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About Guadalcanal

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Understand that the entire Guadalcanal operation was a “By the seat of Your Pants” type operation. Ghormley’s talent lay in the staff work/planning arena.

Admiral Robert Ghormley was neither Chester Nimitz nor Ernest Kings choice for this operation. Nimitz wanted William Pye. However, FDR overrode that decision. It was then decided, that Ghormley would get the job. Ernest King expressed some reservations but endorsed Nimitz’s recommendation.

On paper Ghormley had command experience at sea. But he was a member of the “Gun Club” and had no experience at sea with naval air operations and aircraft carriers.

Normally Nimitz would have supported Ghormley against Ernest King. This time, even Nimitz was going to NOT do that, for an extended period of time with Ghormley.

King, shortly before the start of WW2 had a run in with Ghormley too. At the order of the Chief of Naval Operations (Harold Stark) Ghormley denied the then Commander of the Atlantic Fleet, Ernest King, access to the USA/UK joint war plan discussions.

When things went wrong in and around Guadalcanal, and they did, a lot, Ghormley would sit at the staff meeting and moan “What are we going to do about that??”


Ghormley was just NOT decisive. He let his subordinates fight each other instead of intervening and making a decision.

Admirals Kelly Turner and Frank Jack Fletcher argued a LOT over air cover. Turner wanted carrier air cover during unloading operations. After just 3 days landing supplies Fletcher left to refuel. Ghormley choose not to intervene. So, the arguing between the two ship commanding admirals continued.

Ghormley began a steady stream of messages to Nimitz that basically said, I need help, ships, ground troops, airplanes, and if I don’t get what I want, I won’t answer for another Bataan.

That right there ran against everything Ernie King stood for. King began a steady stream of communications to Nimitz about Ghormley’s failures during the operation.

Nimitz went on an inspection tour, and even went to Guadalcanal. What he found was low morale everywhere. He attended a meeting of Ghormley with his staff and saw even more defeatism.

Before Nimitz left, he told Ghormley directly to visit Guadalcanal, personally, and see the situation for himself.

Ghormley did NOT ever visit Guadalcanal.

Ghormley was confined on the USS Argonne some 900 miles from Guadalcanal in a hot tropical climate. The Free French, acting upon De Gaulle’s orders refused Ghormley permission to set up his command on land.

Additionally, during this time, it was believed Ghormley was suffering from some nasty dental problems in the form of several abscessed teeth.

William Halsey was over his bout with Shingles, and in good health when he arrived to conduct an “Inspection” of the Southwest Pacific command area.

Halsey received a communication relieving Admiral Ghormley and putting Halsey in Command Southwest Pacific theater.

Halsey read the communication, looked up and exclaimed “Jesus Christ and General Jackson!” to his personal staff.

Halsey took command. The first thing he did was call a meeting of all of his area commanders and announced.

There is no Army Navy, Marines, New Zealand, Australia and British forces. We are all one command. So, take off those ties and let's pull together.

That was Halsey’s way of saying, we are a team, and I am THE quarterback here.

Then he sat down and wrote Nimitz a letter. He told Nimitz that the operation needed ships, aircraft, ground forces, on and on. But then he said, just consider these requests “the gripes of an old sailor man.”

After one battle the USS Enterprise was badly damaged. Lacking enough naval welders Halsey brought welders over from the U.S. Army and put them to work.

Remember this was when the US Army and Navy were two completely separate departments in the US government.

He wrote Nimitz that he did not have the facilities to comply repair the Enterprise, but to send her back to Pearl would mean the loss of an aircraft carrier for months.

“Half a carrier is better than none” concluded Halsey. Nimitz scribbled in the margin, “Send a copy of this to Marshall.”

Halsey’s message, and his confidence spread like wildfire.


Halsey took the “No tie” policy even further. He reveled sitting with the Marines, dressed informally and talking with them.


He also wore a goofy looking baseball cap from time to time.


He was, just as Nimitz described him, a “Sailors Admiral.”

Like so many great leaders, Patton on Operation Cobra, Eisenhower, on D-Day, and Nimitz, at Midway, Guadalcanal was Halsey’s moment.

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Raymond Spruance was a better admiral.  Perhaps not quite as aggressive as Halsey, but far less prone to making reckless choices


If it weren't for the extraordinary heroism of Taffy 3, the support of the other Taffy task forces and an overly cautious Admiral Kurita, the Japanese would have gotten in among the invasion fleet and the losses of personnel and ships would have been extremely heavy.



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Halsey got the nod for a fifth star because he was flamboyant and popular with the public. The press loved him. Spruance didn’t give a rip about self promotion or public relations and made little to no effort to court the press. 

Halsey was capable, reckless and brash, sometimes all at once. Another Admiral would have been relieved of command and court-martialed for Halsey’s behavior at Leyte, not to mention the two typhoons where his decisions lost many ships and thousands of lives. Nimitz and King understood the public would never stand for that, so it was swept under the rug. 

Having said all that, Halsey was the the right choice for command at that time of the war when he relieved Ghormley. Ghormely was an administrator, where Halsey was a sorely needed combat commander. 

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My godfather was a surgeon on Guadacanal with the Marines

He operated until he collapsed

 He was dragged out ànd laid in a fox hole until he was able to operate again



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The first thing, he threw away his redcross armband and got.a pistol


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The Jap snipers targeted anyone with à Red Cross brassard!

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