PacificExpress Adm Turner

RAdm Richard Kelly Turner, USN (left) and MGen Alexander A. Vandegrift, USMC (right) review logistics plans for Guadalcanal, July – August 1942. (Photo courtesy Naval Institute Press)

Veterans Day, November 11, 2015

On 7 August 1942, six months to the day after the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, the first major offensive by the United States was launched against the Japanese in the South Pacific.

The 1st Marine Division under MGen A. A. Vandegrift landed on Guadalcanal and Tulagi in the Solomon Islands northeast of Australia. It was the beginning of a two-pronged offensive aimed at dislodging the Japanese from islands that would provide stepping stones to the eventual invasion of Japan.

It was the beginning of the bloody six month battle for Guadalcanal.

The cost and the return in lives and ships lost in the entire Guadalcanal campaign. There it was—2,500 square miles of miasmic plain, thick jungle and savage mountains in American hands, after exactly six months of toil, suffering and terror. What had it cost? What was the return? Where were we going next?

In war’s brutal scale of lives lost against lives risked, the blood-letting from 60,000 Army and Marine Corps troops committed to Guadalcanal, had not been excessive; 1,592 killed in action. Navy losses were certainly in excess of that figure, and several score fliers of all three air forces had given their lives. But the Japanese had lost about two thirds of the 36,000 men who fought on Guadalcanal—14,800 killed or missing, 9,000 dead of disease and 1,000 taken prisoner. Many thousand more soldiers went down in blasted transports or barges, and the number of Japanese sailors lost in the vicious sea battles will never be known, because such matters do not interest the Japanese.

On the material side, the tallies of combat ships lost by each side in the Guadalcanal campaign were surprisingly even.

Bill's Blog - Nov 11, 2015

(Above table compiled by Mr. W. L. Robinson. It does not include transports (AP. AK or APD) of which the Japanese had far the heavier loss, or auxiliaries such as Seminole, or patrol craft.)

Tactically—in the sense of coming to grips with the enemy—Guadalcanal was a profitable lesson book. The recommendations of Guadalcanal commanders became doctrine for Allied fighting men the world over. And it was the veteran from “the ‘Canal” who went back to man the new ship or form the cornerstone for the new regiment. On top level, mark well the names of Halsey, Turner, Vandegrift, Patch, Geiger, Collins, Lee, Kinkaid, Ainsworth, Merrill. They would be heard from again.

Strategically, as seen from Pearl Harbor or Constitution Avenue, Guadalcanal was worth every ship, plane and life that it cost. The enemy was stopped in his many-taloned reach for the antipodes. Task One in the arduous climb to Rabaul was neatly if tardily packaged and filed away.

There were more subtle implications to Guadalcanal. The lordly Samurai, with his nose rubbed in the mud and his sword rusted by the salt of Ironbottom Sound, was forced to revise his theory of invincibility. A month previously Hirohito had issued an imperial rescript stating that in the Solomon Islands “a decisive battle is being fought between Japan and America.” Radio Tokyo gave out that the Imperial forces, “after pinning down the Americans to a corner of the island,” had accomplished their mission and so departed to fight elsewhere. There was a laugh for Americans in that; but Guadalcanal never inspired much laughter.

For us who were there, or whose friends were there, Guadalcanal is not a name but 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. Sometimes I dream of a great battle monument on Guadalcanal; a granite monolith on which the names of all who fell and of all ships that rest in Ironbottom Sound may be carved. At other times I feel that the jagged cone of Savo Island, forever brooding over the blood-thickened waters of the Sound, is the best monument to the men and ships who here rolled back the enemy tide.

(Excerpted from THE SOLOMONS CAMPAIGNS, 1942-1943: From Guadalcanal to Bougainville, Pacific War Turning Point by William L. McGee, Chapter 2, “The Landings, 7 – 8 August, 1942”. Excerpt also includes portions of Volumes IV and V of Samuel Eliot Morison’s History of United States Naval Operations in World War II.)

Amphibious Operations in the South Pacific in WWII Series by William L. McGee

                                    World War II Military Histories by William L. McGee


Tiburon, CA, October 5, 2015 – When author William L. McGee turned 90 in September 2015, the noted military historian made the difficult decision to shut down his office and retire for good.

That decision also meant that once the dwindling remaining inventory of his World War II military history books were sold, they would not be re-printed.

Bluejacket Odyssey, 1942-1946: Guadalcanal to Bikini, Naval Armed Guard in the Pacific is a personal memoir within a military history recounting the author’s three years in WWII in the U.S. Naval Armed Guard, a special branch of the service not known by many today. McGee’s fourth year of service was in peacetime while serving aboard the USS Fall River (CA-131), the Flagship for the Target Fleet of 96 ships that participated in the July 1946 “Operation Crossroads,” the first post-war atomic bomb tests at the Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands. The author draws on his journal and interviews with former shipmates and other survivors to create a firsthand account of these dramatic events covering an air drop and an underwater blast as told in the words of the men who were there.

With a wealth of research material and interviews not used in Bluejacket Odyssey, McGee took on the ambitious project of writing three more military histories – a Pacific war trilogy under the series title of Amphibious Operations in the South Pacific in WWII.

Volume 1, The Amphibians Are Coming! Emergence of the ’Gator Navy and its Revolutionary Landing Craft, tells the story of the new and revolutionary WWII landing craft – the LCTs, LSTs, and LCIs – that were designed and built during the war to speed the landing of assault troops and various rolling stock directly to the beach. Part 1 is a brief history of amphibious warfare in America from the Revolutionary War to the 1942 Guadalcanal and North Africa campaigns. Part 2 covers the biographies of each Flotilla type – LCTs, LSTs, and LCIs – from ship design and construction, to stateside training and crew formations, and to on-the-job warfare in the Southern and Central Solomons in preparation for “Operation Toenails,” their first invasion of enemy-held territory.

Volume 2, The Solomons Campaigns, 1942-1943: From Guadalcanal to Bougainville, Pacific War Turning Point, covers all the Solomons campaigns under one cover and tells the story of America’s first offensive after Pearl Harbor. Marine Corps League magazine wrote, “Enough gripping drama, heroism, and heartbreak in McGee’s almost encyclopedic work to supply Hollywood with material for a century.”

In Volume 3, Pacific Express: The Critical Role of Military Logistics in World War II, McGee acts as an editor and assembles under one cover the best works by noted military historians on the importance of military logistics in WWII. In the words of RAdm Richmond Kelly Turner, USN, “During the first four months of the Guadalcanal campaign, eighty percent of my time was given to logistics…we were living from one logistic crisis to another.” All of the major components are covered in Pacific Express including the Advance Bases and Floating Service Squadrons, Seabees, Marine Corps Engineers, Navy, Merchant Marine, Naval Armed Guard, U.S. Army Transportation Corps, and Coast Guardsmen. In 2013, Pacific Express was chosen by the Marine Corps Commandant as “required reading for all officer and enlisted Marines whether active duty or reserve.”

The author wishes to thank the many readers who have purchased his books in the past. Now, as the children and grandchildren of WWII veterans step up to help keep the history of World War II alive, this may be a good time to think about gifting an enthusiastic young history buff a set of McGee’s books because once the remaining copies of these softcover books are sold, there are no plans to re-print.

For reviews, testimonials, and full book details, visit the author’s website. Books are available for immediate shipment from Amazon.


Bugles Across America was founded in 2000 by Tom Day, when Congress passed legislation stating that Veterans have a right to at least two uniformed military people to fold the flag and play Taps on a CD player. Bugles Across America was founded to take this a step further.  In recognition of the service these Veterans have provided to their country, Tom Day felt that they each deserved a live rendition of Taps played by a live bugler. To this end, the non-profit group actively seeks capable volunteers to provide this valuable service to Veterans and their families.

Bugles Across America now has over 5500 bugler volunteers located in all 50 states and growing number overseas. Since the Department of Veterans Affairs is expecting more than 1/2 million veterans to pass every year for the next 7 years, Bugles Across America is ALWAYS recruiting new volunteers. For more information, visit Bugles Across America.   (Video courtesy Associated Press)
At the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., 2005. (Note: The wheelchair was temporary due to a back problem.)

At the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., 2005. (Note: The wheelchair was temporary due to a back problem.)

Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in service of the United States of America.

The name Memorial Day was first used around 1882, but did not become more common until after World War II. Memorial Day was declared the official name by Federal Law in 1967.  .

On Memorial Day, the flag of the United States is raised briskly to the top of the staff and then solemnly lowered to the half-staff position where it remains only until noon. It is then raised to full-staff for the remainder of the day. The half-staff position remembers the more than one million men and women who gave their lives in service of their country. At noon, their memory is raised by the living who resolve not to let their sacrifice be in vain, but to rise up in their stead and continue the fight for liberty and justice for all.

At Gettysburg National Park, the ceremonies and Memorial Day address became nationally well-known starting in 1868. In July 1913, veterans of the United States and Confederate armies gathered in Gettysburg to commemorate the 50 year anniversary of the Civil War’s bloodiest and most famous battle.

(Source: and

One of my absolute favorite memories is of my 1973 Nepal trek. These gentle people don’t deserve this horrible tragedy.

In Kathmandu, the children were fascinated by my World War I movie camera and tape recorder.

In Kathmandu, the children were fascinated by my World War I movie camera and tape recorder.

Scenes of Kathmandu, 1973

Kathmandu street scenes, 1973

Looking at the Mt. Everest summit from 19,000 ft. elevation.

Looking at the Mt. Everest summit from 19,000 ft. elevation.

There are many organizations that are raising most-needed funds for this tragedy. Please consider checking the websites of your local media outlets for how to help.

1-Lucky Me 6 - RootsQuest26In 1991, I went on a roots quest across the United States to meet and interview all of my maternal and paternal relatives that I could find. I spent 70 days on the road in my Chevy Blazer and covered more than 11,000 miles. I kept a journal which then sat on the shelf for the next 24 years. Thanks to the help and good eyes of my wife Sandra, I invite you to click on the link to view a PDF of My 1991 Roots Quest Journal by William L. McGee


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