The Southern Solomons
Throughout July the aircraft and personnel of Admiral McCain's shore- and tender-based South Pacific Air Forces were assembling at or relocating to ready support airfields in the New Hebrides, New Caledonia, Samoa, the Tongas, and the Fijis. U.S. Navy, Army, and Royal New Zealand Air Force fighters, scouts, long-range patrol planes, and bombers were poising themselves for a week of intensive surveillance of the battle area and its approaches. They had the week before actually entering the Solomons to find out what was going on there. Where possible, jungles had been flattened and the ground hardened for the landing of heavy planes. Where time or terrain did not permit, pierced steel planking (PSP) was sometimes laid. In addition, the ground control environment had to be built up. Communications by which intelligence was sent back and new orders sent down quickly and safely were set up.
To conduct normal surveillance operations and to cover U.S. ships' approach to the objective area, McCain controlled a total of some 290 aircraft. The Navy intended to dominate the air in the Tulagi area, if nothing else. Carriers being in short supply, McCain was given everything that could be scraped up.