The Guadalcanal Campaign, also known as the Battle of Guadalcanal and codenamed Operation Watchtower by Allied forces, was fought between August 7, 1942 and February 9, 1943 on and around the island of Guadalcanal in the Pacific theatre of World War II. It was part of the Allied strategic plan to protect the convoy routes between the US, Australia, and New Zealand. Launched a few months after the Kokoda Track campaign, it was the second major offensive by Allied forces against the Empire of Japan.
On August 7, 1942, Allied forces, predominantly American, landed on the islands of Guadalcanal, Tulagi, and Florida in the southern Solomon Islands with the objective of denying their use by the Japanese as bases to threaten supply routes between the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand.
At 09:10 on August 7, General Vandegrift and 11,000 U.S. Marines came ashore on Guadalcanal between Koli Point and Lunga Point. Advancing towards Lunga Point, they encountered no resistance except for “tangled” rain forest, and halted for the night about 1,000 meters from the Lunga Point airfield. The next day, again against little resistance, the Marines advanced all the way to the Lunga River and secured the airfield by 16:00 on August 8.
The Battle of the Tenaru, sometimes called the Battle of the Ilu River or the Battle of Alligator Creek, took place August 21, 1942. In the battle, U.S. Marines, under the overall command of U.S. Major General Alexander Vandegrift, repulsed an assault by the “First Element” of the “Ichiki” Regiment, under the command of Japanese Colonel Kiyonao Ichiki. The Marines were defending the Lunga perimeter, which guarded Henderson Field, which was captured by the Allies in landings on Guadalcanal on August 7. Ichiki’s unit was sent to Guadalcanal in response to the Allied landings with the mission of recapturing the airfield and driving the Allied forces off the island.
The battle was the first of three separate major land offensives by the Japanese in the Guadalcanal campaign. The Japanese realized after Tenaru that Allied forces on Guadalcanal were much greater in number than originally estimated and sent larger forces to the island for their subsequent attempts to retake Henderson Field.
The Battle of Edson’s Ridge, also known as the Battle of the Bloody Ridge, Battle of Raiders Ridge, and Battle of the Ridge took place September 12–14, 1942. In the battle, U.S. Marines, under the overall command of U.S. Major General Alexander Vandegrift, repulsed an attack by the Japanese 35th Infantry Brigade, under the command of Japanese Major General Kiyotake Kawaguchi. The Marines were defending the Lunga perimeter that guarded Henderson Field. Underestimating the strength of Allied forces on Guadalcanal—about 12,000—Kawaguchi’s 6,000 soldiers conducted several nighttime frontal assaults on the U.S. defenses. The main Japanese assault occurred around Lunga ridge south of Henderson Field, manned by troops from several U.S. Marine Corps units, primarily troops from the 1st Raider and 1st Parachute Battalions under U.S. Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel Merritt A. Edson. Although the Marine defenses were almost overrun, Kawaguchi’s attack was ultimately defeated, with heavy losses for the Japanese.
The Battle for Henderson Field, also known as the Battle of Henderson Field or Battle of Lunga Point by the Japanese, took place October 23 – October 26, 1942 on and around Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands. The battle was a land, sea, and air battle of the Pacific campaign of World War II and was fought between the Imperial Japanese Army and Navy and Allied (mainly United States (U.S.) Marine and U.S. Army) forces. The battle was the third of the three major land offensives conducted by the Japanese during the Guadalcanal campaign.
In the battle, U.S. Marine and Army forces, under the overall command of Major General Alexander Vandegrift, repulsed an attack by the Japanese 17th Army, under the command of Japanese Lieutenant General Harukichi Hyakutake. Hyakutake’s soldiers conducted numerous assaults over three days at various locations around the Lunga perimeter, but all were repulsed with heavy losses for the Japanese attackers.
The battle was the last serious ground offensive conducted by Japanese forces on Guadalcanal. After an attempt to deliver further reinforcements failed during the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal in November 1942, Japan conceded defeat in the struggle for the island and evacuated many of its remaining forces by the first week of February 1943.