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Battle of Guadalcanal
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Battle of Guadalcanal

U.S. Marines on Guadalcanal
Conflict World War II - Pacific War
Date August 7, 1942 - February 9, 1943
Place Guadalcanal
Result American victory
Combatants
United States Japan
Commanders
Frank J. Fletcher (tactical commander), Alexander Vandegrift (ground force commander)
Hyakutake Haruyoshi (ground forces), Gunichi Mikawa (naval forces)
Strength
29,000 (November 12) 30,000 (November 12)
Casualties
6,000 24,000

The invasion of Guadalcanal by sixteen thousand United States troops began on 7 August, 1942 and was the first American offensive of the Pacific Campaign. Additional amphibious attacks simultaneously assaulted the islands of Florida, Tulagi, Gavutu and Tanambogo.

Table of contents
1 Background
2 Operation Watchtower
3 Aftermath & historical significance

Background

Guadalcanal is situated in the middle of the long Solomon Islands chain, north-east of Australia. The Solomons location made it idea for cutting off shipping from the US to Australia, shipping that would be forced to take long detours to the south to avoid being spotted from the air. The Japanese had long held a major base on the northern end of the chain at Rabaul, but the length of the Solomons was so long that aircraft from Rabaul could not patrol the entirety of the island chain.

The Imperial Japanese Navy intended to turn the Solomons into a major strategic base to cut off Australia, and in 1942 started a program of taking over islands all along the chain and building airbases for land-based patrol bombers. Guadalcanal was to be the major base in the middle of the chain, just within ferry range of Rabaul.

The US, aware of their plans, decided that Guadalcanal would serve just as well as a US base for operations against Rabaul, and in their first offensive operation of the war, formed up an invasion fleet.

Operation Watchtower

Initially, only unarmed Japanese construction and support personnel occupied Guadalcanal itself, allowing the Americans to come ashore almost unhindered. But Japanese reinforcements arrived on the island from Rabaul to destroy the Americans (Operation Ka-Go).

These convoys and the land battle on Guadalcanal became magnets for naval activity on both sides. This resulted in seven naval battles:

These naval battles did not produce a victor, but the Japanese were unable to replace their losses.

The land battle hinged around the airfield which the Americans named Henderson Field, a muddy airstrip hanging onto the edge of the island, and considered "an unsinkable aircraft carrier". The Japanese suffered 24,000 casualties, the Americans 6,000.

Extreme desperation characterized the ground fighting. American authorities declared Guadalcanal secure on 9 February, 1943, after more than six months of combat.

See Operation Ke, and Operation Shoestring.

on Guadalcanal]]

Aftermath & historical significance

Although the
Battle of Midway is widely considered to be the turning point in the Pacific theater, it was really only a naval defeat. When the U.S. finally captured Guadalcanal, it was the first step in a long string of invasions that would eventually lead to Japan and victory. The capture of the island was the first breach of the perimeter Japan established during the first 6 months of the Pacific war. In this way Guadalcanal is considered the turning point for the Imperial Japanese Army.