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Guadalcanal (local name Isatabu) is a 2,510-square mile (6,500-km²) island in the Pacific Oceanmarker and a province of the Solomon Islandsmarker. The World War II Guadalcanal Campaignmarker took place on and around the island. It is mainly jungle, contains the national capital of the Solomon Islands, Honiaramarker, and has a population of 109,382 (1999).


Western charting

A Spanish expedition from Perumarker under Álvaro de Mendaña charted the island in 1568. It was named by Mendaña's subordinate Pedro de Ortega after his home town in Andalusiamarker, Guadalcanalmarker. However, he did not spell the name consistently (using variously Guadarcana, Guarcana, and Guadalcana), and the island subsequently became known as Guadalcanar. Guadalcanal is one of the group of islands that became the British Solomon Islands Protectoratemarker in the 1890's. In 1932, the British changed the spelling to Guadalcanal. 'Guadalcanal' is the Hispano-Arabic name of a town in Seville. The name comes from Arabic Wādî al-Khānāt, meaning "Valley of the Stalls", from refreshment stalls which were set up there during Muslim rule in Andalusia.

Immediately after the Second World War, the capital of the British Solomon Islands Protectoratemarker which up until then had been at Tulagimarker in the Florida Islandsmarker, was moved to Honiaramarker on Guadalcanalmarker. In the year 1952 the High Commissioner for the Western Pacific moved from Fijimarker to Honiaramarker and the post was combined with that of the Governor of the Solomon Islands.

Significance during World War II

Following the Attack on Pearl Harbormarker and Singaporemarker, Japanesemarker forces advanced into the South Pacific occupying many islands in an attempt to build a defensive ring around their conquests and threaten the lines of communication between the United States and Australia/New Zealand. They reached Guadalcanal in May 1942. When the allied forces spotted construction of an airfield on Guadalcanal, the United Statesmarker conducted the first amphibious landing of the war. It was one of the most hotly contested campaigns for control of the ground, sea and skies of the war. Guadalcanal became a major turning-point in the war as it stopped Japanese expansion. After six months of fighting the Japanese ceased trying to contest the control of the island. They finally evacuated it in February 1943.

Immediately after landing on the island, the allies began finishing the airfield begun by the Japanese. It was then named Henderson Fieldmarker after a Marine aviator killed in combat during the Battle of Midway. Aircraft operating from Henderson Field during the campaign were a hodgepodge of Marine, Army, Navy and allied aircraft that became known as the Cactus Air Force. They defended the airfield and threatened any Japanese ships that ventured into the vicinity during daylight hours. However, at night, Japanese naval forces were able to shell the airfield and deliver troops and supplies, retiring before daylight. The Japanese used fast ships to make these runs, and this became known as the Tokyo Express. So many ships from both sides were sunk in the many engagements in and around the Solomon Island chain that the nearby waters were referred to as Ironbottom Soundmarker.
Guadalcanal American Memorial
The Battle of Cape Esperancemarker was fought on October 11, 1942 off the northwest coast of Guadalcanal. In the battle, United States Navy ships intercepted and defeated a Japanese formation of ships on their way down 'the Slot' to reinforce and resupply troops on the island, but suffered losses as well. The Naval Battle of Guadalcanalmarker in November marked the turning point in which Allied Naval forces took on the extremely experienced Japanese surface forces at night and forced them to withdraw after sharp action. Some Japanese viewpoints consider these engagements, and the improving Allied surface capability to challenge their surface ships at night, to be just as significant as the Battle of Midwaymarker in turning the tide against them. After six months of hard combat in and around Guadalcanal and dealing with jungle diseases that took a heavy toll of troops on both sides, Allied forces managed to halt the Japanese advance and dissuade them from contesting the control of the island by finally driving the last of the Japanese troops into the sea on January 15, 1943. American authorities declared Guadalcanal secure on February 9, 1943.

Two U.S. Navy ships have been named for the battle:

To date, the only Coast Guardsman recipient of the Medal of Honor is Signalman 1st Class, Douglas Albert Munro, awarded posthumously for his extraordinary heroism on September 27, 1942 at Point Cruz, Guadalcanal. Munro provided a shield and covering fire, and helped evacuate 500 besieged Marines from a beach at Point Cruz; he was killed during the evacuation.

Civil war

In early 1999, long-simmering tensions between the local Gwale people on Guadalcanal and more recent migrants from the neighbouring island of Malaita erupted into violence. The ‘Guadalcanal Revolutionary Army’, later called Isatabu Freedom Movement (IFM), began terrorising Malaitans in the rural areas of the island, to make them leave their homes. About 20,000 Malaitans fled to the capital and others returned to their home island; Gwale residents of Honiaramarker fled. The city became a Malaitan enclave and the Malaita Eagle Force took over government. The Royal Australian Navy and Royal New Zealand Navy deployed vessels to the area in order to protect the expatiriate community resident mostly in Honiara. On her second visit to the capital, HMNZS TE KAHA served as venue for a series of peace talks culminating in the signing of the Townsville Peace Accord.

In 2003, the Pacific Forum negotiated the intervention of RAMSI or Operation Helpem Fren involving Australia, New Zealand, and other Pacific Island Nations.

See also



  • Frank, Richard B. Guadalcanal: The Definitive Account of the Landmark Battle, Penguin Books, 1990.
  • Hadden, Robert Lee. 2007. "The Geology of Guadalcanal: a Selected Bibliography of the Geology, Natural History, and the History of Guadalcanal." by Robert Lee Hadden. Alexandria, VA: Topographic Engineering Center. Abstract: This bibliography on the geographical, water and geological information of Guadalcanal was begun to fill a request for current information needed for the forensics recovery of the bodies of the US Marines of the Lt Col. Frank B. Goettge Reconnaissance patrol that was ambushed in August 1942. Part I of this report is a bibliography of the geology, geography and natural history of the island. Part II is a bibliography on the history of the island, including accounts of the Battle of Guadalcanal. This bibliography brings together selected citations from a variety of different cartographic, geographical, geological and hydrological resources and a number of specialized library collections. Most of the citations have location information on where these items can be located and either used on site, or borrowed through inter-library loan, or where copies of the items can be purchased from the originating source, or through commercial document delivery services.

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