Guadalcanal’s Red Beach Landing: America’s First Offensive in WW2

After joining (formally) World War Two in the wake of Pearl Harbor, the United States endured a series of defeats at the hands of the Japanese. The Philippines garrison fell, Wake Island fell, Guam fell. British possessions in Southeast Asia teetered and fell as well – the campaign was not going well for the Allies.

The first American offensive of the war would come on August 7th, 1942 with the landing of the 1st and 5th Marines at Red Beach on Guadalcanal. Part of a multi-prong assault (the nearby Japanese bases on Tulagi and Gavutu/Tanambogo were also captured at the same time), the attack on Guadalcanal was made to secure the airstrip under Japanese construction there. If the island became an operational Japanese air base, Allied supply shipping to Australia would come under threat, and this could imperil the whole area of operations.

Fortunately for the Marines, US intelligence massively overestimated the Japanese force on Guadalcanal. It was in fact only a few hundred infantry, leading a work force of about 3,000 laborers (mostly Koreans). They though the US landings were just a small raid, and dispersed into the jungle to wait for the US departure. Instead, the Marines were there to take the airfield and hold it. They were not, however, very well prepared. The Navy suffered a massive defeat in the waters off Guadalcanal the very next night, and would pull out of the area August 9th, leaving the Marines with dangerously low supplies of food, ammunition, and other essentials.

My trip to Guadalcanal was made possible by War Historian Battlefield Expeditions. If you are interested in seeing sights like these in person yourself, check out their upcoming schedule:


  1. Got to Guadalcanal and Tulagi for the 75th anniversary. I was struck with how large the island is, but how small the battle grounds were.
    I had a real “Aaahaa” moment on Tulagi when we fot to “the cut.” It was like nothing I could have imagined after reading about the fighting on that island.
    Enjoy your trip, and have a cold one at “The Raiders” hotel on Tulagi.

      • When we got to the island I stopped by the government offices in Honiara and picked up geo office charts of Guadalcanal and Tulagi. They made the tour a lot easier than going off the small scale maps in the history books.

      • I am inconsolable. The trip to Tulagi is the best story of the trip.
        The tour advertised a trip on “the ferry” to tour Tulagi. Imagine my surprise when we got to the Santa Cruz Yacht Club to find a 21 ft skiff with an aged 15 hp outboard pulled up on the beach. The crossing to Tulagi in 5 to 6 ft swells was interesting and very wet. The boat was swamped several times and we had to stop while our “Captain” tore down the engine to get the sea water out. I was, for a time, sure that I would be the last US Navy officer to end up at the bottom of Iron Bottom Sound. When we got to Tulagi we were soaked to the skin. So we went on an awesome tour of Tulagi and then adjourned to the bar at The Raider Hotel to dry out. The owners treated everyone like family. They were also former RAAF types with years in C-130’s. I myself am retired USN with many thousands of hours in C-130s. So we spent several hours regaling each other with our best lies… I mean Sea Stories.
        Then it was back on the skiff for the trip back to Guadalcanal, where we adjourned to the bar at the King Solomon Hotel to dry out once again.
        All in all, a damned fine day.

  2. If you haven’t already, get yourself a copy of Richard B. Frank’s “Guadalcanal: The Definitive Account of the Landmark Battle”. I was absolutely stunned with the amount of information that is in that book, I cannot recommend it enough.

  3. Hi Ian,
    As an old Central Queensland Country Boy, and later an Airline Pilot with Solomon Airlines (twice, – Chief Pilot in 1985, towards the end of my first 8 years there, then again in 2008 when back for another 2 and a half years), have walked the battlefields, dived the seas, and flown the skies of what you mention. Got a mention in Manchester’s “Goodbye Darkness”, where he had me pointing out crocodiles and PT-109’s. ?!!?!!
    Do so enjoy your Forgotten Weapons.

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