GUADALCANAL: THE FIRST OFFENSIVE. By John Miller, jr. (1949,1989; 413 pages, 3 charts, 36 maps, 76 illustrations, 5 appendixes, glossary, index, CMH Pub 5-3.)
Guadalcanal: The First Offensive is a tactical history of ground operations involved in seizing and holding the heavily jungled island of Guadalcanal in the British Solomon Islands. It covers the campaign from the initial invasion on 7 August 1942 to 21 February 1943 when the area including the Russell Islands was finally secured. In the Pacific subseries this volume follows The Fall of the Philippines, is concurrent with Victory in Papua, and precedes CARTWHEEL: The Reduction of Rabaul.
The Guadalcanal Campaign was the first sustained Allied offensive in the Pacific. It began a series of amphibious attacks in the South and Southwest Pacific Areas which pointed toward the reduction of the great Japanese base at Rabaul in the Bismarck Archipelago. Just as the Japanese hoped to use Rabaul and their forward bases in the Solomons, the Bismarck Archipelago, and New Guinea to sever the U.S.-Australian line of communications, so the Allies planned their offensives to protect
that line of communications and indirectly to clear the way for the return of American forces to the Philippines.
To seize the initiative from the Japanese, the Americans were initially forced to launch their offensive before they had amassed the preponderance of military strength that characterized the latter phases of the war. Japanese reaction was so violent and the contestants were so evenly matched on the sea and in the air that the campaign developed into a six-month struggle for control of the approaches to Guadalcanal coupled with intense ground fighting for possession of the island itself. While air and naval forces fought six full-scale naval battles and hundreds of smaller engagements, American ground combat troops grappled with Japanese military forces in the tropical rain forests, in the mountains, and on grassy hills. The fight was hard, and the enemy skillful and stubborn. Nevertheless, the final American victory demonstrated that their leadership, determination, tactics, and weapons were as effective in the damp dark of the jungle as in the desert or on the open plains.
The measure of the campaign is not to be found in the relatively small numbers of troops engaged. The Americans and Japanese were straining to bring their forces to bear at the end of long and vulnerable lines of communications, so that battalion and regimental actions assumed a much greater degree of importance than they did in, for example, the campaign in Europe during 1944 and 1945.
Guadalcanal: The First Offensive treats operations of U.S. Army ground combat troops in detail. It summarizes the achievements of U.S. Marine Corps, Navy, Air, and Allied units in order to show the contributions of all. Starting at the level of corps and division headquarters, ground combat is explained systematically down to the battalion level. When possible, key actions are carried down to the level of companies, platoons, and even squads, for combat in the thick tropical jungles tended to break up into a series of small-unit fights. Every attempt is made to show the contributions of all supporting arms and services, so that air, artillery, engineer, and signal support are related to infantry action as closely as possible.
1. A case study of the strategic problems facing the high (JCS) command: theater problems versus grand strategy (Ch. I).
2. An amphibious offensive: an early example of planning and execution (Chs. II, III).
3. Organizing beachhead defenses (Ch. IV).
4. The dependence of tactical strength on logistics (summarized in Ch. XIII; see also Chs. II-V).
5. Japanese offensive plans and operations (Chs. V, VI).
6. As others saw us: "Through Japanese eyes" (App. D).
7. Tactical subjects:
a. The corps in the attack (Chs. XI, XII, XIV).
b. The regiment in the attack, with artillery and air support (Ch. XI, Sec. 1).
c. Attack of a heavily defended area (Chs. X, XII).
d. Defense against Japanese attack (Chs. IV, V, VI).
e. Employment of field artillery (Ch. XI, Sec. 1, and Ch. XII, Sec. 2).
f. A hastily improvised attack (Ch. V).
Return to the Table of Contents