This week, the government of the Solomon Islands established a National Park at Bloody Ridge, where American and Japanese troops fought during the Battle for Guadalcanal, which began 75 years ago. The government hopes the National Park will help draw both Japanese and American visitors. We have more from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute.
On the morning of August 7th, 1942, the United States achieved complete surprise; the first Marine Division landed on Guadalcanal with no opposition. Two days later, the Japanese Navy surprised the Americans and inflicted the worst defeat in the history of the United States Navy.
Over the next six months, the advantage see-sawed. There were seven major naval engagements, maybe a dozen battles ashore and almost daily combat in the air. American aircraft based at Henderson Field dominated during daylight, while the Japanese Navy ruled the night.
But if there is just one place to put a National Park to commemorate the Battle for Guadalcanal, few would argue with Bloody Ridge. In September 1942, General Kiyotaki Kawaguchi led an exhausting march across the rugged island. His troops arrived emaciated, but attacked the ridge with their ultimate target, Henderson Field, just beyond. After a desperate night battle, Marines under Colonel Merritt Edson held on. In late October, Japanese reinforcements attacked again in the same area, and again the Marines held the perimeter and the vital airfield.
If the Battle of Midway in June 1942 left the two combatants roughly even, the battle of attrition at Guadalcanal tilted the balance decisively.
Previous memorials at Bloody Ridge have been vandalized; Andrew Nihopara, The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, told Radio New Zealand that negotiations are underway with traditional landowners and that a gift ceremony would be held to acknowledge them.