Battle of Guadalcanal
United States Backstory
With the Battle of Midway in the history books, the United States turned their eyes towards an offensive strike. This meant finding a little known air base that was important for the future warring plans of Japan. Still under construction and with many Japanese troops stationed to protect it, the Solomon Islands was not an easy place to launch a surprise attack. The natural terrain and surroundings put the Americans at a disadvantage, so on August 1942 when they commenced a surprise attack, it had to account for the many intricacies of the Solomon Islands.
Japan began construction on the air base on June 8th 1942, and while still under construction, had to fend off an American attack 2 months later. The 2,500 square mile jungle had a lot of Japanese secrets, equipment, and months of hard work put into it. And with the U.S. attacking to takeover and not destroy, it put Japan in a very bad moral and political position. With their earlier defeat at the Battle of Midway, handing over months of work, a prime position and potential damaging secrets to the enemy would quite literally cost them the war.
They fought smart and extremely fierce to keep the base, losing two thirds of their army in the process. With only 31,000 deployed compared to the U.S. Marines 60,000, the chances of winning became impossible. Japan did fare better on the seafront, as both sides suffered loss of many of their warships and vessels. So even with a tie on the waters, the outright devastation of the U.S. Marines on land forced Japan into a strategic withdrawal on February 1943.
The United States kept on marching forward, with a win that was even more decisive than the last.
Why Was the Battle of Guadalcanal Important?
Japan was already suffering a heavy loss from the Battle of Midway. It never helped that they never recovered from the intelligence leak that costed them that battle, which became an even worse blemish when the U.S. surprise attacked them at their secretly constructed air base.
The United States gained prestige from the battle, as they looked unstoppable after the latest campaign. They gained a valuable asset with the Guadalcanal air base, and uncovered even more secrets about the Japanese forces. While their opponent suffered heavy losses, the U.S. only lost about 2,000 soldiers of their 60,000 in the skirmish. It can be said that this battle more than the Battle of Midway is what led to the eventual surrender of Japan.
Who Was Affected?
The Battle of Guadalcanal hit Japan’s troops in a tremendous way, as they spent months building a base to counterattack the Americans, only to have it occupied and controlled by their enemy. Morale loss was high, the prisoner count went up, and Japan once again was forced into defense without any time to really gather important information. With an untold amount of leaks in their network, it was too late to do an evaluation on their communications, as they had to find a way to rebound from the last attack.
Names to Remember
Fleet Admiral Ernest Joseph King was born on November 23 1878 and was important in handling the naval operations of the U.S. in World War II. A five rank officer, the invasion of the Southern Solomons was his plan. Many were quick to agree with his plan, which was put into place almost unanimously, and with the backing of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Here are some important things to remember about the Battle of Guadalcanal.
• The Battle of Guadalcanal was codenamed Operation Watchtower
• A surprise attack was launched on August 1942
• Japan withdrew from Guadalcanal on February 1943
• The secret air base had been under construction for only two months before being attacked
• It took six months for the Guadalcanal campaign to lead to an American victory
• U.S. casualties were far less than Japanese casualties on land
If the Battle of Midway wasn’t a turning point in the war, then the Battle of Guadalcanal would be it. With Japan’s forces now in serious peril, the conclusion of this battle would lead to a much easier road for victory.