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The Battle of Guadalcanal

December 7, 1941: Imperial Japanese forces turn their war on the Asian mainland to the east and south with simultaneous and astonishing attacks on Pearl Harbor, the Philippines, Wake, Guam, Hong Kong, and the Malay Peninsula.

The rapid southward advance of Japanese armies and naval units forces the hand of Western leaders.  The Japanese momentum must be broken, and so begins a military push on the ground, at sea and in the air that pits Allied forces against the Imperial Japanese.  It is a strategically significant, and altogether fierce, campaign of World War II.

By overrunning the islands of Guadalcanal, Tulagi, and Florida in the southern Solomon Islands, Japanese forces would be denied the opportunity to further threaten the crucial American supply routes between the US, Australia, and New Zealand.  It is a critical mission to the success of the Americans, and the very outcome of the war in the Pacific theatre.

To make this – the first allied offensive in the Pacific – most effectual, the Americans launch a two-pronged attack to clamp down on the enemy.  US forces concurrently attack the Japanese on the Solomon Islands and the island of Guadalcanal.  

The initial Allied landings overwhelmed the Japanese defenders.  Surprised by the sneak offensive, the Japanese are forced to make fast and continuous attempts between August and November 1942 to retake Guadalcanal. The counterattacks result in three major land battles, five large naval battles, and continuous (near daily) aircraft battles.  But the Japanese fail to reclaim the island their ground.

A year later, the Japanese abandon any further effort to retake the region, and by February 7, 1943 Guadalcanal is left to the Allies uncontested. 

The Guadalcanal campaign marks the first significant strategic combined arms victory in the Pacific by Allied forces against the Japanese. It also creates a major turning point in the war, transforming the Allies from a defensive force to a new strategically offensive entity, a reverse in tactical power that will help lead to Japan's ultimate defeat in WWII.