Battle of Tulagi and Gavutu-Tanambogo
The Battle of Tulagi and Gavutu–Tanambogo was a land battle of the Pacific campaign
Pacific War
The Pacific War, also sometimes called the Asia-Pacific War refers broadly to the parts of World War II that took place in the Pacific Ocean, its islands, and in East Asia, then called the Far East...

 of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, between the forces of the Imperial Japanese Navy
Imperial Japanese Navy
The Imperial Japanese Navy was the navy of the Empire of Japan from 1869 until 1947, when it was dissolved following Japan's constitutional renunciation of the use of force as a means of settling international disputes...

 and Allied
Allies of World War II
The Allies of World War II were the countries that opposed the Axis powers during the Second World War . Former Axis states contributing to the Allied victory are not considered Allied states...

 (mainly United States (U.S.) Marine
United States Marine Corps
The United States Marine Corps is a branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for providing power projection from the sea, using the mobility of the United States Navy to deliver combined-arms task forces rapidly. It is one of seven uniformed services of the United States...

) ground forces. It took place from 7–9 August 1942 on the Solomon Islands
Solomon Islands
Solomon Islands is a sovereign state in Oceania, east of Papua New Guinea, consisting of nearly one thousand islands. It covers a land mass of . The capital, Honiara, is located on the island of Guadalcanal...

, during the initial Allied landings in the Guadalcanal campaign
Guadalcanal campaign
The Guadalcanal Campaign, also known as the Battle of Guadalcanal and codenamed Operation Watchtower by Allied forces, was a military campaign fought between August 7, 1942 and February 9, 1943 on and around the island of Guadalcanal in the Pacific theatre of World War II...


In the battle, U.S. Marines, under the overall command of U.S. Major General
Major General
Major general or major-general is a military rank used in many countries. It is derived from the older rank of sergeant major general. A major general is a high-ranking officer, normally subordinate to the rank of lieutenant general and senior to the ranks of brigadier and brigadier general...

 Alexander Vandegrift
Alexander Vandegrift
Alexander Archer Vandegrift, KBE, CB was a General in the United States Marine Corps. He commanded the 1st Marine Division to victory in its first ground offensive of World War II — Battle of Guadalcanal. For his actions during the Solomon Islands campaign, he received the Medal of Honor...

, successfully landed and captured the islands of Tulagi
Tulagi, less commonly Tulaghi, is a small island in the Solomon Islands, just off the south coast of Florida Island. The town of the same name on the island Tulagi, less commonly Tulaghi, is a small island (5.5 km by 1 km) in the Solomon Islands, just off the south coast of Florida...

, Gavutu
Gavutu is a small islet in the Central Province of the Solomon Islands, some 500 metres in length. It is one of the Nggela Islands....

, and Tanambogo
Tanambogo is an islet in the Central Province of the Solomon Islands. It is one of the Florida Islands.Along with the nearby island of Gavutu, it played an important role in the Guadalcanal campaign during World War II. In 1942 the Japanese attempted to establish a seaplane base on the island. On...

 among which the Japanese Navy had constructed a naval and seaplane base. The landings were fiercely resisted by the Japanese Navy troops who, outnumbered and outgunned by the Allied forces, fought and died almost to the last man.

At the same time that the landings on Tulagi and Gavutu–Tanambogo were taking place, Allied troops were also landing on nearby Guadalcanal
Guadalcanal is a tropical island in the South-Western Pacific. The largest island in the Solomons, it was discovered by the Spanish expedition of Alvaro de Mendaña in 1568...

, with the objective of capturing an airfield under construction by Japanese forces. In contrast to the intense fighting on Tulagi and Gavutu, the landings on Guadalcanal were essentially unopposed. The landings on both Tulagi and Guadalcanal initiated the six-month long Guadalcanal campaign and a series of combined-arms battles between Allied and Japanese forces in the Solomon Islands area.


On 7 December 1941, the Japanese attacked
Attack on Pearl Harbor
The attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise military strike conducted by the Imperial Japanese Navy against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on the morning of December 7, 1941...

 the U.S. Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor
Pearl Harbor
Pearl Harbor, known to Hawaiians as Puuloa, is a lagoon harbor on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, west of Honolulu. Much of the harbor and surrounding lands is a United States Navy deep-water naval base. It is also the headquarters of the U.S. Pacific Fleet...

, Hawaii
Hawaii is the newest of the 50 U.S. states , and is the only U.S. state made up entirely of islands. It is the northernmost island group in Polynesia, occupying most of an archipelago in the central Pacific Ocean, southwest of the continental United States, southeast of Japan, and northeast of...

, initiating a state of war between the two nations. The attack crippled much of the U.S. battleship fleet. The initial goals of Japanese leaders in the war were to neutralize the U.S. fleet, seize possessions rich in natural resources, and establish strategic military bases to defend Japan's empire in Asia and the Pacific. In support of these goals, Japanese forces attacked and took control of the Philippines
The Philippines , officially known as the Republic of the Philippines , is a country in Southeast Asia in the western Pacific Ocean. To its north across the Luzon Strait lies Taiwan. West across the South China Sea sits Vietnam...

, Thailand
Thailand , officially the Kingdom of Thailand , formerly known as Siam , is a country located at the centre of the Indochina peninsula and Southeast Asia. It is bordered to the north by Burma and Laos, to the east by Laos and Cambodia, to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, and to the...

, Malaya
British Malaya
British Malaya loosely described a set of states on the Malay Peninsula and the Island of Singapore that were brought under British control between the 18th and the 20th centuries...

, Singapore
Singapore , officially the Republic of Singapore, is a Southeast Asian city-state off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, north of the equator. An island country made up of 63 islands, it is separated from Malaysia by the Straits of Johor to its north and from Indonesia's Riau Islands by the...

, the Dutch East Indies
Dutch East Indies
The Dutch East Indies was a Dutch colony that became modern Indonesia following World War II. It was formed from the nationalised colonies of the Dutch East India Company, which came under the administration of the Netherlands government in 1800....

, Wake Island
Wake Island
Wake Island is a coral atoll having a coastline of in the North Pacific Ocean, located about two-thirds of the way from Honolulu west to Guam east. It is an unorganized, unincorporated territory of the United States, administered by the Office of Insular Affairs, U.S. Department of the Interior...

, Gilbert Islands
Gilbert Islands
The Gilbert Islands are a chain of sixteen atolls and coral islands in the Pacific Ocean. They are the main part of Republic of Kiribati and include Tarawa, the site of the country's capital and residence of almost half of the population.-Geography:The atolls and islands of the Gilbert Islands...

, New Britain
New Britain
New Britain, or Niu Briten, is the largest island in the Bismarck Archipelago of Papua New Guinea. It is separated from the island of New Guinea by the Dampier and Vitiaz Straits and from New Ireland by St. George's Channel...

, and Guam
Guam is an organized, unincorporated territory of the United States located in the western Pacific Ocean. It is one of five U.S. territories with an established civilian government. Guam is listed as one of 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories by the Special Committee on Decolonization of the United...


Two attempts by the Japanese to extend their defensive perimeter in the south and central Pacific were thwarted in the battles of Coral Sea
Battle of the Coral Sea
The Battle of the Coral Sea, fought from 4–8 May 1942, was a major naval battle in the Pacific Theater of World War II between the Imperial Japanese Navy and Allied naval and air forces from the United States and Australia. The battle was the first fleet action in which aircraft carriers engaged...

 (May 1942) and Midway
Battle of Midway
The Battle of Midway is widely regarded as the most important naval battle of the Pacific Campaign of World War II. Between 4 and 7 June 1942, approximately one month after the Battle of the Coral Sea and six months after Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States Navy decisively defeated...

 (June 1942). These two strategic victories for the Allies provided them with an opportunity to take the initiative and launch an offensive against the Japanese somewhere in the Pacific. The Allies chose the Solomon Islands, specifically the southern Solomon Islands of Guadalcanal, Tulagi, and Florida as the location for their first offensive.

As part of an operation
Operation Mo
Operation Mo or the Port Moresby Operation was the name of the 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...

 that resulted in the Coral Sea battle, the Japanese Navy sent troops to occupy Tulagi
Japanese Tulagi landing (1942)
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 Solomon Islands Protectorate...

 and nearby islands in the southern Solomons. These troops—mainly members of the 3d Kure Special Naval Landing Force
Japanese Special Naval Landing Forces
The Japanese Special Naval Landing Forces , were the marine troops of the Imperial Japanese Navy and were a part of the IJN Land Forces...

—occupied Tulagi on 3 May 1942, and constructed a seaplane, ship refueling, and communications base on Tulagi and the nearby islands of Gavutu, Tanambogo and Florida, all of which were soon operational. Aware of the Japanese efforts on Tulagi, the Allies' concern increased in early July 1942 when the Japanese Navy began constructing a large airfield near Lunga Point
Lunga Point
Lunga Point is a promontory on the northern coast of Guadalcanal, the site of a naval battle during World War II. It was also the name of a nearby airfield, later named Henderson Field....

 on nearby Guadalcanal. By August 1942, the Japanese had about 900 troops on Tulagi and nearby islands, and 2,800 personnel (many of whom were Korean
Korean people
The Korean people are an ethnic group originating in the Korean peninsula and Manchuria. Koreans are one of the most ethnically and linguistically homogeneous groups in the world.-Names:...

 and Japanese construction specialists and laborers) on Guadalcanal. The airfield—when complete—would protect Japan's major base at Rabaul
Rabaul is a township in East New Britain province, Papua New Guinea. The town was the provincial capital and most important settlement in the province until it was destroyed in 1994 by falling ash of a volcanic eruption. During the eruption, ash was sent thousands of metres into the air and the...

, threaten Allied supply and communication lines, and establish a staging area for possible future offensives against Fiji
Fiji , officially the Republic of Fiji , is an island nation in Melanesia in the South Pacific Ocean about northeast of New Zealand's North Island...

, New Caledonia
New Caledonia
New Caledonia is a special collectivity of France located in the southwest Pacific Ocean, east of Australia and about from Metropolitan France. The archipelago, part of the Melanesia subregion, includes the main island of Grande Terre, the Loyalty Islands, the Belep archipelago, the Isle of...

, and Samoa
Samoa , officially the Independent State of Samoa, formerly known as Western Samoa is a country encompassing the western part of the Samoan Islands in the South Pacific Ocean. It became independent from New Zealand in 1962. The two main islands of Samoa are Upolu and one of the biggest islands in...

 (Operation FS
Operation FS
Operation FS was the name of the Imperial Japanese plan to invade and occupy Fiji, Samoa, and New Caledonia in the south Pacific during the Pacific conflict of World War II...

The Allied plan to attack the southern Solomons was conceived by U.S. Admiral Ernest King
Ernest King
Fleet Admiral Ernest Joseph King was Commander in Chief, United States Fleet and Chief of Naval Operations during World War II. As COMINCH, he directed the United States Navy's operations, planning, and administration and was a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He was the U.S...

, Commander in Chief, United States Fleet
United States Fleet
The United States Fleet was an organization in the United States Navy from 1922 until after World War II. The abbreviation CINCUS, pronounced "sink us", was used for Commander-in-Chief, United States Fleet. This title was disposed of and officially replaced by COMINCH in December 1941 . This...

. He proposed the offensive to deny the use of the southern Solomon Islands by the Japanese as bases
Military base
A military base is a facility directly owned and operated by or for the military or one of its branches that shelters military equipment and personnel, and facilitates training and operations. In general, a military base provides accommodations for one or more units, but it may also be used as a...

 to threaten the supply
Materiel is a term used in English to refer to the equipment and supplies in military and commercial supply chain management....

 routes between the U.S. and Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

, and to use them as starting points for a campaign
Military campaign
In the military sciences, the term military campaign applies to large scale, long duration, significant military strategy plan incorporating a series of inter-related military operations or battles forming a distinct part of a larger conflict often called a war...

 with the objective of capturing or neutralizing the major Japanese base at Rabaul
Rabaul is a township in East New Britain province, Papua New Guinea. The town was the provincial capital and most important settlement in the province until it was destroyed in 1994 by falling ash of a volcanic eruption. During the eruption, ash was sent thousands of metres into the air and the...

 while also supporting the Allied New Guinea campaign
New Guinea campaign
The New Guinea campaign was one of the major military campaigns of World War II.Before the war, the island of New Guinea was split between:...

, with the eventual goal of opening the way for the U.S. to retake the Philippines. U.S Admiral Chester Nimitz
Chester Nimitz
Fleet Admiral Chester William Nimitz, GCB, USN was a five-star admiral in the United States Navy. He held the dual command of Commander in Chief, United States Pacific Fleet , for U.S. naval forces and Commander in Chief, Pacific Ocean Areas , for U.S...

—Allied commander-in-chief for Pacific forces—created the South Pacific
South Pacific Area
The South Pacific Area was a multinational U.S.-led military command active during World War II. It was a part of the U.S. Pacific Ocean Areas under Admiral Chester Nimitz.Instructions to the senior U.S...

 theater—with U.S. Vice Admiral Robert L. Ghormley
Robert L. Ghormley
Vice Admiral Robert Lee Ghormley was an admiral in the United States Navy, serving as Commander, South Pacific Area, during the Second World War.-Biography:...

 in command—to direct the Allied offensive in the Solomons.

In preparation for the offensive, in May 1942, U.S. Major General Alexander Vandegrift
Alexander Vandegrift
Alexander Archer Vandegrift, KBE, CB was a General in the United States Marine Corps. He commanded the 1st Marine Division to victory in its first ground offensive of World War II — Battle of Guadalcanal. For his actions during the Solomon Islands campaign, he received the Medal of Honor...

 was ordered to move his 1st Marine Division from the U.S. to New Zealand
New Zealand
New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...

. Other Allied land, naval, and air force units were sent to establish bases in Fiji, Samoa, and New Caledonia. Espiritu Santo
Espiritu Santo
Espiritu Santo is the largest island in the nation of Vanuatu, with an area of . It belongs to the archipelago of the New Hebrides in the Pacific region of Melanesia. It is in the Sanma Province of Vanuatu....

 in the New Hebrides
New Hebrides
New Hebrides was the colonial name for an island group in the South Pacific that now forms the nation of Vanuatu. The New Hebrides were colonized by both the British and French in the 18th century shortly after Captain James Cook visited the islands...

 was selected as the headquarters and main base for the impending offensive—codenamed Operation Watchtower—with the commencement date set for 7 August 1942. At first, the Allied offensive was planned just for Tulagi and the Santa Cruz Islands
Santa Cruz Islands
The Santa Cruz Islands are a group of islands in the Pacific Ocean, part of Temotu Province of the Solomon Islands. They lie approximately 250 miles to the southeast of the Solomon Islands Chain...

, omitting Guadalcanal. However, after Allied reconnaissance discovered the Japanese airfield construction efforts on Guadalcanal, capture of that airfield was added to the plan and the Santa Cruz operation was dropped.

The Allied Watchtower expeditionary force of 75 warships and transports, which included vessels from both the U.S. and Australia, assembled near Fiji
Fiji , officially the Republic of Fiji , is an island nation in Melanesia in the South Pacific Ocean about northeast of New Zealand's North Island...

 on 26 July, and engaged in one rehearsal landing prior to leaving for Guadalcanal on July 31. Vandegrift was the overall commander of the 16,000 Allied (primarily U.S. Marine) ground forces involved in the landings and personally commanded the assault on Guadalcanal. In command of the 3,000 U.S. Marines set to land on Tulagi and the nearby islands of Florida, Gavutu, and Tanambogo was U.S. Brigadier General
Brigadier General
Brigadier general is a senior rank in the armed forces. It is the lowest ranking general officer in some countries, usually sitting between the ranks of colonel and major general. When appointed to a field command, a brigadier general is typically in command of a brigade consisting of around 4,000...

 William H. Rupertus on the transport ship .

Prelude to battle

Bad weather allowed the Allied expeditionary force to arrive in the vicinity of Guadalcanal unseen by the Japanese on the morning of 7 August. The Japanese detected the radio traffic from the incoming Allied invasion force and prepared to send scout aircraft aloft at daybreak. The landing force ships split into two groups, with one group assigned for the assault on Guadalcanal and the other tasked with the assault on Tulagi, Florida, and Gavutu–Tanambogo. Aircraft from the aircraft carrier
Aircraft carrier
An aircraft carrier is a warship designed with a primary mission of deploying and recovering aircraft, acting as a seagoing airbase. Aircraft carriers thus allow a naval force to project air power worldwide without having to depend on local bases for staging aircraft operations...

  dive-bombed Japanese installations on Tulagi, Gavutu, Tanambogo, and Florida and strafed and destroyed 15 Japanese seaplanes floating in the anchorages near the islands. Several of the seaplanes were warming their engines in preparation for takeoff and were lost with their aircrews and many of their support personnel.

The cruiser and destroyers and bombarded planned landing sites on Tulagi and Florida Island. To cover the assaults on Tulagi, Gavutu, and Tanambogo, U.S. Marines from the 1st Battalion
1st Battalion 2nd Marines
1st Battalion, 2nd Marines is an infantry battalion in the United States Marine Corps based out of Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina consisting of approximately 900 Marines and Sailors...

, 2nd Marine Regiment made an unopposed landing on Florida Island at 07:40. They were guided to their objective by several Australians, such as Lieutenant Frank Stackpool (later Captain, British Solomon Islands Protectorate Defence Force), who were familiar with the Tulagi-Florida area from having previously lived and worked in the area.

Battle of Tulagi

At 08:00, two battalion
A battalion is a military unit of around 300–1,200 soldiers usually consisting of between two and seven companies and typically commanded by either a Lieutenant Colonel or a Colonel...

s of U.S. Marines, including the 1st Raider Battalion
Marine Raiders
The Marine Raiders were elite units established by the United States Marine Corps during World War II to conduct amphibious light infantry warfare, particularly in landing in rubber boats and operating behind the lines...

 under Lieutenant Colonel
Lieutenant colonel
Lieutenant colonel is a rank of commissioned officer in the armies and most marine forces and some air forces of the world, typically ranking above a major and below a colonel. The rank of lieutenant colonel is often shortened to simply "colonel" in conversation and in unofficial correspondence...

 Merritt A. Edson
Merritt A. Edson
Major General Merritt Austin Edson , known as "Red Mike", was a general in the United States Marine Corps. Among the decorations he received was the Medal of Honor, two Navy Crosses, the Silver Star, and two Legions of Merit...

 (Edson's Raiders), and the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines
2nd Battalion 5th Marines
2nd Battalion 5th Marines is an infantry battalion in the United States Marine Corps consisting of approximately 800 Marines and Sailors. They are based out of Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California and fall under the command of the 5th Marine Regiment and the 1st Marine Division...

 (2/5) made an unopposed landing on the western shore of Tulagi about halfway between the two ends of the oblong-shaped island. Beds of coral near the shore kept the landing craft from reaching the shoreline. The Marines, however, were able to wade the remaining 100 m (109.4 yd) without hindrance from the Japanese forces, who were apparently taken by surprise by the landings and had yet to begin any organized resistance. At this time, the Japanese forces on Tulagi and Gavutu, a detachment of the 3rd Kure Special Naval Landing Force (SNLF) plus members of the Yokohama Air Group
Yokohama Air Group
was an aircraft and airbase garrison unit of the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service during the Pacific campaign of World War II.-History:The Yokohama Air Group was formed in Yokohama, Japan on October 1, 1936 as a patrol unit equipped with six Navy Type 91 Hiro H4H flying boats...

—commanded by Captain Shigetoshi Miyazaki—signaled their commander at Rabaul—Captain Sadayoshi Yamada
Sadayoshi Yamada
- Notes :...

—that they were under attack, were destroying their equipment and papers, and signed off with the message, "Enemy troop strength is overwhelming, We will defend to the last man." Masaaki Suzuki, commander of the SNLF unit, ordered his troops into pre-prepared defensive positions on Tulagi and Gavutu.
Marines of 2/5 secured the northwest end of Tulagi without opposition and then joined Edson's Raiders in their advance towards the southeastern end of the island. The Marines advanced towards the southeast end of the island throughout the day while defeating a few isolated pockets of Japanese resistance. Around noon, Suzuki repositioned his main defenses into a line 9°6′26"S 160°8′56"E on a hill—called Hill 281 (Hill 280 in some sources) by U.S. forces based on its elevation—and a nearby ravine located at the southeast end of the island. The Japanese defenses included dozens of tunneled caves dug into the hill's limestone cliffs and machinegun pits protected by sandbags. The Marines reached these defenses near dusk, realized that they did not have enough daylight left for a full-scale attack, and dug in for the night.

During the night, the Japanese attacked the Marine lines five times, beginning at 22:30. The attacks consisted of frontal charges along with individual and small group infiltration efforts towards Edson's command post that at times resulted in hand to hand combat
Hand to hand combat
Hand-to-hand combat is a lethal or nonlethal physical confrontation between two or more persons at very short range that does not involve the use of firearms or other distance weapons...

 with the Marines. The Japanese temporarily broke through the Marine lines and captured a machine gun, but were thrown back soon after. After taking a few more casualties, the Marine lines held throughout the rest of the night. The Japanese suffered heavy losses in the attacks. During the night, one Marine—Edward H. Ahrens
Edward H. Ahrens
Private First Class Edward Henry Ahrens served in the Marine Raiders in the Battle of Guadalcanal.-Biography:...

—killed 13 Japanese who assaulted his position before he was killed. Describing the Japanese attacks that took place during the night, eyewitness raider Marine Pete Sparacino said:
At daybreak on 8 August, six Japanese infiltrators hiding under the porch of the former British colonial headquarters shot and killed three Marines. Within five minutes, other Marines killed the six Japanese with grenades. Later that morning, the Marines, after landing reinforcements in the form of the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines
2nd Battalion 2nd Marines
2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines is a light infantry battalion in the United States Marine Corps based out of Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Also known as "Warlord", it consists of approximately 800 Marines and Sailors and normally falls under the command of the 2nd Marine Regiment and...

 (2/2), surrounded Hill 281 and the ravine, pounded both locations with mortar fire throughout the morning, and then assaulted the two positions, utilizing improvised explosive charges to kill the Japanese defenders taking cover in the many caves and fighting positions spread throughout the hill and ravine. Employing the improvised explosives, the individual Japanese fighting positions were destroyed. Significant Japanese resistance ended by the afternoon, although a few stragglers were found and killed over the next several days. In the battle for Tulagi, 307 Japanese and 45 U.S. troops died. Three Japanese soldiers were taken prisoner.

Battle of Gavutu–Tanambogo

The nearby islet
An islet is a very small island.- Types :As suggested by its origin as islette, an Old French diminutive of "isle", use of the term implies small size, but little attention is given to drawing an upper limit on its applicability....

s of Gavutu
Gavutu is a small islet in the Central Province of the Solomon Islands, some 500 metres in length. It is one of the Nggela Islands....

 and Tanambogo housed the Japanese seaplane base as well as 536 Japanese naval personnel from the Yokohama Air Group and 3rd Kure Special Naval Landing Force and Korean and Japanese civilian technicians and laborers from the 14th Construction Unit. The two islets were basically mounds of coral—both about 42 m (137.8 ft) high—and connected to each other by a 500 m (1,640.4 ft)-long causeway
In modern usage, a causeway is a road or railway elevated, usually across a broad body of water or wetland.- Etymology :When first used, the word appeared in a form such as “causey way” making clear its derivation from the earlier form “causey”. This word seems to have come from the same source by...

. The hills on Gavutu and Tanambogo were called Hills 148 and 121 respectively by the Americans because of their height in feet. The Japanese on both islets were well entrenched in bunkers and caves constructed on and in the two hills. Also, the two islets were mutually supportive since each was in machine gun range of the other. The U.S. mistakenly believed that the islets were garrisoned by only 200 naval troops and construction workers.

At 12:00 on 7 August, Gavutu was assaulted by the U.S. Marine 1st Parachute Battalion
The Paramarines was a short-lived specialized unit of the United States Marine Corps, trained to be dropped by parachute. The first Paramarines were trained in October 1940, but the unit was disbanded in 1944...

 consisting of 397 men. The assault was scheduled for noon because there were not enough aircraft to provide air cover for the Guadalcanal, Tulagi, and Gavutu landings at the same time. The preceding naval bombardment had damaged the seaplane ramp, forcing the naval landing craft to land the Marines in a more exposed location on a nearby small beach and dock at 9°6′53.30"S 160°11′19.20"E. Japanese machine gun fire began inflicting heavy casualties, killing or wounding one in ten of the landing Marines as they scrambled inland in an attempt to get out of the crossfire coming from the two islets.

Surviving Marines were able to deploy two M1919 Browning machine gun
M1919 Browning machine gun
The M1919 Browning is a .30 caliber medium machine gun that was widely used during the 20th century. It was used as a light infantry, coaxial, mounted, aircraft, and anti-aircraft machine gun by the U.S. and many other countries, especially during World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War...

s to provide suppressing fire on Gavutu's caves, allowing more Marines to push inland from the landing area. Seeking cover, the Marines became scattered and were quickly pinned down. Captain George Stallings—the battalion operations officer—directed Marines to begin suppressive fire with machine guns and mortars on the Japanese machine gun emplacements on Tanambogo. Shortly thereafter, American dive bombers dropped several bombs on Tanambogo, diminishing some of the volume of fire from that location.

After about two hours, Marines reached and climbed Hill 148. Working from the top, the Marines began clearing the Japanese fighting positions on the hill, most of which still remained, with explosive charges, grenade
Hand grenade
A hand grenade is any small bomb that can be thrown by hand. Hand grenades are classified into three categories, explosive grenades, chemical and gas grenades. Explosive grenades are the most commonly used in modern warfare, and are designed to detonate after impact or after a set amount of time...

s, and hand-to-hand combat. From the top of the hill, the Marines were also able to put increased suppressive fire on Tanambogo. The Marine battalion commander on Gavutu radioed General Rupertus with a request for reinforcements before attempting to assault Tanambogo.

Most of the 240 Japanese defenders on Tanambogo were aircrew and maintenance personnel from the Yokohama Air Group. Rupertus detached one company
Company (military unit)
A company is a military unit, typically consisting of 80–225 soldiers and usually commanded by a Captain, Major or Commandant. Most companies are formed of three to five platoons although the exact number may vary by country, unit type, and structure...

 of Marines from the 1st Battalion
1st Battalion 2nd Marines
1st Battalion, 2nd Marines is an infantry battalion in the United States Marine Corps based out of Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina consisting of approximately 900 Marines and Sailors...

, 2nd Marine Regiment on Florida Island to assist in assaulting Tanambogo, in spite of advice from his staff that one company was not enough. Incorrectly believing that Tanambogo was only lightly defended, this company attempted an amphibious assault directly on Tanambogo shortly after dark on 7 August. Illuminated by fires started during a U.S. naval bombardment of the islet, the five landing craft carrying the Marines were hit by heavy fire as they approached the shore, with many of the U.S. Navy
United States Navy
The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...

 boatcrews being killed or wounded, as well as heavily damaging three of the boats. Realizing the position was untenable the Marine company commander ordered the remaining boats to depart with the wounded marines, and he and 12 men who had already landed sprinted across the causeway to cover on Gavutu. The Japanese on Tanambogo suffered 10 killed in the day's fighting.
Throughout the night, as the Japanese staged isolated attacks on the marines on Gavutu under the concealment of heavy thunderstorms, Vandegrift prepared to send reinforcements to assist with the assault on Tanambogo. The 3rd Battalion 2nd Marines
3rd Battalion 2nd Marines
3rd Battalion 2nd Marines is an infantry battalion in the United States Marine Corps based out of Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina consisting of approximately 800 Marines and Sailors...

 (3/2), still embarked on ships off Guadalcanal, was notified to prepare to assault Tanambogo on August 8.

The 3rd Battalion began landing on Gavutu at 10:00 on 8 August and assisted in destroying the remaining Japanese defenses on that islet, which was completed by 12:00. Then the 3rd Battalion prepared to assault Tanambogo. The Marines on Gavutu provided covering fire for the attack. In preparation for the assault, U.S. carrier-based dive bomber
Dive bomber
A dive bomber is a bomber aircraft that dives directly at its targets in order to provide greater accuracy for the bomb it drops. Diving towards the target reduces the distance the bomb has to fall, which is the primary factor in determining the accuracy of the drop...

s and naval gunfire bombardment were requested. After the carrier aircraft twice accidentally dropped bombs on the U.S. Marines on Gavutu, killing four of them, further carrier aircraft support was canceled. San Juan, however, placed its shells on the correct island and shelled Tanambogo for 30 minutes. The Marine assault began at 16:15, both by landing craft and across the causeway, and, with assistance from two marine Stuart light tanks, began making headway against the Japanese defenses. One of the tanks which became stuck on a stump and isolated from its infantry support was surrounded by a "frenzied mob" of about 50 Japanese airmen. The Japanese set fire to the tank, killing two of its crew and severely beat the other two crewmembers before most of them were killed by Marine rifle fire. The Marines later counted 42 Japanese bodies around the burned-out hulk of the tank, including the corpses of the Yokohama executive officer and several of the seaplane pilots. One of the Japanese survivors of the attack on the tank reported, "I recall seeing my officer Lieutenant Commander Saburo Katsuta on top of the tank. This was the last time I saw him".

Throughout the day, the Marines methodically dynamited the caves, destroying most of them by 21:00. The few surviving Japanese conducted isolated attacks throughout the night, with hand to hand
Hand to hand combat
Hand-to-hand combat is a lethal or nonlethal physical confrontation between two or more persons at very short range that does not involve the use of firearms or other distance weapons...

 engagements occurring. By noon on 9 August, all Japanese resistance on Tanambogo ended. In the battle for Gavutu and Tanambogo, 476 Japanese defenders and 70 U.S. Marines or naval personnel died. Of the 20 Japanese prisoners taken during the battle, most were not actually Japanese combatants but Korean laborers belonging to the Japanese construction unit.

Landings on Guadalcanal

In contrast to Tulagi, Gavutu, and Tanambogo, the landings on Guadalcanal encountered much less resistance. At 09:10 on 7 August, General Vandegrift and 11,000 U.S. Marines came ashore on Guadalcanal between Koli Point and Lunga Point. Advancing towards Lunga Point, they encountered no resistance except for "tangled" rain forest, and halted for the night about 1000 m (1,093.6 yd) from the Lunga Point airfield. The next day, again against little resistance, the Marines advanced all the way to the Lunga River and secured the airfield by 16:00 on 8 August. The Japanese naval construction units had abandoned the airfield area, leaving behind food, supplies, and intact construction equipment and vehicles.


During the battle, about 80 Japanese escaped from Tulagi and Gavutu–Tanambogo by swimming to Florida Island. They were, however, all hunted-down and killed by Marine and British Solomon Islands Protectorate Defence Force
British Solomon Islands Protectorate Defence Force
The British Solomon Islands Protectorate Defence Force was the British colonial military force of the British Solomon Islands Protectorate . The Solomon Islands has not had military forces since it achieved independence from Britain in 1976...

 patrols over the next two months.

The Allies quickly turned the Tulagi anchorage, one of the finest natural harbors in the South Pacific, into a naval base and refueling station. During the Guadalcanal and Solomon Islands campaigns, Tulagi served as an important base for Allied naval operations. Since the Japanese exerted control over the nearby seas at night throughout the Guadalcanal campaign, any Allied ships in the Guadalcanal area that could not depart by nightfall usually took refuge in Tulagi's harbor. Allied ships damaged in the naval battles that occurred between August and December 1942 in the vicinity of Guadalcanal usually anchored in Tulagi's harbor for temporary repairs before heading to rear-area ports for permanent repairs.

Later in the campaign, Tulagi also became a base for U.S. PT boats that attempted to interdict "Tokyo Express
Tokyo Express
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...

" missions by the Japanese to resupply and reinforce their forces on Guadalcanal. Except for some troops left to build, garrison, operate, and defend the base at Tulagi, however, the majority of the U.S. Marines that had assaulted Tulagi and the nearby islets were soon relocated to Guadalcanal to help defend the airfield, later called Henderson Field by Allied forces, located at Lunga Point, for it was to be on Guadalcanal where all of the future, crucial, land battles in the Guadalcanal campaign would be fought.


The U.S. Navy escort carrier —in commission
Ship commissioning
Ship commissioning is the act or ceremony of placing a ship in active service, and may be regarded as a particular application of the general concepts and practices of project commissioning. The term is most commonly applied to the placing of a warship in active duty with its country's military...

from 1943-1946—was named for the fighting on Tulagi.

External links

- Interactive animation of the battle- Web site with many pictures of Guadalcanal battle sites from 1942 and how they look now.
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