John Prados on the Japanese Imperial Navy’s effort to starve Guadalcanal with airpower and submarines.
To stay alive, Allied invaders needed seaborne supply from their nearest bases: the New Hebrides island of Espíritu Santo, about 400 miles southeast of Guadalcanal, and Nouméa, another 450 miles south. A motley fleet ranging from fast destroyer-transports to cargo vessels—even ocean tugs—was laboring to support the 10,000 American troops on and around Guadalcanal. From Espíritu, a fast ship could reach the island in a day and a half. A merchant vessel on the Nouméa-Guadalcanal run needed almost four days—and a naval escort.
To beat back or blunt the first Allied offensive in the Pacific, Japan needed to cut that lifeline. While Japanese battleships, cruisers, carriers, and other vessels fought on the surface to hold the Solomons, the Imperial Navy tried to starve Guadalcanal with airpower and submarines.