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Tulagi Island prior to allied invasion - Summer 1942

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Tulagi Island prior to allied invasion - Summer 1942

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Date Posted:October 27th, 2008
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Description: Annotated vertical aerial photograph, prepared for planning purposes shortly before the island was captured by U.S. Marines on 7-8 August 1942.
"Beach Blue" was the Marine landing area during that operation.

The original photograph came from the illustrations package for Rear Admiral Samuel Eliot Morison "History of United States Naval Operations in World War II", volume IV (originally published opposite page 288).

Though the landings on Guadalcanal took the great majority of the ships and Marines of the Operation "Watchtower" invasion force, the assault on the small Japanese-held islands to the north produced by far the heaviest fighting. Tulagi, site of the British Solomon Islands' pre-war government center, and the nearby Tanambogo-Gavutu seaplane base were garrisoned by tough Japanese Special Naval Landing Force troops. Tulagi, about two miles long and several hundred yards wide, held about five hundred of the enemy. U.S. Marines came ashore at 8AM on the island's undefended southwestern shore. Forming a battle line across the island, they then drove eastward toward the entrenched Japanese, who were bombarded by light cruiser San Juan, destroyers Buchanan and Monssen, plus planes from the aircraft carriers.

By the end of August 7th, the greatly-outnumbered enemy had been driven into a Tulagi's southeastern corner. Following a night of intense counterattacks, and the next day's addition of reinforcements from the Guadalcanal side of the operation, the Marines seized the rest of the island, though it took some days to eliminate the last of the defenders. This battle took the lives of about 45 Marines, while only a few of Tulagi's Japanese survived.

In the months after its capture, Tulagi was developed as a minor Naval facility. The sheltered waters near the island provided a relatively safe haven where battle-damaged warships could receive first-aid and others could be resupplied. Short-ranged motor torpedo boats, which proved themselves important during both the Guadalcanal fighting and the Central Solomons Campaign that followed in 1943, were based there, while numerous other combat support and recreational facilities ultimately were established on or close to Tulagi.

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