After Midway and Coral Sea, Japan decided to stay away from the Central Pacific. The Japanese were going to attempt to take Australia again, and this would be done by invading Guadalcanal and New Guinea. From those two places, a successful invasion of Australia was possible.
The Americans learned of this attempt, and decided to take action. If the Japanese were sucessful, America would hold only Australia and New Caledonia in that part of the world. Under Admiral Chester W. Nimitz from Pearl Harbor and General Douglas MacArthur from the posts in the Philippines, the Americans prepared to attack Guadalcanal. Japan remained the power in the Pacific. The U.S. had only three battleships in the pacific, and man power had been down since Pearl Harbor.
America met the standards, however, as fifty carriers and ten times more aircraft came into American hands. America was ready for a big attack. The plan was to batter the islands by battleships and dive-bombers. The Americans would skip many Japanese-held islands and take over the main supply post and "cut" Japanese support to these islands. This, in theory, would drive the Japanese back home.
On July 4, 1942, a reconnaissance pilot said that the Japanese were making an airfield on Guadalcanal. The Americans rushed into a decision to invade Guadalcanal.
The attack came on August 7, 1942 as an American task force under Vice-Admiral Robert L. Ghormley "softened" up the islands by unleashing three hours worth of bombs and shells on Guadalcanal, Florida, Tulagi, and Gavata.
The attack came by amphibeous landing craft. The three satelite islands(Florida, Tulagi, and Gavata) surprised the Americans because the opposition was very brutal. The landing on Guadalcanal was less opposed, and the marines quickly captured the airfield and renamed it to Henderson Field.
Two days later, Japanese cruisers and destroyers attempted to destroy the Allied Naval protection. The attack was successful as three American cruisers and an Australian cruiser Canberra lay at the bottom of the waters.
To the east lay American transports carrying valuable troops. The Japanese would not strike for some strange reason. Jungle warfare was something the U.S. Marines had never encountered. Inside the jungle lay an opaque sheet above, hot and humid air, millions of insects, rats, snakes, scorpions, and malaria-ridden mosquitoes. The Japanese would cry animal sounds to signal their troops, but the American could not distinguish the sounds from regular animal cries. Japanese snipers lay in the jungle underbrush and were strapped into the tree-tops above.
Between August and September of 1942, 17,000 Marines were exposed to the horrible conditions of Guadalcanal. They held a perimeter of 7 miles long by 4 miles wide. They were told to hold the perimeter at all costs, including the airfield, until reinforcements arrived.
Finally, the reinforcements arrived with more supplies. The marines and infantrymen spread out through the island. They were exposed to the island's natural killers along with the countless Japanese hidden on the ground and the trees.
More heavy naval encounters like the American defeat on August 9 would occur, and would change the battle dramatically. The "Tokyo Express" was a Japanese ship holding reinforcements sent from Bouganville Island in the Solomans. The American task force was ordered to intercept this ship. Also, planes from the carriers Enterprise and Hornet destroyed 2 Japanese destroyers, damaged 2 battleships, 2 carriers and several cruisers off of Santa Cruz.
Between November 13-14, 1942 came one of the most heavily fought sea battles of Guadalcanal. A Japanese task force set up a screen to protect a transport ship supplying reinforcements onto Guadalcanal. The Americans had a task force of eight destroyers, two heavy cruisers, and three light cruisers that attempted to attack the Japanese. The Americans played a war version of tag as they dodged huge ships and cruised inwards inside the huge circle they formed screening the transport ships. The Japanese fired at ships that had just passed accidently hitting their own. After half an hour, most of the Japan task force was up in flames. Japan could have destroyed the American ships if they were farther away, but they charged in closer. America found a weakspot in the ship defenses.
There was word the next day that the Japanese were making a last desperate effort to win Guadalcanal. The Americans were ready with great firepower and reinforcements. The Americans let the Japanese proceed around Savo Island, and caught them in the "T" maneuvor. The sea fight was similiar to that of the day before. Half an hour of chaos as some would put it. A dozen Japanese ships were left burning. The remaining ships retreated westward.
The Japanese Navy lost 2 battleships, 1 cruiser, 3 destroyers, and 10 troop transports. Three cruisers, 6 destroyers, and 2 transports were damaged. Thousands of Japanese were killed in the battle.
Finally, the last naval battle at Guadalcanal occured at Tassafaronga on November 30, 1942. Japanese transport ships headed to reinforce Guadalcanal were caught by the U.S. task force. Japan lost a destroyer, and the Americans lost a cruiser. The Japanese retreated.
The Japanese ships retreated back to their homeland, and organized warfare ceased. The Battle of Guadalcanal officially ended during February of 1943. Six months after the bloody battle began, it was finally at an end. Japan's glimpse of an invasion on Australia was now a dream that would never come true. Japan had lost the battle.