Chapter 19: Conclusions

The situation at 2400 on August 8th may be summarized as follows: The Marines held Tulagi, Gavutu, and Tanambogo, although several nests of enemy snipers remained on the last island. We had put about 7,500 men ashore in that area at a cost of 248 casualties. Japanese casualties, however, were virtually 100 percent, or about 1500. At Guadalcanal we had about 11,000 men ashore, with a fairly firm hold on the northern shore from Kukum to Koli Point. The airfield we had captured was ready for almost immediate use by fighters and dive bombers. With few tools and no barbed wire, our troops were busily digging in to defend their valuable beachhead. The enemy forces on Guadalcanal had all withdrawn to the bush.

The immediate objectives of the expedition had been obtained, although the operation had taken 2 days instead of one and the occupation of Ndeni in the Santa Cruz Islands had had to be postponed indefinitely because of the use of the Second Marines in finishing the fight in the


Tulagi area. Our ship losses had been slight: 1 transport, the George F. Elliott, sunk; 1 destroyer, the Jarvis, subsequently sunk as a result of battle damage; 1 destroyer, the Mugford, slightly damaged. Plane losses, 21 out of 99 fighters on the 3 carriers, had been considerable but not excessive in view of the enemy's heavy counterattacks by air. The 2 days' accomplishment amply justified Admiral Ghormley's dispatch on the morning of the 8th in which he stated that the results so far achieved made every officer and man in the South Pacific area proud of the task forces.

Two tactical developments had arisen that evening, however, which seriously endangered the success of the entire operation. The significance of one--the unexpectedly early retirement of the aircraft carriers--was appreciated at once. The significance of the other--the report of the approach of a large enemy surface force--does not appear to have been realized until its costly consequences had been felt.


Torpedo planes attacking our transports 8 August


Destroyer maneuvering during Japanese air attack


The George F. Elliott, after Japanese plane had crashed into her, 8 August


Henderson Field, September 1942


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Transcribed and formatted by Patrick Clancey, HyperWar Foundation