World War II was not a small battle with little loss, it was a complex war that consisted of many separate smaller battles and almost every country was involved. The battle I chose, that contributed to World War II, is the Battle of Guadalcanal. I chose this battle, due to my family connections to Guadalcanal. Also, because it is a topic that you do not hear about often, when talking about World War II. Finally, it is the first major participation in the Pacific war. In this essay I will cover the basic premises of Guadalcanal, the impact of Pearl Harbor on America.
I will also address, Naval tragedies, specific contributors to the Navy, and each of the smaller battles within this large battle. On December 7, 1941 our greatest military disaster happened, the attack on Pearl Harbor. The Japanese planes came in two waves hitting our base with bombs. The Japanese planes left behind mass chaos with 2,403 dead, 188 destroyed planes and 8 damaged or destroyed battleships. About three hours later, Japanese planes started a day-long attack on the Philippines, which are the American facilities (“Attack at).
The causes of the attack stemmed from the strong rivalry between the Japanese and Americans. Since Japan wanted total control of the Pacific, their military decided to attack America’s strongest Marine base. They used their resources from the Invasion of Manchuria to supply themselves for battle (Pearl Harbor). Within six months, Japan had control over one of the largest territorial empires in history. Japan was at Australia’s doorstep, about to cut off all communication between Australia and America. Two months later, the first Marine Division landed on Guadalcanal Island as a surprise attack.
The Marines did this to secure Japan’s vital airfield that they were building, and prepare for the counterattack. The First Division had two goals, stay alive and keep the Japanese out (The Pacific). A well known tragedy of this battle is, the Tragedy of the Sullivan Brothers. Usually the Navy did not put any members of the same family on one ship, but this time they didn’t really pay attention to that. The five Sullivan brothers enlisted for the Navy on January 3, 1942, and boarded a naval ship shortly after. They requested that they should be on the same naval ship by a letter (A People).
They were heading to fight in the battle of Guadalcanal on their ship, The Juneau. Once they made it there, it entailed months of constant fighting. Then on November 13, 1942 their ship was struck by a torpedo and had to withdrawal from the battle. Later in the day, The Juneau was leaving the Soloman Islands’, when it was struck by a torpedo from a Japanese submarine. The ship sank quickly and no efforts were made to save them, due to the Japanese naval presence. Eight days following the event, ten survivors were rescued from the water. Of those survivors all five Sullivan brothers died over a short period of time.
Before the rescue, Frank, Joe, and Matt died instantly, Al drowned the next day, and George survived for about four or five days after the sinking. Their mother had heard rumors about this tragedy and wrote a personal letter to President Roosevelt, asking about this disaster (Mrs. Sullivan’s). Following this the President himself wrote a personal letter back. He stated how sorry he and the country were, and informed her that all the boys were on the same ship. This letter enclosed a small quote from the boys’ letter. This quote was, “We will make a team together, that will not be a boat” (“A People).
This letter showed the presidents involvement with the entire country. It was the morning of August 7, the first military division had just landed at the sight of Guadalcanal. “I saw the first shots fired by our naval armada. It only recently occurred to me that I was witnessing the first major offensive shots fired by our side in World War II. ” This was in a diary entree, written by James R. “Rube” Garrett. He was in the division, speaking of this infamous battle. As stated before, this battle was a major kickstart to our involvement in the war.
Our soldiers, like in any battle, struggled to help Australia keep their freedom from Japan. The months of the grueling battle, were filled with constant air raids and shooting. On the American side, the men had to stay up for full days and nights of fighting. Since they were under repetitive attack, they had to be alert at all times. During the day the Military was protected from “Pistol Pete,” a Japanese artillery piece. The soldiers would fire random shots during the day, and then retreat back to their cave where they hid.
Eventually the cave was located and destroyed by the Jap (Japanese. A huge disadvantage that the Americans had, was they were located on an airfield so they were a main target. This meant that every enemy would drop air raids or singular bombs on them, once they were in a close radius. Although we were fighting the Japanese, we had a few casualties caused by our own men. There were many stories of men accidentally mistaking Americans as Japanese, and opening fire on them. One instance, Sgt. Windish was shot by one of his own men, who later was never heard from again. From various journal entrees, you can tell the toll of the war.
Many soldiers had made slight gestures towards suicide and extreme bursts of anger. This shows the great impact on the emotional and mental state of people in war. Finally, on August 20 the American planes finally flew in to help fight against the Japanese. The following day, Japan launched a huge counter attack on our forces. This left America with over eight hundred casualties. This was the first organized attack from Japan. A week later was the start of the heavy naval battling. With many shots fired at the Japanese submarines, and at our naval ships. Constant loss back and forth between Japan and America.
This battle continued on with air raids, and on land battling. Contrary to popular belief, not every day was full of fighting. Luckily, the soldiers had small breaks in-between filled with comic relief. Also, the soldiers wrote many letters to their families back home. In order to stay clean, once a week the men would go to a river and bathe. There was a large tree that they would lay their clothes on, while they washed up (A MarineAugust). On September 13 and 14, the Japs decided to support the attack on Edson’s ridge with thrusts against the outer Marines (Battle of Bloody Ridge.
The first Marines were caught in an open field, leaving 200 dead from the Japanese’s shots. The Americans came back with the aircrafts from the USS Wasp, which had earlier been torpedoed by the Japs. The Japanese’s goal was to hit the Americans HQ at the top of the highest point on the island. Col. Edson gave all orders from the HQ, in the end receiving a Medal of Honor for his defense in this tough battle. The second day of the battle of Bloody Ridge was the most important and one of the more intense battles. The U. S Marines fought hard against the Japanese ending in 600 Japanese deaths and 143 U. S. deaths.
The following weeks of September were filled with rain, small field battles, and air raids (A MarineSeptember). On October 13, 2,500 soldiers came in from the army to help the Americans out in battle. Two days following the army’s arrival, the Communications building was destroyed by a shelling of Henderson Field. On October 25, is the start of The Battle of Matanikou. This battle started when the Japanese tried to cross the Matanikou River. Sgt. John Basilon along with a handful of other marines defended their position during the battle. By the morning they had shot over 26,000 rounds, leaving his guns completely burnt out.
After this, he received a medal of honor. This battle was probably the heaviest of them all, especially how the second day went. The artillery battle lasted for an entire night, which, resulted in over 3,000 deaths on the Japanese side and 300 on the marines’ side. During the month of November all Guadalcanal was, was constant shooting and air raids. Journal entries state that each day there was hundreds of rounds shot everyday, along with multiple air raids a day. On November 12, America had a large victory thanks to their Navy. A day after Pearl Harbor, Japan invaded the Philippines