Guadalcanal

The Solomons are a group of islands in Western Pacific, east of New Guinea. The group includes Guadalcanal, Bourgainville and New Georgia.

The Solomons were occupied by the Japanese Army in 1941. Guadalcanal became a primary strategic objective of the American Pacific offensive in 1942.

On 7th August 1942, Rear Admiral Frank Fletcher provided the back-up support that enabled General Alexander Vandegrift and 19,000 US Marines to land on Guadalcanal, Gavutu and Tulagi. It was the first time that the Navajo Code Talking was used.

The Japanese garrison of 4,000 held out for two days on Tulagi. Progress was slower on Guadalcanal and despite attempts by the Japanese Army, Japanese Navy and Japanese Air Force, the US Marines were able to stay and build the Henderson Field airstrip.

The US Marines managed to withstand continuous attacks including the battles of Tenaru River (21st August) and Bloody Ridge (12th September).Another 20,000 Japanese soldiers were landed on Guadalcanal and this led to a renewed offensive at Matanikau River on 23rd October.

In October, 1942, TG 16 (Enterprise) and TG 17 (Hornet) were combined to form TG 61 and was placed under the command of Rear Admiral Thomas Kinkaid . He faced Nobutake Kondo at the battles that took place at Santa Cruz Islands (26th-27th October, 1942). During the battle Hornet was sunk and the Enterprise was severely damaged. However, the Japanese Navy had greater difficulty replacing her losses and found it difficult to provide supplies to the Japanese Army in the region.

Admiral William Halsey took control of naval operations during the Guadalcana campaign (12th-13th November, 1942) and sunk two Japanese battleships, two destroyers and six transport ships for the loss of two cruisers and four destroyers.

General Alexander Vandegrift, who was awarded the Navy Cross and the Medal of Honor, for his achievements on Guadalcanal, was relieved by General Alexander Patch and the 14th Corps in December 1943. It is estimated that the Japanese Army lost more than 25,000 men during the struggle for the Solomons Islands.

© , September 1997 - April 2014

Primary Sources

(1) Studs Terkel interviewed Eugene B. Sledge about his experiences in the US Army in Guadalcanal for his book, The Good War (1985)

I was nineteen, a replacement in June of 1944. Eighty percent of the division in the Guadalcanal campaign was less than twenty-one years of age. We were much younger than the general army units.

The Japanese fought by a code they thought was right: bushido. The code of the warrior: no surrender. You don't really comprehend it until you get out there and fight people who are faced with an absolutely hopeless situation and will not give up. If you tried to help one of the Japanese, he'd usually detonate a grenade and kill himself as well as you. To be captured was a disgrace. To us, it was impossible, too, because we knew what happened in Bataan.