H.M.A.S. Canberra and the Battle of Savo Island

The cast involved with Operation "Watch Tower"

A. Admiral E.J. King USN, Chief of Naval Operations

Admiral E.J. King USN, Chief of Naval Operations

B. General D. MacArthur, Supreme Allied Commander SW Pacific Area (including Australia.)

C. Admiral C.W. Nimitz USN, C-in-C Pacific, with his area of operations stretching from the Aleutians to New Zealand. His responsibilities subdivided into North - Central and South Pacific.

D. Vice Admiral R. L. Ghormley USN, had been given command of the South Pacific Zone on 17 May, 1942.

E. Major General A.A. Vandegrift (OC 1st Marine Division) was given the Joint Chief's directive by Ghormley. 'To seize Tulagi and adjacent positions and land on 1 August'. This date was but five weeks away. Vandegrift was most upset - his division was scattered, 1/3 at sea, 1/3 in Wellington NZ and 1/3 in Samoa - The majority of his troops had been civilians only six months ago. His equipment and supplies now needed to be unloaded from the transports, sorted and then reloaded for combat.

F. Vice Admiral F.J. Fletcher USN, was given command of the expeditionary force. He had no previous experience of this type and had recently had two carriers sunk under him, (LEXINGTON at the Coral Sea Battle and YORKTOWN at Midway). From reports he appeared to be a very tired man.

G. Rear Admiral R.K. Turner USN, Commander 8outh Pacific Amphibious Forces. When King told Turner he was to command amphibious forces for the landing on Guadalcanal, Turner protested that he did not know enough about amphibious warfare. -You will learn' said King. (Larrabee in "Commander-in-Chief"). By a strange twist of fate, back in 1939. Turner had commanded the cruiser ASTORIA. The then Ambassador for Japan to the US, Hirosi Saito had died in the States. ASTORIA carried his ashes back to Japan. More about ASTORIA later.

H. Rear Admiral V.A. C. Crutchley - VC RN, to command the Naval Support Group and be second in command to Turner. Crutchley had won his Victoria Cross as a Lieutenant during WWI.

Rear Admiral V.A. C. Crutchley - VC RN

I. Rear Admiral J.S. McCain USN, Command of the Air Task Force i.e. all water and Iand-based aircraft in the South Pacific.

J. Martin Clemens, a District Officer and an Australian Coast Watcher serving on Guadalcanal.

K. Vice Admiral Gunichi Mikawa IJN, Commander of the Japanese 8th Fleet.

On I July 1942, "Dovu", one of Martin Clemens' Constables came rushing up to report to him -7,000 Japan men had come ashore at Lunga". Dovu then explained "No sit down long scrub, catchem ten fella stone long hand and me countem Japan men come ashore."

The Japanese commenced construction of an airfield on Guadalcanal; Clemens radioed this news to his Coast Watcher boss, Eric Feldt. This report was soon relayed to Washington. A code name for the impending operation was coined 'Operation Watch Tower'

Collier In "The War In the Far East 1941-45" noted - 'The ensuing expedition to Guadalcanal and Tulagi, was the first sea-borne expedition to enemy-held territory by US Forces since 1898'. It was also the first Allied offensive planned against the Japanese in the Pacific.

next chapter
back to Canberra/Savo index


This site was created as a resource for educational use and the promotion of historical awareness. All rights of publicity of the individuals named herein are expressly reserved, and, should be respected consistent with the reverence in which this memorial site was established.

Copyright© 1984/2014 Mackenzie J. Gregory All rights reserved