Guadalcanal the enemy advanced at his pleasure -- after
Guadalcanal he retreated at ours." - Admiral "Bull" Halsey
is an island in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. It is
the largest island of the independent state of Solomon
Islands. It has an area of 5336 sq km (2060 sq mi).
The volcanic Kavo Mountains, which reach a maximum height
of 2440 m (8005 ft) above sea level, extend the length
of the island, which is largely forested. The chief
town is Honiara, capital of Solomon islands. Guadalcanal
was visited by Spanish navigators in the 16th century.
It was annexed by he British in 1893. Today, the population
of the island is listed at over sixty thousand.
Marines at Guadalcanal The amphibious nature of the war in the Pacific imposed
on the Marine Corps greater tasks than any it had ever
before been called upon to perform. The expansion of
the Corps and equipping it with the weapons and support
facilities necessary for modern amphibious undertakings
was an administrative achievement of the first magnitude.
This was overshadowed by the willingness of the Fleet Marine
Force to undertake the Guadalcanal operation at a critical time
early in the war when other ground forces were still undergoing
Between 7 and 9 August 1942, Marines landed on the beaches
of Guadalcanal and Tulagi in the Solomon Islands. These landings
marked the first Allied land offensive in the Pacific and
were the first amphibious assaults against the enemy forces
by the 1st Marine Division (reinforced). In the face of stubborn
counterattacks, the courageous division held on to its beachhead.
Units of the 2d Marine Division, and the Army American Division
began to arrive during October, and the American forces soon
took the offensive. After several months of desperate fighting
in the steaming tropical jungles, the Japanese were beaten
and driven from the island by 9 February 1943. The Battle
for Guadalcanal remains the longest single battle ever fought
by the United State military.
The importance of aviation to Marine tactics was graphically
demonstrated at Guadalcanal where one of the first objectives
of the assault was a partially completed Japanese Airfield,
later renamed Henderson Field. After the airfield had been
taken, Marine aviation based on Henderson Field devastated
overwhelming numbers of the highly vaunted Japanese air force
and exploded the myth that the Japanese pilots and zeros were
The capture of Guadalcanal marked the turning point of the
war in the Pacific. Japanese losses during the campaign were
listed as approximately 14,800 killed or missing in action
while another 9,000 died of wounds and disease. About 1,000
enemy troops were taken prisoner and more than 600 enemy planes
and pilots were destroyed. In addition, 7 of 11 Japanese transports
carrying two reinforced divisions were sunk while attempting
to reinforce the island, costing the lives of numerous enemy
troops. Marine and Army casualties within the ground forces
amounted to 1,598 officers and men killed and 4,709 wounded. Of this total, Marine ground forces killed or dead from wounds
were 1,152 along with 2,799 wounded and 55 listed as missing.
Marine aviation losses were 55 dead with 127 wounded and 85
The importance of the victory at Guadalcanal was later summed
up by General Alexander A. Vandegrift (18th Commandant of
the Marine Corps January 1944 December 1947), who commanded
the 1st Marine Division during the engagement: "We struck
at Guadalcanal to halt the advance of the Japanese. We did
not know how strong he was, nor did we know his plans. We
knew only that he was moving down the island chain and that
he had to be stopped. We were as well-trained and as well-armed
as time and our peacetime experience allowed us to be. We
needed combat to tell us how effective our training, our doctrines,
and our weapons had been. We tested them against the enemy,
and we found that they worked. From that movement in 1942,
the tide turned, and the Japanese never again advanced."