The Solomons Campaigns, 1942-1943: From Guadalcanal to Bougainville, Pacific War Turning Point (Amphibious Operations in the South Pacific in World War II Series, Vol. 2) by William L. McGee

Click on cover image to purchase a copy

Click on cover image to purchase a copy

MWSA Review

William McGee in his book The Solomons Campaigns 1942-1943 provides an incredibly detailed and exhaustingly researched look at what some sailors from the campaign regard as a “forgotten little war.”  From the early struggle to claw Guadalcanal back from the Japanese to the more polished and less opposed island hopping operations later in the war, McGee does an excellent job of relating the issues faced by those in command of not only the combatant ships, but also the commanders of the aircraft, transport vessels, and Marine units that took part in the campaign.

I especially enjoyed how the author, himself a veteran of this very campaign, seasoned his work with “sea stories” from his fellow veterans, especially those on the smaller, “unsung” transport ships like the LST’s and LCI’s.  The end result is a work that not only tells the history of the geographical area during the war, but of the men who fought and sometimes died there as well.  I was also impressed by the level of detail spread across all the various facets of warfare involved.  There was equal time given to large ship actions, small ship actions, PT boat raids, and dogfights involving handfuls of aircraft.  Platoon and company size actions were discussed along with Corps-sized movements.  It was expected that there would be discussions about sailors, soldiers, Marines, and airmen.  Less expected but much appreciated was the time given to corpsmen, Seabees, Pioneers, and other support forces, without whom there would have been no victory.

Those who enjoy historical work on World War Two, especially in the Pacific, will appreciate this book, as will those with a  general interest in naval history or a particular interest in Admiral “Bull” Halsey, destroyer combat, Marine Raiders, or Navy Seabees.

Review by Rob Ballister (May 2018)

Author's Synopsis

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. 

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.

"Enough gripping drama, heroism and heartbreak in McGee's almost encyclopedic work to supply Hollywood with material for a century." -Marine Corps League

“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.

688 pp, 310 b/w photos, 44 maps, plus charts, notes, appendices, bibliography, and index. Paperback 6”x9”, $39.95.

Other Titles in the Series: 
The Amphibians Are Coming! Emergence of the ‘Gator Navy and its Revolutionary Landing Craft (Vol. 1)
Pacific Express: The Critical Role of Military Logistics in World War II (Vol. 3)

ISBN/ASIN: 978-0-9701678-7-3
Book Format(s): Soft cover
Genre(s): Nonfiction, History
Review Genre: Nonfiction—History
Number of Pages: 688