Double Victory: Minorities and Women During World War II
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Tulagi Island, Battle of (7–8 August 1942)

Tulagi is a 2-mile-long and half-mile-wide island in the Solomon chain, located just off Florida Island and 20 miles north of Guadalcanal. It was part of the British Solomons Island Protectorate until occupied by Japan in May 1942. At the beginning of the war, Tulagi was the site of an Australian-built seaplane base. The Japanese began bombarding the island in January 1942, and with the approach of the Japanese task force in the Coral Sea operation, the Australian government ordered the evacuation of the island on 1 May. The Japanese then garrisoned Tulagi with a 350-man detachment of the 3rd Kure Special Landing Force, under Commander Suzuki Masaaki.

Targeted for invasion as part of the U.S. Guadalcanal Offensive, Tulagi had to be cleared of Japanese forces in order to secure the chief U.S. target—the airfield being constructed by the Japanese on Guadalcanal. Transport Group Yoke, consisting of three transports and four destroyer transports, delivered Brigadier General William Rupertus's landing force of the 1st Raider Battalion, 1st Battalion 2nd Marines, 2nd Battalion 5th Marines, and 1st Parachute Battalion.

The landing on Tulagi on 7 August 1942 was unopposed, but the Marines soon ran into stiff Japanese resistance. Tulagi was the first battle in which U.S. troops had encountered Japanese defensive tactics, including strongly entrenched dugouts and tunnels constructed to withstand heavy naval or air bombardment. These fortifications had to be taken by assault with grenades and high-explosive charges.

It was not possible to secure the small island on the first day, so the Marines dug in. During the night of 7–8 August, they encountered a Japanese banzai charge. Turning back this attack, the Marines secured the island the next day. Some 200 of the Japanese defenders were killed and only 3 were captured; 40 others escaped to nearby islands. U.S. forces had 36 men killed and 54 wounded in the operation.

Herschel M. Sarnoff


Further Reading
Frank, Richard B. Guadalcanal: The Definitive Account of the Landmark Battle. New York: Penguin, 1990.; Miller, John, Jr. United States Army in World War II: Pacific Theater of Operations—Guadalcanal: The First Offensive. Washington, DC: U.S. Army, Center of Military History, 1949.; Morison, Samuel E. History of United States Naval Operations in World War II. Vols. 2, 4, 5, 9, 10, and 11. Boston: Little, Brown, 1947–1952.; Smith, S. E. The United States Marine Corps in World War II: New York: Random House, 1969.
 

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