Chapter 14: The Landing on Guadalcanal, August 725

0903-0909 Naval bombardment of shore
0913 First troops land on Beach RED.
1100 Ships move in closer to beach.
1200 Heywood arrives at Beach RED
1320 Japanese high level bombers attack.
1500 Japanese dive bombers attack.

In contrast to the fighting in Tulagi-Gavutu, the occupation of Guadalcanal proceeded with almost amazing smoothness. There were two reasons for this. First, we had expected that we should encounter the greater resistance on Guadalcanal and had concentrated the major part of our landing forces there.26 Second, the enemy retired to the hills of Guadalcanal and allowed us to establish ourselves along the northern shore; whereas in Tulagi and the other small islands off Florida the enemy was trapped and, refusing to surrender, fought almost literally to the last man.

Zero hour had been set by Admiral Turner at 0910, and some minutes before that time our boats had gathered at the line of departure, marked since 0840 by 2 destroyers. Our cruiser planes had dropped smoke bombs indicating the limits of the beach. Fire support for the landing was to begin 10 minutes before zero hour and was to last 5 minutes, while our boats were moving in from 2,700 to 1,300 yards from the beach. Soon after 0900 it began. The Quincy covered the area west of Beach RED to a depth of 200 yards and assisted the Astoria in covering the western third of the beach. The Dewey and Hull bombarded the eastern third of the beach and Ellet and Wilson the center. Immediately after our troops landed, the two destroyer sections were to take positions, respectively east and west of the 1,000-yard-wide boat lane, to provide 5 minutes of close fire support, while the Astoria was to follow the westward progress of our troops along the beach and provide whatever support should be necessary. This latter part of the program proved unnecessary, but while our boats were landing, each cruiser expended 45 rounds of 8-inch and 200 5-inch and each destroyer fired 200 rounds.

The fire-support ships had received instructions not to fire on wharves, pontoons, jetties, bridges, or lighters which were offering no threat to our operations. They were ordered to use illuminating projectiles for incendiary purposes against inflammable targets such as fuel dumps. In order


not to endanger our boats, only the percussion feature of all projectiles was to be used. This order was given despite the acknowledgment that 5-inch 25-caliber projectiles without base fuses do not detonate satisfactorily on impact.

The barrage ceased at 0909, and at 0913, 3 minutes after zero hour, the first troops landed without opposition on Beach RED between Lunga and Koli Points. Within an hour a beachmaster was established as was in communication with Admiral Turner in the McCawley. Shortly thereafter a despatch was received reporting that submarines were en route to attack our ships and that 18 enemy heavy bombers were also on their way. The latter part of this warning proved correct.

General Vandegrift, who had his division headquarters while afloat in the McCawley, took command on Guadalcanal soon after the landing. The Assistant Division Commander, General William H. Rupertus, coordinated operations in e Tulagi-Gavutu-Florida area, first from the Neville and later from Beach BLUE in Tulagi.

By the time all troops were ashore, the minesweepers had made considerable progress in sweeping the Tulagi area without finding any mines. Since it appeared that the enemy had not mined the waters around the islands, it was decided to facilitate the unloading of cargo by moving our transports closer to the beach without waiting for the area to be swept. Accordingly our ships came in and anchored in about 30 fathoms of water, some 2,000 yards off Beach RED, about 1100. Later (1315) our minesweepers began sweeping Lengo Channel and were only well started when the first air raid occurred.

The Heywood, having completed unloading equipment at Tulagi, came up at 1200 and began disembarking troops and unloading stores in boats provided by ships of the XRAY Squadron. This task proceeded smoothly except for interruption by two air attacks at about 1320 and 1500.

Despite the interruptions to unloading caused by the enemy's air attacks, occupation of the Guadalcanal shore front proceeded expeditiously. During the day about 11,000 Marines were shuttled ashore. Indeed, supplies were piling up on Beach RED faster than could be moved away, and by dark there were about 100 loaded boats and 50 more waiting off shore. Although work continued during the night under lights, it finally became necessary to call off the unloading because of the congestion. "In view of subsequent events this delay was of serious import," Capt. L.F. Reifsnider, commanding Transport Group XRAY, reported. Aside from this


self-imposed obstruction, operations at Guadalcanal proceeded according to plan with no effective opposition by the enemy.


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[25] See chart on p. 31.

[26] "The attack on Guadalcanal was premised on an estimate of defensive strength which proved entirely erroneous."--First Marine Division Commander's Report.

Transcribed and formatted by Patrick Clancey, HyperWar Foundation