Tanambogo – Guadalcanal Prelude

Chapter I: Translation of Sato Kazumasa(‘佐藤和正)

“Gyokusai no Shima” 玉砕の島

All introductory paragraphs are written by myself. All translations errors and omissions are completely my own.

The Noble Death of the Yokohama Air Group

Tanambogo Island, [1]

Seaplane Base Tanambogo


The battle of Guadalcanal is well documented.  The Americans landed, captured the incomplete airstrip without a fight and promptly renamed it Henderson Field. Thereafter a battle of epic proportions formed in slow-burn fashion, with combat gradually intensifying after both sides could get more men, material, air and naval units into action against each other vast distances. 

At the same time as the landings on Guadalcanal elements of the 1st Marine Division landed and after a fierce three-day battle siezed the small sea-plane base at Tulagi and its surrounding islets of Gavutu, Tamambogo and a smaller base on Florida Island. 

All personnel on the islands were attached to the Japanese Imperial Navy Air Service Corps, but as becomes apparent from the following translation most were attached to a long-range flying boat group and had little military training and few weapons. In her zeal to spring ahead with light forces and use reconnaisannce to assemble superior force to close and destroy enemy task forces well in advance of Japanese positions in the  southern islands, had let her guard down in the South Pacific. Serendipity in the form of bad weather allowed the American task force to completely surprise the Japanese on Tulagi and Guadalcanal. The  bases on and around Tulagi would be the first fighting encounter by landing marines in force on a Japanese-held island.

Unlike their counterparts on the much larger island of Guadalcanal, those on the smaller islands of Tulagi, Gavutu and Tamanbogo could not run into the jungle. The islands were small and cover limited, they fought were they were to the end.

The case of our simple aircraft maintenance private Miyakawa, he became an all too common feature of many survivors of island combat. Escaping death in battle almost never conferred any more privileges than survival and a fugitive existence. In almost all cases surviving confirmed their faith in the wisdom and preference of  death in combat and a sense of shame they had survived when so many others had perished. 


Miyakawa Sieichiro, Aircraft Maintenance Private First Class, Japanese Imperial Navy

The first experience of the emperors army of Gyokusai happened in early August 1942, on an isolated corner of the Solomon islands. It happened almost a year before the annihilation of the Japanese garrison on Attu Island in the Alaskan Aleutian islands – an event commonly cited as the first example of Gyokusai by Japanese troops. At this time the term “Gyokusai” did not exist. In fact the war until this point had been a series of uninterrupted victories where the enemy had been vanquished wherever the Japanese had advanced.  From this standpoint, the landings of American troops on Tulagi, Gavutu and Tanambogo and the elimination of their garrisons were a humiliating defeat for Japan.

In the same way the earlier defeat at Midway (two months earlier) could not be released for to the public, it was only natural that such a loss of the Tulagi base would not be revealed to the people of Japan and kept secret.

“At this time I was with the Yokohama Naval Air Group, attached to its main unit as an aircraft maintenance technician, private first class[2] while stationed on Tanambogo. Everyone else was killed in the ensuing battle. As far as I know only I and three others miraculously emerged alive from this engagement.

According to most historical accounts the landing on Tanambogo are lamentable in recounting a quick landing and elimination of the garrison. I am here to affirm the honour of the regiment. Poorly equipped and with few personnel with combat training we resolutely held our positions and inflicted heavy casualties upon the Americans. At the present time, there is no one but myself left to affirm the reality of the Gyokusai of the regiment. Until now I thought I could never be able to recount the events. “

More and more his tone grew firm and more forceful this former member Leading Aircraftman, Miyakawa Seiichiro, deftly recounted the life and death struggle to me.

The Yokohama Air Group was a flying boat unit. Formed in 1936, it was equipped with Kawanishi H6K flying boats. Their long range made them a most suitable front line support reconnaissance. With the Japanese Army’s seizure of Rabaul on January 23rd, 1942, the Yokohama Air Group was immediately dispatched to Rabaul and undertook operations in the drive to capture Port Moreseby during “Operation MO.” The first part of Operation MO was for the capture and establishment of a seaplane base on Tulagi Island in the Solomon Islands. The Australians had established a seaplane base on Tulagi and neighbouring Gavutu and Tanambogo islands. In order for Japan to properly patrol the Coral Sea, it was necessary to sieze the Solomons. Without such bases operations against Port Morseby could not be undertaken.

On May 03, the operational units assembled at the large Japanese base of Truk north of the Solomons. The main task of seizing the islands would fall to the No. 3 Kure Special Landing Force. Striking at night they seized the three islands. There was no enemy resistance and all islands were taken with no casualties. Construction of the seaplane base began immediately. That day and night we landed six large Kawanishi boats and six smaller scout planes. Three planes were immediately sent out on recon as it was expected that the Americans would attack.

This isolated island became one of the most important intelligence gathering outposts in the southern Solomons. Carrier-based aircraft from the Lexington and Yorktown rushed in and hit the Tulagi bases constantly sinking the destroyer Kikuzuki, [3]two minesweepers and the supply ship Damamru.  After these attacks American activity ceased in our area for awhile as the carrier fleets of Japan and the US sought each other out over the Coral Sea engaged each other eventually sinking the US Carrier Lexington and sending Yorktown to Hawaii with a holed flight deck.

“ I landed on Tanambogo between the American attacks and the start of construction of the new seaplane base. All of the Kawanishis seaplanes were returned to Rabaul. I also returned to Rabaul with them, but was sent back to Tulagi at the beginning of July 1942. Our commanding officer of the Yokohama Air Group, Captain Miyazaki Shigetoshi. [4] We moved with the main strength of the force to begin reconnaissance operations from the neighbouring island of Tanambogo. About 3000 metres separated the eastern end of Tulagi from the island of Tanambogo. Closer to us was the island of Gavutu, about 300 metres distant. Both Gavutu and Tanambogo were joined like twins by a two-metre wide causeway built from rocks and coral. Tanambogo had the command section of the Yokohama Air Group, power generating facilities, wharves, communications room and barracks for the troops. The construction group had build a fine underground shelter with connecting tunnels.

On Gavutu was the field hospital, the construction unit, boat section and barracks comprised a fine state of operations. .[5] In the harbour were six Kawanishi Flying boats.  In addition in the distance on Florida Island there was air cover detachment base of nine A6M float-equipped Zero fighters commanded by Lieutenant Sato, also of the Yokohama Air Group. [6]  They were expected to provide air defence against American reconnaissance and air attacks.

Tanambogo-Guvutu Tanambogo under attack.

Every morning the Yokohama Air Group launch three aircraft to the Southeast patrolling on average about 400 miles from base. But the peaceful oceans never betrayed a sign of approaching warships and transports. At the same time, 35 kilometres to the east on the larger island of Guadalcanal a naval construction brigade was working night and day to complete an airstrip. By August 08th they had completed an 800 metres strip, 40 metres wide. It was expected that G4M Mitsubishi Medium bombers would operate from this base once it was completed. The discovery of this base gave the Americans quite a shock. Planes operating from this base would effectively control large areas of the Coral Sea. The Americans only bases in the South Pacific at Espiriu Santo and New Caledonia, the only ones protecting the supply line to New Zealand and Australia would thus be compromised. There was a real risk in the eyes of the western allies of Australia resupply becoming difficult and even Australia being cut off and isolated.

Admiral Nimitz, the Commander of the Pacific Fleet to concentrate ships and men along the West Coast of the United States and put together a landing party and planning to take control of the islands where the Japanese had recently established bases.

“At the same time the US began high-level reconnaissance above our base with B-17s. Flying at about 8000 metres their contrails followed clearly after their four engines. Tulagi had one 80 millimetre (3 inch) anti-aircraft gun but is could only reach about 5000 metres and was not effective. It was old and a crack in its breach eventually led to the disuse of this gun altogether and its pitiful response to the high-flying B-17s.

Soon every morning around 1000, three B-17s would gather intelligence on our positions on the inbound flight and drop bombs on us before returning. It would be pure luck if they hit anything and damage was usually very light. On the 03rd or 04th  of August, an A6M Zero float plane intercepted the B-17. Flight Sergeant Kobayashi smashed his plane against one B-17, black smoke billowed up, and both fell into pieces as everyone watched in horror at the death of one of our own pilots. Flight Lieutenant Sato was standing next to me and remarked that it was not necessary to ram the plane. ”It was not necessary to ram…. He should have used his guns…  What a waste” he murmered as I noticed tear begin to well up from inside him. Everyone was solemn for the remaining day at the cost of shooting down one American bomber. Over the next days the tension was palpable as we increased activities to find the Americans. But the weather was no obliging and cloudy conditions limited our visibility.

One August 06th the weather continued to be abysmal, but completely without expectation one of our large Kawanishi Flying boats coming back from Rabaul brought an incredible amount of supplies – including large amount of food, sake and beer. We drank and ate our fill this night and it was the first time we had completely relaxed in a long time. Hidden talents emerged as we sang long and hard into the night. This pleasant evening was to be our last feast, but no one was thinking about that at the time as we went to bed around 9:00 p.m.

After about an hour of dozing we were all suddenly roused.  A message from Rabaul warning us that an intercepted American message indicated a large task force may be approaching the area.  The general alarm was raised and we made ready to launch the flying boats which had been ordered to extend their patrols out from 400-600 miles. Fuel drums from the dock  were loaded onto boats and fueling began with hand pumps for the moored planes floating in the bay, a time consuming process. I was the designated look out from 0200 to 0600 that morning. With the advanced patrol time preparation had to be earlier than usual. We started fueling and working on the engines  and  under the large wingtips of the flying boats and the red emblems of the rising sun. Night carried the sound of our workings so it seemed you could hear every noise, however faint as we made everything ready.

Around three o’clock the supervisor, Miyakawa-san ordered the flight crews awoken as our fueling operations ceased.  Lt. Commanders Katsuda and Tashiro read out their orders,and  issued the crews a brief word of caution. All crews then departed calmly boarding rubber dingies to take them to their craft. They departed and spread out over the bay, each group making toward their own aircraft. As a warm breeze began to blow the planes turned into the wind and started to smoothly taxi one after the other. After about five minutes all planes would be in the air.  It was about four a.m. as the lights on the end of their wings were lining up for the water take off.

“At exactly that time a message came from the command centre on Tulagi. It warned of an air raid. Katsuda-san confirmed the message and then rang the air-raid alarm. Prior to this the Americans had only bombed us from high elevation and there was little sense of expectation of something dramatic,  but this time I sensed it to be different. Glancing through the binoculars towards Guadalcanal I could see dark specs on the horizon flying very low, just off the water. Very soon they came into view. “What in hell is that I thought?”  Straight as the crow flies they came in on me and as I viewed the fuselage of the aircraft I realised they were enemy planes. Our float planes were not yet airborne, and the Americans were right over our anchorage going in for the kill. There was no way the could  take off and no way for them to return fire. The American planes opened up on them bathing them in fire from their machine guns.

I counted about 10 or more Grumman Wildcats making for the flying boats. Again and again their bullets hit home and the Kawanishis began to burst in balls of fire on the water. The newly filled fuel tanks split by the cannon and bullets started spilling their petrol on to the sea and turning the anchorage into a sea of fire. A group of fighters from the first wave destroyed eight of our flying boats. The float plane fighter base on Florida island was also destroyed. All of our planes were destroyed along with all the achievements our air group — all of it was just gone.

As light began to make its way visible on the horizon the from here and there surviving flight crew of the Kawanishis made their way to shore, swimming where they could, or being picked up by the odd rubber dingy. Most of them were a pitiable sight of burns and horrible wounds. They were obviously carrier based planes which attacked us. That meant a US task force could not be far away. The information received last night about the task force being about 600 miles away was obviously a mistake on someone’s part, probably a misrecognition. There was also not any time to get any fighters in the air. We learned that the report came from a submarine in the area.

Miyakawa-san, tried to collect his thoughts amidst all the chaos.  Glancing to the South through his binoculars he saw innumerable ships on the horizon. Towards Savo Island he could see they were lead by destroyers followed by cruisers and transports. Turning to his officer he exclaimed. “Are those our ships or those of the enemy?”.

Lt. Commander Katsuda tilted his head to one side, but did not reply. It was not possible to know if they were enemy or friend. The task force slid into the channel between Guadalcanal and ourselves and the entire horizon was covered with ships. It was now just past seven and the second wave of aircraft were coming in and beginning to concentrate their fire on our shore installations.

“I threw myself into a dugout where many enlisted men of our direct unit sought shelter next to the officers dugout. After an initial first pass by the fighters, the ship guns opened up on us. Then attack dive bombers hit us as they alternated with ships guns in a sickening tempo“

Defending Ourselves with Shovels and Sickles

The American task force was comprise of the main carriers Enterprise, Yorktown, and Wasp, a battleship, four heavy cruisers, one light cruiser and oil tenders. This was for direct attack on the Japanese forces in the region. The landing support task force was comprised of an additional six heavy cruisers, 4 light cruisers, 14 destroyers, five minesweepers, plus 23 transports carrying 11,000 Marines.

Those allocated for the Tulagi, Gavutu, Tanambogo, and Florida Island landings comprised six transports a light cruiser supported by two destroyers. In all about 8000 soldiers in four marine battalions were allotted to the Tulagi island group.[7] Against this group we had on Tulagi under Commander Suzuki Masaaki. [8] about 400 men of the 84th Garrison Detachment. On Gavutu and Tanambogo there were an additional 650 men, but these latter troops had no combat training at all. They were strictly for  aviation maintenance and construction. For light defence and guard duties we had only about 33 rifles on the island. In addition, there were some machine guns that had been stripped from the floatplanes and had been undergoing repair and refit, such as two twenty millimeter cannons, two 13 millimetre machine guns, and one 7.7 millimetre machine gun in storage. Many of these were in such a state as to be next to useless. It wasn’t that we could not use them at all, but in many cases they would only fire one shot at a time. In fact we were relatively defenceless. [9]

“At about 0900, about 100 enemy landing craft approached the beaches. At the very beginning the enemy appeared to miss its mark and head directly to Florida Island. Eventually at about 1000 hours they turned around and landed on Gavutu’s eastern beach. On Gavutu was our hospital, boat and mechanic shops, about 100 personnel. They were essentially defenceless and fought with their bare hands. They were peremptorily wiped out.

Karte_-_Landungen_auf_Tulagi,_Gavutu,_Tanambogo Chapter 1:

Those of us with guns were positioned next to the causeway to give whatever support we could to Gavutu and prevent the Americans from landing on that side of the island or crossing from Gavutu. We began firing at wherever targets presented themselves. We continued much like this until the sun went down and provided a lull in the fighting. During this time we improved our positions and fortified ourselves with something to eat. It is a strange thing to experience the pitch of battle and to be subsumed in this state of relative inactivity, a sort of vacuum of calm.

It was not to last. At around 2100 the enemy tried to land with about six barges on the north side of Tanambogo. For the Americans it was a rare night attack. Looking out from the beach there was a reef about 50 metres beyond the water’s edge. Their lead landing craft got hung up on the edges of the reef and discharged the marines into the water to clamber to the attack against our positions. They made a hell of commotion as they hurriedly transferred from the boats following behind.

In this sector no one had weapons so we used hand sickles, entrenching tools and iron bars, whatever we could get our hands on. We set upon them while they were in this disadvantageous position and gave them hell, inflicting casualties on them sending them running to their remaining boats.[10] They boarded them and made off as quickly as they could leaving some landing craft in the lurch, from these we obtained a 13 mm machine gun and considerable ammunition. I have no reason why they tried such a foolish attack in the night.  It was an ill-informed, badly thought out, and ridiculous form of attack, if you could call it such a thing.”

The looses on Tanambogo were at this time, much less than expected. Of the total complement of about 500 men, we had only 10 casualties at this point in time. The ground shelters and dug outs gave saved the vast majority of the men to greet the dawn of the second day.

At the sun came up we could see that the enemy had occupied the high ground on Gavutu yet they were making no attempt to move. “ We had lots of gasoline and ammunition on Tanambogo, We took as many gasoline canisters as possible and lined them up on the beach around the peir where they had tried to land and the causeway. We made ready to light them up if the enemy made another attempt. We took 500 lbs. bombs and removing the fuses and replaced them to hand grenades. Although the fuses did not have that much power by themselves, but could still be used to tear a hole in the enemy infantry.

After doing all of this I found myself back on the eastern end of the island inside my dugout awaiting the American attack with my fellow members of my unit – ordinance Petty Officer Omori whom I had helped install the beach defences, along with other ranks like eighteen-year-old leading seaman, Sakurai. We were on the verge of moving to another position when Lieutenant Fujisawa came back and ordered us to remain inside our underground shelter under all circumstances. We were to be a forward observance post. I have since reflected upon this simple order from Fujisawa-san as the reason I survived the battle.

Until well past lunch there had been no further American attacks against Tanambogo.

Around 3:00 p.m. all hell broke loose. Bent double the Marines from Gavutu were firing as they attacked along the causeway. If we had of been properly armed we could have made a good fight of it, but  with simple single-shot rifles we squared off with them sporadically firing as best we could. The Americans advanced about 300 metres, wavered and then retreated.

At around 4:00 p.m. however the Americans brought two amphibious tractors around climbed up over the reef landing directly in front of and some distance away from the command post near where they had attempted to land the night before. The Landing craft carried about 20 soldiers and were not at this time equipped with any armaments, we could see however that they did contain tanks. Two were landed on the beaches and began crawling towards our positions with attached infantry.

The officers and the men in the positions on the facing the tanks on the North side of the island dashed out of their positions with mad gleam in their eyes. They attacked the advancing tank with iron rods, sticks and cudgels of every kind. Eventually the tank was stopped when someone managed to jam an iron bar between the treads and the main sprocket. Swarming all over the tank they dumped gasoline and attempted to light it on fire as fire from the Americans poured in from machine guns of the Americans making another attack from across the causeway.

“At this time I noticed our chief Aviation Officer Katsuda-san straddling the tank and beating the American operators with his iron bar. I watched him right up till the end.” In their glorious hand-to-hand combat, they had left two tanks stranded and burning at the cost of 43 officers and men killed. With these failed American attacks, the enemy brought in a cruiser and destroyers around 5:00 p.m. and pounded us from a distance of only 500 metres. The then wheeled about in line and then let fly with a vicious bombardment with the 5-inch guns. The northern facing entrance of our dugout began to attract the attention of the American artillery fire. Shells began pouring down around and into our position. It appeared that everyone was either dead or seriously wounded inside our bunker. For the latter, their death was only a question of time.

“I have reflected of late on how I as an aviation mechanic miraculouly survived to become a prisoner of the Americans when the others all died. Capitan Miyazaki blew himself up in his bunker. Probably the rest of the survivors followed his example only upon realizing that their strength was spent and there was no way they could defeat the Americans.

I was back in the dugout with the walls collapsing, dust and earth over everything. The entrance was almost completely blocked. Direct hits broke everything but I was lucky enough to be deep back inside in an area where two sides of the dugout created a sort of V-notch. As I came to the whole island was rocked with a feroucious rain of shells signaling what was to be the last attack and end of resistance. Our forces had been pulverized into the earth. This was the end. I had lost consciousness. “

The island has been given up. All were no doubt dead. For any American looking inside my dugout he would have been greeted with a sight of mashed open skulls and bits and parts of bodies and arms of five corpses.

“How long had I lain there unconscious? I could hear voices of Americans outside at first, but eventually the light faded and it became dark. Leading seaman Sukurai-san and myself was next to me and I sensed movement.

“Hey Sakurai.. are you still alive?” I said with my voice trailing off…. “

“Yes I’m OK.” He replied.

I do not know how the two of us managed to remain alive relatively unscathed, but at the time we had no idea that this underground dugout would be our home for the next month.

Over the next few days the Americans came by the dugout innumerable times, but  never entered. They usually called out, and then sticking in their guns squeezing off a few rounds or throwing grenades. We hid ourselves behind the dirt walls in the interior and the dark spaces beyond reach of either sight or grenade fragments. Luckily there were a dozen tins of canned oranges inside and a case of dried plums. We figured to  live for weeks in the dark, even on this poor diet, until the Japanese forces counter attacked and liberated the island. Surely they would return. Miyakawa-san firmly believed it. He may not have known what the upper rank senior planners were doing or thinking, but surely this base was one of the most important bases to the Japanese for gathering intelligence. They could not let it stay in the hands of the Americans. If he could stay alive he would be rescued in time. Miyakawa-san’s conviction was not ill conceived. The Japanese were pulling out all the stops to engage the Americans in the Solomon Island group. The battle on the ground sea and air, around the islands was to continue for the next six months around Guadalcanal.

After about 30 days, a group of American soldiers suddenly came to the entrance of the tunnel and started to cover the entrance with scoops of earth from their shovels. Miyakawa-san and his mate thought they might be buried alive yet. That evening they decided to slip off the island if they could. In the middle of the night they burrowed out and slipped out to the beach avoiding a sentry in the process. It was nearly the end of the month. The moon was full and the light made it hard to move around. They resolved to wait a few days until the moon waned. The best time when there would be no moon looked like September 12 or 13 — time to make a go and try to get to the other deserted or unoccupied islands. Swimming was Miyakawa-san’s strong point, but Sakurai-san could not swim. When the time came they snuck out and rolled some kerosene barrels to the beach. Without making so much as a splash, they slowly and secretly launched off from the shore into the water and made towards Florida Island.

Florida island was about 1600 metres from Tanambogo, but with the strong tidal current, they had to swim more like 2200 metres to make it across. It was hard work but they eventually arrived on the shores of Florida Island. Next their plan was to live off the jungle and survive as long as it took for the Japanese to return and kick the Americans off.

But life in the jungle was not as they had expected. Their rough green working uniforms quickly began to deteriorate in the tropical conditions. The one tool they did carry with them was a knife they had found inside the dugout. They used this to get the meat out of coconuts, to skin taros[11] or to pick wild papayas from the trees. They ate anything to try to sate an unbearable feeling of hunger that always seemed to haunt them. They had nothing to light a fire with, and although they knew how to rub sticks together to make fire had no strength to rub them long and hard enough for them to combust. At night they slept on and covered themselves with withered banana leaves. Every day they were constantly hit with one or two rain squalls. Doused like rats, they fashioned a hut and roof out of the abundant branches to provide a better shelter. But life in the jungle was still not a safe existence. There was always the possibility they would be discovered by the locals on the island and would be reported to the Americans who were constantly sweeping the island with armed patrols. Venturing out of the jungle was also extremely dangerous. There was always the the possibility of detection. On many occasions they had to scurry into the underbrush and hold their breath while patrolling American troops passed, in many cases within several feet of them.

After about a month of this type of living Miyakawa and Sakurai were wasting away. Lacking the stregth to climb and gather bananas they stole from the gardens of local islanders instead at night. They resorted to trying to cut through Banana tree trunks with the knife and attempting to push the trees down. This hard task only caused more noise and left them physically wasted.

Eventually they were discovered by three local tribesmen who had been watching them apparently for several days before. By hand and body signals the islanders gestured for Miyakawa and Sakurai to come back to their village. They gave them bananas and steamed potatoes.

The Melanesians had skin the shade almost like that of black laquerware and they had previously been friendly to the Japanese troops. When they arrived at their village they were surrounded by about 100 people. The village headman emerged from his hut and served steamed bananas and taros. Feeling more confident that they were among friends they let their guard down, breathed a little easier and allowed themselves to eat their fill. At about this time a group of men began to gather behind them. There was no time to think as a shout went up they were grabbed and bound hand and feet. As the shouting continued the islanders brought a long pole  and passed it between the bonds on their legs and feet. They then began to haul them suspended from the pole and carried as if they were some kind of trophy captured in the last hunt. Miyakawa-san thought they were to be burnt and eaten but when they came near a swamp he began to think they might just toss him in there to drown. They carried them instead to a beach, produced two canoes and threw their trophies into the bottom of the canoes and began rowing. Miyakawa-san closed his eyes and resigned himself to his fate. Both were handed over to the Americans at Tulagi.

“ I became a prisoner of war and spent the rest of the war in New Zealand. After the war I returned home. But I still cannot forget how my mates and fellow soldiers of our air group sold their lives so dearly in glorious death.”

Those who survived the slaughter, (the Gyokusai), such as former leading Aircraftmen, Miyakawa, lived with the events of those times etched into his memory forever.

[1] The Japanese seaplane base and its supporting complexes on  and near Florida Island and the Tulagi Island Group are usually overshadowed by the much larger capture of the Japanese airfield at Guadalcanal, 35 kilometres away.. The Battle of Tulagi, actually comprised actions between units of the Japan Imperial Navy Air Corps and the 1st Marine Division in the struggle for control of the island of Tulagi and the causeway connected islands of Gavutu and Tanambogo and the smaller seaplane fighter wing on Florida Island.

[2] His rank in Japanese would be Seibi-Heicho、[整備兵長] This should be roughly translated into in Royal Air Force to Leading Aircraftmen LAC, or an other equivalent rank in the USAAF technician ranks.

[3] The Kikuzuki[菊月] was an older  Kamikaze class Japanese destroyer built in 1926 and sunk on May 5, 1942.

[4] His official rank was [大佐,] in the Army designated Colonel. However Miyakawa’s unit was part of the Japanese Imperial Navy, hence the designation Captian.

[5] Miyakawa himself breaks down the strength on both Gavutu and Tanambogo at the time of the US landings as follows:

Gavutu: Boat, Hospital and Construction Units of the Yokohama Air Group comprised about 100 men.

Tanambogo: The Flying Boat Unit of the Yokohama Air Group, including command elements, comprised 350 personnel. In addition Tanambogo had a construction team core of 120 men, an Engineering Section of about 50 people, and a Special Naval Landing Force contingent of about 20 members. Strength would have been 550 total. Only the latter group of Special Naval Landing Forces would have had any land combat training or be fully equipped to oppose an enemy landing, and their numbers were very small.

In addition there were approximately 400 men on Tulagi Island with the 84th Garrison Unit.. All personnel were affiliated or direct members of the Japanese Imperial Navy. [大日本帝国海軍].


[6] These were the Japanese float plane variant of the famous Zero fighter. The Japanese would have called them “Nishiki Suisen” , short for Nishiki Suijyo-sentoki 弐式水上戦闘機 meaning, the “Number Two Model, Float Plane Fighter.” As in English the Japanese would find the formal name too long and shortened it by removing many of the characters. They would have not used the “A6M “title as in English.

[7] The author does not cite his source for these numbers and although the number of ships and transports is correct, according to Philip B. Frank, the total number of soldiers allotted to the Tulagi group was no more than 3000 men. The numbers cited by Sato of total number of troops is much larger than this. Additionally a Marine battalion would comprise around 1,000 men, also supporting the lower number.

[8] 鈴木正明中佐

[9] Miyakawa-san is referring here to the weapons possessed by the units on Tanambogo Island only.

[10] American accounts are consistent that this night landing was greeted by heavy gunfire. Whatever the accounts of Miyakawa, there were some on the island who had weapons and no doubt the positions facing the causeway could be turned easily enough to enfilade  Marine ranks after they landed. According to Richard B.Frank, only a single company tried to land that night on the assumption the island was lightly held.They were viciously repelled and turned back.  Richard B. Frank, Guadalcanal: The Definitive Account of the Landmark Battle, Penguin Books, New York, 1990, pp. 77-78.

[11] Starchy potato-like plants grown by many tribes and cultures in the South Sea Islands.


Published by: rszasz739

Entrepeneur with over 25 yrs Asian-related experience. Have travelled to many of the more isolated battle sites in the Asia-Pacific region. Good Japanese to English translation capability.

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