The Pacific: Guadalcanal
Episode 2 of The Pacific clearly and graphically illustrated why Marine Gunnery Sergeant John Basilone was awarded the Medal of Honor. He and his group of 15 men were at the apex of the Japanese attack to retake Henderson Field, holding the line against 3,000 battle tested Japanese troops. Thirteen of the 15 men would be lost, 60 Americans in total and over 1,500 Japanese. After daily aerial combat, 3 major land battles and 5 devastating (to both sides) naval battles, Henderson Field remained in American hands throughout the war.
While Basilone’s machine gun was grinding away at the Japanese frontal assault, the naval Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands was taking place above, on and under the warm Solomon Islands waters. The US Navy lost 1 carrier (Hornet)had another severely damaged (Enterprise), 1 destroyer sunk, 2 others damaged and 81 aircraft destroyed, with 266 killed. The Imperial Japanese Navy had 2 carriers and 1 cruiser heavily damaged and more importantly, 99 aircraft destroyed and 400-500 killed including difficult to replace pilots. The high water mark of Japanese territorial expansion at Guadalcanal began receding and would not stop for the remainder of the war.