Medal Of Honor – 5 US Marine Pilots Holding Guadalcanal Island Awarded Highest Combat Medal

F4U

On August 7, 1942, the most exemplary moment of 109 years of Maine Corps aviation occurred when the First Marine Division landed on the island of Guadalcanal. Since the Japanese were creating an airfield on Guadalcanal, the Marines got involved in the Allied offensive.

Cactus Air Force

The creation of the airfield threatened Australian communication. After the Marines took over the airfield, it was named Henderson field. Maj. Lofton Henderson was a Marine Sout Bombing Squadron 241 commanding officer killed in the Battle of Midway in June of 1942.

When the Marine occupation of the airfield began, so did the often destructive and intense attacks by Japanese ground forces along with all-out bombings by Japanese ships and enemy airplanes.

The Marines were assisted by the Navy, Army Air Corps, and Allied Forces. But the operations of Cactus Air Force were handled primarily by Marine pilots and their aircrew.

Primary Objective

Unsurprisingly, the Marines had only one objective, to demolish the Japanese Forces and gain control of Guadalcanal Island and the airbase. The initial Marine airplane landed on August 20, 142, and they charged on from there.

From the August landing until February, it took about six months for the island to be deemed secure. Five Marine pilots received the Medal of Honor for their bravery. Plus others, like Capt. Marion Carl and Maj. Jack Cram was given the Navy Cross.

At one point, Japanese ships threatened to overtake Guadalcanal. To fight them off, Maj. Cram hopped into Brig. Gen. Roy Geiger’s PBY Catalina and executed a torpedo attack on a Japanese transport carrier.

Two battles were responsible for eliminating aircraft carriers around the island, Battles of the Eastern Solomons and the Battle of Santa Cruz. With fewer ships, the forces had to rely on land-based aviation to defend against the Japanese ships.

Military Advances

Throughout World War II, there were many firsts. Military strategy, aviation, and geopolitics all advanced. However, the Guadalcanal operation was pretty rough on the Marines.

The six months were filled with illness because of tropical diseases, low supplies, bare minimum medical supplies, and no assistance from the outside world. Due to the conditions, the combat side was nicknamed Operation Shoestring.

Battle of Midway stunted the Japanese movement into the Pacific and started offensive actions that ended up being a turning point. While the Japanese aviators outmatched them, they put in maximum effort.

Sources: 1, 2

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