Chapter IX

Success, Then Cliff Hanging

Where Are We Headed?

In the first 42 years of the Twentieth Century, the United States Navy felt that it had visited a fair share of the Pacific Ocean, and its islands, and that it "knew the Pacific." But somehow the Solomon Islands, although in friendly British hands, were outside the Navy's wide ranging sweeps.

During 1941, this had been intentional. In a letter to Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet, Admiral Harold R. Stark, Chief of Naval Operations, had written:

We should not indicate the slightest interest in the Gilbert or Solomon or Fiji Islands at this time. If we do, our future use of them, might be compromised.1

Until the amphibians and their combatant escorts sailed from Wellington on 22 July 1942, the great majority of the officers and practically 100 percent of the sailormen in Task Force 62 did not even know where in the South Pacific they were to join with the enemy 16 days later. "When they were told that this event would take place in the Solomon Islands, they still didn't know anything but a name."2

Admiral Turner reminisced: "I think it can truthfully be said that our officers and men were ignorant of the Solomons." General Vandegrift has written that he did not even know the location of Guadalcanal when Vice Admiral Ghormley told him that he was to land there on 1 August 1942.3

And until Commander South Pacific Force and CTF 62's Operation Plans 1-42 and A3-42 with their informative Intelligence Annexes were received and distributed to all of Task Force 61 on 31 August 1942, the great majority of the officers and men in the carriers and destroyers of the Air


The Solomon Islands.

Support Force were in the same state of geographical ignorance. Ignorance was not limited to geography alone. When the San Francisco (CA-38) (Captain Charles H. McMorris) joined the Task Force less than a week before the landings, the captain was bold to officially say that he had "no orders, dispatches, and little information regarding operations."4 Another officer recalled:

When Admiral Turner talked of Tulagi, Guadalcanal or the Santa Cruz Islands, he talked knowledgeably, but the rest of us naval officers were just plain geographically ignorant; learning fast, but at the moment ignorant.5

Solomon Islands

The whole Solomon Island Group stretches southeasterly 600 miles from Buka Island in the northwest to 300 miles south of the equator and San Cristobal Island in the southeast, located 1,200 miles due east of the northern


tip of Australia. The Northern Solomons were under German control from 1899 until early in World War I, when in September 1914, they were captured by the Australians. This part of the Solomons, primarily the islands of Buka and Bougainville, became an Australian mandate in 1920, under the League of Nations.

All of the Solomons became an Australian defense responsibility with the outbreak of World War II. Great Britain had controlled the Southern Solomons since 1899, and the British resident commissioner resided on the island of Tulagi, a sliver of an island nestled under the hills of Florida Island, 20 miles north of Koli Point in the center of the North Coast of Guadalcanal.

The Australians had chosen the tiny island of Tulagi as their principal base for the discharge of their defense responsibilities, because between Tulagi and Florida Island, there was a good medium size ship anchorage (15-25 fathoms) and a sheltered seaplane operating area, a mile and a half long and a half mile wide. This was quite suitable for any concentration of ships of the Australian Navy. Nearby Gavutu Island was judged particularly suitable for a seaplane base and just a few more miles away was Purvis Bay, banana-shaped but deep-watered and adequate for innumerable small ships.

From the operation orders, the amphibians learned some of these facts. They also learned from them the hazards of nature as well as the dangers of a skillful enemy, that had to be endured in the Solomons. The transports were to proceed to an anchorage area where: "uncharted reefs may be expected, " and where "winds of sufficient velocity to drag anchor over coral patched holding ground may be expected any day of the year."

But come what may, the amphibians were told that they must land their Marines on the chosen coastal beaches which were "lined with coconut plantations."

Fortunately, the landings on this hostile shore about 600 miles south of the equator were to take place during the "fine weather season." Only eight inches of rain generally fell in all of August, and while humidity might be expected to average an unpleasant 80 percent, temperatures ordinarily ranged only from a moderate 75 degrees to a somewhat uncomfortable or hot 85 degrees.6

Rear Admiral Turner's desire was to keep his task groups in the open sea as long as possible, and out of sight of any Japanese lookout posts high up



on the 7,000-8,000 foot razorback mountain chain which ran from northwest to southeast along the middle of Guadalcanal. The shorter route through Indispensable Strait from the Fijis lying to the southeast could not be used because of this requirement and because:

Two weeks observation of Japanese air scouting from Tulagi indicated that one or two seaplanes daily came down the New Hebrides Chain to the vicinity of Efate; and apparently on alternate days, at least, one seaplane came about the same distance on a direct line toward the Fijis. . . . The Task Force 62 approach route was laid out to pass to the south and west of known or estimated plane searches.

So Rear Admiral Turner planned to make the approach from the Coral Sea to Florida Island and to Lunga Point around the western end of Guadalcanal and through the 12-mile wide channel separating that island and the Russell Islands.7

The amphibians and their escort had made the 1,000-mile westward passage from Koro Island in the Fijis to a position (16° 34' S, 159° 00' E)


400 miles directly south of the Russell Islands without sighting an enemy plane or submarine, although the Enterprise (CV-6) (Captain Arthur C. Davis) had reported a torpedo wake crossing her bow 50 yards ahead, a little after 2200 on the night before the landing and the Chicago had reported a submarine contact on 3 August, later evaluated as a large fish. Army Air Force bombers and COMAIRSOPAC PBYs had flown over the force from time to time to protect it and to familiarize lookouts and gun and director crews with the B-17, but the voyage still had had its alarms. The amphibians had been forcibly reminded that the hazards of mine warfare were not too far removed when radio reports were received, on 4 August, that the destroyer Tucker (DD-374) had had her back broken by a mine only 150 miles north of their track, at Espiritu Santo in the New Hebrides.

The Task Force was in a circular cruising disposition maintaining radio and radar silence and, at night, visual silence. Seventeen destroyers and fast minesweepers were equally spaced on the three-mile circle from the formation guide in the center; the cruisers and remaining destroyers were on or near the two-mile circle; and the 19 transports and cargo ships were in a line of five divisions spaced one-half mile apart in the center of the disposition. The destroyer-type transports were in line abreast a thousand yards ahead of the Formation Guide, the Hunter Liggett (AP-27), flagship of Captain Reifsnider, Commander Transport Divisions, South Pacific Force. Five of the eight protecting cruisers were in division columns in the bow quadrants at 40° relative, right and left, between the one and two-mile circle. The other three cruisers were astern of the guide, between the two and three-mile circle.

This formation was well balanced against both submarine attack and surprise air attack, as it was shepherded along in unfamiliar waters by the Air Support Force at 131/Z knots.

The Escort Commander, Rear Admiral Crutchley, R.N., was:

responsible for the safety of the Force against enemy action and for maneuvering the Escort for action against the enemy.8

All ships of Task Force 62, except the transports, were placed under the command of the Escort Commander for this purpose.

The Dark of the Night

At noon on 5 August, the formation course was changed to North and


Task Force 62 Cruising Disposition.


Guadalcanal and the Russell Islands.

the run in to the Russell Islands was started at 13 knots. The weather turned hazy and there were rain squalls.

A 12-mile clearance from outreaching and dangerous Russell Island rocks on the port hand to outreaching and dangerous Guadalcanal Island rocks on the starboard hand had looked most adequate on the charts, particularly as the approach disposition into which the formation would be shifted in late afternoon narrowed the front of the Task Force from 12,000 yards to 3,500 yards.

However, the Russell Islands had been reported by "pilots familiar with these waters" and "information sources in New Zealand" to be four to five miles eastward of their charted position. If this was true, and acceptance of the report as valid was sufficient to write it in on the Attack Force Approach Plan, then the navigational channel between Guadalcanal and the Russells was only seven miles and the clear and safe channel for night navigation considering the quirks of current, markedly less.9

It was also desirable to have the outboard ships far enough away from


the beach on either side, so that an alert Japanese sentry would not spot the ships passing by and sound the alarm. This hazard dictated splitting the channel with exact midway piloting of the formation. To accomplish this task the staff navigator had to know exactly where the formation was by not later than 1600 on the 6th.10

But, as noted in the previous chapter, the 51 navigators of the 51 ships were all over the lot in their morning and noon position reports. It was as though they had all agreed to disagree and worry the Admiral and the staff navigator.

Perhaps the real reason was that the Coral Sea currents were tricky, the weather was hazy, and the Solomons were beyond the range of the few 1942 surface radars in Task Force 62. The Staff Log for 6 August 1942 tells the story:

Last [good] sight about 1400, August 5, 1942 . . .
During forenoon obtained various sun lines of doubtful value . . .
[No] zigzagging in order not to complicate navigational data . . .

At 1730 Selfridge [DD-357, Lieutenant Commander Carroll D. Reynolds after sighting Bellona Island] rejoined disposition reporting position of San Juan [CL-54, Captain James E. Maher] at 1655 as Latitude 10-58 South, Longitude 159-01 East [115 miles due south of Russell Islands].11

With this firm position from Selfridge in hand, an exact approach through the shoal bound waters ahead was practicable at last for the 51-ship formation.

Later in the afternoon of 6 August, the carrier groups totaling 26 ships which had been hovering around and protecting the amphibians, broke off contact and disappeared to the southward. The amphibians were shifted into a column of squadrons of transports so as to narrow the front of the formation. Speed was changed to 12 knots and the final die cast.

The long day of 6 August and the one preceding it had had their blessings not known or directly recognized at the time. The rain squalls and the haze had been even heavier and thicker further north and closer to the equator in the area toward which the Expeditionary Force was moving. Thus Japanese Air reconnaissance flights from Rabaul and from the Tulagi-Gavutu air bases were either washed out, or the pilot's visibility was limited. The


Japanese land based planes were unequipped with radar. Neither the carriers nor the amphibians were sighted.12

At midnight on the sixth on board the flagship, it had been established that:

The force is 3 miles southward or behind planned position with respect to time.13

The Henley (DD-391) (Commander Robert Hall Smith) and the Bagley (DD-386) (Lieutenant Commander George A. Sinclair) led the ships into what was later called "Iron Bottom Sound." The Henley early on 7 August had sighted the big high dark mass of Guadalcanal at 0133, less than an hour before the moon in its last quarter tried to break through the murk of the night at 0223. From the force flagship, McCawley, the sky at midnight on the sixth had appeared

overcast, visibility poor. . . . ships in sight--one ahead, one astern, and in next adjacent columns, only one ship in sight.

However, at 0050 on the seventh, fortune had begun to shine on the amphibians:

Stars out, visibility improving. . . .
0130. Counted eight ships in left-hand column and seven in right. . . .
Betelgeuse and Transdiv Dog widely opened out. Directed these ships to close up, using blinker tube with reduced iris . . .
0440. The moon after disclosing Guadalcanal and Savo Island became obscure. . . .14

For the day of the landing, the seventh, the weather was about all that could be hoped for at Guadalcanal. The sky was mostly cloudy and the average temperature was 80 degrees F.15

Off Cape Esperance, the northwest cape of Guadalcanal, Task Force 62 had been split, with the lead transports bound for Florida Islands (Group YOKE, Captain George B. Ashe) passing north of Savo Island and the much larger Group XRAY (Captain Lawrence F. Reifsnider) bound for Lunga Point, taking the channel to the southward. Savo Island was abeam just before 0500, with sunrise due about 0633.


A Beautiful Island

As darkness turned to light on 7 August 1942, the Lower Solomons came into view of Task Force 62. The sailorman's first impression on the morning of 7 August turned out to be so different from that carried in most literature on Guadalcanal, that this first impression should be noted. A Marine combat correspondent making the initial landing aptly put this impression in these words:

. . . Guadalcanal is an island of striking beauty. Blue-green mountains, towering into a brilliant tropical sky or crowned with cloud masses, dominate the island. The dark green of jungle growth blends into the softer greens and browns of coconut groves and grassy plains and ridges.16

Admiral Turner put it more briefly:

A truly beautiful sight that morning.17

Although Task Force 62 at 1600 the previous afternoon had been only 125 miles from the south coast of Guadalcanal, and presumably within the range of a late afternoon seaplane reconnaissance from both distant Rabaul or close Tulagi, the first enemy knowledge of the approach of the amphibians could have come from a routine early morning 7 August Japanese aircraft search. At 0600 the Staff Log noted:

Observed lights of two planes taking off the water in vicinity of Lunga Point. At 0609, red flare dropped over [HMAS] Australia.18

Two minutes before schedule:

At 0613 Quincy [CA-39, Captain Samuel N. Moore] opened fire on the beaches at Guadalcanal.
At 0615 destroyers opened fire.
At 0616 ships commenced firing on the Tulagi side.19

*  *  *  *  *

It appeared that the approach of Task Force 62 and the subsequent attack took the Japanese by surprise as no shots were fired, no patrol boats [were] encountered, no signs of life were evident until Group XRAY opened fire on Guadalcanal Island objectives across the channel, about twenty miles away. Then a cluster of red rockets went up from the direction of Tulagi Island.20


First Blood

First blood on the hostile shore was "a large oil fire" at the small village of Kukum, just to the westward from Lunga Point.

First seagoing blood was drawn at sea by two destroyers in the van of Squadron XRAY where the Dewey (DD-349) and Hull (DD-350) were on the starboard bow and the Selfridge (DD-357) and Jarvis (DD-393) were on the port bow. At 0620, the Dewey and the Selfridge opened fire on a Japanese schooner. The Selfridge reported that

Selfridge fired 26 rounds 5"/38 common on a small vessel loaded with gasoline.

The Dewey made a low key report:

Dewey expended 20 rounds.

Her consort, the Hull logged

Dewey sank small Japanese schooner.

The Transport Group Commander recorded:

At 0630 a destroyer of the screen concentrated gunfire on a small 80-foot craft directly ahead of the formation. The vessel was carrying a deck load of gasoline in drums and was quickly enveloped in flames.

The flagship briefed the action:

Two masted schooner sunk by leading destroyer.

And finally, one of the cargo ships, the Alchiba reported:

After four salvos from a destroyer in the van at 0630, the small craft ahead was hit and burst into flame. . . .21

However, the Dewey (Lieutenant Commander Charles F. Chillingsworth) magnanimously reported "checked fire when aircraft attacked" and " one small schooner sunk by own aircraft."22

From the reports of all the witnesses present, it appears that the aircraft bomb brought a quick end to a schooner already in extremities from the gunfire of the destroyers despite the Ellet's (DD-398) opinion that one destroyer's shooting was "ragged."23

The long drawn-out anti-aircraft battle in the Solomons was soon to


start, at least in the minds of those having their first brush with the Japanese. According to the Staff Log and the final Marine report:

0618. sighted unidentified plane on port bow.
0620. AA fire on plane ahead.24
. . . only one aircraft got into the air and it was destroyed immediately after takeoff by cruiser anti-aircraft fire, off Lunga Point.24

A tiresome check of the war diaries, action reports, and logs of surviving ships does not reveal which cruiser or destroyer fired anti-aircraft fire at this hour of the morning. The haze of the Solomons was beginning.

The Japanese First Report the Alligator

Although U.S. ships must have been visible by 0600 and had commenced firing by 0613, Japanese records indicate that it was not until nearly 40 minutes later, 0652 on 7 August, that Commander Air Base Tulagi got off a report to Commander 25th Air Flotilla, his senior at Rabaul, that "enemy task force sighted."

This message was not nearly so succinct or so immediate as that of Commander Logan Ramsey, U.S. Navy, Operations Officer on the staff of Patrol Wing Two at the Naval Air Station, Pearl Harbor. His 0758 message reporting the 0755 attack by the Japanese on December 7, 1941 read:

Air Raid Pearl. This is not a drill.

It was another 13 minutes before the report of Commander Air Base, Tulagi was amplified:

Enemy task force of twenty ships attacking Tulagi, undergoing severe bombings, landing preparations underway; help requested.25

"Enemy has commenced landing" was reported at 0715.


The Japanese forces in the Southern Solomons had moved initially onto Tulagi Island, primarily because they needed a seaplane base in that area for aerial reconnaissance in connection with "and subsequent to" Operation


"M-O," the May 1942 Japanese forward movement which had brought on the Battle of the Coral Sea.

Prior to May 1942, the British controlled the Solomon Islands protectorate from Government House on the northeast side of Tulagi, and the Australians provided the minor defense forces and "Ferdinand," the highly effective coast watcher's organization.26 On 7 August 1942, "Ferdinand" began paying extra intelligence dividends. Based on their information and aerial photographs, Vice Admiral Ghormley had estimated in his Operation Plan No. 1-42, that some 3,100 Japanese were to be reckoned with at the Marine objectives. Interrogation after the war of senior Japanese Army officers directly concerned with the Lower Solomons indicates this estimate was excellent and that there were about 780 Japanese including labor troops in the Tulagi-Gavutu-Tanambogo area and 2,230 on Guadalcanal. Some 1,700 of the Guadalcanal contingent were labor troops and the rest largely were Japanese Marines.

Since their initial landings, the Japanese had spread out from Tulagi, which was only about one-half mile wide and two miles long, to the much

Landing Objective in Tulagi-Gavutu Area.


larger island of Florida to the immediate north, and to the small hillish islands of Gavutu and Tanambogo some 3,000 yards to the eastward of Tulagi. The Japanese had established their seaplane base at Gavutu island, which was reef ringed.

All this dispersion complicated mightily the Scheme of Maneuver, and the gunfire support plan for the attacking forces in the Tulagi area.

Aerial photographs had shown the Japanese defenses were strongest on the northeast and southeast beaches of Tulagi. So the southwest beach area was chosen for the initial main landing. This gave the landing craft for the main Blue Beach landing a rudimentary straight approach from the transport area and a real break.

To take Gavutu Island, and to land at Halavo Peninsula, Florida island, to the eastward of Gavutu, a difficult turning operation was required of the landing craft, in addition to picking a circuitous path through a heavily reefed area.

Scheme of Maneuver

During the planning phases, of the approximately 19,500 embarked Marines, some 11,000 were assigned to the Guadalcanal assault, 4,000 to take Florida, Tulagi and Gavutu Islands, and the rest composed the Division Reserve, whose secondary mission was to act as the Ndeni Landing Force in Phase 3 of Task One of the PESTILENCE Operation, the second phase of which was WATCHTOWER.

The agreed upon Scheme of Maneuver for Guadalcanal which governed the amphibians' approach to that enemy-held island was a comparatively simple one for the untested seagoing amphibians to execute their part. The Scheme of Maneuver for Tulagi, Gavutu, Makambo, and Florida was considerably more complicated from the naval viewpoint, although markedly fewer large transports and cargo ships were involved.

The assault beach on Guadalcanal was 1,600 yards of the 2,000-yard wide Red Beach. It lay just to the east of the mouth of the Tenaru River and five miles east of Lunga Point, a good landmark on the north central coastline. The Japanese air strip was inland a mile, and about half way between Tenaru and Lunga.

Nine transports and six cargo ships, Transport Group XRAY, under the command of the second senior naval officer regularly detailed in the


Amphibious Force South Pacific, Captain Reifsnider, in the Hunter Liggett (AP-27) were assigned to the Guadalcanal task. They were to initially anchor in two lines, 1,500 yards apart, with the inshore line just outside the hundred fathom curve, four and a half miles north of the mouth of the Tenaru River. As soon as the fast minesweepers could sweep the area between the initial transport area and the 10 fathom line the transports and cargo ships were to move closer to the beach.

The main assault beach on Tulagi was 500 yards of the 600-yard wide Blue Beach. It lay in the west central sector of the south coast of Tulagi. An additional landing was to be made on the east coast of Gavutu Island, and two small landings at areas five miles apart on Florida Island--Haleta Harbor to the west and Halavo Peninsula to the east of Tulagi.

Three transports, four destroyer-type transports and one cargo ship, Transport Group YOKE, under the command of Captain George B. Ashe, the third senior officer regularly detailed in the Amphibious Force South Pacific and in the Neville (AP-16), were assigned to this more complicated task. They were to initially anchor southwest of Blue Beach, with the inshore line just outside the hundred fathom curve which in this case again was about five miles from the beach.

Groups XRAY and YOKE were initially anchored about 11 miles apart.

The Lines of departure from where the assault landing craft were to initiate their run for the shore in formal formation were two and a half miles from the designated beaches, both Red and Blue. About two-thirds of the Marines were embarked in the 36-foot Higgins boat, the LCP(L) (Landing Craft, Personnel without ramp) and about one-third in the newer LCV or LCPR with the highly desirable ramp. Tanks and trucks were to be ferried ashore in medium-sized landing craft, the 45-foot LCMs.

After the first two days of rehearsal at Koro island, and its accompanying routine landing mishaps and engine failures, the large transports and cargo ships of Task Force 62 had been told to signal the number of landing craft each would have available and ready for the WATCHTOWER landing. To this was added the number anticipated to be available from the Zeilin and Betelgeuse and the four LCP(L) in each of the four destroyer transports. The grand total listed was 475 consisting of:

(a) 8 "X" Type (30-foot personnel craft without ramp).

(b) 303 LCP(L) (36-foot Landing Craft, Personnel, without ramp).

(c) 116 LCV or LCPR (36-foot Landing Craft Vehicle, Personnel, with ramp).


Landing craft from the Hunter Liggett (AP-27), later APA-14, lands its last Marines at Tonga Island in October 1942. Note the lack of landing ramps.
(Turner Collection)

(d) 48 LCM (45-foot Landing Craft, Medium, for tanks and trucks, with ramp).27

None of the landing craft were really old and most had been built within the year. The eight oldest type landing craft in the WATCHTOWER Operation were the 30-foot "X boats," four in the flagship McCawley and four in the Barnett (AP-11). The LVT's (amtracs) of the Amphibian Tractor Battalion of the First Marine Division were in addition to the craft listed above.

On 22 June 1942, COMINCH had changed the designations of many of the landing boats, but his written order was circulated by slow sea mail to the South Pacific, and was not passed on to Task Force 62 until mid-August, so that the official reports of this period all use the earlier designations.


Transport Area, Guadalcanal.


The 36-foot "TR boats" with ramp, officially became LCV, but popularly known as LCPR; "T boats" without ramp became LCP(L) and the 45-foot "WL lighters" became LCM. The LCP(L) had diesel engines, but all the LCV or LCPR in WATCHTOWER were gas engine craft, as were part of the LCM.28

Away All Boats

It was 0615 on 7 August 1942 and time for the landing craft to go to work. The boatswain's mates' shrill pipes and the crane operator' s skillful control would soon fill the warm, calm and apathetic anchorage areas with landing craft. It had taken the Navy a very long eight months since 7 December 1941 to put a full Marine division into position before enemy held islands. It was the first time in the war that the confident Marines were in a position to make the Japanese start looking over their shoulders to note how far they had to retreat to reach either their ancestors or their homeland in Honshu or Kyushu. It was a moment of pride for the amphibians.

At 0637, CTF 62.2 (Captain Ashe) on the Tulagi side had really sent the amphibians to their tasks when he executed the General Signal "Land Landing Force, Zero Hour is 0800." Since the Marines wished one rifle company, reinforced by one machine gun platoon, landed on Florida island at Haleta to the westward of Blue Beach on Tulagi at H minus 20 minutes, or at 0740, Captain Ashe's landing schedule was barely off to a good start. It was not until 0652 that Rear Admiral Turner off Lunga Point executed the same General Signal, but set Hypo Hour for the Guadalcanal landings considerably later, at 0910. Captain Reifsnider's transports had lagged markedly in coming into position, and H-hour at Guadalcanal was 40 minutes later Than planned.

Admiral Turner thought that it was a tribute to the basic competence of the boatswain's mates and coxswains manning the 475 rapidly trained and partially rehearsed landing craft, as well as to the soundness of the training guidance received from the many echelons of command above them, that these sailormen put the Marines ashore on the right beaches at the appointed hour in the WATCHTOWER Operation. His hat was off to the sailormen and young officers of his command, many of whom were new to the Navy.


One ship reported that over 90 percent of the officers and 42 percent of the men were members of the Naval Reserve.29

Admiral Turner remembered that he was incredulous that at Guadalcanal the initial landing at Red Beach was unopposed and it added to his pleasure that on the Tulagi side, the initial landings at Haleta and Halavo were unopposed, and at Blue Beach unopposed except for a limited number of snipers.30

Not that everything at either landing had gone perfectly.

. . . the Neville experienced a period of waiting of 41 minutes between the time all boats were in the water and time to commence loading troops. The APDs were idle 15 minutes. . . .31

The seven-mile approach to the Line of Departure for Gavutu " in a choppy head sea thoroughly drenched all personnel and equipment."32


Since there had been many aerial photographs taken of Japanese naval and merchant ships in various anchorages off Lunga Point and off Tulagi in the weeks before the landings, it was known that there were generous unmined areas in these waters. So despite the fact that the operation order read "Water less than 100 fathoms in depth must be presumed to be mined," it was just a question of determining the exact boundaries of any mined areas that existed.33

The five fast minesweepers of Mine Squadron Two, Hopkins, Southard, Hovey, Trever, Zane, were under orders to sweep in from the 100 fathom curve toward Port Purvis in the Gavutu Island area first, then, dividing into two groups, simultaneously sweep from the 100 fathom curve in toward Beach Red on Guadalcanal and a thousand yard wide passage through Lengo Channel leading to indispensable Strait.

in order not to alert the Japanese, and not to interfere with the early waves of landing craft, sweeping was not to start until 90 minutes after zero hour at Tulagi (0930) and not required by the operation orders to be completed off the Tenaru and Beach Red until 1800 on the 7th.34


The minesweeping was actually completed, with no mines swept, at 1550, except for the area immediately off Beach Red which could not all be done because the transports had moved into the area.

Well before the start of minesweeping, two of these converted destroyers were to fire concentrated fire on Bungana island for five minutes and three ships were to concentrate on Gavutu Island for five minutes. Then they were to act as control ships at the Line of Departure and as salvage ships for the Halavao, Florida Island landing.

While the minesweepers were proceeding to their initial stations, the Japanese gunners manning 'the 3-inch and smaller guns on or near the top of Gavutu decided the destroyer minesweepers at 4,000 yards were worthwhile targets and opened up with a straddle on the flagship, Hopkins (DMS-13), and erratic fire on the others. The Hovey (DMS-11) which "had 30 brand new men aboard who had never heard gunfire" reported:

During the bombardment directed against Gavutu Island by the ship . . . enemy AA guns fired AA shells with fuses set to explode short and above the ship. . . .35

There was much counterbattery fire from the fast minesweepers, and some air bombing of Gavutu before the DMS left to proceed to their initial minesweeping stations.

The sweeping schedule meant that during the initial hours of the landing, the transports and cargo ships, in Group XRAY, would be discharging Marines and cargo into boats from four and a half to five miles from the assault beaches if the ships were to await the completion of sweeping before moving in. This was a serious weakness in Rear Admiral Turner's plans, not to be repeated willingly in later operations, and remedied before the morning was out by prompt action of Captain Reifsnider in the Red Beach area, whose War Diary noted:

Debarkation positions were 41/2 miles from BEACH RED. Half an hour after the initial waves had landed, the transports moved 31/2 miles closer to the beach to reduce the long water ride for the Marines.36

Commander Transport's summation was on the optimistic side. The detailed record shows that the transport squadron's movement closer inshore was individualistic. The Hunter Liggett moved in at 0942. The McCawley logged: "1045, commenced closing beach, 1121 anchor in 23 fathoms." The President Adams (AP-38) "shifted inshore and anchored BEACH RED


Mineswept Area, WATCHTOWER.

1201." The Barnett "at 1045 completed debarkation and proceeded to anchorage off RED BEACH." Alchiba (AK-23) "anchored at 1055." Betelgeuse "anchored in 27 fathoms about one mile off RED BEACH at 1108." USS Libra (AK-53) logged: "0950. On despatch from OTC started maneuvering inshore to 100 fathoms curve. 1125. In compliance with signal from OCT, moved to anchorage 2000 yards off and parallel to Beach 'Red'." Alhena (AK-26) "at 1130, Moved in to 3,500 yards from the beach and anchored." The Bellatrix logged: "1029. On signal that the intended anchorage off RED BEACH was not mined, crossed slowly inside the 100 fathom curve. 1123 anchored."37 But by and large, the transports and cargo ships moved cautiously to ease the boating problem.

Insofar as the destroyer minesweepers were concerned, their action reports and other correspondence do not contain any world shaking "lessons learned" or "changes recommended" for future operations. They had done all the chores requested in an effective manner with no fuss or feathers. Besides being jacks of many trades, gunfire support, control and salvage,


antisubmarine, antiaircraft, and despatch ship, they had been masters at their basic trade, minesweeping, at least in this area of no Japanese mines.

State of the Art

Gunfire support and air support are two of the essential ingredients of any amphibious landing on a hostile shore.

The elementary Japanese air and ground defenses in the Guadalcanal-Tulagi area closely matched the elementary state of the gunfire support art in the U.S. Navy on 7 August 1942. And the air bombing art was judged not too much better than elementary by some, including Rear Admiral Turner.38

Rear Admiral Turner had been in Washington when the Battles of the Coral Sea and Midway were fought. He read the reports of our Army Air Force and naval aviators' bombings in some phases of those battles. Then he read the decoded damage reports of Japanese commanders to their superiors. "The difference was so great that it wasn't even understandable,"39 as Admiral Turner thought this point could, and should, be illustrated in this book.

An excellent example involves the Japanese "Tulagi invasion Group" which consisted of two minelayers, one transport, two destroyers, two subchasers and four minesweepers.40 The transport unloaded and departed. The rest of the force was attacked by carrier aircraft from the Yorktown on 4 May 1942. They reported having sunk seven ships (two destroyers, one cargo ship, and four gunboats), forced a light cruiser to beach itself, severely damaged both a third destroyer and a seaplane tender, which "may have been a heavy cruiser" and damaged an 8-10,000 ton freighter. As a matter of record, however, no destroyers and only a total of three very small ships were sunk. The "light cruiser" beached, in fact, was a modest sized 1,320-ton destroyer, the 17-year-old Kikuzuki of the 1925 class. Her beaching was fortunately permanent. The "cargo ship" sunk was the 264-ton converted minesweeper, the Tama Maru. The four "gunboats" sunk were not four


but two small 215-ton coastal minesweepers. The damaged "seaplane tender" or "heavy cruiser" was the 4,400-ton minelayer Okinoshima.41

Ships Gunfire Support

The amphibian gunfire support organization provided five fire support sections at Guadalcanal to make up the Fire Support Group Love, and one Fire Support Group designated Mike at Tulagi-Gavutu. On the Guadalcanal side, three of the fire support sections were single ships, a heavy cruiser with two of its observation planes; the other two sections consisted of two destroyers each. On the Tulagi side, there were a light anti-aircraft cruiser and two destroyers, with two observation planes from a heavy cruiser assigned to work with Commander Landing Force, Tulagi and this gunfire support group.

Each of the three United States heavy cruisers assigned fire support chores had five seaplanes. Eight of the aircraft were allocated to control by the Marine commanders for liaison and shore artillery observation. One was allocated to Commander Screening Group for anti-submarine patrol.

There was a naval gunfire liaison party from each cruiser sent ashore with the early landing craft boat waves. The observation seaplanes were required to look for and report enemy troop movements or targets, as well as to spot the gunfire of Marine artillery and supporting ships.

Gunfire was to start at daylight.


The naval gunfire problem on the Guadalcanal side was the simple one of destroying the anti-aircraft and coast defense guns, all above ground, in the Kukum, Lunga, and Tetere areas. These had been reported by the Army Air Force B-17s flying out of the New Hebrides or Australia. Twelve antiaircraft guns were reported in the Kukum area. These had been bombed numerous times by the B-17s during the past fortnight and they were to be


further attacked by naval dive bombers from Rear Admiral Noyes's Task Group 61.1 at 15 minutes before sunrise, occurring at 0633.42

The locations of these antiaircraft and coast defense guns were not accurately known to the fire support ships primarily because of the absence of good photographs and secondarily because the dissemination of photographic interpretation had not been developed in the amphibious forces to the necessary extent. So all that the ships were told was that there were "shore batteries from Lunga Point westward," or "AA guns reported vicinity Tetere," or "AA guns near Tenaru." But it was presumed the coast defense guns and the antiaircraft guns, if dual-purpose, would open fire on the ships, and that the spotters in the cruisers' sea planes would coach the fire support ships' guns on to them. This contingency did not arise.

The initial gunfire and air strikes brought these results according to the logs being written on the flagship:

0635. A large fire on Kekum, bearing 214 . . .

Despite these early successes, Japanese antiaircraft fire from the beach areas continued.

0643. AA fire from beach bearing 196° T.44

However, after another seven minutes of gunfire attention, the Flag Log noted:

0650. No gunfire from beaches.45

In addition to destroying any hidden larger guns which might take the amphibious ships under fire while they were disembarking troops and equipment, 135 8-inch shells and 1,400 5-inch rounds were to be put on the 1, 600-yard assault area on Red Beach to a depth of 200 yards, and extending 800 yards on both sides. This shelling was to take place during the period Zero Hour minus 10 minutes to Zero Hour minus five minutes, to prevent the beaches from being taken under fire by Japanese defenders.

Three heavy cruisers and four destroyers began this concentrated firing at 0900, as the landing craft moved smartly from the Line of Departure


toward Red Beach. They ceased fire about 0907, and the first LCVP touched the beach at about 0910.

Since there was no hostile fire against the landing troops in the Red Beach area at Guadalcanal, the second part of the close support fire plan to put 800 rounds of 5-inch supporting fire to the east and west of Red Beach at Guadalcanal, starting at plus five minutes after the first wave landed, was cancelled.


The naval gunfire problem in the Tulagi area was complicated by the lay of the land, the multiplicity and strength of known Japanese defense positions, and the fact that the islands of Tulagi, Tanambogo, and Gavutu lay beneath promontories of the larger Florida Island just to the north and east, where Japanese guns could be advantageously located.46

It was known from photographic data, that the southeast end of Tulagi was more heavily defended than other Tulagi areas. However, to prepare for and cover all the actual Marine landings on Florida and Tulagi islands, it was necessary to divide the modest early morning gunfire effort between preparatory fire on the Blue Beach and the Haleta area, and the southeast end of Tulagi where the known defenses, including antiaircraft guns, were located.

Preparatory gunfire was also supplied for steep hilled Gavutu and Tanambogo, with 92 rounds of close fire support from 500 yards by the destroyer Monssen (DD-436). This gunfire was particularly effective at Tanambogo the second day after a 200-round five-minute bombardment from a respectable 4,000 yards had proven ineffective the first day.47 This close fire support by the Monssen was the first really "close up" use of the 5-inch naval gun from a thin shelled naval ship to blast Japanese defenders from caves and well-prepared defense positions.

Lessons Learned

Not too much was said about ship gunfire support in the reports on the WATCHTOWER Operation. All three of the 8-inch gun ships which had


specific heavy gunfire support tasks were sunk within 48 hours of the landings. The only remaining United States Navy heavy cruiser, the Chicago, did not have a specific gunfire support task. So gunfire support was not even mentioned in her WATCHTOWER action report. The Vincennes (CA-44) skipper, in a report written from memory after his ship sank, wrote that the ship had bombarded only native villages where "possible presence of enemy had been previously reported."48

The Buchanan (DD-484) reported that her fire on Blue Beach, Tulagi, was carried out at preparatory and covering ranges of 6,000 to 7,000 yards, but by afternoon the Buchanan had moved in to a range of 1,100 yards in delivering call fire on Tanambogo. The Helm (DD-388) delivered 5-inch fire support at 9,000 yards on Tulagi.49

The other destroyers and destroyer-types were equally reticent in commenting on their firing although the Honey (DMS-11) remarked that the bombardment carried out by the high speed minesweepers was "at times, erratic."

The 5-inch anti-aircraft cruiser San Juan (CL-54), that fired preparatory fire on Tulagi, Tanambogo, Gavutu, and Florida Island, did so from outside the 100 fathom curve and therefore at ranges of 9,000 yards or more in order to keep clear of possibly mined areas. She fired 3,231 rounds of 5-inch ammunition between 7 and 9 August, of which 3,005 rounds were against shore targets. Due to her northerly position this anti-aircraft cruiser did not participate in the defensive fire against any of the Japanese air attacks on 7 August and fired only 226 rounds on the 8th during air attacks.50

The marriage of gunfire support duties with control of boat waves by destroyers had been both short and generally unhappy. A position near one extremity of a Line of Departure is not always compatible with the maneuvering necessary to pinpoint gunfire support, and a World War II destroyer was just too large a craft to function smartly in control of boat waves.

High-capacity, thin-shelled ammunition had been used by the ships, and while these were effective against exposed troops or lightly sheltered ones, the shells were not rugged enough to pierce strong defensive structures. Time fuses for firing against shore targets had been forbidden, although it was known and stated in the Gunfire Support Plan that "5-inch 25-caliber projectiles without base fuses will not detonate satisfactorily on impact."


Unfortunately, the initial WATCHTOWER landings provided no real test of either ships gunfire or the methods of controlling ships gunfire by shore based fire control parties. The lack of response to the ships gunfire in the WATCHTOWER Operation was a dangerous precedent for Tarawa.

Close Air Support

Carrier Air Group Three was in the Saratoga, Carrier Air Group Six was in the Enterprise, and Carrier Air Group Seven was in the Wasp. On D-Day, the Wasp Air Group was assigned to the Tulagi-Gavutu area, and the Saratoga Air Group to the Guadalcanal area. Four squadrons of aircraft (one VF and three VSB) were assigned to close air support and two additional squadrons (one VF and one VSB) were assigned for the initial attack sweeps.

In the early hours of the operation, Commander Air Group Three and Commander Air Group Six alternated in command of aircraft in the Guadalcanal area. Commander Air Group Seven initially was over Tulagi.

Sunrise on D-Day was at 0633 and at 15 minutes before sunrise, while the transports were coming up to position, one fighter squadron was to drop in on the Japanese seaplane base at Tulagi-Gavutu-Tanambogo. At the same minute, a second fighter squadron was to sweep over the Point Cruz-Kukum-Lunga-Koli-Togama Point area, striking any Japanese aircraft, motor torpedo boats, or submarines.

Two dive bombing squadrons were ordered to attack at the same early hour, with the tasks of destroying anti-aircraft and coastal defense guns in or near the two Marine assault areas, and any aircraft on airdromes, fuel and ammunition dumps, or concentration of vehicles. One dive bombing squadron was assigned to blast the Tulagi hills from minus 10 minutes to H-hour.

Air Group Six provided a half squadron of fighters for follow through of the "15 minutes before sunrise" attack on Guadalcanal airdromes and AA installations, and a half squadron of dive bombers for follow through of the Tulagi initial sweep. Forty-four planes comprised the initial sweep at Guadalcanal and 41 planes struck at Tulagi-Gavutu.

The Air Support Group polished off the 18 Japanese seaplanes in the Tulagi area with its first attack. There were no seaplanes sighted on the Guadalcanal side and no Japanese land planes on the airstrip.

Subsequent thereto, during daylight, the Air Support Group provided one


and a half squadrons (18 planes) of dive bombers continuously for striking gun positions in the assault areas and a varying number of fighters, normally one-half squadron (6 planes), continuously for air cover. Additionally, the Air Support Group provided one plane over Guadalcanal and one over Tulagi for air ground liaison with the forces in those areas, as well as an artillery spotting plane over Guadalcanal, until it was known that the Marine artillery 'vas not to be used. Both the fighters and dive bombers carried out close air support of the Marines or dropped their bombs on targets of opportunity before returning to land on the carriers.

The basic plan provided that air support for the Marines during the amphibious assault phase would be controlled by an air support group temporarily attached to the staff of the amphibious force commander. Fighter cover over the assault area was to be controlled by a fighter director group attached to the staff of the Second-in-Command to the Amphibious Force Commander. Specifically this meant that control and coordination of air units in the assault area was exercised by the Air Support Director Group in the McCawley, working through the Senior Carrier Air Group Commander on station over the assault area, who was in airborne command of the aircraft from the Air Support Group.

The Air Controller of the Fighter Director Group from the Air Support Director Group, at the last moment, had to be stationed in the heavy cruiser Chicago rather than in Rear Admiral Crutchley's flagship, the Australia, because the Australia had a completely inadequate aircraft radar with a working range of 15 miles. The McCawley could not pick up this additional chore because of inadequate aircraft radio communication channels.

The Air Controller in the McCawley had radio communication with the home base, the carriers and up and down the naval chain of command in the combat area, as well as with the Marine chain of command, and with the Senior Carrier Air Group Commander and the liaison planes in the air, but in part it was step by step communication. He did not have direct voice communication with all ships nor with lower echelon Marine units. These Marine ground units did not have direct communication with the individual planes circling overhead.

All scheduled air strikes were delivered on time and largely on target. Some targets had not been minutely described or pin-pointed and so were not recognized. The carrier pilots, not specially trained for this exacting and difficult air support chore, did not always come up to the expectations of the Marines, their own desires, or the desires of the top command.


Turner Collection
Japanese bombing attacks at Guadalcanal, 7-8 August 1942.

The Fighter Director Group aboard the Chicago did not function up to par on 8 August, after having done well the morning before, and the heaviest enemy air attack of 45 Bettys and escorting Zekes was not intercepted by our fighters prior to the delivery of torpedo attacks on Task Force 62, despite an hour's advance warning from a coast watcher.

The lack of separate radio frequencies for the Tulagi and the Guadalcanal Air Support Groups caused much radio interference at times. Admiral Turner wrote:

. . . there was a partial ground or short on the antenna of the McCawley's TBS, which was not discovered and remedied until about November, 1942. The effects of the ground were to cause a rough tone to both reception and transmission, and to reduce the range of incoming and outgoing messages from the usual 20 miles to about 8 miles. For example, TBS exchanges between the McCawley and ships off Tulagi, 15 miles away, had to be relayed through all of the outer screen of the XRAY Group.51

The most important lesson learned in close air support in the first two days of the WATCHTOWER Operation was that it was


essential that ground forces in an operation of this type have radio communication directly with the liaison planes or Air Group Commander in order that maximum support may be afforded ground personnel.52

The second most important lesson learned was that the Air Support Director Group should not be positioned at limit of voice radio range from any part of the forces being supported, or there will be constant delays or failures in air support operations.

The Transport Navy Learns Its Lessons

The first lesson the amphibians learned at Guadalcanal was that they were going to have to get used to being shot at. One coxswain reported:

After getting the ramp up, we backed down as far as we could so as to keep the ramp between us and the line of fire. When we started around a little knoll, which was lined with trees, we were fired at from these trees. We spotted the flash from a gun up in one of these trees. I picked up the Marine's Risen gun and blasted the flash and the Jap fired again and I got a better bead on him, and fired again and he came tumbling down like a bird.53

Another coxswain reported:

The Japs were firing at the four of us as we were cranking up the ramp and one bullet hit the winch and splattered little pieces of lead in Morgan's side along his ribs under the skin but didn't hurt him much.54

The President Adams related that

The boat course from the ship to shore was like the letter U. . . . boats were under sniper fire during about the latter fourth of the trip. The final boat course was opposite to the original, this fact by itself shows the difficulty with which our boats were faced.55

The 19 large transports and cargo ships of Task Force 62 that arrived at Guadalcanal-Tulagi on 7 August were not newly built ships, although most of them were relatively new to the Navy. All of the large transports and cargo ships had participated previously in some amphibious exercises with troops, equipment, and cargo to be unloaded, and a number had participated in landing the Marines in Iceland, the August 1941 New River


Turner Collection
Japanese high-level bombing attacks at Guadalcanal, 7 August 1942.

and the January 1942 Lynnhaven Roads Training Exercises. Several, including the McCawley and Hunter Liggett, were veterans of Fleet Landing Exercise Number 7 in early 1941.

But, by and large, these amphibious ships did not have enough officers and men to continuously unload over a 72-hour period. It was both good and bad fortune that the Japanese made three air raids and threatened another during the first 48 hours of unloading. For these gave many of the boat crews a breathing spell, and also supplied an urgency to the need to get the unloading job done.

The second lesson the amphibians learned at Guadalcanal was they just had to have more people in their ships and craft.

Line Officers

To indicate the scarcity of seagoing Line officers in the transports at this period, it is only necessary to record that a dentist, in the President Adams (AP-38), was Commander Boat Division Seven in that ship. Lieutenant


R.E. Schaeffer (DC), U.S. Navy, in a surf boat, a relic of the President Adams merchant ship days, made a night landing on Gavutu "in pitch darkness and heavy rain," leading in three loaded Amtracs via a circuitous, unmarked and reef studded approach. Doctor Schaeffer had his reward after three groundings enroute, when our Marines fired at him, being unable to tell friend from foe in the darkness. He salvaged a stranded and abandoned jeep lighter from Neville (AP-16) on the way back to the ship. A reserve supply officer had also been trained as boat division officer in the same transport.56

Other transports were equally undermanned and short of personnel, as Neville's and Alchiba's reports indicate:

Due to the physical exhaustive nature of the work on transports during unloading it is essential that transports be fully manned for an operation of this kind.57

*  *  *  *  *

This vessel, at present, has insufficient personnel to run boats continuously for any protracted period.58

The skipper of the McCawley, several months later summed up the personnel situation in his ship succinctly.

The Commanding Officer particularly desires to pay the highest tribute to an undersized crew who performed a superhuman task of completely unloading this vessel. It really has been a pleasure to serve with such a splendid crew. Previous recommendations to fill this vessel to a complement of 490 men should be accomplished. . . . At present no reliefs are possible and all men are served meals on station and in the boats.59

Beach Troubles--Guadalcanal

The third lesson the amphibians learned at Guadalcanal was that the logistic support of the troops over the beaches in the first 24 hours had to be both beefed up and streamlined.

In WATCHTOWER, the Marine plans provided that about half the 1st Pioneer Battalion which totaled about 660 men would be attached to the Support Group which was assigned the task of close-in ground defense of the beachhead area at Red Beach at Guadalcanal. One platoon of 52 men went


to Tulagi. According to the Marine Corps Monograph: "The rest of the battalion had been parceled out to various regiments as reinforcing elements."

With this disposition of Marine labor resources specially trained and needed for the unloading of logistic support from ship's boats, it is not surprising that logistic chaos took over at the beachhead. This was only partially alleviated when Captain Reifsnider ordered each transport and cargo ship to land 15 sailormen to assist in handling supplies at the beachhead.60

Commander Transports summarized one aspect of the problem:

The statement of the Assistant Beachmaster from the George F. Elliott that literally hundreds of Marines were sitting on the beach watching the confusion mount, while hundreds of others were roaming through the cocoanut groves etc., is confirmed by reports of officers sent ashore by me to investigate.61

The Boat Group Commander, USS Barnett wrote:

There were approximately fifteen or twenty men unloading boats and about fifty others in swimming. I beached my boat and started looking for the Beachmaster who could not be found. While looking for the Beachmaster, I saw about one hundred men lounging around under the palm trees eating cocoanuts, lying down shooting cocoanuts from the trees; also playing around and paddling about in rubber boats. All of these men were Marines that should have been unloading boats.

*  *  *  *  *

About 0600 August 8, commenced to notice canned rations floating around about one mile off the beach. Upon approaching the beach I found that most of the supplies which had been unloaded during the night had been dumped at the low water mark, and as the tide came in, these supplies, which consisted of many items such as sugar, coffee, beans, cheese and lard which were all over the sides of the boats lying on the beach, were being ruined.62

The Captain of the Hunter Liggett reported:

After dark conditions reached a complete impasse. It is estimated that nearly one hundred boats lay gunwale to gunwale on the beach, while another fifty boats waited, some of these, up to six hours for a chance to land. . . .

No small share of the blame for this delay, which prolonged by nearly twenty-four hours the period when the ships lay in these dangerous waters, would seem to rest with the Marine Corps personnel and organization. The


Pioneers, whose function it was to unload the boats and keep the beach clear, were far too few in numbers. As a result much of this work was accomplished by boat crews, and stores which they landed at low water were frequently damaged or destroyed by the rising tide before the Pioneers removed them to safety. Meanwhile hundreds of Marines, many of them truck drivers, tank crews, special weapons and support groups, whose equipment had not been landed, lounged around the beach in undisciplined idleness, shooting down cocoanuts or going swimming. There was no apparent reason why these men could not have rendered valuable assistance in unloading the boats.63

Commander Transport Group XRAY, discussing the delays in unloading caused by the Japanese air attacks, stated:

Notwithstanding the foregoing interruptions, supplies were piling up on the beach faster than could be moved and by dark there were about 100 loaded boats at the beach and 50 more lying off waiting. It finally became necessary to discontinue unloading for the remainder of the night.64

The skipper of the Heywood wrote:

At 0200, 8 August, unloading stopped because of lack of boats, and at 0400 all ships were ordered to stop sending in loaded boats due to great congestion on beach. After daylight, as boats became available, they were loaded and kept at ship until about 0930, when orders were received to commence unloading.65

The Captain of the cargo ship Fomalhaut stated:

Discharging cargo on twenty-four hour basis but very slow procedure due to shortage of transportation. . . .

. . . unable to have boats unloaded at beach due to working parties there being engaged in repelling enemy snipers.66

During the night of 7-8 August, the Hunter Liggett reported:

Despite the quiet night, the Marines had failed to clear the beach and very little cargo was worked prior to the air alarm at 1043 [on 8 August].

And when some fancy cheese broke out of a melted carton, the thought was expressed:

Weapons, ammunition prime movers, and canned rations are more worthwhile than fancy groceries during the first days or even weeks of such an operation.67


Beach Trouble--Tulagi

Over at Tulagi, according to the transport Neville's War Diary

It was not until about midnight that the first word had been received to send the important food rations and ammunition ashore and from then till daylight it went slowly due to insufficient personnel to unload and conflicting orders as to where to land the stores.68

Not all the beach trouble was caused by inadequate Pioneer parties. Often the transports and cargo ships overloaded the landing craft.

A considerable number of landing boats, chiefly ramp lighters, were stranded on the beach, adding to the confusion. These ramps had been loaded too deeply by the head, and could not be driven far enough up on their particular beach to keep from filling and drowning the engine when the ramp was lowered.69

Rear Admiral Turner after the landing wrote:

There were two primary reasons for failure to completely unload. First the vast amount of unnecessary impediments taken, and second a failure on the part of the 1st Division to provide adequate and well organized unloading details at the beach.

Rear Admiral Turner summed up his attitude on all these unloading problems in this way:

The Marine officers on my staff feel very strongly on these matters as strongly as I do.70

When all was said and done, however, the amphibians in 26 actual hours of unloading had gotten a very large percentage of the Marines logistic support out of the holds and on to the beaches. This was accomplished despite three Japanese air raids, one of 45 planes, and another of 43, and rumors of other raids which had caused the amphibians to stop unloading and get underway. But the transports and cargo ships did not get 100 percent of the logistic support ashore and that was the least that they would have to do to accomplish their mission and satisfy the Marines.


Table of Contents  *  Previous Chapter (8)  *  Next Chapter ((10)


1. Admiral Stark to Admiral Kimmel, letter, 11 Feb 1941.

2. Interview with Rear Admiral Herbert K. Knowles, USN (Ret.), 6 Jul 1962. Hereafter Knowles.

3. (a) Turner; (b) Vandegrift, Once a Marine, p. 110.

4. (a) Fletcher; (b) Kinkaid; (c) USS San Francisco to CTF 61, 012115, Aug 1942.

5. Peyton.

6. COMSOPAC Op Plan 1-42, 16 Jul 1042, Intelligence Annex, pp. 14-20.

7. (a) COMPHIBFORSOPAC Staff Interviews; (b) RKT to DCNO (Admin), letter, 27 Sep 1950.

8. COMPHIBSOPAC (CTF 62) Operation Order A5-42, 30 Jul 1942, para. 3.

9. (a) RKT to Crutchley, letter, 29 Jul 1942; (b) COMPHIBSOPAC Operation Plan A3-42, 30 Jul 1942, Annex JIG; (c) Staff Interviews.

10. Ibid.


12. (a) Samuel B. Griffith, The Battle for Guadalcanal, p. 40; (b) U.S. Naval War College, The Battle of Savo Island August 9, 1942 (1950), pp. 9-10. Hereafter War College, Savo Island.

13. Staff Log.

14. Ibid.

15. USS Hull War Diary, 7 Aug 1942.

16. Merillat, The Island, p. 20. Reprinted by permission of Harold Ober Associates, Inc. Copyright 1944. by H.L. Merillat.

17. Turner.

18. Staff Log. Alchiba (AK-23) also reported plane with running lights at 0600.

19. Staff Log. War College, Savo Island, gives one minute later for each of these events.

20. USS Neville War Diary, 7 Aug 1942.

21. Quotations From Action Reports or Logs of USS Selfridge, Dewey, Hull, Alchiba, CTG 62.1, and McCawley.

22. USS Dewey, Action Report, 16 Aug 1942.

23. USS Ellet War Diary, 7 Aug 1942.

24. (a) Staff Log; (b) Commanding General, First Marine Division, Final Report on Guadalcanal Operation, Phase 1 of 24 May 1943.

25. Japanese CRUDIV 6, Battle Report.

26. Buka and Bougainville Islands were part of the Australian Mandated Territory of New Guinea.

27. Annex George to COMPHIBSOPAC Op Plan A3-42, 30 Jul 1942, listed the craft anticipated to be available 8/7/42. Up until 22 Jun 1942, the LCPR had been designated "TR boats," the LCP(L) "T boats" and the LCM were "WL lighters."

28. COMINCH, memorandum, FF-1/S28-1, Ser 01170 of 22 Jun 1942, subj: Designation of Landing Craft Ships and Vehicles, with endorsement of 18 Aug 1942 distributing to TF 62.

29. (a) Turner; (b) USS President Adams, Action Report, 15 Aug 1942.

30. Turner.

31. COMTRANSDIV Eight Action Report, 12 Aug 1942.

32. USS Heywood Action Report, 12 Aug 1942.

33. Staff Interviews.

34. COMPHIBSOPAC Op Plan A3-42, 30 Jul 1942, Annex Baker.

35. USS Hovey, Action Report, 11 Aug 1942.

36. CTG 62.1 War Diary, 23 Sep 1942.

37. Ships' Logs and War Diaries.

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

39. Turner.

40. d'Albas, Death of a Navy, p. 110. One of the minesweepers initially listed for Tulagi was shifted to the Port Moresby invasion group.

41. CO USS Yorktown Action Report, 11 May 1942; (b) U.S. Army, Far East Command, Military History Section, "The Imperial Japanese Navy in World War II" (Japanese Monograph No. 116) (1952), pp. 176, 251, 265; (c) Joint Army-Navy Assessment Committee, Japanese Naval and Merchant Shipping Losses during World War II by Al Causes (NAVEXOS P-468) (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1947).

42. (a) COMAIRSOPAC War Diary, Vol. I, 23, 31 Jul 1942, 1, 2, 4, 5 Aug 1942; (b) COMAIRSOPAC to COMSOPAC, 060313 Aug 1942.

43. (a) USS McCawley Log; (b) Staff Log.

44. Staff Log.

45. Ibid.,

46. Staff Interviews.

47. USS Monssen War Diary, 7 Aug 1942.

48. USS Chicago Action Report, 19 Aug 1942; USS Vincennes Action Report, 15 Aug 1942.

49. USS Buchanan Action Report, 13 Aug 1942; USS Helm Action Report, 14 Aug 1942.

50. USS San Juan Action Report, 15 Aug 1942; USS Hovey Action Report, 11 Aug 1942.

51. RKT to DCNO Admin, enclosure to letter of 20 Aug 1950, p. 18.

52. USS Wasp Action Report, 14 Aug 1942, encl. (b), p. 4.

53. USS President Adams Action Report, 25 Aug 1942, Encl. (A), Report of G.L.D. Sporhase, BM2c.

54. Ibid., Encl. (B), Report of B.W. Hensen, BM2c

55. Ibid., CO's Report, 15 Aug 1942.

56. Ibid., 15 Aug 1942.

57. USS Neville Action Report, 13 Aug 1942.

58. USS Alchiba Action Report, 16 Aug 1942.

59. USS McCawley Action Report, 23 Nov 1942.

60. (a) First Marine Division Operation Order 7-42 of 20 Jul 1042; (b) First Marine Division Operation Order 5-42 of 29 Jun 1042; (c) Commanding General, First Marine Division, Final Report on Guadalcanal Operation, Phase 1 of 24 May 1942 Annex K (3); (d) Zimmerman, Guadalcanal Campaign (Marine Corps Monograph), p. 46.

61. COMTRANSDIV to SOPACFOR report, FB7-10/A16-3/Ser 063 of 19 Aug 1942.

62. Report of Boat Group Commander, USS Barnett, 13 Aug 1942.

63. USS Hunter Liggett War Diary, 7 Aug 1942.

64. Commander Transport Divisions, SOPAC (CTG 62.1) Action Report, 23 Sep 1942.

65. USS Heywood Action Report, Ser 18, 12 Aug 1942.

66. US Fomalhaut War Diary, 8 and 9 Aug 1942.

67. USS Hunter Liggett War Diary, 8 Aug 1942.

68. USS Neville War Diary, 9 Aug 1942.

69. USS Hunter Liggett War Diary, 8 Aug 1942.

70. RKT to Colonel James W. Webb, USMC, CO 7th Marines, letter, 20 Aug 1942.