US Marines come ashore on Guadalcanal the morning of August 7, 1942

Though often overshadowed by the more famous battles for Iwo Jima and Okinawa, the battle for the strategic island of Guadalcanal began 75 years ago when US Marines splashed ashore in the early morning hours of August 7, 1942. Coming nine months after the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, the Battle of Guadalcanal marked the first major land battle of the Pacific War as US Marines spearheaded the invasions of Guadalcanal, Tulagi, and Florida Islands in the southern Solomons, the first of nearly 60,000 troops to face 36,000 entrenched Japanese soldiers. After six months of brutal fighting, much of it in close quarters and hand-to-hand, the Japanese finally abandoned Guadalcanal and the strategic airfield they had built, which was renamed Henderson Field in honor of Marine Major Lofton Henderson, commanding officer of VMSB-241, and the first Marine aviator killed in action at the Battle of Midway two months before. Japanese losses numbered over 19,000 men and more than 800 aircraft, while the US and her Tongan and Commonwealth allies lost 7,000 men, nearly 7,800 wounded, two aircraft carriers and 615 aircraft. As in the Battle of Midway, the Allies had defeated the Japanese at the height of their power and secured a victory that marked a shift in the balance of power in the Pacific and the beginning of the bloody yet inexorable march to Japanese defeat in the Pacific War.

Dead Japanese soldiers on the beach at Guadalcanal
US Marines rest during the battle
US Marines on patrol cross a river on the island of Guadalcanal
The US Navy troop transport USS George F. Elliott (AP-13) burning between Guadalcanal and Tulagi, after she was hit by a crashing Japanese aircraft during an air attack on 8 August 1942.

Advertisement

Exhausted US Marines on the beach at Guadalcanal