group commemorates WWII Battle of Guadalcanal Battle
described as turning point in Pacific region during war
Force 16 receives citation
were an enormous boost to the morale of the American people.' says
ABOARD USS TARAWA, Western Pacific -- The Tarawa Amphibious Ready
Group (ARG) stopped near the Solomon Islands recently for a wreath-laying
ceremony, their latest stop on a path through the Pacific that has
become a memorial trail of U.S. involvement in World War II.
Ceremonies were held aboard the ARGís three ships -- USS Tarawa
(LHA 1), USS Duluth (LPD 6) and USS Anchorage (LSD 36) -- to pay
respects to the veterans of the many air, land and sea battles known
as the Battle of Guadalcanal.
of crewmembers and Marines from the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit
(MEU) (Special Operations Capable) gathered on the flight deck during
the ceremony on the San Diego-based Tarawa. Addressing the formation
with Guadalcanal in the background, the Commodore of the Tarawa
ARG, Capt. A.D. Wall, challenged the Sailors and Marines present
to imagine a time more than 50 years ago.
back in time, with Sailors and Marines who may be your fathers or
grandfathers," said Wall. "Imagine the early years of World War
II when the war was not going so well."
highlighted the importance of the battle, which has often been described
as a turning point in the Pacific theater.
the Battle of Guadalcanal, which began in the late summer of 1942,
the Americans had suffered a string of defeats that enabled the
Japanese to expand further west. In an attempt to slow down the
Japanese expansion throughout the South Pacific, Chief of Naval
Operations Adm. Ernest King ordered a hastily assembled task force
to make an amphibious assault on the little-known island of Guadalcanal
to take a Japanese airbase.
the next six months, isolated Marines fought desperately to defend
the airfield they had taken, while at least 12 major naval engagements
-- many of them surface battles at night -- raged in the waterways
near the islands.
individual battles that made up the six months of Guadalcanal are
too numerous to mention here," said Col. C.J. Gunther, 13th MEU(SOC)
commanding officer, "but they include such names as Tulagi, the
Solomon Islands, Coffin Corner, Ironbottom Sound and the
Express. The action was so constant that every night saw some kind
of fight or gun battle."
was significant for several reasons. Over the course of numerous
sea battles, including night surface encounters, the United States
painfully learned the lessons of conducting naval operations after
dark. The battle also struck at Japanese confidence and established
the will and determination of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps. In
a campaign of attrition, American forces lost 615 planes and 25
warships but destroyed more than 680 aircraft and 24 warships. The
myth of Japanese invincibility had been dealt a devastating blow.
gritty champions of freedom had turned the tide in the Pacific,"
the speeches, Wall accompanied Gunther and Tarawa's commanding officer,
Capt. Garry Hall to the flight deck, as a Sailor and a Marine dropped
the wreath into the same waters that claimed the burning hulks of
the heavy cruisers USS Vincennes, USS Astoria and USS Quincy almost
58 years ago.
was a good history lesson," said Yeoman Seaman Vevalyn Smith, the
Tarawa Sailor who dropped the ceremonial wreath. "I didnít know
anything about the battle until we had the ceremony."
Tarawa ARG made the stop near Guadalcanal during its six-month deployment
to the Western Pacific and Indian Ocean. Since arriving in the Central
Pacific, the Tarawa ARG has steamed along a route that could be
easily labeled as a World War II Memorial Trail.
leaving Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, (the site of the USS Arizona Memorial
and USS Missouri -- the respective symbolic beginning and end of
the war in the Pacific) the ARG stopped at the Tarawa Atoll. On
the island of Betio, the primary site of the fighting during the
Battle of Tarawa, local islanders greeted a contingent of approximately
100 Sailors and Marines who arrived for a memorial ceremony. The
stop at Guadalcanal marks the third major World War II site the
ARG has visited in less than three weeks.
is a lot different than just reading about it in books or hearing
it told in stories," said Sgt. Pablo Cortez, a member of the Amphibious
Squadron Five staff and the Marine who dropped the wreath. "When
you see the island, the reality of what happened there hits home."
journalist William Polson, USS Tarawa Public Affairs