20 Lesser Known Battles of World War II That Really Mattered

Smoke rises from two Japanese planes shot down during the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, (c. 12 November 1942). Wikimedia Commons.

18. Referred to by many names, the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, despite the terrible cost inflicted upon the Allies, was an important strategic victory against the forces of Imperial Japan

Beginning on August 7, 1942, the Allies opened the Guadalcanal campaign, designed to capture the eponymous and surrounding islands and deny them to the Japanese as a base to attack supply routes between the United States and Australia. Threatened by the strategic potential of Henderson Field – an air base on the island – Imperial Japan ordered the island retaken. Attempting several times at the cost of thousands of soldiers per effort, large transports were precluded from reaching the island by Allied bombers and, as a result, in November a group of warships were due to bombard the airfield to allow for a mass Japanese landing on Guadalcanal.

Learning of the planned effort, the U.S. launched its aircraft and warships in a desperate effort to hold the Pacific island. Running consecutively, two engagements – lasting from the 13th to 15th of November, 1942 – were fought to a bloody conclusion. Resulting in the devastating loss of warships on both sides, with the Allies losing seven destroyers to the Japanese’s three, among many other vessel types, Allied aircraft successfully sank enough of the Japanese troop transports en route to Guadalcanal. Turning back the last major attempt to remove the Allies from the island, the naval battle – despite its costs – was considered a major strategic victory.