The Cactus Air Force—a conglomeration of planes and their fliers based at a primitive, muddy airfield—were instrumental to ensuring the success of the first U.S. offensive in the Pacific.the first major U.S. offensive of World War II in the Pacific and designed to thwart the Japanese threat to Allied supply and communication routes between the United States, Australia, and New Zealand.
By nightfall on D+1, the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines had overrun one of the division’s major objectives—the nearly finished Japanese airfield on Guadalcanal. Once completed, the renamed Henderson Field would be the focus of the long struggle for Guadalcanal. A hodgepodge collection of Marine, Navy, and Army aircraft and aviators nicknamed the “Cactus Air Force” would defend the airfield against relentless attacks by Japanese bombers, while Marine infantrymen and Raiders, supported by GIs, would turn back Japanese ground offensives intended to capture it.
Finishing the Field