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The Battle for Guadalcanal History Presentation and SBD Flight Demonstration
Saturday, October 21, 2023
Doors Open at 8:00am Presentation Begins at 9:00am
The first amphibious assault against the Japanese in World War II took place at Guadalcanal, a remote outpost in the Solomon Islands in the southwest Pacific. After the Battle of the Coral Sea and the Battle of Midway, U.S. commanders believed taking Guadalcanal was an essential step to protect sea lanes between the U.S. and Australia. But taking the island would not be easy. Japan was determined to fight to retain Guadalcanal as a forward base for its long-range bombers to attack those sea lanes and disrupt U.S. naval activity throughout the Solomons.
The Guadalcanal campaign commenced on August 7th, 1942, with the landing of the 1st Marine Division and taking of the airfield that would later become known as Henderson Field. It was a difficult campaign under extreme tropical conditions where weather and disease impacted both sides. Japanese forces attempted to drive the U.S. invasion forces off the island with continual bombardment of Marine positions, but the build-up of U.S. air power ultimately succeeded in controlling the skies and limiting Japan’s ability to send in reinforcements.
The U.S. Navy, Marine and Army pilots who defended Guadalcanal called themselves “The Cactus Air Force” as Cactus was the code name for the island. During the campaign, U.S. Army, Navy and Marine aircraft sank 17 Japanese ships and damaged 18 more. U.S. fighters claimed 268 Japanese aircraft downed, 2.5 times the number they lost. Japan lost 30,000 experienced troops in the battle overall, with many of them dying from starvation and disease. After the battle, Guadalcanal became a major base for the Allies in support of their drive through the Southwest Pacific.
On October 21st at 9:00am, museum curator and historian Gene Pfeffer will present the story of this important battle and the role that aviation played in it. Following the presentation, the museum’s SBD Dauntless dive bomber will conduct a flying demonstration, weather permitting.