Sins of Omission

Guadalcanal: An Emotion, Not a Name

In most history textbooks today, coverage of the war in the Pacific consists of a summary of the Battle of Midway, a brief mention of leapfrogging islands, and the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  The Battle of Midway is almost invariably described as the “turning point” in the Pacific campaign that put the Japanese on the defensive.  While Midway was a spectacular and stunning American victory, it did not put the Japanese on the defensive or mean that America had achieved naval supremacy.  The American triumph meant only that Japan would not occupy Midway Atoll or use it as a staging ground for an invasion of Hawaii and that Japan would have one less ring of defense in the Pacific.  After the battle, Japan continued on the offensive in the CBI (China-Burma-India) theater and in the Southwest Pacific, areas of far more importance to her than Midway or Hawaii.

The battle that changed the course of the war in the Pacific was Guadalcanal.  It is a name unknown to most students today, perhaps because a discussion of the campaign would entail a description of Japanese savagery that would shatter politically correct sensibilities.  This was certainly not the case until well into the 1960’s, when just mention of the name sent shivers up and down the spine.  And well it should, for it was on Guadalcanal that the Marines, including two of my cousins, learned that the Japanese had...

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