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  • 從瓜島到長崎 (WWII Battlefield S4/E5)

  • In the summer of 1942,

  • the Japanese Empire stretched over a vast area of the western Pacific

  • After the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941,

  • Japanese forces moved quickly to capture Hong Kong,

  • Burma,

  • Malaria,

  • Borneo, the Philippines,

  • and Singapore.

  • By the spring of 1942,

  • Japanese troops were in New Guinea

  • as the expanding empire swept into the Solomon Islands,

  • By the end of May,

  • Japanese territory spread as far as the large jungle island

  • that would give its name to one of the best-known episodes of the Pacific War,

  • Guadalcanal.

  • Japan's expansion was a seemingly relentless advance.

  • But around the time they reached Guadalcanal,

  • the tide was already beginning to turn against the Empire.

  • The May 1942, Battle of the Coral Sea

  • forced Japan to shelf(?) the idea of attacking New Guinea's capital.

  • Port Morseby.

  • In early June,

  • the stunning American victory at Midway

  • persuaded the Japanese leadership

  • to halt their expansion into the Pacific.

  • Consolidation was now the order of the day.

  • But the Empire was still a force to be reckoned with.

  • In the middle of June 1942,

  • Allied intelligence in the Solomon Islands

  • reported a worrying development.

  • The Japanese occupiers of Guadalcanal

  • were constructing an airfield on the north coast of the island.

  • Coconut trees were being felled in the thousands.

  • and the reports suggested

  • that the airstrip will be operational in a matter of weeks.

  • This was serious news for the Allies.

  • A Japanese air presence on Guadalcanal

  • would threaten the precious supply line between Hawaii and Australia.

  • In Washington,

  • the American chiefs of staff considered their response.

  • One idea was to carry out a raid against Guadalcanal,

  • and put the airfield out of commission.

  • But eventually a plan was hatched

  • that was far more bold in scope.

  • Instead of merely raiding Guadalcanal,

  • the Americans decided to capture the island.

  • The plan was to effect an amphibious landing by American Marine forces,

  • eject the small Japanese presence,

  • and establish an Allied airbase on the island.

  • By June the 25th,

  • the decision was made to go ahead with the operation,

  • its code name

  • Watchtower.

  • The Prelude

  • When the decision was made to capture Guadalcanal,

  • the American planners knew very little about the background that lay ahead

  • the island was almost entirely unfamiliar.

  • Maps were few and unreliable,

  • and only a limited air reconnaissance was possible.

  • And this was not the only problem that affected American preparations.

  • The success of the Guadalcanal offensive

  • would depend on the Marine troops

  • whose task was to go ashore

  • and physically capture the vital airstrip.

  • But when the Marine commander

  • General Vandegrift

  • received his orders at his headquarters in New Zealand on the 25th of June,

  • he knew that his men were far from combat ready.

  • It was early in the previous month that the marines

  • had left their home base in North Carolina.

  • And by the end of June,

  • only 1/3 of their number had arrived in New Zealand.

  • General Vandegrift had been told

  • not to expect any operational duties until 1943.

  • Now his unprepared division

  • was expected to go into battle in a matter of weeks.

  • Vandegrift was forced into urgent preparations in New Zealand

  • as his men and supplies arrived in the region.

  • Despite an outbreak of influenza amongst his troops

  • and the inconvenience of a strike

  • amongst the dock workers in the Port of Wellington,

  • by the end of July

  • the Marine troops were in position

  • on the island Fiji

  • awaiting a final rehearsal for the task ahead.

  • General Vandegrift by now secured a postponement to the day of attack

  • from August 1st to August seventh.

  • But he knew that his preparation time have been far from ideal.

  • And in Fiji,

  • the inexperience of the American Marines revealed itself.

  • The Guadalcanal expedition

  • would be an amphibious operation

  • quite unprecedented in size.

  • And the Fiji exercise

  • revealed the logistical difficulties involved.

  • There was little evidence of coordination

  • between the amphibious landing groups

  • and the accompanying naval and air support.

  • Equipment proved unreliable.

  • And the whole exercise was judged to be a little less than a farce.

  • But there could be no delay in the timetable.

  • August the 7th would be the date

  • when the American plan would be put into action.

  • The intentions of the American leadership for the Guadalcanal offensive

  • were relatively straightforward.

  • An armada of transport ships

  • would sail from Fiji to the Solomon Islands

  • and into the channel to the north of Guadalcanal.

  • There, the main amphibious force

  • would take to their landing crafts and go ashore

  • while supporting units

  • secure the smaller islands of Tulagi,

  • Gavutu,

  • and Tanambogo.

  • The transport vessels would not be alone.

  • Instead,

  • they were just part of a much larger invasion force

  • To the north and northeast,

  • lay a substantial protective naval presence

  • under the command of Admiral Crutchley of the Royal Australian Navy.

  • 5 cruises and 9 destroyers

  • Generous air support was also provided.

  • Some 100 miles to the south,

  • An American carrier fleet formed into position.

  • The value of the aircraft carrier

  • had already been proved dramatically at the Coral Sea and Midway.

  • And so the Carriers Saratoga,

  • Wasp,

  • and Enterprise were deployed

  • to provide fighter support for the Guadalcanal offensive.

  • Alongside the carriers,

  • one battleship,

  • 6 cruises and some 16 destroyers,

  • These substantial resources

  • were all deployed in support of Vandegrift's First Marine Division,

  • a landing force reinforced

  • with crack units of paratroops and Marine raiders.

  • But nothing could hide the fact

  • that the 1st Marine Division had only been formed recently

  • and the majority of its men

  • lacked any experience of battle.

  • The American Marines could not be sure

  • of the size of the force that waited them on Guadalcanal.

  • But they could guess the strength of the Japanese fighting spirit.

  • The best intelligence available suggested

  • that the force of 7,000 troops were in position on the island

  • and these were likely to include soldiers

  • with recent experience of fighting in difficult jungle conditions.

  • By contrast,

  • there were few men in the American Marines

  • who would ever come across

  • an environment like that of Guadalcanal.

  • The Americans also knew that Japanese strength

  • did not derived only from its positions

  • at Guadalcanal itself.

  • Somewhere to the northwest,

  • in the vicinity of New Britain,

  • lurked the might of Japanese naval power,

  • the 4th Inner South Sea Fleet.

  • These were the concerns that face the American commanders

  • on the eve of battle in early August 1942.

  • American Commanders

  • In overall command of the Watchtower Operation

  • was Vice Admiral Robert Lee Gormley.

  • The 57-year-old who had served as a liaison officer in London

  • Gormley arrived in New Zealand in March 1942

  • to take up command of the South Pacific area

  • and South Pacific Force.

  • Not long afterwards,

  • he received the order to proceed

  • with the Guadalcanal attack.

  • But Gormley would not be in the South Pacific

  • when the fighting finally ended.

  • His eventual removal

  • may have been the result

  • of one of his decisions in the early days of the offensive.

  • But in August 1942,

  • Admiral Gormley was the man in charge.

  • Amongst his subordinates,

  • Rear Admiral Frank J. Fletcher,

  • known to his men as Blackjack,

  • a veteran of the Battle of the Coral Sea and the Battle of Midway.

  • Fletcher was seen as an ideal choice

  • to command the naval task force

  • on which the success of the Guadalcanal offensive would depend.

  • But Fletcher's reputation

  • would also be affected by the decision of his superior

  • Admiral Gormley.

  • Once again, there was no such concern

  • when operations began.

  • Rear Admiral Fletcher's huge task force

  • was divided into two groups:

  • with the key amphibious force under the command of

  • Rear Admiral Richmond Jake Turner.

  • Like Gormley and Fletcher,

  • Turner was in his late fifties.

  • Although he had never seen active combat service

  • instead he was regarded as an authority in the business

  • of planning an amphibious attack.

  • At Guadalcanal,

  • he would get the chance to put his theories into practice.

  • Rear Admiral Turner's direct subordinates included

  • Major General Alexander A. Vandegrift.

  • And it was this marine commander

  • who would become most associated

  • with the eventual outcome of Guadalcanal.

  • A veteran of the so-called Banana Wars in the Caribbean

  • Vandegrift knew all about jungle fighting.

  • Though he was astonished when he learned

  • how little time his 1st Marine Division would have to prepare for the offensive,

  • this gifted soldier put aside his concerns

  • as he took on the business of leadership on the ground.

  • Vandegrift's marine division

  • was reinforced with paratroops.

  • It was also supported by the 1st Marine Raider Unit

  • under the command of Colonel Merit Edson.

  • Like his commander,

  • Edson had combat experience

  • and it's for this reason that his raiders

  • were given one of the most difficult tasks on the opening day of battle.

  • Known to his men as Red Mike,

  • Edson was a master of special tactics

  • and he would become one of the most celebrated soldiers of the Pacific War,

  • with Guadalcanal

  • the first location to witness his abilities as a leader of men.

  • Japanese Commanders

  • The Americans enjoyed no monopoly

  • of excellent leadership at Guadalcanal.

  • In charge of Japanese naval operations in the South Pacific

  • was Vice Admiral Gunichi Mikawa(三川軍一).

  • Prior to the American attack,

  • Mikawa had expressed well-documented concerns

  • about the fractured nature of the Japanese Pacific command.

  • But when fighting began,

  • Mikawa would put his opinions to one side

  • as he deployed his naval forces in brilliant style.

  • Complimenting Mikawa's naval forces,

  • the Japanese regional ground presence

  • consisted of the 17th Army of Lieutenant General Harukichi Hyakutake(百武晴吉)

  • General Hyakutake had a formidable force at his disposal

  • The 50,000 men that made up 17th Army

  • included the 35th infantry Brigade of Major General Kawaguchi(川口清健),

  • a commander who revealed his keenness for the fight

  • as soon as he was engaged on Guadalcanal.

  • A strong desire to get to grips with the enemy

  • was also revealed by Colonel Kiyonao Ichiki(一木清直)

  • a veteran of the war in China

  • and a passionate believer

  • in the prowess of the individual Japanese soldier.

  • As commander of the 2nd Battalion,

  • 28th Infantry Regiment,

  • Colonel Ichiki

  • had the chance to put his beliefs to the test

  • in the first major land action on Guadalcanal itself.

  • It would be an engagement where Colonel Ichiki

  • revealed just how much motivation a commander can instill in his men

  • It would also be an action

  • that would give rise to one of the most enduring myths

  • about the Guadalcanal offensive.