The Landing in the Solomons is one of a series of twenty-one published and thirteen unpublished Combat Narratives of specific naval campaigns that was produced by the Publications Branch of the Office of Naval Intelligence during World War II. Selected volumes of this series are being republished by the Naval Historical Center as part of the Navy's program of commemorating the 50th anniversary of World War II.
Forward to the NHC Edition
The Combat Narratives were superseded long ago by accounts such as Samuel Eliot Morison's History of the United States Naval Operations in World War II, which could be more comprehensive and accurate because of the abundance of American, Allied, and enemy source materials that became available after 1945. But the Combat Narratives continue to be of interest and value since they demonstrate the perceptions of naval operations during the war itself. Because of the contemporary, immediate view offered by these studies, they are well suited for republication today as veterans, historians, and the American public turn their attention once again to a war that engulfed much of the world a half century ago.
The Combat Narrative program originated in a directive issued in February 1942 by Admiral Ernest J. King, Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet, that instructed the Office of Naval Intelligence to prepare and disseminate these studies. A small team composed primarily of professionally trained writers and historians, including such noted scholars as Carl Bridenbaugh and C. Vann Woodward, produced these narratives. They based their accounts on research and analysis of the available primary source material, such as action reports and war diaries, augmented by interviews with individual participants. Since the narratives were classified Confidential during the war, only a few thousand copies of each were published at the time, and their distribution was primarily restricted to commissioned officers in the Navy.
Operation Watchtower was the official code name for the landings at Guadalcanal and other nearby islands in August 1942. This was the first major American amphibious operation of World War II. The campaign was a direct outgrowth of the Navy's success in the battles of the Coral Sea and Midway, which halted the Japanese momentum in the Pacific and created an opportunity for the Allies to commence offensive operations in the pacific theater much sooner than strategists
originally had anticipated. Attention was directed to the eastern Solomons because of the recent Japanese occupation of positions in this area. In addition, strategists recognized that the islands proved a natural avenue of approach toward the mighty Japanese naval base of Rabaul on the island of New Britain to the west. An operation in the Solomons also would serve to cover the flank of a concurrent drive being orchestrated in New Guinea by General Douglas MacArthur.
Within the Solomons, the Allied planners first focused their attention on the islands of Tulagi, Gavutu, and Tanambogo. They initially overlooked the much larger island to the south of those three, Guadalcanal, which gave the ensuing campaign its historical name. The decision to land there was an afterthought, resulting from radio intelligence information in early July that the Japanese were constructing an air base on that island.
As detailed in this narrative, the Marines who landed on Tulagi, Gavutu, and Tanambogo met stiff resistance from the Japanese defenders on those islands. But enemy forces on Guadalcanal fled into the jungle, enabling the Marines to quickly capture the uncompleted airfield that soon became known as Henderson Field. The only serious opposition encountered was Japanese air attacks, which damaged some of the vessels of the invasion fleet and destroyed a number of American warplanes.
The Office of Naval Intelligence originally published this narrative in 1943 without attribution. Administrative records from the period indicate that Lieutenant Leonard Ware, a Naval Reserve intelligence officer, was the author. In civilian life, Ware was a journalist. Following World War II, he worked for the Boston Herald and later served as a public affairs officer for the U.S. government.
I wish to acknowledge the invaluable editorial and publication assistance offered in undertaking this project by Mrs. Sandra K. Russell, Managing Editor, Naval Aviation News magazine; Commander Roger Zeimet, USNR, Naval Historical Center Reserve Detachment 206; and Dr. William S. Dudley, Senior Historian, Naval Historical Center. We also are grateful to Rear Admiral Kendell M. Pease, Jr., Chief of Information, and Captain Jack Gallant, USNR, Executive Director, U.S. Navy and Marine Corps WW II 50th Anniversary Commemorative Committee, who generously allocated the funds from the Department of the Navy's World War II commemoration program that made this publication possible.
Dean C. Allard
Director of Naval History
Navy DepartmentOffice of Naval Intelligence
1 October 1943.
Combat Narratives are confidential publications issued under a directive of the Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet, and Chief of Naval Operations, for the information of commissioned officers of the U.S. Navy only.
Information printed herein should be guarded (a) in circulation and by custody measures for confidential publications a set forth in Articles 75 1/2 and 76 of Navy Regulations and (b) in avoiding discussion of this material within the hearing of any but commissioned officers. Combat Narratives are not to be removed from the ship or station for which they are provided. Reproduction of this material in any form is not authorized except by specific approval of the Director of Naval Intelligence.
Officer who have participated in the operations recounted herein are invited to forward to the Director of Naval Intelligence, via their commanding officers, accounts of personal experiences and observations which they esteem to have value for historical and instructional purposes. It is hoped that such contributions will increase the value of and render ever more authoritative such new editions of these publications as may be promulgated to the service in the future.
When the copies provided have served their purpose, they may be destroyed by burning. However, reports acknowledging receipt or destruction of these publications need not be made.
Rear Admiral, U.S.N.,
Director of Naval Intelligence
8 January 1943.
Combat Narratives have been prepared by the Publications Branch of the Office of Naval Intelligence for the information of the officers of the United States Navy.
The data on which these studies are based are those official documents which are suitable for a confidential publication. This material has been collated and presented in chronological order.
In perusing these narratives, the reader should bear in mind that while they recount in considerable detail the engagements in which our forces participated, certain underlying aspects of these operations must be kept in a secrete category until after the end of the war.
It should be remembered also that the observations of men in battle are sometimes at variance. As a result, the reports of commanding officers may differ although they participated in the same action and shared a common purpose. In general, Combat Narratives represent a reasoned interpretation of these discrepancies. In those instances where views cannot be reconciled, extracts from the conflicting evidence are reprinted.
Thus, an effort has been made to provide accurate and, within the above-mentioned limitations, complete narratives with charts covering raids, combats, joint operations, and battles in which our Fleets have engaged in the current war. It is hoped that these narratives will afford a clear view of what has occurred, and form a basis for a broader understanding which will result in ever more successful operations.
Fleet Admiral, U.S.N.,
Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet, and Chief of Naval Operations.
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