Japanese Troops Evacuate Guadalcanal, Ends WWII battle on Solomon Islands

Japanese troops evacuate Guadalcanal

Japanese Troops Evacuate Guadalcanal, Ends WWII battle on Solomon Islands

Operation Ke was the largely successful withdrawal of Japanese forces from Guadalcanal, concluding the Guadalcanal Campaign of World War II. The operation took place between 14 January and 7 February 1943, and involved both Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) and Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) forces under the overall direction of the Japanese Imperial General Headquarters (IGH). Commanders of the operation included Isoroku Yamamoto and Hitoshi Imamura.

The Japanese decided to withdraw and concede Guadalcanal to Allied forces for several reasons. All attempts by the IJA to recapture Henderson Field, the airfield on Guadalcanal in use by Allied aircraft, had been repulsed with heavy losses. Japanese ground forces on the island had been reduced from 36,000 to 11,000 through starvation, disease, and battle casualties. IJN forces were also suffering heavy losses attempting to reinforce and resupply the ground forces on the island. These losses, plus the projected resources needed for further attempts to recapture Guadalcanal, were affecting strategic security and operations in other areas of the Japanese Empire. The decision to withdraw was endorsed by Emperor Hirohito on 31 December 1942.

The operation began on 14 January 1943 with the delivery of a battalion of infantry troops to Guadalcanal to act as rearguard for the evacuation. Around the same time, IJA and IJN air forces began an air superiority campaign around the Solomon Islands and New Guinea. During the air campaign, a US cruiser was sunk in the Battle of Rennell Island. Two days later, Japanese aircraft sank a US destroyer near Guadalcanal. The withdrawal was carried out on the nights of 1, 4, and 7 February by destroyers.

At a cost of one destroyer sunk and three damaged, the Japanese evacuated 10,652 men from Guadalcanal. During the evacuation 600 died and 3,000 more required extensive hospital care. On 9 February, Allied forces realized that the Japanese were gone and declared Guadalcanal secure, ending the six-month campaign for control of the island

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