Operation Watchtower

WWII: The Greater East Asia War

East Asia 1942.0826

Operation Watchtower

World War II, Pacific War, Second Sino-Japanese War (26 August 1942)

Historical Map of East Asia & the Western Pacific

After their defeat at Midway, Japan canceled further plans of seaborne invasions in the South Pacific, instead deciding to conquer New Guinea by land and to build air bases in the Solomons to strike at Allied shipping. The US responded by landing troops in the Solomons, disrupting the construction of a large Japanese airfield on Guadalcanal, while the Australians moved to defend New Guinea.

Main Events

Henderson Field

Japanese engineers and construction teams - over 2,500 men in all - began work on an airfield at Lunga Point on Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands. The project was observed by Coastwatchers - British personnel and Solomon Islanders working behind enemy lines on the islands - and reported, prompting the United States to make plans to land on Guadalcanal and capture the airfield (which they would name 'Henderson Field').

Kokoda Trail campaign

Japanese troops landed near Gona, on the north coast of the island of New Guinea and part of the Australian Territory of Papua, the starting point of their attempt to capture Port Moresby by advancing south over the Owen Stanley Range using the Kokoda Trail. On 23 July they were met by Australian forces at Awala, south of Kokoda, with whom they fought a series of battles before eventually being forced to withdraw. The Australians retook Kokoda on 2 November, reaching the north end of the track by 16 November.

Guadalcanal Landings

At 09:10 on 7 August, 11,000 US Marines under the command of Major General Alexander Vandegrift came ashore on Guadalcanal, in the British Solomon Islands, between Koli and Lunga Points. They encountered little resistance, capturing their main objective - an airfield under construction by the Japanese - by 16:00 on 8 August. Meanwhile Japanese aircraft attacked the invasion fleet from Rabaul, damaging a transport and a destroyer.

Japan occupies Nauru

About this map