The first months of World War II went very badly for the Americans. The Japanese had caught the Pacific Fleet in Pearl Harbor flatfooted and at anchor and had put a massive blow on American naval power. 

After that, the Japanese had made lightning assaults and had easily taken the Philippines, Wake Island, Guam, Thailand, Malaya, Singapore, the Dutch East Indies, New Britain, the Gilbert Islands, Rabaul, Hong Kong. They were moving to Burma, New Guinea, and reaching deeper into China. It was victory after victory and the Japanese Empire seemed unstoppable. But it all began to change. 

Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, the architect of Pearl Harbor and the head of the Japanese Fleet, made a statement that turned out to be quite prophetic.

“In the first six months of a war with the United States, I will run wild and win victory upon victory. But then, if the war continues after that, I make no such guarantees.”

In April of 1942, the United States conducted the Doolittle Raid, by launching land-based B-25 bombers off of an aircraft carrier. In May, a Japanese invasion fleet headed for Port Moresby was stopped at the Battle of the Coral Sea. While technically the Battle of Coral Sea was a draw, the Japanese fleet retreated. But in Yamamoto’s daring and intricate plan to once and for all destroy the U.S. Pacific fleet with the invasion of Midway, the Japanese had suffered a crushing defeat… and six months to the day from the attack on Pearl Harbor

In August, against the island of Guadalcanal, the United States would be making its first offensive amphibious operation of the war in the Pacific. It would be called “Operation Watchtower” and set the stage for many to come. Yet, the Guadalcanal invasion, compared to what would follow, was a comparable shoestring operation. In July of 1942, the Japanese moved into the Solomon Islands and occupied Tulagi and Guadalcanal, where they began construction on an airfield. With that, they could threaten any American fleet coming to aid a move on Port Moresby. 

The U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff were in disagreement of which way to go due to service in-fighting. They finally settled on Guadalcanal and made it a point to stress that seizure of the airfield was imperative. Due to bad weather, the U.S. Marines under Major General Alexander A Vandegrift of the 1st Marine Division landed on Guadalcanal, Tulagi, and Florida Island nearly undetected on the night of August 6-7, 1942. The Japanese troops on Tulagi and Florida Island put up fierce resistance but were wiped out to the man by the 9th. 

The Marines at Guadalcanal landed unopposed and were quickly able to seize the all-important airfield renaming it Henderson Field. The Japanese troops at the airfield panicked during the naval bombardment and abandoned everything at the uncompleted airstrip, including food, supplies, all-important construction equipment, and vehicles.