ACTION ON GUADALCANAL
The Japanese launched their land offensive before the two fleets made contact. As has been noted, land operations on Guadalcanal had already begun on the 20th, with the probings of our advanced line along the
Matanikau River. These increased in intensity throughout the next 2 days, culminating in a full-scale offensive the night of 23-24 October. Four times the enemy attacked, only to be hurled back with heavy losses. A fifth attack the following morning was frustrated with the aid of aircraft and artillery. Nevertheless, assaults continued throughout the 24th along the Matanikau River and at Lunga Ridge on our southern line. Heavy rains turned Henderson Field into a muddy waste from which no plane could take off.
Before dawn on the 25th a Japanese surface force of one heavy cruiser, one light cruiser and four destroyers put in toward Guadalcanal, landed troops and supplies, and supported with their gunfire a further series of enemy attacks that day. However, the rains had ceased, and later in the morning the surface of Henderson Field had hardened sufficiently to permit the departure of 25 bombers. These attacked the enemy surface units from noon until 1700, scoring two bomb hits on the light cruiser. Six B-17's from Espiritu Santo assisted in the aerial attack, making two 500-pound bomb hits on a destroyer.5
The enemy land drive reached its peak during the night of 25 October. Weakened by almost incessant attack by land, sea, and air, the Marines were unable to prevent a break-through along Lunga Ridge. Encouraged by this success, the Japanese naval striking forces commenced a new approach toward the eastern Solomons, ready to take part in the final extinction of American power on Guadalcanal.6
5 At 0700 on the morning of the 26th, enemy ships remaining in the area were attacked by dive bombers from Guadalcanal which obtained another 500-pound hit on the light cruiser.
6 For a brief interval enemy confidence seemed to be justified. But a desperate counterattack by Marines and Army troops restored our line. Except for a minor setback on the 27th, we never again were seriously threatened by Japanese land forces on Guadalcanal. However, it must be borne in mind that when the Japanese carrier forces joined battle with us they believed that the land attack was well on the road to success.
Last updated: June 21, 2003Transcribed and formatted by Jerry Holden for the HyperWar Foundation