August 24

This Day in History

World War II

Aug 24, 1942:

Brave volunteers save the day in the Battle of the East Solomon Islands

On this day in 1942, U.S. forces continue to deliver crushing blows to the Japanese, sinking the aircraft carrier Ryuho in the Battle of the East Solomon Islands. Key to the Americans' success in this battle was the work of coastwatchers, a group of volunteers whose job it is to report on Japanese ship and aircraft movement.

The Marines had landed on Guadalcanal, on the Solomon Islands, on August 7. This was the first American offensive maneuver of the war and would deliver the first real defeat to the Japanese. On August 23, coastwatchers, comprised mostly of Australian and New Zealander volunteers, hidden throughout the Solomon and Bismarck islands and protected by anti-Japanese natives, spotted heavy Japanese reinforcements headed for Guadalcanal. The coastwatchers alerted three U.S. carriers that were within 100 miles of Guadalcanal, which then raced to the scene to intercept the Japanese.

By the time the Battle of the Eastern Solomons was over, the Japanese lost a light carrier, a destroyer, and a submarine and the Ryuho. The Americans suffered damage to the USS Enterprise, the most decorated carrier of the war; the Enterprise would see action again, though, in the American landings on Okinawa in 1945.

As for the coastwatchers, Vice Adm. William F. Halsey said, "The coastwatchers saved Guadalcanal, and Guadalcanal saved the Pacific."

Footnote: It was a coastwatcher who arranged for the deliverance and safe return of John F. Kennedy and his crew when they were stranded in the Solomons in 1943.

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