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Guadalcanal, Tulagi and Gavutu: American Perseverance in the Summer of '42
Townhall.com ^ | August 15, 2012 | Austin Bay

Posted on 08/15/2012 5:06:24 AM PDT by Kaslin

The Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese surprise air strike on Pearl Harbor and subsequent attacks on American bases in the Philippines dealt U.S. naval and air forces a savage material blow.

For six months, Japan maintained what military analysts call "the strategic initiative." Japan acted, the U.S. and its allies reacted. Japanese forces, with their fast aircraft carriers providing the offensive muscle, seized territory and threatened allied lines of communication in the central, western and southern Pacific. Japanese commanders determined when and where major combat action would occur.

The heady, fast-paced and sensational days of Japanese offensive superiority lasted until the first week of June 1942, when the U.S. Navy skillfully ambushed an advancing Japanese fleet near Midway Island. The Battle of Midway ended on June 7 with four Imperial Japanese Navy carriers on the sea floor and the rest of the battered Midway invasion fleet retreating west toward Japan.

The strategic initiative had shifted. Where and when major offensive action occurred became American decisions.

U.S. intelligence discovered that Japanese troops were building an airfield on the island of Guadalcanal, in the Solomon Islands east of New Guinea. Guadalcanal and its small neighboring islands, Tulagi and Gavutu-Tanambogo, became the first offensive where.

Seventy years ago this month became the when. The 70th anniversary of the Guadalcanal invasion may not seem particularly significant, until we realize that by the 80th anniversary, the World War II generation will be gone.

On Aug. 7, 1942, the 1st Marine Division waded ashore on Guadalcanal and the Japanese garrison disappeared into the island's jungle. The Marines 1st Parachute Battalion hit Gavutu-Tanambogo. First Raider Battalion and 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment landed on Tulagi.

The U.S. had previously struck back at Japanese territory with carrier air strikes on Japanese-held islands and the spectacular Doolittle air raid on Tokyo in April 1942. The Doolittle raid was a truly sensational operation, but a psychological counter to Japan's military and political successes, not a decisive military response.

At Guadalcanal, Tulagi and Gavutu, however, America was engaged in an actual take-back.

Take-back proved to be anything but heady and fast-paced. The Marine's who captured Guadalcanal's airfield (and renamed it Henderson Field) quickly discovered the island was a tropical morass of mud, jungle, oppressive heat and insects. In his official history of the battle, Samuel Eliot Morison described the island as the "happy hunting grounds of the malaria carrying mosquito," with vegetation that "gives the island a strange leprous appearance."

On Tulagi and Gavutu, however, the Japanese didn't flee. They resisted, fiercely. The troops on Tulagi were rikusentai -- Special Naval Landing Forces. First Raider's commanding officer, Lt. Col. Merritt A. Edson, had observed Japanese soldiers fighting in China, so stiff resistance didn't surprise him. As retired Marine Col. Joseph Alexander noted in his book "Edson's Raiders" (Naval Institute Press, 2001), the Raiders were prepared for night attacks and camouflaged log-and-coral fortifications.

"Yet there was one dramatic element of the Japanese defense of Tulagi," Alexander wrote, that neither Edson "nor anyone else in the Pacific anticipated. The Japanese defenders of the small islands, from Tulagi and Gavutu to Tarawa and Saipan, would fight to the death -- or commit suicide -- rather than surrender. ... The battle for the small islands of Tulagi and Gavutu ... provided a sobering foretaste of the battles to come across the Central Pacific."

Alexander could have added other Pacific island bloodbaths. Japanese defenders on Tulagi utilized caves and conducted local counterattacks in a manner that prefigured their bitter defense of Okinawa.

The Japanese Navy surprised U.S. naval forces near Guadalcanal on Aug. 8. The U.S. Navy temporarily withdrew, leaving the Marines short on heavy weapons and supplies. Japan ultimately reinforced the island. Subsequent Japanese Army attacks on Henderson Field were as ferocious as the death-fight on Tulagi.

The battle for Guadalcanal would last six months, until February 1943. It was a hard slog, anything but sensational. Securing victory over Japan would take another two-and-a-half years of slug-it-out perseverance. Japanese fanatical resistance exacted heavy casualties, which America accepted as the price of victory in the Pacific. Only the sensationally destructive atomic bomb attacks of August 1945 prevented the final battle for Tokyo from being a Tulagi and Okinawa writ large.


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Editorial; Foreign Affairs
KEYWORDS: greatestgeneration; japan; usa; worldwarii

1 posted on 08/15/2012 5:06:31 AM PDT by Kaslin
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To: Kaslin

Worthwhile reading for those questioning the need for amphibious expertise in this day and age, particularly given the strategic “pivot” toward WESTPAC now ongoing.

TC


2 posted on 08/15/2012 5:22:21 AM PDT by Pentagon Leatherneck
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To: Kaslin
I get up early every morning to read Homer's WWII plus 70 Years.

When I read the posts of the ABO and GOPe drama queens whining how the country will be utterly destroyed by 4 more years of Obama all I can think is get a grip.

The country survived the Great Depression, WW2, the riots of the 60’s, Stagflation in the 70’,s the Cold War the deficits of the 90’s..the list goes on and on. I truly think that anyone believing the country cant survive 4 years of Obama should reread some of the history of this great land

3 posted on 08/15/2012 5:22:36 AM PDT by montanajoe (Blame Flame Shame or Beg I won't vote for R/R)
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To: montanajoe
.

Neptunes Inferno

http://www.amazon.com/Neptunes-Inferno-U-S-Navy-Guadalcanal/dp/055380670X


.
4 posted on 08/15/2012 5:49:34 AM PDT by Patton@Bastogne (Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin will DEFEAT the Obama-Romney Socialist Gay-Marriage Axis of Evil)
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To: montanajoe

Four more years of 0bambi will result in dictatorship, since he’ll never step down willingly. By the same token, I am not convinced the Romney will be much better.

Going over a cliff at 100 MPH vs. 75 MPH - the results are the same.


5 posted on 08/15/2012 6:07:09 AM PDT by NTHockey (Rules of engagement #1: Take no prisoners)
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To: NTHockey
He will step down either voluntarily or involuntarily I have faith the American people will make sure of that.

I believe the country will survive but Romney has the potential to do much more damage than Obama especially to the Supreme Court

6 posted on 08/15/2012 6:33:00 AM PDT by montanajoe (Blame Flame Shame or Beg I won't vote for R/R)
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To: Kaslin

Seeing footage of the battles on Ken Burns’ documentary (much more than I’d ever seen before, and much less edited than I’d ever seen before); all I can say is, “Lord, Lord, how in the world did the boys manage to do it?” - Daddy was in combat in N. Africa, Sicily, Italy & Germany, and he said that there were times when they didn’t know if they were going to win that war or not.


7 posted on 08/15/2012 6:41:43 AM PDT by Twinkie (John 3:16)
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To: Twinkie
Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition. These soldiers prayed and they fought. The fire in their bellies and their determination to win the war and get home to their loved ones pushed them forward. There was fear and there was doubt, but those GI’s kept going, until they won the war.

The greatest generation...no exaggeration. May God bless America.

8 posted on 08/15/2012 7:08:42 AM PDT by itssme
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To: montanajoe

I believe the country will survive but Romney has the potential to do much more damage than Obama especially to the Supreme Court.

___________________________________________________________

I don’t know what you are smoking but it must be good stuff. I can see how Romneys picks of supreme court justices could be bad but certainly not any worse than Sotomayor or Kagan.

Romneys pick of Ryan has me scratching my head. I like Ryan, I like him a lot, much better than Romney. Why did Romney make such a good conservative choice? I don’t have the answer but maybe, just maybe to show he is really more conservative than he has been given credit for being. I can hope, only time will tell.

I don’t have a lot of time. My four score and 10 are about over. I would like to go down to my grave knowing that the people of this country have seen the light. I would like to know that my children, grand children and great grand children will see good times in a free America.


9 posted on 08/15/2012 7:40:28 AM PDT by JAKraig (Surely my religion is at least as good as yours)
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To: Kaslin
Many, many little heroic actions making one huge heroic result., INMO on of finest examples of American resolve was on display in the South Pacific.


In case any missed this gem,it can be picked up on IMDB.

10 posted on 08/15/2012 9:26:33 AM PDT by oyez ( .Apparently The U.S. CONSTITUTION has been reduced to the consistency of quicksand.)
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To: JAKraig
The problem with Romneys SC picks is that he is likely to get to pick replacements for Kennedy and Scalia. They would never retire if Obama is reelected but they might very well if Romney is elected.

Romney appointed liberal judges in Massachusetts. I don't believe what politicians say I base my opinion on what they have done in the past. Romneys picks will take a slightly conservative court and make it liberal for at least the next 25-30 years.

Remember Clinton did not pick a single SC justice in his second term, at most Obama will get to replace the liberal Ginsburg with another liberal. Romney on the other hand will make the court liberal until long after both of us are gone..hope you like Roberts because that's the best we can hope for from Romney picks and even that is optimistic..

11 posted on 08/15/2012 10:13:54 AM PDT by montanajoe (Blame Flame Shame or Beg I won't vote for R/R)
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To: montanajoe
"I truly think that anyone believing the country cant survive 4 years of Obama should reread some of the history of this great land"

You can remove your head from where the sun never shines and re-read that history yourself.

During all the times you mentioned, America was led by Americans!!

Allowing the reins of leadership to remain in the hands of a demonstrated ANTI-American for four more years because of some kindergartenerish "purity" mindset is not only childish, it is criminally stupid!

A. B. O. / Ryan


12 posted on 08/15/2012 12:08:16 PM PDT by TXnMA ("Allah": Satan's current alias...)
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To: itssme

When they came out of basic training, Daddy always said they were “ready to charge Hell with a bucket of water”. He had some empathy (but no wimpathy) for the plain German soldier; knew they were only there because they were MADE to be by Hitler, but he really had a great deal of contempt for the German officers at that time in part because of the horrible way they treated their own men - also said that those Panzer divisions were tough. - It was a hard time; but they knew they HAD to win that war. - He’d had the advantage of being brought up on a farm, working hard, hunting, camping out for weeks on end living off the land.


13 posted on 08/15/2012 12:10:14 PM PDT by Twinkie (John 3:16)
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To: montanajoe
He will step down either voluntarily or involuntarily I have faith the American people will make sure of that.

You are living in fantasy land if you think obama would step down. Forced out? Your kidding,Right??

14 posted on 08/15/2012 12:13:26 PM PDT by painter (Rebuild The America We love!)
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To: Twinkie
My Dad worked on the manufacturing of gun turrets for the govt. as I recall. My uncle fought at Anzio...house to house fighting. My husband's uncles, both brothers, fought in the Battle of the Bulge. I imagine you heard many an interesting story...my husband heard some interesting stories from his uncles and he treasures the time as a kid to have spent time with them. My Dad and I never had the opportunity to discuss WWII..he died at a young age. When one is young, one never thinks to take the opportunity to ask the questions, never realizing that you may not have an opportunity to do so again. Ah, youth!
15 posted on 08/15/2012 12:20:48 PM PDT by itssme
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To: TXnMA
Criminally stupid ...naw

OTOH voting for liberals and expecting them to be conservative is insane.

16 posted on 08/15/2012 12:25:49 PM PDT by montanajoe (Blame Flame Shame or Beg I won't vote for R/R)
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To: montanajoe
"OTOH voting for liberals and expecting them to be conservative is insane."

No one left on FR expects that.

~~~~~~~BUT...~~~~~~~

Refusing to vote for an AMERICAN "liberal" (in your mind) in order to get rid of a proven anti-American, communist traitor is truly "stuck on stupid".

Stuff your "I'm going to take my 'pure, virgin conservative' vote and go home -- and let the communists have my country" holier-than-thou attitude! I hope your door is the first visited by Øbama's goon squad!

Purists: Stuck... On... Stupid!!!


17 posted on 08/15/2012 1:30:35 PM PDT by TXnMA ("Allah": Satan's current alias...)
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To: TXnMA

I have more faith in this country than you seem to have.

I’ll be a purist, I’ll never vote for Romney.

On the other hand if I can be sure my vote wont be counted as a vote for Romney I’ll probably write in Paul Ryan/Allen West


18 posted on 08/15/2012 3:17:22 PM PDT by montanajoe (Blame Flame Shame or Beg I won't vote for R/R)
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To: itssme

Daddy was never able to talk much about the war; just a sketchy remark every once in a while. He was in combat a long time and had shell shock for most of his life after that. He was able to talk some after he got almost in his eighties. Was at Laiatico, their unit received the Presidential Unit Citation for Laiatico, though I never knew that until much later. At Anzio, he was sent with a group of “commandos” (for lack of a better word) to try to locate and knock out the big German guns that were pounding Anzio beachhead. The Germans had a couple of the guns on a rail car located on railroad tracks; they’d pull them out and shoot, then roll them back in the caves in the Alban mountains. Anzio Annie and another big gun was captured. Daddy’s bunch was cut off from radio contact for several days for secrecy. Things settled down on the beach after that; but it was bad for a while. - He had flashbacks to Laiatico,though, just as real as if he was still in that battle - even into his later years. Lord - Lord - what a price; and no one can understand it but the men and later, their families. - That’s why I have no use for Obama whatsoever - it cost too much for him to piddle away on his big “ideas”.


19 posted on 08/15/2012 7:08:39 PM PDT by Twinkie (John 3:16)
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To: montanajoe

I’m not blaming, shaming or begging. Vote for Ryan/West. Your vote will go for Barack Hussein Obama. You have that right; I’m praying on it for now for myself.


20 posted on 08/15/2012 7:15:19 PM PDT by Twinkie (John 3:16)
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To: Twinkie
The sacrifices those who fought in WW2 were amazing. My dad was headed across the Pacific for the invasion and ended up with the occupation forces in Japan from August 1945 through January 1947. I remember pictures of Hiroshima he took while securing the city ... he died 10 years later.

I don't blame any one individual for wasting the legacy those brave soldiers left us, if I blame anybody, its the baby boomers for their refusal to support our troops in Vietnam which in my opinion started the decline in America we have seen since then. It is kinda ironic how so many of the sons and daughters of the greatest generation turned out to be such weenies and out right cowards. Thank you for your fathers service you have the right to be very proud.

21 posted on 08/15/2012 7:49:11 PM PDT by montanajoe (Blame Flame Shame or Beg I won't vote for R/R)
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To: montanajoe

The Baby Boomers, the damn blubbering Baby Boomers; and the ironic thing about it is that Bill Clinton, the biggest blubberer of them all was able to pull the wool over the eyes of many in that Greatest Generation who were Roosevelt Democrats. They actually excused his draft dodging; and my dad had always detested draft dodgers - but, the Clintons were his babies - and FDR was his Commander-in-Chief, as was Truman.


22 posted on 08/16/2012 4:40:50 AM PDT by Twinkie (John 3:16)
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To: montanajoe
My write-in would be Sarah Palin/ Paul Ryan -- but West is definitely an acceptable substitute...

But -- as indicated -- I will do whatever damages Ø'bozo's chances of reelection the most. Anything else would be treason...

Purism = treason.

23 posted on 08/16/2012 7:50:24 AM PDT by TXnMA ("Allah": Satan's current alias...)
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To: Twinkie
God bless your Daddy, Twinkie, and the men and women like him who fought and suffered.

This vote in November is the most important vote since the Civil War. We had better win this war in November, and oboma must be removed. People must pull together like they did in WWII...that is what I pray for.

Nice talking to you and hearing about your Daddy.

24 posted on 08/16/2012 12:04:36 PM PDT by itssme
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To: itssme

Yes! November! I’m praying to live until that election; then I’ll crawl over broken glass, push a peanut with my nose, crawling over broken glass all the way to town, get in some Panther’s faces if they try to intimidate me, and whatever it takes, to vote against the Mugabe/Stalin wannabe. May the good Lord help us! - I also assure you that I saw through him the first time around; and didn’t fall for any of his jive. - Am nervous about what his minions might pull in order to keep him in POWER!


25 posted on 08/16/2012 2:48:32 PM PDT by Twinkie (John 3:16)
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To: Kaslin

The nightly bombardments from Japanese ships were
bad enough, but the loss of supplies gave real
meaning to the name the Marines gave Guadal...
Starvation Island.

Oooorah, Chesty, Machine Gun John Basilone, and
many others got their chops there.


26 posted on 08/16/2012 2:55:41 PM PDT by tet68 ( " We would not die in that man's company, that fears his fellowship to die with us...." Henry V.)
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To: Twinkie
You're some fighter, and more of what we need here in the Chicago area. I remember learning about obozo the first time when I read a feature article in the Chicago Tribune magazine section about this lover of all that is Abraham Lincoln. It featured a photo of the faux president (senator at the time) sitting on the edge of his desk, with assorted pictures of Abraham Lincoln propped up against the wall all around the room..I first thought who is this guy trying to impress! There were maybe 20 frames pictures of Abraham Lincoln. And so began the rise of the socialist/marxist/communist/revolutionary/sharia law loving thug known as barack oboma. It's interesting how some people have a fine intuition, an ability to pick up on BS and con men. You and I are kindred spirits.
27 posted on 08/16/2012 3:03:21 PM PDT by itssme
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To: TXnMA
I wont vote for a liberal who will replace Scalia and Kennedy with liberal justices. I wont vote for a liberal who IMO will likely come up with some scheme “only a Republican president could achieve” of drastically cutting military spending.

If you consider that treason we don't live in the same universe...

28 posted on 08/16/2012 10:33:56 PM PDT by montanajoe (Blame Flame Shame or Beg I won't vote for R/R)
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