The Battle of Guadalcanal: WWII

By | February 9, 2021

[February 9, 2021]  I’ve written of many battles in my leadership blog and frequently gave accounts of heroism, lessons learned, the horrors, and the struggle of the ordinary foot soldier and basic seaman.  No other battle – actually a series of battles over six months – portrays the American spirit in times of great difficulty than the Battle of Guadalcanal.

“As they prepared themselves to go ashore no one doubted in theory that at least a certain percentage of them would remain on the island dead, once they set foot on it. But no one expected to be one of these. Still it was an awesome thought and as the first contingents came struggling up on deck in full gear to form up, all eyes instinctively sought out immediately this island where they were to be put, and left, and which might possibly turn out to be a friend’s grave.” – James Jones, The Thin Red Line

The United States had been at war for only eight months when this epic battle began on August 7, 1942.  Both our Navy, Army, and Marine Corps were untested either at the tactical or strategic levels.  The enemy, the Imperial Japanese Navy and Army were battle-hardened, experienced, and tough.  The fight would be one of the most significant battles of the war and would foretell how the American effort would go in the future.

After the Pearl Harbor attack in December 1942, the Japanese military quickly expanded into the Western Pacific, occupying many islands to build a defensive perimeter around their conquests and to threaten lines of communication in this region.  The Japanese were spotted in May of 1942  building an airfield on Guadalcanal that was a direct threat to ally Austrailia.  WWII was about to begin in earnest.

U.S. Marines, landing on August 7, 1942, captured the airfield on Guadalcanal but spent the next six months fending off a concerted effort by the Japanese to retake it.  This campaign would become one of the most hotly contested campaigns of the entire war.  The island of Guadalcanal and the Solomon Islands in general are of little value other than their strategic location.  Like in real estate, location is everything.

With the Japanese in the Solomon Islands, their air force could fan out, menacing shipping along sea routes connecting North America with beleaguered Austrailia.  Japan could stop the U.S. from commencing their long march up the island chain toward the Japanese stronghold at Rabaul, the Philippine Islands and thence toward Japan itself.  And, Guadalcanal could become a jumping off point to expand Japan’s claim to even more Pacific areas.

On this date, February 9, 1943, the Battle of Guadalcanal ended.

To the U.S., taking and holding Guadalcanal was paramount.  There are many lessons we can derive from this campaign and I recommend we explore those lessons.1  But that is for another time.

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  1. https://www.history.navy.mil/content/history/nhhc/get-involved/essay-contest/2017-winners/additional-essay-contest-submissions/surface-lessons-of-guadalcanal.html
Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

15 thoughts on “The Battle of Guadalcanal: WWII

  1. Tony Cappalo

    I would vote that this campaign was the most important one in the Pacific. Just my thinking.

    Reply
    1. Asset Lady

      Emma, great to see you back on Gen. Satterfield’s blog. It’s hard not to like the article.

      Reply
  2. Mr. T.J. Asper

    Good article on an important battle. I plan to get my students interested more in WWII this year. That is, if we can get back full time.

    Reply
  3. Yusaf from Texas

    We hear often about the land battle between US and Japanese forces and the hand to hand fights that raged for many months. But the battle was also just as hard fought by the navies of these two countries (along with US allies). The struggle was, indeed, epic. I think most folks have absolutely no idea what really took place there.

    Reply
    1. Wendy Holmes

      Right Yusaf. And to put it in context, our snowflake generation is terrified of being called a ‘snowflake’ and run to their teddy bears and cookies to relieve the stress. Ha Ha Ha Ha… how sad is our current youth today?

      Reply
  4. Kenny Foster

    Battle of Guadalcanal, (August 1942–February 1943), series of World War II land and sea clashes between Allied and Japanese forces on and around Guadalcanal, one of the southern Solomon Islands, in the South Pacific.

    Reply
  5. Purse 5

    Very good article on one of the most important strategic campaigns fought during the 20th century.

    Reply
  6. Randy Goodman

    Thanks for this article on one of the epic battles of WW2. It is a pleasure to read the many “battle” highlights that you have given us to think about, Gen. Satterfield. Keep ’em coming.

    Reply
    1. Silly Man

      Right, the more the better. I’d like to see actually more on more recent major battles from the War on Terror in Iraq and Afghanistan.

      Reply
      1. whathteheck

        Sounds like a good idea to me as well. Yes, thanks also for recognizing the anniversary of the battle.

        Reply
        1. JT Patterson

          Hi whattheheck. Haven’t seen you on in a while. Hope all is well. Please continue to read Gen. Satterfield … his blog and other tabs located on his main page. This is THE place to go for leadership short snippets and to learn, as well, from others in the leader forums.

          Reply
  7. Doug Smith

    Much appreciated article. My uncle was in the Marines and fought in the Solomon islands during the battle. Brings back good memories of him and his honorable service.

    Reply
    1. Linux Man

      My uncle as well. Uncle John was part of the US Navy and was one of those who ran the boats from the troop ships to shore.

      Reply

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