United States Army in World War II: The War in the Pacific

Guadalcanal: The First Offensive

by John Miller, Jr.

. . . To Those Who Served

Table of Contents



Chapter 1: The Strategic Decision

Allied Organization and Missions in the Pacific Theater—Japanese Advances—The Problem of Command and Strategy—The Decision

Chapter 2: Plans for Invasion

Air and Naval Plans—Landing Force Plans—Final Preparations

Chapter 3: The Invasion

The Approach—The Northern Attack—The Invasion of Guadalcanal—Unloading—The Enemy Strikes Back

Chapter 4: Consolidating the Beachhead

Construction and Defense of the Airfield—Action on the Ilu River—The Battle of the Eastern Solomons—Supply

Chapter 5: Increasing Air and Ground Action

Air Power and Supply—The Counteroffensive, 12–14 September—Reinforcements—Actions on the Matanikau

Chapter 6: The October Counteroffensive

Japanese Strategy—The U.S. Situation—Air and Naval Preparations—The Ground Offensive—The Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands

Chapter 7: Decision at Sea

Reinforcements—The Naval Battle of Guadalcanal

Chapter 8: Advances toward Kokumbona

Operations 1–11 November—Push Toward the Poha

Chapter 9: The Situation in December

General Patch Takes Command—Troop Strength—Air Power—The American Situation on Guadalcanal—The Japanese Situation

Chapter 10: The December Offensive

Mount Austen, 15–30 December—The Capture of Hill 27

Chapter 11: XIV Corps’ First January Offensive: The West Front

Capturing of the Galloping Horse—The Coastal Offensive

Chapter 12: XIV Corps’ First January Offensive: The South Flank

Taking of the Sea Horse—Reduction of the Gifu

Chapter 13: Fighting on Guadalcanal

The Americans—The Measure of the Enemy—Logistics

Chapter 14: XIV Corps’ Second January Offensive

Plans and Preparations—The 25th Division’s Advance to Kokumbona—CAM Division’s Offensive—Final Push to the Poha

Chapter 15: Final Operations on Guadalcanal

Japanese Plans—Pursuit of the Enemy—Summary

Epilogue: Occupation of the Russells

Appendix A: Letter from General Harmon to Admiral Ghormley, 6 October 1942

Appendix B: General Patch’s Letter of Instructions to General Collins, 5 January 1943

Appendix C: XIV Corps Field Order No. 1, 16 January 1943

Appendix D: A Japanese Analysis of American Combat Methods on Guadalcanal

Appendix E: U.S. Army Battle Participation List for Guadalcanal

Guide to Footnotes

Bibliographical Note




1. Organization of South Pacific Forces at the Inception of Task One

2. Organization of Forces for Task One

3. Organization of Landing Force for Task One


1. The Approach, 7 August 1942

2. Landings in the Tulagi Area, 7 August 1942

3. Matanikau Action, 19 August 1942

4. Ilu Action, 21 August 1942

5. Tasimboko Raid, 8 September 1942

6. Matanikau Action, 24–27 1942

7. Matanikau Offensive, 7–9 October 1942

8. Matanikau–Lunga Front, 9 October 1942

9. Push Toward Kokumbona, 1–4 November 1942

10. Koli Point, 2–3 November 1942

11. Advance to the Matanikau, 1st Battalion, 35th Infantry, 12–16 January 1943

12. Gifu Positions, 10 January 1943

13. Pocketing the Gifu, 18–19 January 1943

14. Reduction of the Gifu, 22–23 January 1943

15. Russell Islands

Maps I-XXI Are in the Maps chapter at the end

I. The Pacific Areas, 1 August 1942

II. Strategic Situation, South and Southwest Pacific, July 1942

III. The Target Area

IV. Guadalcanal and Florida Islands

V. Landing on Guadalcanal and Capture of the Airfield, 7–8 August 1942

VI. Bloody Ridge, 12–14 September 1942

VII. Japanese Counteroffensive, 23–26 October 1942

VIII. Koli Point, 4–9 November 1942

IX. Push Toward the Poha, 18–20 November 1942

X. Ble Area, December 1942-January 1943

XI. Mount Austen, 18–27 December 1942

XII. Capture of Hill 27, 2 January 1943

XIII. XIV Corps Plan, First January Offensive

XIV. Galloping Horse, 10 January 1943

XV. Galloping Horse, 12–13 January 1943

XVI. 2nd Marine Division Advance, 13–18 January 1943

XVII. Capture of the Sea Horse, 8-January 1943

XVIII. XIV Corps Advance, 10–18 January 1943

XIX. XIV Corps Attack, 22 January 1943

XX. Capture of Kokumbona and Advance to Poha River, 23–25 January 1943

XXI. Final Phase, 26 January-9 February 1943


Buka Island Airfield—The Battle of Midway—Distribution of U.S. Naval Forces in the Pacific—Maj. Gen. Millard F. Harmon—Guadalcanal’s North Coast Corridor—Marine Commanders on Guadalcanal—Old-Type Landing Craft—Old-Type Landing Craft—Tulagi Island—Landings on Florida Island—Gavutu and Tanambogo—The Southeast End of Tulagi—Marine Landings on Guadalcanal—Bridging the Tenaru River—The Lunga Point Airfield—Japanese Equipment—Japanese Equipment—Supplies Accumulating at Red Beach—Enemy Air Attacks on the Transports—Improving the Lunga Airfield—Improving the Lunga Airfield—Fire Support—Fire Support—Captain Martin Clemens—An Improvised Ferry—After the Ilu River Battle—After the Ilu River Battle—Henderson Field—Henderson Field—Bomber Strikes on the Airfield—Bomber Strikes on the Airfield—Bloody Ridge—Bloody Ridge—Admiral Turner and General Vandegrift—Supplies and reinforcements—Supplies and reinforcements—Marine Mission to the Matanikau—Positions on Hill 67—Reinforcements Landed at Lunga Point—Japanese Attacks on the Airfield—American Defense Positions—Aftermath of the 13–14 October Attack on the Lunga Perimeter—Aftermath of the 13–14 October Attack on the Lunga Perimeter—Wreckage on the Matanikau Sand Bar—Wreckage on the Matanikau Sand Bar—Strengthening the Lunga Perimeter—Strengthening the Lunga Perimeter—The Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands—The Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands—Admiral William F. Halsey—The Site for Another Airfield—The Site for Another Airfield—Strategic Air Actions—Strategic Air Actions—Landing of the 182nd Regimental Combat Team—Landing of the 182nd Regimental Combat Team—Japanese Transports Beached and Burning 14 November—Japanese Transports Beached and Burning 14 November—Opening the Kokumbona Offensive—Opening the Kokumbona Offensive—The Point Cruz Trap—Carlson’s Raiders, Landing at Aola Bay—Carlson’s Raiders, Landing at Aola Bay—The Ravine in Front of Hills 80–81—Relief for the Marines and a Change of Command—Relief for the Marines and a Change of Command—Americal Division Reinforcements Landed 8 December—Americal Division Reinforcements Landed 8 December—Supply Troubles—Supply Troubles—Bridges and Roads—Bridges and Roads—Mount Austen’s Dominant Position—Mount Austen’s Dominant Position—Supply Movement to Mount Austen—Supply Movement to Mount Austen—The Gifu—The Mount Austen Battle Area—The First January Offensive Zone—The First January Offensive Zone—Casualty Movement—Casualty Movement—The Galloping Horse—27th Infantry Area—Final Attacks on the Galloping Horse—Final Attacks on the Galloping Horse—The Sea Horse—The “Pusha Maru”—The Envelopment of the Sea Horse—Capture of the Sea Horse—Japanese Positions in the Gifu—Surrender Broadcasts to the Gifu—35th Infantry Troops Leave the line—Employment of Tanks—Transportation Problems—Transportation Problems—Construction Equipment—Construction Equipment—Fire Support for the Second January Offensive—Fire Support for the Second January Offensive—The Area of Advance from the Snake—U.S. Leaders Inspecting the Battle Zone—A Japanese Coastal Position—Terrain of the Battle for Kokumbona—The Northwest Coast of Guadalcanal—Cape Esperance—Cape Esperance