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Guadalcanal: Most significant campaign where both combatants were largely unprepared?

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  • Guadalcanal: Most significant campaign where both combatants were largely unprepared?

    I've been reading a bit about Guadalcanal lately. The one thing that struck me about it was how unprepared BOTH sides were for the campaign.

    1. The Japanese Navy hadn't even notified the Army that they were building an airfield on Guadalcanal in the first place.
    2. Vandegrift had been previously told that his division wouldn't be deployed until 1943.
    3. The US intelligence re the island was poor. There were few accurate maps. Some initial landing objectives turned out to be several kilometers inland.
    4. There didn't seem to be any sort of consensus between the Marines and the Navy regarding how long Fletchers carriers would cover the invasion.
    5. The nearest Japanese ground units were units that were supposed to have been used to invade Midway.

    This is not really a criticism of either side, simply observations from my reading. Given that you could make an argument that Guadalcanal was one of the most influential campaigns in the Pacific, I just found it ironic how unprepared both sides were for it.

    Any thoughts? I figure the group here probably has people who know a lot more about it than I do.

  • #2
    Originally posted by DingBat View Post
    I've been reading a bit about Guadalcanal lately. The one thing that struck me about it was how unprepared BOTH sides were for the campaign.

    1. The Japanese Navy hadn't even notified the Army that they were building an airfield on Guadalcanal in the first place.
    The IJN knew about the airfield. That's obvious since they had established a float plane / seaplane base across from Guadalcanal at Tulagi. The IJN had built a small base there and was expanding. They had brought in an SNLF battalion for base defense. It's pretty obvious given that, that they knew what the IJA was doing on Guadalcanal considering they also landed the units building the airfield.

    Part of the IJN base at Tulagi





    2. Vandegrift had been previously told that his division wouldn't be deployed until 1943.
    The USMC did a good job in the landing and had organized and properly equipped and trained units available. The 1st Marine division provided the bulk of the defense, but there were 2 USN CB battalions ashore, 1 Marine Defense battalion (5" gun), two Marine battalions (1 Raider 1 Parachute) on Tulagi / Florida Island, and additional supporting units.

    3. The US intelligence re the island was poor. There were few accurate maps. Some initial landing objectives turned out to be several kilometers inland.
    The US knew that and did something about it. For example, the USCG Oceanographer was sent to Guadalcanal / the Solomon Islands to produce accurate charts for navigation. The USMC and USN also did aerial photography and began producing accurate topological maps of the islands.



    4. There didn't seem to be any sort of consensus between the Marines and the Navy regarding how long Fletchers carriers would cover the invasion.
    It really didn't matter. The US knew pretty well what Japanese forces were present having done photo- and submarine reconnaissance of the area. The USMC was concerned about getting all their forces ashore along with the initial supplies. The forces landed intact, but the supply landing was cut short by the disaster of Savo I and the demolition of the naval forces off shore.


    5. The nearest Japanese ground units were units that were supposed to have been used to invade Midway.
    This was simply the IJA not having a clue what the US sent to invade Guadalcanal and also having an arrogance about how effective their troops were. It didn't help them one iota that they did nothing to stop the construction of a large naval base at Tulagi that by the beginning of 1943 had dozens of small craft, upwards of a hundred landing craft, and other services available at it. This meant ships bringing supplies didn't necessarily have to anchor out off Guadalcanal to unload, but even if they did, the landing craft and other small craft to do that were locally available.
    This was sufficiently effective that the only counter the Japanese had was the occasional submarine in the right place to torpedo a merchant ship and then try to avoid retribution by the minesweepers, submarine chasers, ASW aircraft, and other assets present hunting them down.

    The PT base at Tulagi in early 1943




    Last edited by T. A. Gardner; 18 Feb 20, 19:18.

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    • #3
      The problem in the Pacific was the long chains of communication. Logistics became a nightmare for the Japanese. They simply didn't have an economy capable of maintaining forces over such a massive area. Not only that but they had the same problem the Germans had in defeating the British in the battle of Britain. Guadalcanal was just too far away and it exhausted their pilots most of whom were already sick with Malaria at the time of the invasion. Not only the pilots but the maintenance crews were suffering as well. I have read that most of the Japanese fighters at this time could not even be maintained with working radios.

      You have to ask yourself was Guadalcanal all that important to the Japanese. I think they thought the Americans would have the same logistic problems they had. The leadership never understood that "fighting spirit" was no match for the American economic powerhouse even though they had been warned by Yamamoto and others.
      We hunt the hunters

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      • #4
        With hindsight it is obvious that Japan lost the war on the day of PH .
        Without hindsight, it was obvious that Japan could ''win '' only when USA gave up, when/if the American people decided that PH was not /no longer worth all those casualties and $ billions .

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        • #5
          Originally posted by wolfhnd View Post
          The problem in the Pacific was the long chains of communication. Logistics became a nightmare for the Japanese. They simply didn't have an economy capable of maintaining forces over such a massive area. Not only that but they had the same problem the Germans had in defeating the British in the battle of Britain. Guadalcanal was just too far away and it exhausted their pilots most of whom were already sick with Malaria at the time of the invasion. Not only the pilots but the maintenance crews were suffering as well. I have read that most of the Japanese fighters at this time could not even be maintained with working radios.

          You have to ask yourself was Guadalcanal all that important to the Japanese. I think they thought the Americans would have the same logistic problems they had. The leadership never understood that "fighting spirit" was no match for the American economic powerhouse even though they had been warned by Yamamoto and others.
          Good post.
          Militaristic Imperial Japan had a huge amount of ' unthought forcing,' and this was most apparent in the stange logistics at the fringes of the Empire. For example,(IIRC) supply ships went from Japan to the East indies, then returned to Japan. Supply ships went form JaPAN TO the Islands ( Poly and Melanesia), then returned to Japan. They could not figure out, even with shipping, fuel, and naval escorts at a crisis point, how to triangulate the route...
          The trout who swims against the current gets the most oxygen..

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          • #6
            Originally posted by marktwain View Post

            Good post.
            Militaristic Imperial Japan had a huge amount of ' unthought forcing,' and this was most apparent in the stange logistics at the fringes of the Empire. For example,(IIRC) supply ships went from Japan to the East indies, then returned to Japan. Supply ships went form JaPAN TO the Islands ( Poly and Melanesia), then returned to Japan. They could not figure out, even with shipping, fuel, and naval escorts at a crisis point, how to triangulate the route...
            The IJA had issues operating in the Pacific beyond just their forces there. First, they had to normally ship all their supplies in IJA ships that might or might not be escorted by IJN warships. If the IJN wasn't sending their ships or whatever to that location, the IJA was largely on its own.

            One of the things you find is that the IJA and IJN built entirely separate bases on islands and locations where they both had units. A great example of this is Kiska in the Aleutians. The IJA and IJN both had bases on the island, particularly after abandoning Attu. The IJA troops had it pretty miserable as they got only infrequently supplied and received little in the way of comfort items. The IJN on the other hand brought in construction materials, comfort items like wood stoves, and supplied their contingent on the island fairly well. Each service built it's own base separate from the other. But, because the IJA didn't have the shipping and escorts available, they got short shrift on supplying their troops at Kiska (and elsewhere).

            At Guadalcanal, the landings by the 2nd Infantry Division of the IJA (when they finally sent a big batch of troops), was made in an initial convoy of 6 merchant ships. Once they arrived at Guadalcanal, the IJN left leaving the transports on their own to unload. The USN, USMC, and USAAF showed up right after sunrise and started bombing and strafing these ships forcing them to run aground and a large portion of the supplies and equipment aboard was lost.

            Another attempt to land troops using merchant ships in early November 42, met a similar fate. The IJN just didn't really give much of a rat's patoot what happened to the IJA. Thus, the poor coordination and ineptitude here cost the Japanese more than a dozen larger merchant ships they could ill afford to lose simply because one service wouldn't cooperate any more than the minimum with the other.

            But, the really BIG problem the Japanese had was they never really answered the single most important question: Do we even need Guadalcanal? Could they have done better letting the island go and reinforcing garrisons on other islands in the chain while building airfields there and conducting say just a sustained air operation against the island? It's something to consider...

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            • #7
              I am with ya on your last paragraph. Over-extended to the max.
              SPORTS FREAK/ PANZERBLITZ COMMANDER/ CC2 COMMANDER

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              • #8
                Originally posted by dgfred View Post
                I am with ya on your last paragraph. Over-extended to the max.
                Aye aye. The military smart move would have been to pull back to Rabaul. Saving face is expensive...Guadalcanal (Henderson field) was designed to be a range flight, not a radius flight from Rabaul. Patch and Vanderberg basically bled the best troops Japan had white.
                The trout who swims against the current gets the most oxygen..

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by DingBat View Post
                  I've been reading a bit about Guadalcanal lately. The one thing that struck me about it was how unprepared BOTH sides were for the campaign.

                  1. The Japanese Navy hadn't even notified the Army that they were building an airfield on Guadalcanal in the first place.
                  2. Vandegrift had been previously told that his division wouldn't be deployed until 1943.
                  3. The US intelligence re the island was poor. There were few accurate maps. Some initial landing objectives turned out to be several kilometers inland.
                  4. There didn't seem to be any sort of consensus between the Marines and the Navy regarding how long Fletchers carriers would cover the invasion.
                  5. The nearest Japanese ground units were units that were supposed to have been used to invade Midway.

                  This is not really a criticism of either side, simply observations from my reading. Given that you could make an argument that Guadalcanal was one of the most influential campaigns in the Pacific, I just found it ironic how unprepared both sides were for it.

                  Any thoughts? I figure the group here probably has people who know a lot more about it than I do.
                  The Original American plan was to pull back into a tight semicircle around Australia, and wait for the naval construction to catch up.Guadalcanal was a whirled together operation. It took pressure off the battle for the Kokoda trail - at a pretty huge naval cost. the Japanese could nto afford the naval attrition.
                  The trout who swims against the current gets the most oxygen..

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by marktwain View Post

                    Aye aye. The military smart move would have been to pull back to Rabaul. Saving face is expensive...Guadalcanal (Henderson field) was designed to be a range flight, not a radius flight from Rabaul. Patch and Vanderberg basically bled the best troops Japan had white.
                    I'm not sure what is meant by "Guadalcanal (Henderson field) was designed to be a range flight, not a radius flight from Rabaul"?

                    "The good old hockey game is the best game you can name
                    and the best game you can name is the good old hockey game"

                    - Stompin' Tom Connors - The Hockey Song

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by HMan View Post

                      I'm not sure what is meant by "Guadalcanal (Henderson field) was designed to be a range flight, not a radius flight from Rabaul"?
                      distance plus a 30-45 minute weather reserve.

                      Radius is measured as out and back. range is a flight to destination
                      Last edited by marktwain; 21 Feb 20, 19:31.
                      The trout who swims against the current gets the most oxygen..

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Guadalcanal represents the first "island hop" in the USN advance across the Pacific. It was developed into a forward base for support of the next advance to Funafuti atoll that would allow the invasion of the Gilbert Island chain. From there it was into the Marshall Islands.
                        Interestingly, Guadalcanal also represents the only time the USN had to put up a hard fight for their intended basing location. Each other time afterwards, they took the atoll they wanted for that with little or no opposition. The atolls picked were more for their potential qualities as a harbor than as an airfield.
                        It's also interesting to note that the Japanese were generally unaware of where the US had set up these forward bases. Funafuti went undiscovered by the Japanese for nearly a year and by then it had been drawn down significantly in terms of importance as a base.

                        The importance of Guadalcanal to the US was they didn't want the Japanese to have a base from which they could attack New Caledonia. This was the USN forward base at the time Guadalcanal was invaded.

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