HUDDLE Slowly Scuttled
One of the factors influencing the 'when' and 'where to' United States forces would move from Guadalcanal, was the Santa Cruz Island operation, code named HUDDLE.
Santa Cruz Islands (HUDDLE)
It is customary these days to beat Admiral Turner about the head because he did not chuck the HUDDLE Operation the day the Marines ran into their first real opposition on Tulagi-Guadalcanal. These critics blame him for not committing, with finality, the 2nd Marine Regiment resources, designated for occupying and defending Ndeni in the Santa Cruz Islands, to augment those on Guadalcanal.
His reasons for delaying sending off a recommendation to scuttle HUDDLE to his many seniors, all the way up to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, all of whom had directed the occupation and defense of the Santa Cruz Islands, were three in number. Rear Admiral Turner believed that:
The Japanese reaction to the loss of the lower Solomons as a base for air reconnaissance of the Coral Sea and air attacks on New Caledonia, could well be a try at outflanking the lower Solomons, and reducing their usefulness in United States hands by a seizure of the Santa Cruz Islands, and the building of airfields thereon. In other words, the Santa Cruz Islands offered an alternative route to the New Hebrides and New Caledonia which should be denied to the offensive-minded Japanese. It was learned from the natives that the Japanese had built a temporary air base on the Santa Cruz Islands and conducted a war game therefrom in 1940.1
In the early days of the WATCHTOWER Operation a despatch had come in from COMSOPAC on 28 July 1942 indicating that from cryptographic sources, it had been learned that the Japanese were planning to commence an operation on 29 July from the New Britain Area. Rear Admiral Turner thought that whatever objective this Japanese operation had been planned for, that it might well be diverted to the Santa Cruz Islands to balance off, in Japanese eyes, the American movements into the Southern Solomons.
Santa Cruz and Trevanion Islands--the HUDDLE Objective.
There was a very real positive value to be obtained from the establishment of United States air bases in the Santa Cruz Islands and their use for air search to locate any Japanese Expeditionary Force movements from the Marshall Islands southeastward towards the Fiji and Samoan Islands.2
It is interesting that COMSOPAC's reaction to this cryptographic information seemingly was the same, since based on this despatch he told CTF 61 (Fletcher) to give consideration to an early end of Phase One and the commencing of Phase Two (HUDDLE) of Operation Plan 1-42.3
As early as 14 June, Vice Admiral Ghormley had advised COMINCH that he desired "to initiate an advance through New Hebrides, Santa Cruz and Ellice Island." He was still of the opinion that the Santa Cruz Islands were important when Rear Admiral Turner talked with him in Auckland in mid-July 1942 and he remained convinced of it up to the day of his detachment as COMSOPAC.4
At the 26 July conference regarding WATCHTOWER which Fletcher (1906), Noyes (1906), McCain (1906), Turner (1908), Kinkaid (1908), Vandegrift, USMC, Crutchley (Royal Navy), and Callaghan (1911) held at sea off Koro on 26 July, the questions of the forces to be finally assigned HUDDLE and the D-Day for the HUDDLE Operation were discussed. Callaghan's notes to the Area Commander in regard to these points were as follows:
Movement to Ndeni to be started night of D-Day if possible. Much argument about need of whole 2nd Marines. Brought up Peck's point of using one battalion for this purpose--was voted down as all agreed that this must be held strongly account of its position and probability of major attack on it.5
This planning in regard to Ndeni had gone forward despite the fact that on 6 July 1942 COMAIRSOPAC had reported that actual reconnaissance of the Santa Cruz Islands and the islands to the south had disclosed that airfield sites were going to be hard to come by. Only two heavily wooded areas, one on Ndeni and one on Trevanion Island, were possibilities.6
When the Marines were having real difficulties at Tulagi-Gavutu on D-Day, Major General Vandegrift requested from CTF 62 (Turner) the release of one battalion from the Force Reserve, the 2nd Marine Regiment,
to reinforce the Assault Force. He got not only one battalion, but two--all the battalions there were in the Force Reserve.7
On 10 August and after having received the first reports of the Savo disaster, COMSOPAC stated that he intended to use Espiritu Santo as a strong point for the "occupation [of] Santa Cruz Islands."8 This despatch indicated that Vice Admiral Ghormley was still bent on carrying out the Joint Chiefs of Staff directive. Therefore his subordinate, Rear Admiral Turner, should be planning and moving toward this end.
It was not within CTF 62's area of authority to tell the Marines that they could forget about his seniors' plans for the use of the 2nd Regiment of Marines, nor could he personally forget about these plans. The Marines, the Amphibious Forces, and the South Pacific Force Commander all had protested setting D-Day for WATCHTOWER on August 1st, and had said it could not be done. The JCS acting through Admiral King had then tinkered with August 4th and when that day appeared impracticable and further protests and pleas against it had been sent all the way to Washington, August 7th had been set as D-Day with the understanding of no further delay, no matter what.
It would appear that Rear Admiral Turner was wise in not rushing into another exchange of pungent despatches asking for a further modification of COMSOPAC's, CINCPAC's, COMINCH's, and the Joint Chiefs' orders regarding HUDDLE, when the practicalities and necessities would settle the issue.
Back in early June, COMINCH had planned for the 7th Regiment of the First Marine Division, temporarily in Samoa, to rejoin its division.9 The relief for the 7th Regiment, the 22nd Marine Regiment, was to leave San Diego as soon after 10 July 1942 as they were loaded aboard transports. There was a reasonable possibility that the 7th Regiment might be available to rejoin the First Marine Division by mid-August. In this case, the 7th Regiment could either undertake the Ndeni task or relieve the 2nd Regiment on Tulagi-Guadalcanal. Both arrangements would leave the First Division at full strength.
On 14 August, the Commanding Officer of the 2nd Regiment, after a visit to Ndeni, reported that the Jap airfield on Ndeni was overgrown but that Ndeni could be occupied.10
On 15 August COMINCH transmitted a despatch from the Joint Chiefs to COMSOPAC (which COMPHIBFORSOPAC also received) containing these words:
based upon the successful progress of Task One, it should be practicable to mount immediately that part of Task Two. . . . CINCPAC urges such actions. . . .11
It was apparent from this despatch that at the JCS, COMINCH, and CINCPAC level, it was anticipated that Task One, a major part of which was HUDDLE, would be successfully completed.
On 17 August COMSOPAC informed CINCPAC and COMINCH that Ndeni "will be occupied as soon as practicable."12
On 20 August 1942, Rear Admiral Turner at Noumea, issued his second Op Plan for the occupation and defense of Ndeni in the Santa Cruz Islands.13
He was in a vise. His immediate seniors, Nimitz and Ghormley, were urging him to get on with HUDDLE. His immediate Marine junior (Vandegrift) was urging him to scuttle HUDDLE.
That, at this date, Turner was just a bit on the fence is apparent from the fact that his Op Plan A9-42 was delivered to those who had tasks to plan and to do if the operation was carried out, but the copies for COMINCH, Naval Operations, the Commanding General First Marine Division, and others were marked: "Deferred Distribution (After execution of Plan)." The deferred distribution of Op Plan A9-42 was never made.
On 23 August, Rear Admiral Turner informed Major General Vandegrift:
The present plan is to send this regiment (7th) plus Fifth Defense Battalion (less your share) to Ndeni as a garrison, but of course that will be changed, if it becomes necessary.14
On 28 August 1942, by agreement between Rear Admirals McCain and Turner, Lieutenant Colonel Weir, the Assistant Operations Officer (Air) on the Amphibious Staff, flew up to Ndeni Island and made a ground reconnaissance of nearby Trevanion Island, our proposed airfield site.
. . . What may not be so well known is the fact that the project was opposed with equal violence by COMAIRSOPAC (Rear Admiral McCain). He objected to the diversion of aircraft and construction forces. I reported that the maximum runway which could be built was about 4000 feet. Also that because of irregular terrain and heavy woods, the project was impossible
with construction troops and equipment available in the foreseeable future. . . . No one in SOPAC had then seen a Seabee Battalion. . . .15
On 29 August, COMSOPAC informed CINCPAC and COMINCH:
When the 7th Marines are embarked and if the situation then permits, I intend to seize Ndeni, the occupation of which and the establishment of an airfield thereon will greatly strengthen my position. . . .16
The actual deferment of HUDDLE became possible at the COMPHIBFORSOPAC level only after the Joint Chiefs of Staff approved CINCPAC's recommendation of 3 September that the JCS Directive of 2 July
be modified to permit occupation Santa Cruz Islands to a later phase [of PESTILENCE] at discretion of COMSOPAC.17
On 9 September 1942, the modification having come through from the Joint Chiefs, COMSOPAC, in his Op Plan 3-42, took cognizance of this new authority and directed CTF 62 to "prepare to occupy Ndeni Island on further directive."18 This was at least a step towards cancellation of the operation.
On the same day, with the 7th Regiment of the First Marine Division en-route from Samoa to a rendezvous with a detachment of Marines from New Caledonia, the needs of Guadalcanal rose up and demanded that the 7th Regiment proceed to Guadalcanal and that the 2nd Regiment remain there.
Also on 9 September, Rear Admiral Turner wrote Rear Admiral Leigh Noyes, Commander Task Force 18 in the Wasp.
We have pending a decision as to whether or not to undertake an operation for the reinforcement of the Marine garrison at CACTUS . . .
* * * * * *Final decision as to whether or not to make this landing at Taivu Point, will depend on Ghormley's decision after Vandegrift and I have had a conference within the next two or three days. . . . * * * * * *I expect to go up to CACTUS the eleventh, return to BUTTON the thirteenth, and remain there until the move forward.19
On 11 September Rear Admiral Turner informed COMSOPAC that he hoped availability of forces in SOPAC would be such as to permit an allocation of forces for the HUDDLE Operation because
It is essential that we occupy Ndeni as soon as possible.20
But that did not necessarily mean now, nor necessarily with the 7th Regiment. It did mean that the JCS directive and the CINCPAC directive still contemplated the occupation of Ndeni.
On 12 September, and after a personal visit to Guadalcanal, Rear Admiral Turner definitely swung to the priority of Guadalcanal over Ndeni as the objective for the 7th Marine Regiment, and wrote:
Personal reconnaissance and a careful review of the situation with COMGEN 1st MARDIV confirms opinion . . . one more regiment is essential to defense CACTUS . . . Recommend approval my departure from Espiritu Santo for Guadalcanal, morning 14th . . . with 7th Marines. . . .21
The COMPHIBFORSOPAC Staff Log tells the story of the next few days:
13 September. [At Espiritu Santo] 0015. Received secret despatch from Adm. Turner [who was on Guadalcanal] to COMSOPAC recommending immediate reinforcement of CACTUS [Guadalcanal] by the 7th Marines.
* * * * * *0400. Anchored as before, standing by to get underway on half hour's notice. AA Battery in Condition TWO. * * * * * *0800: COMAIRSOPAC reported morning search failed to reveal presence enemy ships this area and indicates no immediate threat to BUTTON [Espiritu Santo] today. * * * * * *1130. CTF 62, Assistant Chief of Staff, and the Staff Aviation Officer returned from a conference at CACTUS with Commanding General First Marine Division, and COMAIRSOPAC. * * * * * *14 September,
0048. Radio Guadalcanal reported in plain language being shelled by at least one cruiser and two destroyers.
0515. Units of Task Force 62 underway.
* * * * * *0800. CACTUS garrison engaged all night at rear and right flank. Now  engaged left flank. Bringing over one battalion 2nd Marines from RINGBOLT [Tulagi].
The Staff Log for the afternoon watch on 15 September 1942 contains the following entry in the Chief of Staff's handwriting:
Information of enemy shows strong concentration of Japanese Naval strength within 300 mile radius of CACTUS. One group of 3 BE, 4 CA, 4 DD at 7-50Z, 164E bombed by B-17s, 2 possible hits. 1 CV, 3 cruisers, 4 DD at 06-30's, 16-17E, another carrier group North of Kolombangara Island [180 miles NW from Guadalcanal.] Enemy attacks, land and naval forces throughout the night at CACTUS. . . . All factors of situation caused a decision on the part of CTF 65 [Turner] temporarily to withdraw in hopes of more favorable opportunity for reinforcement and also in order to rendezvous Bellatrix to take in [to Guadalcanal] large quantity AV Gas. . . .
The Staff Log continues:
* * * * * *1818: The strategical situation is doubtful. Practically no plane contacts today and practically no information of enemy. Covering Force of carriers, our Task Force 61, has withdrawn to BUTTON. Task Force 65 maintaining itself in vicinity of CINCPAC grid position 4794 in order to be prepared to take advantage of any favorable opportunity to enter CACTUS either east or west of San Cristobal. . . .
0000: En route to CACTUS.
1200: Visibility reduced by haze. Nothing sighted.
* * * * * *Considerable concentration of [Japanese] naval escort force, transport and landing craft at Faisi [250 miles NW Guadalcanal] indicates that a major effort will soon be made by enemy, either as direct landing attack or in building up Faisi as a base from which future operations may be projected. Decision was made to proceed with plan for reinforcement of CACTUS.
* * * * * *0625: First Marine troops landed.22
The reinforcement moved forward, although the second try cost us the carrier Wasp and the destroyer O'Brien. But the 7th Regiment was successfully landed.
However, putting the 7th Regiment on Guadalcanal did not mean that COMSOPAC was relieved of his responsibility for carrying out his directive to occupy Ndeni in the Santa Cruz Islands "as soon as possible." The desirability
of the operation was noted, on 22 September, by CINCPAC who in a despatch to COMINCH referred to the "necessity to occupy Ndeni."23
Various alternative forces in the rear areas were suggested by COMSOPAC and COMPHIBFORSOPAC as possible forces for the task, including one battalion of the 2nd Regiment on Guadalcanal, the 8th Regiment of the Second Marine Division in Samoa, and the 147th Regiment of the U.S. Army in the Tonga Islands.24
When COMPHIBFORSOPAC suggested as a possibility including the Army's 147th Regiment in the required troops for the Ndeni Mission, COMGEN, SOPAC (Major General Millard F. Harmon, U.S. Army) stepped in, and on 6 October 1942 recommended strongly against HUDDLE being undertaken until "the Southern Solomon's were secured"25
Vice Admiral Ghormley was still intent on HUDDLE and turned down the recommendation of his senior Army advisor to cancel. The Marines on Guadalcanal went through another crisis in early October, and all troop resources in SOPAC were pointed towards our holding operation there. Rear Admiral Turner landed 2,850 Army troops from the 164th Infantry Regiment on 13 October along with 3,200 tons of cargo.
Shortly after Vice Admiral William F. Halsey took over command in SOPAC on 18 October 1942, the heat came off Rear Admiral Turner to undertake HUDDLE, although the operation was not actually dead until March 1943 when the Joint Chiefs of Staff cancelled their 2 July 1942 PESTILENCE Plan and issued their new plan of operations for the seizure of the Solomon Islands-New Guinea-New Britain-New Ireland areas to make possible the "ultimate seizure of the Bismarck Archipelago."26
It was Admiral Turner's belief that it was quite natural for the Marines, as long as they were maintaining a perimeter defensive position on Guadalcanal, to want every Marine in the South Pacific within that perimeter; but that he had to view the situation in a broader spectrum, and that he naturally was more responsive than the Marines to the overriding JCS directives and his immediate senior's requirements.27
Probably the root of the difference of opinion between COMSOPAC and
COMPHIBFORPAC with the Commanding General First Marine Division was that Vice Admiral Ghormley and Rear Admiral Turner could not get out of their minds that all the early directives from higher authority listed taking the Santa Cruz Islands ahead of the Solomon Islands in the missions to be accomplished, and it had only been the imperatives resulting from the Japanese fast progress in building an airfield on Guadalcanal which had shifted the Santa Cruz Islands from number 1 to number 2 on the JCS chore list.
The original despatch to COMSOPAC gave him tasks having the:
Immediate objective of seizing and occupying Santa Cruz Islands and positions in the Solomon Islands, with the ultimate objective of occupying Eastern New Guinea and New Britain.
Vice Admiral Halsey came into command of SOPAC without the background of a chore long assigned and not discharged, and, making an on the spot estimate of the situation, decided that HUDDLE could stand aside.
Admiral Turner's belief was that the HUDDLE planning had served a very useful purpose throughout, and that it had helped the Marines on Guadalcanal, rather than hindered them, in that it provided a hook upon which to hang urgent requests for additional troops in the SOPAC area.28
The major problem of the Marines on Guadalcanal was the Japanese. There were two other Marine problems toward whose solution Rear Admiral Turner was working, although not always to the satisfaction of the Marines.
Relief of Marines by Army Troops
The first was support of the Marines, both combat and logistic, and the second was their relief by Army troops.
Admiral Turner felt that he had incurred the displeasure of his comrades in arms over the relief of the Marines by the Army on Guadalcanal. He thought that:
The Marines were unhappy because they weren't relieved sooner, and the Army was unhappy because they were thrown on to Guadalcanal before they were fully ready.29
JCS 23, approved by the Joint Chiefs on 16 March 1942, had lumped the South Pacific and Southwest Pacific into one area and provided for 416,000
United States troops to be stationed there by the end of 1942, and had stated that 225,000 were already so positioned. This figure of 225,000 troops possibly plagued all the Washington planners' memories, for it was a major factor influencing when and where United States forces would move on from Guadalcanal, and constantly was brought up at the COMINCH level as an ingredient of the relief of the Marines on Guadalcanal by Army troops. For the Navy planners believed that if the Army could relieve the Marines from land warfare on Guadalcanal, the Marines could carry out an amphibious operation directed by the Joint Chiefs against the Santa Cruz Islands.
When General MacArthur's area boundary was shifted westward of Guadalcanal on 1 August 1942, his pain was eased by telling him that the boundary shift was made so that COMSOPAC would be required to furnish garrison forces for the Solomons.30 This represented a change from the initial draft directive which had provided:
permanent occupation of Islands seized on the Solomons New Guinea Area will be accomplished by the movement of garrisons from Australia under the direction of COMSOWESPAC area.
The 2 July PESTILENCE three-phase directive issued by Joint Chiefs of Staff accordingly had provided that Army troops presently in the SOPAC area
would be used to garrison Tulagi and adjacent island positions.31
Actually, there were only 32,000 United States Army troops in the SOPAC area at this time.32 In Washington that number still seemed like a great many troops. In SOPAC, that number seemed quite inadequate to permit any enlargement of current responsibilities to garrison islands protecting the line of communications from Samoa to Australia.
Vice Admiral Ghormley raised the question of obtaining additional Army troops from the United States or from New Zealand on 13 July.33 He was immediately informed:
It is not the intention of the Army to provide garrison troops from the United States for Santa Cruz-Tulagi-Guadalcanal.34
In regard to obtaining New Zealand troops, COMINCH flashed a caution light:
only if you believe you can handle without upsetting arrangements made re Fiji.
Admiral King referred to the prospective New Zealand take over in Fiji of troop defense responsibilities from the United States.
Vice Admiral Ghormley was upset also by a directive35 from CINCPAC which required that authority be obtained from the Joint Chiefs of Staff for any plan involving the shift of Army troops in his area to relieve the Marines. He asked for "full authority to employ the forces in this area in accordance with his judgment in furtherance of the directives he has received."36
Since the governing publication Joint Action of the Army and the Navy provided that Army troops would relieve the Marines, as soon as there was judged to have occurred a change from amphibious warfare to land warfare, it was obvious to COMSOPAC that this particular decision was one which properly could and should be made in the immediate operational area and not in Pearl Harbor or Washington.
Both Vice Admiral Ghormley and Major General M. F. Harmon, the Commanding General, United States Army Forces, South Pacific Area were strongly convinced that they could not move forward forces recently arrived as island defense forces in the Fiji and New Caledonia Area to become garrison forces on the Solomons. The prowess of the Japanese in amphibious operations, and their ability to overcome locally superior United States and British Forces in the Philippines and in the Malay Peninsula, was too fresh in the minds of these commanders to permit them to take an offensive attitude. As Vice Admiral Ghormley wrote:
The Japs might break through any minute and these ground forces were necessary to defend our bases which were supporting and controlling the line of communications.37
Starting in early September 1942, Commanding General First Division Marines kept pressing his immediate naval senior for relief of his Marines by Army troops, and in almost every letter there is some reference to it.
Rear Admiral Turner in replying to one letter in late September wrote:
The question of the relief of Marine troops by the Army is a very large one; as is also the question of where you would go for reorganization when
relieved. I have given it a great deal of thought; the only conclusion I have come to is that we cannot, at present, reach a decision on that point. I sympathize entirely with your point of view and hope we can do the job the way you wish.38
According to the Chief of the Army Air Force, in late September 1942:
. . . The Marines on Guadalcanal wanted to know when the Army was going to relieve them. The Marines had understood they were to be there for a few days only, and then were to be relieved. Where was the Army?39
It was not until 6 October 1942 that the Army Commander in the South Pacific offered Army troops for Guadalcanal. They were not offered as a relief for part of the Marines on Guadalcanal but as an augmentation in time of need and as a far more desirable use of Army resources than on Ndeni.
The 164th Infantry Regiment of the American Division was landed by Rear Admiral Turner from the McCawley and Zeilin commencing 13 October 1942, with their 3,200 tons of logistic support, bringing the total strength on Guadalcanal to over 23,000. Some 4,500 more troops were still on the Tulagi side. At the same time the Marine 1st Raider Battalion departed Guadalcanal for the rear area and this movement reaffirmed the principle of Marine relief by Army troops. And it was on 13 October, that the Japanese surprise bombed Henderson Field from the comparatively safe height of 30,000 feet, where our fighters could not reach them at all or else (F-4F) so slowly that the attackers were gone when the fighters reached that altitude. The same day the Japanese took the Marine-Army defensive forces under fire with their 15 long range 105-millimeter howitzers, which were positioned out of retaliatory range.
The success of the 164th Infantry Regiment in meeting the heavy Japanese attacks on 24-25 October, and the repeated pleas of Major General Vandegrift for more and more reinforcements to be followed by the relief of his Marines, made at the Noumea conferences of this same October period, led to an early decision for the landing of a battery of 155 guns from the 244th Coast Artillery Battalion, which was accomplished on 2 November 1942. This was followed by movement of the 147th Infantry Regiment which landed at Aola Bay on 4 November. From 12 November 1942 on there was a planned flow of relieving Army Troops, initially from the American Division.
It was not only Vice Admiral Ghormley and Rear Admiral Turner who found it difficult to produce Army troops to relieve the Marines as soon as the official prescribed instructions and sound doctrine called for them to be produced, or when the Marines desired them. Vice Admiral Halsey, a month after he became COMSOPAC, wrote:
It is not practical at this time to definitely settle the question of promptly relieving amphibious forces after a landing operation. It is a principle that should he followed, but the question is one hinging on the availability of troops and the practicality of the relief under varying situations which cannot be foreseen.40
On 7 December 1942 COMPHIBFORSOPAC was relieved of his operational command responsibility for the defense of Tulagi-Guadalcanal. Admiral Turner was delighted that by this date all the arrangements had been completed for the personnel of the First Marine Division who had landed on 7 August to depart for other shores.41
On 9 December 1942, the ground command at Guadalcanal changed from a Marine to an Army commander and the First Marine Division commenced its movement to Australia.
Admiral Turner's reaction to the written post-war Marine criticism of his command activities during the early August to early November 1942 period was mild:
The written record will show that I was charged with operational command. No officer fulfills his duty, if he doesn't exercise his command responsibilities. If you are in command, and do your job under difficult circumstances, you are bound to break a few eggs, even if they are good Marine eggs.42
Admiral Turner felt that any argument over the basic command question would be enlightened by quoting the documents in regard to the operational command set-up established for WATCHTOWER by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and reaffirmed by COMINCH and COMSOPAC (see Chapter 6).
When the Joint Chiefs of Staff directed that
direct command of the tactical operations of the amphibious forces will remain with the Naval Task Force Commander throughout the conduct of all three tasks,
the naval chain of command assumed that "direct command of tactical operations" meant just that, and when on 18 August 1942 COMSOPAC issued his post-WATCHTOWER landing Op Order 2-42, CTF 62 (Turner) was assigned tasks as follows:
Defend seized areas with Marine Expeditionary Force. Expedite movement food and ammunition Guadalcanal-Tulagi Area.43
When COMSOPAC issued a further directive on 9 September 1942, he assigned the following specific tasks to CTF 62.
Defend and strengthen Guadalcanal-Tulagi positions and expedite development of airfield CACTUS [Guadalcanal]. Mop up adjacent enemy outposts. Prepare to occupy Ndeni on further directive. Maintain the flow of supplies.44
It was not until the First Anniversary of Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1942, that COMSOPAC informed Rear Admiral Turner:
COMAMPHIBFORSOPAC relieved responsibility [for] defense [Guadalcanal] but retains responsibility for transportation of reinforcements, relief units, supplies and equipment. . . .45
This same despatch established a Commanding General, Guadalcanal and assigned him command of the base and all troops and installations in the Guadalcanal-Tulagi Area.
Admiral Turner's view was:
I exercised command of the Marines, when I had orders to do so. When they asked for my opinion regarding a change, I recommended a change. When I was no longer their commander, I so acted.46
There were several minor matters which Admiral Turner felt might be "cleared up" by presenting the record in some detail. One of these related to the Marines who did not get landed in the early echelons of the assault forces at Guadalcanal-Tulagi.
In the Marine monograph and the later history of the Guadalcanal Operation, the story of the Marines who did not get ashore at Tulagi or Guadalcanal on D-Day through D plus two is told in these words:
The sudden withdrawal of the transports carried these units, which totaled about 1,400 officers and men, back to Espiritu Santo when they were used to 'reinforce the garrison there,' according to the reports of Admiral
Turner. On 14 August Turner ordered Colonel Arthur to report for duty with the Commanding General, Espiritu Santo. . . .
There seemed no question in Turner's mind about his unrestricted claim of 'possession' of the Marines in his area. . . .47
The fact of the matter, readily available to all in COMSOPAC' s War Diary, was that COMSOPAC had directed CTF 62 late on 9 August after the disastrous battle of Savo Island, to
Divert 2nd Marines to Espiritu Santo to land and reinforce the garrison there.48
COMSOPAC followed this up in a memo to COMPHIBFORSOPAC on 14 August which directed:
All 2nd Marines now at Espiritu Santo to disembark and reinforce garrison.49
Thus, Rear Admiral Turner ordered Colonel Arthur, Commanding the 2nd Marines, to report for duty with the Commanding General Espiritu Santo, because the boss man of the area had made that decision and told him to do so.
When Brigadier General Rupertus sent on Colonel J. M. Arthur' s request for the urgent return of this part of his command--800 men of the 2nd Marine Regiment--to Tulagi, Admiral Turner wrote on his Assistant Chief of Staff's memo:
For the time being, this is out of our hands, as COMSOPAC ordered these units ashore in BUTTON. Keep in mind pending further developments.
The other matter which Admiral Turner thought needed a bit of "clearing up" related to HUDDLE (the Ndeni Operation), and that has been covered earlier in Chapter 12.
In the early days of the Guadalcanal Operation, Rear Admiral Turner had been most anxious to get at the scattered Japanese detachments in the Lower Solomons, and visualized Marine Raider Battalions as the proper instruments to accomplish this. He visualized that each Marine Regiment would have a Raider Battalion as part of its permanent organization and recommended this organization up the chain of command. In order to obtain
Marine Raider Battalions
the benefits sought with the Marines currently available in the South Pacific Area but not on Guadalcanal, he reported to COMSOPAC:
. . . In order to prosecute promptly the operations required by prospective tactical situations, the Commander Amphibious Force South Pacific, will, unless directed to contrary, proceed with the organization of Provisional Raider Battalions in the Second, Seventh and Eighth Marines, and give these already trained troops such additional specialized training as seems appropriate.50
The Marine Officer on COMSOPAC Staff took a whack at the recommendation and at its originator. The Marines had their eyes set not only on divisions of Marines, but on corps of Marines, and Rear Admiral Turner had really stuck his hand in the vice when he wrote:
The employment of divisions [in future operations] as a landing unit seems less likely.
This was more than an overstatement in support of the proposal being made. It was a poor judgment of the future, and few Marines forget to mention a distortion of the statement when Admiral Turner's name is brought up.
The other error in connection with Admiral Turner's proposal regarding Raider Battalions was that COMPHIBFORSOPAC failed to consult the Commanding General, First Marine Division, in the matter before going to higher authority. But he did not, as General Vandegrift recalled that he was later informed by the Commandant of the Marine Corps, seek to limit Marines to Raider Battalion-sized units. According to General Vandegrift:
. . . Turner's attempts to break up certain regiments into battalion-size raider units, recommending to Nimitz and King in the process that Marines be limited to such size units in the future. . . .51
The official letter from Rear Admiral Turner, in fact, reads quite differently.
[The originator] . . . recommends that Marine Corps Headquarters issue directions for the permanent organization of Raider Battalions as integral units of all the Marine Regiments now attached to, or ultimately destined for the Amphibious Force, South Pacific. . . .52
The letter was addressed to COMSOPAC, who readdressed it and sent it to CINCPAC, who sent it direct to the Commandant of the Marine Corps.
The Commandant returned it to CINCPAC and sent COMINCH a copy of his reply and of the basic letter and previous endorsements.
COMSOPAC approved the organization of a provisional Raider Battalion from the 2nd Marines, but disapproved it for the 7th and 8th Marines.
CINCPAC disapproved the basic recommendation that Raider Battalions be integral units of Marine Regiments, and indicated that the organization of a provisional Raider Battalion should be undertaken only in case of "due necessity."
The Commandant of the Marine Corps agreed with CINCPAC. He reported that as a result of recommendations from the Naval forces in the field, two additional Raider Battalions were being organized and added that:
Steps have been taken to intensify training of all units destined for the South Pacific for the type of operations being conducted there.
The Commandant noted, with regret, that the basic letter did
not contain the views of the Commanding General 1st Marine Division in a matter in which he is particularly qualified, and concerned.53
Without ever having discussed this matter with Admiral Turner, since he died before it was researched, the author can only guess as to whether there was any background reason for this unsuccessful foray into Marine organizational matters. But an earnest belief that the Japanese could be dislodged from their various placements in the Lower Solomons by landings in their rear, perhaps played a part. Before the initial WATCHTOWER landings, Major General Vandegrift had concurred in such a plan.
Rear Admiral Turner received strong support in his concept of using Marines in flanking operations or taking the enemy in the rear, rather than in frontal attacks when, in November 1942, Admiral King addressed a message to COMSOPAC which contained the following:
The final decision cancelling the Aola Bay project brings to climax my uneasiness lest we continue to use up our strength in virtual frontal attacks such as now involved in expulsion of enemy from Guadalcanal.
Admiral King suggested that the Marines could be more profitably employed in a flanking operation in which the Marines would seize the base, where the enemy had an airfield, and from where he was currently operating in support of Guadalcanal.54
Available personal RKT letters of this period are few in number. One addressed to the editor of the Call Bulletin of San Francisco, acknowledging receipt of a letter two months old which had just arrived by sea mail, included the comments:
. . . Ever since I came into the Navy, I have always wanted to campaign in the tropics in an elephant hat, and now at last, it has to be in one made of tin.
We are not having a particularly easy time down here. Starting from scratch; fighting in the jungle using boys that never saw jungle; our ships lying in ports that never saw ships; creating bases and facilities out of nothing; drawing our supplies from six thousand miles away. These are our problems, and they are difficult. But we hope to solve them. From the way our boys are acting, nothing will ever be too much for them.55
When Captain Peyton, the Chief of Staff, pressed Rear Admiral Turner to be relieved, setting forth the COMINCH and BUPERS policy that all captains must have a successful big ship command under their belts before being eligible for selection to Flag rank, Rear Admiral Turner sought to obtain for Captain Peyton a first-rate command and luckily did so. This was the big and new battleship, the USS Indiana (BB-58), whose first Commanding Officer, Captain A. Stanton (Tip) Merrill, had just been promoted to command a cruiser division operating in the Solomons.
New Chief of Staff
Commodore Peyton opined:
Kelly Turner was an officer with the highest mental capacity. He was a tireless worker and had tremendous drive. His mental capabilities were such that he did all the brain work for the Staff. The Staff carried out the mechanics of operations and filled in all the details of the operation orders. He was a one-man staff.
I was not qualified to be his Chief of Staff, as I was not on the same intellectual level with him.
Commodore Peyton also remembered:
Admiral Spruance visited the Amphibious Force several times between July and December 1942. Turner used to go ashore about six and hoist a couple. Spruance did not participate nor concur. Turner would return, have dinner and work half the night or all the night. The cocktail hour seemed
to sharpen his mind and give him his second wind, if in fact he needed any second wind.56
Peyton's relief was Captain Anton Bennett Anderson, Class of 1912, a graduate of the logistically oriented Army Industrial College, and "as nice a guy as one could wish to serve with" according to staff members of the PHIBFORSOPAC.
Captain Anderson came from duty on Vice Admiral Halsey's Staff, where he had served very, very briefly as Head of the Board of Awards, COMSOPAC. This followed a tour of shore duty in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, primarily as Head of the War Plans section of the Fleet Maintenance Division, and as the senior working Navy member of the Army-Navy Munitions Board. Rear Admiral Anderson recalled:
. . . The day after I took over [on SOPAC Staff] Admiral Turner dropped into my office and asked me if 1 would like to be C/S on his Staff. I was elated to get into a more active job and said that I would. He told me that his C/S Peyton had the opportunity of getting command of the USS Indiana (then in the harbor) and he didn't want to stand in his way and had let him go a day or two previously. He also told me that he had gotten Rear Admiral George Fort to take command of the Landing Craft Flotillas of the Amphibious Force, then being organized. . . .
I went out to the USS McCawley flagship that same afternoon, January 21, 1943 and reported to Admiral Turner as C/S.
Prior to his becoming Chief of Staff, Anderson
had never served with Admiral Turner and seldom saw him when he was in War Plans in OPNAV. The day after I reported for duty, Admiral Turner and I went over to visit Peyton aboard his new command. We stayed for about an hour. This is the only time I saw Captain Peyton.
In answer to the author's question of whether he functioned primarily in the logistic field or in the operational field as Kelly Turner's Chief of Staff, COMSOPAC Amphibious Force, Rear Admiral Anderson answered:
Mostly I was learning my job. However, I did work a little in both fields. I would say my work was more of an administrative nature.57
Captain Anderson, like his Admiral, prior to reporting to the Amphibious Force, SOPAC, "had no up-to-date amphibious training or experience, " although he had observed various tests of amphibious craft at Cape Henry and worked with the board which had come up with the nomenclature for various types of amphibious craft.
Rear Admiral Anderson opined:
In general, I think my services were satisfactory to Turner most of the time, but in retrospect, I realize that during the six months I was with him, was for him an uncertain, unhappy and trying time.
First, he had to remain in his flagship at anchor in Noumea harbor most of the time while some of his force made only the necessary trips to Guadalcanal.
And again, I believe that it rankled him in that he thought some officers (higher-ups) believed that he was somewhat responsible for the loss of the three cruisers around Savo Island during the initial landing at Guadalcanal in August 1942.
I also believe that he foresaw that the days of the Amphibious Force SOPAC were coming to an end, and he wanted new fields to work in. He often told me that an advance through the Central Pacific should be started soon.
I really think that he was tired and somewhat bored. He didn't have any contemporaries to go around with and seldom saw Admiral Halsey outside of the 9 a.m. conferences. . . .58
The members of the PHIBFORSOPAC Staff were all of a mind that Captain Anderson was a very pleasant individual to have on the Staff, but he was not cut from the same tempered steel as Richmond Kelly Turner.
In any case, he was in completely over his head. His mind was too slow to follow Admiral Turner whose mind turned over on the step at about 1000 RPM, while Andy was airborne at about 100 RPM.
* * * * * *Tom Peyton was unable to keep up with the Admiral's thinking. Andy Anderson was even slower.59
Rear Admiral Turner was just too damned impatient to deal with his staff through his Chief of Staff. He wanted to tend to the matter and get it over with and then get on to something else. When the Chief of Staff was unacquainted with operational matters, which the Admiral already was 98 percent up on, he just wouldn't wait. Thus,
by the time Andy joined the Staff, the Admiral was as familiar with amphibious operations as any one who had spent six months working twenty hours a day on the subject could be. Andy just never could catch up to be on a par operationally with the Admiral.60
Commodore Peyton remembered that
Turner was not a well man and during this period was always on edge for
fear his enemies would get him relieved during a spell of illness. . . . It was not possible for him to have a proper day-to-day diet.61
In support of this opinion in regard to the health of Rear Admiral Turner, during this 1942-43 period, the following extracts from a recent letter by the Medical Officer of the PHIBFORSOPAC Staff, Rear Admiral Ralph E. Fielding (Medical Corps), U.S. Navy, Retired, are pertinent:
Before leaving Noumea for Guadalcanal (and prior to the Rendova landing) Admiral Turner had a recurrence of malaria and presumably an attack of dengue. He finally consented (with an affirmative from Jack Lewis) to go to the hospital ship. Commodore Reifsnider had command of the flotilla going to Guadalcanal. Admiral Turner told me I could shoot anyone who was caught without clothing coverage over his entire body [Because of the incidence of malaria among the troops taken into Guadalcanal, who did not observe anti-malaria discipline].
Admiral Turner had a mild coronary attack at Camp Crocodile. He wouldn't be transferred to Mobile 8 hospital, so we got a hospital bed moved from a nearby Station Hospital, and put it in his tent. But he insisted on seeing every incoming despatch while being treated.62
1. See CO 2nd Marines to COMSOPAC 140148 Aug. 1942.
3. COMSOPAC to CTF 61, 212211 Jul. 1942.
4. (a) COMSOPAC to COMINCH, 140614 Jun. 1942; (b) Turner.
5. Ghormley manuscript, p. 67.
6. COMAIRSOPAC to COMSOPAC, 061045 Jul. 1942.
7. Vandegrift, pp. 125, 126.
8. COMSOPAC to COMAIRSOPAC, 092120 Aug. 1942.
9. COMINCH Picador Plan, FF1/A16-3(15), Ser 00464 of 6 Jun. 1942.
10. CO 2nd Marines to COMSOPAC, 140148. 1942.
11. COMINCH to CINCPAC, COMSOPACFOR, 151951 Aug. 1942.
12. COMSOPAC to CINCPAC, 170230 Aug. 1942.
13. CTF 62 Op Plan A9-42, 20 Aug. 1942.
14. RKT to Vandegrift, letter, 23 Aug. 1942.
15. General F.D. Weir, USMC (Ret.) to GCD, letter, 14 May 1969.
16. COMSOPAC to CINCPAC, 290310 Aug. 1942.
17. CINCPAC to COMINCH, 032013 Sep. 1942.
18. (a) COMSOPAC Op Plan 3-42; (b) COMSOPAC, 091016 Sep. 1942.
19. RKT to Rear Admiral Leigh Noyes, letter, 9 Sep. 1942.
20. COMPHIBFORSOPAC to COMSOPACFOR, 092300 Sep. 1942.
21. COMPHIBFORSOPAC to COMSOPAC, 120530 Sep. 1942.
22. COMPHIBFORSOPAC Staff Log.
23. CINCPAC to COMINCH, 222327 Sep. 1942.
24. (a) RKT to AAG, letter, 28 Sep. 1942; (b) COMSOPAC to COMPHIBFORSOPAC, 290206 Sep. 1942; (c) COMPHIBFORSOPAC to COMSOPAC, 010430 Oct. 1942.
25. (a) COMSOPAC to COMPHIBFORSOPAC, 2900206 Sep. 1942; (b) Miller, Guadalcanal (Army) p.141 and Appendix A; (c) COMPHIBFORSOPAC to COMSOPAC, 1010430 Oct. 1942.
26. JCS 238/5/D of 23 Mar. 1943.
30. C/S USA to CINCSWPA, Msg. 334, 3 Jul. 1942. OPD 381, SWPA #85. Modern Military Records Division, National Archives.
31. COMINCH to CINCPAC, COMSOPAC, 022100 Jul. 1942.
32. Miller, Guadalcanal (Army), p. 24.
33. COMSOPAC to CINCPAC, 190414 Jul. 1942.
34. COMINCH to COMSOPAC, 142226 Jul. 1942.
35. CINCPAC to COMSOPAC, letter, A4-3/FF12/A16-(6) Ser 01994 of 8 Jul. 1942.
36. COMSOPAC to CINCPAC, 222245 Jul. 1942.
37. Ghormley manuscript, p. 76.
38. RKT to AAG, letter, 28 Sep. 1942.
39. Arnold, Global Mission, p. 348.
40. COMSOPAC to COMGENFIRSTMARDIV, PHIBFOR, letter, P16-3(16), Ser 00106b of 22 Nov. 1942.
43. COMSOPAC to CTF 61, 62, 63, 64, 180916 Aug. 1942; COMSOPAC Op Order 2-42.
44. (a) COMSOPAC to CTF 61, 62, 64, 091016 Sep. 1942; COMSOPAC Op Order 3-42.
45. COMSOPAC to CTF 62, 070446 Dec. 1942.
47. Hough, Ludwig, and Shaw, Pearl Harbor to Guadalcanal (Marines), p. 261.
48. COMSOPAC to CTF 62, 091000 Aug. 1942.
49. COMSOPAC to COMPHIBFORSOPAC, memorandum, 14 Aug. 1942.
50. COMPHIBFORSOPAC to COMSOPAC, letter, FE25/A16-3(5) Ser 0093 of 29 Aug. 1942.
51. Vandegrift, p. 183. Reprinted from Once a Marine with permission of W.W. Norton & Co., Inc.
52. COMPHIBFORSOPACFOR to COMSOPAC, letter, 29 Aug. 1942.
53. (a) Commandant, Marine Corps, letter, 003A/27642, 3 Oct. 1942; (b) COMSOPAC, letter, Ser 0094b, 6 Sep. 1942; (c) CINCPAC, letter, Ser 0208 of 24 Sep. 1942.
54. COMINCH to COMSOPAC, CINCPAC, 301915 Nov. 1942.
55. RKT to Edmond D. Coblentz, letter, 23 Dec. 1942.
56. Interview with Commodore Thomas G. Peyton, USN, 22 May 1961. Hereafter Peyton.
57. Interview with Rear Admiral Anton B. Anderson, USN (Ret.), Mar. 1962.
58. Rear Admiral Anderson to GCD, letter, 2 May 1962.
59. Staff Interviews.
62. Rear Admiral Ralph E. Fielding (MC), USN (Ret.) to GCD, letter, 28 Mar. 1969.