In publishing the history of combat operations the Department of the Army has three objectives. The first is to provide the Army itself with an accurate and timely account of its varied activities in directing, organizing and employing its forces for the conduct of warˇan account which will be available to the service schools and to individual members of the Armed Services who wish to extend their professional reading. The second objective is to offer the thoughtful citizen material for a better understanding of the basic problems of war and the manner in which these problems were met, thus augmenting his understanding of national security. The third objective is to accord a well-earned recognition to the devoted work and grim sacrifices of those who served.

No claim is made that the series constitutes a final history. Most of the material has been gathered from the observations and research of trained historians who, while in uniform, were attached to the headquarters of larger units engaged in the campaigns about which the histories are written. These historians made use of all official records, of interviews with both officers and enlisted men who took part in the action, and of captured enemy records. They have scrupulously weighed the evidence in accordance with the Chief of Staff's directive that Army histories must present a full and factual account, thoroughly documented and completely objective. The authors of the volumes in the series were carefully selected from among trained civilian historians; many of them were formerly historical officers in the wartime Army. They are under no restrictions in their work except those imposed by the requirements of national security and by the standards of historical scholarship.

The level on which the volumes are written necessarily varies. In accounts of campaigns during which many large units moved rapidly over extensive areas, detailed consideration of small-unit action is not practicable. Such a volume as Guadalcanal, on the other hand, recounts the activities of a comparatively small number of units operating in a restricted area; it has thus been possible to carry the narrative down to the level of companies, platoons, and even


individuals. Since this is a field recognized as of great importance but one in which available literature is very meager, the present volume adds material which should prove of much value to prospective commanders of lower units.

The Department of the Army gratefully acknowledges the co-operation of the U. S. Navy, including the U. S. Marine Corps, and the U. S. Air Force in making available such of their records and research facilities as were pertinent to the preparation of this volume.

Washington, D.C.
3 August 1948
Maj. Gen., U.S.A.
Chief, Historical Division



"The successes of the South Pacific Force," wrote Admiral Halsey in 1944, "were not the achievements of separate services or individuals but the result of whole-hearted subordination of self-interest by all in order that one successful 'fighting team' could be created."1 The history of any South Pacific campaign must deal with this "fighting team," with all United States and Allied services. The victory on Guadalcanal can be understood only by an appreciation of the contribution of each service. No one service won the battle. The most decisive engagement of the campaign was the air and naval Battle of Guadalcanal in mid-November 1942, an engagement in which neither Army nor Marine Corps ground troops took any direct part.

This volume attempts to show the contribution of all services to the first victory on the long road to Tokyo. It does not describe all ground, air, and naval operations in detail but it does attempt, by summary when necessary, to show the relationship between air, ground, and surface forces in modern warfare.

Guadalcanal: The First Offensive rests upon somewhat different sources from most other volumes in the Pacific series of U. S. ARMY IN WORLD WAR II. The War Department's historical program had not yet been established in August 1942 when the Solomon Islands were invaded by the Allies. No historians accompanied the Marine or Army divisions to Guadalcanal with the mission of preparing thorough and detailed histories of the campaign. The interviews of whole companies and critiques of actions that were conducted by Army and Marine historians in later campaigns were never conducted on Guadalcanal. Interviews with individual officers and men were conducted by theater and War Department historians long after the fighting was over, but by that time memory was none too fresh. As a result it has not been possible to analyze the actions of small units on Guadalcanal as completely as in other volumes in the Pacific series.


The official records for the Guadalcanal campaign, upon which this volume is based, are of ten sparse and inadequate. The Army units which served on the island were usually sent there in piecemeal fashion, one regiment or battalion at a time. Army and Marine staff procedures on Guadalcanal were of necessity extremely simple and informal. Most staff business was conducted orally, for the area held by American troops was so small that all headquarters were in close proximity, obviating the immediate necessity for extensive records. Most staff officers, working in headquarters which were seriously undermanned, often held dual positions and carried a tremendous burden of work. They had neither the time nor the facilities to maintain extensive files. In consequence, full Army divisional records do not exist. Headquarters, U. S. Army Forces in the South Pacific Area (USAFISPA), which had just been activated when the first landings were made in Guadalcanal, also suffered from a chronic shortage of staff officers and clerks. Its own records for the period, therefore, are not complete, and it never received full records from the units on Guadalcanal.

Enemy records, though now fairly extensive, are by no means complete. It is expected that new information will continue to come to light.

A history of the Guadalcanal campaign was first begun in 1944, more than a year after its close, by Maj. Frederick P. Todd and Capt. Louis Morton, then members of the Historical Section, USAFISPA. A short manuscript dealing with ground, air, and surface action was prepared first. A more detailed study was begun later in 1944, but the lack of records, coupled with the necessity for preparing other operational histories and an administrative history of USAFISPA, prevented its completion. Both the short manuscript and the incomplete longer manuscript were forwarded to the Historical Division of the War Department.

Preparation of this volume was begun after the conclusion of hostilities. By 1946 virtually all the existing records of Army units had been filed in the Adjutant General's office; records of the joint and Combined Chiefs of Staff, of the Operations Division, WDGS, and of the Navy had been opened to War Department historians. A wider range of sources was available to me than had been available to the South Pacific or earlier War Department historians.

My debts of gratitude are too numerous to make it possible for me to express my thanks publicly to every person who has assisted in the preparation of this volume. Some contributions, however, have been so important that they merit particular mention.


To Dr. Louis Morton, now Chief of the Pacific Section of the Historical Division, under whose immediate direction this book was written, are due my thanks for his careful reading of every chapter, and for his sound counsel on the many problems of organization and content presented by such a volume. Dr. Kent Roberts Greenfield, Chief Historian of the Department of the Army, was a strong support during the period of preparation of the volume and offered many valuable suggestions which were adopted. Maj. Gen. Harry J. Malony, Chief of the Historical Division, and Lt. Col. Allen F. Clark, Jr., Executive Officer, both showed a keen appreciation of the problems of the historian, and made it possible to utilize all the sources in the Department of National Defense bearing on the subject.

The manuscript was prepared for publication under the direction of Col. Allison R. Hartman, Chief of the World War II Group of the Historical Division, assisted by Miss Edith M. Poole and Miss Grace T. Walbel. Mr. Wsevolod Aglaimoff, Chief Cartographer of the Historical Division, drew the layouts for the excellent maps, all prepared under his supervision, which appear in this volume. Capt. Robert L. Bodell selected the photographs from Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force files. Mr. George R. Powell and Mrs. Miriam J. Meyer assisted in solving statistical problems, and prepared the strength table on page 219; Maj. Charles F. Byars prepared the list of Army units serving in the Guadalcanal campaign which appears in the Appendix. Mr. W. Brooks Phillips prepared the index. Final editing was the responsibility of Mr. Hugh Corbett, Editor-in-Chief of the Historical Division.

The documents in the files of the Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps bearing on the Guadalcanal campaign are numerous and widely diffused. The generous assistance of other historians and archivists in locating these documents made possible the completion of the volume in slightly over two years. The General Reference Section of the Historical Division, under the direction of Mr. Israel Wice, procured for me many documents from the files of all the armed forces. Miss Alice M. Miller, Maj. Darrie H. Richards, and Mr. Joseph B. Russell furnished me with the documents that explain the strategic direction of the Pacific War. Miss Thelma K. Yarborough, Miss Margaret Emerson, and Miss Clyde Hillyer provided the bulk of the sources of information on the operations of Army units on Guadalcanal. Capt. John W. McElroy, USNR, and Miss Loretta I. MacCrindle of the Office of Naval Records and Library guided me to the naval documents relating to the Guadalcanal campaign. Lt. Col.


Robert D. Heinl, Jr., USMC, Mr. John L. Zimmerman and Mr. Joel D. Thacker of the Historical Section, Division of Public Information, Headquarters, U. S. Marine Corps, furnished me with a great deal of information on Marine Corps operations and units, and made Marine Corps records available to me.

I wish also to express my gratitude to Whittlesey House for permission to quote from Admiral Halsey's Story.

To Miss Martha J. Daniel, Mrs. Wynona H. Haydon, Miss Ann Pasternack, and Mrs. Laura M. Whitmire are due my thanks for their careful typing of the manuscript.

Responsibility for the deficiencies of this book is entirely mine.

Washington, D.C.
3 August 1948


Table of Contents ** Next Chapter (1)


[1] Admiral William F. Halsey, Jr., Narrative Account of the South Pacific Campaign (September 1944), p. 14.

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