on August 7, 1942, 19 thousand US marines land on Guadalcanal Island during the first US counter-offensive unfolding on the Pacific Theater.
In 1942, the American command sought to use the victory at Midway Atoll in order to move from defense to a counteroffensive in the Pacific Ocean. The Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States planned a naval landing operation to capture and hold Tulagi and adjacent positions (Guadalcanal and Florida Islands), as well as Santa Cruz Islands, to prevent the enemy from using these areas. Subsequently, it was planned to move to the northwest.
The Japanese, on the other hand, began to strengthen the islands they conquered in the Bismarck archipelago, postponing the capture of New Caledonia, the islands of Fiji and Samoa for a later hour. The Japanese command intended to resume operations against the port of Moresby and create a naval base east of it in the southern part of the Solomon Islands, thereby contributing to the strengthening of the defense of the Indonesian-Philippine direction. It anticipated the plans of the Americans to capture the eastern Solomon Islands, as did Papua.
On July 5, 1942, American reconnaissance aircraft reported that the Japanese had relocated part of their forces from Tulagi to the neighboring, larger island of Guadalcanal (about 150 km in length and about 40 km in width) and were building a runway on its northern coast at Lunga Point . The Japanese hoped, with the help of aircraft based at this airport, to threaten the Americans in New Hebrides and New Caledonia, located northwest and west of the Fiji Islands and southwest of the Ellis Islands, and protect their maritime advancement flank in Papua. So oh. Guadalcanal became the main target of the operation.
According to the directive of the American command, the landing operation “Watchtower” (“Watchtower”), the general leadership of which was assigned to the commander of the forces of the South Pacific region, Vice Admiral R. Gormley, was planned for early August 1942. A large force was involved in its implementation: an aircraft carrier command Admiral F. Fletcher, an amphibious assault under the command of Admiral R. Turner, as well as a coastal aviation unit under the command of Rear Admiral D. McCain. These formations included: 3 aircraft carriers, battleships, 14 cruisers, 35 destroyers, 19 transports with units of the 1st division and one regiment of the 2nd marine division on board (19.5 thousand people), 287 coastal aircraft. Coast-based aviation provided support from Port Moresby, Queensland and other island runways. These forces were opposed by the Japanese 8th fleet, located in Rabaul, a battalion (about 400 people) and 2,700 people from the construction team on about. Guadalcanal, as well as coastal aviation.
As the landing approached, no signs of an enemy were found, and early in the morning of August 7, the Americans launched an aerial bombardment and shelling of the island, and then proceeded to land. By evening, up to 11 thousand soldiers of the 1st Marine Division landed under the command of General A. Vandegriff. The next morning, overcoming minor resistance, they occupied a partially completed air base, calling it “Henderson Field.” Most of the Japanese who were on about. Guadalcanal, mostly construction workers, fled into the jungle. Japanese garrison about. Tulagi, numbering 1,500 people, showed stubborn resistance, and only by the end of the next day, 6,000 American marines who landed on the island overcame the resistance of the Japanese.
The landing has laid the foundation for naval and land battles, which lasted 6 months.
The first naval battle took place at about. Savo on the night of August 9th. By this time, Admiral Fletcher had withdrawn the American aircraft carriers. Two cruiser-bearing groups remained to cover the landing transports: 6 heavy cruisers and 6 destroyers. The formation of Vice Admiral G. Mikawa consisting of five heavy cruisers, two light cruisers and a destroyer took by surprise the southern and northern groups of Americans, 4 heavy enemy cruisers were sunk, and 1 heavy cruiser was damaged. It was a heavy defeat for the American Navy. The Japanese ships had no losses. 2 heavy cruisers were damaged. Fortunately for the Americans, Mikawa did not destroy the mass of transport and supply vessels that were defenseless in Lunga Rhodes. An hour later, Mikawa headed to his base. By concentrating their forces on Rabaul, the Japanese sought to destroy the landing. On August 18, Japanese destroyers landed on Guadalcanal two advance detachments of 1,500 people who attacked the enemy without waiting for the next convoy. Japanese landing was quickly destroyed by the Marine Corps.
The next convoy of 2 thousand people left Rabaul on August 19. Not numerous in itself, he received powerful support from the fleet. On August 24-25, a naval battle broke out in the eastern part of the Solomon Islands. The Americans sank a light aircraft carrier “Ryuidze”, and Japanese aircraft severely damaged the aircraft carrier “Enterprise”. On August 25, US coast-based aircraft attacked Japanese transports, and the landing on Guadalcanal was canceled.
Then there was a lull in the fighting, although fighting on land continued. Small Japanese forces tried to take possession of the Henderson Field, but the Marines repulsed their attacks. At the same time, the American fleet suffered heavy losses. Japanese submarines seriously damaged the Saratoga aircraft carrier and sunk the Wasp. Since the Enterprise had not yet gone out of repair, only the Hornet remained to provide air cover.
On October 11-12, when the Japanese transported reinforcements off the coast of Guadalcanal, another naval battle broke out. In this battle at Cape Esperance, the losses to the parties were small, but the outcome was more favorable for the Americans. The Japanese cruiser and destroyer were sunk, and two cruisers were damaged. On October 16, large Japanese forces landed on Guadalcanal. Their total number amounted to 22 thousand people. At the same time, the Americans brought the size of their troops to 23 thousand people. However, the situation of the Americans on the island was complicated. The artillery of Japanese battleships and cruisers caused enormous damage to the Henderson Field airfield. The fire destroyed fuel reserves and about 50 aircraft. American heavy bombers were forced to relocate to the New Hebrides. The constant raids of Japanese bombers kept the Americans in suspense.
On October 24, the Japanese launched an offensive on the island, but on the second day they were forced to retreat, losing more than 2 thousand people.
October 26 at about. Santa Claus there was a naval battle in which aviation played a major role. As a result of the battle that ended on October 27, the American aircraft carrier Hornet and the destroyer were sunk.
The aircraft carrier Enterprise, the battleship South Dakota, the cruiser and the destroyer were damaged. The Japanese suffered serious damage to the aircraft carrier “Shokaku”, light cruiser “Dzuyho” and destroyer. The Japanese suffered heavy losses on planes: 70 aircraft did not return to base.
The Japanese command decided to resume their efforts to capture the island. This led to two clashes called the Guadalcanal Naval Battle. Early in the morning of November 13, a battle took place in the strait between the islands of Guadalcanal and Florida. 11 Japanese transports and warships tried to land large reinforcements on the island (there were 13.5 thousand people on transports) and at the same time strike artillery battleships at Henderson Field airfield. The convoy support forces included 2 battleships, a light cruiser and 14 destroyers under the general command of Vice Admiral N. Abe. When approaching the island, Japanese ships were met by the US naval formation of Admiral D. Callahan (2 heavy and 3 light cruisers, 8 destroyers), which provided unloading of troops and equipment delivered the day before to Guadalcanal. The battle lasted about half an hour. The Americans lost two cruisers and 4 destroyers. On the Japanese side, two destroyers were sunk and the battleship Khiya was badly damaged. The next day, after several attacks by American aircraft, he sank. This was the first battleship that the Japanese lost in the war. On November 14, aircraft from the aircraft carrier Enterprise sunk 7 out of 11 Japanese transports with troops.
On the night of November 15, the Japanese again tried to deliver reinforcements to Guadalcanal on vehicles guarded by the admiral N. Kondo’s compound (battleship, 4 cruisers and 9 destroyers). A compound of Admiral W. Lee (2 battleships, an aircraft carrier and 4 destroyers) acted against him. In a fierce battle, the parties suffered significant losses. The Japanese battleship “Kirishima” was disabled and sunk by his crew. The Japanese destroyer sank. The losses of the Americans amounted to 3 destroyers, severe damage was received by the battleship South Dakota. On November 15, American aircraft destroyed the remaining four Japanese vehicles after they dropped off about 2 thousand people.
On the night of December 1, a naval battle took place at Cape Tassafarong. The Japanese sunk the American cruiser and inflicted severe damage to three others. They themselves lost only the destroyer. However, they failed to land reinforcements on the island. This was the last battle of surface ships at Guadalcanal. In the future, both parties were limited to air strikes on ships delivering reinforcements to the island.
By January 7, 1943, Americans concentrated over 50 thousand people on Guadalcanal. The Marines and other American units went on the offensive. The Japanese refused to continue the campaign. On January 4, the Japanese imperial general headquarters ordered the gradual evacuation of troops. The Americans, unaware of this decision, moved forward cautiously and slowly, which gave the Japanese the opportunity to complete the evacuation by February 7, 1943.
The Japanese evacuated 10,630 people from Guadalcanal, but lost 24,600, 2 battleships, a light aircraft carrier, 3 heavy and 2 light cruisers, 12 destroyers, 4 submarines and 23 transport ships during the battle for the island. The Americans lost 6,696 killed and wounded, 2 heavy aircraft carriers, 6 heavy and 2 light cruisers, 15 destroyers. The battle for Guadalcanal ended in a severe defeat for Japan. The quantitative and qualitative superiority of the American forces testified to a change in the balance of power in the Pacific in favor of the United States. The victory of the Americans meant the beginning of a turning point in the struggle in the Pacific Ocean, the US armed forces took the lead in military operations. Japan was forced to switch to strategic defense.