The epic Guadalcanal campaign lasted six months, from 7 August 1942 to 9 February 1943. It featured seven major naval battles, a score or more large-scale battles ashore, the almost daily cut and thrust of aerial clashes, and dozens of encounters between ships and planes. The long struggle remains without peer in military history for heavy, sustained combat in all three dimensions—land, sea, and air. Japan and the United States battled at even odds, resulting in a see-saw campaign with first one antagonist and then the other gaining the upper hand.
With no other major U.S. effort on any other front competing for attention, Guadalcanal riveted the American public. The country's oscillating fortunes sent its senior leaders soaring into unwarranted optimism at the opening stages only to plummet into despair as the specter of a catastrophic American defeat rose before them. Guadalcanal carried strategic and psychological implications far beyond the immediate issue of who would prevail on the obscure island.