Seventy years ago today, Major General Alexander Patch signaled to Admiral William Halsey:
“Complete defeat of Japanese forces on Guadalcanal effected 16.25 today . . . ‘Tokyo Express’ no longer has terminus on Guadalcanal.”
After six months and two days of grinding attrition on the land, air, and sea around Guadalcanal, the island was firmly under allied control. The strategic implications were readily apparent to anyone looking over a map at the time. The tide of war in the Pacific shifted – from the slack following the Battle of Midway to decidedly in favor of the allies.
The campaign also premiered the joint approach to warfighting in the Pacific. Consider the “land” component to the campaign. Although the Marines (notably the 1st and 2nd Marine Divisions, but with other smaller formations too) bore the brunt of the early fighting on land, later in the campaign the “Americal” Division and 25th Infantry Division (including XBrad’s 27th Wolfhounds) fought. The Americal, unique in that it lacked a number designation, consisted of units originally intended to defend New Caledonia and other South Pacific outposts. In October 1942 they joined the Marines defending Henderson Field. The 25th arrived later in December, just as the Americans were taking the offensive.
For a short period of time General Patch formed the Composite Army-Marine (CAM) Division with the 6th Marines paired with the 147th and 182nd Infantry Regiments. The CAM Division also assumed control of several Marine and Army artillery battalions. The 2nd Marine Division’s staff served as the CAM Division’s headquarters. Granted, this was a temporary measure – at most just task organization changes on the battlefield. Still this is an example of the level of cooperation within the Army-Navy-Marines team at Guadalcanal. Similar examples of joint (and combined) operations may be seen with the “Cactus Air Force” with Marine, Navy, and Army Air Corps squadrons. Oh, and a squadron from the Royal New Zealand Air Force operating there too. Was there perfect harmony between the services? No. But compared to the acrimonious relation between the Japanese Army and Navy, the rivalries on the US side looked more like minor spats.
So… go out and lift a glass today for those who derailed the Tokyo Express.