USS Wasp in distress.

Today is the 80th anniversary of the US landings on Guadalcanal and several other islands in the Solomons chain. Over the next several months the US and Japan would wage a brutal fight of attrition that included several spectacular set-piece battles on land and at sea. On the occasion of the anniversary I wrote a short history for the Diplomat: APAC magazine…

From August 1942 until February 1943 the Americans lost two aircraft carriers and numerous cruisers, while the Japanese lost two battleships, one aircraft carrier, many smaller vessels, and (perhaps most importantly) a huge number of aircraft and trained aircrew. On land, Japanese forces suffered some 30,000 casualties against 15,000 for the Americans. 

The Guadalcanal campaign is remarkable for its contingency (there were several points at which the Japanese were barely a heartbeat away from dislodging the Marines or dealing the USN a catastrophic defeat) and in a different way for its scale (the forces engaged were a fraction of the battles that were being fought simultaneously in Europe and Africa). For context I’d recommend the podcasts I did with Ian Toll and Justin Pyke.


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