Chapter 11

The Heart of the Six Months Battle
August 1942--February 1943

The two sectors of the Navy which were quite inadequately developed on 7 December 1941 were logistics and intelligence.

The primary reason for the logistical deficiency was that the officers of the Line of the Navy had taken only a cursory interest in logistics in the years just before World War II. This occurred because in the day by day peacetime Fleet operations, there were few really large difficult logistical problems demanding command decisions.

Consequently, logistical matters were handled mainly by officers of the various excellent Staff corps, particularly the Supply Corps. So the command corps, the Line, lacked skill and experience in handling logistical matters on a large scale.

The secondary reason for the logistical deficiency in the Navy was that no one had ever been able to free the seagoing Navy from the thinking that its operations should be on an austere basis in the field of logistics. It was quite unprepared mentally for wartime operations with their tremendous actual expenditures and waste, or to use the cover-up word for waste, "slippage."

Both the intelligence and logistical sectors received a great war influx of citizen sailors. These citizen sailors soon found that their sectors were rated by the professional officers of the Line as markedly less important than the command and operational sectors of the naval effort.

The penalty for the failure of the professional officer to adequately evaluate intelligence and logistics in pre-World War II days was a massive take over of these important wartime functions by officers with little or no naval knowledge or experience in the vast waterlands of the world to provide balance to their technical judgments.


Guadalcanal Logistics

It was Admiral Turner's belief that:
  1. The United States Navy's concept of logistics broadened mightily during the early months of World War II.

  2. In no part of naval combat operations did logistics require a larger part of a commander's attention than in our early amphibious operations.1

The pre-World War II experience in logistical austerity, combined with the multiple handlings arising from the nature of amphibious operations and the juxtaposition of waves, coral, sand and hot sun, provided the pertinent background for the Navy's initial logistical inadequacies in the Lower Solomons.

In the early amphibian operations, there were no LSTs or LCTs and very few DUKWs.2 The guts of logistical support for the first phase of WATCHTOWER had to be winch-lifted out of the deep, deep holds of large transports and cargo ships, and loaded like sardines into small landing craft dancing on the undulating seas, and then hand-lifted and piled at a snail's pace onto the beaches by tired sailormen or by combat oriented Marines who, with rifle in hand, might better have been pressuring the retreating and scattered Japanese.

Admiral Turner said:

Eighty percent of my time was given to logistics during the first four months of the WATCHTOWER operation [because] we were living from one logistic crisis to another.3

Many of the transport Captains in the WATCHTOWER Operation became distressingly familiar with one phase of the complex logistics problem when their ships in July had to unload all Marine supplies and equipment in New Zealand and then load them right back aboard so that they would be available in the order in which they would be needed when the Marines hit the beach. This "combat loading" was never quite so efficient


in the utilization of all available cargo space as "commercial loading" but was essential. And the transport Captains learned a second phase of the complex problem at Guadalcanal and Tulagi. For no matter how hard the planners had planned and how skillfully the Transport Quartermaster had loaded, it was almost inevitable that actual operations would turn out to be different than planned operations, and real and pressing needs would arise for changes in the Marines' priorities for unloading the logistical support.

Logistics--The Bugbear

Admiral Kinkaid, when asked if he had talked with Rear Admiral Turner during the August to November 1942 period during which Kinkaid was CTF 16, replied:

Only once. That was after the Battle of Santa Cruz. [27 October 1942] He was mainly concerned with logistical matters at Guadalcanal then.4

Logistics got off to a bad start in the South Pacific and in WATCHTOWER, the area's first operational venture. This occurred because of several questionable logistical decisions made outside the South Pacific Area, relating to time and distance, as well as because of an inadequate appreciation of logistical problems by those within the SOPAC Area. A particular problem was the need to move logistical support bases forward as operations were undertaken to halt the enemy and, if possible, move him backward toward Japan.

During the early months of 1942, the naval activities of South Pacific island bases, even though they fell within the CINCPAC command area, generally made direct application to the logistic agencies in the United States for their support. They did this rather than apply to Pearl Harbor since Pearl Harbor did not have material resources to spare or even personnel to handle the heavy logistical communication load.

In April 1942, the Army directed that its forces in the South Pacific Area should be supplied directly by the Port of Embarkation, San Francisco. At the same time the Commander Service Force Pacific Fleet indicated a willingness to handle logistic requests from all bases--Army or Navy--in the South Pacific Area. Since both Army and Navy bases and their commanders


were on the same island, these differing instructions from the higher echelons were confusing.

At the Navy Department end:

The various Joint plans [for the establishment of defense and logistic support of island bases] did not, however, constitute a general supply procedure, nor did they stipulate in any detail the channels through which supply would be furnished.5

In other words the assigned Army, Army Air Corps, Naval, Marine, and New Zealand forces for these island bases did not have Unified, or Joint, logistic support. Each Service at each island base had individual procedures for its logistic support.

In general, the Army will furnish and transport its own logistic support, plus rations for Navy personnel, and the Navy its own, plus fuel, diesel and aviation gasoline.6

At Pearl, before WATCHTOWER was much more than a gleam in Admiral King's eye, CINCPAC recommended to COMINCH a definite division of responsibility between the Army and the Navy for logistic support of each individual base in SOPAC by categories of supply.7 In other words, he wanted a system wherein every island base received its bailing wire from the Navy and every island base received its coffee from the Army.

From SOPAC, Vice Admiral Ghormley, came the recommendation in late July 1942 that Auckland, New Zealand, be used for unloading and resorting material for all Advanced Bases in the SOPAC Area.8 Admiral King, in February 1942, had said that Tongatabu in the Tonga Islands would serve for this purpose.9

It is presumed the SOPAC recommendation was made because COMSOPAC as well as his senior logistical commander, COMSERVRONSOPAC, and a Joint Purchasing Board were all physically located in Auckland at the time. It apparently was approved by higher echelons because Auckland was the only SOPAC base considered safe from Japanese attacks at that date. But Auckland was 1,100 miles further from San Francisco than Tongatabu; it was 1,825 miles from Guadalcanal and 250 miles farther from Guadalcanal than the Tonga Islands.

Commencing in mid-April 1942, the South Pacific Service Squadron under


Captain Mark C. Bowman, U.S. Navy (1909), had been established with its headquarters at Auckland, New Zealand. When COMSOPAC's recommendation making Auckland the Supply Center for SOPAC was approved, requests from the island bases, which were all north and northeast of Auckland, had to be sent, most by airmail, the thousand or more miles south to Auckland where they were coordinated and sent on north again, many via airmail, past the various bases on to Subordinate Command, Service Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet in San Francisco.

When the request could be filled, the supplies then moved (the bulk of them at 10 or 12 knots) in the same perverse and time consuming manner, southwest the entire 5,680 miles down to Auckland from San Francisco and then back north and northeast 1,000 or more miles to the island bases. This was the roundabout way by which the Marines on Guadalcanal received their rations as late as October 1942.10

In mid-July 1942, the Army and Navy in Washington agreed upon and promulgated a "Joint Logistic Plan for the Support of United States Bases in the South Pacific Area." This Joint Plan, which followed CINCPAC' s recommendations in general, stipulated which Service would be responsible for furnishing items common to both the Army and the Navy. It was just coming into effect when WATCHTOWER suddenly imposed its logistical burdens upon the SOPAC island bases. The new Joint Plan was similar to its predecessor in calling for the screening of all requests from island bases by the Joint Purchasing Board in New Zealand to see if they could be fulfilled from local SOPAC resources. Thus it retained the potential for long shipping delays in SOPAC logistical support.

Superimposed upon the logistical tasks of carrying through WATCHTOWER was the problem of logistic planning and preparing for the operations to follow WATCHTOWER.

Rear Admiral Turner had always had the comprehensive mind and the talent for remembering a million details which together are the earmarks of the first flight working logistician.

When he "hauled awrse" from Guadalcanal-Tulagi on the afternoon of 9 August 1942, he was saddled with a hundred worries about ships and sailormen lost--by what, if any, dereliction of his own self he was not clear--and with a thousand worries about the 10,000 good Marines for whom he could no longer provide minute by minute logistic or other direct support.

At the late conference with Major General Vandegrift aboard the


McCawley on the 8th of August, it was decided that the latter, with Captain Peyton and Colonel Linscott of the TF 62 Staff, would visit Tulagi, ascertain the situation there militarily and logistically and then CTF 62 would confirm or change the departure hour for the transports already tentatively set for 0600 of the 9th.

Major General Vandegrift did not get back aboard the McCawley until 0908 on August 9th at which time it was mutually agreed that the transports would depart about 1330. This was only the first of many difficult operational decisions based on logistical factors which Rear Admiral Turner would make in the next six months.

Not knowing that Rear Admiral Turner, his senior subordinate at Guadalcanal, had already started TF 62 forces south toward Noumea, Vice Admiral Ghormley had ordered the withdrawal of all surface ships at Guadalcanal by 1830 local time on the 9th,11 and informed his subordinates and superiors that there were indications Japanese Landing Forces were proceeding toward Guadalcanal on 9 August.12 This latter despatch, it is believed, did nothing to ease the mental strain on the amphibians, or to quiet the mind of the Commanding General of the First Marine Division.

Despite the fact that the transports had done a commendable job within the limited hours of unloading available, Rear Admiral Turner knew that the Marines would be unhappy that they were not getting 100 percent of the logistic support which had arrived for them off Red Beach and Blue Beach.13 It was apparent that the problem of getting to the Marines the supplies not landed would be the first order of business.

The first entry in the TF 62 Staff Log on 14 August after recording arrival at Noumea reads:

Commenced preparation for the hospitalization of wounded, transferring and equipping of survivors, and logistics plans for supply of forces in the CACTUS-RINGBOLT [Guadalcanal-Tulagi] Area. Transports and AKs proceeding with unloading and rearrangement of cargo in order that essential supplies may be forwarded to CACTUS [Guadalcanal] for quick unloading.

It was not until six days after the McCawley arrived in Noumea on 13 August that the only Supply Corps Officer on the PHIBFORSOPAC Staff, a senior lieutenant, reported for duty, and thus made available on the staff of Rear Admiral Turner an officer trained in the techniques and technicalities


Rear Admiral Richmond Kelly Turner, USN, taken at sea, 1942.


of logistics support.14 The lack of such a logistically trained officer during the previous month was another contributory factor to the inadequate logistic plans for WATCHTOWER.

The first letters in Rear Admiral Turner's personal file after his arrival at Noumea, New Caledonia, deal with logistics--and the great majority of letters in this file dated during the next four months deal with the same subject. According to the Staff, they worked at and slept with and dreamed logistics. Even the Flag Lieutenant grew out of being a Flag Lieutenant and became a Logistics Officer in all but title.15

Major General Vandegrift's first post-Guadalcanal landing letter to his immediate Naval Commander, sent to Noumea by the first plane, a Navy PBY-5A, to land on Guadalcanal, reported, as of 12 August 1942: "We are all well and happy." But it mainly dealt with the priority of a number of logistic support items needed. In addition he suggested: "That if we are to hold this place that the 7th [Regiment] be sent up."16

The Best Laid Plans of Men and Mice

Rear Admiral Turner had planned tentatively to shift his flag ashore at Guadalcanal, when the McCawley was withdrawn to Noumea, after unloading during WATCHTOWER.

. . . Command of this Force shall be shifted to a land base in the Tulagi-Guadalcanal area, after establishment ashore by the Marine forces. All Staff functions will be conducted from this land base until such time as the permanent garrison is established and the Amphibious Force is released to proceed with further operations.

A partial draft order in pencil, from which the above is quoted, is contained in the files of Commander Amphibious Force, SOPAC.17

At the time this draft was written, it was assumed that the communication facilities of the McCawley would be available at Guadalcanal long enough for CTF 62 to conduct the initial stages of the HUDDLE (Santa Cruz) Operation as well as to follow through on the anticipated initial surge of despatches regarding logistic support of WATCHTOWER.


The CTF 62 Op Plan stated:

The [TF 62] Headquarters radio station will be established using the First Marine Division TBW radio equipment.

The McCawley's communication facilities were meager enough, but they were several times larger than the two TBW's which would be available on Guadalcanal for use by CTF 62 if he went ashore and the McCawley departed. So at the same time the decision was made to withdraw all surface amphibious forces from Guadalcanal, Rear Admiral Turner made the hard decision to withdraw himself and TF 62 Staff.18

Support that this 'second guess' decision was correct and that the radio facilities being taken into Guadalcanal were inadequate, even without CTF 62's communication load, is found in the extracts below from a four-page mailgram picture of the Guadalcanal communication situation on 28 August 1942.

From RDO Guadalcanal

Naval communication facilities available in the Solomons on 20 August 1942.

 *  *  *  *  * 

Radio facilities are daily becoming more inadequate.
 *  *  *  *  * 

Captured Jap receiver utilized to copy FOX.
 *  *  *  *  * 

We hope to improve our situation somewhat by the repair of a Japanese 2 kilowatt transmitter.

Rear Admiral Turner was grateful thereafter that he had withdrawn because he was able to do a far more comprehensive job of logistic support from Noumea than he could have done from Guadalcanal, although he knew that some Marines thought and said he had run away.19

Guadalcanal logistics over the long haul centered on troops, planes, food, ammunition, and aviation gas, but during the first two weeks, getting the airfield into condition to operate aircraft received highest priority. This latter chore the Japanese had not quite accomplished.

From the aerial photographs, an estimate had been made that the airfield being built by the Japanese would be ready to operate aircraft on 15 August 1942. This was an excellent estimate and does some unknown photographic


intelligence over great credit. But to make ready the airfield by this date certainly put the heat on the Marines who landed on Guadalcanal-Tulagi on 7 August. By 12 August the landing strip was usable and by 20 August, Henderson Field with two squadrons of operating Marine aircraft was in business and would remain so throughout the war.

August-September 1942

The days and nights of August and September 1942 were full of TF 62 logistics and of fighting to permit the flow of TF 62 logistics through to its most important element--the Marines on Guadalcanal.

It is necessary to recount just a few of the main events for background. Task Force 61, under Vice Admiral Fletcher, acting as a Covering Force for the cargo ships Fomalhaut and Alhena carrying the first large load of logistic support to Guadalcanal, fought the indecisive Battle of the Eastern Solomons on 24 August 1942, which resulted in the Enterprise being bomb-damaged. The Saratoga unfortunately was damaged by a submarine torpedo on 31 August.

The Marines, within their perimeter on Guadalcanal, were placed under heavy attack at the Battle of the Bloody Ridge on 12-14 September. Task Force 65 under Rear Admiral Turner's command with 4,000 Marine reinforcements, the 7th Marine Regiment, made a delayed landing on 18 September on Guadalcanal, but battleship North Carolina, carrier Wasp and destroyer O'Brien from the Covering Force all were torpedoed by submarines on 15 September. The Wasp was lost, and the O'Brien went down more than a month later while enroute to the United States for battle repairs.

The delivery of the 4,000 Marines and the logistic support that went ashore with them on 18 September were a real satisfaction to Rear Admiral Turner, CTF 65.20

The worry and concern over the logistical situation at Guadalcanal and the heavy naval losses sustained in maintaining the flow of logistic support extended up and down the command chain of the Navy, and to the Army and its air arm.

On 16 September 1942, Admiral King was reported as having told the Joint Chiefs of Staff that "the Navy is in a bad way at this particular moment."21


One of the many high ranking visitors to the SOPAC Area, Lieutenant General Henry H. Arnold, U.S. Army, Chief of the Army Air Corps, and a single-minded advocate of using the resources of the Army Air Corps to "exert direct pressure against Germany," appraised the SOPAC situation in late September 1942 with pithy comments as follows:

. . . The Navy was hard-pressed at Guadalcanal. They needed a 'shot in the arm--and needed it badly; but I was not sure that the way to give it to them was by sending airplanes that might better be used against the Germans from England.22

It was obvious to me that the Naval Officers in this area were under a terrific strain. It was also obvious that they had chips on their shoulders.23

 *  *  *  *  * 

. . . Ghormley and other Naval officers in that area--Admiral John ('Slew') McCain and Admiral Daniel Callaghan--were very worried about the situation there.
 *  *  *  *  * 

It was obvious the Navy could not hold Guadalcanal if they could not get supplies in, and they could not get supplies in if the Japanese bombers continued to come down arid bomb the ships unloading supplies.
 *  *  *  *  * 

. . . General Patch [Commanding General American Division at Noumea] was very insistent that the Navy had no plan of logistics; that the Marines and the Navy would both have been in one hell of a fix had he not dug into his reserve stock and furnished them with supplies.24
 *  *  *  *  * 

My estimate, upon leaving Admiral Ghormley's headquarters, was this: So far, the Navy had taken one hell of a beating and at that time was hanging on by a shoestring. They did not have a logistic setup efficient enough to insure success.25

But fortunately one of the chips on the shoulders of Uncle Sam' s Navy was to get at the Japanese and pay them back for Savo Island. As General Arnold put it, although he (as did others from far, far away Washington) misidentified the SOPAC area through which he was traveling:

As I traveled through the Southwest Pacific, it was impossible not to get the impression that the Navy was determined to carry on the campaign in that theater, and determined to do it with as little help from the Army as possible.


It was their fight, the Navy's fight; it was their war against the Japanese; and they were going to clean it up if they could.26

The Chief of the Army Air Corps carried news of the worried state of the naval commanders in the South Pacific Force back to Washington, where he arrived on 2 October 1942, having covered 21,000 miles in 12 days. While his solution to the Admirals' problems was far from being similar to theirs, he served a most valuable purpose in alerting the home folks in Washington that there were SOPAC and Pacific problems crying for early assistance.

Lieutenant General Arnold's appraisal of the state of the logistic art in the Navy was conveyed in a memorandum to General Marshall which said:

Naval planning and operations to date have demonstrated a definite lack of appreciation of the logistic factor, and as a consequence, operations to date have lacked continuity by reason of the shortage of essential supplies and installations to support military operations.27

And to this statement many naval logisticians would say "amen."

Lieutenant General Arnold's round of briefings of important people in Washington included the President, which probably played a real part in the President's memorandum to the "Eyes Only of the Joint Chiefs" on 24 October 1942, which in turn played such a vital part in the Guadalcanal victory. The President wrote:

My anxiety about the Southwest Pacific is to make sure that every possible weapon gets into the area to hold Guadalcanal, and that having held in this crisis, munitions, planes and crews are on the way to take advantage of our success.

This memorandum came just 12-13 days after the Battle of Cape Esperance during which the surface combatant forces of the Japanese Navy and the United States Navy had traded punches and losses in the Iron Bottom Sound area, and just nine days after Admiral Nimitz was recording in his 15 October Daily Command Summary:

It now appears that we are unable to control the sea area in the Guadalcanal Area. Thus our supply of the positions will only be done at great expense to us. The situation is not hopeless, but it is certainly critical.


Improving the Logistical Support System

It did not take the stress and strain of active operations very long after 9 August 1942 to demonstrate that the naval logistical organization in the South Pacific was inadequate both in concepts and in capabilities.

On 23 August, Rear Admiral Turner in a long six-page letter to Major General Vandegrift wrote:

This whole Marine and Navy supply system down here seems to be bad, and I am trying to get them to reorganize it so it will function.28

By 30 August 1942, COMSOPAC accepted this estimate of the logistic situation and was convinced that:

Our supply set up is not right under present conditions. For operations such as this, logistics and operations must go hand in hand.29

This last statement is a basic logistical principle and it actually took only three weeks to have it fully accepted by all echelons in SOPAC which could be some kind of a record. However, accepting the principle in a command 9,000 miles from Washington, and actually applying it to logistic support largely under the control of other naval commands or to logistic support on a Joint or Combined basis, were quite different things.

And the fact was that logistics had not gone hand in hand with operations; the WATCHTOWER Operation had gone ahead with logistical support hurrying along well behind. For logistical support in the South Pacific to flow evenly and adequately, the Navy needed Advanced Bases that were reasonably stocked. These did not exist on 7 August 1942.

The Advanced Base at Efate, 285 miles north-northeast of Noumea, started on 4 May 1942, had gotten a good head start on Noumea and a two months' head start on Espiritu Santo, but it was 700 miles from Guadalcanal. Efate was a small but going concern in early August 1942, the airfield having been used since 28 May 1942, and its underground aviation gas tanks shortly thereafter, but it could not begin to support WATCHTOWER all by itself.

The Advanced Base at Espiritu Santo, started on 8 July 1942, was in early August 1942, a small shadow of its later size, although commencing 30 July bombers operated from the first airstrip built there. It was not until 14 August, when with the approval of COMSOPAC, COMPHIBFORSOPAC


directed the establishment of a branch of the First Marine Division Base Depot at Espiritu Santo, utilizing the services of the Quartermaster of the 2nd Marine Regiment, that the Marines on Guadalcanal could begin to plan on having at some long-distant date back-up logistical support only 500 to 600 miles away. It was not until LION One arrived on 10 February 1943 that major realistic steps were underway to make Espiritu Santo into a full-fledged Advanced Base Supply Depot.

From May through July 1942, Noumea functioned as a logistical staging area for Efate and Espiritu Santo after making a false start as a fuel depot for an Advanced Naval Base in late June 1942. Beginning in mid-August, it then grew like Topsy. On 11 November 1942 the Navy started major construction of an Advanced Base Construction Depot at Noumea and the necessary port development to permit the proper functioning of the nearly all-inclusive logistic support facilities projected.

In summary it can be said that, in mid-August 1942, logistic support of Guadalcanal from naval sources had to be provided through:

  1. The established, but largely not built and not stocked, main Supply Base at Auckland, New Zealand, 1,825 miles to the south.

  2. A small Advanced Air Base without supply support facilities at Efate in the New Hebrides, 700 miles southeast of Guadalcanal.

  3. A considerably larger Advanced Naval Air Base at Espiritu Santo 560 miles southeast of Guadalcanal in the earliest throes of being built and stocked.

  4. Direct shipment from continental United States.

Shortly after mid-August, on 20 August 1942 to be exact, CTF 62 (Rear Admiral Turner), an operational commander, acting with the oral authority of COMSOPAC, directed the establishment of Marine Advanced Supply Depots at Noumea and at Espiritu Santo even though this was an administrative act.30

No one denied that the rear area logistic effort for support of the fighting Marines was strenuous, not only by the amphibious command, but by all the logistic support forces of both the Services. Yet despite this effort, the tall tale carried back to the United States was that the Marines were hungry and that:

For three months the Marines fought without substantial supplies or reinforcements and cursed the Navy.31


The facts were a bit different at least in one respect.

On 15 August a week after landing, the Landing Force had 17 days of regular field rations available in addition to three days of Type C rations and 10 days of captured Japanese rations.32

By the second half of September, according to General Vandegrift's report:

During this period, six weeks after the initial attack, rations were adequate and three full meals were served daily . . .33

Actually, then, it took only half of three months, until September 18th, before the Marines were placed on full U.S. rations. No Marine or Army soldier ever seemed to have quite enough logistic support during WATCHTOWER, but the major essentials of battle--adequate men, rations, aircraft, bullets, bombs and aviation gasoline--were always present on Guadalcanal although the reserve stocks rode the sine curve roller coaster with distressing speed.

Noumea was a logistical bottle neck. It lacked berthing space, storage space, unloading equipment and adequate numbers of skilled or unskilled longshoremen. The port was not organized on a Joint basis, and until this was done in November 1942, each Service competed at Noumea for use of each ingredient of logistical support.

Cargo ships to make the run to Guadalcanal were another bottleneck. This was true from Dog Day on, and to make matters worse, on 9 September 1942 the word came in from CINCPAC that COMINCH desired a regiment of experienced amphibious troops and a division of transports and cargo ships made ready for transfer to General MacArthur's command in the Southwest Pacific Area for his use in forthcoming offensive operations. This led to some soul searching at the SOPAC level, and when passed down to Rear Admiral Turner for a recommendation, he came up with a long-winded despatch which, in effect, said:

No ships available now or later, and no Marines until 1 October, and then only the 8th Regiment of Marines, who aren't combat trained.34

At the same time, the Pacific Fleet was meeting an earlier call on its inadequate resources to provide amphibious ships for the TORCH November 1942 landings in North Africa. CINCPAC looked to the SOPAC Area for replacements. COMPHIBFORSOPAC pleaded his case noting that his


Guadalcanal supply lines.


cargo ships finally were down to four in number through losses from Japanese submarines and air attacks.35

The lack of unloading facilities at Guadalcanal Island was one more logistical problem. All logistic support had to be lightened to the beaches, where it was painfully and slowly unloaded, then reloaded on to some type of moving vehicle, and moved to the Marine or Army Supply dumps.

But the biggest logistic bottleneck, in this scribe's opinion, was the basic lack of know-how by the Navy concerning logistical support for a big operation six thousand miles away from a United States source of supply. The only consolation to be derived from this is that, had the logistical problem been fully appreciated, it is doubtful whether the WATCHTOWER Operation would have been undertaken when it was, which was just in time to obtain success.

When discussing the problem of logistic support on Guadalcanal, it is worth mentioning that both the United States Navy and the Japanese Navy had problems in providing it from their nearest advanced base area. To accomplish this support the United States Navy had about a 50 percent longer sea run than the Japanese Navy until, after long months, a supporting base was created and stocked at Espiritu Santo.

During the first week of the WATCHTOWER Operation, the Japanese Forces on Guadalcanal were without logistic support, since the Marines had captured the Japanese living and supply areas. The United States Navy provided the first of many, many contingents of men and supply support the early evening of 15 August--only six days after TF 62 had left--using four destroyer transports, carrying a total of 120 tons of aviation gasoline, lubricating oil, bombs, spare parts, and 120 aviation ground personnel mostly from CUB One.36

The Japanese Navy on the same day provided supplies in woven baskets to both the United States Marines and to the Japanese, the Marines getting four out of six air drops. It was the next day before the Japanese landed 200 troops and their logistic support from a single destroyer.

Broad scale but irregular logistic support for the Marines commenced


when the store ships Alhena (AK-26) and Fomalhaut (AK-22), the McFarland (AVD-14) loaded with aviation gasoline drums, and six APDs loaded with rations arrived at Guadalcanal on 21-22 August 1942, and landed over 2,000 tons of logistic support including 200 tons of rations, some personnel of the 2nd Marine Regiment, and their equipment and supplies.

During October 1942 logistic support ships were unloading at Guadalcanal-Tulagi on 13 days of the month. By December there were one or more support ships unloading on 31 days of the 31-day month. But during the last 20 days of August, the Marines had seen this pleasant sight only on six days.

It is a logistic truism that there is nearly always a conflict between those who ship and those who ask for the shipment, and this was reemphasized at Guadalcanal.

In war, logistics is always a worry factor. Many times it is the chief worry factor and at times it is the only worry factor. Quotes from Rear Admiral Turner's letters support this truth.

In a letter to Captain W. G. Greenman in early November dealing with the logistic situation, Rear Admiral Turner wrote:

All the Amphibious Force ships, all my staff, and I myself are working our hearts out to keep you going, and to try to get men and supplies to you. One of our troubles is to get decisions on matters I do not have under my control, and to get material to you which is available, but for which we have no transportation.37

In a letter to Major General Vandegrift:

Your situation as regards food, fuel, and ammunition as you well know, gives me the greatest anxiety. This is still a hand-to-mouth existence. By now, I had hoped that you would have some reasonable reserves. However, the enemy has held up our deliveries so continuously that our cash-in-bank is very low. You can rest assured that every ship I can get my hands on will be used to relieve this critical situation.38

No longer than ten days after arrival at Noumea, recommendations for improvement in the logistic area of amphibious operations were sought from all commands in TF 62, and a proposed reorganization of the Shore Party and Beach Party drafted by the Staff of CTF 62 was forwarded for comment by the amphibians. It was on the basis of the recommendations


received from this letter that Commander Amphibious Forces SOPAC made proposals for revision in the Amphibian Bible, FTP 167.39

When Vice Admiral Halsey made the decision, shortly after assuming command of SOPAC, to shift the building up of a Main Fleet Base in the South Pacific from Auckland, New Zealand, to Noumea, New Caledonia, he accomplished more in cutting the Gordian Knot of the SOPAC logistical problem, than any of the many of hundreds of other actions taken for this purpose. His recommendation to this end went forward on 21 October 1942.40 While negotiations to obtain buildings and area for this purpose had to be carried out with the Free French via General De Gaulle in London who controlled New Caledonia, the approval for the move was not too long in arriving.

On 8 November 1942, SOPAC Headquarters was established ashore, and Noumea commenced striving to fulfill the logistical mission and functions previously assigned to Auckland.

Espiritu Santo and Efate in the New Hebrides were rapidly built up as Advanced Bases and depots of material. An Advance Base Construction Depot was established at Noumea. By December 1942, Noumea was becoming a Main Fleet Base in the South Pacific in more than name. Support ships were daily landing the requirements of the Army and Marines at Guadalcanal, and the troops were eating some refrigerated food. Logistical support was largely in hand.41

Building Up the Guadalcanal Base

The saga of the building of the Guadalcanal-Tulagi base area has yet to be written, but this base area played a vital role in the logistic support furnished by COMPHIBFORSOPAC to the Marines and Army troops on Guadalcanal and to the later operations in the middle and upper Solomon Islands. So, because of the importance of bases in connection with amphibious operations, the story of its early trials and tribulations should be told in some detail.

Plans for an Advanced Naval Base in the Tulagi-Guadalcanal area to


contain units to meet aviation, hospital, and minor supply needs were part and parcel of the short hectic advance planning for WATCHTOWER.42

Way back on 15 January 1942, when Rear Admiral Turner was in the War Plans Division, he had initiated a plan calling for the establishment of Advanced Base units to build and operate four Main Fleet bases (LIONs) and 12 secondary bases (CUBs).43

Despite this advance planning, neither COMSOPAC nor COMPHIBFORSOPAC mentioned a prospective Advanced Naval Base at Guadalcanal-Tulagi in their WATCHTOWER Operation Orders. COMSOPAC's Op Order had no section on logistics. COMPHIBFORSOPAC Op Order had a Logistic Section, but did not include any information about an Advanced Base. The nearest mention was when COMPHIBFORSOPAC provided for a Naval Local Defense Force with a lieutenant commander of the Coast Guard in command at a headquarters ashore. Lieutenant Commander D. H. Dexter, USCG, actually did go ashore with the Marines, but his command included only picket boats (landing craft), a harbor signal station and a small landing craft repair crew.

COMSOPAC rectified the omission in his Operation Order on the day after the initial landings by directing:

For construction and administration and operation of Advance Air Base Guadalcanal-Tulagi, COMAMPHIBFORSOPAC initially in charge.44

This created the certainty that Rear Admiral Turner would step on the toes of the Marines.

CUB One, containing the essential units from which an Advanced Base could be built, left San Francisco on the day before Rear Admiral Turner left Pearl Harbor. Its orders were to report to Commander South Pacific and its destination was New Caledonia, but enroute the four ships carrying CUB One were diverted to Espiritu Santo Island in the New Hebrides.

According to the Chief of Naval Operations' directive:

CUB bases are to be equipped to care for the logistic support of a small Task Group of Light Forces with no repair facilities on shore. Aviation repair, operation and maintenance facilities for 105 planes are included. [Personnel requirements are 138 officers and 3,200 men, of which 59 officers and 1,528 men are in the aviation service unit].45


Commander James P. Compton (1916), who had served with Vice Admiral Ghormley in the Naval Observer Unit in London, England, was the Commanding Officer of CUB One. He took command on 8 July 1942 at Moffett Field in California, the day the unit sailed for the South Pacific in two transports and two merchant ships via Pago Pago, Samoa. It arrived at Espiritu Santo on 11 August 1942.

When he departed San Francisco, Commander Compton had no knowledge that the WATCHTOWER Operation was immediately pending. He had been shown, but did not have a copy of an order from CNO directing that CUB One and CUB 13 (just being formed up) were to build three bases in the South Pacific, including one on the Santa Cruz Islands at Ndeni.46

Compton's story runs as follows:

Upon arrival at BUTTON [Espiritu Santo] I reported by despatch to COMSOPAC. No immediate orders from him. After I had been there a couple of days, I was ordered by COMSOPAC to fly to Noumea. He was aboard ship. I talked to Ghormley and his C/S Callaghan and to Colonel Peck on the Staff. I was told the base was to be built at Guadalcanal-Tulagi--no instructions as to when to go forward. I did not even know that I was to work for Kelly Turner. He was in the harbor when I was there, about 15 August, and had I known I was to work for him, I would have gone to see him. I did not then or later receive any orders to report to COMPHIBFORSOPAC. I did not know anything about Savo happening and I was not told when I got back to Espiritu Santo.

I assumed that I was sent out with the CUB-One equipment so as to help any way I could in the South Pacific. I had some aviation equipment so I landed gasoline trucks etc., to help out at BUTTON, plus gasoline drums. My arrival at Espiritu Santo resembled the arrival of Santa Claus on a playground with a full bag. The staff of General Rose [commanding at Espiritu Santo] assembled in my tent daily to determine the items they wanted.

The primary purpose of CUB One, as I understood it, was to establish air bases and supporting facilities. This was in accordance with CINCPAC' s supporting plan, which was about the one piece of official paper I received upon arrival at BUTTON. First people in CUB One to go to Guadalcanal--an Ensign George Washington Polk two Seabee warrant officers and a 100 plus men--arrived on 15 August 1942.

After a short time in Espiritu Santo (observing the complete lack of personnel at the Air Base there from which Colonel Saunders' B-17s were operating), I originated a despatch to CNO recommending that the full aviation complement of CUB One be sent as soon as possible. Apparently this caused consternation in OPNAV because despatches received indicated that to provide


CUB One with the aviation personnel set up in the allowance list would have required stripping personnel from all available sources. It was the first indication to me that I had command of a paper tiger.

At about this time a radio order from COMSOPAC was received to establish a base at Espiritu Santo. COMCUBONE was an action addressee.

I got a despatch from Kelly Turner to go up to Guadalcanal on the fast transports--Hugh Hadley's ships [Transport Division 12]. I gave him machine guns from CUB One to mount on his ships. I took some doctors . . . communicators and pay clerk and the CO of Seabee Battalion Six [Lieutenant Commander Paul Blundon (CEC)USNR]. On 27 August 1942, I embarked for Guadalcanal and arrived 29 August. My people were scared. Everybody was scared. I set up my headquarters near Henderson Field where the earlier elements of CUB One had been established.

We moved our camp after the shelling of the airfield, toward the beach. The Seabees had most of their equipment on a civilian ship, the Santa Anna, a Grace Line Ship. I sent a despatch to Kelly Turner to have the SS Santa Anita, the ship I thought best suited for the Guadalcanal situation, to come to Guadalcanal but he thought no civilian manned ships should go up at that time.

The Seabees aided the building and repair work at Henderson Field and my aviation personnel acted as ground crews and fueled the planes. Aviation gas drum storage records were kept and with this information, I was the only one in Guadalcanal that really knew [the amount of] gasoline available.

My unit gradually took over Island Communications. We, plus Dexter's original outfit, operated landing craft, housed units such as Black Cats, transients, and maintained a base at Tulagi.

My job personally as I saw it when I first arrived was to be useful around the airfield. The overriding mission was the defense of CACTUS [Guadalcanal].47

Rear Admiral Turner expected the skipper of CUB One to start building an Advanced Naval Base as soon as possible and this required him to develop a specific plan for the Guadalcanal-Tulagi area soon after his arrival.

On 23 August 1942 Rear Admiral Turner wrote to Major General Vandegrift:

Commander Compton, who is the Commanding Officer of CUB One, will probably move into CACTUS within a few days on the William Ward Burrows [AP-6]. If you and he will plan the development which is needed there, and send out your recommendations, we will do the best we can to


support your plans. Just as soon as possible, I will fly in to see you in order to be able better to help you out. Up to the present I have not been able to come, since we have all been working night and day to get things moving toward you and I have thought it better for me to stay here in charge.48

However, Commander Compton's written orders from CINCPAC centered around an air base, and Compton had landed during a period when the airfield had no steel matting and hence was vulnerable to rain, as well as to bombing and shelling. Keeping the airstrip in shape and building up communications took Compton's time. Although requested by despatch on a number of occasions and by letter on 15 September, his first plan for development of an Advanced Naval Base in the Guadalcanal-Tulagi area went forward about 28 September 1942.49 In a subsequent letter Commander Compton stated:

My main difficulty has been the lack of qualified officers to whom I could turn over details so that I would be free to proceed with more general plans.50

Captain Compton's present remembrance is supported by the few official documents located. On 27 September 1942, as Commanding Officer of CUB One, he wrote to COMAIRSOPAC:

I have, in the employment of CUB One, endeavored to carry out the spirit of CINCPAC serial 09910 [supporting plan] for which CUB One and Thirteen were sent out. This involved the construction, operation, administration and maintenance of a land plane base at CACTUS, seaplane base at RINGBOLT; radio, harbor defense, hospital and other facilities. I consider that still my mission.51

His remembrance of his aspects of the logistic support problem on Guadalcanal was:

The basic difference between Kelly Turner and me was: Why were the CUBS in SOPAC--to build bases or to support troops?52

Rear Admiral Turner, upset by the supply support difficulties of the first month of improvised logistic support of the Marines and the lack of any real start toward the development of bases in the Guadalcanal-Tulagi area, became convinced in early September 1942, that there had to be a Flag officer whose primary duty was the planning, the development, and the performance


of the Advanced Naval Bases of the forward areas in the South Pacific. This officer would be a subordinate to the officer who had these tasks in addition to many other logistic tasks for the whole SOPAC area, the Commander Service Squadron, South Pacific Force.

Besides the pre-WATCHTOWER bases of SOPAC started in the Society, Samoan, Fiji and Tonga Islands, there were the newer Advanced Naval Bases at Efate and Espiritu Santo in the New Hebrides and now bases at Tulagi and Guadalcanal physically separated but working together in the Southern Solomons. In early September 1942, Commander Service Squadron SOPAC-FOR, Rear Admiral Calvin H. Cobb (1911), had just been given the over--all task of building up and supporting all bases in the SOPAC Area. Vigorous discussion in Noumea also centered around the need to stop building a major base way down south in Auckland and to start to build up a main base at Noumea.53

Rear Admiral Turner also became convinced that there should be established an Advanced Naval Base at Guadalcanal-Tulagi, not just an Advanced Air Base, and that an officer with some seniority should be ordered to it.

On 5 September 1942, he committed his views to paper,54 including recommendations that Commander James P. Compton, U.S. Navy, the Commanding Officer of CUB One, be ordered as Commander Advance Bases CACTUS-RINGBOLT (Guadalcanal-Tulagi) and that an officer of appropriate rank be ordered to command each of the two bases in this base complex. Both of these recommendations were carried into effect by COMSOPAC, Commander Compton being ordered as Commander Advanced Bases CACTUS-RINGBOLT on 11 September 1942 and to the command of all Naval Activities in the area on 13 September 1942. It was more than another two months, however, before Commander H.L. Maples (1917) arrived, in December 1942, to command Naval Base, Lunga, which by May 1943 grew into the Advanced Naval Base Guadalcanal.

In early August 1942 when Lieutenant Commander D. H. Dexter of the Coast Guard went ashore at Guadalcanal to head up the Local Defense Force, and become Port Director, Guadalcanal, Lieutenant R. W. Pinger, D-V, USNR, was ordered to take charge of the Gavutu-Tulagi Sub Base Local Defense Force.55 Dexter was Port Director Tulagi-Gavutu. Under the principle of unity of command, he reported to Major General Vandegrift


or duty. This sound principle was extended to Gavutu-Tulagi on 28 October 1942 when Pinger' s relief, Lieutenant Commander John C. Alderman (1928), was given orders to report to Brigadier General William H. Rupertus, USMC, the senior officer present on Tulagi. On 27 November 1942, Commander William G. Fewell (1921) took over the Advanced Base at Tulagi from Alderman and only a month later, on 26 December 1942, he, in turn, was relieved by Commander Oliver O. Kessing (1914), soon to be promoted to captain.

Thus at the Gavutu-Tulagi Base, there were four different guiding influences in less than five months. At Guadalcanal, where the commander of the two bases in the area had his headquarters, there were three changes of command at this level in the same period. There were also three changes at the Lunga Base command level since the first two over-all commanders also commanded what in effect was the Lunga Base.

It was two months more and then after another plea from COMSOPAC that "planning and development bases this area is a major problem," before Captain Worrall R. Carter (1908) was ordered as Commander Naval Bases, South Pacific Force, and only after COMINCH had added his approval to the creation of this echelon of command. In January 1943, Captain Carter issued a Basic Organization of Naval Bases SOPAC.56

Rear Admiral Turner proceeded by air on 11 September to Guadalcanal, together with Rear Admiral McCain (COMAIRSOPAC) and the Commanding Officer 7th Marine Regiment and members of their staffs. The group returned to Espiritu Santo on 13 September and CTF 62 departed by transport on 14 September for Guadalcanal with the 7th Marine Regiment.

Captain Compton recalled:

In September, Turner came to Guadalcanal. I was asked to have dinner by General Vandegrift together with General Geiger, Jock McCain and Colonel Wood. Kelly broke out a bottle of bourbon. During the evening General Vandegrift suggested that Turner was giving me a hard time. Kelly said:

'If I kick him around a bit, he will do a better job.'

The second night Kelly was on Guadalcanal we took a big pasting. That morning we had a big bombing. Our radio shack was hit. Kelly drove up in a jeep. I tried to explain that I was taking care of things like that [getting the communications flowing again].57

An examination of the Marines' log of events at Guadalcanal shows that


a 42-plane Japanese air strike occurred at 1150, 12 September, and put the main radio receivers on Guadalcanal out of commission for 32 hours. The night of 12 September, Guadalcanal was shelled by a Japanese light cruiser and three destroyers, and the first probing actions of the Battle of the Ridge occurred. On the 13th of September, Japanese planes made passes at Henderson Field just before and after Rear Admiral Turner departed Guadalcanal.

Cub One Moves Forward Slowly

On 29 August, 357 officers and men of the Sixth Naval Construction Battalion (part of CUB One) embarked in the cargo ship Betelgeuse for Guadalcanal. This meant that two weeks after the initial landings about 480 personnel of CUB One had been started forward.

On 28 September 1942, in a letter to Major General Vandegrift, Rear Admiral Turner wrote in regard to preparing Guadalcanal as "our Major invasion base:"

I am not satisfied with the number of men Compton has taken in there. He should have all of the CUB One and the Sixth Construction personnel, except a very small contingent at BUTTON [Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides] to act as a forwarding agency.58

On 30 September 1942, Commander Compton reported that 47 officers and 878 men of CUB One were still in Espiritu Santo, and he furnished a list of the tasks they were engaged in.59 On 5 August 1942, CUB One had reported a strength of 139 officers and 1,828 men.

On 24 October 1942, Rear Admiral Turner sent to COMSOPAC an eight-page letter dealing with the "Development of Advanced Naval Base Solomons." This letter enclosed a four-page undated letter originated by Commander Compton as Commander Advanced Naval Base CACTUS-RINGBOLT, dealing with the organization and future development of the base area for which lie was then primarily responsible. From its contents, it is believed this letter was originated about 28 September 1942.60

As background for several of the recommendations set forth therein by


Rear Admiral Turner, it is pointed out that in his letter of about 28 September 1942 Commander Compton had stated:

Much of CUB One material is already installed at BUTTON [Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides] . . . Unless material of CUB 13 at WHITE POPPY [Noumea, New Caledonia] is carefully preserved for such use it will be difficult if not impossible to properly fit out RINGBOLT [Tulagi].61

Commander Compton also stated that his activities on Guadalcanal were divided into two classes:

  1. Services and operations immediately required by the current tactical situation.

  2. Development of naval facilities as required by CINCPAC Secret Serial 09910 of 8 July 1942.

In other words, Commander Compton, for what he believed made very good reasons, still was not moving towards the building of an Advanced Naval Base, but rather toward an Advanced Air Base.

In his letter of 24 October, COMPHIBFORSOPAC recommended that a new title, Commander Advanced Naval Bases, Solomons, be given to Commander Compton and that he be provided with a six-man staff. COMSOPAC agreed that a new title was desirable but decided that the new title should be Commander Naval Bases, Forward Area. This got away from the limited concept of an Air Base.

COMPHIBFORSOPAC felt that leaving approximately 40 percent of the total number of officers and men in CUB One at Espiritu Santo for over two months was a diversion of effort from the main task at hand. In his mind, Commander Compton had not acquired a clear idea of the very large naval base needed at Guadalcanal-Tulagi to serve for the future assembling of large invasion forces and their logistic support which would be needed to move into the Middle and Upper Solomons. He decided that a new and more senior officer was needed for the job.62

While Rear Admiral Turner was unhappy with results achieved up to that time, it is most evident that Commander Compton well pleased his Marine Seniors. The Commanding General, First Marine Air Wing, Brigadier General Roy 5. Geiger, who arrived on Guadalcanal on 3 September 1942, wrote of Captain Compton:

His wholehearted cooperation in placing all the facilities of his command at


the disposal of the Commanding General, First Marine Air Wing aided the aviation units in repelling air and surface attacks.

And Major General Vandegrift wrote:

You took over immediately the multiplicity of duties connected with the preparation and maintenance of the Naval and Air facilities at this station. These duties you have discharged in an outstanding manner. By your unceasing efforts, complete cooperation and willingness, you have made an invaluable contribution to the success of operations in this area.

In early November 1942, Rear Admiral Turner applied to COMSOPAC for the services of Captain W. G. Greenman (1912), the Captain of the ill-fated Astoria (sunk at Savo Island) who was still in the SOPAC area. COMSOPAC ordered Captain Greenman as Commander Naval Bases, Forward Area, and Commander Compton as his Chief Staff Officer.

Rear Admiral Turner sat down and wrote Captain Greenman a long letter:

Congratulations on being assigned to your new job. You may or may not like it--so you should know that I recommended you for it, worked like hell before we got you, and am now trying to have you made a Flag officer so you have appropriate rank as Commander Advanced Naval Base, CACTUS-RINGBOLT. 'Advanced Naval Bases Solomons' does not seem to be acceptable to the boss, nor does 'Commander Naval Activities, Solomons' fit the bill.

I personally drafted the plan for the development of the SOLOMON base . . . because I was unable to get a satisfactory program from Compton, and not even any member of my staff really knew the story.63

Captain Greenman lasted but a month (7 November-12 December 1942) as he developed pneumonia and had to be shipped back to Pearl Harbor. Personal letters indicated that Captain Greenman was trying hard to get officers of appropriate seniority ordered in as Commanding Officers RINGBOLT and CACTUS.

The next over-all commander of these two Advanced Bases started out as Commander Advanced Naval Base CACTUS, but soon had a new title Commander Naval Bases Solomons. He was Captain Thomas M. Shock (1913), who well satisfied his Boss and the Army who awarded him a Distinguished Service Medal, but in the spring of 1943, after serving from 12 December 1942 to 11 May 1943, he had to be invalided home.64


Your interesting letter of December twentieth has been received. It is just the kind of letter I would have expected you to write, and if any proof were needed, proves that we now have the right man in the very difficult position of Commander Advanced Naval Base, CACTUS.65

Captain William M. Quigley (1911), the next Commander Naval Bases, Solomons, did not arrive until 12 May 1943, and eventually received the promotion to Commodore which had been urged but never approved for his predecessors. Under his able command, the Naval Bases of the Southern Solomons further developed and provided highly effective support, both operational and logistic, for the New Georgia Campaign.66

Guadalcanal was a tough area for the health of oldsters. Captain Greenman was 54, and Captain Shock, 50. Commander Compton was only a bit younger, at 47.

In comparison with the speed and efficiency with which the Navy built many other Advanced Bases during its sweep up the Solomons and across the Pacific, it cannot be denied that the building of the CACTUS-RINGBOLT Base suffers badly. In second guessing the reasons for the slowness with which the Advanced Base CACTUS-RINGBOLT took shape, the four most apparent reasons are:

  1. There was no adequate Base Plan developed by higher echelons of command prior to the assault landing.

  2. The Base Area was under Japanese gunfire or air attack a far greater number of times during the first four months of building than other bases. There was a definite lack of appreciation by the officer in over-all charge, Rear Admiral Turner, of the part that defensive tasks were playing in absorbing the time and energies of the Base Commander.

  3. The lack of a clear mission at the Base Commander's level, with the immediate senior in command (Major General Vandegrift) being primarily concerned with work which would contribute promptly or directly to his offensive or defensive potentialities, and the next senior in the chain of command (Rear Admiral Turner) keeping a constant eye to the future use of the Base.

  4. A large amount of fuzziness in command lines with five seniors (COMSOPAC, COMGENFIRSTMARDIV, COMAIRSOPAC,


    COMPHIBFORSOPAC, COMSERONSOPAC) all sending despatches and letters direct to the Base Commander.

Rear Admiral Turner, far from seeking to enlarge his area of responsibility, or believing in the desirability of his being the appropriate responsible senior, or enjoying his responsibility to build up the Advanced Base at Guadalcanal-Tulagi, was anxious to transfer the responsibility to a more appropriate commander. Less than a month after he had been handed the hot potato, he felt strongly enough in the matter to seek a change.

On 5 September 1942, COMPHIBFORSOPAC recommended to his immediate seniors

that Commander Amphibious Force South Pacific be relieved of his present responsibilities in connection with the up-building of this base, at a time deemed appropriate by the Commander South Pacific Force; and that the administration of the base be handled in a manner similar to the administration of the other Naval Advanced Bases in the Pacific Ocean.67

Opinions on the Course of the Logistic Difficulties

After Vice Admiral Ghormley had left his SOPAC command, and had time to consider the broader aspects of his duty in that area, he wrote that he believed that there was in the Navy Department

a marked failure in appreciation of the time element necessary for transportation to the South Pacific, for base construction and for airfield construction.68

Vice Admiral Halsey soon learned, as he told his seniors in a message of November 1942:

Planning and development bases this area is a major problem.69

In June 1943, when Major General Vandegrift moved up to command of the Amphibious Corps South Pacific with Headquarters in Noumea, he opined:

My biggest problem concerned supply, a field in which, at this point, the Navy did not excel.70

A fighting Marine and a keen observer who served throughout this period of logistic difficulties in the Southern Solomons thought that:


The guilty parties were behind snug desks in their Department in Washington.71

Commodore Peyton, the Chief of Staff TF 62, observed:

The Navy was unprepared logistically to conduct operations at the end of a 6,000 mile pipe line. The logistic pipe line existed, but it was largely empty. Great effort was devoted to such commonplace items as oil and ammunition. To illustrate we never were really full of fuel for the Guadalcanal Operation. We were supposed to fill up at the Fijis, but there wasn't enough fuel for all ships to fill full. We were supposed to top off at Efate. There was no fuel there.72

From the safe distance of 27 years, it may be pointed out that none of the operation orders dealing with WATCHTOWER issued by naval command echelons prior to the landing provided for scheduled or automatic resupply over the first 30 to 60 days of the operation. These orders contained no particular details regarding the follow-up movements for the tremendous logistic support which would be involved in building an Advanced Air Base, or the other essential facilities of a small Naval Operating Base at an overseas location. CINCPAC issued his orders for building the Advanced Air Base by CUB One on 8 July 1942 but the Commanding Officer of CUB One did not receive a copy of it until after the landings of 7 August 1942. This is logistics at its very worst, when the support forces are a month late in getting the word about the operations.

That the Line of the Navy, even those at the top echelon, learned fast about logistics is evidenced by this testimony of its senior officer in 1944:

This war has been variously termed a war of production and a war of machines. Whatever else it is, so far as the United States is concerned, it is a war of logistics The profound effect of logistics problems on our strategic decision are not likely to have full significance to those who did not have to traverse the tremendous distances in the Pacific.73

That the Marines occasionally contributed to the logistics problem at Guadalcanal is indicated by the following extract from an official report dated Christmas Day 1942 and covering the support operation of 17-18 December 1942:

The straw that nearly tipped the balance was the box of cargo that broke


open in hold and displayed the contents as tennis rackets and tennis balls. Of all items to waste ship space on in transport to CACTUS, this seems to be near the top.74


Table of Contents  *  Previous Chapter (10)  *  Next Chapter (12)


1. Turner.

2. LST--Landing Ship Tank; LCT--Landing Craft Tank. In the 1943 operations these landing ships and craft ran directly up onto the beach and waterproofed wheeled vehicles or tanks unloaded through bow doors. When depth of water or beach gradient did not permit this type of unloading, they ran up onto hastily constructed "hard" ramps or dropped their nose doors onto beach grounded pontoon barges. DUKWs. These amphibious trucks could be loaded aboard ship, unloaded by winch or launched out of bow doors and move through the water up onto the beach and inland surmounting the surf and riding over reefs or through swamps.

3. Turner.

4. Kinkaid.

5. Ballentine, U.S. Naval Logistics in the Second World War, p. 99.

6. COMSOPAC Op Plan 1-42, Logistic Annex.

7. CINCPAC to COMINCH, 250225 Jun. 1942.

8. COMSOPAC to CINCPAC, 260551 Jul. 1942.

9. COMINCH to C/S USA, letter, FF1 A16/CF1 Ser 00105 of 18 Feb. 1942.

10. COMSERVRONPAC to COMSOPAC, 220655 Aug. 1942.

11. COMSOPAC to CINCPAC, 090830 Aug. 1942.

12. COMSOPAC to CTF 62, 090551 Aug. 1942.

13. Turner.

14. (a) McCawley Ship's Log; (b) Staff Log, 19 Aug. 1942.

15. Staff Interviews.

16. Commanding General First Marine Division (Vandegrift) to RKT, letter, 12 Aug. 1942.

17. (a) COMPHIBFORSOPAC, Tentative Command Order, no date; (b) CTF 62, Op Plan A3-42, para. 5(c); Annex K, para. 2.

18. (a) Turner; (b) Staff Interviews.

19. Turner.

20. Turner.

21. Henry Harley Arnold, Global Mission, p. 338.

22. Ibid., p. 337.

23. Ibid., p. 340.

24. Ibid., p. 341.

25. Ibid. p. 342.

26. Ibid., p. 348. Time late September 1942.

27. C/S AAF to C/S USA, memorandum, 6 Oct. 1942. OPD 384. Modern Military Records Division, National Archives.

28. RKT to Major General Vandegrift, letter, 23 Aug. 1942, p. 2.

29. COMSOPAC to COMSERVRONSOPAC, 301110 Aug. 1942.

30. CTF 62 to TF 62, letter, FE 25/NT6/A4-2/Ser 0056 of 20 Aug. 1942. Subj: Establishment of Marine Advanced Supply Depots.

31. Time Magazine, 7 February 1944.

32. COMGENFIRSTMARDIV Final Report on Guadalcanal Operation, Phase III, Annex C.

33. (a) Ibid., Phase V, Annex T; (b) Hough, Ludwig, Shaw, Pearl Harbor to Guadalcanal (Marines), pp. 311-13.

34. COMPHIBFORSOPAC to COMSOPAC, 090 Sep. 1942 and referenced despatches.

35. (a)) COMSOPAC to COMPHIBFORSOPAC 082140 Sep. 1942 and related despatches; (b) COMINCH, letter, FF1/A3-1, Ser 001006 of 18 Sep. 1942; COMINCH 261302 Sep. 1942; CINCPAC 120635 Nov. 1942; (c) COMPHIBFORSOPAC, letter, A3-1 Ser 00394 of 17 Nov. 1942, subj: Proposed return to Pacific Coast of AP's and AK's temporarily assigned the South Pacific Force.

36. (a) COMAIRSOPAC to COMGENGUADALCANAL, 130623 Aug. 1942; (b) RDO Tulagi to RDO Auckland, 159459 Aug. 1942; (c) COMSOPAC to CINCPAC, 231301 Aug. 1942.

37. RKT to Captain W.G. Greenman, letter, 7 Nov. 1942.

38. RKT to General Vandegrift, letter, 16 Nov. 1942.

39. (a) CTF 62, letter, FE 25/A16/Ser 029 of 23 Aug. 1942 and replies thereto from transports and cargo ships and commands; (b) COMSOPAC, letter, A16-3/(00) Ser 00936 of 4 Dec. 1942; (c) TU 66.3 Op Orders J-1, K-1, K-2, H-1, incorporating trial revisions.

40. COMSOPAC to CINCPAC, 210517 Oct. 1942.

41. FIRSTMARDIV Final Report on Guadalcanal Operations, Phase V, Annex T., p. 2.

42. CINCPAC Basic Supporting Plan for Advanced Air Bases Santa Cruz Island and Tulagi-Guadalcanal, Ser 09910 of 8 Jul. 1942.

43. Ballentine, p. 57.

44. COMSOPAC to COMPHIBFORSOPAC, 080826 Aug. 1942.

45. CNO letter, Ser 018753 of 25 Aug. 1942, subj: LION and CUB bases.

46. (a) Interview with Captain James P. Compton, 1 Feb. 1962; Memorandum from Captain Compton, 17 Jun. 1969. Hereafter Compton; (b) COMSOPAC, 022310 Aug. 1942.

47. (a) Compton; (b) C/S/ COMPHIBFORSOPAC to RKT, Memorandum of 26 Aug. 1952.

48. RKT to AAV, letter, 23 Aug. 1942.

49. (a) C/S/ COMPHIBFORSOPAC to RKT, memorandum of 26 Aug. 1942; (b) COMSOPAC, despatches 072206, 231326 Sep. 1943; (c) COMPHIBFORSOPAC to COMADVBASE CACTUS-RINGBOLT, letter, 15 Sep. 1942.

50. JPC to RKT, letter, 8 Oct. 1942.

51. COMCUBO to COMAIRSOPAC, letter, 27 Sep. 1942.

52. Compton.

53. Staff Interviews.

54. COMPHIBFORSOPAC to COMSOPAC, letter, Ser 00116 of 5 Sep. 1942.

55. CTF 62, letters, P16-4/00, Ser 0027 of 5 Aug. 1942; and P-16-4/00, Ser 0023 of 5 Aug. 1942, subj: Lieutenant Pinger's orders to the Local Defense Force, Sub-Area.

56. (a) COMSOPAC 072206 Sep., 061345 Nov. 1942; (b) COMGENCACTUS, letter, 13 Sep. 1942; (c) CNO, OP-30-B3, letter Ser 0291930 of 7 Nov. 1943, 1942 and references.

57. Compton.

58. RKT to AAG, letter, 28 Sep. 1942.

59. (a) AC/S to CTF 62, memorandum, 27 Aug. 1942; (b) COMADVBASE CACTUS-RINGBOLT to COMAIRSOPAC and COMPHIBFORSOPAC, letters of 27 and 30 Sep. 1942.

60. COMPHIBFORSOPAC to COMSOPAC, letter, FE25/Ad-1/0032 24 Oct. 1942, with enclosure from COMADVBASE CACTUS, no ser, undated.

61. Ibid.

62. Turner.

63. RKT to Captain W.G. Greenman, letter, 7 Nov. 1942.

64. (a) Commander Naval Bases South Solomons Sub-Area, Command History, p. 79; (b) Personal letters COMSOPAC to CINCPAC.

65. RKT to Captain T.M. Shock, letter, 24 Dec. 1942.

66. South Solomons Sub-Area, Command History.

67. COMPHIBFORSOPAC to COMSOPAC, letter, Ser 00116 of 5 Sep. 1942.

68. Ghormley manuscript, p. 13.

69. COMSOPAC, 061345 Nov. 1942.

70. Vandegrift, p. 221. Reprinted from Once a Marine with permission of W.W. Norton & Co., Inc.

71. Griffith, p. 138.

72. Interview with Commodore Thomas G. Peyton, USN (Ret.), 22 May 1961. Hereafter Peyton.

73. Admiral Ernest J. King to SECNAV, 23 Apr. 1944.

74. Commander Transport Division Eight (Captain George B. Ashe) Report of Operations 17-18 Dec. 1942.