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Click here to view Map 1 (200k)Guadalcanal Map 1
animated battle map (200k)
Click here to view Map 2 (900k)Guadalcanal Map 2
animated battle map (900k)
Guadalcanal Map 3 (coming next...)
flash animated battle map
By James Burbeck
At 0910 on the morning of August 7, 1942, two battalions of the 5th U.S. Marine Regiment waded onto the north shore of Guadalcanal, one of the southernmost of the Solomon Island chain. The 5th Regiment was quickly followed by the 1st U.S. Marines who pushed inland to capture an airfield which the Japanese had nearly completed. By throwing themselves at an enemy that had – until then – seemed to run roughshod over everything in their path, the U.S. Marine Corps was putting its men and reputation on the line. Indeed, at the time of the landings neither side understood just how iconic the fight at Guadalcanal would become.

The American landings were initially viewed by the Japanese high command as a raid. They took overly long to comprehend that a full infantry division of angry U.S. Marines had brazenly embedded themselves in the path of the imperial war machine. To complicate matters, the Marines had rushed into action before they were really prepared, mainly because their senior commanders believed they needed to strike quickly. They were right. The August assault on Guadalcanal came just nine days before the first Japanese aircraft were due to arrive at their new airfield.

Two key aspects of the Guadalcanal campaign were air power and supply. The Americans were able to maintain the most persistent air presence over the island - courtesy of the newly captured airfield - and so they were able to deny the Japanese Army the supplies it desperately needed to clear the Americans off the island. By the end of the campaign, the Japanese troops who had been sent to Guadalcanal were literally starving to death.

These animated combat maps depict the major engagements of the campaign, although there were numerous skirmishes and line adjustments that could not be represented here. Units are depicted in stylized form and the maps are not to scale, key terrain features are tagged for clarity, but most features are not marked in order to assure a clean view of unit movement. The maps themselves currently cover only the fighting on Guadalcanal Island and not the fighting on nearby Florida, Tulagi and Gavutu Islands. These islands were captured during the first few days of the campaign at great cost to the Marine Raiders and Marine Paratroopers, both of whom were eventually sent to Guadalcanal and merged into a single battalion.
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