The Logistical Impact on Land Operations at Guadalcanal

The Guadalcanal campaign was one of the turning points in the World War II. This military operation played the key role in the balance of powers in the Pacific region and, to a significant extent, determined the defeat of Japan by American army. In fact, Guadalcanal was the major step made by the US on its way to the victory in the Pacific region. At the same time the Guadalcanal campaign was not an easy one to win. In stark contrast, this campaign was accompanied by considerable casualties from both parties, Japanese and Americans. Nevertheless, the US army turned to be more successful and defeated Japanese forces which position seemed to be practically undefeatable. In such a situation the victory of the US in the Guadalcanal campaign seems to be particularly unexpected, especially in the context of recent defeat of American military forces in the Pacific region, among which the tragedy at Perl Harbor was the most disastrous defeat. This is why it is important to understand the factors that contributed to the tremendous success of the US army since this victory is one of the perfect examples of successful military campaigns and its experience may be useful even for the modern armies. In this respect, it should be said that among the variety of factors that contributed to the success of the US army, the logistics played the crucial role and practically determined the triumph of American forces in the Guadalcanal campaign.

First of all, it is necessary to briefly dwell upon the major factors of the success of the US army in order to better understand the significance of the logistics in this military campaign. Obviously, the strategy and tactics played a significant role in the military campaign and it is possible to estimate that Americans turned to be more successful at this point than Japanese. In fact, American army turned to be more successful in military operations compared to its Japanese counterpart. At the same time, it is worthy of mention that Japanese army had a substantial experience of participation in military actions and, objectively speaking, both armies were practically equal in their professionalism and experience. Also, it is possible to argue that nature and weather had contributed to the defeat of Japanese army but, in this respect, it should be said that nature and weather equally affected American army provoking illnesses and decreasing its potential. Furthermore, it is possible to argue that the US intelligence worked more effectively than Japanese one but intelligence only provides essential information and it cannot win war without proper actions and supply of the army. In such a situation, the logistics turns to be the most important factor since it guarantees the regular supply of weapons, human reserves, products and equipment as well as it provides a well-developed infrastructure, including the presence of air support close to the zone of the military operations. In such a situation, it is obvious that the technological advantages, tactic and strategy of the US army turned to be important factors but not decisive ones because without logistics all of them would be useless and would not lead to the eventual defeat of Japanese army on Guadalcanal.

In order to better understand the significant impact of the logistics on the success of the Guadalcanal campaign for American army, it is necessary to dwell upon basic points of the campaign in the context of the logistics. In fact, from the beginning of the campaign the US army paid a particular attention to the reliable supply and development of effective infrastructure. In this respect, it should be said that the US started to enforce their position on the coastline and at the first days of military actions they attempted to benefit from the possibility to receive a large supply of essential equipment and products. One of their basic goals was to establish a stable link between the troops that took an active part in the military operation and the supporting forces as well as supply of equipment, weapon and essential products. For instance, since the beginning of Guadalcanal campaign when American troops had just embarked on the island, Vandegrift concentrated his efforts on supplies and troops before supporting ships departed. This was really important because such a decision helped the US army to create the material basis for their further expansion.

However, it is worthy of mention that at first stages the logistics of the US army was far from perfect. For instance, the facilities of the beach did not correspond to the potential of American supplies, which, though were delivered in great disorder to the extent that among the equipment and products shipped to the US army it was possible to found some winter equipment that was apparently of no use in the region of military actions. Naturally, this led to certain disorder but at the same time the abundance of supply indicated to the potential of American logistics and the only problem the US had to solve was simply to coordinate the actual need of the army and the supply by means of the existing systems. In actuality, Americans had managed to cope with this challenge and as the campaign progressed there were practically no other cases when such a disorder in supply existed in the US army due to the well-developed and reliable logistics where the needs of the army and supply were closely coordinated and the reaction of supporting forces was practically immediate.

Nevertheless, the logistics of the US proved to be more effective than that of Japanese army. It is worthy of mention that Japanese army was initially in an advantageous position since it could use all its forces and stop the US fortification and further expansion. As the US Marines attempted to establish a strong beachhead on Guadalcanal, Japanese army could attack them and force to retreat. However, Japanese army underestimated the number of the US Marines that was actually the failure of Japanese intelligence reporting 2,000 Marines on Guadacanal, instead of actual 10,000, but probably the most important problem was in logistics since experience Japanese veterans led by Ichiki had to fight against the US Marines alone because of the slow movement of other elements of Japanese army.

In such a way, the position of Japanese detachment that started the attack immediately had deteriorated dramatically and its defeat was just a question of time, while, if there was the effective logistics the counter-strike of Japanese army could be more substantial and experienced veterans could receive the essential reinforcement and supply in time that could threaten substantially to the position of the US troops on Guadalcanal. In such a way Japanese logistics proved to be ineffective and, what is probably even more important, Japanese paid a lot of attention to logistics that actually determined their failure. Otherwise, they would be more successful since, initially, they had a good position in Guadalcanal and the stable supply and reinforcement of Japanese army along with precise and truthful information about the enemy could result in the victory of Japanese army. Probably, Japanese commandment was too self-assured and underestimated the threat from the part of the US, especially after the success in Perl Harbor which they perfectly remembered. This is why Japanese might hope to defeat the US army easily and in a relatively short period of time. As a result, they did not pay a lot of attention to logistics, being convinced that they could win the campaign soon and force Americans to retreat. However, in spite of their expectations, Japanese army faced a serious opposition from the US army and the campaign was prolonged for a considerably period of time and Japanese were absolutely unprepared to such development of the situation.

In contrast to Japanese, whose army moved fragmentary and stretched out, the US Marines were strongly supported by the US Navy. In this respect, it is worthy of mention that the US Nave provided four transports and a ”˜jeep’ carrier for the US Marines to supply them with essential equipment, products and support. Moreover, the US Marines also received support from the part of the US aviation since 31 fighters and bombers were directed to the area of military actions. This means that due to the effective logistics the US army had managed to coordinate effectively the actions of its Navy, Marine and Air forces, while the actions of Japanese troops were fragmentary and not coordinated well.

What is more, Japanese commandment often applied military forces inadequately, even though it had the Tokyo Express to provide a stable and ample supply of equipment, products, reserves and weapon to the area of military actions. At the beginning of the Guadalcanal campaign this could be crucial and the effective logistics and strategic decision of Japanese commandment could lead to the victory of Japanese army, but they failed.

The mistakes of Japanese commandment and the failure of its logistics became obvious in Edson’s Ridge which was the turning point in the Guadalcanal campaign. The Japanese forces under the command of Kawaguchi actually committed a series of mistakes that undermined their stable supply. In stark contrast the US forces under the command of Edson enforced its position and improved the logistics increasing the effectiveness of supply and organizing a series of strong points in its defense which was positioned in such a way that it could provide the mutual fire support. As the battle had broken out, it turned to be clear that Japanese again were too slow in the movement of their military forces and supply. In this respect, it is worthy of noting that at the decisive moment of the battle the US committed their last reserves, while Japanese army felt the disastrous shortage of supply and strengths. In such a way, the US army got a strategic advantage over its Japanese opponents.

On deteriorating its position, Japanese army attempted to improve its supply by means of a more effective logistics.

To improve the position of Japan in Guadalcanal campaign, Yamamoto, the head of Japanese army and coordinating its actions in this campaign, attempted to increase the supply of weapons, equipment and reserve to reinforce Japanese army after the failures in the military campaign. However, this decision was probably taken too late since the US army had reached considerable successes and its position and logistics were substantially better than that of Japanese, especially when the US cruisers and destroyers were used to prevent the stable supply of equipment and reinforcement by means of the Tokyo Express. In this respect, it is worthy of mention that the US had managed to develop an effective logistics and amply used the area of the conflict to develop essential infrastructure and stable supply of the army. In fact, the US infrastructure was considerably better than that of Japan, especially in relation to aviation. For instance, the US fighters and bombers needed only a few minutes of flight and had a stable supply, while Japanese bombers and fighters had to travel 600 miles. In such a situation, the Tokyo Express was under a permanent attack of the US Air Forces while the US army was stably supplied with essential equipment and reinforcement. As a result, the US army received a strategically important advantage in Guadalcanal campaign which eventually resulted in the defeat of Japanese army.

Thus, in conclusion, it is possible to say that the US logistics turned to be considerably more effective than that of Japan that practically determined the outcome of the entire Guadalcanal campaign and, therefore, the final defeat of Japan in the World War II. In fact, the logistics became the decisive element that enhanced all other advantages of the US army in Guadalcanal campaign. In fact, the advantage of the US army in logistics which provided American troops with a stable and sufficient supply of equipment, weapon, reinforcement and products and helped create a well-developed infrastructure. I such a way, the advantage of the US in logistics over its opponent played the key role in the Guadalcanal campaign. At the same time, the victory of the US and the role logistics played perfectly revealed the future perspectives of the warfare where the role of logistics grew more and more important contributing to the higher mobility, better supply and, therefore, strategic advantage of an army over its opponent. On the other hand, the problems in logistics of Japanese army turned to be fatal and revealed probably the largest obstacle on the way of its country to the victory in the World War II and, thus, determined the defeat of Japan. Anyway Guadalcanal campaign proved the fact that logistic played the major role in getting strategic advantage in the war and, what is more, this campaign indicated to the further development and planning of successful military campaigns which heavily relied on well-prepared and perfectly developed logistics.

Exit mobile version