This is "triphibious warfare" - air, land and sea - and it revolutionized the way wars were fought.
The young Marines of the First Division had no idea what they were in for. At sea, on the troopships headed for the islands, protected by an impressive naval armada, they had felt invincible. But their older comrades had seen action in Latin America; and stationed in China, they had seen the formidable power and fighting resolve of the Japanese Army. For the young Marines, the jungle changed everything. "One night in the jungle was all it took," says Miller. "The sounds, the smell, the vegetative decay, even the birds were unnerving. At night you couldn't see a guy four feet in front of you, and every movement sounded like the enemy."
Early on, Marines on Guadalcanal discovered the brutally mutilated remains of one of their jungle patrols, the now famous "Goettege Patrol." Beginning at this moment, the war in the Pacific would "a war without quarter. Prisoners were rarely taken and atrocities were answered in kind," Miller says.
"Most of the Japanese were kids who were drafted from rural areas," Miller says. "They entered a military climate of subjugation and physical brutality. Japanese officers slapped and physically tormented the troops under them. The conscripts were told that it was unmanly to surrender, that it would bring unforgivable shame on them, that it would be a betrayal of their families and their Emperor. This is one of the reasons they hated American prisoners and treated them so badly. When they captured an American, they despised him as a coward for not taking his own life for his country."
The Marines were up against an enemy they were totally unprepared for. "The Japanese are full of tricks, deceit and cunning," wrote New York Times reporter Hanson Baldwin. "Hard, ruthless, brave, well-equipped, they are the best jungle-fighters in the world." Their Banzai charges were "absolutely terrifying; the men seemed more eager to live than to die," says Miller. "The suicidal fury of these charges made the attacking Japanese easier to gun down; it also made the battles tremendously more savage." The Japanese refused to surrender. Every one of them had to be killed, as the Marines repulsed one after another desperate attempt to take control of Henderson Field, the island's immensely valuable airstrip, wondering how long they could hold on.
But once the American navy re-established control of the waters off Guadalcanal in a series of brutal, close-quarter battles, and increasing numbers of American Marine and Army reinforcements were landed, "it was the enemy's turn to be isolated and under siege," says Miller. Underfed and under-equipped, beaten down by attrition and disease, they fought on, knowing by November that defeat was inevitable. In January 1943, the Japanese evacuated their remaining troops on Guadalcanal. "It's all over guys," a lieutenant told his men.
"The Japanese juggernaut had been stopped," Miller says, and America began planning "the greatest re-conquest effort in all of history." It would be launched from Australia.