11th April 1943
As the Battle of Port Moresby was being brought to a successful conclusion developments were afoot further to the East. Several units were in the process of being moved from recently finished operations in the Marshall Islands and had been earmarked for deployment in Port Moresby. The capture of this last base meant they were free for use elsewhere. Having had its eye on Lunga and Guadalcanal for while, South Pacific HQ now wanted these diverted units to land on Lunga and capture in a coup de main operation. The Japanese had withdrawn its 38 Infantry Division from there and intelligence suggested it was being moved to Babeldoab. Recon of Lunga and an extensive monitoring of enemy radio traffic suggested it was lightly held by two small units of marine infantry supported by two small air force base units. A USMC regiment and an Army regiment were readily available and aboard ships. Likewise two armoured battalions were also loaded and ready to go. The arrival of the carrier Wasp, the only surviving USN fleet carrier, and the Victorious, on loan from the Royal Navy, meant an small, blitz operation could be carried out. Two maxims however. Firstly, speed as Japan could reinforce quicker. Secondly, decisiveness in the assault as this had to be done quick.
The battleship Pennsylvania stole into Suva Bay in the small hours of the 11th April 1943 and fired a point blank range bombardment with all its available guns towards the area in and behind the main assault beaches. The light cruiser Concord also leant her steel and fire to the mayhem. Fitting that a ship there at Pearl Harbour on December 7th 1941 be the one the was dealing death and destruction to signal the start of the attack on the Solomon Islands.
Following immediately behind were four different columns of vessels each carrying a different part of the invasion force. The 1st USMC Regiment was the first unit to hit the beaches of Guadalcanal supported by tanks of the 1st USMC 1st Tank Battalion. Veterans of Wotje the Marines already had experience of landing against an enemy held shore. The second echelon comprised of the US Army’s 35 Infantry Regiment fresh from its engagement at Roi-Namur. The 3rd USMC Tank Battalion supported the US soldiers. Escorting destroyers opened fire on the enemy beach defences as it was evident that these had recovered somewhat from the Pennsylvania’s shelling. USN LST’s were involved in their second action of the war having cut their teeth during the operations on the Marshalls.
Further support from the landings came from the flight decks of the USS Wasp and HMS Victorious. Both carriers had their dive and torpedo bombers prepped up for a bombing attack on the main Japanese defence line on Lunga. Dauntlesses and Avengers dropped 5,00lb bombs on the Japanese lines adding to the confusion and mayhem of battle. No Japanese fighters were in the air to intercept the. Those fighters had other duties to perform…