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Second World War History > Battle of Guadalcanal Timeline

Battle of Guadalcanal Timeline

The Battle of Guadalcanal prevented the Japanese from establishing an all-important airfield in the Solomons.

Authored By Staff Writer

The forgotten Guadalcanal Island in the Solomon Island chain held little to no value to most before World War 2. However, Japanese expansion in the Pacific had threatened much of the stability in the Pacific region. To the south, Australia was attempting to prevent an all-out invasion from the Empire of Japan, a power whose reach began to encompass more than was deemed comfortable for the island nation. Additionally, the United States maintained several key interests in the area and, chief among these, was ally Australia. As such, forces of the United States and the British Royal Navy, as well as her commonwealth forces, all attempted to stem the tide of Japanese aggression. Guadalcanal would now become an important staging area for both sides.


Should the Japanese maintain control of the island, they would construct an airfield suitable for fighters and bombers alike. These systems could them target and generally wreak havoc on the Australian mainland in preparation for an all-out invasion. Additionally, this forward staging area could be used by the Japanese Army and Navy to harass and ultimately disrupt vital shipping lanes between the United States and Australia, placing a stranglehold on the island nation.


Conversely, American control of Guadalcanal could net an important forward airfield to help in bring the fight to the enemy. It became important for the US Navy and Marines to secure the region island by island in what became known as "Island Hopping". This method would ensure that the US could bring numbers to strength and forces to concentrated bear against a reeling foe, ultimately resulting in the enemy's destruction.


By May of 1942, the Japanese forces in the Solomons had increased to noticeable numbers. Australian reconnaissance showed additional forces beginning construction of an airfield at Guadalcanal. Upon receiving the word of the Japanese intent, American General Douglas MacArthur knew the dangers and acted in response.


Having played mostly on the defensive up to this point in the Pacific Theater, American forces - led by the US Marines and supported by the US Navy - landed on Guadalcanal on August 7th, 1942. In all, some 19,000 Marines were sent ashore at points near Lunga Point and Tulagi. Virtually unopposed, the Marines secured the airfield under construction and killed, captured or drove the Japanese into the jungle. Some 1,500 Japanese soldiers at Tulagi were also killed. With the airfield in American control, the field was officially names "Henderson Field" by its new owners. The first of thirty-one aircraft, this a Grumman F4F Wildcat fighter, landed on the field on August 20th. Wildcats were later joined by a smattering of Douglas SBD Dauntless dive-bombers and these forces would form the vital air cover needed to retain control of Henderson Field.


On August 18th, a Japanese ground force number about 6,000 troops attempted to storm the airfield and retake it. In their way stood 2,000 determined US Marines utilizing whatever defense they could. Against a fanatical Japanese enemy, these Marines made short work of the waves of soldiers attempting to break the defensive perimeter. By the end of it all, this Japanese force was completed obliterated.


Despite further attempts to fortify their forces near or around Guadalcanal, the Japanese suffered more and more losses. Of the 8,000 troops landed on September 13th, 1,200 of these were killed in one night of fighting alone. Reinforcement from the Japanese mainland soon took its tool but numbers of foot soldiers still numbered some 22,000 men to 23,000 Marines plus several thousand reinforcements at Tulagi. Allied forces were funneled to the island by way of Australia.


Japanese battlecruisers attempted a bombardment of the airfield that largely succeeded in destroying aircraft, exploding fuel stores and catering the airfield itself. However, their ground forces failed, yet again, to take the field proper and suffered thousands of more in casualties all the while US troops were learning their deadly trade "on the job" and becoming a foe to be reckoned with.


After a failed delivery of 11,000 troops resulting in 6,000 being lost in transit (the transports were sunk by the Allies), the US Marines now pressed on the enemy. The defensive perimeter had now widened considerably against a tired and beaten enemy. Losses soon became insurmountable to the point that, by January of 1943, the signal was given by the Japanese High Command to evacuate all forces from Guadalcanal. In the first week of February, 11,000 Japanese soldiers returned to friendly territory, leaving thousands of their dead on the lost island. To add to that tally were some 800 damaged or destroyed aircraft and at least 65 naval vessels. By this time, US forces had increased to 50,000 ground troops further backed by potent naval warships and air cover.


Upon the Japanese removal of the island, American forces closed in on remaining pockets and ensured compete victory.


The Battle of Guadalcanal was officially over.

Text ©2006-2012 www.SecondWorldWarhistory.com • All Rights Reserved • No Reproduction Permitted
Total Battle of Guadalcanal Events: 29

1942
Wednesday
July 1st - July 31st

The Allies received word on the construction of a strategic Japanese airfield (Henderson Field) on the island of Guadalcanal, part of the Solomon Islands. As such, plans are set in motion to curtail construction of the endeavor. US Navy and Marine forces spring into action.

1942
Thursday
August 6th

US Navy and Marine forces position themselves near Guadalcanal.

1942
Friday
August 7th

Amphibious forces spearheaded by the United States Marines begin against the Japanese-held island of Guadalcanal.

1942
Saturday
August 8th

The amphibious landings largely conclude by this date.

1942
Saturday
August 8th

By the end of the day and facing next to no opposition, the US soldiers capture and secure Henderson Field.

1942
Saturday
August 8th

Naval battles ultimately ensure between the Imperial Japanese Navy and the United States Navy for control of Guadalcanal.

1942
Saturday
August 8th

Japanese bombers attack US forces at Henderson Field.

1942
Saturday
August 8th

Just outside of Guadalcanal, the islands of Tulagi and Gavutu fall to the Allies.

1942
Tuesday
August 18th

A Japanese counteroffensive sees an amphibious landing take place at Taivu. This landing zone is just 32 miles east of Henderson Field.

1942
Thursday
August 20th

The first of thirty-one US fighter aircraft arrive at Henderson Field.

1942
Friday
August 21st

Japanese ground forces attempt attacks against Henderson Field and American forces at Tenaru. The Japanese troops make little headway and are themselves encircled.

1942
Saturday
August 22nd

The Japanese attackers at Henderson Field and Tenaru are ultimately destroyed, forcing Colonel Ichiki to commit ritual suicide.

1942
Sunday
August 23rd

The Battle of the Eastern Solomons begins.

1942
Monday
August 24th

The US Navy claims a Japanese aircraft carrier. The carrier is attacked and sunk.

1942
Monday
September 7th

US Marines enact a surprise amphibious landing against Japanese strongholds at Taivu.

1942
Tuesday
September 8th

The US Marine landings result in the destruction of vital Japanese supplies and the recovery of important operational data.

1942
Saturday
September 12th

Some 6,000 Japanese Army personnel are used in a final thrust against the Americans at Henderson field. Among the attackers is the Japanese 35th Brigade.

1942
Sunday
September 13th

Japanese forces come within a half-a-mile of Henderson Field before being stopped and, ultimately, driven back.

1942
Monday
September 14th

At the end of the Henderson Field offensive, the fanatical Japanese have lost at least 1,200 soldiers in the fighting.

1942
Tuesday
September 15th - October 7th

The Japanese begin building up their forces to reclaim Henderson Field.

1942
Saturday
October 10th

Japanese reinforcements are shipped to the west and disembarked at Tenaro, some 20 miles from American forces.

1942
Friday
October 23rd

Some 20,000 Japanese fighters, including elements of the 2nd Division and 17th Army, undertake a new offensive under the direction of General Maruyama.

1942
Monday
October 26th

After some 3,500 casualties are netted against the Japanese attackers, the offensive stalls and is ultimately called off.

1942
Sunday
November 1st - January 31st

Neither force can claim much action during this span. In time, US forces number some 58,000 troops while Japan can claim 20,000-strong.

1943
Sunday
January 10th

The decision to abandon Guadalcanal is made by Japanese autorities.

1943
Sunday
January 17th

The Japanese begin to withdraw their battered army units from Guadalcanal.

1943
Monday
February 1st

A massive evacuation effort sees some 11,000 Japanese personnel moved fom Tenaro, Gaudalcanal.

1943
Sunday
February 7th

The last remnants of the Japanese Army on Guadalcanal is evacuated from the island.

1943
Sunday
February 7th

Gaudalcanal officially falls to the Americans.
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