The Master said, "He who follows the Way in the morning
can die content in the evening."
Confucius, Analects IV:8, translation after James Legge 
and Joanna C. Lee & Ken Smith 
Let us go forward to certain victory
in the traditional night attack of the Imperial Navy.
May each one of us calmly
do his utmost.
Vice Admiral Gunichi Mikawa,
Battle of Savo Island,
August 9, 1942
This sketch of the events of the Guadalcanal Campaign is based on several sources, many listed in the bibliography, especially the books by Samuel Eliot Morison, John Toland, and James D. Hornfischer. The original basis of the chronological table, however, was the Simulations Publications, Inc. (SPI) wargame "Bloody Ridge, Turning Point on Guadalcanal, September 1942" (in "Island War, Four Pacific Battles," Simulations Publications, Inc., 1975). The 70's were the golden age of board wargaming, and Simulations Publications was the leader. Unfortunately, although computers promised to pick up in innovation and realism where the board games left off, I'm not sure that it all has turned out to be quite the same thing. A real computer military game would require small individual terminals, for input, but then a large, flat, maplike display to show (or sometimes conceal) the information available to all players. The technology now approaches this possibility. Meanwhile, Simulations Publications is long gone. Its flagship magazine, however, Strategy & Tactics, does continue, published by Decision Games.
"Bloody Ridge" covered the Battles of Bloody Ridge in September and for Henderson Field in October, 1942. It skipped over the Battle of the Tenaru River in August and did not provide a scenario for the November offensive that the Japanese would have mounted if so many of their forces and supplies had not been sunk at sea after the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal (12-14 November 1942). Indeed, the first elements of the 38th Division, intended for that offensive, are already arriving at the end of the game's alotted moves.
"Guadalcanal" in Japanese would ordinarily be written Gadarukanaru, ガダルカナル, in the katakana syllabary. At the time, however, the bitter jest among the Japanese, most of whose soldiers on Guadalcanal ended up rendered ineffective by starvation, was that the first syllable should be written with (餓), which means "hungry" or "starve." This is also the character we find in , which means "hungry ghosts," those who in Buddhism are reborn in the "realm" where they wander the earth eating waste. The fear of many Japanese, indeed, is that Japanese soldiers who died missing in action in many places in World War II, and whose bones may lie without proper burial or rites, did end up as hungry ghosts in such places.
After this page had been posted for a while, a Marine correspondent pointed out that Marine units were not listed here. They were not, since I was not providing a complete Order of Battle. Now, however, I regard this as a deficiency and have begun to make up for it. Above left is the organizational chart for the First Marine Division, whose 1st, 5th, and 11th Marines were the first to land on Guadalcanal. The 7th Marines arrived in September. This is based on W. Victor Madej, U.S. Army and Marine Corps Order of Battle, Pacific Theater of Operations, 1941-1945, Volume I [Game Publishing Company, Allentown, Pennsylvania, 1984, pp.137-138]. The detail of supporting units is as Madej gives them. An attempt has been made to match special units with the symbols used in "Bloody Ridge." Note that Marine regiments are simply identified as "Marines," not as "Infantry" or "Artillery" as in the U.S. Army.
Below right is the organizational chart for the Americal Division, whose 164th Infantry Regiment arrived on Guadalcanal in October 1942. This is based on W. Victor Madej, U.S. Army Order of Battle, Pacific Theater of Operations, 1941-1945 [Game Publishing Company, Allentown, Pennsylvania, 1984, p.22]. Details of the symbols are explained at "Military Rank". In the organizational diagrams, U.S. Marines are red, U.S. Army green, and Japanese Army orange. Orange was pre-War code color for Japan in U.S. planning. Thus, "Case Orange" was the naval plan for war with Japan, an obsolete and useless plan, as it happened, since it assumed the tactical supremacy of battleships in naval warfare.
The great historical interest of the Guadalcanal campaign (and, to a lesser extent, that of the subsequent actions on the rest of the Solomons) is due to two factors: (1) the combination of air, land, and sea operations, (2) the relative equality of the forces, and (3) the unusally large number (for World War I or II) of surface-to-surface naval battles. Thus, although many think of Guadalcanal in terms of the land battles, there were more naval battles fought off the island in six months than the British Royal Navy fought in all of World War I. There is nothing else quite like them in even the rest of World War II. The name given to the strait between Guadalcanal and Savo Island, "Iron Bottom Sound," was no less than descriptive of the carpetting of ships (now observed by modern divers and submersibles) that the bottom received. A serious student of naval history cannot avoid the naval battles in the Solomons. They give whole new meaning to the "fog of war," while starkly illuminating deficiencies in intelligence, doctrine, and matériel, especially on the American side.
The intensity of the battles at sea and on land was due in great part to the rough equality of the forces involved. The industrial strength of the United States had not yet flooded the Pacific with new construction. Because of previous losses, sometimes the U.S. Navy only had one operational carrier (the Enterprise) in the area. The Japanese Navy had been similarly reduced by losses, but there also would never in the future be much in the way of new construction to replace the losses. The few new ships and planes upon which the Japanese later placed all their hopes were mostly destroyed in the Battle of the Philippine Sea (19-20 June 1944). The Japanese Navy was then destroyed as an organized force at the Battle (actually battles, five of them) for Leyte Gulf (23-26 October 1944).
On this map, locations relevant to the Solomons campaign are in red, the Papua-New Guinea campaign in green, and naval battles, including other battles in the area, in blue. New Guinea was the scene of an ambitious contemporary Japanese offensive and then Allied counteroffensive. The five battles in the waters off Guadalcanal, which include the two nights of the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, are listed in sequence to the left of the island. The two carrier battles were fought off the map to the right. Island names are all upper case. Base names are in upper and lower case. The naval battles extend beyond the Guadalcanal Campaign through the rest of the campaign in the Solomons. Thus, the last naval battle on the map, in fact the last battle altogether, was Cape St. George on 25 November 1943. That ended Japanese efforts to resupply or evacuate the Japanese forces that had become trapped on Bougainville. Meanwhile, the main Japanese base for the whole area, at Rabaul, had itself become trapped and isolated. A notable incident in the later campaign was the ramming and sinking of torpedo boat PT-109 by the destroyer Amagiri, on 2 August 1943 off New Georgia. Since PT-109 was commanded by John F. Kennedy, who was credited with heroism, this became part of the story of his Presidency.
In November 1942, when the Japanese Army gave up hope of retaking Guadalcanal, and the Japanese Navy ceased trying to send reinforcements, the bloodied First Marine Division was withdrawn. Meanwhile, the 164th Infantry and the 2nd Marine Division had arrived. These were elements of the Americal Division of the U.S. Army and the Second Marine Division. Subsequently, other units of these divisions and of the 25th Infantry Division were rotated onto the island. Organizational charts for the Second marine Divison and the 25th Infantry Divison are given left and right, based on the same sources as the charts above. In December 1942, the Army command at Guadalcanal was designated the XIVth Corps, and General Patch of the Americal Division was promoted to Corps Commander. General Sebree then became the commanding officer of the Division. The Second Marine Division chart seems deficient in support units, but this is how W. Victor Madej gives it. The fighting recounted in the books and movies detailed below mainly involves these later arriving forces.
When the Guadalcanal campaign began, it was the first land offensive by the United States against any Axis power. It continued to be the only land offensive by the United States until the major Allied invasion of North Africa in November 1942. Under the "Europe first" doctrine of the Allied leadership, the material for Guadalcanal was assigned grudgingly. This made it "Operation Shoestring" to those involved. The future of the operation was also immediately put in doubt by the disaster of the Battle of Savo Island. Nevertheless, the American public was far more incensed about Japan than about Germany and was eager for news of American attacks, after many months of American forces being defeated and captured in the Philippines, and on Wake and Guam. Thus, an account of the earliest days on Guadalcanal, Guadalcanal Diary, by combat reporter Richard Tregaskis, was a sensation, and a reasonably faithful movie version was turned out within a year (even if obviously shot in California). The land fighting on Guadalcanal was also immortalized in James Jones' The Thin Red Line, made as a movie in 1964 and recently remade by Terrence Malick in 1998.
The fighting in The Thin Red Line, however, comes from fairly late in the campaign, after the Battles of the Tenaru River, Bloody Ridge, and Henderson Field. All the early fighting was right on the perimeter of Henderson Field, with the Japanese trying to break in during night attacks. The Japanese had trouble appreciating the seriousness of the American threat. The first Japanese attack, led by Colonel Kiyono Ichiki, was the result of serious material and moral miscalculation. The Japanese believed that about a regiment of Americans had landed, not the better part of a division. Ichiki's regiment was thus sent to retake the island. Since Ichiki also believed that one good surprise night attack would cause the Americans to run, he did not even wait for his whole unit but advanced with no more than a battalion. He didn't even have the advantage of surprise and so died with nearly all his men. The next Japanese commander, Major General Kiyotake Kawaguchi was more prudent, using his own regiment and the remnants of Ichiki's with more care. He still gravely underestimated the American forces, however. The Battle of Bloody Ridge, although harrowing for the Marines, nevertheless gained the Japanese nothing of their objective.
This at last awakened the Japanese Command to the magnitude of their task. Division sized forces would be needed. Lieutenant General Harukichi Hyakutake, Commander of the 17th Army in Rabaul, decided to move himself and his headquarters to Guadalcanal. The whole 2nd Division would be brought in for an October offensive. This was the high water mark of the Japanese effort, and it came within shouting distance of success. When the battleships Kongo and Haruna bombarded Henderson Field the night of 13/14 October, their 14 inch shells all but destroyed the place, and most of its aircraft (as well as gravely wounding my future father-in-law). However, between their supply problems and the jungle and terrain, the Japanese had trouble coordinating effective attacks. In the Battle for Hendrson Field they failed again. The goal of a subsequent offensive in November, with the arrival of the 38th Division, never happened.
Three nights of epic fireworks in the Sound, November 12-15, constituted the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal. The melée of the first night damaged the battleship Hiei enough that it was caught at sea and sunk by aircraft the next day. The third night (with the second usually not counted as part of the battle, since Japanese cruisers bombarded Henderson Field unopposed), Admiral Halsey committed the new battleships Washington and South Dakota, with some destroyers, to the defense of the island, up against the Kirishima and its cruisers and destroyers. At the height of the battle power failed on the new and relatively untested South Dakota. Even when power was mostly restored, there continued to be outages, as the ship came under concentrated fire from the Japanese. The American destroyers, with two out of four sunk, were excused from the battle. The Washington, directed by Admiral Willis Augustus Lee, then effectively faced the Japanese ships alone, and was also in danger of being misidentified by American forces. For identification, Lee relied on the running joke that he was actually Chinese, with the nickname "Ching Lee ." Concealed from the Japanese by the troubled South Dakota, the Washington emerged into view, with its new radars, Lee's specialty, targeting the Japanese. The Kirishima was reduced to a wreck under the 16-inch guns of the Washington, with at least nine direct hits, some of them actually below the waterline. In danger of capsizing, the Kirishima had to be scuttled, with men still on board. It did roll over, and lies that way on the bottom of the Sound today. The Washington was barely scratched and no sailors were killed. The blast from her own guns did more damage.
|The Washington opens fire on the Kirishima,|
00:00 15 November 1942,
Naval Battle of Guadalcanal;
painting by Lt. Dwight Shepler, USNR
The next morning American aircraft caught the fleet of Japanese troop transports at sea. Desperately beaching the transports, few Japanese reinforcements or supplies made it to the island. Although now, for the first time, the Japanese actually outnumbered the Americans, most Japanese soldiers were unfit for use, starving, diseased, and without combat supplies. No November offensive could be mounted, and that meant there would never be another.
Part of the fallout of the battle was hostility between the Washington and South Dakota sailors. Bar fights ensued, and finally Admiral Lee ordered that the crews not be given liberty at the same time. Lee himself commanded the modern battleship division through most of the rest of the Pacific War, was transfered to the Atlantic, but then died of a heart attack a few days before the War ended. Since the aircraft carrier Shangri La (CV-38) was given that name because of President Roosevelt's joke that the Doolittle bombers had come from there, one wishes that Lee's joke about his name might also be commemorated with a ship, named after Lee, but with an actual Chinese name, .
The Kirishima was the only Japanese battleship in World War II sunk in surface combat by a modern American battleship, i.e. one built since World War I -- two others were sunk by old American battleships at Leyte Gulf. A similar clash that might have happened, off the San Bernardino Strait during Leyte Gulf, was prevented by Admiral Halsey, who kept Lee's modern battleships with his aircraft carriers, which were drawn off north by the Japanese decoy force -- of aircraft carriers without any planes. Halsey was angry when questioned about what he had done with his battleships, but he definitely had made a mistake.
Starting on 17 December 1942, then, American forces moved out in their own offensive to drive the Japanese off the island. The charge up grass covered slopes to capture hilltop Japanese positions, as on Mt. Austen (which fell December 24th), is the kind of action shown in Terrence Malick's movie. The Japanese retreated before such losses and soon determined to evacuate the island, which they did in the first days of February 1943. During that whole late period, the Japanese were so weakened by disease, starvation, and lack of ammunition, that they were incapable of offensive action. Some of Malick's aggressive Japanese thus look rather too well fed and equipped for authenticity; and we are given no clue about what the Japanese have already been through. A similiar problem may occur with the many prisoners Malick shows being taken. This may be true, but my understanding is that the Japanese usually fought to the death and that at this point in the war few prisoners were actually taken. On Guadalcanal, there was even an open line for Japanese retreat, a feature missing from many later Pacific island battles where few, if any, Japanese were captured alive.
In popular culture, the naval war off Guadalcanal gets less attention than the land war, even though the intensity of naval fighting was extraordinary and the fate of the land campaign depended absolutely on its outcome. This was in part due to the press coverage that the land fighting got, and to the actual secrecy that was imposed on the naval battles. Thus, the very existence of the Battle of Savo Island was kept secret for two months until the (relative) victory of Cape Esperance could be announced at the same time. Also, the naval battles were brief, confusing affairs in the dark. What was going on was not even obvious to the participants, much less to land based observers, who would only see flashes and explosions in the distance, without a clue of what was happening. Even worse, it would be difficult, even today, to portray such battles on film. There was little authentic film made at the time (most of what one keeps seeing is from later in the War), and Hollywood has never been very good at reproducing the lurching of warships, spitting fire or exploding, in the dark, cataclysmic encounters.
The organizational diagrams for Japanese forces are based on W. Victor Madej, Japanese Armed Forces Order of Battle, 1937-1945, Volume I [Game Marketing Company, Allentown, Pennsylvania, 1981], where units must be found listed under their divisions. Other information on Japanese forces is from John Toland, The Rising Sun [Bantam Books, 1971] and other books in the bibliography. Again, details of the symbols are explained at "Military Rank". Note that non-standard symbols are used for company and platoon. Many small units included for the Japanese simply reflect pieces in the "Bloody Ridge" boardgame, which presumably have been designed to reflect what was available to Japanese forces. Madej does not give details of unit organization for Japanese forces on Guadalcanal, and, indeed, such details may not even be known, considering the attrition suffered in their delivery and the chaotic conditions that prevailed in the command on site. Also, board games rarely provide markers for non-combat support units. Thus, the diagram has been provided at right to show the standard structure of a Japanese triangular division, as detailed by Madej [pp.9-10]. It was not uncommon for mountain artillery to occur as substitutes for field artillery, as we find on Guadalcanal. While anti-tank and mortar units are common in the standard division, we do not see the anti-aircraft units that occurred on Guadalcanal. The standard division employed a great many horses. Although becoming obsolete, these were far from gone in the Japanese Army. I have not, however, heard of any horses ever being landed, used, or observed on Guadalcanal, where their use would have been pointless and their maintenance impossible. Madej's tables do not list quartermaster units. These must have existed, but perhaps were counted as part of the transport regiment.
Despite the resonance of the name of Guadalcanal, real documentary film treatments of the campaign are rare to non-existent. The first chance for anything of the sort came with the celebrated television documentary, Victory at Sea [now issued in a DVD set, from The History Channel and NBC News]. An entire (half hour) episode was devoted to Guadalcanal (broadcast December 14, 1952), but it contained absolutely no details of any of the actual fighting, on either land or sea (with unidentified footage and little better than a propaganda style narrative). The naval battles are listed, with no indication of who even won them, let alone tactical descriptions. That the events of a movie like The Thin Red Line actually occur after the most interesting and desperate period of the campaign, and after the Japanese were in no state to launch offensive action, may not even have been understood by viewers. But if Hollywood has never been good with things like the night naval battles, nothing stands in the way of genuine documentary treatment, with computer animation and informed narrative, being produced for some venue like The History Channel. When the Battle of the Little Bighorn, or the Gunfight at the OK Corral, has been gone over virtually minute by minute, there is no good reason why the Battle of Savo Island should not get the same treatment.
In the following table, beginning September 11, the right hand column indicates the moves, two days each, in the wargame. With the moves, the arrival of Japanese reinforcements is also indicated. The arrival of Japanese forces is estimated for dates prior to September 11, and for reinforcements after the end of the game on November 2. The notation is in battalions and regiments, e.g. "2/28" indicates the second battalion of the Japanese 28th infantry regiment -- the first Japanese force to respond to the arrival of the Americans, and the one involved in Ichiki's suicidal attack on August 21st. Only Japanese forces are shown because the Japanese strategic problem was the main interest when I originally drew up the table.
The Battles of the Eastern Solomons and of the Santa Cruz Islands are the two great carrier battles of the period. These are not as famous as the Coral Sea or Midway but are two out of the five great carrier battles (with the very one-sided Battle of the Philippine Sea in 1944) of World War II. Santa Cruz was the very last carrier battle of the War between roughly equal sides, and it is where the carrier Hornet, which helped launch the Doolittle Raid against Tokyo (18 April 1942), was sunk. Since the Battle of the Coral Sea had also been fought in the area of the Solomons (the first naval battle in history in which opposing ships didn't even see each other), a study of carrier tactics necessarily means a study of the War in this area.
On the chronological chart below, the land battles of the Guadalcanal campaign are in bold red; the sea battles and other ship actions in bold blue. Entries on lines between dates are for night actions. Events in the fighting elsewhere in the Solomons (e.g. Munda) and on New Guinea (e.g. Port Moresby, Milne Bay, Buna, & Lae) are also indicated, with the New Guinea items all in green. Japanese land units on Guadalcanal are given in orange. One reference to the Aleutians is in brown.
Sea battles are followed by an "order of battle" link that effects a pop-up showing the order of battle and losses for the action, with some comments. "Scens" in the chronology are the scenarios, marked in purple, of the board game. Scenario 1 is the Battle of Bloody Ridge; scenario 2 is the Battle for Hendrson Field; and scenario 3 is the "campaign" game covering both. As noted, another Scenario for a November offensive would have been nice. If the American offensive beginning in December had been covered also, a larger map, west to Cape Esperance, would have been necessary.
The night battles here suffer from the division of dates at midnight. Some battles are the day before midnight, some on the day after midnight, and others both. This might have been the occasion for some nostalgia for the previous naval practice, before 1925, of reckoning the whole night as one calendar date, the Nautical or Astronomical Day, which continues the previous Civil Day until the following Noon, as is still done for Julian Dates. However, the complications that here attend the night battles would then have applied to the day battles, to no net benefit. That would not have been a problem for the astronomers, who only work at day on the sun or eclipses.
BEGINNING OF GUADALCANAL CAMPAIGN 7 August 1942 American Landings on Guadalcanal, 10,000 American, 2,200 Japanese troops 8 August airfield occupied, renamed Henderson Field Battle of Savo Island [order of battle] 9 August 10 August Kako torpedoed & sunk off New Ireland by US submarine 11 August 12 August 13 August 14 August (7th Division) 15 August 28th Inf Regt, detached 7th Engr Regt, detached 16 August 17 August 18 August General Horii arrives at Buna 2/28 19 August 20 August 10,000 American, 3,600 Japanese troops 21 August Battle of the Tenaru (Ilu) River 22 August 11,430 Japanese at Buna 23 August 24 August Battle of the Eastern Solomons [order of battle] 25 August Japanese land at Milne Bay 26 August (18th Division) 35th Inf Brig, detached 27 August 124th Inf Regt, detached 28 August Asagiri sunk off Santa Isabel, US planes 29 August Additional Japanese land at Milne Bay 1/28 30 August 1/124, anti-tank 6 31 August Saratoga torpedoed; Japanese thrown back 2/124, engineers 7 from Turnbull Field at Milne Bay 1 September 2 September 3 September 4 September 3/28, anti-aircraft Japanese evacuated from Milne Bay, day 1 37 anti-aircraft 5 September 6 September Japanese evacuated from Milne Bay, day 2 7 September Last Japanese bombardment of Milne Bay 3/124, mortar 1 8 September 9 Sbptember 10 September 11 September Wargame begins -------- Sep 11, Scens 1 & 3 2/4 12 September Battle of Bloody Ridge, 11,000 American, 6,000 Japanese troops 13 September Sep 13 1/4, 45 anti-aircraft, 14 September anti-tank 2 15 September Wasp torpedoed & sunk , North Sep 15 Carolina torpedoed 16 September 17 September Japanese reach Ioribaiwa, 32 miles Sep 17 from Port Moresby 3/4, mortar, engineers 18 September 2 19 19 September Sep 19 mountain artillery 20 September 1/20 & 2/20 21 September 2nd Division Sep 21 4th Inf Regt 22 September 16th Inf Regt 29th Inf Regt 23 September 2nd FA Regt Sep 23, End Scen 1 2nd Engr Regt 24 September 25 September Sep 25 26 September, Fighting on Matanikau, Japanese advantage; Japanese thrown back from Ioribaiwa 27 September Sep 27 28 September 29 September Sep 29 armor, field artillery 30 September 1 1/4 1 October Japanese airstrip at Buna bombed out Oct 1 2 October 3 October Oct 3 engineers 2, field 4 October artillery 2/4 5 October Oct 5 1/29 6 October 7 October, Fighting on Matanikau, American advantage Oct 7 2/29 8 October, Fighting on Matanikau, American advantage 9 October, Fighting on Matanikau, American advantage Oct 9 Japanese 17th army HQ lands at Tassafaronga 10 October 11 October Oct 11 Battle of Cape Esperance [order of battle] 1/169 3/29 12 October Murakumo sunk off New Guinea, US planes 13 October Oct 13 Naval Fire Bombardment by Kongo and Haruna field artillery 14 October 1/2 & 2/2 Bombardment by Chokai and Kinugasa 15 October Oct 15 16 October Oboro sunk in Aleutians, US planes 2/169 3/16 17 October Oct 17 field artillery 3/2 18 October 19 October Oct 19 20 October 21 October Oct 21 Scen 2 22 October 23 October, 23,000 American, 22,000 Japanese troops Oct 23 24 October Battle for Henderson Field 25 October, Yura sunk , Battle for Henderson Field, 2 Oct 25 26 October Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands [order of battle] 27 October Oct 27 38th Division 28 October 228 Inf Regt 229 Inf Regt 29 October 1 Bn detached to N Guinea Oct 29 230 Inf Regt 3/230, mountain 30 October artillery 2/21 31 October Oct 31 1/228, 2/228, 1 November mountain artillery 1/21 2 November Nov 2 End Scens 2 & 3 3 November 4 November 5 November 6 November 7 November 8 November 3/228 9 November 10 November 11 November 12 November, 29,000 American, 30,000 Japanese troops Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, I [order of battle] 13 November Hiei sunk , Juneau sunk Suzuya & Maya bombard Henderson 14 November Kinugasa sunk , 7 transports sunk Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, II [order of battle] 15 November, 4 transports sunk, 2,000 Japanese landed out of 10,000 embarked 1/230, 2/230, 16 November & 2 Bns 229 lost 17 November North Carolina leaves Pearl Harbor for the Solomons 18 November U.S. 32nd & 41st divisions in Papua campaign 19 November Allied attack begun on Buna 20 November Allies begin airstrip at Dobodura, near Buna 21 November 22 November 23 November 24 November, Japanese land at Munda, Munda Airfield begun Hayashio sunk off Lae, US planes 25 November 26 November 27 November 28 November 29 November 30 November Battle of Tassafaronga [order of battle] 1 December 2 December 3 December 4 December 5 December 6 December 7 December 8 December 9 December Gona falls to Allies 10 December 11 December 12 December, Munda Airfield completed; Teruzuki sunk off Cape Esperance (US MTB'S) 13 December 14 December 15 December 16 December 17 December, Guadalcanal ground offensive started 18 December 19 December 20 December 21 December 22 December 23 December 24 December, Mt. Austen taken 25 December 26 December 27 December 28 December 29 December 30 December 31 December 1 January 1943 2 January Buna falls to Allies 3 January 4 January Munda bombarded by Nashville, St. Louis, & Helena 5 January 6 January 7 January 8 January 9 January 10 January 11 January 12 January 13 January, "Galloping Horse" taken 14 January 15 January 16 January, "Sea Horse" taken 17 January 18 January 19 January 20 January 21 January 22 January, Gifu stronghold taken; Japanese resistance ends in Papua Japanese retreat from Kokumbona towards Cape Esperance 23 January, Kokumbona taken 50,000 American, 13,000+ Japanese troops Vila bombarded by Nashville & Helena (25,000 Japanese dead) 24 January 25 January 26 January 27 January 28 January 29 January Battle of Rennell Island, Chicago hit 30 January Chicago sunk 31 January 1 February, rearguard action at Bonegi River, below Tassfaronga Japanese Evacuation of Guadalcanal, lst night; Makigumo sunk 2 February (mined off Guadalcanal) 3 February 4 February Evacuation of Guadalcanal, 2nd night 5 February 6 February 7 February Final evacuation of Guadalcanal 8 February, Americans find empty beaches at Cape Esperance 9 February, American east & west pincers meet at Tenamba River END OF GUADALCANAL CAMPAIGN 10 February 11 February 12 February 13 February 14 February 15 February 16 February 17 February 18 February 19 February 20 February Ooshio sunk off Admiralty Islands (US submarine) 21 February, American landings in Russell Islands, unopposed 22 February 23 February 24 February 25 February 26 February 27 February 28 February 1 March 2 March 2-5; Battle of the Bismark Sea; Shirayuki sunk , US & Aus planes 3 March Asashio, Arashio, & Tokitsukaze sunk , US & Aus planes 4 March 5 March Vila bombarded by Montpelier, Cleveland, & Denver; Murasame & 6 March Minegumo sunk
The total naval losses at Guadalcanal are recounted by James D. Hornfischer in a table just like this [Neptune's Inferno, The U.S. Navy at Guadalcanal, Bantam Books, 2011, p.437].
|Total Naval Losses at Guadalcanal|
On the other hand, the equality of losses conceals the inequality of the strategic result. The Japanese wanted to get Guadalcanal back, and they didn't. Their losses were thus for nothing; and the desperate measures of the Americans, like putting anti-aircraft light cruisers (the doomed Juneau) into surface battles, were not in vain. And the lessons learned about combat, especially in the use and performance of torpedoes, would not be lost on the Americans.
Another bit of inequality is recounted by Hornfischer. There were 5,041 U.S. Navy sailors killed in action in the campaign, but no more than 1,592 U.S. Marines and soldiers. This increases the unfairness at the relative historical and popular treatment of the two sides of the story. And many sailors died while vainly waiting for rescue in the water, often with burning oil around, or who hopelessly went down with their ships. One of most tragic events of the whole of World War II was the loss of the five Sullivan brothers on the Juneau. The Navy didn't like putting relatives on the same ship, but the Sullivans had insisted on it. Afterways, the Navy didn't allow such exceptions. But with all naval actions, the scene of battle soon becomes nothing more than another bit of empty sea, with all evidence of events gone.
While to anyone particularly taken with the Guadalcanal and Solomons campaigns the events on New Guinea may seem like a sideshow, this was hardly the case. The whole campaign in the area began over New Guinea. The Battle of the Coral Sea occurred when a Japanese force on the way to Port Moresby was intercepted. Although the battle cost both sides an aircraft carrier, the American loss, of the Lexington, was more severe than the Japanese, the small support carrier Shoho. Nevertheless, the Allied purpose of the battle was achieved, since the Japanese landing force was withdrawn. With the simultaneous Japanese occupation of the Bismarks and Solomons, Port Moresby was the last Australian base in the area. Its loss would have been disastrous, and the Japanese knew it. So in the course of the Guadalcanal campaign, we see the Japanese renewing their efforts in New Guinea -- but then being thrown back by the Australians and Americans. On 25 August 1942, the Japanese landed at Milne Bay, on the eastern tip of Papua -- the long peninsula at the end of New Guinea. The attack was repulsed and the Japanese evacuated by 6 September. Their next effort was an ambitious overland attack across the Owen Stanley Range, from Gona directly to Port Moresby, with the mountains, jungle, mud, and disease posing barriers far beyond what any enemy could arrange. By 17 September, Japanese forces had reached Ioribaiwa, 32 miles from Port Moresby. On 26 September, however, they were defeated and began a long retreat back the way they came. The Allies went over to the offensive, and as the Americans stopped the Japanese on Guadalcanal and began to sweep them from the island, Australians and Americans began to sweep the Japanese from Papua. By 22 January 1943, Japanese resistance had collapsed. While the Solomons campaign was under the direction of Admiral Nimitz in Honolulu, New Guinea was the domain of General MacArthur in Australia. MacArthur continued to move to the north shore of New Guinea. Just before the American landing at Emperss Augusta Bay in Bougainville, Salamana and Lae had fallen. MacArthur continued west on New Guinea, heading ultimately, of course, for the Philippines.
The first American units in Australia and New Guinea were the 32nd and 41st Divisions, organized under the I Corps. Not all participated in New Guinea all at once, but parts of the divisions were committed as needed. The organizational diagram for the Corps at right is based on W. Victor Madej, U.S. Army Order of Battle, Pacific Theater of Operations, 1941-1945 [Game Publishing Company, Allentown, Pennsylvania, 1984, p.22]. I do not have organizational information for the Australian units in the campaign.
The Pearl Harbor Strike Force
The Treaty Cruisers
Advanced Japanese Destroyers of World War II
World War II in Burma
U.S. Battle Cruisers & Aircraft Carrier Names
Philosophy of History, Military History
Philosophy of History