Battle of Guadalcanal
7 August 1942 - 9 February 1943

The Battle of Guadalcanal or Guadalcanal Campaign was, in fact, a series of naval and land battles during the first U.S. offensive against Japan in World War 2.

First Battles of the Guadalcanal Campaign

After the categorical victory in the Battle of Midway, the Americans decided it was time to pass the initiative on their side. The target of the U.S. military was the south of the Solomon Islands, including the island of Guadalcanal, as the Japanese were building an airfield there, whence their aircraft could threaten the naval communications lines between America and Australia.

The American invasion of the southern Solomon Islands, named Operation Watchtower, began on August 7, 1942. The Japanese had not detected the invasion force due to the bad weather, and their outnumbered forces could not stop the Americans to achieve their primary objectives.

The Battle of Savo Island, which took place on 8-9 August, was the first naval engagement of the Guadalcanal Campaign. Overnight, a force of seven Japanese cruisers attacked U.S. and Australian warships by surprise, sinking four Allied cruisers.

Besides the naval action, the Japanese response to the American invasion was to bring reinforcements on the island of Guadalcanal. The Battle of Tenaru took place on 21 August when the Japanese 28th Infantry Regiment assaulted frontally, at night, U.S. Marines' positions but was repulsed, suffering heavy casualties.

The second naval engagement in the first month of the campaign was the Battle of the Eastern Solomons, resulting in bad damage of a U.S. aircraft carrier, while the Japanese lost a light aircraft carrier.

Tokyo Express

The U.S. military won a significant operational advantage after bringing aircraft on the Guadalcanal airfield, threatening the shipping of Japanese troops during the daytime. The Allies called these shippings the Tokyo Express after the Japanese began to carry troops only with destroyers, which were fast enough as to be only at night in the range of the U.S. aircraft.

The Battle of Edson's Ridge, in September 1942, occurred when the Japanese assaulted again at night the U.S. Marines positions around the Guadalcanal airfield, named Henderson Field. Although initially successful, the attack eventually failed to overcome the American defense.

In October 1942, the Japanese infantry attacked from three directions, supported by a company of tanks, but suffered a major defeat, losing 2-3,000 men, while the Americans only a few dozen, in what has remained known as the Battle for Henderson Field.

Meanwhile, the Japanese and U.S. carriers faced in the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands. Although the U.S. Navy lost an aircraft carrier - USS Hornet - the Japanese losses in aircraft and experienced pilots would prove more important in strategic terms.

Ultimate U.S. Victory in the Battle of Guadalcanal

In November 1942, the Americans turned to offensive actions on the island, while a series of naval engagements, known as the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, took place around the Solomon Islands. The Japanese intended to shell Henderson Field with battleships and to bring new troops on the island for another offensive, but the U.S. Navy had received information about their intentions and sent a naval force that managed to thwart their plans.

The fact that for the Japanese had become increasingly difficult to transport supply and reinforcements, as well as the repeated failures, especially in land battles, led them to decide the withdrawal from the Island of Guadalcanal. By February 7, 1943, the Japanese withdrew from the island via Operation Ke. The victory in the Guadalcanal Campaign allowed the Americans to use the naval and air bases there in further offensive operations against Japan.

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