The Guadalcanal campaign was fought from August of 1942 until February of 1943. During those seven months 60,000 U.S. Marines and soldiers killed about 20,000 of the 31,000 Japanese troops on the island.
The main objective of the fighting was a tiny airstrip that the Japanese were building at the western end of Guadalcanal, a speck of land in the Solomon Islands. The airstrip, later named Henderson Field, would become an important launching point for Allied air attacks during the Pacific island hopping campaign.
Here are 7 interesting facts about the battle:
- Every branch of the U.S. military fought in the battle
The Air Force didn’t yet exist, but the Army, Coast Guard, Navy, and Marines all fought in the battle.
The Army provided infantry to assist the Marines in the landings and sent planes and pilots to operate out of Henderson Field. The Navy provided most logistics, shore bombardments, and aviation support. The Marines did much of the heavy lifting on the island itself, capturing and holding the ground while their aviators provided additional support.
- The only Coast Guard Medal of Honor ever bestowed was for service at Guadalcanal
Signalman First Class Douglas Munro was one of the Coast Guardsmen operating landing craft for the Marines. After the initial invasion, the U.S. controlled the westernmost part of the island and the Japanese controlled the rest. A river ran between the two camps and neither force could get a foothold on the other side.
Then-Lt. Col. Lewis “Chesty” Puller ordered a force to move through the ocean and land east of the river. The Marines encountered little resistance at first but were then ambushed by the Japanese. Munro led a group of unarmored landing craft to pick up the Marines while under heavy fire from Japanese machine guns. Just as they were escaping the kill zone, Munro was shot through the head.
3. Guadalcanal was a “who’s who” of Marine legends in World War II
In addition to Chesty Puller, many Marine legends were at the island. Gunnery Sgt. John Basilone earned his Medal of Honor there. Master Gunnery Sgt. Leland Diamond drove off a Japanese cruiser with a mortar. Brig. Gen. Joe Foss earned a Medal of Honor andbecame a fighter Ace after downing 26 enemy aircraft around the island.
Read the Remaining 4 Facts at Real Clear Defense