Survey of the Guadalcanal Campaign
|The Battle of Guadalcanal would mark the beginning of the American offensive in the South Pacific. The battle lasted six months: from August 7, 1942 to February 9, 1943. It would test the resolution and stamina of the American soldier as well as the myth of Japanese invincibility. At the battle’s eve, the Japanese blitz had reached New Guinea which would ultimately allow them to stage an invasion of Australia, cutting off Allied supply lines. Americans would decide to occupy Guadalcanal based on reports of a new Japanese sea plane base of Tulagi (a neighboring island) and a landing strip of Guadalcanal. The American presence would effectively distract the Japanese from New Guinea and Australia, causing them to meet the American occupation in what would become the turning point in the Pacific War. This paper is designed to provide a brief survey of the Battle of Guadalcanal (also known as Guadalcanal Campaign) to the reader. The paper contains the events, strategies, and plans leading up to the U.S. landing on Guadalcanal, as well summaries of the important battles ending with an analysis of the campaign and its implications. 1
The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor changed the American Navy forever. The navy would concentrate its efforts on fast carriers and their aircraft. This new strategy would result in a commitment of forces to the South Pacific for defensive purposes. It would be described as the First South Pacific Campaign. In the second phase of the commitment, creatively named the Second South Pacific Campaign, the United States would launch its first major offensive in the region at Guadalcanal. 2
Guadalcanal is located within the Solomon Islands. They are said to form the impression of a set of footprints. The major islands of the north set are: Bougainville, Choisel, Santa Isabel, and Malaita. In the southerly set, the major islands are: Vella LaVella, New Georgia, the Russells, Guadalcanal, and San Cristóbal. The Solomon’s are located in the world’s wettest area and only five degrees south of the equator. 3
The United State’s victory at the Battle of Midway resulted in a brainstorming of ideas of how to fully exploit the situation. Gen. MacArthur came up with the first scheme. He wanted the Navy to give him a division of amphibiously trained soldiers and tow carriers so that he could take Rabaul, thus pushing the Japanese back 700 miles. Rabaul, besides having the best harbor around for miles, had landscape conducive to building airstrips. The Navy quickly shot this plan down because it would mean putting carriers in and around the Solomon Islands, which were still in enemy hands and contained air bases. The Navy’s plan was a slower approach that involved taking these enemy air bases before going to Rabaul. The question of command would also come up in the months leading to Guadalcanal. 4
After much debate among the commanders, the plan proposed by Marshall, on July 1, 1942, would be deemed acceptable by all. Marshall’s plan divided the campaign into three parts, or “tasks.” Task number one was to take Tulagi Island and the Santa Cruz Islands. The second task would be the taking of Lae, Salamaua, and the northeast coast of New Guinea. Finally, task number three would involve an offensive on Rabaul and places close to it around the islands of New Britain and New Ireland. The strategy would formally be approved by COMINCH King and Marshall on July 2nd, but they edited Task Two to include the remainder of the Solomon Islands. The plan was codenamed “Pestilence.” As of yet, Guadalcanal was still not specified as an objective; however, on July 5th, U.S. Intelligence concluded that the Japanese had landed troops on Guadalcanal in order to build an airfield. Adm. King would suspend the capturing of the Santa Cruz Islands from Task One, replacing it with Guadalcanal. The seizing of Guadalcanal was codenamed “Cactus,” and the honor of being the first soldiers sent ashore would belong to the 1st Marine Division under Major General Alexander Archer Vandegrift. 5
The marines would land on Guadalcanal (Group X-Ray) and Tulagi (Group Yoke) on August 7, 1942. Vandergrift was under the impression that 5,000 Japanese were present on the island, with Lunga Point harboring most of them; however, native reports were putting a detachment of Japanese troops near Koli Point building an airfield. Vandegrift chose a landing zone roughly in between these two points named Red Beach. After landing, a segment of the force was to move to take Mount Austen, known to the command as the “grassy knoll,” the dominant landmass near the airfield. 6
The landing operation was met by zero resistance by the Japanese, nor were there reports by observation planes of any human activity around Lunga Point. The marines went off to occupy the “knoll,” but soon discovered that it was in point in fact a mountain and was further inland than first thought. In their trek towards Mt. Austen, the marines would quickly hit Guadalcanal’s rainforest and “began their education in jungle warfare.” The thick forest would slow the 1st Marines to a slovenly pace of three miles per hour, while the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, on its way to the mouth of Alligator Creek, soon found themselves spreading thin as some pressed forward while others lagged behind. 7
Japan got wind of the landing at around 0700. The U.S. had achieved a surprise blow because heavy fog and cloud cover had obscured their movement towards Guadalcanal and the landing. Japanese Adm. Yamamoto ordered a counterattack from the Tulagi garrison at Rabaul. The Japanese would launch a combination of G4M1 (Bettys) attack planes, A6M2 Model 21 Zeros (Zekes), and Aichi D3A dive bombers (Vals), a total of 53 aircraft. U.S. Adm. Noyes, due to a collapse in the flying schedule, had only twelve of what was supposed to be twenty-four Wildcats were buzzing over Guadalcanal. 8
The Bettys would be the first to arrive at around 1300. The Wildcats met them in two waves; the first one came from the USS Saratoga’s VF-5. The first pass would result in two Bettys being shot down. Five Zeros would then promptly gang up on three Wildcats, shooting two of them down. The second part VF-5 division would separate. Two Wildcats would attack the escorts while the other two went for the bomber formation; at least two Bettys were shot down before all four Wildcats would be destroyed by escorting Zeros. The 2nd wave of Wildcats was the VF-6 off the USS Enterprise. They chased the withdrawing Japanese bombers all the way to New Georgia. Seven Japanese planes, five Bettys and two Zeros, didn’t make it back to their bases. The Americans lost four Wildcat’s, but three pilots were recovered. The nine Japanese dive bombers came onto the scene at around 1500. They landed one hit against the destroyer Mugford before all nine were put out of action. The Japanese objective of this air attack was to stop or at least delay the landing on Guadalcanal; a goal they clearly didn’t achieve. They lost sixteen planes (along with most of the pilots) being able only to score one minor hit against a destroyer; however, the Americans lost half of their Wildcats assigned to defend the landing, proving the marked superiority of the Zero in a dogfight. 9
The Battle of Savo would come to be from Japanese Adm. Mikawa deciding to counterattack the landing forces at Guadalcanal and Tulagi with a naval strikeforce. Mikawa’s plan was to attack the U.S. ships at night so that by the morning the strike force would be on its way back home and not have to deal with American aircraft carrier attacks. The decision to attack at night, as well as the American’s lax awareness, would afford Mikawa complete surprise. The U.S. would suffer its most embarrassing naval defeat of the war. 10
At 2400 on the night of August 8th, Mikawa was speeding towards the American position south of Savo Island at twenty-four knots. His formation had the Chokai on point followed by the Aoba, Kako, Kingasa, Furutaka, Tenryu, Yubari, and Yunagi. The Canberra would be the first victim at 0200, sustaining twenty-four hits. The Chicago would be next, taking a torpedo from the Kako. One after another, the U.S. ships were attacked, their utter confusion at the surprise compounded by the lack of visibility, resulted in Mikawa destroying the Southern Group of the U.S. ships in seven minutes. There is no doubt that Mikawa won an amazing victory on the night of August 8-9, 1942, but Mikawa failed to destroy the transport ships, which were essential to the U.S. campaign. Had they been sunk, the U.S. campaign would have ended even before it had began. 11
The Japanese response so far to the landing on Guadalcanal had been limited to naval and air operations, and furthermore to the whims of local commanders. Gen. Vandergrift’s forces were working on making a perimeter, naturally expecting that the Japanese’s next bright idea would be to land a force and retake the island, which was exactly what they were planning. The Imperial General Headquarters wanted to stage as quick a counterattack as possible in order to take the initiative after their victory at Savo. The recapture of Guadalcanal would allow for further expansion south, as well as deal the Americans a psychological defeat which the Japanese hoped would allow them to force a peace settlement in their favor. 12
The plan drawn up called for Lieutenant General Hyakutake’s 17th Army to immediately retake Guadalcanal and Tulagi with Maj. Gen. Kiyotaki Kawaguchi’s 35th Infantry Brigade and 4th and 28th Infantry Regiments, called the Aoba and Ichiki Detachments. The only problem with this was that the 35th Brigade and the 4th Infantry were otherwise occupied in the Palaus and the Phillipines. The 28th Infantry, commanded by Colonel Kiyoano Ichiki, was the only unit immediately available for deployment. Unfortunately for Ichiki, the decision to use only his regiment came as a result of intelligence downgrading the size of U.S. forces on Guadalcanal, not to mention his own hard-headed character. His mission would be to seize the U.S. occupied airfield, but if he couldn’t do it, he was to carve out a position on the island and wait for reinforcements. The deployment plan called for 900 men with Ichiki to land at Taivu Point (22 miles east of Lunga Point). Simultaneously, 250 troops would land as a diversion west of the American perimeter at Kokumbona. 13
Midday on August 20th, Ichiki issued his plan to his commanders. The strategy was simple: March down the beach, retake the old camp of the Japanese 11th Construction Unit between Alligator Creek and Lunga Point, then spread out to seize the airfield and stake a position at Lunga Point. 14
Ichiki’s attack began at 0200 with a straight forward charge of his 2nd Company of 100 men. They were met by Marine rifles, machine guns, and deadly canister shot. The Japanese did however make it to the Marine’s foxholes and hand-to-hand fighting ensued. Ichiki ordered his 1st and 3rd Companies forward, but they were mowed down. Within an hour of it beginning, the assault was over; the Marine’s line was reestablished, and all the Japanese attackers were dead. Ichiki then threw in his artillery and machineguns, but they could overcome the Marine’s artillery, which answered the Japanese with concentrations of 75mm shells. The next day, Ichiki didn’t attack, putting Vandergrift’s mind at ease. He had been worried that the night assault would be just a foreshadowing of what was to come. 15
Comforted by Ichiki’s lethargic stance, Vandegrift approved a plan to surround Ichiki at Alligator Creek. Lieutenant Colonel Leonard Cresswell’s men traversed the dry bed of the creek before 0700. He sent one company to the southwest to cut off any retreat and moved east with the rest of his men. Cresswell had sprung the trap, compressing Ichiki’s forces into a triangle. By 1630, Ichiki realized all hope was lost and committed suicide. His surviving men would try to run to the only place they could—the sea, but they too would fall prey to the Marine’s rifles. The Japanese lost 777 men to the marines 115 men. Only two Japanese unwounded survivors were taken prisoner. Although the Battle of Tenaru was small, it was a psychological victory for the Marines as well as for the U.S. The sucker punch at Pearl Harbor created a myth of Japanese invincibility, and questions arose of the free world’s willingness to stand up to the ultranationalist totalitarian troops. The battle was one step forward in the U.S. proving its grit and a step closer to ending the myth of Japanese invincibility. 16
During the first five days of September continuing throughout the campaign, the Japanese would gradually increase their number of ground troops on Guadalcanal using a transport system that would come to be known as the “Tokyo Express.” By this time, the Americans had Henderson Field on Guadalcanal up and running. Coast watchers and air warning radar units were on the island watching for Japanese aircraft activity. The defense of Guadalcanal ultimately meant the defense of Henderson Field, and the coast watchers and air warning radar movements made this possible. Meanwhile, the Japanese 17th Army was hatching another scheme to retake Guadalcanal. They chose Major General Kiyotaki Kawaguchi’s 35th Brigade for the assignment. 17
By September 5th, Kawaguchi had 6,200 troops on Guadalcanal. So confident was he of his strength, he rejected 17th Army’s offer of an additional battalion. Japanese intelligence of Marine numbers were so faulty that Kawaguchi believed he only faced 2,000 (off by a factor of six) occupying the perimeter around Henderson Field. 18
Part of Kawaguchi’s force, the 2nd Battalion 124th Infantry (II/124) of 1,000 men under Col. Oka, sat isolated west of the American perimeter. The rest of Kawaguchi’s men (5,200) were positioned at Taivu Point, east of the American perimeter. Oka’s men were designated as the Left Wing Unit; Kawaguchi would use them to attack the southwest quarter of the American Line. The rest of Kawaguchi’s strategy would be very complex because of the simplicity of the late Ichiki’s plan and its failure. He decided to divide his forces even more than they were already. Part of his plan is as follows:
Kawaguchi further split the four battalions, each about 650 strong, at Taivu so that he ended up with five battalions moving along three avenues of advance. The Main Body under Kawaguchi’s direct command contained three infantry battalions: 1st Battalion, 124th Infantry (I/124), led by Major Yukichi Kokusho; 3rd Battalion, 124th Infantry (III/124), commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Kusukichi Watanabe; and the 2nd Battalion, 4th Infantry (II/4), under Major Masao Tamura… They would loop down into the jungle from Tetere and storm the Marine Position from the south to seize the [Henderson] airfield. Kawaguchi also provided for an attack from the southeast by a Right Wing Movement. This was Ichiki’s Second Echelon, now christened the Kuma (“Bear”) Battalion under Major Eishi Mizuno. They would puncture the American line and push north to annihilate the enemy along Alligator Creek. 19
By the night of September 12, Kawaguchi’s men were in place at the edge of the ridge. The ridge would be known as Edson’s Ridge because of Edson’s Battalion of Raiders and Parachutists which was positioned there to defend it. The ridge sat strategically south of Henderson Field and commanded the landscape around it. In response to Japanese “probes” during the night (the attack was supposed to begin that night, but for logistical reasons and perhaps Japanese karma, it never panned out), Edson moved his line back 200 yards to confuse the Japanese the next day. 20
At 2230 on September 13th the Japanese attacked in main force. A heavy mortar barrage came down on Company B followed by an infantry assault. The company was forced to withdraw 150 yards to a knoll on the ridge when the Japanese began attempting to flank it. Around 300 marines now lay prone on the knoll. The Japanese would continue to attack throughout the night, always firing red flares to signal it, which became a vital cue for American machine gunners. By the next day, American aircraft strafing the Japanese overhead estimated about 500 dead Japanese. 21
The I/24 and the II/4 assaulted Edson’s battalion and brought it to the edge of complete defeat. Had the III/124 been put into the fight, Kawaguchi might have achieved a vital breakthrough, but unfortunately for him, the III/124 had gotten lost in the jungle and subsequently attacked. By the time the III/124 rematerialized, it was exhausted and badly demoralized. With his forces exhausted, Kawaguchi began his retreat from Edson’s Ridge at 1305. The final stage of the battle came in the twilight hours of September 14th. Seventeen Japanese bomber biplane Petes and two float zeros attacked Henderson Field. They were welcomed by four VMF-224 and six VF-5 Wildcats, No American aircraft were lost, while nine Petes and one float zero were lost. 22
Losses on both sides were difficult to tally, but the most reliable sources put American casualties at 394 versus Japanese casualties at approximately 1,200 men. The Japanese Imperial Command would make an important decision based on the Battle of Edson’s Ridge (now nicknamed Bloody Ridge); they decided that the ultimate victor on Guadalcanal would be the entity that could reinforce the fastest, and that a decisive contest would be fought on the island. “Decisive forces would therefore be committed.” 23
After the Battle of Edson’s Ridge, Japan became fully committed to retaking Guadalcanal. On September 19th, Operation “KA” was put into effect. The new plan called for the Imperial Army and Navy to play nice with each other and cooperate in assembling and deploying forces for the purpose of recapturing Guadalcanal. p. 253 On September 19, the 1st Marine Division on Guadalcanal decided it would use its ten infantry battalions, one Raider battalion, four artillery battalions, and a tank battalion to form a complete perimeter around Guadalcanal. Since the Japanese had taken a liking to unopposed landings, Vandegrift’s perimeter was designed to meet enemy troops from the west or east on terrain which made it possible to use the favored Marine tactics of inland flanking and amphibious hooks. 24
By October 20, 1942, the Japanese had 20,000 troops (17th Army) on Guadalcanal. Hyakutake accepted a proposal to launch his main offensive from the south of Henderson Field. Observations ten days earlier by Col. Tamaoki, chief of staff of the 2nd Division, and operations officer Col. Matsumoto had reported (in their opinion) that no American defenses shielded the area south of Henderson Field. 25
Based on this knowledge, Hyakutake planned as follows. The 17th Army artillery commander, Major General Tadashi Sumiyoshi, would divert the Marine’s attention from the west, attacking from the coastal corridor with all of 17th Army’s heavy artillery and five infantry battalions. Gen. Maruyama’s 2nd Division (also known as the Sendai Division) with its nine battalions would march through the jungle along a route named the Maruyama Road from the south and attack up the east bank of the Lunga River. The date of the offensive was tentatively set for October 22 and codenamed “X-Day.” 26
The Maruyama Road’s eighteen miles through jungle terrain proved to be more difficult than previously expected; therefore, X-Day was pushed back to the night of the 23rd. The Sendai Division’s Left Wing Unit under Gen. Nasu was the first to reach the deployment line at night of the 22nd with the rest of the division strung out over miles of muddy jungle road. Sumiyoshi was informed of the delay as well, and postponed his attack from the west for the 23rd. The Americans were well aware of Sumiyoshi’s movements, and were paying very close attention to him; however, the Marines still had no idea of Maruyama’s approach from the south. 27
By the next day it became clear that Maruyama’s Division was still not going to be ready by nightfall for the attack. X-Day was again postponed for the next day. Unfortunately, Sumiyoshi didn’t receive this information until 1720. By then, it was too late for him to inform his forces of the delay. The attack would begin shortly. 28
Japanese artillery began falling on Marine positions along the east bank of the Matanikau River around dusk. Sumiyoshi’s 1st Independent Tank Battalion started moving up the coast, but the lightly armored Type 97’s were soon completely destroyed by American anti-tank fire. The first wave of Japanese infantry met 6,000 rounds of Marine artillery, crushing the assault before it even began. Sumiyoshi’s offensive was over. 29
On October 24th, Marine scouts were just beginning to report what they thought to be movement to the south. Maruyama’s Sentai Division had finally made its appearance. That night the Left Wing under Nasu (the Right Wing had gotten lost to the northeast somewhere) commenced the attack at 0115. At 0125, American artillery started bombarding the Left Wing with lethal effect. Japanese troops found that if they stood up, hot shrapnel would cut them down; however they still kept coming as American artillery and machinegun fire stopped charge after bloody charge. By the time the fighting lolled in the early morning hours, more than 300 hundred Japanese were dead. October 25th brought with it a combined force of Japanese Navy and air units. Their job was to support the infantry offensive providing support to facilitate the “success” of the capture of Henderson Field, something already being taken for granted by higher commanders. While the sea and air forces had their fighting day in the sun, Maruyama was making preparations for another night assault. 30
Maruyama’s second attack began at 1935 with an artillery barrage lasting forty minutes. By 0300, the entire Left Wing Unit was in complete attack, while the Right Wing Unit guarded its flank from an imaginary Marine force. The Japanese managed to capture a ridge by 0500, but were shortly pushed off. The second night offensive proved no more successful than the first. The Sentai Division lost 2,200 men compared to ninety casualties of Marines. Japan had lost the decisive battle that would decide the occupier of Guadalcanal. 31
After the Battle of Henderson Field, Gen. Hyakutate ordered for the remaining Hiroshima (38th) Division at Rabaul, around 12,000 men under Lt. Gen. Tadayoshi Sano) to come to Guadalcanal. 32
As November approached, the Marines on Guadalcanal were becoming more and more demoralized. Three months of fighting caused many of them to become sick of combat and killing. Diseases such as malaria and dysentery had put more men out of action than enemy bullets; in addition, the men felt like the U.S. government let them down because they were in dire need of help yet were only receiving bare minimum support. 33
Within this context, Gen. Vandergrift ordered an offensive on November 1st. He wanted to get his troops moving and out of their foxholes to restore morale. The offensive would engage Japanese troops west of the Matanikau River. Vandegrift also sent a striking force to Koli Point, twelve miles east of the Tenaru River where intelligence reported the Japanese would land more troops for another attack. 34
The striking force (Hanneken’s Battalion) reached Koli Point on November 2nd. Through a torrential downpour, they were able to see three Japanese transports unloading men onto the shore. Hanneken could only watch as the 230th Imperial Regiment created a beachhead. The rain had rendered Hanneken’s communication equipment unusable. After the rain stopped, Hanneken was able to call for reinforcements. Vandergrift took troops out of the Matanikau offensive and moving them to Hanneken’s position via boat. The 230th Regiment would fight for its beachhead until Nov. 10th. Many of them scattered into the jungle and try to reach Gen. Hyakutate to the west. 35
The Japanese wouldn’t make it to Hyakutate. Vandergrift decided to go after them by deploying Carlson’s Raiders to hunt them down. Col. Evan F. Carlson led his men into the jungle of November 11th, breaking all lines of communication. On December 11th, he reappeared. The Raider’s had killed 400 Japanese, only losing seventeen men in the process. By this time, the climatic battle for Guadalcanal had already been fought in a three day naval engagement in what would be known as the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal. 36
A naval taskforce commanded by Rear Admiral Dan Callaghan had escorted transports carrying the 182nd U.S. Infantry Regiment to Lunga Point on November 11th. On November 12th, Japanese bombers came to give a welcome visit to the island of Guadalcanal. The U.S. naval taskforce with its destroyers and cruisers threw AA fire at the Japanese while Wildcats from Henderson Field scrambled to intercept them. The Japanese raid ended in dismal failure with thirty-one Imperial aircraft in fifteen minutes lost to zero American planes. 37
Shortly after, Callaghan received information that a Japanese Imperial Navy taskforce, commanded by Adm. Nobutake Kondo was on its way. Kondo’s force included two 32,000-ton battleships, the Hiei and Kirishima. Callaghan had eight destroyers and five cruisers to hold off the superior Kondo whose planned bombardment, if successful, could and would have put Henderson Field out of action. Despite the lack of firepower of the Americans, Callaghan was ordered to hold Kondo off. The carrier Enterprise was on its way from Noumèa en route to attack the Japanese transports bringing the 38th Division from Rabaul. The planes on the carrier would need Henderson Field and because of this, Callaghan sailed to attack Kondo. The biggest naval battle of World War II was about to take place. 38
Callaghan and Kondo met on Friday, November 13th at ten minutes to two in the morning. The destroyer Laffey went for the Hiei and held its own before it caught on fire. The San Francisco was next to fall to the Hiei; a shell came across the bridge, actually killing Callaghan and his staff. The level of fire was so intense that ships fired on friendly ships because of the gun smoke. Five U.S. destroyers and two crusiers were sunk: the Monssen, Cushing, Laffey, Atlanta, and Juneau, but Callaghan’s sacrifice ensured that Kondo never reached Henderson Field. Kondo’s Yudachi and Akatsuki had sunk, and the giant battleship Hiei had been mangled by torpedoes by the destroyer Sterett. Marine and Army planes quickly finished the Japanese giant off, bombing it with 500 and 1,000 pound bombs until it finally sank. 39
The next day, Adm. Mikawa came with six cruisers and six destroyers and pounded Henderson Field with 1,000 shells. The shelling would have caused irreparable damage, if it had been continued. Six U.S. torpedo boats sailed from Tulagi Harbor and scored a hit on the cruiser Kinugasa causing Mikawa to get nervous and withdraw. The damage to Henderson Field wasn’t bad at all: only two planes had been destroyed with sixteen in need of repair. 40
Also on November 14th, U.S. planes received intelligence that eleven transports loaded with the 38th Hiroshima Division were on their way to Guadalcanal. The assault on the transports would be known afterward as the “Buzzard Patrol.” At around noon, the Japanese destroyer Hyashio cruised along placidly escorting the transports when U.S. dive bombers attacked the leading transports, dropping thousand-pound bombs on the packed steamers which hurled the Japanese passengers high into the air like rag dolls. Seven transports were destroyed. The remaining ran aground near Kokumbona before being wiped out. Only 5,000 thousand men of the Hiroshima Division’s 12,000 thousand would survive. The engagement resembled more of a slaughter than a battle. An American pilot recalled it afterwards,
"We didn’t enjoy our work of slaughter. Looking down at those ships filled with trapped men being pounded to pieces made me sick. But the war made me sick too. Yet by the logic of the day, I could convince myself that the more Japs I killed the sooner the war would be over." 41
Despite all that was lost, Kondo tried once more to attack Henderson Field. On the night of November 14th, Kondo entered Sealark Channel with fourteen ships: the battleship Kirishima, the heavy cruisers of Atago and Takao, two light cruisers, and nine destroyers. He was under the impression that there were no U.S. battleships in the area, and reasoned that even if they did, they wouldn’t risk them in Sealark Channel. Kondo would be in for a surprise. The U.S. battleships South Dakota and Washington along with four destroyers were on their way from Nouméa at full speed under the command of Rear Adm. Willis Lee. 42
As soon as Lee had Kondo in his sights he went for him. Three out of the four U.S. destroyers were quickly sunk; the South Dakota was severely damaged, but the Kirishima sank after a broadside duel with the Washington and Japan’s Atago and Takao would be too torn up to be of use for months. The Americans had won the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal. 43
The victory allowed for the dilapidated 1st Marine Division to be relieved and transported off Guadalcanal. On December 9th, Gen. Alexander Patch and his Americal Division would arrive. They would hold the island for another two months of fighting until February, when Gen. Hyakutate and the remnants of his 17th Army were withdrawn to Rabaul. On February 9th, U.S. combat patrols at the westernmost tip of the island reported no enemy whatsoever. Exactly six months after it had started, the campaign for control of Guadalcanal ended. 44
The campaign was an extraordinary success for the United States; in fact, it was the turning point for the entire war in the Pacific. Out of the 31,400 Japanese troops deployed on the island, 20,800 became casualties compared to only 1,769 American casualties out of 60,000 soldiers. Both sides lost a substancial amount of aircraft that would be quickly replaced; however, Americans would lose 150 pilots whereas the Japanese would lose three to four times that. Many of these Japanese pilots were among the cream of the crop of their aviation personnel and could and would never be able to be replaced. After Midway, the Japanese continued to be on the offensive in New Guinea which threatened Australia. Guadalcanal, for all intents and purposes, stopped the Japanese advance. Up until the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, the Japanese Navy had always been brooding, threatening to crush any American offensive, but with the U.S. victory came the U.S. Navy finally gaining an upper hand, ending any serious concerns of the Imperial Navy destroying the U.S. Fleet. Finally, the campaign proved once and for all that American free men could meet the sons of totalitarianism and ideology and defeat them, that the myth of Japanese invincibility was just that—a myth. 45
1. International Encyclopedia of Military History, vol. 1, s.v. “Guadalcanal.”; Richard B. Frank, Guadalcanal (New York: Random House, 1990), 611-614, 616.
2. Frank, Guadalcanal, 3.
3. Frank, Guadalcanal, 25.
4. Frank, Guadalcanal, 26, 32-33.
5. Frank, Guadalcanal, 34-36, 46.
6. Frank, Guadalcanal, 60-61.
7. Frank, Guadalcanal, 62.
8. Frank, Guadalcanal, 64, 67.
9. Frank, Guadalcanal, 67-69.
10. Frank, Guadalcanal, 83, 89.
11. Frank, Guadalcanal, 102, 105, 107, 120-121.
12. Frank, Guadalcanal, 141.
13. Frank, Guadalcanal, 142-143, 145.
14. Frank, Guadalcanal, 151.
15. Frank, Guadalcanal, 152-154.
16. Frank, Guadalcanal, 154-157.
17. Frank, Guadalcanal, 198, 205, 207.
18. Frank, Guadalcanal, 218.
19. Frank, Guadalcanal, 219.
20. Frank, Guadalcanal, 228-235.
21. Frank, Guadalcanal, 237, 239-240.
22. Frank, Guadalcanal, 240, 243, 245.
23. Frank, Guadalcanal, 245-246.
24. Frank, Guadalcanal, 262.
25. Frank, Guadalcanal, 338-339.
26. Frank, Guadalcanal, 339-340.
27. Frank, Guadalcanal, 341-345.
28. Frank, Guadalcanal, 348-350.
29. Frank, Guadalcanal, 350-351.
30. Frank, Guadalcanal, 352, 355-356, 357-362.
31. Frank, Guadalcanal, 363-365.
32. Irving Werstein, Guadalcanal (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company 1963), 156-157.
33. Werstein, Guadalcanal, 161-162.
34. Werstein, Guadalcanal, 163.
35. Werstein, Guadalcanal, 163-164.
36. Werstein, Guadalcanal, 164-165.
37. Werstein, Guadalcanal, 165-166.
38. Werstein, Guadalcanal, 166.
39. Werstein, Guadalcanal, 166-169.
40. Werstein, Guadalcanal, 169-170.
41. Werstein, Guadalcanal, 170-172.
42. Werstein, Guadalcanal, 173.
43. Werstein, Guadalcanal, 173-174.
44. Werstein, Guadalcanal, 174-176.
45. Frank, Guadalcanal, 611-614, 616.
Frank, Richard. Guadalcanal. New York and London: Random House, 1990.
International Encyclopedia of Military History, vol. 1, s.v. “Guadalcanal.”
Werstein, Irving. Guadalcanal. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1963.