Battle of Guadalcanal,part of the Pasific War

Battle of Guadalcanal,part of the Pasific War


Battle of Guadalcanal

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The Guadalcanal Campaign, also known as the Battle of Guadalcanaland codenamed Operation Watchtower by Allied forces, was fought between August 7, 1942 and February 9, 1943 on and around the island ofGuadalcanal in the Pacific theatre of World War II. Launched a few months after the Kokoda Track campaign, it was the second major offensive byAllied forces against the Empire of Japan.


Approximate routes of Japanese force under Abe (red line) and U.S. force under Callaghan (black line) as they head towards each other early on 13 November inIronbottom Sound between Savo Island, Cape Esperance, and Lunga Point on Guadalcanal. The green area near Lunga Point on Guadalcanal marks the location of Henderson Field.

On August 7, 1942, Allied forces, predominantly American, landed on the islands of Guadalcanal, Tulagi, and Florida in the southern Solomon Islandswith the objective of denying their use by the Japanese to threaten the supply and communication routes between the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand. The Allies also intended to use Guadalcanal and Tulagi as bases to support a campaign to eventually capture or neutralize the major Japanese base at Rabaul on New Britain. The Allies overwhelmed the outnumbered Japanese defenders, who had occupied the islands since May 1942, and captured Tulagi and Florida, as well as an airfield (later namedHenderson Field) that was under construction on Guadalcanal.


Aerial view of Henderson Field on Guadalcanal, late August 1942. The view looks northwest with the Lunga River andLunga Point at the top of the image.

Surprised by the Allied offensive, the Japanese made several attempts between August and November 1942 to retake Henderson Field. Three major land battles, five large naval battles, and continual, almost daily aerial battles culminated in the decisive Naval Battle of Guadalcanal in early November 1942, in which the last Japanese attempt to land enough troops to retake Henderson Field was defeated. In December 1942, the Japanese abandoned further efforts to retake Guadalcanal and evacuated their remaining forces by February 7, 1943 in the face of an offensive by the U.S. Army’s XIV Corps, conceding the island to the Allies.

File:Naval Battle of Guadalcanal.jpg

Smoke rises from two Japanese aircraft shot down off Guadalcanal on 12 November 1942. Photographed fromUSS President Adams; ship at rightis USS Betelgeuse.

The Guadalcanal campaign was a significant strategic combined armsvictory by Allied forces over the Japanese in the Pacific theatre. The Japanese had reached the high-water mark of their conquests in the Pacific, and Guadalcanal marked the transition by the Allies from defensive operations to the strategic offensive in that theatre and the beginning of offensive operations, including the Solomon IslandsNew Guinea, andCentral Pacific campaigns, that resulted in Japan’s eventual surrender and the end of World War II

Guadalcanal campaign
Part of the Pacific Theater of World War II
File:Marines rest in the field on Guadalcanal.jpg
November 1942—United States Marines rest in the field during the Guadalcanal campaign
Date August 7, 1942 – February 9, 1943
Location Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands
Result Strategic Allied victory
Allied forces including:
 United States
 New Zealand
United Kingdom United Kingdom 

Japan Empire of Japan
Commanders and leaders
United States Robert L. Ghormley
United States William Halsey, Jr.
United States Richmond K. Turner
United States Alexander Vandegrift
United States Alexander Patch
Japan Isoroku Yamamoto
Japan Nishizo Tsukahara
Japan Jinichi Kusaka
War flag of the Imperial Japanese Army.svg Hitoshi Imamura
War flag of the Imperial Japanese Army.svg Harukichi Hyakutake
60,000 men (ground forces) 36,200 men (ground forces)
Casualties and losses
7,100 killed
4 captured
29 ships lost
615 aircraft lost
31,000 killed
1,000 captured
38 ships lost
683–880 aircraft lost

Strategic considerations


Japanese control of the western Pacific area between May and August 1942. Guadalcanal is located in the lower right center of the map.

On December 7, 1941, Japanese forces attacked the United States Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The attack crippled much of the U.S. battleship fleet and precipitated an open and formal state of war between the two nations. The initial goals of Japanese leaders were to neutralize the U.S. Navy, seize possessions rich in natural resources, and establish strategic military bases to defend Japan’s empire in the Pacific Ocean and Asia. To further those goals, Japanese forces captured the PhilippinesThailandMalaya,Singapore, the Dutch East IndiesWake IslandGilbert Islands,New Britain, and Guam. Joining the U.S. in the war against Japan were the rest of the Allied powers, several of whom, including Great Britain, Australia, and the Netherlands, had also been attacked by Japan.

File:IJN Kinugasa.jpg

Japanese cruiser Kinugasa commissioning at Kobe, September 30 1927

Two attempts by the Japanese to maintain the strategic initiative and extend their defensive perimeter in the south and central Pacific were thwarted at the naval battles of Coral Sea and Midwayrespectively. Midway was not only the Allies’ first major victory against the previously undefeated Japanese, it significantly reduced the offensive capability of Japan’s carrier forces. Up to this point, the Allies had been on the defensive in the Pacific, but these strategic victories provided them an opportunity to seize the strategic initiative from Japan.


Japanese battleship Hiei in 1942

The Allies chose the Solomon Islands (a protectorate of Great Britain), specifically the southern Solomon Islands of Guadalcanal, Tulagi, and Florida, as the first target. The Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) had occupied Tulagi in May 1942 and had constructed a seaplane base near there. Allied concern grew when, in early July 1942, the IJN began constructing a large airfield at Lunga Point on nearby Guadalcanal. By August 1942, the Japanese had about 900 naval troops on Tulagi and nearby islands, and 2,800 personnel (2,200 being Korean and Japanese construction specialists) on Guadalcanal. These bases, when completed, would protect Japan’s major base at Rabaul, threaten Allied supply and communication lines, and establish a staging area for a planned offensive againstFijiNew Caledonia, and Samoa (Operation FS). The Japanese planned to deploy 45 fighters and 60 bombers to Guadalcanal once the airfield was complete. These aircraft could provide air cover for Japanese naval forces advancing farther into the South Pacific.


B-17s of the 11th Bombardment Group based at Espiritu Santo bomb the damaged Japanese battleship Hiei north of Savo Island on November 13, 1942. Hiei, which was damaged in the 1st engagement of the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal hours earlier, appears to be trailing fuel.

The Allied plan to invade the southern Solomons was conceived by U.S. Admiral Ernest King, Commander in Chief, United States Fleet. He proposed the offensive to deny the use of the islands by the Japanese as bases to threaten the supply routes between the United States and Australia, and to use them as starting points. With Roosevelt’s tacit consent, King also advocated the invasion of Guadalcanal. However, because the US supported Great Britain’s proposal that priority be given to defeating Germany before Japan, the Pacific theater had to compete for personnel and resources dedicated to the European theater. Therefore U.S. Army GeneralGeorge C. Marshallopposed King’s proposed campaign and asked who would command the operation. King replied that the Navy and Marines would carry out the operation by themselves, and instructed Admiral Chester Nimitz to proceed with the preliminary planning. King eventually won the argument with Marshall, and the invasion went ahead with the backing of the Joint Chiefs.

Guadalcanal would be carried out in conjunction with an Allied offensive in New Guinea under Douglas MacArthur, to capture theAdmiralty Islands and the Bismarck Archipelago, including the major Japanese base at Rabaul. The eventual goal was the American reconquest of the Philippines. The U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff created the South Pacific theater, with Vice Admiral Robert L. Ghormley taking command on June 19, 1942, to direct the offensive in the Solomons. Admiral Chester Nimitz, based at Pearl Harbor, was designated as overall Allied commander in chief for Pacific forces.


The airfield at Lunga Point on Guadalcanalunder construction by Japanese and conscripted Korean laborers in July 1942.

Task Force

In preparation for the future offensive in the Pacific in May 1942, U.S. Marine Major General Alexander Vandegrift was ordered to move his 1st Marine Division from the United States to New Zealand. Other Allied land, naval, and air force units were sent to establish bases in Fiji, Samoa, New Hebrides, and New Caledonia. Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides, was selected as the headquarters and main base for the offensive, codenamed Operation Watchtower, with the commencement date set for August 7, 1942.

At first, the Allied offensive was planned just for Tulagi and the Santa Cruz Islands, omitting Guadalcanal. However, after Allied reconnaissance discovered the Japanese airfield construction efforts on Guadalcanal, its capture was added to the plan, and the Santa Cruz operation was (eventually) dropped. The Japanese were aware, via signals intelligence, of the large-scale movement of Allied assets in the South Pacific area, but concluded that the Allies were reinforcing Australia and perhaps Port Moresby in New Guinea.

The Watchtower force, numbering 75 warships and transports (including vessels from both the U.S. and Australia), assembled near Fiji on July 26, 1942, and engaged in one rehearsal landing prior to leaving for Guadalcanal on July 31. The on-scene commander of the Allied expeditionary force was U.S. Vice Admiral Frank Fletcher (flag in aircraft carrier USS Saratoga). Commanding the amphibious forces was U.S. Rear Admiral Richmond K. Turner. Vandegrift led the 16,000 Allied (primarily U.S. Marine) infantry earmarked for the landings.

The troops sent to Guadalcanal were fresh from military training and armed with old bolt action rifles and a meager 10 day supply of ammunition. Due to the necessity of getting them into battle quickly, the operation planners had reduced their supplies from a 90 day supply to only 60 days. The troops of the 1st Marine Division began referring to the coming battle as “Operation Shoestring”.


File:Guadalcanal Aug 7 landings.svg 

Routes of Allied amphibious forces for landings on Guadalcanal and Tulagi, August 7, 1942.

Bad weather allowed the Allied expeditionary force to arrive in the vicinity of Guadalcanal unseen by the Japanese on the morning of August 7. The landing force split into two groups, with one group assaulting Guadalcanal, and the other Tulagi, Florida, and nearby islands. Allied warships bombarded the invasion beaches while U.S. carrier aircraft bombed Japanese positions on the target islands and destroyed 15 Japanese seaplanes at their base near Tulagi.

Tulagi and two nearby small islands, Gavutu and Tanambogo, were assaulted by 3,000 U.S. Marines. The 886 IJN personnel manning the naval and seaplane bases on the three islands fiercely resisted the Marine attacks. With some difficulty, the Marines secured all three islands; Tulagi on August 8, and Gavutu and Tanambogo by August 9.The Japanese defenders were killed almost to the last man, while the Marines suffered 122 killed.

In contrast to Tulagi, Gavutu, and Tanambogo, the landings on Guadalcanal encountered much less resistance. At 09:10 on August 7, Vandegrift and 11,000 U.S. Marines came ashore on Guadalcanal between Koli Point and Lunga Point. Advancing towards Lunga Point, they encountered no resistance except for “tangled” rain forest, and they halted for the night about 1,000 yards (910 m) from the Lunga Point airfield. The next day, again against little resistance, the Marines advanced all the way to the Lunga River and secured the airfield by 16:00 on August 8. The Japanese naval construction units and combat troops, under the command of Captain Kanae Monzen, panicked by the warship bombardment and aerial bombing, had abandoned the airfield area and fled about 3 miles (4.8 km) west to the Matanikau River and Point Cruz area, leaving behind food, supplies, intact construction equipment and vehicles, and 13 dead.


U.S. Marines come ashore on Guadalcanal on August 7, 1942.

During the landing operations on August 7 and August 8, Japanese naval aircraft based at Rabaul, under the command of Sadayoshi Yamada, attacked the Allied amphibious forces several times, setting afire the transport USS George F. Elliot (which sank two days later) and heavily damaging the destroyer USS Jarvis. In the air attacks over the two days, the Japanese lost 36 aircraft, while the U.S. lost 19, both in combat and to accident, including 14 carrier fighters.

After these clashes, Fletcher was concerned about the losses to his carrier fighter aircraft strength, anxious about the threat to his carriers from further Japanese air attacks, and worried about his ship’s fuel levels. Fletcher withdrew from the Solomon Islands area with his carrier task forces the evening of August 8. As a result of the loss of carrier-based air cover, Turner decided to withdraw his ships from Guadalcanal, even though less than half of the supplies and heavy equipment needed by the troops ashore had been unloaded.Turner planned, however, to unload as many supplies as possible on Guadalcanal and Tulagi throughout the night of August 8 and then depart with his ships early on August 9.

Partners Rear Admiral Richmond K. Turner and Major General Alexander Vandegrift

That night, as the transports unloaded, two groups of screening Allied warships, under the command of British Rear Admiral Victor Crutchley, were surprised and defeated by a Japanese force of seven cruisersand one destroyer from the 8th Fleet, based at Rabaul and Kaviengand commanded by Japanese Vice Admiral Gunichi Mikawa.


One Australian and three American cruisers were sunk, and one American cruiser and two destroyers were damaged in the Battle of Savo Island. The Japanese suffered moderate damage to one cruiser. Mikawa, who was unaware Fletcher had withdrawn with the U.S. carriers, immediately retired to Rabaul without attempting to attack the now vulnerable transports. Mikawa was concerned about daylight U.S. carrier air attacks if he remained in the area. Turner withdrew all remaining Allied naval forces by the evening of August 9, leaving the Marines ashore without much of the heavy equipment, provisions, and troops still aboard the transports. However, Mikawa’s decision not to attempt to destroy the Allied transport ships when he had the opportunity proved to be a crucial strategic mistake.

Initial operations


Initial U.S. Marine defenses around the airstrip at Lunga Point, Guadalcanal, August 12, 1942


Map showing the U.S. Marine attacks west of the Matanikau River on August 19.

The 11,000 Marines on Guadalcanal initially concentrated on forming a loose defensive perimeter around Lunga Point and the airfield, moving the landed supplies within the perimeter, and finishing the airfield. In four days of intense effort, the supplies were moved from the landing beach into dispersed dumps within the perimeter. Work began on the airfield immediately, mainly using captured Japanese equipment. On August 12, the airfield was named Henderson Field after Lofton R. Henderson, a Marine aviator who was killed during the Battle of Midway. By August 18, the airfield was ready for operation. Five days worth of food had been landed from the transports, which, along with captured Japanese provisions, gave the Marines a total of 14 days worth of food. To conserve supplies, the troops were limited to two meals per day.

Marine M3 Stuart Light Tank and Crew at Guadalcanal

Allied troops encountered a severe strain of dysentery soon after the landings, with one in five Marines afflicted by mid-August. Tropical diseases would affect the fighting strengths of both sides throughout the campaign. Although some of the Korean construction workers surrendered to the Marines, most of the remaining Japanese and Korean personnel gathered just west of the Lunga perimeter on the west bank of the Matanikau River and subsisted mainly on coconuts. A Japanese naval outpost was also located at Taivu Point, about 35 kilometres (22 mi) east of the Lunga perimeter. On August 8, a Japanese destroyer from Rabaul delivered 113 naval reinforcement troops to the Matanikau position.

Makeshift Obstacles: With no barbed wire the Marines used the ingenuity

On the evening of August 12, a 25-man U.S. Marine patrol, led by Lieutenant ColonelFrank Goettge and primarily consisting of intelligence personnel, landed by boat west of the Lunga perimeter, between Point Cruz and the Matanikau River, on a reconnaissance mission with a secondary objective of contacting a group of Japanese troops that U.S. forces believed might be willing to surrender. Soon after the patrol landed, a nearby platoon of Japanese naval troops attacked and almost completely wiped out the Marine patrol.

Dead Japanese of the Ichiki Detachment at the Tenaru

In response, on August 19, Vandegrift sent three companies of the U.S. 5th Marine Regiment to attack the Japanese troop concentration west of the Matanikau. One company attacked across the sandbar at the mouth of the Matanikau river while another crossed the river 1,000 metres (1,100 yd) inland and attacked the Japanese forces located in Matanikau village. The third landed by boat further west and attacked Kokumbuna village. After briefly occupying the two villages, the three Marine companies returned to the Lunga perimeter, having killed about 65 Japanese soldiers while losing four. This action, sometimes referred to as the “First Battle of the Matanikau”, was the first of several major actions around the Matanikau River during the campaign.

Artists depiction of Sgt Mitchell Paige assaulting attacking Japanese units at Bloody Ridge

On August 20, the escort carrier USS Long Island delivered two squadrons of Marine aircraft to Henderson Field, one a squadron of 19 F4F Wildcats, and the other a squadron of 12 SBD Dauntlesses. The aircraft at Henderson became known as the “Cactus Air Force” (CAF) after the Allied codename for Guadalcanal. The Marine fighters went into action the next day, on the first of the almost-daily Japanese bomber air raids. On August 22, five U.S. Army P-400 Airacobras and their pilots arrived at Henderson Field.

Battle of the Tenaru

Main article: Battle of the Tenaru

Dead Japanese soldiers on the sandbar at the mouth of Alligator Creek, Guadalcanal after the Battle of the Tenaru.

In response to the Allied landings on Guadalcanal, the Japanese Imperial General Headquarters assigned the Imperial Japanese Army’s (IJA) 17th Army, a corps-sized command based at Rabaul and under the command of Lieutenant General Harukichi Hyakutake,

Harukichi Hyakutake
May 25, 1888 – March 10, 1947 (aged 58)[1]
Lieutenant General Harukichi Hyakutake in front of HQ Rabaul.jpg
Lieutenant General Harukichi Hyakutake in front of his headquarters at Rabaul, probably in the spring or summer of 1942.
Place of birth Saga PrefectureJapan
Allegiance Empire of Japan
Service/branch War flag of the Imperial Japanese Army.svg Imperial Japanese Army
Years of service 1909 – 1946
Rank Lieutenant General
Commands held IJA 18th Division
IJA 17th Army
Battles/wars World War II 

Awards Order of the Rising Sun, 1st class

the task of retaking Guadalcanal. The army was to be supported by Japanese naval units, including the Combined Fleet under the command of Isoroku Yamamoto,

Isoroku Yamamoto
4 April 1884–18 April 1943 (aged 59)
Isoroku Yamamoto.jpg

Isoroku Yamamoto

Place of birth NagaokaNiigataJapan
Place of death Buin, Papua New Guinea 
Allegiance Japan Empire of Japan
Service/branch  Imperial Japanese Navy
Years of service 1901–1943
Rank Naval Marshal General
Unit Combined Fleet among others
Commands held KitakamiIsuzuAkagi
Naval Air CommandNavy Ministry,Naval Air Command1st Fleet,Combined Fleet1st Battleship Division
Battles/wars Russo-Japanese War
World War II (Battle of Midway)
Awards Grand Cordon of the Supreme Order of the Chrysanthemum (2nd class) (posthumously)
Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun Paulownia Blossoms (1st class)
Grand Cordon of the Order of the Sacred Treasure(1st class)
Order of the Golden Kite (1st class)
Order of the Golden Kite (2nd class)
Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords

which was headquartered at Truk. The 17th Army, at that time heavily involved in the Japanesecampaign in New Guinea, had only a few units available. Of these, the 35th Infantry Brigade under Major General Kiyotake Kawaguchi was at Palau

Kiyotake Kawaguchi
December 3, 1892 – May 16, 1961 (aged 68)
Kawaguchi Kiyotake.jpg
Japanese General Kiyotake Kawaguchi
Place of birth Kōchi PrefectureJapan
Allegiance Empire of Japan
Service/branch War flag of the Imperial Japanese Army.svg Imperial Japanese Army
Years of service 1914-1945
Rank Major General
Battles/wars World War II
*Second Sino-Japanese War
*Battle of the Philippines (1941-42)
*Guadalcanal campaign
*Battle of Edson’s Ridge
*Battle for Henderson Field

, the 4th (Aoba) Infantry Regiment was in the Philippines and the 28th (Ichiki) Infantry Regiment, under the command of Colonel Kiyonao Ichiki, was on board transport ships near Guam.

Kiyonao Ichiki
October 16, 1892 – August 21, 1942 (aged 49)
Japanese Colonel Kiyonao Ichiki
Place of birth Shizuoka prefectureJapan
Place of death GuadalcanalSolomon Islands
Allegiance Empire of Japan
Service/branch War flag of the Imperial Japanese Army.svg Imperial Japanese Army
Years of service 1916-1942
Rank Colonel
(posthumously Major General)
Battles/wars Second Sino-Japanese War
Marco Polo Bridge incident
Pacific War
Guadalcanal campaign
Battle of the Tenaru

The different units began to move towards Guadalcanal via Truk and Rabaul immediately, but Ichiki’s regiment, being the closest, arrived in the area first. A “First Element” of Ichiki’s unit, consisting of about 917 soldiers, landed from destroyers at Taivu Point, east of the Lunga perimeter, after midnight on August 19, then made a 9-mile (14 km) night march west toward the Marine perimeter.

Vandegrift and Key Marine Leaders

Underestimating the strength of Allied forces on Guadalcanal, Ichiki’s unit conducted a nighttime frontal assault on Marine positions at Alligator Creek (often called the “Ilu River” on U.S. Marine maps) on the east side of the Lunga perimeter in the early morning hours of August 21. Ichiki’s assault was defeated with heavy Japanese losses in what became known as the Battle of the Tenaru. After daybreak, the Marine units counterattacked Ichiki’s surviving troops, killing many more of them. The dead included Ichiki, though it has been claimed that he committed hara-kiri after realizing the magnitude of his defeat, rather than dying in combat. In total, all but 128 of the original 917 members of the Ichiki Regiment’s First Element were killed in the battle. The survivors returned to Taivu Point, notified 17th Army headquarters of their defeat and awaited further reinforcements and orders from Rabaul.

Marine Artillery on Guadalcanal

Battle of the Eastern Solomons


The carrier USS Enterprise (CV-6) under aerial attack during the Battle of the Eastern Solomons.

As the Tenaru battle was ending, more Japanese reinforcements were already on their way. Three slow transports departed from Truk on August 16 carrying the remaining 1,400 soldiers from Ichiki’s (28th) Infantry Regiment plus 500 naval marines from the 5th Yokosuka Special Naval Landing Force.

Special Naval Landing Force (SNLF)
Kaigun Tokubetsu Rikusentai
Naval Ensign of Japan.svg
The ensign of the Special Naval Landing Force
Active 1928–1945
Country Empire of Japan
Allegiance Empire of Japan
Type Marines
Engagements Sino-Japanese WarRusso-Japanese WarWorld War IWorld War II

The transports were guarded by 13 warships commanded by Japanese Rear Admiral Raizo Tanaka,

Raizō Tanaka
April 27, 1892 – July 9, 1969 (aged 77)

Rear Admiral Raizō Tanaka

Place of birth Yamaguchi PrefectureJapan
Allegiance Empire of Japan
Service/branch  Imperial Japanese Navy
Rank Vice Admiral
Commands held TachikazeUshioJintsuMako Guard District,Kongo
2nd Destroyer Flotilla, Reinforcements Force[2]
Battles/wars World War II 

Awards Order of the Rising Sun (4th class)
Order of the Sacred Treasures (2nd class)

who planned to land the troops on Guadalcanal on August 24. To cover the landings of these troops and provide support for the operation to retake Henderson Field from Allied forces, Yamamoto directed Chuichi Nagumo

Chūichi Nagumo
March 25, 1887 – July 6, 1944 (aged 57)
Chuichi Nagumo.jpg

Vice Admiral Chuichi Nagumo

Place of birth  Yonezawa, Yamagata Japan
Place of death SaipanNorthern Mariana Islands
Allegiance Japan Empire of Japan
Service/branch  Imperial Japanese Navy
Years of service 1908-1944
Rank Admiral
Unit Kido Butai
Commands held AkiHatsuyukiKirishimaSugi,KisaragiMomiNakaTakao,Yamashiro
11th Destroyer Division, 8th Cruiser Division, 3rd Cruiser Division, Kido Butai, 1st Carrier Division, 1st Air FleetIJN 3rd FleetSasebo Naval DistrictKure Naval DistrictIJN 1st FleetCentral Pacific Area FleetIJN 14th Air Fleet
Battles/wars World War II
Battle of the Eastern Solomons
Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands
Indian Ocean Raid,
Attack on Pearl Harbor
Attack on Darwin
Battle of Midway
Awards Order of the Rising Sun (3rd class)
Order of the Rising Sun (4th class)
Order of the Golden Kite (3rd class)
Grand Cordon of the Order of the Sacred Treasure (1st class)

to sortie with a carrier force from Truk on August 21 and head towards the southern Solomon Islands. Nagumo’s force included three carriers and 30 other warships.


U.S. carriers Wasp (foreground), Saratoga, and Enterprise (background) operating in the Pacific south of Guadalcanal on August 12, 1942.

Simultaneously, three U.S. carrier task forces under Fletcher approached Guadalcanal to counter the Japanese offensive efforts. On August 24 and 25, the two carrier forces fought the Battle of the Eastern Solomons, which resulted in both fleets retreating from the area after taking some damage, with the Japanese losing one light aircraft carrier. Tanaka’s convoy, after suffering heavy damage during the battle from an air attack by CAF aircraft from Henderson Field, including the sinking of one of the transports, was forced to divert to the Shortland Islands in the northern Solomons in order to transfer the surviving troops to destroyers for later delivery to Guadalcanal.

Artists depiction of the Battle of Bloody Ridge

Battle of the Eastern Solomons
Part of the Pacific Theater of World War II
USS Enterprise (center left), maneuvering radically under aerial attack and afire on 24 August 1942. Anti-aircraft shell bursts directed at the attacking Japanese dive bombers are visible above the carrier.
Date 24-25 August 1942
Location North of Santa IsabelSolomon Islands
Result Allied victory
Allied forces including:
United States United States,
Australia Australia
Japan Empire of Japan
Commanders and leaders
United States Robert Ghormley
United States Frank Jack Fletcher
Japan Isoroku Yamamoto
Japan Chūichi Nagumo
2 fleet carriers,
11 destroyers,
176 aircraft[1]
2 fleet carriers,
light carrier,
2 battleships,
16 cruisers,
25 destroyers,
seaplane tender,
patrol boats,
171–177 aircraft
Casualties and losses
1 carrier heavily damaged,
25 aircraft destroyed,
90 killed[3]
1 light carrier,
1 destroyer,
1 transport sunk,
light cruiser,
1 seaplane tender heavily damaged,
75 aircraft destroyed,
290+ killed

Air battles over Henderson Field and strengthening of the Lunga defenses


U.S. Marine F4F Wildcat fighters ascend from Henderson Field to attack incoming Japanese aircraft in late August or early September 1942.

Throughout August, small numbers of U.S. aircraft and their crews continued to arrive at Guadalcanal. By the end of August, 64 aircraft of various types were stationed at Henderson Field. On September 3, the commander of 1st Marine Aircraft Wing,

1st Marine Aircraft Wing
USMC - 1MAW.png
1st MAW insignia
  • July 7, 1941 – present
Country United States
Branch USMC
Type Marine Aircraft Wing
Role Conduct air operations in support of the Fleet Marine Forces
Part of III Marine Expeditionary Force
Garrison/HQ Camp Foster
Nickname 1st MAW
Engagements World War II
Battle of Guadalcanal
Philippines campaign (1944–45)
Korean War
Vietnam War
BGen William D. Beydler
Louis E. Woods
Roy Geiger
Duane D. Thiessen
George J. Trautman, III
John F. Goodman

U.S. Marine Brigadier General Roy S. Geiger, arrived with his staff and took command of all air operations at Henderson Field. Air battles between the Allied aircraft at Henderson and Japanese bombers and fighters from Rabaul continued almost daily.

Roy Stanley Geiger
January 25, 1885 – January 23, 1947 (aged 61)
Roy Geiger.jpg
Roy S. Geiger
Nickname “Jiggs”
Place of birth Middleburg, Florida
Place of death Bethesda, Maryland
Place of burial Arlington National Cemetery
Allegiance United States
Years of service 1909-1947
Rank US-O10 insignia.svg General
Commands held Aircraft Squadrons, East Coast Expeditionary Force
1st Marine Aircraft Wing 

Battle of Guam
U.S. Tenth Army
Fleet Marine Force, Pacific

Battles/wars World War I
Banana Wars
World War II
*Battle of Bougainville
*Battle of Okinawa
Awards Navy Cross (2)
Navy Distinguished Service Medal (3)
Army Distinguished Service Medal

Between August 26 and September 5, the U.S. lost about 15 aircraft while the Japanese lost approximately 19 aircraft. More than half of the downed U.S. aircrews were rescued while most of the Japanese aircrews were never recovered. The eight-hour round trip flight from Rabaul to Guadalcanal, about 1,120 miles (1,800 km) total, seriously hampered Japanese efforts to establish air superiority over Henderson Field.

Marine F4F Wildcat on Henderson Field

Australian coastwatchers on Bougainvilleand New Georgia islands were often able to provide Allied forces on Guadalcanal with advance notice of inbound Japanese air strikes, allowing the U.S. fighters time to take off and position themselves to attack the Japanese bombers and fighters as they approached the island. Thus, the Japanese air forces were slowly losing a war of attrition in the skies above Guadalcanal.

Navy Corpsmen preparing to evacuate a wounded Marines (above) and the 1st Marine Divsion Field  Hospital

During this time, Vandegrift continued to direct efforts to strengthen and improve the defenses of the Lunga perimeter. Between August 21 and September 3, he relocated three Marine battalions, including the 1st Raider Battalion, under Merritt A. Edson (Edson’s Raiders), and the 1st Parachute Battalion from Tulagi and Gavutu to Guadalcanal. These units added about 1,500 troops to Vandegrift’s original 11,000 men defending Henderson Field. The 1st Parachute Battalion, which had suffered heavy casualties in the Battle of Tulagi and Gavutu-Tanambogo in August, was placed under Edson’s command.

The other relocated battalion, the 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment(1/5), was landed by boat west of the Matanikau near Kokumbuna village on August 27 with the mission of attacking Japanese units in the area, much as in the first Matanikau action of August 19. In this case, however, the Marines were impeded by difficult terrain, hot sun, and well-emplaced Japanese defenses. The next morning, the Marines found that the Japanese defenders had departed during the night, so the Marines returned to the Lunga perimeter by boat. Losses in this action were 20 Japanese and 3 Marines killed.

Wrecked Aircraft on Henderson Field

Small Allied naval convoys arrived at Guadalcanal on August 23, August 29, September 1, and September 8 to provide the Marines at Lunga with more food, ammunition, aircraft fuel, and aircraft technicians. The September 1 convoy also brought 392 construction engineers to maintain and improve Henderson Field.

Japanese dead after the failed attack on Henderson Field

Tokyo Express

Main article: Tokyo Express

Japanese troops load onto a destroyer for a “Tokyo Express” run to Guadalcanal

By August 23, Kawaguchi’s 35th Infantry Brigade reached Truk and was loaded onto slow transport ships for the rest of the trip to Guadalcanal. The damage done to Tanaka’s convoy during the Battle of the Eastern Solomons caused the Japanese to reconsider trying to deliver more troops to Guadalcanal by slow transport. Instead, the ships carrying Kawaguchi’s soldiers were sent to Rabaul. From there, the Japanese planned to deliver Kawaguchi’s men to Guadalcanal by destroyers staging through a Japanese naval base in the Shortland Islands. The Japanese destroyers were usually able to make round trips down “The Slot” (New Georgia Sound) to Guadalcanal and back in a single night throughout the campaign, minimizing their exposure to Allied air attack; they became known as the “Tokyo Express” to Allied forces and were labeled “Rat Transportation” by the Japanese.

Delivering the troops in this manner, however, prevented most of the heavy equipment and supplies, such as heavy artillery, vehicles, and much food and ammunition, from being transported to Guadalcanal with them. In addition, this activity tied up destroyers the IJN desperately needed for commerce defense. Either inability or unwillingness prevented Allied naval commanders from challenging Japanese naval forces at night, so the Japanese controlled the seas around the Solomon Islands during nighttime. However, any Japanese ship remaining within range of the aircraft at Henderson Field during the daylight hours, about 200 miles (320 km), was in great danger from air attack. This tactical situation existed for the next several months of the campaign.

Advancing across a improvised pontoon bridge

Between August 29 and September 4, various Japanese light cruisers, destroyers, and patrol boats were able to land almost 5,000 troops at Taivu Point, including most of the 35th Infantry Brigade, much of the Aoba (4th) Regiment, and the rest of Ichiki’s regiment. General Kawaguchi, who landed at Taivu Point on the August 31 Express run, was placed in command of all Japanese forces on Guadalcanal. A barge convoy took another 1,000 soldiers of Kawaguchi’s brigade, under the command of Colonel Akinosuke Oka, to Kamimbo, west of the Lunga perimeter.

Major General Vandegrift, Colonel Edson, 2nd Lt Mitchell Paige and Sgt John Basilone all awardees of the Medal of Honor

Battle of Edson’s Ridge

Merritt Austin Edson
April 25, 1897 – August 14, 1955 (aged 58)
Black and white photo of a white man in his Marine Corps uniform. He is wearing a hat, his military awards and 2 star general rank insignia. A light blue neck ribbon with a gold star shaped medallion hanging from it. The ribbon is similar in shape to a bowtie with 13 white stars in the center of the ribbon.
“Red Mike” Edson
Nickname Red Mike
Place of birth Chester, Vermont
Place of death Washington, D.C.
Place of burial Arlington National Cemetery
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Marine Corps
Years of service 1917-1947
Rank Major General
Unit 4th Marine Regiment
2nd Marine Division
Commands held 1st Marine Raider Battalion
Battles/wars World War I
Banana Wars
World War II 

Awards Medal of Honor
Navy Cross (2)
Silver Star
Legion of Merit (2)
Distinguished Service Order (United Kingdom)
Other work Commissioner of the Vermont State Police
Executive Director of the National Rifle Association

U.S. Marine Lieutenant ColonelMerritt A. Edson (here photographed as a major general) who led Marine forces in the Battle of Edson’s Ridge

On September 7, Kawaguchi issued his attack plan to “rout and annihilate the enemy in the vicinity of the Guadalcanal Island airfield.” Kawaguchi’s attack plan called for his forces, split into three divisions, to approach the Lunga perimeter inland, culminating with a surprise night attack. Oka’s forces would attack the perimeter from the west while Ichiki’s Second Echelon, now renamed the Kuma Battalion, would attack from the east. The main attack would be by Kawaguchi’s “Center Body,” numbering 3,000 men in three battalions, from the jungle south of the Lunga perimeter.By September 7, most of Kawaguchi’s troops had departed Taivu to begin marching towards Lunga Point along the coastline. About 250 Japanese troops remained behind to guard the brigade’s supply base at Taivu.

Meanwhile, native scouts under the direction of Martin Clemens, a coastwatcher, officer in theSolomon Islands Protectorate Defense Force, and the British district officer for Guadalcanal, brought reports to the U.S. Marines of Japanese troops at Taivu, near the village of Tasimboko. Edson planned a raid on the Japanese troop concentration at Taivu.On September 8, after being dropped-off near Taivu by boat, Edson’s men captured Tasimboko as the Japanese defenders retreated into the jungle. In Tasimboko, Edson’s troops discovered Kawaguchi’s main supply depot, including large stockpiles of food, ammunition, medical supplies, and a powerful shortwaveradio. After destroying everything in sight, except for some documents and equipment carried back with them, the Marines returned to the Lunga perimeter. The mounds of supplies, along with intelligence gathered from the captured documents, informed the Marines that at least 3,000 Japanese troops were on the island and apparently planning an attack.

Japanese Prisoners

Edson, along with Colonel Gerald C. Thomas, Vandegrift’s operations officer, correctly believed that the Japanese attack would come at a narrow, grassy, 1,000 yards (910 m)-long, coral ridge that ran parallel to the Lunga River and was located just south of Henderson Field. The ridge, called Lunga Ridge, offered a natural avenue of approach to the airfield, commanded the surrounding area and, at that time, was almost undefended. On September 11, the 840 men of Edson’s battalion were deployed onto and around the ridge.


Map of the Lunga perimeter on Guadalcanal showing the approach routes of the Japanese forces and the locations of the Japanese attacks during the battle. Oka’s attacks were in the west (left), the Kuma Battalion attacked from the east (right) and the Center Body attacked “Edson’s Ridge” (Lunga Ridge) in the lower center of the map.

On the night of September 12, Kawaguchi’s 1st Battalion attacked the Raiders between the Lunga River and ridge, forcing one Marine company to fall back to the ridge before the Japanese halted their attack for the night. The next night, Kawaguchi faced Edson’s 830 Raiders with 3,000 troops of his brigade, plus an assortment of light artillery. The Japanese attack began just after nightfall, with Kawaguchi’s 1st battalion assaulting Edson’s right flank, just to the west of the ridge. After breaking through the Marine lines, the battalion’s assault was eventually stopped by Marine units guarding the northern part of the ridge.

Two companies from Kawaguchi’s 2nd Battalion charged up the southern edge of the ridge and pushed Edson’s troops back to Hill 123 on the center part of the ridge. Throughout the night, Marines at this position, supported by artillery, defeated wave after wave of frontal Japanese attacks, some of which resulted in hand-to-hand fighting.

Japanese units that infiltrated past the ridge to the edge of the airfield were also repulsed. Attacks by the Kuma battalion and Oka’s unit at other locations on the Lunga perimeter were also defeated. On September 14, Kawaguchi led the survivors of his shattered brigade on a five day march west to the Matanikau Valley to join with Oka’s unit. In total, Kawaguchi’s forces lost about 850 killed and the Marines 104.

It was from a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress such as this that LtCol Merrill B. Twining and Maj William B. McKean reconnoitered the Watchtower target area and discovered the Japanese building an airfield on Guadalcanal.

On September 15, Hyakutake at Rabaul learned of Kawaguchi’s defeat and forwarded the news to Imperial General Headquarters in Japan. In an emergency session, the top Japanese IJA and IJN command staffs concluded that, “Guadalcanal might develop into the decisive battle of the war.” The results of the battle now began to have a telling strategic impact on Japanese operations in other areas of the Pacific.

Hyakutake realized that in order to send sufficient troops and materiel to defeat the Allied forces on Guadalcanal, he could not at the same time support the major ongoing Japanese offensive on the Kokoda Track in New Guinea. Hyakutake, with the concurrence of General Headquarters, ordered his troops on New Guinea, who were within 30 miles (48 km) of their objective of Port Moresby, to withdraw until the “Guadalcanal matter” was resolved. Hyakutake prepared to send more troops to Guadalcanal for another attempt to recapture Henderson Field.

Photo courtesy of Col James A. Donovan, Jr.
When the 5th Marines entered the jungle from the beachhead, and had to cross the steep banks of the Ilu River, 1st Marine Division engineers hastily constructed a bridge supported by amphibian tractors. Though heavily used, the bridge held up.


File:USS Wasp (CV-7) brennt.jpg 

The U.S. carrier Wasp burns after being hit by Japanese submarine torpedoes on September 15.

As the Japanese regrouped west of the Matanikau, the U.S. forces concentrated on shoring up and strengthening their Lunga defenses. On September 14, Vandegrift moved another battalion, the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment (3/2), from Tulagi to Guadalcanal. On September 18, an Allied naval convoy delivered 4,157 men from the 3rd Provisional Marine Brigade (the 7th Marine Regiment plus a battalion from the 11th Marine Regiment and some additional support units), 137 vehicles, tents, aviation fuel, ammunition, rations, and engineering equipment to Guadalcanal.

Photographed immediately after a prelanding strike by USS Enterprise aircraft flown by Navy pilots, Tanambogo and Gavutu Islands lie smoking and in ruins in the morning sun. Gavutu is at the left across the causeway from Tanambogo.
National Archives Photo 80-G-11034

These crucial reinforcements allowed Vandegrift, beginning on September 19, to establish an unbroken line of defense around the Lunga perimeter. While covering this convoy, the aircraft carrierUSS Wasp was sunk by the Japanese submarine I-19 southeast of Guadalcanal, temporarily leaving only one Allied aircraft carrier (USS Hornet) in operation in the South Pacific area. Vandegrift also made some changes in the senior leadership of his combat units, transferring off the island several officers who did not meet his performance standards, and promoting junior officers who had proven themselves to take their places. One of these was the recently promoted Colonel Merritt Edson, who was placed in command of the 5th Marine Regiment.

Immediately after assault troops cleared the beachhead and moved inland, supplies and equipment, inviting targets for enemy bombers, began to litter the beach.

A lull occurred in the air war over Guadalcanal, with no Japanese air raids occurring between September 14 and September 27 due to bad weather, during which both sides reinforced their respective air units. The Japanese delivered 85 fighters and bombers to their air units at Rabaul while the U.S. brought 23 fighters and attack aircraft to Henderson Field.

U.S. 105mm Howitzer

On September 20, the Japanese counted 117 total aircraft at Rabaul while the Allies tallied 71 aircraft at Henderson Field. The air war resumed with a Japanese air raid on Guadalcanal on September 27, which was contested by U.S. Navy and Marine fighters from Henderson Field.

The Japanese immediately began to prepare for their next attempt to recapture Henderson Field. The 3rd Battalion, 4th (Aoba) Infantry Regiment had landed at Kamimbo Bay on the western end of Guadalcanal on September 11, too late to join Kawaguchi’s attack. By now, though, the battalion had joined Oka’s forces near the Matanikau. Tokyo Express runs by destroyers on September 14, 20, 21, and 24 brought food and ammunition, as well as 280 men from the 1st Battalion, Aoba Regiment, to Kamimbo on Guadalcanal. Meanwhile, the Japanese 2nd and 38th Infantry Divisions were transported from the Dutch East Indies to Rabaul beginning on September 13.

U.S. 90mm Antiaircraft Gun

The Japanese planned to transport a total of 17,500 troops from these two divisions to Guadalcanal to take part in the next major attack on the Lunga Perimeter, set for October 20, 1942.

Actions along the Matanikau


A U.S. Marine patrol crosses theMatanikau River in September 1942.

Vandegrift and his staff were aware that Kawaguchi’s troops had retreated to the area west of the Matanikau and that numerous groups of Japanese stragglers were scattered throughout the area between the Lunga Perimeter and the Matanikau River. Vandegrift, therefore, decided to conduct another series of small unit operations around the Matanikau Valley. The purpose of these operations was to mop up the scattered groups of Japanese troops east of the Matanikau and to keep the main body of Japanese soldiers off-balance to prevent them from consolidating their positions so close to the main Marine defenses at Lunga Point.

The General and His Officers on Guadalcanal, According to the Chart

1. Col George R. Rowan
2. Col Pedro A. del Valle
3. Col William C. James
4. MajGen Alexander A. Vandegrift
5. LtCol Gerald C. Thomas
6. Col Clifton B. Cates
7. Col Randolph McC. Pate
8. Cdr Warwick T. Brown, USN
9. Col William J. Whaling
10. Col Frank B. Goettge
11. Col LeRoy P. Hunt, Jr.
12. LtCol Frederick C. Biebush
13. LtCol Edwin A. Pollock
14. LtCol Edmund J. Buckley
15. LtCol Walter W. Barr
16. LtCol Raymond P. Coffman
17. LtCol Francis R. Geraci
18. LtCol William E. Maxwell
19. LtCol Edward G. Hagen
20. LtCol William N. McKelvy, Jr.
21. LtCol Julian N. Frisbie
22. Maj Milton V. O’Connell
23. Maj William Chalfant III
24. Maj Horace W. Fuller
25. Maj Forest C. Thompson
26. Maj Robert G. Ballance
27. Maj Henry C. Buse, Jr.
28. Maj James W. Frazer
29. Maj Henry H. Crockett
30. LtCol Lenard B. Cresswell
31. Maj Robert O. Brown
32 LtCol John A. Bemis
33. Col Kenneth W. Benner
34. Maj Robert B. Luckey
35. LtCol Samuel B. Taxis
36. LtCol Eugene H. Price
37. LtCol Merrill B. Twining
38. LtCol Walker A. Reaves
39. LtCol John D. Macklin
40. LtCol Hawley C. Waterman
41. Maj James C. Murray, Jr.

The first U.S. Marine operation and attempt to attack Japanese forces west of the Matanikau, conducted between September 23 and 27 by elements of three U.S. Marine battalions, was repulsed by Kawaguchi’s troops under Akinosuke Oka’s local command. During the action, three Marine companies were surrounded by Japanese forces near Point Cruz west of the Matanikau, took heavy losses, and barely escaped with assistance from the destroyer USS Monssen (DD-436) and landing craft manned by U.S. Coast Guard personnel.

The first Army Air Forces P-400 Bell Air Cobras arrived on Guadalcanal on 22 August, two days after the first Marine planes, and began operations immediately

In the second action between October 6 and 9, a larger force of Marines successfully crossed the Matanikau River, attacked newly landed Japanese forces from the 2nd Infantry Division under the command of generals Masao Maruyama and Yumio Nasu, and inflicted heavy losses on the Japanese 4th Infantry Regiment. The second action forced the Japanese to retreat from their positions east of the Matanikau and hindered Japanese preparations for their planned major offensive on the U.S. Lunga defenses.

U.S. M-3 Light Tank

Between October 9 and 11 the U.S. 1st Battalion 2nd Marines raided two small Japanese outposts about 30 miles (48 km) east of the Lunga perimeter at Gurabusu and Koilotumaria near Aola Bay. The raids killed 35 Japanese at a cost of 17 Marines and three U.S. Navy personnel killed.

M3A1 37mm Antitank Gun

Battle of Cape Esperance

Throughout the last week of September and the first week of October, Tokyo Express runs delivered troops from the Japanese 2nd Infantry Division to Guadalcanal. The Japanese Navy promised to support the Army’s planned offensive by not only delivering the necessary troops, equipment, and supplies to the island, but by stepping-up air attacks on Henderson Field and sending warships to bombard the airfield.

File:USS Helena CL-50-700px.jpg

U.S. cruiser Helena, part of Task Force 64 under Norman Scott.

USS Helena in the South Pacific1943
(note: radar antennas have been brushed out by censors)
Career (United States)
Name: USS Helena
Namesake: Helena, Montana
Builder: New York Navy Yard
Laid down: 9 December 1936
Launched: 27 August 1939
Commissioned: 18 September 1939
Fate: Sunk, Battle of Kula Gulf, 6 July 1943
General characteristics
Class and type: St. Louis-class light cruiser
Displacement: 10,000 long tons (10,000 t)
Length: 608.3 ft (185.4 m)
Beam: 61.7 ft (18.8 m)
Draft: 19.8 ft (6.0 m)
Propulsion: Steam turbines
Speed: 33 kn (38 mph; 61 km/h)
Complement: 888 officers and enlisted men
Sensors and
processing systems:
Armament: 15 × 6 in (150 mm)/47 cal guns (5×3)
8 × 5 in (130 mm)/38 cal dual purpose guns(4×2)
8 × .50 in (12.70 mm) anti-aircraftmachine guns

In the meantime, Millard F. Harmon, commander of United States Armyforces in the South Pacific, convinced Ghormley that U.S. Marine forces on Guadalcanal needed to be reinforced immediately if the Allies were to successfully defend the island from the next, expected Japanese offensive. Thus, on October 8, the 2,837 men of the 164th Infantry Regiment from the U.S. Army’s Americal Division boarded ships at New Caledonia for the trip to Guadalcanal with a projected arrival date of October 13. To protect the transports carrying the 164th to Guadalcanal, Ghormley ordered Task Force 64, consisting of four cruisers and five destroyers under U.S. Rear Admiral Norman Scott, to intercept and combat any Japanese ships that approached Guadalcanal and threatened the arrival of the transport convoy.

Marine ground crewmen attempt to put out one of many fires occurring after a Japanese bombing raid on Henderson Field causing the loss of much-needed aircraft.

Mikawa’s 8th Fleet staff scheduled a large and important Express run for the night of October 11. Two seaplane tenders and six destroyers were to deliver 728 soldiers plus artillery and ammunition to Guadalcanal. At the same time but in a separate operation three heavy cruisers and two destroyers under the command of Rear AdmiralAritomo Gotōwere to bombard Henderson Field with special explosive shells with the object of destroying the CAF and the airfield’s facilities. Because U.S. Navy warships had yet to attempt to interdict any Tokyo Express missions to Guadalcanal, the Japanese were not expecting any opposition from Allied naval surface forces that night.

The President of the United States
takes pleasure in presenting
the Medal of Honor posthumously to
Douglas Albert Munro
Signalman First Class
United States Coast Guard
for service as set forth
in the following citation:

For extraordinary heroism and conspicuous gallantry in action above and beyond the call of duty as Officer in Charge of a group of twenty-four Higgins boats engaged in the evacuation of a battalion of Marines trapped by enemy Japanese forces at Point Cruz, Guadalcanal, on September 27, 1942. After making preliminary plans for the evacuation of nearly five hundred beleaguered Marines, Munro, under constant strafing by enemy machine guns on the island and at great risk of his life, daringly led five of his small craft toward the shore. As he closed the beach, he signalled the others to land and then in order to draw the enemy’s fire and protect the heavily loaded boats, he valiantly placed his craft, with its two small guns, as a shield between the beachhead and the Japanese.

When the perilous task of evacuation was nearly completed, Munro was instantly killed by enemy fire, but his crew, two of whom were wounded, carried on until the last boat had loaded and cleared the beach. By his outstanding leadership, expert planning, and dauntless devotion to duty, he and his courageous comrades undoubtedly saved the lives of many who otherwise would have perished. He gallantly gave up his life in defense of his country.

/s/Franklin Roosevelt

Just before midnight, Scott’s warships detected Gotō’s force on radar near the entrance to the strait between Savo Island and Guadalcanal. Scott’s force was in a position to cross the T of Gotō’s unsuspecting formation. Opening fire, Scott’s warships sank one of Gotō’s cruisers and one of his destroyers, heavily damaged another cruiser, mortally wounded Gotō, and forced the rest of Gotō’s warships to abandon the bombardment mission and retreat. During the exchange of gunfire, one of Scott’s destroyers was sunk and one cruiser and another destroyer were heavily damaged. In the meantime, the Japanese supply convoy successfully completed unloading at Guadalcanal and began its return journey without being discovered by Scott’s force. Later on the morning of October 12, four Japanese destroyers from the supply convoy turned back to assist Gotō’s retreating, damaged warships. Air attacks by CAF aircraft from Henderson Field sank two of these destroyers later that day. The convoy of U.S. Army troops reached Guadalcanal as scheduled the next day and successfully delivered its cargo and passengers to the island.

Visiting Guadalcanal on 30 September, Adm Chester W. Nimitz, CinCPac, took time to decorate LtCol Evans C. Carlson, CO, 2d Raider Battalion; MajGen Vandegrift, in rear; and, from left, BGen William H. Rupertus, ADC; Col Merritt A. Edson, CO, 5th Marines; LtCol Edwin A. Pollock, CO 2d Battalion, 1st Marines; Maj John L. Smith, CO, VMF-223

Battleship bombardment of Henderson Field

In spite of the U.S. victory off Cape Esperance, the Japanese continued with plans and preparations for their large offensive scheduled for later in October. The Japanese decided to risk a one-time departure from their usual practice of only using fast warships to deliver their men and materiel to the island. On October 13, a convoy comprising six cargo ships with eight screening destroyers departed the Shortland Islands for Guadalcanal. The convoy carried 4,500 troops from the 16th and 230th Infantry Regiments, some naval marines, two batteries of heavy artillery, and one company of tanks.

File:Haruna 1928.jpg 

Haruna in 1934, following her second reconstruction
Career (Empire of Japan) Japanese Navy Ensign
Name: Haruna
Ordered: 1911
Builder: Kawasaki Shipyards
Laid down: 16 March 1912
Launched: 14 December 1913
Commissioned: 19 April 1915
Fate: Sunk at her moorings on 28 July 1945; raised and scrapped in 1946
General characteristics
Class and type: Kongō-class battlecruiser
Displacement: 36,600 long tons (37,187 t)
Length: 222 m (728 ft 4 in)[1]
Beam: 31 m (101 ft 8 in)
Draught: 9.7 m (31 ft 10 in)
Propulsion: Brown-Curtis turbines generating 64,000 shp, 4 shafts[2]
Speed: 1915–1934: 26 knots
1934–1945: 30 knots
Complement: 1,360
Armament: 1915:
• 8 × 356 mm (14 in) guns (4×2)
• 16 × 152 mm (6 in) guns (16×1)
• 8 × 76 mm (3 in) guns (8×1)
• 8 × 530 mm (21 in) torpedo tubes (submerged)
• 8 × 356 mm (14 in) (4×2)
• 16 × 152 mm (6 in) guns (16×1)
• 8 × 127 mm (5 in) guns (4×2) 

• 122 × 25 mm (1 in) 25 mm (0.98 in) Type 96 AA guns

Armor: 9 in (230 mm) on turrets
8 in (200 mm) on armored belt
1.5 in (38 mm)–2.75 in (70 mm) on deck
Aircraft carried: 3
Notes: Unless otherwise noted, all statistics apply to after the second reconstruction.

File:Kongo class battleship drawing.png

A drawing from the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence depicting the Kongō class in 1944–1945

To protect the approaching convoy from attack by CAF aircraft, Yamamoto sent two battleships from Truk to bombard Henderson Field. At 01:33 on October 14, Kongō andHaruna, escorted by one light cruiser and nine destroyers, reached Guadalcanal and opened fire on Henderson Field from a distance of 16,000 metres (17,500 yd). Over the next one hour and 23 minutes, the two battleships fired 973 14-inch (356 mm) shells into the Lunga perimeter, most of them falling in and around the 2,200 metres (2,400 yd) square area of the airfield. Many of the shells were fragmentation shells, specifically designed to destroy land targets. The bombardment heavily damaged both runways, burned almost all of the available aviation fuel, destroyed 48 of the CAF’s 90 aircraft, and killed 41 men, including six CAF pilots. The battleship force immediately returned to Truk.

In spite of the heavy damage, Henderson personnel were able to restore one of the runways to operational condition within a few hours. Seventeen SBDs and 20 Wildcats at Espiritu Santo were quickly flown to Henderson and U.S. Army and Marine transport aircraft began to shuttle aviation gasoline from Espiritu Santo to Guadalcanal. Now aware of the approach of the large Japanese reinforcement convoy, the U.S. desperately sought some way to interdict the convoy before it could reach Guadalcanal. Using fuel drained from destroyed aircraft and from a cache in the nearby jungle, the CAF attacked the convoy twice on the 14th, but caused no damage.


Japanese cargo ship destroyed atTassafaronga by CAF aircraft on October 15.

The Japanese convoy reached Tassafaronga on Guadalcanal at midnight on October 14 and began unloading. Throughout the day of October 15, a string of CAF aircraft from Henderson bombed and strafed the unloading convoy, destroying three of the cargo ships. The remainder of the convoy departed that night, having unloaded all of the troops and about two-thirds of the supplies and equipment. Several Japanese heavy cruisers also bombarded Henderson on the nights of October 14 and 15, destroying a few additional CAF aircraft, but failing to cause significant further damage to the airfield.

Battle for Henderson Field

Between October 1 and October 17, the Japanese delivered 15,000 troops to Guadalcanal, giving Hyakutake 20,000 total troops to employ for his planned offensive. Because of the loss of their positions on the east side of the Matanikau, the Japanese decided that an attack on the U.S. defenses along the coast would be prohibitively difficult. Therefore, Hyakutake decided that the main thrust of his planned attack would be from south of Henderson Field. His 2nd Division (augmented by troops from the 38th Division), under Lieutenant General Masao Maruyama and comprising 7,000 soldiers in three infantry regiments of three battalions each was ordered to march through the jungle and attack the American defences from the south near the east bank of the Lunga River. The date of the attack was set for October 22, then changed to October 23. To distract the Americans from the planned attack from the south, Hyakutake’s heavy artillery plus five battalions of infantry (about 2,900 men) under Major General Tadashi Sumiyoshi were to attack the American defenses from the west along the coastal corridor. The Japanese estimated that there were 10,000 American troops on the island, when in fact there were about 23,000.


Map of the battle, October 23 – October 26. Sumiyoshi’s forces attack in the west at the Matanikau (left) while Maruyama’s 2nd division attacks the Lunga perimeter from the south (right)

On October 12, a company of Japanese engineers began to break a trail, called the “Maruyama Road”, from the Matanikau towards the southern portion of the U.S. Lunga perimeter. The 15 miles (24 km) long trail traversed some of the most difficult terrain on Guadalcanal, including numerous rivers and streams, deep, muddy ravines, steep ridges, and dense jungle. Between October 16 and October 18, the 2nd Division began their march along the Maruyama Road.

A Marine examines a Japanese 70mm howitzer captured at the Battle of the Tenaru. Gen Maruyama’s troops “had to lug, push, and drag these supporting arms over the miles of broken ground, across two major streams and through heavy underbrush” to get them to the target area–but they never did. The trail behind them was littered with the supplies they carried.

By October 23, Maruyama’s forces still struggled through the jungle to reach the American lines. That evening, after learning that his forces had yet to reach their attack positions, Hyakutake postponed the attack to 19:00 on October 24. The Americans remained completely unaware of the approach of Maruyama’s forces.

During the lull in the fight, a Marine machine gunner takes a break for coffee, with his sub-machine gun on his knee and his .30-caliber light machine gun in position.

Sumiyoshi was informed by Hyakutake’s staff of the postponement of the offensive to October 24, but was unable to contact his troops to inform them of the delay. Thus, at dusk on October 23, two battalions of the 4th Infantry Regiment and the nine tanks of the 1st Independent Tank Company launched attacks on the U.S. Marine defenses at the mouth of the Matanikau. U.S. Marine artillery, cannon, and small arms fire repulsed the attacks, destroying all the tanks and killing many of the Japanese soldiers while suffering only light casualties.

Heavy tropical downpours at Guadalcanal all but flood out a Marine camp near Henderson Field, and the field as well. Marines’ damp clothing and bedding contributed to the heavy incidence of tormenting skin infections and fungal disorders

Finally, late on October 24 Maruyama’s forces reached the U.S. Lunga perimeter. Over two consecutive nights Maruyama’s forces conducted numerous, unsuccessful frontal assaults on positions defended by troops of the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines under Lieutenant Colonel Chesty Puller and the 3rd Battalion, 164th Infantry Regiment, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Robert Hall. U.S. Marine and Army rifle, machine gun, mortar, artillery, and direct canister fire from 37 mm anti-tank guns “wrought terrible carnage” on the Japanese. A few small groups of Japanese broke through the American defenses, but were all hunted down and killed over the next several days. More than 1,500 of Maruyama’s troops were killed in the attacks while the Americans lost about 60 killed. Over the same two days American aircraft from Henderson Field defended against attacks by Japanese aircraft and ships, destroying 14 aircraft and sinking a light cruiser.


Dead soldiers from the Japanese 2nd Division cover the battlefield after the failed assaults on October 25–26

Further Japanese attacks near the Matanikau on October 26 were also repulsed with heavy losses for the Japanese. As a result, at 08:00 on October 26, Hyakutake called off any further attacks and ordered his forces to retreat. About half of Maruyama’s survivors were ordered to retreat back to the upper Matanikau Valley while the 230th Infantry Regiment under Colonel Toshinari Shōji was told to head for Koli Point, east of the Lunga perimeter. Leading elements of the 2nd Division reached the 17th Army headquarters area at Kokumbona, west of the Matanikau on November 4. The same day, Shoji’s unit reached Koli Point and made camp. Decimated by battle deaths, combat injuries, malnutrition, and tropical diseases, the 2nd Division was incapable of further offensive action and fought as a defensive force along the coast for the rest of the campaign. In total the Japanese lost 2,200 – 3,000 troops in the battle while the Americans lost around 80 killed.

75mm Pack Howitzer–Workhorse of the Artillery

During the summer of 1930, the Marine Corps began replacing its old French 75mm guns (Model 1897) with the 75mm Pack Howitzer Model 1923-E2. This weapon was designed for use in the Army primarily as mountain artillery. Since it could be broken down and manhandled ashore in six loads from ships’ boats, the pack howitzer was an important supporting weapon of the Marine Corps’ landing forces in prewar landing exercises.

The 75mm pack howitzer saw extensive service with the Marine Corps throughout World War II in almost every major landing in the Pacific. Crewed by five Marines, the howitzer could hurl a 16-pound shell nearly 10,000 yards. In the D Series table of organization with which the 1st Marine Division went to war, and through the following E and F series, there were three pack howitzer battalions for each artillery regiment.–Anthony Wayne Tommell and Kenneth L. Smith-Christmas

Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands

At the same time that Hyakutake’s troops were attacking the Lunga perimeter, Japanese aircraft carriers and other large warships under the overall direction of Isoroku Yamamoto moved into a position near the southern Solomon Islands. From this location, the Japanese naval forces hoped to engage and decisively defeat any Allied (primarily U.S.) naval forces, especially carrier forces, that responded to Hyakutake’s ground offensive. Allied naval carrier forces in the area, now under the overall command of William Halsey, Jr., also hoped to meet the Japanese naval forces in battle. Nimitz had replaced Ghormley with Halsey on October 18 after concluding that Ghormley had become too pessimistic and myopic to effectively continue leading Allied forces in the South Pacific area.


USS Hornet is torpedoed and fatally damaged by a Japanese carrier aircraft on October 26.

File:USS Hornet (CV-8).jpg

Hornet shortly after completion
Career (United States)
Name: USS Hornet
Operator:  United States Navy
Ordered: 30 March 1939
Builder: Newport News Shipbuilding Company
Laid down: 25 September 1939
Launched: 14 December 1940
Sponsored by: Mrs. Frank Knox
Commissioned: 20 October 1941
Struck: 13 January 1943
Honors and
American Defense Service Medal
with (“A” device);
American Campaign Medal;
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal
with (4 Battle Stars);
World War II Victory Medal;
Fate: Sunk in the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands, 27 October 1942
Notes: Last U.S. fleet carrier lost in action
General characteristics
Class and type: Yorktown-class aircraft carrier
Displacement: As built:20,000 long tons (20,000 t) standard (design),26,507 long tons (26,932 t) (full load), 29,114 long tons (29,581 t) (maximum)
  • As built:770 ft (230 m) (waterline at design draft), 824 ft 9 in (251.38 m) (overall)
  • From 2/42:827 ft 5 in (252.20 m) overall length
Beam: As built:83 ft 3 in (25.37 m) (waterline), 114 ft (35 m) (overall)
Draft: 24 ft 4 in (7.42 m) design, 28 ft (8.5 m) full load
Installed power: 120,000 shp (89,000 kW)
Propulsion: 4 × Parsons geared steam turbines
9 × Babcock & Wilcox boilers
4 × shafts
Speed: 32.52 kn (37.42 mph; 60.23 km/h) (design)
33.84 kn (38.94 mph; 62.67 km/h) (builder’s trials)
Range: 12,500 nmi (14,400 mi; 23,200 km) at 15 kn (17 mph; 28 km/h)
Complement: 2,919 officers and enlisted (wartime)
Armament: As Built:
8 × 5 in (130 mm)/38 cal dual purpose guns
16 × 1.1 in (28 mm)/75 cal anti-aircraft guns (4×4)
24 × .50 in (13 mm) machine guns
From February 1942:
8 × 5 in/38 cal dual purpose guns
16 × 1.1 in (28 mm)/75 cal anti-aircraft guns (4×4)
30 × 20 mm anti-aircraft cannons 

From July 1942:
8 × 5 in (130 mm)/38 cal dual purpose guns
20 × 26 ft 9 in (8.15 m)1.1 in/75 cal
32 × 20 mm anti-aircraft cannons

Armor: As built:*2.5–4 in (6.3–10 cm) belt 

  • 26 ft 9 in (8.15 m)60 lb STS steel protective decks
  • 4 in (10 cm) bulkheads
  • 4 in (10 cm) side
  • 2 in (5.1 cm) top around conning tower
  • 4 in (10 cm) side over steering gear
Aircraft carried: As built: 90 × aircraft
Aviation facilities: 3 × elevators
3 × hydraulic catapults (2 flight deck, 1 hangar deck)

The two opposing carrier forces confronted each other on the morning of October 26, in what became known as the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands. After an exchange of carrier air attacks, Allied surface ships were forced to retreat from the battle area with the loss of one carrier sunk (Hornet) and another (Enterprise) heavily damaged. The participating Japanese carrier forces, however, also retired because of high aircraft and aircrew losses and significant damage to two carriers. Although an apparent tactical victory for the Japanese in terms of ships sunk and damaged, the loss by the Japanese of many irreplaceable, veteran aircrews provided a long-term strategic advantage for the Allies, whose aircrew losses in the battle were relatively low. The Japanese carriers played no further significant role in the campaign.

November land actions

In order to exploit the victory in the Battle for Henderson Field, Vandegrift sent six Marine battalions, later joined by one U.S. Army battalion, on an offensive west of the Matanikau. The operation was commanded by Merritt Edson and its goal was to capture Kokumbona, headquarters of the 17th Army, west of Point Cruz. Defending the Point Cruz area were Japanese army troops from the 4th Infantry Regiment commanded by Nomasu Nakaguma. The 4th Infantry was severely understrength because of battle damage, tropical disease, and malnutrition.


U.S. Marines drag the bodies of dead Japanese soldiers from their bunker in the Point Cruz area after the battle in early November.

The American offensive began on November 1 and, after some difficulty, succeeded in destroying Japanese forces defending the Point Cruz area by November 3, including rear echelon troops sent to reinforce Nakaguma’s battered regiment. The Americans appeared to be on the verge of breaking through the Japanese defenses and capturing Kokumbona. At this time, however, other American forces discovered and engaged newly landed Japanese troops near Koli Point on the eastern side of the Lunga perimeter. To counter this new threat, Vandegrift temporarily halted the Matanikau offensive on November 4. The Americans suffered 71 and the Japanese around 400 killed in the offensive.

Marine engineers repair a flood-damaged Lunga River bridge washed out during a period when 8 inches of rain fell in 24 hours and the river rose 7 feet above normal.

At Koli Point early in the morning November 3, five Japanese destroyers delivered 300 army troops to support Shōji and his troops who were en route to Koli Point after the Battle for Henderson Field. Having learned of the planned landing, Vandegrift sent a battalion of Marines under Herman H. Hanneken to intercept the Japanese at Koli. Soon after landing, the Japanese soldiers encountered and drove Hanneken’s battalion back towards the Lunga perimeter. In response, Vandegrift ordered Puller’s Marine battalion plus two of the 164th infantry battalions, along with Hanneken’s battalion, to move towards Koli Point to attack the Japanese forces there.

Sgt Clyde Thomason, who was killed in action participating in the Makin Island raid with the 2d Raider Battalion, was the first enlisted Marine in World War II to be awarded the Medal of Honor.

As the American troops began to move, Shōji and his soldiers began to arrive at Koli Point. Beginning on November 8, the American troops attempted to encircle Shōji’s forces at Gavaga Creek near Koli Point. Meanwhile, Hyakutake ordered Shōji to abandon his positions at Koli and rejoin Japanese forces at Kokumbona in the Matanikau area. A gap existed by way of a swampy creek in the southern side of the American lines. Between November 9 and 11, Shōji and between 2,000 and 3,000 of his men escaped into the jungle to the south. On November 12, the Americans completely overran and killed all the remaining Japanese soldiers left in the pocket.

Native guides lead 2d Raider Battalion Marines on a combat/reconnaissance patrol behind Japanese lines. The patrol lasted for less than a month, during which the Marines covered 150 miles and fought more than a dozen actions.

The Americans counted the bodies of 450–475 Japanese dead in the Koli Point area and captured most of Shōji’s heavy weapons and provisions. The American forces suffered 40 killed and 120 wounded in the operation.


Carlson’s raiders come ashore at Aola Bay on November 4

Meanwhile, on November 4, two companies from the 2nd Marine RaiderBattalion, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Evans Carlson landed by boat at Aola Bay, 40 miles (64 km) east of Lunga Point. Carlson’s raiders, along with troops from the U.S. Army’s 147th Infantry Regiment, were to provide security for 500 Seabees as they attempted to construct an airfield at that location. Halsey, acting on a recommendation by Turner, had approved the Aola Bay airfield construction effort. The Aola airfield construction effort was later abandoned at the end of November because of unsuitable terrain.

On November 5, Vandegrift ordered Carlson to take his raiders, march overland from Aola, and attack any of Shōji’s forces that had escaped from Koli Point. With the rest of the companies from his battalion, which arrived a few days later, Carlson and his troops set off on a 29-day patrol from Aola to the Lunga perimeter. During the patrol, the raiders fought several battles with Shōji’s retreating forces, killing almost 500 of them, while suffering 16 killed themselves. In addition to the losses sustained from attacks by Carlson’s raiders, tropical diseases and a lack of food felled many more of Shōji’s men. By the time Shōji’s forces reached the Lunga River in mid-November, about halfway to the Matanikau, only 1,300 men remained with the main body. When Shōji reached the 17th Army positions west of the Matanikau, only 700 to 800 survivors were still with him. Most of the survivors from Shōji’s force joined other Japanese units defending the Mount Austen and upper Matanikau River area.

The Japanese Model 89 (1929)
50mm Heavy Grenade Discharger

Born out of the need to bridge the gap in range between hand grenades and mortars, the grenade discharger evolved in the Imperial Japanese Army from a special purpose weapon of infantry assault and defense to an essential item of standard equipment with all Japanese ground forces.

Commonly called Juteki by the Japanese, this weapon officially was designated Hachikyu Shiki Jutekidarto,or 1189 Model Heavy Grenade Discharger, the term “heavy” being justified by the powerful 1-pound, 12-ounce high explosive shell it was designed to fire, although it also fired the standard Model 91 fragmentation grenade.

To the American Marines and soldiers who first encountered this weapon and others of its kind in combat they were known as “knee mortars,” likely so named because they generally were fired from a kneeling position. Typically, the discharger’s concave baseplate was pressed firmly into the surface of the ground by the firer’s foot to support the heavy recoil of the fired shell, but unfortunately the term “knee mortar” suggested to some untutored captors of these weapons that they were to be fired with the baseplate resting against the knee or thigh. When a Marine fired on of these dischargers from his thigh and broke his upper leg bone, efforts were swiftly undertaken in the field to educate all combat troops in the safe and proper handling of these very useful weapons.

The Model 89 (1929) 50mm Heavy Grenade Discharger is a muzzle-loaded, high-angle-of-fire weapon which weighs 10-1/4 pounds and is 24 inches in overall length. Its design is compact and simple. The discharger has three major components: the rifled barrel, the supporting barrel pedestal with firing mechanism, and the base plate. Operation of the Model 899 was easy and straightforward, and with practice its user could deliver accurate fire registered quickly on target.

Encountered in all major battles in the Pacific War, the Model 89 Grenade Discharger was an uncomplicated, very portable, and highly efficient weapon operated easily by one man. It was carried in a cloth or leather case with a sling, and its one-piece construction allowed it to be brought into action very quickly. This grenade discharger had the advantage over most mortars in that it could be aimed and fired mechanically after a projectile had been placed in the barrel, projectile firing not being dependent upon dropping down the barrel against a stationary firing pin as with most mortars, where barrel fouling sometimes caused dangerous hangfires. Although an instantaneous fuze employed on the Model 89 high explosive shell restricted this shell’s use to open areas, the Model 91 fragmentation grenade with its seven-second fuze made this discharger effective in a jungle or forest setting, with complete safety for the user from premature detonation of projectiles by overhanging foliage. Smoke and signal shells, and an incendiary grenade, were special types of ammunition used with this versatile and effective weapons which won the respect of all who came to know it.–Edwin F. Libby

Tokyo Express runs on November 5, 7, and 9, delivered additional troops from the Japanese 38th Infantry Division, including most of the 228th Infantry Regiment to Guadalcanal. These fresh troops were quickly emplaced in the Point Cruz and Matanikau area and helped successfully resist further attacks by American forces on November 10 and 18. The Americans and Japanese remained facing each other along a line just west of Point Cruz for the next six weeks.

Naval Battle of Guadalcanal

File:NavalGuadalcanalNov13 mod.jpg
Imperial Japanese Navy warships under Vice Admiral Nobutake Kondo head for Guadalcanal to bombard Henderson Field on November 14, 1942. Photographed from heavy cruiser Atago. Battlecruiser “Kirishima” (background) is preceded in formation by heavy cruiser “Takao” (center). Kirishima was sunk in battle by the United States Navy battleship USSWashington hours after this photo was taken.

After the defeat in the Battle for Henderson Field, the IJA planned to try again to retake the airfield in November 1942, but further reinforcements were needed before the operation could proceed. The IJA requested assistance from Yamamoto to deliver the needed reinforcements to the island and to support the next offensive. Yamamoto provided 11 large transport ships to carry the remaining 7,000 troops from the 38th Infantry Division, their ammunition, food, and heavy equipment from Rabaul to Guadalcanal. He also provided a warship support force that included two battleships. The two battleships, Hiei and Kirishima, equipped with special fragmentation shells, were to bombard Henderson Field on the night of November 12 — 13 and destroy it and the aircraft stationed there in order to allow the slow, heavy transports to reach Guadalcanal and unload safely the next day. The warship force was commanded from Hiei by recently promoted Vice Admiral Hiroaki Abe.


U.S. Rear Admiral Daniel J. Callaghan

Daniel Judson Callaghan
July 26, 1890 – November 13, 1942 (aged 52)
A black and white image of Callaghan wearing his military dress white uniform with hat and binoculars.
Callaghan on the bridge of USS San Francisco in 1942
Nickname Dan
Place of birth San FranciscoCaliforniaUSA
Place of death Killed in action at Guadalcanal
Place of burial At sea
Allegiance United States United States of America
Service/branch United States Department of the Navy Seal.svg United States Navy
Years of service 1911–1942
Rank US-O8 insignia.svg Rear Admiral
Commands held USS Truxtun (DD-14)
USS San Francisco (CA-38)
Battles/wars World War I
World War II
Naval Battle of Guadalcanal
Awards Medal of Honor (posthumous)
Distinguished Service Medal
Purple Heart
Relations William Callaghan (brother)

In early November, Allied intelligence learned that the Japanese were preparing again to try to retake Henderson Field. Therefore, the U.S. sent Task Force 67, a large reinforcement and resupply convoy carrying Marine replacements, two U.S. Army infantry battalions, and ammunition and food, commanded by Turner, to Guadalcanal on November 11. The supply ships were protected by two task groups, commanded by Rear AdmiralsDaniel J. Callaghan and Norman Scott, and aircraft from Henderson Field. The ships were attacked several times on November 11 and 12 by Japanese aircraft from Rabaul staging through an air base at Buin, Bougainville, but most were unloaded without serious damage.


Photo taken during the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal on 14-15 November 1942, showing the U.S. battleship USS Washington(BB-56) firing upon the Japanese battleship Kirishima. The low elevation of the barrels shows how the close range of the adversaries; only 8,400 yards, point blank range for the 16″/45 caliber main armament of Washington.

U.S. reconnaissance aircraft spotted the approach of Abe’s bombardment force and passed a warning to the Allied command. Thus warned, Turner detached all usable combat ships under Callaghan to protect the troops ashore from the expected Japanese naval attack and troop landing and ordered the supply ships at Guadalcanal to depart by early evening November 12.Callaghan’s force comprised two heavy cruisers, three light cruisers, and eight destroyers.

Around 01:30 on November 13, Callaghan’s force intercepted Abe’s bombardment group between Guadalcanal and Savo Island. In addition to the two battleships, Abe’s force included one light cruiser and 11 destroyers. In the pitch darkness, the two warship forces intermingled before opening fire at unusually close quarters. In the resulting melée, Abe’s warships sank or severely damaged all but one cruiser and one destroyer in Callaghan’s force and both Callaghan and Scott were killed. Two Japanese destroyers were sunk and another destroyer and Hiei heavily damaged. In spite of his defeat of Callaghan’s force, Abe ordered his warships to retire without bombarding Henderson Field. Hiei sank later that day after repeated air attacks by CAF aircraft and aircraft from the U.S. carrier Enterprise. Because of Abe’s failure to neutralize Henderson Field, Yamamoto ordered the troop transport convoy, under the command of Raizo Tanaka and located near the Shortland Islands, to wait an additional day before heading towards Guadalcanal. Yamamoto ordered Nobutake Kondo to assemble another bombardment force using warships from Truk and Abe’s force to attack Henderson Field on November 15.


Two Japanese transports beached on Guadalcanal and burning on 15 November

In the meantime, around 02:00 on November 14, a cruiser and destroyer force under Gunichi Mikawa from Rabaul conducted an unopposed bombardment of Henderson Field. The bombardment caused some damage but failed to put the airfield or most of its aircraft out of operation. As Mikawa’s force retired towards Rabaul, Tanaka’s transport convoy, trusting that Henderson Field was now destroyed or heavily damaged, began its run down the slot towards Guadalcanal.

U.S. Halftrack
Mounting a 75mm Pack Howitzer and a .50-Caliber Air-Cooled Machine Gun

Throughout the day of November 14, aircraft from Henderson Field and Enterprise attacked Mikawa’s and Tanaka’s ships, sinking one heavy cruiser and seven of the transports. Most of the troops were rescued from the transports by Tanaka’s escorting destroyers and returned to the Shortlands. After dark, Tanaka and the remaining four transports continued towards Guadalcanal as Kondo’s force approached to bombard Henderson Field.

The wreck of one of the four Japanese transports, Kinugawa Maru, beached and destroyed at Guadalcanal on November 15, 1942, photographed one year later. Color version of Image file: “Jap Troopship ashore-14Nov42.jpg”

In order to intercept Kondo’s force, Halsey, who was low on undamaged ships, detached two battleships, Washington and South Dakota, and four destroyers from the Enterprisetask force. The U.S. force, under the command of Willis A. Lee aboard Washington, reached Guadalcanal and Savo Island just before midnight on November 14, shortly before Kondo’s bombardment force arrived. Kondo’s force consisted of Kirishima plus two heavy cruisers, two light cruisers, and nine destroyers. After the two forces made contact, Kondo’s force quickly sank three of the U.S. destroyers and heavily damaged the fourth. The Japanese warships then sighted, opened fire, and damaged South Dakota. As Kondo’s warships concentrated on South DakotaWashington approached the Japanese ships unobserved and opened fire on Kirishima, hitting the Japanese battleship repeatedly and causing fatal damage.

After fruitlessly chasing Washington towards the Russell Islands, Kondo ordered his warships to retire without bombarding Henderson Field. One of Kondo’s destroyers was also sunk during the engagement.


“Ironbottom Sound” looking southwest towards Savo Island (center) and Cape Esperance (left) on Guadalcanal. A U.S. destroyer is sillouhetted against Savo Island. Photo taken from USS San Juan on August 7, 1942. Official U.S. Navy photo #80-G-13539, now in the National Archives.

As Kondo’s ships retired, the four Japanese transports beached themselves near Tassafaronga on Guadalcanal at 04:00 and quickly began unloading. At 05:55, U.S. aircraft and artillery began attacking the beached transports, destroying all four transports along with most of the supplies that they carried. Only 2,000–3,000 of the army troops made it ashore. Because of the failure to deliver most of the troops and supplies, the Japanese were forced to cancel their planned November offensive on Henderson Field making the results of the battle a significant strategic victory for the Allies and marking the beginning of the end of Japanese attempts to retake Henderson Field.

USS Alchiba unloading an US Marine Corps M2A4 light tank into a LCM(2) landing craft, Guadalcanal, 7 Aug 1942

USS Alchiba unloading an US Marine Corps M2A4 light tank into a LCM(2) landing craft, Guadalcanal, 7 Aug 1942

On November 26, Japanese Lieutenant General Hitoshi Imamura took command of the newly formed Eighth Area Army at Rabaul. The new command encompassed both Hyakutake’s 17th Army and the 18th Army in New Guinea. One of Imamura’s first priorities upon assuming command was the continuation of the attempts to retake Henderson Field and Guadalcanal.

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The Allied offensive at Buna in New Guinea, however, changed Imamura’s priorities. Because the Allied attempt to take Buna was considered a more severe threat to Rabaul, Imamura postponed further major reinforcement efforts to Guadalcanal to concentrate on the situation in New Guinea.

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Battle of Tassafaronga

Main article: Battle of Tassafaronga

The Japanese continued to experience problems in delivering sufficient supplies to sustain their troops on Guadalcanal. Attempts to use only submarines the last two weeks in November failed to provide sufficient food for Hyakutake’s forces. A separate attempt to establish bases in the central Solomons to facilitate barge convoys to Guadalcanal also failed because of destructive Allied air attacks.

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On November 26, the 17th Army notified Imamura that it faced a critical food crisis. Some front-line units had not been resupplied for six days and even the rear-area troops were on one-third rations.

The situation forced the Japanese to return to using destroyers to deliver the necessary supplies.

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Eighth Fleet personnel devised a plan to help reduce the exposure of destroyers delivering supplies to Guadalcanal. Large oil or gas drums were cleaned and filled with medical supplies and food, with enough air space to provide buoyancy, and strung together with rope. When the destroyers arrived at Guadalcanal they would make a sharp turn and the drums would be cut loose and a swimmer or boat from shore could pick up the buoyed end of a rope and return it to the beach, where the soldiers could haul in the supplies.

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The Eighth Fleet’s Guadalcanal Reinforcement Unit (the Tokyo Express), currently commanded by Raizo Tanaka, was tasked by Mikawa with making the first of five scheduled runs to Tassafaronga on Guadalcanal using the drum method on the night of November 30. Tanaka’s unit was centered around eight destroyers, with six destroyers assigned to carry between 200 to 240 drums of supplies apiece. Notified by intelligence sources of the Japanese supply attempt, Halsey ordered the newly formed Task Force 67, comprising four cruisers and four destroyers under the command of U.S.

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Rear Admiral Carleton H. Wright, to intercept Tanaka’s force off Guadalcanal. Two additional destroyers joined Wright’s force en route to Guadalcanal from Espiritu Santo during the day of November 30.

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At 22:40 on November 30, Tanaka’s force arrived off Guadalcanal and prepared to unload the supply barrels. Meanwhile, Wright’s warships were approaching through Ironbottom Sound from the opposite direction.

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Wright’s destroyers detected Tanaka’s force on radar and the destroyer commander requested permission to attack with torpedoes. Wright waited four minutes before giving permission, allowing Tanaka’s force to escape from an optimum firing setup.

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All of the American torpedoes missed their targets. At the same time, Wright’s cruisers opened fire, quickly hitting and destroying one of the Japanese guard destroyers. The rest of Tanaka’s warships abandoned the supply mission, increased speed, turned, and launched a total of 44 torpedoes in the direction of Wright’s cruisers.

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The Japanese torpedoes hit and sank the U.S. cruiser Northampton and heavily damaged the cruisers MinneapolisNew Orleans, andPensacola. The rest of Tanaka’s destroyers escaped without damage, but failed to deliver any of the provisions to Guadalcanal.

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By December 7, 1942, Hyakutake’s forces were losing about 50 men each day from malnutrition, disease, and Allied ground or air attacks. Further attempts by Tanaka’s destroyer forces to deliver provisions on December 3, December 7, and December 11, failed to alleviate the crisis, and one of Tanaka’s destroyers was sunk by a U.S. PT boat torpedo.

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Japanese decision to withdraw

Main article: Operation Ke

On December 12, the Japanese Navy proposed that Guadalcanal be abandoned. At the same time, several army staff officers at theImperial General Headquarters (IGH) also suggested that further efforts to retake Guadalcanal would be impossible. A delegation, led by IJA Colonel Joichiro Sanada, chief of the IGH’s operations section, visited Rabaul on December 19 and consulted Imamura and his staff. Upon the delegation’s return to Tokyo, Sanada recommended that Guadalcanal be abandoned. The IGH’s top leaders agreed with Sanada’s recommendation on December 26 and ordered their staffs to begin drafting plans for a withdrawal from Guadalcanal, establishment of a new defense line in the central Solomons, and a shifting of priorities and resources to the campaign in New Guinea.

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On December 28, General Hajime Sugiyama and Admiral Osami Naganopersonally informed Emperor Hirohito of the decision to withdraw from Guadalcanal. On December 31, the Emperor formally endorsed the decision. The Japanese secretly began to prepare for the evacuation, called Operation Ke, scheduled to begin during the latter part of January 1943.

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Battle of Mount Austen, the Galloping Horse, and the Sea Horse


U.S. Army Major General Alexander Patch (center) succeeds Vandegrift (right) on December 9, 1942.

Alexander McCarrell Patch
November 23, 1889 – November 21, 1945 (aged 55)
General Alexander M. Patch.
Nickname “Sandy” Patch
Place of birth Fort HuachucaArizona
Place of death Fort Sam HoustonTexas
Place of burial West Point Cemetery
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service 1913–45
Rank US-O10 insignia.svg General
Commands held Americal Division
XIV Corps
Seventh Army
Battles/wars World War I World War II 

Awards Army Distinguished Service Medal
Navy Distinguished Service Medal
Companion of the Order of the Bath, UK
Commander of the Légion d’honneur, France
Croix de guerre, France
Order of Leopold II, Grand Cross with Palm, Belgium
Croix de guerre/Oorlogskruis, Belgium
Order of Abdon Calderón, Ecuador


By December, the weary 1st Marine Division was withdrawn for recuperation, and over the course of the next month the U.S. XIV Corps took over operations on the island. This corpsconsisted of the 2nd Marine Division and the U.S. Army’s 25th Infantry and Americal Divisions. U.S. Army Major General Alexander Patch replaced Vandegrift as commander of Allied forces on Guadalcanal, which by January totaled just over 50,000 men.

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On December 18, Allied (mainly U.S. Army) forces began attacking Japanese positions on Mount Austen. A strong Japanese fortified position, called the Gifu, stymied the attacks and the Americans were forced to temporarily halt their offensive on January 4.

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The Allies renewed the offensive on January 10, reattacking the Japanese on Mount Austen as well as on two nearby ridges called the Seahorse and the Galloping Horse. After some difficulty, the Allies captured all three by January 23. At the same time, U.S. Marines advanced along the north coast of the island, making significant gains. The Americans lost about 250 killed in the operation while the Japanese suffered around 3,000 killed.

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Ke evacuation

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On January 14, a Tokyo Express run delivered a battalion of troops to act as a rear guard for the Ke evacuation. A staff officer from Rabaul accompanied the troops to notify Hyakutake of the decision to withdraw. At the same time, Japanese warships and aircraft moved into position around the Rabaul and Bougainville areas in preparation to execute the withdrawal operation. Allied intelligence detected the Japanese movements, but misinterpreted them as preparations for another attempt to retake Henderson Field and Guadalcanal.

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USS Chicago sinking on January 30 during the Battle of Rennell Island.

File:USS Chicago (CL-29).jpg

USS Chicago underway off New York City, during the 31 May 1934 fleet review.
Career (United States)
Name: USS Chicago
Namesake: City of Chicago
Launched: 10 April 1930
Commissioned: 9 March 1931
Honors and
Three battle stars
Fate: Sunk during the Battle of Rennell Island, 30 January 1943
General characteristics
Class and type: Northampton-class cruiser
Displacement: 9,300 tons
Length: 600.3 ft (183.0 m)
Beam: 66.1 ft (20.1 m)
Draft: 16.5 ft (5.0 m)
Speed: 32 knots
Complement: 621 officers and enlisted
Sensors and
processing systems:
CXAM RADAR from 1940
Armament: 9 × 8″/55 caliber guns
4 × 5 in/25 cal guns[2]
6 × 21 in torpedo tubes

Patch, wary of what he thought to be an imminent Japanese offensive, committed only a relatively small portion of his troops to continue a slow-moving offensive against Hyakutake’s forces. On January 29, Halsey, acting on the same intelligence, sent a resupply convoy to Guadalcanal screened by a cruiser task force. Sighting the cruiser task force, Japanese naval torpedo bombers attacked the task force that same evening and heavily damaged the U.S. cruiser Chicago. The next day, more torpedo aircraft attacked and sank Chicago. Halsey ordered the remainder of the task force to return to base and directed the rest of his naval forces to take station in the Coral Sea, south of Guadalcanal, to be ready to counter the perceived Japanese offensive.

In the meantime, the Japanese 17th Army withdrew to the west coast of Guadalcanal while rear guard units checked the American offensive. On the night of February 1, 20 destroyers from Mikawa’s 8th Fleet under Shintaro Hashimoto successfully extracted 4,935 soldiers, mainly from the 38th Division, from the island. The Japanese and the Americans each lost a destroyer from air and naval attacks related to the evacuation mission.

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On the nights of February 4 and 7, Hashimoto and his destroyers completed the evacuation of most of the remaining Japanese forces from Guadalcanal. Apart from some air attacks, Allied forces, still anticipating a large Japanese offensive, did not attempt to interdict Hashimoto’s evacuation runs. In total, the Japanese successfully evacuated 10,652 men from Guadalcanal. On February 9, Patch realized that the Japanese were gone and declared Guadalcanal secure for Allied forces, ending the campaign.

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File:The High Command Assembled on Guadalcanal in 1943.jpg 

Allied commanders assemble on Guadalcanal in August 1943 to plan the next Allied offensive against the Japanese in the Solomons as part of Operation Cartwheel.

After the Japanese withdrawal, Guadalcanal and Tulagi were developed into major bases supporting the Allied advance further up the Solomon Islands chain. In addition to Henderson Field, two additional fighter runways were constructed at Lunga Point and a bomber airfield was built at Koli Point. Extensive naval port and logistics facilities were established at Guadalcanal, Tulagi, and Florida. The anchorage around Tulagi became an important advanced base for Allied warships and transport ships supporting the Solomon Islands Campaign. Major ground units were staged through large encampments and barracks on Guadalcanal before deployment further up the Solomons.

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After Guadalcanal the Japanese were clearly on the defensive in the Pacific. The constant pressure to reinforce Guadalcanal had weakened Japanese efforts in other theaters, contributing to a successful Australian and American counteroffensive in New Guineawhich culminated in the capture of the key bases of Buna and Gona in early 1943.

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The Allies had gained a strategic initiative which they never relinquished. In June, the Allies launched Operation Cartwheel, which, after modification in August, 1943, formalized the strategy of isolating Rabaul and cutting itssea lines of communication. The subsequent successful neutralization of Rabaul and the forces centered there facilitated the South West Pacific campaign under General Douglas MacArthur and Central Pacific island hoppingcampaign under Admiral Chester Nimitz, with both efforts successfully advancing toward Japan. The remaining Japanese defenses in the South Pacific area were then either destroyed or bypassed by Allied forces as the war progressed to its ultimate conclusion.

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Henderson Field in August 1944.

After the victory at the Battle of Midway America was able to establish naval parity in the Pacific. However, this fact alone did not change the direction of the war. It was only after the Allied victories in Guadalcanal and New Guinea that the Japanese offensive thrust was ended and the strategic initiative passed to the Allies, as it proved, permanently. The Guadalcanal Campaign ended all Japanese expansion attempts and placed the Allies in a position of clear supremacy. It thus can be argued that this Allied victory was the first step in a long string of successes that eventually led to the surrender of Japan and theoccupation of the Japanese home islands.

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The “Europe first” policy of the United States had initially only allowed for defensive actions against Japanese expansion, in order to focus resources on defeating Germany. However, Admiral King’s argument for the Guadalcanal invasion, as well as its successful implementation, convinced President Franklin D. Roosevelt that the Pacific Theater could be pursued offensively as well. By the end of 1942, it was clear that Japan had lost the Guadalcanal campaign, a serious blow to Japan’s strategic plans for defense of their empire and an unanticipated defeat at the hands of the Americans.

Perhaps as important as the military victory for the Allies was the psychological victory. On a level playing field, the Allies had beaten Japan’s best land, air, and warship forces. After Guadalcanal, Allied personnel regarded the Japanese military with much less fear and awe than previously. In addition, the Allies viewed the eventual outcome of the Pacific War with greatly increased optimism.

Several Japanese political and military leaders, including Naoki HoshinoOsami Nagano, and Torashirō Kawabe, stated shortly after the war that Guadalcanal was the decisive turning point in the conflict. Said Kawabe, “As for the turning point [of the war], when the positive action ceased or even became negative, it was, I feel, at Guadalcanal.



A dead Japanese soldier on Guadalcanal in January 1943.

The Battle of Guadalcanal was one of the first prolonged campaigns in the Pacific, alongside the related and concurrent Solomon Islands campaign. Both campaigns were battles that strained the logistical capabilities of the combatant nations involved. For the U.S., this need prompted the development of effective combat air transport for the first time. A failure to achieve air superiority forced Japan to rely on reinforcement by barges, destroyers, and submarines, with very uneven results. Early in the campaign, the Americans were hindered by a lack of resources, as they suffered heavy losses in cruisers and carriers, with replacements from ramped-up shipbuilding programs still months off from materializing.

The U.S. Navy suffered such high personnel losses during the campaign that it refused to publicly release total casualty figures for years. However, as the campaign continued, and the American public became more and more aware of the plight and perceived heroism of the American forces on Guadalcanal, more forces were dispatched to the area. This spelled trouble for Japan as its military-industrial complex was unable to match the output of American industry and manpower. Thus, as the campaign wore on the Japanese were losing irreplaceable units while the Americans were rapidly replacing and even augmenting their forces.

The Guadalcanal campaign was costly to Japan strategically and in material losses and manpower. Roughly 25,000 experienced ground troops were killed during the campaign. The drain on resources directly contributed to Japan’s failure to achieve its objectives in the New Guinea campaign. Japan also lost control of the southern Solomons and the ability to interdict Allied shipping to Australia. Japan’s major base at Rabaul was now further directly threatened by Allied air power. Most importantly, scarce Japanese land, air, and naval forces had disappeared forever into the Guadalcanal jungle and surrounding sea. The Japanese aircraft and ships destroyed and sunk in this campaign as well as highly trained and veteran crews, especially the naval aircrews were unable to be replaced at a rate comparable to the Allies.

File:Portland in Sydney 1942.jpg

“USS Portland (CA-33) In the Cockatoo Drydock, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, circa late 1942, while under repair for torpedo damage received in the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal on 13 November 1942.
Note the arrangement of gun directors on her forward superstructure: main battery director atop the foremast, with FC fire control radar; and a secondary battery director, with FD fire control radar, on each bridge wing.
Also note this ship’s external degaussing cables, mounted on her hull sides.Portland in dry dock in Sydney, Australia in December, 1942, to repair damage suffered during the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal”.


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