THE SOLOMONS CAMPAIGNS, 1942-1943
From Guadalcanal to Bougainville, Pacific War Turning Point
(Vol. II in the series: Amphibious Operations in the South Pacific in WWII)
by William L. McGee
BMC Publications, 2001
688 pp, 310 B/W photographs, 44 maps, plus charts, notes, appendices, bibliography, and index. Paperback 6” x 9”, $39.95.
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About the Book
On the morning of 7 August 1942, eight months to the day after the surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. 1st Marine Division, under MGen Alexander A. Vandegrift, landed on the islands of Tulagi and Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands. This was the beginning of the bloody and brutal six month Battle for Guadalcanal. When the battles were over in February 1943, the campaigns in the Solomon Islands had cost the Allies approximately 1,592 Marine Corps and Army, several score of fliers, 5,041 Navy, plus 24 ships (excluding transports and cargo ships) and 615 aircraft.
For those who were there, Guadalcanal is not only a name; it is an emotion, recalling desperate fights in the air, furious night naval battles, frantic work at supply or construction, savage fighting in the sodden jungle, nights broken by screaming bombs and deafening explosions of naval shells.
Under one cover, military historian William L. McGee details all the campaigns fought in the Solomon Islands in the Pacific theater of war — from Guadalcanal to Bougainville — and summarizes the valuable lessons learned from these bloody battles.
“As a Marine who landed on Guadalcanal on 7 August 1942, Bill McGee’s The Solomons Campaigns, 1942-1943 is the most comprehensive book I’ve read on the subject. It covers all the campaigns — Southern, Central and Northern — and sums up the tough lessons learned. It brings back memories of those very dark days. Semper Fi.”
– William J. Carroll, President, Guadalcanal Campaign Veterans
■ Part I, The Southern Solomons – Covers the bloody six-month struggle for Guadalcanal. The relationship between ground fighting, naval warfare and air combat is described in considerable detail as first one side and then the other gains the advantage. Seven major naval engagements are recounted, including America’s severe defeat at Savo Island and decisive victory in the three-day naval battle of Guadalcanal – another notable turning point.
■ Part II, The Central Solomons – Chronicles the amphibious operations in the New Georgia Islands group, including the five separate landings at Rendova, Segi Point, Viru Harbor, Wickham Anchorage, and Rice Anchorage, plus three more significant naval battles and the occupation of Vella Lavella.
■ Part III, The Northern Solomons – Recounts the seizure of the Treasuries, the Choiseul Diversion and the Bougainville campaign, plus two more significant naval battles.
■ Lessons Learned – Summarizes the many valuable lessons learned during all the Solomons Campaigns, ranging from logistics support and force requirements to offshore toeholds and leapfrogging, most becoming doctrine in later Pacific campaigns.
Other Titles in the Series
Vol. I, THE AMPHIBIANS ARE COMING! Emergence of the ‘Gator Navy and its Revolutionary Landing Craft
Vol. III, PACIFIC EXPRESS: The Critical Role of Military Logistics in World War II
MILITARY WRITERS SOCIETY OF AMERICA, May 2018
The Solomons Campaigns by William L. McGee… incredibly detailed and exhaustingly researched… Click to read full review
MARINE CORPS LEAGUE Magazine, Summer 2002
Blow by Blow Through the Solomons – One real-life incident during World War II was the inspiration for the box office success, “Saving Private Ryan”… However, there is enough gripping drama, heroism, and heartbreak in McGee’s almost encyclopedic The Solomons Campaigns to supply Hollywood with material for a century … It is difficult to select what to excerpt from his narrative, because his spare but effective style is as precise and economical as a Mickey Spillane novel … His narrative is copiously supplemented with photographs, tables, stats, command lists, and even official critiques of operations and lessons learned. He drew extensively on a variety of sources to tell the whole tale: records of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Navy, Marine, Army and Army Air Corps archives, Japanese records, veterans’ accounts, memoirs, and other histories of the campaigns. And, as with a good Spillane novel, his tale bears repeated readings. —Edward Cline
LIBRARY JOURNAL, March 1, 2002
A World War II navy veteran and prolific author, McGee has written the second of a three-volume set that will form a definitive account of naval, sea, and land operations in the South Pacific, where America’s response to Pearl Harbor began. McGee’s narrative coverage in this second volume is encyclopedic, providing concise details of operations, often on a daily basis. His introductory essay is an informative summary of events from 1931 to 1941 that illustrates how these events led up to World War II. An exhaustive list of sources and notes creates a solid background for a detailed but readable text. In addition to battle history, the book discusses logistics, tactics, and the deployment of forces. Most useful is the author’s analysis of the campaigns (“Lessons Learned in the Solomons”). Numerous interviews and recollections of veterans bring in the war’s human side, and a long list of military abbreviations and designations aids the reader, as do photos, maps, and charts. This work is a thoroughgoing historical record and analysis that historians and scholars will find invaluable. Recommended for academic and large public libraries and for specialized collections.—David M. Alperstein
LEATHERNECK, Magazine of the Marines, April 2002
Author William L. McGee’s The Solomons Campaigns is intended to accomplish a mighty task: to encompass the entire Solomons campaigns in a single, detailed study. The result is a masterpiece outlining U.S. Navy and Marine Corps operations in the South Pacific from Aug. 7, 1942, through Nov. 25, 1943. As McGee points out, there is no other single work of this detail that covers such a large expanse in time and space….McGee is particularly qualified to document the Solomons campaigns. He knows the fear and frustration of torpedo and aerial attack, the monotony of endless watches and the thrill of victory because he was a young enlisted sailor serving in the waters off Guadalcanal, as well as during other engagements throughout the Pacific campaign … The reader who desires to see life through the eyes of the men who actually manned the guns, fought the fires and stood mind-numbing “go on, stay on” watches, will come away with an enlightened appreciation of just how good our sailors and Marines are. The indexes and appendices are the book’s crown jewels—detailed and easily accessible as a starting point for further research. McGee has done an absolute superb job here, and future authors will benefit from his efforts. Overall, the book is a great read worthy of any Marine’s time and efforts.—Capt. Scott E. Ukeiley
SEA CLASSICS Magazine, April 2002
The same penchant for authentic detail is evident in McGee’s latest companion volume entitled The Solomons Campaigns: 1942-1943. Certainly one of the longest of the hard-fought Pacific battles, the six-month campaign to secure these islands fills this Volume II with enough dynamic action, derring-do, brutal horror and conflict to keep one on the edge of his chair for days on end. Astute use of photos and maps helps clarify many engagements, making these offerings a must read for anyone interested in the perils of amphibious warfare.—Rod E. Redman & Myrle Chivers
WWII HISTORY Magazine, March 2003
The Solomons Campaigns is a broad-ranging and informative study, a masterwork of extensive research, brisk prose, and convincing analysis. Besides being a wonderfully comprehensive overview of operations in the Solomons, from Tulagi and Savo Island to Tassafaronga and Rennell Island, McGee’s volume provides considerable detail about the American and Japanese sea, ground, and air units involved; planning and logistics; leaders and heroes; equipment and weaponry; the costs and lessons learned.
SANTA BARBARA NEWS-PRESS, April 7, 2002
The Solomons Campaigns is filled with graphic photographs, maps and even daily journal entries on the various aspects of Solomons Islands campaigns. Not only does one follow the landing craft warfare, but the ground fighting, the air war and naval battles as well. Mr. McGee shows both sides of the conflict. —Fred Klein
PRAISE FROM READERS
– John Cummer, President, USS LCI (Landing Craft, Infantry) National Association
■ As a Marine who landed on Guadalcanal on 7 August 1942, The Solomons Campaigns is the most comprehensive book that I’ve read on the war in the Solomons. It brought back memories of those very dark days. Semper Fi.
—William J. Carroll, President, Guadalcanal Campaign Veterans
■ Your books brought tears to my eyes. A “must read” for all sea services veterans and their descendants.
—Charles C. Espy, Lt (jg), USNR, SS Thomas Nelson, Armed Guard C.O.
■ To say Bill McGee is a serious naval historian is an understatement. As they say in the Navy, well done!
—W. C. Hilderbrand, Capt, CEC, USN (Ret), CEC/Seabee Historical Foundation
■ The Solomons Campaigns is perfectly balanced between riveting history, personal narratives, and pleasing layout packed with photos, maps, and illustrations. As the son of a Flotilla Five veteran of the Pacific, McGee’s books are a fine tribute to all who served in that theater.
—Ron Swanson, Editor, The Flotilla Newsletter, LCT (Landing Craft, Tank) Flotillas of WWII
■ Having experienced a full measure of life at sea during WWII, I find your military histories detailed, vivid, accurate. They capture the essence of that war.
—Anthony P. Tesori, USNR, Gunnery Officer, LST-340 (Landing Ship, Tank)
■ I knew McGee’s years of exhaustive and intensive research would produce a lasting history of the Solomons campaigns. That he has done. Admirably.
—Charles J. Adams Jr, LST-281
■ One of the best books I’ve ever read on WWII. I was impressed with the scholarly effort the author put forth. I’m a former Marine and didn’t know the kind of detail that occurred in that sector of the campaign, but I sure do now.
—Jim Comiskey, Author, Academic Innovations
■ I heard about this book from my cousin, John A. McNeill Sr, skipper of the LCT-159 of the Solomons campaign. I was a sailor on USS LSM-342 which evolved out of the LCT in 1943 and first hit the beaches in the Philippines in 1944. Every ‘amphib’ needs to have all three volumes of William McGee’s series, Amphibious Operations in the South Pacific in WWII so the next generation can read and learn what their loved ones went through.
—Royce N. McNeill, USS LSM-LSMR Association
■ Another great book. There is very good coverage of the amphibs’ role during the Solomons campaigns.
—Jacob Miller, Fightin’ Foxes Reunions