, Goto was dying. Kijima steamed his ships at full speed, fearing an American air attack at dawn.

While the battle ensued, Joshima's ships reached Guadalcanal and reinforced the troops there, achieving the primary objective of the overall mission despite the losses of Goto's group. As a result, although Scott achieved a tactical victory in battle, the Japanese actually earned a strategic victory for delivery critically needed troops, weapons, and supplies to Guadalcanal. For the first time in the Guadalcanal campaign, the Japanese troops on the ground gained access to field artillery.

For the losses, Captain Kijima was relieved by the orders of Admiral Mikawa. Scott, on the contrary, became a hero of the theater despite repeated blunders that all could have turned the tides of the battle for the worse.

"The Bombardment"
14 Oct 1942

In the few days after the Battle of Cape Esperance, destroyers, bombers, and battleships bombarded Henderson Field. The greatest bombardment the American Marines endured was what later came to be known as "the Bombardment" on the night of 14 Oct 1942. The bombardment group centered around battleships Kongo and Haruna under the command of Vice Admiral Takeo Kurita rained fire and destruction on Henderson Field for 80 minutes completely uncontested. In the morning, the Marines crawled out of their foxholes to find holes spotting the airfield, and 48 out of 90 aircraft destroyed or seriously damaged. 41 of their comrades were killed in the Bombardment. This bombardment was so damaging that a colonel sent out the message "[W]e don't know whether we'll be able to hold the field or not."

Attacks on Transports
15-16 Oct 1942

Joshima's successful delivery of supplies and weapons to Guadalcanal on the night of 11 Oct was not the only logistical defeat for the Americans. The Japanese were also keen on attacking any American attempts to supply their own Marines on the island. One such example was the attack on a transport group consisted of cargo ships Alchiba and Bellatrix, motor boat tender Jamestown, tugboat Vireo, and destroyers Meredith and Nicholas. The two destroyers were each towing a barge carrying 2,000 barrels of gasoline and 500 quarter-ton bombs. This transport group was spotted by a Japanese search plane on 75 miles off of Guadalcanal. At 1050, two aircraft attacked unsuccessfully, and Japanese surface vessels followed. As the slow Vireo was about to be scuttled, 27 aircraft from carrier Zuikaku attacked and sank the American destroyer Meredith within minutes with great loss of life (and the survivors had to fight sharks for the next three days before being rescued). Bellatrix sustained minor damage and escaped back to Espiritu Santo with Alchiba, Jamestown, and Nicholas, abandoning their mission to supply Guadalcanal.

Another example came the next day. After successfully supplying Guadalcanal with fuel, Destroyer seaplane tender McFarland and destroyer minesweepers Southard and Hovey were on their return trip while carrying 160 wounded and psychologically damaged patients. They were attacked by dive bombers, with McFarland quickly losing rudder control. To make matters worse, the "war neurotics", as historian Samuel Eliot Morison described them, disrupted the defense efforts with their demoralized psychotic behavior. She eventually escaped to Tulagi with only 27 deaths. Even though she was able to deliver valuable fuel to Guadalcanal, she was damaged so extensively that she would not be able to make another delivery attempt again for the remainder of the campaign.

The Second Battle for Henderson Field
15-26 Oct 1942

On 15 Oct 1942, General Hyakutake made another bid for Henderson Field by committing a two-prong attack against American fronts. Major General Tadashi Sumiyoshi led the northern prong against the American front near the mouth of the Matanikau River, while Lieutenant General Masai Maruyama led the southern prong against the Ridge. Sumiyoshi attacked the Marines' defensive at the Matanikau River on 20 Oct with light tanks, but Colonel McKelvy's men held their ground. Despite a surprise flanking move by Colonel Oka, the Marines did not lose an inch of ground. This battle also saw an exchange of shells between a Japanese shore battery and the destroyer Nicholas, with Nicholas emerging victorious after unloading 181 rounds into the Japanese battery to silence it. The northern prong was more or less defeated on 25 Oct.

Maruyama divided the southern attack into two prongs of its own. The western prong was led by Major General Yumio Nasu and the eastern Major General Kiyotake Kawaguchi. Nasu reached the American lines at the Ridge first on 24 Oct, overrunning the first knoll with ease in heavy rain, but American Marines and Army soldiers held on to the subsequent lines. By daylight, the Japanese troops discovered Nasu had been killed some time overnight in combat, but another senior officer took over and little initiative was lost. The attack was renewed after nightfall with Kawaguchi's men who had finally arrived during the day. The second attack, equal in savageness compared to the previous night, was also halted by the American defenders. After the battle, Americans counted 941 Japanese dead at the Ridge.

The First Naval Battle of Guadalcanal
13 Nov 1942

Rear Admiral Daniel Callaghan was responsible for patrolling Ironbottom Sound on the night of 13 Nov, a mission he knew was going to be extremely difficult. American intelligence had flooded Admiral Richmond Turner with what he concluded to be a Japanese fleet of two battleships, two or four heavy cruisers, two light cruisers, and ten to twelve destroyers heading for the area. Turner needed a force to slow or halt this hostile force so that he could withdraw the transports currently unloading supplies on the coast of Guadalcanal. At the dusk of 12 Nov 1942, the transport fleet consisted of four transports, two cargo vessels, three destroyers, and two minesweepers left Guadalcanal, leaving Callahan on his own. Callahan had at his disposal five cruisers and eight destroyers.

During the night of 12 Nov, Vice Admiral Hiroaki Abe approached Ironbottom Sound. American cruiser Helena detected two faint contacts on her radar, and they were quickly determined to be reflecting a group of ships screening another 5,000 yards behind it. At 0141 in the early hours of 13 Nov, destroyer Cushing at the head of Callahan's column spotted Japanese destroyers Marusame and Yudachi at a very close distance of 3,000 yards. While the Americans were confused by the sudden appearance of the enemy at a close range, the Japanese were outright surprised for they had not been expecting an American force that night. Luckily for the Americans, the Japanese fleet was in a slight disadvantage for their formation had been placed in disarray when sailing through rain squalls. It was not until 0145 when Callahan finally gave the official order to commence firing, and by then the American column were already heading into the center of the Japanese formation. The delay in Callahan's order might have been caused by his distrust of Helena's radar report, opting to make visual confirmation instead. At 0150, Japanese search lights were switched on, and quickly found the cruiser Atlanta. Atlanta fired her 5-inch guns at the directions of the search lights to extinguish them, but the Japanese gunners had already trained their guns on the American cruiser. A shell exploded near the bridge, killing Rear Admiral Norman Scott of recent Cape Esperance fame. After one or two torpedo hits, Atlanta was dead in the water within minutes of the start of battle.

From this point on, the ships were so entangled that historian Samuel Eliot Morison called the ensuing action a "general melee". Destroyer Cushing at the head of the column then made a torpedo run, firing a spread of six torpedoes intended for battleship Hiei, but none scored. The torpedo run drew much attention on Cushing, and she was promptly targeted by enemy gunfire and was sunk after being hit by 10 14-inch shells. Destroyer Laffey, immediately following Cushing, also received a punishment during its assault on Hiei. Laffey also launched her torpedoes at Hiei, but Laffey's suffered a different failure: Laffey had fired them too close to the ship, so even if they had hit, the torpedoes bounced off the sides of Hiei harmlessly for not having enough time to arm themselves. Laffey was hit by two salvos from battleship Kirishima and a torpedo from Teruzuki before she was abandoned. Laffey's crew did kill Chief of Staff Masakane Suzuki by machine gun fire, however.

Next on deck was destroyer Sterett, but she was disabled before accomplishing much. Her captain, Commander Jesse Coward, managed to fire four torpedoes, but they missed as well. While Sterett made her charge, destroyer O'Bannon followed with her guns firing then launched two torpedoes. Again they either missed or failed to explode. O'Bannon did not receive much of a punishment as she was too close for Hiei's guns to hit.

Although Abe's fleet had done a remarkable job thus far, all the Japanese admiral could see was the confusion aboard Hiei, which had been the target of most American guns. With the American ships sailing into the heart of his formation, Abe had no choice but to order a change of course to break things apart. Hiei turned north away from battle, and Kirishima followed suit. On the American side, the relative closeness of ships also discomforted Callahan who feared friendly fire. Callahan called for a cease fire momentarily to regroup and identify the location of all friendly ships before resuming the battle.

A new round of attack was led by San Francisco, sailing toward the fleeing Hiei. Hiei fired high explosive shells originally intended for Guadalcanal bombardment at the cruiser, killing Callahan. However, much to the comfort of those who survived the salvos, the high explosive shells did not cause structural damage to the American cruiser. Lieutenant Commander Bruce McCandless took over command and ordered the ship to continue fighting. Cruiser Portland followed San Francisco into battle, but was hit by a torpedo in the propeller early on in the attack, locking her in a clockwise loop, though she continued to fire upon Hiei. Cruiser Helena followed Portland into the battle, and she was followed closely by Juneau. Helena fired upon destroyer Akatsuki, which was busy attacking the disabled San Francisco to notice the cruiser approaching. Akatsuki took heavy damages before other destroyers drove Helena away from the close confrontation. Juneau did little as she was hit by a torpedo very quickly and became disabled. Undaunted by the lack of visible success thus far, four destroyers continued the attack run. Aaron Ward was hit by 9 shells, while Barton was hit by two torpedoes and was sunk. Monssen, mistaken Japanese starburst shells for American signals, turned on her recognition lights, and attracted 47 shells to hit her before she sank. Destroyer Fletcher escaped from the confrontation, seeing the fate of her three attack-run mates.

While dealing a great deal of damage to American ships, the Japanese ships took their share of damage as well. The Yudachi was heavily damaged, the Akatsuki was sunk, the Amatsukaze lost all its weapons, while the Hiei took over 85 hits and rendered rudderless. Ikazuchi and Murasame, two destroyers, saw heavy damage as well.

After the point-blank brawl of a battle was over, four people aboard the San Francisco would be awarded the Medal of Honor, the most a ship received in a single day in the entire war. "So ended the wildest, most desperate sea fight since Jutland," said Morison. Although both sides dealt heavy damage on the other, the Americans were generally credited with a strategic victory as they were able to prevent Abe's ships from bombarding Henderson Field.

Some action continued after day break. Portland, though sailing in circles, fired six salvos on destroyer Yudachi, sinking her with 36 hits. Rudderless Hiei fired four salvos at the immobile destroyer Aaron Ward, straddling her but did not hit; Aaron Ward was towed out of range by a tug boat while Marine Corps aircraft kept Hiei busy. As tug boat Bobolink made off with men evacuated from the heavily damaged cruiser Atlanta, her machine gunner fired at any floating survivors who looked Japanese; the gunner finally stopped at the insistence of Captain Samuel Jenkins of Atlanta. Atlanta was scuttled that afternoon, followed by the sinking of damaged destroyers Cushing and Monssen. As the American survivors sailed away, Japanese submarine I-26 sank cruiser Juneau with two torpedo hits. That afternoon, after being overwhelmed by many aircraft, Hiei sank stern first five miles off of Savo Island.

As a small gesture of retaliation, Vice Admiral Gunichi Mikawa sent Rear Admiral Shoji Nishimura to bombard Henderson Field with two cruisers with 1,000 high-capacity 8-inch shells on the night of 13 Nov. The bombardment lasted 37 minutes. Fortunately for the Americans, only 1 dive bombers and 17 fighters were damaged, with 32 other fighters damaged. "Nishimura's bombardment was a poor show compared with what Abe's big boys might have staged the previous night, if let alone", said Morison.

Air Attacks on Japanese Shipping
14 November 1942

14 Nov 1942, the Americans struck back decisively from the air. Aircraft from Henderson Field, consisted of both Navy and Marine Corps aircraft, found heavy cruiser Kinugasa and light cruiser Isuzu and attacked, leaving them burning vigorously. Meanwhile, scout planes reported the arrival of a heavily escorted convoy; that was Rear Admiral Raizo Tanaka's Reinforcement Group of heavily laden transports, steaming straight down the Slot. Aircraft from carrier Enterprise, 200 miles south of Guadalcanal, attacked the transports at about 0830 while fending off escorting Zero fighters with various degrees of success. At 0950, ten fighters and 17 dive bombers, also from Enterprise, found Kinugasa and her fleet mates. Kinugasa sank two hours later, while cruisers Chokai, Maya, Isuzu, and destroyer Michishio suffered damage. Subsequently, the aircraft on Guadalcanal concentrated entirely on the transports. 7 torpedo and 18 dive bombers, escorted by 12 fighters, made contact with Tanaka's convoy at 1150, damaging several transports. The next attack came at 1245 with 17 dive bombers with some fighter escort, sinking at least one transport. At 1430, 15 Flying Fortresses dropped 15 tons of bombs over the convoy, scoring one hit. Tanaka chose to steam forward despite of the heavy air attacks, knowing that there was no turning back.

"The 14th of November offered a striking illustration of what happens to lightly protected ships that venture under enemy-controlled skies", said Morison. At the cost of merely five aircraft, the Americans had sunk one heavy cruiser, seven transports, damaged many other ships, and most important of all killed many enemy soldiers destined for Guadalcanal. If any leader on either side doubted the importance of Henderson Field as a base of air operations before this day, their doubts were certainly diminished by the end of the day's engagements.

The Second Naval Battle of Guadalcanal
14-15 November 1942

At 1000 on 14 Nov 1942, Vice Admiral Nobutake Kondo's force consisted of battleship Kirishima, heavy cruisers Atago and Takao, two light cruisers, and a destroyer squadron left Java for Ironbottom Sound. This force was attacked en route by American submarine Trout. The submarine caused no damage, but she was able to relay the important finding back to the American fleet. On the opposing side, Rear Admiral Willis Lee who had broken off from Admiral William Halsey's fast carrier group braced for battle with a formation of two battleships and four destroyers. Kondo, who had intercepted Trout's message, intended to brush off any defenders the Americans could summon, and proceed to bombard Henderson Field.

Kondo's force detected Lee's formation at about 2210, reporting "two enemy cruisers and four destroyers". Kondo was ready. He immediately ordered a complex maneuver that broke his forces into four groups, and the dispersion of forces worked well. The Japanese ships knew exactly where the American ships gathered, while the Americans had to deal with a dispersed force; some of the Japanese destroyers came from the direction of Savo Island, which further frustrated American radar operators. The battle began at 2317 when Lee's battleships fired her 16-inch guns at Rear Admiral Shintaro Hashimoto's light cruiser Sendai, while the destroyers immediately locked in a gun battle against each other. At 2333, South Dakota ran into electrical problems which put her (and her radar) out of commission for a long critical moment. Around this time, all four American destroyers were all out of commission; three of them were sunk, and worst of all none of them had fired their torpedoes. To add insult to injury, as destroyer Walke was sinking, her depth charges exploded almost directly underneath the ship's floating survivors.

Seeing his destroyer screen wiped out so quickly, Lee ordered a course change to port. His intention was for South Dakota to go around the sinking destroyers while at the same time be able to expose all of the battleship's guns at Sendai. At 2348, South Dakota turned starboard (north) again. Rear Admiral Kimura, hidden in the dark from the currently radar-less South Dakota, charged up and fired a stunning spread of 34 torpedoes at 2355 at the American battleship. Fortunately for South Dakota, they all missed the single target, but her position still invited gunfire. Her superstructure was bombarded mercilessly by Kirishima, Atago, and Takao. This was when the second American battleship, Washington, entered combat. Previously sitting timid due to a fear of hitting South Dakota, Washington opened fire at midnight at Kirishima. The Japanese forces decided to ignore Washington and focus on sinking South Dakota instead, but that proved to be fatal. Washington fired 75 16-inch shells at Kirishima, scoring 9; there were 40 hits by the smaller 5-inch shells, too. Kirishima quickly became a burning wreck by 0012. South Dakota, by this point, fared only a little better; almost everything on the topside was destroyed, leaving her without any capability for communications. Lee, with his flag bridge aboard Washington, only hoped that the lack of communications from South Dakota only meant she was retiring from battle, not sinking.

Lee turned his course slightly to continue a passive pursuit against the Japanese ships that were falling back. During this pursuit, Washington sank destroyer Ayanami. At 0033, Lee broke off the pursuit as Tanaka's surviving ships (from the air strikes during the previous day) attacked the American battleship with torpedoes unsuccessfully. Eventually, Tanaka was able to deliver 2,000 men, 260 cases of ammunition, and 1,500 bags of rice, but that was after he had already lost 7 transports in the previous day.

Although the Japanese forces had proven their effectiveness in night naval battles, the series of battles at Guadalcanal would also mark the point where the Japanese fleet would be on a constant retreat until the end of the war. For the Americans, the Second Naval Battle of Guadalcanal affirmed the importance of radar. A counter-example was also observed: the first phase of battle was lit by moonlight, and second phase lit by star shells. Second phase did not see better hit rates than the first despite of much better visibility.

American Command Structure Changes
26 Nov, 9 Dec 1942

On 26 Nov, two major command changes were done on the American side. The aggressive Halsey was promoted to the rank of Admiral to give him more authority over his peers. On the ground, Vandegrift was relieved by US Army Major General Alexander Patch on 9 Dec to signify the transition of Guadalcanal from the Marines to the Army. On that same day, the 5th and 11th Regiments of the 1st Marine Division left the island as their posts were taken up by Army reinforcements.

Battle of Tassafaronga
30 Nov 1942

The Japanese made the decision to abandon Guadalcanal, but there were still many men on Guadalcanal that needed to be supplied, therefore the Tokyo Express still needed to remain in operation, though the frequency had been dramatically cut down. Tanaka made another attempt on the night of 30 Nov 1942, leading eight destroyers down the slot. Six of his eight destroyers were heavily loaded with supply drums, and worse yet, they were equipped with less torpedoes than usual because of the extra cargo. Only Tanaka's flagship Naganami and Takanami were fully combat ready. Tanaka set a roundabout course to avoid American detection, cutting hard only at the last moment to enter Indispensable Strait.

The American Task Force 67 led by Rear Admiral Carleton Wright's four heavy cruisers, one light cruiser, and six destroyers. Even though his reconnaissance aircraft had came in range of the Japanese ships (as reported by the Japanese), the aircraft either did not see the hostile fleet or did not report the information to Wright in time. Nevertheless, Wright was ready for action: that morning, an Australian coast watcher had noticed many destroyers were missing from the port at Buin, and reported the findings to Allied command. Wright was fully expecting these missing destroyers to arrive during his watch that night. He waited east of Lengo Channel on Halsey's orders.

At 2306, Wright's radar detected the first Japanese destroyer, but Wright delayed the order to launch torpedoes until 2320 because he thought the range was still too far at 2306. Within the minute, Fletcher launched ten torpedoes, Perkins eight, and Drayton two. The torpedoes were followed up by gunfire first from the cruisers then by the destroyers. Taken by surprise, Tanaka's forces still performed superbly to recover from the situation from their rigorous night attack training and sound discipline. According to pre-battle orders given by Takana, the destroyers charged forward at 24 knots and launched their torpedoes and reverted back to escape the battle; Tanaka gave the order to avoid gunfire so that his small force could remain concealed by the darkness. The Japanese ships used that very principle against the Americans, using the American gun flashes as the targets to aim their torpedoes. Equipped with radar, Takanami, the leading destroyer, was quickly picked out by the American guns and entered a vicious cycle. Being attacked by American guns, she had no choice but to fire back. However, the gun flashes from Takanami gave the Americans better aim. Then, as she was hit by more and more American shells, the fires get further out of control and became a beacon for more American gunfire. Finally, after receiving over 70 hits, she was disabled. The initial success of the Americans soon took a turn for the worse, however, as the Japanese torpedoes arrived. At 2327, two torpedoes struck American flagship Minneapolis, disabling her. Next astern, New Orleans made a tight turn to avoid ramming the disabled Minneapolis, but that did not succeed in avoiding the Japanese torpedoes that swam for her; she was struck and lost the entire forward section of the ship. New Orleans eventually sank. Cruiser Pensacola was also struck by two torpedoes, causing heavy damage. Northampton was also damaged during battle and eventually sank.

During the battle, Japanese sailors busied themselves dumping the supply drums over the sides of the destroyers. It was not certain how many drums actually floated their ways to the Japanese troops on Guadalcanal. Nevertheless, Tanaka had accomplished his primary objective, and his ships were now, with the exception of the disabled Takanami, heading for home.

The Battle of Tassafaronga was an ambush set up by the Americans that ended up in much humiliation. In this battle, both sides were fairly imaginative in their battle reports files to their respective admirals. Tanaka reported that he had sunk an American battleship and a cruiser were sunk, while hitting three destroyers. Wright exaggerated his report, too, telling Halsey that he had sunk four Japanese destroyers. The scale of this near total American defeat would not be revealed until much later. Although by this time the Americans had learned a great deal in regards to night surface engagements, they had not come to realize their incorrect practice of keeping destroyers tightly in the cruiser group, instead of sending them in advance on mobile torpedo runs.

Conclusion at Guadalcanal

After losing stronghold at Mount Austen in Dec 1942 and several more in the Mantanikau River region in Jan 1943 to General Patch, General Hitoshi Imamura gathered two more divisions at Rabaul, the next major American objective up the slot after Guadalcanal, on 1 Feb 1943. Despite Tokyo had already ordered on 4 Jan 1943 that Guadalcanal was to be evacuated within a month, Imamura still had to rouse the Guadalcanal troops, who were in the dark, that they "must by the most furious, swift and positive action deal the enemy annihilating blows to foil his plans completely. It is necessary to arouse the officers and men to a fighting rage." The troops on the island did not share his enthusiasm, however. By this time, of the 30,000 Japanese troops deployed to this island, one third was lost in action and another third to disease or starvation. With Americans controlling the skies, very few Tokyo Express destroyer supply runs were made, and the submarines that replaced the destroyers simply could not bring in enough supplies. Some Japanese soldiers turned to atrocities (even before this time) to release their frustrations. Below is an excerpt from the diary of an unknown Japanese officer:

"29 September: Discovered the captain and two prisoners who escaped last night in the jungle and let the guard company guard them. To prevent escaping a second time, pistols were fired at their feet, but it was difficult to hit them.... The two prisoners were dissected while still alive by medical officer Yamaji and their livers were taken out, and for the first time I saw the internal organs of a human being. It was very informative."

During the campaign, Japanese Army officers came to a much greater understanding of their American foes, especially the contrast in medical facilities between the two sides. The Japanese Army did not pay much attention to medical treatment of its men, unlike their Navy peers. A diary found of a Japanese officer noted the following observations of the Americans:

"Characteristics of American troops:
  • They possess strong national unity.
  • They like novelty and adventure.
  • They excel in the technical field.
  • They are boastful but are inclined to carry out their boasts.
  • They are optimistic and lack patience.
  • American troops are very good fighters when possessing superior firepower."

Other items in his list include Americans' poor hand-to-hand fighting skills but good marksmanship and poor scouting but excellent communications. He thought that the Americans relied too heavily on firepower, and vulnerable to surprise attacks to the rear. Americans were good in planned attacks, but poor in defense as they are "easily distracted and slow in attack". "American troops are simple-minded and easy to deceive", this anonymous officer said. Another officer's logs commented that "American soldiers are generally weaker than Chinese, but Australians are the strongest".

One of the most decisive items that contributed to IGHQ's decision to pull out of Guadalcanal was the loss of shipping during the later months of 1942. The Americans had control of the skies, and the resulting loss of huge tonnage in shipping frustrated both Army and Navy commands. Operation KE was drawn by the Army and Navy jointly to withdraw from Guadalcanal, but northern Solomons, Rabaul, and northwestern New Guinea were to be held (and in some cases, such as Rabaul on 1 Feb, reinforced). Some Japanese officers expressed that this withdrawal from southern Solomons was "an unprecedented event in the annals of the Japanese Army". On their way out of the region, however, the Japanese were able to make some positives out of the situation, sinking the cruiser Chicago during a night torpedo attack by a dozen "Bettys".

When General Patch and his men reached the western tip of Guadalcanal, he, as was Halsey, was surprised that the Japanese had already left. Only abandoned barges floated aimlessly. The Americans were treated with one of the most stunningly successful mass evacuation in all of the war. Operation KE, the Japanese operation to evacuate Guadalcanal, sent large numbers of destroyers down the slot, which the Americans could only interpret as a large reinforcement. On 4 Feb, 22 destroyers commenced a run down the slot to evacuate more men; on detection of this large task force, Halsey moved even the old battleships from Fiji to brace against the apparent invasion. General Patch's men moved west with a confused caution, but eventually they realized the Japanese were already gone. On 9 Feb, at 1625, Patch radioed Halsey "Total and complete defeat of Japanese forces on Guadalcanal".

The fight for this small corner of the south Pacific had cost the Allied navies 24 destroyers and larger warships totaling 126,240 tons, which included two fleet carriers and six heavy cruisers. The Japanese lost two battleships among a total of 24, totaling 134,839 tons. While naval losses were relatively even in terms of tonnage, on the ground Japan lost a great deal more men compared to their American opponents. Japanese lost 25,000 men in action or to starvation and disease out of 60,000 deployed; meanwhile, the Americans had only lost 1,600. Far greater numbers were lost on the seas, but neither side ever counted how many sailors and naval officers were lost during the campaign. Before this campaign, Guadalcanal was an out-of-way tropical jungle island that hardly any had heard of. After, the battles on and near Guadalcanal would come to be known as among the bloodiest in the war across Pacific. "For us who were there," said Morison, "... Guadalcanal is not a name but an emotion, recalling desperate fights in the air, furious night naval battles, frantic work at supply or construction, savage fighting in the sodden jungle, nights broken by screaming bombs and deafening explosions of naval shells."

Sources: Goodbye Darkness, Naval Historical Center, Nihon Kaigun, Operational Experiences of Fast Battleships, the Pacific Campaign, Pacific Wreck Database, The Struggle for Guadalcanal, Total War.

Guadalcanal Campaign Interactive Map

Guadalcanal Campaign Timeline

25 May 1942 Engineers and staff officers of the Japanese 25th Air Flotilla and 8th Base Force departed Rabaul, New Britain by flying boat to inspect prospective airfield building sites on Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands.
27 May 1942 Engineers and staff officers of the Japanese 25th Air Flotilla and 8th Base Force arrived at Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands by flying boat to inspect prospective airfield building sites.
29 May 1942 Long range Catalina flying boats of No. 11 and No. 20 squadrons RAAF made their first raid against the Solomon Islands base at Tulagi, which had already been attacked by US carrier aircraft earlier in the month.
1 Jun 1942 Rear Admiral Sadayoshi Yamada asked Vice Admiral Nishizo Tsukahara for the authorization to build an airfield on Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands.
18 Jun 1942 The first Allied air photographic reconnaissance mission over Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands was conducted by US 435th Bombardment Squadron.
25 Jun 1942 Ernest King ordered the preparation for an offensive in the lower Solomon Islands; Santa Cruz, Tulagi, and other nearby islands were to be assaulted by US Marines. To that end, US PBY Catalina aircraft bombed Tulagi. US Army also began to form occupation garrisons for the occupation of these islands. The planned launch date for the offensive was set for 1 Aug 1942.
26 Jun 1942 US Marine Corps Major General Alexander Vandegrift received word that Guadalcanal-Tulagi landings in the Solomon Islands were being planned.
30 Jun 1942 At a meeting headed by Ernest King and George Marshall, US military leadership finally settled their inter-service rivalry by moving the boundary of SOWESPAC (South West Pacific Command) and SOPAC (South Pacific Command) by 1 degree, or 60 miles, in order to facilitate the planned assault on Tulagi in the Solomon Islands.
2 Jul 1942 The US 1st Marine Division's intelligence officer departed Wellington, New Zealand for Australia as part of the preparation efforts for the upcoming Guadalcanal-Tulagi landings in the Solomon Islands.
4 Jul 1942 Allied reconnaissance reported that the Japanese had begun building an airfield on Guadalcanal.
5 Jul 1942 Joseph Rochefort's cryptanalytic team in Pearl Harbor, US Territory of Hawaii decrypted an intercepted Japanese Navy radio message noting that engineering units were en route to Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands to construct an airfield.
6 Jul 1942 Kinryu Maru, another transport, and five destroyers arrived at Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands from Truk, Caroline Islands, disembarking Japanese 11th Establishment Unit, 13th Establishment Unit, 100 trucks, 4 heavy tractors, 6 steam rollers, 2 generators, 2 locomotives with cars, and other equipment necessary for building an airfield.
8 Jul 1942 Chester Nimitz issued the final plan for the lower Solomon Islands offensive scheduled to be launhed in Aug 1942.
10 Jul 1942 The US Joint Chiefs of Staff issued the order to attack and occupy Tulagi and Guadalcanal.
16 Jul 1942 The Japanese began the construction of an airfield on Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands.
17 Jul 1942 A B-17 aircraft of US 435th Bombardment Squadron conducted a photograph reconnaissance mission over Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands. USMC Lieutenant Colonel Merrill Twining and Major William McKean were on board the aircraft; upon seeing the Japanese progress on the Guadalcanal airfield, he noted "I hope they build a good one. We are going to use it."
18 Jul 1942 A USAAF Fifth Air Force B-17 Flying Fortress bomber, with two US Marine Corps observers aboard, flew a reconnaissance mission over Gavutu, Guadalcanal, and Tulagi in the Solomon Islands.
20 Jul 1942 US 1st Marine Division issued the Operation Watchtower plans for the invasion of Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands.
23 Jul 1942 The Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) in Washington DC, United States, fearful that the completion of the Japanese airfield on Guadacanal in the Solomon Islands might signal a renewed enemy advance in the South Pacific that could threaten US aid to New Zealand and Australia, agreed to Marine deployments to secure the lines of communication (Operation Watchtower).
28 Jul 1942 American PBY Catalina aircraft bombed Tulagi.
31 Jul 1942 USAAF began a 7-day bombardment against Tulagi and Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands. Meanwhile, the Allied invasion force (75 warships and transports with 16,000 men on aboard) for Guadalcanal departed from Fiji.
7 Aug 1942 US Marines landed on Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands with the aim of safeguarding the sea supply lines between Australia and America and to form the first of the island "stepping stones" which would carry the Americans across the Pacific to Japan; the airfield on the island provided the Marines with a vital facility. Just across the water to the north, Brigadier General William H. Rupertus, Deputy Commander of the US 1st Marine Division, led an assault on Tulagi. Lieutenant Colonel Merritt A. Edson's 1st Raider Battalion landed first, followed by Lieutenant Colonel Harold E. Rosecran's 2nd Battalion 5th Marines. The Japanese defenders put up a much stiffer resistance than their comrades on Guadalcanal but by nightfall Edsons's Marines had reached the former British residency overlooking Tulagi's harbour and dug in for the night on a hill overlooking the Japanese final positions. At the same time the 2nd Battalion 5th Marines had fought their way through to the north shore clearing the sector of enemy positions, after which they moved into support of the Raiders. The days fighting had cost the 2nd Battalion 5th Marines 56 men killed and wounded, whilst the 1st Raiders had suffered 99 casualties.
8 Aug 1942 In the morning, 7 Japanese cruisers and 1 destroyer under Gunichi Mikawa departed Kavieng, New Ireland and Rabaul, New Britain, sailing south without being detected; after sundown, the force caught the Allied warships by surprise off Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands; the Battle of Savo Island would result in the sinking of 3 US cruisers, 1 Australian cruiser, and 1 US destroyer; 1,077 US personnel were killed in this battle. Also on this date, US Marines captured the unfinished Japanese airfield at Guadalcanal at 1600 hours, which would later come to be known as Henderson Field. The US Marines also captured Tulagi (307 Japanese killed, 3 Japanese captured, 45 Americans killed), Gavutu, and Tanambogo (476 Japanese killed, 20 Japanese and Koreans captured, 70 Americans killed) islands in the afternoon. Finally, 26 Japanese G4M bombers and 12 Zero fighters based in Rabaul, New Britain attacked US ships off Guadalcanal at 1200 hours, damaging troop transport USS George F. Elliot and destroyer USS Jarvis (14 were killed); 18 G4M and 2 Zero aircraft were lost on this mission.
9 Aug 1942 The United States Navy retreated from the Guadalcanal area due to Japanese air attacks without being able to unload all supplies for the Marines on shore.
10 Aug 1942 Stranded, US Marines prepared artillery and defensive positions at Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands. Meanwhile, in Japan, radio broadcast announced that Japanese air attacks had thus far sunk 28 Allied ships in the Guadalcanal area.
11 Aug 1942 US Marines, using captured Japanese bulldozer and various equipment, continued the construction of an airfield that was to be named Henderson Field.
12 Aug 1942 A Catalina PBY aircraft made a trial landing on the future Henderson Field, Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands. To the west, US Marine Lieutenant Colonel Frank Goettge's 25-man reconnaissance patrol was attacked by Japanese troops west of Matanikau River; only 3 survived. Meanwhile, Admiral Ghormley ordered US Navy Task Force 63 to devote full effort to transport supplies and personnel to Guadalcanal.
14 Aug 1942 Japanese radio broadcast announced that Japanese air attacks had thus far sunk 29 Allied warships, 11 transports in the Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands area at a mere cost of 21 aircraft; in actuality, the Allied had only lost 6 ships.
15 Aug 1942 Destroyers USS Colhoun, USS Gregory, USS Little, and USS McKean made the first supply mission for US Marines at Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands.
16 Aug 1942 The captured airfield at Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands was renamed Henderson Field by the Americans. Far to the north in the Caroline Islands, Colonel Kiyonao Ichiki and 916 men departed Truk aboard 6 destroyers for Guadalcanal to take back the airfield; the remainder of the 28th Infantry Regiment embarked on slower transports, aiming to arrive a few days later.
18 Aug 1942 Six Japanese destroyers delivered 916 troops to Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands; about 400 of them were of the 2nd Battalion, 28th Japanese Infantry Regiment who landed at Taivu Point, while the other about 500 were of the Yokosuka 5th Special Naval Landing Force who landed at Kokumbona; this was the first Japanese reinforcement of Guadalcanal by warships. On the same day, Henderson Field was declared completed.
19 Aug 1942 Japanese destroyers Kagero, Kagikaze, Maikaze, Urakaze, Isokaze, and Hamakaze landed 916 men at Taivu Point, Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands at 0100 hours; men of Company L, US 5th Marine Regiment attacked a Japanese construction battalion west of the Matanikau River at Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands at midday; on the same day, Company I of the same regiment conducted an amphibious raid further west at Kokumbona. Out at sea, Japanese destroyer Hagikaze was damaged by a bomb during an attack by US B-17 bombers; 33 were killed, 13 were wounded. At Henderson Field, the forward echelon of Marine Aircraft Group 23 (19 F4F fighters and 12 SBD-3 dive bombers) arrived.
20 Aug 1942 770 Japanese troops under Colonel Kiyonao Ichiki reached within a few miles of Henderson Field at Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands by 0430 hours. During the day, Henderson Field received 31 US Marine fighter aircraft (19 Wildcat fighters and 12 Dauntless dive bombers) from USS Long Island, allowing air supply and evacuation of wounded to begin between Espiritu Santo and Guadalcanal; the small air fleet at Henderson Field was dubbed "Cactus Air Force". In the evening, Ichiki gave the order to move foward, running into the US Marines defensive perimeter at Tenaru River by surprise around midnight.
21 Aug 1942 The first major assault by Japanese troops on Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands by Colonel Kiyonao Ichiki and his 770 men commenced at about 0000 hours with poor intelligence that led him to severely underestimate American strength. At 0130 hours, a wave of 100 Japanese troops rushed across the river, supported by machine guns and mortar fire, only to be mowed down at the line manned by 2,500 Marines. At 0230 hours, another wave of 150 to 200 Japanese rushed again, suffering similar fates. A third wave attacked at 0500 hours, again suffering near 100% casualty rate. At 0700 hours, US 1st Marine Regiment counterattacked supported by light tanks and aircraft, enveloping and destroying the remnants of 2nd Battalion of Japanese 28th Infantry Regiment. The Battle of the Tenaru (Ilu) River ended with the Japanese suffering 740 killed (including Ichiki) and 15 captured; the Americans suffered 44 killed. During the day, men of the 2nd Battalion of the US 5th Regiment arrived at Guadalcanal from Tulagi as reinforcements.
22 Aug 1942 US and Japanese supplying destroyers made contact in the Savo Sound off Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands; Japanese destroyer Kawakaze disabling destroyer USS Blue by torpedo at 0359 hours (killing 9; she would be scuttled on the following day). During the day, 5 P-400 aircraft of the USAAF 67th Fighter Squadron joined the Cactus Air Force at Henderson Field on Guadalcanal.
23 Aug 1942 The remainder of Japanese 28th Infantry Regiment (1,411 troops) and several hundred Japanese Special Naval Landing Force troops departed Truk, Caroline Islands aboard 3 transports for Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands; they were escorted by a powerful fleet of cruisers and destroyers up close and an even larger force, including fleet carriers and battleships, from a distance; at 0950 hours, the convoy was spotted by a US PBY Catalina aircraft north of Guadalcanal, but the resulting carrier strike launched at 1410 hours failed to locate the convoy. After dark, Japanese destroyer Kagero bombarded Henderson Field from nearby Savo Sound, causing little damage.
24 Aug 1942 US Marine Corps Major John L. Smith's VMF-223 Squadron based on Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands accompanied by five USAAF P-39 fighters intercepted twenty-seven Japanese aircraft, shooting down ten bombers and fighters. Captain Marion E. Carl, who was to become the first USMC ace of the war, scored three of the kills. His Commanding Officer Major Smith would become the third Wildcat pilot to be awarded the Medal of Honour. Three Wildcat fighters were lost in the engagement. On the same day, 11 US Navy dive bombers arrived at Henderson Field as reinforcements.
25 Aug 1942 US Navy SBD Dauntless dive bombers damaged light cruiser Jintsu and destroyer Uzuki off Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands.
27 Aug 1942 9 USAAF P-40 fighters arrived at Henderson Field, Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands.
28 Aug 1942 General Harukichi Hyakutake attempted to reinforce Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands with 3,500 men, but the convoy was detected, attacked by Henderson Field-based US aircraft at 1805 hours, and turned back. Japanese destroyer Asagiri was sunk (122 were killed, 270 survived), and destroyers Shirakumo (2 were wounded) and Yugiri (32 were killed) were damaged; US Marine Corps lost only one aircraft in the engagement. As another Japanese fleet successfully landed troops at Taivu Point at night, it would convince the Japanese to shift strategy to reinforce only at night; these night time supply runs would later be nicknamed "Tokyo Express" by the Americans.
30 Aug 1942 Japanese aircraft attacked and sank destroyer transport USS Colhoun in the Savo Sea north of Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands at 1400 hours; 51 were killed, 95 survived. Meanwhile, the rear echelon of US Marine Aircraft Group 23 arrived at Henderson Field. Overnight, Japanese destroyer transports landed 1,000 troops on Guadalcanal.
31 Aug 1942 Before dawn, the newly arrived 1,000 fresh troops (delivered by 8 destroyers before the previous midnight) began organizing an attack toward Henderson Field on Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands. During the day, the USMC 1st Raider Battalion and the USMC 1st Parachute Battalion arrived at Guadalcanal from Tulagi as reinforcements.
1 Sep 1942 US 6th Naval Construction Battalion arrived at Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands aboard USS Betelgeuse; the unit was tasked to improve and expand Henderson Field.
4 Sep 1942 US Marine Corps 1st Raider Battalion conducted a reconnaissance mission on Savo Island near Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands, reporting it to be free of Japanese troops. Meanwhile, Japanese barges attempting to bring artillery and heavy equipment to Guadalcanal were sunk off Santa Isabel Island by US aircraft based in Henderson Field on Guadalcanal. After dark, Japanese destroyers Yudachi, Hatsuyuki, and Murakumo delivered 1,000 Japanese troops at Taivu, Guadalcanal.
5 Sep 1942 Japanese destroyers Yudachi, Hatsuyuki, and Murakumo, having just disembarked 1,000 troops at Taivu, Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands before midnight on the previous day, shelled Henderson Field. As a US Navy PBY Catalina aircraft dropped flares to illuminate the battlefield, Yudachi took advantage of the lighting, spotted destroyer-transports USS Gregory and USS Little in Save Sound, and prompty sank both of them with gunfire off Lunga Point; 22 were killed aboard USS Gregory, 62 were killed aboard USS Little. Afer dawn, US aircraft based in Henderson Field sank Japanese barges attempting to bring heavy equipment onto Guadalcanal.
8 Sep 1942 At Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, Japanese troops began marching toward the US positions at Lunga. 813 men of the US Marine Corps 1st Raider Battalion landed at Taivu, destroying or capturing food, ammunition, medical supplies, documents, and a radio to disrupt the Japanese advance. After dark, Japanese cruiser Sendai and eight destroyers bombarded the US naval base on nearby Tulagi Island.
11 Sep 1942 During the day, USS Saratoga delivered aircraft to Henderson Field at Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands. Japanese destroyers landed troops at Guadalcanal; in the past two weeks, 6,000 men were successfully delivered to the island. Meanwhile, Japanese aircraft attacked Henderson Field.
12 Sep 1942 During the day, USS Wasp delivered aircraft to Henderson Field on Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands. After dark, the three-day Battle of Bloody Ridge on Guadalcanal began as 6,200 Japanese troops attacked positions held by 12,500 Americans; faulty Japanese intelligence reported that the American strength was only about 2,000. The Japanese attack was supported in the air by aircraft and from the sea by cruiser Sentai and three destroyers.
13 Sep 1942 Failing to break lines held by the US Marines near Henderson Field, Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands overnight, the Japanese attack was called off at 0550 hours. The Japanese attack resumed after sundown, penetrating the American lines before being driven back by artillery fire coming from nearby Hill 123; 500 Japanese were killed in the night's attack while the US suffered 80 killed.
14 Sep 1942 The Japanese continued to attack the defensive line held by the US Marines near Henderson Field at Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands without success.
15 Sep 1942 Japanese battleships bombarded American positions on Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands.
17 Sep 1942 The American beachhead on Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands was by this date 5 miles wide and 2.5 miles deep.
18 Sep 1942 4,180 men of US 7th Marine Regiment arrived at Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands. The American beachhead strength was now at 22,500 men.
23 Sep 1942 US Marines began to move toward Matanikau River on Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands.
26 Sep 1942 US Marines attacked Japanese positions at the Matanikau River on Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands in failure.
7 Oct 1942 Units from US 2nd, 5th, and 7th Marine Regiment crossed the Matanikau River in Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands to raid Japanese positions.
9 Oct 1942 US Marine Fighter Squadron 121 and the rear echelon of the 2nd Marine Regiment of the US 2nd Marine Division arrived at Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands.
11 Oct 1942 Battle of Cape Esperance off Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands brought an overnight victory to the US Navy.
12 Oct 1942 Japanese cruiser Furutaka maneuvered herself in between flagship Aoba and American ships during Battle of Cape Esperance, saving the flagship but causing her own demise.
13 Oct 1942 The 164th Infantry Regiment became the first US Army unit on Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands. On the same date, Japanese battleships Haruna and Kongo bombarded Henderson Field on Guadalcanal, destroying more than 40 American aircraft on the ground; they retired up the "Slot" at 29 knots. In the United States, the American public was made aware of the losses at the Battle of Savo Island.
14 Oct 1942 Before dawn, six Japanese destroyers landed 1,000 troops on Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands.
15 Oct 1942 After a naval bombardment, 3,000 to 4,000 men of Japanese 230th and 16th Infantry Regiments landed at Tassafaronga, Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands. Despite interference from US Marine Corps SBD aircraft, 80% of the men and supplies successfully made to shore. With the arrival of these reinforcements, General Hyakutake ordered a new offensive against Henderson Field to take place on 18 Oct.
16 Oct 1942 Japanese cruisers bombarded Henderson Field on Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands. During the day, US Marine Aircraft Group 14 under Lieutenant Colonel Albert Cooley relieved Marine Aircraft Group 23 as the unit in charge of maintaining Henderson Field.
17 Oct 1942 Japanese cruisers bombarded Henderson Field on Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands.
18 Oct 1942 During the night, Japanese warships again shelled Henderson Field, Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands.
20 Oct 1942 Japanese Lieutenant General Maruyama delayed the planned assault on Henderson Field on Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands until 22 Oct 1942. Also on this date, a Japanese combat patrol, supported by two tanks, was driven back by men of the 3rd Battalion of the US 1st Marine Regiment west of the Matanikau River.
23 Oct 1942 Amidst heavy mortar and artillery barrages, Japanese tanks attempted to cross the Matanikau River on Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands; while some successfully crossed, all were eventually driven back by US Marines.
25 Oct 1942 Before dawn, the Japanese launched an offensive on the southern flank of the American defensive line at Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, aiming to capture Henderson Field; US Marines repeatedly drove back the waves of attacks. After nightfall, Japanese destroyers attacked American shipping in the Sealark Channel between the Florida Islands and Taivu Point of Guadalcanal.
26 Oct 1942 Men of the 1st Battalion of US 164th Infantry Division repulsed a Japanese attack on the southern flank of the Lunga Perimeter at Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands. Meanwhile, another attack against Hill 67, initially penetrating into the American line, was eventually driven back by US Marines.
31 Oct 1942 US Marine Scout-Bomber Squadron 132 and US Marine Fighter Squadron 211 began to arrive in sections at Henderson Field, Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands.
1 Nov 1942 After sundown, men of the 2nd Battalion of US 7th Marine Regiment advanced east across the base of Koli Point to the Metapona River on Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands to investigate reported Japanese activity.
2 Nov 1942 Two 155mm gun batteries, one of the US Army and the other US Marine Corps, landed in the Lunga Perimeter on Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands.
3 Nov 1942 Three US Marine battalions attacked Japanese positions west of Point Cruz on Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands.
4 Nov 1942 The Americans divided the areas of Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands under their control into two sectors, with US Marine Corps Brigadier General William Rupertus overseeing the East Sector and US Army Brigadier General Edmund Sebree overseeing the West Sector. On the same day, US Army 164th Infantry Regiment and US Marine 2nd Raider Battalion marched toward Koli Point to reinforce the 7th Marine Regiment.
5 Nov 1942 The US 8th Marine Regiment and the 1st Battalion of US 10th Marine Regiment arrived at Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands. US Navy Construction Battalion personnel arrived at Aola Bay, about 40 miles east of the Lunga River, to begin construction of a new airfield; they were guarded by two US Army battalions and a number of US Marine raiders. Finally, also on the same date, US Marine Major General Vandegrift ordered the US Marine 2nd Raider Battalion to move toward Koli Point in an attempt to cut off any Japanese fleeing east.
6 Nov 1942 The US 7th Marine Regiment crossed the Nalimbiu River near Koli Point on Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, attacking eastward.
7 Nov 1942 US Marine Corps Brigadier General Louis Woods relieved US Marine Corps Brigadier General Roy Geiger as the commander of air operations at Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands.
8 Nov 1942 The 164th Infantry Regiment and the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the US 7th Marine Regiment moved east toward Koli Point on Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands in an attempt to envelope the Japanese forces in that area.
9 Nov 1942 The US 7th Marine Regiment and the 2nd Brigade of the US Army 164th Infantry Regiment began an attack on the Japanese troops at Gavaga Creek, Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands.
10 Nov 1942 The US 2nd Marine Regiment, US 8th Marine Regiment, and the US Army 164th Regiment attacked unsuccessfully westward from Point Cruz toward Kokumbona on Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands.
11 Nov 1942 The Japanese force at Gavaga Creek, Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, under a combined US Marine and US Army attack since 9 Nov, began to fall back toaward the Metapona River to avoid envelopment. Meanwhile, the US Army 182nd Infantry Regiment (less the 3rd Batalion) arrived at Guadalcanal.
12 Nov 1942 6,000 American troops landed on Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands.
13 Nov 1942 The First Naval Battle of Guadalcanal ended before dawn with the US Navy task force under Rear Admiral Daniel Callahan driving off a Japanese naval bombardment group. After dark, Japanese cruisers challenged the US naval forces again by coming close to sure and bombarding Henderson Field, Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands.
14 Nov 1942 After dark, the Second Naval Battle of Guadalcanal began with Japanese ships wiping out the American destroyer screen.
15 Nov 1942 The Second Naval Battle of Guadalcanal ended in the early hours of the day, with the Americans fighting off the Japanese attack with effective use of radar; four surviving Japanese transports were able to accomplish their missions by delivering 2,000 troops to Guadalcanal, albeit without most of their heavy equipment. During the day, Henderson Field a Marine Corps Air Base and was placed under the command of Colonel William Fox.
18 Nov 1942 Men of the US Army and US Marine attacked Japanese positions near Kokumbona and the Poha River at Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands.
22 Nov 1942 The Japanese halted a combined US Army and US Marine attack at the Matanikau River on Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands.
24 Nov 1942 US Marines advanced to Poho, Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands.
25 Nov 1942 Over the course of the past 3 days, aircraft of the Royal New Zealand Air Force 3rd Reconnaissance Squadron, US Navy Patrol Squadron 12, US Army 12th, 68th, and 70th Fighter Squadrons, and US Army 69th Bombardment Squadron arrived at Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands.
29 Nov 1942 Top American leadership in Washington DC agreed to relieve the 1st Marine Division on Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands with the US Army 25th Infantry Division. After sundown, off Tassafaronga Point, US Navy vessels turned back a small group of Japanese destroyers attempting to supply the Japanese garrison.
30 Nov 1942 Near Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, US cruisers ambushed a night time fast destroyer convoy led personally by Rear Admiral Raizo Tanaka. Tanaka's quick thinking led to a Japanese victory in the Battle of Tassafaronga.
1 Dec 1942 The US 1st Marine Aviation Engineer Battalion relieved the US 6th Naval Construction Battalion on Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands.
4 Dec 1942 US 2nd Marine Raider Battalion's "Carlson's Patrol" came to a conclusion at Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands.
7 Dec 1942 American forces at Guadalcanal marked the first anniversary of Pearl Harbor by shelling Japanese positions from dawn to dusk in what they term a "Hate Shoot".
8 Dec 1942 The 3rd Infantry Regiment and the 132nd Regimental Combat Team, both of the US Army, arrived in Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands.
9 Dec 1942 American operations on Guadalcanal, previously conducted by the US Marines under Major General Alexander Vandegrift, were turned over to the US Army under Major General Alexander Patch. The 1st Marine Division began its withdraw to Australia.
17 Dec 1942 US Marines captured Mt. Austen, Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands. Meanwhile, troops of the 35th Infantry Regiment of the US Army 25th Division arrived on the island.
26 Dec 1942 Brigadier General Francis P. Mulcahy, currently the commanding officer of the US 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, relieved Brigadier General L. E. Woods as the commanding general of the Cactus Air Force on Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands.
31 Dec 1942 Japanese Emperor Showa allowed his troops to evacuate Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands.
1 Jan 1943 The US 2nd Marine Aviation Engineer Battalion and the US Army 27th Division arrived at Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands.
4 Jan 1943 The US Army 161st Infantry, the US 6th Marine Regiment, and the headquarters of the US 2nd Marine Division arrived at Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands.
6 Jan 1943 Brigadier General Alphonse DeCarre assumed command of all US Marines on Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands except for Marine aviation units.
10 Jan 1943 The US Army 25th Division launched an offensive out of the Hill 66 area between the northwest and southwest forks of the Matanikau River on Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands.
12 Jan 1943 On Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, the US 6th Marine Regiment and the artillery of the US 2nd Marine Division were re-assigned to a joint Army-Marine division which also included the US Army 82nd Infantry Regiment, US Army 147th Infantry Regiment, and artillery of the US Army Americal Division.
13 Jan 1943 The US 2nd Marine Division began a westward offensive on Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands.
20 Jan 1943 The US Army 25th Division began an offensive toward Kokumbona, Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands.
23 Jan 1943 The US Army 25th Division captured the high ground south of Kokumbona, Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands.
25 Jan 1943 The US Composite Army-Marine Division made contact with the US Army 25th Army Division near Kokumbona, Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands.
26 Jan 1943 The US Army-Marine joint division continued to attack westward along the northern coast of Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands intending to envelope Japanese positions.
31 Jan 1943 US Marine Corps aircraft from Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands sank Japanese transport Toa Maru between Vella Lavella and Kolombangara.
1 Feb 1943 Japanese troops began to be evacuated from Guadalcanal by destroyers commanded by Rear Admiral Shintaro.
4 Feb 1943 Rear Admiral Shintaro's destroyers extracted 3,921 Japanese soldiers from Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands successfully, but four of his destroyers were damaged by air attack from Henderson Field.
7 Feb 1943 The Japanese Army completed Operation Ke, the evacuation of Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands, as the final 1,796 soldiers were evacuated by 18 ships.
9 Feb 1943 Allied authorities declared Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands secure after Japan evacuated its remaining forces from the island.
15 Mar 1943 The Japanese Imperial General Headquarters in Tokyo, Japan issued the Joint Army-Navy Central Agreement on Southeast Asia Operation order, which was largely a defensive plan with the only offensive element being the re-establishment of air superiority over Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands.
25 Mar 1943 A Japanese reconnaissance flight over Henderson Field, Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands discovered about 300 Allied aircraft at the base.
7 Jun 1943 The Japanese began a renewed air offensive against Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands.
17 Jun 1943 In the last major air battle over Guadalcanal, Captain William D. Wells (US 8th Fighter Group) led his flight of P-39 Airacobra fighters into a formation of 30-35 Japanese Aichi Type 99 naval bombers and shot down four of them.

Photographs

SBD Dauntless aircraft in flight back to USS Yorktown after an attack on Tulagi, Solomon Islands, 4 May 1942Richmond Turner and Alexander Vandegrift aboard USS McCawley looking at maps of the Tulagi-Guadalcanal operation in the Solomon Islands, circa Jul-Aug 1942Henderson Field, seen from USS Saratoga aircraft in Aug 1942SBD destroyed in an air attack on Henderson Field, 1942
See all 75 photographs of Guadalcanal Campaign

Maps

USMC Map 104 showing the northern coast of Guadalcanal in the Lunga areaMap depicting the Guadalcanal Campaign, 7-8 Aug, 12-14 Sep, and 23-26 Oct 1942Maps of several Guadalcanal Campaign engagements, mid- to late-1942Hand-drawn map of Guadalcanal, 6 Mar 1944
See all 5 maps of Guadalcanal Campaign



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Visitor Submitted Comments

  1. Aaron says:
    11 Aug 2006 03:08:23 PM

    The First Naval Battle of Guadalcanal
    13 Nov 1942

    A great book about this engagement is Japanese Destroyer Captain by Tameichi Hara. He was the skipper of Amatsukaze.
  2. Rob Crawford says:
    29 Nov 2006 05:39:45 PM

    Great work ! A credit to your research skills.
    Rob
  3. Anonymous says:
    21 May 2007 10:48:50 PM

    A funny story: An American soldier was going on patrol from one camp to another during the night. He left and got a little ways down the trail when he feels something touch his leg, low down near his foot. Naturally, hes nervous I mean, its night, its jungle, the Japanese rule the night on these islands. Anyway, he looks around, but doesnt have a flashlight, so he keeps moving. A little later, he feels it again, pauses, looks around, sees nothing. Later he gets to a bridge and feels something on his leg again. This time he panics, pulls out his service pistol, and fires several times into the dark. He then starts running down the trail again. Finally he gets to the camp he is going to, a couple of American soldiers stop him, question him. Theyre about to let him in when something touches his leg again. He freezes, and asks one of the soldiers to shine his flashlight on his leg. Its a monkey that had been following him for the past couple miles! He had gotten a Hershey bar earlier in the day but decided to save it for later, so he stuck it in one of his lower pants pockets. The monkey had smelled that and had been trying to get to it. This guy was a friend of my grandpas. The next morning, he and a squad went back down the trail. When they got to the bridge where he had panicked, they found a dead Japanese officer on the stream bank below the soldier had unknowingly shot him.
  4. Brian Russell says:
    6 Jun 2007 11:10:26 PM

    All hands lost aboard Jarvis. All the wounded were put abaord Jarvis when she made her ill-fated run for Australia. Sunk approx. 200 miles south of Guadalcanal by Japanese aircraft from Rabaul.
  5. Anonymous says:
    26 Aug 2007 05:57:48 AM

    no monkeys on guadalcanal
  6. jomeme says:
    12 Dec 2007 06:41:06 PM

    good work! lots of information. very helpful.
  7. Anonymous says:
    24 Sep 2009 06:47:21 AM

    One thing that should be noticed, NOT one of our Battleships were ever sunk at sea.
    The USS Arizona and the USS Oklahoma were sunk at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7th, '41.
    A number of our other battleships were damaged but were able to be repaired.
  8. Anonymous says:
    26 Sep 2009 08:03:41 AM

    Another point if interest, Not one Essex Class Carrier was ever sunk. During WW II, the Japanese hit them with virtually everything they had inflicting highly severe punishment especially on the Franklin, the Bunker Hill to name a few.
    The only Carriers lost were the Lexington, Yorktown,Wasp, and Hornet. These were built before Pearl Harbor.
    No we just didn't start building them right after Pearl Harbor, the Essex Class Carriers were under consruction LONG be fore the raid.
  9. Anonymous says:
    10 Oct 2009 11:55:41 AM

    One light carrier (CVL) USS Princeton was lost during the Battle of Leyte Gulf, whcih is built after Peral Harbor, converted from Cleveland class light cruiser Tallahassee.

  10. Brad Nelson says:
    18 Nov 2009 08:34:46 PM

    Among the participant ships listed I did not see the USS DeHaven DD-469. The last destroyer lost in the Guadalcanal campaign, she was sunk 01 February 1943 off Savo Island. 167 killed (including my uncle, Seaman 1st Class Leslie Nelson) and 38 wounded.
  11. john says:
    3 Feb 2010 03:51:22 PM

    I have searched for the past year or so on the internet and have not found any mention of the involvement of the aviation engineers in the battle and construction of Henderson field. As it was used during the battle for the Island I would assume that there were engineers there to work on the field. Where can I find this information as my father has told many a story of his time as an engineer at Henderson field? Thanks for any help that you can give in this endeavor.
  12. Mick says:
    2 May 2010 07:40:37 PM

    I've read this several times and am truly impressed by the depth of research that obviously went into it. I've been to the Solomon Islands many time with the RAMSI teams so know the history and locale well. May I use some short segments in a novel that I'm writing? Well done, Mick
  13. Bob says:
    19 Jul 2010 04:06:38 PM

    Nice article. However, the heavy cruiser USS New Orleans was NOT sunk at the Battle of Tassafaronga, just damaged, and survived World War 2.
  14. Dylan says:
    18 Aug 2012 03:57:50 PM

    A well thought out rendition. There are many typos and some minor oversight and factual errors but nonetheless, well put together. Bravo.
  15. Frank Massey says:
    28 Aug 2012 05:14:53 PM

    I never read so much detail in any battle. Must have taken a heap of research. At the time of the battle for the Salamon islands, I was all of 13 years old.
  16. Randall Cooper says:
    8 Sep 2012 05:49:37 PM

    Thanks, I had a great uncle with the 35th Inf. U.S. Army killed there on Jan.13,43 and another that survived on the USS Canberra.
  17. Oran E Good says:
    21 Nov 2012 12:30:47 PM

    My father was a WWII vet that was in Guadalcanal. He never shared much about his military history but had a small U shaped scar with a line through it on his head and other scars. When I was 12 he told me that he had been in Guadalcanal and that his position had been over run and he was butt stroked in the head from a Japanese rifle, and when the Marines re-took the position that he had been put in a pile of dead troops, but someone saw him moving and pulled him out... he said that was the end of the war for him. His life was some what of a mystery to us and he never really talked much about his past. He was a devout member of the American Leigon and VFW. I have been trying to get any record of his military history so that I may get Eligibility to have a Memorial marker for him.
    His name is Oran S. Good or might have been Owen S Good.
    Any information would be most helpful.

    Thank you all.
  18. Anonymous says:
    3 Apr 2013 12:55:51 PM

    Please I am seach information and story of Uss Atalanta. Exacte place sinking en the name of the Japanees ship that sink him. Name of movie ,Book and foto
  19. Jeff says:
    25 Apr 2013 07:21:57 AM

    To John,

    My dad was with the 65th engineers, USA, 25th infantry division. We also suffer from lack of information, and would like to speak with you. Contact me at jeff_moss@live.com for further discussion.

    J
  20. R. L. Hails Sr. P. E. says:
    7 Aug 2013 11:36:58 AM

    An insight into the humor and horror. A close friend, a Marine guarding the Pearly Gates, told me many times of his Guadcanal memories. At 17, a private, clutching a bolt action Springfield his ship approached a make shift dock, in darkness and silence in late September, expecting the worst. Then lights popped on and six pretty Navy nurses welcomed the thousands. He volunteered to lead the advanced party. A few weeks later, in almost hand to hand contact, he got an appendicitis, doubled over, helpless. They dragged him back to the Battalion aid station, cut him open, then put him on a rare cot in a rare tent, with a 45 cal. with orders to shoot anyone coming through the flap. He could not sit up. He attributed this covalence to staying alive. And he became very close to God.
  21. dan says:
    20 Aug 2013 02:18:36 AM

    my grandfather was an engineer on the henderson field unfortunatly he died when i was 5 so never had the privilege of hearing what stories he had to say although i heard a few interesting relayed stories eg jungle juice the americans would make a alcoholic brew that would be stashed in the bush by the time they got to the bottom there would be bones of lizards and birds that fell into the drink to a few other stories of his best mate over there captured by japanese tied to a palm tree and decapitated it would be interesting to find out how many new zealanders did wind up as manitanence engineers at the air field
  22. Anonymous says:
    20 Aug 2013 10:23:06 AM

    there were pictures posted of WWII treaty signed...I found some of the very same pictures plus gruesome pictures of dead Japanese soldiers, in a "wallet" size..... ins some of my Dad's stuff, after he passed away....were these pictures reproduced and given away as souvenirs?? My Dad was in the NAVY 20yrs +...during WWII, air craft mechanic...THANKS for any info
  23. Anonymous says:
    12 Oct 2013 04:15:37 PM

    My great uncle Orville J. Stevens was a paratrooper with the Marines. He went MIA on 9 Dec 1943. I am trying to find any information about him. Any suggestions?
  24. Michael Hanson says:
    31 Oct 2013 07:47:12 PM

    It's a shame that many who contributed to the defense of Guadalcanal are not mentioned. For instance, my father's squadron, AAF 70thBS landed 6 B-26s on the island 13Nov42, caught the first wave of Japanese troop transports unloading. The Marines counted 1100 dead from their attack with 100# bombs at tree top level. The B-26s were damaged from their own bombs, flying that low. But they were under the Command of the Navy, therefore all their activities were credited as Navy Aircraft. Their sister squadron,69thBS, was there later, and they too were "Navy" aircraft.
  25. Eduardo says:
    6 Nov 2013 11:07:23 AM

    Please could you publish a Spanish version? Many of us do not have a good command of English as chronic as interesting reading, and lose much by it. From already thank you very much
  26. Robert says:
    8 Nov 2013 06:13:25 AM

    Canberra was struck by two torpedoes on her starboard side and over 20 salvoes of 8-inch shellfire. With power lost and the ship listing, the wounded and survivors were transferred to USS Patterson and USS Blue.

    Rear Admiral R.K. Turner USN ordered that Canberra be abandoned and sunk if she could not steam by 6:30 am. Once all the survivors had been evacuated, and acting in accordance with the orders of Rear Admiral Turner and Rear Admiral V.A.C. Crutchley VC DSC RN, who was officer in tactical command of the combined force of Australian and American cruisers and destroyers at Guadalcanal, USS Selfridge fired 263 5-inch shells and four torpedoes into Canberra, although she refused to sink. Eventually a torpedo fired by USS Ellet administered the final blow. Canberra sank at about 8:00 am on 9 August 1942.

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More on Guadalcanal Campaign
Participants:
» Abe, Hiroaki
» Arima, Masafumi
» Basilone, John
» Browning, Miles
» Callahan, Daniel
» Crutchley, Victor
» Fletcher, Frank
» Goto, Aritomo
» Halsey, William
» Hara, Tameichi
» Harada, Kaname
» Ichiki, Kiyono
» Ito, Kiyoshi
» Jenkins, Samuel
» Kaneko, Tadashi
» Kodaira, Yoshinao
» Kondo, Nobutake
» Kurita, Takeo
» Kusaka, Jinichi
» Lee, Willis
» Maruyama, Masao
» Mikawa, Gunichi
» Nagumo, Chuichi
» Nishimura, Shoji
» Puller, Lewis
» Sakai, Saburo
» Sasai, Junichi
» Scott, Norman
» Tanaka, Raizo
» Tokuno, Hiroshi
» Tsuji, Masanobu
» Turner, Richmond
» Vandegrift, Alexander
» Vouza, Jacob

Location:
» British Western Pacific Territories

Ship Participants:
» Amagiri
» Aoba
» Arashio
» Astoria (New Orleans-class)
» Atago
» Atlanta
» Australia
» Canberra (County-class)
» Chicago
» Chikuma
» Chitose
» Chokai
» Craven
» Drayton
» Ellet
» Enterprise
» Furutaka
» Grayson
» Haguro
» Haruna
» Helena
» Helm
» Hiei
» Hobart
» Honolulu
» Hull
» Ikazuchi
» Isuzu
» Jintsu
» Juneau
» Junyo
» Kako
» Kinugasa
» Kirishima
» Laffey (Benson-class)
» Louisville
» Minegumo
» Minneapolis
» Mugford
» Murasame
» Myoko
» Nagara
» Nagatsuki
» Nisshin
» North Carolina
» O'Brien
» Oshio
» Pensacola
» Preston (Mahan-class)
» PT-class
» Quincy (New Orleans-class)
» Ralph Talbot
» Salt Lake City
» San Diego
» San Francisco
» San Juan
» Saratoga
» Sendai
» Shokaku
» South Dakota
» Suzukaze
» Suzuya
» Takao
» Tanikaze
» Tenryu
» Vincennes
» Washington
» Wasp (Wasp-class)
» Yubari
» Yukikaze
» Yura
» Zuikaku

Notable Aircraft:
» PBY Catalina

Documents:
» Interrogation Nav 13, Captain Yasuji Watanabe
» Interrogation Nav 16, Commander Masatake Okumiya
» Interrogation Nav 33, Lieutenant Commander Hiroshi Tokuno
» Interrogation Nav 46, Lieutenant Commander S. Yunoki
» Interrogation Nav 60, Captain Yasumi Toyama

Related Books:
» Goodbye, Darkness: A Memoir of the Pacific War
» Goodbye, Darkness: A Memoir of the Pacific War
» Guadalcanal: The U. S. Marines in World War II
» Hell in the Pacific: A Marine Rifleman's Journey From Guadalcanal to Peleliu
» Helmet for My Pillow
» Helmet for My Pillow
» Neptune's Inferno: The U.S. Navy at Guadalcanal
» The Struggle for Guadalcanal




Guadalcanal Campaign Photo Gallery
SBD Dauntless aircraft in flight back to USS Yorktown after an attack on Tulagi, Solomon Islands, 4 May 1942
See all 75 photographs of Guadalcanal Campaign



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Famous WW2 Quote
"With Germany arming at breakneck speed, England lost in a pacifist dream, France corrupt and torn by dissension, America remote and indifferent... do you not tremble for your children?"

Winston Churchill, 1935