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Cape Esperance and the Japanese Evacuation of Guadalcanal

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Today we return to Guadalcanal, to the site of the last actuals of the campaign. For the Japanese, the defeat at Edson’s Ridge (aka Bloody Ridge) forced a disastrous and uncoordinated retreat into the jungle. With their supply lines destroyed, Japanese troops largely moved west on the island, away from American positions and in search of food. This would eventually bring them to Cape Esperance, where a rearguard force was landed, and some 10,652 Japanese soldiers were successfully evacuated on fast-moving destroyers over the course of several nights in early February, 1943.

On the American side, Army troops landed to relieve the Marines. In January and into early February they ran what was considered a mopping-up campaign west, including landings on the far west end of the island beyond Esperance. The intention was to encircle the remaining Japanese forces, under the assumption that the destroyer activity was landing fresh troops. Instead, when the American forces joined up at Cape Esperance it was an anticlimactic end to the fighting, as all they found were remnants of equipment that had been left on the beaches.

My trip to Guadalcanal was made possible by War Historian Battlefield Expeditions. If you are interested in seeing sights like these in person yourself, check out their upcoming schedule:

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