United States and American History: Late 1942 & WII

About the history of the United States in 1942, America in World War II, the battles of midway and guadalcanal, the fire at Coconut Grove.


June 3-6 Milestone Battle: Midway. In a major sea battle which utilized Midway Island as an additional "unsinkable carrier," the U.S. stopped Admiral Yamamoto's thrust into the Central Pacific. He lost major units of his fleet, including 4 carrier, 2 cruisers, and 11 other vessels. The carnage so sickened him that he kept to his quarters during the retreat into Japanese home waters.

July 25 Beleaguered by cries from both Russia and U.S. left-wing elements for a "2nd front, now," Roosevelt and Churchill executed "Operation Torch." This plan called for an invasion of French North Africa, and then using it for a jump-off stage into Sicily and Italy.

Aug. 7 Milestone Battle: Guadalcanal. In 6 months of savage jungle fighting on the 2,500-sq.-mi. island, General Vandegrift's 16,000 Marines, supported by army elements, forced veteran Japanese ground troops to retreat. The general began the vicious campaign under a severe handicap. On August 9, a heavily-supported Japanese force of cruisers and destroyers, well experienced in night maneuvering, with darkness and stormy weather to help them, surprised Admiral Turner's task force off Savo Island, sinking 3 heavy cruisers and the Australian cruiser Canberra. The Japanese commander did not follow up his opportunity to close in and attack the U.S. transports which were still being unloaded for the marine landing. The naval defeat did, however, force Admiral Fletcher to withdraw, after suffering heavy plane losses, a retreat that left the marines without air cover. They held, nevertheless, and improved their beachhead until they had captured nearby Henderson Field as well. Once the airfield was secured, they thereafter provided their own air cover with great tactical effect, driving the Japanese into final evacuation of Guadalcanal 6 months later.

In other naval fighting, the U.S. nearly lost its carrier capability in the Pacific. The Wasp was sunk. In October, the Hornet was lost. With extensive damage also to the Enterprise and Saratoga, putting them out of battle readiness, Adm. William Halsey appealed to Washington for help, having no other carriers under his command. Prime Minister Churchill came to his aid in December by temporarily reassigning the British carrier Victorious for Halsey's use.

All through September and October, the Japanese discharged men and supplies to reinforce their land forces on Guadalcanal. Running by night with such fast and nearly regular schedules that U.S. forces dubbed them "the Tokyo Express," the Japanese troop transports slipped into "the Slot"--a central channel through the Solomons--slowed briefly to allow the troops to scramble ashore at the closest approach to Guadalcanal, and then sped on, hurrying to be beyond range of air attack before daylight.

Nov. 28 Fire, touched off by a busboy's match, swept through the artificial palm-tree decorations in Boston's Coconut Grove night-club. The subsequent holocaust killed 491, including many servicemen who were celebrating before being shipped overseas.

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