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Guadalcanal. Raising the Colors on Guadalcanal after the initial landings, circa 7 August 1942.

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Raising the Colors on Guadalcanal after the initial landings, circa 7 August 1942.

8 months to the day after the sneak attack on Pearl harbor, 11,000 Marines landed on Guadalcanal after a lengthy naval and air bombardment. The landing was not contested by the Japanese and the airfield was secured that first day.


Japanese Navy Type 1 land attack planes (later nicknamed "Betty") fly low through anti-aircraft gunfire during a torpedo attack on U.S. Navy ships maneuvering between Guadalcanal and Tulagi in the morning of 8 August 1942.


The night of the 21st of August was the scene of another "Banzai" attack against Henderson Field. l,000 Japanese ran screaming into the Marine positions and 800 were killed before morning.


The battle for the island continued with the Americans landing troops and supplies during daylight hours and the Japanese doing the same after dark. This procedure the Japanese used with ships (mostly destroyers) shuttling troops in at night became known to the Marines as "the Tokyo Express."


Heavy tropical downpours at Guadalcanal all but flood out a Marine camp near Henderson Field, and the field as well. Marines' damp clothing and bedding contributed to the heavy incidence of tormenting skin infections and fungal disorders.


The "Tokyo Express" dropped off another 6,000 troops and on the 13th of September, 3,500 of them hit the south perimeter of the airfield. This area was defended by the 1st Marine Raider Battalion. They were dug in on a ridge and bore the brunt of wave after wave of "banzai" attacks.


On 11 October, U.S. Navy surface ships took a hand in stopping the "Tokyo Express," the nickname that had been given to Admiral Tanaka's almost nightly reinforcement forays. A covering force of five cruisers and five destroyers, got word that many ships were approaching Guadalcanal. The mission was to protect an approaching reinforcement convoy.


Alerted by a scout plane from the flagship, San Francisco, and later confirmed by radar contacts, the Americans opened fire before the Japanese, who had no radar, knew of their presence. One enemy destroyer sank immediately, two cruisers were badly damaged, one, the Furutaka, later foundered, and the remaining cruiser and destroyer turned away from the inferno of American fire. Scott's own force was punished by enemy return fire which damaged two cruisers and two destroyers. Later, flyers spotted two of the reinforcement destroyer escorts leaving and sank them both. The Battle of Cape Esperance could be counted an American naval victory, one sorely needed at the time.


The departure of the enemy naval force marked a period in which substantial reinforcements reached the island. The headquarters of the 2d Marines had finally found transport space to come up from Espiritu Santo and in late October, the 1st and 2d Battalions relieved the well-blooded 3d, which took up the Tulagi duties.


A M1918 155mm howitzer is fired by artillery crewmen of the 11th Marines in support of ground forces attacking the enemy.


Between August and November of 1942, the seemingly irresistible advance of the Japanese collided head-on with the scanty forces which the United States could throw in their path. By the end of November, the enemy had been halted on the ground, turned back at sea, and virtually driven from the air above Guadalcanal.


After 7 August 1942, when U.S. Marines opened the assault, the Japanese never again advanced beyond the Pacific positions which they held at that time. Their succeeding movements throughout the war were always to the rear.


On January 3rd 1943, Japanese headquarters conceded defeat and ordered the evacuation of their remaining troops from Guadalcanal and on the 7th the last of the defeated Japanese left the island via destroyers. They left 25,000 dead on the island and between 600 and 900 pilots in the sea.