The Solomon Islands campaign was a major campaign of the Pacific War of World War II. The campaign began with Japanese landings and occupation of several areas in the British Solomon Islands and Bougainville, in the Territory of New Guinea, during the first six months of 1942. The Japanese occupied these locations and began the construction of several naval and air bases with the goals of protecting the flank of the Japanese offensive in New Guinea, establishing a security barrier for the major Japanese base at Rabaul on New Britain, and providing bases for interdicting supply lines between the Allied powers of the United States and Australia and New Zealand.
The term military campaign applies to large scale, long duration, significant military strategy plans incorporating a series of inter-related military operations or battles forming a distinct part of a larger conflict often called a war. The term derives from the plain of Campania, a place of annual wartime operations by the armies of the Roman Republic.
The Pacific War, sometimes called the Asia–Pacific War, was the theater of World War II that was fought in the Pacific and Asia. It was fought over a vast area that included the Pacific Ocean and islands, the South West Pacific, South-East Asia, and in China.
World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.
The Allies, to defend their communication and supply lines in the South Pacific, supported a counteroffensive in New Guinea, isolated the Japanese base at Rabaul, and counterattacked the Japanese in the Solomons with landings on Guadalcanal (see Guadalcanal Campaign) and small neighboring islands on 7 August 1942. These landings initiated a series of combined-arms battles between the two adversaries, beginning with the Guadalcanal landing and continuing with several battles in the central and northern Solomons, on and around New Georgia Island, and Bougainville Island.
The Pacific Ocean is the largest and deepest of Earth's oceanic divisions. It extends from the Arctic Ocean in the north to the Southern Ocean in the south and is bounded by Asia and Australia in the west and the Americas in the east.
Guadalcanal is the principal island in Guadalcanal Province of the nation of Solomon Islands, located in the south-western Pacific, northeast of Australia. The island is mainly covered in dense tropical rainforest and has a mountainous interior.
The Guadalcanal Campaign, also known as the Battle of Guadalcanal and codenamed Operation Watchtower by American forces, was a military campaign fought between 7 August 1942 and 9 February 1943 on and around the island of Guadalcanal in the Pacific theater of World War II. It was the first major offensive by Allied forces against the Empire of Japan.
In a campaign of attrition fought on land, on sea, and in the air, the Allies wore the Japanese down, inflicting irreplaceable losses on Japanese military assets. The Allies retook some of the Solomon Islands (although resistance continued until the end of the war), and they also isolated and neutralized some Japanese positions, which were then bypassed. The Solomon Islands campaign then converged with the New Guinea campaign.
The New Guinea campaign of the Pacific War lasted from January 1942 until the end of the war in August 1945. During the initial phase in early 1942, the Empire of Japan invaded the Australian-administered territories of the New Guinea Mandate and Papua and overran western New Guinea, which was a part of the Netherlands East Indies. During the second phase, lasting from late 1942 until the Japanese surrender, the Allies—consisting primarily of Australian and US forces—cleared the Japanese first from Papua, then the Mandate and finally from the Dutch colony.
On December 7, 1941, after failing to resolve a dispute with the United States over Japan's actions in China and French Indochina, the Japanese attacked the US Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The surprise attack crippled most of the U.S. Pacific Fleet's battleships and started a war between the two nations. Attacks on British Empire possessions in the Pacific, beginning with an attack on Hong Kong almost simultaneously with the Pearl Harbor attack, brought the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand into the conflict. The Japanese sought to neutralize the U.S. and Royal navies, seize possessions rich in natural resources, and obtain strategic military bases to defend their far-flung empire. In the words of the Japanese Navy's Combined Fleet Secret Order Number One, dated November 1, 1941, the goals of the initial Japanese campaigns in the impending war were to, "(eject) British and American strength from the Netherlands Indies and the Philippines, (and) to establish a policy of autonomous self-sufficiency and economic independence."
The Second Sino-Japanese War was a military conflict fought primarily between the Republic of China and the Empire of Japan from July 7, 1937, to September 2, 1945. It began with the Marco Polo Bridge Incident in 1937 in which a dispute between Japanese and Chinese troops escalated into a battle.
French Indochina, officially known as the Indochinese Union after 1887 and the Indochinese Federation after 1947, was a grouping of French colonial territories in Southeast Asia.
The Attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise military strike by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii Territory, on Sunday morning, December 7, 1941. The attack, also known as the Battle of Pearl Harbor, led to the United States' formal entry into World War II. The Japanese military leadership referred to the attack as the Hawaii Operation and Operation AI, and as Operation Z during its planning.
The Empire of Japan accomplished its initial strategic objectives in the first six months of the war, capturing Hong Kong, the Philippines, Thailand, Malaya, Singapore, the Dutch East Indies, Wake Island, New Britain, the Gilbert Islands, and Guam. A Japanese goal was to establish an effective defensive perimeter from British India on the west, through the Dutch East Indies on the south, and to island bases in the south and central Pacific as its southeastern line of defense. Anchoring its defensive positions in the South Pacific was the major Japanese army and navy base at Rabaul, New Britain, which had been captured from the Australians in January 1942. In March and April, Japanese forces occupied and began constructing an airfield at Buka in northern Bougainville, as well as an airfield and naval base at Buin, in southern Bougainville.
Hong Kong, officially the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China and commonly abbreviated as HK, is a special administrative region on the eastern side of the Pearl River estuary in southern China. With over 7.4 million people of various nationalities in a 1,104-square-kilometre (426 sq mi) territory, Hong Kong is the world's fourth most densely populated region.
The Philippines, officially the Republic of the Philippines, is an archipelagic country in Southeast Asia. Situated in the western Pacific Ocean, it consists of about 7,641 islands that are categorized broadly under three main geographical divisions from north to south: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. The capital city of the Philippines is Manila and the most populous city is Quezon City, both part of Metro Manila. Bounded by the South China Sea on the west, the Philippine Sea on the east and the Celebes Sea on the southwest, the Philippines shares maritime borders with Taiwan to the north, Vietnam to the west, Palau to the east, and Malaysia and Indonesia to the south.
Thailand, officially the Kingdom of Thailand and formerly known as Siam, is a country at the center of the Southeast Asian Indochinese peninsula composed of 76 provinces. At 513,120 km2 (198,120 sq mi) and over 68 million people, Thailand is the world's 50th largest country by total area and the 21st-most-populous country. The capital and largest city is Bangkok, a special administrative area. Thailand is bordered to the north by Myanmar and Laos, to the east by Laos and Cambodia, to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, and to the west by the Andaman Sea and the southern extremity of Myanmar. Its maritime boundaries include Vietnam in the Gulf of Thailand to the southeast, and Indonesia and India on the Andaman Sea to the southwest. Although nominally a constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy, the most recent coup in 2014 established a de facto military dictatorship.
In April 1942, the Japanese army and navy together initiated Operation Mo, a joint plan to capture Port Moresby in New Guinea. Also part of the plan was a navy operation to capture Tulagi in the southern Solomons. The objective of the operation was for the Japanese to extend their southern perimeter and to establish bases to support possible future advances to seize Nauru, Ocean Island, New Caledonia, Fiji, and Samoa and thereby cut the supply lines between Australia and the United States, with the goal of reducing or eliminating Australia as a threat to Japanese positions in the South Pacific. The Japanese Navy also proposed a future invasion of Australia, but the army answered that it currently lacked enough troops to support such an operation.
Operation Mo or the Port Moresby Operation was a Japanese plan to take control of the Australian Territory of New Guinea during World War II as well as other locations in the South Pacific with the goal of isolating Australia and New Zealand from their ally the United States. The plan was developed by the Imperial Japanese Navy and supported by Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, the commander-in-chief of the Combined Fleet. The operation was ultimately abandoned.
Port Moresby, also referred to as Pom City or simply Moresby, is the capital and largest city of Papua New Guinea and the largest city in the South Pacific outside of Australia and New Zealand. It is located on the shores of the Gulf of Papua, on the south-western coast of the Papuan Peninsula of the island of New Guinea. The city emerged as a trade centre in the second half of the 19th century. During World War II it was a prime objective for conquest by the Imperial Japanese forces during 1942–43 as a staging point and air base to cut off Australia from Southeast Asia and the Americas.
Tulagi, less commonly known as Tulaghi, is a small island in Solomon Islands, just off the south coast of Ngella Sule. The town of the same name on the island was the capital of the British Solomon Islands Protectorate from 1896 to 1942 and is today the capital of the Central Province. The capital of what is now the state of Solomon Islands moved to Honiara, Guadalcanal, after World War II.
Japanese naval forces successfully captured Tulagi but its invasion of Port Moresby was repulsed at the Battle of the Coral Sea. Shortly thereafter, the Japanese navy established small garrisons on the other northern and central Solomon Islands. One month later, the Japanese Combined Fleet lost four of its fleet aircraft carriers at the Battle of Midway.
The Allies countered the threats to Australia by a build-up of troops and aircraft,with the aim of implementing plans to approach and reconquer the Philippines. In March 1942 Admiral Ernest King, then Commander-in Chief of the U. S. Fleet, had advocated an offense from New Hebrides through the Solomon Islands to the Bismarck Archipelago. Following the victory at Midway, General Douglas MacArthur, who had taken command of the South West Pacific Area, proposed a lightning offense to retake Rabaul, which the Japanese were fortifying and using as a base of operations. The United States Navy advocated a more gradual approach from New Guinea and up the Solomon Island chain. These competing proposals were resolved by Admiral King and U.S. Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall, who adopted a three-task plan. Task One was the capture of the island of Tulagi in the Solomons. Task Two was an advance along the New Guinea coast. Task Three was the capture of Rabaul. Task One, implemented by a directive of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on 2 July 1942 and named the initial attacks Operation Watchtower, became the Solomon Islands campaign.
On 7 August 1942 US Marines landed on Guadalcanal, beginning the Guadalcanal Campaign. The Allies created a combined air formation, the Cactus Air Force,establishing air superiority during daylight hours. The Japanese then resorted to nightly resupply missions which they called "Rat Transportation" (and the Allies called "the Tokyo Express") through New Georgia Sound (a.k.a. "The Slot"). Many pitched battles were fought trying to stop Japanese supplies from getting through. So many ships were lost by both sides during the Guadalcanal campaign that the southern end of New Georgia Sound, the area north of Guadalcanal previously called Savo Sound, became known as "Ironbottom Sound".
Allied success in the Solomon Islands campaign prevented the Japanese from cutting Australia and New Zealand off from the U.S. Operation Cartwheel — the Allied grand strategy for the Solomons and New Guinea campaigns — launched on June 30, 1943, isolated and neutralized Rabaul and destroyed much of Japan's sea and air supremacy. This opened the way for Allied forces to recapture the Philippines and cut off Japan from its crucial resource areas in the Netherlands East Indies.
The Solomons campaign culminated in the often bitter fighting of the Bougainville Campaign, which continued until the end of the war.
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The Tokyo Express was the name given by Allied forces to the use of Imperial Japanese Navy ships at night to deliver personnel, supplies, and equipment to Japanese forces operating in and around New Guinea and the Solomon Islands during the Pacific campaign of World War II. The operation involved loading personnel or supplies aboard fast warships, later submarines, and using the warships' speed to deliver the personnel or supplies to the desired location and return to the originating base all within one night so Allied aircraft could not intercept them by day.
Operation Cartwheel (1943–1944) was a major military operation for the Allies in the Pacific theatre of World War II. Cartwheel was an operation aimed at neutralising the major Japanese base at Rabaul. The operation was directed by the Supreme Allied Commander in the South West Pacific Area (SWPA), General Douglas MacArthur, whose forces had advanced along the northeast coast of New Guinea and occupied nearby islands. Allied forces from the Pacific Ocean Areas command, under Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, advanced through the Solomon Islands toward Bougainville. The Allied forces involved were from Australia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the US and various Pacific Islands.
The Allies of World War II conducted an air attack upon a cruiser force at the major Japanese base of Rabaul in November 1943. In response to the Allied invasion of Bougainville, the Japanese had brought a strong cruiser force down from Truk, their major naval base in the Caroline Islands about 800 miles north of Rabaul, to Rabaul in preparation for a night engagement against the Allied supply and support shipping. Allied carrier- and land-based planes attacked the Japanese ships, airfields, and port facilities on the island of New Britain to protect the Allied amphibious invasion of Bougainville. As a result of the Rabaul raids, the Japanese naval forces could no longer threaten the landings. The success of the raid began to change the strongly held belief that carrier-based air forces could not challenge land-based air forces.
Cactus Air Force refers to the ensemble of Allied air power assigned to the island of Guadalcanal from August 1942 until December 1942 during the early stages of the Guadalcanal Campaign, particularly those operating from Henderson Field. The term "Cactus" comes from the Allied code name for the island. In 1943 the Cactus Air Force was subsumed into (AirSols), a joint command of Allied air units in the Solomon Islands.
The invasion of Tulagi, on 3–4 May 1942, was part of Operation Mo, the Empire of Japan's strategy in the South Pacific and South West Pacific Area in 1942. The plan called for Imperial Japanese Navy troops to capture Tulagi and nearby islands in the British Solomon Islands Protectorate. The occupation of Tulagi by the Japanese was intended to cover the flank of and provide reconnaissance support for Japanese forces that were advancing on Port Moresby in New Guinea, provide greater defensive depth for the major Japanese base at Rabaul, and serve as a base for Japanese forces to threaten and interdict the supply and communication routes between the United States and Australia and New Zealand.
Jinichi Kusaka, was an admiral in the Imperial Japanese Navy during World War II. Fellow Admiral Ryūnosuke Kusaka was his cousin.
Minoru Sasaki sometimes referred to as Noburo Sasaki, was a commander in the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II.
The Battle of Viru Harbor was a battle of the Pacific campaign of World War II that took place on New Georgia island during the New Georgia Campaign from 28 June – 1 July 1943.
The Landings on Rendova was a military amphibious assault on Rendova Island in the Solomon Islands on 30 June 1943 by United States Army and Navy forces during the New Georgia Campaign of the Pacific War. In the assault, U.S. forces overwhelmed a small Japanese military garrison and secured the island. The U.S. occupied the island to use it as a staging and artillery base to support an offensive against Japanese forces guarding an airfield at Munda Point on nearby New Georgia.
The Battle of Wickham Anchorage took place during the New Georgia Campaign in the Solomon Islands during the Pacific War from 30 June -3 July 1943. In the battle, a force of United States Marine Corps Raiders and United States Army soldiers landed by ship in Wickham Anchorage on Vangunu Island and attacked a garrison of Imperial Japanese Navy and Army troops. The purpose of the attack by the U.S. was to secure the lines of communication and supply between Allied forces involved in the New Georgia Campaign and Allied bases in the southern Solomons. The U.S. forces were successful in driving the Japanese garrison from the area and securing the anchorage.
The Drive on Munda Point was an offensive by mainly United States Army forces against Imperial Japanese forces on New Georgia in the Solomon Islands from 2–17 July 1943. The Japanese forces, mainly from the Imperial Japanese Army, were guarding an airfield at Munda Point on New Georgia that the U.S. wished to capture.
The New Georgia counterattack was a counterattack on 17–18 July 1943 by mainly Imperial Japanese Army troops against United States Army forces during the New Georgia Campaign in the Solomon Islands. The U.S. and its allies were attempting to capture an airfield constructed by the Japanese at Munda Point on New Georgia.
The Battle of Munda Point was a battle, from 22 July-4 August 1943, between primarily United States Army and Imperial Japanese Army forces during the New Georgia Campaign in the Solomon Islands in the Pacific War. In the battle, U.S. forces captured a Japanese airfield constructed at Munda Point on New Georgia.
The Battle of Enogai was a battle between United States and Imperial Japanese Army and Navy forces on 10–11 July 1943 during the New Georgia Campaign in the Solomon Islands during the Pacific War. In the battle, U.S. Marine Raiders, supported by two United States Army infantry battalions, attacked and destroyed a Japanese garrison guarding the small port of Enogai on the Dragons Peninsula on New Georgia. After conducting an unsuccessful follow-up attack on nearby Bairoko, the American forces remained in the Enogai area until the end of the New Georgia Campaign.
The Battle of Bairoko was a battle between American and Imperial Japanese Army and Navy forces on 20 July 1943 during the New Georgia Campaign in the Solomon Islands during the Pacific War. In the battle, U.S. Marine Raiders—supported by two U.S. Army infantry battalions—attacked a Japanese garrison guarding the port of Bairoko on the Dragons Peninsula on New Georgia. The day-long assault on well-prepared Japanese defensive positions by the Americans was unsuccessful.
The 4th Air Group was a land-based bomber aircraft unit of the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service (IJNAS) during the Pacific campaign of World War II. The unit was formed on 10 February 1942 and flew the Mitsubishi G4M Rikko Navy Type 1 Attack Bomber aircraft. That same month, the 4th Naval Air Group (NAG) deployed to Rabaul, New Britain and supported Japanese operations during the early stages of the New Guinea Campaign, first as part of the 24th Air Flotilla and from April as part of the 25th Air Flotilla. The newly arrived unit took heavy losses on 20 February during an action off Bougainville, losing 15 of 17 bombers sent to attack a United States Navy aircraft carrier task force.
Between 9 March and 5 April 1942 during World War II, forces of the Empire of Japan occupied the islands of Buka and Bougainville in the South Pacific. At that time these islands were part of the Australian-administered Territory of New Guinea. A platoon of Australian commandos from the 1st Independent Company was located at Buka Airfield when the Japanese landed but did not contest the invasion.
Operation I-Go was an aerial counter-offensive launched by Imperial Japanese forces against Allied forces during the Solomon Islands and New Guinea Campaigns in the Pacific Theater of World War II from 1–16 April 1943. In the operation, Japanese aircraft—primarily from Imperial Japanese Navy units under the command of Admirals Isoroku Yamamoto and Jinichi Kusaka—attacked Allied ships, aircraft, and land installations in the southeast Solomon Islands and New Guinea. The goal of the operation was to halt the Allied offensives in New Guinea and the Solomons and to give Japan time to prepare a new set of defenses in response to recent defeats to the Allies in the Battle of Guadalcanal and in New Guinea at Buna–Gona, Wau, and the Bismarck Sea.
Rabaul is a town in Eastern New Britain, Papua New Guinea. Japanese forces landed on Rabaul on 23 February 1942, capturing it in February of that year. The former Australian territory was transformed into a major Japanese naval and air installation. It was heavily relied on by the Japanese, and was used as a launching point for Japanese reinforcements to New Guinea and Guadalcanal. Throughout the Solomons Campaign, neutralizing Rabaul became the primary objective of the Allied effort in the Solomons.