The Landings

The Japanese were taken completely by surprise, and so the landings themselves were uncontested. The Japanese garrison at the airfield was small, mostly engineers, and when the 11,000 marines of 1st USMC Division under General Vandegrift were ashore, they made short work of the defenders. The work then consisted mainly of unloading supplies under the ever present Japanese air threat and finishing off the airfield, which after a week of intense effort was achieved thanks to captured Japanese engineering equipment.

In American hands the airfield was rechristened Henderson Field, after a marine aviator, Lofton Henderson, who was killed at Midway, and the marines took up a loose perimeter around the airfield and the landing area of Lunga Point.

The Japanese did not surrender in the fighting, however. They retreated into the jungles, where they survived on coconuts and menaced marines who patrolled a little too far from the airfield. In the first week Japanese destroyers slunk in in the depths of night unknown to the Allies to land reinforcements an some supply. The marines had other problems besides the Japanese. Within a week they had encountered a particularly virulent strain of dysentery - 1 in 5 marines managed to come down with it within two weeks of the landing. With negligible medical supplies, 'the bloody flux' being in town made life even more enjoyable for those now stranded on this remote Pacific island.

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