The Green Hell

Admiral King, CinC of the Pacific Fleet, now felt that the time was ripe for a counteroffensive, and put forward a plan to invade the southern Solomon islands, now at the extreme southernmost edge of Japanese held territory. Turning back the Japanese here would secure the Allied supply routes connecting the US with Australia, and serve as a springboard to further offensives. The Army was sceptical, but King declared that the Navy alone and the Marine Corps alone would be able to handle the job, and so orders were given without the army's support. Eventually the army was turned around and the operation, codenamed Watchtower, would be given the go-ahead with the support of the Joint Chiefs, although the nature of the campaign meant that the Navy and the Marines would bear the brunt of the fighting.

The large (2500 square miles) island of Guadalcanal, codenamed Cactus by the Allies, was the key of the Japanese defence in the southern Solomons. Japanese engineers were busy cutting an airfield out of the inhospitable jungle to menace Allied shipping en route to Australia. Capturing, and holding, that airfield would become the main objective of the Guadalcanal campaign.

The island itself was far from an ideal location to wage one of the decisive battles of the war. Remote, far from any port large enough to handle the supplies necessary to support major operations, the fighting would stretch the logistics of both sides to breaking point, earning it the nickname of 'Starvation Island'. The terrain on the island was almost as hostile as the enemy - thick jungle, deep swamps, stifling tropical heat, ferocious ants, malarial mosquitoes and poisonous snakes. Diseases would sap the manpower of both sides, while weapons that would be adequate in more forgiving conditions were found to be unreliable at best. Marines forced to fight in the jungles called it 'the green hell'.

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