Before Guadalcanal the enemy advanced at his pleasure. After Guadalcanal, he retreated at ours.
Admiral William “Bull” Halsey
Seventy years ago Marines of the First Division, The Old Breed, launched the first offensive of America in World War II, by landing on Guadalcanal and seized the Japanese air strip, named Henderson Field by the Marines. This set off a huge six month campaign, where US forces, often outnumbered on land, sea and in the air, fought and defeated the Imperial Army and Navy.
Once the Marines seized Henderson, the Japanese commenced a cycle of shipping troops by sea to Guadalcanal, called by Marines the Tokyo Express, to take it back. The Imperial Navy, waged battle after battle with the US Navy to cut the supply line of the Marines. In the skies above Guadalcanal the Japanese sent wave after wave of fighters and bombers to establish air supremacy and to make Henderson unusable through bombing.
The Japanese were unable to establish air supremacy due to the “Cactus Air Force”, Cactus being the Allied code name for Guadalcanal, heavily outnumbered Marine aviators, who, operating under the most primitive conditions imaginable, successfully contested Japanese control of the air, and, eventually, with American carrier based air, established American air supremacy above Guadalcanal.
The US Navy, in seven large battles against its Japanese counterpart, eventually established naval supremacy in the seas around Guadalcanal. The battles were hammer and tongs affairs, with some of the most desperate naval fighting in the entire War.
The Marines on Guadalcanal learned many useful lessons in fighting and beating the Japanese: (more…)