The War in the Pacific: From Pearl Harbor to Tokyo Bay

By Harry A. Gailey | Go to book overview

Chapter 7
The Guadalcanal Ordeal

DURING THE FIRST months of 1942 the attention of VAdm. Jin'ichi Kusaka, commander of the Southeast Area Fleet, and his army counterpart, Gen. Hitoshi Imamura of the Eighth Area Army, was firmly fixed on New Guinea. They were aware that no Allied force was available to protect the many islands stretching over six hundred miles southeastward from Rabaul, the main Japanese naval and air base on New Britain. There seemed to be no pressing reason for rushing to occupy any of these islands as long as the goal of capturing Port Moresby had not been achieved. The Japanese commanders, therefore, leisurely sent small detachments to key areas in New Ireland in February 1942, followed by landings adjacent to the Buka Passage and eastern Bougainville in March. Then, on 26 April, Admiral Goto's support force for the invasion of Port Moresby stopped briefly at deserted Tulagi Harbor and informed higher headquarters of its desirability. One week later the Japanese sent troops and construction workers to Tulagi, and within weeks there was a functioning radio station there. Very soon, long-range reconnaissance seaplanes and twelve Zero floatplanes were operating from the island.

The decision to occupy Tulagi was a reflection of the Japanese high command's strategic compromise. As noted earlier, serious

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