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War in the Pacific: South Pacific: 003 - Edwin Palmer Hoyt

Once again Edwin P. Hoyt has given the reader a concise, comprehensive, and intelligently written book. This time, he concerns himself mainly with the crucial Battle for Guadalcanal, which was the first offensive action by the Americans against the might of the Imperial Japanese military in the Pacific War.


From the landing of the 1st Marine Division on Guadalcanal Island on August 7, 1942 to Japan's defeat there in February 1943, the battle seesawed back and forth. The Japanese, at the outset of the Guadalcanal campaign, had all the advantages in terms of airpower, seapower, and experience. But their leadership tended to underestimate the fighting ability of the Americans, as well as their resourcefulness and determination to hold out against what was overwhelming odds during the early months of the battle.


What I also found revelatory the more I read "War in the Pacific, Vol 3: South Pacific" was how often at times the Japanese Army and Navy worked independently of each other throughout the battle and at times at cross purposes against each other. Both did not work well together. The Army had a very high opinion of itself, which was considerably inflated during the early months of the Pacific War with the swift victories against U.S., British, Dutch and Allied forces. Where an infantry division could have secured decisive results on Guadalcanal against the Marines, Imperial General Headquarters in Tokyo and the senior Army leadership in Rabaul (the main Japanese base in the South Pacific) would send a regiment to do the job. For after all, one Japanese soldier was equal to ten American marines!


The book also goes into detail in explaining to the reader the remaining battles in the Central Solomon Islands that took place from the Spring to the autumn of 1943. These were crucial months that saw the gradual diminution in Japanese air and seapower as the Americans (Army, Navy, and Marines) gained experience and were able to commit greater and greater numbers of soldiers, planes, and ships against Japan. So much so that, by the spring of 1944, with Rabaul now isolated by American forces, the U.S. was now in a position to take the war to the heart of the Japanese Empire.