Japan was on the march, the Allies were reeling -- and the two forces clashed in the South Pacific. How much do you know about the Battle of Guadalcanal?
What is Guadalcanal?
Guadalcanal is a 2,000-square-mile island in the southwest Pacific Ocean. During World War II, it became a scene of some of the conflict's most ferocious fighting between Japanese and Allied forces.
What was the codename for the Battle of Guadalcanal?
The codename for the action was Operation Watchtower. At first, the codename applied only to the capture of one small island, but eventually, it was used as a moniker for the entire campaign.
As the operation commenced, securing Guadalcanal was the primary objective of the Allies.
Guadalcanal eventually became the Allies' primary target. But as the battle started, they were more concerned about the nearby Santa Cruz islands, and another island, named Tulagi.
Why did Japanese patrol aircraft fail to see the invasion fleet as it approached Guadalcanal?
There were severe storms around the islands as the Allies approached, so visibility was very poor. This turned out to be a tremendous advantage for the Allies, who achieved a degree of surprise.
As the battle began, the Allies began attacking several islands at once. How did they fare against the Japanese soldiers on Guadalcanal?
The Allies immediately captured the Japanese airfield thanks to little enemy resistance. Marines attacking the other islands, however, encountered a determined enemy.
Why did the Japanese give up their prized airfield on Guadalcanal without a fight?
Japanese leaders were aware that the Allies were coming to the area, but they figured it was a short-term raid. Instead, they were wrong -- the Allies took the airfield and set up a perimeter around it.
When the Japanese began constructing an airfield on Guadalcanal, it meant that their planes could suddenly threaten which country?
A Japanese airfield on Guadalcanal was bad news for the Allies. It meant that Japan could attack the Australian mainland and threaten Allied supply routes, a situation that was untenable for all Allied countries.
Soon after landing, many Marines were afflicted with which health problem?
Roughly 20 percent of the Marines suffered from severe dysentery. Plagued by diarrhea, many men struggled to contribute to the battle efforts. Sickness took a terrible toll on forces from both sides.
In August 1942, which force launched a surprise attack to begin the Battle of Guadalcanal?
In late summer of 1942, U.S. Marines were ordered to stop the Japanese from using the Solomon Islands (including Guadalcanal) as a military base of operations. The Marines launched a surprise attack to begin the battle.
How long did the Guadalcanal Campaign last?
The Marines had their work cut out for them. The Japanese were partially surprised by the initial Allied attack, but they decided to stand and fight the Allies. The battle raged for half a year.
Why was the battle a logistical nightmare for both sides?
The battle took place on remote islands that were near the limits of the supply lines for both sides. The distance made it difficult for either side to send supplies and reinforcements.
Why did Japan want to deploy dozens of warplanes to the airfield on Guadalcanal?
Japan wanted to keep expanding its war gains by sending its ships farther and farther from the homeland. To do so, they needed air cover for naval vessels.
Which force did NOT take part in the battle as part of the Allied attack?
Canadian forces weren't present at this particular battle. The Allies were made up mostly of soldiers from the U.S, U.K, Australia, Solomon Islands, Fiji and Tonga.
Guadalcanal was first major Allied offensive in the Pacific Theater.
After the Battles of Midway and Coral Sea, the Japanese were on their heels. Guadalcanal was the first real shot that the Allies had in terms of an offensive operation.
After capturing the Japanese airfield, what name did the Allies give to their prize?
The proud Marines that captured the landing strip decided to name it Henderson Field. The name honored Major Lofton Henderson, who had been killed at the Battle of Midway two months earlier.
After World War II, Sealark Channel (near Guadalcanal) became known as what?
Sealark Channel was a peaceful-sounding name, and it was ill-suited to the destruction that occurred there during World War II. So many ships sank here (on both sides) that the passage became known as Ironbottom Sound.
What was the "Tokyo Express"?
The Japanese were fearful of Allied planes attacking their ships during daylight hours. To counter this threat, they began making fast overnight shipping runs for troops and supplies, a process that the Allies called the "Tokyo Express."
During the campaign, the two sides engaged in the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands. What happened to the Allies at this battle?
The Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands was a ferocious naval fight. The Americans lost the USS Hornet, one of their aircraft carriers, and another (USS Enterprise) incurred major damage.
The Japanese intended to eventually use their foothold on Guadalcanal to attack which area?
The Japanese were nothing if not ambitious. They wanted to push their war gains as far as possible, and with a base in Guadalcanal, they hoped to eventually attack Australia, a major Allied country.
Early in the battle, a group of 25 Marines set out on what became known as the Goettge Patrol, which hoped to convince some Japanese troops to surrender. What happened during the patrol?
Instead of finding an enemy that was willing to give up, the patrol encountered fierce resistance. Almost all of the Marines were killed or wounded, which prompted a major attack from the Allies a week later.
During the battle, the Allies lost more aircraft than the Japanese.
The Japanese lost more aircraft than the Allies, but in the end, the statistics were nearly a wash. The Japanese lost 638 planes; the Allies, 615.
How did the concept of "Bushido" affect Japanese troop behavior?
Japanese troops adhered to the concept of Bushido, a set of guidelines for warriors. Rather than surrender, many chose to fight to the death, a fact that made the battle even more treacherous for U.S. soldiers.
Eventual president John F. Kennedy was aboard a Navy vessel that was sunk attempting to do what?
Kennedy was on a PT-109 torpedo boat that attempted a poorly planned and executed attack on supply ships in the Tokyo Express. The boat accidentally veered in front of another Allied ship and was sunk, killing two sailors.
Why did the U.S. military avoid releasing casualty figures from the campaign?
Allied losses in the battle were staggering -- too high for public consumption, lest the figures become demoralizing. It wasn't until years later that U.S. officials began acknowledging just how bloody the battle really was.
By December 1942, the Japanese resorted to what technique to deliver supplies to their starving troops?
The Allies were clamping down on Japan's supplies in the area, forcing the Japanese to try desperate measures for supply delivery. They attempted to use submarines, but the tactic was unsuccessful.
How many casualties did the Allies suffer during the battle?
During six months of fighting, the Allies suffered more than 14,000 casualties. That included about 7,000 dead. The Allies also lost nearly 30 ships.
How many casualties did the Japanese absorb during the campaign?
The Allies incurred large numbers of casualties during the battle, but the Japanese fared far worse. About 30,000 Japanese personnel died, and they lost nearly 40 ships.
What was the ultimate outcome of the Allied victory in Guadalcanal?
The Allied victory brought Japanese expansionism to a halt. It also gave the Allies a tremendous strategic advantage that helped them turn the tide of the Pacific War.
During the battle, most Japanese soldiers died from which causes?
Japanese soldiers had it rough during Guadalcanal, and most of them died from non-combat challenges. Sickness and starvation caused many thousands of deaths.
After Guadalcanal, the Allies began an island-hopping campaign to push back Japanese forces. How long did it take the Allies to reach the Japanese mainland?
It took a three-year slog for the Allies to complete their island-hopping campaign. Near the end of this campaign, America dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese mainland, quickly ending the war.
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