Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Operation Watchtower Aug 7th 1942

If they didn't know beforehand, every Marine leaving boot today knows about The Battle of Guadalcanal. It was the first major offensive by Allied forces against the Empire of Japan and a defining campaign in Marine Corps history that began on this day 70 years ago.

The Island of Tulagi, with smaller neighbours Gavutu and Tanambogo were assaulted by some 3000 Marines who met fierce resistance from the Japanese occupiers who were outnumbered more than 3 to 1. In 48 hours 122 Marines there were killed but the Japanese lost over 800 men.

1st Marine Division commander Major General Alexander Vandegrift landed ashore Guadalcanal at 09:10, August 7th 1942 with 11,000 of his men and while he met with less resistance he was quick to capture a small unfinished Japanese airfield at Lunga point. This became known as Henderson Field, the focus of months of fighting in the campaign as the Japanese made several failed attempts to retake it.

In December 1942, the Japanese abandoned efforts to retake Guadalcanal and evacuated their remaining forces by 7 February 1943 in the face of an offensive by the U.S. Army's XIV Corps, conceding the island to the Allies.

Today I salute the 60,000 allied troops who landed in the course of the campaign of which 7100 lost their lives, as well as the bravery of their 36,200 opponents of whom some 31,000 were killed fighting with honour.

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