Memorial Day Recalling Desperate Times

The year is 1942 America is still reeling from the attack on Pearl Harbor that nearly destroyed the US Pacific Fleet stationed there. To make matters worse a string of uncanny victories by the Japanese leave little to write home about as Manila, Guam, Wake Island, Corregidor, and a host of other Allied tragedies paint a bloody picture for hopes for vengeance against an unbelievably cruel foe. it seems that America and her stricken allies are up against insurmountable odds.

Further setbacks

Even the US Pacific Fleet's submarine force is hampered by malfunctioning torpedoes that may score a direct hit, but not detonate once they have struck the hull of a Japanese warship! On top of that US sub commanders are not being aggressive enough at a time when their ability to cripple Japanese shipping is needed the most. US naval strategists will have to rethink US sub warfare and replace skippers who don't show enough initiative!

Break through

On June 4th America gets a huge break! As the Japanese Imperial Fleet steams for Midway Island determined to knock out the US Naval and Marine post there on their way to invading the Hawaiian Islands US Navy code breakers decipher Japanese encrypted military communications. Now Americans have the battle plans for their enemy and they will be waiting to pounce! A force of 4 major Japanese aircraft carriers and their accompanying task force are unknowingly on course to their own disaster! With only three aircraft carriers and a small ground launched aerial force of obsolete US warplanes on Midway the odds seem in favor of the Japanese, but for the element of surprise.

Deflating the aggressor

The outcome becomes one of the major turning points in the battles of history and will forever keep Japan on the defensive. For the loss of one aircraft carrier and US warplanes shot down during the course of attack the US Pacific Fleet sinks 4 major Japanese aircraft carriers along with all of their carrier based fighter planes and pilots! it is a cost the Japanese simply cannot afford as many experienced aviators are gone along with the Imperial Fleet's momentum!

Striking back

Perhaps just as strategic a battle and even more so crucial in continuing the long crusade back across the Pacific to retake lost US real estate and stop Japan was Guadalcanal. A grim slug fest between Japanese troop landing operations and the US Marines tasked with capturing and holding the all important air field there begins! Against steep odds and a determined enemy the US launches its first amphibious landing and successfully takes the beaches on Guadalcanal against determined resistance, but within days attains its objective to capture the tarmac and installations.

Formidable enemy

For the first few months of the war the Japanese have earned the reputation as super soldiers, seemingly unafraid to die, aggressive, well camouflaged, and under the regimen of Buchido, unmerciful to their enemies! The British crumbled against their invaders even with a huge garrison at Manila. The US loses it's air base there along with General Mac Arthur's command at Corregidor! Japanese pilots also earn a reputation shooting down various US and British fighter aircraft with humiliating kill ratios, but at Guadalcanal things change. Tellingly, at Guadalcanal an intitial first engagement between the Japanese and US Marines quickly dissolves the reputation of the Japanese as a largely outnumbered group of US Marines stumble upon a larger group of their enemy. The resulting fire fight results in the massacre of the Japanese troops!

Ongoing threats

Guadalcanal is a maze of rivers, ridges, dense jungle, and beaches where Japanese and US forces launch offensives and counter offensives. Each night the Japanese run convoys of destroyers, cruisers, troop transports, and cargo ships determined to resupply their landed soldiers and to offload fresh personnel and rations. The battles are centered around the Japanese retaking what is now Henderson Field where nightly bombardments from Japanese warships are accompanied by daytime aerial bombing raids. Yet, the embattled Marines hold their positions and inflict horrid losses upon their determined foes.

Hotly contested

Such US Marine Corps commanders as Chesty Puller and Merritt A. Edson become legendary figures under the desperate defense of Henderson Airfield and the surrounding area when at times the Marines are literally positioned with their backs to the runways as Japanese regiments attempt to wipe out the American defenders and reoccupy the facility, but the US Marines, exhausted, sick from disease, under supplied, fight back heroically throwing back each Banzai charge of the Japanese Imperial Army with rifle, machine gun, and mortar fire as the blood of fighting men stains the sands and jungle. At times the battles become hand to hand combat, but the losses sustained by the Japanese are at 12 to 1 ration. Thousands of their soldiers die at the hands of combined US Marine and American Army forces as the navy manages to sneak reinforcements in at night.

The cost

In the beginning of the contest one Japanese infantry commander, confident that he outnumbered his American counterparts lost 1,500 men in one attack to US Marine machine gun emplacements and sharp shooters. Yet, for 6 months a terrible battle of attrition continues. The US Navy loses 2 aircraft carriers the USS Wasp and Hornet while night actions amount to costly sinkings of Japanese cruisers and destroyers attempting to offload and protect troop landings and resupply. In places such as Savo Island, Tulagi, and Florida Island the naval bombardment action is fierce. American pilots from Henderson Field manage to continue attacks on Japanese shipping during the day despite many attempts by the Japanese Imperial Fleet to wreck the airfield and interdict US air operations!

Engagements at Sea

In one of many night actions the US Navy loses 2 admirals in one battle at Savo Island, Admiral Norman Scott, and Rear Admiral Daniel J. Callaghan are both killed during a savage battle at sea in the darkness. The Japanese are proven night operators with the superiority of their Long Lance Torpedoes accurate at thousands of yards as opposed to the still problematical US Mark 14 torpedo that often hampered US Naval operations in the heat of battle refusing to detonate on the hull of the enemy ships.

Places marked by carnage

Guadalcanal was at the strategic gateway of the Solomon Island group which would allow the Allies to effectively establish naval ports and supply routes in close proximity and push the war effort home to the Japanese waters as time wore on. Places such as Cape Esperance, Battle of Tenaru, Koli Point, the Lunga Perimeter, Santa Cruz Islands, all bloody battle grounds and actions at sea and in the jungles that cost the lives of Americans as well as Japanese pilots, troops, and seamen who left their bloody signatures on what normally would have been a scenic Pacific paradise for tourists in years to come.

The inevitable outcome

The original planner who conceived of the Pearl Harbor surprise attack, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, is the ultimate authority over the bloody six month campaign after the original landing of US troops to take the airfield on Guadalcanal, defend, and stockpile US military operations as the Japanese continually harassed and attempted to invade the strategic point on a map in the titanic distances of the South Pacific that would witness many more savage contests on the ground, waters, and in the air as US and Japanese forces contested control over areas captured by Imperial forces to be liberated by the American war machine awakened under the sneak attack at Pearl Harbor!

The Japanese Withdrawal

By December the Japanese Imperial Army and Navy had stomached their last defeat! A committee of officers linking all the way up the chain of command to Emperor Hiro Hito convened over what they had thought would be an epic battle to pull the US Navy into, but found that it had cost them too dearly to sustain! The decision was made to begin a strategic retreat by January with forces brought in to recover the under nourished and dying Japanese troops and protect the withdrawal from US attacks. By February 1943 the Japanese had successfully evacuated more than 10,000 of their troops under the cover of darkness. The US Navy convinced of a newly planned offensive by the Japanese held back and missed opportunities to strike back while the Japanese were in retreat mode. It wasn't until after February 7th just 6 months after the US Marine Corps had invaded Guadalcanal that they realized the Japanese had given up and were gone. The island now had 50 thousand allied troops stationed there and would begin the long journey to defeat Japan from there!

Views: 146

Comment by Rodney Roe on May 26, 2018 at 6:08am

Doc, you have six copies of this post up.  "Publish" must have appeared stuck.

War is personal.  My father fought in Europe - France and the Battle of the Bulge - and came home.  No one in myu family fought in the Pacific theater.  I was 3 months old when the Japanese evacuated Guadalcanal.  The war cost the U.S. dearly in terms of human lives and in material wealth.

However, none of that is pertinent to Memorial Day.  Memorial Day is about those who died.  We remember all of our fallen; even those who fought for the other side during the Civil War.  Memorial Day is not about remembering war, but about remembering the fallen.

Japanese, and German, and Italian families lost loved ones in WWII, too.  They thought they were fighting for the right side.

Comment by J.P. Hart on May 26, 2018 at 8:10am

Our ol' boys marched into hell for a heavenly cause, no?

Comment by Rodney Roe on May 26, 2018 at 8:31am


Comment by Doc Vega on May 26, 2018 at 8:58am

Rodney, the heroic actions of young men pressed into service and under what circumstances are obviously relevant to all those except yourself who suffer from cognitive dissonance, a common malady that I see among members here! It is imperative for future generations to understand just under what conditions our young men gave their lives for. History does not need your judgment nor do I!

Comment by Doc Vega on May 26, 2018 at 9:01am

J.P. This is not about glorifying the horrors of war but it is about reminding the idiots who take a knee before an NFL game or burn effigies of our president, or burn down black churches when the perpetrators themselves are black and committing arson for the sake of politics that America was once unified by those who put aside their differences to protect their homeland and paid the ultimate cost in doing so! 

Comment by koshersalaami on May 26, 2018 at 9:09am

Putting aside racial differences is really easy for those of us who are White. Black servicemen and women sacrificed a great deal in WWII and performed in legendary ways - like the Tuskegee Airmen - only to come home to not being able to drink at the same water fountains as Whites. 

I’m also curious if you would have objected to burning effigies of President Obama, speaking of putting aside our differences. 

Comment by J.P. Hart on May 26, 2018 at 9:50am

ow what in the ruination are you harping 'bout?? Okay okay just one Michelob Ultra LA-LA Dr.V Maybe your time-time-time would be more productive(lee) inventive if you'd translate Goebbels Diary Diary to Farsi.
I enjoyed reading your history five times. Don't know why you're such a landlubber. 'Ya know it's 9.40 am 26MAY2018 AND1stNOWMKECOHASARRANGEDAREFCOUNDRUMONG@MARYJANE
Maybe keep your fist oo the bull's yin-yang before you're so conspiratorial you can't wash clean or find your way home to Waco

Comment by J.P. Hart on May 26, 2018 at 10:50am

I was on the SSide of Chi with Op PUSH with road rash on my right cheek bone when U and your budzinskis were prolly circle jerking to Bridge on the River Kiwi 1st fiddlin' with taut catgut folkin' substitootn' Texarkana hayWARD straw for fluoride floss.

Howlevha there's an outside chance of a nano 3Dprop (big as the sky) at the true one and only North Pole. And we'll always have Steven Spielberg's 12th Street & One when the old soldiers youthfully return.
Smiling in the sky/*

Walk don't run, bubba. I'm sure she'll be come N 'round the mountain when --- she's READY /!\/

Comment by Maui Surfer on May 26, 2018 at 12:39pm

Vega- your self induced confusion continues to amaze. Rodney served in the USA military during wartime in Vietnam. I did my part as a civilian military employee during Kosovo, despite having previously fought against the conscription into Nam in numerous bloody battles with Nixon and Reagan's fascists as Domino Theory was a lie perpetuated only by Hawks and Dictators that benefited like Suharto, who butchered his own people. Did you serve? where? when? Why all the fucking bullshit about the NFL- fuck the white viewers, we will make professional football a sport for people of color ... think it can't be done? Um, soccer is the number one sport in the world, Einstein. 75% of the players are already African American, most field goal kickers are foreign nationals ... that's your All-American sport that Tejas is so hot on.

Comment by Doc Vega on May 26, 2018 at 1:35pm

Kosher once again like I've said before I deal in history objectively without interjecting political correctness into it! I unlike the rest of you acknowledged Memorial Day in my own personal way without nostalgia over the carnage! Same old bullshit with you people it's get out the old politically correct manual and start on the hollow rhetoric again!


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