Marines in World War II Commemorative Series
The Landing and August Battles
September and the Ridge
October and the Japanese Offensive
November and the Continuing Buildup
December and the Final Stages
Colonel Alexander A. Vandegrift
Sergeant Major Sir Jacob Charles Vouza
Douglas Albert Munro
Special Subjects
First Marine Utility Uniform Issued in World War II
LVT (1) — The 'Amtrac'
General Vandegrift and His 1st Marine Division Staff
The Coastwatchers
The 1st Marine Division Patch
M3A1 37mm Antitank Gun
Reising Gun
75mm Pack Howitzer — Workhorse of the Artillery
The Japanese Model 89 (1929) 50mm Heavy Grenade Discharger
The 'George' Medal

FIRST OFFENSIVE: The Marine Campaign for Guadalcanal
by Henry I. Shaw, Jr.


The basic source work for this booklet is the first volume in the series History of U.S. Marine Corps Operations in World War II, Pearl Harbor to Guadalcanal, written by LtCol Frank O. Hough, Maj Verle E. Ludwig, and Henry I. Shaw, Jr. (Washington: Historical Branch, G-3 Division, Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps, 1958). Other books used in writing this narrative were: BGen Samuel B. Griffith II, The Battle for Guadalcanal (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott, 1963); Gen Alexander A. Vandegrift as told to Robert B. Asprey, Once a Marine: The Memoirs of General A. A. Vandegrift, USMC (New York: W.W. Norton, 1964); Col Mitchell Paige, A Marine Named Mitch (New York: Vantage Press, 1975); Burke Davis, Marine: The Life of Chesty Puller (Boston: Little, Brown, 1962); George McMillan, The Old Breed: A History of the 1st Marine Division in World War II (Washington: Infantry Journal Press, 1949); and Richard W. Johnston, Follow Me! The Story of the Second Marine Division in World War II (New York: Random House, 1948).

The correspondence of General Vandegrift with General Holcomb and other senior Marines, held at the Marine Corps Historical Center, was helpful. Equally of value were conversations that the author had had with General Vandegrift after his retirement. In the course of his career as a Marine historian, the author has talked with other Guadalcanal veterans of all ranks; hopefully, this has resulted in a "feel" for the campaign, essential in writing such an overview.

The literature on the Guadalcanal operation is extensive. In addition to the books cited above, there are several which are personally recommended to the interested reader: Robert Leckie, Helmet for My Pillow (New York: Random House, 1957); Herbert Merillat, Guadalcanal Remembered (New York: Dodd, Mead, 1982); John Miller, Jr., The United States Army in World War II: The War in the Pacific; Guadalcanal, The First Offensive (Washington: Historical Division, Department of the Army, 1949); T. Grady Gallant, On Valor's Side (New York: Doubleday, 1963); Robert Sherrod, History of Marine Corps Aviation in World War II (Washington: Combat Forces Press, 1952); Maj John L. Zimmerman, The Guadalcanal Campaign (Washington: Historical Division, Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps, 1949); RAdm Samuel E. Morison, The Struggle for Guadalcanal: History of United States Naval Operations in World War II, Vol V (Boston: Little, Brown, 1950); and a recent, comprehensive account, Richard B. Frank, Guadalcanal (New York: Random House, 1990).

Henry I. Shaw, Jr.

About the Author

Henry I. Shaw, Jr., former chief historian of the History and Museums Division, was a Marine Corps historian from 1951-1990. He attended The Citadel, 1943-1944, and was graduated with a bachelor of arts cum laude in history from Hope College, Holland, Michigan. He received a master of arts degree from Columbia University. Mr. Shaw served as a Marine in both World War II and the Korean War. He is the co-author of four of the five volumes of the official history of Marine Corps operations in World War II and was the senior editor of most of the official histories of Marines in Vietnam. In addition, he has written a number of brief Marine Corps histories. He has written many articles on military history and has had more than 50 signed book reviews.


The author gratefully acknowledges the permission granted by the Nautical and Aviation Publishing Company of America to use the maps from BGen Samuel B. Griffith II's The Battle for Guadalcanal and by Doubleday Books and Jack Coggins for use of the sketches from his The Campaign for Guadalcanal. The author also wishes to thank Richard J. Frank and Herbert C. Merillat for permission to reproduce their photographs.

insignias from 50th Anniversary

THIS PAMPHLET HISTORY, one in a series devoted to U.S. Marines in the World War II era, is published for the education and training of Marines by the History and Museums Division, Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps, Washington, D.C., as a part of the U.S. Department of Defense observance of the 50th anniversary of victory in that war.

Editorial costs of preparing this pamphlet have been defrayed in part by a bequest from the estate of Emilie H. Watts, in memory of her late husband, Thomas M. Watts, who served as a Marine and was the recipient of a Purple Heart.


Brigadier General Edwin H. Simmons, USMC (Ret)


Benis M. Frank

George C. MacGillivray

Robert E. Struder, Senior Editor; W. Stephen Hill, Visual Information Specialist;
Catherine A. Kerns, Composition Services Technician, R.D. Payne, Volunteer—Web Edition, and Patrick Clancey, HyperWar Foundation—Web Edition.

Marine Corps Historical Center
Building 58, Washington Navy Yard
Washington, D.C. 20374-5040


PCN 190 003117 00

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Commemorative Series produced by the Marine Corps History and Museums Division