75th Anniversary of the Battle of Guadalcanal
On August 7, 1942 US Marines seemed to land virtually unopposed on Guadalcanal. But it took six months to defeat the Japanese troops on the island. They fought their way into the history books in what was to become a pivotal battle in the Pacific theater during WWII.
The Japanese felt invincible. They were about to find out that feeling was wrong. Guadalcanal produced many heroes, and served to absolutely prove that United States Marines could improvise, adapt, and overcome in any situation.
The History learning site noted the importance of Guadalcanal. It was a nasty jungle so tight with vegetation that seeing the enemy was difficult. They wrote,
If the Japanese captured the island, they could cut off the sea route between Australia and America. If the Americans controlled the island, they would be better able to protect Australia from Japanese invasion and they could also protect the Allied build-up in Australia that would act as a springboard for a major assault on the Japanese. Hence the importance of the island.
The Japanese were building an airstrip on the island. The American wrested it away from them and dubbed it “Henderson Field.”
The American forces were left high and dry as the Naval ships that accompanied them had to leave. No supplies, not enough ammunition…yet the Marines ultimately prevailed, and inflicted far more casualties on the enemy than were inflicted on them.
Frank Few had been trapped on the beach with his fellow Marines who all died. As the only survivor, he swam the four miles to American lines. He looked back to see that the Japanese were mutilating the bodies of the dead…he couldn’t let himself think about it as he swam. If he had not been in perfect shape, he would not have made it through the shark infested waters.
John Basilone, Medal of Honor recipient, is a legend in the Marine Corps, and received a MOH for his actions on Guadalcanal. His citation reads:
For extraordinary heroism and conspicuous gallantry in action against enemy Japanese forces, above and beyond the call of duty, while serving with the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division in the Lunga Area. Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, on 24 and 25 October 1942. While the enemy was hammering at the Marines’ defensive positions, Sgt. Basilone, in charge of 2 sections of heavy machineguns, fought valiantly to check the savage and determined assault. In a fierce frontal attack with the Japanese blasting his guns with grenades and mortar fire, one of Sgt. Basilone’s sections, with its guncrews, was put out of action, leaving only 2 men able to carry on. Moving an extra gun into position, he placed it in action, then, under continual fire, repaired another and personally manned it, gallantly holding his line until replacements arrived. A little later, with ammunition critically low and the supply lines cut off, Sgt. Basilone, at great risk of his life and in the face of continued enemy attack, battled his way through hostile lines with urgently needed shells for his gunners, thereby contributing in large measure to the virtual annihilation of a Japanese regiment. His great personal valor and courageous initiative were in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.
It was a grueling 6 month battle, the place where heroes are made and men are lost. Where one man who can’t use his hands but could see guided the man who couldn’t see but could use his hands and used their machine gun to kill all the enemies coming at them.
Americans lost 1,600 men in the battle, the Japanese lost 24,000. Some Americans died of Malaria and other jungle born disease. But the airfield belonged to the United States, and the Japanese were solidly defeated. It was literally a pivotal part of WWII.