Operation Ke, 1943

USS PT-59 inspects the remains of Japanese submarine I-1, sunk the previous night by New Zealand patrol ships. I-1 had been attempting to drop off supplies to the garrison on Guadalcanal. US Army Signal Corps photo.

Location Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands
Year
1943
AD/BC
AD
History

After five months of brutal fighting on and around Guadalcanal, the Japanese Army decided to give the island up as a lost cause. In one of the few instances of their garrisons not fighting to the death during the War, Operation Ke was born: a plan to evacuate the remaining several thousand troops on the island. The first part of the plan began 14 January, 1943, with a convoy run of four destroyers delivering a battalion specifically tasked with covering the withdrawal. The Allies believed the Japanese were attempting a major offensive, and threw what they could into the fight to disrupt the perceived reinforcements, resulting in the loss of the cruiser USS Chicago on 30 January. The Japanese made three evacuation runs, on the nights of 1, 4, and 7 February. Despite attacks from PT Boats and aircraft, they managed to remove 10,652 men from Guadalcanal. In exchange, the Japanese lost destroyer Makigumo, submarine I-1, and fifty-six aircraft. Besides Chicago, the Americans lost destroyer De Haven, three PT Boats, and fifty-three aircraft. The Americans didn't realize the Japanese had pulled out until 9 February. On the Japanese side, Admiral Yamamoto issued commendations to all units involved. While not on the scale of Dunkirk or Crete, Operation Ke was still an impressive feat of seaborne evacuation, and the IJN deserved to be proud of themselves for pulling it off.