In mid-1942, the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff authorized “Operation Watchtower,” an attack on Tulagi and Guadalcanal in the Solomon islands, where the Japanese had begun to construct an airfield. The initial American landing, carried out by the U.S. 1st Marine Division, was successful, but the Japanese reacted swiftly, and both sides reinforced, leading to vicious fighting on land, in the air and at sea. The Americans completed the unfinished airfield on Guadalcanal (Henderson Field), and its possession gave them a decisive edge. In mid-November, the three-day naval battle of Guadalcanal, a costly victory for the Americans, marked the climax of the struggle. Japanese survivors were evacuated in January 1943.
Above, U.S. Marines landing on Guadalcanal, August 7. Initial lack of opposition encouraged the original caption to describe a “successful attack against the occupying Japanese.”
In what became known as the Battle of the Tenaru River in late August, a 900-strong Japanese force was literally wiped out.